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The Forgotten Soldier - Combat Dogs

War is an emotional and often brutal business. It becomes even more so on a personal level for those who are related to those brave soldiers who, by merely stepping into a uniform, put their lives in immense danger on a daily basis. A soldier’s life is not an easy one and the impact of war during and after service can be devastating to themselves, their families and loved ones.

As our time in Afghanistan comes to a close, for those soldiers who manage to make it home, special welcome events and readjustment plans are often the norm. Perhaps, a vibrant town parade should be a mandatory welcome home for all soldiers, but for the ones who don’t get to ride high on colorful floats with an American flag in hand, hopefully every community can offer post-war support in the form of job training, PTSD assistance, family counseling, etc. Returning from war is a tough adjustment period where soldiers must learn how to reenter the civilian world and this can be an uphill battle for many.

Not All Solders Are Afford the Same Welcome Home
There is, however, one soldier that rarely receives even the slightest accolade or post-war treatment upon arrival. Arguably the most loyal and courageous warriors on the battle field, military dogs play a major part in protecting our freedoms and rarely receive attention for their dutiful years of service. It goes much deeper than just order pet meds online.

These dogs are not your ordinary mascot, eagerly waiting to play fetch when the soldiers get home from the battlefield. Combat dogs are highly trained soldiers that continually risk their lives in times of war. Often used for foot patrols, search and rescue, tracking and pursuit, these dogs have one exceptional ability that has yet to be bested by human ability or technology: their keen sense of smell. These canines are often the first ones to step onto hostile territory sniffing out homemade bombs, which are responsible for the vast majority of causalities in Afghanistan.

Recently gaining notoriety since the raid on Bin Laden’s camp in 2011, these military canines add a touch of “aww” to the incurable pain that comes with seemingly endless years of war. But, it’s not all puppy love and treats for these dogs.

These are highly trained canine soldiers and they have an immense value in what they do, actively saving lives every day. Today, there are over 2,700 registered war dogs in the US military and about 800 were specially trained for war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Their loyalty is never ending; their service immeasurable and their spirit unbreakable, but what happens to these fierce canine veterans when the papers are signed and the tanks roll out?
The life of a combat dog is relatively short, usually retiring at the age of 8 or 9 and after their years of service. Previously, military dogs were often thought of as “surplus equipment” and cruelly put to sleep after their service was completed. Thankfully, we are now seeing a much more humane side to placing these heroes in a loving home which they deserve. In 2000, then President Bill Clinton passed the Robby’s Law (H.R.5314), requiring that all military dogs that are suitable for adoption must be placed in a loving home if possible.

Adopting a war dog does have its unique problems, though. Most of these dogs have been through a traumatic time and will probably have unique needs. Before adopting one of these heroic dogs, make sure that you contact a service that specializes in adoption of military dogs. Military Working Dog Adoptions and Lackland Air Force Base are both great organizations to get information on military dog adoption.

In addition to adoption, one of the best options is to have the dog’s handler bring its military canine companion home when the soldier is granted permanent leave. Handlers create strong bonds with these dogs during combat and it’s common that they make room for their canine colleague in their new civilian life. This is perhaps the best case scenario because it’s highly therapeutic for both the soldier and the dog during the civilian readjustment period.

It’s clear that these dogs are more than just war mascots; they are dutiful and loyal soldiers who protect our liberties every day. These silent and fearless canines deserve our respect and admiration and even more so, a place to run around and live out their civilian years with a loving family. Why not support these beautiful animals and adopt a war dog today?

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When It’s Time

As medicine advances for humans, it does for our pets as well. They’re living longer and are more a part of our lives and our families than ever before. Chemotherapy, heart surgeries and even prosthetic limbs have been developed for them. Fifty years ago, that would not have been a likely thing to spend so much money on. Now, it’s not so unheard of. There are even health insurance options, as well as credit cards specifically with veterinary care in mind. As a result, pet parents and pet families want to give the best care possible even when they have to say goodbye.

There are many veterinarians’ offices that have a special “Rainbow Bridge” room where the family can sit with their pet before, during and after euthanasia. It is a separate room away from the rest of the office where they can peacefully spend their last moments together. Unfortunately, this can still be very stressful for your dog. Most of them don’t like going to the vet in the first place, but possibly even more-so when they’re sick.

Changes in a Senior Dog’s Health
It may start with a little gray hair along their muzzle, a change in their gait or just a loss of pep. Dogs, much like their human aging counterparts, begin to lose their hearing, lose some teeth or their sight is diminished. They can develop arthritis or other joint problems and pain, may become diabetic, develop cancer, heart problems or even have a stroke. Some may have trouble with incontinence, which sadly, is the last straw for some owners and they end up in shelters. More and more geriatric dogs are being abandoned when they need their people the most.

