Size doesn’t matter


Yeah, I did say that but it doesn’t refer to what you think it might. ūüôā Size doesn’t matter in the world of dogs. Big or little. Yet I wonder why do little dogs in particular have to be so freaking aggressive if size doesn’t matter?¬† Is there truth to the ‘small dog syndrome?”¬† Can dogs have a Napoleon complex? Or do we uprights “make” them aggressive by constantly picking them up and letting them get the upper hand because “they’re so little and cute?”¬† We wouldn’t allow that kind of aggression from a big dog so why do these little guys seem to get away with it?

No disrespect toward little guys, but what IS it about those aggressive, noisy little ‘purse dogs’ you see?¬† As I’ve said before, my ‘hood is very pet friendly. Almost any time of the day you will encounter someone with a stroller or a small kid walking along with their dog in tow on the way to the cultural square to enjoy¬†lunch, coffee, dinner or a shopping excursion. It’s just how we roll. And it’s one of the¬†nicer aspects of living in this old, well-established neighborhood. And every day on our walks we see a number of dogs and several of them and their owners have become friends of ours.¬† On this morning’s walk, we encountered a couple of little dogs that we often encounter that were even more hostile than usual–barking, snarling and lunging toward us, so much so it was fairly alarming. Sam isn’t some hulking big¬†Standard Poodle by any means (he‚Äôs actually a bit on the smaller size) and he’s certainly not intimidating.¬† At his size though, he could easily snap those 10-15 pounders like twigs.¬† But instead he‚Äôs balanced and calm around all the dogs he encounters which is probably why dogs (and people) like him.¬† Good dog, Sam!

At this morning‚Äôs encounter he just stood there, tail not aggressively positioned, eyes and ears soft and looking pretty bewildered like, ‚Äúgee, what did I do to deserve this?‚ÄĚ I too was flummoxed. It‚Äôs not like we bum-rushed these cantankerous little dogs, or acted hostile in any way. So if size doesn‚Äôt matter, why do¬†little dogs go all ‚Äėup-in-your-grill’ belligerent…every. single. time. we. come. across. these two?¬† Can anybody shed some light on that? I know some of you have small dogs, fill me in because I’m curious so I know how to handle the situation the next time we encounter those little demon dogs.¬† Then again, I don’t know…maybe if I were only¬† 8 inches high in a world of giants, I’d have an attitude too. <3

[Photo source public domain]

P. S. ¬†To my small dog owning friends and readers, this post in no way should be taken as a criticism of their pups. ¬†It’s merely an observation on a few pooches I have personal experience with in the neighborhood. Ok, those and that nasty little Min-Pin around the corner who terrorizes EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY. ¬†No one likes him! ¬†I personally know some of your small dogs and they seemed delightfully sweet. ‚̧ԳŹ


Life Experience of a Dog

image¬†Good advice for uprights, too! ūüźĺ

  1. Take naps and stretch before rising.
  2. Run, romp and play every day.
  3. If what you want is buried, dig until you find it.
  4. Never pass up a joyride.
  5. Don’t waste your food.
  6. Sniff things out before assuming they’re safe.
  7. Be loyal.
  8. Protect those you love.
  9. Drink lots of water.
  10. Don’t hold grudges.
  11. Let others know when they invade your space.
  12. Don’t bite if a growl will do.
  13. When loved ones come home, run to greet them.
  14. Mark your territory with abandon.
  15. Never turn down a treat or a walk.
  16. Love unconditionally. ūüźĺ

And the rockets red glare…

And the rockets red glare...
And the rockets red glare…

This weekend we celebrate America’s independence.¬† July 4th¬†and I have a complicated relationship. As a naturalized citizen, I love being able to celebrate and share in all the wondrous¬†aspects of being an American. But I admit, I mostly hate July¬†4th because of the fireworks.¬† They’re loud, smell badly, hurt untold numbers of people,¬†can damage property and send dogs into¬†sheer panic. Having been hit by a bottle rocket as a kid and attended¬†an event supervised by a fire department that went dangerously awry¬†as an adult, you can probably guess where I fall at on topic of fireworks and the¬†4th of July.¬†¬†I‚Äôm with the dogs. I‚Äôve spent countless hours trying to sooth wigged out pets over the years and it breaks my heart to see them so traumatized.

