Whole Dog Journal Blog

Therapy Dog

January 26, 2015 - My brother passed away a couple of weeks ago after a fairly short and intense battle against cancer. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter. It’s been a very sad, hard time for my family. We held a memorial service for my brother last weekend. We rented a rustic building in a beautiful, wooded park in a Sierra town near where he had lived for many years. My sister who is a chef lovingly prepared much of the food. My sister in law’s many friends and co-workers helped up set up the hall, with live lavender plants on every table, and a local musician my brother had admired played the guitar. Friends and family members traveled from all over to help us remember my brother and celebrate his life. My dog Otto and my son’s dog Cole were present for the event. Every member of my family loves dogs, not least, my brother’s five-year-old daughter. She absolutely adores Cole, and his eyes light up when he sees her; they get along like peanut butter and jelly. I thought, correctly, that she would enjoy having Cole at the event – and I knew Cole would enjoy socializing with all the guests. He’s happy and polite and well-mannered and his coat is like silk. I thought he could be a good therapy dog for the memorial.
Posted at 08:51AM Comments (26)

Bad Breath is Significant

January 20, 2015 - I met a small dog recently who had breath that could knock you over. Because I’ve had small dogs before, I knew enough to lift her lip and take a peek at her teeth. Even so, I was shocked, though not surprised, by the appearance of her teeth. That is, you could barely SEE white tooth material, for the accumulation of hard calculus ­ tartar ­ on her teeth. Her gums were inflamed and swollen, too. It apparently didn’t occur to anyone who knew or handled the dog that her bad breath wasn’t some sort of character flaw, it was an actual health problem exacerbated by neglect. Rather, she was criticized as a “fussy eater.” I imagine I’d be a fussy eater, too, if I was in excruciating pain from infected gums.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:17AM Comments (16)

Training a New Dog is a Huge Challenge - Even for the Experienced

January 13, 2015 - The thing that always crosses my mind at some point during a fostering experience: “If I am having a difficult time coping with this behavior, how do people with little or no experience handle it?” And I conclude, “Well, I guess a lot of people don’t handle it; that’s why there are so many dogs in the shelter!”
Posted at 09:03AM Comments (8)

Dog Boots for Cold Weather

January 6, 2015 - It’s one of those jobs you just don’t ask a native (and lifelong) Californian to do: review dog coats. The only time I tried it, I failed; I separated the products under consideration into two categories – rain coats and warm coats – and was taken to task, rightly, for not providing a choice for dogs who have to go out in freezing rains. Because . . . a freezing rain? I have never experienced such a thing, much less had to walk my dog in one.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:30AM Comments (65)

People Food?

December 30, 2014 - I don't know why it always surprises me when someone refers proudly to their strict adherence to prohibiting their dog from getting any "people food." I understand they are proud because they believe they are doing the right thing – that they think "people food" is somehow bad for dogs and that they are keeping their dogs well (and well - behaved, even) by not "spoiling" them. What I don't understand is how people have come to regard what I'm going to call * real food * could be bad for dogs.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:47AM Comments (12)

Don’t Lose Them

December 23, 2014 - I don't know about you, but my Facebook news feed is often cluttered with posts regarding lost dogs. In the past week alone, friends or family shared photos and information about half a dozen different lost dogs, from all different parts of the country and lost due to all sorts of circumstances. I find these posts doubly sad, because not only are the people bereft for the loss of their dogs (and the dogs unquestionably scared out of their minds, cold, and hungry), many of the incidents described appear to have been avoidable - with hindsight, of course. But the point is, if people thought more about the bad things that can happen when they least expected them, and worked to prevent them, many of these tragic "lost dog" cases would never happen.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:30AM Comments (7)

It’s Always Something

December 15, 2014 - Here’s the biggest problem concerning pet insurance for many of us dog owners: the more dogs (or total pets) you have, the less it seems to make sense. If only there was a company that offered some sort of “pack” insurance that you could apply to whichever one of your pets most needed care.
Posted at 12:38PM Comments (7)

Does Your Dog Have a Drinking Problem?

