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Monthly Archives: June 2019
Researchers report the first evidence in a non-human species, the domestic dog, of a relation between joint hypermobility and excitability: dogs with more joint mobility and flexibility tend to have more anxiety problems.
There may have been a time when schools only needed to be charged with teaching students reading, writing and arithmetic. But as society changes schools become responsible for instruction that either used to be provided at home, or represents a new field of study. When I was in high school we had a choice of […]
Dogs plus hard-surface flooring equals lots to do, especially during the summer months when days are long and full of activities.
The question is (borrowing shamelessly from Will Shakespeare’s Hamlet): To vacuum or not to vacuum—to ignore mini-cyclones of dog hair and tracked-in grit or haul out the big gun. Happily, there’s an easier option: a Swiffer Sweeper armed with either a heavy-duty Dry Sweeping Pad or a Wet Mopping Cloth.
Choosing the perfect dog poses challenges similar to speed-dating.
Psychologists who study how people pick their spouses have turned their attention to another important relationship: choosing a canine companion.
They recently found that, when it comes to puppy love, the heart doesn’t always know what it wants.
The researchers based their results, which could help improve the pet adoption process, on data from a working animal shelter.
Picking a Pet From Dog Shelters
“What we show in this study is that what people say they want in a dog isn’t always in line with what they choose,” says Samantha Cohen, who led the study as a PhD student in the psychological and brain sciences department at Indiana University-Bloomington. “By focusing on a subset of desired traits, rather than everything a visitor says, I believe we can make animal adoption more efficient and successful.”
It is common for individuals to struggle in the space between basic manners for a dog and understanding the underlying science and more sophisticated training concepts required of both professional trainers and sport dog enthusiasts. FDSA-PPP is trying to help with that.
Here is an e-book for you. It’s free! Initially, we designed it to be a six week long class of FDSA, complete with photos, videos, and lecture. But we decided that the information was sufficiently important that we should simply give it away to anyone who wanted it.
If you’d like to further education, take a look. You can read it online or you can download it to your computer. Your choice. Share with those who might benefit – they have nothing to lose either.
Enjoy. Beyond the Basics
Animals learn the hard way which sights, sounds, and smells are relevant to survival. New research in flies shows that the timing of these cues plays an important role in how mental associations arise, and elucidates brain pathways involved in this process.
“Why don’t you just keep him?”
Everyone who fosters dogs for a shelter or rescue group has heard some version of this, probably every single time they foster:
“That puppy is so happy with you! And he gets along with
your dogs so well! You should keep him!”
“I can’t believe the transformation! He looks so gorgeous
now, and is so well behaved! You should keep him!”
And the clincher: “That dog loves you so much! You should
Why we can’t just keep them all
Here’s the thing: We who foster know that our foster dogs look better, feel better, are happier and
healthier, and are better behaved than they were when we got them; that’s why
we foster. And we are acutely aware of how much our fosters seem to love us.
We, sometimes quite painfully, love them, too. But for most of us, if we keep our foster dogs, it means we can’t
foster any more. So the next time for the next few years that our local shelter
or rescue group calls, looking for a foster provider for another very needy but
worthy dog or litter of starving puppies, we have to say, “Sorry, I can’t.”
“But what is just one more?” our friends ask. Well, when it
comes to just one more mouth to feed, truthfully, it’s not that much. But every
dog owner should be aware that the price of feeding a dog is just the tip of
the iceberg of a dog’s total costs.
Veterinary and insurance costs add up quickly
Veterinary costs, especially for any emergencies, can
completely sink a household budget. I’m a strong believer in pet health
insurance, and it has saved me thousands – but there is the matter of the
monthly payment and an annual deductible. As an example, I’m currently paying $60.05
a month for 3-year-old Woody’s insurance ($720.60 for the year), and $147.38 a
month for 11-year-old Otto’s insurance ($1,768.56 for the year). Both have a
$250 annual deductible; I pay the first $250 of veterinary expenses each year,
and then the health insurance reimburses me for 90% of the rest of that year’s
veterinary bills. So, my cost each year, before I qualify for any
reimbursements, is $2,989.16. The cost for one more young dog’s health
insurance would be at least the cost of Woody’s: $970 before the insurance
would reimburse me a penny.
Does that sound like a fortune? Well, it is. But it’s a
monthly bill I can budget for – whereas a $6,000 bill for emergency surgery or
a $10,000 bill for cancer treatments would be quite a blow. One can gamble with
these things, but it’s just that, a gamble. And I don’t like gambling when my
financial stability and emotional health are riding on the outcome.
