Animal Behaviorist Nicholas Dodman
Wondering what your pet is trying to tell you with that bizarre habit or that pleading look? Dodman is the best-selling author of The Dog Who Loved Too Much and The Cat Who Cried for Help. His latest is Puppy's First Steps: The Whole-Dog Approach to Raising a Happy Healthy, Well-Behaved Puppy.
Other segments from the episode on May 14, 2007
DATE May 14, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Dr. Melinda Merck, forensic veterinarian for the ASPCA,
on studying and defining veterinary forensics and details of
specific cases she's worked on
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guest, Dr. Melinda Merck, is a pioneer of forensic veterinary medicine.
She conducts autopsies and examines evidence to determine the cause of death
in animals when foul play is suspected. She lives and works in Georgia, where
a law was passed in 2000 making it a felony to assault an animal. Prior to
the passage of that law, she founded a cat clinic and she also worked on
cruelty cases with local animal control agencies. In 2003 she joined Georgia
Legal Professionals for Animals as the vice president of veterinary and
forensic affairs. She's now the forensic vet for the ASPCA. She's the author
of a guide for vets and police on animal cruelty cases. In June, her new book
"Veterinary Forensics" will be published.
Because Dr. Merck will be discussing her approach to investigating sometimes
gruesome attacks on animals, we don't think this interview would be
appropriate for young children. Some adults may find it disturbing, too.
Dr. Merck, welcome to FRESH AIR. Do you find that some people, including
some police, some lawyers and judges consider crimes against animals to be
Dr. MELINDA MERCK: I think that in the past that has been more of the norm.
I have seen, in the last two to three years, a change in that. And I think
that what is responsible for that is that the education that is going on
through the ASPCA and other organizations about the link with animal cruelty
and other acts of violence. Specifically, oftentimes these cases, the
defendants in these cases also have either outstanding warrants or they have
criminal backgrounds or there's concurrent crimes going on, such as drugs and
domestic violence. So I think that has caused a shift in the focus and taking
these cases seriously and giving them proper investigations and support as far
as prosecution, as well.
GROSS: A few years ago, Georgia made it a felony--made cruelty to animals a
felony. So how has that affected the legal system? I mean, what are cruelty
to animal trials like? Do they proceed any differently than trials about
crimes committed against people?
Dr. MERCK: I think that, initially, when the law was passed, it took a
couple of years--and I think that happens in most states--for everybody to
catch up, to understand that there was a new law and what it meant. And we
have seen a huge shift in taking these cases seriously, especially with law
enforcement. They have really caught on to this linking with other acts of
violence. So yes, I think they are taking them more seriously. I just
recently spoke to a prosecutor on a case that I'm on here in the local area,
and he's treating it equally with his other cases that he has, and this is at
the felony level. So they are committing resources, both through
investigation and prosecutors, to take these cases to court.
GROSS: How many states in the country now have cruelty to animal laws?
Dr. MERCK: I believe we're at 47 that at least have some type of animal
cruelty law on their books, and a majority have felony laws as well.
GROSS: My guest is forensic veterinarian Dr. Melinda Merck. I had mentioned
that she investigates some gruesome cases. We're about to discuss one, and I
want to remind you that what we're about to hear is not appropriate for young
children. Some adults may find it upsetting, too.
One of the cases you were involved in involved a puppy who was baked to death
in an oven by two teenage boys who had broken into a community center, and in
addition to charges against them of aggravated cruelty to animals they were
charged with burglary, criminal damage to property, making terrorist threats
and cruelty to children. So what did you learn about how the puppy was
Dr. MERCK: Well, the evidence showed that the puppy was ultimately killed,
but not after suffering several acts of torture. She had been hog-tied with
duct tape and then muzzled with duct tape and then they had poured paint on
her and then tried to set her on fire. And when that didn't work--it seems
like that was the mentality--when that didn't work, then they turned on the
oven and placed her in the oven and then they went and had some local
children, brought them in to witness her in the oven.
What I also found at the crime scene was evidence that the puppy had been
running around in the community center prior to that. There was urine that we
later submitted for DNA testing to confirm it was the puppy's urine, that she
had been running around probably while they were destroying the community
center. And then somewhere along those lines is when they decided to commit
their cruelty to her. So what it really told me is the sequence of events,
which became important later in the case with eyewitness testimony--the
children coming in. The timelines became a factor. And it's always tough
when you have a case involving children, because they can be easily impeached
on the witness stand. The defense can try to get them to change their
stories. They used terroristic threats. Charges came because the defendants
had threatened the children if they told anybody.
