“Dog Town”, Another Barking Great Read

DogTown: Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Redemption Stefan Bechtel

covers_dogtown_hp

The BlurbA national rescue organization with more than 200,000 members, DogTown is the area where dogs live at the nation’s largest companion animal sanctuary run by Best Friends Animal Society. This informative, inspiring book presents representative stories of dogs considered unadoptable by other shelters. They come from many backgrounds: some were abandoned; some prowled the streets as strays; others suffer from mysterious illnesses, serious injuries, or antisocial behaviors that discourage potential adopters. But good fortune led them to Best Friends and the dedicated people devoted to helping them recover and find welcoming homes.

These compelling, winningly illustrated true stories, each uniquely moving and inspirational, draw upon the experience of veterinarians, trainers, and volunteers to probe a range of tough, touching cases that evoke both the joy and the occasional but inevitable heartbreak that accompanies this work. Each chapter follows a dog from the first day at Dogtown until he ultimately finds (or doesn’t find) a permanent new home, focusing both on the relationship between the dog and the Dogtown staff and on the latest discoveries about animal health and behavior. We learn how dogs process information, how trauma affects their behavior, and how people can help them overcome their problems. In the end, we come to see that there are no “bad dogs” and that with patience, care, and compassion, people can help dogs to heal.

What I Thought:

Sometimes I avoid dog books because I become upset when reading of an animal’s suffering and the cruel things people can do to them. However, I’m happy to report that this isn’t one of those books that focus’ on the suffering – it rather focus’s on the dog’s recovery and it’s “happily ever after”. It is filled with life affirming moments both from the actions of the wonderful staff and the dogs themselves. Even when dealing with a death there is great solace that the dog found its way to a place where it could experience happiness, comfort and a fulfilled life.

After reading this I too want to pack up and head to DogTown to not only help out in caring for the animals, but to also meet the amazing, dedicated people who care for them.

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Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Rescue Dogs, Various Behavioural Issues

Tool(s) Used: Book Resource

Cost: I got the kindle edition from amazon.com for $5.79

Ease of Implementation: Not applicable. Though there were some really great tips in the book, these are aimed more at dog owners and inspiring them when things are tough, as opposed to a “how-to” guide.

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. Effective mainly because it inspired me to carry on and realise that there honestly is a light at the end of the tunnel and that with time and effort I just know we’ll get there – she’s already made so much progress!

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Have you read the Dogtown book, or seen the TV series? What do you think of it?

Cooper’s Tummy Troubles

Poor Cooper recently had a bad bout of tummy troubles that at first I wasn’t too concerned about, but it soon reached a point that had me very worried.

It all started with him vomiting one Monday night at about 2am. I woke up when I heard the convulsing, and waited for him to finish as I soothed him in my half asleep state. The vomit was clear (like spit) with a few grass blades in it. I then took him outside where he happily ran around, sniffed a bit, drank water, and generally didn’t seem to bothered. We then both went back to bed and all was fine. I just assumed it was a normal bringing up that dogs often cure themselves with through eating grass.

I started to get a bit more concerned when this happened every night for the next 4 nights in a row. All the same story: happily fast asleep, the hurk-hurk convulsing sound, spit-like grassy vomit, frolic in the garden, water and happily snoozing again. Even though he didn’t seem very bothered by it, I figured something was a bit off. By the weekend he was vomiting like this twice in the evening and I realised I would be needing Veterinary intervention soon if it carried on.

Throughout the week I was monitoring his food and water intake, swapping to a day of only boiled chicken and white rice for both the dogs, and doing thorough sweeps of the garden to make sure there weren’t any old bones or pieces of stolen trash that Cooper was secretly snacking on during the day. All seemed good, and despite this rude awakening every night Cooper seemed to be in tip-top shape.

Until the next Monday morning (7 days since the first sign of tummy troubles). I once again woke up to the now familiar hurk-hurk sound and was slowly coming over to soothe him, clean up and take him out when the smell hit me like a double-decker bus. This clearly wasn’t just spit and grass that he was throwing up anymore. When I gingerly turned the light on I realised that he was now vomiting up a light brown sludge that looked and smelled awful. In fact, if I had not been there to witness it, I would actually have assumed that this was an accidental case of explosive diarrhea, and not vomit.

Clearly something was very wrong.

