Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Case Against Retractables

I know a lot of people use retractable leashes and I’m sure I’ll catch all kinds of pushback about this post. That said and with apologies to those of you who do use them, here’s why I’m opposed to these devices.

Sam and I particularly enjoy our weekend walks. We can linger a little bit later in bed rather than getting up at the crack of dawn and then going out later and actually seeing and catching up with people and their pets on the weekends. We can hang on the corner and chew the fat about the latest news. A recent weekend started out just like most of our other weekend outings.

Sam has a few people he completely adores. He will do just about anything to reach them to say hi and get a couple of chin or ear scratches and our buddy Steve is one of Sam’s absolute favorites but not because he almost always has a pocket treat for Sam. Steve is a super nice guy with a heart go gold and Wyoming drawl who loves all things 4-legged. In Sam’s mind, there isn’t anything better and when you throw in a treat or two…well it’s easy to see why Steve ranks right up there on our list of favs.

Steve has 3 adorable Scottish Terriers.  They are classic, busy little black dust mops and everyone in the ‘hood knows them. Boone, Poppy (brother and sister) and the latest addition, Murphy, are just as cute as buttons and typically ‘all’ terrier. They all are on their own retractable leashes as well.  I’ve known Poppy and Boone for years and they know me and are always glad to see us. In their excitement at seeing us, they always get wrapped around either me, Sam or Steve. On this encounter, they got wrapped around all 3 of us.  I usually let go of Sam’s leash so he can step out of the fray but this time the dogs were so interwoven around him and me, it didn’t matter. We were stuck and Sam was a little freaked out; the more he tried to disengage himself, the worse it got. His frenetic high-stepping seemed to get the Scotties super ginned up and for a moment it was a real cluster. It only ended with a yelp from Sam as one of the leashes had apparently pinched him. By this time both Steve and I were desperately trying to calm down all that energy and untangle the mess. Poor Sam must have been thinking WTH and I was thinking that along with a couple other acronyms.  I tried to be gracious and say “well, we better go, loads of errands to run, have a good weekend” but truth be told I couldn’t get away quick enough! My dog had gotten hurt because of those stupid leashes…which is a moronic euphemism for a thin cord that can garotte a leg or ankle tendon willy nilly quick!

In my books, the use of a leash is to keep a dog under control as well to keep said pooch safe and not have it go dashing about under everyone’s foot. By the time I got Sam home to closely examine him, I could see he had a tiny spot that looked like a rug burn.

Years go my son had one of those leashes for his wildly active German Shorthair Pointer. His thinking was by giving him room to run ahead, he’d tire out more quickly without having to try to personally keep up the same pace.  I recall once he took the dog to a softball practice and the leash extended out fully and then SNAPPED back! That $40 leash was now just a handle in my son’s hand with his dog was blocks away in a split-second. That taught me a valuable lesson that day to NEVER, EVER get one of those things.  But seeing the potential havoc they can wreak really solidified my biases against them and made me think about the danger. They do nothing to train a dog to politely walk and everything to encourage pulling.

Here are a number of reasons not to use a retractable leash:

  1. Since some of those leashes can be 20 or more ft. long and a dog can be far enough away from his human when the situation can quickly turn dangerous. A quick pivot toward a cat or squirrel and the dog could be in the street facing oncoming traffic, for instance.
  2. You could be approached by an aggressive dog and at 20 or more feet, it’s nearly impossible to get control of any potential problem quickly.
  3. A strong dog could break that thin line and could end up in a dangerous situation-see #1 & 2. Similarly, the cord can snap back and injury the handler.
  4. Dogs can easily get tangled up in retractable leashes resulting in burns, bruises, road rash, or worse.
  5. Dogs can receive an injury to their neck or spine when the retraction mechanism is engaged and the resulting jerk clicks in place (it’s not wise to challenge the law of inertia–moving objects tend to keep moving).
  6. Because dogs tend to pull with these leashes, the pulling could be perceived as aggressive by another dog.
  7. The handles can be easily pulled out of human hands.
  8. The clatter of a dropped retractable leash can frighten a fearful dog. If it’s running away, the racket simply follows the poor dog who can’t get rid of it.
  9. Like most retractable devices, leashes tend to malfunction over time, refusing to retract or extend.
  10. Retractable leashes are a bad idea for a dog who has not learned to politely walk next to its handler and next to impossible to administer any correction when needed.

