22Jan/15

Top 10 Tips for Going to the Vet

In a former life I was a veterinary coordinator. That’s a fancy title for people who answer the phone and schedule appointments at a vet practice (but!) are also called upon to help save lives every now and again.

 

FullSizeRender (6)proof

For nearly two decades, I counseled people through medical conundrums large and small and had to become competent really fast in giving sound veterinary advice. I’ve worked at general practices, a practice specializing in orthopedics and neurology and for the veterinary program at the fabulous Guide Dogs for the Blind in Marin County.

I’ve had the privilege of shadowing some amazing doctors while they diagnosed and treated, a delicate balancing act between education, experience and good old-fashioned detective work. I’ve seen dogs saved and lost, anguished owners grieve, and angry owners blame. I’ve seen some things.

At WOOF, I’m in charge of monitoring the health of our guests – a responsibility I take very seriously as I’ve seen how quickly a seemingly insignificant problem can go really wrong, really fast.

vetblog 1

You could say I’ve been writing this blog in my head for quite a while.

So, what are the Top 10 Tips I would give to owners for going to the vet, you ask? Let me tell you.

But first, the standard disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. This blog is about sharing some general observations I’ve had as part of the veterinary world and not to be substituted for real medical advice.

vetblog 2

1. Try out more than one vet.

Successfully caring for a pet is very dependent on a good relationship between vet and owner. Find a vet who you can communicate with, whose medical approach you understand, and who you like. You might want a small practice that incorporates some acupuncture, or you might prefer a big practice, with in-house diagnostic equipment and 24-hour availability. Figure out what makes you feel safe and who you trust so that each visit isn’t confusing and upsetting. (If you pick the small vet, make sure you have an emergency vet in mind for after hours!)

vetblog 3

2. Know your dog and speak up.

Vets need to take a good history of your dog in order to diagnose. They may need to know what they eat, how often they poop, if they are generally hyper or mellow, if they eat socks, etc. You are your dog’s spokesperson! There is nothing more frustrating for a vet than hearing crickets when they ask the owners questions, or owners who go off on unrelated tangents. Remember that symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea could point to so many different illnesses – the details you share with your vet can really make the difference between life and death. Be observant, stay on topic, and give as many relevant details as you can.

vetblog 4

3. Stop Googling!

Don’t go into your vet appointment armed with pages of online research and self-diagnoses. Vets have gone through years of study and practice – let them do their jobs. A little information is truly dangerous. If you think you already know what is wrong with your dog, you run the risk of steering your vet in the wrong direction or – worse! – deciding you don’t need to take your dog to the vet at all. (And on this topic, take Yelp reviews with a grain of salt. Even the best vet practice is going to have some loudmouths spewing nonsense online.)

vetblog 5

4. Keep and bring records.

If you change vets, move, or go to a different vet for emergencies or specialty treatments, keep copies of any lab work your dog has ever had. Blood work, urinalysis, titers (the tests that determine if booster vaccines are necessary) – each time you get one of these done, (you’ll know because they are expensive!) ask your vet’s receptionist for a copy and keep it in a handy folder. When you can hand your vet previous labs, they can compare your dogs’ values over time and see trends that may help them in diagnosing what may be wrong today.

vetblog 6

5. Ask for estimates!

For any vet appointment, you walk in the door already paying an exam fee. They can range from $40 to $90, depending on the practice. (Future readers: these are 2015 prices.)That’s it until the vet takes your dogs’ vitals and history, and then starts suggesting tests, surgeries and treatments. This is where you ask for an estimate. This helps not only determine the cost of your visit, but also illuminates the approaches your vet might take in diagnosing your dog. Any vet worth their salt will not only willingly give an estimate, but gladly do so. This helps them make sure they can collect their fees and protects them against folks who may be ignorant of how much things cost. I’ve had vets work up two or three estimates at a time, pricing all my options at once.

