You might notice a small theme running through this issue. We planned it so it would be just in time for Christmas – Christmas puppies, that is! It started with a conversation between Pat Miller, WDJ’s product reviewer and most frequent contributor, and me. Pat is usually working on at least three articles for WDJ at any given time; our planning for these articles generally starts months and months ahead. Back in August, I asked Pat whether she thought we ought to prepare anything specifically for the holidays. Twenty-plus years of experience working in and managing animal shelters definitely informed her emphatic response: “Post-Christmas puppy disasters – that’s what we should write about.”
People who work in shelters are all-too familiar with the phenomenon – the wave of puppies and dogs (and other animals) that begins to crash onto their shores in mid-January, and continues to crest into the spring and summer. Many of these dogs are “owner-released,” that is, turned into a shelter by people who weren’t ready – or, face it – responsible enough to handle the challenges of helping a new puppy or dog fit into their household. Shelter workers all over the country can recite the top excuses by heart: “He wouldn’t stop chewing the sofa.” “She was disturbing the neighborhood with barking.” “We never managed to housetrain him.” The most common theme: “We just didn’t have enough time for a dog.”
Well, it does take time to raise a dog, and about 100 times more time to raise a dog properly. Pat illustrates this in her article, “Getting Off to the Best Start,” a step-by-step primer on how to teach your new puppy to be a success in the human world. But time spent raising the pup right will save you time later – and may even save his life, in the end. Consider giving a copy of this issue to anyone you know with a new pup.
Once we settled on the idea of an article on coping with Christmas puppies, it was easy to decide what products to review in the same issue. Pat tried every carpet cleaner and deodorizer we could find; her report on the best of these products appears in this issue.
And to inspire the responsible and superlative readers of WDJ to consider lending a hand to some of the poor pups that might eventually wash up in a shelter, we bring you “Brother, Can You Spare an Hour?.” Freelance writer Dan Hoye profiles people who volunteer at animal shelters, and counts the ways that you can help.
I’m proud to point out that my own local animal angels, the folks at the Alameda Animal Shelter, made it into Hoye’s article. The shelter management has been kind to us, occasionally letting WDJ use one of their dogs as a model. In return, we donate most of the products that we review or discuss in WDJ to the shelter. (The dogs particularly enjoyed the day we showed up with three or four cases of canned dog food for taste-testing!) And while none of the people or dogs seen on our pages are professional models (and they don’t receive modeling fees), WDJ makes a small donation to the shelter every time we use a photo of one of their dogs.
Last month, I mentioned that I was taking my dog Rupert (pictured below, as always, by my side) to the veterinarian to investigate a lump on his side. I should confess that when I was working on an article abouta heartworm, any time Rupe coughed, I became convinced he had the disease, and after running our series on canine cancer, I was sure the lump was cancer. But the diagnosis, happily, was not cancer. A biopsy revealed that the lump I found was a sebaceous cyst – nothing to worry about, as long as it remains small. The veterinarian also found a couple of very small lipomas – benign fatty tumors. We’ll leave all of them alone for the time being, keep an eye on them, and hope they don’t grow.
-By Nancy Kerns