» Archive for the 'Animalistic' Category

Correct collar sizing

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 by kara

A friend of a friend found a collarless, buff cocker girl alongside the road this afternoon. It was fortunate that he’d come upon her when he did, because she was scavenging among some garbage, and was gagging on a piece of plastic wrap that was stuck halfway down her throat.  Mygod. Just in time.

She’s a very pretty and happy girl, and looks to be freshly groomed, so she’s cared-for and hopefully someone loves and misses her a lot. Hopefully they’re trying feverishly to find her. My friend says they’re going to their vet to have Buff Girl scanned for a microchip, but noted that the dog was not wearing a collar.

Sadly, it’s not difficult for a dog to slip its collar, especially when startled or frightened. It’s even easier for the dog to escape when the collar doesn’t fit the dog properly, which is true in many, many cases.

For example, in order for a collar to fit securely, it should be snug enough to ride midway up on the neck. If the collar is so loose that it falls down and rests on the dog’s shoulders, it’s too loose. You should only be able to fit two fingers snugly between the collar and the dog’s neck, otherwise the dog will be able to duck his head and scoot backwards and squirt out of the collar.

It should NOT be tight enough to make your dog cough or choke or cause trouble breathing.

The collar itself should be appropriate for your dog’s size and strength: Puppies can wear narrower, lighter-weight collars, but as they grow, their collars should be upgraded as they become larger and stronger. If you have a smaller toy breed dog, you can get away with a fine, rhinestone studded collar that’s almost a piece of jewelry, as long as you know that your dog won’t be able to break it by pulling on it. Here’s a helpful link from Lupine explaining how to properly fit your dog’s collar. (As an added bonus, Lupine’s collars are just beautiful and my kids enjoy having many different patterns to choose from! :::grinning::: )

But if you’ve got a lab mix you need to find something more substantial until you can get to obedience class and learn to walk on a loose lead (both of you!). Hint, hint. You really should train your dog to walk on a loose lead, because it’s healthier for the dog and more enjoyable for you!

Also make sure that the collar and tags you choose for your dog are sturdy and safe, without lots of accessories that can catch on your pet’s fur or scratch their skin or snag their toenails during a good long scratching session. And of course use caution if you crate your dog, removing his collar to prevent accidental strangulation anytime he’s confined in a crate.

With regard to identification tags: There’s some discussion on whether to engrave your dog’s name on his tag. If someone finds your dog and learns his name by reading the tag, they can begin bonding with your dog by using his name, and that may delay your fuzzy’s return.

Your dog’s name being on the tag isn’t important, anyway–YOU know who your dog is, and he doesn’t care if his tag is monogrammed. What IS important on a dog tag is a clue to contacting YOU if your dog is found by a stranger. All our dogs’ tags say “Please call Mom & Dad” followed by our home telephone number and my cell phone number.

To summarize, your dog’s collar should be sturdy enough to contain your pet during a moment of distraction, and it should be wide enough to avoid cutting into your dog’s neck and lessen compression of the trachea. It should also be snug enough to stave off “slippage”, but not too tight or restrictive.

If you have a dog who’s prone to panic and jerking backward on the leash, you might want to try using a martingale collar. This website nicely describes how a martingale works, but these collars like all others still need to be sized appropriately and checked regularly for necessary adjustments.

So even if this buff girlie’s petparent got her a lovely collar with an unique identification tag, it became useless when she scraped it off or slipped out of it or broke it. Hopefully she has a microchip and can be returned to her home.

Check your dog’s collars this moment–are they loose because you’ve recently started your summer fitness routine again, and your running buddy is losing weight right along with you? Or are you just back from a trip to the groomer’s, where a haircut really CAN make a client ‘lose five pounds’? Or do you just have a faulty collar that loosens up on its own? Adjust them immediately!

I’m at fault here, too. Just a few weeks ago, Riley and Belle had upper respiratory irritation most likely due to allergies, and while I was giving them Benedryl and doxycyclin (just in case it was an upper respiratory infection) I let them “go naked”, and hung their collars on the banister.

After chatting with my friend, I put their collars back on, and readjusted Belle’s collar so that it fit her properly. I don’t want to think about them shooting out the front door with no ID.

In the worst case scenario, you’ll want to make sure that your dog has ALL the possible means to help get him back home to you–keep collars and ID tags on your dogs at all times, make sure the collars are properly-sized and in good repair, and microchip your dogs in case the collar fails (or is removed).

Just in case, keep current photos of your dog, both face shots and whole-body/profile pictures on hand, as well as current vet records. And although no one likes to think about losing one’s best friend, it’s a good idea to study up on what to do before you find yourself searching feverishly for a lost pet, God willing that you never find yourself in such a predicament.

Easter ISN’T the time to gift rabbits and chicks!

Thursday, April 1st, 2010 by kara

(This is actually a re-hash of a post written a couple of years ago–but it’s still so very relevant.  -k)

Friends, it’s time again for another holiday at which gift-giving seems to be required. Bunnies and chicks appear to be the mascots for Easter, but please remember that these are ANIMALS, not toys.

Many well-meaning parents and grandparents (and aunts and uncles and neighbors and friends) give  children “Easter” rabbits and chicks, not realizing that these animals are complex and intelligent beings. Rabbits can have a 10-year lifespan if properly cared for, and chicks grow up to be egg-producing chickens–or ROOSTERS, which can have their own special qualities. I’m guessing that having a crowing rooster in your suburban or urban yard will likely inspire lots of animosity from your neighbors.

Rabbits can make amazing pets. They’re litter-trainable, clicker- and postitive-reinforcement trainable, and need to live in bonded pairs. They’re intelligent and funny, and they can eat all your houseplants in a flash. They can chew through a lamp cord in SECONDS and they’re afraid of falling or being dropped because their physiology includes a weak spinal cord.  If you hold a rabbit incorrectly, and they start to kick because they’re feeling insecure and frightened, they can actually break their own backs. And if they’re feeling insecure they can also bite really effectively (think of those big buck teeth) and they can kick the living daylights out of you, too.

Both rabbits and chickens need to be properly cared for, nourished and vetted–it’s our duty as their caretakers to give them what they need.  And our responsibility to these creatures extends well beyond the point at which the children lose interest in them. Even after the kids are bored with squeezing the stuffing out of the bunny and chasing the chick half-to-death, these animals still require our attention.

So please do not buy a living being as a holiday gift, and then end up “setting the bunny free” or letting the chicks run around loose and unsupervised in the backyard. These animals are domesticated breeds which are ill-equipped to survive on their own and they’re especially vulnerable to predators.

Sadly enough the phenomenon of gifting theme animals at holidays (black cats at Halloween, puppies and kittens at Christmas, rabbits and chicks at Easter) is surprisingly common. Working in dog rescue, I dread the applicants who say they want to “get a puppy as a Christmas gift for the kids” or “get a dog as a birthday gift.” First of all, do the recipients even want an animal? Secondly, people need to be aware of the length of commitment that they’re making to these beings–that dog/rabbit/cat/chicken will be around long after the novelty fades. Are they willing to properly continue to keep that animal as it deserves to be kept? And then there’s the fact that Christmas/Easter/birthdays are chaotic enough without the addition of a new, unfamiliar critter to the household: We need to consider the animal’s comfort and adjustment to its new home, too. Holidays are a singularly poor time to bring a new family member home.

Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that rabbits and dogs and cats (and sheep and chickens and horses and cattle and pigs) are all BEINGS. They’re not possessions, like a car or a purse, they’re living animals with needs and urges like companionship and clean water and food and shelter and warmth and exercise. Should we belittle them by treating them as prizes or inanimate things?

If you truly need to get a special little someone an ‘Easter chick or bunny’ do the responsible thing and go to Build-A-Bear in the mall for an inanimate object that doesn’t depend on you for its life. Even better yet, why not sponsor a rescued rabbit in your special little ones’ names? Check out Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary’s activities, and maybe instead of contributing to the problem of unwanted, neglected animals, you can spark an interest in responsible consciousness. Here’s a list of ways you can help GLRS: How to Help. Maybe your little friend will get even more enjoyment out of volunteering to help a bunch of bunnies, than they would out of having their own. In the process, you’ll be able to reinforce the importance of our stewardship over our domesticated animals. Now that’s a sweet idea!

Happy Easter!

Bloodthirsty cocker finds new taste sensation

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 by kara

So the darling Baby Lady Grrl, Gigi, killed a rabbit early Sunday morning and ate a good part of it before party-pooper Momma came outside and took it away. Ick.

Hard to believe, too, if you’ve ever met my darling Gee.  But then again she does have a healthy appetite and is always on the lookout for food, or for things which can substitute for food, like the cardboard box the frozen garlic bread came in. She filched that from the paper recycling bag and ate a sizeable square. It looked like guinea pigs had ate at it, but Gigi doesn’t digest cardboard as well as guinea pigs.  We had several episodes of chucking up the undigestable remnants, identifiable because they were the same colour as the garlic bread package remnants.  Anyway, here she is, Lady Godiva in all her skinny-legged glory:

Yup. That's a savage killer, right there. If you're a rabbit or an olive, that is.

Tonight I was getting a few olives for a snack, green ones stuffed with pimiento, and I dropped one. Gee the Carnivorous was on it in a flash. She wasn’t certain she wanted it, though. She took it away and rolled it around in her mouth, setting it down on the carpet several times (of course).

She finally finished it and must have decided it was good, because a few minutes later she showed up, sniffing around the end table on which I had my dish of olives and glass of Kool Aid (yes, I have the sophisticated palate of a 12-year-old) and it was necessary to remind her that her food dishes are NEVER served to her on the end tables in the livingroom.

Now I’m wondering if she’s getting enough food. What dog would be nutso enough to eat an olive, for Pete’s sake? It’s not even a black olive, or a Kalamata. This was one of those hard-core little green olives, wasn’t even stuffed with blue cheese or anything lovely like that! So she’s gotta be seriously hungry.

She and her brother, Skipper, get 1/3 of a cup of California Natural Lamb & Rice kibble twice a day, with 1/2 cup of applesauce and a fish oil capsule. They and their other brother and sister share apples and bananas and carrots with me during the day, as well as enjoying an occasional Wellness bar as a treat. None of the dogs are malnourished–in fact, they’re all pretty much at the perfect weight, so I hate to mess around with the amount of kibble they’re getting.  Gee has approached porkdom in the past, and I don’t want her weight to seesaw up and down like her momma’s does.

I’ll have to start supplementing their kibble, applesauce, and fish oil caplets with something more substantial, like green beans and steamed carrots again, to give them a little more of a full-tummy feeling.

Animals are animals, not people

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 by kara

Recently the tragic death of SeaWorld’s killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau flooded the news outlets. Many people commented that Tilikum, the whale, should be euthanised.

It’s very sad that Brancheau died while working with Tilikum, but what we all need to keep in mind is that no matter how well-trained he is, Tilikum is still a wild creature. He is a KILLER WHALE, and that’s what he does–or that’s what he would do, if he weren’t artificially confined in a space less than 1/25th the size of comfortable stomping grounds in the ocean.

I think Brancheau knew this, and accepted those risks as part of her career as a trainer.
From comments in the media about her dedication to her job, it seemed she loved working with the orcas to show spectators the majesty and capability of these creatures.

But no matter how many tricks Tilikum knows, no matter how much affection he seems to display to his human keepers, he remains a predatory creature with different motivations, language and desires from humans. Even though the trainers know this, and work together very closely to avoid mishaps, the potential still exists for tragic accidents.

This doesn’t apply just to killer whales or lions or elephants.  We need to be mindful that our own domesticated animals are still animals, too. They’re not little furry people running around on four legs with poor language skills–they’re ANIMALS, no matter how radically humans have changed their behavior from their cousins still living in the wild.

I got a vivid reminder of that this weekend.

Early Sunday morning, right around 4 a.m., I was getting ready to join the Wonderful Pumpkin in our cozy bed, so I let Gigi and Riley out to potty one last time.  Skipper was NOT going outside because it was a bit chilly, and Belle had been sleeping for hours and hours and wouldn’t wake up to go out for quite a while.

Riley went down and pottied, and came back up promptly.  I let him in and gave Gee a couple more minutes, but when she didn’t come in a short while later, I tried calling her.

You must understand that our children are essentially four sporting dogs.  Belle is a Labrador mix, Riley is an English springer spaniel fieldy, and Skipper and Gigi are American cocker spaniels. Even though they’re supposed to have specialities specific to their breeds, they don’t all exhibit the same zest for the hunt, and neither Rick nor I mind that.  We’re not hunters and we don’t expect our dogs to ‘earn their keep’ with a specific skill.

Belle likes to chase birds and rabbits, and she and her long-departed cocker sister Kacey Marie managed to bring down a baby possum in the backyard of our Highland Township home in Michigan. She’s quick, and true to the nature of most dogs, anything ‘moving’ in her yard offends her, and she will give fervent chase, but I don’t think she’s as dedicated to it as some dogs would be.

Riley is our handsome, darling boy, but for all his beauty he’s a little brainless when it comes to prey and how to deal with it. This is probably the reason he was deserted by a fishing hole up near Lawrenceburg, KY–handsome dog with promising bone structure and beautiful markings has no natural instinct regarding birds, i.e. “dog won’t hunt” and so “dog is history.”

Skipper-Dee-Doo-Dah (or “Poos” for short) is so completely a momma’s boy that he can’t stand to be outside for the time it would take to hunt something down and kill it and eat it. Now if Momma came out to help, that might be a different story.

And then there’s Lady Godiva, aka Gigi, aka ‘The Baby Lady.” Gigi, a chocolate cocker, is my darling. She’s my unabashed favorite grrl, endearing herself to me with her extreme shyness and timidity when she first came to us as a heartworm-positive foster back in September of 2008. (There–I SAID it. I have a ‘favorite’ dog. I feel like a parent confessing to favoring one child over the rest.) As she got to know and trust us more at home, she’s grown to become a funny, happy grrl who’s earned the nickname “Waterbug” because when she’s really excited she’ll jump around in full 360’s.

