It’s National Dog Day!

In our home it’s always Dog day! But today’s the perfect excuse for all of us dog lovers to brag on ours.

CJ & Esme got to hang out with me at work today, meeting and greeting people and their dogs. CJ loves the people, Esme loves the dogs.

How did your dog(s) spend National Dog Day?

Freddie Mercury doesn’t really give a crap! He knows cats are superior.

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Just Random Thoughts After a Long Day

On Tuesdays I teach SoulBody Barre Unhitched early in the morning and later in the evening. In between those two classes I work at my regular job. It makes for a very long day, yes, but I do enjoy it. I would have to work on a Tuesday anyway, and if I wasn’t teaching I’d be doing a workout at home or running. So why not make it a party and invite others to join me, and get paid for it?! I do love my job, if I didn’t I wouldn’t still be in the same field after this many (>20) years. However, leading a group exercise class is my favorite!

If I could teach group exercise, run with friends, do yoga on the beach, and play with my dogs (and invite others’ dogs over for play dates) all day every day, I’d be in heaven. I need to find a way to make a living out of all of these things combined, and still find time to blog because I enjoy that as well!

Have a great day.

Even the Experienced Ones Sometimes Fail – A Lesson in Humility

Exactly one week ago today I relearned a valuable lesson at work. No matter how friendly a dog is or seems to be, never EVER let your face be the closest thing to its mouth when you’re about to do something that might hurt.  As a matter of fact, keep any and all body parts away from the mouth in such a case.  You can have a barrier between you and the dog’s teeth, a wise choice being a muzzle.

There was a dog that came in last week that was self-mutilating its tail.  We had seen it once before and he was coming back for a reassessment.  The dog was very docile and friendly at his first visit, and was just as much when I saw him last week.  He just laid on the floor as I talked to his owner about what was going on and how things were progressing.  I then went to inspect his tail.  The owner had it bandaged.  I leaned over the dog (not a smart move in hindsight) and removed the bandage (my face was directly above his) to check out what was going on.  As I peeled the bandage away from the wound, the dog jerked his head toward me and gave me a warning snap…right to my face because that is what was closest to his mouth.

As I was going through the motions in the room with the client, I was not even considering my safety.  Not one bit.  The dog was a gentle giant!  However, I know better when it comes to an animal in pain.  I know how they react to pain, and the way this dog responded was totally and completely normal.  I just let my guard down, I was too complacent.

Thankfully the only physical injuries that I suffered were a few minor scrapes from the dog’s teeth on my upper lip and a small puncture under my chin.  The most painful part of the experience was the damage to my pride.

I had only ever been truly bitten one time before and it was over 17 years ago, and that dog was vicious.  That was a case of owner negligence.  The owners knew the dog was dangerous and failed to inform any of our staff.  That dog attacked my hand as I tried to take it out of its kennel.  He latched on and kept on clenching his teeth into my hand, as I cringed and waited for him to take a break from clenching so I could get my hand back!  That’s one of the primary differences between a bite from a dangerous animal versus a friendly animal that is reacting to something scary or painful.  The latter will just do a quick bite and release.  The former will keep attacking or latch on.

My incident last week was a great wake-up call for me.  I don’t believe that I will suffer any PTSD from it.  I know exactly what I did wrong and will train and educate other people in hopes that they will avoid a similar situation.  I might have a small scar on the right side of my upper lip once it fully heals, and I kind of hope that I do so that I am reminded regularly to not be so careless.

People keep telling me how lucky I am that the injury was as minor as it is.  They are right. BUT, I also know that if the dog showed any signs of aggression or potential aggression, or even anxiety, my face would have been nowhere near his.  I would have either muzzled the dog before inspecting his wound, or, and most likely, I would have just waited until the doctor was ready to examine the pet and I would have gone in with the doctor to help them safely inspect the injury.

No matter, I am thankful and grateful that I had that experience and am able to share it with others so that they might avoid a similar incident.

