Monday, July 15, 2013

Blog The Change: Pet Safety Day

I wasn't planning on having to pick out a topic for this Blog the Change day because my internet was out and the soonest the technicians could come to fix it was Wednesday--BUT turns out I had a couple cords switched (just because both the router and the modem have power does NOT mean that you have the right power cords plugged in . . . oops).

So, here I am with only a few hours left to Blog the Change and very few topics coming to mind.  Luckily, my Honey Badger calendar pointed out that today is Pet Safety Day, so I figured this is as good an opportunity as any to remind everyone of simple ways to keep our pets happy, healthy, and safe.

Keep Collars with ID Tags on Your Pet
I feel like this should be common sense--my dogs growing up always had their collars on with their ID tags and we never thought twice about taking them off for any reason, except to replace the collar with a new one.  Recently, though, I've noticed more and more people not keeping collars or tags on their dogs.  One of my friends takes the collars off her dogs as soon as they get in the house.  I'm not really sure why she does this--maybe she thinks it's more comfortable for the dogs, maybe she's annoyed by the jingling of ID tags, but I would be worried that my dog would slip out of the house if someone came to the door and without ID it would be harder for someone to help her find her way home.  One of our agility classmates got out of her house when the door to the house blew open while her mom was napping; she wasn't wearing a collar and she's been missing for over two months.  (Not that a collar necessarily would have helped her get home sooner, but it would definitely make it easier to clip a leash onto her and try to find her home.)

Some of our agility classmates have collars on, but no tags during class; I know that this is probably because in a competition dogs can't wear tags in the ring, but it stresses me out to think of dogs riding in the car on the way to class without their tags.  You never know when an accident will happen and your dogs will get loose or law enforcement officers will have to deal with them while you're taken to the hospital; I want them to know my dog's name and where she belongs so we can be reunited.  A couple of our classmates have collars that are just for class and their owners don't remove the ones with tags until they are safe inside the training center; that seems like the smartest idea to me.

A collar that's well-fitted is not uncomfortable for your dog.  Remember, you should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your dog's neck.  If you can do that, your dog has plenty of room and the collar is still tight enough that it can't slip off easily.  Barley loves her collar.  I take it off her after baths (for some reason her collar smells terrible if it gets wet and then dries on her) and put her backup collar on while it dries; as soon as it's dry, she comes running to get it put back on.  Bar rocks her ID tag, state dog license, rabies tag, and microchip # tag 24/7 and I wouldn't have it any other way.  And, if you're really bothered by the jingling of tags, there are a variety of pet tag silencers out there.  For example, Paws Pet Botique has this one for under $10.  Don't forget that kitties should have tags, too.  Even indoor cats can be little escape artists.  Soth has never put up a fuss over having a collar on in the 4 years we've spent together and the few times it's come off (most cat collars are designed to break away easily since cats are known for squeezing into tight spaces) I've never had a problem getting it back on, so none of that "my cat won't wear collars" nonsense--just because cats are bossy doesn't mean you aren't still in charge :)

Take Your Pet for Regular Vet Visits
I know that I visit the vet far more than regularly, but I highly recommend going at least once a year.  I know that most rabies vaccines are every 3 years now, so some people only go when it's time for vaccinations, but regular vet visits will help catch problems with your pets before they go too far.

In December 2011, Barley's annual check up told us that she had lyme disease; at every annual checkup, the vet does a quick test to check for heartworm, lyme disease, and other things we haven't *thankfully* had to deal with.  Without that test, I wouldn't have known there was anything wrong with my pup because she wasn't limping, she wasn't lethargic, she was eating and drinking regularly.  We also use our flea and tick preventative monthly, so I didn't even think there could be a chance of lyme disease.  Looking back, I realize that she was getting a little more obstinate than usual--not responding as well to commands on walks or in class--but that's a subtle hint from my headstrong pup and I did not pick up on it.  Sometimes, there are no visible symptoms and the only way you'll know if your pet is sick is if you go to your annual check up.

We've been battling lyme since then and our currently on our third round of treatment because her bacteria levels keep fluctuating.  I noticed her becoming more and more obstinate in class again--sometimes she plain refused to go over jumps--so I took her into the vet last week for blood work and my suspicions were confirmed; she's got elevated levels of bacteria again.  So in addition to visiting the vet regularly please, please, please use your heartworm and flea & tick preventatives.  Even if your dog doesn't suffer from all of the terrible things that lyme can bring on, you'll save a lot of money in the long run.  Every time we have blood work done to test the bacteria levels it's $40 for the vet check up, $95 for the blood work, and other $25 if we need antibiotics to treat it.  Do your wallet a favor and use preventatives instead.