GROSS: And the cruelty to children charges came because they brought the
children to witness the destruction of the dog.
Dr. MERCK: Correct.
GROSS: So you actually had a puppy with you on the stand when you were giving
your testimony. What did you do with the puppy?
Dr. MERCK: Well, the purpose of bringing in the puppy--one of the questions
that came up, or one of the changes in the defendants' statements is they
started to say that one of the two young men had done it, and the other one
hadn't; he was just watching. So what we wanted to prove was that is very
difficult for one person to have hog-tied her with the tape. And this comes
in with the natural veterinary experience. It's why we have veterinary
assistants. When we go to restrain an animal, we usually need some assistance
to do something. Puppies and kittens are harder to restrain than an adult dog
or an adult cat, and what I said is that once--if they hog-tied her first,
which is what I believe that they did, she would have immediately started
biting and she would have been struggling. Soon as you grab two legs, she
would have been struggling. So what we did with Rita--that was the name of
the puppy in court--is we demonstrated that using nontape but some other kind
of material to show what a puppy's natural reaction is to show that it would
have taken two people and not likely that it was one defendant.
GROSS: So you also proved through forensic evidence that the puppy was
actually baked to death as opposed to being dead before the puppy was put in
the oven. Why was that important in the case, and how did you prove it?
Dr. MERCK: One defense that we were trying to anticipate is that they could
say that they found a deceased animal on the side of the road and then put it
in the oven. So it was important to show that she had been alive in order to
actually charge them with a felony cruelty. So what I found in the oven was
the paint that was still wet on her had been smeared all over in the oven,
corresponding to respective body parts--meaning her head and her tail--and
that is what showed us that she was alive when she went in the oven.
GROSS: The boys who killed this puppy also broke into a community center,
destroyed some things within the community center, threw paint on the walls.
They were going to be found out. They were going to be prosecuted regardless
of whether they had hurt an animal, but how do you think the fact that you
were able to show they tortured and then killed an animal affected how they
Dr. MERCK: I think the fact that there was a severe, heinous act of animal
cruelty in conjunction with the criminal damage and the burglary, that that
went more to the psyche of the defendants in the heinousness of the act, spoke
volumes of their future risk to the public of future acts of violence. I
think that made it more than just a case about burglary and criminal damage to
property, though that was extremely disheartening for that area. This was a
low-income area, and that community center represented hope for those
children. It was beautiful, had a library and computers. But what really
spoke to the depths of depravity of this act was the animal cruelty.
GROSS: So the two teenagers who were responsible for torturing and killing a
puppy and for breaking into the community center, what was their sentence?
Dr. MERCK: They received 20 years for the burglary charge--the total was 20
years. What they received was the maximum on each count--each of the nine
counts that they plead guilty to, and the animal cruelty, the most they can
get is five years. So what they got was 20 years to serve, 10 years in prison
and 10 years probation and everything was lumped together to serve
GROSS: Would you consider this a very unusual case for you?
Dr. MERCK: It is the worst case that I have ever seen or heard of. People
that have been working with animal cruelty for 20-plus years agree that this
is the worst case that they had ever seen.
GROSS: What's your typical case like, if there is such a thing?
Dr. MERCK: The most common case that anybody sees is neglect, and that can
vary from an animal suffering from malnutrition in the backyard and starving.
But the majority of the cases that we're starting to see more and more of--and
I think that these are extremely heinous, as well, is the large scale animal
neglect cases and those involve hoarders, which is the collection of animals;
it involves puppy mills; and then, of course, the other large scale cases are
GROSS: My guest is forensic veterinarian Dr. Melinda Merck. We'll talk more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is forensic veterinarian Dr. Melinda Merck. She
investigates the murder of animals.
Now, you mentioned that the collection of animals is one of the common forms
of abuse that you find. You were on one case where there were 130 dead cats
found in one large house along with 26 severely malnourished cats. What was
your role in this case?
Dr. MERCK: It was a long night. I did the crime scene investigation. There
was--every floor--there were three floors--and every floor, there was deceased
cats in various stages of decomposition, and then we had the 26 live cats. So
the prosecutor, Laura Janssen, came out on the scene, and I pretty much
examined every animal that I could, and we started collecting evidence. And
there was a lot of...
