Wildlife and Dog LIfe

Best dog beds

I See You


How many of us can’t wait for the warmer weather to take our dogs on a hike or even just a quick walk in the sunshine? As much as we try in the winter, it just doesn’t happen as often. In my area, we’re lucky to have bike/ski trails where we can stroll in the winter; a nice and quick alternative to snowshoes and a lot of clothes.

Still, come spring, we’re all glad to get out and really stretch our legs. This can be very exhilarating for the dogs and we have to remember to be on the look out for seasonal dangers like wild animals and swift water.

I get such a kick out of seeing the abundant wildlife in my area and obviously my dogs do too, however I certainly don’t want them getting too up close and personal since this could be bad for all parties involved. No matter where you live, the chance of your pets coming into contact with wildlife is pretty high, even if that only means squirrels, mice and rabbits. My neighborhood has an abundance of elk, deer, raccoons, skunk, song birds, hawks, owls, eagles, fox, coyote, wolves, bear, moose and mountain lions. As you can probably figure; mixing up with any of these could be bad for either party, whether it’s my cats, dogs or chickens. And don’t think that it only matters one way or another, I have to disagree; we have a responsibility to our pets and our wildlife equally.

So how do we keep everyone safe and separate? Good question, start with some forethought. If I’m keeping chickens in a rural area, I have to be as prepared as possible for the animals that could eat them, so their fencing and housing have to be as raid-proof as possible. I have to keep bell collars (safety release of course) on my cats because the depredation of songbirds by domestic cats alone is devastating. And my dogs, well they have to be trained to recall on command, no matter what is running by and if they can’t be trusted, then they can’t be loose, period. Chasing deer and elk can stress out the herds as well as put them and the dogs in danger from vehicle traffic. Moose, mountain lions and coyotes can easily kill a dog, whether I’m out hiking or they’re passing through our yard, so again, I have to be careful. For instance, I never leave my dogs out in the yard unattended for more than a minute or two and I don’t let my cats out at night; they’re just not equipped to deal with the predators out there. I’ve heard of several pet owners in my community who acted very irresponsibly and left their pets out to fend for themselves, with tragic results. Not only for the pet, but also for the wild animal that was only doing what comes naturally as a way to survive and then was killed because of that. So you see how everyone was harmed by one person’s inattention? And anyway, who doesn’t sleep a little better at night knowing their beloved pets are right where they belong, snuggled in a cozy pet bed…… inside?

A Close Call for a Little Dog

junotomfirestationsmLast week after loading the dogs into my car at the barn, Juno started whimpering and acting very strange. She tried to crawl onto my lap and practically yelped when I touched her belly. I quickly pulled over and carried her out of the car to check her out. The poor thing was standing all hunched up and looked so miserable, I almost cried. My first though was that she had been kicked by a horse, but although she’d been running around the barns and fields while I’d been walking my horse, I knew that she hadn’t been able to get near anyone since it was evening and the horses had all been put away for the night.

I’ll admit that the way she was standing really scared me; it was exactly like our dear Gracie had stood when she ruptured a tumor in her spleen, but Gracie had been under treatment for cancer for almost a year at the time, so this didn’t add up.

First thing I did was palpate her from head to toe to see if I found anything; she reacted pretty strongly to pressure on her abdomen and reacted slightly to pressure over her spine, around mid lumbar region. Her head, neck and chest were all good as were her legs, just the belly and back.

I did check her gums for color and capillary refill as that’s a fast way to tell if they might be bleeding internally and she looked great, but I was still scared.

So off we go to the vets (of course it’s a Saturday night), but my vet was pretty cheerful for someone who just got dragged out from his house & away from his family. He checked her over and really quickly figured out that she’d probably strained a vertebral ligament while tearing through the fields after squirrels. After a Rx for Rimadyl and Tramadol along with a week of rest, off we went; poorer but calmer.

The reason I write this is twofold. First of all, every pet owner should be able to assess their pet’s general health and well being; get a heart rate, respiratory rate and feel around for abnormalities. This is important in an emergency, but it’s also really important on a regular basis just to know your pet’s baseline or norm. If you don’t know that, you might not be able to tell when something’s wrong until it’s too late, because not everything presents obviously, like Juno’s hurt back. Some things are subtle, like new lumps, increased respiratory rate or a change in activity level or appetite.

In just the past 2 years, I’ve seen a few friends’ dogs die pretty quickly from heart disease, cancer and poisonings, all things that needed a quick diagnosis and response. Yes, some of them would have died no matter what, but I’m pretty sure most of us want our dogs as comfortable as possible.

