Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I put Milly down on Friday, she was 15, and up until Thursday afternoon she could outrun Hush. After 1.5 years of spoiling her rotten the lung cancer kicked in. It happened fast, we tried to treat her with pain killers, and while they numbed her pain, they didn't help her breathing. Since the day I adopted Milly I've said she would live to be 15, any day over that would be on her terms, icing on the cake, but 15 was our agreement. She was the epitome of health until the last day. I've also always promised that I would be her voice, she was abused and neglected before me, and I never wanted her to feel pain or suffering. 

Honoring the promise to be her voice was difficult, when the vet asked me how aggressively I wanted to treat her, long before euthanasia came up, I was tempted to say anything. However, when there were no guarantees that she would be comfortable or survive, I couldn't agree to treatment. To me, the only way to be kind was to be her voice, and in the end, the vet thanked me for having the courage so few owners do. 

Milly died peacefully, in my arms, loved. I miss her terribly - I can't stop crying - and it feels like a piece of me died with her. However, I am comforted knowing I gave her love and a life that she had never known, and she gave me love and patience I had never known. In so many ways we saved each other. 

I've been meaning to blog for a long time... A lot has happened since my last post, some wonderful (like falling in love, getting a third dog, and changing careers), some terrible (like losing my best [human] friend, Bess, to cancer in 2012).

However, in the wake of Milly's death, now seems like the most appropriate time to post.

Rest In Peace, Millington. 

Our last cuddle session, only hours before she died. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Effective in an Emergency?

Fires are one of my biggest fears. When I was in the first grade my family’s barn burnt down, luckily for us, there were no horses in the barn at the time, but our beloved dogs were being kept in the horse stalls as a temporary kennel. I’ve blogged about this in the past, it was a windy day, the barn manager had a friend over whose car backfired causing sparks, the wind picked up the sparks, and a fire quickly began. A few things went wrong in the tactics being used to fight the fire, and the barn burned completely to the ground. The firefighters thought they had rescued all of the animals in the barn, but had overlooked my black lab, Rex. He perished in the blaze.

A few years ago I discovered decals made to notify emergency responders of any pets in the building. These decals can be placed on your front window or door, and give you space to write the number of dogs in your house to help ensure they are rescued in the event of an emergency. Of course, I loved this idea! My animals are like family to me, and I would hate to lose another beloved pet to a fire. Immediately I ordered one online (you can get them free through the ASPCA, or purchase one at your local pet specialty shop).

As you may know, one of my brothers is a firefighter, so I turn to him for all fire-related questions. One day we were talking about dogs in emergency situations, and how a normally docile dog may turn violent or aggressive when surrounded by the stress of a fire, first responders in full gear, sirens, etc. He explained from a fire fighter’s perspective the first priorities are saving human lives and putting out the blaze to save the building, but they do try to save animals, when they can. Many fire trucks are even equipped with oxygen masks for dogs to combat smoke inhalation. When I learned this I asked his thoughts on these decals, mentioning I always keep one in clear sight at the entrance to my house.

I was saddened to learn that decals like this are rarely noticed or relied upon by fire fighters… of course, this could be different for each department or area. He told me in the event of a fire the firefighters are focused on clearing the building and putting out the fire. With this in mind, they do everything possible to search for lives (including pets), but it is unlikely they would have the time to look for said decal in such instances.

I’ve blogged about the decals in the past, and I will continue to hang a decal notifying emergency crews of my animals, but I now have a more realistic view of how effective this tool is in saving the lives of my pets in a blaze. Fires are terrifying, and I pray none of my readers ever has to go through one, but there are some tools you can have in place. Practice for an emergency. Plan your exit strategies, and factor your pets into them. My brother said practicing is far and away the best preparation tool! Keep collars and leashes in an easily accessible place, but also keep in mind you may not be able to access that spot in a blaze. Your first priority should always be getting you and other humans out, but if time allows do try to bring your pets with you. As fires are an incredibly high stress situation for pets, work on socialization and obedience with distractions. Take your dogs places they may encounter loud noises, sirens, or people in full gear and practice your basic obedience. The last thing you want is your dog to hide in fear during an emergency like this. So work heavily on your recall, as well as your stay command.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I wanted to bring my readers up to speed, as a lot has happened since I was routinely blogging.

You may remember I purchased Hush as my first show dog, and while conformation has been put on the back burner (for the time being), that is still my ultimate goal with her. In the meantime, I’ve found I absolutely love obedience, and am working towards getting her ready for competition! At the end of last summer/early fall, I began taking basic obedience classes with Hush at the Mt. Vernon Dog Training Club, a wonderful group that runs incredible (and affordable!) classes out of the basement of a church in Old Town Alexandria. Between classes, I do a lot of practicing with both dogs. Here are Hush and Milly in a sit stay while on a walk with considerable distractions (children playing on the sidewalk, cars, and the dreaded squirrel!). I love our practice time almost as much as our class time, as the improvements are so apparent in my daily living! 

