Tag Archives: doggie day care

26Apr/17

Stormy weather sickness

Happy Spring everybody!

(P.S. I proposed … .and she accepted!)

Rainy enough for ya? (Another version of, “hot enough for ya?” but somehow even more annoying.) Please excuse me – I’m a little grouchy. I’m tired of the rain! (As I write this – right now – guess what – it’s raining!)

I’m pretty sure I’ve been wearing a beanie for six solid months.

Having said that, us Californians are grateful for this (relentless) rain. Battling our drought is more important than our comfort and good hair days.

Water is life and we are thankful.

But what we’re not so thankful for, and what has pulled me out of my blog exile, is a very real health concern that has been affecting local dogs and their owners recently because of all this rainfall.

Water-borne illnesses. (See a comprehensive slide-show of them here.)

(Lady, showing harmful bacteria her true feelings.)

Leptospirosis, Giardia and other Nasty Critters have been thriving in the standing water that never gets to dry up because of all this (relentless/wonderful) rain.

Waste from wild life is the real culprit here – a deer or raccoon pees or poos, it runs downhill with the water, and thrives for weeks or months in a puddle, creek or mud.

You know – all the places your dog loves to drink from and splash around in.Those kinds of places.

This recent article cited a Bay Area dog who died earlier this year due to complications from Lepto from playing in a park. A San Francisco vet is quoted as witnessing five documented cases of Lepto-positive dogs in early 2017 in her practice alone.

Besides this one article, I’ve heard through the grapevine from my veterinary friends that Lepto is on the rise and I need to pay attention.

An artistic rendering of me and my vet friends hating everything that hurts and kills dogs. Grrrrrr.

In addition, a wonderful, healthy and happy WOOF dog had to be euthanized recently due to a bacteria he encountered playing outdoors that didn’t respond to antibiotics and hospitalization.

So I felt a public service announcement was in order: please be aware of waterborne illnesses! Especially right now while everything is still very wet out there.

Some important tips:

Don’t allow your dog to drink water from puddles or creeks – EVER.

Wash your dog thoroughly if he/she has been frolicking in mud/puddles, etc. (Or keep them on a leash and don’t let them do it until the ground dries out.)

Ask your vet about the Lepto vaccine – it is a series of two vaccines spaced 2 to 4 weeks apart (if your dog has never been vaccinated for it) and is sometimes included in the Distemper vaccine (DHLPP instead of DHPP – the L stands for Lepto) *Note the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, but certainly increases the odds of your dog not becoming seriously ill from exposure

Some facts about Lepto:

It’s more common in warmer climates

It’s transmitted through urine (think of urine settling into puddles and mud)

It’s a spiral-shaped bacteria that can live in a favorable environment for weeks or even months

It is zoonotic, which means that you CAN get it from your dog (again, from direct contact with urine from an infected animal or infected water, soil or food – so wash your hands after outdoor activities and cleaning up after your pet!)

If caught in time, it has about a 75 percent survival rate

Symptoms to look for:

lethargy

decreased appetite

increased water consumption

increased urination

vomiting

diarrhea

fever

muscle pain

red eyes

blood in urine

red-speckled gums

The toughest part is realizing something is wrong with your dog in time to start a successful course of fluids and antibiotics. The symptoms can be so subtle – not to mention general and symptoms of countless other serious and not-so-serious conditions.

Pay close attention to your dog and his/her habits. When in doubt, go to your vet and get that bloodwork or Xrays. It could truly save your dog’s life.

In the article referenced above, for example, the dog was 13 years old, so the owner, understandably, thought her lethargy and other symptoms were just signs of an older dog slowing down. By the time she went to the vet, the bacteria had spread and affected her organs too much to save her. Sadly, most of these dogs go into renal failure when their kidneys stop working and euthanasia is really the only humane option.

As for me and Lady, we are squarely in the danger zone. We hike almost every morning (very early, in the dark, before work), splashing through water and mud.

We love our early-morning hikes and take selfies to document our adventures.

Lady is older (10) and is having typical old-dog symptoms. Some days she’s tired. Some days she’s achy. Some days she doesn’t feel like eating. I have to pay close attention to what’s “normal” and what could be something serious like Lepto.

I’m sure you all feel my pain here.

So what are my choices? I can hike without Lady and break her heart. I can stop hiking altogether and break everyone’s hearts.

We can just all stop doing everything we love because there are dangers involved in living.

I say no to that.

Instead, I’ve decided to continue doing what we all love, but doing it more thoughtfully and with some key precautions.

I’ve vaccinated Lady for Lepto. I keep her on leash during the hike, and am vigilant about not allowing her to drink water off the ground. I rinse and clean her legs and underside every morning post-hike (yes, every morning, when it is still dark outside and we are all tired, which sucks for both of us, but makes me feel a whole lot better when I see her “cleaning” her legs as she rests in her doggie bed.)

We will live informed, but we will not live in fear.

I urge you all to do the same.

(I am not a veterinarian nor an expert on waterborne illnesses – please consult your veterinarian about your dogs’ lifestyle and best health choices.)

 

17Nov/15

Finding the perfect leash and collar (for you)

The other night this collar sparked an idea.

pinch collar

I was talking to a WOOF client (hi Michelle!) while one of our staff members (hi Victoria!) was in back struggling with this prong collar (hello … collar).

This collar. Not our favorite.

pinch collarpinch collarpinch collar ūüôĀ ūüė•¬† ūüôĀ

They get tangled. Links fall off. They hurt your fingers. They’re really hard to put on an excited dog who knows his parents are here and can’twaittogetoutthere! But mainly, they just don’t work very well.

It’s not a particularly attractive collar, or user-friendly. And yet I see folks using it all the time. In fact, I know a lot of smart (especially strong-fingered) people who use this collar. And I get it¬† – it’s supposed to discourage dogs from pulling. And when you have a dog who pulls, you are willing to try anything.

devil dog

Even a collar that looks like this –

pinch collar

Instead of, say, this –

cupcake collar

Or (if you are gluten-intolerant, even for decorations) this –

blue collar

So I asked the client – “Do you like this collar?” And you know what she said? “No, not really!” And we had a nice laugh and discussed some alternatives.

Sigh.

My take-away from this conversation is that people buy a collar that’s supposed to perform a certain way and end up keeping it even if it doesn’t perform as advertised. Maybe blaming themselves that they’re not using it right, or their dog is just extra-determined to stick with the negative behavior that the collar was supposed to discourage.

And that makes me sad because a good product – used correctly, sure, sure – should work! But I’ve never seen a dog respond particularly well to the prong collar. (If you have, please do tell in the comment section!) I see them pulling anyway, digging those medieval-looking claws into their skin and dragging their owner along in the process.

What I mostly see with this collar is frustrated dogs, frustrated parents and – hello WOOFers! – frustrated dog professionals trying to deal with the darn thing.

Let’s look at it again, just for fun.

pinch collar

You bad old collar, you.

How do we end up with the leashes and collars we have? Maybe it’s a combination of what’s familiar, what we’ve been told to use by “experts” and what’s just convenient for us.

But how SHOULD we choose them? Let me count the ways.

main collar fancy

I’m basing the following on my personal experiences with leashes and collars (which adds up to a lot if you count all the dogs and leash-collar combos I’ve dealt with in my career) – plus a little online research to make sure I’m giving you sound advice.

Having said all this, I want to make one thing clear: use the leash and collar that works for you. Even if it’s the prong collar of our aforementioned nightmares – it’s okay! We’ll deal with it if that’s what works for your dog.

Step one – what are your dog’s physical characteristics?

What does your dog look like? Take a good look.

your average dog

Is your dog BIG?

biglittle?

little

Does she have curly hair?

curly hair

Wiry hair?

wiry hair

Skin folds? (And a flat, super-adorable face?)

skin folds

All this can factor into your collar choice.

Step two: what is your dog’s walking style?

Is he a puller, eager to get to the next thing? A slow-poke, meandering past ever flower, sniffing everything? An escape artist, who can’t wait to slip out of his collar and run free?

A perfect gentleman, ideal in every way?

confidence

Oh, Rocky.

Now keep all those details in mind as you move on to –

Step three: knowing your options.

I know when you go to the pet store it’s pretty overwhelming.

IMG_2354

(I was mesmerized by this display today, and I was only in there for dog food.)

