Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Whether you’re feeding your dog kibble, canned food, a raw diet or home-cooked meals, how you feed him can also make a difference. In his new cookbook/nutrition guide Feed Your Best Friend Better, Rick Woodford has some basic tips for setting the table at floor level that can be applied to all dogs.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New products for dogs and their humans.
Hold That Bag
Keeping It Clean
Rock Your Brew
On the Run
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Scouting out the wild world of pet products
It happened so fast. Our first visit to Denver’s Dumb Friends League was supposed to be a scouting trip, a quick spin through the facility to become familiar with their adoption process and take a peek at the pups on hand.
We didn’t expect Daisy to be there. The little blonde mutt with black ears came in the meet-and-greet room, plopped down under my legs and that was it. We had been chosen.
Though my husband, John, and I come from dog-owning families, we’d both lived dogless lives since leaving home. Even so, we realized that a couch and some old cereal bowls were not going to cut it when Daisy trotted into our apartment. All manner of necessities and incredibly cute toys and accessories beckoned, signifiers of a well-cared-for and loved animal. Suddenly, we had a shopping list.
After the adoption papers were signed, Daisy remained at the shelter to be spayed, so we had a few days. Stopping at a pet store on the way home, we were mildly overwhelmed by all of the options and price points. We wandered the aisles, then shrugged our shoulders and left with a simple food bowl and water dish. It wasn’t until Daisy’s homecoming that we started buying in earnest.
John picked out a collar and leash at the shelter’s supply shop, a matching marigold-yellow set made of hemp-cotton corduroy that’s both incredibly easy on the hands and super-strong. The color looked smashing against Daisy’s golden coat and, as a bonus, the set was made by a local company. It wasn’t cheap, but that’s what credit cards are for, right?
Following the advice of my parents and their years of Labrador experience, we bought a harness, too. Within a week, Daisy had figured out a way to slip out of it—on an “emergency” 4 am walk, no less. Back to the pet store we went, this time to get an old-school head-halter.
Once we had the basics covered, we took it to the next level: little luxuries. As tempting as it was to let the Daise cuddle with us in bed, we opted to provide her with her own sleeping arrangement. Daisy would have surely loved a deluxe, fleece-lined, canopied princess bed, but, alas, such extravagance was out of our price range—and would have looked ridiculous in our tiny apartment. We chose a far less posh item at the mega-pet-store, a bed that was really more of an oversized, paisley-print pillow. At about $10, the price was right, and the pillow fit cozily inside the crate a friend gave us. We were able to fashion a canopy bed for our little princess by stuffing the crate under a side table in the living room. Voilà: a new standard in naptime glamour.
One afternoon, the three of us took a long walk to Denver’s LoDo district, where we popped into an upscale pet boutique. Daisy busied herself with the array of smells while we gazed at the kaleidoscope of doggie toys and trinkets for sale. Everything was totally hip, slightly cheeky and ridiculously cute. And, unlike the stuff at big-box pet stores, these products had personality. Wouldn’t it be nice to get Daisy just a little something, a sassy treat to match her spunky attitude?
By this time, we’d learned that Daisy, a former stray, is a tough pup to spoil. She may enjoy a sumptuous sleeping experience, but in waking life, she’s a no-frills kind of gal. The must-have toys we bought her—a squeaky octopus, the sturdy chew sticks and bouncy playthings— went largely ignored. A purple bandanna (which we got for free) is about as far as she’ll go for fashion.
Nonetheless, we figured out ways to show her the high life, mostly through her stomach. At the pet boutique, we bought her a daisy-shaped dog cookie, complete with decorative frosting, and relaxed on the boutique’s patio, where she lapped water from a cool bowl. Sometimes, I pick up a bag of her favorite treats, which are pricey, when I snag a new bag of food. Sometimes.
There’s one item on our shopping list that we really want, but mostly for our benefit: a high-end grooming rake recommended by a trainer. Though she sang its praises, we initially ignored it. Fifty bucks for a dog brush? Yeah, right. And then Daisy blew her coat—everywhere— and we had blonde fur covering our clothes and seasoning our food. For now, I’m using a tool my folks gave us, a shedding blade made for horses. It works OK, but I still have visions of the super-efficient model. Someday, we’ll buy it. Maybe when we get a second dog.
