Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fun with Grooming

As I am sure everyone is already aware, summer has begun.

Those of us with double coated dogs? This means that the coat is going to go 'POOF'!

My German Shepherd, Thunder, is blowing his coat. 'Blowing the coat' is a term used to describe how these dogs shed their under coat - it comes out in one big 'poof'.

As it begins to come out, it starts to form little tufts of hair all over his body, and you can pluck them off in small cotton balls of hair.

It is a seasonal process, and it can take a few days or a few weeks. In our case, it takes Thunder two or three weeks to completely blow his coat.

And of course, this translates to extra hair all over your house. You start to see tumbleweeds of hair rolling across the carpet.

Which means, it's time to brush your dog! When the coat is blowing out, it is ready to just be plucked off the dog - and the amount of hair that comes off the dog is astounding. Really.

I've combed enough hair out of him to make a second dog - and I have photographic proof!

This is Cozmo, laying next to the mountain of hair.

And the best tool for this process that I have ever had the pleasure to lay my hands on, is the Furminator. Now, I realize this is priced a bit on the high end - but if you are interested in such a purchase, look on E-bay. I purchased mine on E-bay for $11!

And when I tell you it works - I mean, it WORKS. I brush the dog gently when he is blowing his coat and I am able to pull of mounds of hair at a time - without damaging the top coat of hair. When I'm done brushing him, he looks thinner, and all those tufts of hair are gone.

I brush out the coat every couple of days until the under coat is completely gone, and he turns into a great looking dog with a nice shiny coat - and the added bonus of being cooler!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Obedience Trials

This weekend I am serving as Trial Secretary for the June trial at IPOC.

What an experience and learning curve this has been!

This started the beginning of June - I had to put together a premium for the trial. The premium is extremely important - it's what allows exhibitors to sign up for your event, indicates who your judges are, what the prizes are, and allows your club to inform guests what hotels are nearby and provide contact information.

This was a bit difficult to put together - while it was a simple text document and all I needed to do was switch out some information, it was GETTING the information that was not a cake walk. I had to converse with various people, confirming other volunteers to positions, and finding out which positions were still vacant.

That said, I did manage to get it all together - albeit a bit late. Thankfully most people were forgiving of this fact as I've never done this before.

After the premium went out - the entries came in.

Our club purchased some software to enter the trial entry data and run our reports that is supposed to make our lives easier. This wasn't exactly the case for me - and I consider myself fairly savvy around a computer.

The software required MS Access to run - it was really just a specialized database that had been packaged together. I owned only an IMac and a 10 inch netbook. This software was not Mac compatible at all - which meant running everything off my netbook.

This wouldn't been too much of an issue, except that during the installation of MS Office, my netbook completely, and utterly died.

Frantic, this meant I needed a replacement, and quick. I went to Best Buy and replaced my computer with a fairly nice laptop, set up MS Office, installed the trial database and was finally able to get the show on the road, so to speak.

I began entering the entries as they came - sending them first through another member of the club who recorded the financial aspect of it all.

Once June 1st rolled around, I still had a hefty stack of entries to be entered that had come in last minute - and this database isn't the most user friendly interface I have ever come across.

Still, I persevered.

I made it to the end of the entries. Then the fun part, scheduling the judges. Mailing final confirmations. Putting the catalog together, assembling a file of armbands, and sending it to the print shop.

Printing and assembling judges books, then printing running sheets and steward sheets.

The night before the trial, I trudged through the rain to pick up my printed catalogs and arm bands, then headed to the club. I sat here for a few hours putting folders together for exhibitors and judges... and then realized I did not include the judging schedule in the catalog - so I had to print an extra 20 copies of those.

Morning of - I'm here at 7 AM, bright and early, set up with the laptop. I have my totes at the ready to store scores, assembling the package to send to the AKC, the judges folders, and copies for the club.

I'm entering scores as they come, posting them in the hallway, answering questions and processing move ups.

It has been a stressful month. I can see the need to have several volunteers to alternate the job - it is just a lot of work. I am signed up to do this again in October - which is fine, I'll survive.

But I do have some suggestions for exhibitors, stewards, and judges that would help to make everyone's lives a little bit easier.