 When your dog is well-trained on a regular leash and a retractable leash without any confusion in its behavior, then you my friend are a genius by being able to walk your dog with no risks to you or others. Sadly, I think few qualify in that regard, since most people (at least in my neighborhood) tend to be more focused on social media than whether or not their dog is walking calmly next to them, while not peeing/pooping all over their yards without being picked up or racing up to the next dog they see without knowing if that dog can handle something like that. Sorry for the rant, but when my sweet dog gets injured because someone can’t handle their 3-ring circus on walks, well…can you see why I’m hoping ‘retractables’ get retracted…permanently?

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Live, love, bark! ❤

Forty Winks

imageHow is it that dogs can go to sleep ANYWHERE? I’m so jealous. The other night as I was unable to get to sleep, tossing/turning and generally mulling over the events of a super hectic day when I was startled to hear Sam growling in his sleep. Sure I was technically awake but kind of groggy and in my addled state at nearly 1:00 AM, the growling seemed to signal something nefarious like someone wandering around the backyard. It momentarily jarred me out of my stupor and envy and made me wonder if he was ok or was there in fact an intruder. I peered over at his bed and there he was, simply laying on his side twitching and making alternating growling and whimpering sounds. Whoa, what’s going on here? Is he ok? Could my dog be dreaming?

Apparently there is scientific evidence that confirms that dogs do in fact, dream. How is that  possible, you ask? Research says our human and canine brains are pretty similar on a structural level and show the same electrical sequences. EEGs show that dogs enter deep sleep complete with REM (rapid eye movement) and irregular breathing where the dream sequence takes place. Though no one seems to know why, smaller dogs tend to dream more than their larger cousins do. A toy poodle might experience a new dream every 10 minutes, whereas a Golden Retriever might only dream once every 90 minutes or so.

In humans, there’s a part of the brainstem known as the pons that keeps humans from acting out their dreams. When researchers deactivated this part in dogs, evidence suggests they dream about common dog activities. They observed that they began to move around, despite the fact that electrical recordings of their brains indicated the dogs were still fast asleep and they only started the movement when the brain entered that stage of sleep associated with dreaming. And during the course of a dream episode the dogs actually began to execute the actions that they were performing in their dreams, i.e. digging, chasing cats, flushing out birds, etc.  Matthew Wilson of MIT determined much of the dreaming that humans do at night is associated with the activities that were engaged in that day. Cognitive scientists trying to understand sleep and dreams hypothesize that sensory memories replay themselves during early REM sleep. Thus it makes sense then that dogs would do the same when they’re in a dream state.

Of course you don’t need lab equipment designed to measure electrical pulses in your dog’s brain to determine when your dog is dreaming. Jut watch him when he begins to doze off. As  sleep becomes deeper, breathing will become more regular and in about 20 minutes an average-sized dog his first dream should begin. Breathing will then become shallow and irregular at that time and could be accompanied by twitches, and the eye movement we recognize in humans. That eye movement is the dog is actually ‘looking’ at the dream images as if they were real images of the world in his brain and characteristic the dreaming sleep state. When humans wake during this rapid eye movement or REM sleep phase, they nearly always say they were dreaming (Stanley Coren 2010).

