Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year From Happy Dog Land!

2009 promises to be a great year at Happy Dog Land! The book itself will be published in September, and we're planning a big launch party to benefit Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control, which helps Chicago's neediest animals.  We're also looking to do book launchor book signing parties to benefit animal charities in other parts of the country as well -- so please let us know if you are interested in helping to put these events together.  

As we finish the editing process and move into production and design of the book, we can barely keep our excitement in check!  We look forward to sharing our experiences as the project moves towards completion, and hope to provide you with useful "dogma" to improve your life and the lives of your beloved pets.

2009 will also be an exciting time in the White House.  No, not Barack Obama, silly! Sasha and Malia's new dog! The world is on tenterhooks waiting to learn the identity of the first pooch -- rumor has it that Afghan warlords are lobbying heavily for an Afghan Hound, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (as befits his Highland heritage) is putting the good word in for a Westie.  Meanwhile, Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa, the President of our neighbor to the South, argues that a Mexican Hairless is the way to go.  Nevertheless, we believe that all dogs are created equal, and that our New President and First Lady will choose wisely and rescue a dog that needs a home and doesn't present a problem for Sasha's allergies, so that lucky canine can find its "forever" home.

So best wishes on this New Year's Eve, and we look forward to many visits with you in 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ask Billy: How do I make a better top knot (pony tail)?

Helen writes: "Hi Billy.  I have a grooming question if you don't mind.  My Shih Tzu Raja wears his hair up in a sort of topsy tail.  What do you recommend I do about those pesky hairs that come out of the tail and fall over his eyes?  I'm not big on sprays.  Any ideas for me?"

Helen, thanks for your question, it's a good one because many people don't want to use products to keep hairs inside the pony tail, which is technically called a top knot.  

When you see a show dog with a perfect top knot, you can bet that that dog spends all of his off time with his hair wrapped in plastic.  The plastic protects the hair and prevents breakage.  Believe it or not, the oil from human hands breaks down the hair and causes it to break off, not to mention brushing and playing.

The shorter hairs you're seeing around Raja's top knot are caused by everyday wear and tear.  For instance, every time he smiles, yawns and bats his eyes at you, those hairs fall out of the top knot!  Unfortunately, there's nothing to prevent that except to wrap up his hair in plastic like a show dog.  However, you don't want to kiss Raja through a wad of Saran wrap.  Leave the Saran in the kitchen and do what I do for my clients.  

I make 2 pony tails, one in front of the other.  Start in the front right above Raja's eyes.  This first top knot will hold all the shorter hair and should be less full than the second one.  Be sure not to pull too tight or Raja will loook like he's had a run in with a bottle of Botox.  For the second top knot, gather the longer hair right behind the first one.  After you've made both top knots, rubber band them together, again being careful not to make it too tight. If Raja looks like Priscilla Presley on Dancing With Stars or Florence Henderson, you'll know that the knot is too tight.  For any short hairs that still fall out, you can cut them short or be patient and let them grow out.  I recommend the second choice.

Monday, December 29, 2008

How often can I wash my dog?

Today, a client came into Doggy Dooz, Billy's salon, and asked this question:

"My vet said that I shouldn't wash my Husky more than twice a year because it would make his fur fall out.  Billy, is this true?"

Once I recovered from the shock of this treachery and pulled myself up off the floor, I realized that there's a whole lot of misinformation floating around out there--even from educated experts.  The truth is, the only thing I know of (other than severe trauma) that can remove a dog's fur en masse is Nair.  Nair, however, is a human product and as such should NEVER EVER be used on a dog.   Now, back to the question.  

All dog's must be washed way more than twice a year.  If not for the sake of your nose, bedspread and sofa, then for the health of Fido's skin and coat (not to mention his self-esteem).  Imagine how you'd feel if your hair was so long that it touched the ground everywhere you went and you smelled all your friends' butts and never came near soap. 

As long as you wash your dog correctly, you can wash as often as you'd like.  In my book, I'll teach you step-by-step how to wash your dog properly and easily at home.  In the meantime, use products formulated for dogs and rinse, rinse, rinse.  I wash many clients every week and I wash Zeke and Arthur at least once a week.  They've never lost their coat or even had a skin problem.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is Your City Dog Friendly?

In between the articles teaching you how to "make any woman yours" or to "have more sex," Men's Heath magazine recently ranked the 10 best cities for dogs. Although we beg to differ with Chicago's low rating, it got us thinking. No matter where you live, you can make your city, town or hamlet dog friendly -- regardless of the criteria used by Men's Health. Indeed, a city becomes dog friendly when dog people get together and make it happen. For example, petition lawmakers for dog parks, beaches or trails, support local animal welfare groups, buy your dog food and supplies from local stores and encourage more people (as long as they're responsible) to bring a dog into their home. Get creative, start a club for singles who love dogs or sponsor a tea party for elderly neighbors and their pets.

