My dog, Seba, loves giving kisses! But sometimes they’re smelly, if I’ve forgotten to brush her teeth. What? Brush my dog’s teeth? Yes! Not only does she tolerate me brushing her teeth, she expects it and there are some things she seems to enjoy—such as the peanut butter flavored toothpaste!
Ok, so yes–you should brush your pet’s teeth. But how do you know when? Ideally, a pet’s teeth should be white (not yellow, brown or gray), their gums should be bubble gum pink—except in the case of pets whose gums are a different color naturally—and they should not have bad breath.
Pets do not usually develop cavities the way children do, but they can contract periodontal (gum) disease due to buildup of tartar. Once the gums are infected and inflamed, they can lose their teeth. But a long time before that happens, they may be having pain that they won’t show in the same way you would…
In addition, once infection sets in, their immune system becomes compromised, and this can lead to heart and other types of disease.
I was lucky with Seba, because greyhounds are quite used to being touched all over and handled with humans doing all kinds of strange things to them—including dressing them in racing silks, winning banners…and later, when they are adopted to a home, everything from fancy collars with dangly bling to coats to booties for their feet in the winter! So it was an easy segue to start putting a toothbrush in her mouth.
But HOW Do You Brush Your Pet’s Teeth?
But, if your pet isn’t used to this, the way to start is by using something on your finger that the pet loves—like tuna juice for cats or plain peanut butter for dogs (just be sure to avoid any peanut butter containing xylitol as a sweetener, since this is highly toxic to our canine friends). You want to approach the pet from the side, not face to face. A smaller dog or a cat you can place on your lap, with its face away from you. Our cat lovers may want to try a Cat In The Bag as an easy way to brush your feline’s teeth, and it can be used in many other instances, as well.)
Seba knows when Momma is talking baby talk to her, she is safe and something good is coming in the way of treats and pets. But any reassuring sound you make or praise you give throughout the process will create a pleasant association for your pet. Start for short sessions on a regular basis and build up to a full mouth brushing, starting at the back on the inside and using short, circular strokes with the brush.
The Facts About Pet Gum Disease
You may have thought that gum disease only affects humans, but in fact pet gum disease is the leading dental problem vets see, and affects 80% of dogs and 70% of cats. In general, pets are more susceptible as they grow older, but toy breeds are particularly so, because of tooth crowding.
Gum disease in pets is caused by the same things as in humans: bacteria from leftover food particles causes plaque along the gumline. If not cleaned away, the plaque hardens into tartar, which clings strongly to the teeth. This can happen in as little as 3 days. Gingivitus, bad breath and inflammation of the gum follow which, if still untreated, can cause loosening of the teeth, abcesses and further infection. All during this process, the pet is in pain–and, unlike you, will not be able to schedule an appointment for themselves!
Signs of periodontal disease in pets are:
Loose or Missing Teeth
Loss of appetite
Obvious pain or difficulty while eating
Red, inflamed gums
Yellow brown tartar deposits
But What About The Dental Treats I Give My Pet?
Like a lot of other pet products on the market, these are well loved by owners–but keep in mind they do not replace a toothbrush or professional cleaning. Treats should not be soft (or become soft as in the case of rawhides) as hard food and treats help remove built up plaque from the pet’s teeth. You want a tough, chewy treat, but not extremely hard like cow hooves or pig ears. Hard objects can chip and wear down teeth prematurely. However, in general, providing your pet a chew toy is beneficial, even if you spot some bleeding of the gums, as in particular dog gingiva is more sensitive than that of humans.
Healthy gums should be bubble gum pink with no signs of redness or irritation.
At The Vet
As part of your pet’s routine, your vet should be checking their mouth, gums and teeth. If they find your dog needs a cleaning, they will use one of two methods (generally, under anaesthesia): manual or mechanical scaling.
Manual scaling is used for mild cases of tartar buildup or as a followup to a mechanical scaling procedure.
Mechanical scaling uses ultrasonic scalers powered by compressed air.
After scaling off the tartar, the pet’s teeth are polished, just like a human’s. This is a key process to ensure the natural nooks and crannies of the teeth are smooth, and less easily able to allow tartar to adhere. Irrigation with a water based solution is the final step in the process, rinsing away any further debris.
Sometimes, your pet may need teeth removed–especially if they are extremely loose, broken beneath the gumline or split. This ensures your pet can have comfortable meals after healing and that any infection cannot spread throughout the body.
So here’s the takeaway: yes, you can brush your pet’s teeth! And you should. It can lengthen their life considerably, not to mentione their enjoyment of it. Plus–no smelly kisses!
Joy Jones, Publisher, is also the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area. She is also a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave (below). When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.
The Hindu faith, the cradle of which is India, is a religion which dotes upon the birds and animals. In fact, the religion has bestowed the fur, feathers and fins species the status of divinity by linking their multifarious gods and goddesses to various animals. All the numerous Hindu gods and goddesses are considered the manifestations of one supreme creator, the Almighty God. The gods and goddesses in Hindu mythology travel in supersonic speed on animals and birds. Different gods have different vahanas (animal vehicles). The literal meaning of the word ‘vahana’ is ‘that which carries, that which pulls’. Mesopotamian gods and goddesses were all associated with vahanas. According to some historians, the concept reached Indian shores in the second millennium BC via the trade route between the two ancient civilizations.
