August 11, 2016 - Shortly after deciding to keep my first-ever "foster failure" (a dog who was meant to be a foster only, but who found his forever home with me), I asked my husband to take some care with his name; he's the namer in our family. I'm terrible at naming animals; he's terrific and funny. But given that this was going to be a dog that we'd have for a long time, not a foster dog just passing through, I had some criteria I wanted him to take into consideration.
Although I would technically have veto power if he came up with a name I hated, he can be quite persistent in calling a dog something he has decided on, despite what the dog's subsequent owners later decided to name the dog. For example, a couple of years ago, I fostered a short, middle-aged Border Collie-mix who had recently had puppies, and had a rumpled, pudgy appearance. She was surrendered to the shelter where I volunteer as "Mary," but Brian decided she looked more like a "Brenda," I have no idea why, and he still calls her Brenda when he sees her, when my friend who adopted her comes to visit. So I really didn't want him to get attached to a name I didn't like.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:23PM Comments (52)
July 28, 2016 - One of these days, I'm going to have to count the dogs I've fostered and placed in homes over the past 9 or 10 years, since I moved to this small northern California town and found myself living close to a nice, clean shelter run by a smart, dedicated director. The number would look super impressive if you counted the litters of puppies I've fostered, but that's cheating; puppies get adopted from the shelter quickly, and I have little to do with their placement.
Often, people want a puppy, and I get the appeal, but sheesh, there are so many advantages to adopting a dog who is already a known quantity: You know how big she's going to be, what her coat is like, and you have a pretty good sense of what her behavior is like, or could be like. And yet, it takes a long time for so many adolescent and adult dogs in the shelter to find homes.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:17AM Comments (16)
July 21, 2016 - I'm afraid I have "one of those dogs" - the ones that swallow things. The ones that inspired the annual x-ray contest among veterinarians, x-rays of dogs with things that are stuck in their digestive tracts. No, Woody hasn't had an x-ray yet, but unless I get a grip on this behavior, he's going to be in the contest one of these days.
This little colorful trifle is a toy for tiny puppies. It was the first toy my sister bought for her young Jack Russell-mix when she first adopted her from a Jack Russell rescue group three years ago. Daisy loves the little toy, which has a fabric-covered squeaker in both ends, which are held together by a strip of what used to be colorful ribbon.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:12AM Comments (15)
July 13, 2016 - There is nothing like realizing that you need to take a bunch of your own advice. In my case right now, I need to do things with my own dog that I have been telling others to do for nearly two decades. Sheesh.
I started fostering my young dog Woody (and his eight siblings) in November. He was my first so-called "foster fail" (meaning, I decided to keep him) in nine years of fostering for my local shelter. But since I adopted him, I've fostered several other large litters of puppies, one after another, and this task has kept me tied pretty close to home. So I haven't taken Woody to as many places as I would advise everyone else to do with their dogs.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:09PM Comments (17)
July 7, 2016 - We've had some intense heat in California lately, and lots of dog owners are taking their dogs to pools, lakes, rivers, and the coast to cool off. Allow me to remind you about several water-safety tips to keep in mind: • Too much can be a bad thing. "Water toxicosis" can affect any dog who drinks too much in the course of swimming, dock diving, fetching toys from water, biting at a sprinkler, or any other activity that involves water. When dogs are hot or particularly excited, they may drink even more. If you notice your dog drinking more than seems necessary - especially if you notice him wobbling, vomiting, or seeming suddenly lethargic, have him take a break in the shade for a while, until his body can catch up and eliminate some of that excess. See http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/17_6/features/Preventing-Excessive-Water-Intake_20986-1.html
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:02AM Comments (1)
June 29, 2016 - Recently, I dog-sat two little dogs for a friend who went on vacation for just over a week. I like to think of myself as a competent dog owner and foster-care provider, but I experienced just about every sort of problem with medicating one of the dogs that a person can imagine. I have an excuse: I also have three of my own dogs, 12 foster dogs (mother Great Dane and her 11 puppies), and my son's dog staying with me while he travels for his sport, so I was a TAD distracted, but even so.
