I saw a funny post the other day about how we talk to our dog friends vs. our non-dog friends.
My answer to the question ” what have you been up to?” varies based on the audience.
For my non-dog friends, I’ll say I’ve gone on a couple of weekend get-aways to visit friends. I’ve also been going to the beach a lot, trying to get back into a workout routine and researching organizations to start volunteering with in the fall. I try to sound like a normal person that isn’t doing “weird” stuff.
For my dog friends, depending on what I know of their dog activities, I will be more forth coming with my answers i.e. I’ve been training Maisie to be a Therapy Dog and have found an organization that I’m pretty excited about. I’ve gone through my own training with them and I’ll be tagging along this week to observe their program in action. Hopefully we will pass their dog team test so that we can volunteer with them in the fall. We’ve been going on a lot of training walks, in and out of stores and mixing up our destination to expose her to lots of different situations and people.For dog enthusiasts, I might elaborate a little more. Winn and I have been doing all kinds of advanced training over the last several months and have entered several different types of trials and have earned five titles. Right now we are focusing on Water Rescue training and are having a blast!
I’ve been around water my entire life and for about 10 years I worked at my local YMCA teaching 3-5 year olds pool safety and how to swim. I loved working with that age and I really felt like I was teaching them something that could save their lives. Now I’m exploring a different form of water safety by working with Winn and her natural instincts. It’s just for fun, she’s not going to be a lifeguard or a search and rescue dog, but I love swimming with her and having a reason to be in the water again.I’ve taken a couple of trips with her to learn the skills needed to enter and pass the junior level Newfoundland Water Dog (WD) test and have been working on a few of the skills included in the senior level Water Rescue Dog (WRD) test. (Last year I volunteered to help at the water tests in my area and wrote about those skills here and here.) She loves the water and has amazing instincts. We work really well together but being in the water is exhausting and I’m reminded that even though she’s a big dog, she’s still young and she tires easily. I’m also getting used to being in the water again so we are both working on building our stamina in the water and knowing when to call it quits.This week, I’ve been filling out entry forms for water tests put on by different regional Newfoundland clubs. Two are close by, about an hour’s drive and two are further away and would require a hotel stay. I hope to get into at least two, maybe three. My friend who has been doing this a long time and teaches water skills clinics would like me to go to Canada with her so Winn could also try for her Canadian Water Rescue Dog title. I think this year, we will just focus on her American title and consider that in the future. I’ll be thrilled if we get the title this summer, but I’m loving the bond we’ve formed and the fun we have learning new skills. I have high hopes for us as a working team and there are so many possibilities for us to explore!
What do bagels, apple cores, pizza crusts, squirrels and corn cobs all have in common? All of these items have fallen out of the trees in our yard over the last couple of months. I blame it on the squirrels. They rummage through the garbage dumpster of the nearby condo building, find treasure and then scurry up our trees where they return to their nests. Most of the time, the squirrel and their goodies make it all the way back but sometimes they lose their grip and a random food item will fall to the ground. And yes, occasionally they make a bad jump and end up falling out of the tree as well.
I know that it’s nesting season when I find a pile of leaves and branches in the yard that wasn’t there the day before. I would guess that one out of every four leaf bundles falls to the ground while they are building their nest. Shortly after that, random food and trash starts to appear and continues to fall for the next couple of months. Squirrels have 2 litters a year, early spring and mid-summer. Right now, they are prepping for the mid-summer. (About a month ago, I was in the yard and 3-4 young squirrels were chasing each other when one fell out of the tree and landed a couple of feet away from me. To my utter shock, it jumped up and ran away. I’ve found enough dead ones in the yard to assume they don’t usually survive such a fall.)What got me to write about this? Last week, I spent a full day in the Animal Emergency Room with Winn after I discovered that she had consumed a corn cob.
A couple of years ago, I read an article about the dangers of corn cobs to dogs and since then have had a healthy fear of having one of the dogs eat one. Until then, I was completely unaware that a dog could die from ingesting a corn cob. Corn cobs don’t break down in the digestive track and their cylindrical shape contributes to the risk of obstruction. If the cob is already dried out, its sharp edges can shred the lining of the intestinal track. Another risk is that it can get stuck in their throat, either going down or coming back up if vomiting is induced. The best course of action is to get your dog to the vet as quickly as possible.
