Bark Out Loud About Things That Change Your World

This is Charlie.

Charlie had a dream that he didn't know he'd ever see come true. It wasn't a big dream.

Charlie wanted to be a dog and do all the things that dogs do: Run. Play. And most important have someone to love.

Charlie's wasn't that old when I met him. Maybe he was five or six. His owner didn't want him anymore. He was disrupting her ability to go out. She said he was anxious and even nasty around other dogs, but when I first met him, all Charlie wanted to do was play and to be loved. I clocked him at a minute in his ability to go from a standing wag to the belly rub position.

Charlie met my dog and was defensive, not because he was a bad dog, but because no one had taken the time to help him understand that he could be friends with other dogs.

When Charlie needed a ride to and from his first rescue event I jumped at the chance. He was adopted within the first 45 minutes just for being Charlie: loving up against a young couple that wanted him as much as he wanted them, doing his crazy belly rub dance, and getting nervous around other dogs.

Charlie is doing great now, taking care of his new family, going out for runs with his new dad, and getting to spend his days being spoiled by his new mom.

Charlie always knew what was most important and was strong enough to hang on until the rest of us caught up to him. I'd like to thank Charlie for letting me be a small part of his story.

I'll never be the same because of you, buddy.

One Vet Taking Senior for Seniors to the Next Level

Watch this video and let me know what you think. 

The original story is at: Local Pet Clinic Offers Senior Pet Adoption Program

I find it a remarkable story that in an age when so many folks are struggling to make ends meet, that the Crabapple Knoll Veterinary Clinic is stepping up to bring together pets and owners who need each other. It takes a special person to take in abandoned animals, but the folks at CKVC are going above and beyond by not only finding new homes for these homeless pets, but providing a 40% discount on those that qualify for their Seniors for Seniors program. 

What strikes me most is the joy that the new owner of the senior dachshund has for her new room mate. Her message speaks of true love for her dog and how the added responsibility helps to keep her active and engaged in the world around her. 

Many articles focus on the physical aspects of owning a dog making you healthier, and while I'll concede that it is important, the mental part of it is just as important to long term health.

Check out my original thoughts on the topic on: Seniors for Seniors: The Mature Dog-Person Connection


Doubling Down on Veterinary Care for Your Older Pooch

Veterinarian checking a dachshund mix.
Your older dog has done a lot in it's lifetime and with that some miles of the trip have been rougher than others. Scrapes, bruises, broken bones, and the occasional upset stomach have helped you understand a little bit about how to look for symptoms of particular ailments.

As someone who is not a vet, I'm right there with you. Most times I can tell what's going on or can at least determine within a couple of hours when my dog ate something that didn't quite agree with him.

What I can't do is determine how things are going inside him. For that I have an awesome vet (actually, two in the same office who I've been going to for years), who let me know whether I should be worrying about one thing or another.

Because dogs age a lot faster than us, it makes sense to follow the common recommendations of going twice per year for a check-up. This covers not only catching early symptoms of outer facing maladies like arthritis, but also getting blood work done to catch issues brought up by weakening immune systems.

Use the visit as an opportunity to discuss changing dietary and exercise changes you should consider as your dog gets older. Simple preventative measures put in place can increase the quality of life for your pooch.

Also, ask about new and/or alternative therapies like acupuncture or hydrotherapy. The Internet is a great place for getting introduced to new ideas, but nothing beats a trusted veterinarian when it comes to getting the qualified facts specifically for how they relate to your dog and you.

Photo Credit: Tobyotter Some Rights Reserved


Why Dogs Are Living Longer Than Ever Before

I came across this article recently that talks about "Blackie" a 19 year old dog that is doing well in a shelter in New London, ON Canada. The main topic of the article is that more dogs are living into their later teens more often than any time in the past.

The author mainly attributes the phenomenon of dogs being fed better diets than they ever have been in the past. I'm curious to hear what you're all feeding your senior dogs and if you either adhere to a raw diet or have tried one.

