Keeping the mind of a shelter dog positively stimulated is of constant concern for shelter workers and volunteers. Although walks are an excellent way to provide socialization, other enrichment programs may include playgroups for dogs to play with other dogs, as well as with people.
Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center’s Christine O’Dell spent time researching a concept that’s been growing (pun intended) in popularity in shelters around the globe. She thought a sensory garden would be enjoyed not only by the dogs but people as well. In her presentation to gain support for creating the space, she explained how a sensory garden encourages dogs to use all of his senses by providing mental stimulation, while reducing stress and increasing confidence.
Scientists estimate a dog’s nose to be tens of thousands of times more sensitive to odor than our noses. Part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing those smells is proportionally 40 times greater than ours. Get a dog sniffing and you’ll get her mind working.
Christine’s idea was well-received. Then, the pandemic hit and the Shelter closed to the public. The Shelter’s closing correlated with Field officers and investigators moving to Code Enforcement. Christine was given the green light to proceed with the garden along with a plot of land on the backside of the shelter property: the asphalt parking lot where Field officers once parked their vehicles.
What has transformed over the course of the last year is a yet-to-be-named garden full of color and activity with butterflies fluttering in and out of flowers. Christine’s design includes spaces where dogs can sniff, walk through and dig around to their heart’s content. Some plants are grouped for their calming effects, like lavender and marigolds. Boulders, strategically-placed, will give dogs an area to climb onto or search through in crevices and openings underneath. A nose work program is definitely being planned for the near future. There is also a beautiful water feature complete with waterfall where dogs can jump into. It was designed and built by Shelter staff employee Cory Chmielewski.
Science backs up Christine’s vision. Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found that dogs exposed to the scent of lavender and chamomile appear to spend more time resting. Dogs exposed to rosemary and peppermint perk up, playing and barking more.
Sniffing actually makes a dog happier and healthier. That’s why, when walking our own dogs, it’s important to allow them some sniff-time, you know, so they can check out that pee-mail on the tree, and other delightful aromas wafting about.
Stop and smell the roses. It’s therapeutic for you and your dog.
His name was Sam, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a savior of women’s spirits. Perhaps his backstory, whatever it was, only prepared him for what was right in front of him. Sam was adopted from the Humane Society of Pinellas County by a woman looking for a gentle, loving and loyal companion. Soon after, the woman and her dog moved into an assisted living facility. There were two levels of care for residents. Sam and his human, Sally, lived in one of the individual independent-living apartments on the peaceful property situated near the Bay.
In the apartment next door to them lived a woman from Puerto Rico who loved animals, especially cats and dogs. Her name was Milagros, and Sam and Sally became good friends with their good luck charm. Together they took long walks around the waterfront, especially enjoying the sunrises. They laughed at things only older women understand with years of life experiences tucked under their straw hats. Sometimes when Sally had to go to the hospital for several days, Milagros would take care of Sam.
One evening, while sitting on their adjoining front porches, Sally told Milagros that she would no longer be able to care for him. The details of why were left unspoken. Sally gave Sam to Milagros and asked them to take care of each other.
A few days later, Sam and Milagros watched from their front porch as their friend was taken away by ambulance. Attendants later cleaned out her apartment.
Sam and Milagros became inseparable. Walking around the grounds, they were a lovely sight for the other residents, greeting everyone with a human’s smile and a dog’s tail wag. They frequently visited the facility’s main lobby, meeting for coffee with the other dog lovers.
Sam was a lap dog, always right next to Milagros. They slept together and ate together. They watched television together, and she sang to him. Occasionally, he was her dance partner when an old favorite played on the radio. They thrived on their togetherness.
Sam whined incessantly when Milagros shut the door to her bathroom for even a few moments. Sometimes the whining escalated to screams while she was taking a shower, and he couldn’t see her from behind the shower curtain.
Once, a neighbor left an anonymous note on the windshield of the daughter’s car during a visit with her mother. The note accused Milagros of hurting Sam, and passed judgment on how she was caring for the dog, pointing out how long his nails were. “If you don’t do something, we will report you and your mother to animal services for animal abuse,” was the last line in the note.
Concerned for Sam’s health and her mother’s well-being, the daughter took them all for a visit with the family veterinarian. Maybe Sam was in pain from an undetected infection or perhaps a broken bone from a fall. Her mother would never intentionally harm Sam.
