Thursday, April 30, 2009

Top Ten Dog Parks of 2009

The results are in, the votes have been tallied and the accountant with the briefcase chained to his wrist has arrived...Dog Fancy magazine has named the nation's top 10 dogs parks for 2009. Don't worry: if you don't see your local park on the list, there's always next year! Over the next 12 months, organize the people who use your dog park and work together to improve Fido's play place. That's how you can get something done for local dogs, and build up the foundation of your community at the same time!

For ideas, check out the winning park: Freedom Bark Park in Lovell, Indiana. This park exists solely because the town joined together and worked hard to realize a doggy dream. Volunteers donated more than 2,700 hours of service to build the park. Everyone did their part. Farmers cleared the land and planted grass seeds and a high-school art teacher painted a decorative fire hydrant.

"I would go to the roofing store in our town to buy shingles for our shelters, and the salesmen would offer to come after work to help roof the shelters," says Roberta T., president of the Freedom Bark Park Committee. What's even more amazing is that the park was built entirely with donations. And what a fine job these dedicated dog people did. The park boasts:
  • a solar powered pump which supplies drinking water
  • a tunnel
  • biodegradable poop bags
  • shelter to protect everyone from bad weather
  • doggy digging areas
  • shade trees
  • recycled rubber mulch on the walkways.
Now that you know what's possible, improve your park and maybe you'll see it in next year's top ten!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Can My Dog Get Swine Flu?

Although we humans must take precautions like maniacal hand washing to protect ourselves from swine flu, our canine and feline pals are do not appear to be at risk.

That said, Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN cautions: "There is no evidence that dogs and cats can contract swine flu. Still, this is a new strain of swine flu virus, and investigators can’t rule it out until more tests are done."

Dogs (and cats) are definitely susceptible to other flus, such as Canine Influenza, which can be quite serious. The symptoms are: cough, runny nose and fever. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms call your vet ASAP! Fido has a much greater chance of recover if he's treated promptly and properly.

For now, keeping yourself healthy so you don't contract swine flu is the best way to protect your furry pals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should be your go-to source for current information about swine flu. Check the CDC's site often as doctors and researchers are learning more about the swine flu outbreak every day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A New Way to Fly: Pet Airways

Flying with a dog is no simple task. Most dogs are resigned to the cargo hold, which is dangerous and incredibly unpleasant. Even if your pooch is small enough to fit under your seat, flying can be difficult. (For those of you who want additional information on flying with your pooch, we cover the topic in detail in our upcoming book. Sorry, though, you'll have to wait until September.)

We just came across a new airline that offers an interesting alternative for canine (and other pet) aviators. Check out Pet Airways. Although you can't accompany your pet, Fido won't be stuck in cargo. According to the folks at Pet Airways, Fido's flight will be safe, comfortable and hassle free. Before boarding, he's taken for a potty break and during the flight he rides in a secure carrier in the main cabin. There's even a Pet Attendant to watch over him during the flight. At the destination, Fido is waiting for you in the airline's lounge, safe and sound. Let's hope he didn't go hog wild with the beverage cart offerings.

Pet Airways sounds like a wonderful alternative to traditional air travel. We hope all this works as well as it sounds. We are looking forward to hearing more about Pet Airways when flights begin in July.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fritophiles Unite! We Examine the Canine-Corn Chip Connection

There's been a surprisingly large amount of conversation on the web lately about whether dog paws smell like corn chips. Many people discover this phenomenon on their own dog but are reluctant to go public fearing that their opinion will cast a veil of shame on their precious pooch. As a public service, we at Happy Dog Land felt it necessary to compile some of the discussion so the issue could be solved once and for all and, thus, allow all of the corn chip smelling dog people to come out of the closet and proudly and publicly proclaim their view. So, with this blog entry we toss our Fritos into the fray.

