Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nails and eyeballs

OK, there’s a couple things on my list today. One’s a bit of a rant.

Has everyone heard the story of Gooch the pit bull who died while having his nails trimmed? My co-worker, Jerry Wolffe, broke this story over the weekend (read the first story by clicking here) and wrote a follow-up today (click here).
Let’s make one thing clear — no dog should ever have to die because it needs it’s nails clipped.
A necropsy of the dog showed it died of suffocation and internal injuries. The woman clipping the dog’s nails apparently used a prong collar, a secondary collar and then a third leash wrapped around the dog’s muzzle to tie its mouth shut. She and a man then sat on the dog, I assume to keep the dog still, while they trimmed the nails.
Bad idea — they wanted the dog to be still for a while, but they made it still forever. Just squished the life right out of it.
One of two things prompted such extreme measures to be taken for a nail clipping: 1) The dog was so strong, unruly and opposed to the nail trimming that it was extremely difficult to get the dog to settle down, or 2) The people performing the nail trim stereotyped the dog because it was a pit bull and took unnecessary and dangerous measures because of it.
I wasn’t there and I don’t know which it was. Perhaps it was a bit of both. Either way, the dog should not have died.
I was reading through the comments people left under the first story and came across one from a woman who basically said it was the pit bull’s fault because it was a pit bull and all pit bulls behave this way for nail trims and that’s why they should just be banned from everywhere.
What a load of crap.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be putting together a series of blog posts on nail trims. In one of them, you’ll get to see for yourself how at least one pit bull — mine — behaves during a nail clipping. And trust me, when you see my dog get his nails clipped, you’ll be asking yourself how you can get your dog to be so good and calm. And I’ll tell you how.
For now, I’ll leave you with this: Touch your dog’s paws often and from an early age. I’ll expound more on this in later posts.

My coworker, Political Reporter Charlie Crumm, and I often trade stories about our dogs. He has Tyson, an perpetually healthy, 12-year-old mix between a Boxer, German Shepherd and Chow Chow.
He tells me how healthy and youthful his dog is after I lament about how unhealthy and old my dog (who happens to be years younger than Tyson) is.
Except for yesterday, when he called to say he’d be late to work because Tyson needed to go to the vet.
Charlie said it looked like Tyson maybe got poked in the eye with a stick, perhaps while chasing a squirrel up a tree, and the eye was looking infected. And it wasn’t getting better.
He wound up being recommended to Oakland Veterinary Referral Services, where a specialist could really determine what was going on.
The news appears to be this: Tyson, despite his youthful looks, is indeed getting old. And with age you’re just bound to stumble across some health issues.
It looks like Tyson’s eyes just aren’t producing tears the way they used to, meaning his eyes are drying out and getting very itchy. The dog doesn’t understand, of course, that scratching his eyes only worsens the issue.
To keep those paws away, he’ll be wearing the Elizabethan collar for at least a week.
If it’s not a dry eye problem, it’s something worse. But since the eye is responding to treatment after just one day, my money’s on it being a dry eye problem.
This will mean Charlie will have to give the dog eyedrops daily for the rest of his life, but it’s better than the alternative — having his eye removed due to some other issue, like a damaged cornea or even cancer.
Charlie said Tyson is doing increasingly better with the eyedrops. In fact, after a bout of trying to scratch his eye last night (and instead making a racket while his paws hit the hard plastic of the collar), Charlie said the eyedrops seemed to calm him down.
“I think he knows that, ‘Hey, this stuff makes my eyes feel better,’” Charlie said.
I bet that’s true.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


While some communities continue to pass breed bans, others are wising up — Rochester Hills would be the latest.

And for that, I give a big “Woo-Hoo!!”

Rochester Hills has dealt with two attacks this year where pit bulls killed puppies; one in February and one in August. (photos are of the puppies that were killed. You can click on the photo to see our articles about them.)

Generally, that gets folks jumping all over the ban-pit-bulls-bandwagon. Local governments will usually respond by passing shortsighted breed bans to make everyone feel good.

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Breed bans are nothing more than feel-good legislation that is, on its face, a type of discrimination that gives people a false sense of safety.

A moronic and/or irresponsible owner can turn any dog into a dangerous one. And I hear all the time from anti-pit bull crowd, “But you have to admit, pit bulls cause a lot more damage when they bite than a normal dog.”

