For both humans and, in consequence, for those dogs close to us.
Effectively, the whole of the New Year has been a tad challenging here in Merlin, OR. For even before the snows arrived early on in January, leading to power outages and frozen pipes, the local weather service was warning of unusually severe storms. Indeed, more than once we have heard locals speaking of this looking like a one-hundred-year-storm.
So it was inevitable that there were some anxious periods. Plus the challenging weather may not be not fully behind us. For this is the current (Sunday 18:00 PST) weather warning:
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MEDFORD, OR
134 PM PST SUN JAN 15 2017
…Flood Potential Outlook for main stem river flooding, snow melt flooding, and quick rises on rivers and streams in the following counties…in California…Siskiyou…and in Oregon…Coos… Curry…Douglas…Jackson…Josephine…
A strong atmospheric river event is expected to arrive in Southern Oregon and Northern California by Wednesday. While models have trended towards a faster progression of the front, and therefore lesser rainfall amounts, this event may still produce high snow levels, periods of heavy rain, and significant melting of lower level snow-pack Wednesday and into Thursday. With the extensive snow-pack, saturated soils and high river levels, there is a potential for flooding and rapid rises along main stem rivers and small creeks and streams. Urban areas may also experience high water from blocked culverts and runoff.
Continue to monitor forecasts for any updates as this potentially hazardous situation develops.
Anyone who has a dog (or several) in their lives will know how our anxiety is so quickly picked up by our dogs. Ergo, looking after our dogs, as in keeping them relaxed, is really important.
Now read this article that was published over on the Care2 site. I am republishing here for all you good people.
Does your dog suffer from anxiety? A lot of rescued dogs do, and often we don’t know the exact cause for their nervousness. Abuse, neglect or even a single bad experience before you adopted your dog could cause mild to debilitating anxiety. These natural remedies for dog anxiety have worked wonders for my very anxious dog.
We adopted my dog, Jenna, two years ago. Jenna was three years old when we rescued her, and her story still breaks my heart. Lifeline Animal Project rescued Jenna from an animal hoarder when she was six months old. For those first six months, she lived in a crate 24/7. They didn’t even take her out to pee and poop, they just changed the newspaper or laid new paper down. Jenna lived in Lifeline’s no-kill shelter for two and a half years before she was socialized enough to be adoptable.
Even after those years of care, Jenna was still incredibly fearful when we got her home. For the first 36 hours that we had her, she didn’t pee or poop at all. She basically sat on her bed, shaking. By the end of second day we could get her to eat and use the bathroom, but it took weeks for her to finally trust us.
We’ve had Jenna for two years now, and she is a completely different dog. She is still wary of strangers and has her nervous moments, but she loves to run and play. She’s even warmed up to family and friends who visit us often. Jenna is always going to have a high base level of anxiety, but thanks to the natural remedies I’m going to get into below, she also can relax and behave like a normal dog the vast majority of the time.
Natural Remedies for Dog Anxiety
Every dog’s situation is different, so what worked for Jenna may not work for your dog. If one of these natural remedies isn’t doing it for your nervous dog, try another one! This is a laundry list of everything that’s worked and one thing that didn’t work for us but does for too many other dog owners to leave out of the list. Pick and choose natural remedies as you find out what helps with your dog’s anxiety.
1. Obedience Training
I can’t recommend a good trainer enough. Training gives your anxious dog confidence, and a good trainer can help you with commands that are especially important. I’ve been taking Jenna to training on and off the entire time that we’ve had her, and it has been a miracle for us. It took a few months for us to start seeing results, so don’t expect a quick fix from this. The long-term benefits for you and your dog are well worth it.
Getting exercise with your dog is a bonding experience, and it also helps her work off some of that nervous energy. Jenna and I run 9-15 miles a week together, when I can swing it, and she loves to run more than anything else. We had to stop running towards the end of my pregnancy, and on that first run back, she had a huge puppy grin on the whole time we were out.