Surya – Horses
The sun god, Surya, mounts on a golden chariot, pulled by seven white horses. Seven is a sacred number in Hindu mythology. The seven horses are representative of the seven major sins and how the Sun God triumphs over them. They also symbolize the seven chakras (spiritual vortexes in the human body).
Agni – Ram
Agni, or the fire god, rides upon a ram. Sacrifices are offered to Agni and to many other gods through him. Interestingly, the ram is a sacrificial animal, which has been linked to the Hindu fire god, to whom sacrifices are offered.
Brahma, the god of creation, travels all over outer space on a swan, chanting the sacred Hindu scripture the Vedas. The elegant swan is symbolic of intelligence. As per Hindu tradition, it’s a bird which can figuratively sift the pure from the impure, like it sieves milk from water. Sometimes, Brahma is shown riding seven swans.
Durga family with vahanas–photo courtesy of Arindam Mukherjee.
Durga – Lion
Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of war is seen with a lion. Similarly, Durga, the mother of the universe and the warrior goddess, pierces a spear into the buffalo demon’s heart, while riding a lion. The lion, as we all know, has been nicknamed the King of the Jungle. In Hinduism it’s also considered the supreme of all animals. Also, let’s keep in mind that the goddess rides a tame lion. The lion may also represent gluttony and the craving for sensory pleasures which gives birth to lust. The goddess riding a lion may also symbolize that she has tamed the instincts of greed, lust and gluttony to rise to a spiritual height.
Ganesha, the huge elephant headed god, who is worshipped for wealth and prosperity, mounts on a mouse. This rodent was actually a god named Kroncha in his previous life. He had accidentally stepped on the toes of Saint Vamadeva, who was also worshipped as a god. Stepping on a spiritual being, is considered blasphemous in Hinduism. Kroncha desperately begged apology. Vamadeva’s wrath simmered down. Undoing a curse is mythically impossible, but he toned it down by saying that he would become Ganesha’s vehicle.
As per mythologists, the mouse is symbolic of basal desires. Being dark in colour, it is also averse of light or truth. Some feel that the mouse is representative of the egoistic mind, as it can metaphorically gnaw on the virtues of man. Ganesha, by mounting the mouse, thereby symbolically conquers impure desires, spiritual darkness and pride.
Indra, the god of rain and thunderstorms, rides a white elephant called Airavata. This winged elephant was hatched from a cosmic egg. Of the 16 elephants that were born from this egg, Airavata was by far the strongest. This mythical creature sucks water with her trunk and sprinkles it on earth thereby creating rain. He had fathered winged white elephants as well. One day they accidentally interrupted a class conducted by a sage when he was teaching. He put a curse on them which clipped their wings. The white elephants of today are said to be Airavata’s descendents. Airavata besides being Indra’s vahana is believed to, along with his siblings, hold up the eastern hemisphere of the globe.
Kartikeya, the god of war is seen in pictures as perched on a magnificent peacock. The prevailing myth is that the peacock doesn’t copulate with the peahen. Therefore it is regarded as a chaste bird. As the old wives’ tale goes the peacock is contented with its magnificent plumes but is deeply embarrassed by its unattractive legs. While it joyfully dances under a cloudy sky, when it glances at its legs, it is moved to tears. The peahen sips the tears and conceives. So, the message to all warriors is that they should forgo all sexual desires, if they wish to emerge victorious in war. The scientific truth however is that peacocks do have sexual intercourse.
Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, wealth and prosperity mounts the wise old white owl. Besides wisdom, the bird also symbolizes patience and intelligence. Its white plumes denote spiritual purity. It is also bestowed with the mythical powers of fortune telling. Simultaneously, this owl also serves the practical purposes of a barn owl. In the state of Bengal in India, the annual festival dedicated to the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, is celebrated in late autumn. This is when the farmers have just reaped a rich harvest and have stocked their granaries with food grains. The owl cleanses the granaries of all pests, thereby protecting the grain. The more grain the farmer sells, the wealthier he/ she will become.
Saraswati duck–photo courtesy of Arindam Mukherjee.
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, learning, music and arts is seen with a swan. As she is after all Brahma’s consort, it’s not surprising that she has chosen the same bird as the vahana.
Hindus pray to Lord Shani to ward off influences of evil forces. Just like mischievous magpies have ill repute in the occidental part of the globe because of their thieving tendencies; in India crows too are linked with stealing. By mounting the crow, Shani is said to suppress pilfering habits in people. He is also the god who metes out punishment to those who have abided by evil ways.
Goddess Shashthi, the goddess of fertility, is worshipped by the childless who wish to conceive. As the old tale goes, the daughter-in-law of a farmer, consumed great quantities of fish and milk from the kitchen on the sly. When confronted, she falsely put the blame on a black cat. The innocent animal was beaten repeatedly. The feline complained to Shashthi and decided to teach the liar woman a lesson. The cat stole six of her new born baby boys. Her seventh child was a daughter and when the cat tried to take her away, she injured it and followed her to discover that all her children were with Mother Shashthi. The goddess insisted that she apologize to the cat. The woman touched the cat’s paws as a sign of devotion and promised never to put false blame on it. All her kids were returned and her sisters-in-law were blessed with bonny babies.
