Archive for February, 2009

Pet Proofing Your Home

I’m not sure how it happened but one day I looked around and found my home filled with seven golden retrievers. They range in age from 11 months to 13 ½ years and are the best family I could imagine.

Twenty-six years ago I thought about rescuing a dog but then I learned that the golden retriever I had in mind was not waiting for me at the SPCA.  In addition, I needed advice and wanted the advantages of using a good breeder.  I have no regrets and, oh yes, they are addictive; it is very hard to have just one!

With seven dogs, there is always something to do.  We attend competitions in agility, conformation, obedience, tracking and anything else that looks like fun. Any extra time is filled with exercise, grooming, play-training, and lots of house cleaning.

One of the biggest issues for me (other than the dog hair and mud) is keeping the house safe.  Like children, dogs are very adept at finding things you wish they wouldn’t. All cleaning products (including cloths) are locked in a cupboard.  I have ensured that no fragile treasures are left at tail-clearing height and that valuable papers aren’t left out to become chew toys. Clothes and shoes are never left on the floor or within easy reach. My dogs love things that smell like me and they love to retrieve.  I have become particularly good at repairing pockets that once held dog treats and have long-since accepted that if I leave it in range and they chew it, the fault is mine.

To entertain my dogs, I leave baskets filled with a variety of safe toys (stuffed squeaky toys, toys that can be filled with treats, and safe bones) in areas where we spend time together.  If soft toys get torn, they are relegated to the “toy hospital” and are repaired until there isn’t anything left to repair. 

I have a great collection of washable dog beds too…Soft cushy ones in the living room for supervised lounging (and to use at night for those who have earned “non-destructive” status), and hard-wearing PVC-framed beds for those who just can’t resist chewing. When I’m not home, all the adults hang out in the family room. After tripping on baby gates for years, I finally installed wrought iron gates at either end of the room. They keep the dogs safe, look great, and are far too high for me to even think about stepping over!

My two puppies are housed in pens in the “dog room” when I’m not home. They have lots of room and are very happy there, patiently waiting for my return.  I know they (and my home) are safe and I don’t come home to find my curtains shredded. 

Of all the dogs in my world, the most “creative” has been 13-year-old Gaelyn. When he arrived, I already knew a lot about keeping the house and yard safe for dogs (no carpet samples—with dangerous bits of nylon–used as dogs mats; no stuffed toys if I’m not watching, and no food on the counters) but Gaelyn stepped it up a notch or two. 

Gaelyn has taught me many things:

  • To remove swallowing-sized rocks from the yard (he swallowed four at eight months old and my vet (bless him) managed to get him to throw them back up again)
  • Not to leave knives on the counter or in the sink (Gaelyn appeared at the door one day with two large knives extending from either side of his face—pirate-style)
  • Not to use soft quilts as dog beds (he ate the batting from the inside and had to have his intestine cut open in eight places to remove the batting)
  • Not to take my eyeglasses off in the family room (yes, he ate them and left me with a small twisted bit of metal frame)
  • To keep the bathroom door closed. His favourite thing is to eat the toilet paper by the roll and, on one occasion, he chewed up the entire wooden holder! 
    Still, Gaelyn smiles his big, goofy grin and I forgive him.  He just has a different idea of what “edible” means.

– Maralyn Redford

February 18, 2009 at 7:00 pm 1 comment

Puppy Lessons for the Obama Family

It seems lately that the focus of Americans is not on the new president, but what dog his family should choose for their new home.  Shelter versus breeder controversy aside, have the Obamas given any thought to what it’s like to own a puppy? 

Cypress-1Four months ago, my fiancé and I decided to add a puppy to our household.  We had recently moved to a larger house with a fenced backyard and we wanted to share it with a dog – preferably one that didn’t have the best start in life.  That’s how we settled on Cypress, our Labrador/Doberman mix.

I browsed adoption websites and the SPCA daily, and checked the newspaper regularly.  Finally, we found a rescued litter and went for our first visit.  The six tiny pups had been severely malnourished and were very shy.  However, seeing them play, eat, and sleep together gave us a sense of their “status” in the group.  Cypress approached us with curiosity but warmed up to us quickly.  When we picked him up he was calm – not trying to squirm or get away–and he wasn’t biting or being pushy.  We knew this was a smart puppy that would fit in well with us.  The Obamas should take a close look at how the puppies interact with one another as an indication of how they will act at the White House.

Cypress-3We preferred a fairly large dog–assertive, yet not a bully or too hyperactive.  We also wanted to be sure he was healthy, and had all his vet papers. We researched breeds to find out about dispositions and we talked about who would be responsible for the puppy during the day, who would take care of food and training, and of course, who would scoop the poop. The whole Obama family needs to think and talk about these responsibilities (although I’m sure they’ll have a paid “scooper”) together before and after the puppy arrives.

The most valuable thing we have done for Cypress so far was to enrol him in a puppy class, where he could socialize with other dogs and people.  We made it a priority to go together every week and we all did the “homework”. We also learned how to let Cypress play without getting hurt or overwhelmed—an extremely valuable lesson.  I’m not sure how the president of the United States will manage a puppy class, but I’m sure there’s a group catering to the presidential sect.  The whole Obama family should go to the class to help the adults and children train the dog, and become comfortable with dog handling. 

Cypress-2We have enjoyed every moment of “puppyhood” so far, even when he wakes us up in the middle of the night, when we have to stay at home on Friday nights to be with him, and when he chews my shoes….sometimes.  Getting a dog has brought us closer together, given us more responsibility, and Cypress is part of our family.  It’s fantastic that the Obama family is getting a dog (regardless of breed or where it comes from) because there is nothing like seeing the happy face of a puppy when you come home at the end of a hard day (and I’m sure the new president will have a few of those).

-Jessica Cameron

February 2, 2009 at 4:56 pm Leave a comment

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