Secondly, because of Juno’s conformation (her build), I’ve always been aware that a back issue could be a problem; dogs with long backs are prone to back injuries. Because I did a DNA test on her, I knew she wasn’t genetically pre-disposed, but just by looking at her, you can see that a problem might arise, especially in such an active and athletic little dog.

The good news is that she recovered very quickly and my husband and I have taken to only carrying her out of the car-no more jumping! Repetitive movements like jumping out of your car can really cause quite a bit of damage over the years. We’ve always had a step by the side of the bed for them, but lets face it, they probably get in and out of the car a lot more often than in and out of bed.

Happy dog days to you all!

Make Animal Welfare Go Viral

Give me love and shelter, cherish me and I will love you forever.

Give me love and shelter, cherish me and I will love you forever.

How about we make animal welfare viral?

Did you ever notice how some things, ideas or events spread like wildfire? Have you ever asked yourself why they do that? I just read an interesting article talking about the things that trigger peoples’ need to share. After all sharing is as simple as pushing a button nowadays.

The article spoke about social currency, emotions and other things that trigger the viral movement of, well, just about anything. That got me thinking about how we can make animal adoption viral, I mean, why not right? What more could you ask for? It’s a subject with emotions, and it tells millions of stories; two of the five things the author, Jonah Berger, writes about. When Berger talks about “social currency” he’s talking about the things that make people look like they’re in the know, that there’s a value in the mere act of knowing them. What could have more value than saving the lives of millions of animals every year? Saving them from the horrible situation into which we’ve placed them; by neglect, abuse and ignorance, humans have made the problem of homeless pets, why don’t we become the ones to fix that problem?

I know I’m asking a lot of questions today, but it seems appropriate, because I can’t figure out why; why we haven’t been able to stop puppy mills, why we haven’t been able to spay and neuter more pets. Why we haven’t been able to change an ignorant culture that allows people to abandon those in their care. Why every pet doesn’t have a safe, loving and warm place to sleep at night, a bowl of food and a cozy bed.

How about we make animal welfare viral? Go ahead, you can do it, just hit “share”.

A Dog Day



Does My Butt Look Big in This Bed?

Does My Butt Look Big in This Bed?

I know that this is a funny picture; I mean look at this sweet guy parking his butt in that tiny, little bed. However, what he could be showing me is that he would really like a comfortable place to settle in for a long day at the barn and that as far as he’s concerned, his choices are limited. A lot of us go about our day, some of us are lucky enough to be able to share our days with our dogs, but do we actually go far enough to provide a safe and comfortable environment for our dogs while we are doing so?

Now since this dear dog Sego is one of our regulars at the barn, I happen to know the answer to that question is “yes”. What you can’t see in this picture is that Sego has his own comfy dog bed in another corner of the barn; he’s just occupying someone else’s (for his own personal reasons). All of the dogs also have access to fresh water throughout the day. Sego’s owner also works hard to get him home “on time’ for his supper as he is somewhat demanding about schedules. This really isn’t overdoing the pet care thing; it’s really just being a caring, responsible owner and doing what’s best for your pet.

Doing what’s right can look a little different depending on the dog and it’s family, but the minimum is insuring that physical, emotional and environmental needs of your animal are met regularly and not begrudgingly.  I brush my dog’s teeth every night, some people would call that excessive, however they not only stay healthier, (as do humans with good oral hygiene), and I also haven’t had to pay for a tooth cleaning in over 14 years. That actually sounds pretty reasonable now doesn’t it?  I try to feed them as close to their normal feeding times as possible, keep water always on hand, not exercise them too long in extreme weather and so on.

None of this is rocket science, it’s not time consuming and it’s not inconvenient, it’s just responsible.

National Puppy Day

In honor of today, March 23, National Puppy Day, I thought that it was a great time to go over the basic needs of a puppy. As a new owner, your responsibilities may not be as clear to you as they should be, maybe you researched the size and type of dog that would fit in with you and your family, maybe you thought out the long term arrangements like budget and whether your home was stable enough for a dog, or maybe you were just overcome by the desire for a furry companion and you acted on impulse. Either way, you are now the proud owner of a new dog (puppy or adult) and your life just got a whole lot better, but it also just got a little more complicated as well. I hope you adopted a rescue dog or puppy, if not I hope you purchased your dog from a reputable breeder, whatever you do, please never by a dog from a store supplied by puppy mills.

So to help keep you and your new family member on the right track let’s review the basic  “Rights of a dog”

Good food- Try to be smart about the ingredients in your dogs food and if you do indeed have a puppy, make sure your food is age appropriate and that you can feed on the right schedule for your dog’s age.