How Do You Know When it’s Time?
If you speak to anyone who’s had to put their dog to sleep, they’ll often say their dog “told them” it was time. Their dog obviously didn’t tell them anything verbally, but they absolutely did communicate that they were tired and that their quality of life was not what it should have been. Typically, small dogs live the longest 15-16 years, medium/large dogs live about 10-13 years and giant breeds, such as the Great Dane, only get about 7-8 years. While the old thought of seven dog years to one human year has been proven inaccurate due to developmental markers, there is not an agreed upon human equivalency. That’s not to say that you are guaranteed that many years with your loved one, but it also doesn’t mean you won’t be lucky enough to have more time.

One of the biggest signs is a lack of appetite. If your dog isn’t eating even when favorite foods or treats are offered, that’s a problem. Obvious signs of pain and weakness should be checked by a vet for any other underlying causes. If nothing else can be done for your dear family member, it no longer needs to be such a clinical-feeling goodbye.

Peacefully at Home
There are now several veterinarians who will make house calls to euthanize your dear dog in their favorite place, where they (and you) can be comfortable and spend their last moments with those they love the most. While the cost of an at-home euthanasia is more than double the price of one done in an office, being able to express your grief at home and being able to take as much time as needed without feeling rushed is well worth any cost to most pet parents.

After the procedure is completed, if you choose, there are services available to have your pet cremated and have their remains either returned to you or scattered at sea. Memorial paw prints can be cast in plaster as a physical reminder of your loving canine as well.

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Smushed Faced Dogs

Sometimes described as having a face only a mother could love, English bulldogs, are lovable, tenacious, stubborn, affectionate, and loyal dogs. If you love bulldogs, most likely, you also love that sweet, smushed in face. But have you ever noticed how hard the poor thing works just to breathe? Or maybe you’ve been suddenly awakened by his heavy snoring, and surely you’ve felt horrible for him on hot days because he just can’t cool down. That sweet face, selectively bred for, results in numerous health problems.

Brachycephalic Dogs
The official term for the smushed in face, or short snout, is brachycephalic. It is a trait that has been bred into several types of dogs including boxers, pugs, Boston terriers, Pekingese, shih tzus, some mastiffs, and French and English bulldogs. Bulldogs are the classic example of brachycephalic dogs. They were bred originally for traits such as strength and tenacity for the purpose of fighting and bullbaiting. Over time, breeders also selected for the unique appearance of bulldogs, including his short and stocky stature, short legs with turned out elbows, and of course, the smushed in face. The gene that creates this appearance in bulldogs and some other breeds is similar to the gene that causes dwarfism in humans. While selecting for appearance, breeders have created abnormal dogs with health issues to go with their unusual looks.

Respiratory Problems
The most obvious health concern for brachycephalic dogs is the struggle to breathe. In fact, they have what is called brachycephalic respiratory syndrome. Several aspects characterize the syndrome. Individual dogs may have one or more of these: Narrow nostrils and windpipes restrict air flow. The soft palate is too large to fit in the shortened snout. This means it dangles down into the throat, which results in snorting and snoring, although not usually difficulty breathing. After prolonged breathing difficulties, the ventricles inside a brachycephalic dog’s larynx can turn inside out, requiring surgery to fix. Even just having one of these issues can be very serious.

Heat Intolerance
Bulldogs and other like-snouted dogs do not tolerate heat very well. The respiratory problems described above result in inefficient panting. Dogs pant in order to cool themselves in the heat. Where humans sweat, dogs pant. If they can’t pant the right way, they can’t cool themselves down properly. Brachycephalics should not be allowed to stay out very long in hot conditions. They should have plenty of water in the summer and can be cooled with a wet cloth on the belly.

Eye Sockets
Because the nasal bones are compacted to such an extent, brachycephalic dogs’ eyes tend to sit improperly and bulge out of their sockets. Again, while some may consider this a cute trait, it can cause serious problems. Blows to the head or even being strained pulling against a leash can cause an eye to pop out of the socket. For this reason, these dogs should always be in a harness rather than a leash.

Skin Infections
Because the upper jaw of a smushed-in dog is so unnaturally compressed, the dog’s skin scrunches up into numerous folds. These wrinkles can harbor grime and bacteria and need to be cleaned out on a regular basis. Dirt and oil that is allowed to build up in the wrinkles can cause irritating and uncomfortable infections. If not treated early, an infection like this may require antibiotics to heal.

