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A very long goodbye.

 

Monday June 27th, 2016 will be forever engraved in my mind. You see, I lost many dogs before, some from long illnesses, some on the spur of the moment kind of thing, but I never before scheduled an euthanasia for a specific day and time.

After she was gone, I realized than more than any of my other dogs, she was my heart dog. I always joke around – kind 0f… – saying that pups should come with a label: “they will fill you life with joy but one day will break your heart.” I am just not sure how many times a heart can be broken.

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Lola it was ten years of my life. Lola it was a very hectic beginning when she was a pup, and had no manners. I always crated my dogs, except Pouch (don’t even ask about the name, please!), my Golden retriever who was claustrophobic, but crating Lola, was like crating Niagara Falls. So, yes, Lola and I had a very rocky start. I never had a lab pup before. Had rescued labs and other breeds but never a lab pup, and Gosh she was handful. I even fired a trainer who told me my dog was hopeless and had ADD. She was four months old for God sake! But I did fired her (not Lola, the trainer!), and it felt good because she hated Lola, and I could feel it with every pore of my skin.

IMG_1269Lola, it was all about making me happy and proud of herself. She mastered in no time the sit, stay position, and was always looking at me with her big eyes like “I want to make you happy and proud of me….” And she did. She was the only dog I could always trust without a leash, and no,  I would never ever have said to anyone coming with another dog “My dog is nice and just wants to play!” because she never ever did anything I did not agree to. I was in control all the time, leashed or unleashed. She loved the water like no any other dog. When she was a few months old, her mission in life was to retrieve every leaf from the C&O Canal, and it was Fall time, so the mission was a hard one. No matter how much she loved the water, if I said no, she never ever went without my approval.  Lola, I just had to look at her, and she knew without a word. She knew. If we were going to go for a ride, or to sneak out just the two of us, she always knew.lola

STA70852She was my heart dog, and she had to die for me to realize it.

The pools I built them thinking about her. I thought she was going to have a blast until she dropped dead…. but she dropped dead two months after I opened the pools, and that sure was not in the plan.

She had cancer, kind of a bi-polar cancer… so one day, I was all smile, and the next day, I was all tears. The three weeks after she was diagnosed with cancer – I can’t tell you which one, because I never knew – the only thing I knew was that it was a freaking roller coaster cancer. One day, she was going to be okay if we remove a lobe of her lungs, the next day she had cancer in her liver and spleen. The next day, it would be okay if she had lymphoma and everything will go away with chemo (I knew it was true because I have my sweet Maia fighting lymphoma right now) and then it was not lymphoma.

IMG_2984She faded so fast, and I just could not stand the idea of her being in pain. Yes, my philosophy is that it’s better to let them go a week too early than 5 minutes too late. Easy to say, but I owed her that part. We might not do it with humans but I will do it with my dogs any day because that’s how much I love them and respect them. I will deal with myself later. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I am doing right now. Dealing with myself. I had to get that post out of my system. My brain won’t be able to think about anything else until I write about my long goodbye.

That morning, she was next to me in my bed, looking at me with her big eyes when I woke up, and immediately I knew why I was so sad. Today was the day where I was going to lose her. She did not know that, and dogs are not afraid of death. I was just alone with my dog’s death, no matter the crowd, no matter anything. It was between her and me.

Monday is my day off, so I tried to do my errands as I always do. It was a hot day. And I just arrived at Target, and then stopped and thought “what am I doing here when my dog is going to be dead in 8 hours?” So, I left, I rushed back to her, and I found her in my office with tired eyes.IMG_3176

I spent a lot of time lying on the floor with her that day. I wanted to remember forever the softness of her ears. Even with closed eyes, I could recognize her just by touching her ears. I talked to her a lot that day. She listened. I did not cry. Crying would be for later, like now. I reminded her of our crazy nights. Lola was tennis balls obsessed and some times, in the middle of the night, she was waking me up with her ball in her mouth and looking at me like “can we go play?”, and yes sometimes we did. With a flash light and the moon as a witness we played ball in the backyard.  Lola= tennis balls + swimming.

She was too tired to play on June 27th but she put that tennis ball under her chin like she wanted to keep it forever.

June 27th was a very long day and so short at the same time. I was looking at the clock which sometimes was like rushing through the hours, and sometimes slowing down and making the time stay still.

When 6:30 pm came, my daughters were there. My vet arrived. Gosh, she loved my vet. He told me later than Lola’s eyes when she saw him was a moment he will remember for the rest of his life.

She left…. And it’s at that time that I realized the immensity of my loss. I will not dare removing the nose art on my truck window.  She came back in a box, and the only place which made sense was in my bedroom, on my dresser, because even if I am asleep, that’s where I spent the most time in the house these days. And yes, every morning, when I wake up, it takes me a few seconds to realize why I am so sad: I had just lost my heart dog: LOLA.

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Open letter to my “mutts”.

 

Dear Mutts:

I know, I know, you are not mutts but splendid Labrador Retrievers with the best pedigree ever. I remember the first time I took you to our new vet. You must have been around 3 months old, and I told him: “Meet my mutts!” He looked at me, puzzled, and managed to say: “They are not pure Labs?” You were all protesting with tails up in the air! But you are my mutts? No offense there! I am a mutt too with some French, Scandinavian, and Italian blood.

 

Letter to George

I know, before you were born, I was ready to change the face of this Earth with your birth, imagining your new families, and how they would be amazed by each of you. I had them lined up at that time. That was before you were born! And the miracle happened, and I just got crazy with my camera. Yes, George, if you listen to me from the other side of the rainbow, I did make some mistakes. Not my fault if Zoe was coming so fast after you, and I thought Lola was lost in the process, and yes I did cut your umbilical cord which made my poor Lola not understanding something. She knew she had to do something that she did not do. Okay, George you did win! I paid for it it every minute of every day when I decided to sit down! You never allowed me a second without you on my lap. Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa! You were my first born! There was a reason; we nicknamed you “Big Mouth”. And now that you are gone, I miss “my 80lbs lap dog” that you were so much.