GROSS: You examined the living animals or the dead animals?
Dr. MERCK: I started examining the deceased animals as best as I could at
Dr. MERCK: Most of them were too decomposed to do a proper necropsy but what
there was was a lot of insect evidence. And I use forensic entomology, which
is the study of insects in legal cases to establish time of death. And that
became very important in this case because neglect, typically, is charged as a
misdemeanor. And because of the massive amount of animals that had died, what
we were trying to do was find a way to charge this as a felony. So what we
used in this case was the time of death, which we backdated to approximately
the end of October the previous year. And then during our search of the home,
we found paperwork to show that she had obtained more cats after all those 130
cats were dead. In our laws, we have to prove knowingly and maliciously as
far as intent. And so the district attorney felt that that was enough to
charge her with a felony.
GROSS: So how do you use insects in forensic analysis of tortured or killed
Dr. MERCK: I use insects to determine the time of death or determine the
time of injury. Sometimes there are the fly larvae, which are maggots, they
are present on a live animal that has been injured and that'll tell me how
long ago the animal was injured and they also are used to determine time of
GROSS: What was her story? Like, why was she collecting so many cats and
then either killing or allowing them to die?
Dr. MERCK: Well, the necropsy on the ones that I could do show that they had
died of starvation. The mentality behind hoarding is complicated. There are
several studies and ongoing research that's done on them. Traditionally, the
typical hoarder has supposedly good intentions at the beginning, and then
there's some trigger in their life--a death of a loved one, loss of a job,
some kind of severe stressor in their life that then flips a switch, so to
speak, and they start neglecting their animals. I believe that there are some
subcategories in some of the cases that I've seen--not particularly in this
one--where there may be some element of some kind of Munchausen by proxy,
where they're trying to get attention by taking some of the animals to the
vet. And then some of them, I don't believe that they fall into the hoarding
category at all. I feel that they're truly just sadistic killers of animals.
There was a case just recently, once again in Ohio, where a woman confessed
that she had been drowning puppies and kittens, or puppies and cats and dogs
over--I'm not even sure of the time period, but up to 650 animals. And I
mean, like, that's not a hoarder. There's something else going on there.
GROSS: What is one of the mysteries that you helped solve that you're most
Dr. MERCK: Recently, I think the assistance on a case that I had recently is
the one that I was the most happy with that we got a conviction--as well, of
course, the outcome was good. This was a case where a man had shot his
neighbor's dog, and there was a lot of problems with the case. He had a
history of shooting a black Lab puppy when he was on his riding lawnmower
trying to claim self-defense, and this was, of course, several years ago and
he actually was acquitted. So he had this history in this neighborhood of
shooting animals, not liking animals. And the neighbor who lived behind him
had a standard poodle, female--those are very friendly dogs. The dog somehow
got out between their fences and into his yard. The owner immediately went
running around to get the dog, and she heard the dog yelp and heard the
Now, no one saw who shot the dog. All we knew is where the dog was when she
was shot in his yard, so the problem was the defendant claimed that he didn't
shoot the dog. He didn't claim self-defense, he just claimed that he flat out
didn't shoot the dog. So we had a problem. And she was shot with an air
rifle and was fatally wounded and died later that day.
So what I brought to the table with the prosecutor was that because it was an
air gun and an air rifle, it's not a very loud firearm, so the fact that she
heard the shot placed her in close proximity to where the gunshot was fired.
So what I decided, I said, `Why don't we go to the neighborhood and take some
pictures and do some trajectories and determine where the areas the shot could
have been fired from?' And so what we did in that surrounding area is
interviewed all the neighbors and they all testified on the stand that none of
them owned that kind of firearm, and we were able to show that there was only
one other yard that that shot could have come from and he had an alibi. And
all the neighbors also owned pets except for the defendant. And the judge
accepted our circumstantial evidence. We did a diagram and everything, and I
testified--there was one specific piece of evidence that the dog, where she
ran to in the yard, was abnormal as far as behavior when injured or fearful.
She ran away from her mom, and that was supportive of where he was standing
when he shot the dog, because in order for the dog to have come to the mother,
she would have had to got closer to him. So that was also a behavioral
confirmation that he shot the dog and we got him.
GROSS: And what was the sentence?
Dr. MERCK: He was sentenced to one year. It was charged...
Dr. MERCK: Excuse me. It was charged as a misdemeanor so the maximum we
could get was one year.