Running is just one way to get your dog exercise. You can go for walks, play catch, or play training games like “touch.” Whatever you choose to do, talk to your vet first. Some breeds of dog are great runners, but others (like pugs) can overheat easily and need lower-key exercise.
3. Essential Oils
One fear that Jenna is definitely not over is thunderstorms. She shuts down during storms, which can be rough during spring and summer when it storms frequently here in Atlanta. Essential oils combined with Rescue Remedy (more on that below) have helped her out a lot. Choose a calming scent like lavender, and just put a couple of drops onto the dog’s collar. Putting it on the collar is key, because then your dog can smell the soothing oil but can’t eat it.
4. Rescue Remedy
Rescue Remedy is a blend of flower extracts, and they make blends for pets and for humans. We use the liquid for pets and feed it to her in a lump of peanut butter. (**** See my Footnote below) It calms her down considerably. Though, to be honest, I do wonder if getting her favorite treat (peanut butter) has something to do with it. You can find Rescue Remedy at natural food stores or online.
5. Focus Toys
Redirecting your dog’s attention when she’s feeling anxious can be a big help. You can try using commands that you learned in training class, or you can give your dog a focus toy. There are all varieties of these. You can go with a rawhide bone or one of those puzzle toys that dispenses treats when the dog gets it right. Jenna’s favorite toy is a Nylabone. She’s a 50 pound lab mix, so she tears through a rawhide in minutes. She’s had the same Nylabone for months, and it’s still pretty much intact.
6. Watching Your Tone
When your dog is scared, how do you react? Do you say, “It’s OK, sweetie!” in a higher-pitched voice than usual? This is a normal reaction, but it’s actually not the best one when your dog is scared. If your dog sees you as the alpha in the pack, she’s going to take her cues from you, and that kind of attention rewards your dog’s fear, reinforcing it.
Next time your dog is scared, try to react as if everything is normal. You can put a hand on her back, so she knows that you’re there, but try not to make a big deal out of the situation. Don’t say “It’s OK.” Instead, show her that everything is OK with your body language.
7. Crate Training
We were lucky that Jenna was crate trained when we adopted her. For an anxious dog, the crate can be a “safe place” they can retreat to. When there’s a thunderstorm or our neighbors decide to shoot off fireworks, Jenna often curls up in her crate. Dogs like a small, cozy space. If you’re not into crate training, I’d suggest setting up a dog bed in a quiet corner or even under an end table, so your dog has a cozy place that’s hers where she can go when she is scared.
8. The Thunder Shirt
This is the one natural remedy on this list that has not worked for us at all. Jenna is more afraid of the Thunder Shirt than she is of thunder! We are definitely outliers here, though. Every dog owner I know that has an anxious dog recommends the Thunder Shirt to me when I mention Jenna’s fear of storms. This is a great example of how different natural remedies work for some dogs and not others. The Thunder Shirt is definitely worth a shot! If it doesn’t work for you, you can pass it on to a fellow dog owner or donate it to your local shelter.
Regarding feeding dogs peanut butter, do not, repeat not, do this until you are sure that the brand of peanut butter you are considering is free of the ingredient xylitol.
I wrote of the dangers of xylitol in a post last December 8th. It is being republished in an hour’s time just to make sure the widest number of readers of this place are aware of the danger.
Anyway, this seemed like a very useful article. Plus there’s another benefit of having one’s loved dogs in a relaxed state. It helps the people around those dogs remain relaxed as well!
Chill out everyone! Both the two-legged and the four-legged ones!
Slowly getting back to normal although yesterday morning saw the water supply fail from the well. (Now restored!) Perhaps not surprising as overnight Thursday-through-Friday the outside temperature went down to 8.6 deg. F. or in ‘new money’ -13 deg. C. (In fact I’m writing this at 10am yesterday waiting for the well engineer to arrive!)
On January 4th, the Care2 site published what has to be one of the most remarkable examples of the loyalty of a dog. This is about as perfect an example of what we humans can learn from our dogs as it gets!
