Aren’t humans brilliant? You’re fairly smart, right? And yet at the same time, we earthlings can be somewhat creepy creatures. Intriguing, yes. Creative, yes. Resourceful, yes. Still, sometimes we find ourselves standing ankle deep in layers of our own excrement, figuratively speaking. Which is odd, given how much we laud our intelligence. With five or six feet from ankle to brain, should we be worried about our personal rising tides, or confident in our abilities to stem them?
The truth is that most people do not worry much about their personal weaknesses. In many ways that is fine, some would even argue helpful. In other ways, however, it definitely is not fine. While this is a topic more typically covered by psychologists and psychoanalysts, it is of interest to rescuers as it pertains to the care and safety of our beloved animals, like the dogs we rescue, love, rehabilitate, and home.
Surviving Earthlings: A How-To. Even if dogs could read it, there’s not much they could do with it, what with being at the utter mercy of us earthlings. It’s a good thing, then, that we are so proud of our own intelligence and abilities, because it means that we earthlings are absolutely capable of making sure that our dogs survive us—and as the most logical creature, we’re also able to admit that therefore we are obliged to make sure of it. I offer to you, dear earthling, for your dear dog, this little set of instructions to help your dog survive earthlings. (Would you believe me if I told you I found it in a crop circle?):
- Due to the fact that some stranger earthlings can be nefarious, vengeful, or simply dog-hating, do not for any reason leave your dog outside alone or when you are not home. Strange earthlings all over the world have been known to throw poison food into fenced yards, shoot or otherwise harm dogs, steal them and do dastardly things to them, or simply taunt them through the fence, causing copious barking or even biting that has then gotten dogs in trouble with earthling law, sometimes even resulting in the earthling death penalty for dogs. In addition, dogs can get out of their yards and get lost, hurt, or killed, and wildlife can get in to their yards and hurt or kill dogs.
- All of the above can also happen if earthlings leave their dogs inside but make the very common mistake of using an earthling-invented dog door, allowing a dog to either access outside while its earthling is away, or access outside while its earthling is home but asleep or not paying attention. Therefore, earthlings and their dogs would be well-served by some honest soul-searching about the use of their beloved dog doors versus their highest and best safety of their beloved dogs.
- Much of the above can also happen if an earthling leaves a dog alone in a vehicle, even for a moment. Earthlings being so logical, I’m sure I don’t need to explain exactly how in the context of vehicles these things can happen, right? Suffice it to say that while windows up means hot cars (all you dog-loving earthlings know that hot cars kill dogs very quickly, of course—and even A/C in a non-moving car does not stay cool for very long), windows down means earthlings have access. But earthlings can and do also have emergencies while outside their vehicles and when earthlings have emergencies, however intelligent they are, they can tend to forget things or go into fight / flight like any other mammal. Either way, the result can be terrible for an earthling’s dog. We say we would never… but it happens to earthling children many times every year in the states alone!–even though earthling children have many more laws and advocates trying to protect them. So, most logical of all species, do the math, as earthlings like to say.
- Due to the fact that so many earthlings drive cars and live in traffic areas, do not unleash your dog unless in a fully fenced area where no earthlings can run over your dog and where your dog cannot run out eventually to where cars are. You could also consider not unleashing your dog where wildlife might eat your dog–or where your dog might eat wildlife that other earthlings love. Also for the earthling’s logical mind to consider is how many other earthlings’ unleashed dogs are properly trained; how do you know, if your dog is not protected by being at your side on leash, that another dog s/he comes upon isn’t going to attack? Yes, all earthlings have the ability to be logical, but not all earthlings always use that ability, so there are bound to be untrained off leash dogs in your path. This is often true at traditional style dog parks as well, where sometimes, some earthlings seem to enjoy picking on other earthlings perhaps more than their dogs enjoy picking on other dogs.
- Secure, solid fences, tempered glass windows, and locked gates and doors are just a few things that help protect earthlings’ dogs from careless or nefarious earthlings as well as from doggy-temptations. No matter how many times you tell a contractor-earthling to keep all gates, doors, and windows closed, for example, most earthling dog guardians will find themselves running around behind their earthling contractors, closing closing closing. Or else looking for gone dogs.
- Tying your dog to things, whether moving or still, is bad for your dog, earthling. If you tie your dog to a moving object and something goes wrong with that object, your dog could be injured or worse. If you tie your dog to a still object, you dog is going to wonder why, and after a while that wondering can turn to frustration which can turn to what earthlings like to call aggression, not to mention potential injury, escape, theft, or worse. A dog tied to something and left while its earthling runs in to grab a quick coffee, for example, is a sitting duck for some stranger earthling passing by who 1) dislikes dogs, 2) had a bad day, and 3) decides to take it out on your tethered dog.