“Sam is fine,” assured the veterinarian. “We’ll just trim his nails. They’re really not that bad at all. I’m sorry you are having to deal with something like this, right now.”
As Alzheimer’s began to chip away the pieces of Mother’s brain, and subsequently her memory, the decision to find a memory care facility became priority. During one of her ever-increasing number of hospital stays, her doctor advised us that the facility should be secure, set up especially for residents living with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other diseases of the brain. Mother had a tendency to wander, and she had become very good at figuring out locks on doors and windows.
Finally facing the truth of Mother’s health, one of the decisions that had to be made was what to do with Sam. He was staying with us – a family of two adults and four dogs, and he missed my Mother terribly. His mournful cries often rose to blood curdling screams if he was not in the same room with one of us. I understood, then, how a neighbor could think Mother was hurting Sam. The only time he was consolable was when one of us was sitting next to him. He could go without food, water and exercise, but not the feel of a human’s touch.
We moved Mom 10 times over an eight-year period as her illness progressed. When she was highly medicated, she often became combative with staff who did not understand the disease, or Mom. These outbursts would prompt another phone call, asking us to find another facility for her.
Every facility we moved her to did not allow pets, except the last one, where a lovable fat cat named Buddy resided. He was adopted from the Humane Society as well. Buddy would make his rounds every day, visiting with each of the residents who sometimes dispensed treats and always had a gentle hand. Buddy ended each of his days in bed with Mom, curled up inside the crook of her legs, softly purring.
After some experimentation, we figured out that taking Mom off most of her meds calmed her, bringing her back to her more recognizable self. I also believe Buddy was of great comfort to her, especially after her memory had almost completely faded away. There was always something familiar to Buddy’s soft fur and the rumbling of his purr.
Almost to the end, Mom would ask about a dog who managed to remain in her memory. Was he her dog? Where was he, and was he okay? She could not recall his name, but it didn’t matter. She would smile and laugh when I described Sam to her, sometimes stroking her lap as if he was sitting on it. Sometimes, it would be Buddy on her lap she was stroking, but I imagined she may have been remembering Sam.
Sam’s third human spirit he would take care of was a woman who was bed-ridden. He gladly took his place next to her so she could feel his soft, silky fur under her hand. Her family was grateful for Sam’s gentle demeanor and his ability to calm her.
Sam had enough unconditional love to share with three special ladies, arriving at just the right moment in each of their lives. Such is the purpose of dog.
*Quote used in headline by Jean de La Bruyere, a French philosopher (1645-1696).
Dental disease in dogs is one of, if not the most, common disorders affecting our canine friends. By the age of three, 80% of all dogs have sufficient dental disease that warrants professional dental cleaning.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t occur with enough regularity to maintain good oral health. Many dogs suffer in silence as a result dental disease. Dental disorders, including plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontal disease, infections, cavities, and tooth trauma, all affect the oral cavity. Dental disease also has significant implications for the rest of the body. The heart, kidney, respiratory system and brain are all impacted by diseases of the teeth and oral cavity. Professional dental treatments not only provide for a healthy oral cavity, but also the health of the body as a whole. So, the benefits of proper dental care far outweigh the risks.
All major veterinary organizations that provide treatment guidelines and recommendations have established that professional anesthetic dental cleanings are considered standards of care. To not use anesthesia with dental treatments is considered to be below the minimum appropriate level of care. Anesthesia is the only way a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment can be performed.
Many dog owners are aware of the importance of proper oral health and the need for dental treatments, but acceptance and compliance is low. Why is this? In my experience, the fear of anesthesia is the number one reason why dogs, especially older ones, do not have proper dental treatments performed. While it does affect all dogs and all breeds, dental disease is prevalent primarily in older toy breeds. Costs and fees are generally less of a concern as most pet parents know how important this treatment is and plan accordingly. The key to preventing tooth loss is assessment and treatment. This is greatly limited with non-anesthetic dental treatments.
Non-anesthetic dental cleanings give pet owners a false sense of security into believing that they are doing what is best for their pet. However, in many cases, disease is left undetected and untreated. The pet suffers in silence until they can no longer tolerate the pain. By this point, the disease has progressed to where extraction of teeth is the only alternative. Other organs may now also be affected.
If disease is found early enough, treatments other than extractions are among available options. Tooth loss can be avoided with early, proper assessment and treatment, only achieveable if the pet is under anesthesia.
