Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy Dogs to Brighten Your Day

The weather here in Chicago is dreary and the nation's short-term economic outlook is bleak, but our dogs' eyes are bright and full of hope -- and not just because they've noticed the treats in our hands.  Dogs always cheer us up, even when the weather is cold and our bank accounts are shrinking.  A wag of a tail or a nudge with a cold wet nose can make even the worst day seem brighter.

To remind everyone that the sunless, cold and damp days of winter will soon be replaced by spring's promise of rebirth, here are cheerful photos of a few of the dogs featured in our book. If you have a fun photo of your dog, please send it in and we'll post it.

Lily and Maro share a stick while Spike tries to catch up.

Sammy taking a break from a run around the beach.

Buster and Clancy showing off their beautiful haircuts during a stroll at the lakefront.

Lola patrolling the beach.

Bella enjoying the sun.

Photographs by Michael Vistia, Vistia Designs

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ask Billy: How often should my dog go to a professional groomer?

Jenny from Indiana writes: "I have my dogs groomed every four weeks, is this too often?"

Well, Jenny your Shih-tzus certainly look cute and well cared for. As long as you have chosen a groomer who is contentious, patient and knowledgeable, you can groom your cuties as often as you'd like (and your pocketbook allows).

Whether your pooch enjoys a weekly, monthly or annual (gasp) appointment with a pro, YOU must brush, clean and care for your pooch as well. I'll teach you everything you need to know about this in Happy Dog: Caring For Your Dog's Body Mind and Spirit. Here's some advice to tide you over until the book's release in September.

I've broken dogs into categories that are easy to understand without an advanced degree in animal cosmetology: Hair, Multi-Length Fur, Uniform Fur and Hairless. While technically, anything growing out of a follicle is "hair," I believe that my categories will allow you to care for your dog properly and interpret what you see growing all over your pooch.

Shih-tzus, Poodles and some Doodles, Maltese, Lhasa Apsos, Cocker Spaniels and other dogs with hair-like coats (Hair Dogs) should be professionally groomed at least every 4-6 weeks. Hair dogs tend the become matted rather quickly, so frequent professional grooming in addition to brushing regularly at home will help keep a Hair Dog pretty, comfortable and healthy. (If you've eaten recently, you don't even want to think about what I've found caught in the mats of dogs...well if you do, check out the 1/15/09 The Inspection Connection entry). In addition, a Hair Dog's coat grows until it is cut so she requires an appointment with professional who can wield scissors in a skilled and safe manner. (This does not mean you wielding a pair of professional clippers.)

Dogs with coats of mixed length are what I call Multi-Length Fur Dogs. These dogs often appear to be wearing fur pants around their back ends and legs (notice I did not say blue jeans, sweat pants or any other mini-human clothing). Some also have longer fur on their tail, undercarriage or beard. Golden Retrievers, Collies, Pomeranians and many mixed breeds also fall into this category. The dead, shorter fur from these dogs usually ends up your floors, clothing and furniture. The dead, longer fur requires trimming and, if not properly brushed out of the coat by you at home, will form mats. A professional grooming every 6-12 weeks helps your Multi-Length pooch's coat stay manageable, comfortable and clean.

Just because you're a short-haired pooch, doesn't mean that you should miss out on all the fun and pampering that happens at a good grooming salon. Moreover, if you've been reading our blog, you already know that short-haired dogs require more than semi-annual grooming. (If you haven't been reading our blog, shame on you! Now is a fine time to begin -- we'll wait while you catch up.)

Dogs with fur of the same length (Uniform Fur Dogs) should visit a professional groomer every 12-16 weeks. If you have a Uniform Fur Dog, such as a Bulldog, Bully breed, Dalmatian, Pug or Beagle, you should also be brushing your pooch at least a few times a week to help remove his dead fur before it falls off the dog and all over your house. A professional grooming removes excess dead fur and pampers your Uniform Fur Dog with a deep cleaning.