Look at these sites for background discussions:

Steve Dale, pet expert and nationally syndicated journalist
Ken Foster, author of several dog books including The Dogs Who Found Me
4urPets, a "forum of our best friends and other animals"
Dr. Eric Barchas, DVM, Dogster's "Ask the Vet" expert

Billy has gotten up close and personal with thousands of paws over the past 30 years working and caring for dogs. Jill just checked Shadow's paws. As a result, both Billy and Jill publicly plant their flags in the Frito Feet camp.

What exactly causes Frito Feet? We've noticed that the corn chip bouquet is especially pungent when Fido needs a bath or has been playing hard. Perhaps the fragrance emanates from the sweat or oil glands on the paws. Perhaps the lack of air circulation between the toes is the culprit. We may never know what causes Frito Feet, but we can all rejoice in this uniquely canine phenomenon.

Whether the paws of your particular pal smell like Fritos or eau de generic corn chips or if you've never in your wildest dreams taken a whiff your pooch's paws, there's an important lesson here. You should know everything about your dog's paws: what they look like, what they feel like and, yes, what they smell like. The benefits of inspecting, touching and smelling your dog's paws regularly are myriad: Fido will be less likely to struggle when his nails need cutting, you'll discover injuries, medical issues or abnormalities well before the situation becomes dire, and you'll be spending focused, quality time with your furry friend.

Don't limit your tactile, visual and olfactory inspection to Fido's paws. Giving Fido a full blown bodily "once over" every week is not only good for his physical health, but his mental health too. Moreover, you'll benefit from the bonding time as well.

All you people in the canine corn chip connoisseurs can now hold your head high and shout "Fritophiles Unite!"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Heartworm: A Serious Threat!

Heartworm is on the rise in the United States. Dogs and cats in all 50 states are at risk to contract this serious and potentially fatal disease. If an infected mosquito bites your furry friend, it passes along the disease, which causes parasitic worms to grown in the lungs and heart. An infected dog may not show signs of the disease until the disease is serious and harder to combat. Moreover, if untreated, the dog can die. Thankfully, treatment for infected dogs is available, but it's difficult for the dog and expensive.

A now for the good news: heartworm is preventable! It's much easier and less taxing on your furry friend (and your wallet) to use heartworm preventatives than to risk disaster. Today, the options are numerous: daily or monthly pills, monthly spot on treatments (liquid is placed on the dog's skin between the shoulder blades) or injections twice a year. As an added bonus, many of the preventives also fight intestinal parasites, such as roundworms and whipworms. Caution: Cats have their own heartworm preventatives; using canine medication on a cat can have deadly results!

Giving your dog heartworm medicine without a visit to the vet is dangerous! An infected dog can have a severe or fatal reaction to the preventative. Because it can take five to seven months for an infected dog to show signs of the disease, your dog must be tested for heartworm before he begins any preventative. Call your vet today to have your pooch tested and to determine which preventative is best for your pet. The test is quick and inexpensive and requires only a bit of blood. If you need finaincal assistance, contact local animal shelters as they may have programs to help.

Remembering to administer the preventative may be the hardest part of keeping your dog heartworm-free and healthy. As soon as you come home from the vet, mark your calendar to remind yourself when each preventative dose is due. Dogs should take heartworm preventatives all year regardless of where they live

To learn more, talk to your veterinarian and visit the American Heartworm Society's website.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Place to Honor Old Dog Toys

We just came across a LickedToys, a clever and fun website that features photos of dogs with the toys they have destroyed. The site bills itself as "the world's first dog toy graveyard." The photos submitted by dog lovers are hilarious and worth a viewing or a submission. Now you know how to memorialize Fido's dead toys and allow them to rest in peace.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pet Food Banks: Helping People Keep Their Pets During the Economic Downturn

One unfortunate side effect of the economic downturn is that many people have less money to care for their precious four-legged friends. When the household income shrinks, paying for Fido's food and care becomes more difficult. Many people may be forced to choose between paying the heating bill and buying pet food. Thankfully, pet food banks are popping up all of the country to help people struggling to feed their furry family members.