 

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We were so careful not giving you names but just funny nicknames going with your personality! The second one was Zoe, aka Blondie! She still has some blonde moments now and then, meaning 24/7! But Zoe even though sometimes I wonder if Lola did not have a thing with the postman’s dog, you are the cutest one! And you do watch TV!

 

You don’t remember it Mutts, but we waited a long time, Deborah, Jessica, and I for the entrance into this world of his Majesty Jackson, nicknamed “Boubou!” Sophie, my reddish girl did not wait a second to go on Lola’s teats, and of course she became “Ms. Piggy”. Max I owe you an apology too! If we had not known that day that there were 5 of you, I would have gone to bed by then, but instead I fell asleep on the floor, and Jessica was the only one to witness the arrival of “Baby” into the world! It took you two hours darn Max to grace us with your presence.

 

I don’t know if you remember Mutts but the first month was a dream, besides cutting your nails! Gosh you were worse than cats! But after a month, Lola decided it was time for me to help, and I thought “Gosh I better enjoy them, they will be gone in 4 more weeks.” No, I am not saying it was wishful thinking! I loved you before you even opened your eyes! I knew it was going to be hard to let you go, at least four of you were almost taken, almost…. Until everyone, one after the other decided it was not the best time to have one of you! I did try to find you new homes, I did! I built that website, put ads at our vet, but I rescued dogs before, and the one who will stay forever the dog of my life, Zeus. And I could not let you go without being 100 % sure that you would not end up like Zeus did, changing owners every year until I came into the picture. Mutts, you also have to realize that Spring 2009 could have been named “Morons Spring”. I got them all…. The moron who wanted two of you boys after losing his three labs one winter after pouring anti-freeze into their kiddie pool, the one who wanted Miss Piggy so bad because she was tired of intelligent dogs…. What do you say to that? Wanna tell me? I was going to forget the hunter who wanted Sophie too. Sophie was very popular, and still is! But what could I have said after he told me it would have been his second lab, he discarded the first one because she was too old to work…. Yeah, right. And I was almost going to forget the one who wanted to get a yellow lab to give as a gift to our daughter going to college? Were you on crack lady?

 

STA72370 - CopyEngraved forever in my mind is the way you were glued to each other in your playpen when someone was coming to see you. It was like you knew that there was a risk someone was going to take one of you away, and you had that funny way of backing out up the end of the playpen and being like a huge ball of fur with 10 scared eyes, and no happy tails! You broke my heart that day…..

 

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One more time though, I had someone for Sophie, a nice lady who had just lost her dog, and wanted Ms. Piggy again, and I said yes… until the next day where I called her back to say no. I couldn’t let go my smart ass Sophie, half monkey, half lab. Do you remember Sophie when you were back in your playpen, and I was turning my back 2 minutes and you had already climbed over the fence? Smart ass you were, smart ass you are! I swear I can almost hear your brain work! The day I decided that no one was leaving was just a regular day. No special recollection of it except that phone call. That lady who barked at me without even introducing herself “what are the colors of your females?”, and it takes a smart ass to know one Sophie, my answer was: “I have one with blue and green polka dots, and the other one has orange and purple ones. Any color you are interested in?” She hung up on me. No big surprise there!

 

Mutts, the worst thing we had to do when it was clear that you were going to be forever ours, was to pick up names. I am so picky about names, and usually one takes me a long time, five, are you kidding me? Fortunately Jessica was around and helped a lot, and that’s how that Jackson, George, Max, Sophie and Zoe became our mutts….

 

Some could say that with the pedigree they have between FC Honor who is the most amazing living being, and Lola, my born to retrieve girl, I wasted them. Do I feel guilty that they did not become champions or working dogs hunting in the fields? No, I am not guilty your Honor! How many mutts have the opportunity to stay together, and live together ever after? They stick together, they sleep together, they play together, and Lola the Mom was still in charge until almost the end. Already a month that your Mom is gone, and we still haven’t totally bounced by from her death, but we will, right mutts? Yes, Jackson you are a bit too quiet, and Max you are a little bit too loud when I leave in the morning while Sophie always try to help me (she is such a good helper!)  grabs you by your neck to make you stay inside when I go.

 

This letter is to tell you Mutts that even though sometimes I can get upset with one of you or all of you on a very bad day, but seven years later,  I am like in the Edith Piaf song: “Je ne regrette rien.” Case closed.

Dominique the Labrador Addict

 

 

 

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How Your Dog May Be Impacted by Osteochondritis Dissecans – and Ways to Address It

In canines, OCD doesn’t usually stand for “obsessive-compulsive disorder.” OCD is the term used for osteochondritis dissecans, a cartilage condition affecting the joints. Cartilage protects the joints, and if it is damaged, there’s pain. OCD may appear in the shoulder or elbow of the front legs or the knee or hock of the rear limbs. While it requires surgical correction, there are numerous therapies that can help your dog get back to normal after his operation. Hydrotherapy is exceptionally effective for dogs with OCD.

Dogs at Risk

Although any dog might develop OCD, it’s far more common in large breeds, with males more often affected than females. Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 6 and 12 months, a rapid growth period. Vulnerable breeds include:

  • Border collie
  • English setter
  • German shepherd
  • Golden retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Labrador retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Old English sheepdog
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard.

Normally, a young dog’s skeleton forms cartilage at the end of his long bones. In dogs with OCD, the bones don’t harden sufficiently and the cartilage doesn’t develop properly. Bits of cartilage – the so-called “joint mice” – break off, causing arthritic issues in young dogs. Inflammation is present, and the damaged cartilage or the joint mice rub painfully against the joint.

OCD Symptoms

At a time of life when most dogs can’t keep still, these poor pups have trouble walking. Lameness is the most obvious sign of OCD, and it may come on suddenly or gradually. Sometimes the lameness isn’t apparent until after exercise. The joint may swell, and the dog can’t bear weight on the leg. The dog will react if you touch the joint – it hurts.