Hairless dogs need professional care too. If you have a Hairless breed, such as the Chinese Crested, Peruvian Inca Orchid, Hairless Khala and Mexican Hairless, take your non-furry friend to the groomer about every 4-8 weeks. A Hairless dog requires bathing, exfoliating and a bit of moisturizer. Some Hairless dogs do have a dash of hair and that hair needs regular brushing with a small, extra gentle slicker brush. Having an experienced professional groomer care for your Hairless pooch helps you monitor his sensitive skin, which is prone to rashes and pimples.

Monday, January 26, 2009


The peanut butter-salmonella scare continues. Today, Albertons became the latest retailer to recall a dog food product made with potentially contaminated peanut butter. This recall covers Happy Tails Multi-Flavored dog biscuits.

The FDA collects the most up-to date recall data and provides packaging and labelling information that will help you identify recalled products.

If you are in doubt, don't feed your dog a treat or food made with with peanut butter until you check with the manufacturer or retailer. If your pooch has already consumed a recalled product, contact your vet immediately.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Bill Simmons, who writes the Sports Guy column for posted a heartwarming tribute to Daisy aka "The Dooze," his Golden Retriever who recently lost her battle with cancer. The Dooze was barely 6 when she died.

Both Billy and Jill suffered the loss of young dogs. Billy's Portie Gabriel was almost 3 when he died tragically. Gabriel had swallowed pieces of an allegedly indestructible nylon bone and he passed away a few days after the surgery to remove the resulting blockage. Jill's Miniature Poodle Filbert died during surgery to remove a growth on a toe. Filbert was only 10 and in the prime of his life.

Simmons reminds us to revel in the moment with our dogs and to be thankful for our time together, even when it's cut painfully short. Read his article and have a good cry. Then, in honor of The Dooze, grab a tennis ball and enjoy some playtime with your pooch.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


The current peanut butter/salmonella problem has spread to dog food. Petsmart has now recalled its "Grreat Choice Dog Biscuits." Find the official scoop from the FDA here.  

Before you feed any dog treat or food containing peanut butter to your furry friend, call the manufacturer and ask if the product is being recalled. It's always better to be safe than sorry!

In addition, the ASPCA, which runs the Animal Poison Control Center, is recommending that pet owners stop using peanut butter until the current salmonella risk is over.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Charley: Rags to Riches to Robes

Like millions of Americans, at Happy Dog Land we are inspired by President Obama's inauguration speech. We hope that you are too! President Omaba asked us all to do our share by helping our communities in order to make America great again. Assisting animals in need is a wonderful place to start. You can volunteer at a shelter or even use your social network to help place a stray, neglected or unwanted animal on your own. Here's an example to get you started.

RAGS: A few years ago, Jill and a few friends joined together to find a new home for a pooch in need. A Chicago family adopted a cute little Maltese from a shelter. Although the family probably meant well, they could not properly care for the dog or devote adequate time to him. In fact, when the pooch's leg was injured, the family never even took him to the vet. One friend, Jillisa, heard about the dog and convinced the family to give him up. She called Jill, who called another friend, Stacey. Working together, the friends found the scruffy little guy a forever home with another friend who lived out of state.

RICHES: Charley's new life is full of love, pampering, good grooming and proper veterinary care. Charley's new mom Jill recently wrote us with an update: "I consider Charley a true gift of love from Stacey [one of the rescuers], because she had lost her boy Sunny at about the same time we lost our cat. Stacey could have easily kept Charley as the newest member of her family, but she gave him to us. Charley has truly enhanced my life, as I have always been afraid of dogs! Now, I can't get enough of them. I'm truly a reformed cat person."

ROBES: Charley also inspired his mom to start a new business Doggie Robes. After she whipped up a terry cloth robe for Charley, her friends encouraged her to sell them. Charley is the company model and we hear that he "is quite a ham!"

We think President Obama would be pleased to hear about Charley! Rather than doing nothing, this group of friends took action. Their willingness to help others enabled a neglected pooch find a perfect home and they enriched the lives of Charley's parents too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yea Us!

