A personal style blog aimed to entertain and enrich the lives of readers by sharing meaningful and impactful life experiences. Here, readers can find a variety of blog post topics, in addition to a tail-wagging focus on dog blogs!
“The Divinity of Dogs,” written by Jennifer Skiff, takes an inside look into the healing power of the human-animal bond. Through a series of short stories about our encounters with dogs, Skiff teaches readers how to lead a life with nonjudgment, empathy, kindness, dependability, and love. Readers can expect to find stories about the role of assistance dogs in promoting independence, adoption of shelter dogs, and the therapeutic role of dogs on healing our mental and physical ailments. Each chapter in this tail-wagging good read contains emotional firsthand accounts of how dogs and their human counterparts ultimately save one another physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Emphasis should be placed on the emotional aspect of this book as many of the chapters are a reflection of the heroic stories of beloved pets who have since crossed the rainbow bridge. The “Divinity of Dogs” is a true testament to the phrase “Who rescued who?” and is a tail-wagging good read for dog lovers everywhere!
Image Credit: Google Images
Image Credit: Google Images
This post is dedicated to those who (thanks to their beloved pets) know what it is like to love and be loved.
I find myself in a strange home. Unfamiliar scents. Unfamiliar sights. I find comfort in her presence and get scared when she leaves. I know the signs. She’s putting on her shoes. Please don’t grab your coat. Won’t you stay a little longer? I can tell she’s in a hurry. I notice her brows are furrowed, and the outline of her lips are facing down, not up like they usually are. Is she scared too? I’m worried about her. My breathing gets heavier, so she looks into my scared eyes and comforts me. She tells me she’ll be back soon, but I’m afraid. She turns the TV on, so I won’t feel so alone. She grabs her key — a surefire sign she’ll soon be walking out the door. First, she puts me in my crate which is somewhere I feel safe. Her T-shirt she left with me gives me comfort as I await her return. What’s that? The door unlocks, and a familiar sight unfolds. There she is. My person. I’m safe now.
There it is. It’s loud and thunderous like a battlefield. It echoes like a child screaming into a cave. Echo, echo, echo. It looms high, bright, and beautiful in the sky for just a moment. Boom. There goes another one. They light up the night sky. I run and hide into my safe place under the bed. I shake. My breathing gets heavier as I await another inevitable boom. The boom of each firework shakes me to my core. When will it end?
This is anxiety. More specifically, this is anxiety through the eyes of Pinella. Throughout her days as a service-dog-in-training, Pinella underwent observations which ultimately deemed her too anxious for service dog work. Some of my very first recollections of life with Pinella involved preparing her for situations, wherein we had to be separated. As a young puppy, goodbyes were often accompanied by fear and distress. My heart ached to witness her feeling emotionally uneasy. We practiced goodbyes, slowly increasing the duration of time spent away from one another. First, it was a few seconds. We very gradually moved from minutes to hours. Reunions were coupled with praise and positive reinforcement for desirable behaviors she displayed upon being separated and while apart (i.e., no destructive chewing, urinating, defecating, barking, et cetera). It is often suggested that the root origin of separation anxiety in dogs is linked to fear of abandonment. It took many test runs of leaving and returning, leaving and returning, and leaving and returning for Pinella to understand that separation was temporary. Together, we mitigated her anxiety by creating an exciting, enjoyable goodbye ritual. She learned that, while goodbyes are necessary, they aren’t to occur without the accompaniment of a peanut butter snack or, more recently, treats in her tricky treat ball.
Separation anxiety is suggested to affect 14 percent of our nation’s pets (Kriss, 2019). It is my personal speculation, however, that this number is highly underestimated as separation anxiety is often overlooked and ascribed to a dog who “misbehaves” or “has bad manners.” It is not the dog’s responsibility to “wise up” and “fix” their problematic behaviors. Rather, it begins with responsible dog owners whose duty it is to become familiar with their pet’s body language, cues, and signals. Kriss (2019) suggests that signs of anxiety in dogs include, but are not limited to, the following:
Tense body posture
Hypersensitivity to sights or sounds (i.e., alertness to the possible sound of their owner’s return)
Barking, growling, howling
Pacing and restlessness
Repetitive or compulsive behaviors
Familiarity with your pet’s body language, cues, and signals begins with first understanding the context in which their problematic behaviors occur. As such, examine whether or not your dog displays any of the aforementioned signs upon your departure from the home. For example, does the dog begin pacing and panting when you go to the closet and grab your coat and shoes? If so, this may be an indication of separation anxiety. If these kinds of behaviors occur across many different contexts, there may be a larger issue at hand aside from separation anxiety.