Basic went very well – we took an 8 week course where no treats were allowed, and this put a great foundation on her (you may remember I took the same course with Milly). Treats are an incredible tool, but I have become a firm believer in needing to know how to get your dog to perform both with and without treat-based rewards. By not having treats in class, I was able to really hone my skills as a handler, and learn the importance of verbal and physical queues, and most important, verbal and physical praise! The lack of treats in a very distraction filled class enabled me to be firm when necessary, and produced great results – particularly with her sit and stays.

At the end of the 8 week course, Hush graduated alongside Evan, my best friend Eileen’s dog. This was a great milestone, and we hosted a graduation party for our dogs at Jay’s Saloon and Grill in Clarendon (a section of Arlington, VA for those non-DC readers). The doggie graduation party was a blast for both people and dogs, and was well attended by friends and canines alike. Yappy hours and restaurants with outdoor/dog friendly seating are always fun and a good way to reinforce obedience with a multitude of distractions… so graduation was a perfect excuse to get everyone out to celebrate! Here are some pictures from the patio of Jay's saloon on graduation! Hush is the golden and Evan is that handsome boy in the natural tuxedo! They're BFF - which makes obedience class even more fun and challenging - talk about a MAJOR DISTRACTION when your dog is in a down-stay, you're 30 feet away, and their best friend walks by in a loose leash heal!

After basic, we continued obedience classes and moved up into the advanced basic course – the goal of this course was to prepare owners and dogs for the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Advanced Basic was a 10-week course, where treats were allowed. The class reinforced and perfected everything we learned in the basic course, and incorporated more distractions and exercises geared towards passing the CGC test.

All dogs learn at different paces, and Hush is no exception. She has always been a dog that takes quickly to certain things, and seemingly takes forever to understand other concepts. For Hush, “down” is one of those areas that she and I both struggled greatly with. In basic, this was the hardest thing for us, and that struggle continued through advanced basic. Down is a very submissive command, where the handler is exhibiting a great deal of authority over the dog, and the dog is being asked to go into a very vulnerable position. It was less that Hush was not obeying or resisting me, and more that she just could not figure out what I wanted her to do. Luckily, Mt. Vernon Dog Training Club is run by incredible volunteers, and each teacher spent considerable one-on-one time with us working on this.

On the final day of class, we took the Canine Good Citizen test, and Hush went into a perfect down. For us, down stay is easy, but getting that down is hard. The rest of the test included walking in a crowd, meeting a stranger with a strange dog, sit and down, sit and down stays, loose leash walking, an off-leash recall (with a 20 foot rope dragging behind for safety purposes), and being left with a friendly stranger while the owner is out of sight for 2 minutes. Hush was perfect, and passed with flying colors! We received both an official certificate from the AKC, and our first ribbon (from MVDTC) upon graduation. While the Canine Good Citizen is a certificate and not a title, many dog enthusiasts like to include it as a suffix to their dog’s name, where you would also include your title abbreviations as you earn them. I can’t tell you the sense of pride I had as I updated Hush’s pedigree on to include her CGC. With the updated suffix, I decided to include a more grown up picture of her, as well. You can check it out here. And remember, those Golden Retriever and lab owners can use to research your dog's pedigree! Is your dog not on there already? Do you know your dogs parents? Or have a copy of their pedigree? If so, you can enter your dog yourself!

So where are we now? After the advanced basic course, we continued with obedience, taking the Pre-Novice course, but as luck would have it, Hush went into heat for the majority of the Pre-Novice course. Because of this, I requested I retake the class to continue to solidify basics. The great thing is MVDTC lets you re-take Pre-Novice up to three times. Hush is no longer in heat, and we're about 3/4 through Pre-Novice, we have learned so many new things – and perfected those we already know (like the dreaded down!). I am currently finishing up this level of courses, and will hopefully graduate and move to MVDTC Burke location, where we’ll work each week at the Novice level until we're ready to compete! I am one step away from seriously training for competition with Hush, and I am so excited and proud! 

Friday, June 29, 2012

An Update and A Glimmer of Hope for Milly

I can’t even begin to express how much comments, words of encouragement, well wishes, and prayers I received for Milly meant to me. Keeping in mind, when I wrote that post, my beloved senior citizen was on death’s door, the prognosis I had been given from the vet was bleak at best. But since then, it seems as though our prayers were really answered.

After writing that post, we had a handful of vet appointments, including more ultrasounds and x-rays, as well as a briefing on the radiologist and oncologist’s findings when reading these tests. I’ve always said Milly is going to be the kind of dog that is totally healthy and racing around, and when her time comes, it will happen fast… I think I’ve even mentioned this belief in older blog posts. That’s just the kind of dog she is. So, being at death’s door, with a dog that only hours before had been the epitome of health, was traumatizing and heart wrenching.

