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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dreaming of Dogs
What are your nighttime canine visions?

If there was a group called Dog Dreamers Anonymous, you would surely find me at their meetings, standing up to say, “Hi, my name is Karen, and I dream about dogs.” In fact, I dream about them every week, sometimes multiple times. Last week for example, I had three dreams about dogs.

  The first dream was about a dog trying to block the waves from ruining a little kid’s sandcastle. The dog ran in between the sand castle and a big wave and blocked most of it so that it did not destroy the castle. The child who had built this particular castle had been bullied and teased by some other competitors in a sandcastle building contest, but ending up winning an award from the judges, thanks in part to the dog’s quick move. In my dream, I was very excited about what the dog’s actions might mean about dog’s cognitive and social abilities since he acted to prevent a future problem and chose to help the child most in need.   In the second dream, I was running slow motion through a field of daisies with many dogs, most of whom belonged to clients. For years, I’ve said that people probably picture the daily life of anyone who works with dogs to be mostly running through a field of wildflowers with piles of puppies, and probably in slow motion. The reality, though still wonderful, isn’t quite so idyllic.   I was running a race in the third dream. A dog joined me after a couple of miles and ran with me the rest of the way, which kept me going over the last few miles when I was feeling bad and wanted to stop. As I crossed the finish line, I turned to give this dog some water, but he was gone. I looked all around, but couldn’t find him. Later, I learned that every struggling runner who finishied the race reported having this dog as company, but that he always disappeared at the finish line.   Do you dream of dogs? What canine thoughts dance in your head as you sleep?
News: Guest Posts
Pit Bulls Save Chihuahua From Coyote
The lucky little dog has good neighbors

The town of Littleton, Co., is on edge this summer due to coyote attacks on a young boy and pet dogs. Early Saturday morning, Buster the Chihuahua mix was grabbed by a coyote while he and his owner were outside their home. The neighbor's Pit Bulls chased after the coyote who then dropped Buster. The little dog crawled under a bush and the Pit Bulls guarded him until the coyote was gone and Buster's owner could rescue him. Buster will undergo surgery today for various injuries sustained during the attack. Hopefully, he will make a full and quick recovery. What struck me most about this incident was how the owner did not view the coyotes as "bad," nor did she see the Pit Bulls as completely "good." What are your thoughts on this unique dog-saves-dog story?

News: Guest Posts
Shelter Dog Plays Trick on Staff
Locks are no match for Red the Greyhound

The staff at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in England had a mystery on their hands: Who let the dogs out? Enjoy!

News: Guest Posts
Blanket Lust
An (seemingly) unstoppable obsession

I am obsessed with blankets. Turns out, so is Leo. My blanket obsession began with a passion for textile design, which developed into a habit of buying any blanket, comforter or quilt that caught my eye. Leo’s blanket habit is related to mine: Whenever I bring home a gorgeous coverlet, he has to chew a gigantic hole right in the middle—as soon as he is left alone with it for more than 20 seconds.

  Sometimes I think fate must have ironically brought Leo and I together, or that maybe Leo is saving me from the fate of being crushed under an avalanche of blankets when I open the linen closet. With Leo’s blanket-munching, I recognized there were two issues that needed to be addressed. First, Leo could not be left alone with blankets until he learned chewing on them is inappropriate. Secondly, he needed a positive outlet for his chewing, such as a chew toy.   Keeping Leo away from blankets worked for like a week. His tenacity for finding unattended blankets was borderline inspiring. I’d leave the bedroom door open for a minute while I went to grab clothes from the dryer: Gigantic hole in the blanket. I’d take a catnap on the sofa: Down feathers everywhere when I awoke.   Since keeping him away from blankets wasn’t going to happen, I tried taste deterrents, like bitter spray misted onto the blankets. Apparently, the only one affected by this was me. Many a nap was rudely ended by a bitter taste. After falling asleep in a blanket cocoon on the sofa (exhausted from watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of Cake Boss), my open mouth would inevitably make contact with the surface of the blanket. It was heinously gross. Meanwhile, Leo would power through the nasty flavor. For my sake, I gave up on the bitter spray.   My plan to redirect Leo’s affection from blankets to toys has been even less successful. Even after taking Leo to training specifically to pique his interest in toys, he drifts after more than 20 seconds unless it is something he can eat (like a bully chew or a Kong toy). I see a future with a morbidly obese dog curled happily on elegant, intact quilts.   The reality is Leo and I both have issues that need to be dealt with (though I’d like to think that I can curb my blanket-purchasing habit as soon as I can curb Leo’s blanket-eating habit). What next? Do I give Leo one blanket and designate it as his? Do I continue my two years of attempting to interest him in toys? Do I concede that maybe I won’t have nice blankets ever? Any suggestions?