Shitala is prayed to with the hope that she’ll ward off chicken pox, measles and sores. She is believed to ride the streets of villages on a donkey with a broom, sweeping paths free of germs.
Shiva, the destroyer, rides a bull named Nandi. The bull being a strong animal symbolizes virility. Nandi is Shiva’s ardent devotee. He is said to have lived with the god in the heavenly snowy abode of Kailash.
Vishnu, the Preserver/Protector mounts an eagle-like creature called Garuda. To save his mother, Garuda flew to the heavens and slayed two snakes to fetch a pot of nectar. Since that day, Garuda developed acrimony with snakes and started feeding on them. The eagle, as we all know, preys on snakes too. Garuda is seen as clutching two snakes and with serpents garlanded around him.
Yama, the lord of death, rides a black buffalo. This celestial beast is said to be strong enough to ferry two armoured gods. Yama is also the god of righteousness, his tough water buffalo is said to be symbolic of upholding justice. Yama, perched on the buffalo roams around the world, searching for souls which are about to exit the earthly abode.
The tiger, which is the national animal of India, is the vehicle of god Ayyappa, who happens to be Shiva’s son, conceived of the enchantress Mohini. The baby Ayyappa was forsaken on the river banks and was found by a childless king. Later, the queen had a biological child. She faked an illness which would only be cured by tiger’s milk. She summoned Ayyappa to fetch the milk. The wicked woman secretly hoped that the tiger would kill him. He returned victoriously on a female tiger along with her cubs, carrying a pot full of milk. The royal couple realized that he was god. The queen pleaded for forgiveness.
–photo courtesy of Srabanti Chakrabarti
These were just a handful of tales of Indian gods and goddesses with their beloved animals. Vayu (the wind god) rides on a horse. Varuna (the water god) rides the waves on a crocodile. The river goddess Yamuna drifts on a tortoise. Bhairava, a manifestation of Shiva, has chosen a dog as his vehicle. The list is almost endless.
There are more than 330 million gods and goddesses in Hinduism. The tales of them with their respective vahanas have filled voluminous books, which are stored in various quaint libraries across the country. Some of these manuscripts are still in the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, which are yet to be translated to English and other contemporary Indian languages.
–photo courtesy of Srabanti Chakrabarti
The Future Vahana
There’s yet another god whom Hindus are looking forward to. He is to make his entry into the world along with his vahana in future. Currently, Kaliyug, or “age of vice”, is ongoing as per the Hindu mythological calendar. It’s believed that Kalki, an incarnation of Vishnu, will come galloping on a white horse, to usher in Satya Yuga, “the age of truth and virtues”.
Pallavi Bhattacharya from Mumbai in India is the pet parent to a white rabbit named Potol. She feeds stray dogs and cats. She has written for leading Indian publications on animals/ pets like gingertail.in, Dogs and Pups, Cats and Kittens, the Furs, Feathers and Fins magazine and Buddy Life.
This time around, we’d like share the work of some new writers (and one talented artist) with all of you…
The cartoon you see above was created by Dan Rosandich, and aptly illustrates what most dog owners are quite familiar with: doggy “Facebooking”, aka “checking pee-mail”. 😀 More of Dan’s work can be found at DansCartoons.Com.
Next, a short piece about shedding…
How Much is Too Much Hair and How to Deal with It?
They drive me mad. Yes, you are right. Those little fur balls, especially around spring and fall are what I am talking about. The first advice I can give you: accept it. Your beloved dog will shed one way or the other. The next stop is dealing with it. But how?
I have two dogs, Brando and Astoria and a cat Archibald. Yes, they live together in the same house. Don’t make me start talking about that! Anyway, I will just say that having them in the house during shedding seasons is not what I consider a clean house. However, as we love our pets so much, we strive towards finding a solution. During years of having pets, I learned a few tricks of my own.
As I have said, dogs usually shed in fall and spring. If your dog is kept indoor, you can expect year-round shedding. If you notice that your pooch sheds more excessively than usual, the reasons behind it may lie in nutrition, parasites, allergies or other medical problems.
Brush, brush and more brush
I advise to brush your dog every couple of days, no matter what the length of the coat is. You know that there are specific brushes for specific breeds? And you know that some breeds require more than one brush? I have been really struggling with so many types, until I came across a product. I will just say: God bless the furminator – a lifesaver that I bought at Stefmar.
Get Rid of Parasites
Parasites are one of the reasons why your dog sheds too much. Keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy by bathing it once a month. It will work for most dogs. However, some breeds with an oily coat require bathing more often. An oatmeal shampoo is a good choice as it nourishes the skin and coat. Taking your dog to a vet once a year for the inspection of the stool is also something you should do.
There are many types of parasites, the most common being fleas. To keep your pet fleas-free, you can opt for a once-a-month topical insecticide, a spray, a collar or a flea comb. I think that a flea-comb is a little bit overlooked, but I find it extremely useful.
Pay Attention To Your Dog’s Food
Malnutrition is one of the factor contributing to excessive shedding. The food you give to your pet should meet the standards of your national food control officials. However, paying attention to ingredients is important, as well. Nutritious food should contain meat, a source of carbohydrates and a source of unsaturated fat. You can also add olive oil or flaxseed oil to your dog’s food. I add 5ml per 10 pounds of body weight. You can also treat your dog with human food, but it is important to know which food your pet should eat and which it shouldn’t.