The good news, is Milly is back in business! The findings revealed my suspicion that she ingested something she should not have, which led to pretty bad digestive issues, to be specific she came down with Acute Pancreatitis, the inflammation and pain in her pancreas then resulted in an inflammation of the liver. Once this diagnosis was made, our vet was very specific – the cancer is the least of our worries… we have to treat this digestive problem first. It was fascinating to see the x-rays and compare those to the ultrasound… for 3 days we monitored the movements occurring as her body attempted to pass whatever it was she ingested. On day 7, the blockage passed – what it is, I’m not sure. It kind of looked like grass, but wasn’t… I won’t delve into what her poop looked like, but needless to say, it was such a glorious occasion to see that bowl movement that we photographed it!

This was my first personal experience with Pancreatitis, and I pray none of you ever have to face this dreadful condition. It can easily be fatal, and is so terribly painful for the dogs. For Milly, while her case was not mild, it was also not severe (severe being fatal). The amount of suffering I saw her in was unbearable, and had she not rebounded in the way she did, I surely would’ve put her down. Pancreatitis can be caused by many things, but is commonly caused by ingesting something a dog is not supposed to – human food is a leading culprit. I’ll never know what triggered the pancreatitis, but I will continue to be diligent about what my dogs eat, as I always have been.

The vet prescribed a variety of medications, gave her fluids through an IV, anti-nausea meds, and a prescription diet. The radiologist confirmed the findings of Pancreatitis. Had it not been for this digestive problem, we never would have found her lung tumor. In a few days we will retake the x-rays and ultrasound to monitor her condition. But, physically, she seems like her old, happy go-lucky, energetic self!

Just a few days ago, I received thrilling news. There is a small, and I mean very small, chance the tumor is benign. Primary cancerous lung tumors are rare, lung tumors are normally the result of cancer elsewhere in the body. Milly’s tumor is below 5 centimeters, and appears solid. These are both very good signs for her. In 4-6 weeks, we will retake the x-rays and ultrasound to track the tumor growth. If there had been no measured growth, odds are, the tumor is benign. Again, the vets all emphasized the odds of it being benign are slim, but there is a chance.

So now we pray that the tumor is benign. If it isn’t, I’ve had a lot of time to process this information. Every day I have with Milly is a blessing, and I’m hoping for good news, but preparing for the worst. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, and many conversations with various vets. If the tumor is cancerous, which we suspect it is, I am not going to pursue surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. I will treat her symptoms as they crop up, and do everything possible to keep her happy and painfree… but the moment her quality of life looks like it is lessening, I will do the only truly humane thing, and put her out of her misery. It’s hard to write this. Having to decide my course of action on the matter had been tough, but the treatment plans at minimum would cost $5,000 and would be very hard on her body. She’s around 13, as a rescue, I don’t know her definitive age, but that’s a good guesstimate. She may even be older. At this age, while treatment could be possible, it won’t buy her many more years of life, and it would be so hard on her body.

This experience, and seeing my dog is such horrible condition, watching her make leaps and bounds, and still not knowing whether or not a growth on her lung is slowly killing her from the inside out, has changed many of my views. I’ve realized treating the cancer would be for me, and not for Milly. She had such a horrible life before me, and when I adopted her I made a promise to love and protect her, and to me that includes protecting her from my love, and not allowing that love to become selfish. I would rather put her to sleep a month too early, than a day to late, as allowing her to suffer at all would be breaking the promise I made to her when I first brought her home from the shelter. 

I know we all say that our dog is the best dog in the world... but Milly truly is an amazing, very special dog... perhaps even the best dog in the world! She had such a horrendous life before me - clearly abused, malnourished, and neglected. When I adopted her she was fearful, yet accepting, nervous about people, nervous about food, nervous about everything, but never was she a dog that ran away in fear. She may have had a bad life before me, but she has always loved people, even the ones that abused her.  She is perfect with humans - whether they be infants or geriatrics in a wheel chair... she loves them all! She has never snarled at a person, even toddlers pulling a bit too hard on her ears or tail. She is the dog that will let you do ANYTHING to her, and lays perfectly still while you do it. She adores going to the vet, both of my dogs do, but Milly REALLY DOES! For her, shots, her temperature, grooming, having injuries shaved, are all blissful experiences... if for no other reason than human contact comes with all of them. For any procedure she will let you do whatever you need to do, and lays perfectly still while you do it, however painful it maybe for her. Knowing this about her, and that she has always been this way, makes me physically ill to think that someone, years ago, hurt her. 

