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Tag: illness

When you’re feeling way older than your dog

I’m still a few days away from reclaiming my dog Jinjja, being cared for by a friend while I recover from some recent surgery, but I did stop by to take him for a test walk last week.

(That’s not us in the video above. I’m not quite that slow and bent over, and Jinjja’s not quite as willing as that dachshund to move along at a snail’s pace.

The test walk convinced me I needed a few more days — given Jinjja tugs a bit on the leash — before getting back to the two walks a day routine.

Then I came across the video above, which made me think if that old guy can still walk his dog, a little wrenching of my guts shouldn’t be holding me back. I’m not sure which impressed me more — the old man’s perseverance or the dog’s patience.

Still, given Jinjja’s hosts are so gracious and he seems to be having such a good time there — enjoying a large, escape-proof yard, the companionship of two other dogs and attention from three times as many humans — I decided to stretch his visit out to a few more days and pick him up after the holidays.

Yes, dogs help keep us young, but sometimes they can remind us how old we’re getting, or feeling — especially when a walk is the last thing you feel like doing and your dog is insisting on it. The video also got me thinking about dogs and older people, and how a good match is pretty vital to their successful coexistence.

jin2When I adopted Jinjja six months ago, after he was freed from a South Korean farm where he was being raised to become meat, I was in decent health and thought I had enough energy to handle whatever challenges he might pose.

His three escapes and the subsequent recovery efforts — one on the eve of my surgery — made me question that … and more.

Should I, at almost 64, have chosen a smaller, lazier, older dog to adopt — one content to do little more than lay around the house, one for whom my tiny courtyard would be ample space?

In retrospect, yes. But I didn’t know at the time that I was going to have to deal with a kidney cancer scare and a surgery that takes six weeks to recover from.

I’m far from alone in having this kind of issue. Even though dogs age much more quickly than we do, it’s not uncommon for older folks to find the dog they’ve been caring for has become more than they can handle, or for them to adopt one who might not be a perfect fit for their circumstances.

I’m a firm believer that a dog can bring joy, meaning, comfort, companionship and numerous health benefits to the life of an older person — and that ideally every older person who wants one should have one.

But, as with any adoption, considerations of one’s circumstances, and the possibility of unforeseen new ones, need to be kept in mind.

You can find a pretty good summary of all the pros and cons when it comes to pets and seniors in this guide put together by the National Council on Aging Care.

It was a dog who led me to the home I bought a year ago — a different dog (Ace) who died before I moved. He needed a home without steps. He was not a leash-tugger, or even a leash-requirer, and he was content to always be at my side.

The condo seemed a perfect old man/old dog house. It didn’t have anything that could rightly be called a yard, but it had no steps (which I’ll admit appealed to me as well) and it had a small fenced courtyard.

Ace — while he was an extra large dog — never seemed too thrilled with yards, anyway. He would rather go on walks and meet people, or lay on the porch and wait for people to come meet him, or simply station himself at some other observation point:

At dog parks, Ace, a highly social animal, would generally remain where the people were, rather than romp around the acreage.

Jinjja is a different story — and one that’s still evolving. He’s still working on his socialization skills, and more. We attended our first obedience class, where he showed great promise, but attending those classes was cut short by my illness.

Jinjja is still easily frightened, and wary of the male of the human species. He was at my friend’s house for a month before he let her husband pet him.

Their place was an ideal spot for him. He can just go out the back door and have an entire yard to romp in. There’s no need for leashed walks, and thereby fewer opportunities for him to take off — and when he does that, getting him back is no easy task.

DSC05631I’ve concluded that’s a result of both nature and nurture — though the environment he came from could hardly be called nurturing.

It is fairly characteristic of his breed (Jindo) to wander. And contact with humans was best avoided at the dog farm in South Korea where — though he might have been someone’s pet at some point — he was mostly raised.

So for this particular old person (for whom moving into a house with a large escape proof fenced yard is out of the question), it’s a matter of more training, more trust-building, more work, more walks, more trips to the dog park, and more of the kind of perseverance that old man in the video reflects.

And all that will resume by this weekend.

Why? Because of all the rewards we’ve only briefly touched on in this article. You — whether you are young, or old, or in between — already know what they are. I’ve been reminded of them when Jinjja, who once kept his distance from me, joyfully greets me during my visits to his temporary home.

We’ve got more bonding to do, more tricks to learn, more walks to take. He’ll have to slow down a bit. I’ll have to stay upright and pick up the pace. But, as a team, I’m pretty sure we can do it.

