Monday, August 11, 2008

Great new product: The Furminator!

It's amazing how well this "deshedding" tool works. If you have a long haired cat or dog or your animal companion has a thick undercoat, this tool is far superior to any of the conventional combs and brushes on the market. The teeth on the metal comb pull out the dead undercoat. By the end of the first week of using this, Porter, my chubby Main Coon kitty, appeared almost svelte because so much fur had been taken from his undercoat.

What it can't do is to eliminate those nasty knots; they still need to be cut out with scissors. Yep, The Furminator is pricey, but well made and effective. You can find it in Portland at Freddie's and most pet supply stores.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Be the pack leader for your dog!

In the wild, dogs (and their ancestors, the wolves) roam across large stretches of terrain in packs. There is always a pack leader, usually an alpha male, and his partner, the alpha female.

Dogs will test boundaries, just like kids, until you assert yourself as leader in no uncertain terms. Yes, there can be two or more human leaders: your partner, and your dog walker, for example. Your dog needs to understand that people are in charge; they are leaders. Once that is communicated, your dog will become less hyper vigilant and watchful. He or she (not "it") will likely be a little more relaxed about protecting the pack, although depending upon breed, that extinct will not be fully extinguished, and that's probably all for the good.

Leaders go first, and set the pace. The pack follows. If you are walking with your dog, he/she should be in the heel position, on your left, walking right next to you, or slightly behind. You set the pace, making sure to correct if your dog pulls. Stop. Resume your walk, and stop again if the pulling occurs. Repeat as often as necessary. You can also abruptly change direction, which will get your dog's attention. Dogs are intelligent (some more so than others) and capable of learning many human expectations. Do not use an expandable lead, unless you keep the lead short. When you exit your house, go out first, with your dog following. You can train your dog to stay in the sit position at the door until you give a release word, like "okay!" When you return home, enter the house first. Provide food (as a reward) after the walk, not before. If you are not ready to eat but your dog is, try mimicking eating, for about ten seconds before feeding. In the pack, leaders eat first.

It's controversial whether the leadership position is destroyed by inviting your dog to either lounge on your sofa with you, or to sleep in your bed. In your dog's eyes, this is an invitation to equality. But as the saying goes, pick your battles. Decide what's most important to you. Some trainers advocate that the dog follows at all times, including in the home. That is probably a good thing, and will help prevent getting tripped on the stairs.

Leash training is essential for city dogs, as well as keeping identification on your dog at all times. (How many "lost dog" posters have you seen?)

Call in an experienced trainer if it seems that your dog has gained the upper paw in your household. Your life will be a lot saner with a trained dog who is obedient to commands. Consider having your dog trained to respond to both verbal and hand signals. The latter can come in handy should your dog be at a distance, or, if your dog should become hearing impaired late in life.

Don't be afraid to be the Alpha Male or the Alpha Female. If there is more than one leader, make sure the commands are consistent. If your dog forgets, or even does something destructive, punishment is cruel and does not teach anything other than fear. Dogs, like most animals, live in the present moment. In that respect, there is much we can learn from them about living a joyful life in the here and now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Feline Challenge

Satya — how could a creature so lovely suddenly metamorphose into a hissing, growling spitfire? Her family tells me she is really very sweet. I’m sure she is, with them.

She is my charge for ten days. Along with “the boys” Spock & Socks, and, I must not forget – the fish. They are upstaged by Satya’s medical needs. She is alert, active at times like any other kitty, and her coat and eyes look healthy, even with hyperthyroidism and diabetes. Another case of deception by appearance.

The first visit was pretty much routine, so it did not prepare me for what was to come. The next time I showed up, though, Satya made it quite evident that my presence was not welcomed. (After all, I am NF: Not Family.) Call me optimistic but I assuredly decided to wait her out. Several hours passed; she remained vigilant. She let me know it would not be pretty if I stepped an inch closer to touch her.

Evening arrived, and I had not made progress getting the second medicine into her, though she gladly ate the first medicine, disguised in (yummy!)baby food. Reluctant to use the towel method (which would only further antagonize her), I realized I had been outsmarted by a cat. Dispirited, I finally left, hoping for better luck the next day.