Milly is one of a kind, so much so that the vet even commented on how she has never seen a dog so well behaved during an ultrasound or x-ray. Milly remained perfectly still through these procedures, every time they did them, and when they needed to adjust her leg to get a different angle, the tech would lift her leg into position, and Milly would hold it there until they moved her into the next position. Never moving, never squirming, just laying perfectly still while her insides were examined. The vet said, especially with Pancreatitis and the pain she was in, most dogs would have squirmed, or snarled, or at least tried to evade being manipulated into these necessary painful positions, but not Milly. She just lay there, happily letting them examine her, despite her pain. I must admit, I was not surprised to hear this, but I was happy that one more person has experienced this amazing dog. I am so blessed to have her in my life, and I pray that God will give me more weeks, more months, and maybe even, just maybe more years with her. Each day that I have with her is truly a gift, and I am so grateful that her time on Earth has been extended.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The dreaded C-word

The dreaded C-word: CANCER. It's been a long time since I've blogged, and I've written so many posts that I haven't published. I've really missed blogging, and as I sit here typing this, I wish I was posting one of those other posts - posting about when Hush passed her Canine Good Citizen test, or posting about how cute it is that Milly licks Hush's ears after I clean them, how my two beloved Golden Retrievers have become inseparable best friends, how I've fallen in love with an amazing man, whom I now live with and we share our lives not just with each other, but also with our two goldens, and his toy poodle, Ally. Oh, how I wish I was posting one of those stories right now. But I'm not. Instead, I'm writing about how my beloved Milly has cancer.

Yesterday, was picturesque, to say the least. I woke up in the morning, early for me on a Sunday. Two of my dear friends, Eileen and Olivia came over, we packed a picnic and headed to Markham, VA for a day of sour cherry picking. We brought Milly, Hush, Ally, and Evan (Eileen's dog, and one of my dogs' best friends, especially for outdoor adventures). When we got to the Orchard we let all the dogs of their leashes, and they raced through the apple trees away from other cherry-picking-patrons, sniffing every leaf, joyfully rolling in the grass, catching a wiff of something in the air and darting off after a flying bird - in short, it was any dog's best day. We all commented on how great Milly looked, a picture of health and fitness - at 13 or so years, she can outrun Evan (a seasoned long-distance runner, and Eileen's companion as she trains for half and full marathons), Hush (just shy of two years old, her body is muscular and fit, as a retriever's should be - she's fast and has incredible endurance)... so it's truly amazing to see this geriatric dog joyfully racing at lightning speeds through the fields. It was a perfect day - warm, but not hot like DC June days tend to be. We picked cherries, we laughed, the dogs played. After, I headed home, grabbed a quick bite to eat and packed up my beach bag for a pool-party father's day cookout at the beau's father's house. My beach bag contained all the necessities: towel for me, two towels for the dogs, a ziplock baggy filled with freeze dried bison, and plenty of toys for both land and water. Milly again was filled with joyful energy as she darted across yard, begged for bites of everyone meals, and even took dip in the pool. You may remember, Milly fails as a water retriever - she doesn't like to play fetch, and she's not a fan of swimming... but, Hush who loves the water, has influenced Milly... slowly helping her gain confidence in the water - and for a few minutes Milly was happy to cool off in the pool.

When we got home we were all exhausted. We went to bed - the dogs conked out on the bedroom floor. In the middle of the night I woke up to Milly breathing heavily, making that tell tale noise all dog owners know as "my dog is about to puke!" Sure enough, up came some sort of food, and I groggily pulled myself out of bed to clean it up, make sure Milly had water, and went back to sleep thinking she must've gotten into some human food at the cookout. A few hours later, the above happened again, and I began to get a little worried. An hour later, the process was repeated for the third time - by this time Milly was breathing heavily, and I realized she had urinated all over the floor, and all over herself. Something was seriously wrong. I tried to get her to stand up, and she wouldn't. She just lay there, heavily panting. I couldn't get her to move, not even for treats. I checked her gums, they were somewhat pale and dry. Her heart seemed to be pounding faster than normal, her breathing was heavy, and her lower end was covered in urine. We picked her up and carried her to the car and raced to the vet. 

When I got to the vet a tech help me carry her inside, and took her vitals. My normal vet is on her honeymoon, so I saw someone else. The vet listened to her heart, it was beating fast. Listened to her lungs, they sounded wheezy. Her stomach was tender to the touch, and hard. Her lymph nodes were okay. Her gums were pale and dry. She was listless, depressed looking, panting heavily. The vet wanted to give her IV fluids, some strong anti-nausea medicine, run a complete blood work panel, and take x-rays of her chest. I was told it could just be a virus, it could be something more sinister like cancer or organ failure, it may be a blockage in her intestines... we wouldn't know until after the diagnostics. I left and went home, nervous, but hoping for something mild like a stomach virus. A few hours later, the vet called. Milly was feeling better - they'd gotten results of the blood work, and nothing was concrete. The blood work had abnormalities in it - liver count was off, white cells were a little off, etc. but nothing pointed to any one thing. Disconcerting, to say the least. The x-rays, however, proved more useful. From multiple angles a fairly large tumor was present on her lung. I was shocked. In all of Milly's years with me, she has been the epitome of health... and I don't mean healthy for an older dog, I mean healthy for any dog - young or old. 