I switched to a no grain diet with Rusty, who I had previously had on a common dog food's senior diet formula. He's a pretty healthy guy already, so it's hard to tell if there were any short term effects, but I'm hopeful that the change will go a bit easier on his digestive system in later years.

Bark Out Loud - Big Things are on the Horizon

Sasha, our really sweet older mixed breed, is anxious to find her forever home.
Sasha flashing her $1,000,000 smile
Sasha is a special girl who does well out of the shelter. I've had multiple volunteers contact me to help network Sasha, so whether she's your cup of tea or not, won't you help by sharing her picture any and everywhere you go?

I've been talking to filmmaker, Jessi Badami, about the Mall Dogs Project, a documentary about how shelters can turn retail environments into thriving  community shelters, and have signed on to help promote the project. If you're in rescue or you just love to see the magic that happens when the right dog meets their perfect human companion, I'd encourage you to check out Mall Dogs Headquarters over at I'm going to be talking about how it's coming along from time to time, so you may as well get up to speed and see if there is anything you can do to help.

A few months back, I also joined the board of The Dog Squad Rescue here in San Diego. Keep an eye on the rescue's event page if you're in San Diego and looking for the right dog. We all have a great passion for helping homeless animals, so I'm lucky to be part of such a special group of people.

All of this is because one special dog who had no reason to trust me gave me a chance, and another, whose love of life refused to accept his very dire circumstances. I'm inspired to go even bigger with my mission.

Who's with me?

A (Senior) Dog in Every Home and a Bed in Every Room

The thing that senior dogs and puppies have in common is their appreciation for sleep. As a puppy, they've spent their day running around and just in general being lovable. Older dogs have been there and done all of that. They're still active, but years of activity have brought them to a place where they only need a few short walks to get their daily exercise. Their joints are a bit more worn down and jumping around is not as enticing as it once was.

The best investments that I've made is to provide a comfortable place for my senior pal to lay down in the rooms where I'm most likely to be. He'll follow me from room to room, so I want to make sure that he's up off of the cold floor, and his old bones have enough support to keep him comfortable.

The most inexpensive option is a heavy quilted dog blanket. I picked up one of these from Costco as an alternative for travel, as well as a "third" bed. It's not perfect in that I need to assist fluffing it up frequently.

The first two that are in my living room and bedroom are full on dog beds. For larger dogs these can get expensive if you go to a specialty pet shop (reaching over $110), but there are plenty of great alternatives that you can pick up on the cheap if you shop around on the web. I find that my dog likes his bed firm, so look to see if the bed has orthopedic support to cradle their bodies and keep them from laying flush on the floor.


When Saying Goodbye is the Right Thing to Do

Sweet Boo Boo - A Dog That Dared to Overcome Fear
Boo Boo the Wonder Dog, looking ready for a new adventure
Sharing your time with an older dog is accepting that they're likely going to leave you sooner than a younger dog might.

It's something that as a dog owner you'll need to come to grips with one day and do the right thing for you and your loyal companion. It'll be one of the tougher decisions you'll have to make, but you're the only one that can make it for both of you.

My primary recommendation is to establish the ground rules for how you're going to decide to euthanize your dog well before the time comes if you have the choice. You'll want to be as objective as possible so you can look back without doubt that you did the right thing.

Make sure that you understand that the decision is yours. Your dog isn't going to tell you if it's time or not. Your dog's only goal in life has been to make you happy and be happy itself. A dog in pain may or may not show signs that tell you when is the right time. Make sure you're working with your vet and determine what an acceptable quality of life is.

Don't make the decision to put your dog to sleep because it's the convenient thing to do. I can't think of a more horrible thing, but unfortunately bringing the dog to be put to sleep or dumped at a shelter because of rising veterinary costs is unfortunately not uncommon. There are alternatives for financial help for people trying to care for their animals in this tough economy if you look.

On the other side of the fence, don't make excuses for dragging it out. No creature lives forever and you don't want to question whether you were part of torturing an animal in its last days for no better reason than keeping it around for yourself.