* A special note (and long one, sorry!) about vets and money: I stop listening to people when I hear the words: “All vets care about is money.” This is the battle cry of the ignorant, is unfair and simply not true. Firstly, veterinarians (unless they are specialists) rarely, if ever, make anything close to six figures. Secondly, running a veterinary practice costs money. The overhead for a hospital is staggering and most of the income goes towards staff, leases, insurance and upkeep, not lining the vet’s pocket. And thirdly – and I’m most passionate about this point – vets did not go to school and incur student loans to fund your dog’s health care. That’s your job, as the owner – one you took on when you decided to get a dog. It’s manipulative and insulting to tell a vet they don’t care about dogs because they won’t treat your dog for free. If they did that, they’d be out of business and couldn’t afford to treat their own dogs, many of whom I assure you they’ve probably rescued.

Okay, rant over. Onward!

vetblog 9

6. Can this be a tech appointment?

There are many things a technician can do, saving you an exam fee. Things like vaccines, anal gland expression, fecals, nail trims, and even blood draws for pre-ordered tests. Most vet offices will allow this so long as your dog has been seen by the doctor within the past year. So ask for tech appointments for the small stuff, and thank me later when you feel rich and clever.

vetblog 8

7. Medications – ask for them!

If you have an ongoing relationship with your vet, and bring your dog in regularly, sometimes your vet will prescribe a medication over the phone. Things like antibiotics for hot spots, pain medications for arthritis, sedatives for the Fourth of July – all can be given without an office visit so long as your dog has had recent blood work and been examined within a year. Make sure to ask about risks and side effects and let your vet decide if a med is reasonable to try before coming into the office. But you can certainly ask!

vetblog 7

8. When in doubt, throw in an X-ray

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen dogs present with some subtle symptoms – a little dehydrated, minor vomiting, lethargy. Blood work is done and the values seem mostly normal – maybe the white blood cells are a little high, or the dog is a tad anemic. Nothing serious. Can I just say – go ahead and ask for an X-ray. They can be a bit pricey (ask for an estimate!) but sometimes a vet is willing to take one lateral view (that’s the one taken from the side) and it doesn’t cost that much. An X-ray can spot swallowed foreign objects that could obstruct the intestines or a tumor that will eventually burst. Ever since I lost my dog to a splenic tumor that I had no idea was there, I’m a fan of the X-ray. They can’t catch everything, but they can catch some big things.

vetblog 10

9. Get the pain meds.

Dogs feel pain just like we do, but they are really good at hiding it. Some say it’s a leftover instinct from the wild because showing pain showed weakness. Whatever the theory, if your dog has had a surgery, an injury or even a particularly nasty hot spot, ask for the pain meds. As long as your dog’s liver and kidney values are normal, there is absolutely no downside to treating their pain, even if you’re not sure it’s bad. The flip side is that your dog will be suffering silently and it’s your job to make sure that doesn’t happen. (This also applies to surgery: make sure there are pain injections on your estimate and that your doctor will be actively controlling your dog’s pain while hospitalized. Sadly, some vets overlook this aspect of treatment and, ironically, make their clients really happy because their surgeries are “cheaper” without the pain injections. Another reason to feel good about paying your vet well!)

be nice

10. Lastly, BE NICE.

Vets and their staff are people too. When you are a cooperative client who makes appointments, follows the rules and is pleasant – and doesn’t pull the “all vets care about is money” card when presented with your bill – the staff appreciates you and will be more willing to help you when you really need it. They’ll be more willing to squeeze you in between appointments when you are having an emergency, or to waive the exam fee if the diagnosis was really simple. At the vet’s office, just like in life, it pays to be nice. You are setting the tone for the relationship and you will often be treated as well or as badly as you treat the staff. (And this goes the other way too: if the people at your vet’s office are rude, change vets!)

Going to the vet is really stressful for everyone. You’re worried about your dog, the vet is worried about missing something important and your dog is just plain worried. I hope these tips help in navigating these stressful waters. And please know I am always available to you if you have any questions about your dog’s health.

Here’s to health and happiness,

Vickie Jean

Receptionist

 

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.

dog shame more funny

(source)

But this one hit home and made me very sad.

BADDOG-637x424

(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.

blog 4

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.

blog 15

Some like to play with just a few besties.

blog 11

Or cuddle with a close friend.

blog 9

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

blog 2

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

blog 14

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

blog 16

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.

blog 17

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.

blog 8

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…”

blog 6

“… 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

03Jul/13

Heat wave

We’re finally nearing the end of this record-breaking heat wave. And let me tell ya –  it’s not a day too soon!

hot

So. Very. Hot.

 im hot

Hey! Hey! It’s hot outside!

hot too

Hey, um…

bulldog german shep

Hot enough for ya?

