Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dog or Coyote?

Yesterday morning, Bingley, Magic and I were enjoying our morning walk. It was getting on for 5:30am--still dark enough to need a flashlight for poop clean-up, but light enough to see objects against the eastern sky. The storm of the previous day had cleared out and I wasn't concerned about getting the dogs home before the arrival of a downpour.

We had climbed the hill, walked across the crest, and had begun to make our descent, when both dogs went on alert. Across the park at the foot of the hill, I saw a tan animal run from my right to left and disappear into the shrubbery at the edge of the park.

My initial thought was that it was a large, loose dog. But then I realized it might be a young coyote. I couldn't be sure.

So I turned my excited dogs around and headed back the way we had come. The dogs seemed to realize that they had missed their favorite part of the walk, but I couldn't take a chance.

I thought about it all day yesterday. What had I seen? A dog? A coyote? What should I do this morning? Should I walk the usual route and depend on my pepper spray and my dogs' early warning behavior? Should I think about a different route? The problem, of course, is that the route I usually take is the one where I feel safest.

So, with a prayer for our safety, I hooked up harnesses and leashes and off we went on our regular walk. Just beyond the park, both dogs went on alert, looking up into the undergrowth that borders the sidewalk. Bingley responded to my gentle tug and "let's go", but Magic really wanted to go after something lurking in the thick vegetation. I had to speak to her again to break her concentration.

Strangely, I felt relief. I'm pretty sure now that what I saw yesterday and what Magic wanted to pursue this morning was a coyote. A single, probably adolescent coyote. I feel safer. A single adolescent coyote poses much less danger for Bingley and Magic than does a large loose dog.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dumb, Dumb, Dumb

A Greyhound person tells me that one day when her husband and daughter were walking their Greyhound on leash, a car drove by with a large dog in the back seat. The back window was rolled down. The dog jumped from the car and attacked the Greyhound.

The owner's response? "He's never done that before."

I forgot to ask if the dog's owner paid the $500.00+ vet bill for the Greyhound.

Neighbors a few doors up from me are away on vacation and their (technically) adult son is "looking after the place" in their absence. He has a nice looking, friendly Pit Bull, who is NEVER on leash. Yesterday afternoon, when I walked up the block to get my mail, the Pit was off leash in front of the house. I mentioned that the dog needed to be leashed. I was told, "My dog loves everybody."

Another unleashed Pit Bull emerged from the house, presumably belonging to another young man who was lecturing me on dogs being God's gift to humans.

"And the law says they must be leashed," I said, when he paused for breath.

He rolled his eyes.

That did it.

"An unleashed dog attacked and killed my dog just this past summer," I told my 'dog loving' lecturer. "The vet bill was about $10,000.00"

I swear he turned pale. He popped his (unleashed) Pit Bull into his truck and drove away. It was a pretty chilly day, so the windows were probably rolled up. One can hope.

Yes. I did report the loose dogs to the Authorities. My neighbors will get a letter. I will get a letter telling me that a letter has been sent to my neighbors. This year, I plan to keep these letters. Perhaps I'll frame them. Perhaps there will be enough of them to paper the walls of my study.

Great Day

No rain and stitches are out. What more could I ask for? And the Big Plastic E-Collar will be returned to its hiding place in the garage, which will make Bingley a happy dog.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Magic at Home

Magic came to live with us two months ago this evening. As with the four rescues that preceded her, I had moments in the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours when I wondered just what sort of challenge John and I had taken on. Magic, like Portia, had been in a foster home, not a kennel, before coming to us. Unlike Portia, she had had an extended stay in foster care and had formed her first trusting relationships with humans with her foster mom and her foster mom's daughter.

Given Magic's history of severe neglect, it seemed to be asking a lot of her to leave the only human bond she had ever established and learn to trust new people, learn a new routine, and come to terms with the resident dog--Bingley--who considered our house and yard to be his personal domain.