In our initial ventures into canine accoutrements, we explored all options, from plain to over-the-top. In the end, though, practicality, price and Daisy’s personality won out, a reminder that it’s not totally up to us—with some pet products, the dog decides.
Dog's Life: Travel
Have Dog, Will Travel
If dog heaven were a place on earth, it would look a lot like the Oregon coast. All 363 miles of beach are publicly accessible and only a few are closed to dogs. Endless trails through lush forests offer a respite from the wind and salty sea. Hotels vie for the privilege of pampering you and your dog with complimentary chew toys, cozy beds and fireplaces.
Best Dog Beaches
Surfsand Resort, the Ocean Lodge and the Inn at Cannon Beach are noteworthy family-friendly places in Cannon Beach that celebrate your pet’s arrival with a welcome basket. Warm pet washes with towels are available throughout the properties for sandy dogs. Jacuzzis and fireplaces are provided for humans.
Great news for glampers: 15 yurts and four cabins in 13 Oregon State Park campgrounds along the coast opened up to pets in 2012. Visit Oregon Parks and Recreation Department online for a list of pet-friendly yurts and cabins and to make reservations.
Dog Events Worth a Trip
Travel Kit for a Smooth Visit
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Chic, Green and Giving
Save a Bottle
Adopted Dogs Only
Treads to Threads
New Leash on Life
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
From our readers
The entrants in a recent Bark contest had some incredible cleaning tips, and we want to share them with you. The reigning champion of reader cleaning solutions was vinegar, and we agree—it’s versatile, it’s green and it works. But take a look at a few other DIY tricks to kick your spring cleaning up a notch.
Throw a few feet of cheap nylon netting in the dryer with your clothes and bedding. It grabs all of the pet hair. Shake it out and reuse it.
A great way to recycle dog hair is composting— I put some in my worm box.
Add a few drops of organic essential oil (lavender, peppermint, vanilla) to a cotton ball and suck it up with the vacuum. The cotton ball will give the carpet and room a nice, soothing smell with each vacuum.
When my front-load washer gets stinky from retained moisture, I add one cup of baking soda with the next load of wash. It reduces that smell, helps brighten the wash and is more environmentally safe than the major detergent brands.
I recycle shredded newspaper and office paper by soaking it for a few days. Then I form bricks, let it dry and use it for our woodburning stove. Free heat!
I take all my old shirts and tear them into different size rags—some for windows, some for floors, some for dusting. I also save grease from the deep fryer, soak the rags and light my grill or fire.
Wear rubber gloves and run your hands over the furniture. The fur comes right up.
The best way to remove dog fur from many furniture fabrics is to wet your hands and rub them along the furniture. Continue re-wetting your hands as they dry and removing the accumulated fur. It’s a snap.
When your dog pulls the stuffing out of her toy, don’t throw it away. Put it out in the yard for nesting material for birds and small animals.
Place your silverware in a dish lined with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt. Pour hot water over and let soak for a minimum of 30 minutes. Wipe clean.
For cleaning “gunk” from the walls and mirrors of our rental, we found that diluted white vinegar works great. —Veronica Adrover, Modesto, Calif.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Operation Stress Control
Forty-eight to 72 hours after a critical event occurs in a war zone — a soldier is killed in an explosion, for example — the U.S. Army’s Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC) unit offers what it calls traumatic event management to help the affected unit cope with the loss. “We debrief and talk about what they experienced,” says Capt. Cecilia Najera, an occupational therapist. “We reinforce [the fact] that the symptoms and feelings they are having are normal reactions to something that is abnormal.”
During one such gathering, in Tikrit, Iraq, the soldiers sat in a circle around Boe, a black Labrador and one of the first army dogs to be deployed specifically to provide troops with emotional support. Some of the men and women wanted to talk about the incident. Others, trying to get a handle on their feelings, just wanted to listen. A few found it easier to talk when they were petting the dog.
“It was somber,” Najera remembers. But then, in the middle of the circle, Boe broke the gloomy atmosphere with an abrupt movement. “She tried to catch a fly,” Najera says, “and everyone laughed. She definitely offered a bit of a distraction and helped lighten the mood.”