Giving Birth
The large cranial cavity associated with the dwarfism gene gives brachycephalic dogs adorably large heads. Yet again, this desirable physical trait results in a problem. In some breeds, this is so extreme, that mothers cannot give birth naturally and require Cesarean sections. Both French and English bulldogs are among those breeds that must have C-sections to have puppies.

Responsible Breeding
While some people believe that creating brachycephalic dogs is completely wrong and should not be done, others think that there is a responsible way to do it. For example, a responsible bulldog breeder would not breed a dog that exhibits the more serious health problems, like a restricted airway or soft palate that is severe enough to warrant corrective surgery. Some breeders have gotten together in recent years to create new breeds that retain the desired look of a brachycephalic dog while eliminating some of the health problems. These breeds, such as the Olde English bulldogge, are not perfectly healthy, but are more so than their predecessors.

If you are considering getting a brachycephalic dog, you need to be informed of the health issues that he is likely to suffer from. You should be prepared to treat and deal with a dog that has many needs.

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RedCloud’s Journey: From Abandoned to Beloved

Every rescue dog’s story is different, but the theme is the same: it takes a village, sometimes a global village, to come together to save those in need. Just how does that happen, and what are all the steps along the way? If you have ever wondered, read on and RedCloud’s story will give you a pretty good idea of a typical rescue.

RedCloud showed up in the Miami-Dade animal shelter in October 2010, skin and bones and all smiles. The 16-month old male Belgian Malinois was a stray, found running the streets, riddled with hookworms and weighing under 50 pounds. He looked like an anatomical model of a dog with some fur glued on. His head was several times too big for his body, and his stature left you wondering if he were part Shetland pony. But his spirit was totally unbroken: by all accounts he was a goofball, through and through.

At the Shelter
Preliminary veterinary care included identifying the intestinal parasites as hookworms and getting Red neutered. Terribly overcrowded, Red was placed in a cage with a terrier who, despite being about one quarter RedCloud’s size, bossed him around something fierce. Mr. Terrier jumped up placing his paws on Red’s shoulders and growled, bullying him into the back of the cage.

A volunteer from the Malinois rescue organization met with Red and checked him out. Young, mouthy, and ill, but sweet and goofy with lots of potential was how she characterized him. Within a day or so his photo was listed on the “Needs Foster” page of the organization’s website, which has worldwide visibility.

On the Web:
A middle-aged writer and owner of two Belgian Malinois shepherd dogs living in the Catskill region of New York saw Red’s picture and sent out some emails, “just checking” to see if anyone local had stepped up to help out the poor skinny dog with the big doofy grin. We can call her Maya. No one had. Florida is inundated with strays, the shelters are struggling to manage with overcrowding and meager budgets, and the problems just seem to pile up: dogs seized in drug raids, dogs turned in by owners unable to afford their care, owners forced to relinquish dogs due to illness or death… The shelter and rescue worlds in Florida are the front lines for this battle and Red was caught in the cross fire.

Emails ensued. Red was ready to roll once transport could be arranged, but he needed to be moved 1500 miles. A transport coordinator stepped in, calling upon her cadre of volunteers up and down the East Coast, seeking folks who could give Red a ride for about 100 miles or so, until the next volunteer could be found. A few key legs of the journey were established this way, when Maya got on Facebook. Posting a request for help, people came out of the woodwork. A college buddy, a hiking companion, a friend’s older sister’s college roommate… soon every leg was filled from Miami to the Catskills, and Red was on his way.

Into the Woods
Maya cried when she first saw him: he looked like it must hurt to exist. His ribs, hips, chest, legs… all bones and fur. No muscles, no flesh anywhere. He had wicked diarrhea: he was quickly nicknamed “Firehose Butt.” The writer’s own dogs avoided him, giving him only polite, cursory sniffs and then a wide berth.

Days of tiny meals of mashed yams with white rice and boiled chicken, fed every two hours, and then four hours, and then adding a sprinkling of dry dog food slowly yielded some weight. Those first few days were a blur of frequent short walks and lots of rest. Fear, lack of familiarity or just plain weakness rendered him unable to climb stairs.

The turning point came sometime during the second week when Iske, one of the writer’s other Malinois, approached Red and groomed him. She washed his face carefully, bathing his entire muzzle with strong, motherly licks. She was accepting him into the pack, and letting him know that she would take him on as her charge. After that, hiking with his foster mom and her dogs on Catskills trails helped him develop muscles and balance, strength and self-confidence. Going for lengthy runs with her daughter, who is on her high school track team, helped him gather his wits and get his “ya-yas” out. He was still a goofy boy, but over about six weeks or so, he started to learn about settling down and following the household rules.