GROSS: When you started doing forensic veterinary work after years of just
being, you know, a regular veterinarian, there wasn't a lot that was written
about animal forensics, so I know that you studied human forensics and went to
human autopsies to try to get your bearings with animal forensics. What are
some of the things that like transferred quite nicely between human and animal
forensics, and others that really didn't at all? Things that are really
unique to animal forensics that you're not going to learn by studying human
Dr. MERCK: I think that the main thing that does not transfer from human
forensics to animals is bruising. Animals do not bruise like humans, and if
they do bruise, it can take hours to show up, and so that can be a barrier
also with law enforcement and investigation of these cases, because they
don't--if they can't see the bruising then they don't really understand how
that there was blunt force trauma. Of course, we have some different kinds of
injury that we're not going to see in humans, like embedded collars, collars
that grow into the skin of animals, and we have certainly different kinds of
infections that occur in animals. And so there's enough unique identifiers of
animals that do separate it out from the human forensics side.
GROSS: Now, when you mentioned that animals don't bruise, is that just that
we don't see their bruises because they're covered by fur, or do they really,
like, not bruise?
Dr. MERCK: They really rarely bruise. There are certain areas that do
bruise, and certainly if their skin is lighter, their fur color is lighter,
they're more susceptible to showing a bruise. But their bruising is under the
skin, and their skin is so thick, they don't have as big of a vascular supply,
blood vessels to their skin, which is really their makeup because of getting
into fights, running through woods and so forth, they aren't made to bleed
very easily from their skin. And so that's why we don't see the bruising.
GROSS: How many animals do you have?
Dr. MERCK: I have two dogs and 15 cats.
GROSS: But you're not a hoarder, right?
Dr. MERCK: That's right. We should define hoarding as those that have more
animals than they can take care of. No. Most of mine have been rescued,
neglected, abandoned, and I have a very large home that can accommodate them.
GROSS: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.
Dr. MERCK: Thank you.
GROSS: Dr. Melinda Merck works in Georgia, where she's the forensic
veterinarian for the ASPCA and consultant for the Fulton County District
Attorney's office in Atlanta. Her book "Veterinary Forensics" will be
published in June.
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Nicholas Dodman, editor of "Puppy's First Steps,"
with some caveats for new puppy buyers and some advice for simple
ways to make sure a puppy behaves as you want it
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
The new book "Puppy's First Steps" starts with some sobering information.
Each year some 13 million American households adopt a dog. The next year,
half of those households surrender those dogs to shelters and pounds where
most of them are put to sleep. The book offers information that might prevent
some of these misguided adoptions. It advises readers how to choose a puppy
that's right for them and how to raise it once they take it home.
My guest Nicholas Dodman edited the book. He's an animal behaviorist at Tufts
University's School of Veterinary Medicine. All the contributors to the book
are on the faculty. Dodman's other books include "The Dog Who Loved Too Much"
and "Dogs Behaving Badly."
Dr. Dodman, welcome back to FRESH AIR. You recommend, when choosing a dog,
to do something called temperament testing. What is that?
Dr. NICHOLAS DODMAN: Well, temperament testing's been around for a long
time, and scientists have always sort of turned their nose up at it and said,
`You know, we're not sure that any decent studies have been done to show that
it actually predicts anything.' To some extent, you can imagine it's a sort of
self-fulfilling prophecy because if you take a dog that you temperament test
and you think that it's going to be rather pushy when it grows up, you know,
if you take that piece of information and you place that dog with a person
who's a strict owner and the dog doesn't get pushy, then you say, `Well, good.
I've done the right kind of placement.' If it does get pushy, you say, `Oh
good, my temperament testing was right.' So you can't lose either way.
GROSS: Can you describe how temperament testing works?
Dr. DODMAN: Yes. Essentially, you know, there's a number of different ways
of doing it, and some of the classical ways are, for example, if you take a
little puppy that's sort of, you know, seven or eight or nine weeks old and
you lift it up underneath the armpits and have it hanging there like a piece
of spaghetti, if it hangs limp, supposedly that is a more submissive dog, and
if it struggles to get free and sort of kicks and wriggles, that predicts a
rather willful dog that could turn into a problem child if not properly, you
know, sort of honed in. Another test is that you take a puppy and you put it
on its back and cradle it in your arms and lay a hand on its chest and look
right into its eyes, and if it accepts that without sort of complaining,
again, that's a sign, you know, of a more deferent pup whereas the wiggling,
struggling, you know, is the more wayward child who's going to need a stricter
GROSS: You have some interesting recommendations when you're taking home a
puppy, what to do. Like, you have a whole set of recommendations of what to
do in the car ride taking home the puppy for the first time. Why is the car
ride really important?