If untreated, the dog’s muscles start wasting because of the constant pain and lameness.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your vet diagnoses OCD based on X-rays, along with CAT scans and/or MRIs. She’ll take a fluid sample from the joint for testing to make sure an infection isn’t causing the symptoms. While rest may do the trick in some cases, the majority of dogs require surgical removal of the damaged cartilage and the joint mice.

Post-op Therapy

After your dog’s surgery, his activities are seriously restricted for up to six weeks. While he can’t run loose in the yard or go for walks on hard surfaces, he will require therapy during this period to help him recover. He’ll benefit from visits to a veterinary physiotherapist, who will show you how to perform some basic manual joint exercises on your pet. Your vet will recommend a glucosamine supplement to help with cartilage support.

Hydrotherapy

Swimming is one of the best therapies for dogs with OCD. These are young, energetic animals, and they want to move. In the pool, they aren’t restricted. Regular swimming helps build their muscles and allows them a wide range of joint movement. Since a dog doesn’t have to bear weight during his hydrotherapy sessions, he can move quite freely. The warm water reduces his joint pain and increases circulation to his soft tissues, alleviating stiffness. He’s also having a great time.

If you are in Maryland or Virginia and are considering hydrotherapy as a rehabilitation option, feel free to contact us!

Prognosis

Your dog’s recovery depends on various factors, including the OCD location. The Merck Veterinary Manual states, “Prognosis for recovery is excellent for the shoulders, good for the stifle [knee] joint, and fair for the elbow and tarsal joints.” Therapy plays a large part in the dog’s overall recuperation. OCD often leads to early-onset arthritis. Regular hydrotherapy sessions, along with a healthy diet and appropriate supplements, help keep these symptoms at bay.  

 

References

http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/osteochondritis-dissecans-or-ocd-in-dogs/1045

http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/musculoskeletal_system/arthropathies_and_related_disorders_in_small_animals/osteochondrosis_in_small_animals.html

http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/musculoskeletal/c_dg_osteochondrosis

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Social skills for Man’s Best Friends and their Humans!

 

 

 

 

 

Not long ago, I entered an already quite crowded elevator: a guy with a Saint Bernard and a young woman who just obviously just coming back from the gym. I love dogs. Any kind: the mutts, the purebred, the senior ones, the crippled ones. I love them all. I can’t say the same for their humans though!

 

The Saint Bernard was sniffing the young woman’s crotch, and she was clearly very uncomfortable. The owner of the dog was smiling instead of pulling his dog away; that’s the kind of moment where I have to control my temper! Fortunately, the young woman got off the elevator fast, maybe on purpose. In my book, it’s called bullying.

I know, everyone, starting with myself, believes that their dogs are the cutest ones on this earth, and seriously, they are. But it doesn’t mean that everyone is seeing them with my or your eyes.

Some people are afraid of dogs, some are just “not dog people”, and some don’t want to be littered with dog’s hair. I never “force” my dogs on anyone! If one of them gets inappropriate with someone, I pull back on the leash, and I apologize, because yes – breaking news! – I am not perfect! And my crew is not either! I walk Maia and Max, two of my labs, by a lake. And every time I see a specific lady coming, I make the dogs sit to give her some space. That is after one day, she screamed bloody hell at me because one of my dogs was too close to her that she liked it. One day, out of the blue, she thanked me for keeping my labs at large, and I replied you know “No sweat, I got it that not everyone likes dogs!” She then told me that she did not like them or dislike them but in her country, cats were the only pets, dogs were food. And trying to convince me, she asked me “How would you feel if you were in a country where people walk with their pigs for instance?” My reply was that most likely I would go to pet the pigs, but that’s just me! But I have to say that now, each time, I see her when I walk the dogs, I feel like she is looking at them like she is seeing two dog roasts with parsley in their nostrils!

 

 

What is unfair is that PEOPLE WILL RESENT THE DOGS instead of resenting their humans! I know it’s something I said and said over and over, but there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.

There is a leash law in this country, if my memory is good, and there is a reason for that. If I hear one more time from an owner with an unleashed dog coming straight at me and my restrained ones: “He is sweet, je just wants to play” I am going to scream out of frustration!

 

I am not trying to preach, I am just trying to make some people realize that you have to respect another dog’s or another person’s boundaries.

A French philosopher said one time: “Your freedom stops where mine starts.” Maybe we should conjugate this at every tense! There are many places where you can have your dog run free: your backyard, dogs parks, dogs beaches. Dogs are amazing beings and they should never ever be seen as a nuisance. It’s too unfair to them!

 

A GREAT PUP IS A WELL BEHAVED ONE!

Don’t be lenient with your dog. A well trained dog is a happy one. They are like kids: they need to know the limits. An out of control dog becomes a nuisance.

Some time ago, one of my labs, Zoe, had knee surgery, and as part of her rehab, we had to talk walks, a bit longer every day. We were quietly walking in my neighborhood, when I saw some hundred feet away an unleashed Golden retriever with his Human. I nicely asked the guy to put his dog back on a leash. His reply was: “My dog is friendly. He just wants to play! And I don’t have a leash anyway!”

My answer was: “My dog just had surgery. She can’t play!”

He tried to grab his dog’s collar, lost control, fell down while his 100lbs. dog lunged at me and Zoe. Zoe was shaking with fear, and even peed on herself. The dog sensed it, and started to become aggressive. I would never have thought that I would ever meet an aggressive Golden! I literally had to kick the dog away until his owner finally made it! His first question was: “What’s wrong with you?”

 

 

Then, he got on his knees and started “consoling” his dog, telling him I did not mean to kick him, that he was a good boy, that he loved him…. Seriously? It did not happen once, but several times. And I just stopped walking Zoe there. I never managed to get into the owner’s brain. Too thick? No clue. He just doesn’t get that his out of control dog is a nuisance, and can also get hurt if he gets into traffic running after a squirrel, deer or something else. Yes, the dog is cute, but that’s besides the point. Not everyone want to have in their face a 100lbs. rambunctious dog!