Whether you have 2 legs or four, today is a fine day to be American. Yea democracy! Yea Obama! Yea us! Yea world!

Monday, January 19, 2009

National Call To Service

President-elect Obama has challenged every American to participate in a national call to service today. If you can, stop by your local animal shelter or animal welfare organization and volunteer to help out. With the economy in a downward spiral, more animals than ever are in shelters and in need of help. If you can't donate your time, donate your dollars every little bit helps.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Go Cardinals Go!

Even Billy, the most reluctant sports fan of all time, has decided to watch the NFC Championship and perhaps even the Super Bowl this year. "I can't wait to see Kurt Warner hit a home run!" Billy exclaimed as he heard the news: Kurt Warner promised his daughters that they'd get a puppy if the Cardinals win the Superbowl. Apparently, Kurt's wife put the words into his mouth, but certainly he can't disappoint his kids. Besides, President-elect Obama has already proved, playing the Puppy Card guarantees victory.

If you see Kurt, tell him to you know of a top-notch groomer.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

NYC Miracle

Even though the US Airways plane crash today has no "dog angle," we wanted to say thank you to the pilots and crew for saving the lives of over 150 people with their quick thinking and calm reactions. We bet that people that brave, kind, intelligent and generous are dog people, or at the very least cat people.

However, it is now plain why flying a dog in cargo is a BAD idea.

The Inspection Connection

Over the years, Billy has found a wide array of items, some outrageous and some humorous, on his furry clients. Here's a short list: mats, ticks, fleas so numerous that the dog could have made a living as a travelling flea circus, ring worm, rashes, very large and very small tumors, hemorrhoids, serious allergies, dandruff, oozing eye and ear infections, puncture wounds, bites, animal feces, paint, gum, multiple burrs, sticks, and even a gaping, oozing scabby hole the size of a dime.

If that list wasn't shocking enough, not once, but twice, Billy has discovered a condom protruding from a dog’s rectum, which proves that dogs will eat anything. Imagine Billy's chagrin when he told one owner who insisted that it was a worm until Billy pointed out that the “worm” had a rim and a ribbed tip. Clearly, these dogs had been eating the trash and the owner’s spent no time inspecting their dogs.

Alas, many perfectly good dog owners never think to touch their dogs all over. A pat on the head does not count as proper affection or proper dog care. Fido can’t tell you if he’s under the weather, or even if he's uncomfortably dirty -- you have to discover the problem yourself. An inspection allows you to gather, track, monitor and assess the state of your dog’s health and cleanliness in a systematic and thorough manner. Now that you know better, you have no excuse, especially since inspections are so easy and quick to perform.

So, give your pooch the once over with your hands, eyes and nose at least once a week. Fido's eyes, however, require daily inspections. Eyes are delicate and you must clean off any eye crust that forms while Fido sleeps.

Start at the nose and work back to the tip of the tail. Part your dog's fur and look at his skin, check his paws and pads, lift his tail and look inside his ears. Be sure you check every inch of his body and every nook and cranny. The entire process takes about five to ten minutes and your dog will appreciate the attention. You can even inspect while you're cuddling -- Fido will never suspect that you're inspecting his skin while you rub his belly.

If at anytime you see, feel, smell or sense trouble brewing, call your veterinarian immediately. Your inspection may save your dog's life (and your bank account).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Weird Things Dogs Eat-Not A Laughing Matter

Some British veterinarians recently compiled a list of the ten weirdest items eaten by pets. Interesting and scary at the same time. Clearly, though, this is a reminder that dog-proofing your house must be a top priority! In addition, be vigilant while Fido is outside and don't let him eat things from the ground. Your job is to prevent your dog from ever ingesting anything dangerous or poisonous or anything that can become a choking or internal obstruction risk.

Start by getting down on all fours and inspecting your house from your dog's point of view. Things certainly look different from down there. Now, remove anything dangerous or small enough to be swallowed.