Problem one: Aforesaid Great Dane got the pills down off a shelf in the kitchen that I thought was high enough, and managed to open one bottle, which contained a chewable form of medication, and ate them ALL. I have been through this once before; a few years ago, I fostered a Labrador who swiped a bottle of chewable medication off my kitchen counter and ate them all, costing me a pretty penny at the emergency vet clinic in the middle of the night. Given that the Great Dane foster has already scored butter, bread, and a few other things off my counter, I HAD put the pills on a high shelf - just not high enough.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 11:58AM Comments (27)
June 22, 2016 - My Ella is now 12 years old, and starting to have trouble with the glare of the sun. I had her checked by an ophthalmologist to be sure nothing was wrong, and she confirmed it's just age-related changes, and that her iris can't contract as well as it used to, making it harder for her to see in bright light. I asked about Doggles, and the vet agreed that protecting her eyes from the sun was a good idea, but said most dogs hate wearing the Doggles because they're heavy and block their peripheral vision. She suggested an Optivizor from Protective Pet Solutions instead.
Posted by Mary Straus at 12:05PM Comments (4)
June 15, 2016 - As I said in last week's blog post, we have received lots of submissions from readers - descriptions of cute, fun, and useful behaviors they have taught their dogs, or that their dogs have taught them! We will post a bunch of these over the next few days. Maybe you will be inspired to teach your dog a cool new behavior!
My Lab-mix LOVES to play fetch. She's so great at chasing a tennis ball anywhere. She will always come running back with it and kind of toss it back at me to throw it again. If we're playing in the backyard and I'm sitting down and she tosses it out of reach, instead of getting up from my chair and getting the ball I simply say, "Can't reach it." She has learned that means I can't reach the ball to throw it to her again. When I say, "Can't reach it," she will go and get the ball and drop it right at my feet so that I can reach it and throw it for her again.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:44PM Comments (15)
June 8, 2016 - WDJ Training Editor Pat Miller wrote an article for the June issue of WDJ about unconventional or unintentional cues - things that people taught their dogs that are far from the ordinary sit, down, stay-sort of behaviors. In the article, she and other trainers describe how they taught their dogs things such as locating a pile of poop that needs to be picked up, standing in a certain place and a certain pose that's convenient for grooming, and coming when it's time to take a daily medication. My favorite was, "You're not going!" - which is what Pat taught her Kelpie, Kai, to indicate he shouldn't get excited about going for a car ride, because he's not invited on that impending trip. Pat asked readers to send in descriptions of the unconventional cues and behaviors they had taught their dogs. I’m going to post some over the next couple of weeks; we’re getting a lot, thanks! You guys are an unconventional bunch, apparently! And Pat will be selecting one – perhaps by random, because there are so many great ones to choose from! – to win a prize.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 05:01PM Comments (57)
June 1, 2016 - We're well into foxtail season in California. "Foxtails" are what people call any number of grasses that have bushy spikelets that look like a fox's tail, but the most common culprit in my home state is Hordeum murinum . This grass is a ubiquitous volunteer in the rainy months, springing up anywhere and everywhere, including cracks in sidewalks, the edges of roads, alongside trails, and in pastures. It could even be called pretty, especially as it develops its distinctive, thick foxtail spikelets, and these turn a sun-brushed tan color as warm weather dries the grass and the state turns summer brown.