 

DOG’S ETIQUETTE!

Be in control of your dog at all time for his or her own safety!

 

 

 

If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon on the leash or collar: stay away. It means that the dog needs his or her space for whatever reasons.

 

 

Remember that there is no balance if one dog is on a leash and yours is unleashed. The leashed one can feel cornered.

When you are going to meet another dog, ask if it’s okay for them to smell each other’s butts. Hey that’s what dogs do!

Be the parent of your dog, not his best buddy!

 

PEOPLE’S ETIQUETTE

Teach your children not to run to pet an unknown dog: what is true for the dogs is also true for the children! I always cringe when I see small children running and screaming toward dogs. The sweetest dog could be spooked by a child going straight at him or her.

Always ask permission to pet a dog.

Approach your hands slowly to allow the dog to smell them.

If the dog backs out, don’t force it.

Follow the directions of the owner. Some like I do will make their dogs sit in order for you not to have muddy paws all over you!

Good manners will always take you a long way no matter if you are a two or a four-legged one!

 

 

How Dog Rehabilitation Changes Depending on the Breed

Canine rehabilitation is not one-size-fits-all. Various breeds have singular gait patterns, and that may affect the choice of rehabilitation therapies. Some breeds are prone to specific disorders, and the onset may be delayed or minimized by proactive physiotherapy exercises. Your dog’s veterinarian and physical therapist will design a program based on your dog’s size, breed, and individual characteristics.

Brachycephalic Breeds

Brachycephalic – or short-nosed – canines have stenotic nares, the formal term for small nasal openings. That means they must work much harder than dogs with normal nasal passages to receive enough air during exercise. Many of these dogs – including the English bulldog – can’t swim, and will simply sink if placed in a pool. However, they can walk on the underwater treadmill for exercise and rehabilitation.

Other brachycephalic breeds include:

  • Boston terrier
  • Boxer
  • French bull-dog
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Shih Tzu

German Shepherds and Degenerative Myelopathy

Approximately 17 percent of German shepherds and German shepherd mixes will develop degenerative myelopathy. Other large breeds – including the Bernese mountain dog and Kuvasz – are also susceptible to this devastating spinal cord disease, similar to multiple sclerosis in humans. Although there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy, dogs receiving intensive daily physiotherapy – including a hydrotherapy session each week – survived an average of 8.3 months longer than animals receiving only moderate physiotherapy or no therapy, according to a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

The intensive therapy included:

  • 5 -10 minutes of active exercise five times daily – primarily low walking
  • 3 times daily for 10 minutes each of passive exercise, including joint flexion and extension
  • Massage 3 times daily
  • Hydrotherapy at least once a week, for 5 to 20 minutes.

Dachshunds and Intervertebral Disc Disease

Intervertebral disc disease is common in dachshunds and other long-backed breeds with short legs. Roughly 18 percent of “wiener dogs” will eventually suffer from IVDD, which occurs when a disc ruptures or herniation occurs, often resulting in hind end paralysis. Affected dogs require surgery to relieve spinal cord pressure. After recuperation from surgery, hydrotherapy is recommended to help the dog increase strength. Other rehabilitation methods used for dogs with IVDD include acupuncture, massage and laser therapy. Some dogs will regain the ability to walk, while others regain mobility via the use of a wheelchair.  

Golden and Labrador Retrievers and Hip Dysplasia

While hip dysplasia can occur in any dog, it’s particularly common in golden and Labrador retrievers and other large breeds. It appears to have a genetic basis. The hip joint doesn’t develop normally, and the initial signs might show up in puppyhood. However, it’s more common for symptoms to become obvious in middle-aged dogs. Hip dysplasia also affects:

  • German shepherds
  • Great Danes
  • Rottweilers
  • Saint Bernards.

The malformed hip leads to early osteoarthritis, which can completely cripple a dog. Signs of hip dysplasia include:

  • gait changes
  • trouble rising from a prone position
  • stiffness
  • exercise intolerance.

When caught early, your vet can surgically correct the malformation. When diagnosed in later years, a total hip replacement is an option. However, many dog owners prefer less invasive alternatives. Weight management is crucial, as extra weight stresses the hip. Your vet will tailor an exercise program for your dog, and that will likely include hydrotherapy. This therapeutic mode allows the dog to build muscle while walking on the treadmill, while the warmth of the water soothes the joint.  

References

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1939-1676.2006.tb01807.x/abstract

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1939-1676.2006.tb01807.x/epdf

http://www.health-for-dogs.com/articles/hydrotherapy-precautions

http://www.lbah.com/word/canine/disk-disease-ivd/

http://www.caninejournal.com/canine-hip-dysplasia/

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Today is a good day to cry….

I had a rough year, I mean, you really have to try hard to beat me on that one, and I am not into competition, believe me, especially not when it concerns my kids, four and two-legged ones.

Last year, I learned that Maia, my then 9 year old black lab, had Lymphoma, and had a month to live if I chose not to do anything. So, Maia and I chose to fight cancer. I almost lost her last July, when her temperature sky rocketed to 105.5 due to an allergy to antibiotics, but then she bounced back, and with the right oncologist, we made it through the six months – six long months – of chemotherapy. She is now in her 10th month of remission, but I don’t brag about it. I am so afraid to jinx it. I bought months ago a pink rubber bracelet from The National Canine Cancer Foundation and I never take it off. I am not superstitious, and I do walk under ladders, but I guess when it comes to my dogs, I am superstitious.

After Maia, came Jackson who suddenly was diagnosed with heart disease at 7 years old, and is currently doing well. Crossing fingers, toes, paws and whatever is available to cross.