Here's the ASPCA's list of common household hazards. Bet you never thought that those stray dryer sheets or even that one ibuprofen tablet that rolled under the counter were serious dangers. Indeed, child-proof prescription bottles are no match for canine jaws. Just ask Zeke.

Dog-proofing requires constant attention. When you visit other people's homes be careful too. Everyone may not be as safety conscious as you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Who will be the First Dog? A variety of rescue options.

President-elect Obama announced this weekend that the choice for First Dog is now between a Labradoodle and a Portuguese Water Dog. Here at Happy Dog Land, we're rooting for the Portie in honor of Billy's dog Zeke and his previous Portie pooch Gabriel.

Regardless of the Obama family's choice, we hope that they rescue their new pooch and set an example for the rest of the world. After all, the eyes of the world are upon our new President, and his doggy decisions will mean a lot to millions of dogs across the country and around the world.

If you want to rescue a dog, you're not limited to traditional animal shelters and rescues, although they're a good place to start. Nowadays, many shelters (even city pounds) have purebred and designer dogs waiting for a new home as a result of the economic crisis.

If, like the Obamas, you want a specific breed, start with Petfinder which is a clearinghouse for over 12,000 shelters, rescues, veterinarians and private people helping dogs in need. Jill adopted Shadow, her purebred Miniature Poodle, from Small Dog Adoption in Plantation, FL after finding him through a breed specific search on Petfinder.

In addition, there are loads of breed specific rescues, that can help direct you to reputable breeders who have retired show dogs and other dogs that are not up to show dog snuff. Although not in a shelter, these breeder rejects are in need of good homes too and, of course, make wonderful pets. Billy rescued Arthur from a breeder who had retired him from the show ring. Before Billy, Arthur spent the first 15 months of his life in a cage with his hair wrapped in plastic and slathered with gobs of coat conditioner. Once he earned his championship, Arthur was retired. He's much happier now that he sleeps in Billy's bed and is a full-fledged member of the family. Billy also rescued Zeke from a breeder. Zeke is a carrier for a congenital disease that breeders are trying to remove from the Portie gene pool, so he was of no use as as stud or show dog. Lucky for Zeke, Billy didn't care about Zeke's genes and it was love at first sight.

Many good Samaritans, animal hospitals and doggy businesses take in strays and help them find homes too. The possibilities for rescue and adoption are endless.

If you are buying your dog, it's buyer beware. Never buy a dog from a puppy mill or pet store. Last year the Oprah Winfrey Show publicized the horrors of puppy mills. Just because a pet store is "fancy," the owners are "nice," or the little tiny puppies are cute, doesn't mean that they're not supporting the deplorable puppy mill industry. Some breeders are merely puppy mills in disguise. Learn how to avoid supporting puppy mills and recognize responsible breeders.

Photos by Michael Vistia, Vistia Designs

Never judge an actor by his roles

Mickey Rourke -- you know that sometimes controversial actor/boxer who comes and goes on the radar -- is a great guy who certainly has his priorities straight!

Last night at the Golden Globes, he thanked his dogs in his acceptance speech after winning the Best Actor award for his role in The Wrestler. Mickey's a dedicated dog owner and he's often seen with one of his seven chihuahuas -- including on the red carpet.

In honor of Mickey's win, make sure you take a few minutes today to thank your pooch for all her/his unconditional love and support.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kids And Dogs--A Natural Team

To us, children and dogs are a natural fit. We both grew up surrounded by pets and learned early on about the joys, friendship and love they bring.

Kids who grow up with dogs and pets learn empathy, responsibility and respect for nature. For many of us, helping care for the family dog is our first experience with chores and leaning to take care of others. A child who nurtures a dog, also learns to appreciate, not fear animals and nature and takes these important lessons into adulthood. In addition, your child will have a natural exercise partner. Having Sally and Tom running around and playing with a dog sure beats having them watch TV and gorge on junk food!