Gigi went from being so shy that she would just freeze when you reached down to pet her, to wrestling with Riley and jumping up to stand on your chest and smile down at you while you’re sitting on the sofa. And even though she’s no longer terrified and helpless around us, I still feel particularly protective and affectionate toward her.

And ironically, even though we see Gigi as our darling cuddly baby grrl who’s cuter than any danged button in the world, she’s our sportswoman.  She is fast and smart, an unapologetic hunter who doesn’t mind rain and cold and sparks the rest of the dogs into giving chase and really acting like dogs.

It’s awesome to watch them all charge out into the yard late at night (or early in the morning) with Gigi leading the vocally-silent assault on the unfortunate critter who happens into our yard. A rabbit chase is punctuated by the sounds of the dogs’ feet first thundering down the steps to the deck, and then back and forth in the yard below.  Most of the time, the chase ends with the rattle of the chain link fence signaling the just-in-time departure of the critter.

Occasionally it doesn’t end so well for the critter.  I can tell you that rabbits scream when they’re captured, a heartrending exclamation of horror that seizes my heart. Most often, it’s Gigi who’s quick and dexterous enough to have caught the prey, but I didn’t think she knew what to do with it.  Rick says he’s seen her staring at a bunny she’s pinned to the ground with her front paws, as if she’s amazed she caught it, while the other dogs milled around behind her.

Apparently she finally figured out what to do with the bunny once she caught it.

After Rye came in I gave Gigi a few more minutes, and then I went out on the deck and called her to come in.  She ignored me, which means she was hunting something.  I got the flashlight and tried to find her in the yard. Usually she circles the small utility shed toward the back of the yard, under which many small critters have tried to make their homes. No circles, and I couldn’t see her at all, but I did hear an odd ripping sound and suspected that she was tearing at the plywood that Rick used to barricade the underside of the shed.

If Geej is after something under the shed, she will NOT come in on her own–If I don’t want to wait for an hour or so, I’ll have to go out there and get her. Slipped on my shoes and grabbed the flashlight, and when I was down in the yard on my way out to the shed, I finally saw her–by the fence.  She was concentrating on something at her feet, and as I got closer, the flashlight illuminated the body of a young rabbit, which Gee had caught and partially eaten.

Aw, jeez.

It could have been lots worse–last summer, we were babysitting Karen’s five kids, and her golden retriever, Gretta, actually caught a baby rabbit in the backyard.  I was at work, so Rick had to deal with a mangled baby bunny who was tragically still alive.  He was on his way to the University of Tennessee with the baby when it died in the truck with him.  Heartbreaking.

Bear in mind that Rick and I are not only dog lovers. We love all animals, including rabbits and other wild and domesticated fuzzies, so it’s heartbreaking for us to see an animal become prey.

Most of the time, our kids enjoy the thrill of the hunt without ever ‘finishing’ it. But we have to remember that they are animals, and even though we feed them nutritionally-balanced meals on a regular basis, that there’s still a gene-level memory in them of when they had to feed themselves.

I couldn’t be angry with Gigi.  She’s doing what she was genetically programmed to do, which is to hunt and feed herself. I felt so sad for the rabbit, but I think it died quickly. Well, I hope that’s what happened, anyway. I picked Gigi up to carry her inside, because she really wasn’t ready to leave her prize yet.

Came back out and picked up the dead bunny with a couple of plastic grocery bags and put it in the trash can out front. Its eyes were just beginning to cloud over, but its body was still very warm. Went back inside and checked my darling little grrl for wounds and blood, and discovered that her ears and paws were very bloody and took her into the bathroom for a quick front-end bath. Mud and blood ran down the tub’s drain, and I kept up a very calm and loving patter while I soaped Geej’s ears and front paws and muzzle.  Ew, but this is what happens when a dog (even a darling, fuzzy dog!) kills another animal and commences to eat it.

Kept an eye on her on Sunday to make sure she didn’t suffer any ill effects from her hunt, but frankly I think the rabbit and I got the worst end of that deal. Obviously the rabbit is the overall loser in this story, but again, I can’t blame Gigi or scold her for this.

We need to remember this about all our companion animals, too, not just dogs. Many people who have sporting dogs like beagles and bird dogs have discovered that the prey instinct is very strong in their beloved pets, so strong that it’s not safe for the household to have a bird or rodent as another pet.

And as much as we love our companion animals and train them to live under our roofs with us, they’re still animals and are capable of acting out against us and expressing their fear, frustration or anger in animalistic ways. Your Mr. Poofy Pants Kitty might be pretty tolerant, but he’s still got sharp teeth and may hiss, growl, or even try to bite you if you’re doing something he doesn’t like. My Baby Lady might be adorably fuzzy and shy and funny, but she’s still capable of killing a small animal to feed. Let’s just keep that in mind.

Here's the Baby Lady. Doesn't look like a bloodthirsty killer, do she?

Sheridan Belle and the Abscessed Tooth

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 by kara

Here’s Sheridan Belle, also known as “The Baby Loo.”

So our grrl, Belle, is getting up there in years.  She’s 13 years old, which is amazing to me because most of the time she doesn’t act like a senior citizen.  She’s had a few medical problems along the way but for the most part she’s a healthy, hearty grrl.

She had a cracked molar surgically removed about a year ago, and I had made her some chicken & rice soup to ease her recovery while she healed.  It’s a very simple soup, nothing more than chicken thighs simmered with celery, carrot and rosemary, and then some white rice.  NO salt, pepper, onion, garlic, hot sauce, or any of those other things that make food worth eating for humans!

Turned out she didn’t really NEED the soup, she just chewed on the opposite side of her mouth.  When she actually did chew her kibble–most of the time she just swallowed it whole. Little weasel.  I think her tooth extraction was harder for ME than it was for her.

Last week, she got quite sick with dental problems again.  Our friend and her vet, Dr. Kara, came to see her and said that Belle had an abscess somewhere in her mouth, most likely a tooth, but she couldn’t tell for certain without x-rays.  Belle started taking an antibiotic and painkillers and we made arrangements for her to come to the vet’s office this morning for x-rays, a tooth cleaning and potential extraction, all under general anesthesia. 

Bonus!  February is Pet Dental Health Month, so Belle got a $50 discount on the procedure!  Wooo!

I was concerned, though.  She’s getting up there in years, and general anesthesia is hard for anybody, much less a senior citizen. No other options, though–she is NOT going to sit quietly while Dr. Kara scrapes, cuts, pulls abscessed teeth and then stitches her back up. And we can’t let her suffer with a rotten tooth periodically abscessing again and again. I think watching her (or any of our furkids) suffer is the worst part: She’s miserable and there’s nothing I can do for her except give her the pain pills and try to fix her food so she can eat it.

No worries, though–she’s out of the operating room already and has awakened from the anesthesia.  The extractions went well, and she’ll have to be eating soft food for a few days to protect her stitches.  I’ll go pick her up at 4 p.m., and I’ve got chicken breasts thawing to be chopped and boiled for her dinner.  She’ll like THAT.