Loyal Dog Protects Buddy Stuck on Tracks From Speeding Train
If you’ve ever had the slightest doubt about just how loyal dogs can be – not only to people but to other dogs – a pup who’s been named Panda really proved it on Christmas Day.
Panda and his pal, now named Lucy, apparently escaped from their home in western Ukraine and somehow ended up on railroad tracks in the town of Uzhhorod. Lucy had an injury and was unable to stand or move. Panda remained right by her side, warming her with his body in the freezing cold.
A train engineer contacted a group of animal rescue volunteers including Denis Malafeyev, telling them he’d seen the dogs on the tracks for two days. Malafeyev and the others took off to try to save them.
“I saw a train approaching and felt sick,” he wrote on Facebook. “The male dog heard the sound of the approaching train, came close to the female dog and laid down next to her. Both of them pushed their heads toward the ground and let the train pass.”
A viral video Malafeyev posted shows the dogs being run over by the speeding train. It’s chilling to think that this wasn’t the first time this happened to the dogs.
The video is disturbing and difficult to watch, but amazingly, both dogs survived with just minor injuries. It may also seem disturbing that, knowing a train would be approaching, Malafeyev didn’t put down his camera and save the dogs. He wrote in his Facebook post that he and the group had tried, unsuccessfully, to move them, but Panda would bark at them and refuse to let them get close to Lucy.
“Think about it. He was keeping her warm,” Malafeyev wrote. ” I don’t know what to call this: instinct, love, friendship, loyalty? One thing I know for sure is that not all people would do the same as this dog!”
The video has been viewed more than 1.5 million times, with many commenters agreeing with Malafeyev that humans have a lot to learn from this dog.
Four days later, Malafeyev posted new videos of Panda and Lucy on Facebook. The dogs were taken to an animal shelter and have been reunited their owners, UPI reports. (There are conflicting reports that the dogs were adopted and given the names Panda and Lucy by their new owners. Either way, the two dogs are in a forever home together.)
I am going to close this post by including another YouTube video of this incredible act together with the text supporting this video.
Incredible Story of Devotion Dog! 2017
Published on Jan 4, 2017
Incredible Story of Devotion Dog! The dog two days guarded wounded friend on the rails!
On Sunday, December 25 near the village of Uzhgorod in the district of Tyyglash a touching story took place in Ukraine. Two dogs spent about two days on the tracks, one of them was injured, and the other kept the injured dog warmed and protected from the passing trains.
The story was posted on his page on facebook user Denis Malafeev. His friends noticed two dogs lying on the tracks, one of them was injured. Later, the man himself arrived on the scene.
Several attempts to remove the animal from the rails were in vain, because the dog strongly defended her friend from the people!
When the animals heard an approaching train, the healthy dog lay next to a wounded dog and together they were pressed to the ground between the rails. This moment Malafeev managed to capture on video.
The dog did it for two days in a row! Just think! He warmed it for two days, so that it did not freeze and put himself in danger every time! I do not know how to call it: the instinct, love, friendship, loyalty? It is instructive for us!
Together with his friends, they took dogs and took them to the shelter. The Post reports that they are now waiting for their owners.
P.S. Shortly after the publication in social networks there were dog owners. It was learned that the Pandas and Lucy – so call the animals – there are no serious injuries, only bruises and hematomas. I found out that shaggy live in the home side’s S. Tseglovka in Transcarpathia for several years and are committed to each other from puppyhood. Dogs run away from home when someone from the house forgot to close the door on the site. They searched all over the village. But when the owners heard the story of “Romeo and Juliet” on track – immediately rushed to pick up pets from the shelter. Now dogs are at home, and their life is not threatened.
For two days that one dog protected the other. It is beyond imagination to think how frightening a speeding train would have been for those two precious dogs. Not just once but numerous times before rescue came to them.
Such a privilege to be able to share this with you.
We woke yesterday on the first day of the New Year to a classic Winter’s scene: Snow!
Not long after we were washed and dressed I let the dogs out. Typically, while all of them were quick to return to the warmth of the house, Brandy went off on one of his ‘walkabouts’. It was probably the first time he had seen snow.