Moreover, kids who grow up with pets may have stronger immune systems and may be less likely to develop allergies, asthma and other problems. Here's another relevant article.

If you can't have a dog or cat, don't fret. Get creative and figure out ways to expose the kids in your life to animals. Although not as cuddly as a dog (or even a cat), a fish is a fine introduction to animals. Alternatively, take your kids to visit homes with pets and talk about the importance of respecting nature and being kind to animals. Visit the dog park or stop someone walking a dog and ask if your child can pet the pooch. (Be sure to verify that the dog is child-friendly and teach the child to allow the dog to smell his/her hand before petting.) Read books about animals and watch movies staring our four-legged friends. Many animal welfare organizations have websites and educational programs specifically for kids, such as the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States. The Humane Society also has a site specifically aimed at teens.

Ask at a local shelter or animal rescue about programs for kids. Some may allow you to bring an older child along to walk dogs or volunteer in the shelter. A group of kids in Chicago have raised over $17,000 for animal shelters selling homemade jewelry and crafts. Many of these kids have dogs or other pets and some do not. But, all of them have learned that it feels good to help animals.

All this exposure to animals is a good thing. And who knows, your son or daughter may become a veterinarian or a top groomer or even write a particularly interesting, informative and well-written must-have future best seller about caring for a dog's body, mind and spirit.

Photo of Ian and Arthur by Michael Vistia, Vistia Designs

Friday, January 9, 2009

Winter Weather Safety and Grooming Tips

It's snowing today in Chicago, so we thought we'd review some winter weather safety and share a few grooming tips too.

The ASPCA's Top Ten Cold Weather Tips is a must read. Likewise, the Humane Society of the United States and American Humane offer excellent winter safety information too. So take a moment and review.

If you live in or visit urban areas, winter conditions pose an electric shock risk. We mean, in addition to the obvious risk from downed power lines. Dormant utilities leak excess electricity. When you add salt-based snow and ice melting products (which actually conduct electricity) and wet street and sidewalks to the mix, walking your pooch can become dicey. Use common sense and don't let Fido relieve himself on a metal lamppost and steer clear of metal grates and man hole covers. See this ASPCA article for detailed information. If your dog ever sustains an electric shock, call your vet immediately.

Many people skip their dog’s haircut in the winter believing that a dog needs a longer, thicker coat to keep warm. Hogwash! Except for those poor dogs forced to live outside or working dogs with legitimate outdoor jobs, most modern canine pets live in a temperature controlled home and have no need for a cold weather haircut, other than aesthetics.

If you do opt for a longer winter cut, leave Fido's body only slightly longer than usual and ask your groomer to cut the legs and paws shorter so snow, ice and salt have no place to cling. In addition, be sure that your groomer makes the winter cut balanced. We don't want your best pal to resemble an ottoman on stilts.

Moreover, if Fido is cold, rather than drastically changing his haircut, just put a sweater and boots on him! It’s much easier. But please, remove any canine clothing the minute your dog is inside your nice warm home. A dog can overheat if he’s dressed in too many layers. We’ve seen way too many dogs don their sweaters on the first day of winter and wear them straight through until the first spring thaw. Not only will the dog and sweater stink, but prolonged exposure to clothing causes mats and tangles and prevents air from reaching the skin.

Now that you're in the know, go out and enjoy the winter weather with your furry friend!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Poop Patrol

At Happy Dog Land, we believe it's always a good idea to keep tabs on what non-dog owners are thinking. Some of these people are evil dog haters, some are merely neutral and some like dogs, but can't share their lives with one for a variety of reasons, such as financial, residential, work or time constraints. (We should applaud these dog-loving, non-dog owners for doing the right thing -- realizing that they cannot responsibly bring a dog into their home and waiting until their situation changes.)

The folks at The Athletic Minded Traveler, who we know as a fact are animal people, but not dog-owners, recently aired their views on dog poop. Their complaints, which cover abandoned poop, urination and exercising dogs in inappropriate places, are worth a listen.