Back to the City:
The canine equivalent of online dating, many rescue sites maintain a profile and photo database of the dogs available for adoption. RedCloud was listed and applications were received by his coordinator in Florida. One family stood out: they had owned a Malinois before, and understood the breed. They had no other pets and were ready to adopt. They were looking for a young dog with a happy-go-lucky personality. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a match!

His foster mom walked him alone that last morning before his forever family came to pick him up. On their solo walk, she remembered his first few days with her; emaciated and ill, weak and needy. She looked at the fine young dog before her and threw the stick for him one last time. Her job was done and now he was ready to live with his forever family. On some level, Maya was ready to have him leave but it is difficult to forget a special dog like RedCloud. He hopped into the back of his forever family’s station wagon as if he knew where he was headed. Weekly correspondence gives Maya confidence that RedCloud is doing extremely well in his new home and continues to gain weight and more self confidence.

From shelter to forever home in less than three months: good boy, Red!

Similar in both temperament and looks to German Shepherds, Malinois make excellent dogs for homes with or without children. They are protective, loyal, sweet, extremely intelligent, attentive and respond well to training. Although not as well known as their cousins the GSDs, it is difficult not to fall in love with them.

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Why It is a Bad Idea to Turn Your Dog Into an Accessory

Thumbing through a copy of your latest celebrity magazine, you come across a photo of hotel heiress Paris Hilton strolling through Beverly Hills that catches your eye. Clad in Gucci sunglasses, an Hermès scarf, which prevents her hair from being too tussled by the gentle Santa Ana winds and Ferragamo strappy sandals that make her feet look oh so much smaller than they really are. For all her chicness, there is really one thing that you can’t stop staring at. In fact, it transfixes you. You bring the magazine to your boyfriend to show him. His reaction annoys you. You slump down in the chair and ask yourself, “How can he not fawn over the contents of her $1500 Dolce & Gabbana “hold everything” bag? Paris, you think to yourself, is hot, but, Tinkerbell, her teacup Chihuahua in all her adorableness is the most incredible being you have ever seen. “I want one!” You declare to your boyfriend. Listening to you with only half an ear, he utters, “Okay.”

What Kind of Dog Goes Best With Your Style?
Although you want to emulate the celebutante, you decide it is best to get another breed. You start scouring the Internet for photos of dogs. You come across a Maltipoo. You have no idea what this dog is, but he looks cute. You show him to your boyfriend, he agrees that this little guy is cute, although he is perhaps a little too cute for a man who owns a pick up truck and does construction for a living. Surely his buddies will make fun of him. But this doesn’t concern you.

When Luciano comes home with you, you can hardly stop and catch your breath. You rush to your local mall and buy him a baby stroller, his very own bed, which is a replica of Paris’s “Chewy Vuitton” and although you can’t afford a $1500 D&G purse, the one from Target is just as large and elegant as the one Tinkerbell is often seen toted around in.

Showing Your New Accessory Off to Friends and Family
Unable to contain your excitement, you decide that you must throw a party for Luciano’s arrival. You call it his coming out party and you invite all your friends and family.

The doorbell rings, Luciano runs from the sofa in his bedroom to see who is here to see him. As you open the door and your mother steps in to greet her new grandson, Luciano greets her by jumping on her. “Oh he’s so adorable!” your mother exclaims. Before you can close the door, your sister arrives. She, too is anxious to meet her new nephew. She bends down to greet him. Luciano has hardly finished jumping all over your mom and shows his irritation with your sister by biting her hand. She snaps her hand back and looks sternly at Luciano and says in a baby voice, “Now, Luciano, no biting, that’s not polite.”

Luciano saunters back to his sofa unamused by your guests, but on the way he lifts his leg and pees on your favorite sofa.

“I bet you Paris doesn’t have to deal with this!” You whine, “Luciano, why are you treating me this way?”

What Went Wrong and And How Can You Fix it, NOW?
The first mistake you made is in assuming Luciano is a small human. Dogs are pack animals and have no understanding of being fawned over. It is their job to fawn all over you, protect you and do some kind of job for you. Each breed performs different work, but going out for strolls in a baby stroller, being carried around in a purse, for all its cuteness is confusing for your dog. In fact, confusion can bring about agression.

New dog owners are rarely prepared for the amount of training that goes into raising a dog and oftentimes those with toy dogs are the least aware of the necessity. The sooner you start understanding that you have a dog and not an accessory, the sooner you can train Luciano and be thrilled to live with him again.