Most communities have professional events where they set off amazing displays¬†to which I say go if you need¬†a sparkly light show¬†that goes boom! ¬†In the city of Denver, fireworks are illegal for homeowners to shoot off, fire danger and safety being the primary reasons. All of the metro area municipalities have displays at various baseball/soccer stadiums, concerts¬†and other venues which you‚Äôd think would be enough for celebratory patriots. But that never seems to stop loads of ignorant and clueless people¬†who¬†merely¬†drive to the suburbs where they can buy bags of fireworks and return home to set them off…for days in advance and days following the holiday. I first heard them this past weekend. “Uh oh,” I thought, ‚Äúhere we go again.‚ÄĚ ūüôĀ

In¬†our ‘hood there is a kind of digital bulletin board (an online¬†neighborhood watch if you will) where people can post pretty much anything. The police department likes it because it engages neighbors to be aware of people and things and neighbors like it because they can share service recommendations, get information about local happenings, etc. Lately it‚Äôs been dominated by¬†the number of ‚Äėlost/found dog‚Äô postings. Some of those were dogs were spooked by thunder, but a lot of them¬†were due¬†to illegal fireworks.

I‚Äôm very fortunate that Sam is pretty non-plused by fireworks. True to his nature, he stays calm or as calm as Sam can stay since he‚Äôs pretty much a pogo stick of a dog,¬†bouncing up and down¬†with joy over the simplest of things in life.¬† He only gets stressed whenever the¬†vacuum comes out, always keeping an ever watchful eye on the dreaded¬†‚Äėcorded Dragon‚Äô making a racket he simply cannot understand. My last dog however was so terrified by fireworks I used to think Finn was going to stroke out before we made it through the fireworks season. A friend of mine who used to live in the neighborhood has a couple of Boxers who also freak out whenever there are fireworks. We have commiserated and groused for years about the neighborhood clowns who shoot them off at all times of the day and night despite high temperatures and fire danger or the city ordinance banning them. The worst part has been we’ve been powerless to do anything about it or make things better for our pets.

So what can you do to ease a pet‚Äôs fears about fireworks? Behavioral strategies¬†can include advance desensitization to the sound of fireworks through countless CDs or apps or distraction with high value treats and toys, though in both Finn‚Äôs and my friend‚Äôs Boxers‚Äô cases, neither options were ever successful. Their only coping was through extreme pacing, whining, drooling,¬†and hiding. Other advice¬†suggests (a) using Adaptil, a chemical compound that resembles a¬†calming pheromone found in the milk of mother dogs that can be diffused in a room or on a collar; (b) L-Theanine, an amino acid that¬†may calm a dog neurologically; (c) the popular ‚ÄúThundershirt‚ÄĚ which fits snuggly around a dog (a-la burrito style) to help alleviate anxiety related issues; or¬†(d) use of a pharmaceutical medication (but not a sedative which would only induce drowsiness¬†and not¬†change the feeling of intense fear). It should be administered before fireworks begin¬†and then employ the other behavioral strategies.

Because July 4th is on a Friday this year, it makes for a nice long 3-day weekend. Woo-hoo!  What better time to host a summer party with friends and family? And what 4th of July party isn’t complete without the requisite red, white and blue bunting or flags, burgers/brats on the grill, noshing of baked beans and chips, and homemade ice cream all washed down with some beer or wine? It’s probably the alcohol on the menu that contributes to the setting off of fireworks in my neighborhood but hey, what do I know about these things?

So this 4th of July, be especially aware of how setting off fireworks can affect pets. I say be patriotic…fire up that BBQ grill and have a cold one but please don’t set off fireworks in neighborhoods, especially where it’s banned. The fur babies will be happier and everyone will be safer, too.

There, I’m climbing off my soapbox now. ūüôā Wishing you and yours a safe and happy 4th. <3

It was one of THOSE days

Walk with me Grasshopper [Master Po]
Walk with me Grasshopper
[Master Po]
Ever have one of those days?¬† Sure, we all have them but how you perceive them makes all the difference in the world. It’s usually some stupid little thing that sends our minds into chaos. Remember the 1970’s series Kung Fu where David Carradine was able to master his mind and calm everything down? Well, I should have remembered some of those episodes, it might have helped us both out.