Then Sammie, my little one, my fierce big dog trapped in a small body lost his fight to heart disease. You see you pick your poison: you have heart disease so you take meds which are going to screw up your kidneys. He died of kidney failure a month ago. 14 years with that little devil, and suddenly, despite of six other dogs, the house feels quiet and empty.

And then came Lola. Lola just turned 10 on May 28th, and we celebrated her birthday with roasted chickens. Have you ever met a dog who did not like roasted chickens? Me neither.

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Lola, it’s a long story. I got her when she was 6 weeks old, and she drove me freaking crazy. It was not her fault. She was taken away from her Mom far too early, and had no skills, like she was on my lap, and suddenly she was peeing on me. Yeah, seriously!

But we grew up together in many ways even though I think she really considered my daughter, Jessica, like her Mom. Jessica was with me when we picked her up, and she has a special relationship with Jessica. We went together to visit Jessica in college when she chose to go to Delaware…. Lola was and still is my best buddy, the girlfriend who is always there for you. She is also my crazy girl who must have been a fish in another life.

When she was three months old, her mission in life was to retrieve every leaf from the canal when she went swimming. That was my girl. Gosh, that dog loves to swim. So, when I decided to build a swimming pool for dogs (because swimming is the best thing you can do for your dog at any stage of his/her life), I was smiling…. I thought Lola was not going to believe it that she could go swimming every day of her life if she wanted to. And the pools opened, and Lola went swimming. She is a strong swimmer and can swim non stop for a good 20 minutes. I always joked that she would drop dead before stopping…. I guess this is a lab thing….. until yesterday.

 

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Yesterday I took her to the pool, and after 5 minutes, she just stopped, bumper still in her mouth, but trying to get her breathing back. Yesterday, I knew right away, that something was off. Last night, I spent my time on the computer googling…. lung cancer in dogs. This morning, I went to my vet, asking for the whole nine yards for Lola, because I don’t think I have ever been an ostrich in my previous lives, and I wanted to know. I knew it was bad. Walking her in the morning with her daughter Sophie, for the last few weeks, she was panting right away, and I attributed it to the heat, but…. this morning it was cool and she was still panting….

X-rays were done, and there is a mass in her lung, just one apparently…. Primary lung cancer is rare in dogs. Only 1% of dogs with cancer get that shit. Most of the time it’s secondary, meaning the cancer started somewhere else, and then spread to the lungs. It doesn’t seem to be the case, so maybe she is in the 1%. Her lymph nodes are nowhere to be seen. Call me paranoid but with Maia’s lymphoma, I check out my dogs all the time.

If it’s primary, there are options like removing the lobe, but it also means breaking her rib cage. Do you have any idea how it feels to break your rib cage? I am not sure I want to know.

I had an appointment for Maia for her regular remission check up this coming Monday with her oncologist, so I just called, and I will bring both girls this coming Wednesday instead and we will go from there.

Last time I felt that way was when we had to put our horse down. I will never ever have another horse, but it felt like being skinned alive…. That’s exactly how I feel right now. This is Lola we are talking about, my lovely, sweet girl, my tomboy during the day and love bug at night. It hurts so much than I can barely breathe. Today, I am giving today to myself to cry and cry. Tomorrow and the following days and weeks won’t be about me, but about her. But today I am selfish, and today is all about me and losing my best friend.  Tomorrow and the following weeks will be about fighting and doing the best for her, because she deserves the best. She deserves dignity. She deserves love, and she deserves respect. I love her to the moon and back and I will do what’s best for her. I can always deal with me later on. But today is the only break I am giving to myself and then, tomorrow we will start fighting.

 

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Hydrotherapy for Dogs: Why Pet Owners Turn to It at Increasing Rates

If your dog suffers a traumatic injury or his joints ache from age, you want to help them. Hydrotherapy, or water therapy, is increasingly becoming the option of choice for pet owners. Over the past several years, more veterinarians and owners have seen its benefits firsthand. Hydrotherapy helps pets recover from injuries and improves their quality of life.

Hydrotherapy isn’t limited to dogs recovering from surgeries or dealing with arthritis. It’s an excellent way to keep dogs fit. People whose dogs compete in athletic events turn to hydrotherapy to build their animal’s muscles to give them an extra edge.

 

Natural Healing

Educated consumers are looking for natural, organic, holistic products and services. A vet might prescribe medication for dogs with mild to moderate arthritis, but those drugs come with potential side effects – even the risk of death. Nothing is more natural than hydrotherapy, and its origins go back to the dawn of civilization. It’s safe and effective for dogs and their people. The only side effect is fun.

 

Postponing Surgery

In some cases, regular sessions of hydrotherapy can eliminate the need for surgery. For example, dogs who have not severely torn their cruciate ligaments – one of the most common canine injuries – may recover with hydrotherapy and medical management alone. A young dog who won’t use their leg while walking will in the hydrotherapy pool. Your vet will advise you whether this is a possibility for your pet. Cruciate ligament repair surgery is expensive, and many people simply can’t afford it. Hydrotherapy becomes an alternative offering a pet some relief.

 

Pre-Surgery

While most people think of canine hydrotherapy as rehabilitative and used post-surgery, it’s also helpful for dogs prior to their scheduled surgeries. If your dog can’t exercise normally because of the condition that warrants surgery, hydrotherapy can generally keep them fit. Maintaining a level of fitness prior to surgery usually means their recuperation goes more smoothly.

 

Proactive Therapy

It’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive, and hydrotherapy fills the bill. Regular sessions help your dog build muscles that ease joint pressure, which is a big plus as they get older. Dogs with strong muscle tone are less likely to develop arthritis until quite late in life, giving them years of strong mobility.

 

Weight Loss

If your dog has put on a few pounds, dietary adjustments and regular exercise are the best ways to get them back to a healthy weight. Hydrotherapy is one of the best ways to exercise an obese dog, since it is non-weight bearing. It’s easy to overdo exercise in out-of-shape, fat dogs if walking is the primary form. That’s not true of hydrotherapy, and it will get a dog in better condition so they can eventually join you on those long walks.