(Click on this link for more stories about Jinjja)

PetSmart and Petco to pull China-made jerky treats off their shelves — finally

Chinesjerky

After thousands of reported illnesses and 1,000 dog deaths, PetSmart and Petco have announced they will stop selling all dog and cat treats made in China.

What took the retailers so long to reach the decision, and why it will take them seven to ten months more to purge store shelves of such items, remain questions worth asking.

So too is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has been investigating the treats for years — without determining what about them is making dogs sick — can’t tell us much more than “CAUTION,” with an exclamation point.

PetSmart said it will pull from the shelves all of the China-made treat it sells by March 2015.

Petco said it will accomplish that by the end of this year.

Both retailers have about 1,300 stores nationwide.

The two national pet retailers’ decisions came after seven years of complaints to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about jerky treats from China making pets sick, or worse.

“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially chicken jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,” said Jim Myers, Petco CEO, in a statement.

A PetSmart spokesperson, meanwhile, told USA Today it has been working toward this goal “for some time, and feel it’s the right thing to do for pets and our customers.”

Taking questionable Chinese-made treats off the shelves strikes us as a pretty simple task, as opposed to “a goal to work toward.” You just pick them up and put them in the garbage. And while “hearing customer concerns” is commendable, it shouldn’t take three or four years for them to sink in.

The move comes as sales of Chinese made jerky treats diminish, amid increasing public concerns about them.

Five years ago, 90% of the pet industry’s jerky treats were made in China, said Lisa Stark, spokeswoman for Petco. Currently, about 50% of the jerky treats sold by Petco are from China.

Since 2007, the FDA says it has received about 4,800 reports of pet illnesses, and 1,000 dog deaths, possibly related to the consumption of jerky treats. The FDA, while issuing warnings, says it has yet to establish any direct link between the pet illnesses and the China-made treats.

Most of the complaints involved chicken jerky, but others included duck, sweet potato and chicken, according to the FDA.

A dog once dragged now helps others


A dog who was dragged behind a car in Kentucky seven years ago now helps people who are dealing with an illness in their family.

Roadie, an 8-year-old beagle and a certified therapy dog, greets guests at the Hospital Hospitality House of Lexington, WKYT-TV reports. The facility provides temporary overnight accommodations to family and friends of patients in Lexington area hospitals.

“Everybody loves Roadie,” said Hospital Hospitality House Executive Director Lynn Morgan. “Roadie knows people very well and she knows how to make them feel comfortable.”

In July of 2004, the beagle was dragged on the street behind a car in Pulaski County, losing an eye and nearly her life. Dennis Wayne Fitzpatrick, of Somerset, pled guilty to cruelty to animals and was fined

After the accident, volunteers at Hospitality House put in an application to adopt her. Morgan said that initially he wasn’t sure the house was the place for a dog.

“To my surprise I was wrong, it was a very good place for a therapy dog. Roadie has been a companion and a caring counselor to our guests,” he said. “She is so much like the people who stay with us — she’s been through a very difficult medical situation and she survived it.”

Family fulfills their Labrador’s “bucket list”

hudsonWhen Hudson, a 10-year-old chocolate Labrador was diagnosed with cancer, the Piper family of Irvine, California, put together a “bucket list” of his favorite things — from eating popcorn to riding in the car with his head out the window.

Their vet had predicted the dog had only a month to live, but Hudson survived three more months — long enough for the Pipers to check off every item.

Jenny and David Piper got Hudson the day they moved into their first home. After that, they moved on to children — four girls, including a set of twins, according to a story in yesterday’s Orange County Register.

After notifying their children of Hudson’s pending demise, the family came up with a plan to make the most of the time he had left — a bucket list.

The first item on it was a popcorn movie night, Hudson got his own sleeping bag on the floor with the kids to watch “Hotel For Dogs” and eat a bowl of buttered popcorn.

Next came a pancake dinner – a bowl of cheerios and pancakes. They would check off the list as they went. He had the car ride with his head out the window, more walks around the neighborhood, and extra hugs and kisses.

On the night it became clear that the end was near, the family all said their goodbyes,  and the next morning David Piper stopped and got Hudson some doughnuts on the way to the vet’s office, where he was put down.

In addition to fulfilling all the items on the bucket list, the Piper family left a gift in his name for canine cancer research.

Daughter Maggie, 8, after hearing a story at school about Terry Fox, who attempted to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research — and decided to something similar.

She asked the school if she could sell bracelets on campus for animal cancer research.  In all, she earned $1,300. The family dropped the money off at the veterinary school at UC Davis  last week.