When we went outside Cooper vomited a bit more, but didn’t really want any water or to go back inside immediately. I sat with him for a while in my lap and then in a moment of panic woke up my Boyfriend and asked if he thought it was necessary to go to an emergency Vet. After spending a few more minutes with Cooper he perked up again, drank water and snuggled back on his bed as if nothing had happened. I decided it was safe to have an (uneasy) sleep for 2 hours until the Vet opened when we could take him during consulting hours.

We arrived early at the Vet and they were happy to take us. The Vet did a basic check of Cooper and decided it would be best for him to stay the day while they checked every option as there could be a number of reasons for his situation and all things had to be ruled out through different tests and procedures. We reluctantly said goodbye to Cooper and hoped that he wouldn’t have to be away for long.

Before we left, the Doctor explained the most likely causes and actions, as well as how they would test for everything. This really helped to set us at ease as we knew what was happening and the most to least likely diagnosis.

After spending the night under observation the Vet called us to collect Cooper and take him home for the rest of his recovery. It turns out that he had a bad case of reflux which was getting worse, and slowly disrupting his digestive system more and more. We were a bit worried, but the Vet put us at ease explaining the medication and food needed to make him healthy again, and as it was caught before any serious damage was done, he should recover fully within a week.

Combined with a diet of soft, saltless chicken and rice meals we were given a course of medicine for the week. The medicines were:

  • Amoxicillin: a penicillin-like antibiotic that fights bacteria in the body.
  • Lokit: to treat ulcers of the stomach and the first part of the small intestine that connects to the stomach. It is also effective in treating gastro-oesophageal reflux, the backward flow of stomach acid contents into the oesophagus. (Also called Omeprazole)
  • Metronidazole: antibiotic treat various conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, nonspecific diarrhea disorders, infections caused by Giardia, and periodontal disease
  • Ulsanic Syrup:  a gastro-intestinal medication, mainly used to treat ulcers
Cooper Medicine

The full medical treatment for Cooper’s tummy ache

So how is Cooper doing now?

After a week of the medicine and a careful diet Cooper has thankfully bounced back completely to full health once again! It’s great to have the whole house getting a full nights’ sleep free of any tummy aches, vomiting or general unease!

Cooper happy

“Woof!” A happy, healthy Cooper!

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Cooper’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Dog vomiting, Digestive reflux, Digestive health

Tool(s) Used: Various antibiotics and medications

Cost: Medium to High

Ease of Implementation: Moderate. If your dog is ok with Vet’s and taking medication then this is easier

Cooper’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. This ailment was not one that could be solved at home and needed Veterinary intervention. At home I could take care of his diet, but he wouldn’t have made such a speedy recovery without the Doctor’s interventions. I’m happy to report that this was a simple problem that was nipped in the bud, and left Cooper finally feeling much better and healthier!

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Have you had an experience with similar ongoing digestive or reflux problems with your dog? How did you treat it?

Blogtober Day 4: 3 things you want to say to people who annoy you

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Phoebe says:

  1. “I really don’t want to hurt your dog, but he’s scaring me. Please listen to my Mom when she tells you to Back. Up.”
  2. “I’m allowed to be here too. My Mom and I are working hard on being ok with other dogs, but I’m unpredictable when scared, that’s why we’re at on ON LEASH ONLY park. Stop being bitchy to my Mom, put a leash on your hyperactive Labrador and Back. the Frack. Up.
  3. Back. the Frack. Up. No really, I mean it! I need lots of space between me and your dog!

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Cooper says:

  1. “But Mooooooooom! The roast was just sitting there! It’s soooooo unfair that you’re angry now and adjusting my dinner portion!”
  2. “Why are you yelling at my parents?! Your unleashed Scottish Terrier came bounding up to me! Phoebe and Mom ninja-stealthed out of here because of it, leaving me and Dad a bit confused and worried, so clearly I need to put your scary dog in his place for being so rude!”
  3. ” Not all Rescue Dogs are abused and beyond emotional repair. Sure I have a couple of issues, but not more than the next dog. Don’t be scared, give us a chance. Please?”

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You can view the full Blogtober 31 Day Dog Blog Challenge here

Blogtober Day 3: Something you’re afraid of

“There is no illusion greater than fear.”