Yes, kids. I know. It’s hot.

With the temperatures hovering in the high nineties (and sometimes hitting three digits!) for about a solid week now, we’ve gotten the same question from our WOOF parents:

How on earth do you keep them cool?

Well, for those guests who are staying in our luxurious, air-conditioned suites overnight, staying cool and comfortable is not a problem.

suite

(If I could fit on that bed, I would have slept in there. My house has no air conditioning!)

But during the day, the dogs want to play outside so we have to improvise. We use the typical anti-heat weapons, of course.

Shade…

tarp shade

(We love our new sail shades!)

Rest…

Licorice

Water…

water

Fans…

fans

Heck, we even have movie days.

movie day shade

But our biggest secret weapon against the summer heat?

pool 7

pool 4

pool 2

WADING POOLS! Yeah, baby!

Dogs are funny about pools. They don’t approach them like us human folk. Their first thought is typically: why, this is a giant water bowl! How fun. I’m gonna drink all this water.

pool 1

pool 9

 

Then, inevitably, there the splashing begins.

pool 8

pool 6

Cool! Giant water bowl to splash in!

And then, finally, when drinking and the splashing is over, there’s the sitting.

pool 3

Ah. Sittin’ in my giant water bowl.

This explains, WOOF parents, why your dogs may be slightly damp when you pick them up at the end of a hot day.

pool 5

Mom’s here?

Because we know one thing to be true in the battle of keeping your dog safe in the summer heat:

wet dog

A wet dog is a happy dog.

Happy summer and stay cool out there –

Vickie @ WOOF

19Jun/13

Fireworks and dogs

Oh dear. It’s coming.

out the window

It’s the countdown to the big 4th of July celebration. To humans this means big fun: barbecues, friends and – the best part – fireworks!

And to dogs? It’s the countdown to RANDOM AND UNEXPLAINED EXPLOSIONS from outside.

whitney

We get a lot of calls around this time of year from worried owners about fireworks. I hear the same stories:

“My dog races around the house and hides in the bathtub.”

“She just goes crazy – and I can’t do anything to console her.”

“I tried getting sedatives but it only made it worse.”

Many of them who live near big celebratory areas want to board their dogs with us until the smoke clears. (And you can too! But I’d recommend you request your reservation now – we book up quickly.)

Since we’ve confronted this question so many times (and I’ve had the problem myself with my hyper-sensitive German Shepherd), here are a few tips on what you can do to make the fireworks seasons a little less stressful on you and your dog.

I want to say upfront though – there’s no guarantee that anything works 100% of the time. But these tips are worth trying and – depending on your particular dog and what she responds to – you might just find the magic bullet that really works for you.

pug fireworks

Sorry sweetie. I didn’t mean to say bullet!

1. Don’t baby them through it.

Contrary to what seems the most natural thing to do – hold your scared dog tight and speak softly and pet them – don’t do this! The extra coddling reinforces to them that SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG and, yes, they do NEED TO BE VERY AFRAID. Why else is mom or dad acting so concerned?

2. Act as if everything is normal.

You know how Cesar Milan says to use “calm, assertive” energy? It totally works. Your dog is very sensitive to how you feel. So make sure, even if you are freaking out a bit, keep yourself calm and act naturally to show your dog nothing is wrong. I have trouble with this all the time with my dog, who is leash aggressive. But every time an off-leash dogs comes running up, I take a deep breath and talk to both dogs with a calm, normal voice – and it does really help not escalate the situation.

3. Close the doors and windows and turn up the radio.

Drowning out (or at least lessening) the firework noise can take your dog down from Level 10 Freak out to a more manageable Level 6.

4. Let them cope how they choose.

If your dog likes to hide under the bed, jump into the bathtub, or wedge themselves behind the couch – LET THEM. If they go into their crate, leave the door open in case they want to run somewhere else. One of the saddest things I’ve heard owners doing is locking their dog in a crate while they go out and the dog chews her way out in a panic. (My dog has broken all her canine teeth in half from doing this before I adopted her.)

