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Tag: health

The poodle who pays for my Obama Care

lily 086

Oftentimes, when to pursue your own dreams and interests you stop working for “THE Man” — as I did six years ago — you end up, unfortunately, without “THE Salary” and without “THE Benefits.”

That — the no more health insurance part — is why I haven’t seen a doctor in six years.

That — the no more salary part — is why, in addition to being an author, freelance writer, photographer and blogger, I recently became a bartender and, even more recently, a dog walker.

lily 047And that brings us to Lily, the poodle who pays for my Obama Care.

I suppose I should be thanking our President for finally being able to get myself some health insurance. He’s the one who made it possible. But Lily, sweet Lily, made it doable.

If being paid to spend time with Lily makes me a gigolo, then call me a gigolo. True, I come calling on her twice a day, three times a week. I knock on her door, give her a hug when it opens, and then wrap her coat snugly around her, making sure her fluffy white ears don’t get caught inside.

We ride the elevator down to the first floor of the assisted living center in which she and her owner live and go outside for a 20-minute stroll — during most of which she walks daintily along the top of the curb, like a tightrope walker. She fastidiously poops in the same spot each time, in the woods on a vacant lot. She stops when I stop, goes when I go, and has never once caused the slightest tug on her retractable leash.

After the walk — and I’ve never met a dog who’s easier to walk — we go back inside. Then we sit in the lounge area and snuggle for maybe five minutes. That is my favorite part and, though it may be vain of me to think so, her’s too.

My other favorite part is seeing the reaction of residents when a dog comes into the room, the smiles that instantly appear and the hands that reach out. It’s amazing the change in atmosphere one dog’s presence can produce.

lily 094I’ve often thought it would be great to run some kind of program that not only brought dogs into facilities for the elderly, but found them homes there, and provided support and help to residents who wanted dogs of their own, but had concerns about whether they could manage it.

That would be fun, and noble, and help homeless dogs, and assist in bringing immeasurable joy to people.

But it wouldn’t pay my bills — much less provide health insurance for me.

I charge Lily $6.50 for  each session.

In  a month, that earns me enough to pay my $137.67 monthly health insurance premium, as determined by the Affordable Health Care Act, based on my income.

That income pales in comparison to what I made as a newspaper reporter, back when I worked for THE Man. I left my last newspaper job in 2008 to write a book, but also because, amid continued shrinkage and cutbacks, it had become nearly impossible to do a story justice and give it the attention it deserved. After that my dog and I traveled the country, and I tinkered with another book, while continuing to write this blog.

We ended up in North Carolina, and last year moved to the little town of Bethania.

A few months ago I started working the bar and grill at a golf course down the street from my rented house. Not to bore you with my finances, but that two-day-a-week job, coupled with my newspaper reporter pension, makes it possible to pay my rent, bills and other debts. I wasn’t bringing in enough for health insurance, though, and — after countless hours wandering around healthcare.gov — I had pretty much decided I would continue do without, pay the penalty fee, and treat any diseases or disorders that arose with chicken soup and ibuprofen.

One afternoon, at the golf course, the aunt of another employee visited and told me about her dog-walking business — business maybe not being the right word. It’s sort of more in between a business and volunteering. She helps residents of an assisted living center with chores, ranging from shopping trips to dog walking, charging a rate that does little more than pay for her gas.

lily 066She, like me, feels strongly that dogs can improve the lives of elderly people, especially those who live alone. I told her if she was ever in a pinch, and in need of a fill-in dog walker, I’d be glad to help out.

A few weeks later she called, and I began walking Miss Lily — at first temporarily, then regularly.

The insurance plan Lily has enabled me to get is not the kind that pays for everything.

It’s more, as I understand it, the type that, after I spend $3,000 or so I don’t have on doctors, will kick in and pay 60 percent or so of my qualifying medical expenses. Even with it, one good medical crisis will probably still send me into financial ruin. But at least it’s something, and I’m abiding by the law, and it might make me more likely to visit a doctor.

And even if I don’t, I’ll still be reaping some health benefits – between all the dog cuddling, which is good for the heart, and all the dog walking, which is good for the heart.

I’m sure there will be much confusion, red tape and arguing ahead when it comes to my health insurance. There always is. And with my income being of the fluctuating variety — depending on the stories I sell, the dogs I walk, the beers I serve — I don’t understand how we will determine the premium I should pay in the future. Is it  based on last year’s income? Or this year’s income, which I won’t know until the year is finished?