While some anxiety is healthy and normal, it can become problematic when the dog’s response is disproportionate to that which is average. The latter has been repeatedly exemplified with Pinella’s fear of fireworks. This specific fear, also referred to as a phobia, developed while on a walk one evening. Neighbors were setting off fireworks, and we inconveniently found ourselves in the crossfire. She froze, unable to move. Shaken to the core, she looked at me with fear in her eyes. There existed no amount of praise or treats that would have enticed her and reassured her that she was safe to keep walking.
Since that incident, I have done extensive desensitization training and counterconditioning work with Pinella to help mitigate her symptomology. While she has demonstrated decreased anxiety symptoms, holidays, such as Independence Day and Memorial Day, continue to be most challenging. What is most frustrating, however, is the unpredictable nature of firework displays. I fully support pre-planned displays at previously determined locations. I think it’s wonderful that we, as a society, can come together and celebrate our nation, its freedom, and the veterans who fought for it. What I find problematic, however, are the displays we see in neighborhoods — those that are unpredictable, unplanned, and unbeknownst to all until it’s essentially too late. We owe it to our nation’s veterans, anxious pets, and all individuals with exaggerated startle responses to be mindful of how unpredictable firework displays can worsen psychological symptomology.
When Pinella developed a fear of fireworks, we immediately began working together to create an environment where she would feel safe, comfortable, and confident. As holidays, such as the aforementioned, approach I find myself with a freezer filled with peanut butter Kongs and marrow bones filled with organic pumpkin. At the sound of the first firework, she will retreat to her safe space under my bed where she has free access to her treats. The curtains are drawn. The television and fans are turned on to provide ambient background noise. Through studying and assessing her body language, I have learned that, while she enjoys my company, constant comfort and too much invasion on her personal space results in increased anxiety. For that reason, I often find myself staying in the same room as her while allowing her to check-in with me when she needs to. When you have an anxious pet, it’s important to know what triggers them as well as what comforts them. Here are some tips to help you in developing a plan to care for and comfort your beloved fur friend:
The aforementioned information highlights the debilitating and unnerving experiences that are commonplace to many of our four-legged companions. The prevalence of anxiety-related issues in pets is alarming. As responsible pet owners, it is our duty and moral obligation to understand what our pets are communicating to us and, in turn, identify sensible solutions to make them more calm, confident, and comfortable!
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Welcome, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers! This blog post is for pet owners everywhere who are inundated with information about the care and well-being of their pets. With advancements in medicine and technology, we have become a society equipped to deal with nuisances such as fleas and ticks, diseases such as heartworm, as well as devastating cancer diagnoses. As more and more research rolls out, however, we are left to decipher the controversial information pertaining to the health and wellness of our pets. One veterinarian screams “Yay, heartworm preventatives for all,” while another advises pet owners to take precautionary measures before considering such products. This controversy invites feelings of confusion and misguidance in pet lovers, and it ultimately becomes our mission to determine right from wrong when it comes to making health conscious choices for our furry friends.
***Disclaimer: None of the information contained herein is presented to serve as veterinarian or medical advice. Always consult with a trusted veterinarian about the health, wellness, and medical needs of your pets!
In the recent months, Pinella and I have had a variety of experiences that have left me feeling as described above — confused and misguided. This all began in August when I discovered…let’s just say…something that did not belong in her bag of kibble. I called the company, immediately expressed my experience and relevant feelings, and, as a token of their sorrow, was sent coupons…for their food. Now, I consider myself to be a very reasonable individual, and I understand that strange things can happen between the production and distribution of food products. However, I had been contemplating transitioning Pinella to a higher quality food, and this particular experience confirmed my decision that it was, indeed, time. The next step: Researching pet foods. Cue the inundation of conflicting, controversial information. Want to feed raw? Beware of potential bacteria contained in raw meat (Lee, n.d.). Considering a grain-free diet? Make sure you brush up on your reading about the Food and Drug Administration’s investigation into the possible link to grain-free diets and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (Food and Drug Administration, 2018). What is a “high quality” dog food anyway? Watch the documentary Pet Fooled on Netflix, and you tell me!
