Category Archives: About Myself

Toothbrushing Isn’t So Bad

Getting my teeth brushed was fine once I got used to it, but that took some doing.  Ted started brushing my teeth while I was still a puppy.  The vet told him that it was either that or someday I would have to be put under anesthesia to have my teeth cleaned and have bad ones extracted.  Well, that was enough motive for Ted.  He likes to keep my health and grooming as perfect as possible. The first times I had no way of knowing what was happening.  So Ted held the toothbrush close to my mouth and let me smell the toothpaste.  I licked it right off the brush.  Ted added a little more, held me tight without squeezing me too much, and pried my mouth open.  I  trusted him, so I didn't resist too much at first, not until he inserted the brush and began to saw away upon my teeth.  It was very confusing.  I struggled to pull my head away to free myself of the brush, while at the same time trying to lick it as Ted held me firm, so my tongue kept getting in his way.  Being constrained like that made me panic, and I got a little crazy.  When that happened, Ted released me and comforted me.  He did no more the first time.  However, he repeated the procedure after dinner in the evening, and then again after breakfast in the morning, and continued every morning and evening afterwards.  He never pushed me too far.  He always gave up easily so as not to panic me.  He persisted, however, and slowly but surely it became part of our routine, and there was no more struggling at all on my part.  I focused on how good the toothpaste tasted.   It is now rather like having dessert after dinner. For some years Ted bought dog toothpaste from my veterinarian; he felt reassured of the product's quality getting it that way.  He also purchased cat toothbrushes from the vet, because as a Chihuahua I have a small mouth. One day when Ted went to the vet replenish our supply of toothpaste and brushes, he unhappily learned that the vet's supplier was out of the accustomed product.  So temporarily at least, Ted would have to obtain a substitute elsewhere.  He turned to the Internet, and in the process began reading articles about the contents of the various dog toothpastes.  He became very concerned that almost all of them contained questionable chemicals.  Humans spit out their toothpaste and rinse, so they can use otherwise noxious chemicals like fluoride that cleans teeth well and fortifies against decay.  Not so for dogs.  Whatever we brush with, we swallow.  Ted studied the ingredients of many brands, and he finally decided to try a toothpaste  recommended often by people with the same concern, Sentry Petrodex Natural Toothpaste for dogs.  He researched each ingredient and decided that all seem safe to ingest. Ted puts a little toothpaste on the brush and starts with my uppers, first the exterior and then the interior.  He rinses the toothbrush, adds a little toothpaste and wets the brush again, then does my lower teeth, first exterior, then interior.  If he started the uppers on the left side of my mouth, he starts the lower teeth on the right side, to make sure the toothpaste has been distributed evenly.  Then he rinses again, adds toothpaste, and wet the brush again to begin my front teeth.  I don't like having the exteriors of my front teeth brushed, so I tend to struggle just a bit, wagging my head back and forth; so Ted holds the brush stationary, and my head-wagging does the brushing.  Then Ted easily brushes the interiors of my upper teeth, and then a few strokes on the lowers.  That it.  All that's left to do is to allow me to lick the brush a few times for any remaining taste of the toothpaste. Dog toothbrushing is very important and not at all hard to do once everyone is used to it. ©  Copyright 2016 Woodwrit, Inc.

Doggy Bathroom 102: Indoor Pads Are For Life

When I’m out walking with Ted and we encounter someone with a puppy, Ted is always ready to stop to admire “the little fellow.” Frankly, puppies are not my favorite things; they have much too much energy, always pouncing at me, so I have to leap back out of their reach.  Whenever Ted stops for one, I “climb” his leg, begging him to pick me up, and of course he does.

Ted says, “That’s such a cute puppy!” and the puppy’s person stops because everyone likes compliments, especially a new, proud owner. After asking about the breed, commenting on the color, the dog’s friendliness and whatever else, Ted invariably brings up the obvious, “I see you’re trying to train him,” as the puppy is being led from steps to planters to posts, anywhere the owner thinks the puppy might be encouraged to do his business out-of-doors.  Ted asks the person, “Can I offer you a little advice?”

