Review Category : Tracie Korol

Borrowing from the Hitchhiker Trilogy

By Tracie Korol

I have had dogs all my life but my current level of overbearing involvement began when we adopted my son’s first dog, Dave. He was the first dog that joined the family as an adult, the rest were puppies. With puppies I knew to start them off right from the very beginning–good food, consistent training and lots and lots of love. Save for the occasional beagle predilection to adventure afar, my early dogs were a breeze.

Dave spent his first year on a chain with little to no interaction with humans. He was emaciated, parasite infested, without any good dog manners and as my neighbor said, leaning over the fence to examine our new acquisition, “not much to look at”. He was, however, grateful, eager to please and my son loved him immediately, scroungy as he was. Me, I had to warm up.

Around that same time Drs. Pitcairn and Billingsworth made news with the novel concept of feeding dogs what they were meant to eat–real food, raw food and raw meaty bones. I contacted Dr. Pitcairn, who wasn’t famous yet and was eager to share his message, and became his mentee. With his coaching and with a diet of real proteins, real fruits and vegetables Dave rather quickly snapped into a model of good dog health. His coat grew out, became shiny, he lost that wet carpet funk, ear goo and parasites and he began to settle into his new life feeling better than he ever had before, with a sparkle in his eye and spring to his step. The only thing he refused to eat was Jerusalem artichokes, but I don’t really hold that against him.

Good dog manners were another matter. Having lived in deplorable conditions out of doors during his formative months, we had some catch up to do in terms of where to pee (not on the carpet, please) and the development of trust from which we could work on a solid recall, a few basic commands (sit, wait, down, with me). This was a decade before the dog soul crushing training concept of controlling dominance and that “alpha” crap became a thing, so with common sense and a little fine-tuning from Ian Dunbar and Patricia McConnell’s training philosophies we slowly came to a place of understanding in a positive, reward-based daily program. While Dave never was much to look at in terms of “what breed is that?” (he’s a brown), he became a vital member of the household and lived a long, healthy life.

Why am I recounting this? To let you know that it IS possible to have THE best pet ever with very little effort, a lot of common sense and some hardcore targeted love. You can start any time in a dog’s lifetime and achieve positive effects. How about today? My time in the Lowcountry has been spent helping other inveterate dog lovers achieve a level of understanding that it IS all about what we eat, that food IS medicine, that good health IS NOT something Dr. Whitecoat sells you in yearly vaccinations and drugs, drugs, drugs but is something that happens every day, at home. Good dog manners are the same thing. It’s between you and your dog, not your dog and his trainer. All dogs want to cooperate and especially with the human he loves the most.

To those of you who have changed the way you go about the business of pet management, who feed real food, who truly advocate for your Best Friend, say “no” to Dr. Whitecoat, who have spent some time Googling before automatically accepting the next best drug, who have worked to develop that special love bond, I admire and applaud you (and so does your dog). For those who think that cheap Big Box store food is just fine, who run to the vet for medicine fixes every whipstitch, and who believe Neanderthal training practices are the way to go, I wish you all the luck in the world.

Many thanks to all of you who have allowed your Best Friends to become my Best Friends, too. Please keep in touch. And, with full credit to Douglas Adams, so long and thanks for all the….dogs.

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What is dog food?

The Yuck Factor, Part Three

By Tracie Korol

When things go awry in the pet food industry, meaning that pets become seriously ill, if not drop over dead from eating the food, the manufacturing company usually will work with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to coordinate a recall of the affected products.

The largest recall in pet food history occurred in March 2007. Menu Foods recalled more than 100 brands including Science Diet, Eukanuba, Mighty Dog and many brands featured at Wal-Mart.  The FDA received over 17,000 reports that pets were sickened and an estimated 20% died from acute renal failure. In April, high levels of melamine, a chemical used in fertilizer and plastics (you know, as in unbreakable melamine dishes) was found in wheat and rice gluten protein concentrate imported from China. The melamine had been purposely added to falsely boost the protein content.  By early May scientists identified the cause of rapid onset kidney disease to be the result of the reaction between melamine and cyanuric acid, another pet food additive.