Even though it looks like there are endless options, there are really only a few kinds of collars – just with endless variations on those kinds. Let’s just focus on the basic types of collars.

choke chain

The classic choke chain. (The precursor to the prong collar, I think?) I remember these were used a lot when I was a kid (think 80s & 90s) but I don’t see them around much anymore. Although when you say “collar,” this is what some people will always picture. (Which is one of the main factors in how people choose their collars – and dog breeds, for that matter – just purely from what’s familiar/iconic for them.)

This is a fine collar in my book. The beauty of it is that it self-regulates. If your dog is pulling, it tightens. If your dog lets up, it loosens. It can be a great tool for training if you know how to use them judiciously.

But quite honestly my experience with this collar is that a dog who is determined to pull will pull (and pull and pull), choking himself silly. And also, if it’s not put on correctly, it doesn’t “give” – once it tightens, it stays tight. So I would only recommend this to someone who really knows how to use it and makes sure it’s not constantly choking their dog with no relief.

pinch collar

Back to the prong collar, and its kissing cousins –

prong

The plastic spiky prong collar (I named this myself)

This prong collar s a little easier to put on and manage, since the prongs aren’t detachable, but it poses all the same issues. If a dog pulls, the discomfort of the plastic spikes often doesn’t seem to stop them. A dog will pull those spikes right into his throat and not seem to understand the correlation between stopping pulling and relief. So, unless your dog responds to the pressure of the collar by letting up, I’m not a big fan.

thick and flat collarA variation on your basic martingale collar. I’ve come to learn that “martingale”is just a fancy word for collars that don’t have an opening and closing mechanism – they expand to fit over the dog’s neck and the pulling action of the leash shortens the collar’s girth to fit tightly around the neck. These are good for dogs who try to slip out of their collars – because the harder they pull, the tighter the collar gets.

regular collar

This is the most classic, basic collar. (I call this the Tiny Human Belt Collar.) It has the classic belt-like closure. I like this collar a lot because it does its job without too much user-education needed. I dislike having to put this kind of collar on a really excited dog, because getting the closure done properly requires the dog to be still. Too often, it’s put on using the wrong hole – either too loose or too tight – so your dog’s going to slip right out of it in the parking lot or you’re choking the poor thing.

regular collar with snap closure

This is the basic non-leather collar with a really convenient snap closure. This is definitely the collar I see most at WOOF and I really like this collar. You adjust it once and it stays the right size. It’s really easy to snap on a wiggly dog. It’s comfortable for dogs and they come in a lot of cute prints – I especially like the ones where you can stitch the dog’s name and phone number right on the collar. Also a nice option for quick ID for a lost dog without the jingly-jangly annoyance of tags.

rolled collar

Here’s your basic rolled collar. This is ideal for dogs with thick, double coats (like Bernese Mountain Dogs, Newfoundlands, St. Bernards etc) – the rolled material nestles gently inside the thick coat instead of mashing it down like a regular collar, causing tangles to form underneath and possible discomfort. (If you have a thick-coated dog, make sure you are constantly checking for matts – you can’t always see them, but you can feel them if you run your hand down the dog’s hair. They are really deep tangles that sit close to the skin and they hurt because the hair in the tangle is pulling on the hair growing out of the skin.)

halti

Here we see my personal favorite for dogs who pull: the head collar. (Also called the Halti and the Gentle Leader, and I’m sure other things.) I love this ingenious piece of equipment! It uses the same philosophy horse owners have been using for decades: an animal will stop pulling if they feel pressure on their nose, which is very sensitive. (Ever wondered why people lead bulls around with nose rings? This is a much more humane version of that idea.)

I had a Newfie named Clyde who was an angel … in his Halti. In fact, soon after buying the Halti I would only have to show him that I was putting it on and he knew what his limits were, and he didn’t even try to pull. So if you have a puller, try the head collar! I highly recommend it.

Then we get to the harnesses, which is by and far the biggest trend I’ve seen lately, especially among little dogs.

little harness

Harness proponents like them because they don’t put any pressure on the dog’s larynx. When the dog pulls, they are getting an even distribution of weight along their chest. That’s a good thing physiologically – especially for our flat-faced breeds like Pugs or Bulldogs, who already have a hard time breathing without a potentially crushed trachea.

But training-wise, it’s not such a good thing. If a pulling dog suffers zero discomfort when pulling, then guess what? They’ll continue to pull! In fact, some dog experts think dogs actually get some pleasure out of the act of pulling, so you’re only making it more “pleasurable” by using a harness.

Here’s a good article on whether to choose a collar or a harness. (I like a harness for little dogs, or flat-faced dogs, because their anatomy is a lot more delicate than a bigger dog and I think the protection a halter offers far outweighs the training downside. Also because a Chihuahua pulling is a lot less problematic than a Great Dane pulling…)

So, here we are knowing all about our dog and what is available. Let’s consider some example and think about what kind of equipment would be best in each scenario:

You have a Pug who loves to pull and has larygeal paralysis?

– try a HARNESS!

camou-harness

You have a Bernese Mountain Dog who doesn’t pull at all and goes to the groomer rarely (you groom him at home)?

– try a ROLLED COLLAR!

rolled collar

You have that Bernese Mountain Dog’s brother who pulls like the dickens?

halti

– try a HALTI!

You have a sweet-natured and gigantic Mastiff who doesn’t pull but is notorious for escaping out of his collar?

thick and flat collar

– try a martingale-style big, flat cloth collar!

And if his fur matts up under that thick collar? (This one is a toughie…)

rolled-martingale

– try a martingale ROLLED collar!

I use the word “try” deliberately – make sure you TRY OUT a few things before settling on something that really isn’t working that great for you. If you can’t find a nice pet store employee to let you try a few things on your dog and walk them around the store, go to another store. Any good establishment will be willing to help you find the right equipment.

As far as leashes go, it’s much simpler. Just get a leash no longer than six feet. I don’t care what the material is or the style.

But never, ever, get one of these monsters.

retractable

The dreaded retractable leash.

I don’t know who likes this leash but it’s not any pet professional I’ve ever talked to. The problem is you have zero control over your dog. The locking mechanism that limits the amount of “leash” (which is really just a thin piece of rope material that can lacerate the heck out of human skin) is useless – it jams, it doesn’t work, or it lets out feet upon feet of leash when you are trying to reign in the dog.

Our ultimate nightmare combination:

retractablepinch collar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just don’t get one of these. They’re so problematic, WOOF has “outlawed” them in our facility (although I still see one or two sneak in…) If you want your dog to have more room to run, find a good off-leash area. (Or bring them to WOOF!)

If you already have one of these, throw it away and get a regular leash. Please.

A leash and collar have to do two things: work for the dog and work for the owner. If it’s falling short in either area, I guarantee there’s something else on the market that will be a vast improvement.

And when you find your perfect leash and collar, your dog will look deeply into your eyes, give you a big kiss, and say, thank you, wonderful mommy. You’ve made my dreams come true.

kiss

Not really. She’ll jump all over you and say, let’s go for a walk, fool!

What kind of collar works for you?

 

13Jul/15

Everything you ever wanted to know about spaying and neutering (and certainly weren’t afraid to ask)

I’ve talked about this so much over my veterinary years, I feel like I could have written a book on the subject.

neuter better

All kidding aside, let’s get the usual disclaimer out of the way: I am not a veterinarian and nothing I say in this blog should ever substitute for advice from a real medical professional.¬†

Okay, so here we go…the decision to surgically alter your dog is a big deal. It’s done under general anesthesia and, for females especially, it’s a major surgery – a total hysterectomy, in fact, just like us human females¬†may have to get someday, which is another reason to baby our sore girls post-op! (I got your backs, bitches.)

If you adopt a dog, odds are he or she will be handed over freshly spayed or neutered. So owners of rescues rarely ever have to face this issue.

But if you get a puppy from a breeder, or a rescue from a group who didn’t have the funds to spay/neuter, it’s a whole different ball game. Should you spay/neuter right away? Does your breeder stipulate something about it in your contract? (I’ve found you won’t find more opinionated people about when to spay and neuter than breeders, who have a financial stake in turning out dogs without health issues that could even vaguely be linked to an early spay/neuter. Way more opinionated than even veterinarians, in my experience, which always struck me as odd. But that’s another blog.)

Further, should you spay and neuter at all?

Some people don’t think about this issue at all and some people think about it A WHOLE LOT. And have lots of questions. And I’ve heard the questions. So here are my best answers.

