Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mellow Dog Breeds for ‘Couch Potato’ Types

By Linda Cole

We know how important it is to pick the right dog for your lifestyle. An energetic person will love the lively energy of a Border Collie or a Terrier breed, but some people would rather chill out on the couch and cuddle with a laid back dog. If you’re looking for a mellow canine companion, here are a few breeds to consider.

The Mastiff is a large, muscular dog. In fact, it’s one of the largest breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club and known affectionately as “the gentle giant.” However, don’t underestimate this dog. Although they are friendly and gentle, they were bred to be guardians and will protect their family and home. A Mastiff is a quiet dog who is happy lounging on the couch (of course, then there’s no room for you!) or going for a walk. He may be a couch potato, but daily exercise is still needed to keep him healthy.

The Greyhound is the fastest dog in the world, reaching speeds over 40 mph. Their natural prey is rabbit and hare, but they were also used to hunt deer, stag, fox and wild boar. When they aren’t working, this dog breed is the ultimate couch potato and as mellow as you can get. I know from experience how happy these dogs are. My great aunt and uncle raised Greyhounds and Whippets. As a kid, I loved visiting them because I got to play with the dogs. Greyhounds are loving, but can be a bit aloof when it comes to strangers. Just like any dog, they need exercise and excel at lure coursing, racing and agility. However, if you’re as mellow as the dog, he will be happy with daily walks. If you’re interested in adopting a Greyhound, please check with the National Greyhound Adoption Program. They are always looking for suitable homes for retired racing dogs.

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Caring for a Senior Pet

By Langley Cornwell

Everyone who shares their life with a dog or a cat wishes their pet would live longer. Even so, with advances in veterinary medicine companion animals are living longer than ever before. This increased lifespan is a wonderful thing, but because pets are living longer they can become afflicted with certain ailments that younger pets are not susceptible to. It’s the same thing we humans face; as we age, our bodies and minds change. Advancing into our golden years will mean a different type of medical attention for most of us. Your pet will need a different type of medical attention as well.

For your pets, aging may bring on osteoarthritis, mobility changes, weight gain, heart, kidney, and liver disease, benign or cancerous tumors, hormonal conditions such as thyroid imbalance and diabetes, and other things. Because of these possibilities, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that you prepare to modify some of the activities you currently enjoy doing with your pets. As your senior  pet starts to slow down, you have to adapt. Also, it will be necessary to work with your veterinarian to stay on top of your pet’s changing conditions and adjust their lifestyle to accommodate the aging process.

When does ‘old age’ start?

For dogs, small breeds usually live longer than large breeds, and cats generally live longer than dogs. Some dogs are considered middle to senior aged when they reach around 7 years of age. And some cats are considered middle to senior aged when they reach about 10 years of age. It really varies with each individual animal.

How will I know my pet is approaching ‘senior’ status, and what should I do about it?

Physical changes: As your pet’s body ages, physical changes will naturally occur. Some of the changes are easy enough to deal with, but a common problem that’s difficult to manage is inappropriate urinating. With both cats and dogs, the kidneys are one of the most common organs to lose function. As well trained as your pet may be, they may not be able to control where or when they eliminate as they get older. Do not scold your pet, but take notice and call your vet immediately. Incontinence or excessive urination can indicate diabetes and/or kidney failure, and both of these conditions are treatable with early detection.

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Owney, the Mail Dog that Rode the Rails

By Linda Cole

Last July, the U.S. Postal Service honored a little dog named Owney with his very own forever stamp. Owney the Mail Dog was a terrier-mix stray who made his home at the Albany, New York post office and served nine years as the ‘unofficial mascot’ of the U.S. Railway Mail Service. The stamp recognizes Owney’s steadfast loyalty to the mail service. This is a cool interactive stamp and when it’s held up to your computer webcam, you can see Owney barking and running. He was indeed a special dog, and his story is worth retelling so we don’t forget how extraordinary dogs can be.

It was in the day when trains and wagons carried the mail and at the peak of the Railway Mail Service. In 1888, a scraggly looking dog was abandoned by his owner who had been working in the Albany post office. The other mail clerks liked having Owney around and decided to adopt him. He became their unofficial mascot, and made himself at home among the mailbags.

The little dog wasn’t content to live out his days inside the post office, however. He apparently enjoyed traveling and decided it was his job to ride along with the mailbags to guard them. To make sure no one mistook Owney the Mail Dog as a stray or in the event he became lost, the Albany mail clerks gave him a collar with “Owney, Albany Post Office, New York” written on it.

One story recounts a day when they feared Owney was lost. He followed mail that was taken off a train and loaded onto a wagon. It was headed to one of the local post offices. The wagon and mail arrived, but Owney couldn’t be found. Some clerks went back over the route and discovered him patiently waiting on a mail bag that had fallen off the wagon!

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How to Help Your Dog Enjoy Veterinarian Visits

By Langley Cornwell

Veterinarian visits used to be difficult for us. Our dog would revert back to her shy and fearful behavior whenever we had an appointment. In fact, she would start trembling and whining when we pulled into the parking lot. While we had mostly conquered her insecure behavior in other areas, vet visits brought it all flooding back. It was an effort just to get her out of the car and through the front door. We knew we had to get serious about helping her. Our goal was to make trips to the animal clinic seem as natural as trips to the dog-friendly pet supply store.

