Monthly Archives: September 2013

Dogs of the Past – Riley

Riley sitting in a chair

Riley sitting in a chair

Before we moved to Atlanta in 1996, Andy and I had adopted a lovely chocolate lab while I volunteered at Bergen Animal shelter.  Because I was the “boss” at my job in New Jersey, she came to work with me every day.  But when we moved to Atlanta and I got a job with IBM, all of a sudden she was home alone…and she did not like it!  So we decided she needed a companion and we needed another dog!

Anyone who has been at an animal shelter knows it isn’t really a pleasant experience.  The noise level almost bursts your ear drums, and no matter how clean you keep it, there is an offensive smell that hangs in the air.  We were going through the labyrinth of cages looking for another lab of similar age to Murphy.  Murphy had the easy job – she got loving from the AC staff in the front office while we looked for her brother or sister.

Riley was in a corner cage in a dark portion of the shelter.  I walked by him and didn’t even notice him.  I had seen a nice young black lab that I thought would be good for Murphy.  Andy called me back to his cage and said, “What about him?  He seems pretty low-key.”

I looked in the cage and saw a giant lab with one of the biggest jar heads, ever!  His face looked so sad and his tail hung down between his back legs.  Andy said according to his paperwork, today is his last chance to find a home because he’s on the euthanasia list for tonight. I didn’t really think he was interested in us.  He showed no excitement.  We motioned for the attendant to take him out of the run and we went into the visitor dog room.  It was there that we noticed his tail hung like that because it was broken at the base.  The attendant took him off the leash and he ran over to where Andy and I were sitting and laid his giant head on my lap and looked up at me as if he was asking me if I was taking him home.  I was immediately smitten but he had to pass the Murphy Test.

We had the OK from the Animal Control staff to try the two dogs together in one of the exercise yards.  We took this giant chocolate dog to meet the miniature choco dog and it was like they were in a love story commercial.  They ran across the yard to each other and immediately began to play.  We knew we had a winning combination.  We named him Riley on the spot.  For some reason we had taken two cars to the pound so Murphy went home with Andy and I took Riley off to the vet to be checked out.  We stopped at McDonalds and I gave him a hamburger.  To this day, Andy is bitter because he believes that hamburger is what forged the stronger bond between Riley and I.

At the vet, she confirmed his tail had been broken but it felt healed and should not give him any issues other than not being able to wag it.  He was emaciated slightly so we would have to help him gain some weight but even at this weight he was 87 lbs.  She estimated he was about 9 months old based on his teeth and that he was probably a pure bred Labrador.  We also discovered that he already knew a variety of obedience commands like sit, down, and stay.

The night we adopted him, we had a Halloween party in our apartment.  Riley lay in the middle of the festivities like a throw rug.  He was so laid back to the party and the strangers coming in and out that people were asking if he was sick!  Nope he wasn’t sick – this is what a well-behaved dog acts like!  Of course, I couldn’t take any credit for it.

To accommodate for his broken tail, Riley would swing his hips more to cause a wagging motion of the tail.  We used to joke and ask him if he’s like some fries with that shake.  Every time I think he would open his mouth and respond to me in English.  His eyes told me he understood what I said and I truly believed he understood human language unlike any other dog I have ever had.

One night we had a dinner party.  We’ve always had boundaries for the dogs when it came to human food and eating and they were not allowed in the dining room during meals.  We have a glass top table and there is nothing worse than having a good meal to look down and see a face looking up at you through the glass so we exiled them.  After the meal was eaten and the table was cleared, some people went into the living room to continue conversations but some people stayed in the dining room including me.  Little by little, Riley inched his way into the room.  There was an empty chair at the table and I saw Riley move closer to it.  Then I saw one paw on it and then he was sitting in the chair.  He made no attempt to nibble at crumbs leftover from whomever was sitting there.  He just followed the conversation.  The man on the end would say something, Riley would look at him while he was speaking.  The woman to my right would reply and Riley would turn his full attention onto her.  As the conversation jumped around the table, Riley acted like he was following it and looked at everyone who spoke when they spoke.

tail always hanging!

Tail always hanging!

Riley was our gentle giant.  We lost him to complications from a disorder he had called Mega-esophagus causing him to have chronic pneumonia.

Update on Bailey's Cancer

Bailey had her surgery a few weeks ago to remove her mast cell tumor. She is back to her crazy self and the wound is healing nicely. This week we actually started playing ball again so she is a happy dog!
Her labs came back that she had Stage 2 Mast Cell Cancer. Our vet, Dr. Miller was pleased with the surgery and Bailey will not need to go through chemo which makes us very happy!

