Friday, March 19, 2010

Walk the dog, Find a Cure

Today marks my youngest daughter's 11th birthday. I remember her birth so vividly. Sophie is a remarkably poised, competent and amazing being [as are her older sisters, ages 13 and 17]. A very old and nurturing soul is she.

Bringing children into the world is a daunting prospect. But you hope to raise them to go out in the world.

Bringing a dog into your home can also be a daunting project. But you hope to raise them to live a long and happy life with you and not go out into the world.

Dogs don't usually live as long as people. But we give them our hearts and our souls. We whisper our secrets into their silken ears and take comfort in their ability to enjoy life's simple pleasures. A good scratch. A long walk. A cozy cuddle. A welcome greeting. Yes of course we curse their sometimes unruly ways. But we love them. Yet they usually leave us before we want them to go. That is the usual order of things and an agreement we enter into knowingly.

I lost Lily to cancer just over two months ago. But she was 10 and had lived a good and long life.  She lives on in my memory and I am fortunate to have many of those.

Olivia Crowley was 10 years old when she died. She was stricken with cancer at the tender age of 7. For 3 years she battled her illness with an indefatigable spirit. Bright, optimistic, funny and a fellow dog lover, I had the great good fortune to meet Olivia when she was partnered in service with Charlie, a golden retriever. A pooch who buoyed her spirit when it was flagging, who listened to her secrets, played secret games and gave unconditional positive feedback. Olivia touched me deeply. Not because she was sick, but she was yet another wise old soul way who just made the world she was in a better place.

Please join me on the Curesearch walk -- with or without your well behaved dog -- on May 8 at University Circle. Or donate -- whatever you can afford -- to A Better Pet Pets team.  Follow on Facebook, tell your friends and family, and together let's make a difference.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

And you thought chewies were just for puppies!!

Did you know that 4 out of 5 dogs over the age of 3 have gum disease? And gum disease is also one of the most preventable and treatable diseases. I actually spent a few years figuring out Lily's previous horror show smell that often emanated out of her mouth. 
Twice I had her go under anesthesia for a full teeth cleaning but the problem returned. Finally, with the diagnostic skills of Dr. James Preuter at Shaker Animal Clinic, I discovered that she had a low level bacterial gut infection that came roaring through her oral cavity when she panted or yawned or just opened her mouth. Room clearing odor. Friends leaving early because of it odor. Finally resolved by giving her low doses of flagyl for the rest of her life which treated the actual problem.
But that was more of an exception and gum disease is real. What can you do about it? Tartar contributes to gum disease, so controlling tartar buildup will help control gum disease. Two simple things that you can do to help prevent this very common problem in your dog: 
  1. Daily brushing .  Brushing your dog's teeth every day (or at least 3 times a week) will work to remove tartar. Start by offering your dog a taste of the veterinary toothpaste. Position the bristles of the brush along the gum line of the upper back teeth and angle slightly up, so the bristles get under the gum line. Work from back to front, making small circles along the gum lines. It should take you less than 30 seconds to brush your pet's teeth. 
Or you could say that isn't going to happen because you just aren't going to get into that habit. Another supplemental or different option is
  1. Tartar control chewies.  The best solution I have found, and the thing I sell the most of, are bully sticks. Organic (made from the part of bull that a cow doesn't have), digestible, highly desired, non perishable and great for dogs of all ages and sizes, this chewie is hands down the best for your goal to:
a. Entertain a teething puppy
b. Prevent tartar build up
c. Entertain a dog of any age.

Tell me you were inspired to order bullies from A Better Pet by putting TARTAR PREVENTOR in the comments section of your order form and you will get FREE SHIPPING and a little surprise if you are a new customer and order a minimum of 25 bullies.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Why The Dog Whisperer Whispers

Just finished up a 6 week series of Puppy Kindergarten and Puppy Next Step with the next series slated to begin next month.

Shy dogs learning to play and overcome some fears; over the top pups learned to tone it down and play nice; people learning a peaceful, fun and non violent way to train.

Spring is definitely afoot. Sunshine, melting snow, blue skies, chirping birds -- an assault on all the senses. In a good way.

View this hilarious clip from Charlie Murphy which says with laugh out loud humor the real secret to the Dog Whisperer. An assault on the senses. In a bad way. Shout it out -- positive training works!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Behavioral Mutations Revisited

Lily the Queen died nearly 8 weeks ago. The historically sound triumvirate - 3 kids, 3 cats, 3 dogs -- has been fang shwayed into imbalance with 3 kids, 3 cats, and just 2 dogs.
[Trip (L) and Bean feel the void left by Lily]. 