- Earthlings make lots of messes and therefore require lots of cleaning products and other chemicals in their homes. Plus they also like cats (I know!! CATS!!) which means the dreaded cat box, which can carry toxoplasmosis. Therefore, a dog’s earthling must be vigilant. Keep the litterbox somewhere the dog cannot access. Keep all chemical-bearing products and other items toxic or dangerous to dogs out of reach and behind child safety locks because dogs are smart and can learn to open doors, cabinets, trash, purses, etc., easily. Many earthlings have lost their beloved dogs this way. Did you know that pets can suffocate while playing in a chip, treat, or dog food bag? There is so much that an earthling needs to know in order to protect a dog. It’s a good thing earthlings have such huge brain capacity!
- Parent-unit earthlings used to say NO SWIMMING AFTER EATING OR YOU’LL DROWN! That turned out to be false, but earthling dog guardians don’t want their dogs to get lethal bloat, to which barrel-chested dogs are especially susceptible. Some ways to help protect against bloat are: Wait a couple hours after a meal before allowing play or exercise. Don’t feed for at least an hour or so after play/exercise. Feed two smaller meals a day rather than one big one. You should research more about this on your own since there were no formal veterinary notes in the crop circle.
- Most earthlings don’t like worms, and even though some dogs might try to eat some kinds, they probably still don’t want them living in their hearts, especially since that would be a death sentence. That is why earthlings must give their dogs Heartgard or other heartworm protection every single month, to keep heartworms from taking hold of their dogs. If some earthling declares that heartworm is rare in your area, ask that earthling how much they will pay you in losses if your dog gets heartworm. (PS: Maybe heartworm is rare because smart earthlings keep their dogs on Heartworm prevention!)
- Okay earthlings, the number 10 seems to be a BIG deal on this planet, so hopefully this will be an easy one to remember: 10 as in the PERFECT 10, as in the perfect kind of training, the kind that your dog wants, needs, and loves: POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT ONLY! Also known as R+, aka force free/pain free/fear free training (but never ever called “balanced” training, which is code for also uses aversive methods), you teach your dog by positive reinforcement, also known as ‘paying’ e.g. with treats for the behavior you want. Look, earthling, when your bossling wants you to do something, does she drag you to your desk and then if you don’t do it, spank you, push you down, pop your belt, or alpha roll you? No, she pays you, with what YOU want, to do what she wants you do to. And do you only get paid for it the first few times? Nope, you get paid regularly. Very few earthlings–rescue workers aside–would work for someone else if they were not paid to do so. If an earthling stops getting paid, he finds another job. Dogs are not too much different in that regard. Positive reinforcement training not only motivates a dog without intimidating or hurting the dog, but helps build trust between dog and earthling, and science has shown that it is the proper and best way to train.
- Here are some weird dangers the earthling may never have thought of: Mail slot in the door: Why? Well, what if an earthling friend mails a box of chocolates and your dog finds it? That could be good-night doggy, since chocolate is toxic to dogs. It’s pretty much the same story for stuff left along your usual walking paths—could be a stick of gum sweetened with xylitol, also toxic to dogs, or it could be something purposely poisoned by one of those evil-lings mentioned earlier. Garden stakes and pointed fence tops: Some dogs, podencos, for example, are really bouncy. Sorry for the graphic detail, earthling, but there have been impaling accidents in other bouncy breeds; they are not as common as other accidents, but hey, do you want your dog to be that special one? Balconies and windows: Some dogs are bouncy and also jumpers; add high prey drives and low think-before-go? Then please also add keep-off balconies and raised decks, away from open windows, etc. Wire crates and baby gates: The first may be obvious. Wire is quite chewable for many dogs, leading to mouth injuries and emergency vetling visits. Baby gates, not so obvious. Be aware, earthlings, that baby gates can be strangulation hazards. Dogs can get and in fact have gotten their necks stuck in them and have died. Make sure baby gates are properly made, sized, installed, and closed. Boyfriends, roommates, and otherlings: You may be appalled to learn, earthling, that no one loves your dog as much as you do. You would be even more appalled if you read all the animal advocacy news about naughtylings who take out their anger for their spouses, friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, parents, et cetera, on those earthlings’ pets. Choose your earthling cohorts carefully is all we’re sayin’. Already have concerns? Maybe invest in some cameras. (See also our previous blog post BE YODA for thoughts on dog walkers, sitters, groomers, etc.) Snuggle-soft muzzles: So your dog needs a muzzle? But you want it to be comfy. The store clerkling hands you a fabric one because it’s soft, and streamline, and looks harmless. Nope! Those fabric muzzles prevent the dog from proper panting and therefore, especially if worn for any length of time, and moreso if the dog is stressed or it’s a warm day, can actually threaten your dog’s life, earthling. Do not do it. Get a plastic molded basket muzzle instead. They look ridiculous but allow plenty of room for air and panting, as well as drinking and even eating if you want. This list could go on and on earthling. I invite you to email us with your additions. I disinvite you to email us exclaiming how “crazy” I am. Anyone who claims to love dogs–especially if claiming to be rescuing dogs–who doesn’t go to the ends of your earth to keep those dogs safe? Send them your “crazy” accusations, earthlings.
