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Oct 12

For the Love of Dog!

Mankind is not Perfect, Dogdom Is Close—

Happiness is a warm puppy.

Charles M. Schulz

 

Today, you dog owners can move to the head of the line. To cat owners and other animal lovers…well, I’m allergic to cats. When I enter a room where there’s a cat, the cat will invariably come and sit in my lap. The sniffles and itching start even as I smile stoically through my leaking eyes at the cat’s owner who dotes on the cat.  It’s a Rule of the Universe.

Yes, I have owned a cat, a Siamese cat, that was sane until our daughter was born, but when we caught Sake attempting to kill our infant daughter, our neighbors got a Siamese cat free of charge. We were happy. The neighbors were happy. The cat was happy. Win-win-win all around. Responsible animal lovers who don’t hang out with dogs still rank high in my pantheon of admiration, but this piece is about dogs…and their owners.

Here in Sweden, most dogs I see are either purebreds or deliberate blends of not more than two or three breeds. There must be mongrels around, that is, mixed-breed dogs, but my reticular activator picks up the purebreds probably because we own a Shetland Sheepdog, commonly known as a Sheltie. She’s the second Sheltie we have made a part of our family. I must add, sheepishly, that she is afraid of sheep… and chickens and…well, anything other than other dogs her size or smaller. Big black dogs are to be avoided but, oddly, she was madly in love with a giant Leonberger belonging to a neighbor. She is a born cat-chaser, by the way.

Lest I seem to be accepting of anything to do with dogs, I will candidly admit to considerable animosity toward the American Kennel Club (or any kennel club), irresponsible breeders (particularly puppy mills), dog racers and dog owners who are responsible for gravely damaging dogs through their practice of breeding and favoring dogs that exhibit characteristics the humans deem desirable. Perfect examples are German Shepherds suffering from hip dysplasia and King Charles Spaniels with skulls too small to contain their brains making them subject to seizures. The American Kennel Club is properly accused of fostering practices that damage dogs.

These are not the only ones affected. Many if not most purebreds are similarly damaged after years of thoughtless breeding practices by irresponsible humans. Shelties, for example, are noted for carrying a recessive gene that can result in blindness. Knowing this and though we had ours checked when she was a puppy, we decided to have her spayed. More on that later when I address myths.

We have some friends in the United States who get their dogs through a shelter where, like as not, the dogs are mixed breeds who have been abandoned if not abused. What our friends and others like them are doing is getting a loving companion and saving a dog’s life. I assume you are aware that hundreds of thousands of dogs are euthanized—killed—every year for a variety of reasons, not least being that the shelters are unable to keep the many dogs they have. In this time of Tea Party extortion resulting in a government shutdown, the shelters simply don’t have enough money to afford to keep the animals indefinitely. Thinking and compassionate people like our friends fill a vital need while simultaneously getting a wonderful companion in the family.

 Myths about Dogs—

 Most of us believe the myths about dogs. Some of them are accepted wisdom that has been shown to be flat wrong. For example, it’s an age-old myth that dogs see only in black and white and shades of gray. The fact is that dogs see many of the same colors we do but they fall at the blue end of the spectrum. While the colors they see are said to be less brilliant than those we see, dogs see black, white, shades of gray, muted blues, greens and even faded yellows.

It’s a myth that a warm nose indicates a dog is sick. He/she may simply have a warm nose, but if the dog displays a yellow mucus or is experiencing trouble breathing, get your dog to a vet in a hurry.

It’s a myth that one dog year is the equivalent of seven human years. Longevity depends largely on the size of the dog.  Generally, smaller dogs live longer than big dogs.

It’s a myth that a female dog should have puppies before she is spayed in order to be healthy. Some female dogs are lousy mothers. I suspect our little Sheltie would have been one.

It’s a myth that dogs eat grass because they are sick. Some dogs just like grass. It’s salad to them. Some will eat too much grass and get sick.

It’s a myth that a dog will wag his/her tail to show happiness. Your dog may be happy, but a wagging tail can also signify nervousness or anxiety. It might also be a sign of aggressiveness. Get a good book on dogs. Ask your vet or other knowledgeable expert for a recommendation. You will find some suggested good books at the end of this piece.

Not a Myth—

This is important advice and NOT a myth! Remember that dogs are pack animals and you are part of their pack. If you work all day and are gone leaving the dog alone every day, it will make the dog crazy. It’s like solitary confinement for a human. If you just want a dog in your life for selfish reasons, think first about the dog and its needs. Many humans think of a dog as merely a live, warm, friendly ornament without considering the emotional needs of the dog.