Allergies And Medical Problems
If excessive shedding lasts longer than a week, visit a vet. You can spot more serious medical problems if your dog has bald patches, you notice skin irritation, scratching, constant foot licking or face rubbing. I found out last year that Astoria was allergic to a household cleaner I used to use. At first I did not know why she started shedding so much. Since I could understand why this was happening, I visited a vet and she told me that allergies are one of the causes of shedding.
I hope my experience will prove to be useful to you. However, before you try to solve the problem of (excessive) shedding, my advice is to always seek the help of vet. Depending on a breed, he/she will know whether shedding is normal or not and which steps should be taken.
Roxana Oliver is an adventurer and frequent traveler as well as bloggerat highstylife.com. Besides traveling she loves to take hikes with her two dogs and play around the house with her mischievous cat Archibald. Roxana is a green building designer by vocation, and has a passion for exotic cooking.
Here’s a short piece for those thinking of adopting a kitten…
Basic Equipment For Your Feline Friend, The Cat
There are many things you can have ready before your kitten arrives and in no time it will grow into an adult cat. If you are good at a few things, you both can be very good friends. You will need a cat litter box, certainly a good quality of cat litter, carrying basket, toys, scratching post–which is one of the most important–and a grooming kit. Tags and microchips for identifying and tracing them are also very useful. A special bed would be nice, but you shouldn’t be worried because a lot of times, they like to be by your bed or at one corner.
One of the most essential things to have is a litter box. There are various types of litter boxes on the market. There are small, medium and extra large sizes with open or closed box types. You have top opening or side opening ones, as well. In this era of technology you also have robotic litter boxes that are self cleaning by scooping out the solid wastes after the cat is done with its job.
The brand of litter is also important and you need to stick to something that it likes. Also take care to teach your cat to use the box. Always keep it clean and tidy.
The next important thing is perhaps the scratching post to keep your curtains, bed sheets, sofa and furniture from getting scratched by your pet’s nails. While playing, it can keep scratching quite often and vigorously.
A post should be sturdy and tall: its height should be at least 25 to 30 inches. Cats grow taller and they will like to scratch on something they can climb on while standing on their hind legs.
Grooming is also an important aspect. As with other pets, cats prefer to keep themselves neat and tidy. But you will need to properly groom your cat regularly. Use proper combs and brushes to brush its fur. Take care with the face, eyelids and whiskers. There is nothing like playing with a furry cat, and when you take proper care of your pet, you both only get closer.
You will also need to use properly cleaned utensils to serve your cat with her daily diet. Cats can have allergies to plastic, but you can use glass and ceramic much more confidently.
Broken Promises SW is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization seeking to end animal overpopulation by spaying and neutering animals in Las Cruces, NM and Dona Ana County. We offer spay/neuter assistance, help with addressing feral cat overpopulation humanely through TNR, and rescue of injured pigeons, doves, chickens, and other birds. We operate a sanctuary that is home to rescued cats, doves, pigeons, hens, a few roosters, and a turkey named Sorrell. We also have two resident feral cats, Gary and Alan, who keep an eye on the sanctuary while we’re tending to other things.
We don’t “take” cats from people’s property – all the cats we trap are returned after they are surgically sterilized, ear tipped, and given rabies and FVRCP vaccines. We sometimes will take adoptable stray cats and young feral kittens to socialize and adopt out through one of the rescue groups we partner with when time and space allows; these occasions are rare given the volume of feral cats we regularly trap, but openings do pop up on occasion.
Our services are offered at no-charge, but we are a small organization that runs on donations so any amount is appreciated. If you are unable to afford a donation it will have no affect on the quality of care and help you and your cats will receive. We accept cash/check donations at our PO Box and credit card donations through Paypal here.
This post was sent in by submitted by Joe Miele with Broken Promises SW. If you’d like to write a post about your non profit org, we’d love to see it! Just check out our submission guidelines at this page.
When we think of freedom for our pets, we imagine long, rolling fields of wildflowers where they can run freely, leaping about to their heart’s content. We might even think of this happening without their collar being on. But freedom also implies the absence of fear, and the provision for freedom of choice.
The 4th of July is a celebration of freedom everywhere in the US. Everywhere, often, except our own backyards and living rooms. For our pets can feel anything but free from panic. And we sometimes do not think about all the choices we might for how to alleviate this.
No one really knows how many pets flee in a panic from their homes during holidays like the 4th of July and Labor Day, where fireworks are present. Animal shelters all over simply report that they are inundated with pets that panicked at the noise and fled their yards or homes, winding up lost, injured…or even killed.
Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe On Fireworks Holidays
Keep your Pet Indoors–To you, fireworks might be the highlight of the summer–but to your pet, it can be terrifying. Dogs never known to have jumped fences or walls,or ever have broken from restraint, can go to amazing lengths to get away when they are panicked.
Leave Your Pet at Home When Going To See Fireworks–Pets that are normally quite calm can become quite desperate to get away in crowds of strange people and smells, fireworks not withstanding. And, as we know, leaving them in a car is not an option, either.
