Friday, May 29, 2009

Why do Dogs Eat Grass?

I know Kelly is on a diet, but does she have to go grazing for greens in the backyard? In my house we're pushing the salads, so does Kelly think she has to eat one too?

The common thought is that dogs eat grass to settle their stomachs. According to Pet, this isn't always true. Apparently, many dogs eat grass simply because they like the taste. Hmm, I thought dogs were carnivores. And, if they like the taste of grass, why do they often throw it up? I just had to clean up after Kelly, who came inside from her backyard "snack" and tossed it up on the living room rug. So I rushed her back outside where she, yup, started munching on grass again.

I'm not sure if Kelly enjoys the taste of grass, or if she eats it to settle her stomach. I tend to think both. I've noticed that she has two different ways of eating grass. Sometimes, she munches along like a contented cow. It seems like a pleasurable activity for her. Other times, she seems frantic, pulling up the grass and devouring madly. Maybe this is when she has a stomach ache. And when she tosses her cookies, this might also help get rid of whatever was bothering her tummy to begin with.

Pet education. com states, "In any case, grass eating is basically a normal behavior, and is not of concern unless your dog does it excessively."

What I Learned from My Dog: Salads are good!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Little Baby Ducks

Everything's cuter when it's a baby. Except maybe Benjamin Button (If you caught that movie you know what I mean.)

Spring is my favorite time of year because there are so many opportunities to witness little baby animals, this new life. One of my favorite things to do is to watch the ducklings at my in-law's camp up in the mountains, on a small lake. This Memorial day weekend I patiently waited on the camp porch, and was rewarded with a visit from Mama Mallard and her brood of 11 fuzzy babies. They swam by, all in a row. Whenever one of the ducklings went astray, Mama would make a squawk and that baby would skedaddle back into line.

Mama Mallard kept alert for Kelly, too. The camp is a short hike up a hill from the waterfront, but nonetheless Mama was aware that Kelly was out and about, and always seemed to have one eye and one..uh, ear (I'm trying to picture a duck ear here!) directed toward camp activities.

Kelly, for the most part, was oblivious to the ducks. They sometimes came to dine underneath the bird feeder, and when Kelly saw them there, close to the cabin, she'd watch for a while and then let out a "woof" that sent them scattering. The babies never wandered up close to the cabin, however. Mama kept them safely in the reeds along the edge of the waterfront.

What I Learned From My Dog: Well, I was mostly watching ducks here, not my dog. But Kelly was also watching ducks some of the time, so what I learned from watching my dog watching ducks: Sometimes others are going to come under your feeder, and you might not want them there. If they aren't hurting anything, you should try to be sociable and friendly. That's what you should do.
Dogs don't always do this.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Before and After

Some people asked for before and after pictures, side by side, so here you are! What do you think?!

What I Learned from My Dog: A good haircut can make you look younger!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Part Three--AFTER

Well, here she is, all trimmed and groomed!
The groomer from TransFURmations arrived in her mobile grooming van. She made friends with Kelly right away. Kelly loves her!
When I clipped on her leash, Kelly thought she was taking a walk, so she preferred the idea of strolling the neighborhood than getting into the big van. Next time I'll take her on a nice walk before the grooming session, that way she'll have the reward of a romp and she'll be tired out before the groom.
I sat on the floor of the van while Melissa worked. Kelly tried to get away repeatedly, but she wasn't overly stressed. In the past--at a different grooming place-- she'd been stressed to the point of bursting the blood vessels in her eyes, so this was a wonderful relief!
Melissa is efficient and extremely capable. I loved watching her work the clippers. She brushed and stripped the hair for nearly an hour, I think, while piles of soft tan hair fell to the floor. Although Kelly is mostly sable and brown on top, all the undercoat is tan. Then she worked on those Clydesdale legs, with some electric clippers. I love the way Kelly's legs looked when Melissa was done! After some snips here and there, clipping the toenails, shaping the long fur on the tail, etc. Kelly was transFURmed!
After a couple of previous bad experiences with other grooming places, this experience is a total joy! Grooming Kelly had always been a problem, and now Melissa is a happy solution.
She has given me faith that there are nice people out there, who care about the job they do, who do a good job at a fair price, who want to help dogs and their owners out of a pure true love for animals.
What I Learned From My Dog: We can tolerate uncomfortable situations. And sometimes, we even come out the better for it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Part Two-The Bath

I recently wrote an article about tips for your dog to become a Canine Good Citizen. One of the requirements involves "welcoming being groomed"-- and, while the dog isn't tested on this specifically, that would probably include cooperating when bathing. Kelly still has some ways to go in this department.

The last time Kelly was groomed in TransFURmations mobile grooming, she struggled in the large, unfamiliar tub, trying to climb out repeatedly. Melissa, the groomer, gently coaxed Kelly along. She is gentle and calm with stressed dogs, which made me, and Kelly, feel a lot better. She ended up splashed and soaked but got the job done. Then, came the blow dryer. Kelly objected to the noise, nipped at the air coming out of the hose, and struggled the whole time. Again, Melissa was a calm, cool professional.