Sgt. 1st Class Boe was arguably one of the hardest-working and most popular soldiers at the base during her deployment. In a place where both the emotional and the physical climates are harsh, Boe became de facto family for many of the soldiers. She got them talking when they were inclined to shut down, and frolicking when they needed to relax. She allowed them to express themselves emotionally and demonstrate affection (which she reciprocated) in an environment where warmth and tenderness were in exceedingly short supply.
The program was launched in 2007, and Boe and another black Lab, Budge, became the army’s first COSC dogs, helping service members deal with combat anxieties, homefront issues and sleep disorders. They were donated to the army by America’s VetDogs, a sister organization of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. The foundation has a history of working with the military, back to post–World War II days, when they provided guide dogs for vision-impaired veterans.
There is nothing new about dogs working with soldiers — they are well established and valuable in areas of detection and security. But it wasn’t until folks from the army’s COSC unit approached VetDogs about sending therapy dogs to Iraq that the nonprofit organization began training its canines for a very different purpose.
“These dogs have to have impeccable behavior,” says Wells Jones, CEO of VetDogs and the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. “We’re giving them that behavior, plus preparation for all kinds of people and circumstances.” He acknowledges that, seeking a similar emotional connection, military units have been known to adopt local dogs. But those dogs, few of whom have been inoculated, can bring disease onto a base. Most importantly, the army has a rule against it. General Order 1-A says that soldiers are forbidden to adopt, care for or even feed any domestic or wild animals in the war zone.
Trainers choose COSC dogs, whose jobs fall under the umbrella of animalassisted therapy, based on temperament. It’s critical that they do not react negatively to loud noises, and that they follow their handler’s commands despite distractions ranging from mortar rounds to a soldier bearing a tempting treat. Training includes exposure to groundrumbling noises (rifle ranges) and exotic transportation (helicopters).
With security in mind, VetDogs chose Boe and Budge in part for their color — black. “We were thinking that they’d be less visible at night,” Jones says. “But since then, our preference has changed and we’d prefer them on the lighter side because of the strong sunlight and the fur’s ability to reflect.”
Before a dog is sent overseas, army handlers spend time training at the VetDogs campus on Long Island, N.Y., and at army bases. Although one person becomes the dog’s primary handler, three others are also trained to ensure that 11th-hour staffing changes won’t affect the dog’s care. On top of that, 40 to 50 people in each unit receive one day of basic instruction in dog care — for instance, do not feed the dog MREs (the army’s infamous Meals Ready-to- Eat, which may, in some cases, be less palatable than kibble). When the dog is fully trained, he or she travels on official army orders to the war zone.
Opening Doors to Mental Health
“There’s still a mental-health stigma,” Najera says. “When you say, ‘Hi, I’m from Stress Control,’ people tend to run the other way. But I found that having a dog opened up doors. Instead of having to [make the] approach, people approached me.” She says it also gave soldiers something neutral to talk about, especially if they had pets at home. Before they knew it, they would be talking about personal aspects of their lives and even — on occasion — their feelings.
Najera found that she and Boe were always working. Not only were they available to men and women dealing with combat trauma or news of tragedy back home, but soldiers would also approach the pair at the dining facility or while they were running on the track (part of the old Iraqi Air Force base where they were staying). Najera created a program for a couple of overweight soldiers to run with Boe, and the dog even participated in a 5K on the base. The four-legged competitor still managed to boost morale, even after beating a few human racers. On Boe’s fourth birthday, the Army Dixie band played, and the dining facility staff made a cake and a piñata. “It was a party for her, but it was really for our community,” Najera says. “It just showed how much people really enjoyed having a dog.”
Boe wasn’t immune to the high-stress environment. After all, she was charged with comforting many of the 16,000 people living on a base that was active 24 hours a day. “I think the dogs experience compassion fatigue too,” Najera says. “When soldiers tell us what they’re going through, it becomes stressful for us, because we’re absorbing the stresses. I think it was the same for the dogs.” Eventually, a forced nap was scheduled into Boe’s day.