Tell that to the woman from France whose face was literally torn off by a labrador — she was the first person ever to receive a face transplant. Or tell that to anyone who has been severely injured by a dog that happens to not be a pit bull.

And what about those other breeds — you know, the ones that grow to be double the size or even larger than your average 40-lb. pit bull? What about mastiffs, Rottweilers and other breeds being exploited by bad people, like Cane Corsos, Tosa Inus, the Dogo Argentino, Presa Canarios, etc.?

No pit bull ban is going to stop your neighbor from bringing home a Cane Corso and trust me, if you think pit bulls are scary, you won’t feel safe with a Cane Corso next door either.

But the bottom line is, if your neighbor is a good, responsible dog owner, it doesn’t matter what breed of dog that person brings home — pit bull, Cane Corso or otherwise. And if your neighbor is an idiot, the opposite is true. It doesn’t matter if he brings home a lab or a pit bull, if he’s an idiot, he’ll ruin that dog.

According to our story, Rochester Hills beefs up dog rules, the city had 20 dog bites last year from 15 different breeds. Only three of the incidents involved pit bulls, and there are only 76 registered pit bulls living in the city.

But the incident with the puppy highlighted a problem with the laws already on the books.

I spoke with the reporter who wrote the story. She talked with the owner of one those puppies killed by pit bulls earlier this year.

Of the offending dogs, one was ordered to be put down. The other is still living with its owners. The owners were also ordered to pay restitution, but the puppy’s owner said it hasn’t been paid and nothing is being done to punish them for not paying.

In a way, it’s like the only one who got punished was the dog that was put down. And how fair is that when it’s the owner’s responsibility to ensure their dog is safe? Essentially, the dog is paying the penalty for the owner who didn’t do the right thing.

What Rochester Hills is working on is a way to impose tougher penalties on the owner of any dog who attacks or injures someone or someone’s pet. Kudos.

The city will look at the ordinances in other communities and a draft of the language will come back before the council at a later date.

Personally, I can’t believe the people responsible for the two pit bulls killing a puppy have been allowed to keep one of their dogs.

I’ve said this before too and I’ll say one more time:

If your pit bull or any other dog you own gets loose and kills a puppy or mauls a person, you should be banned from owning dogs — at least for like a 10-year period or something. In my opinion, you had your shot at dog ownership and you did such an incredibly bad job that other people or living beings had to suffer as a result of your stupidity and/or irresponsibility.

Simple stuff.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dog injures firefighter in blaze

OK folks, I’ve told you all about this before and I’m here to tell you again — dogs don’t see firefighters as saviors. They don’t realize the firefighter is there to save them and in fact, they may not even recognize that the firefighter is a human.

Dressed in a bulky fire suit — the likes of which a dog has probably never seen before — a firefighter may look more like a monster than a human to a dog.

And this is on top of the dog already being incredibly fearful because its house is burning down — something else the dog doesn’t really understand but is definitely cause for intense fear — and it doesn’t have an escape route. See my earlier post about three pit bulls removed from a fire in Pontiac here.

One more thing to remember about dogs: fear drives aggression. There are different types of aggression and different things that motivate a dog to become aggressive, but fearfulness is probably the most common driving force behind aggression in dogs. Sadly, many fearful dogs who react to fear with aggression (fight rather than flight) are viewed simply as aggressive dogs — no one ever connects the dots as to why they’re becoming aggressive.

So, let’s say you have a perfectly friendly and happy-go-lucky lab who has never displayed fearfulness or aggression in his entire life. Despite his fantastic temperament, he could still attack a firefighter. Think about it — even if you are a calm, even-keeled, generally happy and friendly person all the time, wouldn’t you still be scared if your house was burning down and you couldn’t get out?

Humans understand fires and firefighters, though, so you’d have the knowledge to be grateful if you spotted a firefighter breaking through the door to save to you. Dogs don’t have this understanding. They’re scared and they’re most likely to react with aggression in such an extreme situation.

On Saturday, an Oakland County Sheriff’s deputy was bitten on both hands while rescuing a dog from a burning home in Rochester Hills. He received first aid at the scene, drove himself to a clinic for further treatment and is doing fine. Read the full story here.

It’s another example of why I keep asking you guys, “What do you think your dog would do in a fire?”

Because it would probably do just like that dog did on Saturday and bite its rescuer.