 

They are called “Preventives” for a reason…

I want to open up a discussion about Flea prevention. All too often I run into clients that don’t use any flea prevention at all, or they only use it during certain months of the year (most often spring/summer), or they’ll use it when they “see signs of fleas.”  That latter one really makes my head spin.

Some of the common excuses I get for not using flea prevention are:

  1. My pet never goes outdoors.
  2. I don’t want to put chemicals on my pet.
  3. My pet is allergic to or sensitive to it.

Let me address each of these, one at a time.

My pet never goes outdoors.

This excuse is most commonly used with cat owners, but I have heard it from my fair share of dog owners too.  If your dog or cat never sets a paw outside of the confines of your home, she is still not immune to fleas.  Unless you live in the middle of the desert or frozen tundra, there are fleas everywhere in the environment.  Those fleas will do whatever it takes to get to your pet too.  They will hitchhike on your pant leg as you walk from your car into the house after work.  They will hide in your folded pant cuff while you’re out mowing the lawn or gardening, just waiting for you to take them to their next blood meal (ie: your dog or cat, or ferret, or hamster/gerbil/guinea pig).  They will come into your house on a mouse, or just crawl through the tiniest little crack in your doorway or floor or wall.  The fleas will find a way into your home.

10 times out of 10 when an anti-flea prevention pet owner comes to us with a skin irritation complaint, fleas are the primary culprit.  They always seem surprised when we comb off flea “dirt” (flea excrement) from their cat that doesn’t have fleas.  Or if we happen to find a live flea on their dog, it must have picked it up on its way into the veterinary office.

Easy way to tell if it’s just dirt or if it’s “flea dirt:” Place on a white paper towel and get it wet. If it turns brown or red, it is “flea dirt.” If it stays the same color, it’s just dirt.

I don’t want to put chemicals on my pet.

I don’t want to put unnecessary chemicals on my pet, on me or around my house ever!  The key word there was unnecessary.  I will use necessary, safe chemicals around me, on me and, if needed, in me if it’s better than the alternative.

Think about this people.  Start with what you consume on a daily basis.  Do you eat processed foods?  Do you wear lotions, sunscreens, perfumes, anti-perspirants/deodorants?  Do you wash and condition your hair?  Do you use hair products for styling?  Do you launder your clothes?  Do you wear insect repellent?  Do you take medications for any reason, over-the-counter or prescription?

If you answered yes to any of the above, why wouldn’t you do the same for your pet if it could improve their overall wellbeing and health?  Prior to the introduction of topical flea preventives, flea dips were commonplace.  Flea dips consisted of dousing your pet in a pyrethrin.  Pyrethrins have been deemed safe for the environment because they degrade rapidly, but they can be toxic to humans and other mammals.  Pyrethrin toxicity occurs most quickly through respiration, but can also happen more slowly through skin absorption.  Geez.  If you are the person bathing your pet in a pyrethrin, both you and your pet are going to be victim to the aerosolizing of the pyrethrin as you hose your dog or cat down.  The skin absorption is going to be a given for your pet, and a possibility for you, unless you’re wearing gloves during the bathing.

Frontline Top Spot was one of the first true flea preventives on the market.  It’s active ingredient is fipronil.  Fipronil has been proven safe in the environment and to mammals for decades prior to it’s evolution into topical flea preventives for pets.  It has been used in agriculture for decades, and if you’ve ever had your home treated by an exterminator for termites or fleas, I guarantee you they used fipronil!

Now, let me ask you this.  You don’t want to put chemicals on or in your pet, but you are okay with your pet contracting a blood-borne parasite, intestinal parasites (tapeworms), and/or having to live with constant and chronic skin disease?  And then there is the potential for your pet to transmit disease to YOU.  Have you ever heard of Bubonic Plague?  It is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is spread by fleas.  So please think again about flea prevention if this is your excuse for not using it.

My pet is allergic or sensitive to it.