 

Cardiovascular Fitness

Many people practice cardio fit workouts religiously, for their overall cardiovascular health and general physique. Hydrotherapy offers a cardio fit workout for dogs, aiding recuperation or just maintaining good fitness. Regular hydrotherapy sessions improve cardiovascular fitness relatively rapidly.

 

Hydrotherapy Contraindications

For all its benefits, hydrotherapy is not suitable for every pet. If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease or any condition that affects their breathing, they aren’t a good hydrotherapy candidate. Your vet can answer any questions you have about your dog’s participation in hydrotherapy.

 

K9 Aquatic Center

K9 Aquatic Center offers rehabilitation, fitness and conditioning programs for dogs of all ages. Our team includes a rehabilitation specialist and a veterinarian. We are open every day of the week except Monday. For more information, contact us at 240-683-1100, or visit our website.

 

References

http://www.canine-hydrotherapy.org/

http://iheartdogs.com/thinking-about-hydrotherapy-for-your-dog-heres-what-you-need-to-know/

 

Black eye peas are over rated and a K9 swimming pool for 2016!

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I skipped the black eye peas this year. They are really over rated in my book. I was good last year and took a full teaspoon of those things first thing on January 1st, and it was probably one of the crappiest years in my life, so I like to live dangerously, and this year I just skipped the darn thing!

2016? I used to write my goals every January, hit the gym right away like at 6:00 am on January 1st. Yes they are open. I wonder if they ever close! These days,  the gym I belong to could also be called my favorite charity! (I wonder if it could be tax deductible!) I picked the mutts over the gym. You see with my pack, I need to walk them two per two meaning that I need to do a minimum of three walks a day, here goes the gym. Right there I have at least 4 miles before my day starts.

What do I want in 2016? First of all, I want my family and my friends (four and two-legged ones) to stay healthy. I want a gentle year for everyone even my worst enemies! I don’t have any enemies! I want my K9 swimming pool to open early this year. It took the pregnancy of an elephant to have my pool become reality, but for the time being, it’s still under work. Huge hole in the floor which still needs a lot of TLC, did I mention a lot of TLC, before I could have my happy swimmers in there!

I want Maia, my sweet girl, a nine year old Labrador retriever to stay in remission from Lymphoma. 15% of the dogs stay in remission like forever, so why not my girl? She is doing well right now. Ironically, on March 30th of last year, I was signing the lease for the K9 pool store. Just before signing the lease, I dropped off two of my dogs at my vet: Maia for what I thought was an ear infection, and Sophie for what I thought was a torn cruciate, thanks to the snow which never went away that winter. The time it took me to drop off Maia and go get Sophie from my truck, hell fell on my shoulder, or should I say this is the moment where the earth stayed still. In two minutes the world changed from a happy place to a nightmarish one when my vet told me very sure of himself that Maia had lymphoma, and without any chemotherapy, she would be dead by May. I left both of my girls there while I went to sign the lease with uncontrollable tears running down my cheeks. I would have signed my death sentence that minute. My mind was focused on my girl with her beautiful and sweet golden eyes.

2015 was a year where I fought for everything. First for Maia to live. It was a very rocky road with her. I thought I was going to lose her last July. 6 months of chemotherapy every week for 6 weeks, then a break of a week, and then another six weeks, I am sure you can see the picture. What I learned from these six months, the essential part is that you have to trust the oncologist, and have a good relationship with him or her. It was not the case, and I had to change oncologist in the middle of the treatment. You see, the oncologist knew how to give those drugs but she did not know my dog like I knew her. She discarded what I was saying about Maia being so sensitive, and just shutting down because she was nauseous and not feeling well. Instead of trusting my judgement, they decided not to see the horse in front of them and look for a zebra. They were convinced that Maia has some huge cancer somewhere else and wanted to do every kind of test on her. This is where I stayed STOP. They would have killed her with all those tests. I changed place and went to a new oncologist who was wise enough to know that every dog is different and that treatments have to be adjusted.  I will write a post on my experience with chemotherapy and my girl another time, but I just wanted to show how rocky the road had been. I have not even talked about two of my other labs (mom and daughter) who got the same knee surgery for the same injury in April, and I can’t forget my little guy, my Cairn terror like a girlfriend calls him, who is in the last phase of heart disease. So, yes 2015 freaking sucked and I am extremely happy to have let it go, and have welcome instead a brand new year where everything is possible. Like Trump would have said “2015 you are FIRED! And don’t ever try to come back! Capisce?”

I want 2016 to be a long quiet river for once and not Niagara Falls.

I want the K9 Aquatic Center to open smoothly and to be able to enjoy dogs having fun in the warm water.

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do when I grow up, and I finally did. My dogs did help me a lot in the process though.

All my dogs alive or over the rainbow gently guided me towards the idea of a pool for dogs. They all contributed in the idea.

From Zeus, my heart dog, who had arthritis in his knees and all kind of pains and aches with old age, and who was just rejuvenated each time he was having a swim in warm water, to Zoe who is so stressed out by life (please don’t even ask why!) that the only way she can shake off that stress and at the same time a few pounds is by swimming, to my various dogs who had knee surgeries or injuries where swimming in warm water is the best rehab,  I would have been to be totally dumb for not figuring out at the time, that it was what I was supposed to do.

So, I know that I already have many impatient dogs ‘parents who keep asking me “when is it going to open? When?” The answer is now more precise: We are shooting (crossing fingers and paws) at the end of February, March would be the latest.

So, while waiting for the pool to open, I have to take this opportunity to wish every dog and his or her human a gentle and exciting (the good way!) 2016!

Ready? Set. Swim!

 

Dominique

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Lyme disease and how to protect your dog

What you might not know about it.

I always say that I learn a lot from my dogs, but this is the one thing, I wish I never had to learn the hard way, because it just broke my heart.

yme disease sounds scary, but you know I thought that I protected my dogs the best ways possible. They had their Lyme vaccine every year, and then their heartworm test on a yearly basis as well as Frontline every month not to name it!

