Whole Dog Journal Blog

Oroville Dam Casestudy: How Evacuating People And Animals Early and Often Can Save Lives

February 15, 2017 - In the winter of 1997, the town where I live now, Oroville, California, had a big flood. I didn't live here then. But that year, the Feather River, which (usually) flows tamely right through my town, was threatening to massively flood the town. There is a dirt levee that separates the river from the main streets, and it seems like an historic artifact most of the time - a thing that was built by pioneers to try to keep the Feather from flooding the town again and again. It seems quaint now, because since 1968, the town has been more significantly protected by the Oroville Dam, with a huge reservoir (Lake Oroville) behind it - the combination that meters out the Feather at a safe and sane rate, protecting the town and much of the Sacramento Valley below from flooding. But with truly historic rainfall, like in 1997, the operators of the dam can't help but let out so much water that the river swells to capacity, and suddenly our old historic levee is important once again, holding back the Feather from flooding Oroville. In 1997, with the Oroville Dam letting out maximum quantities of water, and the Feather crazily high, the levee started seeping. County officials called for an immediate evacuation of Oroville. If the levee burst, they said, the town would be covered with 12 feet of water. The local animal shelter lies about a mile and a half from the river, in the prehistoric flood plain of the Feather. Wild-eyed police officers gave the then-director of the shelter 15 minutes to get her staff and herself out of the shelter.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:57PM Comments (24)

Locked In!

February 1, 2017 - At risk of making sure that the friend who visited me last week never comes to visit me again, this week's blog post is ALSO going to be inspired by her dog. (Last week, I wrote about how she never leaves her dog in the car - ever! - a practice that I personally find admirable but impractical for me, personally.) My friend's 10-month-old dog and my 14-month-old dog, Woody, got along beautifully - if you can call it beautiful when two adolescent males are rolling around in a wrestling ball that takes them over, under, around, and through most people and obstacles in their path. They loved, loved, loved playing the same sort of tug/chase/face-biting/wrestling games, and could go for hours! But when we made plans to leave the house and visit some places where the two youngsters couldn't accompany us, we mutually decided to separate the boys so neither could get hurt or overwhelmed by the other while we were out. It was time for a play break! The question was, where would we leave my friend's dog?
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:44PM Comments (29)

Would You Leave Your Dog In the Car?

January 25, 2017 - Yesterday, I met a friend in a town about halfway between her house and my house, which are about three hours apart. We both had things to do/people to visit in that midway city, and then she - and her darling, 30-pound moppish-mixed breed dog - were going to follow me home and spend a few days visiting. We met outside a Whole Foods store/restaurant, and I proposed we go in and eat lunch before driving the rest of the way to my house. My friend said, "Can we take turns going in and selecting our food? I don't leave my dog in the car." My mind boggled. If it was hot (or even warm) or freezing out, I would immediately understand, but it was about 50 degrees - a pretty much perfect dog-in-the-car temperature, in my view. So I had to ask, what's up with that? I had a foster dog chew through the front seat belts in my car once; was it about separation anxiety, or something?
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:54PM Comments (158)

How Does Your Dog Act When You're Not Around?

January 18, 2017 - A few years ago, I was dog-sitting for a friend for a few weeks, while her family traveled out of the country. I had met the dog, Leila, a Papillion-mix, a number of times, but just in short visits. It was the height of our hot, dry summer during Leila's visit, and when those conditions are in effect, I often take my dogs to swim in the Feather River, which flows through my town, just a couple blocks from my home. I took some pictures one evening, and posted them on Facebook, of the dogs, including Leila, wading deeply in the water. Later that day, there was a comment from Leila's owner: "Leila went in the WATER? She NEVER touches water!" I laughed, because it seemed quite natural to me that she'd go in the water. I didn't even notice her response to the water; wading in the cold water when the temperature was over 100 degrees seemed like the only sensible thing to do. But Leila's owner couldn't get over this behavior, that she had never seen in seven years of owning the dog and taking her to other creeks, streams, rivers, and the ocean.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:31PM Comments (11)

Do You Have a Backup-Plan for Your Pet-Care Needs?