How Can Twitter Help Pet Parents…

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

I admit, up until a few weeks ago, I did not know how to “Tweet” and what the hashtag (#) was all about.  I knew I had a Twitter account.  I knew that people younger than me used it as a communication vehicle but I didn’t know how to use it or what value it had to me trying to get information to all the pet parents of the world.  And for those of you who don’t like pet parents, let me rephrase and say pet owners of the world.

Generally the only thing I used Twitter for to tweet out my blog posts into the webasphere.  I didn’t know who that was going to because I don’t think I had any followers but I had made the account so I was going to tweet darn it.  But my first tweets were without hashtags, or if you are old-fashioned like me, pound signs.

So let me tell you a little about the hashtag and its value on twitter and now even Facebook.  Twitter is an extremely fast-paced environment.  Perfect for the people who have a little touch of the ADD and go quickly from subject to subject.  Think of the hashtag of a mini search engine.  I almost always put a #kritterkeepers on my posts so if you were to go to Twitter and see what things did I post and did a search for #kritterkeepers, you would pull up all the Tweets.  If I post a cute dog picture, I use the hashtag #cutedog.  If I post a cute picture of Sophie I use the hashtags #cutedog, #sophiedog.

Twitter is a great way to get information out their but you need to be a little diligent about tweeting  One tweet on the subject might be missed but if you repeat the Tweet throughout the day, you can get your point across.

Then there are these gatherings of like minded people on Twitter.  I stumbled across one on pet dental health sponsored by Greenies and boy did I get some fantastic information from a Vet Dentist about tooth health.  Look for a future blog on that while I gather all my info.  I’ve got some great links to videos on tooth brushing and all sorts of info on cat and dog teeth health in general.

So, I’m trying to embrace new technologies to reach a broader audience.  Our pets are our family members and I want to share with other furkid parents what I’ve learned in my 30 + years of adult pet ownership, training, and caring for our mostly four-legged family members.

I hope this was helpful to people who are a little afraid of Twitter as I was.  I think it can be a valuable resource!

Why Does Your Pet’s Breath Stink?

Virginia available courtesy of Mostly Mutts

Virginia, a senior Chihuahua Pomeranian, available to adopt. Photo courtesy of Mostly Mutts

This is Virginia.  She is very sweet and special.  You might be able to guess based on how strange her little mouth looks.  Virginia has no teeth.  She came to Mostly Mutts a few weeks ago.  She is a senior girl which may account for some tooth loss but most likely neglect of good dental health is the reason she lost all of her teeth.  I bet her breath stank when she had bad teeth.

The most likely culprits of bad doggie breath are teeth issues.  Even just ten years ago it was not a very common thing to hear about brushing your dogs teeth.  I admit that I had the tooth brushes but my dogs were not accustomed to it so the best I got was to put dog toothpaste (never use your own — flouride will hurt your dog!) on my finger and smudge it around in their mouths.   A few years ago, I started bringing all my dogs in for an annual dental.  This requires anesthesia and the animals are down about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes depending on how much plaque and gradoo (that’s a technical term I use!) they have going on.  When we finished the dentals, my vet told me that if I did not brush or give teeth cleaning chews to the girls at least four times a week it would be ineffective.

This week I attended a Twitter Chat sponsered by Greenies (#GREENIESchat) to promote dental health in dogs.  I learned a lot of things that I did not know and was very impressed with the Vet/Dentist, Dr. Brook Niemiec from Southern California Vet Dental Specialties.  Check out his bio — He answered a lot of our questions and brought a lot great info to the table.  When I asked him to confirm what my vet said, he told the group, “Brushing teeth daily is the gold standard, but less than 1% of pet owners do this.”

So what causes the bad breath?  According to Dr. Niemiec, bacteria is the #1 cause of bad breath in pets.  This creates plaque that leads to periodontal disease.  Bad breath is a sign of infection in your pet.  Periodontal disease is an infection in the gums that can cause your pet to lose teeth, just like Virginia.

So what can we do to battle it?  Of course brushing your pet’s teeth would be the ideal thing to do.  Don’t ever force it but start gradually.  It might be some toothpaste on your finger and rubbing it around at first.  There are also a number of dental chews available including those from Greenies (I am not being paid for a review — my dogs all love Greenies!).  Something that Dr. Nimiec said on the chat also made me think twice about some “dental” chews I had bought in the past.  He said that if you can not indent the chew with your thumbnail then the chew is too hard and could do more harm than good for your pet like breaking teeth.  So, as you are looking for dental chews, do that quick test.