Three and half years ago, it was Labor Day weekend, and on Sunday, George, my 3 and half years old black lab was fine and goofing around as usual. The next morning when I woke up, his legs were so swollen, he could not walk. Sometimes you wonder how you do things that you thought you would not be able to do. I carried my 80lbs dog to my truck and we flew to the emergency.

Funny how I did not have a bad feeling about it. I thought he was going to be okay. My beautiful and sweet boy. George had always been glued to me. I could not sit anywhere without having him right away on my lap. I don’t think he ever knew he was a dog.

As soon as they drew some blood, the diagnosis came back: kidney failure due to most likely Lyme Nephritis. He tested highly positive for Lyme. I still thought that he was going to be okay. The vet knew but did not know how to tell me. Lyme Nephritis is a bitch. It’s a disease slowly destroying the kidneys without any precursor signs. It’s a little bit like the body is fighting the kidneys like it doesn’t know they are good guys. It started with a tick infected with Lyme, and for whatever reason instead of fighting Lyme, George’s body decided to go after his kidneys. He was at this emergency on Monday, then on Tuesday I took him to a Veterinary Referral Center in Leesburg.

During the ride, George decided that he did not want to be stuck in the back of the truck and jumped to come to his favorite spot: the passenger front seat. I thought it was a good sign, right? He still had his catheter and everything. When we arrived, he was not that great anymore and they had to get a stretcher. They were amazing over there. It was the Life Center in Leesburg. I went there at the recommendation of the emergency vet. If the internist I saw could do something, it was her. After talking to the internist, Dr. Miller, I left and was supposed to come back early afternoon.

When I came back that afternoon with my youngest daughter, the news were dire. His organs were shutting down, and it was a matter of hours. I could not let him die by himself, so we decided to put him to sleep. I still see him coming with all his IVs and his darn tail still wagging.

In a few minutes, my sweet boy was gone, and I was left empty handed with his collar. Three and half years later, I am still grieving my boy. He was only 3 and half years old, only 3 and half years old. How fair is that?

At that time, my vet had just retired and I had just changed to a new one. I still had George’s Mom, Lola, and his siblings: two sisters, Sophie (Sophie was attached by the hip with George, and it took her some time to recover from her loss. If anyone tells me that dogs don’t grieve, they know nothing about dogs!), Zoe, and then his two brothers, Max and Jackson as well as Maia’s, Lola’s girlfriend. Are you confused enough with my crew now?

I was grieving my boy, but I was SO angry, and I needed to understand. The first thing my new vet told me was “you must have mice where you live?”

“Excuse me?”

“Mice are the ones which infect ticks with Lyme disease?”

I always thought it was the deer. So, it was breaking news for me: deer carry ticks around like birds, squirrels, foxes, and all wild critters. They might carry more ticks than other animals, but THEY DO NOT GIVE LYME TO TICKS. For a tick to be infected with Lyme, at one stage of its life, it has to have been in contact with one of those “deer mice” or white footed mice. Did you know about it? I sure did not? When I started doing research online, then I did discover that it was true. My garage was infested with mice, my truck was infested with mice, and I did not know the threat it was for my dogs or me as a matter of fact.

I called DNR to ask them if they could mention on their website the white footed mice and the Lyme transmission. I never succeeded. I was fighting ignorance, and good luck fighting it! I went nowhere.

In one sentence: if WE COULD ERADICATE THE DEER MICE, LYME DISEASE WOULD DISAPPEAR LITTLE BY LITTLE.

THE FACTS:

  • LYME VACCINE: there is no real way to say that this vaccine is working. If you think about it, if the vaccine was effective for the dogs, don’t you think we would have one for us, humans? Breaking news: we don’t. It covers some strains of the Lyme disease but just a few. I stopped giving that vaccine to my crew after doing a lot of research online.
  • HEARTWORM TEST: even when it’s positive, many vets don’t do anything about it if the dog is not sick because it just meant that at one point, the dog had to fight the disease but if there is no sign, some vets won’t do a thing because so many dogs test positive.
  • FRONTLINE: If you read – the little notice on Frontline, it says that it can take up to 24 hours to be effective. Breaking news: a tick can infect a dog within 12 hours. There are now better products that Frontline. Not sure why so many vets still recommend the darn thing. It has been around forever. It’s comfortable I guess.  

WHAT I DO:

  • LYME VACCINE: out of the picture. My dogs don’t get that shot anymore.
  • HEARTWORM TEST: I still do it but I do not rely on it. Instead what I do is a urine test every six months. If there is any protein in the urine, then Houston we have a problem.
  • TICKS AND FLEAS REPELLENT: I now use K9 Advantix II which kills ticks within an hour or less. I use it EVERY MONTH no matter what the temperature is, because breaking news again: Ticks did not read the notice saying they have to die when it’s below freezing. You can find ticks these days any month of the year.
  • They have those new medications which are not as messy since your dog can swallow a pill instead of you having to apply it below his neck. They are not as effective, and furthermore, but it might just be me but that stuff is a pesticide. Do I want my dogs to swallow a pesticide? Nope!

 Last, unfortunately, Lyme Nephritis attacks mostly young dogs, and the two favorite breeds are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. No clue why. It just happens. So, if you do have a young retriever, just be careful, be aware that there might not be signs, and when they show, it could be too late. I am not saying that what I do is 100% effective, BUT the urine test every six months if you live in a tick infested area, is really the best thing you can do to be sure the kidneys are in good shape, and  with a great tick repellent, that’s probably the best you can do to protect your dog. And last, if you have mice where you live, GET RID OF THEM, and I mean it. Not with ultra sounds but with good all traps. I cannot see a mouse now without thinking of my boy.

georgenAs you know, I am not a vet, but I learned the hard way that vets don’t really share their knowledge (they don’t have time!) and you have to learn by yourself a lot of stuff. I just wish I did not have to do it the hard way by losing my 3 and half year old rambunctious boy, my George. If that blog can spare ONE life, I would be happy.