Dr. DODMAN: Well, you know, treating a puppy in a very sort of gentle and
nonthreatening manner is important right from the get-go. You know, a friend
of mine who's a little bit more extreme than me would say that, you know,
kindness and training begins when the puppy's in the mum's uterus. I think
that's a little bit extreme, but certainly when the puppy's eyes and ears both
open, the goal is to expose them to all kinds of shapes and sizes and things
and people in a very kind and benevolent way, nonthreatening, and the other
side of that penny is to protect them from anything that might be, you know
And the car ride is just one of a string of things that could be a rude
awakening. So if you take an extreme example, even worse than a car ride. If
you're talking about a puppy mill dog who ends up either on a train or a
plane, separated from its mother, with all kinds of noises and things that go
bump in the day, falling around from side to side with the rocking and the
rolling, sometimes, you know, with--other dogs transported with it don't even
arrive alive. I mean, that ride can have a permanent effect, because a puppy
is sort of an indelible learning sponge at that stage.
So, you know, coming down to the more gentle experience of the car ride, you
know, we think it's very important that the transition, which is a very
important transition from mum, you know, the bitch, to the owner is done, you
know, smoothly with minimal trauma, and the car ride is the link between, you
know, the breeder's place and your home, and it should be done in a very
nurturing way, so we have photographs in the book of people, you know,
coddling and caring and protecting from the elements the puppy as it's carried
to the car. Of course, no puppy should ride in the front seat, for the same
reason as children shouldn't ride in the front seat. You know, airbags
exploding at 200 miles an hour. You need one person in the back who can give
undivided attention to that puppy, who, if it's small, can, you know, nurture
it and coddle it and try and make the experiences as pleasant as possible
while the driver makes sure that they take the, you know, the least noisy,
least bumpy, least stressful route and drives, you know, at a respectable
So we're trying to facilitate it almost effortlessly. We're trying to remove
the tablecloth from under the crockery without having any spillage so that the
puppy arrives there unruffled. Otherwise, you end up with dogs that we
sometimes see down the road that have, you know, fear of car travel, and they
shiver and they shake and they salivate and it's just a mess, and now we have
to correct that. It's far better to avoid it up front.
GROSS: One of the difficult things about getting a puppy is training the
puppy to do his or her business outside. And you have, I think, some very
good suggestions for that. Would you run through like your basics of how to
house train a puppy?
Dr. DODMAN: Sure. You know, I think this is a pretty simple exercise and,
you know, this is one thing--I mean, it is said that 10 percent--I've even
heard 20 percent--of behavior problems presented to vets include, you know,
some sort of failure of the puppy to respect the home in urinating or
defecating inside, and it needn't be like that. And I think, you know, for
us, you know, what success rate would we have with that problem. It's 100
percent. But you don't even need to be there.
If you adopt a nine-week-old puppy--some breeders will say that the puppy is,
you know, half-trained or trained. It's possible to have some training going
on even at that age, but what you do is, you know, if that's the case, you
have realistic expectations. But, first of all, a little puppy can't hold its
urine for a huge amount of time. It's usually considered to be, you know, the
age in months plus one. So a four-month-old puppy can maybe hold it for five
hours. You need to put that into your equation when working.
But essentially the program involves, and we sort of skirt around paper
training. We don't like that in-home training. It's kind of training in the
wrong direction. So we start right from the get-go training them to go
outside, and the three aspects are: number one, find a place that is sort of
quiet and appropriate for the pup to go that's reasonably close and convenient
for you so you've identified the bathroom area. Take the pup out and you
know, use a lead if you have to and keep it confined in that area and stay
with it until it has a successful mission. If you don't--after 15 minutes, if
it wasn't successful, you bring the puppy back inside and you confine it in
some way, perhaps behind a kitty gate in a recess off the kitchen, or another
type is called umbilical cord training, where you tie it to your belt on a
lead and, 15 minutes later, you take it out again. So you're first of all,
ensuring that it does go in the right place and secondly you're assuring that
it doesn't go in the wrong place because a puppy will not go in a place it's
GROSS: So if a puppy can only hold its urine for say three or four or five
hours, by your standards, that means you're waking up in the middle of the
night to take the puppy out.