January 11, 2017 - I woke up this morning with a blinding migraine headache. It hurt to open my eyes, it hurt to sit up, and getting dressed made tears start running down my face. This doesn't happen very often, and I have medication that I can take that will bring relief in an hour or so. But lying in bed was not an option, because I'm currently fostering another litter of puppies, and they don't care whether my head hurts or not: they are hungry, and their pen needs cleaning. That's a responsibility I took on, and so, weepy or not, I got up and dressed, took my migraine med, and got rolling. My adult dogs can handle a delayed breakfast, and thanks to the recent installation of a dog door - one of those inserts that fits into a sliding glass door frame - they can and will take themselves out to potty if need be. But foster puppies in a pen are a different matter. By the time I got them out of the dirty pen to potty outdoors, fed them, cleaned the pen and changed the water, and put them back in the pen with some fresh toys, the throbbing in my head was abating a bit.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:01PM Comments (22)

Resolutions . . . for your dog?

January 4, 2017 - Looking for an idea for a blog post, I just looked through my oldest posts, wondering just how long I have been doing this. The answer stunned me: since mid-2010. I got lost for a bit, reading through musings from years past. I came across one written at precisely this time of year in 2011, about making new year's resolutions for our dogs.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:28PM Comments (14)

Mixed-Breed Puppies Are Like a Box of Chocolates

December 28, 2016 - Last summer I fostered a really disparate-looking litter of puppies for my local shelter. Most of the time, whether they are brought in as purportedly "found" puppies or their owners admit that they were accidental and unwanted, the litters of puppies that come to the shelter are fairly uniform, like the litter of 11 Great Dane pups I fostered immediately after the dissimilar group (there were 10 black and white pups, and one fawn-colored one, who nevertheless was the exact same shape and size as his siblings). But this one litter looked like they were from three different families! As a side note, I should mention a fact that surprised many of my friends and family members, but isn't news to experienced dog owners: puppies from the same litter can have different fathers. Each of the mother's egg cells need to be fertilized by individual sperm cells, and if the mother has been bred by a number of males, the eggs can be fertilized by sperm of different males. When the owners of intact females fail to keep them safely separated or sequestered, and they escape and run loose, or loose, intact males are drawn from all over the neighborhood to them, anything can happen!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:13PM Comments (11)

Thankful for Dog Vaccines

December 21, 2016 - My husband and I were talking about childhood dogs for some reason, and he said, "We got a dog when I was little and it died of distemper, and my parents said, 'That's it, no more dogs.'" When he said that, I suddenly remembered that my family, too, had lost a young dog to distemper when I was a child. I have a solid memory of my mother wiping up vomit, and the adolescent pup lying limply nearby, and my mother telling me, "I don't think she's going to make it." I was probably about four or five years old, but I knew that this phrase meant the dog was probably going to die.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:30PM Comments (10)

What is it About Doorbells and Dogs?

December 15, 2016 - Before you jump all over me, I totally understand why MY dogs jump and bark and run in circles when MY doorbell rings; the sound is a reliable predictor of visitors, both strange and wonderful. Most of the time when my doorbell rings, my husband or I get up and things start to happen. But how do you explain that the majority of dogs not only respond to the sound that their own doorbell makes, but also to the sound of doorbells that are CLEARLY not in their home, as when a doorbell rings on TV? You can't tell me they don't know the difference; most dogs can tell the difference between the cellophane on a new sponge versus the new bag of treats - from the middle of a sound sleep!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:08AM Comments (20)

How Would Your Dog Rate You?

December 8, 2016 - I recently saw a video on Facebook that was titled, "How Moms Think of Themselves Versus How Their Kids Think of Them." It was a tad treacly, but bear with me for a moment. In the video, mothers were being interviewed one at a time, and asked, "How would you describe yourself as a mom?" All of them gave themselves fairly harsh assessments.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 05:20AM Comments (13)

Is There Such a Thing as Oldest Dog Syndrome?