Twenty minutes later, I started walking down our driveway (just visible in the photograph above running alongside the far tree line) because I knew that Brandy had walked down to the (closed) front gate to check everything out.
I saw Brandy coming back up the driveway and called to him. He looked up, wagged his tail, and I then crouched down holding my arms apart. Brandy started a wonderful, bouncy run that continued until he came right up to me and he then buried his wonderful, furry head between my thighs.
We walked together back to the house and went inside. As we walked together I was aware of a feeling of joyous happiness, a magic that was flowing from the way that Brandy chose to relate to me.
It really did make my heart sing and as I write these words some three hours later I hope you can pick up the gift of goodness that dogs, and so many other animals, offer us humans.
On his way to a call Dec. 17, Deputy Brian Bowling came across a dog stumbling down the middle of an Arizona road.
The pit bull mix named Ginger had been shot in the head by a neighbor who said he felt threatened after the dog dug a hole under her backyard’s fence and wandered into his yard.
Ginger was alive, but not for long.
“She was bleeding profusely from her head and neck,” Bowling told ABC15. In addition to being a deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Bowling also happens to be a trained paramedic and a veteran who served in Afghanistan. He knew he had to act quickly.
“I had a little flashback, because we had seen military working dogs over there who were blown up by IEDs and shot, and that’s what went through my head,” he told ABC15. “I thought I had to do anything to save its life.”
When he approached Ginger to move her out of traffic, Bowling wasn’t sure how the injured dog would react. “But instead of running away from me or trying to bite me, she ran right up to me and started wagging her tail,” he told FOX 10. She then tried to climb up into the driver’s seat of his patrol car.
Bowling applied combat gauze to her wound, helping to stop the bleeding, and rushed her to a local emergency animal hospital.
His quick actions saved Ginger’s life. She was also fortunate that the bullet bounced off her skull instead of penetrating it.
Foster Mom Couldn’t Afford the Surgery
But Ginger’s luck seemed to be running out. When her foster mom, Hailey Miller, was told Ginger still needed surgery that would cost thousands of dollars, she made the difficult decision to have the dog euthanized. “If I had [the money], I wouldn’t even hesitate,” she told ABC 15.
Just as Bowling had saved Ginger from dying in the middle of the road, he decided he would save her from being put down.
“It just didn’t seem right for a dog that survived so much to die because the owner didn’t have the money to pay for it,” he told ABC15. He paid for her surgery himself, putting it on his credit card.
“If this man has this kind of empathy and love for a dog, imagine what he has for people and the rest of the world,” she told ABC 15. “There is such a lesson that can be learned from him.”
Ginger is recovering, Miller wrote on Facebook. She’s now able to walk and eat, and is “so sweet as usual.”
To reimburse Bowling, Miller has launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised over $6,000.
“It is my Christmas wish that with the help of all animal lovers around the world, I can pay this deputy back,” Miller wrote. “Any remaining funds will go toward law enforcement charities, animal rescues and future rescue dogs that are always coming through my rotating door. Of course the officer will be involved in choosing these charities!”
One week ago it was Christmas Day and in the blink of an eyelid it is now New Year’s Day.
Here we are on the first day of the year 2017.
Where is the year going to go? As in where is humanity heading over the next twelve months? Who knows and, frankly, guessing isn’t going to offer clear answers. As that silly saying goes: “I can predict anything except those things involving the future!”
But what is certain is that the need to care for and love our dogs continues day after day. My introduction to an essay recently published over on the Care2 site.
5 Simple New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Your Dog’s Life
When we think of New Year’s resolutions, we often think of changes in our lives we’ve been trying to make for years. Often they are massive changes. But, in reality, sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest difference over time. The same can be said for changes we make in our pet’s lives. These five resolutions are simple and will be enjoyed by you just as much as Buster. And you will be improving both of your lives in the process.
