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Cold Weather Tips for Your Beagle

Hello, everyone!  Happy New Year!  I’ve been so busy getting for the holidays – then recovering from them – that I haven’t had much time to write.  Hopefully, everything has settled down a bit and you’ll start to see regular posts from me again.

Right after the new year, it started to look like winter around here.  We got a huge snow storm and Sammi and Jesse just loved it!  Walking them in the snow is a whole new adventure.  With the snow on the ground, I can see what Sammi and Jesse smell.  I can follow the tracks in the snow, while they follow the tracks with their noses.  They push their noses right into the snow to get a good sniff, then walk around with a snowball on top of their nose!

Even though we all enjoy an invigorating walk in the snow, winter conditions call for a bit of vigilance in caring for your dogs.  Steer well clear of puddles in the road.  They may contain large amounts of salt, de-icer, or other chemicals harmful to your dog.  When you come in from a walk, wipe your dog’s paws, legs, and tummies.  Those same hazardous materials can get on their bodies and when be ingested when the dog tries to wipe themselves clean.   

Both of my dogs are house dogs and the only time they go outside is on the end of a leash.  If your dogs are outside more often, read up on caring for your dogs in colder weather.  PAW Rescue  has a list of tips on how to care for your dog in cold weather.

Sammi’s paws tend to get snow between her toes, making it uncomfortable to walk.  Pay attention to your dog when you walk her.  If she seems to pause to lick her feet, take her home and wash her paws in warm (not hot) water.  If the hair between your dog’s toes is very long, consider trimming it even with the bottom of her paws.  This helps prevent ice and snow from hanging along for the ride and forming snowballs between your dog’s toes.  If your dog’s paws get very dry, cover them with a thin coat of Vaseline or vegetable oil.  Make sure you use edible oil, because your dog will like her paws.

Winter can be fun for everyone, including your dog.  Just make sure you keep everyone warm and safe in the cold weather.

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Wishing You a Merry Christmas

As we spend our first Christmas in our new home, I am very grateful for all the people who make my life exciting. When I was younger, I used to enjoy the gifts people would bring me for Christmas. The quality of the gift showed me how much a person cared for me. Now that I’m older and, hopefully wiser, I realize it’s not how much the gift is or how extravagant the gift may be but the thought and love that went into its selection.

The last year my father was with us, we went shopping together. He was using a walker and, to be completely honest, he wasn’t very good at using it. I felt like I was carrying him from store to store. My mother was suffering from the mental illness that dominated the later years of her life. My father wanted to give her something to remember him by. He hoped that when she got better she could think of him fondly and remember all the wonderful Christmases we had as a family.

He must have gone to several dozen stores with no success.  He finally was getting heavy and I asked him to look into a jewelry store that had just opened.  He found the perfect gift for my mom. The sales woman knew how to treat a customer and she got my father telling some of his favorite Christmas stories to her. He then packed the gift up in his coat and told me he was ready to return home. At this time, my father had been given only days to live and mom’s illness was at its worst.  The combo was taking the joy out of this joyous season. If you’ve ever had to care for a terminal parent or friend, you understand what I mean.

He was tired and cranky but wanted to regale me with stories of Christmas past. He asked if I wouldn’t mind picking up gifts for Tricia and me because he was too tired to shop much longer. He also knew we could use the money since I had left my executive role in Columbus and was making money teaching and doing odd jobs.  Over time, it had become a tremendous hardship on Tricia and me. In five years, we had gone from the heights of financial success to liquidating our stocks to pay our bills.