In Mosul, at Forward Operating Base Marez, Budge lived at a smaller facility but still had his work cut out for him: consoling troops at a trailer-based clinic and going for walkabouts to visit units. The base was mortared multiple time a day, and though Budge raised his ears at the sound, he didn’t panic. He even had a chance to save a life, donating blood to a military police dog who was injured along with his handler in a shooting.
Like Boe, Budge was a superstar and champion icebreaker, garnering invitations (to unit social gatherings, for instance) that a mental-health provider might never get otherwise. “We couldn’t go anywhere without someone calling his name,” recalls his handler, Staff Sgt. Syreeta Reid, an occupational therapy assistant. “They didn’t remember my name, but they always knew I was the one with Budge.” Sometimes Reid set up play dates between Budge and the soldiers: Frisbee or fetch on a field where an Iraqi soccer team once played.
In both countries, the weather is unforgiving and the physical conditions are challenging, and the dogs — just like other soldiers — are deployed with proper gear. They have booties to protect their paws from the hot ground and Doggles to protect their eyes from blowing sand. They have cooling jackets for daytime and, in Afghanistan, warm vests for night. Reid says she inspected Budge’s paws daily to make sure they weren’t cracked, and used cream to keep them hydrated. The mercury rose to 135 degrees some days, and those were indoor days for Budge.
On days with multiple soldier visits, Budge would inevitably receive too many treats. Reid says one of the hardest things was dispelling the myth that food equals love. The fact was, Budge was getting a little, well, pudgy. Reid pled with his fans to limit the treats, but eventually resorted to serving him smaller meals to control his weight.
Studies are currently underway at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, next to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, to help understand exactly how the dogs are helping soldiers. Anecdotal evidence shows that the presence of an animal helps soldiers sleep and lowers their anxiety.
But just like any other area of military medicine, it’s critical to have research to show the effectiveness of the therapy dog program, which — with training, transportation, gear and care — isn’t cheap. In the meantime, the deployments continue, even though the dogs haven’t yet been formally added to the COSC unit’s personnel roster.
Today, three dogs are serving in Afghanistan (Apollo, Timmy and Zeke). Two dogs (Butch and Zack) returned from Iraq in December and are temporarily back at VetDogs before they are redeployed to Afghanistan. After retraining, Boe and Budge were sent to Ft. Gordon’s Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Georgia. Budge died in 2010 from lymphoma, and Boe is now working at Georgia’s Ft. Benning, lending a paw to the healing of wounded soldiers. It’s hard to know if Boe is happy to be back in her home country because she takes such pleasure in working and helping people, regardless of who owns the turf. Being deployed might not be such a bad life for a dog. “These dogs are doing something they love to do,” Jones says. “They love to be with people. So it’s not the same circumstance as soldiers, who are away from their families. The dogs are with their family.”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Three companies to watch
Pet Check Technology
“Our hope is, of course, that customers will begin to request this service, so they can have peace of mind that their dog is being properly walked and/or exercised,” says Doug Simon, founder of Pet Check Technology. The Pet Check Technology software is also designed to function as a business- management tool for professional dog walkers, and includes scheduling and billing applications. Membership starts at $29.99 per month.
Jogs for Dogs
After a few years, Fahey got out of the time-intensive business of managing a small army of bonded, insured runners—mostly University of Washington students—and, last May, launched JogsForDogs.com, a matchmaking website that brings dog-loving runners together with dogs who need runs.
In the new paradigm, a dog is most likely to be paired with an avid runner and dog-lover who works in an unrelated field. “It’s about connecting people with dogs and people who love dogs,” Fahey says. “It’s more like hiring a babysitter than a nanny.” Joggers set their own prices and dog owners do their own interviewing and reference-checking. Currently, Jogs for Dogs has runners in 22 states and eight other countries, including Canada, the UK, Sweden, Italy, France, Spain, Slovenia and New Zealand.
Home Works: Best picks of domestic design
“They live in their hometown”
This eyecatching and inventive clock by Korean designer, Dongjin Byeon, does not employ numbers and hands to show time, instead, the figures of an elderly woman, her granddaughter and a fast-moving, dog represent hours, minutes and seconds respectively.