Just last month, two more dogs showed up at the assisted living facility.  First came a Boston terrier named Punkin. I take him for three walks a day, three days a week. Then came Gretel, a miniature schnauzer who is 13, and the fastest walker of the bunch.

lily 064That means more income, which means the amount I have to pay for my Obama Care will go up.

For the record, Republican leaders, that doesn’t sap me of any incentive. I still want to have as much money as you. I’d still like to have the kind of health insurance you have.

But at least I can take a rebellious sort of pride in the fact that I’m not working for THE Man.

No. Not me. I’m working for a kind and gentle, polite and refined, sweet and loving curbwalker. I’m working for THE Poodle.

Suspicious meatballs found in San Francisco

sfmeatballs

For the second time in less than a year, someone is scattering what are suspected to be poisoned meatballs in a San Francisco neighborhood in an apparent attempt to murder dogs.

A San Francisco animal control officer Saturday found 34 meatballs scattered around the Twin Peaks neighborhood, where a similar incident occurred last year.

The meatballs were placed along curbs and in hedges and bushes, where they’re more likely to be sniffed out by dogs and less likely to be spotted by humans.

“These were incredibly well-hidden,” Lt. Denise BonGiovanni said.

An animal control officer was sent to search the area near Crestline Drive and Parkridge Drive Saturday after a resident called Friday to report finding fragments of suspicious meatballs.

The officer found 34 pieces of raw meat containing something solid. A 35th ball of meat was turned over to the officer by a resident who picked it up before her dog could eat it, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The meatballs have been turned over to the San Francisco Police Department for testing.

“They look very similar to the ones found last year,” BonGiovanni said.

Last July, a 7-year-old dachshund died and another dog was sickened after eating meatballs the police believe were filled with strychnine.

No arrest was made in the case.

Since last week’s incident, the city’s Animal Care and Control staff have posted more than 50 warning signs in the neighborhood. Residents of the neighborhood are being advised to keep their pets inside, or keep them on a short leash when walking.

“If your dog picks up anything and starts to eat it, I wouldn’t waste time, I would take it to a vet,” BonGiovanni said. “We haven’t confirmed it’s poison but it’s not worth taking chances.”

San Francisco police are asking anyone with information that could help the investigation to call their anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444.

(Photo: Provided by San Francisco Police Department)

A wrestler’s dachshund, a pitcher’s boxer

jeffhardyA professional wrestler’s dachshund has a broken paw, and a major league pitcher is blaming his torn meniscus on his boxer– both injuries apparently the result of some overly enthusiastic play between athlete and dog.

Former WWE Champ Jeff Hardy — that, in case you couldn’t guess, is him to the left — was playing with his dachshund Sophie when she jumped off the back of the couch and landed on the floor.

Hardy and his wife suspected the dog only suffered a sprain.

But after a few days of limping, Sophie was taken to a vet and diagnosed with a cracked bone in her paw, TMZ reported.

sophieShe’s now wearing a splint.

Meanwhile, in the world of real sports, Texas Rangers pitcher Derek Holland had arthroscopic surgery Friday after a run in with his dog.

Holland told ESPN his boxer, Wrigley, bumped him while bounding up the stairs, causing his left knee to hit a step.

The impact tore cartilage in his knee, and he is expected to miss half the season.

“He was running up the stairs and clipped me,” Holland said. “I hit my knee on the step, and if it wasn’t for me grabbing the rail, I might have fallen all the way down the stairs and cracked my head open.”

Dachshund’s blindness doesn’t slow him down

Here’s a quick video update on Ace’s old neighborhood walking buddy, Frank, who went blind a couple of months ago from diabetes.

When first they met, the dachsund’s only problem was being a bit overweight. With exercise and dieting he was trimming down nicely when he was diagnosed with diabetes and, almost overnight, lost his eyesight.

That made him a little hesitant, especially when he was outside, and wary about taking that next step — but only for a few days.

Now, he he tears up the nature trail when he comes over my way for a visit. And, as you can see from this outing to a soccer field, recorded by his owner, he bounds as much as he ever did, if not more. These days, he doesn’t hesitate to go full speed ahead, even when he’s not sure what’s ahead.

Gov. McCrory shows his soft side

While he’s not viewed as particularly warm and cuddly by Democrats — at least when it comes to helping humans in need — N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory says he wants the public to adopt abandoned and mistreated dogs, and he and the first lady are opening up the governor’s mansion (or at least its yard) for an adoption event tomorrow.