Pet food manufacturers, such as the folks who manufacture Wellness pet food, are stepping up and helping out. Through its WellPet Foundation, the company is supplying food banks with literally tons of food. Recently, Wellness donated over 5000 pounds of its all natural dog, premium food to the Pooch Pantry in Mundelein, Illinois. The food bank is run by the BC Dog Training Club and is open on Saturdays from 9 AM to noon. Many of the people benefiting are seniors on fixed incomes.

Wellness also donated 5,365 pounds of food to the Pennsylvania's SPCA Philadelphia pet food bank. The PSPCA's Chief Operations Officer Lisa Rodgers said, “Wellness has shown their dedication and love for animals through the gift of food.” The PSPCA Food Bank is open every other Sunday, from noon-3 p.m., at its Philadelphia Adoption Center located at 350 E. Erie Avenue.

The Atlanta, GA based Save Our Pets Food Bank has compiled a much needed list of food banks across the US. If you or someone you know needs some extra assistance feeding or caring for their pets, please spread the word about pet food banks.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ask Billy: Potty Training 101

Judy from Alabama recently wrote us and asked this question:

HELP !!!!!!!!!
I have an adorable 5 month old Blue Merle Cocker Spaniel and I’m having some difficulties with potty training. My husband and I both work daily and we also have a 13 year old Cocker. I put up pet gates at our hallway and our den to keep them in the kitchen daily. Abbie Bella is fine during the day -- when I come home there's no tinkle or poop in the kitchen. The dogs also have a doggie door in the kitchen that leads from the covered patio to the double-fenced in yard outside. When I get home, I immediately take the puppy in my arms and shower her with kisses and hugs and then take her outside to potty and poop because I know she gets excited when we come home. She also knows what “potty” means because she will go with me outside and tinkle.

The problem begins once I take the gates down and we settle down to the den to relax. Abbie Bella will sometimes squat and tinkle or poop. I try to remember to take her out every couple of hours, but sometimes I forget or fall asleep on the couch after a hard day in the computer lab. I haven’t had a puppy in 16 years. So it’s been a long time for me.

I want to take Abbie Bella for obedience training, but I’m wondering if I need to take her for some reinforcement potty training first? Also, how settled down should she be before the obedience training?

Judy, thanks so much for your email. Before we get to the nitty gritty, we have to tell you that we think Abbie Bella is ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE! We wish we could give her freckled nose a big smooch in person!

Potty training is all about consistency. Dogs are creatures of habit and will learn the routine as long as you have one and stick with it. This means that no matter how tired you are, take the puppy out every few hours. Set an alarm clock if you need to. Just be consistent.

In addition, because Abbie Bella has started having accidents in the den, keep her confined until she fully understands that she shouldn't go in the house. This takes time, so patience is a virtue.

Now for the really hard part: when you come home from work and shower her with hugs and kisses before taking her out, you are distracting her from her training. Instead, as soon as you walk in, take Abbie Bella directly outside. As hard as it will be, DO NOT acknowledge her, pick her up, talk to her, hug her or pay any attention to her until she goes the the bathroom outside. As soon as she goes, give her as much love and praise as is humanly possible. She will quickly understand that going outside is the correct behavior and that the reward for this behavior is well worth her effort. Although nice, your hugs and kisses are preventing her from focusing on her job, namely potty training.

Now on to your second question: As soon as a puppy has all of her shots and boosters, and she's otherwise healthy, she's ready to go out into the world and take an obedience class with other young pups. Puppies are naturally playful. So, begin with a class designed for puppies, which focuses on socializing and very basic obedience. A puppy class should cover only basic commands and tasks, such as sit, stay and walking on leash. Keep your expectations in check and don't be surprised if it's hard for your puppy to "come" if she's playing with a group of other puppies. Wait until your pup has matured and mastered the basic commands before tackling more advanced obedience, party tricks and requests to bring you a Perrier from the refrigerator. Remember too that the trainer is really training you, so practice, practice, practice! And most importantly, of course, have fun!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Does Bo Know Diddley?