For non-anesthetic dental procedures, pets have to be restrained. This increases the risks that the pet may be injured by the restraint. Dental instruments can also cause mouth, head trauma or injury. It is most important to realize that the majority of dental disease lies below the gum line. This cannot be addressed effectively with non-anesthetic cleanings.
Cleaning only the surface of the tooth crown is a cosmetic procedure that offers no health benefits for the pet. Non-anesthetic dental cleanings are not in the best interest of your pet’s health and well-being.
Age Is Not A Disease Many pet parents become more concerned with anesthesia in their older dogs. This is especially true of small breed dogs. The time under anesthesia can be longer for older pets due to the level of disease and the necessity for more dental work. Treatment, early and often, is the key. Repeated anesthesia over the life of the pet does not impact longevity as was once the case with older anesthetic medications. Dental disease is not curable with a one-time treatment. The disease is recurrent and progressive. Regular anesthetic dental treatments and cleanings can manage and stall dental disease.
Ensuring a safe and effective anesthetic dental cleaning and reducing the fear of pet parents, requires screening pets and providing individualized care. This allows us to ensure the safety of the pet and limit the time under anesthesia. We start with pre-anesthesia testing. At a minimum, a physical exam and lab testing to assess organ function are required. Pets with possible or known heart/lung disease may also need an EKG, chest radiographs and echocardiogram.
The anesthetic protocol is tailored to meet the needs of the individual pet. This will mean choosing the pre-anesthesia medications, drugs to induce anesthesia and maintenance gas that meet the needs of the pet. Each pet is an individual and needs to be treated as such.
Light Plane Of Anesthesia The depth or level of anesthesia is kept to a minimum. The pet should be in a shallow plane of anesthesia as opposed to a deep plane of anesthesia. Local nerve blocs, just like with humans, can allow for better pain control, but still allow the pet to be as minimally sedated as possible. Light planes of anesthesia improve heart and lung function and blood pressure. Effective pain management, nerve blocks, injectable and oral pain medication allow for a lighter plane of anesthesia, reducing the risk of complications and speeding the recovery period. These are major factors in minimizing anesthesia concerns.
The concerns with anesthesia are greatly reduced with today’s modern ability to monitor the pet. Monitoring by an experienced and attentive technician or veterinary nurse is paramount. Monitoring machines are also very helpful. All pets will have pulse oximetry (oxygen levels in the blood), EKG, respiratory monitor, temperature monitor and blood pressure assessed during their entire time of anesthesia.
An IV catheter is always in place for fluid administration, helping maintain proper blood pressure, but also to flush drugs, medications and toxins via the kidneys, which also supports proper kidney function. As previously mentioned, anesthesia, by nature, can lower blood pressure. It can also lower body temperature. To address this, the pet must be warmed while under anesthesia. This requires external warmers such as blankets and warmed IV fluids. When the body temperature is kept as close to normal as possible, the rest of the body functions better, and recovery is quicker. An endotracheal tube with cuff is used on every patient to maintain an open airway and prevent water and debris from entering the trachea and lungs.
Recovery from anesthesia is one of the most important times of the entire procedure and is critical to a successful outcome. The pet is to be monitored until able to sit upright and breathe without the need for the endotracheal tube and swallow appropriately. Body temperature is monitored and the pet is warmed to maintain normalcy. While the pet is being monitored, any additional support is provided, if needed, such as additional pain medication, warming support, and nausea control.
The Big Take Home Message First, talk to your veterinarian and veterinary team about their protocol for pre-anesthesia evaluation, lab testing, and treatment. Ask them how your pet will be monitored, what steps will be taken to adequately monitor your pet, and control pain and discomfort. Ask how your pet will be supported to limit anesthetic complications and allow for safe, effective and proper dental care.
Shelter Silence How was it that 100 hundred shelter dogs at Seminole County Animal Shelter stopped barking, and laid down calmly as I slowly walked down the aisle between the kennels? My body language was non-threatening and neutral. My energy, using my training in QiGong and Reiki, was directed toward a calm and favorable outcome to them, and lastly, my mental thoughts were those of calmness. The dogs read all this. Watch as Jo Maldonado, using body language and thoughts, calms stressed shelter dogs in a few minutes at Seminole County Animal Shelter.
