Thursday, September 23, 2004

National Dog Week

(From Mental Floss magazine e-mail) - September 19-25 is National Dog Week, so munch a Milk Bone while you enjoy some dog facts:

* The star of 2004's "Benji: Off the Leash" is not a descendant of the original Benji. Back in the 1960s, a pup rescued from the pound was named Higgins and landed a recurring role on TV's "Petticoat Junction." So popular was the pooch that he landed a starring role in the 1974 film "Benji." The movie was a huge hit, but poor Higgins passed away at the ripe old age of 15. When Benji sequels were called for, it was Higgins' daughter who starred in "For the Love of Benji," "Benji the Hunted," and the 1980 Chevy Chase vehicle "Oh! Heavenly Dog." The 2004 Benji is a look-alike pooch who was rescued from an animal shelter in Mississippi. And the 2004 film's world debut took place in Jackson, Mississippi! (The director is from Mississippi.)

* Today, the Lions Club has become synonymous with the support of Leader Dogs for the Blind. Interestingly enough, they report that the ideal breed for a guide dog, as far as temperament and intelligence, is the Boxer. Time proved, however, that the breed's fierce appearance was detrimental for blind folks trying to mingle unobtrusively. The next best-suited breed was the German Shepard, which was used for many years, until inbreeding made hip dysplasia a vital health concern. As of this writing, Labrador Retrievers are the prime candidates for Leader Dogs.

* Protecting U.S. agriculture, Beagle by Beagle: the Beagle Brigade is the USDA's first line of defense at 22 stateside international airports. The Beagle's acute sense of smell and its gentle nature make it ideal for sniffing out illegal plants and vegetables at our nation's airports. Besides the breed's sensitive nose, its willingness to work for treats and its ability to remain calm in airports teeming with noisy travelers, the pooches are also covered under the "Barney Bill" -- named after a pup that was maliciously kicked by a tourist. Thanks to Barney, under the law, anyone harming or interfering with one of the APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) beagles faces up to a $10,000 fine.

* Would you like to become a Fast Friend? Every state that has legalized greyhound racing tracks also offers adoption services for retired racing dogs. Greyhounds are often called "45 mph Couch Potatoes," since once they're taken into a home, they basically become overgrown cats. They enjoy their walks, like any other dog, but they are most content to stretch out comfortably on a cushy doggy bed. Their low dander level makes them ideal for folks with fur allergies. Interested folks should Google "greyhound adoption" for more information.

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