 

News: Guest Posts
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
Inexplicable phobias and unlikely explanations

“Mitch, you know the rule! No standing in the house! Dude, if you want a drink I’ll get you one, but you can’t stand up—it freaks the dog out.” Whenever my friend Mitch comes over, this is my reality. Most of the time, life at home with the dogs is pretty uneventful. The dogs keep themselves occupied playing with toys or enjoying the backyard whenever we’re not snuggling on the sofa. From time to time, my friend Mitch (a towering six-foot-four, bearded lumberjack of a man) will show up, and Skipper does not like it. My usually friendly and docile dog barks constantly at him, clipping his heels, until he sits down. As soon as Mitch hits the couch or chair, it’s like someone flipped a switch and Skip goes back to normal.

  Fear of unusually (i.e., freakishly) tall people is only one of Skipper’s many strange and inexplicable phobias. He also fears karate, a fact I discovered when Skipper witnessed our friend Andy doing a Tae-Bo workout video. Additionally, and perhaps more logically, Skipper fears smoke. If we’re getting overzealous with the panini maker or those s’mores are getting a little out of control, Skipper will cower and hide in the bushes and look so sad it’s enough to break your heart in two.   This unique constellation of phobias has lead me to only one logical conclusion: Skipper’s previous owner must have been some sort of ultimate karate master (I’m thinking Bruce Lee), who met his demise at the hands of a giant, bearded redhead (plausibly Chuck Norris) during some sort of epic showdown in a burning building. Skipper likely employed an arsenal of canine kicks and punches to save his sensei, but either the smoke was too thick, or perhaps, Skipper was cruelly thrown aside (which also explains his blindness in one eye), and could not save his dojo-master. That, or like many owners, I have constructed an alternate reality to explain the source of all my dog’s fears with one traumatic event.   It’s a natural tendency to want to believe that Skipper’s life was perfectly happy until one fateful day everything came apart, but it all worked out because I adopted him. It’s almost a mode of self-preservation, considering that I already get overly emotional when watching those ASPCA ads of dogs in shelters: I couldn’t handle imagining poor Skipper going through an extended ordeal. The reality is though, any dog, whether from a shelter or from a responsible breeder, can develop strange phobias that we don’t understand.   Think of it this way: As humans, not all of our phobias come from rational places. Case in point, I had (OK, let’s be real, HAVE) an irrational fear of E.T., stemming from my childhood. This doesn’t mean that I was at any point abducted by aliens, or lured into Drew Barrymore’s closet after following a trail of Reese’s Pieces, or forced to fly away from government agents on a 10-speed bicycle (at least, I can’t recall ever having any of these things happen to me). Sometimes, dogs, like their people, just develop phobias we can’t explain. (Some canine compulsions might even have a genetic component.)   As much as I love Skipper and want to know everything about him, I have to accept that’s not possible. Instead, I just have to be the best dog parent I can be, and deal with his quixotic fears. Unless, of course, I am totally right about that Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris karate showdown. In that case, Skipper has just been trying to tell me something and I should be very, very afraid.

 

News: Guest Posts
Study Dogs Sought
For study of canine compulsive behavior

The Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University is currently enrolling:

  Terriers (except Bull breeds) German Shepherds Border Collies   into a study regarding the genetic underpinnings of compulsive behavior. Dogs that are affected and unaffected are needed. You will be required to fill out a survey about your dog’s behavior and a blood sample will be taken. A visit to Tufts is not required. If you are interested in learning more about this study, please contact Nicole Cottam at 508-887-4802 or nicole.cottam@tufts.edu.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
An Unlikely Couple
The love of a goat and a dog

It’s hard to say what makes a pair fall so deeply in love, and when a close bond develops across species, it is both more puzzling and more endearing. A goat named Minelli and a Great Dane named Judy used to spend all their time together—sleeping, cuddling, and just being with each other.

  They were strays, though, and are now being held in an animal care facility in Dallas for the required 18 days in the hopes that their owners will claim them. Minelli is in an enclosure with more closely related animals. Since being separated from Minelli, Judy barks all day and seems highly distressed. A member of the staff at the facility describes it as heartbreaking and everyone involved in the situation hopes they can be reunited soon. They are separated as required by law, although the deputy involved declined to state which law specifically doesn’t allow them to be together.   Dogs and humans obviously form intense social bonds with each other. Have you had any other animals of different species who are obviously in a close relationship?  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs at the Farmer’s Market
Handling dogs and crowds

In my town, Flagstaff, Ariz., dogs are welcome in many places, and one of the hot spots for dogs is the Sunday morning Farmer’s Market. It’s great to see people and dogs out enjoying the beautiful weather and the purchase of fresh foods. Regrettably, what’s not always so great is seeing people frustrated or angry with one another because of the dogs.