  • Type your entries whenever possible, please. It's very difficult at times to read hand writing.
  • Don't forget your dog's registration number - and don't assume we have it.
  • E-mail is really the best, fastest method of confirmation. It's much easier for the trial secretary to re-send confirmations and update mistakes via mail then snail mail - and saves money for the club hosting the event, too. I know there are people who don't have access to e-mail or aren't able to print, or aren't comfortable doing this - and yes, we still have to mail in entry forms. But allowing e-mail confirmations when possible really, really helps to expedite the process.
  • Remember Trial Secretaries are often volunteers - and they may work. Please understand that phone calls or e-mails may be delayed due to the secretaries work schedule, but they will always try their best to get back with you as soon as possible.
  • Mail your entry with at least a week before the close of entries. You want to ensure your entry arrives with plenty of room for mail delays - and this makes the secretaries job much easier by not having a large amount of entries to enter at the end.
  • Be patient. Many times the trial secretary is new to the job - and may not have all the answers. They may need to check with more experienced people.
  • And most importantly of all - be polite. You have no idea how stressful it is to manage all of the entries and paperwork - especially when the person is new. If exhibitors are overly rude and downright mean to the secretary, there is a strong likelihood that the secretary will not want to the job again, and if we run out of volunteers, how will shows get run?
  • Please don't use a flexi-lead. Flexi-leads honestly cause so many more problems then they are worth at a trial. Remember that trials are often indoors - and very crowded with  many other dogs, people and crates. A dog does not need 16 feet of leash in such closed quarters. In one instance, I witnessed a poodle on a flexi-lead run around a corner and meet face-first with a very surprised doberman who was not the least bit amused. The dobermans owner was very attentive and alert and no issue occurred, but the poodles owner wasn't even able to see the situation that could have occurred. Please use the six foot leash that you use in the ring, and save your flexi-lead for your regular walks.
  • Be on time. It is very stressful to the secretary and trial chair if we have no one to help us run the show. We simply can not be everywhere at once, and we depend on stewards to make trials run smoothly.
  • Be polite. It is imperative that stewards be polite and professional when speaking to others at a trial. Remember that stewards represent the club they are working for - being rude to competitors or snippy with a judge does not leave people with a good image of the club.
  • Dress accordingly. Many clubs request that stewards dress a certain way so they are easily identified, in our club it's black pants with a white top. And wear close toed shoes - in many places this is a requirement for safety, but it also helps keeps the dogs from sniffing toes in a figure eight!
  • Respect the judge. I can not stress this enough. A steward should not question or argue with a judge - period. If there is an issue, be sure to address the issue to your trial chair - and don't gossip amongst other stewards.
  • All I ask of judges is that they be compassionate and understanding - and most are. In my club at least, no one draws a paycheck. Trials are run entirely on volunteers. Having an understanding judge means we will go far out of our way to make sure the judge has everything they need - but not everyone has been a steward, a secretary, or even a trial chair before. So please, before you get angry with us, try to make sure we really understand what you are asking, and we'll do our best to assist you.
After all of that, I hope everyone who competes loves the sport they are competing in - and I hope they have a blast. Good luck to all of you - and bring home the Green!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sometimes life isn't very fair

This is a short post. I'm posting only because I am forcing myself to write once a week minimum.

I'm watching my heart dog, Delilah, slip away, one day at a time.

Some days she is bouncy, wants to go for a walk, wants to play, wants to eat. Some days, like today, she is slow.

She eats her food slowly - and sometimes not at all. She doesn't want to play or go for a walk today. She's losing weight - slowly, but surely.

Everything about her is slowing down.

And every day she still greets life with all of herself, even if all she has to offer is a five minute game of tug or a few thumps of a tail. Some days, she's full of life and wants to run the block.

But all the same, I'm losing her. Each day is closer and closer to the end.

No matter how long it takes, it'll never feel like we had enough time. It will always feel too soon.

I know I don't have many (if any) readers yet. I'm sorry this post is such a downer.

Today is one of Delilah's off-days. They are more and more frequent, which means I have to re-evaluate quality of life on a daily basis now.

The day is coming, I just don't know that I'm strong enough. I know she is, and I know she'll tell me when she's ready.

I know that somehow I'll have to say goodbye. I just don't know how I'll find the strength.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Because love does not have a price tag

I had a conversation this weekend with a couple of people and we were discussing the current health state of our dogs.

My Dane, Delilah, is 11 years old and she has been diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is one of the more common types of bone cancers seen in dogs. It is a malignant tumor, it can develop on any bone but is most commonly seen in the legs.

In Delilah's case, she has a tumor on her left shoulder blade. It is a very painful type of cancer and can cause lameness in the affected limb as the bone is being slowly destroyed from the inside out. It is most common in large breed dogs, it his highly metastatic - and in most cases, by the time you have found the tumor, it has already spread to other parts of the body.

There are not a lot of treatment options for this specific type of cancer. Some people, especially with younger dogs, may opt to remove the entire leg. This will create immediate pain relief from the tumor, and dogs are fine with three legs. However, the leg amputation is done only for pain relief, as by the time the tumor is found, it has already spread.

Some other individuals, may opt to remove the leg and have chemotherapy done on the dog. This can provide pain relief and higher quality of life for the dog, but again, there is no cure. While some dogs may live a few more years, the majority do not.