Following are all the things I’ve come to learn, from doctors, books and just plain old experience – ¬†and¬†I’d like to share. For all you spay/neuter aficionados out there, the doubters, the naysayers, the worrywarts, the staunch proponents and opponents, the ones who wonder if their male dog will ever forgive them – this one’s for you.

Why should I spay or neuter my dog?

I believe the decision about whether to spay or neuter really comes down to lifestyle. With a dash of health intervention. Why do I bring up lifestyle first? Because – to keep it perfectly real and one hundred, as the kids say – I don’t think health is really the main reason to spay and neuter (although there are a lot health benefits I’ll go into later). The way you want your dog’s life to be is the real tipping point here. Let me explain.

The fact is, if your dog is going to come into contact with other dogs,¬†for everyone’s safety (including yours)¬†he or she really should be altered. And by “contact” I mean dog parks, daycares, kennels, walking down the sidewalk, even your neighbor’s backyard – if you want your dog to be social with other dogs, minimizing the sexual part of their natures is key. Why?¬†

group fancyt

For social dogs, you’d be wise to spay and neuter:

– so they don’t reproduce and you have an unwanted litter on your hands (if you think you want puppies, I think unless you are a serious breeder dedicated to upholding the standard of a beloved breed, this may be a short-sighted¬†decision. For every friend you find to take one of your dog’s puppies, that’s another potential home taken away from a shelter dog who already exists. Add to that the time and money it takes to raise a litter – it’s not something that should be entered into lightly. It’s not something that would be “cute” or “show your kids the miracle of life.” Don’t breed if you don’t know what you’re getting into! Because if you do, your puppies may be the ones who end up at the shelter.)

– so they don’t fight. Whether it’s an intact male being too aggressive, to other dogs targeting an intact male because they feel threatened by him, to dogs competing over an eligible female, intact dogs end up fighting in one way or another. Trust me, they do. I’ve seen it. (My boss Jacque has a good analogy for this: imagine your intact male dog entering a group of other dogs sticking up his middle finger to everyone. Flipping the old bird – of course, you’d have to imagine he could anatomically do that, which is dubious. But that’s really how an intact dog comes off to the other male dogs. And no good play session ever started with, “Hey, smell that? I’m bigger and badder than you. So… f*&k you. Want to play?”)

So the first question I would ask yourself when debating the spay/neuter issue is: what do I want my dog’s life to be like? Is he going to be with just humans all the time or do I want the opportunity and ability to take him to the dog park, walk him safely down the sidewalk or drop him off at daycare? If you do, spaying and neutering is really the only way to ensure he can enjoy these activities safely.

There are other behavioral benefits to spaying/neutering that also make your dog have a safer lifestyle and – well – more fun to be around.

behavioral benefits fancy

– neutered males do less leg-lifting and marking.

– neutered males have reduced dominance.

– neutered males exhibit reduced humping (imagine how maddening it would be to have all these sexual urges and no real outlet – another reason, I think, it’s more humane just to go ahead and lessen that urge for them).

– neutered males are less likely to escape and roam (did you know the majority of dogs who are found dead along highways are unneutered males, wandering and looking to mate?)

– neutered males elicit less attacks from other dogs.

– spayed females don’t get their periods (when I was a kid I had to put a pad on my Golden Retriever Penny because my parents weren’t big on spaying and neutering – what can I say; it was a different time – and let me tell you it is not fun).

– spayed females don’t incite aggressive breeding behaviors from other dogs.

What about the health stuff?

The other consideration in spaying or neutering is for the dog’s health. This is where it gets a little tricky because there are pros and cons on both sides. As with many medical concerns, this issue is still being studied. I’ve had veterinarians say there’s no reason not to spay/neuter as young as eight weeks; some say wait until 6 months; others say wait until 18 months for the giant breeds. I’ve heard some vets say all three over the course of many years. And to their defense,¬†the best age is¬†really not conclusive. But we must start somewhere, so let’s start with the benefits.

benefits fancy

– spayed females won’t develop uterine infections, uterine or ovarian cancers and have a much lower incidence of breast cancer.

– neutered males have reduced occurrence of prostate disorders, no testicular cancer and less incidence of peri-anal fistulas (if you don’t know what this is, I’m not going to tell you about it because the world will look nicer to you if you never find out).

The flip side is that there are some health concerns that have risen in recent years that make it unclear what the impact is of spaying and neutering to your dog’s health. And further, how to calculate the perfect age to perform the spay/neuter to avoid these pitfalls. Basically, all the concerns have to do with depriving your dog’s body of their hormones and the impact of their absence on their bones, joints and general health.

health concerns fancy

– obesity: altered dogs tend to be less active and put on weight. However, I counter that this is easily controlled with diet and exercise intervention from us humans. (And dog parks and daycares – the kingdoms for altered dogs to romp and mingle – are great places to burn off those extra calories! So I dismiss this objection wholeheartedly.)

– cancer: even though removing the sexual organs can help your dog avoid many kinds of cancer, there are other cancers that some veterinarians think may be a bigger factor for dogs who are spayed or neutered “early” (“early” being under 14 months of age.) However, the studies associated with these findings could not link the cancer directly to the early neutering since the kinds of cancer in question were already risk factors in general. So I call this one a draw. Mainly because I’ve found cancer to be a real inevitability for any pet owner. Generally, if pets live long enough (thanks to your excellent care, of course!) they’ll get some kind of cancer. That’s just how it goes. So I don’t think this should dictate your decision to spay/neuter at all, really.

– Hypothyroidism: there has been some research showing an increased incidence of hypothyroidism in dogs spayed/neutered early. But this condition is easily treated and may occur anyway. So I don’t think this concern in any way outweighs the benefits of spay/neuter.

– Joint issues: this is the only health concern that really pauses me in my “go ahead and do it already!” campaign to spay/neuter. I can see such a direct link to growth and hormones, so it’s hard to ignore that an early spay/neuter could really hurt your dog’s skeletal development, causing dyplasia of the hips and elbows, ACL tears and knee luxation – all very common ailments among dogs and ones that really affect their ability to enjoy their life (and their owner’s ability to pay their mortgage.) To this concern, I say consult a vet about what kind of dog you have and what they think the best age to spay/neuter would be. In fact, consult a few vets. But generally, the bigger the dog, the longer you should wait. So if you have a teacup Yorkie, relax. If you have a Great Dane, be vigilant in your research before deciding what age. But still, I recommend moving forward with the spay/neuter at some point in young adulthood before the behavior issues you experience far outweigh any safety measures you think you’re taking to save your dog’s joints.

(At WOOF, have a few intact adolescent males and females waiting to get their growth in before being altered, and we allow for that as long as their behaviors stay safe in group.)

In conclusion:

Ask your vet about the health ramifications of spaying and neutering, but don’t worry too much about it. Dogs are meant to be together, and the truth is they’re better together when they’re not trying to mate with each other. If you have philosophical concerns about it being “unnatural” to alter your dog surgically, may I counter how “unnatural” it was to take canines out of the wild and make everything from Mastiffs to Dalmatians to Teacup Poodles out of them. Domesticated dogs no longer operate on the plane of natural.

They operate on our planes – human planes. With beach days, long hikes and cuddles with their daycare friends. Their main job is no longer to reproduce – we humans have taken that initiative from them and tuned it to our own purposes.

So get your dog, do your research and make the best decision you can. Not just for you.

For them.

spay neuter better

 

 

 

13Apr/15

5 Tips: Bringing Your Dog on Vacation

Can I just say right up front that you don’t have to take your dog on vacation. DON’T TAKE YOUR DOG ON VACATION. That’s what WOOF is for! So, go ahead. Go on vacation. Leave your dog with us.¬†We got this.

2 Boarding reception tour

Welcome to WOOF – may we take care of your dog today? ūüôā

But let me pose a hypothetical situation. Say you adopt a dog. Say that dog is crazy adorable.

lady stump

(And this is just the back view.)

Say this crazy adorable dog also has separation anxiety. And say, even though you may work at a boarding facility, and get free boarding, you never leave her at work. Like ever. And maybe in order to actually be able to relax without constantly worrying about your dog, you have to take Miss Crazy Adorable with you on vacation.

Maybe that person is me.

FullSizeRender (6)

Hi, my name is Vickie and I am with my dog all the time.

(Hi Vickie!)

Let’s just say I have a lot of practice taking my dog everywhere, even on vacation. Let me share my insanity wisdom.

1. Find a good dog-friendly hotel.

FullSizeRender (1)

The emphasis being on the word “good.” Just because a hotel will accept your dog doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to you. Remember, this is your vacation so find a place you would like regardless of its pet policy.

