"The Peeing Post"
Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature
Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen
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Dear Dog Friend,
Happy Thanksgiving to all American subscribers. I just wonder, how come that Americans always are behind Canadians on this? Every year! J
I often get e-mails from people asking if it is OK if they share "The Peeing Post" with someone else...
The answers is always, "YES! You are very welcome!"
"The Peeing Post" is meant to be shared. When you get it, you may hit "Forward" as many times as you want, letting all your friends get it too. After a while, it would be prudent of them to get their own subscription instead of relying on your forwarding service, but that's between you and them. As far as I am concerned, you have permission to distribute "The Peeing Post" as far as you like. There are no secrets here. It is meant to be read by as many dog lovers as we can reach together. However, as happy as I am when you hit "Forward", as grumpy I will get if you copy/paste parts of my newsletter and post it in forums or private e-mails. I have had too many situations where my words get a completely different meaning when pulled out of their context, so it is all or nothing!
If you want to share an older issue, you can always find the URL from the overview of the back issues, and you more than welcome to pass on the URL for any of the back issues too.
Winterizing the domesticated wolf
Winter is coming - and with winter come also more challenges for dog owners. It is no longer quite as easy (and enjoyable) to take the dog out for the daily walks, and a lot of people cut corners here... I hope you are not one of them!
Have you seen one of those advertisements for treadmills for dogs? Sounds nice, right? With such a machine in your house, you would only need to let the dog out to pee and poop!?
I was approached by a manufacturer of one of those machines - he suggested I started making some money promoting it - he had a nice affiliate program that would give me good earnings, if I would advertise it in "The Peeing Post"! I had a hilarious laugh....
I am sorry for the sarcasm; he obviously did not know me very well. Let's return to reality. Those machines are a commercialization of a ridiculous disrespect for the dog's nature. The purpose of taking the dog out for walks is not to exercise it. And it is not to let it pee and poop. It is to give it a naturally required series of stimulations, in accordance with its instincts - plus an opportunity for you to spend some meaningful time with the dog, on a one-on-one basis. Yes, exercise can be part of it. And peeing/pooping can also be part of it. But the important aspect is neither of those. It is your relationship with your dog - and the dog's mental health. Dogs are genetically "constructed" with a need to roam their territory - and that need deserves respect. As the dog's nature in general does.
Well, I will not exclude that there could be special circumstances where a specific dog could have therapeutic benefits from such a machine - but a for a healthy dog, on a daily basis? NO! If someone is too lazy to walk his/her dog, then I suggest getting a hamster instead.
It is not the dog's fault that the Earth rotates. And it isn't the dog's fault either that not all modern pet dogs are as well equipped for the season, as the wolf is. But their instincts still require the same kind of activity as the wold needs.
Dogs do have a remarkable ability to keep warm by simply burning more fat from their body, though. So, the cold bothers them far less than us humans. There is generally no need to worry about that, except for dogs with an extremely thin coat - and for dogs whose coat soaks water like a sponge!
Most dogs are fine in the cold, as long as you can keep their bodies dry. Even small dogs with short coats. It is the wet weather, with temperatures close to the freezing point, that is the worst - because snow that is just below the freezing point will easily melt and wet the warm body parts that touch it. Water is a serious heat thief - by evaporating, it pulls more than five times as much heat away from the surface it evaporates from, as it takes to heat the same amount of water from ice to the boiling point! But, on top of that, water conducts heat phenomenally well! This means that the warm, wet body will let heat transfer through the water to the colder surroundings. The net effect can be very substantial, and also more than what even a dog's metabolism can handle well.
Be aware that many small dogs with a long silky coat have no under-wool; that nice-looking coat might be of very little value, in terms of protection.
So, keep those dogs with unnatural coats nice and dry until it gets cold enough that you can put the cover away again....
Another issue is salt. Many towns use salt on the roads to keep them safe for people to drive and walk on. Well, we pay the price in the form of rusting cars and destroyed leather shoes - but, for the dogs, it can be a serious problem with that constant paw bath in salt when out on a walk.