In Winn’s case, I don’t really know when she got it or how much she ate. She threw-up 4 pieces one morning, and I wasn’t even sure what it was at first. The texture was strange, not completely hard like a bone but not soft and pliable either, but then I noticed a corn kernel and I knew immediately what she had found. I tried to figure out when she might have gotten it. She was in the yard a couple of times the day before but I had been with her most of the time. Her dinner didn’t come up with the cob pieces and I know she didn’t get it after dinner because she was never out of my sight. She went out and did her morning business just fine, she was hungry for breakfast and was showing no signs of distress. Could that mean the corn cob just jiggled around in her belly for a day or two before she barfed it up? Could that be all there was to it?
I had booked a morning swim time for Maisie and Winn so I loaded them both up in the car and decided to call the vet on our way. I described everything that had happened and what I knew and didn’t know. I was not surprised when I was told to bring her in right away for an x-ray, they would squeeze us in as soon as we got there. So…I turned the car towards the vet’s office and the three of us arrived about 10 minutes later.
It didn’t take long for the x-ray and sure enough, there were visible pieces scattered around her abdomen and her colon looked a little enlarged, perhaps she’d already expelled some on her own. There were a couple of pieces she was concerned about so the x-ray was sent to the emergency surgeon for a consult. The surgeon agreed with her assessment and wanted to see us, surgery would probably be needed. I have always been concerned about the use of anesthesia on my dogs, and after losing Annie shortly after her oral surgery, my fear has been heightened. Winn’s vet encouraged me to express my fears to the surgeon and assured me that they would talk through any and all questions or concerns that I had.
I gathered everybody up and we quickly headed to the car. Winn was still showing no signs of distress, other than a little anxiety about being at the vet’s office, so I decided to head home. I could drop off Maisie and change my clothes (I was still in my bathing suit, shorts and a t-shirt, not the most comfortable outfit to wear while waiting around in an air-conditioned office).
Winn and I were shown into an exam room where we met with another dr. The surgeon was still with another patient, but we talked through different scenarios, what the procedure would entail and the fact that Winn would need to stay overnight in recovery for two days (very scary). We decided to get her pre-op blood work done as well as an ultra-sound which would give us a clearer picture of where the pieces were.
It was all becoming so real, so scary and the waiting was excruciating, but the dr. came back with a big smile on her face. All of the cob pieces had already traveled through her small intestine and most of them were in her colon! They don’t operate once they show up in the colon because she should be able to eliminate them on her own. What a relief!
They gave her some fluids to keep her hydrated but were comfortable sending us home with care instructions that included warning signs for me to watch for. If anything changed in her condition, we were to come back for another ultra sound and more tests. I wanted to cry from relief, but I gathered our things and quickly checked out. We were incredibly lucky that it all turned out so well and surgery wasn’t needed!
Now I’m going to hop onto my soap box and talk about pet insurance. It’s horrifying enough when you find yourself and your pet in an emergency situation. Trying to absorb everything you are being told in order to make a good decision for your pet is incredibly difficult. I knew as I sat there trying to hold back the tears, that whatever decision I had to make, I didn’t have to make it because of finances. Surgery is expensive, surgery on big dogs can be more expensive, but having pet insurance can give you peace of mind while you are making that decision. I knew I was responsible for my deductible and 20% of the fee because that is how I set up the policy for Maisie and Winn. I only have sick/emergency care but it covers tests, treatment, therapies and medications. (I didn’t insure Annie because everything with her was a pre-existing condition. I wish I could have, managing all of her health issues was expensive.)
Most hospitals expect you to pay at the time of service (but many are willing to work with you especially if they know you have insurance to cover the bulk of the fees), my solution for this is that I have one credit card that is just for the dogs, but I know I will be reimbursed after my portion is paid. The staff at Winn’s vet office and the animal hospital submitted the claims for me that same day and I received an email from Embrace a couple of hours later that they were processing the claims.
Our friend My Brown Newfies has written a great post about pet insurance comparing the different companies. You can read her excellent post here and I hope you find it helpful. I encourage everyone to get pet insurance, you can tailor many of the policies to suit your needs and budget. Hopefully, you will never need it but if you do, it will be one less thing you have to worry about when you furry best friend is sick.