November 30, 2016 - My one-year-old dog Woody is maturing into a WDJ model, which is great for me; his ability to quickly learn a new behavior and to stand patiently in place while I change lenses or something gives me an additional option when I need to illustrate something for the magazine, or for a newsletter I sometimes produce (as a volunteer for my local shelter). Plus, he has a nice short coat; when I've had to take photos of collars or harnesses on a dog in the past, I've always had to borrow a friend's (untrained and/or inexperienced) dog rather than use my professional model, nine-year-old Otto, because it's hard to see gear on a fluffy or fuzzy dog model! However, everyone I know is giving me flack about it! Friends, acquaintances, and even Facebook "fans" of WDJ are commenting about the plethora of Woody pics in the magazine lately (Woody modeled with a lot of items for a "gift guide" in the December issue). I've heard "I miss Otto!" from any number of people.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:53PM Comments (18)

Thanksgiving with Dog People

November 23, 2016 - In my family, thanksgiving was always the big annual holiday. We always had the usual family, friends, and food, but also lots of extended family - which includes dogs - and lots of dog-walks in the day and music at night. Happily, my sisters and I have carried on the tradition. My sister Susan has driven over from Colorado - no small feat - and dinner itself is being hosted by our other sister Pamela, who moved with her husband and their dogs to my town about a year and a half ago when her husband retired. Sue is a little sad; she's brought her (adult) daughter's little long-haired Chihuahua, Riot, who is heading to a new home.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 01:43PM Comments (8)

Medicate Your Dogs One at a Time

November 16, 2016 - Back in June I wrote a blog post about how many ways I screwed up when having to medicate more than a dozen dogs at the same time (http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/blog/Problems-with-Pills-for-Dogs-21494-1.html). Some of you generously offered your own mistakes and tips for preventing them. One of the things I goofed on was giving one dog her pills in the presence of another dog. I was dog-sitting my friendís two Chihuahuas: 10-pound SíMores, who needs blood pressure medication and a diuretic, and Samson, who weighed less than four pounds and was about six months old at the time. SíMores spit out one of her pills, and Samson dived for it, swallowing it faster than I could grab him.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:40PM Comments (18)

Listen to Your Gut When It Comes to Your Dog - and Act on It!

November 9, 2016 - Last week, I was stressed with too many demands on my time, and trying to finish the December issue in time to travel to Florida for a dog trainer's conference (the Pet Professional Guild). But Woody (my adolescent dog) and even Otto, my 9-year-old solid (canine) citizen, were both telling me they needed a run. So, instead of taking them out for an hours-long hike, as I prefer to do, I headed for a school field I know, to throw a ball for them for a while, instead. A friend called a little while before I left and asked if I was walking that evening. When I told her my alternative plan, she asked if she could meet me with her dogs. Sure, why not?
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:22AM Comments (21)

A New Dog for Ava

November 2, 2016 - My close friends know that I have been looking for the perfect dog for my dog-crazy seven-year-old niece Ava and her mom for some time - and that this is in contrast to my usual stance in opposition to the whole concept of the "perfect" dog. I don't believe that dogs should be expected to come into a home that may not meet their needs very well and yet not cause a single ripple in the fabric (literal and figurative) of that home, any more than one would expect a new baby or adopted child or even an elderly relative to fit in seamlessly to a new home. In my view, adjustments and accommodations should be made on all sides, with respect for all the parties' needs considered, in order to make the relationships and living situation work for everyone. So, for example, when you bring home a Border Collie or German Shepherd Dog, you'd better accept - nay, embrace - the exercise and mental stimulation needs of that dog, if you want him to be happy, and you can be happy with him. At a minimum, you will likely have to carve out a significant chunk of time in your day to devote to physical and mental exercise for the dog, and you may well have to do some problem-solving if it turns out that the dog develops problem behavior/s, such as separation anxiety, counter-surfing, urine marking, barking, chewing, over-excitement with guests, etc., etc.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:53PM Comments (13)