In 1999, Doane Pet Care recalled more than a million bags of kibble (Ol’ Roy) contaminated with a nasty fungal product called aflatoxin. The toxin killed 25 dogs. In 2006, more than 5 million cans of Ol’ Roy, American Fare, and other dog foods distributed in the Southeast were recalled by the manufacturer, Simmons Pet Food, because the cans’ enamel lining was flaking into the food. In the most deadly recall of 2006, Royal Canine recalled four prescription canned dog and cat foods. The culprit was a serious overdose of Vitamin D that caused calcium deficiency and kidney disease.  While the Chinese melamine scare was dreadful, it wasn’t an oddity. It happens more often than we’d like to think.

The “good” news about the melamine recall was that it brought to light one of the pet food industry’s dark secrets, co-packing. One company makes the food, but puts someone else’s label on it. This is a very common arrangement. For instance, Iams/Eukanuba canned foods are not made by The Iams Company at all. In fact, in 2003 Iams signed an exclusive 10-year contract with Menu for the production of 100% of its canned foods.

In co-packing agreements prices of raw ingredients are lower because they can be bought in huge quantity, making the profits larger and the process cheaper. The big question raised by this arrangement is whether or not there is any real difference between the expensive premium brands and the lowliest generics as it all comes out of the same nozzle, so to speak. The melamine-tainted recalled products all contained the suspect ingredient, wheat gluten, but they also contained specific ingredients designated by the folks who were paying for the use of the machinery at the time.

The recalled premium brands claim that Menu made their foods “according to proprietary recipes using specified ingredients,” and that “contract manufacturers must follow strict quality standards.” Indeed, the contracts undoubtedly included those points. But out in the real world, things may not go according to plan. How well are machines cleaned between batches, how carefully are ingredients mixed, and just how particular are minimum-wage workers in a dirty smelly job going to be about getting everything just perfect?

The practice of co-packing demonstrates that the price of the pet food does not always determine whether it is good or bad or even safe. However, you can be sure that the very cheapest foods can be counted on to have the very cheapest ingredients. For example, Ol’ Roy has now been involved in 7 serious recalls.

As consumers, what can we do? Read labels. Granted, it’s a nuisance to heave a big bag over and look at the tiny type, but do it.  Make sure the name on the front of the bag matches the name of the manufacturer, for starters.  Read the list of ingredients, too. The first six ingredients should be foods you recognize and might eat. Or try this, if the area of space on the bag allotted to the ingredient list is over four inches deep, don’t buy it. Commercially prepared pet food is not necessarily bad. But it’s up to you (because your dog can’t read) to make sure that you’re purchasing the very best product for your very Best Friend.

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What is dog food?

The Yuck Factor, Part Two

By Tracie Korol

Into the vats of mystery meat meal, rendered bits of what’s left over and grain fillers, dog food manufacturers also stir in additives and chemicals to improve taste, stability and appearance.  Additives include emulsifiers to prevent water and fat from separating, antioxidants to prevent the fat from becoming rancid and artificial colors to make the chow more visually appealing to humans and hopefully, more palatable to their dogs.

A wide variety of additives are permitted in pet food, not counting vitamins and minerals.  Additives can be specifically approved, or they can fall into the category of “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS).  These additives can include anti-caking agents, coloring dyes, antimicrobial agents, curing and drying agents, petroleum derivatives, preservatives, texturizers and thickeners, to list just a few.

Dogs generally will not eat tainted food unless starving. Consequently, all pet foods must be preserved so they stay fresh and appealing. Some preservatives are added to ingredients or raw materials by the suppliers, and others by the manufacturers.  Key among the preservatives added by manufacturers specifically to ensure that dry foods have a 12-month shelf life, are synthetic preservatives such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate, propylene glycol (also used as a less-toxic version of automotive antifreeze), and ethoxyquin. Read the ingredient list on the back of your dog food bag; these are usually listed near the bottom.  For these antioxidants, there is little information documenting their toxicity, safety, interactions, or chronic use in pet foods that may be eaten every day for the life of the animal. Propylene glycol was banned in cat food because it causes anemia, but it is still allowed in dog food. Potentially cancer-causing agents such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are permitted at relatively low levels.

Years ago, I was told by an animal nutritionist that BHA and BHT are also used to preserve carpet. I began reading ingredient labels religiously after that nugget of information was dropped in my path.