The figures move through the scenes of daily life that are arranged around the circumference to indicate hours. For example, when the grandmother sits on a bench, it is about 7:00 am/pm with the assumption that she would take a rest on a bench looking at the sunrise/sunset. According to Byeon, his clock also “suggests the daily patterns of our lives but it also implies our aspiration for a simple life."
Wellness: Healthy Living
A growing number of pet professionals are making house calls
Most of us are accustomed to taking our dogs for services, or handling routine maintenance tasks ourselves. But increasingly, daunting medical needs, complicated schedules and plain old compassion-based issues are creating a demand for a more retro approach: house calls.
Pat and Bob Engeman of Long Island, N.Y., doted on Riley, their small Shih Tzu/Maltese mix. When Riley was diagnosed with incurable transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), or bladder cancer, in 2009, they were determined to give him the best quality of life they could provide during the time he had left. However, the realities of what Riley needed on a daily basis were overwhelming.
“We had to give so many injections,” says Pat Engeman. “It was too emotional for us. We were afraid to do it wrong. He needed three a day when he first got home from the hospital. My husband was running home at lunchtime, then I would wait for him to come home after work. I thought, ‘This is crazy — someone should be able to come to the house.’”
After checking out options, Pat connected with Pet Home Health Agency, based in New York City. Owner Charlene Overcash had created the unique service when she realized that she could combine her love of pets with her long-time experience as a home-healthcare nurse. Today, her clients range from busy young professionals who can’t stay home to care for their convalescent pets to the elderly who are physically unable to tend to their pets’ medical needs. Further, Overcash provides veterinarians with a full report of each visit as well as assurance that their patients are receiving appropriate post-surgical treatment and/or rehabilitation.
Overcash herself made the hour-long drive to the Engemans’ Long Island home to demonstrate proper techniques and to give the couple an emotional boost. After a few visits, a vet technician who also lived on Long Island was entrusted with Riley’s care. Slowly, as the Engemans grew more confident about caring for him, the professionals were able to reduce the number of visits, which also saved the Engemans money. Thanks to his in-home care, Riley made it to his 10th birthday in January 2010 (he was peacefully put to sleep in April 2010).
The Engemans were touched that Overcash and Rose, Riley’s main vet tech, stopped by with cookies and flowers after Riley’s passing. “People probably scratched their heads over why we put so much money into this dog even though we knew he wouldn’t survive. Overcash and Rose just take that extra step and personalize everything. They know he’s not just a dog. He had a good extra nine months.”
Heeding the Need
As part of a traditional veterinary practice, she recognized that it was a struggle for many pet owners to come to the office. Elderly clients could not drive, parents of small children found it difficult to get everyone in the car for a trip to the vet, and people who owned multiple pets had to make multiple visits. Also, when it came to euthanasia, many people balked at bringing their beloved companion into a sterile office and sharing such a personal event with a lobby full of strangers.
“Now, when I do euthanasia, they just feel so much more comfortable because they’re home with their pet,” says Foster. “Many times their pet will be on a blanket in front of the fireplace with the whole family gathered around. They share pictures and say goodbye. Then I do the euthanasia. We talk afterward and they get to a point of feeling better about making that decision. It’s very peaceful to be allowed the dignity of saying goodbye to a pet at home.”
Foster has also noticed that some people are more comfortable talking to her in their home than in an exam room. They share stories, and sometimes the details clue her in to things that are affecting the animal.
“Seeing puppies in their new homes is a perfect example of being able to really help a client get a good start,” says Foster. “For example, people tend to over- or underestimate the size of the crate they need for their dog. Usually, it’s too big to be a good housebreaking tool or too small for an adult dog to be comfortable in for any length of time. With their dog right there, I can show them how to better size the crate. I can also see the placement of the crate and help them learn how to use it as a positive place by making it the dog’s ‘den,’ a happy and secure place to go, and not a punishment.”
She also demonstrates a variety of training techniques — among them, how to teach a puppy to give up chewing on that slipper in exchange for a more appropriate toy. “Typically, I sit right on the floor, which makes dogs more comfortable and lets puppies act like themselves,” says Foster. “The client can watch me, and I think that helps reinforce the recommendations better than just talking about them in an office.”
