Friday, August 29, 2008

Sensitive Shih-Tzus

Life became a bit topsy-turvey for the boys when grandma recently moved into our home.

We got a call last week after she had fallen on her outside steps. It turned out she had a concussion, smashed up her knee and broke her shoulder. Because the hospital wouldn't release her unless she had somewhere to go where she had 24 hour care, we decided she would move in with us since we have no other family in the city. And we were not going to leave her alone in a hospital. We also had to put her house up for sale as she could not go back and live on her own again given her age, the size of the house and the enormous number of stairs she had to tackle each day.

During this process the boys have been extremely sensitive to her needs when they are around her. She spends most of her days in a chaise in the family room watching TV, doing puzzles and talking on the phone to her friends. However, from the day we brought her home the dogs sensed that something was wrong - Grandma wasn't bending down to pat them nor was she picking them up to cuddle. When she first sat down, they very carefully jumped on the end of the chaise by her feet and gingerly made their way closer to her, sniffing constantly in the direction of her left arm. Usually they will come and sit in your lap, often wiggling around each other to get the "best seat". In her case, they never got on her...they would carefully position themselves on the chaise around her and lay down quietly.

When we are in the house, they play and run amok. When we have to leave Grandma in order to get her house ready for sale, she tells us that the boys lay quietly around her the whole time we are gone. When my husband has a nap on the couch, the boys will at some point jump on him when they decide he's slept enough and it's time for him to play with them. When Grandma has a nap, she often wakes up to find the boys sleeping quietly at her feet. They do not, however, wake her up. If they want Grandma to pat them, rather than jump on her they will run to me, jump at my legs to get my attention and then run back beside her chair wagging their tail. It's at that time that I will pick each one up separately and Grandma will pat them.

So as each day goes on, we continue to be amazed by our Shih-Tzus' capacity to be sensitive to injury, even though we have no way to communicate this to them.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Just another word about ticks...

A couple of things I forgot to mention in the last post.

There are two schools of thought on removing the tick. There is the medical way that doctors promote and the "old-fashioned" ways that have been passed down to us for generations from the country folk because there was no doctor around.

Some of the old-fashioned ways include burning the tick with a matchhead (not recommended with your furry animal!!) or coating the tick with paint, nail polish or gasoline. Again, not recommended! The idea behind petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) is that it's commonly found in most homes, it's completely harmless and, when applied to the tick, it suffocates it.

The old way includes soaping your fingers with a regular bar of soap (and I really don't know why we are supposed to do it...this is what I was taught by others), grabbing the tick and slowly pulling it away.

The medical way advises using a pair of tweezers. Apparently they want you to twist the tick onto its back so it doesn't release the venom which carries disease. You can find detailed instructions on how they recommend you remove the tick and why on the emedicine web site.

One other point - when you do successfully remove the tick, please put it in an ashtray and burn it, particularly if you have only taken the body (or you're just not sure what you've removed) because a tick will grow another head or body and keep on living. And they are very hard to squash because they are so hardy. I hate them...they're disgusting...I'm sure they have a purpose on this earth but they are one of those creatures that I just cannot learn to love or respect.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Treating Ticks

When dogs spend more time outside, they are susceptible to a greater number of problems. And one of the biggest problems facing dogs are ticks.

These ugly, blood-sucking leeches grab hold of your dog and are difficult to get rid of. The most insidious aspect of the tick is even when you think you've removed it, often you haven't because the head is still embedded in your dog's skin. As long as the head is still attached and sucking blood, this loathsome insect will actually grow another body.

So how do you get rid of them?

Well, our Bruiser had a tick on his back earlier this summer. My husband felt something when he was patting him and, after parting the fur, found the tick. He soaped his fingers and slowly started withdrawing the tick from Bruiser's body. Once he had it, he threw it in an ashtray and burned it and thought that was that.

A couple of days later, a lump began developing where my husband removed the tick. The day after we noticed it, the lump was even bigger and seemed to continue to grow. What had happened was my husband removed the body of the tick and not the head, so the slimey sucker was still feeding on Bruiser's blood and growing but now he was encased in the skin.

So what do you do? Well we were not about to lance it as I was afraid of hurting our dog. However, I did have this neat little book on household remedies that said if you slather petroleum jelly on the lump, it will seep through the skin and suffocate the tick. We thought it was worth a try and, after 4 days of religiously adding the jelly to the lump, it started to go down and did, in fact, disappear.

So that's the secret to killing an embedded tick - Vaseline petroleum jelly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The boys go to the beach

We have a cozy little cottage at the beach where we like to escape whenever city life starts to take it's toll. And like us, the boys love going to the beach to experience the great outdoors.

The only downside to the beach is the traffic on the roads so we have to keep them chained up for their own protection. However, we bought sturdy metal pegs that screw into the ground and come with long cables that attach to the peg and the dog's harness, so they do have a lot of room to maneouver in the yard.

The boys love going for long walks in the morning and generally wake us at about 6:15 a.m. to be let out and to go for a walk. The only downside to this routine is, if you've had a couple of drinks the night before, you really don't want to be getting out of bed at 6:15. However, that is the responsibility we undertook when we decided to get two dogs, so one or both of us hauls our butt out of bed and takes the boys for their walk. But you know, once you get out there in the cool morning air with the dew on the grass and the only sounds being the birds and the sound of your own footsteps, you realize how lucky you are to be able to experience the peace and quiet that comes with the morning sunrise at the beach.

It's amazing how much energy the boys have when they get to the beach. They can walk, or should I say run, for amazingly long distances in the grass and on the street as they eagerly explore new areas. Of course, they are diligent in marking every rock, street sign and wooden post along the way. Their absolute favorite place to run is on the beach itself, where the sand is like white flour and stretches on forever, the dunes rise in the back and the water slowly laps onto the shore. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on our beach and the signs are prominently posted. However, at 6:15 in the morning, there is no one on the beach, so we have snuck them on a couple of times and let them play to their heart's content. The other day, however, we did run into another dog owner who told us that the beach patrol were really getting sticky about people sneaking their dogs on the beach and the fine was $250 per dog. For me, that would be $500 - a lot to pay for the little guys to have some fun. So, unfortunately, these little morning treks will be confined to the soft green grass in the park and the weaving roads that run through the little beach community. The nice part is that the boys are quite happy to simply explore the community, run in the park, and spend the remainder of the day sunning themselves on the deck and napping.