The overall outlook for this type of cancer is very grim. In our case, we were given an estimate of 4 months before Delilah's quality of life would be so poor we would need to consider euthanasia. We are, fortunately, now at month 6 since this diagnosis, and counting every day as a blessing.

As I spoke to these people regarding the health of my dog, they asked what treatment options my husband and I were considering. I informed them that we had three options to choose from - pain medication, leg amputation, or chemotherapy. We opted for pain medication to manage her level of pain.

This choice came from two angles - the first, was that amputating the leg would cost anywhere from $2-3000, and I simply do not have this kind of money sitting around. The second angle, was that we are discussing an 11 year old dog. Great Danes have a life expectancy of somewhere between 6-8 years, so my dog is already ancient.

But the second line isn't what one of the individuals heard - they only heard that I was not willing to spend the money on my dog to save her. I was actually told I did not love my dog enough because I was not willing to take out a loan, charge it to a credit card, or do whatever it took to come up with the money.

Which had me thinking - does love have a dollar amount? Do I really not love my dog enough because I can not spend $2000 to remove her leg on a dog this age?

One of these individuals, told me they had taken her dog to the vet for a ruptured gallbladder, and spend $5000 to save her, reminding me that they had spent more than that in training and showing her. However, the key factor, is that her dog was only 5, and the medical issue was something not only repairable, but would ensure the dog had a high quality of life for the rest of her life - and most importantly, they had the money available to them.

But what if you don't have $5000 to spend on your dog in an instance like this, or in my case, not even $2000? What if you don't even have $500?

I know a lot of people who don't have this kind of money, and right now, unemployment is high and wages are low. I don't believe that money is an indicator of whether or not a person is a good pet owner, or whether or not a person loves their dog.

A little girl whose dog was hit by a car whose parents can not afford to save does not love her dog any less than a person who has $5000 to spend.

I see the following phrase repeated over and over on dog web pages, dog blogs, and other various sources, "If you can't afford the vet, you can't afford the pet."

I couldn't disagree more. Many people may disagree with me on this statement, I'm okay with this.

Being a responsible pet owner is not dictated by how much money you can spend on the dog. If your dog sleeps on a four post bed in his own bedroom, it does not inherently make you a better pet owner than someone who lets the dog sleep on the floor in their bedroom, or in their crate, or in the bathroom.

If you can't afford to fence your yard and you place the dog on a chain to get exercise and relive himself for an hour or two, it does not make you any worse than the person who puts their dog out into a privacy fenced in yard.

When a person takes in a dog (or any other pet), you are promising to take care of that pet. You will provide food, shelter, and medical care to the best of your ability. At the very least, 'affording' a dog should include vaccinations and annual checkups, and flea, tick, and heartworm medication.

Food should be the highest quality you can afford, and if the highest quality you can afford is Ol'Roy, then your dog will eat Ol'Roy.

Shelter should protect the pet from the sun, the wind, and the rain. It does not mean the dog should sleep in your bed or on the couch if you don't wish it, and if you want to give the dog an old blanket to snuggle up on in the corner of the living room, so be it.

But if your dog were to be struck by a car and require thousands of dollars of medical treatment and you can't provide it? Then it is time to think of what is best for the dog. If you can not afford to treat a medical condition that is life threatening to the dog, then at the very least you should be able to afford euthanasia, as an act of kindness to the dog, and not allow him to suffer.

Love is not a dollar amount. A dog is better in a home where he is loved, even if he sleeps on a hard floor and eats Ol'Roy dog food, then spending time in a kennel somewhere waiting for someone else to find him, or for when the kennel decides he has been there long enough.

Too many times I see people suggesting that a person needs to bring in a certain level of income to keep a dog, that a dog needs expensive toys and beds, shiny leashes and collars, and they must eat a certain way.

I'm not going to suggest that. If you know your dog needs medical help, and you have the money and you still don't provide it - THAT makes you a bad pet owner. Starving a dog makes you a bad pet owner. Beating an animal, ignoring the mental needs of the animal, causing the dog to become obese, chaining it or leaving it in a fenced yard at all times with no interaction with its family - THESE things make a person a bad pet owner.

Not having a lot of money does not. I don't make a lot of money. I really, really don't. I provide the best care to my dogs that I can afford. Sometimes I cut back in other areas to make sure my dogs needs are met. But they are trained, fed, have places to sleep, receive medical attention when needed, and pain relief when needed.

For Delilah, I can afford pain relief. She takes pain medication twice a day. She still eats, still wants to play, still enjoys walks - albeit a little slower. And still, I love her so much that thinking about the future makes me want to break into tears. When her quality of life begins to degrade, I will make sure she does not suffer, because that is what I promised her when I brought her home.

Because love does not have a price tag.