Healthy pets and people were also on Mary Glenn-Rhodes’ mind when she founded Mary’s House Cleaning Service in Tucson, Ariz., 20 years ago. After she survived cancer and a stroke, her doctor advised her to find a low-stress career. A neighbor suggested that she clean houses, but she didn’t take it seriously until she realized that there was a customer base who desperately needed her: those who lived with companion animals. Not only could they use help keeping up with the fur, dirt and accidents, they needed someone who loved animals, too.
Before her staff comes in with cleaning equipment, Glenn-Rhodes makes it a point to meet the pets, talk to them and give them treats. She feels it’s very important not to barge in on animals, but rather, to give them a chance to adjust to the change in routine and new people in their home. After a few visits, she says, dogs typically get excited as soon as her truck pulls up.
She has also created her own natural, pet-safe cleaning products using essential oils, which she feels are calming for both companion animals and their people. “I bring longevity to my clients’ pets because of what I use,” says Glenn- Rhodes. When a client loses a beloved pet, Glenn-Rhodes admits that she cries. She understands that pets are members of the family and is often asked to care for them when the client needs to be out of town.
Saraceno opened Wagging Tails, a food, treat and toy delivery service, more than a year ago after being laid off from her job of 30 years. She first became interested in canine diet and its role in behavior and overall health when her late Golden Retriever, Casper, was plagued with mysterious gastrointestinal (GI) ailments. Searching for ways to help him motivated her to learn more about good canine nutrition.
After they lost Casper to bloat when he was five, she and her husband got another Golden Retriever, Timber, who also developed GI issues. “We took what we learned for Casper and applied it to Timber, but it wasn’t enough,” Saraceno recalls. “We kept learning, researching, adding holistic doctors to my list of remedies, and got him on the road to good health.
“A lot of dogs have GI issues and people don’t even recognize that they have them. Some think it’s okay for their dog’s stool to look like soft-serve all the time,” says Saraceno. “I educate people, give them the info they need to make good decisions, give them choices based on their circumstances and budget. Education is the key.”
Dogs suffering from age-related issues make up the largest part of her client base. As part of her service, she takes time to find products that will help improve the dogs’ quality of life and keep them free of pain. Others like the convenience factor of home delivery for everything from flea/tick preventatives and quality food and treats to toys and other must-have canine accessories. She says customers keep coming back because she cares about what happens to their dogs after they receive their home orders.
“When you go into a bigbox store to pick up dog food, no one ever questions what you do,” says Saraceno. “Someone at the counter will ask if you found everything you were looking for, but no one asks, ‘Does your dog like this food? Is he shedding excessively? How do his stools look?’ I talk about that all day long with my clients. I don’t want to just sell them food, I want to know how their dogs are doing.”
Animal behaviorist Kay Weber, who owns Kay-9 Petiquette, was also inspired by her dogs to make a career change. The former mechanical engineer was devastated when a friend decided to euthanize her three-yearold Labrador Retriever, Chelsea, after harsh training techniques used in the world of competitive obedience caused her to be dog-aggressive. Weber contacted renowned animal behaviorist and author (and Bark columnist) Patricia McConnell, PhD, for hwelp with Chelsea, but her friend declined to follow through.
When Weber’s Lab, Baker, presented with some ADD-like behavior, she again sought McConnell’s counsel, and with her help, Baker was transformed into a well-adjusted adult dog. Impressed, Weber went back to school and earned a master’s degree in psychology with a specialization in learning theory/animal behavior.
When Weber first goes to her client’s home, she observes and evaluates both the dog and the people. Ideally, all family members are present so they can share as much information about the problem behavior(s) as possible and learn how to be consistent in making changes.
“The dog is the easy part,” says Weber. “Trying to get the people to understand what’s going on, why it’s happening and how we can make it better is the hard part. Behavior modification is often common sense, but you need someone to guide you.”
Though some are looking for a “magic-wand” fix — wave the wand and make it better — she finds that most clients are sincerely concerned, and turn to her because their pet’s problem behavior and affects family life. Another thing she wants to know is how committed the family is to the dog. “When we make a plan, I ask them, ‘Is this realistic? What’s going to work for you and your family?’” says Weber. “I want the family to be happy with the dog, and I want the dog to be happy in the home.”