In addition to grappling with which pet food to transition Pinella to, I had another concern on my mind: vaccinations. Now, to set the record straight, I am in NO WAY against vaccinating dogs (or humans). However, I have done a great deal of reading about the differences between core and non-core vaccines and, again, feel misguided and confused. Core vaccines, such as rabies and distemper, help prevent fatal diseases and are not only recommended but required by law in some states (PetMD, n.d.). Non-core vaccines include those for Lyme disease, canine influenza, and kennel cough (Bordetella) which are reportedly only recommended depending on the dog’s lifestyle and living environment (i.e. tick-prone exposure, frequent boarding) (PetMD, n.d.).
As I looked toward Pinella’s yearly checkup appointment last month, I reviewed her vaccination list and read the following: Rabies, Bordetella, Canine Influenza, and Lyme. Previously, her veterinarian and I decided against Bordetella and Canine Influenza as boarding for her is nonexistent, and exposure to other dogs is limited. That left me to question, is the Lyme vaccine core? Is it a non-core vaccine? While I was not surprised to discover it is a non-core vaccination, I was surprised to learn that the jury is still out regarding whether or not its benefits outweigh its risks. Most surprisingly, administration of the vaccine for Lyme disease is suggested to be controversial and debated by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (PedMD, n.d.). Through further investigation about this controversy, I discovered a report based on research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, wherein it was discovered that 95 percent of dogs exposed to the Lyme disease bacteria, B. burgdorferi, never experienced or displayed sickness from the bacteria (Becker, 2017). In drawing my own conclusions, it appears that the Lyme vaccine, similar to the vaccines for kennel cough and canine influenza, truly is lifestyle-dependent.
So, again, the question arises: Why are these vaccines being repeatedly administered without any investigation into whether or not the pet’s lifestyle warrants a need? The best consensus on the internet points to the fact that vaccines serve as a steady source of income for veterinarians. Thus, decreasing the quantity of vaccines administered leads to decreased income. Ultimately, the burden is placed on the pet owner to piece apart this controversial information and make informed decisions about the animal’s welfare.
Next comes my struggle with flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives. You can do a Google search on any of these products and uncover a plethora of conflicting evidence. Keywords like “carcinogen,” “flea resistance to topical products,” and “side effect of seizures” will pop up. In fact, I did a search for “Flea and tick preventatives – risks and benefits” and discovered a list of alarming news posts (see below). By means of speculation, one can argue the benefits of using these products include reduced risk of contact with fleas, ticks, and heartworm, decreased chance of flea infestation, lessened risk of contracting parasites and other illnesses, et cetera. However, as demonstrated below, there exists research indicating that the chemicals contained in these products may be to blame for various adverse effects. As a pet owner, I remain conflicted yet again, not only with whether or not to use these products but also with the products’ mechanisms of action. For instance, if a flea and tick preventative is not a repelling agent (which many are not), the flea and/or tick can still come in contact with the animal and, therefore, bite and cause irritation and infection. Sure, the chemicals in the preventative will kill the insects eventually (usually within 12 hours of contact), but couldn’t one also argue that by applying these products, we are using the animal as a way to prevent infestation in our own homes (No judgement zone for those who do. I’m guilty of it too!)? Possibly. However, one thing remains consistent throughout: The evidence is conflicting.
As I have reiterated throughout, I am in no way asserting that one care approach for your pet is better than the other because, quite frankly, the research points in both directions. What I am saying is that no matter how many hours you spend digging through scholarly research articles, anecdotal evidence, news postings, and veterinarian blog sites, there are no clear-cut answers. What is of most importance is that you, the pet owner, educate yourself. Watch documentaries. Read scholarly research supported by empirical evidence. Ask your veterinarian questions about their methods of care. Consult with other veterinarians, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Most importantly, advocate for your pet by making informed decisions about their care. After all, we only want what’s best for our pets, and if you’re anything like myself, you’ll go to great odds to get the best.
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