“You and your pup will be living together now for the next ten to fifteen years,” Ted says.   “You can avoid a lot of discomfort and inconvenience for both of you over those years if you train your puppy to use wee-wee pads.”[1]

Standard 22 x 23 inches
Standard 22 x 23 inches

[1] FYI by Ted:  People often refer generically to absorbent pads for housetraining and housetrained dogs by one of their better-known brand names, “Wee Wee Pads,” a trademark registered by Four Paws Products, Ltd., Hauppauge NY.  Other manufacturers and retailers sell them under various descriptive names like “puppy training pads,” “dog training pads,” “housebreaking pads,” “training  pads” or, recognizing lifelong use, simply as “absorbent pads” picturing a dog on the packaging.  A long list of brands can be found on Amazon.com in Pet Supplies/dog training pads.

Costco and Sam's Club Brands
Costco and Sam's Club Brands

Prices vary according to boxed quantity, but can range from 39 cents per pad (150-count) for Wee Wee Pads® at Petco to, under other brand names, 40 cents (150-count) at PetSmart, 23 cents (100-count, x-large) at Costco and 13 cents (120-count) at Sam’s Club.   Note: The warehouse stores also sell similarly-constructed, larger-sized absorbent pads for use under the bed sheets of incontinent elderly people; cut in half, these work out to about 10 cents per half-pad.  It is hard to beat the neatness and convenience of professionally-made pads, but the expense can be avoided entirely by using instead several sheets of newspaper laid flat over a reusable plastic sheet cut from a garbage bag, treated with a bit of “potty here” spray.

Quite often the person answers, “I started him on those indoor pads, but now I’ve taken them away, because I want my pup to learn to go outside.”

Ted tells the person, “Don’t remove them. That just confuses him; it’s a step backwards and destroys what you’ve already accomplished.  If you take your dog outside regularly, he’ll want to do his business out-of-doors anyway.  It’s his nature;  you don’t have to worry about that, especially as he gets a few months older.  When he comes outside and smells all the other dogs’ markings, he’ll want to cover them with his own.  The only thing your pup needs to be trained for is not to do it wherever he feels like it inside the house. That’s what the wee-wee pad is for.  It controls where he does it when he has to indoors.

The puppy-owner may object, “I don’t want it smelling up the house.”

So Ted explains how to avoid that. “First of all, your bathroom is a good place to set down the wee-wee pad.  When your dog uses it, pick it up right away (or Used pad sealed in Ziploc bag for disposal.first thing in the morning), and fold it into a quart-size Ziploc®  freezer bag, and toss the thing sealed like that into the garbage.  No chance to smell.  Or, if you want to save money by not disposing of the pad so often, you can spray the soiled spot on it with a pet-odor remover spray (but not until your dog is well-trained to use the pad).  Once your dog is accustomed to his “walks” outside he won’t be using the pad that much anyway.  Tobi here uses the wee-wee pad once or twice during the night, but almost never during the day, because I walk him four times a day.”

When the puppy-owner remains unconvinced, Ted gets a little more graphic.

“We people all know the discomfort we feel when we need a bathroom and have to wait for one. That’s what you’re planning to do to your dog every day of his life.  And for a dog it’s not just physical pain, but mental and emotional anguish, trying not to be disgraced by what he’s been trained to think is 'very bad.'

“That’s why wee-wee pads shouldn’t just be for training. Once your dog learns to use the pad, he should have it available his whole life, to be there for him whenever there’s a problem getting him outside on time.  What happens when you have to work late and you’re there thinking of your dog, ‘Will he be able to hold it?’ Or you’re having dinner with friends and would like to stay longer, but you have to leave to walk your dog?   If he were a wee-wee pad-trained dog, you wouldn’t have to give it a second thought.”

Ted offers other reasons to think about, too. “What about when your dog gets diarrhea?  You’ll be cleaning it up all over the house.  But if he’s wee-wee pad-trained, you’ll simply fold up the pad as often as he soils it, seal it in a freezer bag, and deposit it into the garbage.

