Whole Dog Journal Blog

What do you do when you hear “that” sound?

October 23, 2012 - “Urp. Urp. Urp.” You know, the sound that tells you your dog is just about to vomit. It sure gets your attention. And calls for action. But do you take it?
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:12AM Comments (39)

The Pagan Dog Funeral by Cynthia McCollum

October 14, 2012 - Sunday evening there is a knock at my door. It's the neighbor across the street and a glance out the window shows that she is disheveled and crying. When I open the door, she bursts into fresh tears. Her dog has died, in front of the whole family eating their dinner. Poor woman is crumbling and weeps, “I don't know what to do". I take her by the hand and say let's go home and take care of things. I lead her to her house and see yes, the dog is indeed dead there on the floor of the silent, seemingly deserted house. Yellow haired Lab-mix, she has peed a bit in her dying. She is stiffening but still warm. Where are your children, I ask. She has sent them to their room. I sigh. Here is my task. I look her in the eye. Get them. She hesitates. Get them, this is sad, but not horrifying. This is a lesson for them about death. Keeping them away will make them more afraid. Let them say goodbye to her.
Posted by Cynthia McCollum at 12:00PM Comments (23)

Hazards of Dog Parks, Revisited

October 7, 2012 - Just a few years ago, I lived in a densely populated city in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was , by and large, dependent on dog parks for my dogs’ off-leash exercise. You know how when you see something all the time, you become accustomed to its quirks, to the point where you don’t see them so much? That’s how I was about dog parks a few years ago . . . but not now. Today I’m lucky enough to live in a small town that is literally surrounded with public open spaces, wildlife areas where dogs can be walked off-leash.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:00PM Comments (28)

Oh No - Don’t Swallow That!

September 28, 2012 - My Ella is a chow hound. Not only does she eat everything I offer her, including lemon slices, but she thinks the purpose of walks is to see how much food she can find. It's amazing what she comes up with. In the first year and a half that I had her, we spent one night at the emergency vet after she ingested paintballs, and she also had to see a specialist to remove a peanut fragment that she tried to cough up but which got caught above her soft palette in the back of her nose instead. I mention this so that maybe you'll understand why I panicked when the cap from a container holding a fly paper strip disappeared after I dropped it. I didn't think much of it at the time, just finished putting the strip up, and then looked around to pick up the cap, which I had heard fall, but it was nowhere to be found. I wouldn't have been overly concerned, except that the top had a thumbtack pushed through it for hanging the strip.
Posted by Mary Straus at 01:02PM Comments (10)

High-Octane Dogs Need Special Homes

September 23, 2012 - I just finished reading a book about the life – and death -- of a special dog, a much-loved Border Collie. Of course, I cried like a baby at the end of it, knowing how hard it is to lose such a very special dog. I have to say I haven't cried like that in a long time, and even as I think about it now . . . Somehow it really hit me especially hard, since the description of the dog reminded me so much of my dog DeeDee, who I still always think about. The dog in the book was independent, didn't care much for cuddling, kept her own counsel, but always aware of her owner’s presence, whereabouts, and predicaments, and always wanted to work. DeeDee always wanted to be with me, though she, too, was not crazy about hearing sweet nothings. And when I took her to try out some sheep, she made my jaw drop; she knew exactly what she was supposed to do without having any prior experience. And yet, she wouldn’t work with the sheep and the instructor unless I was in the ring.
Posted by Tricia Breen at 05:08PM Comments (9)

Breed Profiling

September 17, 2012 - I’ve liked individual dogs of pretty much every breed at some point or another. But there are times when I’ve also NOT liked dogs of some breed when it wasn’t even warranted. I guess you’d call it profiling or discrimination. For the October issue of WDJ, I needed a dog to model a number of no-pull harnesses, so I could photograph them before sending them to WDJ Training Editor Pat Miller to review them. I purchased a size “medium” in all the harnesses so that Pat would stand the best chance of finding dogs to wear and try out the products. But for the photographs, I had additional requirements of the models: they also had to be a light color and short-haired, so the harnesses could be seen easily.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:32AM Comments (19)

How We Underestimate Our Dogs

September 9, 2012 - Today my dog Boo and I visited with my ex-husband. We are good friends, with too little time to visit frequently, and Jim misses and loves Boo tremendously. Boo is a dog who doesn't vocalize much in general. When he sees Jim, he whines and howls in excitement. He jumps on him, howls and dances and groans with a great display of animation. He doesn't do this with anyone else. We haven't lived together for at least 5-6 years. Yet every time Boo sees Jim, he can hardly contain himself. When we part company after our visit, Boo doesn't want to get in the car, and he stares out the back window at Jim, howling as we leave. It breaks my heart. On the other hand, after our visit, Boo has a smile on his face, and appears to be very grateful for this visit.
Posted by Tricia Breen at 03:00PM Comments (7)