We’re lucky to have a fireman interning with us right now, so I took a few moments to chat with him about the issue.

He said firefighters are generally aware that dogs in need of rescue may be aggressive. Beware of dog signs are helpful indicators for firefighters, as are those little stickers you can buy for your window to let firefighters know a pet is inside the home.

Crating your pets while you’re away can be very helpful for firefighters. Think about it — rather than trying to pull a dog out from its hiding spot under the bed or searching for it in all corners of a smoky, dark house, they can just pick up the crate and carry it out.

A bigger issue for fireman, he said, is one that they face a lot more often than pulling pets out of fires — dealing with dogs at the scene of medical emergencies.

This is another situation where your dog is not going to be him- or herself. Even a great dog can become nervous and anxious when their owner has a medical emergency (they know something is terribly wrong) and then a bunch of strange people in strange suits with strange gear come rushing into their home.

“It’s a safety issue for us,” he told me. “We basically think, every dog is vicious and ask to have the dog put away.”

So before they start giving medical care, they make sure the homeowner has the pet secured in a different room or in its crate. Do them a favor and take care of this before the emergency medical response team arrives — they’ll get to you or your loved one a few seconds earlier and you’ll help them do that all-important job of saving lives.

I asked if he felt his department would be open to pet owners stopping by with their dog and he said he thought his fellow firefighters would be happy to accommodate someone looking to introduce their dog to firefighters.

Call ahead, arrange a time, ask for a hat or coat to be worn and most important, bring some treats for the firefighter to give to your dog! It’ll show your dog that firefighters aren’t so scary and if the day ever comes that your dog needs to be rescued, he’ll be less likely to be aggressive toward the firefighter.

Whatever we can do to make a firefighters’ life easier and less dangerous, we should. They’re the ones with the toughest job of all.

Get a free sticker for your windows from the ASPCA by clicking here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another black eye for the pit bull community

Some people just don’t get it.

When you own a pit bull, everything you say and do has an impact far beyond what your neighbors think of you, as an individual, and your dog. You can choose to be a stereotype or break a stereotype. Help the breed or hurt it; it’s all up to you.

Waterford Township resident Roy Beck has been in trouble once before due to his dog ownership. First, he broke the law by merely owning a pit bull in the township, which has had a breed ban in place since 1989. I may not approve of breed bans, but I do believe in being a law-abiding citizen.

Beck said he was watching the pit bull for his daughter. His neighbors said the dog was aggressive and charged them on several occasions. And when the dog was picked up, it had a whole litter of puppies.

How irresponsible can you be? You have an aggressive pit bull in a township which has a ban — there’s two things you’ve already done wrong. Now, you can’t even keep the dog restrained so it doesn’t threaten your neighbors? There’s three. And next, you allow it to breed, knowing full well it has a poor temperament and will likely be passing that on to the next generation? That’s four strikes against Mr. Beck.

Shame on you.
Read the full story from June 2009 here.

Mr. Beck made the news again this weekend. His neighbors say that once again, he has a pit bull in his Waterford Township home. And once again, the dog was not being restrained to his yard but allowed to run loose.

Are you kidding me? Forget the township’s ban on pit bulls, let’s just ban this guy from owning any more dogs!

The story gets even worse. When the neighbor confronts Mr. Beck about his dog, Beck punches the guy in the eye. Mr. Beck is now facing assault charges.

Beck told an Oakland Press reporter on Friday that, “I have a box terrier and a Doberman. I don’t have pit bulls and (my dogs) are not attacking anyone.”

To Beck’s credit, the neighbor did say that while the dog jumped on him, it was not aggressive. Read the full story here.

But I have a different question — what in the world is a box terrier?

The reporter who spoke with him turned to me on Friday and asked me if I knew what a box terrier is. Despite being surprisingly well-versed in terms of dog breeds, I had no idea.

“If I had to guess, I’d say he means a boxer and pit bull mix or something,” I said. “I’ve honestly never heard that term before, though, and pit bull and boxer mixes are a designer dog breed with a proper name and it’s called a Bull Boxer, not a box terrier. How strange.”

To all you non-pit bull folks, I should add in that all pit bulls are terriers — hence why you see a lot of “terrier” mixes that strongly resemble pit bulls. The proper names of pit bulls breeds are American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Bull Terrier. Notice how every breed name has the word “terrier” in it.