Another Choice For Pets
If you cannot keep pets comfortable at home or leave them home alone during holiday festivities, find a safe, secure boarding facility (preferably, cage-free) where they can have a lot of fun and never know anything happened. This way, you can enjoy the holiday yourself, knowing they are being kept somewhere securely and are enjoying themselves. And don’t forget that people often set off fireworks a day or so before–and after–the holiday.
NEVER Keep or Use Fireworks Around Pets–Most people realize pets can be injured by fireworks. But did you know that even unused fireworks can be hazardous? Some fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as arsenic, potassium nitrate, and other heavy metals.
Thundershirt Is Not A Person
Many pet owners have success with using the Thundershirt pressure wrap to calm their pets during storms as well as the fireworks holidays. But it doesn’t work for all dogs…and you must follow the instructions on getting your dog used to wearing the device. Noted animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, who helped develop the Thundershirt, has also stated that after about 20 minutes, its effectiveness diminishes. So if an extended episode of noise is in the cards for your pet, this might not be the best option, even if it has worked for brief periods.
I read a story the other day of a woman simply hugging her dog during storms and fireworks–not restraining the dog, but offering brief, comforting pressure. This worked so well that the dog would return to her when it was panicked, for more hugs!
So keep in mind…a thundershirt is not the same as having a human there to give comfort. Pets absolutely know it is we that protect them.
Signs of Panic in Dogs
One Paw Raised–cute, but denotes worry
Half Moon Eye (white of the eye shows in a half moon. Looks like the pic above.)
Displacement Behaviors (behaviors that substitute for panic aggression) such as:
yawning when not tired
licking chops without the presence of food
sudden scratching when not itchy
sudden biting at paws or other body part
sudden sniffing the ground or other object
wet dog shake when not wet or dirty
gets up and leaves an uncomfortable situation
turning head away
hiding behind person or object
barking and retreating
rolls over on back in submissive way
tail between legs
tail low and only the end is wagging
tail between legs and wagging
tail down or straight for curly-tailed dog (husky, malamute, pug, chow chow, spitz-type dogs etc.)
ears sideways for erect eared dog
ears back and very rapid panting
dog goes into another room away from you and urinates or defecates
Things To Know About Panic In Cats
A cat’s sense of hearing is far more acute than that of dogs and humans! A cat can hear sounds up to 64,000 kHz. By comparison, dogs can hear sounds up to 45,000 kHz, while humans hear sounds only up to 23,000 kHz. For this reason, sounds are much more intense for cats. Here are some tips for your cat:
Create A Hideout!–This can be a chair covered with a blanket, a comfy nest in the back of the closet or bathroom, anything that feels like a cozy wild cat den. If you can, notice the place they typically hide when they need to get away, and use that. Shelter it from the noise and light coming in at windows, and get your cat to seek out this safe zone before fireworks begin. Stimulate positive feelings in this place with treats and cuddles. You can even use catnip, as long as your kitty is the type that gets relaxed with it, and not hyper. It’s also a good idea to turn on the lights around the house, which will help mute the flashes from fireworks.
Be Cautious With Adding Sounds–Sometimes, pet parents think if they turn up the TV or stereo so it’s louder than whatever’s going on outside, they can fool their pet into thinking they’re safe. But the resultant noise is usually more stressful than helpful. There is a variety of calming music for pets. It’s a good idea to get your pet used to this special music at least a few days before you have need of it. After a time, they will come to associate it with peace and calm.
Homeopathic Remedies–Feliway (cat appeasing pheromones), Spirit Essences, HomeoPet, and Pet Rescue Remedy are extremely helpful. You can find these at most health food stores or animal supply stores. Applying a few drops to their food, water, or directly into their mouths BEFORE the booms begin can do wonders for stress levels! Essential oils such as lavender and valerian can also help with various anxieties. You’ll want to check with your veterinarian before using any of these, for their thoughts on what is best for your pet.
Signs of Panic In Cats
Body – crouched directly on top of all fours, shaking
Belly – not exposed, rapid breathing
Legs – bent
Tail – close to the body
Head – lower than the body, motionless
Eyes – fully open
Pupils – fully dilated
Ears – fully flattened back on the head
Whiskers – back
Vocalisation – plaintive miaow, yowling, growling or silent
Hissing, growling, shaking, drooling
Involuntary urination, defecation
Aggression if approached
We certainly hope this article has helped to give you some choices for your pet to keep them safe and relaxed during the summer holidays. Please feel free to call or e-mail me at any time with questions and comments.
Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area. She is also a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at email@example.com as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.
We have all seen videos of pets making a noise that sounds like human speech. Dogs howling “I love you”, cats yowling “Hello”, and of course we all expect birds to pick up some vocabulary when they are around us. Do these animals really know what they are doing? Most don’t, of course, but there are some animals that do communicate in ways we consider to be language, like the gorillas that have learned to sign. So unless you have a gorilla, you’re out of luck when it comes to communicating with your pet, right? Not if you learn to talk the way your pet talks.
Animals have a language that is all their own and each species often has a different kind of language from the others. Just like humans, some are capable of learning how to “talk” in other languages, which is usually when you see those mixed species animal friend videos go viral on YouTube. How does that dog seem so happy with that deer? They have found that common ground in language between their species. I watch the videos and though my eye is untrained, I have no problems picking up some ideas rather quickly. Among other observations, the most obvious is that the deer has learned some of the dog’s playful body language and the dog has learned some of the deer’s neck grooming behaviours. There is just enough common ground between them to maintain that friendship, partly because they have learned to “talk” in the other’s language.
