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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
More Lessons from Hernando

In my last blog, I wrote about my little hydrocephalic foster puppy, Hernando. He was born with a potentially fatal condition and a poor prognosis, yet he pranced through every day with the greatest of joy. At five weeks of age he saw a neurology specialist who was amazed by his confidence and attitude. First time away from mom? No problem, let me lick your face. Being poked and prodded by a stranger in a white coat? No problem, let me chew your shoes. He appeared to be a classic case of hydrocephalus but was perfectly functional without the cognitive deficits that are usually seen with the condition. Hernando’s zest for life was contagious and he gave no thought at all to the future. I felt like there was a lot to be learned from this tiny morsel of a dog who weighed barely a pound. He was a lesson in living for the moment and finding your joy.

I really wanted Hernando to be the one who surprised everyone. He was born into my hands, never knew a flea or a harsh word. His little world was warm and clean and sweet, with a loving mama, siblings to play with and gentle humans to cuddle. The vet felt that he had some chance of a normal life, although not a great one. He seemed too full of personality to do anything but thrive. Hernando’s mama, Pippa, was an amazing mother who doted on her litter of 9 in spite of the mild cough she had when she came to me as an abandoned pregnant stray. The puppies were wormed several times and got their 6 week vaccines right on time.

I had no way of knowing that the vaccines were too late. Mama Pippa was already harboring a deadly virus that was slowly infecting all of her body systems and those of her puppies. As Pippa and the puppies began to show some mild symptoms of illness, I took them to the vet and started them on meds and sub-Q fluids. I treated them diligently and when they didn’t respond the possibility of distemper was mentioned. We saw a new vet and added more medications.

I wish I could say that Hernando never had a bad day, but he hated being poked with needles and would have a tantrum and cry and bite me when I did it. I would cry with him, but the fluids were keeping him alive and I couldn’t stop. I realized that there was a lesson even in the hard days, for as soon as the treatments were done, Hernando would immediately forgive me and cover me in kisses.

As the illness progressed, I sought the experience of yet another vet. I was desperate for hope but distemper is a relentless, brutal disease that often leaves its rare survivors with lifelong problems. In more than 25 years of fostering hundreds of dogs and puppies, I had never even seen a case of distemper and the more I researched it, the more I worried.

Hernando continued to decline and died in my arms on his eight week birthday, of a disease that would have been entirely preventable had Pippa been vaccinated as a puppy. I dripped anguished tears on his tiny body and tried not to torture myself with what-ifs.

Sadly, I lost the entire litter and sweet Pippa too. I was so grief stricken that I wanted to quit rescuing. I didn’t feel able to continue to have my heart broken this way. Yet almost immediately I realized that I couldn’t quit. There are so many in need. It is critical to do more to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again. I decided to donate money from sales of my book to a local charity, Compassion Without Borders. They go into the very kind of poor, uneducated communities where Pippa came from and provide vaccines, spay/neuter services and other veterinary care to dogs in need. Every vaccine and surgery saves lives.

I will never forget the tiny lives that shared my home for two months. My heart will never be totally healed but seeing other dogs get the care they need helps to ease the pain.

Sweet dreams Hernando. You were loved by many.

 

 

 

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
What They Might Think During Departures
Putting words into the minds of dogs

As we drove away and saw Marley’s face in the window, watching us drive away, my son said, “I’ll bet he’s thinking, “Please come back! Why are you leaving me?” His woebegone expression did match the words my son had chosen for him.

We began to discuss how different individuals react to the same situations in different ways and express themselves in unique ways, too, and why shouldn’t that apply to dogs as much as to people? From there, we had a lot of fun imagining what some of the other dogs we know would say in the same circumstances.

Watson is super smart, always worried and typically a couple of steps ahead of everyone else, mentally speaking. He’d probably be thinking, “Let’s see, if they are in the car going east at 40 miles per hour for 20 minutes, and spend the usual 35 minutes at their desired location plus or minus 5 minutes, and return by the scenic route to avoid the traffic at rush hour, and travel at 30 miles per hour, they should return by 4 pm, so I will not commence with any serious worrying until that time.

We next discussed our old dog Bugsy, who nobody would ever describe as an intellectual. (A trainer friend of mine once actually described him as a couple of ants short of a picnic.) We decided that even in our imaginations, he never would have mastered standard English grammar and would simply think, “You go. I still here.”

Schultzie is so well-adjusted that she would probably think, “The timing of their departure is very sensible. It’s time for my nap, but I’ll be ready for playtime and a good walk by they time they get home.”

Kiwi might very well have thought something along the lines of, “Sure, I’ll miss them, but they always come back, so this provides a perfect opportunity for me to check to see if the latch on the cabinet holding the garbage can is as loose as it looks. Today could be a trash party day—here’s hoping!”