With the 4th of July occuring at peak season for corn on the cob, please keep and eye on your dogs and make sure the cobs are properly thrown out so that they don’t get them and you can all safely enjoy the holiday!
This post is from “Annie’s Second Chance” about Mother’s Day two years ago. It was a turning point for Annie and the best gift ever!
For the last several weeks, our walks were much shorter to accommodate Annie and I had missed my long lake front walks with Maisie. The morning was beautiful, sunny and not too hot, so I grabbed Maisie’s leash and asked her if she wanted to go for a walk. Maisie was so excited and followed me out of the room. To my surprise, Annie popped up and wanted to go too. I knew she wouldn’t be able to go the full length, but I couldn’t turn her down when she was showing interest in going for a walk for the very first time! Prior to this she would come to me when I had the leash and I would lead her out the door but she hadn’t yet responded to “would you like to go for a walk” so I turned and grabbed her leash and headed for the door.
Annie really wanted to go, but true to form, she ventured out of her crate a little bit and then turned back around to tag up. Her next attempt she went a little further, tagged up and then tried again, each time going a little further toward the front door. On the 6th attempt, she finally made it out onto the front porch, I clipped them both and we headed out. I was elated that she wanted to come out with us, but I debated whether Annie was ready to head out for a new direction, so far we had only been walking around the same 3 or 4 blocks. I decided to give it a try, so when Maisie and I headed left toward the lake rather than turning right to go around the block, she hesitated only a moment and then trotted right along with both of us. This was the best Mother’s Day gift I could receive; Annie was becoming more confident every day and was overcoming her fears in order to be with us.
We didn’t go all the way to the lake, I assumed it would be very busy with people and dogs, so we went around the neighborhood and came back home about 40 minutes later. She kept a great pace and walked beautifully on leash, it was her best walk ever and we all really enjoyed it.
A couple of hours later we loaded everyone into the car and went to my brother-in-law’s house for Mother’s Day brunch. This would be a big test for Annie, a new house, a new door to go through and meeting new people. When we got there she was very curious about where she was, but she followed Maisie right into the house, sniffed around, greeted the women that were in the kitchen and then headed back out the front door. Chris was with her and followed her back out. She didn’t seem nervous, she just wanted to investigate her surroundings. The house is set on a huge beautiful lot that backs up to a forest preserve. There were lots of good smells, the man next door fosters multiple Golden Retriever rescue dogs and there was a resident dog to get to know. She took all of this in stride, followed Chris around the yard, went up to the fence to greet the loud, barking Golden Retrievers and eventually settled next to me on the deck and went to sleep until it was time to leave. She did keep a safe distance from the men, but otherwise she showed no reluctance and was comfortable enough with her new surroundings to relax and nap. All good signs that she was making significant progress in her recovery! I was so happy.
The rest of the day went like this: we went home after several hours and had a late dinner with my daughter and husband. We decided to eat in the dining room, one of the least used rooms in the house since we usually eat in the kitchen. I think this may have been the first time we ate in there since we brought Annie home and she kept coming around the corner to look at us. After several peeks, she came all the way in and lay down by my chair. It was the first time she ever searched us out and decided to stay with us while we were eating! Usually, she would just come say hello and then go back to her crate. It was another gift on this day.
After dinner we invited our neighbors over to sit by our fire pit. We haven’t spent a lot of time outside since we brought Annie home in January and it was a beautiful evening. I was hoping she would join us but she opted to stay at the top of the deck stairs. She could hear us and keep an eye on us while maintaining a safe distance. Our neighbor has a very loud deep voice and he was conscious of keeping his volume down but she wasn’t ready to greet him. At one point she came down to the yard level and lay down on the other side of the huge oak tree that is situated close to the fire pit. I took this as another sign that she wanted to be close but was keeping a safe barrier and that was fine. If the tree made her feel comfortable, then she should lay by the tree. It was such a good ending to a wonderful day!
This week is Puppy Mill Action Week (click here for more information), what a perfect time to recap my experience last week when I met Precious.
Precious is the namesake of Annie’s rescue group. In December of 2014, the rescue arm of the Newfoundland Club of America was notified that there were “several” dogs ready to be surrendered due to the death of a commercial breeder. Commercial breeders operate puppy mills and sell their puppies online and to pet stores. They consider their dogs to be cash crops and have little regard for the care and well-being of their breeding dogs.