A recent New York Times article explores the idea of whether Bo, the Obama family's adorable new dog, knows that he is the most famous pooch on earth. The question of whether dogs are conscious of themselves in the "where do I fit in in the universe sense" has vexed many a dog lover for centuries.

We are all guilty of anthropomorphizing our furry friends at some point in the relationship -- and we are not merely referring to dressing them up in mini-human clothes or pushing them around in strollers.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

But we are talking about assigning thoughts, feelings and motivations to their behavior based on how we experience the world. For example, we say "my dog went to the bathroom in the house on purpose" or "Fido stole my slipper because I annoyed him."

In actuality, our pals may be at least in part just running on instinct. Did some ancient wolf realize that those erect hairy guys named "Jondular" running around in deer skins would trade leftovers and shelter for help with hunting and protection? Or did one of those early humans domesticate dogs simply to carry his slippers to the next cave?

In the end, what a dog "thinks" about his situation probably doesn't matter. What truly matters is whether your dog is happy. And that means he's well fed, has a roof over his head, receives proper care, is loved and feels like part of the pack--your family.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We Tackle An Age Old Question: Why Does My Dog Treat Me Better Than My Family?

This is Yogi. He lives in Michigan, and as you can see, he loves the cold weather and enjoys running in the snow. This photo has nothing to do with today's entry, but it's so gosh darn cute and made us smile that we had to share!

Yogi's Dad Paul posed an interesting question: "Why does my family not come running to me when I get home from work like my dog does? When I come home, Yogi acts like it's the greatest thing that has ever happened in his life. He then does victory laps around the house. I guess that's not a dog question, but a family question."

We know from experience, that it is universally true that your dog is much more likely to be happy to see you than the rest of your family. If you're a loving and caring dog owner, chances are that your dog faithfully greets you with a wildly wagging tail each and every time you return home. And chances are, no matter how wonderful and giving you may be, your spouse, significant other or kids aren't all that moved when you come through the door. They don't dance around and run circles around you while grabbing your shoe. If you're lucky, they may mumble a half-hearted hello and go back to American Idol or Lost.

Without a doubt, there is no greater source for unconditional love, inexhaustible companionship, unyielding loyalty and infinite friendship than your dog. Your dog views you as the center of his universe, which is why it's your job to treat him with respect, kindness and proper care. After all your dog is probably the most non-judgmental, dedicated companion you'll ever have.

We think it's a safe bet that Yogi or your dog will never ask you to take out the garbage or beg for a raise in his allowance. This is why dogs were first deemed man's (or woman's) best friend. Of course, you could train your kids or partner to jump up and ask for a treat. Now, that you mention it, we may do just that!

Feral dogs

We thought we'd take a short break from Bo Fever and get serious for a moment. Here at Happy Dog Land, we always try to accentuate the positive. Dogs who are rescued through the miracle of modern grooming. Dogs who survive after being marooned like Gilligan and the Skipper on a deserted island by eating goats. Dogs who accomplish incredible feats such as dragging their masters back from the gates of Hell. You know, typical canine behavior.

But we also try to bring you some tales from the dark side, showing you how dogs (and human beings) are often put at risk by the irresponsible acts of evil and clueless people. The uncomfortable topic of feral dogs falls into that sad category.

"Feral Dog" is a term often inaccurately thrown around by journalists who read too many Jack London novels in school. In fact, there are several distinct meanings for the term. So-called "pariah dogs" such as the Dingo or the Carolina Dog, are wild canines that have lived apart from human masters for (in some cases) thousands of years. While these dogs are "feral" in the sense that they were descended from domesticated dogs sometime in the distant past, and now live by their wits in the wild, they are recognized as specific canine breeds and are now a long-term feature of their natural environment.

Truly feral dogs are abandoned house pets or the stray (unneutered or unspayed) dogs who mate and form packs in urban, semi-urban and rural environments around the world. Obviously the original owners are at fault here (for not fixing the pets, and then abandoning them) but these canine characters out of Lord of the Flies are everyone's problem. Not only do these dogs live desperate, dangerous lives, they are also in many cases a threat to human beings due to their return to wild, undomesticated behaviors.