While you can hire a trainer to assist you in remove the aggressive little Napolean out of Luciano, a cheaper way is to avail yourself of the myriad free information on the Internet. But training Luciano is a must.

Some Examples of Good Training
First and foremost, in this new pack, you are the alpha. Luciano is a member but he is not the leader. But if you let him run roughshod all over you, he will never let up. Some dogs respond to clicker training, others to hand signs in combination with verbal cues. Some do very well with positive reinforcements in the form of treats. When your dog does well, praise him and reset. Dogs learn by repetition, and it may take upwards of 30 times for him or her to figure out that your command, for example, ’sit’, means for him to do so. If, when you tell him to sit, and he does so, praise him, maybe give him a treat. Whichever method you decide to use, you must remain consistent in order to see both short term and long term results.

Dogs, especially those who have shown signs of agression, do not need their own sofas. In fact, most trained dog owners don’t even allow their dogs on furniture. If the sofa you have gotten Lucian is small enough, give it to your sister who can put in her daughter’s room. In its place buy a crate and begin crate training. Luciano will do much better in his program if crate training is added to the regimine.

As for de-accessorizing your pet, there’s nothing wrong with dressing him or her for the weather. Small dogs have a heck of a time moderating their body temperature in the winter, so it is good to keep them toasty. But do you need to treat them like your personal quadrupedal Barbie? Certainly not.

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Adopting Siblings – They May Be Related But Can Be As Different As Night and Day

Adopting a puppy can be a wonderful and enriching experience; one that’s filled with delight, hysterics and education for the new dog owner. Adopt two and you are of course doubling the fun and education. Surely you thought when you decided to bring home two puppies, that this was in an effort for each to keep the other company while you are at work all day. After all, they were raised together and are from the same litter. When your friends and family asked why you brought home two from the shelter when your intention was to adopt only one your, response is almost standard, “I saw them huddled together, how could I separate them? They’re brothers! They need each other.”

Like a new mother or father who has just brought home his or her bundle of joy from the hospital, you send out an adoption notice to your friends and family. You waste no photo opportunity and any chance you get, you post them on Facebook to the delight of your 700 friends. “If my sister wants to post photos of her son, I can do the same with my ‘sons’ Yin and Yang.” You reason. And why not? Your mother has already accepted that she is a grandmother twice over and her new grandbabies just happen to bark instead of say goo goo.

In the first few months, you will likely be so taken by the experience and your mutual love affair that you won’t notice how different they are. All you can tell is that they’re both sweet, give you unconditional love and run to greet you when you come home from work. That whimper from Yin and whine from Yang as you walk through the door is all the evidence you need that you made the right decision.

Aging, Ailments and Temperament – Each Dog is Unique
As puppies, Yin and Yang are simply balls of loving fur – living to serve you and ensure your happiness. Over time you will start to notice just how different each of your canines is. Although your pups seem as though they are two halves of the same coin – indeed that’s why you named them Yin and Yang, by the time they hit about 18 months to two years, individual and very distinct characteristics will start to form. From their respective personalities to how each reacts to strangers to how each is affected by changes in the seasons, it won’t be long before you see that you have two completely different dogs living with you.

While Yin took to his crate and proves that dogs are den animals, Yang prefers to sleep sprawled out on the floor. Sometimes he makes it to the bed you got him and other times he sleeps in the tub or the shower. On the few occasions he has to be in his crate, Yang is clearly uncomfortable. Yin is also more than happy to hang out indoors. In fact, on those days when you are working from home, Yin is sure to be lying next to your desk, still as air. What is that noise you hear? Is Yang running around your front yard barking his head off at the neighbor’s cat or some other potential threat to your security?

When friends come to visit, does Yang sit patiently by the door and almost stare people down while Yin can’t wait to greet them and lick them in the face? Only upon your instruction, will Yang cautiously ‘say hello’? He’s by no means aggressive with anyone, you’ve made sure to train them both, well, in fact. You are perhaps more inclined to call Yang cautious and Yin as sweet and loving to your friends as both dogs are with you.

As the leaves change from green to brilliant shades of red and yellow, do you notice that Yang is at his happiest? In fact, as snow begins to fall, do you find that he wants to sleep outside buried in a blanket of snow? What’s that noise you hear now? Is that Yin whining until he manages to find the Vermont stove to lie in front of?

Although you feed them the same, two things are seemingly unavoidable. Despite how much you exercise them, one may have a tendency toward weight gain and need to hike just a little longer than the other. And while this is a pain for you as you hadn’t expected to get up an extra 45 minutes early each morning to make sure Yin gets all the exercise he needs to keep his pudge down, it is well worth it. And while Yin tends toward a slightly larger midsection, Yang for some reason is at the Vet more frequently. He’s already had three steroid injections because of that occasional limp of his. Your Vet assures you that neither appears to be predisposed to hip dysplasia and so while Yang may seem slimmer, you only play fetch with them twice a week instead of every night, the way you used to as it seems to be harder on his joints.