I drove across country with my dog twice and was able to find a decent spot just about everywhere we stopped. Most chain hotels accept dogs – just call ahead and check. It’s becoming more and more trendy to accept pets, so you have that going for you.There are books and web sites listing pet-friendly hotels, like this one. If they’re pros, they’ll only charge you an additional $20-$30 a day for your dog. If it’s more, or they want a hefty “dog deposit,” shop around. A pet fee shouldn’t be more than 15-20% of what your room costs per night.

Some hotels won’t allow a dog over a certain weight. This always confused me because little dogs can be just as destructive as big dogs. I’ve heard hotels prefer small dogs because if the dog pees or poops in the room, the mess is smaller. There’s no point in arguing with the front desk, especially with a chain that operates by corporate rules. (And don’t start your vacation being angry – it’s not worth it.)

But sometimes if I just say, “okay, I’ll call the hotel down the street,” they want your business so badly they’ll accept your big dog. Same goes for the pet fee – if you think it’s too expensive, politely decline and tell them why. They’ll either lower the price to get your business, or they’ll make a note for management.

lady halloween

I am very clean, thank you very much.

Make sure you understand the rules – the main ones being don’t make a mess (easily done if your dog is potty trained and you take care not to let food and hair get everywhere) and don’t leave your dog unattended in the room. (I couldn’t leave Lady in the room even if I wanted to, so my plan includes bringing her along everywhere we go.)

Luckily for me, my favorite place in the world is also famously dog-friendly. We most often vacation in Carmel, Calif.¬†because it has everything we like: beaches, hikes, great food and it’s just plain beautiful. Neighboring city Monterey also has the amazing¬†¬†aquarium, which is worth going to more than once. Up picturesque Highway One is the coastal majesty known as¬†Big Sur. (If you haven’t been up this way, you really should go!)

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This is just a picture I took from the car. I mean, come on.

I love the Carmel River Inn because it’s clean, quiet and my kind of charming. There is a main motel-like hotel but tucked in the back is the good stuff: sprawling gardens peppered with quaint little cottages. We like the John Steinbeck cottage (room 24, king bed, whirlpool tub, little patio). Rates per night are around $150-$200, depending on the season, and the dog fee per night is $20. It’s very reasonable considering you get your own space plus acres of Bambi-esque meadows to wander around in.

If Disney designed these cottages, they couldn’t have been cuter. (And I did not get any discounts for mentioning this inn – I just really like it!)

Some photos, proving my point:

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Gurgling fountains.

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Flowers, flowers everywhere.

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(Oh, hi Lady!)

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Our cottage duplex.

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Part of our room (I moved the couch around.)

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The rest.

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Big, ol’ tub!

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Our patio.

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Swing for swinging.

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… my magical place….

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… where I swung my head back, looking at the trees.

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An actual hammock.

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A leafy heart right outside our room.

Not every dog-friendly hotel is the Carmel River Inn, but if you do a little research, you’ll find a good place.

2. No hot weather (sorry sun-worshippers!)

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It’s essential that the place you’re visiting doesn’t get much hotter than 70 degrees because it’s likely you’ll have to leave your dog in your car sometimes. (Make sure your dog doesn’t mind hanging in the car!)

Generally, it’s cool enough to leave your dog in the car if the temperature outside is under 70 degrees. Finding shade is best but not essential if the temperature is low enough. (If it was over 70 degrees and we couldn’t find a shady spot, we’d change our plans to include Lady.)

A sandwich on the beach instead of dining in a restaurant is not that much of a letdown when the view looks like this.

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(Carmel Beach is 100 percent dog-friendly!)

3. Pack only the essentials.

Just like with your own packing, you don’t need to totally relocate all the creature comforts of home for your creature abroad. We take food (meals in sandwich bags are easy), leash, bowls, brush and bed. That’s it. Anything else that comes up, like a bee sting or wound,¬†you can buy what you need at the drug store. Read my blog about home healthcare here.

(The bed is optional but Lady loves hers and knows immediately where her “spot” in the room is. But most dog-friendly hotels will provide a doggy blanket.)

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Bed in car!

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Bed in room!

Bonus tip: If you’re ever travelling and run out of dog food, white rice mixed with scrambled eggs or boneless, skinless chicken is a good alternative (and your dog will love it!)

4. Have a game plan.

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Dogs are pretty basic. They need food, exercise and sleep. (And love, yes, yes.) They’re like humans without all the added cerebral BS – they know what they like, and they don’t over think things. Following their lead actually leads to a pretty awesome vacation day.

Here’s what worked for us:

We had breakfast in the room. A french press and fruit is a little piece of heaven. Lady ate her breakfast and got pieces of toast. We showered. Lady did not.

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We went on our Big Morning Outing – I’m talking at least a couple hours. It was either a hike in the forest or a long beach walk. This was Lady’s favorite part (and mine too!)

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Bonus tip: have water and a bowl in your car at all times. It’s important to hydrate your dog (and yourself) frequently.

The next thing was our people-only time. This is when we found the shady parking spot, Lady took a nap and we had some human fun.

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One of my fancy meals.

 Then a siesta was in order. We all went back to the room, cleaned up a little and rested.

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Sometimes we’d nap on the beach.

Refreshed, we’d venture out for our Nighttime Activity. We’d go out to dinner, we’d sit on the sand and look at the stars, we’d marvel at the weirdness that is Carmel.

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This is their gas station sign, for example.

5. Decide if your vacation can realistically involve a dog.

Figure out what a great vacation is for you. Mine is pretty simple: to walk, to eat, to sleep, to read. That’s all I want. Lady fits in with our ambitious plans just fine.

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Like peas and carrots.

 But if your idea of a good vacation is more involved, like flying to a faraway land or exploring the ruins of an ancient civilization, you might have to leave your dog at home.

And “by home,” I mean at¬†WOOF, of course!

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Staff are standing by.

Much love,

Vickie Jean

 

 

 

 

 

25Feb/15

Dog mom

I am one of those people who call myself my dog’s “mom.”

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Here I am, momming it up.

I call myself that because I feel like her mom. She is completely dependent on me from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. (And sometimes in the middle of the night, if she’s not feeling well.)

She expects a lot from me. I am her world. Sometimes when she needs something, I am so tired and I can’t imagine doing one more thing. Even for her. But then I see her cute face and love takes over, and moves my body to do what she needs. Even if it’s to clean up the millionth mess she’s made somewhere in the house (and after I just cleaned it!)

Sound familiar, moms?

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Her cute face, expecting something.

But still I wonder what other people think of this term. Is it cringe-worthy? Is it offensive? Are they neutral and I’m the only one who feels a bit weird about it? Or do they nod their heads in recognition, like, yep, I’m a dog mom too! (If you picked the last, then you are my people and I will love you forever.)

When I’m talking to or about Lady, “mom” just rolls so easily off my tongue. But, if I’m being honest, it feels like a bit of a stretch – and perhaps even an out-and-out delusion? Since I, you know, didn’t give birth to my Siberian Husky. (But I did adopt her! But not legally? See how the mind reels.)
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Sitting on mommy’s lap.

Then there’s the judgment I may get from others when I say it, the most obvious of which: since I don’t have human children, this is obviously my way of (mis)directing my maternal instincts.

All I can say about that is that I grew up wanting stuffed animals, not dolls. I was crazy for all things horse and dog. The first question I had when my husband asked me to move in with him was, “can we get a puppy?” (Spoiler alert: we did.)

So I’m not too sure this assumption applies to everyone. Sure, I am a woman with womanly feelings and all (define those however you like), and I do enjoy “babying” my dog, but it doesn’t mean what I really want is a baby. Because at my age, I’m pretty sure I don’t. And having had a dog since I was a kid, and always wanting to have a dog in my life, I’m pretty sure what I want is a dog.

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My beautiful daughter, admiring a chicken.

My reticence in using the term “mom” is because I have a lot of respect for the job. (And for dads too!) Being a parent is a massive responsibility and I don’t want to use it lightly.

So should I switch to the more loathsome term (in my opinion) “owner?” I mean, I don’t own my husband, so neither do I own my dog. (But I will fight you ten ways ’til Tuesday if you try to take what’s mine! Ha!)

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Riding in mommy’s car.