     From the very beginning when she came into my life as a gangly rescue pup -- serendipitiously and unplanned in January of 2000, Lily kept benevolent control over the human and animal gang. My aide-de-camp. An organic nanny cam. Chase games with Bean. Tolerance of Trip's terrier antics. A jarring habit of one LOUD bark at the cats if they walked too close to her while she was resting. Never phased the cats. Freaked me out when I wasn't prepared. I miss it.

When she hit adulthood, she did become protective and reactive on occasion [she nipped at my sister's visiting dog once but I take responsibility --- they had been good friends on previous visits, I have the video!] which I worked with in the last four years of her life once I understood all the triggers and ensured safety.  In all her orchestrations of the Better Pet posse that lived in my house, permanent and visiting members, she never resorted to so much as a lip lift. Elegant. Graceful. Feminine. Strong. Athletic. Gently persuasive. Calming. Gosh I miss that.

The Boys, Trip and Bean, do all those things boy dogs do. Marking and one upmarkingsmanship --- this time of the year all the more obvious by the yellow discolored snow streaks in the piles that abound. Being goofy and find it difficult to multi task. They rarely ask for directions but always end up following my lead. They both like to push their heads into my hand for rubbing; Lily would just calmly insist without force that her head be rubbed.

Two weeks ago, my 10 yo daughter Sophie and her sleepover friend Schuyler were happy to be spending much of the following day together. The tweenager energy spilling out of them after waffles (too much syrup?) needed venting. I sent the girls off into the great outdoors, each with a dog on a leash and a bag of treats.
     Some 45 minutes later a frantic Sophie called from her cell phone. Her hysterical rant produced only a few legible words -- dog fight, blood, lots of blood -- and her location -- her elementary school playground and fields. 
     Arriving minutes later with my oldest daughter Zena in tow, all four -- the two girls and two dogs -- were sitting calmly on a large hill of deep snow. As we neared the group we could see the snow flecked with quite a bit of blood. NOTE: I remained incredibly calm -- both because I knew it wasn't serious and because I didn't want the kids to be any more freaked out than they already were. I inspected both dogs. I found a few scrapes and shallow puncture wounds. I kicked snow over the bloodstains.  Later I would find a gash on the inside of Trip's rear left thigh and a cut near Bean's right eye. None of the injuries were serious but there was an edge in the air.
     Moving slowly to maintain calm, I assured the girls that it was boys being boys and much like human brothers fighting. I took responsibility because I had been developing an awareness of an unsettlement with the dogs. I shouldn't have had the girls take both without me.  I explained that the dogs were rudderless without Lily. Behavioral mutations were afoot and it was an ongoing process. That even though I often took just Trip and Bean on walks without Lily, her presence in the home was was kept balance on the pack. Her death was a loss for all of us to deal with, however we needed to, including the animals. But the good news is that, in terms of this fight, like human boys, usually, once it was over it was over. And it was over despite the trail of blood and the cuts and punctures.
     We took the dogs home, I bathed them up, slathered their shallow punctures with neosporin and really observed. I've been observing ever since.
     Trip and Bean have not had any issues since The Fight. The next day Sophie and I returned to the scene of the crime with just Bean. We played on the playground with Bean -- having him do what I call Playground Agility -- and he was drawn to the area in the snow where I had covered the blood. His usually very reliable recall was seriously compromised -- he couldn't stop sniffing deeply into the snow. What was his plodder brain processing? It's at times like this I wish I had one of those translators ala one of my favorite movies, UP!
     Both dogs are fully recovered. They seem to my mind and observation to be more settled in their new role without Lily since then.
     And in Lily's memory, because she loved those car rides so, I have started taking Trip for more experiences (have I ever mentioned he's a horrorshow in a car?) and I dare say he's improved by at least 75%.
     Isn't making observations grand?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Slipping & Sliding into Spring, Celebrating Eskies

Despite the deep drifts and potentially lethal icicles that drip all about, sights and sounds of spring are peeking out — stalwart birds a-chirpin, lengthening days and a noticeably different angle of sunlight — not to mention my itch to feel bare feet on grass.
The Olympics are [ finally ] over and in the spirit of glasnost, or just warm feelings with our neighbors to the north, today’s blog is dedicated to the celebration of the 4th anniversary of the American Eskimo dog breed being formally recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club.
Eskies are modernized white dogs descended from Spitz dogs developed in the Arctic and northern area of the world and tweaked to come out in 3 sizes — standard, miniature and toy —  I contemplate the benefit of such a winter loving dog with energy to spare to pull my sled to get me where I need to go. But then I think about all that white hair that would need sweeping and I console myself that the Winter Olympics are over for four more years.
If this is a breed that appeals to the musher in you, learn more about whether their wicked high intelligence, high energy and protective but non aggressive nature might be a good match for you.