So what can we do about feral dogs? Well, for one thing as responsible pet owners we need to ensure that (a) all of our house pets are spayed or neutered, and (b) do everything possible to prevent our pets from getting loose -- including spending adequate time training them and escape proofing our yards. But we also need to do what we can to support local agencies (such as Chicago Animal Care and Control) which do so much to help save and rehabilitate these dogs from their difficult existences and help protect human beings from dogs who have returned to a more dangerous type of life.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ask Billy: Another Portie Inquiry

Kim from Facebook writes: I was reading your blog that you did online on Monday about the PWD and the First Dog. I wanted to know how large do they grow or are they miniature breeds like dachshunds? Thanks!

Hi Kim, thanks so much for your question. Porties are considered medium-sized dogs. As adults, they weigh about 30-60 pounds (although I've seen bigger). Porties measure about 17-23 inches tall at the shoulders. Porties often appear bigger than they really are because of their fluffy coats.

Take Zeke, for example. People often think he weighs 70 pounds, but under all those curls, he weighs only 48 pounds.

Ask Billy: Portuguese Water Dog Q and A

We are extremely excited to report that Billy just completed a live chat on the Washington Post's website this morning. Click here to see the chat.

We thank Katherine who just emailed us the proper way to say Portuguese Water Dog in Portuguese: Cão de Água Português!

If you have any questions on Porties or any dog, please send them in and we'll be happy to answer them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Welcome Bo!

The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. Someone leaked a photo of the Obama's new dog. At Happy Dog Land, we are thrilled that the new First Pooch is a Portuguese Water Dog. After all, Billy is a Portie expert and has loved and cared for many, many Porties over the years including Zeke, Billy's special guy.

Over the next few days, we'll be talking about Porties. In the meantime, check out our recent entry about why we love Portuguese Water Dogs.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Perils of being the "IT" Dog

One of the unfortunate side-issues involving the new First Dog (and we should be hearing news on that front any minute now) is that whatever breed the Obamas choose, it will likely lead to puppy mill copycat breeding. Puppy mills seize upon every high-profile dog in popular culture and seek to meet consumer demand by rapidly and randomly breeding dogs en masse in horrific conditions.

Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, while enormously cute, inspired the mass breeding of Chihuahuas in puppy mills. That's not so cute. Of course, this is hardly the fault of the celebrities -- in fact, we love the fact that they are so attached to their pooches. What it does demonstrate, however, is the need for regulation of puppy mills. Animal cruelty is animal cruelty, and no matter how much you may want a specific dog, we strongly encourage you to get your dog from a shelter or a rescue or a reputable breeder. Indeed, almost every breed club has a rescue or a network to help place a dogs in need. So you can rescue a purebred, you just need to know where to look.

A reputable breeder and a puppy mill are two completely different things. A reputable breeder is working to improve the breed and cares deeply about each and every dog. A puppy mill is a large scale commercial operation that is in business to make money--period. This means that the puppy mill makes more money if its expenses are low. As you can imagine, spending money on adequate food, shelter and vet care means lower profits. The puppy mill is trying to maximize output (puppies) per dog and this has nothing whatsoever to do with the health or welfare of the dogs.

If the Obamas choose a Portuguese Water Dog and you want to get one too, then contact the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. Billy's good friend Rolli Grayson is a wonderful breeder and, like all good breeders, she is extremely strict about where her dogs go. You may even find it easier to adopt a child than a dog from some breeders--and this is a good thing. A reputable breeder wants all her dogs to have a happy life with a responsible owner. That means, no reputable breeder sells dogs to a pet shop or in a mall parking lot. In fact, a good breeder remains in touch with her dogs and their new families and accepts returns if things don't work out.