I have friends who have kids and friends who have dogs and friends who have kids and dogs. (And friends who have cats, but don’t have kids, etc. etc.) I’ve seen a lot of kid and animal love and I never really thought to compare the two. Comparing kinds of love just seems wrong and ultimately, pointless. Someone is going to feel marginalized. And who’s to say what kind of love is greater than another?

Love is personal.

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Waiting for mommy to come home.

But I have really noticed that anybody who has a human child usually has a bit of an eye-roll reaction when they hear pet owners calling their animals their “kids.”

And boy do we pet enthusiasts love shouting our love from the rooftops!

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And sometimes from our car’s bumper…

Arguably, pet people are just as passionate about their pets as parents are about their children. Their Instagram feeds are stuffed with pics of little Fluffy or Rover doing the cutest things ever. They celebrate their pet’s birthdays. They cradle and kiss their pets on the lips. They set up play dates for them.

Need I remind you that I work at a DOGGIE DAYCARE? I mean, we have doggie daycares! People from the last century wouldn’t have even believed such things would ever exist! I address our WOOF clients as “WOOF moms and dads.” It seems so natural, and yet I have to acknowledge that maybe it’s not for everyone.

At home, I say things like, “mommy doesn’t like that!” or “come to mommy!” Sometimes when I’m grouchy, “this is mommy time.” When it comes to Lady, I hear the “m” word slip out of my mouth so easily and it feels right.

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Sitting on mommy’s knee.

Of course, having a dog is different than having a child. You don’t have the awesome responsibility of raising a responsible, well-adjusted adult who will leave you someday and roam the earth only with your teachings to draw from. You don’t have to save for a college fund. They never leave you.

I acknowledge there are some major differences.

But I stand on the similarities. If I’m responsible for feeding, providing medical care for, cleaning up after, loving and generally directing a living being’s entire existence myself, well – then I’m their mom. Period.

And I have an even more intense relationship with Lady because she suffers from separation anxiety. She literally goes everywhere with me.

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Out with friends.

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While I’m working.

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On damn near every errand. (Unless it’s too hot, in which case I don’t go and I suffer without conditioner or coffee creamer like a champ.)

My husband and my vacations so far have all included the dog. We plan our lives around her. Sometimes I feel a little resentful. Sometimes I feel guilty that she’s so needy. Sometimes I feel so lucky and can’t imagine my life without her.

Mostly, I feel like a mom.

Question: Do you call yourself your dog’s mom? Or dog’s dad? Why or why not?

05Feb/15

Doggie Healthcare at Home

Having a dog is like having a furry family member. A furry family member who totally depends on you but can’t tell you when something hurts.

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Not exactly a fountain of info here.

I know what it’s like to feel helpless when you think your dog isn’t feeling good. Maybe she has vomited a couple times; maybe she didn’t want dinner last night, which is so unlike her.¬†

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I think Lady still remembers this chicken from July 4th of last year.

I know the frustration of when it’s a Saturday and the only place open is an emergency hospital. You don’t know the doctors there, you don’t know how much it’s going to stress out your dog to even go there, and you certainly don’t know how much money it’s going to cost.

Owners everywhere, right this minute I’m sure, are looking at their dogs and thinking: “should I take her to the vet?” It’s not always obvious what to do.

This post is aimed at helping you answer this question by:

  • Giving you straightforward tips on how to assess your dog’s health,
  • Offering a few safe home treatments for common ailments, and
  • Clarifying when you don’t have enough information and need to go to the vet

As always, my disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and my advice should not be substituted for that from a real doctor. These are merely general tips to help owners become more educated about the health of their dogs.

That said, meet my dog patient, Lady.

She is super-thrilled to be my model for all these humiliating illustrations.

Your home “exam”: When you are checking your dog at home, you’re simply looking for the source of what might be making her uncomfortable. I think it’s helpful to go through all parts of the body, step by step. (I put the “exam” in quotes for our purposes because nothing can substitute for a real veterinarian’s exam, one from a professional with years of training and experience to draw upon when assessing your dog.)¬†

That said, you can get a lot of useful information from looking at your dog from tip to tail!

Nose

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First, note how cute the nose is.

Next, note if there is any discharge coming out. If there is discharge and it’s a color (not clear), it might be infected mucous and you’ll need to go to the vet.

Is there anything up there? Is your dog breathing okay? Sometimes violent sneezing can indicate a foxtail or piece of plant has flown up there. (This is especially common in the dry season of summer.) foxtails continue to travel upwards¬†and are not to be underestimated in the damage they can wreak along the way,¬†so if that’s suspected, you’ll need to go to the vet.

You can also somewhat gauge hydration from the nose. If the nose is dry, it doesn’t necessarily mean your dog is dehydrated, but check it later to make sure it moistens up. A dry nose is one clue to indicate dehydration. (More on hydration soon.)

Eyes

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First, your dog will note that her food bowls are missing from the stand behind her and resent you for it.

Second, you’ll check if the eyes are red, watery or have discharge. (Again, colored discharge means you’ll need to go to the vet.) If your dog’s eyes are blood shot or the pupils look strange to you, it could indicate inflammation and you’ll need to go to the vet.

If the eye fluid seems sticky, like the lids aren’t easily lubricated with each blink, it could indicate dehydration. Dogs get cataracts, just like people, and they look similar. Ask your vet to go over the pros and cons of cataract surgery.

A quick tip on how to administer eye drops by yourself:

If you’re like me and have a working spouse, and often don’t have anyone to help you hold your dog, you can pull off administering eye drops solo! Simply straddle your dog’s back, gently squeezing with your legs, and lean the dog’s head back toward your body. This gives you the most control if your dog tries to resist. (If your dog is little, get closer to the floor, mimicking the same position.) Have your eye drops ready to go and be quick about it! Even the most patient dogs will eventually tire of this ordeal.

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Use only vet-prescribed or recommended eye drops!

Mouth

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Your dog’s mouth tells a story. First look for obvious things like lesions and cuts.

Particularly bad breath can indicate an illness or dental disease. Sharply defined, red lines above the teeth at the gum line can indicate dental disease too. You can most easily clean your dog’s teeth by rubbing them with a gauze-wrapped finger. (Works much better than a toothbrush, in my opinion.)

And don’t poo poo having your dog’s teeth cleaned under anesthesia. It’s the only way for a vet to properly clean under the gums and extract bad teeth. Dental disease is serious and can be fatal if left untreated. Not to mention the PAIN your dog is going through with an untreated rotting tooth or gum disease.

Speaking of the gums, they are really telling. They should be pink, pink, pink! Pale, white-ish gums can indicate a serious illness. If you see white gums,¬†you’ll need to go the vet right away.

Quick Gum Check Tip: Press your index finger into the gum and take it away. Watch as your pale fingerprint appears and then quickly fills again with pink color. If your dog’s gum stays pale where you pressed your finger and takes a long time to fill back in with color, it could be a sign of illness and you should¬†run, don’t walk¬†to the vet.

The saliva on the gums should be wet but not sticky. If you feel sticky saliva, it could indicate dehydration.

The tongue should be relatively clear. If you see a thick film on it, it could indicate illness.

Ears

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You are looking at the skin and smelling for any strong odor. Infected ears can have red skin and smell really bad (“normal bad” smelling ears just smell a bit yeasty).

Cleaning ears: Wrap gauze around your index finger and gently swipe into the ear canal. DO NOT USE Q TIPS as the dog’s ear canal is a weird shape and you might puncture something. Ear wax should come out. If you see blood, puss or anything other than wax on the gauze (sometimes the wax is black, don’t worry), your dog might have an ear infection or a foreign body and you’ll need to go to the vet. You’ll know if your dog’s ears are infected because she will protest pretty dramatically at having her ears touched because it’s very painful.

Those aforementioned foxtails love to go into ears and often need to be removed under anesthesia.

Ear injuries: Cuts or wounds on the ears should be handled with great attention. Dogs will shake their heads at the feel of the irritated ear and sometimes burst blood vessels, creating the dreaded ear hematoma. Ear hematomas look like a squishy, blood-filled balloon has invaded your dog’s ear flap. They are terribly difficult to repair and should be avoided at all costs. If your dog has a cut on his ear, wrap his ear flat to his head with a stretchy bandage or vet wrap and get yourself to the vet.¬†Ear hematomas generally require repair under anesthesia.

Bonus anesthesia tip: if your dog is going under anesthesia, ask if your vet can perform a dental while she’s under. Ask the tech to really trim her nails nice and short. Anesthesia is expensive and hard on the body so you’ll want to get as much done while your dog is under as possible, within reason (you don’t want your dog to be under too long either.)