Assuming you did your best to train them the same, were careful to respect their established pack order and maintain your position as peak leader, some things are inevitable. In other words, it all boils down to this: Although you adopted two of the same breed, indeed siblings and moreover, twins, they are as different as night and day. In spite of their large stature, Yin was destined to be a lap dog while Yang was born to be your protector. They may each receive the same nutrition, as with humans, some are healthy as an ox while others are ‘sickly’ and catch every cold that goes around.

About the only thing that you can do differently that nature plays no part in is this: from the moment you get your dogs home, handle them. Grooming is not just to ensure cleanliness, minimize matting hair and so forth, but it also strengthens the bond between your dog(s) and you. Brush them at least daily; learn how to properly wipe their paws and when doing so, check for foreign objects between their toes and in their pads. Bathe them once a month (never more frequently), and preferably in a sulfate-free shampoo. Clean their ears with cotton balls and/or the same 6” cotton swabs your Vet uses. Just like people, some dogs are more prone to earwax than others. Check their teeth and gums at least weekly. Poke around in there and rub your fingers along their gums.

Why are you doing this? We all hope for our dogs to be the pinnacle of good health. We hope that the only time they have to see a Vet is for their annual shots, to be spayed/neutered and when it’s their time to go over the rainbow bridge. The reality is, this isn’t the case. You will be required at times to administer everything from monthly flea medicine to heartworm medicine to the occasional parasite medicine. It is important to know how to do this and to do so with authority.

Apart from that, love your kids. They are grateful to be in your life at least as grateful as you feel for owning them.

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Your Cat Is Not A Book – But You Can Learn to Read Him

While we don’t spend lots of time on cats, I did want to talk a little about them today. Cats are not humans but neither are they just brainless animals, despite what some people seem to believe. They have thoughts (however instintual and primitive they may be) and feelings, they can mourn for a favorite cat or person when that loved one goes away. They show happiness when being petted, anger at being provoked, it’s all just a matter of reading their signals to know what they’re after. They, like humans, come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and personalities. What upsets one may not faze another. What sends one into paroxysms of delight may only garner an indifferent glare from another cat. But how can you tell what your cat is thinking? Short of someone inventing a collar like Dug the Dog wore in the movie “Up”, where his thoughts were turned into words that humans could understand, you have to know what his body language is saying. The nuances of emotion are fairly easy to understand once you have a grasp. Let’s start from the head and work our way back, shall we?

A common expression says that the eyes are windows to the soul. Not sure if this is true in a cat’s case, but they can be a very good indication of the cat’s frame of mind/physical condition.
• An intense, direct gaze could be a sign of hostility or merely that Pablo wants something. When locking your gaze with him, blink slowly. When Pablo blinks, flutters or otherwise closes his eyes when looking at you or being petted by you, he is showing you that he’s happy with your presence and what you’re doing.
• Cats can see a whole lot better than we can. When Pablo’s pupils are huge in a dark room, it’s so he can make the most of the limited light. When they’re wide open in a brightly lit room, this is likely a sign of ‘fight or flight’ or that the cat is in pain or distress. If the former, leave him alone for a bit until he calms down.

As with Pablo’s sense of sight, his hearing and other senses are vastly superior to our own. He’ll move his ears to catch sounds depending on their location, but his ears are also a great way to gauge his mindset.
• When they’re erect and forward, the cat’s alert, his attention focused in front of him
• When he presses his ears back flush to his skull, he’s angry and probably on the offensive. It’s therefore advisable not to mess with him when he gets like this.
• His ears are sensitive, so when you pet him, don’t play with his ears exessively, or he’ll likely get overstimulated very quickly. This leads to the…

Lash, thump, twitch – Pablo’s tail seems to have a mind of its own, apparently moving of its own volition. But we assure you that he’s in control the whole time. Understanding what such movements mean can be the difference between a happy, content kitty, and one who is not all that happy with you.
• When he sees you, or some other well-loved human, or he’s alert but otherwise in a good mood, his tail will be erect, perhaps waving a bit at the tip.
• When he holds it low to the ground, the tip twitching, it means he’s stalking – either you or that laser pointer in your hand. Perhaps you have a mouse in the house that you weren’t aware of, but Pablo is.
• When he holds his tail vertically, but curved to one side or another, he’s feeling friendly, playful.

