Monthly Archives: March 2014

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.    

Dog boots: cute, troublesome, a necessity.

IMG_3114 Tobi in red boots s-br
My red boots from Petco.
IMG_3115 Tobi in red boots kick s-br
Oops! The camera caught my kick.
Boots are something to which I’ve grown accustomed, so I don’t make a fuss anymore.  New York City has had a rough winter, very cold with frequent snow, which means lots of salt, so I’ve gotten plenty of practice with boots. Salt hurts a dog’s feet, one way or another.  Bootless dogs do the dance; they stop, lift a foot out of the slush, put that one down and lift another.  It burns.  If it isn’t washed off afterwards, it dries out their paws and can make them crack.  They ingest it when they try to lick it off, and that’s bad, too.  Nevertheless, you see lots of dogs walking in the salt without boots.  That’s because boots can be hard to get on, and too easy to kick off.  What to do? When they get back into the house, dogs who’ve walked in salt without boots need to stand in a few inches of water in a pan or bathtub to wash it off.  It requires soaping and then a good rinse.  That’s why boots may seem troublesome at first, but they save a lot of trouble.  I got used to them.  Your dog will, too, with time and patience. Persevere.  If you’re afraid your dog will bite you when you’re putting them on, then you need to work on your relationship with him.  It’s all about trust.  We dogs react when we don’t know what’s happening; we’re alarmed by new situations.  However, we’re ok once we get used to something—we’re “creatures of habit.”  So the solution to boots, or tooth-brushing or nail-clipping, all the things we resist, is to gently persevere until we grow accustomed to them.  Don’t scold or get angry; don’t hurt your dog with either the procedure or a punishment.  Stay calm and your dog will grow calm, too.  Our person has to have patience, during every repetition, until we are comfortable.  I’ll tell you more about tooth-brushing and nail-clipping another time.  Right now, it’s all about boots. I have two types of boots.  The ones I use most often look like little balloons, and can be purchased in most pet stores.  They are a common sight on dogs everywhere now.  The brand name is Pawz, and they are color-coded by size.  I wear yellow.  They are “disposable”—what isn’t?—and three sets come in a package—that’s twelve boots.  If they’re the right size, Pawz boots are pretty impossible to kick off.  They’re weightless, so they’re easy to get used  to.  The problem is that they’re difficult  to get on.  Ted says, “You need two hands to stretch the neck of the boot open, and a third hand to put the dog’s paw through it.”  Some people buy a size up to make putting them on easier.  It  helps, but then they’re bulkier to walk in and could more easily slip off.  Ted’s solution was to buy a key ring large enough to fit over my paw.  He stretches the neck of the boot around the key ring.  Then with one hand he holds the boot, its neck held open by the key ring, and with the other hand he inserts my paw through the key ring into the boot, gently pressing my claws together to narrow my paw through the opening.  Once the boot is on, he slips the key ring out of the neck of the boot and off my paw.  It works pretty well.
IMG_3582 Pawz boot and keyring s-br
Pawz boot and key ring
IMG_3581 Pawz boot with keyring in neck s-br
Pawz boot with key ring holding neck open
Casual sweater look, with Pawz boots for salt residue
Here I am in my Pawz boots

One of the side-effects of Pawz boots being light-weight is that they pierce easily.  The grit on the street soon makes little holes, even microscopic ones, that render them useless in the salty water and slush.  So Ted has to switch me to new boots pretty frequently, but he saves the old ones for when the sidewalks are dry.

The sidewalks don’t get cleaned much in New York City in the winter, except if it rains upon them.  So most of the time between snowstorms and between melting, when the sidewalks are dry, they are still covered with dirty-brown dried salt dust.  It doesn’t hurt to walk on it bootless, but it makes a mess of a dog’s feet, and if it’s not bathed off, gets licked off, which is all bad.  So I wear Pawz boots even when the sidewalks are dry in the winter.  However, that’s when we can use the older ones that have acquired microscopic holes.  Liquid could penetrate them, but dry dust doesn’t; so they keep my feet clean.  Recycling the old boots that way saves a little money. Right after a snowstorm, when there soon can be an inch or more of salty slush on the sidewalk (before the supers get their shoveling done), Ted finds that heavier boots are more effective for me.   My red ones are real boots, from Petco, Pup Crew Fall 12 X-Small Shoes ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­.  They look like miniatures of what people wear, and passers-by think they are very cute (or amusing) when they see four little boots clicking in sync down the street.  They are made of faux red chamois with a white fluffy trim  and have hard, contoured black soles, as if they belong with a Santa outfit.  A white zipper up the front secures an interior elastic around my ankles, so they don’t kick off so easily.   I know, because at first I tried (pictured above). When I wear my red boots, Ted walks behind me so he can make sure I don’t lose one along the way.  When we encounter another dog, he picks me up to prevent my jump and growl which would send one or more boots flying.  We never take long walks in them.  In front of our building, so I won’t lose a boot running up the front steps, Ted picks me up again and carries me inside. On the weather mat inside our apartment front door, Ted removes the boots, the balloon-type Pawz boots by rolling them off my foot down from the top, or the red boots by simply unzipping them, and my feet are dry.  That’s the best part. © 2014 Woodwrit, Inc.