Based on where the tumor is, it is unlikely the cancer started there - it more than likely has spread to her lungs from another part of her body. The vet reassured me there are options - there is a great oncologist nearby, we don't have to make any decisions right now. Or, based on her age we could simply treat the symptoms as they crop up - let her live out her days and keep her happy and comfortable, and enjoy the time I have left with her. The vet wanted to do an ultrasound, and I agreed to that - based on where the tumor is, we may even be able to biopsy it during the ultrasound. Milly could stay over night, and have the ultra sound in the morning, or I could come pick her up and bring her back. I chose latter. She's with me now, groggy, sleeping at my feet. Her breathing is loud, but she is happy and peaceful. I can't help but listen to every breath and wonder how many more I'll hear. 

So tomorrow I'll learn just how bad it is. How many days, weeks, or months she has left. I haven't completely decided, but I think based on her age, I'm not going to pursue chemotherapy and/or radiation I know she's a fighter - but I don't want to put her through that. Again, I haven't completely decided. Hopefully the ultrasound can help by giving us more answers that we can use to treat symptoms as they arise, and keep her comfortable and happy. I can't stop crying. I'm not ready to say goodbye, and despite her age, I never thought this day would come.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Animal Rights Culture and Implications of Canine Legislation:

There is an unfair stigma associated with owning a purebred dog – someone asks you a question about your dog, and you find yourself having to justify your decision to purchase a dog, and not rescue one. It does not matter if you researched the breed thoroughly, if you compete in breed specific events like dog shows, or if you donate your time, money, and your dog’s DNA to canine health research. No, none of these factors come into play when you get the dreaded question, “Is he/she a rescue?” There is nothing wrong with rescuing dogs. On the contrary, providing forever homes to animals in shelters or rescues is a wonderful and noble cause. However, why does the good of rescue trump the good of supporting a specific breed or breeds?

The stigma is there, and the trend is apparent on multiple levels. Many families now refer to the act of purchasing a puppy from a breeder as “adopting from a breeder,” and it’s no coincidence considering we live in a culture that exalts adoption of homeless animals while condemning breeding. In fact, the very language of “adoption” vs. “ownership” humanizes our pets. It is no coincidence, either. Animal rights groups push heavily to shift the language used when referring to our pets. No longer does a family own a dog, but the dog is part of the family, a “furbaby,” as some say. In the sanctity of my home, I consider my animals to be family. To the public, however, the language I choose to use is one of ownership. I own two dogs: one I adopted from a local shelter, and one I purchased from a breeder. Most people do not realize the true agenda of the animal rights movement is to take away ownership rights and instead create a guardianship – essentially giving animals the same legal rights as people, the implications of which are simply terrifying. Recently, headway was made to stop this in Missouri with two measures – one promoting proper legal status of animals, and the other promoting responsible breeding - both passed Missouri committees and are now awaiting votes by the Missouri House of Representatives. Unfortunately, this headway is just a drop in the bucket as vague animal rights legislation is currently pending in numerous states. Often times, this legislation is masked with good intentions, and the potential loopholes go unnoticed.

Log into Facebook and take a look at the over 36,000 people who have “liked” the Stop Puppy Mills page. Perhaps you are one of them, or maybe you know one of the fans of this page. The term Puppy Mill is a loaded term, one that connotes concentration camp like facilities where dogs are bred with little to no regard for animal welfare, and money-hungry breeders treat animals as commodities, disposable only when their reproductive organs fail, and profits run dry. With mental images like this, it is quite easy to click the like button on that page. In the same vein, it is easy to vote to support legislation that promises to end Puppy Mills by limiting the number of dogs a breeder can own. Or to vote yes on a measure claiming mandatory spay and neuter laws will reduce the number of animals in shelters.