It is possible for humans to do the same thing, if we allow ourselves the time to learn. Animals will quite happily study our behaviours, mostly out of genetic necessity. Take our local deer; they freeze in place and stare at whatever strange thing is moving around them to try and decide if they should dash away for their lives. This is their nature. It is what keeps them alive. If the deer in your neighbourhood don’t do this, they have probably become too used to the human activities around them, which can be a dangerous situation with any wild animals.
We are lucky enough to live out beyond the rural boundary, where the deer haven’t adjusted to life with humans in a way that is unnatural for them. Still, loving animal communication since I was a child, I wanted a way to let them go about their lives while we went about ours without disturbing them too much, the way they would coexist with a bird or a squirrel. I didn’t want to open my door and walk to my car, terrifying an entire herd of deer in the process, so I began whistling when I saw them. It wasn’t a tune or anything, just a note once or twice, occasionally making sound. In this way I would move about my yard, not really looking at them or paying them too much attention at all. At first this confused them, but after some time they began to appreciate it. They are still wild animals, they remain unsure about my intentions and they do move deeper into the woods when they see me, but they aren’t dashing out into the country roads in a panic, to be hit by an unsuspecting driver who is coming around the bend at 45 miles an hour. They have learned that my typical behaviour is to exist in the yard, occasionally making a whistle sound and that this particular behaviour doesn’t harm them. They hear me and will casually wander into the woods, flicking their tails a little in agitation that I have disturbed their peace. The same trick also lets them know I am coming down the private drive we share with other families. A short whistle out the window lets them know I see them and I move forward while they shuffle into the trees. Most astonishingly, in recent years, the older deer have actually come to expect that we should announce ourselves to each other. If I do not see them, they will snort at me to let me know they are there, then flick their tails straight up and trot off into the woods, alerting that they aren’t comfortable with this unusually quiet behaviour on my part. This actually startles some guests at night, so be aware if you come visiting.
The deer aren’t my pets, and I wouldn’t ever want them to be, but I use them to prove the point that all animals have the capability to learn the behaviours of others, even the human variety. If we think about it, this should be obvious. When we see a bird in our yard, don’t we expect it to eventually fly off? Don’t we all know that a fish out of water is going to flop around in a desperate struggle to get back in? We know these things because we experience them in some way, either in life or on video. Well, our pets experience us regularly too. They have seen us get food from containers, they expect that we will sleep in the big rectangular fluffy thing instead of on the floor, and they know that we all love looking at that noisy light box on the wall or tapping our fingers on the smaller light boxes that we hold in our hands. If we are doing these things regularly, that must be the way of life. So when my rats, for example, hear me shuffle boxes around or move a plastic bag, they instantly expect that food is being handled, even if the plastic bag is being put in a pocket to use for the dog’s walk.
How do we increase our communication with our pets?
Some animals can be trained to respond to commands. Dogs are trained to sit, stay, beg, and do any other number of nifty things. They hear a word, they learn the behaviour that is expected at the mention of that word, then they do the thing required. It’s that simple. Sometimes you can go beyond that training and teach them to express themselves with the word they have learned. For example, one of our dogs, Sahara, loves belly rubs. She flops over, holds her short little leg up in the air and waits. You rub, then stop, and she turns to look at you as if to say, “Well? Where’s the rest?” I went a little farther with this expression, knowing that she was trying to ask for more. I taught her that if she touched her cheek when someone had given her a belly rub, she would get more belly rubs. It was an extension of the paw waving behaviour she was already displaying, so she picked it up quickly. When she realized I only rubbed her belly when she touched her cheek, and not when she put her paw in the air and looked at me, she transitioned to asking for “more” on a regular basis. Recently she has tried this once or twice when getting treats or dinner, all on her own, without prompting. We have created a monster.
I have also learned to “talk” with my cat, Sekhemkare, and some of my fish. With cats, of course, there are usually no issues at all in communication, since they either leave humans alone entirely or have no problem what so ever in telling us what to do. In the case of our cat, the story comes from replacing his favourite toy, “Piggy”, which had become filthy. We got him a new one and picked up the old one to throw away, only to discover in the morning that the old Piggy was happily resting in the middle of the living room floor while the new Piggy was drowned in the cat’s water dish. That message was clear; death to all imposters.
With my fish, communication has been an interesting ride. The best results came from Nix, Hydra, Pluto, and LaForge, who all learned how to get my attention by spitting into the corner of their tank. They quickly discovered that this sound would instigate my making sounds (talking to them) and moving closer to where they were. Each of them began to use this technique to “call” me the way you would call a dog or cat. LaForge was an only fish and Pluto was also alone for a time, and they were often perfectly content to have me walk over to the tank and sit beside them for a while. In their case this was a way of saying they wanted that “schooling” feeling of having another living thing there with them. Nix and Hydra are my current fish and use this “call” to tell me that I have forgotten to feed them at exactly the time that they expect to be fed. If I ignore the “call” they will often leap slightly from the water and knock into the lid of the tank, which I have decided must be their version of swearing at me for not hurrying up about it.