This past weekend was our regular rotation at hospital and hospice. Saturday we were scheduled for oncology. It’s always an intense session for both of us. Patients are so sick, their families are worried and a hardworking staff usually has their hands full. Everyone seems a little bit on edge. I get that and know that with Sam’s usual calming presence we usually¬†manage the shift well.

It wasn’t that we were running behind, in fact, we were fairly early. The problem was my fault; I didn’t cope well and it may well have affected Sam.¬† Maybe it was barometric pressure.¬† It was one of those rain-threatening days with hail in the forecast. We‚Äôve had some real doosies of hail storms recently so I thought; “heck we’re early, let’s park at the farthest point away in¬†the parking lot under a very large cottonwood tree that would easily protect my little set of wheels.” My car isn’t super special, but it’s cute, dependable and in very good shape. It‚Äôs kind of important to me to want to keep it a nice, cute, dependable vehicle. So far so good, right?

That’s when everything went to crap. Unbeknownst to what was just ahead, we sauntered into the volunteer area to sign in. As soon as I got us all signed in, I realized Sam was missing his ID tag. Phooey. Having lost my own badge several weeks ago (still think it fell off somewhere in the parking lot but it was never turned in to Lost & Found), I wasn’t feeling like I wanted to go through the replacement process and expense again. Hey, no sweat, we’ve got plenty of time I thought, we’ll just go back out to the parking lot and see if it fell off in the lot since I had attached it to his collar when we got out of the car. About this same time, I also realized my car keys are missing. Ugh!

Part of my uniform consists of a handy apron with pockets across the front and a smock/lab coat also with pockets. Since volunteers don’t have lockers, all these pockets are especially useful to stash the items we need during our visits‚ÄĒSam’s business cards that are given to patients, a small hand sanitizer, small notepad with enough room for a few dog treats–stuff like that. The coat has two decent sized pockets where I can stash my wallet and (on good days) my keys.¬† So I empty all the apron pockets and check my pant pockets as well. Dang it, no keys. Then I empty the pockets of the smock. Again, no keys. Rats! So I do the only thing I can think of, go trundling back out and check the car and guess what‚Ķit starts to rain (I am not making this up).

Sam really despises getting wet and I wasn’t all that keen on looking like Little Orphan Annie with curls up to here. We dash to that far end of the lot (remember that good idea I had earlier?) and I look in the passenger side to see if the keys are in the ignition. No dice. Ah, crap! The good news is I spot the missing ID tag and secure¬†it on to¬†Sam’s collar. We head back toward the sign-in area¬†because I‚Äôm convinced that I probably just set the keys down next to the sign-in computer.¬† No biggie.¬† Ha!

Once back in, I fluff Sam and myself up a bit so we don’t look like drowned rats. So far, not so bad. But alas, no keys either. Oh man, really?!…I decide to go back out and see if maybe the keys fell next to the seat or maybe I set them down in the back seat when Sam got out and I hooked up his leash. Well, at least it’s not raining now but I’m starting to get stressed. Muttering and kvetching, I notice Sam is panting hard and not just from walking back and forth like crazy. He’s picking up on my energy.¬† Oh no!

So back out in the parking lot, I walk all around the car and what do I see? The blankety-blank keys sitting ‚Äėpurdy as a picture‚Äô‚Ķin the door lock! Argh, are you freaking kidding me??!! Now we are running behind and we rush back inside. Sam is definitely stressed. He freaks out in the elevator and seems completely at odds with his normal calm “I’m ready to go to work” persona. I’m upset and feel out of step myself. This is not good.

Before we begin a shift, we always swing by the gift shop and say hi to the volunteer high school students that generally man the shop on weekends. Sam loves these kids and they always enjoy a visit with him before we head up to our assigned floor. It’s a good way to begin a shift and it brightens their day.¬† He’s totally disinterested and out of balance so we leave and head on up hoping it’ll get better (sorry kids, we‚Äôll be¬†more friendly the¬†next time‚Ķpromise!). The oncology floor can be intense and kind of crazy.¬†Saturday the stars were totally aligned¬†but not in a good way.

