Editorial August 1999 Issue

Happy To Be Here

Providing a fun, healthy education is WDJ’s goal.

What a great job this is! Although the deadlines provide perennial pressure, and the stack of mail and calls to return can seem endless at times, I have to admit that I really enjoy learning so much about healthy dog care – and passing it along, of course! While some of the articles that our writers research and produce contain information that I already know a lot about, I never put an issue together without learning something new and valuable that I can put to immediate use.

For instance, I know the importance of reading the label of anything that I feed to my dog. But I’ve always wondered at the dearth of information provided by the labels of rawhide chews and other products intended for canine dental exercise. I have long suspected that these products are not created equal, so to speak. But it wasn’t until I read freelance writer Roger Govier’s article, "Chew on This," that I knew what to look for – and what to avoid – when choosing my dog’s chew toy.

I first heard the phrase “calming signals” from Sabra Learned, a TTouch practitioner who has written a number of articles for us about TTouch methods. Sabra educated me about this communication method when she used my dog as a model for a photo shoot; she showed me how Rupert, a typically nervous Border Collie whose desire to please verges on compulsion, uses these signals almost constantly when in the presence of strangers.

But all the lights went on when I went through my photo files looking for pictures of dogs interacting at the dog park to illustrate the article about these signals contributed by another TTouch practitioner, Jodi Frediani. I must have 200 or more pictures of dogs playing and socializing in my photo files – pictures that I myself have taken. But until I read the article I never saw the calming signals displayed by the dogs in my own photographs. In frame after frame, I saw dogs clearly “telling” their playmates and companions that they were friendly and interested in getting along. I can’t wait to experiment with Frediani’s suggestions for using the signals to set an anxious dog at ease, or help two strange dogs get to know each other peacefully.

After reading Pat Miller’s review of products that can help keep dogs cool in hot weather, I immediately ordered one of her “top picks” for Rupe to use here in the WDJ office. Even without a thermometer, I always know when the temperature hits 80 degrees or so by the blast of hot dog breath that a panting Rupert generates under my desk. In the winter I appreciate his presence there, especially on cold days when I can snuggle my toes under his ample coat to keep warm. I’ll let you know whether the cooling products saved Rupe from his embarrassing summer haircut (he just doesn’t look right without his hair).

And I was highly entertained while editing Miller’s article about identifying and developing your dog’s 'hidden talents.' It cracked me up to read about some of the “jobs” that some dogs have volunteered for: turtle wrangling, turning off the reading light after a person has fallen asleep, and even mushroom hunting. I could relate! Just a few years ago, I found myself living next door to a family who had at least 10 or 12 outdoor cats – cats who were in the habit of using my front yard for a kitty litter box. Rupe quickly learned the difference between my attitude about chasing our cat (don’t you dare, ever!) and chasing the neighbor’s cats off of our front lawn (go for it!). In the long, hot summer, the cue “CAT alert, Rupie!” is still very useful for breaking up midnight feline serenades in the backyard.

-By Nancy Kerns

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