Recent research shows that dogs think in much the same way and at a similar level as a young human child. In an October 5, 2013, New York Times article titled “Dogs are People, Too,” Gregory Berns, professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University and his fellow researchers have shown that dogs have many of the same reactions found in humans. It’s worth reading.

 Pet Peeves (pun intended)—

Abandoning dogs or any animal, for that matter. When the abandoned dog is wrongly thought to be dangerous, Pit Bulls of course come readily to mind. My daughter, a long-time dog owner who has three abandoned Pit Bulls among the five dogs in the family (and is considered a dog expert), says they are among the sweetest dogs she knows. Her view, and one with which I concur since I know one of them, is it’s the owner who’s the one who determines a dog’s disposition.

Showing dogs. Dog shows encourage harmful breeding and are ego things for their owners. Same for cats.

Racing dogs. Hundreds if not thousands of greyhounds die or are killed to perpetuate this “sport.”

Undisciplined dogs…or children, for that matter. Both dogs and human children need to be taught good manners.

Clipped Poodles. Incidentally, they are considered by experts to be among the smartest dogs. At the top of the Smartest list are the Border Collie and the German Shepherd. Of the Poodle, Rita Rudner says, “I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.”

At the ”Stupid” end of the list are The King Charles Spaniels. Maybe that has to do with the problem of their small skulls mentioned earlier. A former neighbor of ours allowed her King Charles Spaniel to get on the table and eat the peanuts intended for the guests…but that has to do with lack of discipline, also mentioned earlier.

 Bay’s Thought for the Day:

 You have a BIG responsibility when you get a dog. Play with it every day. Dogs want and need stimulation and even a challenge the same as humans do.

And last but not least, remember the next time you see a Chihuahua that it is related to the wolf.

 Suggested reading:

The Monks of New Skete. They have written several good books.

Cesar Millan, “The Dog Whisperer.” He has written several good books.

A good book on selecting the right dog for you or your family. A good book will present the physical and mental characteristics of a variety of dogs. And remember that your local shelter has some very good dogs just waiting to be adopted. Do your research BEFORE you get a dog! Be a responsible dog person!

21 comments

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  1. Sister

    It is also suggested that the smartest dogs are actually mixed breeds. When one goes to find a service dog, the shelters are the first place they go. They learn to hear for their master, they perform tasks for their master, and they have unconditional love. They give the person a life they might not normally have. And as Don’s blog suggests, the shelter is where you find your life-long partner.

    I had an uncle who was a great animal lover as all members of our family are. He went to a shelter for a dog and was told he did not want that ugly dog. Guess which one he chose. It was a bull dog as I recall (or similar breed) with one huge tooth protruding from the upper set of teeth. He took the dog to his dentist who promptly gold plated the tooth. The dog loved it, my uncle loved it, and everyone else loved it. Out of what one might term “ugliness,” came “beauty.”

    Refuse to buy dogs from a pet store–they mostly come from puppy mills. This will stop that abuse. A reputable breeder or the shelter is the best.

    1. Don Bay

      Well-said, foxbriar. If indeed mixed-breed dogs are among the smartest, it makes sense. They have not had the brains bred out of them simply because they are mixed-breed. As for getting a dog from a pet store, puppy mills are a major supplier of dogs for pet stores. Finally, as foxbriar says, your best bet is getting a dog from a shelter. You have not only saved a dog’s life, you will have a loving companion for as long as you or he/she lives. If a purebred dog is your goal, a reputable breeder is the way to go. How do you determine if the breeder is reputable? Ask a vet or someone who’s honest and reliable who knows the breeder.

  2. Moorhouse Katharine

    I’ve embraced the concept of reincarnation over the years, not that I truly believe in it, more so that it is just a comforting thought, that maybe in living many lives instead of just the one, our souls would become wiser, more evolved, enhancing the life experience for those we interact with while living on this earth. If this were the case, I would like to come back as any one of the four dogs snoozing on my bed at this very moment. They all have been out, had their breakfast (which by the way, was slightly warmed in the microwave, it’s a chilly morning) and are back up with me napping here until the sun warms their day. Enough cannot be said for the companionship a good dog offers………

    1. Don Bay

      As Kit knows if she’s read my early postings, I don’t buy into the concept of reincarnation, but if I did, then I’d sure want to be one of the four (!) dogs lying on her bed snoozing. A dog is the world’s best companion: it eats the same thing every day and doesn’t complain and always thinks your kind words are golden. If that meal is warmed, so much the better. In Kit’s home, “it’s a dog’s life” is the best possible…as long as she plays with them.