Barley won't let a little lyme disease slow her down. She's always ready for an adventure!
Stand Up for Your Pet
The day you decided to bring your pet home, you became his/her voice.  Pets can't stand up for themselves, so you have.  I've mentioned Jessica Dolce's blog about standing up for your dog, even if that means being a bitch for your dog (which is not the same thing as being your dog's bitch) and it's something all of our pets could benefit from.

Since we got our snazzy new "I Need Space" leash, I've felt even more confident standing up for my dog.  People have a fair warning before I even have to open my mouth and tell them my dog's not interested in meeting theirs or that their small child can't run up to her.  The other day, I was out walking with my friend and her dogs and we met a nice, older couple on the trail.  They were dogless and noticed that our dogs looked like breeds they were considering.  We stopped to chat and the immediately noticed the leash and started petting my friend's dogs instead, until I told them that she was good with adults but not other dogs.  They Barley got just as much love as her friends.  It was great to see the leash in action.

Recently, my best friend had to report his neighbors to the homeowners association at his condo because they continually let their grown dogs off leash, despite the condo's leash laws, and they'd approach his new puppy.  He was tired of worrying about his puppy's safety and watching her growing more afraid of the other dogs, so he stood up for his pup.  Know your area's leash laws.  Know the number for the dog warden or animal control or local law enforcement, and if you have repeated problems with neighbors, report them.  Most areas will let you report leash law violations anonymously.

Be Aware
A lot of people see walking their dog as a relaxing activity.  I always did.  Then I got Barley.  Now, I have to be on guard for our entire walk.  I have to see triggers--squirrels, other dogs, kids on scooters, cats, the list goes on--before Barley sees them.  I have to read her body language to make sure she's not going over her threshold. We have to move constantly and walk at a fast pace because a busy dog is a good dog.  We don't have time to just stop and smell the roses.  A few weeks ago, I read a blog written after the blogger's reactive dog had died; she wrote that her life would be easier, but emptier and that this loss hit her harder than one's before because she had had to spend so much time managing her dog.  My entire day is spent managing my dog, whether we're in the house or outside.  I think this is why I like the arboretum so much--once we get out of the display gardens and into the woods, we never see other dogs, so as long as Barley is responsive and comes to heel when called, she can wander at the end of her leash and just be a dog.  And, I can look at the flowers and black squirrels, I can take pictures of fall colored leaves, I can embrace my inner Emerson and Thoreau and live deliberately and read God directly.  The arboretum is the one place where we can walk without tension for hours.

Even if you don't have a reactive dog, be aware of what your pet is doing and when.  Know what they can't get out of their minds and keep it out of their sign.  I know that sugar-free gum is like crack for Barley (and equally bad).  It can't come in my apartment.  I've switched to buying Altoids--even though I kind of hate them.  If people come over and bring sugar-free gum into the apartment, their bags have to go on top of the fridge or in a closet.

Encourage other people to be aware.  Teach the kids in your neighborhood to ask before approaching any dog.  Teach your dog to sit calmly while being pet by strangers.  Tell them about The Yellow Dog Project or DINOS.

Pay attention to their behavior.  They'll tell you when they need help.  Soth's easy (bet you never thought I'd say that, right?) because he tells me when he's not feeling well; he pees in my shoes, throws up on my recently steam-cleaned carpets, yowls all day.  Barley's not quite as easy to read; she trips on walks, refuses to go over jumps, doesn't call to heel as quickly--all things that she does when she feels fine, but the combination gives me a clue something's wrong.  So, be aware.

Love Them
The best part of keeping pets safe is loving them in spite of all their quirks and craziness.  When you appreciate them for what makes them unique little creatures, the rest of pet safety doesn't really seem like work at all.
How could this face not be loved?

Soth took advantage of the bed being off the floor for vacuuming to make bunk beds.

1 comment:

  1. All very good advice! Yeah, I wouldn't have known Maddux was sick until we got his blood work done. If that hadn't happened I probably wouldn't have my boy now! I think you're very good at standing up for Bar. And you're definitely good at loving your pets! :-)