The best book that I've read on the topic is Is It Time to Say Goodbye? A Guide for Considering a Difficult Decision for your Pet. It's not an easy topic to address, so if you know someone who is struggling over this decision, point them to this book and let them know that you're there for them.

Bark Out Loud for Your Buddy Contest

I've never met Buddy (aka Buddy Boy), but as much as any dog, he's a part of why exists. Buddy was on my short list of dogs to meet when I ultimately wound up adopting Rusty. Buddy was the last dog standing in The Dog Squad's list of adoptable pets before they went back into business full time and ultimately led me to connect with them and become a member of their board.  After two years in foster and making a triumphant return from a rattlesnake bite, Buddy is still a charmer. Everyone needs a Buddy and Buddy needs you. If you're not in the market for a new dog click on one of the sharing icons below (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and get the word out on Buddy.

Note: Buddy ended up a long time foster of one of The Dog Squad's foster moms.

Caring For Your Older Dog

Our friend, Maria Godfrey, in the UK sent us the following tips with a couple simple changes can make your older dog's (and your) life a bit more comfortable:

Older dogs make perfect companions: they are gentle, loyal and loving, and caring for an older dog is a rewarding experience. Whether you and he have watched the years roll by together, or if your wise friend is a new addition to your life, you'll want the very best for your pooch in their golden years. As such, here are a few things to keep in mind when caring for your companion:

A properly balanced diet is vital for any dog, but if your furry is aged seven or over - or five if he's a larger breed - a specially designed food for older dogs may be beneficial. Your vet will be able to offer you more information about the changing nutritional needs of your dog as he ages.

Long Live Your Dog advises owners to keep in mind that older dogs will usually perform less physical activity than their younger counterparts, so the amount of food you give them should be adjusted accordingly. Don't over-feed your dog - obesity is associated with an increased risk of health problems.   

If your older dog has trouble chewing, perhaps due to age-related dental issues, you could wet their dry food slightly with water to make it easier for them to handle.

Your older dog may find it difficult to get around as well as he once did, and jumps that once seemed like nothing can become potentially painful drops, so perhaps the Easy Step Pet Stairs sold by Pets at Home could help him on a day to day basis. Consider it if you have a steep step up to your garden gate or front door, perhaps. Another potentially handy accessory sold by the pet store is the extra tall pet gate. Check out retailers such as Pets at Home for ideas. Fitting this gate can work in several ways - putting your mind at rest if you are worried about your dog's unsteady legs on steep stairs, or ensuring a weakened bladder doesn't become a problem in your child's, or indeed your own, bedroom.

Young Dog, Old Dog, Shy Dog, Bold Dog

Old dogs are like treasure chests. It may take a while to figure out how to open them and when you do, there's no telling what mysteries they're waiting to spring on you.

My old pup, Rusty, recently started exhibiting a new behavior: giving kisses

I don't encourage him to lick, but when we're sitting all alone and I'm rubbing his chin or cheeks, he'll turn and give me a kiss.

My first impression was that something was wrong, so with flashlight in hand, I went routing around in his mouth to see if maybe he had a cut or abrasion. Nothing. 

His appetite is the same, as are all of his biological functions. He's lost a step or two in the last year and a half, but it's been a slow, gradual process, that is probably more closely tied to the time between when we eat and exercise. 

It took me a moment, but then I realized that it wasn't something that I was doing, it was his doggie friends. At eighty pounds and a bounce in his step, you either love him or fear him if you're a smaller dog. Luckily the overwhelming majority love him. Those that don't are either kept well away by their owners, or bark like crazy enough that Rusty gets the hint to steer clear.

The many dogs that love him are smaller and will happily come over to say "Hi" and jump up and lick his face, which experts will tell you is a sign of submission or respect. Even the more shy or nervous dogs calm down given a chance to get close enough. There have been a couple of incidents where one dog or the other will get anxious and both will get mouthy, but that is much more the except than the rule in my case. If you're going to socialize any dog, I'd recommend making sure that they're calm, happy, and know how to tolerate others without having to be in their face first. 