I asked what his favorite Christmas was and he shared a simple story about my second Christmas. He remembered sneaking into my bedroom on Christmas to find me playing and jumping up and down in my crib. He said as a parent he wanted to stop me but he just couldn’t bring himself to get me to stop. He described me as soaring with a joyous smile on my face as I continued to trying to reach the ceiling. The look of joy was unimaginable. My father was a tough military leader who lost his sight in one eye in Korea in his early 20’s and still had shrapnel rising out of his body after over 40 years. I could not have imagined a tougher man alive. But when he talked about my flights for fun and fancy he became like a little child describing something he could not fully comprehend.  His softness displayed something I had not seen in this man to that point of my life. It reminded me that even the toughest people must become soft in the presence of true joy. Thinking about him over the holidays always brings me back to this simple story and lesson.

When I think of the three wise men that travelled to see the baby Jesus, I can only imagine the joy they must have seen in this innocent child’s face. The joy and pride his mother and father must have felt when they looked into his infinite eyes. It must have been breathtaking to see and feel.

Now back to my original point, it’s not about the gift or the giver but more about the power of love to transform people. When you think about Jesus’ message of love to everyone it’s hard to imagine a simpler message but its so hard to do. As you spend the holidays with your family and friends, take time to be in the presence of joy.

From all of us at Beagle Journal, we wish you joy during this Christmas Season. From Sammi, Jesse, Tricia, and Tripp, may the coming year bring you the peace you desire and joy into your hearts.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

We’ll Leave the Light On for You

Our dogs are house dogs.  We don’t have fenced in yard, so when Sammi and Jesse need to go out and do their business, we have to take them out on a leash.  They haven’t learned how to go out and then come back in when we call them.  Training them has been a long, arduous process, but I digress.

Part of the reason they don’t come back when we call them is because even in the dark, they see bunnies. My husband and I have had long, involved discussions about our dogs’ ability to see in the dark.  I say they can see more than we can.  He insists they smell the bunnies but they can’t see them any better than we can.

So, this had me puzzled. Do our dogs see better at night than we do?  After doing some research, I discovered the answer is yes and no.  The eyes of both humans and dogs have two kinds of light sensitive cells in the retina called cones and rods.  Cones work best in bright light and help detect color.  Rods work best in dim light and detect motion. Humans have more cones than rods which means we see a wider range of color and details.  We trade that for fewer rods, meaning our night vision isn’t so good.  Dogs, on the other hand, have more rods than cones.  This means they don’t see the range of color we do, but they can better detect motion in low levels of light.

All of this means that basically, my husband and I are both right.  They can see better at night and detect the motion of the bunnies as they run away but, they can also smell them as they run.  So when you put your dog out for the night, don’t bother turning on the light for him, he can see just fine.

Go with the Flow

I’ve spent the last seven months trying to train my dogs.  I’ve tried control training, and clicker training.  I tried using training collars and halters, treats and discipline.  Out of all the stuff I’ve tried, patience seems to be the most successful.

Teaching my dogs to come didn’t take that long.  They know what the Come command means.  They understand what’s expected of them when I say it.  I’ve learned that my dogs will come to me when I’m firm, unexcited, and unemotional.  Too often, when I call one of the dogs to come, I’m stressed and annoyed because they didn’t come the first time I called.  So, I yell it again, louder this time.  You can just imagine how successful that is!

I’ve begun to practice calm with my dogs.  It sounds weird, but I take deep breaths, straighten my shoulders, and hold my head up.  When I feel calm inside, then I talk to the dogs.  When I take a few calming breaths, then call the dogs, they come, without the drama and stress that used to accompany them.  When I ask them to sit in a calm, firm voice, they sit without jumping around first.

It’s taken me a long time to learn patience with my dogs.  It’s probably taken longer than it should have.  It was so important to me to have dogs that listened to my every word, to sit immediately when told to, come when I just waved my hand.  That may come.  But I’ve learned to let go and work with my dogs where they are, rather than where I want them to be.  Yes, there are a number of commands I want them to learn.  But they aren’t going to learn them overnight.  And I’ve learned to let go of my timetable, and work on theirs.  Life is just too short to worry and fuss about how fast my dogs are learning to stay.  It’s happening, but slowly.  Which is better for all of us anyway.