So, please do your research and enjoy your new pup.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dogs Eat Goats

Okay, so perhaps that headline is a bit alarmist. But the true story of a house pet marooned on an island (!) who survived by eating goats is nothing short of remarkable. It is also a reminder that underneath Fido's fuzzy fur lies a complex web of instinct drawn from his lupine ancestry. One of our most important themes here at Happy Dog Land is that the key to a happy dog lies is understanding his dogness.

Dogs are not really people with four legs and tails. Instead, they are an entirely different species with a radically different outlook on the world. Smells and sounds are not understood through the filter of language. Instead, they are processed through instinct and conditioned behaviors. For this reason, it is difficult for human beings to think like dogs. We always want to stick our own sense of the world inside Fido. But that doesn't work.

For example, think about poor Sophie, the Australian Cattle Dog stuck on an island like Tom Hanks in Castaway. Raised in a loving home, she fell overboard while sailing with her family off the coast of Australia. She promptly swam five nautical miles (!) through rough waters to an uninhabited island. With nothing to eat, she initially began to starve, before she realized that she could survive by hunting goats.

Imagine that. Sophie had never watched Survivor. Sophie had never even heard of hunting. Even her in-bred purpose -- Cattle Dog -- was focused on herding animals, not eating them. How did she figure out how to hunt without having been taught to do so by other dogs, or people? How did she learn how to survive on her own as a wild animal without a framework for understanding her situation? A person would think to themselves "I am now stuck on an island. I need to find food to eat. I see some wild goats. I've never hunted a wild goat. I wonder how that works?"

Conversely, our friend Fido has a instinct buried deep within him, placed there when dogs were very different animals not that much different from wolves, which tells him to hunt that goat. You do not have that same instinct. You have to think about it. A five year-old human wouldn't know how to survive. Fido doesn't have to think about it at all.

Of course, in dealing with your own dog you don't have to think too much about survival instincts (though if you work in animal rescue it's a necessity). Instead, you need to focus on pack instincts, on how dogs protect each other, on how dogs play with each other and the purpose of that play. Over the next few months we will return to this topic again and again, and for good reason. A happy dog is a dog that is comfortable in his own skin. A happy dog owner is able to help Fido find that happy place.

And trust us, no goats will be harmed.

Where do dogs come from?

Back in the 1980s, many of us read the "Earth's Children" series by Jean Auel, beginning with the "classic" Clan of the Cave Bear. It is truly trashy yet semi-educational fun! The books tell the tale of the orphaned Ayla, a young woman born 30,000 years ago, who was raised by a bunch of Neanderthals. Literally.

Ayla (a) struggles with her identity as a Cro-Magnon blonde living amongst brunette uni-browed Neanderthals, (b) has a mixed-species child, (c) learns to ride horses, (d) has hot prehistoric "relations" with a studly guy named Jondular, and (e) goes on some Mammoth hunts with others who speak suspiciously like 20th century, college-educated engineering students.

Beyond the (enjoyable) ridiculousness of the whole thing, however, we also watch Ayla adopt a young wolf puppy (cleverly named "Wolf"). We are told, in some hilariously overwrought prose, that similar adoptions eventually led to the domesticated dog. In other words, Fido.

Yes, this is a shameless plug for our upcoming book. This Fido is our mascot.

Perhaps a woman who looked suspiciously like Darryl Hannah was responsible for canis lupus familiaris, but opinions differ. Billy, for example, thinks the original wolf-adopter probably looked more like Liza Minelli. Jill suspects that first dog owner looked like Jim Morrison. Scientists, however, have come to a different conclusion.

Generally, most folks agree that the dog (as we know and love him) is a subspecies of the Gray Wolf. In other words, a single species of wolf is responsible for nearly every dog on the planet today. The domestication of our favorite fur balls took place at least 15,000 years ago, though without Mr. Peabody's way-back machine we can never be sure.

Interestingly, "toothy canine" skeletons in Belgium have been clocked back to 30,000 years ago, so perhaps Ayla was active in dog adoption circles after all. More interestingly, some recent research seems to indicate that all dogs may come from a single group of wolves domesticated in China.