Last night dramatically illustrated just how far she has come.

Bingley and Magic usually have their last walk between 8 and 8:30 in the evening. They come to the kitchen for their yummies--a small chunk of canned dog food for Magic, a small chunk of canned dog food wrapped around a Soloxine pill for Bingley--and, perhaps a late snack of kibbles if their second meal had been early. Bingley will usually hang out after that, frequently needing a trip out on the deck for a last potty break before retiring. But Magic goes to her bed and settles in for the night.

Last night, the storms that have pounded Southern California this week, grew a little noisier. We had thunder and lightening--quite unusual for us. At 11pm, when I was sleeping peacefully, Bingley--who sleeps on the other side of the room, began to whine and bark. I struggled into a warm robe, turned on the deck lights, opened the bedroom door, and took him out through the kitchen door to the deck.

I thought he would settle after that, but, for almost an hour, he was up and down, wouldn't go to sleep, whining and sometimes barking. Back and forth we went, right by Magic's bed. She never stirred.

Since I didn't want to turn the light on and disturb John, I don't know whether she was sleeping or just staying on her bed for safety and comfort during the storm. But, either way, she was telling me that she feels secure here. She has her own safe place and can weather a storm and Bingley's upset without being upset herself.

Another milestone.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I've lost track of how many days of rain we've had. Up to yesterday, I had phenomenal luck. I was able to walk the dogs in the early morning during respites from the storm and get them out on the deck during breaks in the rain and wind.

Yesterday went fine until about 5pm. Bingley HAD to go out, or at least I thought. I put on John's London Fog, pulled on an old hat on which Portia's bites were very much in evidence, and sallied forth with Bingley.

Double WOW!! We didn't go beyond our next door neighbor's house, but in that short time and space, Bingley was soaked to the skin and my coat, including the lining, and hat were sopping wet. Water filled my shoes. Needless to say, no "business" was performed.

Somehow, Bingley "held it" until there was a brief pause in the storm. What a good boy!

This morning as I dressed to go out shortly after 5am, I could hear rain pounding on our roof. Then, presto! As I hooked up harnesses and leashes, there was a lull, and we sallied forth. Rain began as we climbed the hill and got heavier as we came down the other side. But we finished a reasonably complete walk before the deluge returned.

I've managed one brief walk and one deck break since. Now, both dogs are sleeping here in my study. But I'm looking at the radar and wondering when the next rain break and potty break will coincide.

Will luck hold? Will we avoid a housebreaking lapse?

Ah, the joys of dog ownership!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Magic and Bingley

Magic is our fifth rescue dog. One of the rewards for a true dog person in rescuing adult dogs rather than buying puppies is working with the baggage that they bring with them and, over time, seeing them moderate their reactive defenses.

As sane adopters with a dog already in residence, we introduced Magic and Bingley before she came to live with us. There was no antipathy, but little sustained interaction. Bingley is a happy-go-lucky dog who loves to play with other (reasonably large) dogs and toys. Magic was clearly nervous, but we were confident that Bingley would be a safe companion for her. That has been confirmed in the past two months.

But Bingley does love to play, and his pal Portia, who chose him, was a Big Time Player. I knew when the play bows started and Portia did her helicopter tail,we were in for sustained romping.

So, not long after Magic arrived, Bingley did a play bow and tried to initiate some of the play that had been in his repertoire with Portia. Magic panicked and ran to me for reassurance. Bingley looked hurt and puzzled, as if to say, "What's the matter with that girl? I'm a good boy, and Portia just loved that."

But being the doggie dog he is, Bingley has persisted in trying to teach Magic to play. At first she would always run to me. In fact, she gave her first play bow to Me! Poor baby. Clearly, she had not been permitted a normal puppy-hood and had had no opportunity to learn the basics of doggie communication.