McCrory is shown in this News & Observer video petting a pomeranian, seized in a recent puppy mill bust in Pender County.

Lexi will be among as many as 30 dogs — some coming from as far away as Greensboro and Charlotte to attend — who will be available for adoption at the event, which runs from 10:30 a.m.to 12:30 p.m. Saturday

While it seems odd protocol for an adoption event, anyone wishing to attend is asked to RSVP by today — by emailing eventrsvp@nc.gov.

The governor and first lady Ann McCrory are also promoting a bill to set minimum standards for breeding operations.

While the proposal isn’t too tough, relative to measures passed in other states, it sets standards ensuring that dogs have daily exercise, fresh food and water, shelter and veterinary care at breeding operations with at least 10 females.

The measure passed the House but didn’t get heard in the Senate before it recessed. The General Assembly reconvenes in May.

“I’m not going to give up on the bill,” the governor said at the press conference announcing the adoption event Wednesday. ”This dog issue is not a Democratic or Republican issue — it’s an independent issue for every one of us.”

The McCrorys have one dog, Moe, who lives at their Charlotte residence.

Human poop poses problem for Berlin dogs

biodegradable pet waste bagsThe health hazards that unscooped dog waste in public places can pose to humans has been well-established, well-documented and well-hollered-about.

So — yucky as it is – it’s only right to share some news that shows the reverse side of the equation can be true, too.

According to a report from the German newspaper Tagesspiegel, dogs in Berlin are being sickened by human feces left in some public parks frequented by drug users.

Veterinarians say they’ve seen an increase in such poisonings.

Dogs who ingest the waste show symptoms that include shaking, dehydration and difficulty walking. Tests on dogs have found heroin and other illegal drugs present in their systems.

Vets say most cases took place in parks the city’s Treptow and Kreuzberg areas, where drug users are known to gather, especially at night.

Berlin-based veterinarian Reinhold Sassnau told Tagesspiegel that the poisonings are rarely fatal. Most dogs recover if they quickly receive treatment, which includes inducing vomiting. Otherwise, prolonged treatment might be required.

Just something to keep in mind next time you (or your dog) step in a  pile of dog poop (or is it?) at the park.

When your dog tells you you have cancer

taffyFour years ago, Nancy Granato was sitting at home in Pitman, N.J., with her granddaughter’s dog on her lap.

Suddenly the shih tzu began going in circles, nudged her in the left breast, then got down on the floor and howled.

It was unusual in several ways. For one thing, Taffy never barked.

Granato, as the dog continued yapping, reached for the spot Taffy had nudged and found a lump.

She visited doctors, had some tests done, and was told she had nothing to be concerned about. To be safe though, she underwent a biopsy. It confirmed what she suspected Taffy was trying to tell her — she had breast cancer.

“I did listen to the dog, but I also listened to me,” she told the South Jersey Times.

The ability of dogs to detect cancer is well documented, if not completely understood. But it’s unusual for one who hasn’t been trained to do so to make what seems to be a diagnosis.

 Researchers believe what dogs are smellling are the chemical changes that occur when normal cells are altered by cancerous ones.

Granato found out she was in the first stage of breast cancer. Doctors removed the lump and she underwent chemotherapy. During her treatments, Taffy provided some emotional support, she said.

Granato said she has been in remission for four years. Doctors detected another lump last September, but she says she wasn’t too worried.

“I kept saying, ‘The dog didn’t bark,’ ” Granato said. “It can’t be.”

Results showed the lump was benign.

(Photo: Nancy Granato and granddaughter’s dog, Taffy; by Lori M. Nichols / South Jersey Times)

Circovirus kills at least one dog in Ohio

circovirusState Department of Agriculture officials say they’ve confirmed a case of circovirus in one of the eight dogs who became mysteriously sick or died across Ohio in recent weeks.

The disease is common in pigs but has only recently been diagnosed in dogs.

Eight dogs from the Canton area to the Cincinnati area, have fallen ill with similar symptoms over the past three weeks.

Of those, four died, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

On Friday, one of those cases was confirmed as circovirus, said Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Erica Hawkins.

Testing continues on samples from the other seven dogs, and it’s too early to know if they all contracted the same disease, she added.

Pathologists sent samples from dogs to a lab at the University of California-Davis to test them for circovirus. A one-year-old beagle with circovirus died in California in the spring, and the school’s lab has the equipment to test for the virus. A study detailing the California case was released in April in the Centers for Disease Control’s online journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases.”