Sure, this is definitely something that could happen.  If you use a topical product, there is the possibility that your pet might have a skin sensitivity to the carrier or the chemical itself.  Then try something different.  Try an oral preventive if you pet is sensitive to topicals in general. The number one carrier used in topical products is isopropyl alcohol.  Some people are sensitive to isopropyl alcohol, but it doesn’t mean it is a dangerous product.  If your pet reacts poorly to an oral preventive, then use a topical.  There are several different preventives on the market, oral and topical and some injectable.  Keep trying until you find the product that your pet tolerates well!

Bottom Line.

Fleas are disgusting!  They are annoying pests to us, but especially to our pets.  Imagine living with thousands of little bitey bugs covering your body, biting you for a blood meal several times every second, causing the most uncomfortable itch you could ever imagine from head to toe.  Every damn day.

If you are using something that is over the counter (Hartz, Sargents, Pet Armor, Flea Shampoo, etc.) and your pet is still suffering from a flea infestation and/or flea allergy dermatitis, talk to your vet about appropriate flea prevention, please.  Owning pets does not come without cost.  Either pay for flea prevention that works, or continue to pay your veterinarian for regular exam fees, skin cytologies, steroids, antibiotics, and other skin care medications (tell me again about how you don’t want to put chemicals on or in your pet?).  The former is the best option, and the safest and most comfortable option for your pet.

I love my dogs and my cats.  I would never EVER think about using anything on them that I thought would be even the least bit harmful.  I have seen what “homeopathic flea remedies” look like.  They don’t work.  I have witnessed the agony of a cat nearly hairless with moist dermatitis from head to toe that would go into a seizure if you touched it because it itched that bad.  I have experienced it all folks.  Lemon doesn’t work.  If it did the lemon industry would be making bank.  Diatomaceous earth doesn’t work.  If it did we’d see a lot more of it on the market being advertised as such.  Essential oils (tea tree oil, lavender, etc.) don’t work!  They might help by deterring some fleas from jumping onto your pet, but most fleas aren’t phased by it.

And now the floor is open.  Share your opinion(s) on the matter in the comments.  This is how we all learn and grow.  If you agree or disagree, have something to add or comment about, please share!

We’ve finally found our niche, Part III … Embracing the Rural Life & wanting to make the ESVA our permanent Home

If you need to catch up, check out Part I and Part II before proceeding. Or just read on and if you get lost, I warned you…

Now Chris and I are both working full time. He was working at Wallops Flight Facility and I got a job at Atlantic Animal Hospital. He had a 30 minute (23 mile) commute, I had a 10 minute (4 miles out, 3 miles back) commute. His job paid a LOT more than mine and his hours were more flexible than mine so I couldn’t feel but so bad for him and his commute. Though he did realize it was a good thing that he could make a 23 mile drive in under 30 minutes. In California a 23 mile drive would’ve taken at least 45 minutes to an hour no matter where we were going.

I was home long enough with the dogs and cats before I started working to get them well acclimated to their new home and surroundings. Chompers and C.J. were both the most trustworthy dogs on the planet, so I never had to worry about them getting into anything they shouldn’t. I just worried about them chasing critters outdoors, especially at night, and that only happened when we were home with them.

PRODUCT PLUG: Noxgear Lighthound Vest has been a GODSEND for us since moving to the Eastern Shore of Virginia!

Esme sporting her Noxgear Lighthound vest during an evening stroll.

After being at the animal hospital for a few weeks, I had a conversation about the ticks in the area. My dogs were on Frontline Plus but I would still find numerous ticks on them, some were dying but several were engorged, enjoying a nice blood meal. One of my coworkers had suggested we get some chickens on the property. The chickens love to eat bugs, including ticks. Someone else had suggested we get guinea birds. Chris and I discussed it for a few weeks and decided on giving chickens a try. Before we even had a coop built I brought home a dozen little baby Silkies.

It took only a weekend to erect a small chicken coop. I came up with the design and Chris helped me build it. I thought I did pretty good considering I am not a carpenter.

