Four Legged Friends
During a lifetime, you may grow up with a pet, buy a pet, adopt a pet or just pet the neighbors' pet but a majority of American families have had or have at least one pet. My nephew, at one point, owned a cat, a rabbit, a dog and either a guinea pig or a gerbil. Something in a cage with a wheel. As a child, we had a dog - I remember his name, Hamlet, but not much else other than he tore up the neighbors Christmas Lights - we didn't have dog whisperers around then.
Another neighbor's dog would come into our house - no locks then - and would sit next to my father and nose up to him, until my father would finally pet the dog. At a very young age, I was told I could have the first puppy of yet another neighbor's beautiful Collie. Big laugh, the collie was spade and I had no clue what that meant! My mother has a weird sense of humor and I believe my sisters knew the joke too. Oh, it was fun to be the youngest sometimes.
Anyway if you have read my blog, you'll know that after years of waiting to get my own dog - I always worried if I had enough time to take care of a dog - I finally did give in and adopted a beautiful Springer. He was abandoned in a home with 2 other dogs, all were eventually brought into the town's animal shelter, cleaned up, spruced up and picked up by a local rescue group and brought to local adoption events. His name was Tucker and if you search on this blog you'll find his picture. Very handsome, very well trained and very people friendly. He eventually made friends with our cat, too. (She's a rescue as well) Just for kicks, I did a DNA test on Tucker - because he was so handsome, I figured he probably was a pure breed but his test returned with only 75% Pure Springer and the remainder of his DNA was a mixture either too small to be detected or not yet in the lab's database of animal DNA. The DNA Test also helped to identify the type of health risks this particular breed carried.
I was a newcomer to the business of animal rescue and did not understand fully that some conditions in animals are not present at the time of adoption. It took something like $3,000- $5,000, 9 months and 12 vet visits for me to realize - although Tucker was the greatest dog - he had been exposed to such neglect that his health would just not get better and in fact, as he aged, would probably deteriorate rapidly. When he was put on steroids, you could see the puppy in him but his stomach couldn't tolerate steroids for long. Very sad, because his breed had a good 12 - 14 year life span - he was only 7, didn't need much exercise, loved to sleep on probably one of the most expensive chairs in the house and had very few "accidents" for a dog who had been in a town animal control shelter and then to a rescue group.
9 months into to rescuing Tucker, I made the horrible decision to return Tucker to the rescue group - because I knew they would take care of him, and at a considerable discount on vet costs because of their non-profit status. I brought all his toys, food, clothing (yes, he had scarfs, rains coats - what the hell, it was fun and he was amenable). I would return from time to time, and ask the volunteers what happened to Tucker. Not too long after I brought him back to the rescue I was told he was adopted to a woman and her adult son. I still felt like a heel, but at least he had a new home and someone to take care of him. He would jump a foot off the floor when I came home - such blatant glee at seeing me!
And still, from time to time, as I've done all my adult life, I would go into pet adoption places and take a peak at the dogs and cats who need homes. I know I'm not adopting a cat - I have one and she's perfect. But I think, in retirement, I will once again rescue a dog and spend my days in dog parks, walking around the neighborhood and teaching an old dog new tricks. Tucker was easy - someone had taken sometime with him at some point and taught him the basics.
This weekend, I went back to the animal rescue group and sheepishly asked - if they knew how Tucker was doing. Sad to say, Tucker died in the last few months of a ruptured spleen. Am I sad, very - but the lady was kind enough to tell me that at least I and Tucker's other new family gave him a good two years. He might not have had those two years and I know the time he was with me - he was happy, well taken care of, exercised and loved. His big brown soulful eyes - beautiful shiny coat and that goofy jumping off the floor when I walked in - how could you not love him! Someday, I will have another dog and it will be a Springer - their personalities are just too sweet, they are smart and easy to train and best of all - the book says they are couch potatoes (like me).