There are two solutions, in addition to driving out to a place where you can walk the dog, and no salting is used:
Teach the dog to wear small boots - and then use them! I know, it looks "not right", but it can be a very decent protection against the salt - and most dogs learn to tolerate those boots quite easily. This is for the situation where you hardly have anywhere to take your dog for a walk, where you do not run into salt...
If the salt is only a matter of a few minutes you have to get through, until you can get to places with no salt, then greasing the paws thoroughly with vaseline can be a nice solution. Vaseline will not last for hours, but it generally will protect the paws for 5-15 minutes. So, if you walk along the sidewalks (with salt) for 10 minutes, then have a great time in the park (no salt) for half an hour, and then return home, you will need to take the vaseline along and give the dog another dose of it before you leave the park and get out of the salty sidewalks again. Keep the vaseline in your pocket, though - if it is too cold, it does not go on well...
Now, if it is yourself being the culprit with this salting, then let me suggest a more effective alternative that harms neither the environment nor the dog: Urea (or Carbamide, as it is also called - its the same). Urea is as soluble in water as sugar, and it has the same effect on ice as salt: it melts the ice and snow it comes in contact with! But it is just far more effective than salt, as it will continue to do this at temperatures where the salt no longer works. Besides, urea is actually a great fertilizer for the plants you have along your driveway or at the side walk! The same certainly does not go for salt.... Yes, you also find Carbamide as a major ingredient in may skin ointments and skin care products! From this, you can also guess that it is doing far less harm to the dog's paws. Be careful about reading the ingredients of those products, though - because I will not give you any guarantee that there could not be a smart manufacturer out there, who would add other chemicals to such a product - and possibly make it more effective, in terms of melting snow and ice, but also outright harmful to paws....
Does your belief system support euthanasia?
The Encarta Dictionary defines euthanasia this way: "The act or practice of killing somebody who has an incurable illness or injury, or allowing or assisting that person to die". For animals, the act is better described as "painless killing in order to avoid or stop suffering".
I recently got e-mails from three different people, whose names I will not disclose, and they all led to a little correspondence, which I fear was not always really appreciated on the other end. But they shared a lot in common, and I feel the tropic is very relevant to discuss. In order to keep things simple, let's call the common denominator for these three people "Nancy" for now.
In all three cases, it started with a question about a rare disease; two of them I never heard of. Nancy needed help with the disease, having little or no faith in what her vet told her. From what I could tell, Nancy was right about her not being impressed with the vet - what she was told about this disease made only little sense - and there was no way it could be anywhere near to a reasonably accurate description of reality. In one case, I would simply call the vet's explanation for nonsense.
Nevertheless, I am not a vet, and I do not know much about diseases, other than we all are best off preventing them through a healthy living. Dogs included. The contribution I could make to Nancy's dealing with the disease was mostly in the form of questions that I thought deserved an answer - which I think was appreciated in all cases.
But the bad problem in this was that these dogs suffered from the diseases. And it got progressively worse. Every so often, Nancy had to take her dog to the vet to have a medical procedure of some kind performed, getting "bad stuff" removed that had accumulated over time, or having another "adjustment" made - and the time between those visits got shorter and shorter....
Now, this kind of thing always raises a red flag for me. How much pain is this dog going to endure? And when is it enough?
Fortunately/unfortunately, money was not the issue for Nancy. Whatever it would cost in vet bills, she would pay. She just wanted the best for the dog....
"We just take it one day at a time" or "We will see what comes", she said. In my interpretation, this means that she had not thought much about those questions I just asked, but she tried to avoid confronting herself with the unpleasant answers....
When I mentioned that she had to get her standards clear ahead of time, so she would know, by rational measurement and unbiased non-emotional observation, what the dog's quality of life was, in terms that make sense for a dog, not a human. It is my firm opinion that we, as responsible pet owners, cannot and must not allow ourselves to extend a life that has no value for the animal, just because we are too weak emotionally to make the decision of "calling the end". In all cases, Nancy responded that "her belief system does not support euthanasia", or "she does not believe in euthanasia", or "killing a pet animal is a morally unacceptable act"....