Bonus bonus anesthesia tip for stomach-flipping dog breeds: dogs like Standard Poodles or other deep-chested, large breed dogs prone to BLOAT – ask your vet if they recommend stomach stapling while your dog is under. Sometimes dogs who are very prone to this deadly condition can benefit from having their stomach anchored in place so you don’t have to worry about the dreaded bloat the rest of her life.

Handy-dandy dehydration test

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Lift the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades into a tent-like shape and let go. For hydrated dogs, you should see the “tent” go back down into position quickly and easily. If the shape hold its position for longer than a second or two, it could indicate dehydration. You can also gently pinch the skin together and rub the two pieces of skin to feel for stickiness inside. (You may be seeing a pattern here: sticky fluids anywhere (gums, eyes, under skin) may equal dehydration.)

Paws

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Lift the paws, separate the toes, look at the skin, pads and nails. Our friend the foxtail likes to make an appearance between toes, creating a nasty hole and abscess in its wake. Sometimes ticks will attach here. You are basically just looking for abnormal skin or foreign bodies hiding between toes.

Bonus note on ticks: ticks are generally harmless unless your dog comes into contact with the tiny ones that carry Lyme disease. Lyme-carrying ticks vary according to region and are more prevalent in the northeastern US. Regardless, you’ll want to REMOVE ticks as soon as possible. You DON’T have to use matches or any strange technique! Simply use tweezers, grab the tick and pull it out. Or take your finger, press it onto the tick (for the brave of heart), and make quick, tiny circles on it with pressure. The tick will let go and you can pull it out and flush it down the toilet (my fave method.) If part of the tick remains in the skin, worry not. You know the tick is dead and the body treats the leftover part as a foreign body, pushing it out eventually. (You’ll want to watch for infection if this is the case.)

Bonus note on nail trims: if you cut your dog’s nails too short and “quick” them, you don’t have to have Kwik Stop or a similar product that helps the blood clot. You can use regular old flour!

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Flour, right out of my cupboard!

Simply tap a gob of flour onto the bleeding nail’s tip and have your dog rest for a while, as walking breaks the clot off, starting the bleeding process all over again.

Spine

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If your dog seems painful, is hunching or has trouble walking, you can palpate (a fancy term for examining by touch) the spine to check for any points of pain. Start at the top, using both of your thumbs to press gently along each side of the spine. If your dog has an issue somewhere, she will likely flinch or cry out. Spine issues require a specialist so you’ll need to go to the vet.

Palpating other parts of the body

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Methodically and gently squeeze the elbows, legs, knees, hip area, and muscles to try to pinpoint any painful spots. Pay close attention to how your dog reacts because dogs are generally STOIC and have an instinct to hide their pain. Rotate and flex their joints to see if there is any arthritis pain.

If you are in any doubt about your dog being in pain, you must go to the vet. There are safe and effective pain relievers for dogs. Dogs shouldn’t have to live with pain just because they are good at hiding it.

Bonus life saving tip: DO NOT GIVE OVER-THE-COUNTER PAIN MEDS to your dog! Ibuprofen (Advil) and Acetaminophen (Tylenol) are TOXIC to dogs and might kill them. Aspirin can be safe in infrequent, low-doses but you should consult your vet because it can cause stomach ulcers with prolonged or heavy use.

Tummy

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Your dog’s tummy is just as sensitive as yours is, so be gentle! Press around to scout for pain, lumps or masses. For females, you can give a breast exam along the nipple lines, similar to how you would do your own breast exam. (She just has more of them because she has more mouths to feed…) The more you do this, the more you’ll get to know what your dog feels like and what’s abnormal or new going forward. For boys, it’s a good opportunity to peek at the old privates and make sure there are no obvious issues down there.

Taking your dog’s temperature

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Not a rectal thermometer, but here for illustration.

You’ll want to buy a rectal thermometer and write your dog’s name really big on it so you’ll know exactly where it’s been (and where it should go next). You’ll need something like KY Jelly or Vaseline for lubrication.

Coat the end of the thermometer in the lubricant and explain to your dog that something slightly upsetting is about to go down, but it’s for her own good.

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Make a goofy face to show her how much fun you are having together.

Lift her tail and insert the tip of the thermometer gently. Most dogs are okay with this if you are deliberate and gentle. Wait until the thing beeps or count to fifteen one-mississippi-style.

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A NORMAL DOG TEMP is about 101 degrees Fahrenheit. (Normal range is 99.5 to 102.5.) A temp 103.5 or above is considered to be a FEVER and you’ll need to go to the vet. If her temp reaches 106 or above, it can be FATAL.

Common ailments & home treatments

The most common issue for dogs at home is vomiting, diarrhea or both. Before I suggest treating these signs, let’s first agree on when a vet needs to intervene.

FOR VOMITING: generally, vets consider three vomits within 24 hours reason to have your dog seen by a vet. If your dog vomits breakfast one morning, try giving her a half meal at dinner to see if she keeps it down. Don’t give a vomiting dog water – it will likely trigger more vomiting! Check for hydration (nose, gums, skin “tent”) and take your dog to the vet to get rehydrated under the skin by IV. If your dog is vomiting infrequently but for a prolonged period of time, go to the vet. Blood in the vomit? Go the the vet pronto.

FOR DIARRHEA: Dogs are like us in that they get diarrhea sometimes. Some breeds and certain dogs even get diarrhea often. You can home-treat diarrhea with a bland diet: white rice (brown is too complex to digest), low-fat cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, low-sodium chicken broth – all are good and delicious bland dinners to give your poopy dog.

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You can also give Imodium (loperamide) to dogs safely. Doseage is .05/.1 mgs per pound of body weight every eight hours. (For example, Lady weighs 55 pounds, so I can give her one to two 2mg tablets.)

If diarrhea continues for more than a couple days, or contains mucous or blood, or is dark red or black, get your poopy dog to the vet. Dark stool can indicate blood coming from the intestines and needs to be addressed.

POISON INGESTION

Dogs love the sweet taste of anti-freeze. They’ll lap up pools of it off your garage floor. Chow-hounds like Labradors love to eat just about anything. For this reason, you may find yourself in the position of inducing vomiting.

Be careful – you don’t want your dog to regurgitate everything. A whole chicken carcass fished out of the trash, for example, can do harm coming back up the throat. You don’t want to induce vomiting for bleach, drain cleaner or if it has been over two hours since ingestion. You also don’t want to induce vomiting if your dog is in any weakened state and can’t be counted on to vomit successfully. Ask your vet before inducing vomiting so you can tell them the suspected substance.

But it’s a good idea to have hydrogen peroxide on hand for those throw-up occasions.

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You’ll want to use the 3% kind that’s sold at most pharmacies. (The more concentrated ones are too potent.) Use 1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight.¬†(Lady’s vomiting cocktail, for example, would be 5 teaspoons (rounding down for 55 pounds.))

Vets have the advantage of having oral syringes to shove the liquid down, but at home you can mix it with some non-chocolate ice cream or honey to make it more palatable. Walk your dog around after she has taken it to get the reaction going. Take her to a place you don’t mind being covered in vomit! Comfort and encourage her as she vomits as the act is very stressful for dogs. It typically takes 15 minutes or less. If the hydrogen peroxide doesn’t work, or you are unclear what your pet may have ingested, you need to go to the vet.

Benadryl is your friend

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Benadryl (despite being blurry in the above picture) is truly a wonder drug for dog owners. Its uses are myriad and it’s pretty safe for all dogs.

Doseage: 1 mg Benadryl/diphenhydramine (make sure the pill contains no other ingredients!) per pound of body weight every 12 hours or so. It makes most dogs sleepy!

ALLERGIC REACTIONS – if your dog starts swelling up, pop her with some Benadryl for its antihistamine qualities. If the swelling doesn’t subside, or recurs for no apparent reason, go to the vet.

SEDATIVE – Benadryl is a safe, over-the-counter sedative for dogs who have anxiety. Whether it’s fireworks, separation anxiety or any stressful situation, it can help your dog calm down. You’ll want to try it first when you are around because sometimes dogs get more anxious when they feel a shift in their perceptions and they panic, negating the therapeutic effect.

GENERAL ITCHINESS – try Benadryl first. If the problem persists, go to the vet.

And… that’s all for now.

There may be more medical tips percolating in my brain but I think that’s quite enough for one round.

Lady has been poked and prodded, is tired and needs a cookie.