Additionally, there are other behaviors that Pablo might display to show you his feelings. Headbutting is a sign of trust and affection, as is rubbing his face against you. In doing so, his whiskers are marking you as ‘his’. (Given an option, wouldn’t you rather have him do that, than urinate on you as he does on objects he wishes to mark?) As tactile creatures, cats will groom one another as a bonding exercise. We are not cats, but Pablo may see you as a large hairless kitty, potentially a parental unit. This may compel him to lick you. This is yet another sign of his complete trust and faith in you.

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Heated Dog Bed for Christmas

Are you having difficulty deciding on a present for your dog? Although the question might imply that you are about to indulge your dog and create a spoiled brat, this is not the intent of this article. Deeply rooted in practicality, an interesting gift that you can get your dog this Christmas that will be both beneficial and also very appreciated is a heated dog bed. Heated dog beds are fairly common, especially in northern climates where it is cold much of the year or with dogs who have thin coats, thin blood, arthritis or are older and have a difficult time staying warm. Heated dog beds are a great way to make your dog more comfortable and happier overall.

Heated dog beds work much the same way as an electric blanket does for you. The bed has either a battery or can be plugged into the wall to heat up the fabric evenly and entices any dog seeking warmth to lie down. The heating element is deep in the bed so there’s no chance of your dog coming into contact with it and burning him or herself. If your dog is prone to chewing, you will want to look for one whose cords are chew proof so that your dog won’t wreck the bed by chewing on it. You’ll also want to ensure that the one you purchase has a washable cover so that you can keep the bed clean as well and sanitized. There are even fancier versions of heated dog beds, which not only heat, but vibrate as well, so that your dog gets a warming massage. If all of this is too rich for your blood, you can make your own heated dog bed by inserting a microwavable pad or a low voltage heating element into a dog bed that is safe to use and saves you some you money at the same time.

Keep in mind that the majority of heated dog beds are intended for indoor use only, so if your dog spends a lot of time outside, you’ll have to do some additional searching. There are heated dog beds that are safe for outdoor use, but you should check before you buy one so that you can ensure that the bed will survive a long harsh winter and will last for years to come.

Although you may be comfortable lowering the heater to 77° to keep your utility bills low, this may not be warm enough for some dogs, in particular older ones or smaller breeds. As mentioned earlier, as dogs age, like humans, their joints stiffen, muscles take a little longer to loosen up and their blood is thinner, taking longer to warm up. Smaller dogs will never have quite the same insulation as their larger canine friends. So, while it might seem like an indulgence, offering your dog the warmth he or she needs to sleep comfortably and get going in the morning is merely kindness for your companion.

If you are looking for a good, long lasting gift that your dog will love, will use all winter long and last for years, a heated bed will be a welcome gift. These beds are safe to use, easy to take care of and will really make your dog feel better, sleep better, and make even the most stubborn dog stay in its own bed! There are plenty of beds to choose from, so you can get one that is the right size, a brand you are comfortable with and has all the features you want from being chew proof to massaging your pet! Help your best friend stay comfortable all winter; put a heated dog bed under the Christmas tree this year and enjoy having a happy, pain free pet again.

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Some Basic Things to Know Before You Bring a Dog into Your Home

Regardless where you choose to get your dog, whether it be a breeder, animal shelter or from someone who rescues and fosters animals, there are some things you want to be concerned with to ensure your dog is as healthy as she or he can be before she or he even steps one paw in your home.

Are their shots current?

- At minimum they should have rabies and distemper

- Puppies purchased from a breeder or rescued at a young age, prior to 16 weeks will not have had a rabies shot.

- They should have DPPH (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus)

Have they been spayed or neutered?

- Unless you intend to breed your dog, he or she should be altered. There is much debate about the age for this. Some literature suggests this should occur by six months and others suggest that a female (yes commonly referred to as a bitch) should be spayed after her first heat to avoid uterine cancer. You will want to read literature from advocating both perspectives and make the determination that is best for you.

- Again, if your dog is less than six months old, chances are, neither a male nor a female will have been spayed. There is an exception to this. Most shelters will not release an animal for adoption until he or she has been altered. Their jobs are difficult enough trying to keep the animal homeless population down; they aren’t about to add to the problem.