Bottom line is that dreaming in dogs is perfectly normal, natural and healthy. Much like with humans, it is the brain’s way of decluttering events of the day that have made lasting impressions. So the next time Fido starts wildly kicking in his sleep, think about what he did earlier in the days. Chances are good it’ll be the same kind of activities he engaged in during the day and much the same way your dreams manifest themselves. My only question is whether Sam’s growls or groans directed at the mail lady or is he trying to express himself toward some female pooch he’s currently crushing on? Is that dog a cad or what?! 😉

Live, love, bark! ❤

Keep those pearly whites…white

Psst, Sam here, don’t tell Mom but I hijacked the blog to tell you all about an important topic because the lawyers are keeping her too busy lately with closings and since I had nothing to do but buff my nails and look pawsome laying around the house…I thought I would do a public service announcement and help her out. Yes, I am a good doggie (mostly). 🙂

So here’s my bloggy contribution: The American Veterinary Medical Association and a number of veterinary groups are sponsoring awareness of pet dental health and designated February as National Pet Dental Health Month! Yup, that’s right, and if you’ve caught a whiff of your pup or kitty’s bad breath lately, it’s even more important to take care of it N.O.W. Not only can poor dental health cause bad breath, it may signify any number of serious health risks including potential for periodontal disease or even worse, damage to internal organs. Yikes!

I don’t know of any dog or cat that enjoys having their ‘paw-rent’ stick their chubby little fingers in their mouth for teeth brushing, I know I gag like I just swallowed a live toad. Mom tried toothbrushes (nope that ain’t gonna happen, my jaw clamps down like I’m a snapping turtle waiting for sundown) but then she found some finger brushes that while not great if you’re on the receiving end, are a whole lot better than toothbrushes. Gag, gag, gag. But I do like the liver flavored toothpaste.

Periodontal disease is the most common condition that pets suffer from even though it’s completely preventable. You floss YOUR teeth, don’t ya? Well, all that bacteria in a dog’s mouth combined with saliva (also known as dog kisses) and food bits can form plaque. When plaque accumulates, tartar can form. As more and more plaque combines with bacteria on top of the tartar and mineralization forms calculus. If plaque is soft, it can be brushed away, if it’s hardened into tartar and calculus, it has to be scraped away which means an expensive trip to the vet. I don’t know about you, but that’s not my idea of a fun afternoon outing.

When tartar and calculus trap bacteria around the gum line and if left untreated, can lead to irritation of the gum tissue (gingivitis) and then progress to full on periodontal disease. This can result in illness of the supporting tissues of the teeth, ligaments that attach gum to tooth and jaw bone. The American Veterinary Dental Society has estimated that 85% of cats and dogs have periodontal disease by age four. 85% people!!

Signs of periodontal disease may include bad breath (the first obvious sign there’s bad stuff a foot), excessive salivation, refusing to eat or dropping food, rubbing or pawing at face, loose or broken teeth and inflamed gums. Often times, bad breath will be the only symptom that shows up.

Beware, periodontal disease can lead to systemic problems with bacterial infection spreading from mouth to heart and heart valves, kidney and liver.

So do yourself, your pocketbook and your pet a big favor. Brush their choppers regularly. Giving your pet special treats can help scale some of that junk off.  Mom spoils me with elk antlers and boy I tell you, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE ’em and check out my smile. They last a long time without getting all gummy and smelly like some treats do and I haven’t grown bored with them either (win-win). Oral rinses or water additives can help too, but there’s just no substitute for regularly brushing and regular checks by your vet.

_MG_4671-(ZF-2552-28389-2-003)  So remember, February is National Pet Dental Month. Let’s flash those pearly whites around town and dispense with bad breath and ancillary health problems.

You know, this bloggy thing is kind of cool. Maybe I can sneak in a post or two again soon but don’t tell Mom. She’s a bit of a control freak and will totally wig out. 😉

Live, love, bark! ❤

Be Mine

 

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The past couple days I have been trolling the Net for blog ideas for Valentine’s Day and realized I had bupkus. Then I tumbled across this little photo. What better way to wish fellow likeminded pet owners lovers a happy holiday through the ‘bullet point’ letters, all of which I think are more than worth while activities for a loving life.  And because today is the day we especially celebrate  all things love, Sam and I send our best wishes to you for a very happy Valentine’s Day. May your day be filled with love and smiles shared with all the special ones in your life, be they two or four legged. ❤ ❤ ❤

Live, love, Bark!