Body Language Body language is the most primitive and significant form of human communication. It came into existence even before our ancestors developed speech and language. The study of body language is called kinesics and has been studied since the early Greeks. Research studies suggest that your body is the reflection of your mind, and the way you control your body will have an impact on your mental processes. It is a mutual process. Your body posture adapts to your thoughts, so if for example, you are depressed your shoulders may slump, your head may drop, you may shift weight onto one leg vs. standing equal weight on both legs If you’re nervous, your gestures may be more jerky, not smooth and controlled; you may pace.
Power Poses My studies with body language originated with studying Professor Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist and Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, known world-wide for her Power Pose study. Her studies showed that we send messages of leadership to people through “Power Poses.” Each posture or pose, gives off a certain and very different energy signal. Each body position carries with it an emotion which is triggered by our thoughts and the memories our cells have stored within our body. There are power poses and submissive poses, each respectively affecting the people and animals around us in a different manner.
Power Poses and Animals I went one step further after following Prof. Cuddy’s poses with humans, and applied it to animals, specifically horses and dogs. Dogs are predators, and responded in a subservient manner, recognizing the human as pack leader; horses the prey, responded in a threatened manner, in flight mode. My conclusion supports what we should already realize: use caution when approaching unfamiliar dogs. Communicate clearly what it is you want the dog to know or do. Some dogs are leaders, and others are pack followers. If we are to apply strong forceful body language upon a follower type dog, it may create adverse reactions in a now fearful dog. On the other hand, if we apply a power pose to a dog who clearly wants to be in charge, we would get a response more in our favor, and you win the pack leader role.
Body Language & Energy Animals measure their trust in you, their communication with you, and their understanding of you by the energy that you send when you are in their presence. It’s not complicated. The fascinating thing is, that we ALL send messages to other species, all the time. All beings share their energy with others. The thoughts that you have, create a vibration, a specific frequency which is then perceived by others around you. This is also why you are able to detect if someone is being genuine and authentic in the words they speak, you instinctually pick up on the thoughts and vibrations which the other person is giving off. When a person’s words and their thoughts do not match, you can perceive this through their body language. This intricate process of translation is all done subconsciously. Dogs’ proficiency in reading body language should come as no surprise since, as pack members, dogs have to communicate with each other without the benefit of a verbal language. Instead they communicate through conscious and subliminal signing or gesturing, and watch for the actions and reactions of the other individual.
Body Posture Your body posture: head carriage position, shoulders, hip stance, position of arms, behind you vs. in front of you, send the same messages to animals as they do to people, just more intensified. Each posture or pose gives off a certain and very different energy signal. Each body position carries with it an emotion which is triggered by our thoughts and the memories our cells have stored within our body.
So, how did we get all those dogs to stop barking, and relax? 1) Posture: Shoulders Back Did you know that more testosterone is emitted when your shoulders are back, vs. when they are in a slumped-over position? Dogs’ senses are keen. When you emit more testosterone in dog language you are saying that you are in charge; in a dog pack, the dog with the highest level of testosterone is in charge; shoulders slumped to the front is submissive, signaling that you don’t want to be in charge. Higher testosterone is associated with confidence, power, and higher risk tolerance. This combination is linked with effective leadership. Contracted body language (closed) is linked to feelings of lower status and worth, and is exemplified by hunched shoulders, head lowered, crossed arms and legs, and not smiling, says social psychologist Amy Cuddy.
2) Knees Locked vs. Knees Relaxed Knees should be unlocked, or in a relaxed position if standing, legs equally apart at a stance, and grounded “like a tree” is most optimal. When you lock your knees, your muscles tighten. Tight muscles are typically a response to either severe cold temperatures, excitability, heightened emotions, or unbalanced energy, and can deliver an unfavorable response to dogs. They may also be viewed as threatening. Example: a fearful person tends to tense up and stare. Dogs may tend to misread a fearful person’s behavior as a “challenge” posture, like that of a dominant dog squaring up to an opponent. This immediately puts a dog on the defensive.
3) Legs Apart Stance: A neutral pose to be assumed with equal weight distributed on each leg as you stand, as opposed to shifting your weight to one or other leg which sends a message of uncertainty. When you are standing equally, you are more in control of your dog and are sending messages of strength and confidence to your animal.
4) Head Position: Very significant in body language. A person’s head, due to a very flexible neck structure, can turn, thrust forward, withdraw, tilt sideways, forwards and backwards. All of these movements have meanings, which given some thought about other signals can be understood. The best position to work with animals is a high head position which signifies attentive listening, usually with an open or undecided mind, or lack of bias.