Only the Finest
Nail trimming or buffing is just one of the popular services offered by Beverly Hills groomer Steve Ogden, who owns The Spa Dog. He says that people who are stressed about cutting their dog’s nails inadvertently create stress in the dog, too, making for an unpleasant experience all around. Assisted by his Chihuahua, Golly Gee, he helps the client’s dog relax in the grooming truck, then methodically trims one nail at a time, offering a treat in exchange for each successful trim.
“I’m more about the relationship with the dog and the relationship with the client,” says Ogden, “Your energy has to be centered — LA is stressful. If you’re calm and centered and focused on what you’re doing, the dog will calm down.”
Typically “Hollywood,” some dogs put on an Oscar-quality performance when their people are present, but as soon as they get into the grooming truck, they’re ready for hair and makeup, so to speak. And if they’re still acting like little divas, Golly Gee sets them straight. “She barks if they hesitate to get into the van or the bath,” says Ogden. “Every dog needs a job, and she makes my job so much more fun. Clients love her.”
His client roster reads like a page out of People magazine: Christina Aguilera, Nicole Richie, Candice Bergen and Jaclyn Smith, among others. But Ogden says you don’t have to be a celebrity to use his services. He believes groomers are the first line of defense in preventative health care. Many times, people are not aware of their dog’s hot spot or a foxtail between their pads until Ogden points it out. He says clients appreciate having help in watching out for their pet.
Mobile animal masseuse Kerran Ascoli also addresses dogs’ physical and mental quality of life. Owner of Spirit Animal Massage in Rhode Island, she often travels to southern Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut for her clients. When she began studying massage and Reiki energy healing, she practiced on her Katrina rescue, a Shepherd/Chow mix named Cocoa. After Cocoa succumbed to cancer earlier this year, Ascoli rescued another dog, a three-legged Shepherd/ Corgi mix she named Sammie. Massage and Reiki have been especially helpful in keeping Sammie in balance.
Ascoli started her mobile massage service because she finds that animals are more comfortable in their own surroundings. Instead of using a massage table, she encourages the dog to relax on the floor. If the dog prefers to stand rather than lie down, she will accommodate that.
Scooby, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever with hip dysplasia and arthritis, is one of her regular clients. Unlike those who think canine massage is frivolous, Scooby’s owner recognizes that Ascoli’s work has all the benefits of human massage.
“I see him once a week. Now he can walk better, he’s less stiff and it’s a better quality of life for him,” said Ascoli.
While most people think of a pooperscooper service as a convenience, Dirty Work owner Cara Brown of Atlanta says she and her staff have also alerted clients to their dog’s need for medical attention.
“A few years ago, we found fresh blood in a dog’s stool,” says Brown. “Blood is one of those things you don’t mess around with. The client took the dog to the vet right away. Luckily, it was just some sort of tear in the lining of the intestines. But they may not have known about it if we hadn’t come over.”
On other visits, Brown and her staff have been told that the dog has swallowed something — anything from a diamond ring to money — and asked to keep an eye out to make sure it passes. “One dog swallowed a stuffed toy and when it came out, it looked like a face on the poop,” says Brown with a chuckle.
As one who lives with three rescued mixed-breeds, Brown understands that her employees bond with her clients and their dogs. In order to facilitate that relationship, each scooper has a regular client roster. Dirty Work attends to residential and commercial properties, including assisted-living facilities where elderly owners can’t pick up after their dogs. Most clients receive weekly visits, although occasionally, young mothers whose toddlers who have developed a fascination with poop request more frequent service.
There When You Need Them
“It is about trust,” says Ogden. “People and their dogs have a very intimate relationship, and I’m right in the middle of it.”
Perhaps that trust is most needed toward the end of a beloved pet’s life, when those who don’t understand that bond often underestimate the pain involved in caring for a sick or dying pet.
The complications of modern life help us appreciate the simplicity of canine companionship. Our dogs are always there for us, whether we come home late from work or are distracted by other responsibilities. An in-home pet professional can afford us more quality time with our cherished pets and in some cases, provide that extra care and attention that our dogs so generously share with us.
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