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Your dog’s health may not be simple, but dogs themselves are. So Lady, take this cookie and call me in the morning.

With love,

Your doctor mom

 * Thanks to Hans DeHamer, Super Husband, for helping me take all these pictures. *

15Jan/15

Bad dogs

Have you seen the trend “dog shaming”? It’s when owners post photos of their dogs with a sign telling everyone what naughty thing their doggy has done. They can be so funny because, really, dogs are dogs, and they have no shame thankyouverymuch. It’s part of their charm.

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But this one hit home and made me very sad.

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(source)

If you can’t read it, it says: “I got kicked out of doggie daycare because I’m a jerk!” The other says: “I’m her blind brother and I am awesome at daycare!”

I’m not criticizing this person at all. I think this was something very lighthearted and I’m sure he/she loves these dogs very much. It just ignited my thoughts about something I’ve been dealing with for a while now that I think is worth exploring.

Because I work at a dog daycare facility, I’m often in the position of having to tell owners that their dogs can’t come back to play. I hate having this conversation. Unfailingly – despite how carefully I choose my words and how clearly I try to communicate – what they hear when I tell them their dog isn’t working out in the daycare is that “your dog is bad.”

Can I just say for the record right now? There ARE NO BAD DOGS.

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Dogs are individuals, just like us, with likes and dislikes. They have experiences that shape their reactions. And the simple truth is that not all dogs like being put in a group with a bunch of other dogs.

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Some like to play with just a few besties.

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Or cuddle with a close friend.

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Or sometimes, sit on each other for no apparent reason. (Get off Maggie, Posey!)

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Others just want to play with a ball. (And if another dog tries to take that ball, all hell will break loose.)

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Others might be having a bad day and just want to be babied a little.

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There are a few things that we just can’t get around in the daycare setting. First off, they have to be okay being surrounded by other dogs. That’s just what a dog daycare is like. And second, they have to be able to have their own brand of fun in this setting. All of this has to be done safely, so that no one gets hurt.

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Many times, I’ve talked to owners who need their dog to come to daycare because they work all day. Unfortunately, these owners don’t always have dogs that enjoy group play.

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They want us to socialize their dogs better, so that they will start to like daycare. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. And while we’re figuring that out, we have to make sure nobody gets seriously hurt.

Whatever your theory on dog training (and there are many!) I have one truth I believe about dogs. They are individuals, just like us. And just like you can’t train a person to be an extrovert when they are an introvert, you can’t always convince dogs to enjoy something that they just don’t.

blog 1

I’m not an expert, but I can say that I’ve owned dogs since I can remember and have worked with them going on 20 years. I’ve worked with the most carefully bred labs and goldens in the Guide Dog program and helped treat street dogs who wanted to tear my face off. And I can honestly say I loved them all, and I could understand where each one was coming from.

An angry dog is just an angel who’s had her wings messed with one too many times. The angel is still in there – you just have to gain her trust.

vickie and sherman

vickie and desi

lady kiss

Having said all that, I think it’s an understandable misconception that all dogs like to play with other dogs. And that if they don’t – if they snap at dogs at the dog park, or lunge at other dogs while on leash – well, they’re BAD DOGS with BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS.

blog 3

But I say no to that. No, they are not bad dogs! They are just dogs who prefer doing other things for fun.

It’s asking a lot to expect every dog, who are all individuals with their own experiences and reactions, to love being surrounded by other dogs in a play group. Some dogs are understandably overwhelmed and lash out in fear. Others pick up on the frenetic energy of the group and think it’s a free-for-all for ransacking and bullying. And yet others panic because their personal space is constantly invaded and they feel they have no place to be.

blog 5

I read an article,”My Dog Got Kicked Out of Daycare Today” by Robin Bennett, a behaviorist from The Dog Gurus,,” who I think got it just right:

“When a dog doesn’t do well in off-leash play, it is not necessarily a symptom of a problem… This might be the case, but more often than not, it’s just a dog who prefers people…”

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“… It’s a dog who would love a hike in the woods but doesn’t enjoy off-leash play with a group of other dogs. This doesn’t make the dog bad.”

Bennett goes on to say that many of her clients still don’t accept this situation – they have dogs who don’t seem to enjoy dog parks or doggy daycares and they want to know why.

“Don’t all dogs want to play with other dogs?” they ask. “Shouldn’t I socialize him so he gets used to it? The truth is, there are far more dogs who do not enjoy off-leash play, than there are dogs who love it.”

And this was my favorite part:

“When a pet care professional dismisses your dog from daycare or recommends you don’t go to the dog park, you should thank them. Thank them for caring more about your pet, than about making a buck … Thank them for seeing your dog as a unique animal with individual temperament traits. Thank them for trying to look out for the well-being of your pet and putting your dog’s safety and comfort first.”

Thank you, Robin!

So to all those folks out there who think there is something wrong with their dog when I call them to say WOOF is not right for them, this blog post is for you.

I don’t think you have a bad dog. I think you have a lovely dog who just doesn’t like daycare.

 

21Feb/14

Daycare snapshots

Oh, hello.

close up pup

Where the heck have I been on this blog? Wasn’t November just yesterday?

It’s a deep thought, I know.

deep thoughts

Well, all I can muster is that it’s been busy, busy, busy! Business is booming, we’re meeting a lot of new faces all the time and it’s just staggering how many incredible dogs and dog families there are out there in the world!

little and ready

Yes, our enthusiasm is positively UNBRIDLED at this news as well. (She gets it.)

So here we are, catching our breath from all the holiday boarding, and find we are now in the midst of a very healthy daycare turnout. Our old-timers are showing the new-timers how it’s done.

chair stoughton

(It’s okay Stoughton – don’t get up.)

So many dogs, so many days, so many moments. We get to share them all with your pups while you are away. And I thought, hey, here we have all these great moments captured in photos.

I struck upon the best blog idea of all – The Quick & Dirty Photo Barrage.

So here goes nothing – a few of our favorite daycare snapshots!

It’s been chilly, so we’ve enjoyed a doggie fashion show each day.

cold pups

This is Maisy and her fabulous pink plaid jacket. You know she knows she looks good.

 

jacket maisy

I look good too! (You do.)

another coat

There has been lots of tennis ball action, of course.

 

running with ball

And some tennis ball hoarding.

 

lets play

We saw double.

double trouble one

double trouble two

double trouble three

And sometimes quintuple. (Quadruple? Let’s just say lots and lots of black labs.)

black dog meeting

There has been some igloo-sittin’.

igloo sitting

And some stolen kisses.

stolen kisses

Some massive babying. (Which we enjoy.)

rockabye doggie

Some interesting choices to rest.

denali trash can

(Denali! Get off the trash can! Denali? Okay. Never mind…)

And, of course, lots of RUNNING, RUNNING, RUNNING!

active pup

Okay, have to go back to work. It’s busy, you know. Did I tell you that?

Bye!

bye

 

11Nov/13

I don’t know why you say goodbye

One night last summer, I opened the door after work to find my dog dying on my kitchen floor.

beautiful Desi

This was my dog, Desi.

My husband and I had Desi for five wonderful years. We rescued her from a family who got new hardwood floors and didn’t want to risk her nails ruining it. She was missing half of all her canine teeth from chewing on a cage they kept her in.

I’m so thankful that they got those floors.

Desi lake

Before us, Desi had a tough life and she was, in response, a tough girl: intense with a nervous disposition. She was so tough, in fact, that we didn’t know she had a tumor growing on her spleen for quite some time. Up until the day it burst, she ate, drank and acted pretty much as if nothing was wrong.

On that July evening – a Wednesday that my husband and I both had to work unexpectedly late – I drove home thinking about how I would give her some dinner and then walk her around the neighborhood. It was getting dark already and I was tired, but she had been alone all day and I owed her a walk.

She lived for her walks.

Hans and Desi

walking Desi at the lake

And truth be told, we lived for them too.

That afternoon was a long and painful one for Desi. She bled out for over three hours, crawling to all the doors in the house, onto all the furniture, and finally settling in the entryway of the kitchen, sides heaving, struggling for air. We know all this because we could trace her movements from the blood. We also know this because our security camera captured every minute of it.

My husband watched some of the footage to see what time she began to struggle. I couldn’t watch any, but made him promise not to delete it. I’m not sure I’ll ever watch it, but I still need it to be there.

Desi butt

Sometimes when I used to lay in bed with Desi, I would think of how I would do anything to keep her safe. I imagined snatching her leash back just in time in front of an oncoming car. Turning the hose on a strange dog running to attack her. Helping her veterinarian identify and treat a rare disease that I happened to know all about.