Don’t forget about boarding or pet sitter costs
Then there is the cost of care if and when I travel. If I
needed to board my dogs, the difference between boarding two and three is
significant. My local boarding options charge anywhere from $45 a day per dog
for a jail-like kennel and no extras, up to about $75 a day per dog for a nice
facility that takes the dogs out several times a day. So one more dog would add
$315 (for the jail) to $525 for a week of boarding.
Truthfully, I haven’t ever
boarded my dogs or used a
professional pet sitter (another option). I rely on friends and family for help
taking care of my dogs when I travel – and in return, they can count on me to
help them when they need it. Providing care for extra dogs can be
time-consuming when time is at a premium, but it’s the deal we make with each
other to ensure that our dogs are as safe and as secure as possible, with people
they know and love, when we need to travel, whether for work or family
emergencies or, every once in a blue moon, an actual vacation!
When my husband and I leave town, my senior dog Otto always
goes to stay with my sister and her husband; he loves being the big dog in her
pack of little dogs, and the plush life they enjoy. (On his first stay with
them, he staked out the queen-sized bed in their spare bedroom as his preferred
sleeping spot, even though he had access to lovely sofas and heaps of dog beds.
No other dog gets that privilege! But his “Aunt” and “Uncle” love him and allow
it, and I love them for it, even though he’s not allowed on my beds at home!)
I generally leave Woody at my office/house, and my tenant
there feeds him and lets him outside. (I actually provide food and other
supplies for his dog, so that’s a
favor my tenant owes me.) Another friend, who walks dogs with me a lot and knows
all about Woody’s training and proclivities and the trails where it’s safe to
go, will stop by and pick up Woody to take on walks with her dog; so I owe Jessie
some favors after she helps keep Woody happy when I’m gone.
It takes a village
Since I took on the ask of fostering my current foster pup
Odin and his siblings back in November, I have had to call in even more favors for
Odin’s care than for my own two dogs. An eye condition meant Odin needed eye
medication many times daily for months and months, so when I traveled, the
management and logging of all of those eyedrops fell to my friend Leonora – the
one person I knew who was comfortable with administering eye medication and
able to do it as many times as required.
Ultimately, all of our efforts failed, and Odin’s eye was
finally surgically removed, but he still
requires more consideration when I leave town than my own dogs do. Odin is still
very much in the adolescent “Fail to give me enough stimulation and I will chew
anything I please” stage, so, in the past few months when I have traveled, I
have had to call in yet more favors to keep him out of trouble. Leonora picks
him up from my office/house on her way home from work, and he plays and sleeps
with her dogs at night and on the weekend. He has shown that he can’t quite be
trusted not to chew up stuff if left at her house during the day, but he’s
perfectly happy and mostly nondestructive if he hangs out with Woody at my
office, so my friend drops him there on her way to work each morning. That’s a
LOT of favors I owe her after each trip.
Like me, Leonora loves and enjoys Odin, too. But she also has two dogs and two pet health
insurance bills each month, and her older dog needs costly medication each
month. She also pays for a pet-sitter to come to her house each day to let the
older dog (especially) have a mid-day potty break. She would love to adopt
Odin, but, like me, is concerned about the cost of adding another dog to her
I can usually easily dismiss the “You should keep him!”
comments I get from family and friends and the people I am trying to promote my
foster dogs to. I know they are well-meaning, and that, sentiment aside, most
people understand that the commitment of a pet can’t be taken on that lightly.
But a discussion I had last night with an acquaintance who is having a very
hard time with two sibling foster-failures made me decide to just put this
little tirade out there, anyway.
This woman is retired, and has two elderly dogs with complicated medical needs; both are former foster dogs who needed so much care that she ended up keeping them. Recently she fostered a mama dog and her puppies for a local rescue. The mama dog and the other puppies got adopted, but she just fell in love with the last two puppies, and they seemed to play so well together that she thought, well, they can keep each other company.
But now that they are in adolescence, they are starting to aggravate each other, and are also bothering her older dogs. She has sought out help from a professional trainer, but still feels overwhelmed. My friend is both kicking herself about making the decision to adopt them, and feeling desperate and heartbroken at the idea of re-homing one or both. She is in actual, physical pain at the idea of letting one or both of these pups go – and I totally get it. When I just think about saying goodbye to Odin – when I find the perfect home for him – I start to cry. I think back to what he looked like in November: a scabby, hairless, skeleton. How could I forget our many trips to UC Davis, trying to save his eye, and the many vets and vet students he charmed and delighted there. I am going to miss his habit of burying his head in my chest and leaning in for long, sweet hugs.