5) Gait: All participants were instructed to stand sideways, in front of one or two dog kennels. No gait was incorporated.
6) Facial Expressions: Neutral. No eye contact. Each participant stool parallel, sideways, not facing the dogs. Relaxed facial muscle.
7) Tone: No words were used.
8) Thoughts: All were instructed to think of the dogs in a neutral, relaxed position. Begin with slow relaxed breathing, deep sigh, then seeing the dogs in your mind’s eye sitting, then laying down. The goal was to think relaxing thoughts about the dog.
Our Emotions Are Showing Did someone ever tell you that you “wear your emotions on your sleeve?” Take that a step further. Animals are keen observers of our intentions and emotions, and can read us with an objective eye – even those movements and positions that you may not be aware of. Practice your body language as though the whole world were watching. Animals (and your dogs) will let you know if you have it right.
About the author: Jo Maldonado is an animal communicator, and has been an advisor and contributor to The New Barker since 2010. She is the founder and owner of Gryphons’ Claw The School of Practical Magic, and is department head of the Animal Communication Division. Jo is available as a lecturer, instructor and consultant for private clients and animal shelters. She may be reached via email at Jo@AnimalReader.com
Even with a concise list of manufacturers to visit, we managed to get sidetracked at Global Pet Expo, last week in Orlando. The industry trade show for pet retailers is sensory overload with miles and miles of displays and products. Thank DOG for the various canines walking the floor, who helped bring us back down to earth on several occasions. There was Indie, catching the show from a backpack. And a sweet Pup In Pink Polka Dot whose name we did not catch. Then, there was Seamus. Oh Seamus, you stole our hearts. The Pyrenean Mastiff was part of the booth display at All Four Paws, makers of The Comfy Cone, The Chill Collar and The Wipe It Drool Towel (which Seamus was wearing).
Beds – There were lots of fun novelty items, like these Disney-themed beds and pillows (below). We loved the look and feel of the faux fur dog beds from Baylee Nasco, designed and manufactured out of Hialeah, Florida. That’s Chai Latte sitting on a pile of their beds at the show. One Lucky Dog in St. Petersburg carries the Baylee Nasco line. Feeling is believing.
Our favorite beds, paws down, are the ones made by Bowsers Beds. We have some throughout our home, and they still look brand new, after years of machine washing and drying. Now, it’s time to make an investment on some new ones. The dogs love them. The new, soft neutral colors are fabulous and will look good with any home’s color scheme or decor style. Fluffy Puppies Dog Store & Salon will be our go-to for our next round of Bowsers Beds.
Travel – Luggage can be a fashion statement. For those of us who love taking trips with our dogs, The Pet Collection from Chariot Travelware is the hound’s bow WOW! The hard side cases are fully lined inside and feature a high quality telescopic handle with push button locking system. They are gorgeous. If you order online, tell them THE NEW BARKER dog magazine sent you.
Unleashing The Power Of Play – We enjoyed meeting the new team at Planet Dog. This Maine company continues to impress us with their innovative creations of tougher toys. They don’t forget to include puppies and seniors in their plans when thinking up new product designs. And, the toys are all 100% guaranteed. You can’t beat that. We’ll be heading to Pet Food Warehouse in St. Petersburg, BarkLife Market & More in Seminole and Dog Mania+Cats in Dade City for our next toy supply. Our dogs can’t have too many, right?
Neat Stuff – It’s always nice to put a face to the months of email correspondence. We met Jane with foufouBrands, creators of foufoudog designer wear. They also make Vegalicious, a 100% natural vegan treats for dogs, made in the USA. We also met the exuberant Kevin Roberge, who was passionate about the new product lines being created by ThunderWorks, inventors of ThunderShirt. #ThunderShirtYourself Although we missed seeing our contact Andrea Friedland with PAWZ, stay connected to THE NEW BARKER, as we’re planning something fun with them, later this year.