      1. Moorhouse Katharine

        Oh yes, we play! AND they play with each other, a big race out to the pond takes place at least 10 times a day….

        1. Don Bay

          Kit makes the great point that when a person has more than one dog, they play with one another. So when you make that trip to the shelter, get two dogs. They’ll be happy and so will you. The cost of nutritious dog food will seem small in light of the pleasure you and they will find.

  3. Dave Meyers

    I must say Don, that although I have known that you are a dog owner, I don’t think of you as a dog guy. I’m not sure why. I suppose, that like me, your life has been full of all sorts of adventures, traveling, projects, and activities that would seem to leave little time to care for an animal.

    I never had a dog while growing up (analyst scratches head). My father, a no-nonsense guy with a Marine Corp demeanor and little patients for excuses from his offspring, would not hear of it. And, believe me, there would have been excuses had I or my siblings been charged with the responsibility of caring for a dog…or any pet, shy of my tropical fish, I assure you.

    So, I have navigated life free of the burden or responsibility of a dog. And although my two sons completed childhood without a dog as well, they are now both dog owners. They also eat beef, something that I have avoided for 38 years and deprived them of while growing up at home.
    My oldest son attended a Bar-B-Que shortly after leaving home, called me and suspiciously asked, “Why didn’t we ever have steak?” I suppose that a similar question might have been asked when he decided on a dog.

    Marilyn is not a dog person either, but we do have many friends who are. We hike with these folks here in Colorado, and their dogs race up and down the trails covering three time the distance that the humans do. And I get it…we see the love that these folks have for these animals and I will admit that I find them amusing and marvel at their level of energy.

    And so, not be left out, Marilyn and I developed a…‘Virtual Dog’. A dog that pretty much takes care of himself, comes and goes as he pleases. Generally causes us no concern and burdens us with no real responsibilities.

    We gave him human characteristics and attributes that we point out and brag about whenever our friends go on and on about the virtues of their own dogs. We have done this so often that some folks actually ask, “how is ‘Faux” (that’s his name) doing?”. We answer with beaming pride and enthusiasm, brag that he is home vacuuming and preparing a dinner for our return. And we always pull out the wallet pictures….Faux http://home.comcast.net/~dmeyers2/Empty/3ofus.jpg

    I think that your advice to real dog owners is thoughtful and valuable. We salute all who have taken on the sizable responsibility of caring for a dog.

    1. Don Bay

      We didn’t have a dog until I retired and we moved here because I was working ridiculously long hours and Ewa was flying a good portion of the time. Not good for dogs. Once the move was made, our growing kids decided that they now wanted a dog and were agreeable to the responsibility a dog entails. So it was that we became a dog family. We are all the better for that decision.

      Faux has been part of your family for quite a number of years and will probably outlive us all. We readily admit that Faux has easily surpassed the accomplishments of any dog we have ever known. Why, he’s almost human. May he live long and prosper.

    2. Kathlena Contreras

      Your picture of Faux is great, Dave. But those eyes and the size of that cranium are scary! I’m not surprised he vacuums and fixes dinner! 🙂

  4. Kathlena Contreras

    Love, love, LOVE your post! This made me laugh out loud: “I must add, sheepishly, that she is afraid of sheep…” Great! 😀

    And thank you so much for the shout-out about pit bulls. They are the cuddliest, loveyest, peopley-est dogs. And one of mine is so smart, it’s sometimes scary.

    1. Don Bay

      Like humans, there are smart dogs and there are stupid ones. They can be in any breed or among the mixed-breed dogs. There’s a spectrum. When the experts define the smart and stupid dogs, they are generalizing. Service dogs are tested for intelligence before they can become service dogs, and those dogs come from a variety of breeds or are, as pointed out by my sister, a blend of breeds. That one of Kathlena’s Pit Bulls is uncannily smart is not unusual. Dogs learn to “read” humans so (and I may be reaching a bit here, folks) if you have a smart dog, it suggests that you, too, are smart. Smart or not-so-smart, a dog is a wonderful companion. Count yourself fortunate if you have a dog in your life.

  5. Mary Ann Conley

    Great blog! We have three dogs: Bichon Frise–15 years. She has been my co-therapist all her life. Italian Grayhound–6 years. Cattle dog/Basengi mix…7 years. She is working on an advanced degree in doggie school. CiCi was afraid of anything the color red when she was a pup. All our dogs are smart, friendly, fun, and very much a part of our lives. Also have a wonderful conure who is a part of the pack.