Dr. DODMAN: Yeah, that's true but it's not for a long time. You know,
there's--lots of parents of very young children realize there's going to be
some, you know, nocturnal disturbances for several months or even a year or
more. With a puppy, it's much less long than that. But it is important, if
you want to avoid accidents, to have the puppy on a regular schedule, and that
may involve, initially, you know, setting your alarm and getting up in the
night. But it's also important to know that, during the evening time when the
puppy's sort of sleeping, metabolism slows down, urine production slows down.
So you can sometimes get a longer spell at night, but you still may have to
set your alarm at, you know, four or five in the morning and get up, for a
while, until you can train him to hold it through the night.
GROSS: My guest is animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman. He edited the new
book "Puppy's First Steps." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman. He edited the new
book "Puppy's First Steps."
What do you think of pit bulls? Some people just love their pit bull dogs and
think their dogs are actually kind of sweet even though they have a reputation
for being fighters. And, of course, other people have pit bulls because they
want to fight them. They want to engage in dogfights with the pit bulls. And
in some states now pit bulls are illegal and I've heard that in some states
pit bulls are actually confiscated by the authorities if they're found. What
are your thoughts about pit bulls?
Dr. DODMAN: Well, I think the old adage `There's no such thing as a bad dog,
a bad owner,' you know, has some truth to it. So if you take, you know,
unscrupulous people who, you know, torture and torment pit bulls to make them
into these sort of mean, biting machines, I mean, that's a travesty. And, you
know, the dog is being really abused in terms of its upbringing. A more
responsible owner, preferably, I would say, not a novice owner but someone who
knows what they're doing, can take a pit bull or that type of dog and can
raise it with kid gloves to be, you know, a gentle giant. And they have, you
know, tremendous loyalty, they've got a lot of personality.
But I think you always have to bear in mind that they do have a very powerful
bite, you know, should they ever be so stimulated to use it. And they also
have very high prey drive, so things that move, you know, squirrels sort of
fair enough, but sometimes it's, you know, kids on bicycles. I mean, they can
end up by chasing them and kids running. So you just have to know what you've
got. You know, keep your eye on the ball and, you know, that said, a
responsible pet owner can have a very nice and rewarding relationship with a
pit bull terrier.
GROSS: Are there dogs that you would recommend for people who live in cities
and particularly who live in like apartments in cities?
Dr. DODMAN: Well, for the city dwellers, I mean, oftentimes they get it
wrong in the sense that they'll say, `Well, I've got a tiny apartment so what
I'm going to do is get a tiny dog,' and then they go and get, you know,
something from the terrier group, like a Jack Russell terrier or
an...(unintelligible)...Parsons Russell terrier, and those guys are like on
rocket fuel. I mean, they just zoom around the place. They need a tremendous
amount of energy and containment so that's the wrong dog for an apartment.
But on the other hand they say, `Well, I really shouldn't get a great big dog,
you know, like a Pyrenese or something because, you know, they're too big for
a small apartment. But the fact is that a lot of those larger dogs will kind
of lie around all day and they're not particularly--they don't have super high
energy, you know, like I say, like the Parsons Russell terrier. So, you know,
you just need to think. You don't need a particularly high-energy dog. You
don't need a dog that was bred to, like a Dalmatian, run along by the side of
carriages for miles and miles all day. You know, other dogs that were bred
to, you know, drag sleds across the Arctic waste or join in the Iditarod race.
You just need a sort of, you know, four on the floor dog who's a kind of low
profile character and possibly something in the larger direction.
GROSS: You say that nine out of 10 dogs whose owners bring the dogs to your
clinic have been through the hard knocks school of training in their puppy
classes, punishment-based tactics. What kind of tactics are you talking about
there that you disapprove of?
Dr. DODMAN: Well, this becomes a very contentious, you know, issue, but, you
know, we don't think that it is necessary to use physical punishment,
especially with a pup, but also with, you know, a juvenile or even adult dog.
We just think that punishment is not necessary. That it is, you know, a
legacy from past methods of training, and that there are plenty of other ways
instead of that--it's not that we don't use any punishment at all. We do.
