When it comes to hygiene and grooming, the relationship between a dog and its human caregiver is not unlike that of child and mother. Mums (and dads) take great interest in the body odour of their kids. Kids are popped into tubs as funkiness sets in. Parents absently spit onto tissues and clean off gooey messes on the fly. They pick at, clean off, wipe down, wash and rinse the various creepy, smelly substances that append themselves to their loving tots. They change diapers or examine their kid’s poop in the toilet bowl, not with revulsion, but with the inquiring mind of a scientist. Ditto the dog owner with their pooch.
Recently, someone at church casually mentioned that Opal “has a little bit of a smell”. I dismissed it with. “She smells like a dog”. I went home and ruminated on this comment. I love Opal’s smell, but I’m her mum. That pretty much makes me incapable of objectivity. It wasn’t always like that. The very first time I ‘picked up’ after Opal at CGDB, I nearly hurled. The first time I experienced her distinct ‘wet dog’ odor after we had been out in the rain at the training centre, I really began to wonder how I would survive life with a dog when we got home to Nova Scotia where it rains A LOT. I once worried about my clothes having dog hair or goober (saliva) on them. Now, I seem oblivious to any of it. On the contrary, like any mum, I inhale her smell and it makes me smile. However, I am not impervious to rational public opinion. I called up my sweetie immediately after the church lady’s comment and demanded the truth. “Does Opal smell funky?”, I asked. LA. spoke to me as cautiously as a hostage negotiator would. “Umm, well darling, she does have a little stronger smell than usual these days”. I was shocked…and worried. It’s November. I hadn’t anticipated a bath ’till spring.
The happy news is that the forecast high for tomorrow is 14 C. With a lot of planning, I have arranged for a ride home from Metro Dog Wash, so that Opal (who is terrified of dryers), can get home without getting a chill after her bath. Metro Dog Wash is the best little business in town. You take your pooch to their storefront location on Cunard street, and for a modest fee, use one of their numerous waist-level sinks (dog walks up a couple of steps) to wash your own dog. If you have an old, arthritic dog, you can use the walk-in tub at floor level. There is a device to tether the dog so that there is no Great Escape from the sink. You use their shampoos and conditioners. There is an endless supply of temperature-controlled water coming from the hand-held hoses and sprayers. They provide rubber aprons for the washers, and Zoom Grooms to use on the washees. Then, when your fido is all clean and rinsed, you can use as many towels as you want to dry him off. There are dryers for dogs who are braver than Opal. You leave with a clean dog, minus the mess you would have at home. Metro Dog Wash offers grooming services and sells lots of dog gear too. Best of all, they offer a 50% discount off of their bathing fee for service dogs. I highly recommend it. (Visit via link on blogroll) If all goes according to plan, Opal will smell lovely to me AND my church friends next Sunday.
Posted in Advice, animals, dog grooming, dogs, Guide Dog Schools, Guide dogs, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Opal, personal, seeing eye dogs, Uncategorized
Tagged dog bath, dog grooming, dogs, funky dog, Guide dogs, Metro dog wash
Alfred E. Newman (of Mad Magazine fame) may have said it first, but I’m the one saying it today. I dare anyone who loves their dog to deny that they don’t worry needlessly (at least once in a while) when their dog is sick…ah, that is to say, when they barf (vomit, hurl, upchuck…). Opal tossed her proverbial cookies yesterday afternoon. Hmm, I thought, as I examined the resulting gift on my living room rug. Yes, I know you sighted folks may be disgusted to hear that I poke through my dog’s vomitory offering. I live alone and have no alternative than to ‘feel’ the matter out. I need to know some details about what is coming out of every end of my girl. This is critical information for determining the status of her health. Consistency, odor etc. are helpful to diagnose potential health conditions. Let’s just say, that I suspected Opal ate some grass or other vegetation and possibly scavenged some unknown food or garbage while she played at the park earlier in the day. Despite my best efforts to be vigilant while she sniffed and toured at the end of our retractable leash (Flexi), she might have gobbled up an unknown item. Dogs are opportunistic, and the allure of old food or other garbage to a lab, is hard to resist. The weather has also changed here, going rather warm quite suddenly. I know this effects me, so I suspect it is also difficult for Opal to adapt. What do I do when my dog is sick? I try not to obsess about it. Dogs sense (like kids) when you fuss too much about them…”Ooo, you poor girl!”…which sometimes, leads them to manifest symptoms that are not ‘real’. Instead, I cleaned up, gave her a pat on the head, offered her water and carried on with my work, though I had an ear open for sounds of further upchucking. Later, I checked her belly during a brief grooming. Then I cooked some brown rice. Yes, that’s what I said. I gave her a cup of cooked brown rice with a few kibbles and a little water in it for her supper, though only after a two-hour wait. She seemed lethargic, but that may have been the warmish day. Like anyone who loves their animals, I do worry, but not to excess. I paid close attention to see if, and what she pooped, so that I could be assured that she did not have an obstruction. Good news to report. Happily, Opal is better today, though I am giving her an easy working day. Of course, I would be running to the vet, if I had any concerns that she was not getting better, or if I thought that she was in pain. I would caution against weird home remedies, or waiting too long before going to the vet, especially if dehydration is a factor. It is hard to achieve that balance between excessive worry, and appropriate concern.