Friends and Associates – We ran into a longtime friend of THE NEW BARKER, Tom Brennan at the American Pet Nutrition booth. We said hello to Dr. Marty Becker at the Media Roundup Luncheon and ran into his daughter, Mikkel Becker, on the showroom floor. We saw Kris Logan, then said hello to the Pasadena Pet Motel and STK9 Training teams. David Fine of Bark N Bag regaled us with a Bernadette Peters birthday story. We said Aloha to Kelly Ison who was introducing a new line of treats at Einstein Pets. The Luau Time dog treats are handcrafted from natural and nutritious, premium raw ingredients in the USA. The treats are produced in small batches with only seven ingredients: Oat Flour, Coconut, Pineapple, Honey, Pork, Ginger, Chia Seed. BarkLife Market & More in Seminole and St. Pete carries the Einstein Pets line of treats. By the way, Abbey the Westie takes her job as taste tester serious. She remained at the Sarasota headquarters, working her little wiggle butt off. Way to take one for the Einstein Pets team, Abbey.
Curious Puck, our canine traveling companion, was a trooper. He allowed exhibitors to treat him, pet him and try some things on him. He didn’t turn his nose up to anything, even bravely pulling a bone out of a basket at one of the booths. Special thanks to Puck’s human, Heather Schulman, for bringing him along.
Cool Find – PillStashios is a company that makes an edible pill stasher for dogs. You’ll find it at Pets Life Naturally in Palmetto and The Doggie Bag in Lakeland. The product, inspired by nature, looks like a pistachio. You insert the pill inside the edible stasher, snap it shut and serve it to your dog. We were given some samples for Dougie, our Scottish Terrier, who is on medication for skin allergies. It’s a dream to use and he loves the taste. The PillStashios product is 100% natural, free of gluten, wheat, corn and soy. This was a fun product and great group of people at the booth.
Raising the Woof – Food and treats were a big part of Global Pet Expo. It was good to see so many new products offering a variety of options for the consumer and their pets. We LOVE Pawsitively Pure Dog Food, a Central Florida company offering a line of products that include dog food, dog treats and bone broth. They use only the finest, freshest and purest human-grade ingredients. “We are committed to replacing conventional ingredients with certified organic alternatives whenever possible,” said Carole Brooks, the Founder and CEO. Carole started her company in 2007, after that year’s major pet food recall. The company’s mascot and taste tester is Ryley Jones, a Weimaraner. Carole gave us a sample of the fresh-made bone broth after we told her about Rita, our MinPin who has arthritis. She is digging the broth on top of her kibble.
It’s A Wrap – The work that all of these companies put into their products, then the time they take to travel, display and talk about them is impressive. Equally impressive: the number of pet retailers walking the floor looking for the most innovative products to bring to their customers. Check in with your local independent retailer and find out what new goodies are in store for you and your dog. Until next year, #GlobalPetExpo. We were doggone tired and our feet were definitely barking by day’s end.
Have you ever considered running a marathon with your dog?
by Anna Cooke – Have you signed up for the 2017 Goody Goody Turkey Gobble? It is dog-friendly with giveaways, awards and a delicious post-race meal. Information below.
Jeff Odell has been running with his dog Kuma since she was old enough to start training. “I did enough reading to know that it is not healthy to run a dog before they are at least a year old,” said Jeff, who ran a fair amount when he was younger.
Eventually, raising a family and other things would take precedence, placing Jeff’s running on hold for many years. He picked it up again about 18 years ago when he was 42, focusing on long distance running and marathon training. He has completed 27 marathons and led a local chapter of the Jeff Galloway Marathon Training group in Tampa for five years. It was with that group in Temple Terrace where we first met Jeff, Kuma and some of the other runners early one Saturday morning. They had just completed their morning run of between 10 to 15 miles. Kuma, a Golden Retriever/Black Labrador Retriever mix, had done about five miles with Jeff. “Ten miles is her cool weather run,” said Jeff. “She let’s me know, but we usually keep it to between three and five miles in hot weather.”
Kuma has the coat of a Golden Retriever that is the color of a black Labrador. She is almost seven and sports a little white around her muzzle now. It would be three years after the death of Lightning, the family’s beloved Golden Retriever, before Jeff’s wife Therese considered another dog. “It took Therese a long time to get over losing Lightning, who had grown up with our kids. She thought she could never have another dog, until we met Kuma,” said Jeff. The couple’s middle child Joseph, who lives in Japan, took one look at the puppy, and said she looked like a fuzzy little bear cub or Kuma – the Japanese word for bear. “We liked it and the name stuck,” said Jeff.
Jeff and Kuma bonded right away and he knew he wanted to eventually run her for exercise, if she took to it. “When I was a kid in upstate New York, I had a mixed breed dog that followed me everywhere around town. The idea of generally doing things with a dog in tow is pretty ingrained in me. When you have a dog the size of Kuma, at 65 pounds, you need to give her plenty of exercise, so I thought, why not both of us?”