Some manufacturers have responded to consumer concern, and are now using “natural” preservatives such as Vitamin C, (ascorbate), Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), and oils of rosemary, clove, or other spices to preserve fats in their products. The shelf life on these products is shorter, only about six months. Again, read the label to check the foods’ viability especially if you’re using a better brand of kibble.

Unfortunately, even with all these products added to prevent this and that, there still remain a slew of potential dangers. We humans are now  routinely to the threat of E. coli bacteria on our factory-farmed produce. This bacterium also lurks in more than 50% of meat meals used in dog foods.

One of my personal concerns now living in a more humid climate is the growth of mycotoxins (toxins from mold or fungi) on dry dog foods. Modern farming practices, adverse weather conditions, and improper drying and storage of crops can contribute to mold growth on an industrial level.  At home, these toxins can form in our kibble containers if we do not close the lids tightly. Pet food ingredients that are most likely to be contaminated with mycotoxins are grains– wheat and corn, and fish meal. While it is more cost effective to buy the big bag of chow, I advocate for smaller bags simply because anything can grow a layer of green fuzz here in the summer months.  Always check the last third of the chow in the bin. If it smells at all funny or your dog balks at eating it, it has probably gone furry. Dump it and scrub out your container with bleach.

Yet to come: recalls, nutrition-related diseases and the secrets of the pet food industry as if the truth wasn’t scary enough.

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Are you still using pee pads?

By Tracie Korol

Housebreaking means the dog never eliminates in the house. Not even a little bit. Not even once in a while. Not on pee pads. Never. Housebreaking is a people problem, not a dog problem.

Housebreaking is essential, and it’s entirely possible — for all dogs, all breeds, big and teeny tiny, young or old. What people fail to understand is that dogs do not come with the “pee outside” software installed. It is a learned skill and you are The Teacher.  Your responsibility is to tackle the project with consistency, positive reinforcement and patience.  Here are some basics:

1. Establish a schedule.  Dogs love routine. It makes them feels secure and it takes the responsibility off their shoulders about what to do next.  Dogs like to get up at the same time, go out at the same time, take their walks and eat on schedule. A routine teaches her that there are times to eat, times to play and times to potty.

2. Never leave your un-housebroken dog unattended. During training you must have eyes on the dog at all times.   Having the dog in the same room with you doesn’t count. It’s too easy to get distracted, answer the phone, turn away for just a sec. And bam! Raisinettes. The easiest solution is to confine your dog to his crate, his “den”—a cozy, warm private apartment full of snuggly blankets and toys. Or you can gate the dog in a small area where you plan to be. However, if you’re dead set against a crate and don’t want to mess up your décor with an unsightly gate, then your only other option is to tether your dog to you so that no matter where you go, she’s right beside you. Loop the leash around your waist and clip to the collar. The lead shouldn’t be any longer than 4 feet.  Inconvenient? Sure is. You can either suck it up or use a crate/gate.

2. Feed your dog on a schedule.  With an all-day buffet you have no idea how much goes in, when it goes in and no idea of when it needs to come out. Free-feeding is a dumb idea across the board.

3. Be ready to reward for good behavior.  Shortly after a meal, take your pup outside while exclaiming “outside! outside!” (or words to that effect) to a designated area.  Issue a cue word–“go potty” (or words to that effect), stay in the area, no wandering, and wait.  As your pup is completing her business, you’re fishing a high value treat out of your pocket ready to swoop down, treat and praise praise praise within 3 seconds upon completion. Use your Smurf voice. Sound joyful. And then go back in the house immediately. After a short time, she’ll recognize that she makes you happy when she eliminates outdoors, and in return she receives a reward. You want to reinforce that good behavior every time it happens, and there’s no better reward in the beginning than those yummy treats.  Once your dog is fully housetrained, you can reduce and eventually eliminate the food treats and offer only verbal praise for her good potty habits.

4. DO NOT punish for mistakes. If your pup makes a mistake it’s your fault, not hers. You missed an opportunity, missed a signal or just got bored with the whole thing.  Punishing a dog once the deed is done only pushes her to become sneaky because, after all, she has no idea what you’re yelling about an hour after she’s pee’d. From your dog’s perspective, you’re the center of her universe except every once in awhile, unpredictably, you turn into a scary, screaming lunatic.   Clean it up, don’t mention it and keep moving forward.