“The same is true when your dog gets old. Just as can happen to elderly people, old dogs often become incontinent.  You can resort to doggy diapers, but what do you do when your dog is begging you all hours of the day and night to take him out, despite the diaper—because that’s what you’ve trained him to do?   Compare that to an old, incontinent wee-wee pad dog who just walks over to the wee-wee pad whenever he needs it, and you can sleep through the night in peace.

How many puppy-owners are convinced? Quite a few, maybe, if they think about it.  The alternative is the time-honored custom of “training” a puppy to “go outside,” which involves the time it takes for his bladder to enlarge, lots and lots of extra “walking,” and discomfort forever.

© Copyright 2015 Woodwrit, Inc.

Doggy Bathroom 101: Housetraining

It has been many years since I learned apartment living; but I'm posting this now as a HOW TO article.

Ted has always bragged that I housetrained in one day. When he brought me home for the first time he had “puppy-proofed” his apartment.  All the scatter rugs were removed, leaving bare the wooden floors in the living room and hall and the tile floors in the kitchen and bathroom, so that if I had an accident he'd be able to see it.  The bedroom and study had wall-to-wall permanent carpeting, so he locked me out of those two rooms by extending window screens across the doorways—which he easily could step over, but I couldn't.

Four Paws Wee Wee Pads
Four Paws Wee Wee Pads

Ted had purchased brand-name Wee Wee Pads® from Petco, because they are “treated to attract puppies when nature calls.”[1]   One was spread in a corner of the bathroom where he decided it would work best, out of the way and easiest to clean up on a tile floor if I missed.  He set me on the pad first thing to acquaint me with it; but later when I felt the urge to piddle I was standing at the entrance to the kitchen, so that’s where I did it.  Ted cleaned it up with paper towels and a spray named Nature’s Miracle® Stain & Odor Remover, also purchased at Petco; and then he placed a second Wee Wee Pad right where I had done it.

I kept going back to the pad at the kitchen entrance for my business. Every time Ted saw me do it, he praised me, “Good boy, good boy, did pee-pee [or poop-ee] on the paper, good boy!”  Ted took me outside, too, but it so terrified me that I didn’t do anything there at first.  I used the kitchen pad exclusively over the following days, and received lots of praise for doing so.  I couldn’t understand the words at first, but I could tell from the tone and enthusiasm of Ted's voice that I was pleasing him.  Then Ted slowly moved that pad into the hall, then down the hall towards the bathroom; and I followed it.  The kitchen pad ended up right next to the bathroom pad.  Once I was going where Ted wanted me, he left only one pad in the bathroom.

If I missed and piddled in the living room, Ted didn’t scare me. He just said “Bad boy, bad boy” with a scowl, then picked me up and set me gently on the bathroom pad and repeated, “Do pee-pee, do pee-pee here.”  Nor did he get angry the times I went to the pad, placed my front feet on it, but piddled over the edge because my back feet weren’t on it.  Ted cleaned it up, and then repositioned the pad between the wall and a fixture so that there was little room off the edge and I had to plant all four feet on the pad to get onto it.  Ted always adjusted things so I'd get used to doing what I was supposed to do.

Ted was patient. He never lost his temper or scared me when I had an accident, of which there were few because I was drawn by something I could smell in the pad.  In a few weeks I was doing so well that Ted introduced an old carpet onto the living room floor, then watched the experiment carefully.  By that time I didn’t try to piddle on it, but it did look like it might be good for chewing.  When I tried, Ted sprayed the edges with a product called Bitter Apple®, and that ended that.  In a couple of months when Ted was sure I was thoroughly trained, he put his good carpets back down in the living room and hallway, and he removed the barriers to the bedroom and study.  I’m glad he did, because my little cat house is tucked into the bottom of a bookcase in the bedroom now, and I keep all my toys in the study where I can’t lose them under furniture.

Ted works at home, so he can take me outside four times a day. That’s where I much prefer to do my business.  I learned the commands, “Do pee-pee” and “Do poop-ee,” both for the pad and outdoors.   I almost never need the wee-wee pad during the day, and usually use it only once or twice during the night.  Ted always disposes of it and puts down a new one first thing.  I’m a smart dog, and so lucky, because I can do bathroom when I need to do it.

