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Wednesday, August 14th, 2013, 03:54 PM | Updated: 08/14/2013, 03:54:22 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

A best practice of high quality pet care that I always follow is fully engaging the minds and bodies of my pet clients.  In addition to the dog walking and in-home pet sitting services requested by my human clients, I also focus on the physical and emotional needs of my animal clients.  This doesn’t mean that I’m looking to be the next Dog Whisperer or Cat Psychic.  What it means is being attuned and sensitized to what the pet needs for its own comfort, pleasure and safety.

When I pet sit for a dog, and especially if it is for an extended period, one of the ways I connect with the animal is through reading.  (You’re probably thinking that this blogger is in need of expert psychiatric care.  However, please read on and indulge me a bit further.)  It is not unusual for me to sit next to the dog or rest the pooch on my lap, then open up a book and read to the pet.  It is through my calm and soothing voice that I seek to engage the dog.  I probably could read almost anything to the pet but I generally choose a series of children’s books about a dog named Walter.

The character of Walter the Farting Dog is the subject of five books by William Kotzwinkle, a respected novelist, children’s author and screenwriter.  (Mr. Kotzwinkle wrote the novel based upon the screenplay for E.T. the Extraterrestrial).  As you can imagine, the Walter books tackle a rather sensitive subject, but Kotzwinkle handles it in a humorous fashion.  The series begins with Walter’s rescue from a local shelter.  Soon after his arrival into the home of his new family, Walter’s propensity for flatulence reveals itself.  While Walter’s parents vow to return him to the shelter, their children protest.  Through a turn of events and some sidesplitting storytelling, Walter saves the day by committing some acts that literally thwart catastrophe and danger.  In short, as a result of his flatulence, Walter rises to the position of family hero and much-loved pet.

Now I can only imagine how entertaining these stories must be for young boys and girls who rely upon their Moms and Dads for bedtime stories.  But wait!  Here’s an Ah ha! moment.  When I read these stories to my doggie clients and change my voice to get into the different characters, my clients move in closer to me, wanting to be held and embraced.  The rise and fall in the cadence of my voice soothes them.  They look up at me with wonder and interest in their eyes.  And typically as we reach the end of a story, they want to drift off to naptime.  If it’s evening and I’m on an overnight, it’s a perfect way to settle down a dog for bedtime.

So before you dismiss this as sheer nonsense…try reading to your dog.  You’ll discover that reading out loud engages your pet.  Perhaps you’ll also discover that Reading is Fundamental*in your relationship to your dog.

*Reading is Fundamental (RIF) is the oldest and largest nonprofit literacy organization in the U.S.  Its purpose is to promote children’s literacy.  As of the date of this blog, it is my understanding that RIF does not take a position on pet-owners reading to their dogs.

Thursday, July 11th, 2013, 03:45 PM | Updated: 07/11/2013, 03:45:05 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

In my last post, I disclosed my multiple dog personality – my adoration for larger breed dogs along side my actual pet ownership of small breed dogs (Shih Tzus to be precise).

Upon close examination of my feelings, I’ve been able to identify the reasons for my small dog affinity.  First, there is a very practical reason.  Throughout almost all of my adulthood, I’ve lived in condominiums or apartments.  While these living spaces have not been tiny, they also have not been expansive.  It wouldn’t seem fair to a large dog to be confined to a limited space, especially one with no private yard or secure outdoor area in which to run and play.  Our Shih Tzus weigh approximately thirteen pounds each and are fairly sedentary; this is a perfect pet size and lifestyle to negotiate around a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo. 

The second reason relates to ergonomics.  When I’m not performing dog walking or pet care services for my clients like kitty home visits or pet sitting, I tend to spend time working on my laptop.  One of my dogs, Lucy, loves to be held.  It’s much more comfortable to sit in my office doing computer-based work with her in my lap than it would be with an affectionate and well-intentioned Weimaraner pinning me down in a half nelson.

Third, I’m very tactile and affectionate with dogs.  That said, it is so easy and personally soothing to be able to wrap my arms completely around a small dog like a Shih Tzu than it would be to pick one body part like a Great Dane’s head and scratch both of its ears only having to leave its feet for a later reflexology treatment. 

Finally, there is the small female dog factor.  This one is a bit more elusive. Nonetheless, I experience immense joy when my two girls come home from a day of beauty at their grooming salon with decorative bows adorning their backs.  I’ve resisted dressing my dogs in canine haute couture and crowning them with diva-esque tiaras, but the feminine bows certainly add something and I look forward to picking them up and seeing which colors Jeanine has selected for them this time. 

And so while I yearn to own a larger breed “guy’s dog” someday, for right now I’m perfectly happy with my two Shih Tzu daughter dogs as they create their own feminine mystique in an otherwise all male household.  You Go Girls!  Your Dad promises to manage his multiple dog personality and keep his big dog feelings in check.  “Doctor, how much is that therapy going to cost me?”

Monday, July 8th, 2013, 05:40 PM | Updated: 07/08/2013, 05:40:40 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

I feel so fortunate to be able to spend time with animals and integrate them with my work.  Furthermore, my dog walking and pet sitting experiences have led me to think more about my close relationships with dogs.

For more than 13 years, my partner Michael and I have been parents to two female Shih Tzus.  And before this, we shared our lives with another female Shih Tzu.  One would conclude based upon our history of pet ownership that we are partial to small dog breeds, females and specifically, Shih Tzus.  But this conclusion is only partially true.

For many years (and continuing to the present day), I have harbored a strong desire to parent a larger breed dog.  These feelings intensify when I see a pet owner with their Great Dane, Weimaraner or Vizsla (to name only a few of my favorite breeds).

Recently, I have sought to understand the underlying reasons for my feelings.  One relates to the regal appearance and magnificent form of larger breed dogs.  They are handsome, stand tall and seem to convey self-assuredness.  Of course, sometimes the opposite is true.  For example, many of the Great Danes I’ve met are much closer to big sweet kids that prefer to trot along the side of their parents.  They also lumber along, a little uncomfortable in their own large bodies.  And if they have smaller dogs for siblings, their brother or sister often assumes the alpha dog position.  With regard to Weimaraners and Vizslas, I find their physical beauty is enhanced by their startling eyes and the intense gaze they’re able to maintain.  They seem to convey the message. “You can’t fool me.  I know what’s going on.  I see and hear everything that’s happening.”

Another reason for my large breed appeal is they figure prominently into my wish to have a male dog “buddy”.  This is a “guy’s dog” who would sit next to me on the sofa and watch television as I eat munchies (of course, I’d also give him some healthy treats to be perfectly fair), ride next to me in my pickup truck*(if I were to own one) as we travel on adventures together or simply go to the dog park and play catch with me.  In other words, I think it would be awesome to have a four-legged guy around with whom I can do stuff.

Check back in a few days to learn more about my multiple dog personality; my inner psychic life as Dad to a big dog rubbing up against the reality of my holding toy dogs in my lap as I shower them with hugs and kisses.  “It’s okay Doctor!  I don’t believe my condition is serious.”

*Please note that it is not safe to travel with your dog sitting next to you in a moving vehicle.  Should you become involved in an accident, great physical harm and possibly death could occur.  Always secure your four-legged loved ones in the rear seat using a dog restraint device (e.g., special pet seat belt, harness, etc.).

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