There are millions of dogs in shelters across the country simply because they were never trained. There are millions of dogs crapping, if you’re lucky, on pee pads in the house (disgusting!). So make your schedule, buy your gate and stick to your plan. Your pup wants to please. Show her the way.

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Are we vaccinating our dogs too much?

By Tracie Korol

The short answer is yes. Is this one of those crazy ant-vaxxer pieces? No, but it is a cautionary tale.  Yes, vaccinate your dog. Just don’t do it year after year after year after year. It’s time to do your research and be a true advocate for your Best Friend.

When it comes to vaccinating our dogs, most of us rely on our vets, trusting that their advice is up-to-date and not biased by economic or political concerns.  Sadly, unless vets stay current on veterinary journal reading both allopathic and complementary… and assimilate any new information… and decide to forgo significant vaccination income, their advice may lag many years behind what experts in both areas currently advocate.

Vaccination is a serious medical procedure with the potential for adversely affecting health, both in the short and long term. Our pets today are suffering from an unprecedented epidemic of chronic hard-core degenerative disease much caused by the very pet vaccines that are supposed to preserve health. Our pets are routinely presenting with a variety of symptoms and diagnoses that were not seen in animals even a short 10 years ago. Perhaps you have might have a dog in your house with allergies that won’t go away, scary sounding diseases like thrombocytopenia, hemolytic anemia, polyarthritis, glomerulonephritis.  Or your pet suffers inflammatory bowel disease or bizarre behavioral issues, perhaps a newly developed seizure disorder or even injection site tumors, to name just a few that have been linked to over-vaccination. Vaccinosis is the umbrella term for reactions to vaccines, to the altered virus contained in the vaccine, and also to the chemicals, adjuvants, and other components of tissue culture cell lines — as well as possible genetic changes — that can be induced by vaccines.

Because many people don’t make the connection between the administration of a shot and subsequent symptoms, and because the veterinary industry at large often does not acknowledge such a connection, adverse vaccine reactions often go unreported.  So, what’s a pet owner to do?

1. Always consider locale, lifestyle, risk and vaccine effectiveness.  If your tiny companion rarely leaves your lap, let alone the yard and is never around degenerate street dogs, you can probably pass on the vaccines designed to protect against diseases found in woods, wetlands and crowds.

2. Say no! to combination shots. Combo shots (with names like DHLPPC) hammer your dog’s immune system with multiple vaccines at once. Given for false economy and convenience rather than health or safety, combination shots assault the immune system and can create major health problems. Also, they invariably contain unnecessary vaccines.  What would your body do if it had to contend with this immunological assault every year?

3. Don’t allow your vet, kennel owner or groomer to intimidate you into giving unnecessary shots.  A simple “no, thank you” should be enough to stop any guilt-slinger, shamer or bully. Suggest titer testing for parvovirus or distemper and if told no, simply go elsewhere.  There are vets around who will help you come up with a realistic and safe health plan.

4. Test immunity; don’t automatically re-vaccinate. Titer tests are blood tests measuring antibodies to disease. Pet vaccination expert Dr. Ron Schultz (google him) believes that titer tests yielding strong titers for parvovirus and distemper means not vaccinating against these diseases for years, and maybe for life.  In fact, recent studies show that immunity increases, not decreases, years later.

5. Never vaccinate sick dogs, old dogs or tiny puppies.   All vaccine labels state that they’re to be used in healthy animals.  Unfortunately, the labels do not define “healthy” and most clients aren’t privy to this admonition.  As a result, sick pets, itchy pets, diabetic pets, immune-compromised pets, pets undergoing chemo and surgery, and even elderly housebound pets are routinely boostered.  Any shots given to an unhealthy animal—like a starving, diseased rescue, for instance– may well not provide immunity anyway and will likely cause an adverse reaction, or even death. (Rescuers, get them well first, then vaccinate.) Vaccinating pups that still have maternal immunity is unnecessary and ineffective.

6. Make copies of all files and store them in a safe place. Clinics and rescue operations lose records, go out of business, leave town, etc. Without your dog’s records, you may have to re-vaccinate unnecessarily because of lost or missing records.