Playing and socializing- Be present for your pet, in the first days and for always, they need to be a part of a pack; to feel valued and loved. To have interaction with you while playing is valuable as exercise and as socialization as well as training. If you are getting a dog to tie up in the back yard and forget about, PLEASE DO NOT GET A DOG.

Rest- make sure you puppy has time to sleep; a lot of younger children want the new dog’s attention and they have no idea that it needs to rest and have some quiet time to itself. A pet cave area or a crate with a comfy dog crate bed are great options for your dog’s “me” place.

Training and a “job”- Train your dog consistently and with gentleness and patience, you’ll be rewarded with an awesome family member. Give them a “job”; agility, playing fetch, finding lost toys, obedience training. All of these are excellent examples of showing your dog that they have value in your life and there are so many other ways to find them a job to do.

Veterinary care- A must do within the first week of ownership is a trip to the vet. Whether your dog is a rescue or a puppy from a reputable breeder, you MUST see your vet within the first week and then keep your scheduled appointments throughout the year. This is one of those planning things I mentioned earlier; be prepared for all of the costs, monetary and time wise, before you accept the responsibility of pet ownership.

And lastly; enjoy! You are now a part of the best pack ever, the family pack.


Rhylee with a friend

Spring Water Danger for Dogs


So it’s almost spring or, it already is, depending on where you live. Additionally, like those of us in the northwest, it’s spring as we know it. And while that means more fun; more walks, agility OUTSIDE (woohoo), trail rides, dog soccer etc. it also means some increase in dangerous conditions. For my area, that means melting snow making rivers much, much faster with enough ice still around them to make them even more dangerous.

Many of us are well aware of the danger of frozen water; who hasn’t seen the news stories with the daring rescues or devastating losses of life, both animal and human? Only last year, a young woman from our area lost her life when she jumped in a rushing, springtime river to rescue her dog. The dog died as well, and I know full well, that even though I’m armed with all the facts and water rescue trained from my job on the fire department, I would jump in to save my dogs too. Kind of a bad thing all around, so what can we do?

Well I would have to say that prevention is the key action here; for all the training or swimming ability one might have, our best bet is to keep our dogs from getting into danger in the first place. You need to know your area, you have to have sufficiently trained your dogs and you need to be aware of the conditions near you at all times.

While we usually know our “spot” where we walk or hike with our dogs, we can also get a little complacent, especially if it’s an after work walk or you’re in a rush. Situational awareness is something we firefighters are always trying to maintain, but everyone can benefit from it; keep aware, read up on weather alerts, water levels and just pay attention.

The training issue is another matter entirely. I could, (and will, some other time), go on and on about how a trained dog is happier, has a better life and has happier owners. However, for the purpose of this article, let me just say that at the very least, a recall command is the simplest lifesavers around, literally. One of my training trademarks is the “this way” command. Accompanied with a wave of the arm, it’s such an easy command and can teach dogs to dramatically alter their course; sometimes all they need to stay out of trouble. “This way” is not a substitute for a recall command, but instead a quick alternative. It’s also very beneficial because when you’re teaching it, it’s incorporated into a fun activity; as in “hey, lets go up this path” or “look, I’m throwing a ball for you” vs. being put back on the leash (not always super enticing).

One more, oft repeated word; know your dog CPR.  To find a class near you, ask your vet or go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AFrUiRIeVo  or any of the great site you can Google Any way you look at it, for us to stay safe and keep our pets safe, we need to take a little time to focus on safety, not just

cute dog accessories, dog treats and the latest toys. Have a happy spring day!


How Dogs Work (people too)

snowplayThere’s something funny that I’ve noticed about dogs and humans; some just float through life, others need to take charge. I’m not kidding, I mean I’m sure you know people like that but have you ever noticed those traits in your pets? I have, Rhylee my Border Collie/Heeler mix is the master of The Reigning in of the Unruly; whether it’s rowdy retrievers, furniture scratching cats or barking barn corgis (you thought I was going for the alliteration awards didn’t you)? Rhylee just can’t tolerate unruliness.

Juno, on the other hand, (the puppy) takes life a little easier, actually, a lot easier. For instance, “commands” (I’m pretty sure she thinks of them in quotes) are really just suggestions; she’ll absolutely obey them, however the time frame in which she does so might not be what the human had originally planned. She’s more of a happy-go-lucky type. Now, as the youngest of three sisters and the designated “free spirit” in terms of rule abiding , I must take a moment and apologize to my family-sorry!