© Copyright 2015 Woodwrit, Inc. [1] Four Paws:  http://www.fourpaws.com/FP_Catalog_2014_WEB.pdf.  At Petco: http://www.petco.com/wee-wee-pads.  At Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_12?url=search-alias%3Dpets&field-keywords=wee+wee+pads&sprefix=Wee+wee+pads%2Caps%2C146.  

Dog food: no, thank you

7-months old, when disaster struck
7-months old, when disaster struck

It’s not unusual when I accompany Ted into the bank or into a neighborhood store that the bank greeter or store owner looks at Ted and politely asks, “Do you mind if I give your dog a treat?”

Ted likes the attention I get, and, smiling, answers just as politely, “I don’t mind,”  forewarning the person, “I doubt he’ll eat it, though.  He’s not used to dog food.” So I’m offered the treat—by hand first.  I sniff it, and of course don’t take it.  So the person sets it on the floor for me, and steps back.  I sniff it again; I’ll give him that much before I turn away.  Ted explains, “He’s not familiar with dog food.  When he was a puppy he was poisoned by dog food and almost died.   Ever since then, I’ve fed him only human food.”  That’s the quick story.  Here’s the longer one: When Ted first brought me home as a puppy, he found me to be a very finicky eater.  He tried every type of dog food, and grew quite concerned.  I’d approach my dish, smell it, maybe eat a bite or two, and then ignore it.  I simply didn’t care for most of it.  Sometimes the food was just boring; sometimes there were traces of bad smells hidden under the surface smell.  Finally, Ted found one thing I liked, chunks of “meat” in “gravy,” available under various brand names; and he bought me the best.  It turned out that virtually all the brands were getting their “meat and gravy” from the same manufacturer, a company named Menu Foods. Menu Foods happened to buy one of its ingredients, wheat gluten, from a foreign company that, to fool testing equipment, was grinding up a very hard plastic named melamine (used to make dinnerware) and lacing the wheat gluten with it.  Over ninety-five pet food brands, expensive ones and inexpensive ones alike across the United States and Canada, were all buying this “meat and gravy” from Menu Foods.  And everywhere, dogs and cats began to get sick with kidney failure; and many, many died.  When I was barely seven months old, only half-grown, I was one of those who almost died from “meat and gravy.” It took many months of medical treatment to save my life, beginning with IV’s into my jugular vein, which required me to remain hooked up in a cage in the hospital day and night.  I’d cry and hardly would eat at all. Ted visited me every day.  He’d reach into my cage with a little food on the tip of his finger to try to coax me to eat.  I’d just look at him with the IV sticking out of my neck and cry and cry.  I didn’t understand.  I wanted him to take me home. The IV’s had to be repeated because soon after treatment my kidney-failure symptoms returned.  I got a little better, but not enough.  Eventually the doctor told Ted that the only thing that would keep me alive was routine subcutaneous hydration several times a week.  That involved injecting a whole cup of fluid under the loose skin at the top of my shoulders.  I was a young dog; the prospect of doing that for the rest of my life was daunting to Ted.  A veterinary assistant tried to show him how, but I screamed and jumped out of her hands, with the liquid splashing all over her and Ted and none into me.  Ted told the doctor that if there was no hope for cure, it would be better to just let me live comfortably whatever time remained and not put me through that.
7-months old, resting
7-months old, resting
To better judge my prospects the doctor suggested an ultrasound exam to ascertain how badly my kidneys were damaged, and afterwards he carefully explained to Ted we could be “cautiously optimistic.”  He clarified that Ted could expect success or failure in a matter of months.  When Ted objected he couldn’t do the procedure, the doctor told him to bring me to the hospital three times a week, “and we’ll do it for you here,” he said.  We did, three days a week, week after week, and I slowly got better.  Then the hydrations were reduced to twice a week, and later to once a week, and finally to none at all.  The veterinary assistants knew how to handle me.  When I panicked and snapped at them, one held me fast and calmed me while the other got the job done without hurting me much.  Ted stayed in the waiting room where he didn’t have to watch.  When I came out I’d jump into his arms, and he’d try to get my harness over the huge lump of fluid above my shoulder. The doctor says that I made it because I was such a young dog, that kidney tissue normally doesn’t regenerate, but that I was still growing so mine did.  Ted felt very, very bad through it all until I started to get better. While I was sick Ted went to the Internet to learn everything he could about the poisoning, about kidney failure, and about dog food.  He found out that basically all the dog foods he researched contained byproducts that aren’t approved for human food, especially where the word “rendered” was listed in the ingredients.  He was surprised how often historically one or another brand had had to be recalled.  Even one recommended by veterinarians for special dietary needs had been in trouble only a year before. Ted told the doctor that he wasn’t going to feed me anymore dog food.  “But Tobi needs a balanced diet,” the doctor objected. “He’ll get one.  I eat a balanced diet,” Ted replied, “vegetables, and fish and whole grains, no processed food.  That’s what I’ll feed him.”  He added, “When I was a boy on the farm, we always had a dog.  And nobody back then knew anything about dog food.  Dogs ate what we ate, the leftovers from our table, and they were healthy.” The doctor insisted, “You should add a vitamin supplement, then,” so Ted sprinkles a multi-vitamin for dogs into my breakfast each morning. Items may vary in my daily meals, but my diet remains structurally the same each day.  It mirrors what Ted prepares for himself—plus chicken.  I guess you could call it “The Tobi Little Deer Diet.”  With it I grew strong and I stay healthy. © 2014 Woodwrit, Inc.    