- For many earthlings, 12 is a sacred number, and here I present the most sacred of all topics to most earthlings: Childlings. I’ll keep it short, like they are. Your childlings also have brains like you and must be taught to behave responsibly and kindly if you, earthling, expect to be a proper dog guardian of a happy, long-living dog. Childlings cannot be expected to handle dogs the same ways adultlings do, so they must be supervised with dogs at all times. No chasing, poking, pulling, dragging, riding, hitting, or yelling, squirting, or throwing things at the dog, childlings! No taking dog toys or food away either. The adultling supervises the childling to ensure no antics occur with the dog, thus protecting both dog and childling. If a terrible mishap occurs between dog and childling, what happens next? Terrible things happen next, that’s what. But if something has happened between dog and childling, the starter question should be: Where was the adultling? Earthlings, your beloved dogs, whom you have wanted and loved, are still dogs, and will always be dogs. They communicate in Dog—via whines and jumps and stares and yips and growls and barks and snarls and nips and yes sometimes even bites. These are their only modes of communication. If you do not want them to use their natural modes of communication, you must keep them out of situations where they have something that they, quite naturally and almost always innocently, understand no other alternative but to say. Do not blame the dog, earthling, if a mishap occurs. Moreover, do not say “The childling is dog-savvy”—which is unlikely, scientifically speaking, from a brain chemistry perspective. Nor must you say “The dog is aggressive,” which is an earthling construct lacking crucial context. You are your dog’s only advocate; you are all the dog has; you must be willing and able to remain so.** Or you must not get a dog at all. You could maybe get a hamster?
*Even though they also live on earth, dogs do not fall into the earthling category. This is because, as all dog guardian earthlings know, dogs are born as angels.
**Sometimes a dog needs behavior modification and being the dog’s advocate means hiring a behavior modification trainerling to help you. Yet every once in a while for some other reason, an earthling may decide to give up the dog. Earthling, you can do one last bit of advocacy by at least surrendering the dog to a reputable charity rescue group rather than posting to that scary place earthlings call “craigslist,” or those scary places dogs know as “the pound.” Don’t just give your dog to a friend or family member either, earthling, nor leave it somewhere alone. Rescues are your dog’s best chance for getting a safe new home where it will be truly wanted and loved. Isn’t it true that, in addition to big brains, earthlings also have big hearts? At least that’s what I keep hearing.
(blog post KADANSE by Rain Jordan)
As rescuers, we need to take more responsibility for changing the luck of pets—not just the pets we rescue, but all pets. Education is a crucial part of that job. Yet there are care and safety issues that unfortunately are not typically discussed with dog adopters. Here’s one: Taking your dog for services. That is, grooming, vet care, dogsitting, and so on.
I propose that the overarching rule here be Do Unto Your Dog As You Would Do Unto Your Child. Would you leave your 2 year old alone at the hair salon for the day, or even for a couple of hours? Would you allow your pediatrician to examine, vaccinate, or take samples from your child in a room separated from you? When you go on vacation, do you feel comfortable leaving your child in a boarding-style nursery—or with someone you don’t know personally very well?
For most people, the answers are of course No, No, and No. Yet I’m willing to bet that the majority of people, if being honest, would answer Yes to at least one, probably two, maybe even all three of these questions when posed about their dogs.
Perhaps few people would knowingly leave their children with a babysitter who has another child who is, for example, aggressive to other children, or has a partner who is, for example, a mean drunk. Now you might retort that few people would knowingly leave their pets with such sitters either. Knowingly. How would you know? The average person will screen, or at least ask their friends about, their babysitters before leaving children with them, but the level of caution regarding petsitters drops notably for the average person. This is one reason why so many bad things happen to pets while their people are away. Many pet sitters have lost pets, harmed pets, or via neglect, irresponsibility, or simple immaturity, allowed them to be harmed—even killed. (From the ‘and so on’ category, this goes for dogwalkers as well; there are some great, certified, trustworthy ones, but there are also some absolutely unqualified ones. Make sure you know the difference.) I will spare you the horror stories I know of for now, but our adopters will hear them because we want our dogs to have the absolute best chance of living a safe, happy, healthy, LONG life. The point is, if you must go somewhere without your pets, give them the protection they need and deserve.
