Monday, July 27, 2015

Advocating and Trying Not to Feel Like a Failure

Friday afternoon D'Art started to show signs of GI issues (vomiting) and it continued through the weekend accompanied by diarrhea. After a restless night and some online research I decided to take him to an emergency vet (our vet was closed). Bloat in dogs (especially dogs with large chest cavities like standard poodles) can be deadly. Not to mention the fact that I was concerned about dehydration, etc.

I called ahead of time and then loaded him into the car. What I found when I got there was more like a car dealership than place that cares for animals. I was asked only a few questions. When I tried to offer more, pertinent, information I was seemingly ignored. When I asked if they would like a fecal sample (to examine for parasites, blood etc?) I was laughed at (literally). As you know from a previous post, D'Art LOVES our vet and is a generally healthy dog! He didn't like this vet and nor did I. I was presented with a quote of things that need to be done and was also told that I should have come in sooner (making me feel like a failure as a pet parent). I know my dog, I know that he isn’t feeling well, but I also know that subjecting him to a long list of things likely wouldn't help (including leaving him there for the day by himself). When I asked whether the tests they were suggesting would analyse whether his GI distress was caused by parasite, virus or bacteria I was told "no, we can’t really determine that". D'Art doesn't generally eat strange things, so a foreign body was unlikely (but they still pushed for an xray). So, I thought to myself, what the heck is the point of subjecting him to all that if we don't get any answers! The vet kept reminding me that she was at the end of her 14 hour shift; as if I had enough energy to give her sympathy! I'm sure she was tired, but in my opinion that didn't give her free license to be cold and unpleasant to me and my dog. After talking it through with my other half, I quickly realized that I couldn't trust this vet to do what was best for my dog. Instead, they were just trying to sell me the most expensive services they provided (whether or not they were relevant to addressing his illness). I went into advocate mode, asking questions about each 'service' and basically paring the list down to what was actually needed. Meanwhile, I was tired and feeling emotionally fragile. It was rough.

D'Art isn't 100% yet, but he isn't dehydrated and he hasn't vomited for 24hours. I am following the instructions given to me when I left and I'm hoping to see him bounce back in the next few days. If not, we'll be off to our vet; whom we appreciate and trust. I'll be looking for another emergency vet, for those times when it's needed.

Don't forget that we can't always trust all animal professionals. Ask questions and be a good advocate for your pets. You know them best!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Why Dogs Made Me Rethink Light Bulbs

I haven't bought a 'regular' light bulb for years. Energy saving light bulbs have been the way to go for a while now and one of the more common types are CFLs (compact fluorescent, you know - the curly ones). Well, shortly after adopting the poodles, I discovered why I hate CFLs.

It was a chilly autumn night. Teddy and D'Art were playing together and suddenly a floor standing lamp got knocked over. The CFL light bulb in it broke. No big deal, one might think, just vacuum it up and move on. Sadly, that is not the case with CFLs. CFLs contain mercury. Mercury is poisonous. What should you really do when a CFL breaks?
  1. Quickly evacuate the room, and stay away for at least 10 minutes (some people recommend up to 20). Do not walk through the break site, this could spread the mercury onto paws and feet.
  2. Ventilate the room.
  3. Turn off any central heating/cooling systems to avoid recirculating the mercury.
  4. When safe to return, carefully collect the shards of glass and dispose of them. DO NOT vacuum, this only spreads the mercury around. Instead use sticky tape to pick up the smallest shards and powder. Seal all broken pieces up in a glass jar or thick plastic bag.
  5. Research how to safely dispose of CFLs in your region. Some places mandate that CFLS be recycled in a special process (separate from your curbside recycling).
  6. If possible, continue to ventilate the room for several hours.
 For even more detailed instructions, check out this link: 

Sounds like an ordeal doesn't it! Not to mention the risk of making my dogs sick from mercury poisoning! Now add in the fact that your house is small, so in order to avoid the mercury everyone had to go outside. It is 9pm at night in the autumn (so it's dark and chilly) and all you want to do is go to bed. In the end I put the poodles in the car while the humans addressed the situation. The next day I removed all CFLs from lamps and replaced them with LEDs (light emitting diode). Now, every time a CFL dies in any light fixture, I replace it with an LED bulb. LEDs may cost more (around $12 per bulb) but they are plastic so they won't break and leave glass on the floor, they don't contain mercury and they last upwards of 20 years! No more changing light bulbs! And, of course, they are considered 'green' as they consume much less energy than a regular light bulb. Goodbye CFLs! The only thing is that some LEDs (some cheaper ones) will buzz. I now have some trusted (and still affordable) brands that I know don't buzz. If you aren't sure, do some online research first to avoid a house of buzzing lights!