On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked the United States. In the days the following the attacks, brave men and women searched for survivors, but there were places humans could not go and rescue crews relied on specially trained search and rescue dogs to find survivors, and recover victims. How is this related to animal legislation, specifically “Puppy Mill” bills? The first rescue dog to enter the Pentagon after September 11 was trained at Deep Run Farm, a breeding and training facility for Labradors located just outside Fredericksburg, VA. What you will find at Deep Run Farm is a fulltime staff devoted to the training, wellbeing, and breeding of numerous Labrador Retrievers. When I visited the farm there were over 60 adult dogs onsite, 30 puppies, and a litter on the way – breeds onsite included Labradors, Norfolk and Norwich Terriers, and Affenpinschers, along with a handful of other breeds. The farm itself is the ClubMed of the retriever world – an all-inclusive facility with activities (or training) from agility to waterfowl retrieving, situated on over 100 acres. Continuing with top notch all-inclusive service, an onsite canine chiropractor keeps dogs limber, the breeding program is led by a renowned reproductive vet, and the training program is held in such high esteem the kennel owners’ and the dogs they bred were used in a demonstration for the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus on Capitol Hill. Beyond the plush settings, the knowledge and love of animals found at this kennel is unparalleled – with countless champion hunting, show, obedience and agility dogs, along with service dogs and rescue dogs – serving as testament to their success. Is this a Puppy Mill? The animal rights movement would probably say it is based on the variety of breeds bred at this one kennel, the number of dogs on premises, the number of litters on the ground each year, and the number of intact dogs there, including many used for stud.

The animal rights movement, led by groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), routinely lobby for legislation to limit the number of intact dogs a breeder can own, limit the number of dogs that can live at a kennel, limit the number of litters a breeder can breed each year, push for mandatory spay and neuter laws for pet owners, and much more. Responsible, well-respected experts, like Deep Run Farm, would be considered high volume breeders, perhaps even a Puppy Mill by the masterminds behind the animal rights movement. When in actuality, successful dog enthusiasts, like those who breed top hunting dogs, provide a haven for animals and devote their lives to bettering specific breeds – both in temperament, structure, and health. When a person reads “Stop Puppy Mills” on a social media outlet, or worse, their ballot, are they going to know the current animal welfare laws in place? Will they realize their state most likely already has laws in place protecting animals, laws simply needing to be enforced? Will the person read the full bill they are voting for, or be able to place the initiative into a meaningful context where the full implications of the law are understood? Doubtful, and the groups waging heavily for such legislation do not want voters to be informed on the issues, they want voters to read or hear the words “Puppy Mill” or “Breeder” and think of neglect and greed, not places like Deep Run Farm.

A perfect example, are the bills currently pending in the Iowa Senate to significantly restrict “commercial breeders” abilities to continue to own and breed dogs. Current Iowa law defines a commercial breeder as “anyone who owns at least four intact dogs or cats and receives a consideration for breeding.” Under proposed legislation, breeders would be forced to adhere to strict permitting guidelines, specifically when permits expire or are revoked. To further infringe upon breeders rights, permits could be revoked without hearings, under these bills. If a commercial breeder’s permit were to expire, the breeder would have only 45 days to obtain a new permit, or get rid of (by giving away, euthanizing, or selling) dogs, or sterilize their dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is adamantly opposed to this legislation, because these bills would make it virtually impossible for small hobby breeders to continue to breed dogs.
Another example is Missouri, where in 2010 the animal rights movement fought heavily to ban Puppy Mills under Proposition B. As they pushed for the ballot measure to pass, the groups relied heavily on depressing images of neglected animals in cramped cages to pull at the heartstrings of voters. They told voters under this bill animals would be required to have access to food and water, and dogs would have enough room to stretch in their cages. Based solely on these ads, it seemed like a good bill. Food, water, room to stretch are all good things, but these things were all current law (actually, current law required animals to have sufficient room to stand, turn around, and lie down, and the ballot measure weakened that, requiring the animal only be able to stretch).

In ad campaigns, the animal rights groups rely on depressing images of neglected animals to pull at the heartstrings of voters. These groups employ celebrities to tout their message of “helping” animals to the public, as seen in 2008 with the farm animal bill in California, and still today with donation solicitation campaigns produced by groups like HSUS. These tactics are working. Deceptive emotional campaigns are pushing legislation to limit the rights of citizens, give government overreaching control, and hurt responsible breeders. Citizens are seeing these images, and supporting causes that at first glance, appear to be noble. Unfortunately, the implications of animal rights legislation are lost in translation as emotional campaigns are pushed forward, and ballots are cast based on what a voter thinks is the “right” or “moral” thing to do.