Call for DNA testing of Downunder Dogs
As an animal lover, but fearful of pit bulls, german shepherds and certain two legged mammals, it is interesting to note what other countries are actually implementing because of the concern over pitbull behavior. I was fortunate enough to have a very lovable English Springer Spaniel who played with every other dog in the local dog park - irrespective of the dog's DNA. Pitbulls, huskies, collies - all played together. My own dog's DNA tested 75% pure breed, but he was 100% the best dog ever. Everytime, I went to the dog park - whether in the early heat of a NJ summer or a late December snowstorn - there did not seem to be a hierarchy of who to play with based on "appearance". Every dog came to the gate and greeted him in the same manner, then they romped for a few minutes and then one or the other became bored and moved on to the next playmate. Having met other Spaniels - I did notice a certain lack of an attention span - but that only made him more loveable.
In the land down under, officials are now actually calling for DNA testing to confirm/deny that a dog is a pitbull or not? Really, what does it matter if he is pitbull or terrier - if he bites the hand that feeds him - he will bite anything. If the dog is a menace in the neighborhood to children and adults alike, what does it matter what's in the dog's DNA. Concern is over, visual identification of the dogs because some dog breeds - as in Staffordshire Terrier - although pitbull like in appearance are probably closer to Spaniel in temperment. How awful for a Staffordshire Terrier owner to have to worry about some "nosey" neighbor reporting his pitbull as a possible threat to the neighborhood. I've only met one Staffordshire Terrier - who is as beautiful and affectionate as any pup - but he is a powerful looking animal - broad chested - muscular and strong - a true Prince.
If you are concerned that your new best friend has any pitbull tendencies - then a quick, non invasive DNA test can determine if your dog has any "pitbull" DNA. Whether you have rescued the dog from your local animal shelter, or adopted from an animal rescue company, DNA testing can confirm the presence of over 50 breeds of dogs and offer advice on what health concerns and what behavioral issues are known to a specific breed. My spaniel had the biggest ears and the biggest ear infections - only briefly touched upon by the well intentioned animal rescue group - but his DNA test confirmed that he was in fact a Spaniel and was in fact prone to these issues. I probably could have figured that out on my own but the DNA test, confirmed it for me.
10 Things to Know Before You Adopt a Rescued Dog
1.) Your new best friend probably has social issues;
2.) Your new best friend probably has health issues, possibly that went undetected and have caused permanent damage;
3.) Your new best friend is probably afraid to be left alone;
4.) Your new best friend has habits he/she learned while being transferred from original home to shelter to final rescue site;
5.) Your new best friend may have dietary issues;
6.) It is hard to figure out what toys or recreational activities your new best friend enjoys?
7.) By the time you figure out the above 6, it is too late, you love your new best friend too much to do anything about it;
8.) The rescue staff do not want your new best friend to be returned to them and all of a sudden have very strong personalities - that weren't present on the day you adopted your new best friend;
9.) You feel like a heel for even thinking of giving back your new best friend;
10.) You will put up with more "nonsense" from your new best friend than you would from your family or human friends.
My Lovely Tucker and Hit Vets - Is it Medical Advice or a Sale
Having the pleasure of owning, Tucker for just over 6 months now, I've noticed an unpleasant feeling I get when finishing with yet another visit to the vet. Granted, we know we weren't getting a brand new puppy, with out any previous health problems and adopting a 7 year old Springer spaniel, one would have to be completely naive to think there would be no visits to vet. So, off to the vet we have been to make sure that our care and treatment of this new family member is up to par.
The Animal Rescue Group even followed up with a phone call about 3 months after we adopted our new family member to make sure he was doing OK with his transition to our home. I would say he's doing fine. 10 visits to 2 different vets within 6 months - $2,000 in vet fees - I think we're doing our best to make sure this handsome, loveable guy with the soulful brown eyes (ringed in red because of his allergies) is well taken care of - physically. He has allergies to alot of things - carpeting, rugs, cats, pollen - so even though we brought him home in November - this poor guy has had red ringed "CUJO" like eyes since almost day one. And giving him Benedryl (another vet idea) doesn't work because it seems to make his head spin. You know that really sweaty, speedy feeling when you take benedryl - well the dog feels it too. Reduce the dosage but he still flops his head around - so no more benedryl for this guy.
However, each time I've left the vets offices, I get this queazy feeling as I am unable to separate the medical advice from the sales pitch delivered by both vet and his staff. Does my 7 year old really need the vet's Arthritis Medicine for over $65 or would the store bought Glucosomine Chondroitin have the same net effect on the dog. In checking the labels, there is not much difference in ingredients or efficacy of the product - so was that medical advice or a sale?