– Lao Tzu

Cooper says:

I’m a very confident dog who doesn’t have many fears. And if I did, I wouldn’t admit to that on such a public forum! Oh, ok… if I must be honest, I think the thing that scares me most is when my Mom and Dad leave the house. It’s just that ever since I was a puppy I always had food and water, but was left behind and forgotten by my first owner, and then at the kennel I lived in for years the groundsman was a man I loved very much, but he would often leave me alone for 1-3 days on weekends when he went home to visit his family from far away.

My Mom says this is called “Separation Anxiety”. She also says my adoptive sister Phoebe used to have this fear too, but it’s mostly gone now. Hopefully I’ll also find a way to trust that my parents will come home every day without the panic that wells up!

I'm with you on this one McCauley! It's scary to be home alone! I think I would've handled this in a very similar way to how you did!

I’m with you on this one McCauley! It’s scary to be home alone!

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Phoebe says:

Luckily I’m not as afraid of everything as I was when I first arrived, but there are still some fears that I just don’t know if I’ll ever overcome. My biggest fear is of other dogs. This means I am defined as being “reactive aggressive” towards any and all other strange dogs, and is often misunderstood by people as me being just being badly behaved, angry and aggressive. Luckily my Mom got help so that we could both find better coping mechanisms when I’m out and about. The progress I’ve made is amazing! I still don’t like other dogs near me when we walk in parks or in the neighbourhood, but at least they can be a bit closer to me, and it takes a lot longer for me to lash out!

My biggest fear! Look at all those dogs!

My biggest fear! Look at all those dogs!

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Mom says:

We are constantly hard at work to overcome the fears in the house. Most of this blog chronicles this journey, but for those bookworms out there you can check my posts on the two books I read that really helped with these specific issues:

You can check out the full Blogtober 31 Day Dog Blog Challenge here

Spring is (almost) sprung!

There’s an electrical crackling in the air. That electricity is the sign that here in the southern hemisphere winter is quickly coming to an end and spring is on its way. What a wonderful time of year!

Some amusing seasonal humour...

Phoebe and Cooper can also feel the springtime static in the air and we all look forward to taking more walks as the days are longer again. I hope to increase Phoebe’s morning walks again, and The Greek and I will be able to walk the dogs in the afternoons as the sunset becomes so much later. I know we could walk at all times of day, but the cold and dark is really unpleasant for me, and I also have many safety concerns, even if our neighbourhood is considered “safe” by South African standards.

As happy as I am with the opportunity to get out there for some fresh air and much needed exercise for me and the dogs, there is one major drawback of this beautiful time of year… you see… we all love spring, and this is when everyone decides to take advantage of the beautiful weather with their dogs. Their dogs who are my dogs’ kryptonite…

*sigh*

Having not one, but two, reactive dogs is a real challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for it, and am amazed at how far we’ve come (and I’m sure will still go!). But there are days when I really just wish it was easier.

When I see those absent-minded people walking with their dogs off leash, listening to their iPod, texting friends while their dogs who have perfect recall and walking merrily alongside are oblivious to the impending doom I feel with each step, I must admit that I feel a little green with envy. Well, the envy comes after the dizzying split second range of thoughts about escape routes, where high and low value treats are, how loudly I need to yell at the person and their approaching dog, where the nearest vets are in case of a dog fight, if there may be other loose dogs in the neighbourhood, how much chaos will ensue if I don’t time my ninja escapes well enough etc.

But enough of the moaning! It’s time the family goes out to the nature park on the top of the hill to watch the buds of spring as the dirty brown scenery begins to slowly transform into explosions of green and all the other colours of the rainbow. Here’s hoping we have a glorious spring with perfectly mismatched schedules to all the other fur-parents!

Time to take in the wonder of nature as the world turns from a drab brown landscape and explodes into voracious animal and plant life within a matter of weeks!

Taking time to take in the wonder of nature as the world turns from a drab brown landscape and explodes into luscious animal and plant life within a matter of weeks!

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Phoebe and Cooper’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Reactivity, Boredom

Tool(s) Used: Exercise, Regular Walks

Cost: Low. Free!

Ease of Implementation: Easy. The most difficult part is planning your day so that you have enough time to take regular walks.

Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. This helps to keep both Phoebe and Cooper much calmer and less stressed when it is time for me to leave. They also generally behave and sleep better on days where we take these long walks. A mental and physical benefit for us all!

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Do you have a favourite season to take walks?