It’s important to know, however, that many canine dental problems, especially those like Belle’s, can be avoided. Use caution in giving your dog chew toys–make sure that whatever they’re chewing on isn’t so hard that they’ll crack their teeth on it.  Yes, this can really happen, especially if your dog is an aggressive chewer!

Also, get your dog used to having you handle his or her mouth and brush their teeth.  This can prevent plaque buildup which can cause a bacterial infection of the heart, along with rotting their teeth. Take care of your dog’s teeth and ensure their overall well-being!

Dogs love food, but food doesn’t always love dogs

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009 by kara

Most dogs love to eat, and most dogs will try to eat anything, including some things that aren’t technically food.  As an example, our houseguest, Rocket, just ate my used Breathe Right nose strip yesterday morning.  I noticed that he was chewing determinedly on something, but he didn’t have a toy or anything else suitable for chewing in front of him.

When I investigated by swiping my finger around the inside of his mouth, I found a portion of the plastic bands and some of the chewy adhesive ‘cloth’ that binds the strips to the nose.  Since they’re small and flexible, I retrieved what he hadn’t swallowed, and knew that I’d have to watch him to make sure he could get rid of the rest of it.

It’s accepted (hopefully for obvious reasons!) that dogs shouldn’t eat non-food items like socks and furniture and nose strips, but actual food is a little trickier.  Because dogs are willing to eat pretty much anything people have the misconception that it’s safe to feed them anything, including spoiled food and stuff that we eat regularly.

With regard to ‘dog food’, food that is prepared specifically for the consumption of dogs, we must think about two properties:  The QUALITY of the prepared dog food, and the INGREDIENTS.  We as American consumers have an inordinate amount of trust in commercial manufacturers, believing that capitalistic companies motivated by profit (greed) would never sell us a product which contains less-than-wholesome ingredients.  For human food and products, we rely somewhat on governmental agencies to evaluate and police products (peanut-butter-flavored salmonella, anyone?) but the agencies established to control the quality of animal feed isn’t as comprehensive.

If you’d like to learn more about dog food and what goes into it, go to Sabine Contreras’ website and prepare to be shocked and horrified about what you may have been feeding your dog. The pretty pictures of happy dogs eating nutritious-looking food on the bag often belies what’s inside each and every piece of kibble.

After you’ve learned more about evaluating the ingredients of your dog’s prepared food, there’s more to consider in terms of your dog’s tolerance for those ingredients.  Some ingredients like BHA/BHT are a no-brainer–we wouldn’t want to eat an unstable chemical used to preserve food, so we wouldn’t want to put that in our dog’s dish, either.  But something like corn is pretty harmless, right?  Not to some dogs.  Corn in any form is difficult, if not impossible, for dogs to digest, and many forms offer no nutritional value at all.  At best, it’s a cheap filler and binder in dog foods that increases the bulk of the dog’s stool.  In other words, feed your dog a food with corn as one of the main ingredients, and you’ll be picking up way bigger poops because the dog will just excrete whatever it can’t ‘use.’

At worst, your dog may be allergic to corn, and feeding your dog a food with corn in any form (whole-grain corn, corn meal, corn siftings, corn syrup, corn gluten meal, etc.) can cause him to suffer allergy symptoms like ear infections, skin irritation and hair loss, or more severe symptoms like diarrhea.

I had never encountered a problem with food allergies until our English springer spaniel, Riley Newton, joined the family in October 2006.  He seemed to be a very hairy dog with ‘gooey’ ears who shed an amazing amount of hair and made constant soft-serve-type poops.  As it turns out, the high-quality kibble that he and Belle were eating contained chicken and wheat, which are on the list of common food allergens for dogs.  Changing Rye’s food to a limited-ingredient diet containing only duck meat and potato cleared up his ears, his incredible shedding, and firmed up his stool.  Now I’m very careful to feed Rye things like vegetables and fruits as treats, and I avoid heavily processed foods and treats which may contain common allergens.

Since I’m a lazyass and a terrible dog mother, I haven’t done any real analysis to determine what exactly Rye is allergic to.  Instead I avoid anything which may contain the four common allergens:  Wheat, corn, beef and chicken.  Since our other three don’t display any symptoms of food allergies, they eat a less-expensive but still high-quality kibble.  And no one gets table scraps!

So that’s dog food, in particular.  But what about giving your dogs bits and pieces of foods from your own kitchen as a treat?  My kids like to gather around me when I’m chopping veggies, just in case I drop something or feel generous enough to treat them with a sample.  But there are some foods that dogs should never have, even though we humans can tolerate them without a problem.  Recently I learned quite a lot about foods which can harm dogs while I was researching an article for a rescue group’s newsletter.  I’m going to copy and paste it in here.  Please bear in mind that I’m not a nutritionist, and that I’m not a doctor, and I don’t even play one on TV, so if you see something with which you disagree, remember that this is not a comprehensive list and that I’m not always right.  I’m just a concerned dog mother who wants to share this info with everyone.

“Human Food No-Nos,” by Kara DuLac-Shields  Copyright 2008-2009

We love our dogs, and as a way to express our love for them, sometimes we give them bits of food as treats.  However, “food does not equal love,” especially for dogs.  Many foods that we as humans eat without even a second thought can be toxic for dogs, for a number of different reasons.

We need to remember that our dogs are very different from humans physiologically.  Dogs are generally smaller than us, they have different teeth, different body chemistry, and far shorter digestive systems from us, which make some human foods dangerous for dogs.

For example, you and I could go to the bar and choose to have a beer–or several beers, and some chicken wings, and cheese sticks, maybe smoke a few cigarettes, and then we could take some aspirin when we get home.  One beer, or even several beers, might make us feel bad the next morning, but it’s unlikely that a healthy adult could die from drinking a beer.  Likewise, the chicken wings and cheese sticks wouldn’t kill us immediately, although we would be healthier if we avoided them.

But for dogs, even a small amount of alcohol could prove fatal, by depressing their central nervous system and putting them into a coma.  Likewise for tobacco–although dogs don’t often smoke, they may eat your cigarettes or chewing tobacco, and the nicotine is out-and-out poisonous.

And the bones in the chicken wings could splinter and cut your dog’s digestive system, or even become lodged in their intestines, which are much smaller in diameter than our own.  The cheese sticks have a high fat content, which can precipitate a disease in dogs called pancreatitis, which can cause death.  And then there’s the aspirin–while it might relieve pain for a short time, it could also eat a hole through the delicate lining of the dog’s stomach.

Not many people would take their dog to the bar and set it up with a pitcher, the munchie sampler and a Tiparillo, but consider what you toss to your dog as a treat in your own kitchen.  Be diligent in even reading the ingredient labels of the food you give your dog–even harmless-looking stuff like baby food can contain onion powder, which is toxic for dogs.  We are two very different species, and therefore have different dietary needs.  So in order to show our love to our four-legged kids with tails, we do need to say ‘no’ occasionally, just like any responsible parent.  Check the list below for some doggie dietary no-nos.

Fruit, Vegetables & Nuts:

Avocadoes: The avocado fruit, pit, and plant/tree are all toxic to dogs.  Hopefully you don’t have a guacamole fan.