Ensure they don’t have worms and parasites

- Whether they’re from the shelter, a rescuer or a breeder, all dogs eat myriad of things, including feces (one’s own, other dog’s and cat’s) that give them parasites

- Don’t assume because your dog is from “a top breeder” he or she is immune to worms and parasites

Breeders, unlike shelters, are not mandated by the same city and state regulatory agencies and some are not very clean or ethical. Some breeders admit to inbreeding father/daughter, mother/son, brother/sister and see nothing wrong with it. In their view, it’s all to ensure the “champion blood line” is preserved. If this is the case, you would hate to learn that because of inbreeding your pet suffers from:

Hip dysplasia

- Very common in German Shepherds (GSDs), Huskies, Akitas and other large breeds

Neurological problems and has seizures

- Very common in English Springer Spaniels

Retinal problems and/or deafness

- Can occur any breed

Difficulty breathing easily and is prone to allergies and asthma

- Pugs sadly present with this often.

Overheats easily

- Pekingese are well-known to suffer from this

It’s important to do your homework, wherever, regardless where you feel it’s best to find your beloved animal companion. These are just a few of the examples to look for with respect to breed and known problems that can occur in any dog. If you don’t do your homework, you run the risk of getting an animal prone to problems and being unsure what to do. This is by no means a suggestion to find another breed, especially if your heart is set on a particular one. It’s merely a guide to share so you can go in with eyes wide open.

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Nursing a Dog Back to Health

When we get sick or hurt, who doesn’t want someone we love to take care of us? Whether it is to give us medicine, hold our hand, fluff up our pillows, read to us or make us soup, we like knowing that someone is there who will watch over us and see us through our hard time. The same goes for pets. Yes, as much as we hate to admit it, sometimes our pets need us for the unspeakable things that tear at our hearts when they happen. It can be so painful, but we promise that his pain is worse. All you can do is sit and hope, after making sure your best friend has the very best medical care that you can find. Beyond that, it is in the vet’s hands. From malnourishment to auto accidents, there are many things that don’t bear thinking about but must be kept in mind if you want to help your furry friend when he needs you most.

Starvation is arguably the worst way for a pet or former pet to lose his life. It is a slow, lingering and painful process. But you can help. If you encounter a stray who is malnourished, after you determine whether or not he is sick, you can start her off on small doses of easy food several times a day. You don’t want him to gorge himself, which he will try to do if you overfeed him. This only complicates things. Let him get plenty of rest too, as he will probably want to sleep a lot in order to regain his energy – since most of it went to keeping him alive all this time.

If he is sick with a viral or parasitic ailment, make sure he gets prompt treatment – no amount of TLC and good quality food will make a difference if he’s got parasites crawling around inside him. After a time, when you can tell his health, mood and overall manner are improved, you can start getting him exercise so he can build back up the muscle and mass he lost while wandering the streets. Once he is feeling better, you will be rewarded when your new sweet friend gets a glossy coat and looks at you with those happy, shiny eyes.

For surgery, whether routine or unexpected, once your sweet boy is home from the vet, you should keep him calm. This ensures he won’t aggravate his hurts and open the wounds the vet worked so diligently to seal. If you have more than one dog, especially one who likes to play, try separating them for a little while. Your pooch in need of pampering may feel fine and want to roughhouse, but be in no shape to do so. If there are stitches, you would also do well to stick an Elizabethan collar on him. It may make him look like a cosmonaut and he will gaze upon you most pitifully but stand firm! Without it, he is likely to scratch or chew his stitches, which can lead to complications neither of you needs. This goes for any type of invasive procedure and of course the more stressful it is, the more you will want to do for your friend to help him recover. Pay extra special attention to your vet’s instructions in regards to care and medicine if s/he gave you any.

For more traumatic injuries, such as when your pet is hit by a car, loses a limb or otherwise finds his mobility impaired, you might not feel like you can go on. It hurts so much and you can’t stand to see your pet suffering the way he is. But you have to be strong for him because he can’t. Many animals that have suffered either naturally occurring, breed-based ailments that limit their mobility (anything from joint pain to paralysis) or lost a leg due to an accident have gone on to have fruitful, happy lives. So it means your poor boy who lost the use of his hind legs now has to haul himself around in a doggy wheelchair. Before this happened to your best buddy, this may have been a sign of humiliation and a magnet for pity when seeing it in another dog. That would be a mistake! They heal eventually and old wounds are, if not forgotten, adapted to. Thankfully there are many reputable suppliers and manufacturers who will gladly provide you with what your fine boy needs, for a decent price. Whatever you have, whatever breed you fancy - from a Corgi to a Collie, from a Dachshund to a Dane, there is no dog too great or too small.

Whatever happens to your furry friend, you can guarantee that he will thank you and love you all the more for your conscientious, loving and tender care even if at the time he turns spiteful or withdraws. What you have done shows that you are his pack leader and he looks up to you like no other. You have done him a solid and he won’t soon forget it.

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