Have you ever had a CFL light bulb break?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pool Party!

Last week Teddy voluntarily got in the tub to cool off on a hot day. It made me realize we needed a poodle pool! Well, the pool is in place and so far so good!

It took the encouragement of a few treats and a couple of enthusiastic sounding humans to convince them to get in. And when they did, the stood in it....and then they drank. Seemingly they thought I brought home the mother of all water bowls!

But after a while, they'd get in the pool of their own accord and we discovered a new game that we all love - toy fishing! I throw a ball or rubber bone in the pool and they dive in and get it! Teddy really got in on the action, putting his whole head underwater in order to retrieve his beloved planet dog ball.

In between dives I throw the ball in the yard to give him time to shake off some of the drips. 

D'Art's an ace at fishing out the rubber bone, but he also likes to stand in the pool with no other agenda. I'm thinking it feels nice on his hot, dark, fluffy feet!

I think this pool is bound to bring some extra joy to the poodles and humans alike this summer!

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Vet Visit for a Senior Poodle

We started the week off with our annual check-up at the vet. Teddy and D'Art love our vet, and I think she's pretty great too! D'Art spent most of the appointment being showered with love. Teddy patiently waited his turn and then he got some love too (and an exam). Going in for their check-ups makes me acutely aware of the ever-changing needs of my aging dogs. D'Art is 11 and therefore had his annual senior blood work done. His tests came back normal, so that's a relief. I had a long list of questions for our vet and she answered each one with great patience. One of my concerns is D'Art's mobility. He plays runs and plays like a puppy, but then sometimes after laying down for a while he'll need be stiff in his hindquarters. On the rare occasion he needs a boost to get up again. I was given a few good recommendations by our vet, including glucosamine. D'Art gets regular muscle massages (by yours truly) and he continues to live and play like he's a puppy, so I'm happy to let him enjoy life. I just need to have certain things on hand to help him when his mind thinks he's still a puppy but his body does not.

Any time the poodles start a new supplement I like to understand its benefits, so here is what I learned about glucosamine. Glucosamine occurs naturally in a dog's body. It is there to build and maintain healthy cartilage. As dogs age the body doesn't produce this as effectively. Supplementing with glucosamine has proven to reduce pain and increase mobility. I'm hoping we notice some improvement in D'Art's stiffness and mobility over the next few months. I ensure he is never in pain. He's pretty good at telling me when he feels unwell and I'm pretty good at listening and addressing it.

Do you have a senior dog? If so, what have you noticed change over the years and how do you handle it?

(Just a reminder that I am not a vet or health professional, the health decisions I make for my dogs are at advice of my vet and personal research. Any changes you make to your pet's health regime should be done at the advice of a health professional.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Teddy Goes to the Fair

Summer is full of all kinds of fairs and markets and I love to check them out when I can. Country fairs, street fairs and farmer's markets are my scene! This weekend I heard about a street fair and decided to head that way. Normally when I attend busy places such as this, and want to bring a poodle with me, D'Art is my main pup. He strolls down the street and isn't phased by anything. When people say 'oh look, a poodle' he wags his tail on cue and gives them a friendly smile. He's easy; I can focus on what's up for grabs and pretty much trust that he'll be a gentleman the entire time. But this weekend, it was Teddy's turn. Teddy is a very good boy and is always looking for ways to please his humans, but he can be a little more high strung in busy, noisy places. That said, I want him to have positive experiences in these situations to help him get used to the people, noise, smells and other dogs. So, off we went to the street fair!

At first, I played it safe and we walked around the perimeter, not entering the crowded central part. But he was proving to be a such a good boy that I decided we'd criss-cross the street a few times and really get in on the action. I don't know if you can read between the lines to sense the proud glow that radiates from me, but I am so happy with how it all went. He was on his best behavior! Despite the distractions, he sat when I asked him to (even for the 5 minutes it took me to choose an embroidered bag from one stall). He saw many other dogs, but didn't bark at a single one. He listened to me and took it all in his stride. He was even relaxed by the time we strolled back to the car! I'm so proud of my poodle boy! It is always nice to have one-on-one time with the poodles and I couldn't be more pleased with how well Teddy did at the fair!