1. Take a Sonic Inventory
Those of us who love our pets often assume that our environment is the best for our pets. However, sometimes it requires a different way of thinking. What works for us doesn’t always work best for our pets. Taking a sonic inventory of your environment is a good way to check for sounds in your house that may be causing stress to your pets. Sound is like air. We rarely notice these two common elements unless the air suddenly becomes polluted or the sound becomes chaotic.
The sonic inventory is one way of becoming aware of the noise in your pet’s environment. Simply sit on your sofa with pen and paper in hand. Jot down all of the sounds you hear and rate them from one to 10. Observe your pet’s response to these sounds. Ask yourself how you can make your home a calmer, more peaceful place, for yourself and for your pets. Often, just by listening, we become more sonically aware, an important first step. Small changes made in your sound environment can often make a big difference in your pet’s behavior.
2. Enjoy a Silent Meditation Hike
Have you ever walked with your dog in total silence? It’s very interesting trying to observe the world from their point of view. Allow Buster to stop and sniff as much as he wants. Taking in the scents gives him all sorts of information and provides him with enrichment. Take a break with Buster. Just sit still without any verbal communication and enjoy all the sights and smells. You’ll be amazed how bonding time in nature is with your furry friend when you aren’t speaking any words.
3. Teach Your Dog a New Trick
No matter how young or old your dog, she will love learning new tricks. Learning new things provides them with much needed mental stimulation. Use a clicker and positive reinforcement training, and it will be just as fun for you as your pup.
4. Teach Him to Tug
Tug is great exercise for dogs and is often a great stress reliever. Pat Miller, training editor of The Whole Dog Journal, wrote about the benefits of playing tug with your dog (when they follow the rules). A good game of tug provides:
a legal outlet for roughhousing
builds healthy relationships
offers incredibly useful reinforcement potential
redirects inappropriate use of teeth
creates a useful distraction
Just make sure that you teach a release word and randomly have him release the tug toy throughout your playtime together.
5. Give Her a Massage
Dogs reduce our stress. Canine massage is a way of giving back to them so that we can reduce theirs. Veterinarian Narda Robinson, Director at Colorado State University’s Center for Comparative and Integrative Pain Medicine, teaches classes on canine massage. She believes that administered with science knowledge, canine massage can help dogs recover from injuries, illness and stress.
Do you have new year’s resolutions for your pets? Thanks for sharing them in a comment below.
Please, all of you, have a very safe, peaceful and loving New Year.
Thank you for your companionship these last twelve months, and beyond.
We’re about to turn over a new leaf on a new year — something I think we’re all pretty excited about — and it’s a good time to sit back, take stock, and think about what we want to do for ourselves, and the world, in 2017.
New year’s resolutions don’t have to be big and fancy, and sometimes they work best when they’re small and manageable, so I rounded up seven totally free ways you can help animals next year, from something you can do weekly (like writing letters) to bigger projects (like fostering animals).
1) Keep an eagle eye on upcoming animal-related legislation.
Chances are that there’s some animal-related regulation coming your way in 2017 on the local, state and even federal level. This includes laws and ordinances as well as rules, regulations and executive orders. You can make a big difference by weighing in on these issues — sometimes, surprisingly few members of the public comment!
You can take advantage of resources for animal welfare groups and sites like Care2 to keep track of big upcoming government actions. You may want to call or write to support legislation, to ask that it be more robust, or to oppose it, depending on the contents. For legislation, you need to contact your elected official to explain how you feel and provide a concrete action to take, like “Please cosponsor this bill” or “please vote against this bill.” Rules and regulations are opened to public comment by the agencies making them, allowing you to speak at public meetings or submit written comments.
The Federal Register is a great place to search for upcoming regulations — it’s a little bit intimidating at first, but don’t let that put you off!
2) Don’t be sheepish — speak up about nonlethal solutions to predators and pests.
No matter where you live, there’s probably a battle brewing over feral cats, mountain lions, raccoons, coyotes, skunks, alligators, or someone else from the non-human world who’s getting squeezed by human incursion into its habitat. Historically, many areas have favored a lethal response to animals deemed “pests.” You can change that — and you already are, across the country. When you see animals on the agenda, speak up to request investigation into a nonlethal solution to a problem.