This time, I came up with an idea that I thought would help Kelly's stress level. We'd achieved relative level of comfort bathing her at home. If we filled up the tub first, while she was out of the room, the sound of the rushing water didn't frighten her. She'd improved greatly and tolerated the bath fairly well. I asked Melissa if she'd mind if we bathed Kelly ahead of time at home. She said sure. Again, her willingness to be adaptable to our needs made me feel like she was putting the dog's best interest above all else. I appreciated that!

So I filled up the tub with nice warm water, then my husband Mike led Kelly into the bathroom. She wasn't crazy about the idea, but didn't fight too much when he lifted her in. We used two cups to pour over her, and my husband took one side while I took the other. She tried to climb out numerous times, but otherwise cooperated.

After, we dried her with towels, combed her out, and let her air dry. This avoided the blow dryer issues too. She is so frisky and happy after her bath! She runs around the house and is so playful!

Tomorrow: Part Three, The Results!

What I Learned from My Dog: Sometimes we have to bear unpleasant procedures gracefully--or, as gracefully as we can. Also, cleansliness is not negotiable.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Haircut--Before

In the past, we hadn't been successful in having Kelly groomed. She was anxious and frightened by the noises, and hated being left alone in the grooming shop.
Then, enter Melissa from TransFURmations. She not only transFURmed Kelly, but also transFURmed our grooming experience!

Melissa pulled into the driveway with her fully-loaded mobile grooming van. She made friends with Kelly, earned her trust and ours, and did a fantastic job.

But first-- the before pictures. Kelly has long, messy hair but we're blessed that it is soft and silky, and rarely gets matted. Still, she looks like a forest beast! And, in the summer, that fur coat gets uncomfortably hot. I try to keep up with it on my own as best I can, but it was time for a professional. An appointment was made. Melissa agreed to let us bathe Kelly at home, which helped alleviate the stress of the unfamiliar tub and the noise of the blow dryer.

Come back tomorrow for : The Bath
What I Learned from My Dog: Sometimes we're fearful of things that others seem to handle effortlessly. When I feel anxiety about some new thing, I try to find alternate ways to deal with the situation. Like Kelly, I can learn to tolerate unfamiliar and uncomfortable encounters, especially if others around me are understanding.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Top Dog--Charlie

Meet Charlie, best friend of Sarah, from Vermont!

Charlie is a would-be supermodel with his long, long legs. But really he's a 4 1/2 year old Rotweiller-mix.

As you can see, Charlie loves the Vermont outdoors. He loves to run, hike, and jump off of docks and swim.

His favorite toy is a blue rubber bone that smells like mint, and it is one of the few toys he cannot destroy. His goal in life is to eat everything and destroy everything possible!

Sarah says, "He pretty much never gets punished because he is so cute and is the most perfect boy ever!"

What I Learned From Sarah's Dog: Looking at Charlie, I'm reminded to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Looks like Charlie does! I'm a native Vermonter myself, and love the beautiful Green Mountains. But even though I live in the city now, I can find nature's beauty in parks, on drives into the country, in window boxes, in cracks along the sidewalks, and even around the houses and buildings in my neighborhood. Thanks, Charlie!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Baby Falcons

The baby birds have hatched!
(Note: The above picture changes every time you open it. Keep checking back for more views of the falcons!)
Every year, rare Peregrine Falcons nest in a box under a busy highway bridge in my city. Ordinarily, I'd only be able to get a glimpse of these beautiful birds, recently making a comeback in the United States, swooping in and out of the nesting box. Luckily, the Department of Environmental Conservation set up a web cam, so we can all take a peek into the falcon's private lives as they prepare to welcome a new brood.

For weeks I watched as Mama Falcon perched in the nesting box. Once in a while she'd leave the nest, revealing four tiny speckled egg. Sometimes Papa Falcon appeared in the nest at her side. Then last week, tiny fuzzy cotton ball babies appeared! Although there were four eggs, it appears only two hatched. It's hard to tell, since they huddle so close together and are rarely left exposed. Mama Falcon covers them with her body most of the day. Today I happened to catch a glimpse of the babies at a rare moment when Mama had flown off for a bit. There I could clearly see the babies, and at least one tiny round little egg nestled up beside one of the fuzzy chicks. Mama had been sitting on it all this time. Maybe she was hoping that it would still some day hatch. I wanted to cry looking at that little unhatched egg.

I'm compelled to check in on these little guys on and off throughout the day, much like a proud grandma. The sad part is, I know that a time will come very soon when they'll grow up and fly away.

Last year I watched the Mama Falcon and her babies, and felt a strong connection as I prepared to watch my son graduate from high school and fly the nest, off to college. The babies had been stretching their wings and taking practice flights. They flew off on the day of my son's graduation. Here is a story I wrote about it, Message of the Falcon, published in Angels on Earth magazine.

Click here
to watch the babies grow!