All dog people must do their part to keep non-dog owners and neutral people from turning to the dark side. Darth Dog Hater can be a powerful influence when someone has stepped in dog poop or finds burn marks on their lawn.

Being a canine ambassador is easy:
  1. Pick up your dog's poop EVERY TIME and clean up anything someone else was too lazy to deal with. Keep extra bags with you at all times and hand it to a dog owner who forgot to bring one. If the owner clearly was going to skip the pick up, hand over the bag with a smug smile and say, "Oh here, I have some extras."
  2. Be mindful of where your dog urinates.
  3. Keep your pooch on leash and out of areas where he's not welcome. In fact, never remove Fido's leash unless he's in a 100% secure area. No dog can control his squirrel-chase instinct all of the time.

Pick up after your pooch to avoid Bad Poop Karma. If you leave it, you will be the one steping in poop some other time-- it always comes back to you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In the news: Getting your injured dog to the vet

We were perusing the news wires today and came across an interesting article about a dog that was horribly injured while playing in a park. On New Year's Day, Max, a 90 pound English Lab, was with his mom Betsy when a rusty metal rod hidden in the snow punctured his body. Max is a big dog and difficult to move, especially after such a severe injury. Betsy's friend called 911, but was told that the local police don’t rescue animals. The women then called Max's dad who came to the rescue and rushed Max to the emergency vet. After 3 hours of harrowing surgery, Max was repaired and has 20 staple to prove it. Thankfully, he's recovering at home and should be fine in about a month.

What would you do if you were out and about and needed help getting your injured pooch to the animal hospital? You'd be hard pressed to find an ambulance willing to transport your best pal or even to come out to a trail or remote area.

Rather than complain or sue, Betsy has decided to find an answer to the problem. Check out Betsy's website, created to raise awareness and help establish emergency services and transport for injured animals.

Betsy is a fine example of someone taking action to help animals and her community. If you have any ideas, would like to talk about the issue or just want to wish Max a speedy recovery, contact Betsy.

In addition, call your local animal control agency or local animal welfare organizations to find out if your area has any emergency animal transport. A severe or life threatening injury can happen anywhere -- in the snow, in the sand, on the grass or on the sidewalk. Whether you're near home or on vacation, locate the closest veterinary or emergency veterinary facility before you go out. Likewise, carry a charged cell phone and have the local veterinary hospitals on speed dial.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ask Billy: "Why won't my dog's Johnson go back in?"

We've just received an interesting, but potentially embarrassing question from a friend of a cute little white dog. We've changed the names of those involved to protect the pooch--we don't want to hurt the little guy's chances with the gals at the dog park. So let's just call him "Dog Doe."

"Puppysitter" writes: "I was recently babysitting the most adorable 1 year old dog for a couple of weeks and we encountered a small problem. This neutered pup became aroused after humping a teddy bear and his little pecker peeped out. Unfortunately, the hair down there was longer that it should have been, and got caught in the shaft, which prevented his lil lipstick from going all the way back in. It was out for a day before we realized it, and he kept licking it. It was obvious he was irritated. When we took him into the vet's office- she gave him a shot for inflammation and lubricated him to remove the hair. After trimming the area, she gently tucked the unmentionable away in its place and put him on UTI medication in case he developed an infection. We were relieved when it was all over. "Dog Doe" is happy and carefree once again.

Is there a way to prevent this beyond simply puppy-scaping?"

Dear Puppysitter, thanks for asking a delicate question and thanks for taking Dog Doe to the vet right away! If you had waited, the poor guy could have developed a severe and painful infection.

Keeping the genital area clean and tidy on male and female dogs is extremely important. This true for all dogs, although dogs with Hair (rather than Fur) need some extra attention "down there." I mean, beyond the pooch's self-cleaning ability.