  Sometimes people, especially kids, pet dogs without asking permission first, or dogs jump up on people or lick them while a guardian is busy picking out heirloom tomatoes or the perfect bunch of basil. I regularly see many dogs who are stressed out in the crowd at the event or dogs greeting each other in a tense way that makes me concerned that the interaction might escalate into trouble.   When dogs and people are interacting at any sort of community event, following a few guidelines can make the difference between a positive experience for everybody and a situation full of tension and bad feelings. My top tips for people who want to take their dogs to such places include: 1) Crowded situations are not for every dog, so if your dog is not at his best in such situations, don’t put him in them. 2) Don’t let your dog jump on people or lick them unless you know they are okay with that. 3) Know the signs of stress in dogs. Watch for any indications that your dog is no longer having a good time, and if that happens, be willing to leave even if you’d rather stay a bit longer. 4) Don’t let dogs greet each other unless both guardians have agreed that it’s okay.   If you like to take your dog to various events about town, how do you make it work for both you and your dog?  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Puppy Mischief
What has your little “angel” done?

I was talking recently with my Aunt Liz, who had the Great Danes I knew and loved as a child. We were discussing what great dogs they were, and I guess I only remembered the good times when they were in their prime. I had never known about their puppy antics, and she filled me in. “The worst moment was when Drinan ate the couch,” she said.

Having had many clients who discovered scratches, tears and bite marks on their furniture, I felt very sympathetic when I asked, “How bad was the damage?”

She replied, “It wasn’t a matter of damage. She ATE the couch.” She went on to tell me that her dear dog had actually consumed a large portion of the sofa. She had not just nibbled on the legs or torn open the cushions. Knowing that the dog had survived the incident and that the relationship between Drinan and my aunt and uncle had not only made it past the couch debacle but flourished into true love, it was easy to laugh about it now.

Most of us can look back fondly on the puppy days of the dogs we grow to cherish with our whole hearts. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t live through a certain amount of gnashing of teeth (our own!) when those beloved dogs were puppies. And there’s no need for shame because there’s no judgment here. Anyone who has ever had a puppy has had a moment when in the time it took to sneeze twice, use the bathroom, or answer the phone, something horrendous has happened. Please share what your puppy has done that you just couldn’t believe.

News: Guest Posts
Bringing Up Leo
For better or for worse

Adopting my first dog Skipper was, without a doubt, the best idea I have ever had. This is no small claim, considering that I am full of incredible ideas. Don’t believe me? Take this idea for instance: Prince and the surviving members of Queen get together and form a band called King. I know, right? Incredible idea. And that was just off the top of my head. Even with so many great ideas, adopting Skipper ranks as number one. However, the jury’s still out on my other dog Leo.

  Leo was by no means an impulse decision. Often while I worked at home, Skipper would lie on his dog bed nearby and let out long, loud sighs. Dog behaviorists, say what you will, but those sighs combined with his ultra-sad eyes was all I needed to see. Skipper longed to be part of a pack—not a pair.   Initially, I was unsettled by the feeling of wanting another dog. What if even after I got the dog I wanted another? Wasn’t this how people became animal hoarders? I cast these unreasonable fears aside, and Petfinder.com soon became my browser’s homepage. I grew obsessed with trolling the site for hours to find the perfect second dog. After almost six months of searching, Skipper’s rescue contacted me out of the blue. They had another Schipperke, and from the picture they sent me this dog looked like a dignified, if not royal, canine. It had to be a sign: This was my next dog.   Unfortunately, like many relationships that begin on the Internet, Leo was not who I had in mind.  It was like I was expecting Orlando Bloom and Gary Busey showed up. The dog was a hurricane: wild, uncontrolled and destructive. I’m still not sure why I agreed to adopt him, but I did. The first few weeks with Leo were rough, to say the least. On the car ride home, he became “fiercely romantic” with my Marc Jacobs sweater in the backseat. He and Skipper incessantly bickered. As much reading as I had done on welcoming a new dog into the family, I was unprepared. Every day, my boyfriend Jason would ask me, “So, when are you taking Leo back?”   It wasn’t until one night, when I left the dogs with Jason while I ran out to get groceries, that one of their fights transformed into a friendly wrestling match, ending with both dogs on the floor licking one another. They made their peace, and suddenly realized they couldn’t live without one another. Jason couldn’t explain it, and I didn’t need an explanation; I was just relieved.   Slowly, Leo began to calm down and became manageable. He began to find his place in the family, becoming more confident and less aggressive over time. In turn, Skipper stopped his sighing and moping—he was too busy enjoying Leo. Fights turned into brotherly roughhousing, knocking over freshly folded piles of laundry and dismantling sofa cushions. Leo’s wild, fun-loving nature brought out a liveliness and joie de vivre in Skipper that hadn’t been there before, and I grew to love Leo for his affectionate and quirky personality. Though Leo remains imperfect (where do all my socks keep going?), he has changed our lives for worse and for better—the calm in my home is gone, but it has been replaced with excitement, laughter and two very happy dogs.

 

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