What I Learned From My Dog: Kelly has never been a mommy, but she has an innate understanding of nurturing, and is always gentle with puppies and other tiny critters. She's taught me that being a good mom often involves gentle patience.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Canine Supermodel

Today I needed to get some photographs of Kelly to accompany a story I'm writing on traveling with your pet. The photo was to include myself and the dog, which is always double trouble--how to get two favorable expressions at the same time. I don't consider myself the most naturally photographic person in the world. I"m always unhappy with an out of place wisp of hair, or the way my shirt poufs, or a dorky expression.

Kelly generally enjoys being a doggy model, but gets so hot and excited that she's panting heavily and her tongue hangs out in every picture.

Here was another problem. When I clipped on Kelly's leash, she figured we were going for a walk. I appeased her with a short spin around the block, but she wanted her customary 2-mile jaunt. Then, when we hopped in the car, she figured she was going for a ride. I didn't deceive her by turning the wheel and making engine noises. Brilliantly, she knew we were still parked in the driveway. Kelly became so excited at the prospect of either taking a walk or taking a ride, that she was far from cooperative for the photograph.

But in the end, we got the picture done, a few decent options. (Look for them on the Guideposts website, 5 Things About Pets!)

What I Learned From My Dog: Things aren't always what they seem. If we get put on a leash, and walk to the car, we're not necessarily going to get a ride. In life, we'd better be adaptable.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Dirty Post

I'm a country girl, originally from Vermont. I love the country, but I want it my way--no flies or mosquitoes buzzing around my head. Farm animals, but no manure. And no weeds in the garden.

Although we live in the city, I consider our tiny patch of yard my little piece of the country. This weekend rain was predicted, but the weather held out long enough to get in some spring clean-up and gardening. A huge branch, about 10 foot long, had blown down from a tree and needed to be cut up and bundled into 4-foot sections before the city would haul it away. Luckily, my able-bodied son was home from college to help tackle the job.

Unfortunately our lumberjacking tool supply was limited, so Andy was offered some rusty garden snips more suitable for a rose bush, and a flimsy bow saw. In the end he resorted to making preliminary cuts and then stomping on the limbs and pulling with brute force. I think that was more fun for him anyway.

Kelly appreciated having us all outside together. She loves sniffing to see what lives under the garage (I'm afraid to find out!) and digging holes where she's not supposed to.

My husband Mike did the heavy work while I concentrated on planting geraniums in a pot and preparing flower beds along the side of the house. One problem we have with our city garden is the neighbor cats using our flower beds as litter boxes. It's always quite a disgusting project to clean that up every spring. Of course I wore my stylish purple garden gloves.

For the actual planting, I removed my gloves. I pushed my hands into the soil and felt the cool earth on my skin. That was it--the moment that always elevates gardening into a deeper experience for me. Me...kneeling on the ground...hands in the dirt...connected to the earth. It doesn't get any more basic. No, I don't like the mess. I'm grossed out by the fat worms that squirm past. My knees hurt. But for a moment, I'm a part of something bigger. Seeds, roots, sprouts, flowers. Miracles. And I don't want to take my hands out of the dirt.

What I Learned From My Dog: Go ahead, dig in the dirt. You might find a few bugs along the way. You might even get scolded for getting your paws messy. But, while you're doing it, there are few things more satisfying.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Puppies at 7 weeks

Puppy Update!
Remember the Dachshund-Pomeranian pups I showed you, born around Easter time? Well they're growing up! Nothing to say--the pictures speak for themselves!

Paws for Reflection: Playing with a puppy can burn a lot of calories, so why not adopt a pup today?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hey, Mom!

In my column this month I wrote about how owning a pet can be like being a mom. (I wrote it for Mother's Day, but here's to all the dads, too!) I've been thinking about how I am a "mom" to Kelly. For me, she filled a very obvious gap in my life as my kids grew up and started flying the nest. A cute little companion to feed, walk, play with and care for.

Along with the joys came the worries too. Like the time Kelly had a seizure. Most of us who've had pets have faced losing a pet, and fears of losing Kelly flashed through my mind as I held her quivering body. How would I get through the day without her? Who would weave between my feet as I walked, drop a soggy tennis ball in my lap, greet me at the door? Fortunately, everything turned out fine but the worry is always lurking there, somewhere.

There are difficult parts about being a dog mommy. The expense. The commitment. Kelly has developed separation anxiety. When I'm gone, even if someone else is home, she splays across the doorway and stares pitifully until I return. How can I ever go away on vacation? Luckily for her, the opportunity hasn't presented itself yet, but there are places I'd like to go that wouldn't be possible to bring along a dog. Even if I provided for the best care possible, would she pine away miserably without me? How could I ever let her know that I'd return?

Of course, most of the time being a dog mom is a pure joy. I feel her companionship as she lays by my feet when I'm working. There is nothing more relaxing than patting her soft, silky ears. Her silly antics tossing about a rope toy always make me laugh.

Most of all, it's about love.

Paws for Reflection: I'm giving Kelly an extra hug tonight! Thanks for being my "kid"!