The coat on Hair dogs (such as Poodles, Doodles, Porties, Shih-Tzus, Yorkies, Beardies, Maltese, and mixes) keeps growing. That means, unless the hair is cut, it will get longer and bushier and then you risk retraction problems. If the hair is left uncut, it can wrap around the penis, which makes it too big to retract. Left out, it will dry up and it has no lubrication to help the retraction process. Occasionally, you'll see a dog with longer fur have a problem, but it's rare. Moreover, unkept genitals can cause a host of other unpleasant issues, such as mats, crusty debris--we could go on, but this is a family blog.

Regardless of your dog's coat type, you must keep his genitals neat and tidy. Whether Fido has a penis or a vagina, discharge is normal unless it becomes excessive. Moreover, if a male dog isn't neutered, you'll have lots of discharge, which contributes to the retraction danger. (Yes, another reason to neuter!) Keeping the genitals clean and tidy also prevents mats from developing and debris from hiding and exposes the area to air, which as we all know is a freeing feeling.

I recommend that the genital area be trimmed short or shaved on all dogs that have a lot of hair or fur there. Please, don’t attempt to cut or shave this area yourself. This is an extremely delicate area that requires the expert hand of a professional groomer--a good groomer with a gentle and steady touch. If your dog has Hair that grows, he'll need to go in for a genital touch up about every 4-6 weeks. Otherwise, see the groomer when the fur gets long or thick.

And one more thing, Puppysitter: I recommend that you keep all your teddy bears on high shelves, especially those under age 16.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2008

All houses are teeming with doggie dangers, some are obvious, like paint thinner and drain cleaner, and some are less so, like certain house plants, the Xylitol in your sugar free gum and garlic. As a matter of everyday living, many hazards are just left out on tables and counter tops, such as medication (yes, even the pills in child-proof containers), coins, toys or beauty products. When a label states that a product is toxic, dangerous or poisonous to humans, assume that the same is true for dogs.

The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, the preeminent source for up-to-date facts and figures on everything that’s hazardous to dogs and other pets just released its list of the Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2008. Take a few minutes now to review the list and then look around your house. You may be surprised by what you find.

Now, place any and all dangerous items in securely closed cabinets and drawers or on high shelves. Dogs are often quite clever when it comes to sniffing out dangers -- they have been known to open cabinets with their noses or perform astounding feats of gymnastics to reach an interesting item. If your home also has a cat, well then, you must be extra careful. You never know when the family cat will decide to cooperate with the dog.

In September, check out our book. It includes a plethora of pithy, helpful safety information in one convenient place.

In the meantime, visit the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center and talk to your vet and local animal welfare organizations to start down the road of awareness. We want you to have every tool available to prevent a tragedy.

If Fido ever eats, drinks, inhales or comes in contact with any known or suspected poison or is just acting weird, call the veterinarian and begin first aid immediately. Don't wait for symptoms to appear--that could be too late to help. If your vet isn't available or if you have a questions, call the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. The consultation usually includes a fee so have your credit card handy.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ask Billy: Do I really have to brush my short-haired dog?

At least 3,453,897 times a week, Billy (and now Jill) comes across someone who claims that his or her short haired dog "never needs to be brushed."  Hearing this type of blasphemy is our cross to bear, but we feel truly sorry for all those dirty, furry short-haired dogs out there. Moreover, (solely for emphasis) Billy has been known to lift up the owner's pant leg and check the socks for the tell-tale fur coating.  Fur covered socks are always a dead giveaway that you've been neglecting your brushing duties.  

ALL dogs except, of course, the truly hairless must be brushed regularly. And by regularly, we mean several times a week--at least.  It's good for Fido and for you.

In addition to the emotional satisfaction of basking in your attention, the benefits of brushing are numerous.  Brushing removes Fido's dead fur, which dulls the coat, distributes the fur's natural oils and simulates blood flow to the skin.  As a result, your regularly brushed pooch will have a clean, healthy, sleek, shiny coat just like the beautiful Bella shown above.  Besides, proper brushing feels really, really good--like a massage.  Just be gentle and don't brush over the same spot too many times.  (In our book, you'll learn all the proper brushing techniques.) Your best friend certainly deserves some pampering in exchange for all that unconditional love. 