Take Two Aspirin and Call Me in the Morning

I haven’t been feeling very well these last couple of days.  I’ve had a splitting headache and everything just kind of aches, nothing serious, but I feel like myself.  I doubt I’m the only one who’s ever felt that way.  And when I don’t feel well, I get a little bit cranky.  Well, according to my husband, a lot cranky.  I think levels of crankiness depend on your point of view.

Anyway, my recent spell of illness starting me thinking about how my dogs communicate pain and feeling unwell.  I don’t know about your dogs, but mine are much more stoic about pain than I am.  Several weeks ago, Sammi and Jesse were playing on the sun porch when Sammi gave a yelp of pain.  Of course, we thought Jesse hurt her, so we put him in his crate for a time out.  A short while later, when I had Sammi out for a walk, she stumbled and fell.  This is definitely not Sammi-like behavior.  So, I came home and asked Tripp what he thought.  He knelt down to Sammi’s level and picked up her front paw.  She let out a wail like I’ve never heard.  Which made me realize:

  • I couldn’t give Tripp a time out in his crate
  • Poor Jesse had been seriously wronged
  • Little Sammi was in major pain

Given these realizations, I immediately made an appointment with my vet.  By the time we got her to the vet, Sammi could barely walk.  I was consumed with guilt.  What had happened to her?  Why hadn’t I noticed?  What kind of mother doesn’t notice when her puppy is injured?  Dr. Mechling put most of my fears to rest.  It seems the problem started when we switched collars.  Our two dogs always wore halters, but when summer came, I switched them to neck collars to make it easier to brush them.  Pulling on the leash threw Sammi’s neck vertebrae out of alignment.  To correct the problem, Sammi was on steroids for two weeks.  My sweet tempered Sammi suddenly had “roid rage.”  The steroids made her cranky and stubborn.  Well, she’s always stubborn, but with cranky, it’s much, much worse!  Combined with the constant hunger and thirst (and the accompanying need to relieve herself), it was a very long two weeks.  Thankfully, she’s back on the road to recovery.

Sammi’s injury emphasizes our responsibility to our dogs.  We can’t always prevent illness or injury to our pets, but we do have to keep a close eye out and get them to a vet as quickly as possible.  Make sure you know your vet’s number, and where to take your dog for emergencies, 24 hours a day.  Download the Veterinary Emergency Form to get all of the information you need in an emergency in place.  You’ll be glad you did.


What You Really Need in Life

I spoil my dogs.  I know I spoil my dogs.  I think sometimes I’m becoming one of those weird old ladies that act their dogs are their kids.  No, you know the ones I’m talking about.  They REALLY think their dogs are kids.  I may spoil my dogs, but I still realize they’re dogs.

I realized how spoiled my dogs were when a guy doing some work around the house said when he died, he wanted to come back as one of my dogs.  I figured why wait, so I gave him a Milkbone.  Just kidding.

Anyway, I thought my beagles were seriously spoiled.  But then I started to look around and talk to other people, and realized that I don’t even scratch the surface of spoiled.  I was talking to a woman yesterday.  She got a new dog about six months ago.  Originally, the dog slept with her, but she woke up one too many times with the dog facing the bottom of the bed.  Not liking these sleeping arrangements, she bought the dog his own bed.  Not a doggie bed, the dog got his own bed.  As a matter of fact, the dog has his own bedroom.  When company comes, they sleep on the couch because the dog doesn’t like to give up his bed.

There’s another woman that lives up the street from me that sets a place at the table for her dog.  I hope the dog is well-mannered.  I wouldn’t dare share table space with Sammi and Jesse.  They’re eating machines!