As a society, we are told by the media and advocacy campaigns that buying animals is bad. Why is it bad? The anti-breeding side says because it contributes to the homeless animal population. Does it? When done responsibly, no. Many responsible breeders sell dogs on contracts stating they must be returned to the breeder if the owner can no longer care for the dog, and this holds true for the life of the animal. That’s a big commitment on the breeder’s part to ensure none of their dogs wind up in shelters. However, as a society, we are told these very breeders are the reason dogs are in shelters. Responsible breeders also do not sell dogs with unlimited registration or breeding rights to the average pet owner, nor do they export intact dogs. No responsible breeder will simply charge more to grant a buyer breeding rights. Instead, puppies sold with breeding rights will be hand selected, only the best puppies in the litter worthy of this registration, and sold to thoroughly vetted homes, typically where the puppy will be actively shown or compete in some other venue. Often times these puppies are sold on contracts stating they must not be bred until a certain age, nor should they be bred without obtaining a variety of health clearances. However, most people looking to buy their next pet do not know this, nor do they know the resources available to find a reputable breeder. Educating the public about irresponsible breeders is important, but giving pet owners the necessary tools to find responsible breeders is critical. Legislation that hinders breeders’ rights may sound nice at first glance, but it can be detrimental to responsible breeders – the very people, like those who run Deep Run Farm, that invest so much to promote the health and well-being of purebred dogs. Protecting animals starts at the grassroots level by educating the public about responsible breeding practices, the responsibilities of pet ownership (particularly owning intact dogs), and finally, perhaps most important, by enforcing current animal welfare legislation on a local level. Headway made to educate the public locally will expand to have a regional impact, eventually spreading nationwide, and reduce the number of dogs in shelters.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Flea and Tick Prevention

I grew up in South Carolina on 68 acres with anywhere from 1-6 dogs at all times. For those of you who have never been to South Carolina there are many amazing things about the state, but one drawback are the fleas and ticks. For some reason, fleas in South Carolina have become resistant to Frontline, and pet owners and vets are having to figure out a variety of new solutions to this problem. From speaking with my vet fleas becoming resistant to Frontline is a trending problem, and one my vet’s parents have experienced as far north as Southern Virginia. As you are well aware, fleas and ticks can spread a variety of illnesses, diseases, and parasites - and flea and tick prevention - whether natural or through traditional medicine and pharmaceuticals - is an integral part of promoting good health in your pets.

For me, living in DC, and before that Roanoke, VA, Frontline once a month had always done the trick. I even stop using it for a few months in the winter to avoid putting unnecessary toxic chemicals on my furry friends. The only time Milly were after trips to South Carolina, and Hush had never had them.

That is until recently. Despite my religious applications, always perfectly on schedule, Hush seems to have gotten fleas. Not exactly surprising – she is running in the woods off leash almost every day. Hush has a much thicker and longer coat than Milly – she is very much bred to standard with the thick double coat, which is water repellent. I love her beautiful coat, but it does make it more difficult to notice skin problems. I first noticed some scratching, a telltale sign of fleas. I used a flea comb and found no signs of flea dander, which left me confused. However, when I bathed her and dried her with the high power professional dryer I immediately saw bite marks and flea dander. Having spoken with other people within the Golden Retriever breed, I learned many people up their flea/tick prevention before doing any field training in the woods.

So now the question lies in what to do next. There is a new(er) once-a-month topical skin flea/tick/mosquito product on the market called Vectra 3D, which I have used with good results in the past. Vectra is only available by prescription (I think), and from what I’ve found is more expensive than Frontline. However, I have an inside connection through a friend who works in veterinary pharmaceutical sales, and was recently given a three month supply. Having used it in the past, I did notice the smell is much stronger than other topical flea meds. Finally, some dogs have bad reactions to it. If you are going to try Vectra, make sure to follow the instructions. Unlike Frontline, which is applied in one spot between the shoulder blades, Vectra needs to be dispersed in three spots going down the back – between the shoulder blades, mid-back, and above the tail. If not applied this way, your dog’s skin can get burned from the medication. This product is a brand new technology created with a new molecule called Dinotefuron which is proven to kill fleas and ticks for a full 30 days, and does not have the resistance that other flea/tick products may have. It also is proven to kill all fleas and ticks on the animal within six hours of application. Additionally, the animal does not have to be bitten for the medicine to begin killing Vectra 3D also features a patented applicator for ease of use and is safer for the environment.

When I use any topical flea medication I always apply them at night, just before I go to bed. This minimizes the contact I have with the toxic chemicals, and women who are pregnant should never apply topical flea medications.

I also placed an order for Capstar. Unfortunately, this somehow was shipped to my old address… so I am not sure when I will receive it. For those of you unfamiliar with Capstar, it is a pill given orally that kills all living fleas on the dog’s body. This is not a preventative, and only kills any fleas that may exist, working in a similar manner to a traditional flea-dip. I personally have used Capstar with excellent results in the past – although, I have heard certain dogs do not respond well to it. Capstar has always been especially handy with trips to South Carolina – I know the fleas are in that environment and 2 doses spaced 2 weeks apart combined with Frontline usually does the trick for Milly. This said, before trying any new product; always speak with your veterinarian, especially if your dog has any special health concerns, such as seizures.

Another good product is Comfortis, a once monthly pill that works as a preventative. Comfortis has been shown to have very good results, and the ease of administering a monthly pill makes it appealing to many pet owners. However, it is only available by prescription. In the past, I’ve used Comfortis with great results with Milly, but again the product has mixed reviews. The only reason I stopped using it was because my current vet does not stock it within their office pharmacy, and having had no flea problems, I did not feel I needed her to send in prescriptions to 1-800-PetMeds or a similar pet pharmacy. I think I will be switching to this soon, though.