Broccoli: Although your dog would have to eat a wagon load of broccoli to experience problems, it can be toxic in large quantities due to a compound called isothiocyanate, which can cause gastrointestinal irritation.  Just make sure broccoli makes up no more than 10% of your dog’s diet.

Grapes & raisins:  Have an unknown toxin which causes kidney failure in dogs.

Onions & garlic:  Contain thiosulfate (garlic in far lower amounts than onions) which destroys red blood cells & causes anemia.  This also builds up in the dog’s system, so even if they only eat a little bit at a time, repeated ingestion can result in toxic levels.  Humans have the necessary enzymes to break down thiosulfates–dogs don’t.

Tomatoes: The stems and leaves of the tomato plant are especially toxic, containing a lot of oxalates, which cause bladder stones.  Some have also attributed cardiac problems to the tomato itself, which is a member of the nightshade family.

Pits/seeds:  Most fruit pits contain a form of cyanide, although the flesh of fruits like apples, cherries, and peaches themselves are great snacks for dogs.  Pits can also cause intestinal blockages.

Mold/Spoiled food:  Mold and food-poisoning pathogens can be harmful to your dog.  Even though they don’t often suffer with food poisoning symptoms because their digestive systems are so much shorter than ours, it’s best not to take chances.  Don’t give your dog spoiled food–in short, if you won’t eat it, your dog shouldn’t, either.

Mushrooms: Wild and domestic mushrooms can be toxic for your dog.  There are very few types that are completely safe, so it’s best just to avoid them.

Nuts:  Macadamia and walnuts can cause weakness, muscle tremors and paralysis, so avoid them.  However, other nuts like peanuts (which is actually a legume and not a ‘tree nut’) and Brazil nuts can be healthy for your dog, in moderation.  Brazil nuts actually contain selenium, which is a vital nutrient for both your dog and you.

Persimmons:  Can cause intestinal blockage.

Potato peelings, green potatoes, green tomatoes, and rhubarb leaves: Contain oxalates, which can harm the nervous, digestive, and urinary systems, causing bladder stones.  And  by the way, rhubarb leaves are toxic no matter to which species you belong!

From the Spice Cupboard:

Nutmeg: Affects the nervous system and can cause hallucinations, seizures and death.

Salt, Baking Soda, & Baking Powder: Too much salt can damage your dog’s kidneys.  And in large amounts, they all can unbalance your dog’s electrolytes, leading to muscle spasm and congestive heart failure.

Xylitol: Damages the liver and kidneys and even a tiny bit can cause liver failure, resulting in death.  Keep your dog out of your purse and away from your sugar-free mints and chewing gum!

Yeast dough:  Can ‘rise’ in your dog’s digestive system and obstruct or actually rupture the stomach or intestines.  Fermenting yeast also produces alcohol, which can lead to alcohol poisoning.

Meat, Fish, Dairy:

Eggs:  Raw eggs can cause Salmonella poisoning.

Fish: Some raw fish can also cause salmonella poisoning;  raw salmon can cause “salmon poisoning.”  It can contain a parasite which hosts rickettsia, a bacterial pathogen that can sicken or kill your dog if the infection isn’t treated with antibiotics in time; tuna fish contains a lot of mercury, a heavy metal that also accumulates in fatty tissue, so large amounts of tuna should be avoided.

Bones:  Most bones should NOT be given (especially chicken or ‘spare rib’ bones) because they all can splinter and lacerate the digestive tract, or pose a choking hazard by becoming stuck in your dog’s throat.  They’re not all bad, though.  Appropriately-sized bones do offer valuable minerals and nutrients, and chewing on a hard object like a bone will clean your dog’s teeth and strengthen their jaw muscles, as well as provide entertainment for your dog.  If you do want to give your dog a bone, make sure that you have a large-enough bone like a beef knuckle that your dog can’t swallow whole, and always supervise your dog’s chewing, because there’s always a possibility that a piece of bone could splinter.  Also be aware that raw bones can harbor bacteria like salmonella, which is more a threat to humans than to dogs.  If you want to cook your dog’s bones to reduce the possibility of culturing bacteria, do so by boiling them rather than baking them, which tends to make them brittle.

Dairy Products:  Beware of fatty dairy products like butter and cream, which can precipitate pancreatitis.  In a less-serious vein, some dogs can also be lactose intolerant, which leads to gas and diarrhea, but for  50% of dogs, small amounts of yogurt, cheese or cottage cheese can be nourishing.

Fatty Meats:  Again, fatty meats have the capacity to induce pancreatitis.  Avoid them.

“The Finer Things in Life:”

Alcohol:  Wine, beer, tequila, Nyquil, doesn’t matter what kind–any form of alcohol can lead to coma or death.

Hops plugs:  Used in beer making, hops plugs contain whole-leaf hops which bear resins, essential oils, phenols, and nitrogenous compounds which can cause abdominal distension and pain, tachycardia and death.

Chocolate:  Although your dog may tell you he LOVES chocolate, it doesn’t love him.  Chocolate contains caffeine and an alkaloid compound called theobromine, which act as a cardiac stimulant and diuretic.  That is, they speed up your dog’s heart and make him whiz too much.  In large-enough amounts, chocolate can lead to dehydration, seizures, and death.  White and milk chocolate have the lowest amounts of theobromine, and baker’s semisweet chocolate has the highest.

Coffee/tea/soft drinks:  Are all hazardous due to their caffeine content.  Remember to dispose of your coffee grounds and tea bags properly, too–dogs can sometimes have a strange attraction to stuff like this.

Cigarettes/Cigars/Chewing Tobacco/Nicotine Patches/Nicotine Gum: Nicotine is an alkaloid poison, toxic enough that it’s used as a pesticide.  It’s poisonous to everyone, not just dogs–when humans get a dizzy rush and faint nausea on smoking their first cigarette, that’s a mild case of nicotine poisoning.  In dogs that have ingested enough nicotine, the poison can paralyze their diaphragm (breathing) muscle and cause cardiac problems, up to heart failure.

NSAIDs/Aspirin/Ibuprofen:  In large doses, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause ulcers, and damage kidneys by reducing blood flow to vital organs.  Administer these to your dog only on the advice of your veterinarian.

Tylenol/Acetaminophen:  Should NEVER be given to dogs or cats.  Causes severe tissue damage to cells, and dogs and cats don’t have enough of the liver enzymes necessary to effectively break this chemical down into its harmless components.

Human Vitamin Supplements: Many vitamins manufactured for human use contain levels of nutrients and minerals, particularly iron, which are too concentrated for dogs to digest safely.  They can cause kidney failure and liver damage.

If you’re ever in doubt about a food treat, don’t give it to your dog.  And if your dog gets hold of something bad, call the ASPCA’s Poison Hotline at (888) 426.4435.

Sources:

http://www.marvistavet.com/

http://www.petplace.com

http://www.avma.org/careforanimals/animatedjourneys/livingwithpets/poisoninfo.asp#Misc3

http://www.dog-first-aid-101.com/toxic-foods.html

http://www.animalpetsandfriends.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theobromine_poisoning

“Invisible fences:” Pros, cons, worthwhile?