I know I’m looking at my dogs dental health differently now!  Thanks Dr. Niemiec and Greenies!

Is A Growl Always A Signal for Aggression

Take a look at this video.  To someone who doesn’t know Sophie and Kibbles, they may think that they are engaging in aggressive behavior.  The truth is, however, dogs communicate in a number of sounds including barks, howls, growly noises, trills and yips.  As important as the noises a dog makes is their body language and eye positions.  Notice that neither dog has their hackles up.  Hackles are the hairs along the dog’s backbone start from neck to tail.  The semi-submissive behavior of Sophie flopping on her back and using her front paws to engage Kibbles also tells me she was just vocalizing and not being aggressive.

Kibbles, on the other hand, just looks a little confused.  At first he is tentatively engaging Sophie.  He is a puppy afterall!  As the video progresses you can see him getting more emphatic with his play.  At :55 or so the playfulness between the two changes.  Can you spot the difference?  One push too much from Kibbles sends Sophie into a more defensive growl and gives Kibbles a warning that he is being too boisterous for her.

I find the vocalizations of my dogs very interesting.  Bailey, for instance, trills a lot and whoos me.  She talks back a lot!  To the other dogs, she gives a lot of warnings to stay away from her tennis balls.  Viola, my elderlab, thinks that by barking at all the other dogs, they will get off the couch and let her take their space or, by barking at us we will read her mind as to what she wants! Phoebe, my yellow lab, is a groaner and a sigher.  She lets out the most satisfied groans when we scratch at the right place.  She also howls at sirens both in real life and on the TV.

What sounds do your pups make?  Do you recognize a playful growly noise as opposed to a warning growl?

Is That Dog Depressed?

Nothing is as good as...

Nothing is as good as…


a roll in the grass!

Kibbles did not get adopted this weekend.  He went to two adoptions. When I picked him up on Sunday I sensed that he was feeling depressed and dejected.  Although Kibbles is always a favorite of the volunteers and spends more time outside of a crate then in, he was oddly subdued for the ride home.

In the training world, we are always told not to anthropomorphize our dogs.  That’s a fancy word for making them have human traits but more studies are showing that dogs have emotions and can read emotions in their humans.  In a recent article on the National Geographic website published on August 8, 2013, a new study shows that dogs yawn more in response to their owners’ yawns then they do to strangers’ yawns.  This suggests that the dogs are “emotionally connected” to their humans.

Well we didn’t need some scientific study to tell us that, right?  When I am sick or feeling down, I know my dogs sense this.  I get extra cuddles and even the high-strung Bailey knows that I can’t deal with her shenanigans.  But, do you think dogs feel emotions all on their own?

Of course they do!  As we get to know our dogs, whether they are permanent parts of the family of foster members of the family, we start to see their moods and their emotions.  How they feel guides how they react in a situation.  I knew that Kibbles was not feeling like his usual fun-loving self when I picked him up until he ran to our front door and was greeted by his foster sisters who welcomed him home.

Kibbles almost immediately perked up. He ran around smelling everyone and them smelling him. We went outside in our backyard and he chased the big girls around.  My heart swelled and I was grateful he didn’t get adopted.  I wanted more time with this baby.

My heart says the right place for Kibbles is at the Litt Palace of Puppy Love but that would make dog number five as a permanent resident.  My brain says that if I adopt him, there goes my ability to foster. Although I probably could still foster but I think my husband would divorce me.  My friend, Eileen, also a volunteer at Mostly Mutts and previous foster mom for Kibbles, thinks he belongs at our house.

So, was Kibbles sad about the adoption events or was he sad that he wasn’t with us this weekend?  I like to think it is a little of both.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

IMG_1332One of the things i do for the rescue I work with, Mostly Mutts, is take pictures of our animals up for adoption. These pictures go on our website, on Facebook, on and every other social media outlet we have.  A picture can make a potential adopter come to adoptions or make someone fill out an application for one of our dogs.

As a pet photographer I have a lot of tools I use to take a good picture including dog toys that squeek or crackle, clickers, treats and now I have a special photo app on my IPhone!  The picture of Augustine above with the perfect head cock was after I used the Pose A Pet I phone application.  I have an older Iphone so the pictures are not great, however I can use this application to make a quirky noise and use my Cannon 7D to take a good picture.

IMG_1105 The application is free and has all the sounds you see here. You can also pay $1.99 and get a lot more sounds.  I have got back my $1.99 and more from this app!

By the way, this is totally an unsolicited review — I don’t know anyone who built this application or makes money on this application!