On the other side of the fence, we've come across more young, energetic dogs, that calm down in his presence as if understanding that it's not necessary to get crazy with every dog they meet. There are usually plenty of wags to be had on either side with my older guy occasionally joining the play session to let the younger crowd know that he's still a pup at heart.

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Bark Out Loud and Bring the Thunder

Thor - a senior chihuahua mix

Today, Thor is bringing the thunder from the Southern California. He's a special little guy with some special needs that is looking for his forever home.

In other news, Rusty's own experiences eating grass this week resulted in some mixed results. Once he was perfectly fine. Another time he returned the 6 blades of grass that he pulled up to their original location, if not in a somewhat altered state. He's doing perfectly fine. Thanks to the folks who have shared their stories about their own pooches and their adventures with the lawn.


The Grass Is Always Greener Before You Eat It

Some dogs like to nibble on a few stray pieces of grass. Others like pulling up a bunch of the most succulent thick blades. Either way, if you're anything like me, you've asked: "Why?"

The best I can tell from my research on the web and interviewing pet owners, it has something to do with helping to settle their stomachs. Opinions vary as to whether grass is meant to actually calm their grumbling tummies or cause them to sit up whatever is ailing them.

For me, and others that I know, it's all about yacking things up. I cannot say definitively whether it's because grass tickles their already sensitive stomachs or there is something on the surface (ie, fertilizer, etc.) that might be the cause. I'd recommend using caution and not letting them chomp away without restraint in particular in areas that you don't know how they tend to to their lawn.

In 90% of the times that my senior pal decides to dine on the lawn, he ends up spitting up exactly the same amount that he ate. This happens every few weeks and at least in my case it's because I fed him early the night before and we went out before eating that day.

This is not a recommendation to feed a dog and immediately take them out for exercise. Dogs who get out too soon after eating, in particular larger chested dogs, are more likely to develop bloat which is both uncomfortable and dangerous. Wait at least one hour after a meal to go outside to be safe.

Related articles:
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
How to Feed Dogs at Risk for GDV

Seniors for Seniors - The Mature Dog-Person Connection

Dogs are adaptable creatures, but that doesn't mean that any dog can be matched to just anyone for the perfect fit. Just like person-to-person relationships, dog-to-person relationships require a meshing of personalities and learning styles.

I think back to when my grandparents brought home a new puppy years ago and the challenges they had trying to get it to adapt to their routine. To be fair, they went in with the best intentions, but that puppy wanted to do things its way (ie, running around all the time, always being under foot, needing to go outside frequently to relieve itself when it wasn't making on the floor, etc.)

A couple of weeks in and my mother ended up taking the puppy and while it wasn't the smoothest of transitions it all worked out in the end. Through training and socializing her with our older dog, the puppy made it and was just one of a couple dogs that reached their senior years under our roof.

Had everyone realized it at the time, the perfect dog for my grandparents would have been a senior. We all know puppies are cute, but unlike grand-kids who run around  all day at their grandparent's house, an adopted puppy is home and requires a lot more attention than an older dog.  

I know with my seniors of the canine variety, sometimes I'm more likely to encourage them to go for that last walk of the night than they are to ask for it. Even then it's usually just a quick tinkle and back we go. 

Playing? Many senior dogs just want to snuggle and be pet gently instead of the rough housing that they were more accustomed to in their youth. I have a number of folks in my neighborhood who take their older dogs to the park with them and they will play the occasional game of fetch, but more often it's all about finding a nice shady spot under a grove of trees and enjoying a warm breeze on a summer's day. 

If you're an older person or couple, or know of some that are looking for some canine companionship, I'd encourage you to check out your local shelters or rescues to see if they have Senior for Seniors programs. These usually entails matching older animals (over 7 years old) with more mature people (over 60) at a reduced adoption cost.