Ready to be your dog’s advocate?  Best case, find a vet concerned about over-vaccinating to advise you.  Educate yourself and go to the vet armed with information.  Most important: actually advocate for your dog; don’t just intend to advocate.  What do I do? For my pets, I get a severely edited puppy series, spaced individually and then titer at 7 years. To date, no boosters whatsoever and no disease, either, in over 40 years.

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What’s in a name?

By Tracie Korol

The first three dogs I met when I moved to South Carolina were all named Rebel.

I thought it was one of those arcane state laws I had heard about. Then I met two Dixies and four Beaus in a row. Years and many more Beaus, Rebels and Dixies later, I concede it’s a regional thing.

People choose names for all sorts of reasons. Some want to honor their heritage, hence the preponderance of Southern-related dog names locally. Some choose to honor a favorite celebrity — Reba, Tupac, Harpo (that’s Oprah backwards). Others choose names that spotlight a particular physical or character trait. For example, I had a Cardigan corgi friend at kennel, black with a white spot on his forehead, whose name was Domino, Dom for short.

Many dogs have three names. The first is their official name, which is the name that is registered with the kennel club and appears on their pedigree certificate. These are usually marvelously pompous and/or meaningless, such as Temujin Persia’s Pride, my first registered cocker spaniel. The American Kennel Club gives you 28 letters to come up with this formal title.

The dog’s second name is their “call name.” After all, you really don’t want to be standing out in your backyard yelling, Remasia Vindebon of Torwood, come! The dog’s call name becomes its own unique and solely owned name and which is the one that we actually use when we talk to them.  Temujin’s call name was Khan. (Temujin was Genghis Khan’s given name.)

All of my dogs also have had a group name, which for me is “Doggies”. This is their alternate name, thus when I yell “Doggies come!” I expect all of my dogs within earshot to appear at a run. A neighbor, who only has female dogs, uses the word “Girls,” while another with male dogs uses the group name, “Troops”.

Then there are the nicknames, the names that seem to grow naturally from affection or convenience. My Lab came with the name Tucker; I never thought it suited him. He felt more like a Rooney to me.  Then, due to his overall sense of calm, he became Buddha Dog which later was shortened to Boo. He answered to all four with equal enthusiasm. I always ask for nicknames for my boarding guests as it can immediately warm up a new relationship.

In choosing a name, try to pick something that comes easily to your lips. Choose a name that will honor your Best Friend as all words have power and meaning. If you have a sense of humor, try to pick a name that will not embarrass you, let alone your dog. Hooter is a good dog name in theory, but embarrassing if you have to roam the neighborhood calling for him post-escape. Allow children name in-put within reason; 11-year old boys can curse a dog for life with what they think is a riotously funny scatological moniker or conversely, a precious 3-year-old can sentence a dog to terminal cuteness. I know a strapping 100-pound male chocolate lab named Fluffy.

Try to select a name that is not easily confused with a command. Such as Beau and No, Stay and Ray, Kitt and Sit. Dogs cue on one syllable. That’s why commands are sort and delivered deliberately.  While names like Costello, Washington and Trismegistus are very cool, know that the dog is only hearing the sound with the hard consonant — Tell…, Ton… and Triz…. Some names are very popular, like all the Southern affectations, but it can cause confusion if you are in a park or place where there are multiple dogs with the same name. Choose something unique to your Friend’s temperament, appearance or personality, or the opposite; Hoover, the dog dedicated to floor food, is one of my favorites.

If you rescue or take on an older dog, there is no problem in changing his name. Often, changing a dog’s name will help separate his association with a dark early life and the new, happy life in his forever home. He will quickly learn to respond to it if used in the correct way.

But whatever name you select make sure you can say it with a smile  — it should reflect the relationship you have with your dog and be a special communication between you and your Best Friend. A name should be enjoyed.

Next week: How to use a name correctly.

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What the dog got for Christmas

By Tracie Korol

It wasn’t so very long ago that the phrase “a dog’s life” meant sleeping outside, enduring the elements, living with aches, and sitting by the dinner table, waiting for a few scraps to land on the floor. Today’s dog has it much better. APPMA (American Pet Products Manufacturers Association) reports that 42% of dogs now sleep in the same bed as their owners, up from 34% in 1998. Half of all dog owners say they consider their pet’s comfort when buying a car, and almost a third buy gifts for their dogs’ birthdays.