For example, maybe a feral cat colony is causing controversy in the community. You can talk about how responsible colony management should control numbers and limit annoying smells. You could also discuss how research shows that TNR can be more effective at long-term colony management than just trapping and removing cats — in Florida, they found that doing this just allowed other predators to move in, creating an even bigger headache!
Come backed with research and evidence, rather than emotion. You can look to advocacy groups for their data, but also explore scientific papers, and see how other municipalities are dealing with the same problem, because they may have tips to share.
3) Lend a paw at a local animal welfare organizations.
Animal welfare groups can always use volunteer help. At the shelter, they don’t just need a hand with cuddling cats, walking dogs, and handling other species. They need all kinds of help, from more boring stuff like cleaning and filing to web design, social media management, legal counseling, accounting, event planning, and much more. Even something as simple as taking your camera (or your photography class) to the shelter once a week to photograph everyone who’s looking for a home can make a huge difference. It turns out that great shelter photos save lives!
Advocacy groups that don’t run shelters or don’t have one in your area also need help. Lots of mundane office stuff is time consuming, and volunteers can make it go more smoothly, whether you’re stuffing envelopes or answering phones. If you have special training or skills, offer those too, especially if you’re willing to get into a long-term relationship with the group. Pro-bono legal services, for example, are incredibly valuable. Your graphic design skills could help them relaunch an impressive, gorgeous website. You get the idea!
4) Don’t duck the issues — teach youth about animal welfare issues.
Many kids love animals, and the best time to hit people with humane messages is when they’re young. Some organizations actually offer humane educator training to help people learn about how to communicate with children about animal welfare issues. Humane educators can lead classes and mentor kids in the community, whether they’re taking people on bird walks and teaching them about ecology or working with kids who are learning to ride horses to teach them how to handle their mounts respectfully and kindly.
If you already are an educator, consider working humane topics into your curriculum. If you’re not, look into what might be required to teach classes at a community center, mentor students in programs like 4-H and FFA, lead educational sessions at a local museum (another great volunteer opportunity!), or come into classrooms with presentations. You may need some training and a background check to work with youth, but once you’re squared away, you can establish lasting relationships with teachers and schools to introduce humane coursework to the classroom and beyond.
5) You’ve goat mail — or at least, someone will after you write a letter on behalf of animals!
Once a week — or every two weeks, or once a month — resolve to sit down and write a letter. It doesn’t have to be an epic, and you can establish a template, but pick a specific person to target, and go to town. Maybe you want to write a letter-to-the-editor once a month about an animal issue in your community that you’re concerned about. Perhaps you want to write a letter to a corporation to ask them to stop, or start, a practice related to animals — like dropping animal testing, or introducing tougher humane standards to the supply chain.
Keep your letter concise, polite and actionable. Explain why you’re writing, the basis for your concern, the solution you’re recommending and why. You can appeal to issues like cost efficiency, making your town more attractive for visitors, compassion for animals (that’s why we’re here, after all!), falling in line with industry-wide practices, setting an example for others, or any number of other things. Present a clear case for what you’re arguing so that the person reading your letter is moved to act, and has something to bring to other people while trying to convince them to get involved.
6) Be a mother hen — foster somebody in need.
If you can’t adopt more animals or don’t have room for a full-time friend in your life, consider fostering. Fostering saves lives, getting animals who can’t handle shelter stress or who need a little extra care to a safe place where they can unwind and grow into themselves. Some shelters have foster programs, and many animal welfare groups do — some run almost entirely on fosters, in fact!
Generally, participants in a foster program are provided with food, medication and veterinary expenses to keep things low-key for you. If you have a spare room, fostering can be a great fit for your life, although watch out for foster fail! (When that kitten you swore you were just fostering is still lying on the living room rug ten years later, you are definitely a victim of foster fail.)