How My Pets Communicate: The Rats
Now we come back to the rats, who are probably the best communicators of any of the pets that I have. Their minds work more like human minds than just about any animal I have ever encountered. This is one of the reasons rats are so often studied in order to help humans. There are so many stories when it comes to rats talking with us that it is hard to pick one or two to share. We have had rats tap our cheeks or pull on our clothes to tell us where they want us to take them, we have had rats who have dictated exactly where they expect us to leave their food by dragging their dish to the proper place until we finally got the idea, we have a rat who learned to let himself out of his cage, but would only chew a tiny notch in the furniture, then go back inside and wait for us to notice. “See? I let myself out again. That’s three times this week, in case you are counting, like I am.”
Two of our rats have been such good communicators that I gave serious thought to teaching them to use technology to actually speak. Archie was the first of these and sadly he passed away at a very young age, before his training went very far. I learned of his abilities when I realized that he would actually listen to individual words and seemed to work out their meaning within a week or so. I would talk to him and when there was a word he was unfamiliar with, he would tilt his head and look very intent. He would do this repeatedly until he had learned the word. What do I mean by this? Take the word “water” for example. To sum up his vocabulary skills quickly, I will shorten his learning process to a few sentences, but it went something along these lines… I would be talking to him and say something like, “I’m going to get your water, be right back.” He would tilt his head and shift his ears forward, a clear sign he was listening to me. I would repeat the word I thought he was trying to learn: “Water?” If he repeated the head tilt, I knew this was the thing he was focused on, so I would then go and get the water bottle, put it in his cage and repeat the word “water”, usually in a sentence, sometimes on its own. After about a week, if he heard the word water, he would go to either his bottle or the sink, even if we weren’t talking to him. After some time of this, he began to tell us when he wanted fresh water by bonking his head under the bottle if we didn’t talk about water when cleaned his cage. He would stick his head under the bottle, lift it up, drop it and wait. If nothing happened he would do it again and repeat the action until someone said the word “water.” Usually in the form of the sentence: “Okay, Archie, I’ll get you water, just wait a minute!”
In a few months there were many words that Archie knew and several he was fond of. “Water”, “treats”, “kisses” and “snuggles” were all favourites, but he also knew the meanings of “yes” and “no”, along with many other useful words. He could also tell the difference between a single “no”, which we used to emphasize new rules, and “no, no, no”, which we used to remind him of rules he already knew how to follow (like no rats on the floor). I began to work with this increasing vocabulary, certain that there would be a way to help him call to us like the fish did or to express his needs. I bought little jar lid attachments, intended to help the blind label things. You record a short message then push the button to play it back. I began teaching Archie to push the buttons and that pushing the buttons would give him the reward of the thing that he had “requested.” The hardest part was helping him understand that when he heard the word “kisses” come out of the device, it meant he would GET kisses, not that he should GIVE them. Sadly, just as he was learning this he became sick and then passed away, so I will never know how far this training could have gone with him.
Our latest boy, North, will be featured in another article about helping animals adjust to new routines because his communication is the strongest when something is supposed to happen and doesn’t. For instance, when the power goes out and we then can’t turn the lights on when it gets dark, he dashes around looking up at light bulbs and pulling on our arms. His communication is always very clear. In this case you can almost see the speech bubble over his head: “Stupid humans. It’s dark, make it light again!”
The point of all of this is that I have had many people tell me they wished they could have the same connection with animals that I do. Often they ask me what my secret is. How is it that even as a three year old child I seemed to be able to interact with animals in a way that they completely understood? How did I get them following me around or “listening” to what I was telling them to do? There is only one answer: observation. It’s something you need for any language. In order to learn how to say “teddy bear” in such a way that someone else understands it, you have to figure out what word the other person uses for “teddy bear.” The same is true when “talking” with animals; you just have to switch your mind into a different, physical, form of communication. Sometimes “I’m so glad you’re here!” really sounds like water slapping against the glass of a fish tank. Accepting that is the first step to really “talking” with the animals around us.
Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
In December of 2010, Shannon Keith learned that beagles being used for animal experiments in a research lab were to be given a chance at freedom. The mission for the Beagle Freedom Project was formed and they have been rescuing and re-homing beagles ever since.
Beagles for the research industry are generally obtained from commercial breeders, who breed them specifically for this purpose. This breed of dog is known to be friendly, docile, trusting, forgiving–in short, perfect for lab use. In addition they adapt well to cages and are fed inexpensively.
The Beagle Freedom Project legally removes beagles that are no longer used in testing and transports them to forever homes.
Beagle Freedom Project is a service of Animal Rescue, Media & Education (ARME). Founded in 2004, ARME is a nonprofit advocacy group created to eliminate the suffering of all animals through rescue, public education and outreach. ARME has found homes for thousands of homeless and abandoned animals. In 2004 ARME organized the first-ever “Shelter Drive” to provide creature comforts to homeless animals such as beds, toys and treats. ARME’s Shelter Drive became an annual tradition uniting volunteers with businesses that allowed drop boxes for donations. ARME also helps feed and shelter displaced animals when Southern California fires strike residential areas.
Types of Testing Beagles Are Used For
Universities and research labs use beagles to test commercial products such as medicines and pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and household products.