In fact, Americans now spend $54 billion a year on their pets — more than the gross domestic product of all but 64 countries in the world. That’s double the amount shelled out on pets a mere decade ago. Pet owners are becoming increasingly demanding consumers who won’t put up with substandard products, un-stimulating environments, or shabby service for their animals.

Additionally, the rising status of pets started an unprecedented wave of entrepreneurship in an industry once epitomized by felt mice and rubber balls. There are now $430 indoor potties, $30-an-ounce perfume, and $225 trench coats–let alone the diamond-studded accessories for a celebrity’s dog — aimed solely at four-footed consumers and their wallet-toting humans. Thanks to passionate purchasers like that, the quality gap between two-legged and four-legged mammals is rapidly disappearing in such industries as food, clothing, health care, and services.

But what does all that bling mean to your dog? Absolutely nothing. Unless your dog is completely different from the thousands of dogs I’ve known, a plain old stick from the yard can be worthy of an hours’ attention and licking out your yogurt cup is epicurean nirvana. I know many dogs that will eschew the fancy, faux fur, orthopedically crafted, heated pet bed for a heap of the owners’ dirty laundry.

What your dog is looking for is attention from you: you throw the stick, you hold the yogurt cup and it’s your smell the dog is soaking up on the pile of your clothes.  This year, instead of spending money on doggie junk, give your Best Friend the gift of you. It doesn’t have to be much; dogs aren’t greedy, plus, they can’t tell time. Twenty undistracted minutes a day is all your dog needs. Mind you, that’s in addition to the utility time for potty walks, or the ride-along time you spend in the car when you pick up the kids. Twenty minutes of you-on-dog quality time.  Play ball (or stick) together, give him a comprehensive full-body rub, teach him a new trick or just sit quietly together and appreciate the end of the day. It doesn’t matter all that much to your dog, just as long as it’s with you.

But, if it doesn’t feel right that Murphy doesn’t have a package under the tree Christmas morning, consider getting a present that will last. In lieu of buying another, impossibly cute, $10 stuffed toy your dog will disembowel in a New York minute, spend the allotted gift money on a present that has practical use and meaning.  Honor your dog with a handsome leather collar with a sturdy buckle. Rivet on an engraved ID tag. Junk the stupid plastic retractable leash-y thing and get a good leather lead, (they’re called leads for a reason) one that feels good in your hand, doesn’t twist into knots and gets better looking with age. It will last the lifetime of your dog and beyond. I’ve had mine for 30 years and seven dogs.

Your dog will appreciate a heavy, stainless steel bowl with a rubber grip that he doesn’t have to chase all over the kitchen floor. He’ll appreciate a travel crate — his own special, safe seat for car rides. He’ll appreciate if you buy yourself a good dog book — “Dog Sense” by John Bradshaw, is a good place to start — so you will understand what he’s thinking and why he does what he does. And, I’d like to think that he’d very much appreciate it if you donated the money you saved on doo-dads to a local animal welfare organization for one of the brother-dogs that has not been quite so fortunate.

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Ten reasons to be thankful for your dog

By Tracie Korol

We just came through the Day of Gratitude around a groaning dining table and we declared gratefulness for friends, family and the beautiful day.  How many of us reserved a few moments to consider the many reasons to feel thankful for our Best Friends. Next time you’re giving thanks, remember to honor the ones who don’t judge but actually love, the ones that live with you without rules and expectations, the ones that will always give you unconditional loyalty.

Here are some of MY reasons to be thankful for dogs:

10. No matter what food product drops on the floor, a Best Friend will hoover it up before actually considering what it is.  Once it’s on the floor, anything is food. A dog is the finest accessory to child-rearing: they’ll catch the highchair spillover before it hits the floor, clean up messy baby splooges and always be available to assist with messy faces and fingers. They’ll catch the crumbs you can’t even see.

9. When you’re down and out with the flu, hacking and snotting and leaving a trail of bacteria wherever you go, and your family and friends will not come near you, your dog will ever be at your side. He’ll be your mobile heating pad, curled against your aching back, he’ll shuffle along with you when you get another cup of tea and he’ll keep his head near your hand in case you need some reassurance that you’ll live to see the next day.