So why should we care? Actually, all dog people should care deeply about where pooches come from. Genetics are a critical issue in canine health. It's important to remember that human beings have been breeding dogs for specific purposes for millenia. Some were bred to hunt in holes (such as, terriers), while others were intended as retrievers (such as, um, retrievers). Still others were guard dogs, while some were bred to sit in your lap affectionately.

Because of that, your dog shares certain genetic history with other canines around the world -- for good and ill. Many common breeds suffer from breed-specific ailments. When you decide that a dog should join your family, learn as much as possible about that breed or breeds. If you're welcoming a purebred, learn about why that breed has a specific personality and appearance -- what types of behaviors were prized, and what types of genetic ailments are often associated with the breed. This will also help you better understand what types of "play" your dog may enjoy -- a retriever-based dog may have different preferences than a working dog. Similarly, if you're adopting a mutt, you learn about the breeds in the mix and the different types of associated instinctual behaviors.

No matter Fido's ancestry, it is worth thinking about the fact that your dog did not simply fall out of the sky. Even the scruffiest mutt is part of a long line of dogs stretching back to a wolf living in China.

And how cool is that?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Happy Tails: Follow Up on Shelter Dog Makeovers

In our March 17th and March 18th posts, we featured before and after shots of some of the dogs Billy and his crew groomed at the shelter. In addition to the two dogs (Shy Guy and Foxy) that were adopted on the spot, we have more good news!

Tina before: a grimy, matted mess!

Tina after: a beautiful pooch worthy of Best in Show and lots of hugs and kisses!

In Happy Dog Land, we received a call from Honey Buns/Harry B's dad. He was ecstatic! The family didn't recognize the pooch when they arrived to pick him up at the shelter because the transformation was so dramatic. Most importantly, they didn't mind that their new dog was a boy--the dog was so matted that everyone had thought he was a she. The family loved how the pooch looked and was so excited to take him home and shower him with love--and lots of grooming!

Sam, pictured above before and after with Billy and Spartan, a cute little black and brown dog, were transferred to PAWS, a Chicago shelter than adopts many, many dogs every week.

All these Happy Tails just goes to show what a difference a little grooming TLC can make in the life of a dog, whether he's in a shelter or your home!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Why Your Dog Needs A Microchip And ID!

You may remember Baker the Beagle from our grooming day at Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) earlier this month. Baker ended up at the pound after he was picked up as a stray. He had no microchip or identification, so the shelter had no way of locating his family. Lady Luck, however, was shining on this dog and his family. Although Baker had been bathed, brushed, massaged, shown off and advertised, no one adopted him.

A few days after his makeover, a volunteer was walking Baker in the shelter's yard just as his "dad" was arriving at the building across the street for a job interview. The next thing the volunteer knew, Baker's dad was dashing toward the fence calling, "Nicky? Nicky?" At the same time, Baker/Nicky was wildly wagging his tail and trying to dig his way under the fence to reach his dad! The man called his wife and son, and they came in that day to reunite with the lost dog they thought they'd never see again. Baker/Nicky's little "brother" burst into tears when a shelter volunteer led him to the dog's cage.

Baker/Nicky's family had been desperately searching for him after he was lost, but they had never heard of CACC and had no idea where to look.

Baker/Nicky's story is a lesson for all dog owners about the importance of canine identification. If the dog had had a microchip or identification tags on his collar, the shelter would have immediately located his family and he would have been home. Because the dog had no chip and no ID, Baker was stuck at the pound and could very easily have ended up with someone else or worse. If your precious pooch hasn't been microchipped, please call your vet ASAP for an appointment! If you're short on cash, many shelters and animal welfare organizations offer microchips at a reduced fee or for free. In addition, your dog should always be wearing his ID tags. The tags must be legible and list current information too.