But very slowly, Magic is learning to play. She has discovered that toys can be fun--especially if you steal them from Bingley. And she has learned that chasing and being chased can be fun. When Bingley mouths her muzzle--something that terrified her at first--she rears up and gently boxes his muzzle.

Then, this morning, for the very first time, Magic gave Bingley a little play bow!!

I just had to share.

They are both resting now. But a major milestone has been achieved. Good girl, Magic!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Good News!

Magic's report is in and it was a simple, benign tumor. No further treatment is required. What a relief!

Eight more days of stitch monitoring.

Bingley is really trying to be good. Magic seems to be unaware of her stitches.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Veterinary Hospital III

Good news for Bingley! A benign tumor. Now I can concentrate on keeping him from pulling out stitches and opening his incision. He hates his e-collar, and I try to give him as many breaks as possible, but what he can do in a few minutes isn't pretty.

Magic's growth is still being studied. The good news is that there was no mention of cancer. THAT's a relief! But whether it is a garden variety of benign tumor or a growth precipitated by an infection is unclear. We should know in 5-10 days. Glad we got it early!

Veterinary Hospital Update

I spoke with the vet yesterday afternoon. A preliminary report on Magic's biopsy is encouraging. No word on Bingley's.

All paws are staying crossed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Veterinary Hospital

Saturday, John and I took Magic and Bingley to the vet's. Magic needed to be chipped, but we had postponed it until she was settled into her life here. Then I noticed a spot on the front of Bingley's leg that he had been "working on" for months, was actually a growth. And just in the last week, a small fast growing bump appeared on the top of Magic's head. Recession or not, dogs have a way of needing medical care. So a visit that might have cost less than $100.00, ran into hundreds of dollars.

We are now awaiting pathology reports. All paws crossed.

We are also on suture patrol. Bingley's sutures are on the front of his left front leg, between ankle and elbow. Perfect placement for Bingley to make mischief. When he had been with us for a few weeks, he managed to turn a slight abrasion on his inner leg into a serious hemorrhage, necessitating a rushed trip to the vet's. There was so little skin around the affected area that neither sutures nor cauterization could be used. So he returned home with a pressure bandage which was removed after 48 hours. THEN began the long process of keeping Bingley from creating another hemorrhage while the long slow process of open wound healing progressed. We explored a number of protective collars in the process, finally returning to the old fashioned plastic e-collar. Is it any wonder why I face the two weeks of watching Bingley's sutures with dread?

Magic's sutures are on the top of her head. So far, she has shown no indication that she is aware of them.

I eagerly await January 23!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Ick! I really didn't want to entitle this post "Heartworm". Perhaps Cardiac Parasite of Terminal Potential would have been preferable?

Actually, there is no way to pretty up the threat posed by heartworm. The bad news is, left undetected and untreated, it will kill your dog. Permitted to progress to full blown infestation, treatment can be life-threatening. But, it is completely preventable. All it takes is responsible care of your dog.

When I moved to San Diego County in 1973, heartworm in dogs here was unknown. It was considered to be a problem of the Gulf Coast. But, sadly, heartworm is very much a problem in San Diego County now.

When we adopted our first Greyhound, Zephyr, in September of 2005, she had been tested for heartworm, found to be negative, and was on a regimen of Interceptor, which we continued to give her faithfully on the first of every month, along with tick and flea preventative.

Since then, all of our dogs have been adopted through Greyhound Adoption Center and all have been on heartworm preventative.

Heartworm preventative is different from flea and tick preventative in that it cannot be safely begun until a blood test establishes that the dog is not infected, and, once begun, the preventative must be given regularly. If there is a hiatus, a new blood test must be given before re-instituting treatment.

So, I suppose, it is not surprising that when people's lives begin to fall apart, one of the things that is forgotten or deleted is heartworm preventative. This year, I have heard of three cases of late stage heartworm infestation in dogs. One dog has been successfully treated and is living a normal doggie life. I await word on the other two.