FDA reviewing complaints about dog treats

boneReal Ham Bone for Dogs — dog treats made in Missouri from the femurs of pigs — are under review by the Food and Drug Administration after complaints of them causing serious injury and death in dogs.

If warranted, an FDA spokesman said, the FDA will take appropriate action and notify the public, the Associated Press reported.

The product — a smoked pig femur sold as a dog treat or chew bone — is distributed nationally under the Dynamic Pet Products label of Frick’s Quality Meats in Washington, Mo.

The company said Thursday it was saddened to learn of the illnesses and deaths of customers’ pets, and that quality and safety remain priorities. The packaging contains a warning about the product not being for all dogs, and the possibility that it could splinter.”

“That is why every package contains a label that provides detailed instructions to owners on how they can help their pets best enjoy our products,” the company said in a statement. “We strongly encourage owners to supervise their pets with any treats or snacks.”

The Better Business Bureau of St. Louis said consumers have complained about the bones splintering, and pieces  obstructing dogs’ intestines. Consumers reported their dogs had become lethargic or were vomiting. One man came home to find his dog dead, bleeding from the mouth.

“Pedigree Dogs Exposed” gets first U.S. airing

“Pedigree Dogs Exposed, ” the controversial BBC documentary that shed some much needed light on purebred breeding practices and the horrors they have produced, will get its first airing in the U.S. tonight (Dec. 10).

Probably the single most important piece of dog reporting in the past decade, the documentary led to the BBC dropping its coverage of Crufts, the UK’s equivalent of the Westminster Dog Show.

The documentary looks at how many breeds have had their physical appearance so exaggerated they’re unrecognizable from a century ago, and it examines some of the breed-specific health problems that have resulted from breeders emphasizing looks over health when breeding dogs for shows.

The show, which led to some changes in Kennel Club and breeder policies and practices,  airs at 8 p.m. tonight on BBC America.

The documentary revealed that dogs suffering from genetic illness are not prevented from competing in dog shows and have gone on to win “best in breed”, despite their poor health. It says physical traits required by the Kennel Club’s breed standards in the U.K., such as short faces, wrinkling, screw-tails and dwarfism, have led to inherent health problems.

This excerpt from the program shows a prize-winning cavalier King Charles spaniel suffering from syringomyelia, a condition which occurs when a dog’s skull is too small for its brain.

The documentary looks at other problems that have resulted from mating dogs who are close relatives, all for the purposes of accentuating certain physical features deemed desirable by the dog show crowd — boxers suffering from epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems and bulldogs who are unable to mate or give birth unassisted because their heads are so big.

While picked up here and there by the U.S. media, the story of shaping purebred dogs to fit arbitrary human standards of beauty — despite the health ramifications — remains best told by the BBC documentary. By all means, watch it.

Canine flu closes kennels at Virginia shelter

The dog kennels at the animal shelter in Fairfax County, Va., will be closed for at least two weeks due to an outbreak of canine flu.

Only two cases at the shelter have been confirmed through testing, but more than two dozen dogs at the shelter are showing symptoms of the highly contagious virus, according to the Fairfax Times. There are about 60 dogs at the shelter.

“We do feel we have it contained and we’ve taken all of the steps we can to prevent it from spreading,” said Karen Diviney, animal shelter director.

A smaller kennel area is set up to house uninfected dogs, including those just coming in to the shelter. While they can’t legally refuse to accept new animals, Diviney said shelter officials are urging people not to bring dogs to the shelter if they have any other options.

At least six cases of canine influenza have been confirmed in the county, the Washington Post reported.

Three dogs have been treated at Deepwood Veterinary Clinic in Centreville, one of whom died, said Dr. Wanda Pool, chief veterinarian. “We’re very, very worried about this in the community,” Pool said. She said dog owners should be careful about taking their dog to a dog park, doggie day care or boarding facility.

Canine influenza was first identified in 2004 and has been confirmed in 30 states now. Pool said this is the first time, to her knowledge, that the virus has been confirmed in Northern Virginia. A vet clinic in Sterling has also reported one confirmed case, she said.

Like the flu virus in humans, dogs can have a range of symptoms from the virus and most do not get seriously ill. Older dogs or dogs with other health problems are more susceptible to develop pneumonia or secondary infections that can cause more serious illness or death, Pool said. Humans and other animals cannot get sick from the virus, but can help spread it if they have been in contact with a dog that is sneezing or coughing. The virus can live on surfaces or clothing for up to 48 hours, Pool said.