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)
October 26, 2016 - Well, here is a pleasant surprise: A company that offers support for dog-related products that were purchased years ago - even more than a decade ago! I bought this gate a long time ago. It was for sure more than 10 years, because I have been living in my current northern California town for more than 10 years, and I bought it (and used it for at least a few years) in my old rental home in the San Francisco Bay area. And it's easily the best dog or baby gate Iíve ever had, which is why I brought it with me when I moved.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:11PM Comments (8)
October 19, 2016 - Recently, a trainer friend asked me if I would be interested in volunteering my adolescent dog, Woody, to be a participant in some sort of nose work workshop. My friend was asking on behalf of another trainer she knew, and she vouched for her friend, saying that Woody would have a good time and that she thought it would be interesting for me. I didnít have time to get the details on what the workshop was, but quickly I agreed to the date Ė a week away, on a day when I would have ample time. It could not have been more fascinating. I attended just a few hours that one day, which was part of a six-day certification program for people who were learning how to teach dogs to detect cancer in noninvasive medical samples: blood, urine, and breath.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:19PM Comments (10)
October 12, 2016 - So, there's an expression that was coined in 2013, and which is defined by Wikipedia as "a term for a facial expression (or lack thereof) which unintentionally appears angry, annoyed, or irritated." More to the point, it's usually used to describe a woman who looks annoyed, and is sometimes shortened to its initials, "RBF." You can guess what the "B" is for. It rhymes (more or less) with the headline. The thing is, the usual defense against being accused of having or making a Resting B**** Face is, "It's just my FACE! I'm not doing anything!" In other words, sometimes people (often women) are accused of looking irritated, but, in fact, they may be completely un-irritated, just spacing out. It's just their face.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:07PM Comments (25)
October 6, 2016 - Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Aroo! Aroo! Aroo! This is how I know it's Wednesday. I know it's Wednesday because every Wednesday there is a gardener who comes to service a property that is occupied by a neighborhood church across my back fence and one lot to the side. The gardener brings his dog, a hound, with him to work, and while the gardener works, trimming and raking and blowing leaves, the hound roams the church property. Well, not the whole property; he pretty much confines himself to running up and down the back fence of the church property, where three other big dogs live. He bays, and they bark. For an hour. Every Wednesday morning. "Singing the song of their people" is how many hound owners describe the baying of their beloved dogs. I get it - and I love hounds, too! - but I can't say I love baying. Or barking.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:31AM Comments (23)
September 28, 2016 - In the September issue, we published an article about gastritis - stomach inflammation that causes vomiting. I was glad that the article was fresh in my mind when my son texted me about his dog, Cole, an almost-four-year-old American Black and Tan Coonhound-mix, who had vomited bile first thing in the morning, three mornings in a row. My absolute first thought was, "That sounds just like the dogs in the article in this month's issue!" I grabbed the issue, and sure enough: The author, CJ Puotinen, had described two cases in which dogs had unexplained vomiting in the early morning hours, and the vomit contained only bile. Radiographs (Xrays) and ultrasound showed nothing amiss...but then, after weeks of this recurrent vomiting, the dog in each case vomited up a foreign object - one that in either case couldn't have been detected with either Xrays or an ultrasound exam. In one case, it was an entire sock, and in the other, a small plastic decoration from a cupcake that the dog had pilfered off a kitchen counter!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:44PM Comments (9)
September 16, 2016 - I was visiting a friend recently, and had brought (with her permission) my adolescent dog Woody along for the ride. Her (quite elderly) mother asked me, as we entered the home, "Does he have fleas?" I assured her he does not, but the brief exchange did bring up memories.
Years ago, I had a Border Collie, Rupert, who was incredibly hypersensitized to flea bites. I've met dogs with more severe flea allergies, but I can't imagine living with one. I, too, grilled my friends at the front door about their dogs' flea-bearing status. If they professed not to know, or were avowed non-users of flea-control products, they could forget coming into MY house. We could go for a walk together instead! I had to protect Rupert at all costs.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 11:41AM Comments (23)
September 13, 2016 - This is going to sound a little bananas. I think you guys can take it, however.
The most fun thing I've been doing lately with my dogs is playing hide and go seek. I'm a behavior geek anyway - I love watching dogs (and other animals) work and play and interact - but I can't tell you how entertaining it is for me to watch my adolescent dog learning how the game works, and try to anticipate my hiding strategies.
The house that I use as an office has three bedrooms upstairs. Sometimes, my husband and I rent them to students who attend a local trade school. In the past couple of years, though, we've had various relatives staying in the house on and off. At the moment, no one is living here, so I have both three rooms to hide in upstairs and no one to watch me at this ridiculous game! (Lest this sound rich - my second house! - let me assure you that the area where I live is so economically depressed, that the mortgage on this house costs us less than rent on office spaces in town.)
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 11:47AM Comments (35)
September 7, 2016 - I'm incredibly lucky, because my 10-month-old pit bull-mix, Woody, has a special friend, one who is almost exactly the same age. Samson belongs to one of my best friends, so our pups get to play together and walk together when my friend and I get together to walk or talk. We took our youngsters to puppy kindergarten 1 and 2 together, and this weekend, we will be taking them together on a walk that raises money for a local shelter.
The funny thing about the relationship between our two adolescent dogs? How unlikely it is, given that Woody weighs about 60 pounds, and Samson just barely tips the scales at four pounds, after he's eaten breakfast and before he goes out to poop!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:43PM Comments (13)
August 31, 2016 - How do you feel about people who panhandle with a dog - or dogs, or a cat? I'm conflicted every time I see this.
On one hand, if I were ever homeless, you can be darn sure I'd have a dog with me. It seems like many dogs who live on the streets with their humans are some of the most unflappable, well-socialized dogs around. And I'd have to say that dogs who spend almost all of their time with their humans are likely to be far happier than well-fed dogs who sleep on cushy beds in climate-controlled homes but alone all day.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:39PM Comments (55)
August 25, 2016 - One of the things I love about my favorite rescue group, the American Black and Tan Coonhound Rescue, is that the group is large enough and organized enough to offer people who want to help any number of ways to dive in and do something. Too many rescue groups depend entirely on one or three exhausted humans, who are run literally ragged, financially and emotionally spent, by the overabundance of dogs needing help and not enough people to do the work that needs to be done. Sometimes, this is attributable to the group's leaders, and their inability or unwillingness to cede control of certain tasks. But sometimes it's simply because they hadn't thought to ask people to take on small jobs. If you get enough people doing small things, it can truly add up to more dogs saved.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:52AM Comments (9)
August 17, 2016 - Early this month, I had the pleasure of attending a huge pet products trade show called Superzoo. I haven't been to one of these trade shows in a few years, which made it that much more exciting, as so many new products come to market. I gathered information from hundreds of manufacturers, in preparation for a number of articles and products reviews over the next year or so.
It may sound juvenile, or seem to impart a lack of seriousness, but I was perhaps most excited about some of the dog toys I saw. There were countless manufacturers of dog toys at the show, but most offered the same old sorts of toys that have been around for a long time, with only minor variations in quality. However, I also saw a handful of truly unique and engaging new toys, which I'm looking forward to sharing with you in the coming months.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:30PM Comments (6)
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)