Our first Chicken Coop. It was small, raised and completely enclosed. It served its purpose for a few years before we realized a few design flaws!

A few weeks after we brought home the biddies, they were ready to go to the coop. We confined them in the coop for about 2 weeks, then started letting them out to explore the yard during the days when we were home.

By early Spring the chickens were well acclimated to their home. We would let them out to free range when we were home, and they would return to their coop every evening. I had zero experience with raising chickens prior to bringing these home. I have to tell you, it was pretty easy to raise them from hatchlings to free rangers! I was not familiar with this particular breed of chicken either and thought they were the cutest things ever. They are a small, bantam type chicken with fluffy plumage. We called them our poodle chickens.

Our silkies were very friendly and personable, and loved a snack of stale bread or left-over French fries.

By late spring we started to notice that we were no longer finding ticks on our dogs or us. Then there was a little added bonus that started to appear in the coop…eggs!  And they were the best-tasting eggs we’ve ever had.  When we had extras we’d share with our friends and neighbors.  If we were going to be making a trip to the midwest to visit family, we were sure to bring eggs with us.  Chickens.  Who’d-a thunk it when we were leaving California…

In the years that followed, we both completely embraced the rural lifestyle of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  We have met some very amazing, interesting, and wonderful people during our time here.  We had come to truly accept this as our home.  We felt at home.  We wanted it to be our permanent home.

Then things started to get a little rocky for Chris at Wallops.  His project was losing funding and he wasn’t sure whether or not his position would still exist when it was time for contract negotiations.  Every year he managed to still have employment!  Until the summer of 2017.  The project was no longer getting any funding.  At least not enough to keep him on it.  He got laid off.

…To be Continued…  Stay tuned!  And thanks for following along!

The DNA Results are In…

Actually, I knew the results before I posted.  But you all realized that if you read my original post.

C.J.

Since he was about 5 months of age, which is approximately how old he was when he came into our lives, C.J. has been classified as a Lab Mix. He looked like he might have some semblance of a bully in him too, and probably several other breed mixes. Labrador retriever was the primary, stand-out phenotype. Chompers, C.J.’s namesake, was half lab and C.J. looked like a spitting image of Chompers so we figured it must be so.

C.J. has been living a lie for the last 13 years of his life…

Here are C.J.’s Royal Canin GHA results:

CJ’s Genetic Health Analysis Report

A Labrador Retriever mix he is NOT!  There’s probably a tiny bit in there somewhere according to his “mixed breed” analysis.  C.J. is the poster child of what a Mutt is.  He is a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a dash of this, a sprinkle of that, and peppered with about a dozen other breeds.  The miniature poodle part though?  That gets me rolling!  It explains all of his “princess” moments.

How awesome is that report?  This Genetic Health Analysis screens for over 140 different hereditary conditions.  Not only do I now know that C.J. is a Pitweiler Choodle, but he also has tested clear of over 140 hereditary conditions.  That’s something that sets this pet owner’s mind at ease.

Esme

Then there’s Esme.  She was the reason I wanted to give the Royal Canin GHA a try.  Namely because she was so young, I was curious to find out what she really was because she had some really peculiar behaviors.  I suspected she had some bully in her due to her appearance and her personality, but she had something else that I just couldn’t figure out.

Well, you already know how good my intuition about dog breeds is knowing C.J.’s results. Lab mix.  Pshaw.

Esme is very stand-offish with most of the new people she meets.  She is fearful of others, and there’s no correlation to her fearful behavior (sex, nationality, age).  However, if she is allowed time to get to know someone, she then adores them whole-heartedly.  She is also the epitome of a snuggler.  She loves to be held in your lap, loves to lay next to and half-way on you when you’re laying down, and will curl up next to you while you’re chilling on the couch watching television or reading a book.  She has the appetite of a starving bear and will eat anything and everything she can get into her mouth, even if it’s not intended for ingestion.  And her tracking ability is amazing.  I really need to see if she’d be interested in Nosework because she can definitely sniff out any critter that has passed through our yard.