Sunday morning dawned, and apprehensive about the visit, I said a prayer to Mother/Father God and St. Francis. I’m not sure if I believe in an intercessory God, yet I do believe in miracles. It does seem, at times, that prayers are indeed answered. And I may not be Catholic, but I feel a connection to the simple man of Assisi.

Luck was with me. Maybe my prayer was answered. Or maybe it was the element of surprise and my no nonsense attitude. A quick dab, a few scratches behind her ears, and the medicine was in her. A second later, though, Satya became fully alert. Hissing and growling, she lashed out. Even for an experienced professional, it can be intimidating encountering a frightened or angry animal.

Satya reminds me of another kitty. Henri tolerated, maybe even loved my Mom, but she loathed everyone else. When my Mom was no longer able to care for her,I thought there was no choice but to put Henri to sleep. My then-boyfriend intervened and took her in, even though he decidedly was not a cat person. Amazingly, within a few weeks, Henri’s more lovable side became apparent. When I asked how he did it, he responded, “I let her know who was boss.” (For those of us who know cats, we know how bizarre that answer is.)

You may have rightly gathered by now that this profession is a lot more than hanging out with the cute and cuddly. With our companion animals, pulling rank (the superior human) really doesn’t work in the long run. It’s more a matter of respecting the animal’s inherent nature, and its place, along with ours, in the great web of life.

My confidence and capability allows a small window of time where I can get close enough to medicate Satya. She has an equal right to be unhappy. She is ill, and her family is away. I respect her right to feel grumpy, particularly under these circumstances. On some level, she may sense my respect, my empathy. That’s my hope, and my prayer.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A couple of great products

1) Pet Walker-Plus leash/lead
Introduced by my wonderful clients, Sue & Gary. Walking their two Westies with it makes my job easier (it's "no tangle"), it leaves me with one free hand, and we all have more fun.

The two, long separate leads "allow each dog individualism and separate mobility needed to perform natural duties." Leads have snaps at both ends, so they can be used dual or single. "Large leashes are designed with a safety release allowing (owners) to control the release. Large and small dogs can be walked together."
Both dogs have as wide of a stretch to sniff around as they would have on separate leads.

Three sizes: Small (1/2 inch wide) up to 15 lbs. each. Medium (3/4 inch wide) for up to 59 lbs. each. Large (1 inch wide) for up to 60 lbs. each. By ordering it from the company, I paid $25 - $35, plus shipping.

Pet-Walker Plus (Carlsbad, CA), 760-930-9888, or Internet search. You may find it at your local pet supply store.

2)Zoom Groom Brush.
My long haired Main Coon used to have a low tolerance threshold when I used a conventional brush. Now he welcomes daily brushing with the massaging, rubber tips.
Inexpensive, virtually indestructible, and easy to find. I have groomed dogs, cats, rabbits,and guinea pigs with it. Easy to clean, and because it's rubber, you won't accidentally hurt your companion animal.

Both products get A+ recommendation from The Pet Professional.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Defensive Dog Walking & Mindfulness

Defensive Dog Walking. It's what I practice as a Pet Professional, and if you are a defensive driver, you'll get the concept pretty quickly.

It's a typical morning, and you are out walking your dog, one hand gripping the leash (or lead), and the other your morning cup of java. Rounding the corner, you are paying little attention, since your mind is scattered in several directions, planning the day ahead.

Your dog is on an expandable lead, way out of your reach, zigzagging down the street. You are caught off guard since you haven't noticed the person or dog approaching, until they are both too close for comfort. Aggressive Fido is staring down at your dog - not a good sign. An altercation, or worse, could ensue between dogs or their guardians. That would not be a pretty picture.

How do you practice defensive dog walking? Let's begin with what you know, and what you don't. You know your dog and feel you can pretty much predict his or her behavior. (But are you really sure what your dog will do 100% of the time?) You don't know the dog coming towards you. You don't know if the dog is well trained or aggressive. And it's possible that the person with the other dog isn't a responsible pet guardian. Here are my suggestions:

If you have any concerns about who is approaching, cross the street, or turn around and walk in the direction you just came from.