I did a Google images search for “Box Terrier” and it returned results ranging from Fox Terriers to Bull Terriers to pit bulls. I went to the AKC website, searched “Box Terriers” and my results said, “Did you mean Fox Terrier?”

Let’s get a couple things straight here too, if Mr. Beck meant to say Fox Terrier, then I expect his dog to be a short, wiry-haired, Schnauzer-type looking dog. Not the type of dog you’d get mixed up with a pit bull by a long shot.

So now we have a man who has broken the township’s law at least once, owned an aggressive dog that he allowed to roam freely and breed, and gave a black eye to a neighbor who complained about the latest dog he owns — pit bull or otherwise.

In doing so, Mr. Beck has really given a black eye to the whole pit bull community.

Let us remember that our dog ownership practices reflect directly on the breeds we own and in no case moreso than with pit bulls.

Be a stereotype or break a stereotype; it’s up to you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Food trials: will it ever end?

Since the beginning of this year, Brent and I have been trying to get Sensi’s allergies under control. Since he is allergic to many types of foods, we are doing food trials to figure just what he can have and what he can’t.

A food trial is basically a process of elimination way to figure out what your dog is allergic to.

To start, you get your dog on a diet that doesn’t bother him. For us, it’s a prescription kibble we get from our veterinarian. Once the dog has been looking healthy with no signs of allergies for a while, you start a food trial by adding a specific protein — like beef, chicken, pork, etc. — and other types of foods, like grains, for one week.

The second week, you remove the additive and get the dog back to his strict prescription diet.

You watch for signs of allergies — rashes, eye discharge, increased itchiness or licking, etc.

If the dog reacts, you can safely assume that the additive caused the reaction.

Some veterinarians would prefer you pay for expensive allergy tests, which from my understanding, aren’t entirely reliable. When the skin specialists at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services recommended food trials to us years ago, I trusted them. And if I’d done a better job going through it the first time, I probably wouldn’t be doing it all over again.

But I am.

Veterinarians who prefer allergy testing will point out that it can take many, many weeks for a food product to leave your dog’s system. This is true. And because of it, if your dog does react to an additive, it can be a month or more until you can start another trial. Basically, you wait until the dog has no symptoms of allergies before starting back up.

We’re currently in waiting mode. In fact, I feel like we’ve spent so much time this year in waiting mode.

Sensi reacted to beef back in August. He cleared up by September, but around the end of September, broke out again — swollen, scratched up armpits, rash on his belly, leaky eyes and itchy to the touch.

I could not reason why he broke out. There were no adds to his diet.

For the past couple of weeks, he’s been back on antibiotics and Benadryl — antibiotics to clear up any secondary infections that moved in when the allergies brought down his immune system and Benadryl to try and stop him from scratching himself into misery.

We saw our veterinarian for Sensi’s annual visit on Friday. I finally gave in and realized Sensi would have to be permanently medicated.

“It’s been a really bad allergy season,” our veterinarian told me. “More than likely, Sensi has environmental allergies in addition to food allergies.”

I’ve tried to avoid recognizing this for a long time. I’ve tried to tell myself that the environmental stuff we can deal with through medicated shampoos and keeping him clean.

It’s not that I’m anti-medication. Medications are good to take when you need them. I just don’t love the idea of needing a medication every day.

But that’s what we’ll be doing from here on out.

It’ll be over-the-counter Loratadine, which is the main ingredient in Claritin. For my dog’s body weight, he gets two daily.

He’s doing better and our veterinarian even complimented us on how healthy he looks given the circumstances. But it’ll be a while before we can get back to food trials.

I’m really hoping the first frost dampens those outdoor allergies so we can start moving forward again. I have ground lamb in the freezer just waiting for the dog to clear up.

At the rate we’re going right now, food trials seem like a never-ending task!

Talking to a coworker the other day, I reminisced about researching pit bulls before we brought Sensi home and how I was happy to discover that pit bulls didn’t have many health problems.

“Just some potential skin issues and allergies — I thought it’d be no big deal,” I said. “Boy was I wrong.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Another good reason to keep your dog in your yard

I spoke with the very shaken owner of an 8-year-old, 8-pound Maltese named Sunshine who was attacked by a coyote on Sunday night in the backyard of her Troy home.

I’m always a bit nervous when talking with folks about stuff that happens to their dogs.