She was adopted to me as a Pointer mix.  I could buy that easily by appearance alone, but especially after getting to know her.  She has the personality of a pointer, always has to be busy doing something!  She gets bored easily and has all the energy in the world.  She also has pointed a few times.  Most pointers I’ve ever met have been very friendly and personable.  Esme, not so much.  Don’t get me wrong, she is friendly and personable, but she lacks trust in strangers.  She needs to spend a little time getting to know you before she’ll trust you.  But once you’ve earned her trust, she’s all yours.

So, what the heck is she?  Here are Esme’s Royal Canin GHA results:

Esme’s Genetic Health Analysis Report

So, there you have it.  Esme is mostly American Staffordshire Terrier (a pit bull) with a side of Wild Dog.  I’m beginning to understand her more and more!  Her trust issues?  Now it makes sense.  Her snuggaliciousness?  That’s all pit bull!

SIDE NOTE:  Pit Bull is a generic term for any of the bull terrier breeds.  It’s an umbrella term for a Staffordshire Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, etc.  The term “Pit Bull” comes from the fact that many of these breeds were used as pit fighting dogs.  Funny thing is, most of them were bred to be nannies.  Hence the cuddling.  They were bred to protect the young while the adults tended to the daily activities of the household.

Again, a neat thing about the Royal Canin Genetic Health Analysis is that it screens for 140+ genetic mutations/diseases.  Esme’s test came back with one copy of the craniomandibular osteopathy mutation.  I have learned that this is a dominant disorder, so only one copy is required to develop symptoms which means Esme could develop this disease.  Not all dogs with the mutation show clinical signs, but at least now my vet and I know what to watch out for.

How to get your dog tested

Check with your veterinarian to see if they offer the Royal Canin Genetic Health Analysis. The test requires a small blood sample and is reasonably priced compared to other DNA tests for dogs, and you get so much more than just what your dogs’ primary breeds are!  Even if you have a purebred dog, it’s worth it to have it screened for the 140+ genetic mutations.

If you have a:

  1. mixed breed dog
  2. dog that came to you as a stray
  3. rescue dog

I think you should seriously consider testing them.  Even if they appear to be a particular breed or breed mix, you might be surprised!  C.J. looked so much like a Labrador Retriever mix that I was certain he had to have some in him as a dominant breed.  His results just go to show that looks can be deceiving.  Just do it!  It’s kind of fun!

We’ve finally found our niche, Part II … From Urban to Rural with dogs

If you haven’t already, check out Part I before continuing. Or not.

As we turned down our little Neck that would lead us to our new home, my eyes widened and my jaw may have dropped a little bit.  It looked like heaven.  A house here, a field there and there and there, another house here, a thick grove of trees on both sides of the road, a little house there, another field, and then we came upon our little bungalow.  It was, and still is, the cutest little place on a property that is magnificent!  I could hardly wait to let the dogs out to run in this wide open area!  They already had some of that at my parents’ house, but this was home!  They would get to run here every day.  But…

…crap!  There are deer all over the place.  Foxes.  Raccoons, opossums, muskrats (all things my dogs would love to chase!)…and TICKS.  I already knew there’d be fleas and was prepared for them.  But the ticks.  Yikes.

I arrived, with the dogs and cats, to our new home in early December.  The weather was cool here, with highs in the 50s & 60s and lows in the 40s and 30s.  It was really pretty nice considering what it was like when we left Northern Illinois.  There were deer everywhere.  In the midwest we contend with deer all year long.  In California, we didn’t have to deal with deer, or many other wild mammals for that matter, at all.  Those critters stayed in the mountains and foothills near the area we lived.  When we’d go hiking in the foothills we’d come across a jack rabbit here and there, maybe evidence of a coyote, but otherwise all of the wildlife we’d happen upon was avian, arachnid or reptilian.