Use a non-expandable lead. With the expandable, your dog may be too far out of reach and at a safety risk. Dogs on expandable leashes can frequently be seen walking their people. The person has relinquished the leader role, and it's no wonder that the dog believes he or she is in charge.

Keep one hand free in case both are needed to grab control of the lead. No beverage sipping, no idle chatting on your cell.

The Buddhist concept of mindfulness has sifted into our every day parlance. A simple word, yet challenging to put into practice. It has to do with presence. Being fully present, fully aware, in the moment. Focusing on one thing, at one time. Like walking your dog.

So try being more present, more mindfully aware of your surroundings. Be the leader, so your dog isn't walking you. You know what happens if children think they are in charge. Dogs aren't any different in that respect. Both need boundaries for their own safety, for co-existing in a society. That's where responsible dog guardianship comes in.

This is not a warning about your neighbors or friends, or even the benevolent stranger with well behaved dogs. Just friendly advice to practice some mindfulness when dog walking on Portland's busy streets. Stay safe.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Providing our cats & dogs with top nutrition

Pet Promise is the food I recommend. It's what I feed my kitty, and he is one healthy boy, knock wood! Though he likes it a bit too much (to him, food is love)so he gets Healthy Weight & Aging kibble as his main diet, and a bit of the wet food as a morning & evening treat. There are other excellent pet foods on the market, but you do have to do your research.

Why do I like it? Well, let's begin with what it doesn't have: NO animal byproducts, NO rendered meat or chicken meals, NO factory farmed meat, NO antibiotic-fed "protein sources" (interesting euphemism for sentient beings), NO added growth hormones, and NO artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. It may be the only pet food endorsed by a holistic physician, (Andrew Weil.)

"Out of respect for our pets, all animals, and the earth, we source our meat only from U.S. family farmers committed to eco-friendly, natural and sustainable practices and the humane treatment of animals."

So for those of you who haven't heard about the appalling ingredients in most pet food (including Hills Science Diet, pushed by Veterinarians), do an Internet search. You will be pretty shocked, I'm sure, as I was.

Carried by Whole Foods, New Seasons & Fred Meyer. For those of us who shop "natural" foods (vs. unnatural?), we know we pay more. Currently, a 6 lb. bag of dry kibble for cats is $13.99 at Freddie's.

No, I don't receive remuneration for my recommendations (more to come) - but hey - maybe I should look into it!
Dr. Weil:

Friday, February 22, 2008

Perennial Hope: One Dog's Journey

On my web site there's a photo of a little dog peering up at the camera, with the caption, "Archie, learning to trust." His wonderful guardians, Melissa & Nick, gave Archie a second chance (or maybe his third or fourth or fifth, since animals cannot tell us where they've been and what they have had to endure before they arrive in our lives.) However, they do know that somebody shot him. This poor little dog has a pellet in his body.

When I met Archie at a client consultation this past summer, it was evident by his body language that he was quite wary of strangers, and he emitted several warning growls. However, he had a trainer, and we all believed that by working together his life could be turned around with consistency, structure, and kindness.

Recently I told his Mom, "I really hope that some day Archie will come to my lap." She assured me that each day he was becoming a happier, more secure little guy. When I arrived for a four day stay with him yesterday, Archie greeted me at the door with a wagging tale! That evening, sitting on the sofa with a wonderful book (Pay It Forward), he sat across from me on the love seat. Much to my surprise, he jumped to the floor, walked over to me, and stared into my eyes. He held the gaze (unusual since staring is usually an indicator of a challenge and possible aggression in the animal kingdom). I talked to him in a soft, reassuring voice, wondering what he would do next.

Suddenly, he jumped up on the sofa, curled in the crook of my leg, his little head resting on my foot, and closed his eyes. My heart did a little leap of joy. Archie is beginning to believe that he is safe, and that he is loved.

Most dogs embody what I call perennial hope. That belief that something good is coming. Thankfully, Archie still had that; he had not given up on the potential goodness of life.

This entry is dedicated to all the compassionate rescuers like Melissa & Nick who open their hearts and homes to the abused, the neglected, the discarded.

The people who demonstrate the goodness of life by providing forever homes for animals, giving them another chance.

After all, isn't that what all creatures deserve?