  6. Kitty Courcier

    hey Don! I’m enjoying the blog. I have had dogs in the past. Great Danes. We thought AKA breeds were good dogs to buy. We should have known better than to buy them from pig farmers in the Sacramento Valley. Beautiful pups. Dark gray with black spots. At 8 months old our pup suffered from severe seizures. He grew too fast to get his medication calculated adequately. We put the poor guy through 3 months of torture and then had to put him down. He had suffered brain damage. We found out that 4 of the 6 pups from this litter had seizures. I’ve only had cats since then. Big dogs seem to leave big holes in your heart. I love my cat, but it isn’t the same need for each other that a dog brings. Bless all the pets that bring us joy!!! And a BIG hello to Kathy…

    1. Don Bay

      It isn’t just puppy mills as Kitty points out. It’s fast buck artists—in this case, pig farmers in the Sacramento Valley—preying on folks who want a dog in their lives. That’s one reason to deal with reputable breeders if you want a dog that’s a purebred. Ask your vet or, if she doesn’t know the breeder, ask someone familiar with the seller. If the price is unbelievable for a papered dog, you can bet something’s fishy. In my experience, the departure of any canine member of the family leaves a big hole in your heart.

      1. Kathlena Contreras

        Better yet, get a rescue dog. There are so many, many wonderful dogs looking for their forever homes. There’s no reason to pay big bucks to a breeder, many of whom only see the dogs as ATM machines.

        1. Don Bay

          Excellent point! And the breeders do charge big bucks.

  7. Linda

    Great blob on dog ownership! Like Dave, I grew up petless and remain so but for a while I became the Cat Lady, the person people called upon to feed the cat while the owners were off on vacation. I have to say, two of the three cats grew on me….the third tried to bite me once and then ran off when I scolded him. The other two “talked” to me when I arrived and one even snuggled up to me when she becomes lonely. Oh wait, this is about DOGS.

    As a kid, I have vivid memories of packs of dogs roaming our neighborhood. Once, walking down the block, what I remember as a HUGE black dog came running up to my sister and me and although I was younger and smaller and deserved to be protected, it was every gal for herself! Boy, could my sister run! Man, could I scream! What a memory! Makes me laugh everytime it comes back! Gee, Don, thanks for conjuring up that warm and fuzzy memory for me.

    1. Don Bay

      Yep, the blog’s about dogs…but while we’re on the subject of cats, I will mention again my allergy to cats. I will also mention that one set of neighbors had a Siamese cat (Sam) that would attack a visitor’s leg if they weren’t on their guard. First sign of impending attack was that the cat’s head would tip to one side as he eyed the target leg. Fortunately, the neighbors were almost always watching and would intercede before the leg could be damaged…and that cat could inflict real damage. That Sam was certifiably crazy was not in doubt. Sort of like the Tea Party faction in congress.

      As for the big black dog of childhood memory, only rarely will a dog attack without provocation. Though the fear of dogs can last a lifetime after such an incident, the fact that you are here to write about it means that your residual fear is not necessary. Relax and realize that dogs are really mankind’s best friend. And keep on being a good neighbor who feeds your friends’ cats.

      1. Linda

        ….crazy like the Tea Party! Ha-ha!

  8. Donna

    You’re allergic to cats; Roger’s allergic to cats and dogs. But I grew up with a dog, our kids wanted a dog, so what to do? We got a dog that could live outdoors – a golden retriever.that we purchased from a local family. Ginger was a great family dog. The kids played with her, we took her for walks often and on trips and hikes wherever we went. At home, she had access to a dog house in our garage that gave her protection from the weather.

    Ginger, was also a field trial champion and had papers to prove it. Although no one in our family hunts, lots of people in our city do, so this was a plus when we decided to breed her. Our friend had a golden retriever that was also a field trial champion, so we bred her with that dog. The puppies were adorable, but only two of the litter were what I’d call “normal” dogs. Two died shortly after birth. One had hip dysplasia – it was terrible! Now I know why professional breeders are so disapproving of “back yard breeders” We had Ginger spayed as soon as she was over her post pregnancy period. That was about 30 years ago. Every dog we’ve acquired since has come from the animal shelter.

    Donna

    1. Don Bay

      Two points are worth paying attention to: back yard breeders and acquiring a dog from a shelter. While breeding for profit alone is to be avoided, the one that deserves praise is getting a dog from a shelter. Not only will you get a good family companion, but far too many dogs must be put down at shelters simply because most shelters don’t have the space to keep dogs indefinitely. By getting a shelter dog, you are probably saving a dog’s life. Three cheers for those who get their family member from a shelter.

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