A Bad Influence

August 29, 2012 - Not two weeks ago, I posted a piece about the possibility that competition among the dogs in my “pack” had encouraged my dog Otto to develop previously unseen swimming and fetching skills. Here is the flip side: An un-socialized, formerly feral dog who I am fostering seems to have inspired both Otto AND Tito the Chihuahua to start chasing my cats off my property! Otto has never chased my cats. Tito has, occasionally, but he’s the same size as my cats, and if they stand their ground, he halts in mid-charge and seems to pretend that he was in the middle of something else, like trying to remember his cell phone number. But suddenly, with the arrival of a mid-sized foster dog who has no qualms about chasing the cats, both Otto and Tito have decided that the activity *is* great fun. And I’m having trouble convincing one of my kitties to come home (from the far side of my fences) at all.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:44PM Comments (10)

Go Check Your Dog’s Collar

August 27, 2012 - I feel as if I have written this story a hundred times, but it’s worth writing again: Please go check your dog’s collar RIGHT NOW and make sure that the numbers on its ID tags are current. And then, think about his microchip – he HAS an implanted identification microchip, doesn’t he? Is it currently registered with a microchip registration company? And if so, does the registry have your current contact information? A good friend lost her dog last week, and only after he went missing did she realize that his ID tag on his collar has only the number for her landline phone – long since disconnected in favor of a mobile phone.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 01:24PM Comments (8)

Learning Through Competition?

August 20, 2012 - My dog, Otto, has never been all that excited about fetch. Certainly not like my previous dog, a Border Collie fetchaholic named Rupert. You could make Rupert leap to his feet and run around to look for a ball if you just mimed the very first part of a throwing gesture, drawing your hand back over your shoulder. Otto will chase something if you throw it – but then he may or may not pick it up, and if he does, he is unlikely to bring it back to you. Only when the planets are aligned just so -- the fetch item is one of his favorite toys (only certain squishy balls and squeaky stuffed animals, once in a blue moon a flying disc); it’s not too hot; he hasn’t been for a run for a couple of days – will he reliably retrieve more than once or twice in a row.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:44PM Comments (3)

Do Animals Have Free Will and “Personal Responsibility” for Their Actions?

August 13, 2012 - Ages ago, I edited a horse magazine, and for a time, published a column written by the noted animal communicator Penelope Smith. I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to Smith each month, and as we discussed the column, we’d sometimes veer off into a talk about a general topic having to do with animals and our relationships with them. Despite my preconceptions of someone who purports to “talk to the animals” as being nutty, I found Smith to be incredibly insightful, wise, and humorous. She was empathetic and yet practical. I bought several of her books on “interspecies communication” and was fascinated by her accounts of experiences with hundreds of animals.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 11:39AM Comments (20)

Tattoo You!

August 6, 2012 - Volunteering at my local shelter this past weekend, I was photographing a cute senior Chihuahua (in an effort to better represent him on the shelter website) when I noticed something on his tummy. At first I thought it was discolored for a health reason. But when another volunteer and I rolled him over for a closer look, I could see that he was tattooed. As we stretched him in such a way to reveal the whole tattoo, I was in the process of telling my fellow volunteer that this was once a common practice – that before identification microchips became common, dogs were sometimes tattooed with the owner’s driver’s license number or phone number. But then we decoded the message. It looked like this...
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 11:54AM Comments (17)

Mickey, Home At Last

July 29, 2012 - In the editorial of the August issue (now online and in your mailboxes soon), I updated the story of Mickey, an-odd-but-cute looking, high-energy dog who had somehow spent almost a year at my local shelter without finding a permanent home. (He was adopted once, for a little more than two months, but was returned because the family’s original dog was picking on him unmercifully.) I first wrote about Mickey in this space in May, when I started working with him prior to an all-weekend Adopt-A-Thon. I taught him to sit – and in that one simple process, he learned to pay attention to humans, control his own behavior, and offer that “good manners” basic whenever someone paid attention to him. Unfortunately, he didn’t get adopted that weekend…or for the next two months.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:00PM Comments (7)

Unfair to dogs!

July 21, 2012 - Otto has to coexist peacefully with chickens, foster dogs, and even adolescent CATS. You can tell from his expression he's not always thrilled about the terms, but he honors the contract nonetheless.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:54PM Comments (4)

A Good Recall

July 16, 2012 - Recently we enjoyed meeting our new brother in law, and providing day care for his 4-year-old Border Collie, Sis. Arriving from northern Idaho, he was totally unprepared for the reality of traveling with a dog during a northern California heat wave. We were more than happy to offer our home and shady fenced yard to Sis so her owners could sightsee without endangering her in a hot car.
Posted by Jozette Rutherford at 08:00AM Comments (2)