5. Do a medication practice run.

There are several things your vet can prescribe as sedatives but please always try dosing your dog prior to the big day. You never know when a med is going to make your dog feel weird and therefore, react more frenetically to stress. It’s important to remember that they don’t understand when they feel different and sometimes it scares them.

6. Over the counter sedatives.

Dogs can usually take the supplement  melatonin or the allergy medication Benadryl (diphenhydramine) safely and it helps them become a little sleepy and more relaxed. Consult your veterinarian for dosages and if your dog is okay to try it. (And again, try it on a calm day first to see how your dog reacts.)

7. Tire them out first.

A big, long hike or run right before showtime can really help take the edge off anxiety.

8. Distract them.

Use toys, food, smells – anything your dog typically responds to – to calm them during the height of their freak out. Dogs are in the moment so if you become a BIGGER MOMENT than the firework noise, they’ll relax.

9. Keep them inside.

So many dogs will try to escape and bolt once the noise kicks in. Make sure your dog is in the house, safe and secure. And microchips are always a great idea in case they do run off – at least you’ll have another hope of them being returned to you.

10. The leash umbilical cord.

Some dogs respond to being on their leash, “connected” to their owners. It works for some people to tie the leash to their belt loop and let their dogs walk around with them while they go about their normal business.

Your veterinarian may have some more tips for you. Don’t give up – with a little preparation and thought, you can get through the holiday even with the most anxious of dogs.

And – of course – we always have a nice, quiet refuge at WOOF if need be.

family stays XOXO and be safe out there!

Vickie Jean @ WOOF

10Jun/13

Our amazing staff

One indisputable fact about running a doggie daycare? The canines definitely outnumber the humans.

the group

 

staff feet

staff unknown

I’m becoming suspicious that they know it, too.

i know it

(See that knowing look?)

So it’s really important to find and hire just the RIGHT HUMANS for the job.

staff max weimereiner

Max

We get a lot of resumes at WOOF. I think it’s because people have a romantic notion of what it’s like to work at a doggie facility.

puppies-in-the-field

(insert self in field, maybe carrying a basket of fruit)

Whenever we interview an applicant, I ask “why do you want to work with dogs?”  (Hint, I’m looking for an answer that goes beyond the typical, “Um, because I love dogs!”)

Some of the better answers have included:

I like interacting with them.

kyle with flying dog

Kyle

I’m interested in dog psychology.

abby says hello

I like to stimulate their minds.

staff frankie ballFrankie

 

Those are the kinds of answers that intrigue me.

Because, to be honest, it’s a lot of hard work. It takes a lot more than just love to keep a yard with 50-plus dogs clean all day. And it takes more than love to keep them entertained and – more imporantly – safe in the process.

It takes a lot of energy, compassion and commitment.

bag organization

(And organization. Did I mention organization?)

There are 7 am start times, diarrhea clean-ups and slobber on clothes.  When you can love them through all that, then I know you’re right for WOOF.

staff more brandon on floor

Brandon

staff more brandon on floor two

Our track record of finding these kind of extraordinary people is pretty good, if I do say so myself. 🙂

katherine

Katherine

andrewAndrew

nathalie bio pic

Nathalie

lauren bio pic

Lauren

I updated the staff bios recently on our web site (read them here), and as I was writing them, I realized that it takes a special person to do this job well.

We have a lot of young people in the mix – people who are typically in school, studying to be nurses, psychologists, actors – you name it, we have an employee aspiring to be it. WOOF is their “day job,” a pit stop on their way to their futures.

As I wrote their profiles, I thought about the difference between the present versions of these people versus the people they are striving to become.

I thought about Lauren and Max, for example.

staff lauren and max

Two of the most genuine, sweetest young people I’ve ever met.

Lauren is in school getting her general education credits toward her nursing degree. Max, who has worked at WOOF through most of high school, is leaving us in the Fall to go to college to study mechanical engineering.

Even though their plates are full with outside goals, when they are at work, they are 100% present for the dogs. They arrive early and stay late. They always take extra shifts. I, on the other hand, can barely get my grocery shopping done.

Ah, youth.

staff max and dog

Max

I find that passion and commitment to the dogs starts from the top down. I’d love to take all the credit, of course!

reagan

Look at how the dogs just ADORE me.