Super Bee is as fit as she is fast, and her brain is as speedy as her body. If we left her behind, I could imagine her thinking, “If they head out Fremont Avenue going the speed limit and turn right at the light and then go 45 miles per hour on Route 180, and take a right at the light at Humphreys, and drive with traffic until they are downtown, I could leap out this window, head to the urban trail and through the park and still beat them by at least 17 seconds to the coffee shop on San Francisco Street, which I’m sure is where they are going.

Of course, the idea of dogs thinking these things is pure fantasy, but it’s fun to imagine, based on a dog’s personality and behavior, their response to a situation and to put it into words. What can you imagine your dog thinking as you leave the house?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Petpared Twitter Chat on Thursday
Penn Vet and FEMA team up to answer questions about preparing for emergencies
At Bark we've written a lot about being prepared for emergencies. It still seems up for debate whether or not the frequency and severity of natural disasters is actually increasing, but there is no question that our pets rely on us to make plans for their care and safety.

In honor of Thursday's National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day, Penn Vet and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region III are teaming up with a number of other animal related organizations for a social media awareness event. Dr. Deborah Mandell, an emergency care professor at Penn Vet and pet adviser to the American Red Cross, will participate in the #Petpared Twitter Chat to help pet families understand what they need to do to prepare for emergencies.

On Thursday, May 8th at 12:30 p.m. EDT, Dr. Mandell will begin taking questions tagged with #petpared on Twitter and tweeting answers on @DebbieMandell1. Penn Vet will retweet on @pennvet. Some of the topics that will be addressed include, developing a family emergency plan, having an emergency supply kit or "go bag," and learning about your risks.

The Twitter chat is part of the larger 2014 Petpared Initiative to increase the number of people who include their pets in planning for emergencies. Other resources to prepare your pet and your family for disasters are available at Ready.gov/caring-animals.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Death By Choke Collar
Puppy died at a training center

Gracie, a 6-month old Boxer-Great Dane mix, died when her choke collar got tangled while playing with another dog at a training center. By the time the staff intervened by cutting the collar off with wire cutters and administering CPR, she was too far gone.

The Humane Society of the United States says that it is best for your dog if you avoid using one and I agree. Choke collars function by causing pain and can injure the esophagus, trachea and neck. They can cause nerve damage as well as damage to the blood vessels in the eyes. To see a dog coughing because of the pressure applied with one is distressing.

Choke collars are an aversive training tool and are not used by trainers who stick with positive reinforcement methods. Other options such as head collars and front-clip harnesses are effective at preventing pulling. Additionally, positive reinforcement techniques are more effective for training dogs since dogs learn what to do rather than learning what not to do through punishment.

Gracie’s guardian did not initially use a choke collar, but the training center had a policy that all dogs had to wear one. They have since changed this policy and use martingale collars instead. If adjusted properly, these limited-slip collars tighten around a dog’s neck but cannot tighten enough to choke a dog.

Though I’m not a fan of choke collars, I understand that there are people who will still choose to use them. Two important safety tips can save the life of a dog who wears one: 1) Never allow a dog to play with other dogs while wearing a choke collar. 2) Never leave a choke collar on an unattended dog. There is some disagreement over whether Gracie and the other dogs involved were unattended when the incident occurred, but certainly unattended dogs are at greater risk of an accident than those who are under human supervision.

Accidents can happen with collars of any type, but choke collars are particularly risky. Choke collars are true to their name—designed to tighten around a dog’s neck with no mechanism to limit how tight they can become—and unfortunately, being choked by one is what happened to Gracie.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dog Helps Elderly Man With Alzheimer’s
Speech returns in presence of dog

The man in this video has Alzhemier’s, and according to the daughter who posted it, he has lost almost all of his speech. However, when he is with the dog, he talks in a clear voice and makes perfect sense.

It’s not clear why his speech abilities return in the presence of the dog, but it’s well known that dogs are helpful to people with dementia. The benefits go beyond the usual health benefits provided by dogs such as lowered blood pressure and alleviating depression. In people with Alzheimer’s the presence of a dog lowers anxiety, decreases outbursts and increases social interactions.

No matter what the reason for this man’s behavior when with this dog, it is beautiful to watch. That is partly because we’re seeing a part of a man that was thought to be lost. It’s also because the healthy, powerful dog in the video is so calm and attentive around this elderly gentleman. I found myself absently saying, “Good dog, good dog,” while I watched.

I haven’t reacted so emotionally to a video since the 2014 Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial. Did it similarly affect you?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine World Cup
Wildlife photographer celebrates dog diversity and soccer
With the World Cup coming up next month, wildlife photographer Eric Isselée decided to combine his profession with his love of soccer by creating images of national dog breeds wearing their country's jerseys. One of my favorite parts about watching world agility competitions is seeing the diversity of dog breeds, so these portraits are a fun way to celebrate the upcoming sporting event, while highlighting different pups around the world.