If a vet has been in practice for at least 15 years, wouldn't he be able to determine that a simple, soft bump on one side of this breed, is just a fatty pocket - nothing that needs to be aspirated not once but twice at $150 per aspiration plus in house cytology of $125. Isn't this breed prone to these fatty little bumps - another queasy feeling came over me when I told the doc that the first vet already did aspirate one of those fatty bumps and told us it was nothing to worry about - too late - in went the needle and out came the bill.
OK - well I'm supposed to feel Peace of Mind, knowing that I have done the right thing. I rescued an adult, male dog that otherwise might still be sitting in a cage. I am taking him to the vet - everytime he looks funny to me or pants too much or seems to be lethargic.
But there's that queasy feeling again, didn't the animal rescue group know about all these "little" issues with this darling dog. And he is darling, all wagging his tail and jumping up and down when you come home or when it is time for one of his walks. He jumps up and down even though his front paw has been sore since we brought him home. (not mentioned by the rescue group). Oh yes, that was another trip to a vet, who then gave the poor dog NSAIDs. In the human world - we know these as Celebrex (remember the suit against Celebrex about two years ago) and Vioxx (which when taken by a human must be accompanied by the little purple pill because of possible side effects to the gut) and so in administering the 1/2 pill per day for 4 days with food, the dog that had a sore paw now had an upset gut and so destroyed the front lawn of our neighbors. Did we go back to the vet - no we gave him bread and stopped giving him the NSAIDs which any idiot knows upsets a stomach especially one from this breed and age.
What's the bottom line - we love Tucker, he's a joy to have around - but it is an eye opening experience to try and find a vet that has the dog's best interest in mind and not his own bottom line. I know when I visit my own doctors, which coincidentally I suffer from much the same issues as the dog, joint problems, stomach upset and anxiety if left alone too long - I don't feel like I've left a sales call when I leave my doctor and I just wish the vet visit could be as enlightening and comforting but instead I also feel like I've been sold a bill of goods about my dog. No matter, Tucker will be taken care of and I will just have to learn the difference between a caring vet, a salesman and medical advice and that sometimes a "bark is just a bark".
Tucker's DNA Analysis
Since I waited nearly 40 years to have a dog, I thought I could wait patiently for his DNA analysis. but like every client who does a regular Paternity Test, I couldn't wait for the results and so I sent one of those messages to the lab - saying where are my results, I submitted the DNA samples on such and such a date and why don't I have my results? The lab was as patient with me about providing DNA Test results as The DNA Lady is with most of the clients who come in for a Paternity or other family relationship test. There are those clients who test your patience and good will, with call after call looking for results, even though you have explained that results on regular Paternity tests are available in 3 business days and results on other biological confirmatory tests take longer maybe 5 full business days and sometimes up to 10 business days if extended analysis is needed. No matter I understand the anxiety that takes place when you are waiting for such important information and even though Tucker is just a dog - his DNA was just as important to me.
Although Tucker is a pure breed in my book, the DNA analysis concluded that 75% of Tucker's DNA is actually that of Pure Breed English Springer Spaniel. The other 25% of Tucker's DNA may be English Springer Spaniel, or may be of a breed that is not in this particular lab's data base or may be such a low amount of a particular breed that identfication is not detectable. He's still a pure breed in my book and no amount of mixed DNA analysis will change the way I feel when I walk in the door at night and he jumps a foot off the floor - even with his arthritic joints - just because he is happy to see someone.
There's no feeling in the world when you are receiving unconditional joy and that is what Tucker brings. After a long week of work, or perhaps a particularly trying day of returning DNA results to doubting dads and new moms - watching this beautiful, brown eyed guy jump up and own just because I walk in the door - can't be beat. By the way, he'll do the same thing if you hold a carrot or apple in front of him. And he has great manners, you say "nice" to him and you can actually see him think about it and take the carrot or apple from your hand gently and as far away from your hand that he can bite.
