Guess what I did for my birthday? I toured a brand-new pet food cannery, one that makes super high-end food. Yippee! It may not be most people’s idea of a good time, but it was actually the most exciting way to spend the day that I can think of. I’ve been working on a review of wet dog foods (including canned and pouched products) and the offer to see this new plant, located in Southern California, was a matter of great timing.
Over the years, I’ve received dozens (if not hundreds) of letters from readers saying, “Thank goodness for WDJ; you just published an article on (fill in the blank) the moment that I needed it to help me deal with my dog.” There have been times that I’ve had the same experience – in which a problem crops up with on of the dogs in my life and -- voila! -- one of my writers submits an article that we’ve not previously discussed. Well, here we go again: Last month, WDJ Training Editor Pat Miller asks whether I’d be interested in an article on dogs who guard their “resources” (food, treats, toys, beds, humans, whatever) from other dogs.
Over the weekend, I attended the annual meeting of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA); I hadn’t been to that particular conference for a few years. One thing hadn’t changed: The number of veterinarians at the meeting whose biography follows this basic pattern: I always loved animals, I went to college and then vet school, I went into practice as a conventional medical practitioner, and after X years of practice, I grew frustrated at the number of cases I couldn’t fix with conventional medicine; I grew interested in complementary or alternative medicine, had some amazing successes with (fill in the blank: acupuncture, chiropractic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, homeopathy, herbs, or other), and now I can’t imagine not using these tools as part of my practice.
We just took possession of an extended member of the family: a four-year-old Chihuahua-mix named Peanut. He belongs to my 23-year-old niece, who recently relocated to this coast and is staying with other relatives in the Bay Area while she looks for work and then her own place. Unfortunately, one of the relatives she’s staying with is highly allergic to dogs, and Peanut had to relocate for a time.
There have been numerous headlines recently regarding Salmonella in various types of pet food. Merrick Pet Care recalled one lot of its Doggie Wishbones -- chews made of dried beef tendons. Two raw food producers – Bravo and Primal – had products recalled for Salmonella. Then there were the pig ear incidents: Bravo, Boss Pet, Blackman Industries, Keys Manufacturing, and Jones Natural Chews all announced recalls of dried pig ear chews due to Salmonella contamination.
Is it just us, or is this the worst year for fleas in a long a time? Or should we say, “best” year for the fleas, and worst year for cats and dogs? Just about everyone we know is suddenly battling flea infestations, and several dogs we know have been tortured by enough bites that they’ve chewed or scratched themselves raw, instigating some awful secondary infections or “hot spots.” And this is in an area not usually plagued by that many fleas.
The stars backstage at my local shelter are the six Basset puppies (and their doting mama) that the staff saved from coccidiosis (an illness caused by a nasty single-celled parasite). A guy brought the two-week-old litter to the shelter, signing over the whole lot, saying “they were just pooping too much.” Well, they were pooping so much because they had diarrhea; one puppy died within minutes of arrival. But our brilliant vet tech whipped into action and saved those dang puppies – mama, poop, and all. And they have just gotten cuter and cuter and cuter.
I had this thought on Tuesday, July 5, and I’ve been thinking about it on and off since then: Is any progress being made at all in the world of dog ownership? This was prompted by my brief custody of two small stray dogs, the ones I found trotting down my street the morning after fireworks were going off all over town. Fortunately, Otto was with me in the yard as I watered our roses and azaleas, and the dogs came in my gate to greet him; I was able to close the gate behind them. They wouldn’t come to me at first; once they realized the gate was closed, they trotted up and down the fence line a few times, to confirm they were, in fact, trapped in my yard.
I’ve been having a nice dialogue with a reader who objected to my promotion of the word “cue” over “command.” He made some good points – but something Otto did the other day gave me ammunition for one more point in support of why I prefer “cue.” Copying their mama, the last two of my foster kittens (now MY kittens) have developed a classic behavioral response to Otto (and every dog, to be fair to kind, patient Otto): they puff up, spit, growl, and flatten their ears every time they notice him in the room. Frankly, they are often so occupied with play that sometimes this “noticing” happens when they actually run into his sleeping body, but whatever.
This evening, I let Otto into the backyard to go pee. I heard the usual volley of barking from the back fence as Otto strolled around my yard. I was actually turning to go back in my own house to get a glass of water when I heard an odd noise. I turned just in time to see an entire plank of the back (wooden) fence plunk to the ground in my yard, and the biggest of the three dogs, a black male pit-mix-type, charge into my yard toward Otto.
On Friday night, I picked up my brother’s dog, Hannah, from his house (about an hour away). Keith, his wife, and their darling almost-two-year-old daughter went out of town for the weekend, and Hannah came to stay at our house. It struck me at some point during the weekend how much taking care of a relative’s dog is similar to taking care of a niece or nephew. You love the dog, because she’s “family” – after all, you said you would take her if anything ever happened to her!
I doubt that WDJ readers need to be reminded to leave their dogs home, rather than allowing them to accompany them on driving errands or shopping trips, at this time of year. When it’s hot, leaving a dog in a car –even with all the windows fully down – can heat a dog to the point of heatstroke or even death within a shockingly short amount of time. Dogs are much more susceptible to heat-related illness than adult humans; due to their smaller body mass, their internal temperatures rise much faster than ours do.