The Art of Communication

Today during our mourning constitution, we passed a convention of sorts going on at a very ungodly hour. Nope, it wasn’t a bunch of canines, cats or coyotes howling at the moon. Instead it was an intersection with very large trees on each corner that was occupied by a very large gaggle of blackbirds–there must have been over a hundred of them dispersed between the 4 trees. I’ve heard that blackbirds are extremely intelligent so I stopped to watch them while Sam sniffed to his heart’s content (hey priorities, I get it–the dog’s gotta read his pee-mail and check Facebook paws-tings, right?). They were cawing and squawking up a storm and for a moment I thought perhaps our presence had disturbed them (mind you it was shortly after sunrise and most of the world hadn’t quite woken up yet). Then I realized they were ‘talking’ back and forth from one tree to one across the street and then one catty-corner. At one point, a bird on our side of the street took flight and join his feathered friends on the other side and the racket grew in volume.  Then another bird did the same thing, and then another. The noise was almost deafening and I began to wonder how residents deal with all this racket first thing in the morning? Were these crossing birds the equivalent of diplomats trying to suss out what the issues were, or just the normal rift-raft spreading noise from hither to yon? Was I witnessing bird gangs calling each other out? What was their mission and what were they saying to each other? On the one hand I was fascinated by it all and on the other, I couldn’t help but recall that Hitchcock movie, The Birds and was kind of freaked out. Or maybe it was something like that story circulating lately about a marauding owl in Oregon attacking joggers and stealing their hats. See how my mind works first thing in the morning, it’s kind of weird, huh? 😉

The_Birds_original_posterAnyway, all this bird watching made me think about dogs and how they communicate. Is it just noise or is it communication? Sam’s not much of a barker, but he always will backup a storm whenever he sees our mail person delivering the mail. He’ll raise such a ruckus until I open the door to take the mail from her. Then he turns into a butt-wiggling, attention-seeking hound because she is one of his favorite people in our ‘hood. I’m not sure what goes through that little pea brain of his; one second he’s acting like the Great Protector vanquishing an evil-doer who no doubt is hell-bent on killing or robbing me and then the next moment he turns into a cuddly squish looking for ear scratches.

Sam has different barks for different occasions. The mail lady bark is one. It’s ferocious and if you didn’t know better you’d think that hound was vicious. You know the kind, low-pitched and full volumed. A super bark. His second kind of bark is more ‘yip-py’ in nature, high pitched and usually comes out at moments of sheer joy when he sees someone he especially adores and really wants to visit with them. It cracks me up since you usually expect a dog of his size to not sound so sissified. Silly ‘Nancy boy.’

Then there’s the “I absolutely want to come into the house…now!” bark. Higher in pitch and more tonal than the ‘mail lady is ready to murder the family’ bark and usually is just a single bark, not in clusters unless of course I don’t let him in immediately. 🙂 Then the volume turns up and becomes more frequent. Once I let him in, he’s no doubt thinking, “Wow, that barking stuff is really magic…I do it and lo and behold she comes and let’s me in…man, am I a powerful dog or what?!” And to a certain extent, he’d be right with that logic.

His ‘play’ bark is similar to the “I want to come into the house now bar.” It’s also high in pitch but usually occurs in clusters instead of in a single bark. When he’s in the house and he play barks, it kind of confuses him because he’s not sure he’s supposed to do that inside. It seems to escape his mouth before he realizes what’s just happened. I personally love it when he does the ‘Oops, I probably shouldn’t have done that in the house look.’ So adorable.

Barking is definitely a language that dogs use and has it the potential to convey specific information and instructions (stay away, let me in, etc.) to both people and dogs. Sure it’s not like the words we use to describe a situation but you definitely learn to identify what your fur-kid is trying to tell you and others.

So what kind of bark comes out of your fur-iend’s mouth? Is your dog’s barking more of a woof, an arf, or a ruff?