But the truth is, it takes a real team to tame the wild and wooly WOOF pack. And I have to hand it to WOOF owner Jacque.

staff jacque 2

She’s the kind of owner who is here just as much as everyone else. And cleaning and doing the dirty work on top of it.

staff jacque

When your staff sees you not just telling them what the right thing to do it, but doing it yourself, it makes a big difference.

staff elisa

Elisa

staff kyle

Kyle

staff nicky couch

Nicky

 

I think the bottom line is, you can’t fake it. It’s obvious when you have a true passion for dogs. And if I ever detect that passion wavering, I know it’s time for someone to move on.

Because the dogs always give us their very best selves.

staff buddies

And they deserve nothing less in return.

all about the dogs

xoxo,

Vickie Jean @ WOOF

06May/13

Top 10 Summer Safety Tips

It was a hot one last week.

hot dog

The dogs in the play yards were a little more subdued than normal.

better hot face 2

hot friends

hot dogs 2

There were lots of shade breaks…

made in the shade

water cooler gossip sessions….

inside outside water

and general lazing about.

dog pool (1)

Let me tell ya, six years (yep, WOOF is six years old!) of dealing with the blazing San Ramon summers has taught us a thing or two about hot weather safety.

So in honor of summer, here’s our Top Ten Dog Summer Safety Tips. (We’ll count it down David Letterman-style because we’re cool like that.)

10. Backyard BBQ Boo Boos

bbq

There are some good reasons not to invite your dog to your backyard BBQ.

For one, sticks in the fire pit can be tempting to grab and – needless to say – a fire-scorched toy is not what your doggie had in mind. Also, hastily discarded paper plates full of bones can be grabbed when nobody is looking and cause blockages in your dog’s tummy and possible surgery.

All the excitement and unfamiliar people whooping it up can be too much for our furry little sweeties. That’s why we recommend boarding your dog with WOOF while you have your party. Your pooch will be in a calm, safe environment and you can part-ay the night away, guilt-free.  😛

9. Sunscreen – Not Just for Humans

sunscreen

Fair skinned, light-colored dogs need sunscreen just as much as we do! Make sure to dab some on any exposed skin or even spritz a light film over all their fur. Make sure the sunscreen is safe to use on pets and don’t get it in their eyes!

8. Beach Bugaboos

beach

Taking your dog to the beach is one of the best parts of summer! But remember to keep them safe from a couple of common pitfalls.

Dogs who have been sedentary all winter should not be encouraged to run like Bo Derek in the sand. Running in sand is HARD and an ADVANCED WORK OUT. Out-of-shape or older pups who get swept up in the moment can end up pulling a muscle or – worse- tearing a ligament that will require surgery. So keep it mellow.

Swimming in the ocean is fun – especially when you’re chasing a ball! – but please don’t let your pup swim out in raging waves and get pulled under. Also watch that they don’t gulp salt water, which can make them very sick (and include vomiting in the car on the ride home, which we’d all like to avoid.)

7. Water – Fresh, Clean, Cold and Lots!

swimming

Make sure wherever your dog hangs out in the heat, there is always a bowl of cold, clean, fresh water. And that he knows where it is and can get to it. Dehydration feels crummy and is dangerous.

6. Shade

sleeping three

If you have your dog outside, make sure there is access to shade. They might want a sun nap but when it gets too hot, they have a choice to avoid the heat.

5. Rest Breaks

flat face break

Resting in the heat is not optional. In fact, for short-muzzled breeds like bulldogs, frenchies, pugs, etc. – it can be a matter of life or death.

These dogs can’t cool their body temperature as well as long-muzzled dogs by panting because their face is an inefficient shape (that’s science, people!) so they need to get breaks from the heat as often as possible. Or avoid going outside all together.

4. Hot Pavement: A Paws For Reflection

hot pavement

I often marvel at how tough dogs’ feet are. They walk around all sorts of places on those cute little pads.

But make no mistake – hot asphalt burns their bare feet just as badly as it does our own. So don’t walk your dog across that scalding hot parking lot – drive them over to the nice, cool grass instead.