The first room we stopped by was on full tilt alarm. The patient was¬†stressed and¬†tired and no doubt probably sick of that annoying¬†beep, beep, beeping noise so we didn’t stay long. I offered to bring someone in to¬†turn the alarm off. Sam was restless and disinterested in visiting, that confounded alarm wouldn’t shut up and it seemed like it took forever for the nurse¬†to come silence it.¬†Everything seemed frenzied (or at least in my mind it was–it’s all in perception, right Grasshopper?). We left and moved on to patient number two. Another squawking alarm (what are the odds?). Ugh. The patient’s visitor asked if I could get someone to turn it off, they¬†said it had been trilling away for the past 10 minutes. Oh dear.¬† I’ve never seen or heard so many alarms going off on a floor.¬† Sam actually hesitated and then balked at going into the next room. And so it was the entire shift. In the rooms he would go in, he’d be restless, panting, not fully engaged. By then I was no longer stressing about my misplacing the stupid keys, but about him¬†but I wasn’t in the best place¬†to guide him back to balance (breathe, Grasshopper).

Recent research has shown examples of dogs and their amazing ability to ‘smell’ cancer. The results suggest they are quite good at it too. I couldn’t help¬†wondering if some of those scents were part of Sam’s distress or was I totally to blame. Granted, I’m sure he picked up on my negative energy but I couldn’t help but wonder if his super sensitive nose was picking up on those patients’ condition, all the equipment alarms and the stressed out staff.¬†It was a¬†perfect storm of¬†everything converging. Maybe it was just an off kilter alignment of the stars.¬† Whatever it was, it all started out with something stupid and minor and¬†turned into ‘one of those days.”

Thankfully Sunday was better; we went to hospice and Sam was more balanced. We visited with some really nice people who told funny stories of their family’s experiences with dogs (I learned a lot about Dalmations–oh my!). There was a greater level of calm though it was still a teeny smidge off from our usual shifts at hospice. I guess perception is everything, and when it‚Äôs bad as it had been the previous day, it surely impacted us and maybe even carried over to Sunday. Next time I‚Äôll be better prepared so it‚Äôs a good visit for patients as well as a good experience for Sam. They all deserve that.¬† <3

Did you do anything fun on the first weekend of summer? Do dish on how you handle ‘one of those days.’

Fox tails

Foxes in the 'Hood
Foxes in the ‘Hood

No, not that kind–we like those fox tails. I’m talking about those treacherous weeds with barbed seed heads that can cause as sorts of havoc with dogs. ¬† See those innocent looking long stalks ending in a cluster of spikes ¬†resembling a fox‚Äôs tail? They can be trapped in a dog‚Äôs coat and burrow deep into the skin. This year they seem particularly bad after some recent rains and seem to have sprouted much sooner than past years.

Insideous and quite dangerous bastard!
Insideous and quite dangerous bastard!

Generally found west of the Mississippi (though increasingly moving eastward), these innocent enough looking weeds can be really risky for dogs. Mother Nature cleverly designed those barbed heads to attach to critters thus ensuring the spread of the seed.

The barbs are particularly menacing as they only move in one direction–always forward, never backward. They burrow deeper and deeper into the fur. Noses, ears, between the toes, under the collar or armpits are the most frequently found¬†spots. Removal from fur as soon as possible is important since they¬†can be¬†quite difficult to remove once they penetrate the skin. Those barbs can burrow deep into the skin and if not treated, can journey throughout the body. A dog sniffing the ground can easily inhale them into their noses or get them caught in their ears and if not treated immediately, can result in serious problems resulting in an expensive visit to a vet.

Sam’s not much of a licker so when I noticed him licking a spot I knew right away something was irritating him. After a close examination, I discovered one of those nasty little buggers. There are a few spots of this devil weed in our neighborhood so we probably picked one up along our strolls. Because Sam loves to sniff along the sidewalk I have to keep a close eye on him since they can easily attach to his finely textured, curly coat. Now that the weather has warmed up, those seeds are starting to turn a lovely shade of wheat‚ÄĒpretty much the same color as Sam, which makes them very difficult to see. Whenever we come in from a walk, I run my hands over his coat for a couple reasons. One, he likes it, and¬†two, to ferret out any grass, weeds or other evil hitchhikers on his coat. Obviously, I missed that one. Those nasty barbs stick like Velcro. Once located, I have to either break it apart piece by teeny little piece or try to remove it with tweezers. It can be a royal pain to get him to sit still long enough and try to¬†remove it¬†especially when his hair is longer but it’s so critical to persevere. He always seems relieved to be rid of the sinister little seed head and then in true Sam style, merrily moves on to the next moment. Joie de vivre is his life mantra. ūüôā

Looks like Mom was right, never pick up hitchhikers. They can be especially dangerous to our fur babies. Obviously the best way to handle the bad kind of foxtails is to be ever vigilant and remove them quickly.