Challenges In Adopting A Lab Beagle
As the greatest majority of these dogs have lived all their lives at either a breeding facility or a lab, they have never experienced meeting children, cats–even other dogs! They are not house trained, but they learn quickly. They have never seen grass…or felt the warmth of the sun. They must adjust to a diet other than what they were provided by the lab. They have never had treats, toys or soft beds, and may never have been on a leash.
At the lab, they may have had irritated or infected paws from living in a cage with a wire bottom. They may be frightened and may haven been surgically de-barked at the breeder, with an ID number tattooed inside the ear (similar to greyhounds). Adopters are given very little info about their beagle’s medical history. The type of testing they were used for is usually not revealed.
However, the transformation of these dogs after they are freed is nothing short of amazing!
Projects In Process Now
Beagles are not the only animals used in laboratory research. Many people are surprised to learn that cats are also, and many need adoption.
The Identity Campaign
As a 501(c)(3) organization contributions to ARME are tax-deductible. To donate please see www.arme.tv.
Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at email@example.com as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.
Anne Tyler is the author of some twenty novels, the latest of which is entitled A Spool of Blue Thread. A few of her novels, including The Accidental Tourist, have been made into movies. Tyler’s work will not have you sitting on the edge of your seat; she’s not that kind of writer. More likely, her work will have you lying back in your favorite armchair, relaxed but engaged, with your pup snoring or your kitty purring on your lap, savoring every word.
Anne Tyler has several trademarks. First of all, all of her books take place in Baltimore; it’s hard to remember the details of each one since her first book came out in 60s, but I seem to recall that most of the action unfolds in the Roland Park area of that great city. Often the old houses her characters live in seem as alive as the characters themselves. Her writing is gentle. You can tell she loves her characters. To my recollection there have been no real “bad guys” in her work. There are only people, ordinary people, people who share their secrets, and people who opt not to; people who seem to get it right all the time, and people who stumble and fall and need a helping hand. Mostly she writes about relationships in families, the little arguments that ultimately bring about change, the small concerns that motivate people to action.
ABOUT ANNE TYLER
Some years back, after several of her novels were published close together, a couple of reviewers began to criticize her for being too “sweet” and for having characters that were too “uniformly quirky.” That upset me a bit. Must we always have books and movies with car chases and vulgar men waiting to beat up on other vulgar men? Yes, her characters are quirky, but certainly not in a uniform way. They are as quirky as you or me, as any of us, each in our own way. In her genius, Anne Tyler is able to create characters so real we might think we would recognize them on the street. Certainly we recognize their likenesses in our own family and friend circles. And sweet? Though I like a good mystery as much as anyone, sweet, especially in Tyler’s hands, is a welcome diversion.
It’s been a couple of years now between her last book and her newest one. Maybe the gap in time has softened the critics, or maybe now that we live in what many people have come to call “the age of distraction,” the critics can see the value in her persistent downhome charm. Either way, reviewers (and readers) are loving A Spool of Blue Thread. No one seems to be giving her any flak at all.
A Spool of Blue Thread is about the Whitshank family. In the course of the story readers learn about three different generations of Whitshanks, but the main focus is on Abby Whitshank: wife and mother of four. Later in the book we get a glimpse of the younger Abby, but in the opening chapters the Abby we come to know (and yes, love) is in her early seventies. She is a retired social worker, but she is still on a mission to make the world a better place in any way she can. One of her immediate concerns is that she seems to be having memory lapses now and then; time just gets away from her. Her other concern is her son Denny, the black sheep in the family, the one who can’t seem to keep a job, who forgets to be in touch, who doesn’t share details about his life when he does get in touch, who seems not to care about the lives of the other family members. The ways in which she and her grown children react to her affliction and to Denny’s shortcomings will come to define the family and set the plot in motion.
So where, you might well ask, are the pets?
Abby and her family have two dogs in the book, one when Abby’s kids are young and one as she gets older. One of the indicators of Abby’s cognitive weaknesses is that the older Abby, the one we meet first (and really the one who dominates the story), calls her dog Clarence, even though Clarence is the name of the previous dog, a black lab who died of old age years before. The new dog is Brenda, a golden retriever, and unlike Clarence, she is of course female, but Abby can’t seem to remember that. When people correct her for addressing Brenda as Clarence, she pretty much ignores them or tells them they are mistaken.
You could say the dogs are a device in the book, and in some sense they are. They symbolize the division between youth and old age. They provide evidence that Abby is suffering some kind of break with reality in her latter years. In once chapter, the younger Abby uses the excuse that she needs help getting Clarence to the vet to get her son Denny into the car so that she can drop him off at the office of a psychologist who she thinks can help him. So yes, the dogs are a device. And in fact, ultimately it is Abby’s inability to know which dog she is walking that brings about the most significant changes in the book, for all of the characters. But on the other hand, Anne Tyler’s characters are not the kind of people who would choose to go through life without pets. They are animal lovers, one and all. We expect to find dogs and cats in her stories, just as we expect to find them in the homes of certain people. And for that reason alone, Anne Tyler is a writer that “Your Pet Space” readers may want to know more about.
Joan Schweighardt, our Literary Editor, is a freelance writer working for both private and corporate clients. She is also a five-time published novelist. She lives in Albuquerque with her husband and her dog.