Jeff began working with the puppy by taking her on walks with a six foot leash, training her to stay on his left side. When she was around a year old, Jeff began taking her for shorter runs, gradually increasing their length. As part of her training, he also mixed in running and walking to help ease Kuma into it.
“She took to running right away,” said Jeff. “She was so in tune with walking that running just seemed the next natural step.”
Jeff said that Kuma has never run on the wrong side of a mailbox or sign. “She knows to stay on the same side as me. We never end up wrapped around anything – except on the rare occasion when a squirrel gets her attention,” laughed Jeff.
One of the most important tips Jeff stresses for runningwith a dog is learning to recognize the signs of fatigue. “As long as Kuma’s tail and ears are up, she’s good. When they start to droop, it’s time to take her home.”
Early in their training, Jeff noticed something else about Kuma. “In hot weather, she would want to stop and spread out in heavy dewy grass. She was cooling herself by getting herself damp. Now, I find that if I give her 10 to 15 seconds, she rolls over one side, then the other, gets up, shakes if off and is ready to go again. She does this every couple of miles. Sometimes, dogs are smarter than we are.”
A RUNNING TIP FROM JEFF: There’s lots of gimmicky running gear for dogs. I don’t use any of it. Save your money. You need a leash and a light. Don’t use an adjustable leash. I use a six foot leash that also has a handle-like loop near the dog in case I need to grab it and pull her in tight. I do not use one of those ‘hands free’ leashes that attaches around your waist. I don’t want my 65 pound dog, upon seeing a squirrel or a duck, to pull me over. I’m more comfortable holding the leash in my hand.
Jeff blames the Labrador half of Kuma for her wanting to pick up and swallow all manner of junk along the road. “I have to keep a good eye on her, and my running group does too. They have heard me say ‘drop it’ so many times that they will tease me whenever I say it – which is often.”
At a race, Kuma is a great icebreaker. “Runners are, for the most part, pretty social. Having Kuma around attracts all kinds of people and sparks conversations on how she was trained and what is her longest run (13 miles). Many people tell me of their successes or failures at getting their dogs to run with them,” said Jeff.
For Jeff, having Kuma in his life has been very rewarding. “Finding activities that your dog can participate in with you makes the dog part of your family and everyday life. In that sense, I’m like any dog owner that likes their dog around in varying circumstances.”
Knowing he has to walk or run Kuma continues to motivate Jeff. “When a personal or family issue arises and you don’t feel like getting out there, knowing Kuma will enjoy it gets me going when I otherwise might not want to.”
Here are some FAQ’s – good information for run day. Registered runners and their dogs will receive a Doggie Swag Bag from THE NEW BARKER. Post race will include a delicious meal provided by Goody Goody Famous Burgers. Sign up today for the best prices. We are limiting the number of dogs to 150. The best part of the race is that the proceeds will go to support LIVESTRONG at the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA for cancer survivors and their families. We’ll see you on race day, bright and early.
It may be a rare bacteria, but it is ever-present in Florida. Dr. Baird, of Country Oaks Animal Hospital in Palm Harbor, weighed in on Leptospirosis for The New Barker dog magazine, a year ago in the Spring 2016 issue. It is just as relevant today, as cases of Leptospirosis is rising.
Leptospirosis, a disease common to many mammals, is caused by a type of bacterium called Leptospira. It seems to be on the rise in dogs the last few decades and has shifted from a rural disease to a suburban and even urban problem. Dr. Carsen Brandt of the Emergency and Critical Care Service at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has reported a tenfold increase in cases since 2013. There have been fairly recent outbreaks in Fresno, California and Denver, Colorado. Dr. Richard Goldstein of the Animal Medical Center in New York City says he sees cases of Lepto every week, including in dogs that have never left Manhattan. So much for the image of this as a rural disease.
A typical scenario goes something like this: A raccoon urinates on the grass in a suburban yard or in a puddle at a park during the night. A dog then sniffs or licks at that curious odor while out for a walk the next day. Bingo! The dog has now been exposed to one of the eight strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause Leptopsirosis in the dog. The bacteria quickly begin to replicate and move into various target tissues such as the kidneys, liver, spleen and central nervous system. The infected dog typically begins to show signs of illness within 7 days of exposure. The severity of the illness can vary considerably, from mild and vague symptoms to acute kidney failure and fairly sudden death.