The problem of treating a dog with advanced heartworm is that, as the worms die, large portions of dead worms are flushed out through blood vessels, and, if dogs are not kept relatively quiet during this time, they can die from arterial blockage.

Don't rely on your dog's behavior to tell you of an infestation. Dogs with advanced heartworm are frequently as active and playful as dogs with no infestation.

More than once, I have heard my veterinarian speaking very sternly to people who have permitted heartworm treatment to lapse. I have to restrain myself from chiming in with "Listen to her, and don't let it happen again!"

Dogs suffer and die from all sorts of unpreventable illnesses. Don't let your dog suffer--or die--from something as preventable as heartworm.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hello, 2010, or, Having A Dog Is A Privilege, Not A Right

Part of caring very much about an issue is losing one's reluctance to be seen as a scold or a nag. In a previous post, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I wrote about two dogs who, to their misfortune, belonged to People Who Should Not Have Dogs. Happily, for the little Pekingese, a brand new home was found for him with People Who Have Earned the Right To Have Dogs.

Unhappily, the Husky puppy who cried for hours the evening before Thanksgiving remains with People Who Should Not Have Dogs. Repeatedly over the past six weeks, his cries have been ongoing for periods of several hours: sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes in the evening.

The days are long since past when Authorities can tailor responses to individual dog related problems to the individual circumstances. The quantity and severity of pet abuse incidents require Authorities to follow procedures to the letter and act only when a law is violated. A healthy four month old Husky who is very unhappy about being left on a pulley in a backyard for hours and hours and shares his unhappiness with anyone within earshot, is not, by statute, being mistreated, if he has access to food, water, and "some sort" of shelter. If he is not on a pulley, but just on a lead, he is not being mistreated until he cries for more than three hours.

On the other hand, if a citizen lodges a complaint about a crying or barking dog, the Authorities, by policy, write a letter to the dog's owners. A second complaint, by policy, requires a visit to the dog's owners by an officer.

So. When the Husky cries, I call Authorities. Authorities explain to me the limits of the law. I listen. I suggest, perhaps, some required dog ownership classes for the Husky's owners. The officer to whom I speak knows that won't happen. I know, that at least in the foreseeable future, it won't happen. But "procedures" require that Authorities contact the Husky's family because I've complained.

And guess what? It's been almost a week since I've heard that Husky puppy crying for more than a few minutes.

All it takes is for one private citizen to be willing to make herself a Royal Pain.

Last week when Marilyn and I were walking our dogs in a nearby park, not one, but TWO dogs were being run off leash. Marilyn and I have a long history with the owner of one of the dogs. After our repeated reports, he had reluctantly put his large herding mix dog on a 10 to 15 foot lead--well over the legal limit of 6 feet, but we had won in principle.

Last Tuesday, just as we were congratulating ourselves on a non-eventful walk, and heading back to the parking lot, Bingley saw something, let out his "Prey Needs To Be Chased" howl, and pulled on the leash. Sure enough, a couple was running a small, white, fluffy dog off leash.

When we asked them to leash their dog, they assured us he was "fine." I don't know how they thought that since--by then--FIVE sight hounds were pulling at leashes, eager to give chase to their darling doggie.

But as Marilyn and I held our dogs in check and blocked their view of the fluffy white dog as best we could, (for sight hounds, "out of sight IS out of mind") the large herding mix dog, who had been the bane of our walks for months, appeared unleashed ahead of us to our right, and even though our dogs saw HIM, HE was concentrating on the little white dog, who, suddenly, was not "fine", even in the judgment of his carefree owners.

Marilyn and I waited while the fluffy white dog's owners and the herding mix's owner sorted things out and left the area.

Marilyn and I plan to walk our dogs tomorrow in the same park. Will the owners of the fluffy white dog and the herding mix have learned a lesson from last week's encounter? Stay tuned. If not, I suspect that the Authorities will be receiving yet another call from this Cranky Old Lady.