The benefits of brushing don't stop there.  You get to relax and enjoy quality time with your best pal.  In addition, you'll see much less fur on your furniture, clothes, floor and socks; brushing removes the dead fur before it falls off your dog.  Just think of all the money you'll save on lint rollers and dry cleaning!

The appropriate brush to use depends on how short Fido's fur actually is.  Dogs with very short coats like the Dalmatian, Boxer, Pit Bull, Smooth Chihuahua, Great Dane, Whippet, Greyhound, Bulldog and Smooth Dachshund require a "rubber curry."  If your dog's coat is a bit longer, like a Lab, Mastiff, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd or Long Haired Dachshund purchase a good quality "slicker."  Always check the wire bristles on your arm to determine if they are too sharp.  Clean your curry or slicker regularly and throw it away the moment it is damaged or just gross.

Photo of Bella by: Michael Vistia, Vistia Designs

Friday, January 2, 2009

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun

Two dogs -- twice the work you say? We think not. Billy has two dogs, and many of his clients do too.  

In most cases, your original dog will be much happier with a new sibling.  Two dogs entertain each other when you're away from home and when you need to take care of things around the house.  There's twice the tail wagging, game playing and double the fun.  Multiple dogs can even save you money on your heating bills -- they supply twice the body heat when you snuggle up at night. This is certainly a good thing when every penny counts.  There's also twice the kisses, which comes in handy, when your blind date turns out to be a dud. If Fido is older, a puppy may put a spring in his step.  Moreover (and more importantly) 8 million dogs are waiting for a new home.

Yes, you'll be buying twice the food, your grooming and vet bills will be a bit more and you'll certainly be stocking up on biodegradable poop bags. But forget about that: this extra spending means that you'll be fulfilling your patriotic duty to support our country and our new President by implementing your own economic stimulus package.  No need to lobby Congress, no need even to buy a senate seat in Illinois (we hear one's available!)

So, go ahead and bring home a new family member.  Fido and your financial planner will thank you.

Photo of Louis and Lily by: Michael Vistia, Vistia Designs

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 New Year's Resolutions

We're all resolving this new year to eat healthful foods, exercise more and call our mothers more often.  I'm sure you are too.  But, don't forget your best friend.  Here are a few resolutions to proclaim on Fido's behalf:

1. Play with your dog at least 60 minutes a day--it doesn't have to be all at once and cuddling is included.
2. Brush your dog's teeth at least a few times a week.  We're serious here, canine dental health is a significant factor in keeping him around a lot longer.
3. Administer all parasite preventatives, including flea and heartworm medication, as instructed by your vet.

That shouldn't be too hard.  After all, Fido is depending on you to keep his resolutions!

Science and Dogs

Science marches forward.  We can't really do anything about it -- but that won't stop us from complaining! In fact, Jill's husband (a pretentious fellow who used to dress like the Dieter from Sprockets) will quote classical philosophers about the problem until the two of us are rolling our eyes, nearly unconscious with boredom.  We're generally forced to talk about expressing anal sacs until we can't hear him talk anymore -- and just wait until you see that illustration in the book!

But that isn't to say he doesn't have a point.  Exhibit A: pet cloning.  Yes, we understand that you love your dog.  We love our dogs, too.  When they pass away, we cry and are inconsolable -- they are critical members of our families, and their absence is a vacuum in our lives.  But some people have read far too much science fiction, and believe that they can bring their beloved pooch back to life.

They can't.

Oh, to be sure, they can bring back a reasonable facsimile of the physical dog who used to play fetch with them in the backyard.  But he's not the same dog.  The life experiences that we have are what make us who we are.  Your dog (or even a clone of you!) will not be the same as the original.  He can't live the exact same life and have the exact same experiences to make him that original dog.  People don't appreciate that our genes are not our destiny.

Just a few deep thoughts to start the new year!