Posted in animals, blindness, Canada, dog grooming, dogs, Guide dogs, Opal, opinion, personal, Uncategorized
Tagged dog grooming, dogs, Guide dogs, Opal, opinion, personal, Sick dogs, surviving blindness
Canadian Green Party leader, Elizabeth May announced her resignation from the advisory committee of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society after Paul Watson is quoted as saying, “the death of seals is an even greater tragedy than the death of four sealers”. Mr. Watson, a self described Eco-terrorist, repeated this comment today. Conservationists and Environmentalists are dropping their support of Watson. He made these comments as the funeral of three sealers in Cap-aux-Meulles, a small community in the Madlelaine Islands was taking place. A fourth sealer’s body is missing. Mr. Watson has rammed, skuttled and sunk fishing vessels all over the world. The names of the ships he has sunk are painted onto the side of one the cement-hulled boats he uses to ram them. His ships are also armed with high-powered water cannons and protected with barbed wire. He has used acid, explosives and other means to sink or disable “enemy” ships. His goal to bring an end to the fishing industry has found him brandishing an AK 47. a Watson was a co-founder of Greenpeace, but splintered off because of the groups ‘impassivity’. While the world still grieved in the aftermath of 9/11, Watson announced “there is nothing wrong with terrorism, as long as you win”. The eco-terrorist goal is to return the earth to it’s pre-human condition by any means. Watson’s dogmatic and authoritarian ‘love’ of animals coupled with his hatred of humanity has led him to absurdly remark, “earthworms are far more valuable than people”. His distorted stance of ‘animals first/humans last’ is bizarre and frightening. His claim that he owes no allegiance to humanity is incongruous with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s (the group he founded) claim that they “are a vehicle to empower people”. I am disgusted and enraged by the words and actions of Paul Watson. I encourage all Canadians to withdraw support from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and any groups Mr. Watson is associated with, including the Sierra Club, until those organizations remove themselves from any association with Mr. Watson. I think that Farley Mowat, the great Canadian writer and naturalist, should step forward and comment on this, given that Watson’s premiere ship is named the ‘Farley Mowat’. For the record, the names of the three victims from the fishing vessel, l’ Acadian II are: Gilles Leblanc, Bruno Bourque, and Marc-Andre Deraspe. A fourth man is missing and presumed dead. His name is Carl Aucoin.
Posted in Accessibility, animal rights, dog grooming, dog quiz, Fairness, Opal, opinion, Uncategorized
Tagged Access to Information, Accessibility, animal rights, dog and cat neglect, dog grooming, dog quiz, eco-terrorism, Fairness, Farley Mowat, Opal, opinion, Paul Watson, Sea shepherd Conservation Society, seal hunt
I risk being branded a nut for admitting that I sing to Opal. It wouldn’t be the first time and I’ll chance it! I made an accidental discovery one rainy day last year. Opal and I were slogging through the rain here in Halifax, in typical Nova Scotia fashion when I burst into song. It rains a bunch here and unfortunately, Opal does not enjoy getting wet. Paradoxically, like most labs, she loves to swim. Go figure! She even ‘puddle jumps’ in an effort to keep her feet dry. This is no big deal, as long as she doesn’t vault off a curb (with me in tow), in an attempt to avoid the accumulated water at the curb. She’s an odd little duck of a Guide dog… when displeased about being out on a rainy day, she slows down, thereby extending the time we must spend in getting to our destination. You would think that she would want to speed up and get it over with. No, I have learned to accept her responses and behaviour, much in the way that she accepts my eccentricities. I wear good rain gear and Carry towels in my backpack on these days. The towels are for Opal when we arrive wherever we are headed (we sometimes share). It would be uncomfortable and unpleasant for her to remain wet for any length of time while she lies and waits for me at a meeting or appointment. I do my best to keep her working time in the rain tolerable by singing. It seems to help. It helps me, at least, and if I’m happy and relaxed, Opal usually is too. My choice of rain songs is vast. Plenty of tunes about rain, of course: ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘Raindrops Keep Falling…’, and show tunes. I once got us through a nasty, long stretch with the score to “West Side Story”, or at least, what parts of it I could recall. There are breaks in my singing to give Opal commands as required. It probably sounds quite horrible to any passersby. I do not have a good singing voice. That does not seem to matter to Opal. I doubt she hears anything clearly, what with the