When fostering, be honest about what you can and cannot take on: For example, if you have a barn, you might be able to handle horses and sheep, but not notoriously mischievous and curious goats. You might not be able to take a kitten who needs constant feeding, or a dog that has aggression issues.
That said, if you can stretch your comfort zone, do. Some animals need a little extra care because they’ve had a hard life. That makes them vulnerable to euthanasia, and a foster can make all the difference. Things like giving animals fluids or medications, managing diapers, or handling other vet stuff might sound scary, but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of it.
7) Don’t have a cow — on your plate or anywhere else.
We saved the easiest for last, because chances are that you’re already well on your way with this one. When it comes to what you eat, consider cutting animal products — or at least meat — out of your life. You’ll save a ton of suffering, and also, a ton of money, if you’re trying to cut back in 2017.
If you can’t cut animal products out entirely, consider moderating: Meatless Mondays are popular, for example! Something else that really works for me is a soup exchange — a group of us make huge batches of vegan soup and share them out once a month, so there’s always a go-to vegan meal hanging out in my fridge or freezer when I need it!
While you’re at it, think about what you wear and use, too. Leather is an obvious source of animal suffering, but some people also like to avoid fibers like wool and cashmere (cashmere also comes with a big environmental price tag). You’d also be surprised by where animal products sneak in, from bodycare products to that goop you waterproof your shoes with. (No really. Go look.)
And, of course, cutting animal testing out of your life is valuable too. Growing numbers of cosmetics are produced without the use of animal testing, though it’s always a good idea to independently verify to see if a company is skirting labeling conventions. For example, some companies say “made without animal testing” because they don’t test ingredients on animals, but third party contractors do. Ugh!
If you take medication, you’re caught in the animal testing trap — but it’s worth writing the manufacturer, as well as the FDA, which governs drug testing, to push for alternatives to animal testing so that you have cruelty free options for your health care needs.
You can also make your preference for cruelty free medical supplies clear to your health care providers as well, as they may be able to recommend alternatives if they’re aware that this is a concern for you. (For example, some sutures are made from animal products, which is weird and creepy, and pig valves are used in some valve replacement surgeries. Gross, right?)
I have lost count of the times in the last year that I have said the following:
Thank goodness that when we were younger we really didn’t understand what it was to be old!
Now being old is to a great extent as much as a thing of the mind as it is of the body. As the saying goes: “One is only as old as you feel!” (Or as many men know it: One is only as old as the woman you feel.)
Moving swiftly on!
Dogs offer us many lessons including what it is to become old, then old and infirm, and then pass away. Which is why so many owners of their beloved dogs spend as much time and care on keeping their elderly dogs as fit as possible as they do on themselves; probably in many cases spending more care and attention on their dogs than on themselves.
Those of us who love and have dogs know that senior years always approach too fast. Sanchez, my 13 1/2 year old yellow Lab, has had his health challenges this year, but now that he’s gained back his strength and has recovered from E. coli, he’s acting younger than he has in years. I’ve noticed this not only in his energy level, but also in his cognitive abilities and in his engagement with dogs and people around him. I cherish his golden years and am always looking for ways to keep his mind active and alert, and keep him connected with life.
1. Adopt a second, younger dog.
Admittedly, I’ve been a single dog person my entire life… up until five years ago. When it felt like I was agonizing on the decision to expand my canine household, my vet said to me, “Bringing a younger dog into your household will help keep Sanchez younger as he ages.” Sanchez was only seven at the time, and that perspective had never occurred to me. It’s shown itself to be true.
2. Give daily spoonfuls of coconut oil.
I’ve written about the benefits of coconut oil for pets, everything from fur conditioner to paw protection. But, I hadn’t realized that coconut oil helps with canine cognition until I read this Cambridge study. I’ve been giving both Sanchez and Gina a tablespoon of coconut oil nightly for a couple of months. Not only do they love the taste, but I have definitely noticed an improvement in Sanchez’s cognitive abilities.