The emotional state of your dog during a vet exam is particularly significant. If your dog remains stressed or fearful during a vet visit, anything that happens to her while she’s there can become something she will want to avoid forever. This unfortunate belief can result in the dog overreacting to even the simplest, most non-confrontational handling by the vet staff. With patience and training, however, veterinary visits can be less stressful. Now our dog actually looks forward to going! Here’s how we did it.

Practice visits coupled with positive reinforcement. The veterinarian we use is sympathetic to our dog’s shy and fearful behavior. He kindly allowed us to bring our dog around for random informal visits, without having an actual appointment. On these unscheduled visits, we always had plenty of her favorite CANIDAE treats on hand. We passed the dog treats out to the receptionists, technicians and other staff members so they could offer them to our dog.

Originally, she was not interested and stood statue-still in a crouching position. On subsequent visits, she finally started tentatively sniffing around. Progress! At least she wasn’t frozen in one spot, trembling and crying. As she gradually became more accustomed to the sights and smells of the clinic, she started to relax. Finally she began accepting dog treats from the staff. This took awhile, but she ultimately became familiar with the facility without the association of shots/handling/scary stuff. 

This technique works best if the only people offering treats to your dog are the veterinarian staff members. Avoid the temptation to give the dog treats yourself. You want the dog to connect going to the vet with getting treats from the staff.

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What is the True Worth of a Pet?

By Linda Cole

I once had a coworker who felt it was her duty to chastise me for rescuing stray pets and giving them a temporary home while I tried to find their owner, and then a forever home if their owner couldn’t be found. The money I spent on their vet care and food was beyond her comprehension. After months of complaining, one day she said “That’s stupid to spend your money on those cats and dogs. Just think how much money you’d have if you got rid of them.” She had no idea what I spent on them because I never talked about it, but it was what she said next that made me blow a gasket. “Just dump them in the country. No one will know.” I won’t repeat what I said to her, except to say she got an earful on what I thought about her suggestion. She had never been a pet owner and I knew I would be wasting my breath trying to explain something she couldn’t comprehend.

To me, all animals have worth and it has nothing to do with money. They are all living beings and have a right to life. To ignore a lost/stray pet that needs help with food or finding a home is not something I can do. Also, if I found a wild animal that needed help I wouldn’t hesitate to do what I could for them.

I realize the true worth of a pet is different for everyone because we don’t all have the same kind of relationship with our pets. For many of us, though, our pets give us a reason to get up in the morning. They can make a rainy day seem sunny and bright. Pets have a contagious enthusiasm for life they pass on to us, if we’re willing to take it. For other owners, their pet plays a limited role in their life and can easily be replaced. To them, it’s “just” an animal.

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Firefighter Dayna and the Fire Safety Dogs

By Langley Cornwell

Dayna Hilton joined the fire service in 2000. In 2003, her rescued Dalmatian Sparkles gave her the idea to teach fire safety to children. Through the years, Dayna and her Fire Safety dogs have touched the lives of thousands of children nationwide and saved the lives of several. Additionally, she’s the Executive Director of the Keep Kids Fire Safe® Foundation and she’s authored three children’s books: Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog, Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog Coloring Book and Sparkles Goes to Boston.

I had the honor of ‘meeting’ Firefighter Dayna via chats and emails. You see, with Dayna, even if you don’t talk to her personally it feels like you know her. Her boundless energy, focused fire safety message, and undying devotion to her dogs are a magnetic combination. As a ‘one woman and two dog’ operation, she’s been able to accomplish so much. She and her dogs are passionate about what they do and have dedicated their lives to helping keep children safe. Here is an excerpt of our recent interview.

How did you find Sparkles?
I rescued her through the Dalmatian Assistance League of Tulsa. She came from a home overflowing with animals; Sparkles had been living in squalor with 62 other dogs.

What can you tell us about her background?
Aside from where she came from, I don’t know much about her background. What I do know is she was naturally great with children. Whenever kids approached she would roll around seeking belly rubs. One day we were playing and, just for fun, I wanted to see if she could crawl really low. She did it immediately, without any formal training. Crawling low is a crucial component of surviving a fire because it keeps your smoke inhalation to a minimum. When Sparkles began low-crawling on command, the idea for spreading a fire safety message to children was born.

Did Sparkles inspire the books?
Yes, totally. Sparkles had a tail that wagged non-stop; the only time her tail stopped wagging was when she slept. The idea for my first children’s fire safety book came from that tail! One day, Sparkles and I were getting ready to do a fire safety presentation at the school, and I put on her red vest, as I always did. That day was special though, as I looked at her and truly saw the love in her eyes. She couldn’t wait to get that vest on and go to work. I knew immediately that a children’s fire safety book was born!

Every day that Sparkles was in my life was a blessing. When I think about all of the lives she touched it’s overwhelming. Not only was she an amazing fire safety dog and a true credit to the fire service, she was a wonderful friend and companion.

From the time we met, Sparkles tried her best to make me happy. When I would leave the room, her ears would perk up and she would stand there, sometimes for hours, just waiting. Her love was unconditional.

Sparkles truly found her calling, and I am forever grateful she was in my life. When she passed away, I was heartbroken at losing my best friend, but I’m thankful that her legacy lives on, both through Tango and Siren, through “Sparkles’ Pathway” and through all the lives she has touched and will continue to touch. She was more than just my friend; she was a friend to millions of children. It is my hope that all the fire safety dogs that follow will share Sparkles’ passion for helping keep children safe, and we will continue to help save lives. Sparkles would have wanted it that way.

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