Friday, June 19th, 2009 by kara

Most dogs enjoy hanging out outside and investigating their yard, barking at the birds/other dogs/FedEx truck/USPS truck/the wind, and laying in the sun.  You do, however, want your dog to stay at home in his own yard while he’s enjoying the outdoors.  The best method for keeping your dog safely contained is a functional fence, either a chain link or wooden fence that’s tall enough to dissuade your dog from challenging it, and sturdy enough to contain your dog if something should come by and challenge your dog’s authority in the neighborhood.

The fence also protects your dog from outside nuisances, like rowdy neighborhood kids with sling shots and pellet guns, and loose dogs wandering by on the street–a good fence will not only keep your babies safe at home, it will also protect your furkids from many different elements which you may not even have considered as threats.

Fencing can be expensive though, and there are some neighborhoods which don’t allow homeowners to install a functional fence in any part of their yard.  If you’re a dogparent or are planning to become a dogparent, it’s best to investigate your neighborhood’s zoning rules regarding fencing before buying a house there. Seriously, it’s quite the bummer if you can’t use your own yard in the way you’d like just because of the subdivision’s bylaws, and this may not have been something you’d considered before buying a house.  Learn from our experiences and check out the neighborhood’s zoning and bylaws before you buy!

Although your dog may love the Great Outdoors, you probably don’t want to hang out him every minute he spends outside.  You do still need to take measures to keep him safe and secure though, and that’s where a fence comes in.  And don’t even get me started on the “backyard dog chained to his dog house” situation–if you’re going to chain your dog outside, be aware that you’re putting your animal on the defensive by leaving him exposed to every other animal to come into HIS yard and challenge him, while forcing him to stay in one spot–he can’t even run away and hide from another aggressive dog who’s roaming loose!  Chains also restrict a dog’s movement and can cause injury to his back and neck.  Would YOU want to be chained to your desk at work, or to the sofa in your livingroom?  Didn’t think so.  Please don’t chain your animal!

Some dogs just naturally stay in their own yards, having no desire to ‘go walkabout’ or chase joggers or cars or other animals.  These petparents are fortunate indeed!  But I still wouldn’t trust furkids completely.  They ARE animals, after all, and as such they operate by a different set of motivators of which we are completely ignorant.

What about invisible fencing?  It’s invisible, so your yard looks the same as it did before installation, provides a barrier (of sorts) to keep your dog in your own yard, and doesn’t cost as much as traditional fencing.  The idea behind invisible fencing is that positive and negative reinforcement TRAINING keeps your dog inside the boundaries of your yard.  Essentially, the fence is as effective as your training was thorough.  Right after the fence is installed, and during the initial training period, you use flags as a visual marker to show your dog the boundaries within which he can roam.  When the dog approaches the boundaries while wearing the electric fence’s matching collar, he may receive a small warning shock, or hear a warning tone or click that tells him he’s getting too close to the boundary.  Showing your dog this warning zone, and rewarding his immediate return to the safe zone, reinforces his presence in the yard positively.

If he attempts to cross the boundary, he experiences a real, live shock that is intended to dissuade him from wanting to leave the yard.  I’ve seen some dogs who’ve learned to respect the invisible fence boundary completely, but I have some reservations about their effectiveness.

First of all, the boundary is only effective as long as your dog stays inside it.  If your dog manages to figure out that after enduring one big shock he can roam free, what’s really to keep him in?  Worse yet, if your dog DOES manage to bust out of the invisible fence, he’ll get a shock when he tries to come back IN to his own yard.  Negative reinforcement training for returning home!  FAIL.  This is kind of like laws intended to control illegal firearm possession and use:  ‘If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.’

Another problem I have with invisible fences is that (like a chain) they keep your dog in the yard, but they don’t prevent other animals from entering the yard and threatening (and possibly injuring) YOUR dog.  That would be kind of like handcuffing yourself to the kitchen sink faucet, while propping the front door open and letting any Tom, Dick or Harry wander in off the street.  Think about it:  You’d feel pretty vulnerable, chained to the faucet, while strangers rifled through your DVDs and sampled the contents of your refrigerator, wouldn’t you?  Think of how your dog might feel if all the loose dogs in the neighborhood could come into HIS yard, but he wasn’t allowed to run away and hide.  He might feel threatened, and forced to defend his territory, and being confined, he’d be at a disadvantage.

Invisible fences also don’t prevent people from stealing your dog.  Granted, regular fences don’t always prevent that either but a four-foot cyclone fence with a lock on the gate will certainly slow down a bait-dog-napper more than an invisible fence would do.  A privacy fence also offers your dog protection from rowdy neighborhood kids, and by blocking his view of the outside world a little bit, might keep your dog a tad bit quieter.

Regardless what type of fence you have or are planning to install, please don’t allow the fence to be a substitute for your presence.  I myself am guilty of just letting my dogs out the backdoor to hang out in the yard, when I should be spending time with them out there.  Whether it’s playing, exercising, training, or just enjoying the sun with your furkids, be with them when they’re outside–you’ll both be happier for it.

Impossibly tough decisions and sadness

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 by kara

I can’t put this off any longer.  It’s a heartbreaking topic, and I have to write about it for two reasons:  The first is that writing about it helps me to process and understand and eventually accept it, and the second reason is to make others more aware of how difficult and worthwhile and joyful and heartbreaking animal rescue can be.

On May 12, I made the decision to euthanize my foster dog, Coalby.

One minute he was a beautiful, vital, wiggly, soft, furry boy and the next he was a lifeless body.  I made that decision.  I gave the word. I killed him.  Well, I didn’t actually kill him–the vet gave him the injection, but I put his euthanasia in motion so in my mind it might as well have been me pushing down the plunger on that syringe.

In case you’re wondering, yes, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  And yes, I felt indescribably terrible about doing it.  I cried for days and am still crying about it better than a month later.  It’s no small decision.  It’s a horrible weight on my heart.  I made the decision to take the life of a living being who was dependent on me for food, shelter, love and guidance.  He trusted me and I sent him to The Bridge.

Coalby was at the local animal shelter when he came to Cocker Companions Rescue on October 3, 2008.  He was a gorgeous dog, and young and healthy, to boot.  He was picked up as a stray, and had shown significant aggression toward other dogs while he was in his own crate, so we were very cautious with him.  We didn’t have any foster homes available who could take him, because everyone had either other dogs or cats  (or both) in their homes.

However, OUT of the crate, he was a beautiful, wiggly lovey-boy who wanted to play with tennis balls more than anything else in the world.  He was an athletic dog, very energetic and active, a truly happy guy with an endearing habit of turning his head to listen to people when they talked to him.  Although he had some issues, he seemed to be a very promising young man.  Because he had acted aggressively toward other dogs, Coalby ended up living in boarding until October 28, which is when I decided to foster him, to see if we could learn more about his behavior and get him accustomed to living in a real home.