3. Foxtails – How We Loathe You

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I worked in the veterinary field for 15 years, and can I just say that these little monsters kept us busy all summer long. Foxtails up the nose, foxtails in the feet, foxtails in the ears.

Foxtails, foxtails, foxtails!

And more often than not, we’d have to use anesthesia to get those suckers out because they are shaped to BURROW deeper and deeper into your unsuspecting doggie (who was just trying to run through a field for gosh sakes.)

If you see any dry weeds or anything that resembles what’s pictured above, STAY FAR AWAY. Trust me on this one.

2. No Parking Zone

dogs in car

I love to take my dog with me on errands just as much as the next person. And I too have been guilty of the “I’ll just be five minutes in there!” reasoning for leaving my dog in a car when it was a little too warm out.

But this is truly a serious no-no. Once the outside temperature reaches 70 degrees, the inside of a car becomes an oven. And no cracking of windows or opening of sun roofs will help.

I remember one of my veterinary friends calling dog heat stroke “the big smile,” because when their core temperature starts to climb to 107 degrees, the sides of their mouths pull back really wide. And that’s the sign that they are about to die from heat stroke.

I always think of that darkly poetic term whenever I’d like to run into the store when I have my dog with me in the car and it makes me shudder.

I don’t mean to be graphic about it but it really isn’t a good idea – ever. If it’s not below 65 degrees outside, please just leave them at home. (Or better yet, bring them to WOOF for a quickie daycare visit while you run your errands- up to five hours is less than $20!)

1. Enjoy Each Other

fun summer

Once we become grown ups, we sometimes forget to play. And summer is built for playing.

So take your dog’s advice and just hang out. Drool a little bit, nap a little bit, wag a little bit.

Here’s to a wonderful summer.

xoxoxo,

Vickie Jean

01Apr/13

Dog on-the-job training

We take our roles as guardians to your dogs very seriously. Our priorities stay steadfast:

* Be safe

* Play hard

* Have fun

However, we would be remiss if we didn’t also teach one of life’s most important lessons:

* Have marketable skills

receptionist

Sure, the economy is slowly improving. But things aren’t the way they used to be. Every penny counts. And we figure, since you’ve invested in WOOF as clients, we want to invest in your financial future.

It’s time to put our dogs to work.

Who couldn’t use an extra income? And don’t let these dogs fool you – they are quite capable.

So we brought everyone together and explained the WOOF Dog Training Program. Every dog took an intensive job profile personality test. Sure, there were some eye rolls. And sure, we had to repeat ourselves several times to those who lost focus when a ball flew by.

But overall, we are off to a very promising start.

handyman

(Handyman training)

It is probably not surprising that many of our trainees gravitated toward food and hospitality.

Travis, for example, volunteered to be a Taste Tester.

taste tester

Pig ears? Bully sticks? Bully sticks? Pig ears?

He described an alluring gamey/piquant quality of the pig ear. Good information because they both smell equally disgusting to us. Thanks Travis!

Some dogs tested more on the artistic, creative level. More left-brained, more emotional. Fiercely fashion-conscious.

artist

Sadie, La Artiste

buyer

A future in retail?

cruise director

Party Planner

cruise director and guest

Party Planner, plus Socialite

stylist

Stylist to the stars

Other dogs really just wanted a good, old-fashioned trade. They are not afraid of getting a little dirty, getting up a little early, and seemed to respond to wearing uniforms.

valet

Dog Valet

valet in full uniform

Whoops, forgot the hat

valet safety coordinator

Dog Valet Safety Coordinator

Other dogs seemed to really value being a leader. They weren’t afraid to rattle a few cages, be large-and-in-charge. (To be honest, they were a bit power-hungry.)

Jake jumped at the chance to become Human Resources Director. He sat Dog Handler Frankie down for her annual review.

human resources director 1

He didn’t mince words

human resources director 3

It was pretty intense

human resources director

NEXT?

Unfortunately, not everyone took their training seriously. Olive, for example, refused to do anything that was too mentally or physically taxing. She stuck to her strongest skill:

office gossip

Total Office Gossip

Oh well.

Interestingly enough, there was one job that every dog was perfectly suited to do.

counselor

Mental Health Counselor

It doesn’t pay that much but the benefits are immense.

xoxo,

Vickie Jean @ WOOF