ambient noise from the rain and wind. I’m positive that the lyrics (which I largely bungle) don’t make any sense to her. My singing career is going nowhere, I know. But here’s what I think about the value of singing to your dog (or cat). I was grooming the girls (Opal and Lucy) one day. Opal was restless. I starting singing “Moon River” (remember Audrey Hepburn as Hollygolightly in ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’?). It is a lovely melody, very soothing and gentle. My original lyrics were improvised…’moon river, longer than a mile, I’m crossing you in style…you dream weaver, you bee keeper…) Understand that the melody was important at the time. I was shocked. Opal was mesmerized and settled into a heap on the floor. Lucy too. I shrugged it off. The following day? Same thing. Total fascination with this tune and complete relaxation. I have since found the correct lyrics (found at the end of this entry) and sing it anytime I want Opal or Lucy to relax. I love it even more, now that I have learned the lyrics, especially the bit about ‘two drifters’…I get teary-eyed. It ‘s not a magical thing, even though it has magical results. I’m sure the reason it works , is because it works for ME. Relaxed handler, relaxed dog. Find a song that works for you and your dog. It should be smooth and flow gently. You must love it and it must make you feel calm.’Moon River’-Lyrics by Johny Mercer. (Music Henry Mancini) “MOON RIVER” ‘Moon river, wider than a mile. I’m crossing you in style, one day. Oh dream weaver, you heart breaker, Wherever you’re going I’m going you’re way. Two drifters off to see the world. There’s such a lot of world to see. We’re after the same rainbow’s end- waiting ’round the bend, my huckleberry friend, Moon river, and me.
Posted in Advice, blindness, dog grooming, dogs, Guide dogs, Halifax, humour, Opal, opinion, personal, tips, Uncategorized, Vision loss
Tagged dog grooming, dogs, Moon river, Opal, opinion, personal, singing to your dog, tips, Vision loss
Three years ago, when I started to talk about my plans to ‘get a Guide dog’, with my friends who are Blind or partially sighted (without Guide dogs), something very interesting happened. A collective movement spontaneously occurred that had them all idly talking or thinking about having a Guide dog in their lives too. Their family members and friends also started to make statements to them too…”Mom, you should get a Guide dog too”. While I believe everyone should have the option, I KNOW that some people are NOT good candidates to have a Guide dog. Now that I have had Opal for almost two years, I feel somewhat qualified to voice my thoughts on this with more conviction. Fortunately, there is an intense candidate screening process to go through when one applies for their Guide dog, particularly if it is their first. Guide dog schools differ somewhat, but all of them screen carefully. The cost of matching a Guide dog to a blind handler, is in excess of $30,000.00 in most cases. This sum takes into account: costs for breeding dogs, supporting puppy raiser programs, training by qualified people and the cost of maintaining the dogs in training at the Guide dog school. The school must cover its overhead, pay a staff made up of trainers, instructors, kennel staff, support and administrative people. The travel costs of the the staff who travel for ‘after care’ (checking on the dogs and handlers), and, sometimes the travel costs of the clients, must be budgeted too. Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, (where I trained with Opal), receives no government funding. The school operates as a charitable non profit organization, totally funded by money received through donations and fundraising activities. Clearly, it is in everyone’s interest (including the dogs) to be selective in determining who should have a Guide dog. Some of my friends who were tinkering with the idea, would not be good candidates. Why? For some, it is absurdly obvious… they don’t like dogs much! Other reasons include:
- They have poor mobility skills and no initiative to learn any. If they can not find their way to a destination with a white cane, it is unlikely that a Guide dog is a solution to ‘getting out of the house’, at least, until they learn to travel independently.
- Their state of general health (poor) would make it unlikely that they could be active on a regular basis. Some require frequent hospitalization.
- They do not have the financial means to support a Guide dog with even basics, like food and veterinary care. (Routine Veterinary care, can sometimes be supported by a school’s program. Emergency Veterinary care is usually the responsibility of the client.)
- They have a ‘free spirit’, hedonistic attitude about life. This is not compatable with having ANY dog in your life, including a pet. If you can not get out of bed in the morning, or think that going outdoors in ALL WEATHER, several times a day, is NOT for you…having a Guide dog is probably not a good idea!