There are also a variety of natural supplements, like Bug Off Garlic, on the market that you simply mix in each day with your dog’s food. I have heard these, especially combined with traditional medicine, work beautifully. However, I have not tried any myself.

In the meantime, I’ve bathed the dogs multiple times with a flea shampoo (twice weekly), but fear this could dry or damage their coats. I have also started spraying each dog with Adams Flea/Tick spray before going into the woods, and have noticed all of the scratching has stopped. I was also able to secure one dose of Capstar for each dog. They are both scheduled to have their topical preventives applied again on Thursday, and this time I will be using my free samples of Vectra.

When it comes to flea preventatives there will always be mixed reviews of each product on the market, and all dogs respond differently. As far as traditional medicine goes, most flea products are toxic chemicals – that is how they kill and/or prevent the fleas – with this in mind, it is always a good idea to work with your veterinarian before making a change. Also, as of December 2009, Frontline is available without a prescription. As a result, there are numerous internet vendors selling counterfeit Frontline and/or damaged products. These can be extremely dangerous to your dog, so when using an OTC product, always buy from a reputable source, and not simply the cheapest available.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Baby Gates

I’ve lived in DC for over 4 years – I can’t believe it has been that long! The first 3.5 years in the area I rented large houses split between 3-4 roommates, had yards, and plenty of space both indoors and out. At the end of November, I signed a lease on a small 2 bedroom apartment in an idyllic condo community, and soon after found a wonderful roommate on Craigslist. I love where I live for a variety of reasons, but adjusting to apartment living after always having a house has been trying at times.

Golden Retrievers are more of a medium sized dog breed under AKC standards, but who are we kidding – they’re still pretty big dogs. I have big furniture and a lot of stuff (it’s amazing how much you can acquire in just 4-years!) – so our lives in the apartment are quite “cozy”.

While I’m at work, both Hush (usually crated) and Milly are left in my bedroom with the door shut. I never had this problem in a larger house, with more circulation, but in the apartment the air in my bedroom gets stuffy having the door closed all day. I hate coming home to a stuffy, dog smelling bedroom at the end of a long day.

After all of the rain we have been having surrounding Hurricane Irene, I was finally fed up with my bedroom smelling like a dog, or worse, a wet dog. On Saturday, I bought a baby gate, and today happily kissed my pups goodbye, and left the door open with Milly gated inside and Hush in her crate. I can’t wait to see, or smell, the difference when I get home.

Baby gates should be added to all must-have lists for dog owners! They’re great, and at only $10, this was a very cheap solution to my problem. As Hush gains more and more freedom, I will probably pick up 1 or 2 more baby gates. They are an excellent way of slowly bridging the gap between crating and being loose, and enable your dog to have more space with you not having to worry about your dog getting into anything he or she should not.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hush Starts Training

Around this time last year I was just starting training classes with Milly at the Mount Vernon Dog Training Club you can read this blog post on a training update mid-course. As I’ve said before, if you want to train your dog and take classes, the most affordable way (and often the best training) is to go through a local AKC affiliated dog training club. This club offers the Basic Obedience class, an 8-week serious, for $80. After you complete the initial 8 week course, you have the option of paying $30 for 10 weeks of classes, where you continue practicing and perfecting what was learned in basic, and focus on the Canine Good Citizen test.

I have also taken training classes from the Capital Dog Training Club. I absolutely loved both training clubs. The Capital Dog Training Club is much larger and able to offer a variety of classes at the same time – they divide their space, a warehouse, into multiple rings like a dog show. The drawbacks with this club are it takes an hour to get to classes, which can be impossible with DC traffic, and the classes often fill up fast.

I knew I wanted to get Hush in a class, and as soon as possible, so when I saw there were openings in the upcoming Basic class through the Mt. Vernon Dog Training Club I jumped on the opportunity. The class starts on September 27th, and is only 10 minutes from my house. Classes are held at 9pm, which gives me enough time to leave work, go home, feed and exercise the dogs, and then head to class. A very exciting added bonus is one of my best friends, Eileen, may also take this class with her dog Evan!!

I am so excited! I’ve already marked my calendar – and I plan on doing the full 18 weeks of training with Hush to cover basic and advanced basic obedience. From there, both Milly and Hush will do their Canine Good Citizen tests. After that, I’ll decide whether or not I want to start training Hush for competitive obedience with a 10-week “Pre-Novice” class, or if I will refocus on our conformation/dog show training. Of course, after these 18 weeks of classes are complete, I’ll have to decide which club to train with based on what classes are offered at each.

My goal is to put an obedience title on Hush by her 2nd birthday, and also get her in the conformation ring by then.