 

The Dog Who Never Barked

neverbarkIt started years ago. My daughter Jessica was 10, and she wanted to go see the puppies. Now, I am sure I would not even consider going to that place, but at that time, yes we did. Sue me! It was just a pet store which is still around even now, forbidden place for me since I don’t want to get mad, and I will, trust me on that one, seeing pups in small cages, pups coming from puppy mills and whose owner don’t give a damn about the dogs, there are just there for the dollars.

Anyway, at that time, it was just “to look”. We already had Douchka, our German shepherd, and I was not planning to have any other dogs.

We came in, and immediately were taken aback by the number of pups in glass cages, looking at you with those eyes. If I had been a millionaire, I would have taken everyone home with me, but I was not. Coming out of the brouhaha of that Saturday morning, a “sales person” was carrying back to his crate a Golden retriever puppy, commenting on his status “Everyone wanted to see him, but nobody wanted to take him home!” What do you want me to say? Yes, I did endorse that place by taking the pup. Between Jessica’s eyes, and the pups’ scared eyes, how could I not? He was 3 months old, coming from a puppy mill which closed down six months later, he went home with us.

It was the time of the Nano pet. Do you remember those? The only thing I remember from them was that they were forbidden in schools; therefore I had to take care of the Nano pet while I was at work, and otherwise the darn thing was going to die! Great technology, I am telling you!

The puppy from the puppy mill got a name, the one from the Nano thing! Pouch. Douchka was not crazy about him. He was just a puppy, and at that time, she had no patience for puppies. It changed later on in her life. Even my “au pair” girl did not like him. But Pouch was home for good. I never ever thought about getting rid of one of my furry kids. They are my furever kids no matter what.

I always crated our pups, but Pouch was not going to take it. Later on, we realized that Pouch was claustrophobic. He could not stand small spaces: crates or my truck, but it took us a while to figure it out. Pouch’s crate was our kitchen that he started to remodel to his tastes! Despite of all his chew toys, he decided that the best toys in the world were the moldings! Gosh, he loved to chew on it, no matter what. I put tabasco, hot pepper, nothing worked. I just had to be patient, and wait until he was done destroying the kitchen, and believe me or not, it happened

Pouch was our goofy boy. When he was a teenager, at one point, I heard some crunching noise, and could not figure out where it was coming from. I went to the dining room and saw our boy chewing Cognac glasses. Yes, they were clean, and I had just bought them, not because I like hard liquors but because the glasses were cool. Called my vet who told me to give him some bread. I did not have bread, so instead he got croissants, and everything went down smoothly. Good old Pouch. I will always remember those glasses!

Pouch was Jessica’s dog, the shadow of her shadow. He was the one who was there for her in good and bad times.

Pouch was stubborn, extremely stubborn! At one point, I took a trainer. The trainer gave up on him. He was pulling on his leash no matter what, and her answer was “he wants to be the leader, let him be!”. One day we took him to a field, and she told me: “You are going to see why he is called a retriever!”, and she threw a ball. Pouch stayed there, sitting down, and looked at us like “Am I supposed to do something with that thing?” Pouch did not retrieve! Pouch hated the water! I remember one time where we were walking along the canal, and he suddenly rolled on his back in the grass along the path, and I saw it coming: he just rolled into the canal, and yes, he almost drowned in 3 feet of water. I had to go to rescue him. That was our boy!

Pouch, as any Golden retriever, did not have one mean bone in his body. That’s just the way they are! One day, I was walking my bunch: Douchka, Pouch, Sammie (my little one), and Jet, my lab, and Pouch loved to be ahead of us. Suddenly I heard Sammie bark, a weird bark that I had never heard before. I rushed, and I saw Pouch sitting quietly with a groundhog hanging from his cheek. I had to kick the darn thing out, but my boy never moved. He was ok, but he was just sitting there, ignoring that beast which was hanging on his cheek. That was our boy!

He became kind of lost when Jessica went to college. She was coming back most of the weekends, but he lost his routine there. He loved to sleep in her room no matter what.

One morning I put all the dogs out, and Pouch was MIA. I called him. Nothing. I went to Jessica’s room. He was not there. I even looked under her bed, like if a 100 lbs. dog could squeeze there! I became frantic pretty soon. Did I forget to take him back inside the night before, and he escaped? What was I going to say to Jessica? I lost your dog….. I was just freaking out! I had gone through the whole house unsuccessfully. Suddenly I thought the only place I had not checked was Jessica’s bathroom. As soon as I opened the door, I saw him, sitting and kind of scared. Hey, he heard me screaming all over the bloody house, but he stayed there, still, not barking, quiet, waiting for the storm to pass.

I still remember that morning like if it were yesterday. Crying through my smiles, we had a very special walk that morning, the two of us. I remember the horses, the geese flying over us, and that quiet and serene walk. It was a beautiful morning, and I realized that day how much I was taking him for granted.

At the age of 12 and half, Pouch was diagnosed with Lymphocytic leukemia. He was a fighter, and with the help of chemotherapy, he stayed with us for almost two years. The leukemia did not kill him but he also had all sorts of tumors growing in his body. One day, he suddenly could not stand on his feet. His spirit was intact, but he had no more control of his legs. I guess a tumor was in control of his brain. I remember his eyes: he looked so lost. He was looking at me with hope. I was the “fixer”, and I did fixed him. We put him to sleep. Jessica and I were with him until the last minute and after. Until almost the end, he was eating his favorite treat: dried freeze liver.   His spirits were good. We let him go because it was the right thing to do. It doesn’t mean that it was easy or easier.

I never realized until he was gone how much of an impact he had on our lives. I know he is well. Sometimes I can feel his presence. Some mornings, I can see him lying in the sunrise on my bedroom floor. I know he is in a good place, but Gosh, I never realized before he left us how much I was going to miss that dog who never barked.