My biggest fear is that they’ll tell me something they did as a dog owner that I’ll disagree with — like letting their dog outside without a leash because “he always sticks around” or letting their dog off-leash on a walk because “he always sticks around.”

And let me tell you something about your dogs folks — they don’t always stick around. They aren’t going to stick around when another dog walks by, they aren’t going to stick around if a rabbit runs through the yard and they may even wander off for no good reason at all. I hate the term “always sticks around.” Why not replace “always” with the truth, which is “usually, if the circumstances are right.”

Start telling people your dog “usually sticks around, if the circumstances are right” and see what kind of looks you get then. It might change your habit.

But I digress.

So here I am, talking on the phone with Patricia — she’s near tears as soon as I identify myself and the last thing I want to do is upset her by questioning her dog ownership practices. I remind myself to keep my mouth shut.

Luckily, I didn’t have to. There wasn’t a single thing Patricia was doing that didn’t get my stamp of approval.

From the video, it looks like Patricia has a pretty large, non-fenced yard. But Patricia doesn’t practice the “always sticks around” mentality and actually makes sure her dog sticks around.

She has a little chain that snaps on to the collar of her 8-pound precious pooch and keeps her tied to the house while she wanders off to piddle on the grass. Good girls — both of them.

Not only that, but Patricia stands by the doorwall to keep an eye on Sunshine while she does her business.

Such a vigilant dog owner and yet, what happened Sunday night couldn’t be prevented by all Patricia’s responsible dog ownership practices.

A coyote leapt out of the darkness just after Sunshine finished piddling, grabbed poor Sunshine around the back of her neck and — if I know canines right — probably tried doing the infamous canine death shake.

Patricia opened the doorwall, screaming in terror and the frightened coyote dropped the terrified Maltese and ran back off into the darkness. Patricia then took her injured dog to the emergency vet, where five stitches on each side of her neck were needed to seal the bite wounds.

Read the full story here and check out video below.

At this point, you’ve got to be wondering why I titled this blog the way I did since even this responsible dog owner, keeping her dog in her yard via the use of a chain, couldn’t stop a coyote attack.

Well, Patricia pointed out the first reason to me during our interview:

“Luckily, she was on a chain, because if she wasn’t, he could’ve just picked her up and brought her back into the woods,” she said.

Reason one, nailed.

Reason two — if your yard can be a dangerous place for your dog, what do you think about the rest of the world? Think it’s safer?

I’d argue that your dog’s chance of running into a coyote or another predator, like a cougar, is far greater outside of your yard than in it. After all, what is outside of your yard is pretty much their yard, right?

And if you live in an urban area and it’s nothing but a bunch of paved streets and buildings, then it may not be a cougar’s playground but it could very well be a coyote’s, and even if it’s not, then there’s still cars to worry about.

So once again, I implore everyone to keep their dogs in their yards. If you have a small dog or a cat, you should not let your pet outside unsupervised. Coyotes are all over Oakland County and they are a genuine threat to small pets.

Dogs that are about 70 pounds and bigger will ward off coyotes. In fact, I’ve been told a coyote won’t even come into a yard if it smells of a big dog.

Coyotes are generally between 25 and 35 pounds, so they’re not going to get themselves into a fight they can’t win.

Last but not least, I want to point out another thing that Patricia did right — screaming and making a commotion. If your pet or child is being attacked by a coyote, don’t just stand there and cry. Scream, yell, run toward it — it doesn’t take a whole lot to scare off a coyote, at least a normal one.

Now, if the coyote is out in the middle of the day and behaving oddly, you do have reason to stay away — rabies. Rabid animals are, well, rabid and you don’t want to get near them.

Otherwise, though, it often takes little more than your presence to scare off a coyote.

Kudos to Patricia for being such a good dog owner and here’s to hoping she and Sunshine enjoy many more happy, healthy years together!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Auburn Hills woman wins book giveaway

Congratulations to Laura from Auburn Hills, whose name was selected at random yesterday to win a free copy of the new book, "The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption" by Jim Gorant.

Thanks to everyone who read my review of the book and emailed in to be part of the giveaway.

For the rest of you, here's some information on how to purchase the book:

Buy it now
Can't wait until September 30th to find out if you won a copy of the book? I don't blame you one bit. The hardcover cost is $26. Click here to be taken to the official website. On the left hand side, find a bunch of buttons linking you to multiple websites selling the book (, Borders, etc.) so you can shop around and get the best deal.