Sharing your life with an old dog

The story of Kyra

No more chasing balls, no more hiking. Your breath smells bad, you can’t hear, you can’t see, you have accidents in the house and you are no longer as interested in pleasing me.

Life with a young dog is much different than life with an old dog. Recently a client and very good friend of mine lost his dog Kyra.

Let me say first that someone in my field often becomes very good friends with their clients. Being involved in the clients life because of their dogs is where the friendship forms. Some friendships last the life of the dog and some longer. Which leads me to Lou and Kyra.

Kyra and Lou came to me when Kyra was about eight weeks old. She had been found two weeks earlier with a broken pelvis, radial nerve damage in her right front paw, head injuries, starvation and parasites. Everyone thought Kyra would only last a few months. Kyra, with Lou’s love, proved everyone wrong. The two shared life together for over 15 years.

When Lou first came to me for training with Kyra, I could tell right away that Lou was the kind of owner that was prepared to do whatever it took to ensure he and Kyra could live peacefully together. Lou listened to what I told him, practiced and asked questions. Soon he and Kyra were quite the team. Kyra loved to hike with Lou. They spent hours in the beautiful rocks of Sedona, AZ.

I was fortunate to be able to watch over Kyra when Lou would travel so she also became a part of my dog family. Lou traveled often and I almost felt she was part my dog as well.

When I left Sedona, Lou and I kept in touch. I followed Kyra’s life to the end. When she became very old and started having serious trouble, Lou would call me and share his frustrations and sorrows. It’s not easy owning and caring for an old dog. You are battling conflict on a daily basis.

For the last eight months of her life Kyra couldn’t get in the car anymore. Lou only left the house for short periods of time. He stayed by her side as she had always stayed by his. It wasn’t always easy, your life can change drastically when caring for an old dog. But Lou stuck it out. I remember times when Lou wondered if he was failing Kyra by considering euthanasia. I couldn’t tell Lou anything much more than Kyra is one of the luckiest dogs in the world to have an owner who loves her and has always loved her when other people said she didn’t stand a chance. I told him Kyra would let him know when it was time.

Her last day Lou had gone out to run an errand. Upon returning he found Kyra standing in the kitchen with one of her hind legs awkwardly tucked in and up towards her body. She was frozen in that position and her eyes were looking off as if into another dimension. He asked her if she wanted to go outside and she stumbled towards the door. She made it to the grass where she laid down and never got up. He knew she was ready. When the vet arrived and started to shave her leg Kyra did not flinch or even look. As the vet inserted the needle Kyra didn’t respond. She just simply closed her eyes and moved on. That was December 24, 2010. Lou and Kyra began their life together on November 4, 1995.

Living with an old dog can be difficult. But for all a dog gives us unconditionally including love, devotion and laughter, the least we can do is give them a piece of this when they need it most.

I was fortunate enough to share a part of the life of Kyra and Lou. Luckily we are able to hold on to the memories of a little red dog that touched our lives in such a big way and meant so much to us.

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Colorizing and Tattooing your dog

They call it “colorizing”. Groomers have been doing this to their dogs for years but now it seems to be the craze for pet owners in Japan.

There is much controversy. Some of the concerns are:

Types of dyes used to color dogs and the effect of these dyes

The time it takes to apply the colors

Affects of the dogs attitude after being colored

Affects other dogs have seeing dogs colored

Then there is tattooing your dog. No, not the simple tattoo in the ear or hip. This is being done to not only dogs but also hairless cats and even pigs.

This procedure is usually done while the dog is under anesthesia and can be a very lengthy process. I would think finding a veterinarian to administer anesthesia could be difficult at best. Apparently only dogs with pink skin can be tattooed. The ink is absorbed in to the skin on dogs with black skin.

This “art work” is being performed on animals by some fairly famous artists.

Many people view this as cruel, many view as art.

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Dog or Human?

One of the biggest mistakes people make with their dogs is treating them as humans or assuming that dogs need the same emotional requirements as humans.

Generally this happens because people do not understand the nature of a pack. As most of you know, dogs are pack animals. Pack animals need one thing more than anything else.


Affection vs. Leadership

Because dogs are pack animals they are comfortable following. When a dog receives too much affection and not enough leadership the dog’s world becomes unbalanced.

I often look at the bands some people wear around their wrists with the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). My idea is to wear a wrist band that says WWDD (What Would a Dog Do). Every time you are in a situation with your dog you are not sure about you can look down at your wrist and consider:

1. Dogs don’t give dogs too much affection.

When a dog receives too much affection without boundaries, this is a sign of weakness from the pack leader.