Even though these two examples are women with their dogs, I know plenty of men who are just as bad.  I wonder why we put so much effort into spoiling our dogs.  As I watch my two snoozing in the sun, they’re happy with food and water, a place to sleep and the occasional walk and dog treat.  They don’t care if they’re treats made with all natural ingredients.  They’re happy sleeping on the tile floor as opposed to the seat cushions on the furniture.  So why do we go to all of the trouble making sure they get the best of everything?  Are we trying to soothe something in our own souls?  It must be, because at least my dogs know what’s really needed in life, and it’s not all the stuff I give them.  They just want to be with me and know they’re loved.

The Secret to Giving Gifts

My sister and I have finally found the perfect way to exchange gifts with each other.  When exchanging gifts with a sibling, you either find something that’s absolutely perfect, or one way off the mark.  There’s really no middle ground.  It’s even more difficult to find the perfect gift if you live away from each other.  A four hour drive is a ways, believe me.

So, several holidays ago, we hit on the ideal strategy without even realizing it.  I had started pulling together research for the esteemed Beagle Journal.  In the course of roaming through bookstores, I came across several great pet gifts.  I found a dog biscuit gift set with a cookbook for doggie treats and a set of dog cookie cutters; a bone, a fire hydrant, and a squirrel.  Almost right next to it was a gift set on how to teach your cats tricks.  I thought it was so cool.  I also thought it was perfect for my sister and her husband.  They have a dog and several cats, they’re a little quirky.  They would appreciate it as much as I would.

Well, apparently they did.  Because when it came time for birthday gifts (Tripp and I are so close together, we frequently get shared gifts), they gave us a birthday cake doggie toy and a box of dog cookies that really were good enough for humans (don’t ask how I know!).  The dogs loved the gifts as much as we did.

There are several reasons this is such a great way to share gifts. 

  • Dogs never question your taste in patterns or colors.
  • Dogs never think your gift is cheap looking.
  • Dogs never think, “What were you thinking?”
  • If you give a dog the same gift more than once, they never think you have no imagination.  They think, “How did you know I ate the last one you gave me?”

Dogs enjoy every gift in the way it was given, as a token of the love and affection you feel for the one to whom you’re giving.

You Are What You Eat

Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.  ~Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

If you go to a pet store, the number of choices in dog food is astounding.  Besides the countless varieties of dry food available, there are also canned, frozen, and tubes of food guaranteed to satisfy even the pickiest puppy palates.  There’s even a brand of canned dog food with a description on the can that sounds incredibly good, I wouldn’t mind eating it!

There are all kinds of recommended dog food diets; home cooked diets, raw meat diets, vegetarian diets, all saying they can made your dog healthier.  The sad truth is that if your dog is what he eats, he’d look a lot like a garbage can.  Dogs will eat just about anything.  I realized this when both Sammi and Jesse consistently graze for grass.  They don’t eat it to make their stomachs feel better and they don’t eat it to throw up.  They nosh it down like they’re checking out the salad bar at a local restaurant.  Both dogs will eat anything they find on the road when we’re out for a walk.  Sammi tries desperately to get at a piece of bubble gum stuck to the road every time we walk by it.   I think she thinks I won’t notice her going after it one of these times.

There is any number of reasons put forth for this lack of discrimination on the part of our dogs.  One is that before domestication, wolves learned to eat what was available.  That might be meat fresh from the hunt, scavenging to find someone else’s kill, or just grazing on grass if that’s all that was available.  It also helps that dogs have so few taste buds; about 1,500, compared to people with about 10,000.  The dog’s digestive tract has evolved to be very forgiving, as well.  If something doesn’t agree with the dog, he’ll just throw it up.  Vomiting in dogs is not the sign of serious illness that it is in humans.

So, what about the dogs that will eat only canned dog food, or only people food?  It’s a matter of taste.  If you feed your dog people food, he’ll get used to it and not want the other stuff anymore.