3. Train him often.
An old dog not only can learn new tricks, but also loves the attention and benefits from the mental stimulation as much as any age dog. Dogs love to learn, no matter their age. I still spend time training every night with Sanchez. As you can see in the video above, I’ve come up with ways to make his training less physical. But, he still gets rewarded for being involved and staying still. If it gets late, he starts whining and begging for his training time with me. The bonding time is precious and it stimulates him to keep learning and being challenged. He has no complaints about his yummy rewards either.
4. Mix it up.
Although dogs love consistency and build confidence through their routines, it’s sometimes good to mix up that routine as well. I recently was staying with friends and their three Golden Retrievers. While there, Sanchez loved the new smells in their backyard, neglected all of his daily naps and really enjoyed their multi-pet household, including the cats. Our routine completely changed as my friends generally rise much earlier than me and their dogs are fed right away. I decided to allow my dogs the same privilege while we were there. Of course, Sanchez just loved it. I was surprised how quickly he reverted back to our normal routine when we got home. While he’s making up for his missed naps now, he really enjoyed the change of scenery, people, pets, and general surroundings.
5. Add variety to diet, and consider nutritional needs.
I also add variety to Sanchez’s dog food. While the base is the same (organic meat), the variety comes in the extras. Sometimes I add in canned sardines, other times it’s salmon oil. I alter between any of the following additions: sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, green beans, spinach, kale, apples, and bananas. He’s a Lab and LOVES his food. Surprising him adds to his olfactory delight as well.
6. Add environmental enrichment.
Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine defines environmental or behavior enrichment as “the process of manipulating an animal’s environment to increase physical activity & normal species typical behavior that satisfies the animal’s physical and psychological needs.” Music created for senior dogs, with their hearing sensitivities in mind, is a great way to provide auditory stimulation that engages their senses.
7. Incorporate nose work.
Dogs often lose hearing and sight in their senior years. But, as long as they can still smell, they can still find their way around. I’ve honestly met blind and deaf dogs that were still retrieving balls, and I barely noticed any impairment to their sight or hearing. Engage a dog’s nose, and you’ll keep him stimulated.
K9 Nose Work defines this sport as “the fun search and scenting activity for virtually all dogs and people. This easy to learn activity and sport builds confidence and focus in many dogs, and provides a safe way to keep dogs fit and healthy through mental and physical exercise.” I enrolled Sanchez in classes a couple of years ago, and now we play “find” games at home. I hide pieces of liver in boxes spread throughout the living room. He searches for the piece of liver and is rewarded with more liver in the box when he finds it. He LOVES this search game.
8. Play often.
No matter the age, dogs enjoy and benefit from playtime. Even if they don’t have the same physical abilities as their younger canine friends, they can still engage in play. Try a game of hide and seek. Actually, all training and nose-work games should also feel like play to them. Pretend you’re a kid again, and they’ll pick up on your energy and thank you for it.
9. Walk them in new areas.
Again, engaging their nose helps keep them stimulated and interested in their surroundings. Bringing them to a new area for a walk is another way to do that. Sanchez is still often with me in the car. So, once a week, I try and stop in a new area for him to explore.
10. Take time to smell the roses.
Walks may no longer be about physical activity. Move at his pace. Allow him to use his nose as much as he chooses. I’ve learned that it’s not only good for Sanchez, but it’s good for me. He’s teaching me the importance of taking time to slow down and enjoy nature. Honestly, does it ever get any better?
Our wonderful Pharaoh is getting pretty old now; he was 13 1/2 years-old on December 3rd which is a grand age for a German Shepherd. When he was a young puppy I was advised to get a younger playmate for him when his years were building up. For two reasons. The first being that the younger dog keeps the elderly dog playing and interested in the world. The second reason being that the elder dog will teach the younger dog all the owner’s commands.
Cleo has proved both points. Pharaoh in living with so many dogs around him is most definitely kept engaged and despite his rear hips being so very fragile and weak he still doesn’t miss a turn in going out with the other dogs.
Just to underline how fantastic Pharaoh is doing, his age at the conversion ratio of 1 dog year to 8 human years makes him 108! Or 36 years my senior!