8. Your dog will bark like mad when someone pulls in the drive or a stranger comes to the door. It’s nice to have a feeling of security.

7. If not for our dogs, many of us would never get off the couch. Every day at the same time our Best Friends give us The Look, that persistent stare that means “Let’s go for a walk!!! Huh?Huh?Huh?”  That walk is your dog’s connection to the world, and yours, too. Think about all the nice people you’ve met, the early evening sunset you would otherwise have missed if you weren’t on the road, as well as the extra pounds you did not gain because you and your Best Friend moved your tails.

6. A dog’s loyalty cannot be measured. They are willing to revel in the glory or keep quiet and take the blame. They will not smirk when you’re naked, laugh at your singing or gossip to the neighbor dogs about your episodes of questionable behavior. They will never disclose who done it.

5. Our dogs don’t care how many countries we’ve visited, what car we drive or what people we know. In their eyes, we’re number one all the time. It’s a tall order to always be on top but their devotion is a great reminder of our jobs to make sure we provide them the best care, training and attention we can offer. “Be the person your dog thinks you are” is a great reminder of how special we are to them each and every day.

4. Our dogs know the value of sitting in a sunbeam. There are times we need to be reminded of that.

3. Dogs put things in perspective. Let’s face it, at some point in our lives with our pets something is going to get chewed, thrown up on or otherwise ruined. The best we can do is realize that the shoes, carpets and all the other things they get into are just objects. We’ll never love any of that stuff as much as we love our dogs and as impossible as it seems, we will get over having to throw out the really expensive, designer, prescription, chewed-up eyeglasses.

2. Dogs will make you smile when they run with abandon for no particular reason and to no particular destination.

1. And finally, every day we can wake up and watch our dogs embrace each new morning as if it is going to be grand. They don’t look back; they don’t worry about the future. They do not hold the past. They assume all is great. I try to learn from them because I think they Get It. I think they really know what it means to live each day as if it’s the only day, and live it to the fullest. I am so grateful for dogs. What great teachers they are.

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The last goodbye: Remembrances

By Tracie Korol

Our spiritual beliefs can play a part in how we process our pets’ passing. Those who practice a religious faith may turn to their church, temple, or synagogue or might seek out other religious and spiritual supports.

Humans have a fear of death; animals do not. Humans are also fear-based; animals are not. We tend to project our human emotions onto our dogs.

I believe that animals do not view the moving from one life form to another the in the same way we do. As a Reiki practitioner I look at an animal’s passing as it’s “transition”.  I also believe, even when they are physically gone, they don’t ever leave us.  There is a gypsy saying that if just one person remembers a loved one, that loved one is still alive in spirit.

If you are willing to look at death as a natural, profound and even beautiful part of life, it becomes easier for your animal to relax and either gets well or leaves peacefully.  I often counsel, when the time nears, to sit quietly with a Best Friend, listen as best you can, make peace with your animal friend, remember your life shared together, thank them for their time and devotion and finally, let them know that you are willing to let them go.

Selfishly, the day before Bea died I told her she couldn’t go, that I needed her and that it was too hard to see her fail. I put the burden on my friend to handle my feelings by requiring her to continue living.  The next day she told me she had to go. I took a picture of her at that moment. There is no mistaking the look in her eyes.  We spent time that last day in thanks, and love and with Reiki, I could ease her transition gently. While the loss of Bea’s physical presence was crushing, the connection to her spirit helps me put the whole process in perspective.  Her energy transitioned from a physical form that I was able to share for 17 years to one that I am now aware of, but just can’t see.

Memorializing our pets is a way to preserve memories and honor our canine friends plus, it helps to process our loss.  Rituals can focus, center, and calm us and convert something painful into something less painful. Ted Kerasote writes in his book, “Merle’s Door,” of the tribute paid by his entire community, to Merle, his amazing, yet run of the mill dog, upon his death.