Each time, I orbited a couple of times, but was able to come back to Earth before I dished out a lecture which wasn't exactly what Nancy liked to hear.... Unfortunately, I meet this general "over-caring" attitude far too often to be pleased.
Yes, it is not "nice" to kill a living creature. That certainly includes pets, but what about chickens, pigs, cattle, "game" animals, fish? And what about bugs, worms, flies, mosquitoes? Where do you ethically draw the limit? Death is part of life, whether we like it or not. But if we try to escape dealing with it, we create pain and suffering way beyond what our original "noble" no-kill attitude can handle! Unless we are completely ignorant to reality....
Yes, death is a detriment to happiness, if we have an enjoyable life!
But, if we live a life in suffering, death is a release.
This goes for both animals and humans. But the difference is that humans have a much more sophisticated ability to make life enjoyable and possibly meaningful for themselves, because we can overcome so incredibly many handicaps that would make any animal extremely miserable. Some people do not get it, though - and there are even some who find personal pleasure in their own misery (it sometimes brings attention...). But that's another interesting discussion that belongs some other place...
However, the suffering of our pets when they are sick is most definitely something we need to be clear about! And this "ostrich attitude" of "not supporting euthanasia" is actually exactly the opposite of what people think. I am sure that Nancy is a loving and nice person, but when she refuses to accept euthanasia as a tool to end suffering and pain, then she will cause exactly what she tries to escape: suffering and pain for her dog! The only way this will not happen is if the dog gets killed quickly in an accident.
For people with only little money to spare on vet bills, this decision might be taken out of their hands by pure confrontation with financial reality. But for people who have the money, this can lead to a long and tough down-hill battle for an innocent animal, who would have been given a much shorter death in Nature. But now, because of medication and TLC, it can be kept alive under terms Mother Nature would never have accepted - and which might not at all be enjoyable for the animal. Just think also of all the poking and prodding and testing the pet has to endure! Is that enjoyable? No animal will understand that you are doing this because you love it. What the animal comprehends is that it is suffering, regardless of your positive intentions. What I am getting at here is that being treated for an illness or a disease is not counted on the positive side of the balance, as far as the animal is concerned. Doing that is a human perception that is linked to our understanding of the connection between the treatment and a better life. That connection does not exist for the animal, so pulling it through a lot of medical treatment is a detriment to its quality of life! It has no way of linking this to hope.
In my opinion, we have borrowed our pets from Nature, and we owe it to both nature and the pets that we make their lives enjoyable. If we can't do that, we must take the responsibility and make an end to that life. A pain-free, quick end that does not cause any suffering. That end is euthanasia, and, because we deal with animals, we are fortunate that we do not have a lot of laws and other people's moral values standing in the way. We can and must make that decision in our animal's best interest. If we can't do that, we do not deserve to have the animal. And please do not mix religion into this....!
If a pilot can't land the plane, he should not take it into the air... or: before you begin something, make sure you also know how to end it. When you give life to an animal, you also have to have a plan for how you will take responsibility for ending that life - because you do not have powers to make it continue forever!
No, we sure do not have any right to kill our animals - we have a serious moral obligation to do it, when the time comes where life no more is enjoyable for this animal that relies on our care. Not accepting this obligation is outright cruelty to the animal - and it should be criminal, as far as I am concerned. (Which it actually is in most countries - it is just not cost effective to prosecute the cases...)
This, of course, leads to the question, "What is an enjoyable life" for this dog?
That answer is not always easy to come to. And we may not all arrive at the exact same conclusions when it comes to the details. But that's OK. As long as we are serious about defining for ourselves what that answer must be, and are willing to take responsible action when it is called for. And we never know when this will happen, so there is no excuse for not being prepared now, before it is necessary.
How do we make such a tough decision?
It takes that we know the animal well. We must have a good idea of what it enjoys doing, and how it expresses its joy. That must be made subject to some kind of measurement.