There are sound reasons why the application process to a Guide dog school involves a great deal of paperwork. I was required to have a family doctor detail my general health, my eye specialist detail my eye condition, and my ex-O &M (Orientation and Mobility) instructor describe my mobility skills. I provided details about myself. When the CGDB school received my application package, they determined that I could move to the next step: A home visit by an instructor. We went for a ‘handle walk’, (called a Juno walk by some schools) which found me leaving my cane behind and holding, a harness handle, with the instructor leading as the ‘dog’. This gave the instructor a picture of my walking speed and gait. I learned (to my surprise) that I would be expected to use my arms, voice and learn specific ways to position my feet, when navigating with a Guide dog. My height was noted (so that I could be matched with an appropriate sized dog). We talked about my everyday life. What places did I go to? I explained my busy life, with meetings, church, shopping, groups etc. My concern about Lucy (my cat) and how her life would change if I was to have a Guide dog, was also considered. We talked about my age (49 then), my income, my family and community connections (I live alone). I asked plenty of questions and they were all answered. The instructor left me, and advised that CGDB’s committee would meet and discuss all this information, and decide if I would be a good candidate for Guide dog training. She also gave me hope by telling me that, while the decision was made by a panel that take into consideration all of the information, she ‘felt good about it’. It was a month or two later that I heard the happy news that I was accepted for training. I waited to be ‘matched’ with a dog for several months, before being called to class in Ontario for a one month residential program. The Hadley School for the Blind offers a course called “Is a Guide Dog For Me?”. Hadley offers free distance education to blind people around the world (see http://www.hadley.edu). I suggest that anyone considering having a Guide dog in their life, should talk to other handlers about their experiences. I know some people who have had a Guide dog or two, and then wisely decided that they preferred not to reapply for another guide dog. Their lifestyles had changed, or they relaized that they liked to go home and ‘put the cane in the closet’… something to consider. Dogs need routine and consistent care (feeding, grooming, relieving), love and attention (work, play, health care). Opal is the best thing that could have happened in my life. It could be that a Guide dog would be equally important to you or your loved one. Do your homework and consider the reality of your lifestyle before you take the plunge.
Posted in Advice, blindness, dog grooming, dogs, Fairness, Guide Dog Schools, Guide dogs, opinion, personal, resources for the Blind, Responsible dog ownership, seeing eye dogs, Uncategorized, Vision loss
Tagged blindness, Checklist for Guide dogs, dog grooming, dogs, Fairness, Guide Dog Schools, Guide dogs, opinion, personal, resources for the Blind, Responsible dog ownership, seeing eye dogs, surviving blindness, Vision loss
The most frequent comment people make about my Guide dog, Opal, is: “What a beautiful/good-looking/gorgeous dog!” It usually is followed by: “So shiny”, “glowing coat”, “like a mirror”. Some ask if she just had a bath. To this I emphatically reply, “NO, I groom my dog daily, but NO BATHS.” There is no good reason to bath a dog, unless they get into something very unpleasant, like oil or poop. My sister’s border collie is off-leash sometimes and seems to zero in on the first available pile of dog poop. Rolling around in it gives him great pleasure. My sister? Not so much. She hoses him down in summer, and hauls him over to the groomers for a bath. Most city dogs are usually on leash at all times, so access to stinky or foul things is limited. A dog’s coat contains oils (like your hair). Regular grooming (MINUS THE BATHS) will ensure that the dog’s coat is maintained. Nature will take care of keeping it shiny. A good dog food will help (stop the people food handouts!) Daily grooming has other advantages. It will give you a chance to know your dog’s body and if there are changes. A little lump or scratch can be taken care of immediately, when you might not otherwise notice for a while (health check). Also, the dog will become accustomed to being touched all over. This is a good thing, because one day, you might need to fuss with an ear or other body part, in an attempt to insert drops or change a bandage. Finally, grooming time is very relaxing and grounding for both the animal and the groomer. So why are people dragging their dogs off the get bathed so often? First, the professional grooming business is huge in North America. They’ll have you believe that you simply MUST wash and fluff Fido, if you really care. Millions of dollars are handed over to the industry… in exchange for what? allieving owner guilt? a dog that develops a lacklustre coat? a dog that might go through a needless stressful time in a ‘salon’ environment frenzy? a dog that smells like…something other than a dog? Maybe it’s because I am with my dog all the time, but I LOVE her smell. I find nothing offensive about Opal’s smell when she’s wet. I don’t object to her breath either. Could it be that those people with dogs as pets, instead of a working dog like mine, don’t have the opportunity (left behind when at work or shopping etc) to really get to know and appreciate their dog’s smell?Some might think that I ‘spoil’ my dog with attention and care. Yes, I do care for her. I cary water in my backpack for her. I towel her off when she’s damp. I put boots on her if necessary, or clean the salt off her feet immediately. I don’t work her in extreme temperatures. I play with her every day and give her an opportunity to ‘be a dog’. I ensure her safety and emotional comfort. I provide routine and consistency in every aspect of her life…work, sleep, meals, rest, play, grooming, discipline. Dogs need and appreciate this routine and consistency. In exchange? Opal is the gift that keeps on giving.
Posted in Advice, blindness, dog grooming, Guide dogs, opinion, personal, Uncategorized
Tagged Advice, animal grooming industry, dog grooming, Guide dogs, opinion, personal