In my fantasies, I was her hero and protector.

me and desi in carmel better

That night, I was not exactly a hero. I stood there, frozen, my purse over my shoulder, clutching a handful of mail. She looked up at me, eyes bulging, struggling for air as her insides flooded with blood.

I said, “OK, baby. OK.” I thought about calling hospitals, calling my husband, calling a friend – but everyone was so far away and my phone seemed useless. The closest emergency vet was eight miles away, through heavy traffic. I was losing time with all this thinking.

I tried to comfort her, but there was no comforting that would help. She was struggling to breathe, absolutely terrified. I tried to lift her, but she was too heavy. I was afraid of hurting her even more.

“Ok baby. Ok,” I ran around the house, grabbing things I thought I needed. My phone. A blanket. Her eyes followed me.¬†I came back to her, wrapped her up and ran out the front door.

“Hold on!” I yelled back. I didn’t want her to think I was leaving her.

Desi Marissa

For the longest time, Desi would throw up any time we took her in the car. We had our theories as to why: she feared car trips because she thought we were taking her somewhere else to live and she’d have to get used to a new family all over again. Or she had car sickness due to her “German Shepherd belly,” a very sensitive digestive system common to the breed that couldn’t handle strange foods and acted up with motion sickness.

But one day, we threw caution to the wind and took her to the beach in Point Reyes. We knew we were taking a big chance because the road there is so curvy and the trip is long. We opened all the windows and let the ocean air rush through the car. We piled blankets underneath her just in case and petted her, which sometimes distracted her from the nausea.

Desi stuck her head out of the window and sniffed. The strong ocean breeze blew her ears flat against her head. She had to close her eyes, the wind was so strong. She kept her head out of the window the entire trip, sniffing and squinting away.

I swear, she was smiling.

Me and Desi

From that day on, just like that, car rides became one of her favorite things. Just when you thought you had her figured out, Desi could surprise you like that.

Desi enjoying car ride

Tearing down the sidewalk, I saw a man parking his car on the corner. I waved at him as I ran, practically opening his door for him.

“My dog is hurt. I need you to help me get her in the car.”

“Ok,” he said. I have no idea what my face looked like in that moment, but he didn’t even hesitate.

We ran together back to my house, scooped Desi up and put her in the back seat of my car.

Desi party

 

The next half hour was spent breaking every traffic violation I could break, chanting to Desi from the front seat.

“I know, sweetie. Hold on. We’re almost there. Hold on.”

My husband called the hospital while I was on the road. Two techs met me in the parking lot and carried her in on a gurney. I was told to wait in the waiting room. I sat next to a family with their puppy and their little girl looked at me with curiosity. I smiled but I was tearing up, so I moved to an abandoned corner. Shortly after, my husband arrived in his work clothes, looking freaked out. He sat in the corner next to me.

I cried for the first time, telling him, “It’s bad. It’s bad.”

And it was bad. They could do an emergency, $8000 surgery, support her with blood transfusions all night, but the prognosis wasn’t good. I didn’t want my girl spending her last days in a hospital, alone again, in pain again. My husband and I agreed we had to help her go.

We held her while the needle went in and her heart stopped. We held each other after.

goodbye Desi

The next few days played out like a bunch of pictures in a photo album I wish I could throw away. Kissing Desi’s still, grey muzzle for the last time. Driving home, tears making a smear of the road, thinking, “I shouldn’t be driving.”. Sitting on the chair in my blood-soaked living room. Saying to my husband over and over again, “is she really gone?”

“Did this really happen?”

An hour and a half had passed since I put my key in the side door, entering my kitchen after work, thinking of taking my dog on a walk.

 

Desi last Sunday

This picture was taken the Sunday before she died. She hung out with me all afternoon in the backyard while I read. I stare at it a lot, wondering how big the tumor was in her stomach on that day. It had a few more days to grow – a 3-day ticking time bomb. I imagine its trajectory as it moved and got read to explode, on its way to changing not only my plans for one Wednesday night, but my life.

I’ve had many dogs and I’ve lost many dogs. In theory, I’ve gotten better at accepting that they are temporary, that I should love them as much as I can because they will always be gone sooner than I want them to.

my first dog

It makes me think of my mom, who is in her seventies now. I visit her a lot and try to ask her all the questions I’ll think of later, when I can’t ask. I tell her I love her every time I see her.

me and desi on the beach

It makes me think of my husband, and how I can’t imagine living without him. The pain I felt from Desi was so bad, it makes me wonder how people survive losing a spouse, or losing a child. It seems un-survivable.

husband Desi button

Desi knows what lies beyond this life. I wish I could ask her what to expect. I hope her answer would be something magical, something more than I ever imagined.

I think of all the pain she endured in this life, with owners who didn’t take good care of her, locked her up in a cage when she was inconvenient for them, built a dog who sized strangers up as if asking, “are you going to do bad things to me?”

I think of our time with Desi, us teaching her to relax, we got you. Her teaching us that even if people hurt you in your past, you can still get ridiculously excited at the sight of a squirrel in a tree. (And we did!)

Even though, between those bouts of joy and excitement, her everyday moments were shadowed with ghosts from her past. I think about her last moments on this earth, where her body betrayed her and the people she loved and trusted most weren’t there. I hate that she had to be afraid once again,alone.

 

love Desi

And then we were there, and we took her to a place where we paid someone to give her a pain injection that brought her relief, and then paid them some more to give her a shot that took her away, to somewhere else we’re not even sure of.

Because, ultimately, that was the best we could do.

Having dogs has taught me a lot. To get up on some mornings when I don’t feel like doing anything until I see that little face, telling me, “come on, come on. There’s lots of fun stuff out there. Come with me and I’ll show you.”

And I go, and there is, and I wonder, “what was I so sad about?”

But I think the biggest lesson comes when they leave. And you’re left alone to wonder, “what happened? Are they really gone? Did that really happen?”

Because dogs live such a short life. And with each one we get, then lose, we remember that everything, and everyone, is temporary. That they should be savored and hugged and loved to within an inch of their life every waking moment of yours.

showing Desi the world

Because, even though there is so much to be sad about, there’s really not enough time to waste being sad.

desi is gone

Dogs can surprise you like that sometimes.

 

16Aug/13

Off to college

We lost a good one yesterday.

Max dog wrangling

Max, one of our long-time dog handlers, is leaving us for college.

Max graduated

Here he is with his sister at graduation. (Yes, Max, I lifted a few of your personal photos off Facebook for the purpose of this blog.)

We are so happy for him. He’s going to Montana State University to major in mechanical engineering. Smart kid, good major – we know he is going to make everyone proud.

We’ve known Max through most of his high school career. He got a job at WOOF because of several e-mails he sent asking to work for us. He was tenacious – so much so that owner Jacque gave him a chance.¬†And we are so glad that she did because Max was a keeper.

His true love of dogs, maturity, work ethic and just plain sweet-natured personality has made it a pleasure to work with him over the years.

Max smiley bulldog

We know he’s about to embark on an important journey – one where he is going to begin to grow into an adult (and decide what kind of adult he wants to be.)

Max little dog

But can I confess something?

His absence is going to be a huge loss to the WOOF family and we are more than a little sad.

Max deep love

The job of a dog handler is not easy. You’re on your feet for hours, cleaning up countless messes. And after all that cleaning, yep, there’s more cleaning – you clean the entire building after the dogs have gone home. (Read about all of our amazing staff here.)

It really requires someone who can tolerate all the dirty work because they just like being around the dogs. And it requires someone who the dogs like being around too.

Max more deep love

Max is one of those people.

In honor of Max’s legacy, and to give him a proper send-off, let’s enjoy some Max moments.

There are the endless shots of him doing our famous Cuddle Times:

Max big shaggy dog

Max border collie

Max lab

Max Christmas

(Christmas cuddle!)

Here he is hanging out with his WOOF crew off hours:

max and kwon

Max and Andrew

woof friends

Max, Alex and Lauren

Can you spot him in the Little Dog Lounge?

max the lounge

And one of my personal favorites, Max in the Little Dog Chair, giving a little thug life flavor:

Max in little dog chair

So with that, let us just say goodbye and good luck Max.We look forward to seeing you on all of your school breaks, filling in for us where you can.

We’ll save your drink for you.

Max kwon

xoxo,

Vickie Jean @ WOOF