Then we also need to compare this to the times when we can detect that the animal is not enjoying life. We must know how it shows pain and misery - and with dogs, we are unfortunate here, because they can handle a lot of pain and misery before they really want to show it... much more than people! But that does not mean that they are OK. It only means that we have to find that information through other channels. Watching the dog's body language is one way of getting such information, provided, of course, that you understand Dog Language fairly well. (If not, then check out K9joy's Christmas offer below - "The ABC's of Dog Language" is on sale..)
The most important one here is the animal's ability to enjoy the good times. Once we notice that it no longer wants to do things that it previously had a lot of fun from, we can bet our bottom dollar that this is a serious indication of pain and suffering, even though that pain and suffering does not get expressed explicitly! Besides, the mere absence of joyful activities is causing suffering, because the animal now no longer can get those fundamental needs satisfied that lie behind the instincts that no longer get used.
The important thing to understand here is that dogs are not genetically programmed to have their needs change when they get older. They do not naturally "settle" and become less active. The only reason that they become less active is that the activity has begun to trouble them!
The wolf has no retirement plan. Retirement is death. Our dogs are no different. If they appear to be, it is because they have problems that cause them to suffer. Not because their reduced activity in any way whatsoever is "natural" - because it is not.
My prime example is my old Bettemuir. When she passed over the age of 17, she became deaf, and her vision was not worth writing home about either. It came to a point where it plain simply was dangerous for her and me to let her to do those searches in the woods she loved! She had spent her entire life as a SAR dog, and she knew nothing better than being allowed to follow a track or do an area search. But I couldn't let her anymore - she could not see my hand signals, she could not hear my commands, and she could not watch her own steps in the woods! Although she was quick to learn the meaning of our new touch signals, those were ineffective when she was working even at short distances.
At this point, I was ready to make the end happen - although she did not appear to be in specific pain. But life was not fun anymore - she was bored and not at all her happy self....
This was the time where I had to seriously consider, "How can I make her enjoy life?" The answer was quite simple actually. I just had to read my own book to get it! "BrainWork for Smart Dogs" has the answers, and, as it so often has happened to me, I just had to listen to those lessons I had given numerous times to my students....
One of the very enjoyable results got captured on a little photo series I have referred to before, but if you haven't seen it yet, you can enjoy it here. The point is this: By starting her on getting another stimulation of those hunting instincts, I was able to get that "yippee!" look in her eyes back - and that "saved her life". You can see on the pictures that I am not kidding.
But then, almost 2 years later came the crucial illness I could not do anything about: her pancreas started to quit, and she got pain. Stomach ache. How I knew? Only because she now sometimes refused to play the BrainWork games I taught her - and the times she spent on having fun went steadily down. She sometimes refused even the foods I know she used to love. And then I noticed that the tail was hanging too much, too often, for too long periods at a time. She was a tough little dog and could take a lot, so when she was showing she was hurting, it was serious.
Our vet was 6 hours drive away... But we went there and had an exam - and a long discussion of the odds. The outlook wasn't too good, but he suggested that we try some medication that should stimulate the pancreas to do better, and - if it did not work well enough - then prepare for the end. But I could not accept letting the dog live in pain for 1-2 weeks until we found out if that new medication would work or not.
I knew the painkiller would destroy the kidneys in 3-6 months. I also knew that she was losing weight - and that alone would make an end in about 5-6 months. And the painkillers would lose their effect in a matter of 6-8 weeks, no matter what. So, unless this new medication would work in 1 week, maximum 2 weeks, we would kill her with the painkiller.
This was the time to now make a very careful calculation of the balance between suffering and enjoyment!
So we made an appointment to see the vet again about 3 weeks ahead. At that time, we would know for sure if the medication would work, and, if not, it would be the end. We got enough painkillers for her to keep the tail up almost all day, and keep her sleeping all night, for all three weeks, just in case. And we got all the instructions we needed for assessing the situation around the pancreas' performance.
After first week, noticed a little improvement, but not enough. We doubled the dose of painkiller, as their effect obviously wore off - and after two weeks, we knew what we were going to do at the vet's next week.... We almost fed her more painkiller than tripe, to make sure that we could have a happy end.