How about you? Did you and your pup doing anything fun this past weekend?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Training Mistakes in the Car - Positive Training Blog Hop

I'm excited to be a part of the Positive Pet Training blog hop! This time, the topic up for discussion is training mistakes. Do check out all the other awesome posts on this topic, they are inspirational!

Teddy learns new tricks and behaviors very quickly. That said, a few things in this world cause him anxiety and when in an anxious state of mind he can forget his manners. One of these things is the car. Teddy has a love/hate relationship with the car. He LOVES going in the car, but it can make him anxious. This is especially so on curvy roads or roads with a lot of visual distractions. Typically, when we're on highways, he settles right down and enjoys the view. He also enjoys having his head out the window and finds solace from having the wind rushing past his ears, but that isn't always safe or practical. Slow or curvy roads can make him pant excessively, bark, jump around, lick the window and generally look like a dog who has consumed a vast quantity of caffeine. Moreover, when already in this anxious state, he will often bark and lunge at other dogs he sees as we drive by.

As the driver of this car Teddy's behavior can be very stressful and distracting, so as soon as I realized this was an issue I started mitigating it. Initially I definitely made some mistakes.

Having your dog display anxiety can be stressful. Being stressed and in a small space with a loud dog, I would sometimes react with an equally loud and angry "no" or "bad". So basically, he had lost his cool and so had I. No one wins!

The other mistake I made was in the form of a calming cap. I read about calming caps/thunder caps and it sounded like a good solution. A calming cap is a cap that covers the dog's eyes to obscure what it can see, similar in concept to the blinders that you sometimes see on horses. I made one to fit Teddy and introduced it to him with treat rewards. The end result was that it didn't help him calm down at all! It quietened him for the minute it took him to get it off; meanwhile his anxiety was through the roof. Now I recognize that this was not a good solution for him, but at the time I persevered in hopes that it would help.

Now I approach things very differently...

We don't go anywhere until he is displaying calm behavior (if we can help it). If he runs up to the car very excited, he is bound to start the journey in an excited state of mind and I know how quickly excitement can tip over into anxiety.

Instead of getting frustrated with him for displaying anxious behavior, I help him to get out of that anxious state. He tends to chill out if he lies down. In that position he can self correct. So, as we drive the slow roads out to the highway a lot of "down, stay...good boy!" is said. Any time he starts to whine/bark/pant/lick the window he hears "down, stay....good boy!" Once he has calmed down he is allowed to sit up again and enjoy the view. Often, just a few minutes of lying down will eradicate his panting and center his mind. Meanwhile, I work on centering my mind and not letting it stress me out!

Lastly, I used to feel really embarrassed when Teddy would bark loudly and lunge towards other dogs as we drove by. Now I just remind myself that sometimes dogs will be dogs. They bark. If Teddy is barking at another dog because he is anxious, I care less about what other people might think and just focus my energy on giving him guidance to help redirect his energy. Calming him down and helping him in a happy and patient manner becomes my focus. If I can't do this safely while driving, I pull over and we collect ourselves before heading on our way again. If he is calm, we drive by other dogs without a peep (or maybe just a 'hello' bark instead of a 'you make me stressed' bark).

Although he still struggles with car anxiety at times, he truly does like going on car trips. Moreover taking my dogs in the car is a very real need, so we continue to work on it. It is a journey, in more ways than one!

Friday, July 3, 2015


Happy Fourth of July weekend everyone! We will be beating the heat and celebrating outside with pupsicles! (Well, I may stick to lemonade!)

I found some no-sodium turkey broth in the freezer that I made from one of our home-grown turkeys a couple of years ago. D'Art and Teddy thought it smelled amazing so I put it into empty yogurt cups.

After some time chilling out in the freezer they're ready to go, and believe you me, I get instant compliance for these tasty treats. These fall on the scale of high value treats in our house. As a bonus, they last for a few minutes and the Poodles enjoy the challenge of getting the frozen broth out of the plastic cup (they don't eat the plastic, otherwise this treat wouldn't work as well).

D'Art will have his in a shady spot.

Teddy will take his away to sit by the trailer in the sun. (Although yesterday he did get too hot and picked it up to move to shade. 90F is abnormally hot for our climate!)

The forest Poodles and I hope you have a great weekend! Keep cool!