Some people say, `Oh they're soft, you know, they don't use punishment.' Yes
we do. We use negative punishment, the same as you might do for a child, so
that, you know, `If you do not do this, then you will not get that.' So it's
withholding. And in doing that you can emphasize your leadership and have a
respectful pup who will follow directions.
You know, to be a leader you don't have to coerce, you know. I think you can
lead sort of by example and by kind of creating a vacuum into which the dog
must flow if it knows what's good for it and if it wants to get the things
that maybe currently it takes for granted. So we deal with leadership, and
you can be a leader, like you hope most human beings are leaders, without
being physically abusive. You know, all successful people--you know, high up
politicians or executives in veterinary school--do not need to go around using
physical force to get their way.
GROSS: How many dogs do you have?
Dr. DODMAN: I have no dogs at home. I have a house full of animals, but
some of them are incompatible, and there's a couple of reasons we don't have a
dog at home right now, and one of them is that we both work. And so there's
not going to be people at home and we think dogs should either have two dogs
or you should be home with your dog, and at the moment, I have two horses, a
rat, a bunch of fish, three parakeets, a green Amazon parrot, and a couple of
horses. So, you know--they're not actually in the house, the horses--but when
we go to sleep at night, there's four adults in the house, my wife, myself,
and a couple of children still at home, but there's about 12 hearts beating
under our roof. So I'm surrounded by pets, you know. I feel like Dr.--was it
Dr. Doolittle? But no dog at the moment.
GROSS: Just one more thing. Just one more thing. Why do you have a rat?
Dr. DODMAN: Actually, it started out with the children. No, actually it
started out with my wife, because my wife had started a PhD program in Boston
and because--she's also a vet--and because of the way that the animals were
treated, she decided that she would not continue with the PhD, and as she
exited she smuggled out a couple of rats. I think one was called Mathilda...
GROSS: These are research rats?
Dr. DODMAN: Research rats, and they became her very best friends and they
would come and greet her at the door when she came back and squeak with
excitement. They're totally nonaggressive. She found them very cuddly.
They'd, you know, run up and down on her bed and sleep with her, they were
just--they knew their names, you know, just very, very social pets. And so
later when the children said, you know, `We might like to get a pair of rats,'
we looked at each other and lit up and said, `Let's do it.' You know, so we
got the rats and, sure enough, they are terrific little pets. Very
intelligent, sensitive, and it's hard to believe. I saw something on the news
the other day about how there's a group who's trying to promote them as pets,
and it's true. They're very smart and very affectionate pets.
GROSS: Do they live in a cage?
Dr. DODMAN: They have to live in a cage--well, there's one left, one
actually got so old it ended up with cancer and then we had to put it to sleep
a few weeks back, but they live in this very large cage. I mean--with all
kinds of hidey holes and...(unintelligible)...and things but they come out and
play. So we'd be sitting watching TV and the rat's walking up on the back of
the couch and jumps onto somebody's shoulder and then onto somebody's lap, and
then goes behind you and behind a cushion and pops out again. But they have
to basically live--because they chew, you know, so they'd chew through wires
and they'd chew through wood, and, you know, for our own protection, as well
as the rat's own protection, we have to, you know, use the cage.
It's the same with the parrot. The parrot is essentially free. It flies
around this sort of large open-plan house and lands on windowsills and stuff,
but when we're out, you know, we can't leave the parrot out. It would destroy
the house. They're very chewy things. I know a parrot called Chewy.
GROSS: Well, Dr. Dodman, thank you for talking with us. Great to talk with
Dr. DODMAN: Oh, thank you for having me on, Terry. I appreciate the
opportunity to come back and talk with you again.
GROSS: Nicholas Dodman edited the new book "Puppy's First Steps." He's on the
faculty of Tufts University's School of Veterinary Medicine, as are all the
contributors to the book.
It's been decades since Doris Day starred in movies. More recently she's
devoted her time to helping animals through foundations she's started.
There's a new DVD box set of her musicals. Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz has a
This is FRESH AIR.
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Review: Lloyd Schwartz reviews a new box set of early Doris Day
TERRY GROSS, host:
In the '50s, Doris Day was one of the most popular stars in Hollywood, but
today her wholesome image seems very dated. Our classical music critic Lloyd
Schwartz says that a new box set of her early musicals suggests that this
wasn't always her image.