So, what other wildlife carry these Leptospira bacteria in their urine? In addition to the ever-present raccoon, mice and rats are common carriers of Leptospira and this includes the ubiquitous wood rats and citrus rats that populate most of Florida. The opossum, skunk, deer, cow and pig can carry other infectious strains of Leptospira bacteria. There is some question as to whether squirrels are also carriers for Leptospira.
If a dog contracts Leptospirosis, what happens next?
Unfortunately, the clinical symptoms of the disease are not very distinctive, making diagnosis trickier. The affected pet will usually be lethargic and have a poor appetite, sometimes showing signs of a fever. The majority of affected animals will have some vomiting and about a third will have diarrhea and weight loss. None of this is terribly specific and it sounds like many other illnesses. Routine lab tests may show significant abnormalities in the urinalysis, as well as the kidney and liver values. None of these are terrifically specific either, but it does start to help narrow the diagnosis list. At this stage, the veterinarian is likely looking to test for Leptospirosis. The older Lepto test can take up to a week and won’t catch every patient. A newer type of test, an Elisa test, can be run right in the hospital in under 30 minutes. It’s still not perfect, but it will detect many patients right away. A patient with these symptoms is likely already on intravenous fluids and medication to help with the vomiting and discomfort. A diagnosis of Leptospirosis indicates a need for very specific antibiotics as not all antibiotics will do the trick. If IV fluid support and the appropriate antibiotics are started in a timely manner, the prognosis is good and most patients (80-plus percent) will recover. If it takes longer to diagnose due to the vague symptoms or a delay in seeking medical care, the dog may suffer kidney failure, but many can still be saved with dialysis.
Did I mention that you can catch Leptospirosis too? Yes, it is actually one of the most common infectious diseases in humans worldwide. Thankfully, it is not common in humans in the U.S., at least outside of Hawaii. The odds of catching it directly from your dog are pretty slim, but if your dog has been diagnosed with Leptospirosis, your vet will give you detailed instructions on methods to protect yourself and family. You are far more likely to catch it from swimming in rivers, streams or walking through swampy water. In 2005, 44 out of 192 adventure racers in Tampa (23% of the participants) caught Leptospirosis from running through swampy water. There was an earlier outbreak in Illinois in Triathlon runners. Dogs can contract it directly from contaminated water as well.
Given the large population of potential wildlife carriers and the difficulty in diagnosing the disease early, prevention is a more prudent approach in the areas where Leptospirosis is a risk. The older vaccines (1970’s and 80’s) carried a higher risk of vaccine reaction and only covered two strains. Because of this, they had fallen out of favor in that era and were used only in the higher risk rural areas. Leptospirosis was labeled a non-core vaccine to use only for “at risk” populations. But the definition of which dogs are at risk seems to have shifted significantly in the last decade or two. The rural outdoor large breed dog that was the poster child for Leptospirosis in 1985 is now a fluffy suburban or urban Shih Tzu or Cocker Spaniel. We currently have Leptospirosis vaccines that protect for four strains. They have a much lower risk of vaccine reaction than the older vaccines – and are more highly purified as vaccine manufacturing technology has evolved over the last 30 years. Some internists believe that even though our current vaccines only cover four of the Leptospira serovars, there may be cross-reactivity and some protection from the other infective strains as well. Leptospirosis is very uncommon in vaccinated dogs, regardless of the strain or serovar of Leptospira bacteria involved. It is a series of two doses given 3-4 weeks apart and then yearly boosters.
If your pet tends to be sensitive to vaccines and you’re worried they may react, have this administered separate from any other injectable vaccines. The more vaccines given in one day, the higher the risk of a vaccine reaction, regardless of which specific vaccinations are given.
Given the changes in Leptopsirosis over the last few decades, from the shifts in which strains are causing disease and the populations of dogs being affected, it is time to rethink our approach to managing this dangerous disease. The vaccines are more protective and less reactive than ever before and our suburban house dogs are at a higher risk than we believed possible even twenty years ago. If your dog is not already protected from Leptospirosis, it may be time for a conversation with your veterinarian about the risk factors in your specific area and whether vaccination is appropriate for your beloved dogs. I can assure you that mine are vaccinated against this potentially deadly disease. Raccoons, opossums and citrus rats are rampant in my suburban neighborhood and the risk of potential exposure is real. And all too scary to ignore.