Merle was sent on his journey in a Native American tradition but the list of remembrances for our personal pets can be endless. For instance: light candles, plant trees or flowers, write poetry or music in tribute and memory to your Best Friend. Create a memorial plaque: I still have the marker my son, then aged 9, made for Oblio, (the best cat ever) a testament to heart, creativity and amateur carpentry. It’s one of the most precious things I own. Create a special place in your home for ashes, photos, flowers, and mementos such as collars or favorite toys. Or, send a donation, in your pet’s name to an animal related cause.

Planning for and subsequently dealing with the loss of a canine companion is possibly one of the hardest, most painful situations we encounter. Preparing for the loss will be difficult, but might be the best decision you can make to help your friend transition peacefully and with honor.  Once he is gone and your pain is omnipresent, remember that with the gift of time, you will recover and the pain will go away. Wonderful memories will remain.

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Turkeys and dogs CAN be friends

By Tracie Korol

The holiday season opens soon with all the rich foods, relatives, decorations and happy chaos. As we settle into the hustle, let’s remember our Best Friends appreciate happy, safe holidays, too.  When planning for the holiday season, consider the following:

Train, don’t complain: Our dogs don’t come pre-programmed; they rely on us to teach them acceptable behavior. Jumping up, stealing food, counter cruising, idiot barking and digging are all perfectly normal behaviors … to our dogs. Unfortunately, they are also behaviors that irritate owners. When holiday houseguests arrive, when there’s an excited energy in the air and when the household is completely off schedule it becomes the perfect time for our dogs to engage in unwanted activities.  Help remind your dog to remember what is expected of him by practicing and rewarding desired behaviors on a daily basis before the big day arrives. Even your old, well-trained been-around-forever dog will welcome the attention of a brush-up of basic skills.

The gift of management: In a perfect world our dogs would behave like those robot-dogs in the Hallmark specials.  However, in the real world we need to affect our management skills to out-think or pre-think our beloved pets. Use your dog tools — baby gates, tethers and x-pens are extremely useful in keeping Rooster out of the high-level distraction entertainment zones. Whenever possible, give your dog something to do rather than let him get creative and find something to do. Pre-gift your dog a stuffed Kong or a Buster Cube. Working a food puzzle or a chew is the dog equivalent of “sit and color”.

Cooking or catastrophe? On Thanksgiving Day + 1 where would you rather be — lounging on the couch with your dog, hitting the Black Friday sales, or at the vet’s office praying that your dog makes it to T-day + 2?  The best safety tip for Thanksgiving is: Keep Rooster out of kitchen! Not only will this prevent his unwanted interaction with highly desirable contraband, accidental injury from falling pots or knives but it also prevents you from tripping over him and finding yourself in the ER. Remember, dogs are not discriminating when it comes to yummy foods; they are happy to eat greasy turkey flavored baking string, napkins, toothpicks, shrink-wrap, pop up timers, roasting bags, skewers, tin foil and styrofoam plates. Plus, your vet is happy to fish it out of your Best Friend for a hefty fee. Push cooking gear to the rear of the counters and put up the trash cans before you sit down to dinner.

Leave the leftovers: While it’s nice to think we’re going to maintain a good diet through the holidays, the solution is not peeling off the turkey skin and handing it to the nearest dog. Rich, fatty foods will cause stomach problems ranging from simple upsets all over the carpet to pancreatitis, a serious condition often requiring hospitalization. At your holiday table, provide tiny bowls of kibble or baby carrots for guests, who might feel guilty in their own personal gluttony, to slip to the dog lurking under the table.

Respect each other: Avoid forcing your dog on non-dog people and do not let your guests force themselves on your dog. Some folks become very uneasy upon getting “haired up”, and conversely, some dogs do not care to serve as eye-poking-fodder for the curious grandchild. Set clear ground rules for how your dog is to be treated and if necessary, be prepared to remove your Best Friend if guests are unable or unwilling to follow them.  Watch your dog for signs that he’s uncomfortable—yawning, lip licking, turning away or actively trying to get to anywhere else. Keep an eye out for “the freeze”, a clear dog sign that someone is about to be bitten. If you know your dog has a fear or aggression issue, do everyone a favor and park him, with his Kong, in his crate, away from the action.

And, finally, be grateful. Your Best Friend provides companionship for your most mundane activities, cuddles when you’re blue, a warning bark for the noise in the night, a playmate and exercise partner and he doesn’t snicker when he sees you naked. That’s a really good friend.

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