Your veterinarian will probably show some resistance the first and second and maybe even fifth time you ask him to handle your dog in the room with you, but why should that stop you? You are paying your vet to do a service; that vet works for you. More importantly, you and only you are your dog’s advocate—this is your job. Please do not assume that vet staff will be as sweet and gentle with your dog behind the scenes as they are in front of you. They might be! But they might not, and you would probably never know. Besides, again, you are your dog’s advocate. When your dog needs a ‘sample’ taken, she would much rather have your eyes to look into, and your voice to tell her what a good girl she is, and your touch to help calm her, than some strangers holding her down while saying “OK OK almost done!” etc. Furthermore, your dog will do better with vet visits overall if handled more patiently, gently, and carefully, which is what happens when you are there to support her. I am not saying that vet staff are mean or uncaring people. I’m just suggesting that the best way to ensure that your dog’s experience is as untraumatic as possible for her is for you to be right there with her. (Thankfully, I have an accommodating vet who respects my feelings on this.)
Many years ago, before I had sighthounds, my husband had a dog that was probably some sort of jindo/chow cross. She was not a very friendly dog; in fact, she could be downright scary with strangers. So every time my husband would bring her home from the groomer and tell me how much “they loved her!” – well, I was suspicious. I would question him about it every time, asking, “Then why is she always so scared to go in?” and “Don’t you think they probably say that to all the customers?” (You are wondering now why I allowed her to go there. I can say she was not my dog, but the fact is, I wish I had convinced him against it, and that is what I would do now.) Yes, in many grooming facilities—including that one—you can see the groomers doing the actual grooming part of their job. But you do not see what goes on behind the scenes, e.g., in the kennels/back room while the dogs are waiting. Nor perhaps can you see close up enough to see subtle signs of problems. Again, be your dog’s advocate. You could stay with your dog until her turn and then watch*, or you could take her to someone you and she both know and trust (preferred!) unless you can groom her yourself. She relies on you for safety. (Addition 8/1/2016: Upon a national news story of a dog’s death while staying at a doggy camp in a pet store chain, and upon discussion of this news among colleagues, I learned the probable cause of my husband’s previous dog’s fear of this groomer: The stores’ practice was to lock dogs in fiberglass crates and use a commercial blower to shoot air into the crate until the dog was dry. This is, obviously, not safe and surely not comfortable. As you can imagine, dogs have died from it. A quick internet search will give examples of this and other deaths and injuries.)
By the way, please don’t bathe your dog by hose. Why not, you ask? Would you bathe your child in cold water?
Your dog cannot dial 911 to get help if something bad is happening to her—and if she bites to protect herself, there’s a good chance she will suffer a terrible fate for that as well. If your pets are family, shouldn’t they be treated accordingly? Be YODA. Be Your Own Dog’s Advocate.
I knew it the instant I saw the distinct, familiar sadness in her eyes. I knew it the instant she looked up over the wirey tufts of blond tangled across her muzzle, and through her lashes long as sorrow. I knew it then, as I’ve known it before, as I will know it again and again. This dog has endured enough. And now, after enduring all she had been made to endure, this dog had been left for death, in a cold, wet, chaotic place, bearing her heart and mind in tatters. It is my job to see that this dog endures no further hardship. It is my job to mend this dog’s heart and mind, and then to see that she never is tattered again.
This is my job, always. Dahlia is one of the many podencos to come from Spain to Hound Sanctuary. She had been taken by her hunter-owner to a perrera (also known as a “killing station”—something like a high-kill shelter though much more degrading), and the hunter-owner had given the perrera permission to kill her, which meant that she would be put on the fast-track for euthanasia; she did not have much time to live. I knew nothing else about her. After begging a perrera volunteer, to no avail, to let me get her out of there (it was about to be a long holiday and the perrera would be closed, leaving her alone, cold, and at risk for days), I began a panicked reaching out to my contacts. There were some NOs, but soon enough, three of our trusted rescue-partners in Spain agreed to help. Soon Dahlia was on her way to foster in a little town near Denia, and soon after that she and two of her foster-siblings were on their way to us, where they would begin new lives, enjoying safety, happiness, and respect.
This is the essence of what we do. Sometimes the situation of the particular dog is a bit less dire, but many times it is even direr. In their homeland, most of these dogs are neglected, abandoned, and tortured/killed on a daily basis. If you’d like to know more about this, please email me to discuss. Below are few photos of the lovely Dahlia, now safe and happy in a real home.