As an example, when I walk with my dear friend Karly and her two Golden Retrievers, Rhylee feels the need to break up their rambunctious plays fights in his true herding dog style; he heels them. Juno will then go up to one of the recently chastised offenders and start the whole thing up again with a few playful nibbles and yaps, you see where I’m going with this right?

I was tossing a Frisbee around the other day for both of my dear pets and took a minute to hold Rhylee so Juno could catch it a few times. I have to do this because she is a lot smaller and (passive-aggressively) the submissive one. As much as Juno obviously enjoys this game, she doesn’t always manage to return the toy to me, so I end up cajoling her to “bring it here”. Well, Rhylee is waiting somewhat patiently in the car for us and he finally couldn’t take it anymore. He jumped out, ran up to Juno, grabbed the Frisbee and pulled her and the toy into the car for me.

Then he put himself in his favorite driving spot on his car pet bed and gave me the “ready to go” look.


Dogs and Cars

Dog Love Car

Dog Love Car

Have you ever noticed that there’s a universal dog call? It’s not a whistle, or even a can opening, it’s the well-known phrase; “wanna go for a ride”? Across the board, I’ve rarely seen it not work & that’s a VERY important fact if you happen to rescue loose dogs off of highways a lot, which I do.

I’ve been faced with some very skittish pups in some very dangerous places, trying to get the to come for a treat just so I can get them away from traffic. It can be scary as hell & it’s rarely as easy as I’d like it to be. However, one very early morning, on my way to teach an EMS class, I passed a huge dog running up the highway the opposite direction. Lucky day, I thought because it was a weekend & there really wasn’t another car anywhere. So I made a u-turn, drove a hundred yards past the dog & pulled over with treats in hand. This poor. huge fellow was completely panicked; you know the look, just in survival mode & ready to plow through me just so he could keep running, it just about broke my heart. He passed my car, I jumped in & pulled ahead & tried it all over again without luck. Being a firm believer in Einstein’s definition of crazy, I used my serious voice to my dogs riding along with me (to keep them in the back seat), pulled up next to the dog, opened my door & said, “wanna go for a ride”? Then “get in the car”. And you’ll never guess what happened next; yep, I was flattened by 120 lbs of scared dog, leaping across my lap & settling into the front seat. He was so tall that his head pushed up against my car’s ceiling & so scared that the whole car shook along with him, but he was safe! I got his owner’s number from his collar (thank you for being a saavy dog owner), found his worried-sick family & delivered him to them in just a few minutes. They told me that he had run off after a fox the night before & here’s the interesting part; he lived a good 8 miles in the opposite direction in which he’d been traveling. So much for all those pets you here about making their way across 5oo miles to their old home, I think they are the rare exception.

With all the great precautions a responsible dog owner can take; micro-chips, collars & up to date tags with phone numbers, they still have to be safely caught for someone to get them home. Scary huh? Another thing we see a lot in my area are people vacationing with their pets without any tags or ID, or if they do have tags, the phone number doesn’t have an area code.

So please do your best not to have your pet wander but always be prepared for the chance that they will & make it as easy as possible to get them home to their cozy pet beds & loving family.

Working Military Dogs To Be Honored

We all respect the soldiers who fight for our country & I hope that we honor their service & commitment appropriately. I also have another wish, one that is finally coming true; the historic Military Working Dogs Monument will be erected in San Antonio Texas the coming October. Currently, the monument & a host of military dogs are touring the country & you can keep up with their travels & find a city near you to see them at http://www.naturalbalanceinc.com/events_new/military_dogs.html

For generations, dogs have served in the military, providing life saving skills for our soldiers while living, working & dying alongside them. Some are lucky enough to retire & be rehabilitated into civilian life, to live out their days with loving families. Too many are injured & killed while serving our country, but now they will all be honored for their loyalty & sacrifice, for performing an important job without ever getting to have a choice in the matter.

Dogs are like that; they live the life we provide for them, without complaint, & in return, they give us their hearts & unquestioning loyalty. We should be so good as to deserve this gift & I hope that those of us who care, who try to be the person our pet believes us to be, can make the lives of all animals better.

One of my favorite authors, Robert Crais, just released a book called Suspect. It deals beautifully & painfully, with the life of an injured, traumatized military dog & her likewise injured & traumatized handler. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, not just as a great novel, but also as a great education & enlightenment into the hidden lives of dogs.

Whatever your opinions are on war & the politics that cause them, I know we can agree to honor ALL of our soldiers; sons, fathers, mothers, daughters & the working dogs who have tried to keep them alive since World War 2. I also know that tonight, when I tuck my sweet, non-working dogs into

their cozy dog beds, I’ll remind them how lucky we all are to have those brave troops who went far from home just to keep that home safe.