And we did. She enjoyed her small indoor searches - and she enjoyed "killing" her cardboard boxes. She had a great time, right till the end. She did not know that we were estroying her kidneys and liver in order to compensate for the pancreas' lack of performance....
After having performed our duty of searching for tripe on the parking lot outside the motel room the evening before, we arrived at the vet's early next morning for our appointment. The vet was doing his job while Bettemuir was lying in my arms and got cuddled into the other world. The vet wanted to make an autopsy, just to see how things were, and possibly learn something. I had no objections. And he basically found that more or less everything in her body was worn out. She could not have lived more than a few months more - but those months would have been in constant pain....
I can't stop the tears when I think back on this. It is pretty much similar to what has happened to more or less with all my dogs. The principles are the same - although the details vary from dog to dog. Those tears come from a mix of two emotions: 1) my sadness over the loss of a good friend, and 2) my happiness that I was able to let this friend leave this world on a note of happiness.
Was it cruel to perform euthanasia on a lovely dog that could have lived another couple of months? In pain?
I don't think so. But I will call it cruel to not use euthanasia in such a situation.
"But my dog isn't sick, so I don't need to think about this now"....
Wrong. I had a dog that was perfectly healthy till he was past 17 - and then, all of a sudden, he got hit with a stroke that made him lame in the left side. What do you do with such a dog? He had no pain. He just couldn't walk.... He might have been able to learn it again, somewhat. In a matter of 6-12 months. In all that time, he could do nothing of what he enjoyed most of all in his life - he too was a SAR dog that lived to search...
Well, you guessed it: he too was immediately "put to sleep" when I found out what the diagnosis was, cuddled to death in my lap...
This business of being able to draw up the balance sheet between pleasure and misery is not something you can push aside - without risking that it will cost your dog immense suffering, while you struggle with your own emotions, trying to make up your mind under some tremendous stress that puts you at even further risk of making a bad choice.
It is not easy to make this kind of decision - but it is so much more difficult if you have to do it unprepared.
New web page about research projects
K9joy has created a new web page about research. Although we do not have the capacity yet to undertake major research projects ourselves, we certainly can and will do what we can to support those that truly are trying to help all of us with relevant information about how we can keep our dogs healthy and give them a quality life, as measured by their own nature.
There is a link to the page from the home page at www.k9joy.com, but you can also get to it directly at www.k9joy.com/education/research.php.
I already mentioned to you about "The Rabies Challenge Fund" - which, of course, is on that page too - and with some good news, which I certainly encourage you to check out!
On top of this, a new project about revealing the main reasons for cancer in dogs has been started by a vet I have the utmost respect for: Dr. Marlene Smith in Courtenay on Vancouver Island! This project is also funded by a charitable foundation, "Kali's Wish Cancer Foundation", which you can learn more about on www.kalishwish.com.
I will save you from repeating what is on the page, so please check that new page out - and let me know of any other similar projects that also deserve the support of people who care for their dogs.
Cheers and woof,
If you have any suggestions or contributions for contents of "The Peeing Post", or some comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in to dogs in general, I will be happy to know about them. If I can find an answer for you, I will!
You can reach me by simply clicking on the peeing dog
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P.S. With Christmas approaching, I want to remind you that K9joy offers a 25% discount on all downloads you might want to purchase for delivery to someone else!
It works this way:
You send this email and include the name and e-mail of the person you want to give a gift like this, and a date you want it delivered on, together with a message for this person;
K9joy then sends you an invoice;
You pay the invoice by clicking on its link and following PayPal's instructions;
K9joy sends an e-mail to the person, on the agreed date, with a notice containing the download information, together with your greeting (or it can be sent from K9joy without your name included, if you prefer that).
There is another Christmas present you might enjoy: K9joy has slashed the price on "The ABC's Dog Language" by $6.00! It represents 40% off.... Yeah, we know - you normally make your discounts after Christmas - but then it wouldn't be a Christmas present, would it?
In any case, take advantage of it while it lasts - there is no promise on how long that will be....