Although his DNA report indicates that this breed is obedient, Tucker is not always obedient. He'll run up on a neighbor's lawns - probably they have a dog in side and he's looking for some fun. Since he's a hunting dog, maybe they have a bird and he's just doing his job. No matter, it takes a few calls, and then a stern "heel" and he's back at my side walking. Considering that he is from a shelter and then a dog rescue (A.R.F. in East Brunswick, NJ) I would not expect Tucker to be as perfect an Angel as he is - but he really is anyway. He particularly loved the snow, he woud climb on all the mounds of snow at the corners of the blocks and then dig deep down into the mound as if he found a treasure. (I think there were just layer's of other dog's scents that he was picking up) Our neighbor's dog, actually plays catch with snowballs. Tucker although he loves to play with Buddy, will actually steal Buddy's bones. He's still my angel and thankfully Buddy's owner is understanding and patient with Tucker. Bones are important to a dog - I think it is like electronics with my husband - the more you have the better. So Tucker steals a bone now and then.
Old wives tales say that husbands and wives start to look like each other and eventually you all start to look like the dog. Well, we would be happy to look as handsome as Tucker. He has the saddest brown eyes, beautiful curly brown & white hair and a sweeping tail. Thankfully no one docked his tail before we owned him - how could anyone think of docking a dog's tail? How would I know if he was happy if that tail wasn't wagging? His eyes are often red rimmed and I can certainly remember a few early mornings in the 1970's (that's another blog) ... Today both Tucker and myself have allergies and so our eyes get red and teary. With the winter that NJ just had, I cannot imagine what the Spring allergy season will bring.
The sad part about the DNA test is the health problems. We can already see some of the tendency toward hip dysplasia - his back leg is a little weak and sometimes seems tender. No matter - he still jumps up and down when he's happy. Funny, he has a tendency to improperly metabolize glucose - so do a few family members - so we'll all benefit by staying away from those carbohydrates. We all could use more carrots and apples then pancakes!
The Doggie DNA Analysis also listed certain breed behaviors to expect - like Tucker wants to be with people and other dogs as much as possible. He will enter a room and look around, first for food, then for a comfortable spot and as long as there are people or the company of another animal around - Tucker is happy. Luckily Tucker is in the company of a cat - that he has decided is not edible or mountable - just there and not giving up her space. In fact, she has picked up some of Tucker's habits, like looking for treats in between meals. Tucker is sociable, as his DNA describes him - in fact, just walking Tucker around the neighborhood these few shorts months, I've met more neighbors and actually talked to them then I did in the last 7 years - yeah that Tucker is the social butterfly in this family. There are the teenage boys that Tucker barked at for a few minutes and they barked back at him (as only a group of suburgan teenage boys can bark) "get a bird"., they just didn't understand his need for friends and playtime. When Tucker sees a group of guys, he thinks - "yeah, it's play time - let's get ruff"! He's full of fun, he's open about what he wants and has no reason to expect that you won't give in to him.
So, all in all, we did a DNA Test on our dog, waiting patiently and don't care what the results say - Tucker is the best dog in the world.
The DNA Lady does a DNA Test on Tucker
Tucker, a beautiful 7 year old, brown & white haired orphaned spaniel of sorts sat in a big cage in Edison, NJ. Large, droopy ears, big soulful brown eyes and a bald patch on his butt. His eyes were ringed in red - he had some kind of allergies. 7 years old in dog time - is equivalent to 49 years in human time. Really who would purposelly adopt a 49 year old, balding, red eyed guy as your new best friend. Most people walked by the cage and thought, that ones going no where. Even the rescue staff had some secret doubts that Tucker wouldn't be adoptable. You see most families coming in before the holidays are looking for those bright eyed puppies that squeal with delight and wag their little tails like crazy or pure breed dogs that for some reason were left to a rescue force. Tucker, a wise old 7 year old, didn't get up or wag his tail when you came near the cage. He just looked up at you to see if there was a treat in your hand or maybe he was trying to figure out if you were going to let him out of the cage. Either way, there was little reaction from Tucker as we stood in front of his cage but there was something about his eyes and hair color that let you know that one day he was loved by someone, that he was a beautiful handsome guy - he was just another side effect of our economy. When the Animal Resuce staff asked if I wanted to take him out of the cage - I thought yeah - I just wanted to pet him without having bars in between us. The staff quickly took Tucker out of the cage and we walked to the front of the building with him - he was playful for such an adult dog, he was sweet and listened to the rescue staff about not jumping up and sitting and "doing his business". Wow, from caged and sleeping dog to this lively young guy in an instant, just wanting to walk and play and be pet. The rescue staff put Tucker back in his cage and gave me some of his background. How sad to think that someone left this poor guy home alone, unkempt, flea and tick ridden and then finally gave him up to a shelter. Its sad for the dog and sad for the family because we have records that Tucker was taken care of for the first 5 years of his life.