My four kids were amazingly receptive and welcomed Coalby with open paws.  (Belle, Riley, Skipper and Gigi are wonderfully patient and kind dogs, and have been so accepting of all the foster dogs that have come through our home–I owe them all a tremendous debt of gratitude.)  I kept Coalby separated from the rest of the herd for part of the day, and allowed them to mingle occasionally when I was home to keep an eye on everyone.  Coalby was still very possessive of his toys, so we decided to pick up inside toys, and let them play with outside toys in the yard where there was more room and less opportunity for anyone to feel cornered or challenged.

Since Coalby was a beautiful all-black cocker, he was very popular on our Petfinder listing.  He got a lot of attention, but his toy possessiveness and intolerance for other dogs gave many would-be adopters pause.  Finally, in November, he got noticed by a woman who wanted to bring a fun, athletic young dog into her and her husband’s home.  We emphasized Coalby’s need for ongoing training and EXERCISE to manage his tennis ball obsession, and they agreed with our plan for him, insisting that they’d follow through with continued training and exercising Coalby to help wear him out and keep him calm.

Then in the middle of April of this year, Coalby’s petparents contacted Karen back, telling her that he had been aggressive with people outside their immediate family, and that they didn’t feel capable of managing his aggression.  Karen and I were both shocked because of all Coalby’s quirks, he had never shown aggression toward humans.  We couldn’t say for certain that we knew him well enough to rule out aggression to people, but he hadn’t been at our house for very long, and we hadn’t had any visitors while he was fostering here.  We wanted to know more about what was going on–and of course if he was aggressive toward people, we’d do the right thing.

When Coalby’s petparents brought him back to us, I was surprised at the difference in his personality.  Instead of being the happy, outgoing, engaged boy he was back in October, he seemed detached from anyone and everyone around him, preferring to mouth his tennis ball instead of approach people for love and petting.  Okay, we figured that he was pretty traumatized at leaving his adoptive home, so we gave him a few days to settle in.  He didn’t show any aggression toward any people right away, so I brought him back home to hang out with us for a while and see what was going on.

Over several days, Coalby seemed to loosen up a little bit and we started seeing the happy, lovey boy that we knew from before.  He was still obsessed with his tennis balls, however, so we were careful to keep them away from the other dogs.  And then one night, Coalby growled when Rick tried to pet him while he was eating.  Rick said later that he didn’t know if it was a real growl, or if Coalby was burping.  After several more similar incidents, we accepted that Coalby had changed in some way over the past several months, and not for the better.

I decided to deliberately try to provoke him, and tested Co-Coal with some yogurt to see if I could get him to growl while he ate it.  I had my hands all over him, petting him and rubbing him all over while he slurped up vanilla low-fat yogurt, and even took the bowl away and gave it back several times–he didn’t make a peep.  I reported this to Karen with great relief.  “Coalby is still a good boy!  He didn’t challenge me even with a bowl of yummy, lovely yogurt on the line!”

Then, later on that day, I tested him again while he was eating his regular kibble–and got a real, serious growl this time.  That’s not good.  A rescue dog can’t be aggressive toward humans over anything, ever.  Over the next few days, Coalby started to guard his food, or his toys, or just his ex-pen.  We’d reach down to pet his head and he’d growl as if we meant to take his tennis ball, and fix us with that scary “thousand yard stare.”  Or even scarier, he’d whip his head around as if to snap at us without even a warning growl.  So we tried to find out if Coalby had a ‘trigger’ that we could reliably use to cause the aggressive behavior.  If we could identify a trigger, we could then remove that trigger and avoid any further aggression.

Does it happen when there’s food around?  Does it happen when there are toys around?  Is it just tennis balls, or is it all toys? Is it food in general, or is it particularly yummy treats?  We tried taking just tennis balls away, then we tried taking all toys away…we tried every combination we could think of, and unfortunately we couldn’t nail down that behavior to any one element.  Coalby was becoming more unpredictable by the day, and he didn’t have any problem with challenging Rick and I.

Who knows what happened in his little head?  Maybe this was the real Coalby coming out, and we just didn’t have enough time to get comfortable with him before.  Maybe this was just the way his viewpoint of the world was changing as he aged.

The only reason I can find for how we could have missed seeing this behavior in him is that he didn’t spend enough time with us to truly relax and let us see his true nature, which was alpha male through-and-through.  Karen and I agonized about what to do with him.  I could still see his amazing personality (he really WOULD cock his head to the side when he listened to you!), but I was becoming more and more afraid of him.  It was impossible to tell when he’d allow you to pet him, and when he’d stiffen and snap if you reached toward him.

I know that the first time Coalby stayed with us, my dogs were very cautious around him, and darling little Gigi was traumatized by his extreme alpha presence in the household.  She showed me her fear when she looked me in the eye and wet on the carpet right in front of the door to the deck.  But I honestly thought that she was more upset by the presence of a new dog in the household, as she hadn’t been with us for very long herself.  I should have seen her fear and recognized what frightened her, but I wanted to believe that with the right home and the right training and enough exercise, that Coalby would thrive.

Karen and I talked about Coalby at extreme length;  well, she talked and I cried and blew snot bubbles out of my nose while I blubbered.  I really, truly wanted Coalby to be a safe, dependable friend, but I couldn’t keep him with me and I didn’t have the expertise to work him through this behavioral problem, anyway.  Karen said that Coalby MIGHT be salvagable if he could live and work intensively with an experienced trainer for a year, maybe longer…and that trainer couldn’t have any other dogs or cats, and probably not any kids, either.

We don’t know anyone like that.  And knowing all of Coalby as we now did, we couldn’t adopt him out to anyone else who was any less experienced with dogs.  We decided to send him to The Rainbow Bridge, so that he wouldn’t actually get to the point where he hurt someone.

Talk about a terrible weight on your heart.  A horrendous responsibility.  Taking a life, even for these reasons.  I know there are worse things than death, especially a peaceful, easy death.  If Coalby had been adopted out to a less-than-enlightened family, he might have been beaten to death as punishment for biting a family member.  Or he could have been sold on Craig’s List as a bait dog for dog fighting.  Or he could have been dumped in a remote area by someone who didn’t want the responsibility of an aggressive dog, ending up poisoned or hit by a car or attacked by a coyote or shot for sport by callous kids…

I told myself that we’d rescued him from being an unwanted stray, and that we’d given him a second chance to have a happy life with a family, and that’s all we could do for him.  But there was just something in him that didn’t allow him to live peacefully alongside humans and other dogs, and for everyone’s safety he needed to go home to The Bridge.  In that way, we’d save him once again from being an unwanted stray.

It’s such a huge responsibility.  It would have been so much easier on Karen and I if we had been able to just send Coalby somewhere else and say “SOMEBODY will take care of him and do the right thing by him, even if it’s not us.”  But we know what he’s like, and we know what could possibly happen to him if he got into the hands of someone else who wasn’t as mindful of his well-being.  And we know that working in rescue means very often having to make these tough decisions, and taking responsibility for ending a life mercifully.