Volunteers were assembled and arrangements were made to travel to rural Michigan for the pick-up. When the volunteers arrived, they were overwhelmed by what they found. They expected to pick up a handful of dogs, they discovered about 100 dogs living in deplorable conditions with obvious signs of neglect. The weather at that time was harsh, sub-zero temperatures and lots of snow. The dogs were outside in wire pens, their only shelter was a couple of unheated open sheds. They were all underweight, dirty and matted, many with lesions and sores on their bodies. The scene still haunts the volunteers who were involved.
Eventually, 44 Newfoundlands were surrendered. The breeder’s son was in charge of the operation and he was reluctant to surrender them all at once. He auctioned the young and healthy dogs and released the remainder to rescue over the course of six different trips. The final pick-up happened in early January 2015 and Precious was the last dog to be handed over.
She was dragged out of a dark, unheated building and put into a traveling crate. She had very little hair left on her body (remember this is still the middle of very brutal winter conditions) and she curled up into the fetal position and hid her head. She didn’t have a name or papers and had been completely ignored. The volunteers decided to name her Precious, because every life is precious and everyone deserves a name. She spent the next 3 months under constant medical care, slowly showing a few signs of improvement, before she was placed with her current family.
Let’s fast forward 3 years to the Newfoundland National Specialty last week. Precious was there with her 3 Newfoundland brothers who have been instrumental in her recovery. It’s been a long road to recovery for her with many ups and downs but the best word to describe her is miraculous. She is still shy, but she ventured out for several quick meet and greets with other Newfoundland owners who have followed her story and cheered her on from afar.Her human mother Sue and I have communicated several times over the last couple of years but we have never met. She was incredibly kind and supportive after Annie died. Precious and Annie shared a similar skin condition. They both used the same medication that brought them relief from constant itching and discomfort so I was happy to send Precious the remainder of Annie’s prescription. When we finally met, I immediately started shedding uncontrollable tears.
We sat and talked for quite a while. She shared a bit of the experience of the multiple trip rescue and I learned a few more details that I didn’t know. I was always worried that Annie was surrendered to one of the last pick ups, having stayed on the property and watched members of her pack be taken away to the unknown. The whole experience must have been so scary for all of the dogs but Sue thought that Annie was in one of the early pick ups and for some reason I found that to be a relief. She was careful not to overwhelm me with information, she and I both knew I wasn’t ready to hear all of it, but I hope sometime in the future I will be. My goal with Annie was to march in the Rescue Parade at The National, and I was there without her and it broke my heart. Sue very graciously invited me to march with her and Precious but I declined, that was their moment to share, I would watch and cheer them on.
The next day, I met Precious and we had a lovely moment. She, like Annie, was eager to take a treat from me but she watched me carefully as I talked to her. Her eyes darted about from side to side, surveying everything around her, making sure the situation was still safe. Annie always did that too and I forgot about it until I saw Precious do the same thing. She reminded me so much of Annie, it was almost overwhelming but I loved meeting her and seeing how well she is doing. Her fur is full and covers her body. It also looks like Annie’s, not solid black but black flecked with white hairs. She had a sweet expression on her face and a beautiful white blaze on her chest. She is petite and looks happy and healthy.The fact that Precious could be at a big event like that is a testament to the love and support she has received from her family. They were very careful with her, letting her meet just a few people at a time and making sure she wasn’t overwhelmed by her surroundings. She really enjoyed meeting other dogs that were there, which makes sense since she came from such a big kennel and she has always found safety and comfort in the company of the dogs in her family, especially Henry. Henry is her rock, she will snuggle up next to him when she needs a little extra boost. He is always with her when she goes outside, she won’t do that by herself. Those few minutes with Precious happened right before I packed up the car to head back home and were the perfect way for me to end my first experience at The Newfoundland National. Seeing her reminded me of Annie but unlike the day before, I smiled as I thought of her because I felt so lucky to have had her in my life. Annie was the sweetest dog I’ve ever known and we were meant to be together. I wish she didn’t have that horrible experience before I found her but the last years of her life were her best years and certainly some of my best years as well.