December 9, 2014 - I'm lucky to have two dogs, one small and one large, who can come galloping into the house from a hard romp, run to the water bowl, and drink their fill, and hardly leave a drop on the floor. I'm reminded of how lucky I am every time my son's dog comes to visit - as I move the water bowl outside and grab the first of a series of “dog towels” from the bottom shelf of the linen closet, the stained, frayed-edge, holey towels kept just for dog baths and... well, this! Cole is incapable of drinking even a little without redistributing half of it around the kitchen. It wasn't such a big deal in summer - it's so dry here, the water would evaporate in no time. But now, with cold floors and me walking around in socks... Darn it, Cole!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:58AM Comments (12)

Puppies at the Supermarket

December 3, 2014 - As I approached the front of the supermarket, I saw about six or seven people standing in a circle. Uh oh, I thought, and sure enough: There was a couple there with three pit-mix puppies. The pups looked like they were about 8 weeks old; they had the pudgy, unformed bodies and the stoic/exhausted expressions of very young pups.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 05:08PM Comments (11)

Thanks For Dogs

November 24, 2014 - First, of course: Otto my wonder dog. I could not be more thankful for this dog, I really couldn't. It's incredible to me that I've been lucky enough to have two "heart dogs" in my adult lifetime. Otto and his predecessor (Rupert the Border Collie, who passed away at the age of 14 in late 2003) could not be more different in appearance and temperament, but both of them have been so generously present for me. Both dogs have seen me through some tough times for me and my family, and I'm grateful for their constant companionship, soulful comfort when needed, and readiness for fun and adventure all the rest of the time. Border Collie owners are accustomed to their dogs watching them constantly, and so I accepted the ever-present scrutiny from Rupert, but I have to admit that it is a little unnerving to have a dog with no BC traits whatsoever being so sensitive to so much as a hitch in my breath or my tone of voice as I talk on the phone; Otto detects any emotional instability at all and offers himself to me immediately. "Here I am, pet me, it's going to be okay," he seems to say. And so far, with his help, it has been. Thank you, Otto.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:57PM Comments (9)

Barking Dogs: A Rant

November 17, 2014 - Why do people expect dogs to be calm and quiet when they are left outside for hours and hours, with minimal protection from the weather - or at least, a lot less than they get indoors - and nothing in particular to do? It has to be one of my top three dog-owner pet peeves. For me, there is just nothing as aggravating as listening to a dog barking incessantly. I both feel for the dog and feel murderous at the same time. Who do I want to murder? Alternately, the dog, the owner, and myself!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:54PM Comments (10)

Feeling lost

November 10, 2014 - I've mentioned a bunch of times that I have helped find homes for a number of foster dogs, and helped friends who were looking for a certain type of dog to find one who fits into their family perfectly. As far as I know, all the dogs I've placed into homes continue to live happily in those homes - with one exception.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:03PM Comments (12)

Last Foster Puppy Post

November 4, 2014 - I could not WAIT for them to go to their forever homes, and the last one went home on Saturday... and now I miss them unbearably - their relentless exploring and fooling around, tireless curiosity, darling miniature barks and howls and growls, and cheerful learning during our many-times-a-day-for-just-one-minute training sessions. It didn't help that I let the last puppy sleep with me in my bed, the last two nights I had him.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:19AM Comments (8)

Thoughts On (Foster) Puppy-Raising

October 27, 2014 - I know that all of my blog posts have been about puppies or puppy care or puppy food lately. That’s because I’ve been overrun with puppies since September 10th, when I agreed to foster six too-young puppies that were brought into my local shelter. Taking care of them has been a challenge, because neither my house nor my office was really set up for puppy care (though they are now), and because if you want to raise them right, puppy care and training takes a lot of time and energy.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 01:54PM Comments (16)

The Twinkies Experiment

October 20, 2014 - You know those stories of how Twinkies can last forever? I kind of want to run my own experiment after something I witnessed recently. There is a cute cat who lives somewhere in my neighborhood who comes over to beg for food from time to time. For months last year, I thought she had been abandoned; I asked all my neighbors if they knew were she belonged and no one did. (I even took her in to have her spayed and it turned out that she had a spay scar, so I brought her back to the neighborhood, but with her tummy shaved.) Eventually, I found her owner, who cheerfully told me that so many people feed the cat, that she doesn’t have to. Oy!
Posted at 12:54PM Comments (11)