Neither ticks nor fleas, or mosquitoes for that matter, were an issue for us in the desert.  Probably one of only 4 good things about living in the desert, in my opinion.  We didn’t have to worry about flea and tick prevention, and heartworm prevention was not a top priority either.  I would keep some Frontline Plus on hand to use if I knew we’d be making a trek up the mountains or to the East.  I’d have Heartgard Plus on hand to use if we would be traveling to the midwest.

After being on the Eastern Shore of Virginia for one entire week I learned that I had trained my dogs well in terms of their recall.  Nearly every single time we would let them out to eliminate or explore, there would be some critter worth investigating.  All it took was a “EH!” and they’d stop dead in their tracks.  So the wildlife issue was not an issue at all.  But the tick issue?  We were not only finding ticks on our dogs, but we were picking them of off ourselves every day.  Yikes!  Thank goodness I stocked up on some Frontline Plus before I left California.  It worked well.  I’d find a few well-fed ticks on Chompers and C.J. every now and again, but mostly they were dead or dying.  But they’re still just freaking gross.  Chris found one on him one day in a place that you would’t go searching for one.  It freaked him out so much that he had me shave his head shortly afterward, worried that there might be ticks hiding in his mane.  He had long hair for the majority of our time in CA, got a decent hair cut just prior to his interview here in VA, but he had never ever had a complete buzz cut.  Welcome to the boonies city boy!

Chris already had a job lined up prior to our relocation.  I had sent out resumes to all of the local veterinary clinics once I learned we’d be moving.  I had gotten a response from only one of 5 veterinary clinics on the Eastern Shore before I left CA.  They wanted me to fill out an application.  Chris went and picked one up for me, as I was still in CA and wouldn’t be leaving for a few weeks.  He filled it out to the best of his ability.  When I finally arrived on the Eastern Shore, I called and scheduled an interview at the animal hospital.

Just a few days after I arrived I visited the animal hospital that I had been in contact with.  I had a nice tour of the facility, met all the staff and then sat and chatted with the practice owner for a few minutes.  It all seemed promising, then I was told they didn’t have any positions open at that time but they would keep my application on file for 6 months.  I was a bit bummed, but I still had plenty of unpacking to do to keep me busy for a little while.    It really was a shame because the practice was less than 3 miles from where we were renting.  It would have been an ideal place for me to work!  Alas, I had to keep searching.

A month had gone by and, though I wasn’t desperately in need of employment, I was ready for a job.  I had settled into the house, unpacked what was unpackable for the short term that we’d be living there, learned to navigate my way from home to all of the important places:  DMV, grocery story, post office, hardware store, etc.  I figured out right away that I’d be spending a LOT of time shopping on Amazon.  I continued to look for work that I might be able to tolerate.  My heart and soul wanted to continue to work in the animal care field, but after having been ignored or denied employment at every veterinary facility and animal care facility (SPCA & Animal Control) I started to pick up applications for factory work and retail work. Then I received a call from the animal hospital that seemed interested in me from the beginning.

There was a recent and unexpected opening at the animal hospital and they hit me up because of my experience (ie:  I wouldn’t require much training).  I hadn’t had any other offers at that point so I took the position…as a Receptionist.  Did I want to be a receptionist?  No, because I’m a technical person, not a people-person.  But I did know how to field phone calls and triage patients at the front desk quite well, and I really needed a job so I took it.  The pay was okay, and it was more than the nothing I had been making, so I was all in!

Something was meant to be, because I was a receptionist there for maybe 6 months until I got repositioned as a veterinary assistant.  I double-dutied for the longest time, but now am able to keep to the technical stuff more, which makes me happy-er.  I am still willing to fill in on occasion when needed as a customer service specialist.  Truth is, whether you’re a receptionist, a vet assistant, a licensed vet tech, or a veterinarian…you’re still a customer service specialist!  I just prefer that title to be lower on my list of responsibilities, if you get my drift.  I went into animal science for the animals.

Again, I digress.  So I got a job!  And it was something that made me happy.  I am still there, if that tells you anything.

To be continued…