LLOYD SCHWARTZ reporting:
The most famous line about Doris Day was probably Oscar Levant's cynical crack
that he knew her before she was a virgin. At the height of her film career,
after a tumultuous personal life and two divorces, she excelled in slightly
leering comedies opposite Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, Clark Gable and James
Garner in which, against the odds, she maintained a Hollywood image of
In a new box set of her earlier films, all musicals, she plays even less
sophisticated roles. She's an overly superstitious aspiring singer in "Lucky
Me" and the good wife of Danny Thomas--alias songwriter Gus Kahn--in the
biopic "I'll See You in My Dreams."
She's a teenage tomboy opposite Gordon MacRae in "On Moonlight Bay" and its
equally corny sequel, "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," both based on Booth
Tarkington stories, but even more shamelessly ripping off Vincente Minnelli's
"Meet Me in St. Louis," another story of a typical Midwestern family with
even the same actor playing the father. But instead of Judy Garland and a
memorable original score, we have Doris Day in a series of period songs.
(Soundbite of "Tell Me")
Ms. DORIS DAY: (Singing) Tell me why nights are lonesome
Tell me why days are blue
Tell me why all the sunshine
Comes just the one time when I'm with you
Why do I hate to go, dear
And hate to say goodbye
Now, somehow, it's always so, dear
And if you know, dear, please tell me why
(End of soundbite)
Mr. SCHWARTZ: One movie in this new Doris Day set, though, is completely
captivating and gives us a glimpse of the beguilingly flirtatious personality
that made Day a star to begin with. It's her very first movie, a smart
musical farce released in 1948 called "Romance on the High Seas" and directed
with surprising comic flair by Michael Curtiz, the director of "Casablanca"
and with a screenplay by "Casablanca"'s Julius and Philip Epstein.
Day fits in neatly with a sparkling cast of Hollywood pros--brassy Janis Paige
and her frequent screen partner Jack Carson; comedian Don DeFore; adorable
S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, the chubby character actor with the blubbery cheeks;
and hilariously depressed Oscar Levant, who plays a musician hopelessly
infatuated with his band singer Doris Day, who started out as a big band
vocalist with a pretty, slightly wispy, but sexy voice, an endearing pout, and
a lively sense of syncopation. Her first hit record in 1945 was the
pleasantly unsentimental "Sentimental Journey." There's nothing sentimental
about "Romance on the High Seas." It's all jokes.
Day plays a hip-swinging, gum-chewing hepcat with a yen for men and a
wanderlust for exotic places, but she can't afford to travel until Paige, as a
rich businessman's jealous wife, gets the bright idea to send Day on a Latin
American cruise in her place so she can stay home and spy on hubby Don DeFore.
In the meantime, DeFore hires a detective, Jack Carson, to spy on his wife,
unaware that it's Day in disguise. Things get really complicated when Day and
the detective fall in love.
It's utterly frivolous and, thanks partly to Levant's chronic irony, there
isn't a gooey or prudish moment. Day retains her innocence of course, but
that's not the main point of the movie, which is to weave some good songs into
a story that keeps us guessing not how it's going to turn out, but how many
turns it will take before the final clinches.
One of these songs, Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne's "It's Magic," became another
huge hit for Day.
(Soundbite of "It's Magic")
Ms. DAY: (Singing) You sigh, the song begins
You speak and I hear violins
The stars desert the skies
And rush to nestle in your eyes
Without a golden wand
Or mystic charms
Fantastic things begin
When I am in your arms
When we walk hand in hand
The world becomes a wonderland
How else can I explain those raindrops
When there is no rain?
Why do I tell myself
These things that happen are all really true
When in my heart I know the magic is
My love for you
Unidentified Actor: (In character) That's a beautiful song
Ms. DAY: (Singing) It's magic.
Actor: (In character) There's something about the way you sing it. I don't
know; it does something to me.
(End of soundbite)
Mr. SCHWARTZ: All the films in this new Doris Day set have been lovingly
restored, so "Romance on the High Seas" with its chic support costumes and
colorful south-of-the-border scenery is a treat to watch. But one of the main
reasons I like it is that it keeps me wondering what would have happened to
Doris Day if she hadn't become a virgin.
GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix and
teaches English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He reviewed
recently reissued DVDs of Doris Day's early films.
GROSS: You can download podcasts of our show by going to our Web site,
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. DAY: (Singing) It's you or no one for me
I'm sure of this
Each time we kiss
Unidentified Singer: (Singing) The lady's in love
Ms. DAY: (Singing) Now and forever
And when forever's done
(End of soundbite)
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