Symptoms of the virus included vasculitis (a destruction of the body’s blood vessels), severe vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fluid buildup around the lungs, as well as rapid heart rate and weakness.

In August, the state Department of Agriculture issued an alert after several dog deaths were reported in Norwood, just north of Cincinnati. Four dogs became sick with similar symptoms, and three of them died. All of the dogs had spent time at the same boarding kennel. The facility shut down temporarily and replaced its flooring and other equipment. But owners of the company say that was done as a precaution and that tests of the facility’s food, water and surfaces show no signs of anything that could have triggered the illnesses.

The other four suspected cases were all in the Akron area, but there are no indications that the dogs had spent time together.

Dr. Melanie Butera, a veterinarian at Elm Ridge Animal Hospital in Canal Fulton, treated all four of the Akron-area dogs. All became very ill with similar symptoms, and all were around 3 or four years old. One of the four died.

Health officials and veterinarians said that owners who suspect their dog has the illness should get the pet to a veterinarian right away.

Butera warned dog owners not to panic. There have only been a handful of cases so far, and even if circovirus is responsible for all the cases, it’s not the first time dogs have faced a new illness.

“Viruses mutate all the time, and we see that in human viruses, and sometimes mutations allow the virus to cross into a different species,” she said.

(Photo: Chris Gatsios’ five-year-old black lab Bella, from Canal Fulton, who is recovering from a virus; by Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal)

D-O-Gs with OCD could help further understanding of the disorder in humans

dobermanWith all the research into how the medical issues of dogs often run parallel to our own, it’s no surprise that eight obsessive-compulsive Doberman pinschers are adding to our body of knowledge about that disorder.

A new study made use of MRI brain scans and found dogs and people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) have similar brain abnormalities and share certain brain characteristics.

Three years ago, researchers found the shared gene believed responsible for flank-sucking, blanket-sucking and other compulsive behavior in Dobermans.

The new study shows what’s going on in their brains is similar — at least as an MRI sees it — to what’s going on in our’s.

“We have a lot of commonality with our best friend the dog,” said study leader Niwako Ogata, an assistant professor of animal behavior at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine in Indiana.

Just as elderly dogs with the canine equivalent of Alzheimer’s are being used as models to understand the degenerative disease in people, studying dogs is providing some clues into OCD, an anxiety disorder afflicting anywhere from 2 to 8 percent of Americans.

For the study, Ogata and colleagues recruited eight Doberman pinschers with CCD (canine compulsive disorder) and a control group of eight Dobermans without CCD, according to National Geographic. The team obtained MRI scans for each group and discovered that the CCD dogs had higher total brain and gray matter volumes and lower gray matter densities in certain parts of the brain. That’s similar to the structures of people brains’ with OCD.

It’s not known why both species’ brains show these features, Ogata said, but her team plans to repeat the experiment with more dogs and more breeds.

The team chose Dobermans because of the prevalence of CCD in the breed. About  28 percent of  Dobermans in the U.S. are afflicted.

People with OCD often perform the same rituals over and over again, like washing and rewashing their hands and locking and relocking doors. In dogs, common compulsive behaviors include paw-licking and tail-chasing.

Ogata, whose study was published online in April in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, said the study provides a better idea of “”how brains develop, and when and how genes interact with [their] environment to cause some behavior problems for both humans and dogs.”

Health insurer get stinky response to advertisements mailed to family dog

sdTired of junk mail they were receiving from a health insurance company — all of it addressed to their pet — a family in Indianapolis struck back by sending along a little something from the dog.

The mailed feces was sent along with this note: “Your bulk mailer has purchased a bogus name. Our dog does not need Medicare insurance and has never written a letter nor called Anthem requesting such trash … When are these solicitations going to stop arriving? Well, let’s see if you like your trash back. What comes around, goes around!”

The family, pointing out they were tired of the insurance company’s “crap,” addressed the package to “Expert A–holes” and ended the letter by saying, “Bon appetite.”

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield told police it was the second time in two months they’ve received dog feces in the mail at their Virginia Avenue office. A similar delivery came in March.

Police have passed the complaint onto the postal inspector, according to Fox 59 in Indianapolis.

Anthem employees sealed the latest shipment in a plastic bag to hand over to inspectors, according to RTV 6.

The most recent letter had a return address, but police were unsure if it was authentic.

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