Do you have foxtails in your neck of the woods? What’s your strategy dealing with them?


Why do dogs eat grass?

Sorry I’ve been AWOL these past several days. Apart from coming down with the summer cold from hell, I’ve been pondering a lot lately. Often times I find myself asking questions and the one that seems to come up more and more lately is “why do dogs eat grass?” I know, you’re thinking, poor Sam…his dog mommy is totally whacked. But seriously, haven’t you ever wondered why dogs eat grass?

In Sam’s case, there could be a couple of possibilities: (1) it’s the time of year where tender young grass shoots are just too enticing; or (2) he was a goat in a former life (hey, it COULD be true).¬† Now that spring has sprung and the official start of summer is just days away, he goes on the hunt for the perfect blade upon which to snack.¬† It has to be the absolute perfect kind of blade of grass though, a rare vintage if you will, otherwise it’s only good for being pee’d on.

This grass eating seems especially bizarre and counter-intuitive since invariably, he will eat the grass and then throw it up a few minutes later. Seems like a pointless exercise to me. ¬†I mean dogs can’t be bulimic, can they?

Some people think grass eating is to aid with a dog’s digestion, others say the dog is seeking out otherwise missing nutrients from his diet.¬† But like the questioning I used to do in catechism classes, some things just don’t make sense to me.¬† There would be some deep, hard-to-fathom concept that I just couldn’t wrap my head around (the Holy Ghost–WTH?!).¬† I’d press for an answer that would make sense and after usually going round and round, the nun would become so exasperated with all my questions, she’d say something like “You just have to accept it on faith!!”¬† That sounded a lot like code for “I have no freaking idea.” From what I’ve found looking up the topic, everyone else seems to have the same conclusion.

Can’t you just imagine my little brain humming along trying to make some sort of logical sense of this?¬† Sam is a bit of a grazer (which seems to kind of support the whole ‘goat in a previous life’ notion, but I digress). ¬†He’ll casually pick at his kibble until it is finally gone.¬† Some dogs wolf down their food like it’s going to run away if they don’t.¬† Not Sam, oh no.¬† And when I say he’s a grazer, I mean he s-l-o-w-l-y eats his food, but he also slowly grazes on grass (given half a chance).¬† Like a lot…to the point of driving me crazy because no sooner has he eaten a mouthful of grass, he’ll get maybe 25 ft. or so away and…barf.¬† A nice, tiny little green-haystack usually in front of somebody’s sidewalk going up toward their porch.¬† Uh, ex-cuse me–that doesn’t seem like appropriate neighborhood etiquette, does it?¬† It’s all horrifyingly embarrassing.¬† Yikes, did he really eat that much grass?

I don’t know, maybe Sister Sullivan had it right and I just need to accept it on the basis of faith.¬† Accept that the dog knows what he’s doing.¬† Nothing more, no deeper meaning, just faith that everything is going to be ok.

Then again, as I recall she didn’t know what the hell was going on most of the time either.

Does your dog eat grass?  What do you think causes it?  Do you think Sam could be bulimic?



If the set up worked (fingers your crossed–I’m so techno-illiterate), you can follow us on Twitter¬† @pettherapypoochūüźĺ



Bed hog in disguise
Bed hog in disguise

Why is it they curl up in a teeny tiny little ball on THEIR bed but spread out and take up all the room on yours??  Just thinking out loud on a Throwback Thursday.  Hope yours is grand.



Flashback Friday

I completely missed #TBT, so I’m now going with Flashback Friday. Yeah I know, buy at¬†a calendar or set an alarm. ¬†Till then…here’s Sam right after I got him. He’s always been a cute fur-baby. ūüźĺ

Sam when I got him