Finding a forever home that’s just right
My acquaintance and I both know that these dogs can be happy
elsewhere. And I think that we both know that they should live elsewhere. I can’t speak any more for her, but I know
that I will be supremely happy when I can find a home for Odin where he will
get more individual attention and love than he can get with me. It hasn’t
happened in the past few weeks because I am being crazy-picky about who is
going to get him. I want to make sure he ends up in a home with people who
truly have time and space and a budget for a dog, and who will be just as
touched by his cuddling and amused by his zoomies and appreciative of his
gentle friendliness toward all humans as I have been.
When that happens, and I am certain he’s in the right place,
and my heart recovers – then I can foster again, and try to help another little
starving, mangey, and/or frightened dog or puppy get healthy and find a home.
When I own just two dogs, I can afford that. But owning three dogs, in terms of
time and money, puts me just over the
line of what I can afford and take on responsibly. And I would like to keep
giving back to more dogs, if I can.
If you’ve read this far, you probably aren’t the kind of
person who will tell your friend who fosters, “You should keep him!” But if you
are the kind of person who fosters, feel free to share this with your friends,
so they can understand a bit more about what likely crosses your mind when they
People & Their Pets, a 26,000-Year Love Story
By Jacky Colliss Harvey
Who would’ve thought that our recommendation for the summer’s best read would be a well-researched, deeply crafted, wry and witty compendium on the importance of pets in our lives? The Animal’s Companion by Jacky Colliss Harvey, a Brit from rural Suffolk with a background in literature and art history and a long career in the museum world, is a cultural investigation that is erudite but accessible (I even enjoyed poring through its extensive bibliography).
With her curatorial eye and descriptive skill, Colliss Harvey successfully melds examples from a variety of fields —art, literature, history, biology —with personal reflections. It is a chatty book, easily drawing the reader in (this quality makes it an excellent audiobook choice for a summer road trip). While she doesn’t focus on any one species, there is plenty of dog in it, enough to satisfy the most canine-centric reader.
The book’s enthralling stories and tidbits about pets through the millennia are divided into nine chapters: Finding, Choosing, Fashioning, Naming, Communicating, Connecting, Caring, Losing and Imagining. A great example can be found in “Fashioning,” in which we learn about the craze for canaries, and how an otherwise dull greenish bird became yellow. While we knew that they were used by miners to detect noxious gases in coal mines, what this reader did not know was that miners in Germany also bred and trained the birds as singers.
As the author notes, “[I]n the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a good living could be made by professional trainers of canaries, or siffleurs, who were employed by the most fashionable owners to expand their bird’s repertoires with flutes and water-whistles.” Some breeders turned yellow birds orange by feeding them red peppers, but got their comeuppance when it was found that red ones couldn’t sing “worth a damn.”
She then segues neatly from canaries to dogs: “[E]verything we have done to the canary has been endured to the power of ten by the dog. … there were just fifteen or so distinct breeds of dogs at the beginning of the nineteenth century; there are some 340 as I write.” She goes on to tell the reader how, in 1689, King William III and his spouse Mary started the craze for Pugs in England. Those Pugs, however, looked nothing like today’s; they had longer snouts, longer legs and were bigger overall.
Colliss Harvey has a marvelously philosophical way of making strong humane and sociological observations: “If we want that one special animal, the difference is made by the quality of our relationship with them, the depth of our comprehension of them, and the strength of our connection to them. Fashion has absolutely nothing to do with that.”
Her gem of a book offers a lot to chew on about our reasons for having and loving pets. Animals, and yes, even our dear dogs, are not human (thankfully), and their “otherness” is part of what compels us to love them. Our species’ fondness for pets seems to be the one clear distinction we can claim as our own—indeed, a case can be made for pets making us human. We urge you to read (or listen to) The Animal’s Companion. You will come away as enthralled and entertained as we were.
Have you ever wondered what the life of ancient dogs was like—what they ate, what they did, who took care of them? A recent (and fascinating) study of Bronze Age proto-farmers and their dogs offers some answers, and another way of understanding canine dietary requirements as well. Spoiler alert: “paleo” doesn’t seem to have been the universal standard.
By the Bronze Age (roughly 4,000 to 5,000 years ago), dogs were firmly in the human camp, having made the big evolutionary leap from wolf to domesticated canine thousands of years earlier. This was also a time during which many groups of humans were shifting from being nomadic hunters and gatherers to a more settled agrarian existence. The dogs living with agro-pastoral families most likely had jobs involving livestock herding, guarding and drayage, or hauling.