If your dog is lost, call every single shelter in the area. Look in the phone book and ask around for shelter names and locations. Like Baker/Nicky, your pooch could be waiting at a shelter you've never heard of before. Calling the police and all local veterinary offices is a good idea too. That said, preventing your dog from becoming lost is your dog's first line of defense. Therefore, never allow your dog to run free or leave him unsupervised in your yard.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Not Grooming Can Rise to Animal Cruelty: A Neglected Dog Gets A New Leash on Life

On many dogs, mats are caused when dead hairs become caught in the healthy coat and fuse together forming obstinate masses. Mats are uncomfortable because they pull the skin, trap debris and prevent the air flow necessary for healthy skin from reaching it. Regular brushing and grooming keeps mats at bay. However, if a dog is never brushed or groomed, bad things happen. The dog we are discussing today is an extreme case, but she demonstrates why grooming is crucial to canine health and happiness.

Recently, New Leash on Life, a Chicago dog rescue, asked Billy to help out this Cocker Spaniel that had come into their care.

This dog had been abandoned at a veterinary office across town and someone from the office brought the dog to the city pound. The New Leash on Life volunteers spotted the dog and immediately took her under their wing. They knew that this dog deserved a second chance! The dog was so completely covered in huge, old mats that they couldn't tell whether the dog was a boy or a girl. Eventually, they named her Lucy. New Leash called Billy to help this suffering dog and, of course, he was happy to assist.

As shown below, Lucy's back legs were actually matted together, which made every movement painful because her skin was constantly being pulled. Her ears had mats were so old, hard and heavy that Lucy couldn't even shake her head.

Lucy also smelled like an outhouse because the mats were thick with urine and feces. She had not been washed or probably handled in years. And yes, you read that correctly -- years. Clearly some unbelievably horrible "person" (and we use the term loosely) had not only neglected this dog, but had likely kept her in a cage and forced her to live in her own excrement and urine for an incredibly long time. Hopefully, whoever did this will pay for these shocking misdeeds when he or she reaches the Pearly Gates.

After an hour of gentle and careful clipping, Billy removed a
shocking amount of densely packed mats just from her ears.

The mats removed from Lucy's ears weighed over one pound.

Once her ears were free, Lucy calmed down and began to enjoy the attention and her relief and happiness (along with her smell) infused the air of Billy's salon.

Stacy is removing mats from Lucy's legs.

Billy and his crew lovingly and gently groomed Lucy for several hours! As the mats were cut away, the groomers found so much dandruff that it looked as if someone had sprinkled an entire can of Parmesan cheese over the dog. Because the mats were so thick, dense and numerous, air had never reached Lucy's skin and it was unhealthy, dry and flaky. Skin must breathe, which is one of the many reasons why regular grooming is crucial to a dog's health.

Lucy after all the mats were removed.

Lucy after her day at the spa -- clean and comfortable!

Once the mats were removed, Lucy's demeanor totally changed. Billy reported, "It was really nice to see how much better Lucy felt as we worked on her. At first, she was nippy, but she wasn't being mean. She was clearly in pain from the mats and incredibly uncomfortable from being forced to live in her own urine and feces for so long. I washed her 6 times myself, just to remove the smell and grime. After her haircut and baths, Lucy felt so good that she was wagging her tail and running around the salon. It's so sad to see a dog treated like this. I feel so bad for her and I'm glad that I was able to ease her suffering."

Before visiting Billy, Lucy weighed 36.8 pounds. Now that Billy and the others at his salon cared for her, she weighs only 29.4 pounds. Incredibly, Lucy has been carrying around 7.4 pounds of mats for years --that's about 25% of her body weight. We can only imagine the pain and discomfort she was forced to endure! But now, she is in a much better place and will begin enjoying a new life full of love and grooming.

According to Billy, "Lucy is a sweetheart and really a nice dog. I'm sure she'll be a wonderful addition to someone's home." For information on adopting Lucy, contact New Leash on Life and tell them Billy sent you!

Although Lucy did not come from a puppy mill, many puppy mill dogs are suffering the same fate, and most are not lucky enough to be rescued and then pampered by a Billy. Please think about helping dogs like Lucy that suffer from neglect and abuse. At the very least contact your legislator to demand that puppy mills be outlawed. Click here and here for more information.