2. A dog will not behave because they love you.

A dog will do what you say because they respect you. Being a consistent, firm pack leader is what the dog is looking for. Once you fulfill the dog’s needs, they are comfortable and more content to live their lives among your pack.

3. If you won’t do it, they will

Understand that if you are not acting as the pack leader, out of pure instinct a dog will attempt to fill the role. This is where the bad behavior comes in.

4. Don’t feel sorry for your dog

Dogs live in the now, not the past and not the future. Dogs are very simple creatures. Feeling pity on a dog is a wasted emotion that only serves to confuse a dog again by showing weakness. Your dog knows you are unhappy but does not know why. If we show weakness we are only going to feed whatever else is wrong with the dog and create an even more unstable situation.

5. Don’t get mad at your dog

Anger is another wasted emotion on a dog. When you get angry you lose control. When you lost control your dog will again see this as a weakness. You will never make a point out of anger. Take a breath. Nothing your dog does is personal. If your dog is acting out of negative behavior consider where it’s coming from. It may be time to smack yourself with that newspaper.

6. A dog is not a child.

I make this statement however the raising of a child should be almost the same as a dog. They need the same things.


The key is the right balance.

Be fair to your dog. Be a stable pack leader. If you don’t know how, seek help. Understand pack leadership and give your dog what he desires. You will both be much happier.

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How to avoid being bitten by a dog

There are nearly 75 million dogs in the USA alone.

A survey by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (“CDC”) concluded that dogs bite nearly 2% of the U.S. population — more than 4.7 million people annually. (Sacks JJ, Kresnow M, Houston B. Dog bites: how big a problem? Injury Prev 1996;2:52-4.)

Almost 800,000 bites per year — one out of every 6 — are serious enough to require medical attention. (Weiss HB, Friedman D, Coben JH. Incidence of dog bite injuries treated in emergency departments. JAMA 1998;279:51-53.)

These are only a few of the statistics. How reliable are statistics? In some States, even a scratch from an untrained puppy if reported, can be considered a dog bite. A law is only as strong as the person creating it. One must also consider what the situation of the bite really is. Did the dog in question bite a veterinarian out of fear of being handled? Did someone reach under the bed for the dog or attempt to grab a dog as they ran out the door? How many people have an out of control puppy that jumps on children and issues a “play” bite? All of these, if reported, are considered dog bites. The one thing all of these laws do have in common is the skin must be broken. How broken in the case of a scratch is another issue.

Child playing with puppy

I have read many articles over the years and almost all of them recommend that you “put your hand out” to a dog that you don’t know. In my opinion, this is not a means to introduction, rather if the dog is aggressive, you are giving them five fingers to choose from. If you feel compelled to do this, at least ball your fist and give them the back of your hand so if they do bite, it will be more difficult for them to grab a chunk of skin.

dog biting hand

What you really need to know is how to recognize the difference between a “safe” dog and a dog that may pose a threat. I meet new dogs almost on a daily basis and I never reach toward a dog in any manner. I make an evaluation of the dog and I take my time doing this. Many times the highest chance you have of getting bit follows the words from the owner “he won’t bite”.

Dog looking up

There are different kinds of aggression. Don’t assume that a dog protecting his home, property or owner is a dangerous dog. This is a dog who feels he is doing his job. However when a dog is showing any signs of aggression and they are not working, there is no reason to try to make up to a dog like this.

Refer to post “What tale does the tail tell you” to find out more about reading a dog.

If you find yourself in a situation with a stray dog that you feel may be a danger, there are steps that must be taken to ensure you get out unscathed.

1. If you see a dog stray while walking, keep an eye on the dog. Make sure they hear you coming. A cough or clearing your throat is all the sound you will need. Most dogs will not approach. It’s true that they are as unsure about you as you them.

2. However if they do approach, stop. Do not keep walking. Stay still. This means don’t move your hands or body.

3. Speak softly and quietly to the dog.

4. If the dog begins to move around you, be sure you move around slowly with the dog. Do not let the dog get behind you. You are much stronger to the dog facing head on. Do not look the dog in the eye, this can be confrontational.

5. I understand it’s very difficult to not run or move away quickly when you feel threatened by a dog. However this is exactly what they are looking for. Most dogs will not attack a person if you remain stationary.

6. Slowly back away from the dog never turning your back. If the dog begins to move toward you again, stop. When you can, move away until you are out of harms way.

Aggressive dog

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