Start talking to fellow dog lovers in your 'hood and turn your town into Fidopolis. Let's hear some of your ideas in the comment section.

Check out this interactive map to see where your hometown ranks in the Men's Health list and then you'll know how much work you have to do.

Photo of Maro and Spike by: Michael Vistia, Vistia Designs

Marley & Me: Dogs as Family

Once again, a film has demonstrated which animal is truly top dog: Marley & Me was number one with a bullet at the box office in its opening weekend, barking its rivals up a tree.  We're not here to blog about the movie -- after all, we haven't seen it yet! -- but we would like to talk about the role that dogs play in our popular culture. After all, what's more important: the role of Shi'ite militias in the Iraqi conflict, or whether Lassie gets to finally tell Elizabeth Taylor to stop hogging her screen time in Lassie Come Home?

It is not a coincidence that every president in recent decades seems to have a dog (barneycam may have been George Bush's finest moment, and Nixon's "Checkers" speech probably saved his political career).  Moreover, Barack Obama's first major decision may be whether to get a Golden Doodle or a Portugese Water Dog.  We (all of us, whether we have a dog or not) view the ideal family as one with a dog.  Sure, a cat might be there too (they're quite clever, you know), but dogs far outnumber cats in our American homes, and for a reason: dogs have insinuated themselves into our image of who we are.

In films stretching from Benji to, well, the list is too long to include here, dogs are everywhere.  And what are they doing (beyond sniffing our collective butts, of course?) They're saving the world, or just lying on our laps.  

So as the new year approaches, raise your glass in a toast to our fine, four-legged friends: from helping us hunt for our food to playing with a frisbee, our dogs are truly our best friends.

Planning Ahead

As this article demonstrates, it is important to recognize that your dogs (and, indeed, all pets) may survive you.  This type of thinking is not only appropriate for your reclusive neighbor -- you know, the one who lives with at least 249 cats.  In fact, it is appropriate for you.  Jill, a lawyer by training, has provided for the care of her dog Shadow should she bite the bullet unexpectedly.  If this is too wacko for you, then at least arrange for a trusted friend or relative to step in as your pet foster parent.  Billy has arranged for a trustworthy friend to care for Arthur and Zeke if he's not able.  If you're one of our brave and dedicated troops, you need to plan for Fido's care while you're deployed.  (Go here for important info.)  In our book, we discuss why, when and how to ensure that your beloved family member is properly cared for if you become ill, incapacitated or dead.  In the meantime, talk to a local lawyer to make sure that everything is properly official--laws vary by state and read this article.

Without a plan, Fido could end up in an animal shelter with a dim future.  Wouldn't you be better able to sleep at night if you knew that Fido would continue to sleep on 400 count sheets or even a proper bed?  

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fido: Now even happier!

Some have noted that Fido did not seem as, well, happy in that last posting as you would expect for a dog destined for greatness. So why was that?

In truth, he had just consumed some of these pet treats, and was not feeling so hot. After a visit with the emergency vet, he now feels much better -- and much happier.

Actually, and in all seriousness, this brings up one of the most important rules of dog ownership: understand what you are feeding your dogs. As we discuss at length in our book (which, I'm sure, you are now preparing to pre-order from the moment the listing goes live) you need to read the labels on Fido's food, and learn what foods can be dangerous for your canine friends (chocolate, garlic and onions are among the more common ones). Trust me, your dog can easily die from consuming some fairly common household items. Learn to be careful -- Fido will be happier for it. Oh, and you'll be happier too.
UPDATE: For further information on dangerous foods for pets, please consult the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center.

Say hello to Fido!

This is Fido.  He will be your guide as you travel through Happy Dog Land. He is a fun (and, of course, happy) dog, and ready to show you everything you need to know about your dog.  In the book, he is used to demonstrate everything from how to remove a tick to how to play with your dog. Next to your own dog, he will become your best friend.  

Welcome to Happy Dog Land!

Welcome to Happy Dog Land, the official blog of Happy Dog: Caring For Your Dog's Body, Mind & Spirit, which will be published by NAL/Penguin in September 2009. Over the next few months, we (which is to say Billy Rafferty and Jill Cahr) will be providing you with a veritable cornucopia of valuable dog information and fun facts about our canine friends.  We will also be previewing the most useful and entertaining book on dogs ever put to page (if we do say so ourselves!)  So get ready, and keep an eye out for the beginnings of a special journey.

So who are we? Our next few entries will tell you a bit about ourselves, the Happy Dog project, and the multi-media canine extravaganza we'll be launching in 2009.  So be prepared, and we look forward to spending the next year (and beyond) with you.