Even one single "foxtail" contains enough material to make a whole kennel full of dogs miserable. Each "tail" is made up of dozens of hard, pointed seeds, each trailing an individual filament that is studded from tip to tail with microscopic barbs set in the same direction.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 11:48AM Comments (8)
May 25, 2016 - As I mentioned last week, I'm fostering a very skinny Great Dane mama dog and her 11 puppies. After this litter is healthy and ready for spay/neuter and adoption, I'm going to take a little break from fostering for a while, even if I have to block the phone number of my local shelter. This is a lot more work than anything I've taken on before. (I'm kidding about blocking the shelter's number, of course. I couldn't be more grateful for the very hard work they do for the animals in this community, year-round, whether they are exhausted or not, broke or not. The hard-working employees don't slack off because they are tired of the animals' needs, or because the animals have cost them a lot lately. I have a choice, and I feel privileged to be trusted and able to help when I can.)
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:42PM Comments (19)
May 18, 2016 - On April 1, I was at the shelter, dealing with some paperwork aftermath of a bat encounter with my cat, when one of the front desk people asked me, "Are you going to take the puppies we got yesterday?" Keep in mind, the last of the nine cattle dog/pit-mix puppies I had fostered from about three weeks of age to 12 weeks had just gotten adopted. So I was like, "Naw, I think I'm going to take a little break." But then of course I asked, "What kind are they?" So I went to look at them, back in the isolation section of the shelter. It's such a misnomer. It's the most crowded, loud, stinky part of the shelter, because it's where all the dogs from the unincorporated areas in my county are initially held when they are picked up as stray, or brought in as purported stray, or surrendered by their owners.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:33PM Comments (45)
May 4, 2016 - I hardly ever talk about Tito, the 10-pound Chihuahua-mix who came to stay with us "for a few weeks" a few years ago. I think of him as being very little trouble, but it's just that his troubles - which are actually sort of numerous - are small-scaled. He is an obnoxious barker when people arrive - even when we arrive home from an errand. He cannot bear to be touched or moved once he's settled on the sofa in the evening, and if you should happen to readjust your own position at the other end of the couch when he's on it, he gives an immediate and loud roar/bark/snarl and leaps off the couch, supremely discomfited. I think he has as-yet-undiagnosed back or shoulder or inner ear pain that contributes to his touchiness, and it causes him to occasionally shriek in pain when he's greeting people; the person will always look surprised and say, "I wasn't even touching him!" but it's not the touch that hurts. I think it's the groveling, wagging, low-headed posture that he assumes when he's greeting people that causes something to pinch in his back. (He's been examined by several veterinarians and one veterinary chiropractor, but nothing significant has been found and no treatment has helped.) And then there is his touchy tummy.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:59PM Comments (26)
April 27, 2016 - This is the most trying time of the year for walking my dogs off-leash. On March 15 each year, the rules change for my favorite place to walk dogs, and only leashed dogs are allowed, until the end of June, for the bird nesting season. Rather than walk three dogs on leash - something I "can" do but don't enjoy - I switch to another nearby area where dogs are allowed off-leash year round. But in this particular area, oh my goodness, the ticks abound. I could forgo our off-leash walks for the months when the tick-free area where I walk the dogs the rest of the year is restricted to leashed dogs. But because we are able to walk off-leash so much of the time, my dogs (especially Otto) seem to really miss the joys of leash-free walks: being able to run ahead and run back, stop and really smell something very deeply, running to catch up if sniffing took a long time, stopping in mid-stride from time to time to stare at something or (again) smell the air for faint scents of wild animals or other walkers. After a leash-free walk, they sleep harder and longer, and their behavior is better for more days afterward.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:14PM Comments (35)
April 20, 2016 - WDJ began publication in 1998, and we began reviewing dog food that year. There were very few products that met our early selection criteria - perhaps half a dozen - but we listed all that we could find.
I was in favor of the "teaching people to fish" approach to the reviews. I thought it was more important to teach dog owners how to read a dog food label so they could tell the difference between the really good ones and the ones with really attractive labels. My boss disagreed; he was in the "give people a fish" camp. He said, "Nancy, I know you are a writer, but trust me when I say that when it comes to this sort of thing, many people will never read your article; they just want the list of foods we approve of."
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:04PM Comments (56)