Live, love, bark! ❤

The Playground Bully

Ah, the playground bully…and I’m not talking about ‘bully breeds’ here. I’m talking about dogs that pick on others. Sorry for being MIA lately; I’ve been visiting my daughter and her family who recently moved to the Pacific Northwest. It was great seeing them all and we had a great time (FaceTime is only a semi-nice substitute and certainly not the same as an in-person hug and we both needed that).

Aren't I a sweetie?

Aren’t I a sweetie?

Now that they are permanently relocated elsewhere, the once built-in dog sitter thing is history. It used to be, whenever I traveled, Sam romped with my daughter’s two hulking Irish Wolfhounds in the foothills southwest of Denver. Sam absolutely loved chasing after the ‘Big Dogs’ and they seem to enjoy ditching his sorry butt every chance they got, but they all got along wonderfully and I was always grateful that he was well taken care of by family members who loved him as much as I do.

Because of Sam’s hospital work, I’ve been hesitant to have him kenneled but this time it was necessary. It was quite the process interviewing pet/house sitters and various kennels and because I wasn’t exactly wowed by any of the pet/house sitters, I ended up choosing a well-recognized and recommended kennel. When I went to interview the nice folks at The Daily Wag and tour their facility, it was a surprise they were kind of interviewing US! I loved the idea they wanted to make sure Sam would be suitable and fit in with the other pups and they were quite excited that he was a therapy dog. Bottom line, we were approved and I felt confident everything was in place for me to be able to enjoy my travels.

When I dropped Sam off, he totally wigged out–shaking like a leaf and jumping up and wrapping his front paws around my legs like a frightened kindergartener on the first day of school (no Mom, don’t leave me!). This canine travel agent sent me on a major guilt trip. And although I wasn’t able to watch Sam on the online video link, I felt confident all would be cool once I left and he went out to the playground with the other dogs.

So when I went to pick Sam up when I got back to town, boy did my world came to a crashing halt. Oh sure, he was thrilled to see me and I couldn’t help but giggle with the non-stop tail wagging and bouncing up and down like a pogo stick. Even in the car where he normally turns into Flat Stanley, his tail kept up with the vigorous thumpity-thump-thump against the back seat on the ride home. When I asked the staffer how things went, she said, “hmm, mostly good.” Wait, what?! ‘Mostly’…what the hell does that mean??!! Apparently there were a couple of times my little darling Muppet decided the biggest, baddest German Shepherd there was a mortal enemy to be ‘dealt with’ in no uncertain terms. My sweet hound was a playground bully? Gah! I couldn’t believe my ears and she said it surprised them too. When there is any kind of altercation between the dogs, they are immediately separated and put into time-out (i.e. back to their individual kennels,  to ponder the error of their bully ways no doubt). Egad…how embarrassing! Sam, the normally adorably sweet canine concierge and pet therapy prince who regularly greets everyone with a happy wag of the tail whether they are the two or four-legged variety apparently was a playground badass bully.

Talk about a not so pleasant slice of reality! In all fairness, the staffer said she wasn’t sure who started it, but each miscreant goes into time out anyway. Sometimes dogs just give off an energy that affects even the most docile of creatures and that could have been what happened. Sam is not aggressive, that much I definitely know, but I also know that he will not back down from a dog trying to exhibit dominance over him. “Homey” don’t play that game.

When we arrived home, I took Sam on an extra long walk and ran into a neighbor whose recently rescued little ball of fur gave birth to 3 adorable tiny puppies. He was carrying them back into the house in a large laundry basket and the pint size mom popped up to say hi to Sam. He wagged his tail and acted like the dog I know, not that one from the playground who apparently doesn’t like large German Shepherds. It was somewhat reassuring, and I’m guessing that life will go back to being normal again with that nice, fluffy, sweet lap-dog (aka Sam) and not the butt-kicking bully. 🙂

Is your dog a playground bully? How do you handle it?

Live, love, bark ❤