Eric normally photographs animals for the Life On White project, capturing images of domestic and wild animals on white backgrounds. The initiative has taken pictures of over 1,000 species since its inception eight years ago.

Unfortunately there is no American dog represented, perhaps because we don't have a clear iconic breed. If you were to create a photo for team U.S.A., which dog would be featured?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Puppy Shower for Homeless Dogs
Mo. animal shelter holds an event to increase adoptions and gather donations
This spring, the Cascades Humane Society in Jackson, Mo. found themselves with 21 puppies on their hands. First a pregnant Husky mix gave birth to seven puppies, just days after being abandoned at the shelter. Then three Border Collie mix puppies were brought in, so undernourished and weak that they went straight to a foster home to be nurtured back to health. Next 11 more three week old puppies were abandoned in a nearby home and were brought to the shelter. Being so young, the little guys required round the clock hand feeding.

As you can imagine, the care for these pups has been expensive and the sudden influx meant the shelter had to find a lot of good homes. So earlier this month, Cascades put together a Puppy Shower to create awareness, find adopters, and gather donations. The event was a success with over 200 attendees and a personal shelter record for the most cats and dogs adopted in a single day. In all, 18 puppies, six cats, and four adult dogs found forever homes through the event.

Having a Puppy Shower is such a great idea to gather animal lovers together to help a good cause with an adorable theme!

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Baby Named After Dog Who Saved Her Life
Jade found the abandoned baby in a park

When Jade the German Shepherd sprinted into the bushes during a walk, lay down and refused to return to her guardian, her behavior was literally life-saving. When Roger Wilday came over to his dog, he discovered that Jade was lying next to an abandoned newborn baby. According to doctors, she would not have survived more than a couple of hours longer on her own. The baby, who hospital workers named Jade in honor of the dog who saved her, is doing well, and efforts to find her parents are underway.

Naturally, it makes us feel good to know that a dog’s keen ears or nose led her to a baby in desperate need of help, which saved her life. What I find most interesting about this story, though, is that the dog took the initiative to head toward the baby and wouldn’t leave. She refused even though the guardian presumably wasn’t initially thrilled that his dog ran off and wouldn’t come when called.

Jade was apparently eager to communicate with her guardian that he needed to come investigate, and she behaved in a way that caused him to do exactly that. This is a dog who is very fond of children, as many dogs are, yet her understanding of the situation seems to extend beyond a simple, “This is a baby and I like to be near babies.” Her behavior suggests that she wanted her guardian to find the baby, too.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Generosity in a Time of Need
A N.J. couple leaves a $1,000 tip towards a large vet bill.
Pets are amazing conversation starters and give people a common passion that creates an instant connection. Last weekend, Christina Summitt's paw print tattoo led to an act of generosity that she could have never imagined.  

Christina's wrist tattoo often leads to conversations with strangers about her love of animals. Despite working three jobs and managing a family of three kids and one dog, Christina always makes time to volunteer with a pit bull rescue and aid in other animal adoptions.

While bar tending at the Holiday Inn in Clinton, New Jersey last weekend, a couple asked about her tattoo and her pets. Christina mentioned that Tucker, her Great Dane-Black Labrador mix was at the veterinarian after having emergency surgery and it was almost all she could think about.

The man mentioned something about surgery being expensive and they started talking about the expensive vet bill and her commitment to Tucker, whom she adopted in 2011.

After the couple finished their meal, they closed out their $80 tab and left a $1,000 tip. When Christina saw the credit slip, she started sharking and crying in disbelief. After verifying that she was seeing the number correctly, Christina approached the man to say she couldn't accept such a large tip. But he insisted she put it towards Tucker's veterinary bill.

She hugged the couple and they said, "we'll be praying for Tucker" before leaving the bar.

Christina's manager followed up with the customers to verify that the gesture was legitimate and found out that they do this quite frequently.

As word about the good deed made the internet rounds, Christina says that she's received messages of support from all over the world and has been inspired by how this random act gave so many people hope. She'd love nothing more than to publicly thank this couple, but they wish to remain anonymous.

The even better news is that Tucker is now back at home recovering from his surgery.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dog Waits Outside Hospital For 8 Days
Reunion with homeless guardian worth it

Lauri da Costa, a homeless man in Brazil who stumbled to the hospital after being hit in the face by a rock, has a priceless friend in his dog Seco. When da Costa went inside the hospital, neither he nor his dog could have known that it would be more than a week before he came out again.

Luckily, the injuries from the attack were not incredibly serious. However, during the exam, doctors discovered that he had melanoma, which required an operation right away. So, it was 8 days until da Costa emerged from the building for a reunion with Seco, who had waited outside in the parking lot the whole time. During their separation, members of the hospital staff fed Seco and gave him water.

Many dogs do wait for their guardians, although such behavior is not universal. Do you think your dog would wait for you?

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