You want to know why I’m a little tough-nut?

Indian Hunter in Central Park
Indian Hunter in Central Park
I am Tobi Little Deer, a Native American dog, a Chihuahua, and like all dogs descended from ancient wolves who made a pact with people hundreds of thousands of years ago.  We became companion hunters and guardians.  Down through the millennia, with our capacity for patient, faithful love, we also became pets.  As such, although pet dogs are likened sometimes to children, the wolf pack is still within all of us.  Make no mistake, we love because we have the capacity to love; we serve because our species knows cooperation as means of survival.  Both are deep-rooted human qualities also, and that is why over the ages we could become fellow travelers. In our recent past people have been breeding us smaller and smaller to turn us into animated toys, even photographing the tiniest of us in tea cups.  “Fanciers” like to make rules, and some set a six-pound limit for Chihuahuas.  However, we are still dogs, no matter how much they miniaturize us.  At eight pounds, I can exercise my dog prerogatives quite well, and I have a big personality.  I run distances.  I am an effective guardian.  People do not anticipate that of Chihuahuas.  They look at us, find us cute, and expect us to behave adorably.  Most of us have the self-image of feisty, miniature Dobermans, however.  People are surprised that I don’t welcome a stranger’s hand in my face. Chihuahuas are fiercely loyal.  People say we are “one-man dogs.”  Of course, we like the friends of our one-man or one-woman, too, given time to get to know them.  We are protectors first and foremost.  We are kept as pets, and we may look like toys, but there is nothing toy-like in our demeanor—at least that of most Chihuahuas.  We  carry deep within us the hierarchy and loyalty of the pack, and a long history of guardianship. Well, there’s more to it, too.  Some of my attitude is just fun.  Walking down the street with Ted, if I see a delivery boy chaining his bicycle with his back to us, I love suddenly to bark loudly as we pass close by him and make him jump.  I’m on the watch for anyone who doesn’t keep walking.  As for other dogs, well, I like to meet the little ones, particularly other Chihuahuas.  Chihuahuas know Chihuahuas; we know our own.  Bigger dogs are another story; it’s my street.  I like to dart against my leash and bark at them and get them all excited; I know that they’re on leash, too, and so can’t reach me.  Ted says to me, “Behave, behave.”  Sometimes he says to me, “You’re going to start something, tough-nut, that you can’t finish.”  Then I strut down the street with my head high and my tail straight up, quite proud of myself.  It’s all great fun. © 2013 Woodwrit, Inc.