However, if you ever experienced working with some of the rescue organizations, one would think that their method of weeding out new potential adopters should be applied to the human population as well. Four pages of screening questions, why do you want a dog, where will the dog sleep, who will be the primary care taker of the dog, do you have other pets, who is their doctor, do you have a fenced in yard, will you take care of a "special" needs dog...Does anyone ask these questions to the "16 and pregnant crowd"? Listen we've spent enough time teaching our children all about sex - as if they wouldn't figure it out for themselves - let's get them to answer the four page questionnaire about adopting a dog to scare them off of having a baby. Even a baby boomer like The DNA Lady was scared off by the amount of responsibility implied in the doggie rescue questionnaire. I decided to put such an action on hold, until I could think about it more. It has only been since 1968 that I wanted a dog. Let's give it more time.
But Tucker's rescue organization saw a potential adoptor in me and the very next week, when I went back to "see" Tucker with my better half - so he could get to know Tucker - I found myself in a shopping frenzy with the store representative buying Tucker's $200 worth of food, toys, blankets, beds, bones and matching leash - dark brown of course. In the course of half an hour, Tucker was riding in the back of my car - home to my house. My better half went to do that thing he does best - he watched a football game in a corner of the house he has declared "the he man's women haters club" - that is, I stay out of the room when he is watching "men in uniforms". So I walked Tucker incessantly, so that there were no first day accidents. But then Tucker made his way into the "he man's women haters club" and that is when we realized - Tucker is a man's dog. He parked his 63 pound self in my better half's lap, nuzzling his nose between hip and chair and made it clear that he needed to be pet, and pet by a man - not that woman who keeps walking me. Tucker also makes it clear to my neighbors that he prefers the company of men. Wagging his tail as he barks like crazy at every man that walks by, and ignoring any of the women. Tucker is a man's dog. My first dog in 40 years and he is a man's dog.
That got me thinking, what if Tucker was a hunting dog. Maybe that is why he enjoys rough housing in the snow with my husband, my neighbor and my neighbor's dog - Buddy. So I did a little reading on the breed that he most resembles - but when you look at Tucker although Spaniel first comes to mind, you also see "Pointer" - as when Sushi the cat comes into the room and Tucker "points" at her - just learned that that behavior comes right before the pounce... Or the red-highlights in his coat - does he have Irish Setter in him? Would an Ancestry DNA Test determine that his Ancestor's were from Ireland? As my neighbor said, he has the red high-lights but didn't have to pay for them. Then there are times that I look at the markings on his head and I see St. Bernard - thankfully there's not much drooling. If you read all the books on these breeds, you'd be scared to adopt this Tucker.
So the other day, I decided to indulge myself yet again, and I bought a Doggie DNA Kit. There's a catch, doing a DNA collection on a dog is not as easy as doing a DNA test on a baby. For one thing, the dog is tired of me chasing him with pills for his allergies, spray for his dry skin, baby wipes to clean the insides of his droopy ears and a brush for that curly reddish brown coat. So he sees me with these great big Q-Tips coming at him, and runs behind the couch, runs behind the kitchen table or as he did last night - shows me he has 42 teeth and he will use them. Anyway, I cornered him and pushed the great big Q-Tip under his flappy gums and hopefully got enough Doggie DNA for the laboratory to determine how many breeds are present in Tucker, what are the personality traits and health issues specific to the breeds and some other special advice about a dog named Tucker. Stay tuned for the outcome - as we come to know more about Tucker we'll keep you posted. The DNA Test should return in a week or so - let's see if our guess is correct.
If you adopted a dog and would like to know more about the breeds present contact The DNA Lady. While we cannot offer Animal DNA testing in our office, we can meet you at a local dog park and perform a Doggie DNA Test on your four legged best friend.