Karen and I were there with Coalby when he went to The Bridge on May 12.  He had his tennis ball and a tummy full of Zuke’s Peanut Butter Treats, and Karen’s and my arms were around him.  I held his little face in my hands and rested my forehead on his, and told him I loved him.  When he went limp it felt like my soul was being torn out of my body, but somehow it hurt worse than that ever could.  I hope he forgives me.  I hope that he’s whole and happy at The Bridge, and that he’s having fun with all our other furkids who’ve gone there before him.  And I hope that when it comes my turn to go to The Bridge, that he remembers me and cocks his head to hear me call him, and that he brings me his tennis ball to throw for him.

MinuteRant: You don’t NEED to use all of that six-foot-long dog leash!

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 by kara

I attended a local gathering last week for human and animal fans of rescue, and while scanning the crowd I noticed AGAIN that lots of petparents have no idea how to restrain their furkids properly in public.

A leash is a tool intended to help the petparent maintain control of their furkid.  Our dogs and cats and ferrets and rabbits may enjoy hanging out with us in public, but they lack a certain awareness of their surroundings.  They’re ignorant of the finer points of behavior in a crowd, and must depend on their parents to guide them.

The leash allows petparents to keep their furkid close to them at all times, and to monitor the furkid’s response to external stimuli, such as the darling three-year-old child of man with the stick of cotton candy bigger than her head.  Tighten up on that leash, please, sir!  Just because you HAVE a six-foot-long leash, madame, that DOESN’T mean you have to USE all six feet!

There’s a loop on one end to go around your wrist, just in case you lose your grip on the leash.  SO PUT YOUR HAND ALL THE WAY THROUGH THAT LOOP and then grab the leash a little further down!  If you stick your fingers through the loop and hold on to the very end of that leash, your furkid has a whole lot of area around you in which to wander unmonitored.  That leaves your pet vulnerable to getting stepped on by other people, or picking up some tasty tidbit of trash which you don’t want them to throw up on your carseat later, or maybe even getting tangled with a stranger and injured in the resulting fight.

On a less-dangerous but more annoying note, allowing your animal to wander at the very end of its leash means they’re getting in other peoples’ way, blocking their path, and maybe even tripping them.  This is just RUDE, my friends.  Please stop to consider the other beings around you, and be polite by not blocking the way!

It always amazes me how much land a Great Dane can occupy.  That area is squared–nay, CUBED–by the factors of a six-foot lead and the owner’s outstretched arm.  There’s a lot of traffic that comes to a halt because of a big dog at the end of a long lead held in the owner’s fingertips.

Just as hazardous, though, is a toy breed at the end of a FlexiLead.  Chihuahuas seem to be much more confident than they should be, given their size, and you will ALWAYS find a Chihuahua at the very end of their Flexi.  Flexis may be more dangerous than a regular nylon or leather lead because they multiply the distance factor so hugely.  Your dog is sneaky:  He can get into trouble when he’s only two and one-half feet away from you, so consider what he can accomplish if he’s 10 or 12 feet away!  And Flexis are insidious–the cord is very lightweight and can be difficult to see in a crowd.  A distracted owner remains connected to their dog, even though 12 or 15 feet of cord may have played out between the two.  The owner regains consciousness, decides to look for their dog, releases the lock on the Flexi, and 12 feet of spring-assisted cord zip back into tension through the air, cutting off limbs of innocent bystanders and throttling other nearby pets.

All right, the hyperbole was awfully heavy in that last paragraph, but have you ever had a rope burn from a Flexi?  OWIE!  There are limited applications for the Flexi, and walking in a heavy crowd is NOT one of them.

Petparents, take your furkids with you whenever possible, but be considerate of them and of others around you.  Don’t let your pet wander at the end of its leash, and PLEASE make sure that whichever specie you decide to love, that you can safely control them in public.  Oh, and it would be NICE if you’d carry poop bags with you and USE THEM WHENEVER NECESSARY.  People who like dogs don’t necessarily like dog poop.  Thank you.

Skipper-Dee-Do-Dah, the June Bug, and questionable hobbies

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 by kara

Life is fun with a houseful of dogs.  Each of them has distinct and unique personalities and they’ve all offered us tremendous amounts of affection and entertainment, as well as occasional doses of alarm and repulsion.  Take Skipper-Dee-Do-Dah, for example.  Skip is our buff male cocker spaniel, who is also known as “KipKip,” “Poos,” “Poopoo Bear,” and “Pooser McPooserstein.”  He’s a very serious little fellow who’s recovering from a pretty serious mommy addiction, but he’s occasionally given to flights of fancy–although those are still pretty rare.  Most of the time he mopes around, waiting for Mummah or Daddy to love him up, and pissing and moaning when anyone else gets attention.

One thing Kip does particularly well is hunt bugs.  Skip is a champion bug hunter.  He has no qualms regarding the size of the insect; whether his quarry be a pill bug or a June bug, his pursuit is equally intense.  He also has no regard for danger, and will hunt either a cave cricket or carpenter bee with the same verve.  He has a great deal of pride in the hunt and the kill, and relishes eating his conquests.  :::shudder:::

Spring is a particularly enjoyable time for Pooser because of all the bug wildlife activity.  So many little exoskeletons to examine!  So many little legs to crunch!  Ick.  So anyway, a few nights ago, we noticed Kip down at the foot of the deck steps, eating June bugs off the wall.  *sigh*  Whatcha gonna do?  Just like Gigi REFUSES to come in as long as she has a rabbit cornered under our little shed out in the back yard, KipKip hates to let Nature’s Bug Bounty go to waste, and he won’t come in while there are any bugs left within reach.

Eventually he got tired of this ‘fishing in a bucket’ activity (or he got a full tummy, I’m not sure which) and came back up to be let in, along with all the other furkids.  Rick let everyone into the house, and KipKip came prancing in to the dining room like a little crazy thing.  He tore off, lowrunning down the hall, and we hear him back in the computer room, rolling around and snarling to himself with joy and being nutso like he does sometimes after a fulfilling potty break.  Or so we thought…

Rick goes down the hall into the computer room to investigate, and I hear him say “Skipper!  LEAVE IT!!” And being a concerned mother I go to see what Pooser McPooserstein has acquired.  I’m curious (and concerned!) because our house is pretty much dogproofed and I can’t imagine what Kip could have that would inspire Rick to the panic level I hear in his voice.

I peek into the computer room to see my bemused husband restraining Poo with a hand on his collar, and a small, dark…something…lying quite motionless on the carpet.  “Did you HEAR Skip?” Rick asks me, pointing at the June bug.  I said “Yeah, sounds like he was having quite a lot of fun playing with his little friend.”

I go to the hall bathroom and fetch a Kleenex with which to remove the poor little bug, and Rick (for some reason) releases the Poo.  Well.  Before I can collect his ‘kill’, Poo zips back in like a shot and snaps up his little June bug friend, chewing him with quite a lot of relish and some more prancing around.  We were all suitably grossed out, except for Poo, who was very satisfied with hisself.  Poo’s position as the resident bughunter has been reaffirmed.

I guess I should be relieved that he only likes to hunt and eat bugs.  I’d be pretty freaked out if he caught mice and brought them in to snack on at his leisure.  I’m still dreading the day he catches a bee, however.