Some things to consider:

  • Feed your dog to help him stay active and a healthy weight.  Obesity isn’t any better for dogs than people.
  • Be cautious when giving your dog people food.  It can be high is fat, sugar, salt, or calories.
  • Limit the number of treats you feed your dog each day.  Some treats have a lot of calories.
  • Exercise your dog every day.  If you don’t have time to walk the dog, try teaching him to play fetch.  It will give him a chance to run back and forth.

If your dog is what he eats, make sure it’s something you want to look at and be proud of.

It’s Too Darn Hot

There’s no doubt about it, its summertime.  I thought I’d never see it come.  Through the long, cold, rainy spring we endured, I thought summer would never get here.   I’m paying for any disbelief I had now.  The Midwestern states have been dealing with record breaking heat this summer.

Now that the warm days are here, most of us let our dogs outside this time of year to let them enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.  Both of my beagles gravitate to that patch of sunshine in the back yard.  Dogs seem to enjoy the hot weather as much as people do, especially all of the fun things to do in hot weather like dipping their toes in the lake.

Keep in mind, though, that hot weather can be as dangerous for your best friend as it is for humans.  I think we all know by now not to leave our dogs in cars during the heat, even if the windows are open.  A car sitting in the hot sun can reach 120°F in a matter of minutes.  Try to keep your dog cool during the worst of the heat.

Dogs don’t have sweat glands all over their bodies like humans do.  They can only cool themselves by panting, making them much more prone to overheating than humans.  When they pant, it cools the large blood vessels in the tongue, thereby cooling off the dog.  With the hot, humid weather we’re experiencing, it’s more important than ever to watch your dog for signs of heat stroke.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Your Dog

Watch your dog for the following signs of heat stroke:

  • Weakness
  • Staggering
  • Drooling
  • Unconsciousness

Drooling alone isn’t cause for concern, dogs drool for a number of reasons.  However, in combination with any of the other symptoms or with unusually heavy drooling, treat your dog for heat stroke.

Treating Heat Stroke in Your Dog

If your dog shows signs of heat stroke, treat it immediately:

  • Move the dog to a cooler area
  • Pour cool, not cold or icy, water over its body.
  • Check his temperature rectally with a baby or pet thermometer.  You’re trying to reduce the dog’s temperature to 103°F within 20 minutes.
  • Contact your vet if the dog’s temperature isn’t going down, the dog can’t stand, or she still seems ill after lowering the temperature.

Heat stroke isn’t strictly a human illness.  Keep an eye on your pet in the hot weather, and keep him healthy.

Talking to Strangers

We recently had company at the house.  That’s not particularly unusual this time of the year.  People travel to visit friends and family during the summer months.  I loved watching how the personalities of my two beagles came out when greeting my family that had come to visit us.

Sammi greeted them like long lost friends.  Sammi is friendly and sociable and she’s never met a person she didn’t like.  When my mom and niece walked in, she was all over them, wanting to say hi in her usual exuberant way.

Jesse hid behind the couch.  Jesse has always been the more cautious, anxious dog in the family.  He’s more watchful, because he doesn’t see anyone else caring if strangers just come to the house.  With people he knows, Jesse is a funny, silly, playful puppy.  When someone he doesn’t know is around, he hides behind the couch.  I don’t know if he’ll ever change.  Something happened to him in his short life before we got him that changed him from goofy puppy to always watchful, on guard.

Like children, I love both of my dogs exactly the way they are.  Yes, I would prefer that Sammi not jump on everyone to say how glad she is to see them.  But I wouldn’t trade her joy of life, happy to greet the world attitude for anything.  I would love to see Jesse be more playful around strangers.  I wish everyone could see the sweet natured, mischievous puppy that Tripp and I see every day.  I don’t see that happening any time soon.  And I’d never give either one of them up.

I see my dogs every day.  After a while, I begin to forget that their personalities are so different.  I forget to appreciate the diversity each brings to our family.  It’s nice to introduce them to someone else, to see again their individual personalities, and rejoice in the differences.  Life would be much too boring if they were just the same!