Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PET DOG – PARENTING versus OWNERSHIP – Tips on Care of Companion Dogs

PET DOG
PARENTING versus OWNERSHIP
Tips on Care of Companion Dogs
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Disclaimer:
1. These are my personal views based on my own experience. They may or may not be applicable in your circumstances. You may please do your own due diligence before adopting a dog.
2. There are two ways of looking after babies and children. Most parents look after their children themselves. Some parents “outsource” parenting duties to “nannies”. It is similar with dogs – you can either look after your own dog personally or you can “outsource” dog care to a “nanny” who looks after your dog. This article is meant for pet parents who intend to personally look after their dogs. 

ARE YOU READY TO BE A PET DOG PARENT ?

Before you adopt a dog, or any other pet, you must ask yourself:

Do you want to be a ‘pet parent’ or ‘pet owner’ ?

There is huge difference between the two.

Ask yourself:

1. Are you going to look after your dog like your own child?

Or

2. Are you going to “outsource” this “task” of looking after your dog to someone else.

Of course, even in the case of human children, there are two types of parents:

1. Parents who do genuine parenting and look after their children personally

2. Parents who “outsource” their core parenting duties to someone else, like a “nanny”, or to “surrogate parents” like grandparents or relatives, or send their children away to boarding schools to be looked after by strangers.

It is the same with pet dog parenting – those who parent pets like in the first category above are “pet parents” and those who emulate the second category are akin to “dog owners”.

As far as our pet dog Sherry is concerned, we are in the first category – we are pet dog parents.

Parenting Sherry has been an enjoyable but challenging experience.

I will not call it “sacrifices”, but we certainly have made many compromises in order to be good pet parents – be it in our careers or in our social lives or in travel, recreation and leisure.

Today, Sherry is a “senior citizen” – and like any senior citizen she has a share of her ailments.

Sadly, she is blind, and she has diabetes.

Looking after a blind diabetic dog is a demanding task and places restrictions on the pet parents.

For example, it has become difficult for both of us, my wife and me, to go out together.

Since Sherry has diabetes, someone has to be at home to ensure she gets her correct food diet and medicines (insulin) at the proper time, and has her regular walks under leash, since she cannot see and cannot be left free.

Since Sherry is blind, she cannot be left alone at home for long, as she has developed separation anxiety due to her blindness; nor can we take her out with us like we did earlier since she gets confused and anxious in unfamiliar surroundings.

Last weekend, there was a social function, and my wife attended alone.

This weekend, we have a Navy Foundation Get-together, and I will be going alone, while my wife looks after Sherry at home.

The bottom-line is, that, like all “pet parents”, we will have to accept that these restrictions since we decided to adopt a dog many years ago.

That is why, in the beginning, I said that before you adopt a dog, or any other pet, you must ask yourself: “Do you want to be a ‘pet parent’ or do you want to be just a ‘pet owner’?”

It is easy to adopt a dog, but it is a challenging long term commitment to be a genuine pet parent’ and look after your companion dog for its entire lifetime.

Over the past few months I had written a few articles on DOG CARE and posted them on my blogs.

I thought it would be a good idea to abridge and consolidate all these articles in one blog post for convenience of dog lovers.

DOG CARE  Part 1
ARE YOU READY FOR PET PARENTING?
THREE QUESTIONS YOU MUST ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU GET A COMPANION DOG

http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2014/06/dog-care-part-1-three-questions-you.html

3 QUESTIONS YOU MUST ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU GET A COMPANION DOG

1. WHO IS GOING TO BE THE PET PARENT?

Are you thinking of getting a pet dog?

Wait.

Before you get that pet dog into your life, answer this question:

“Who is going to look after the dog?”

The person who is going to look after the dog must be clearly identified.

He or she must be ready to take on the responsibility and lifelong commitment required to look after a dog.

Let us assume that you are the person who is going to look after your dog (of course, your spouse, your children may share this responsibility, but if you are the person who is getting the dog into your home, you must be clear that looking after your dog is your primarily your responsibility).

You will have to allocate around 3 hours of you time to your dog every day – for feeding the dog at the stipulated time, for regular outdoor exercising and long walks, at least twice a day, morning and evening, for playing, training, grooming and bathing your dog.

Can your existing lifestyle cater to the demands of dog parenting?

Are you willing to change and curtail your lifestyle for the sake of your dog?

Are you willing to make “sacrifices” in your career and social life for the sake of your dog?

Are you willing to forego travel, vacations and holidays for the sake of your dog?

Dogs like routine, and once you establish the routine, you will have to follow that routine.

And, in order to follow your dog’s routine, you may have to forego many activities and events, and adjust your lifestyle and career commitments.

Remember, whoever is going to look after the dog will have to make “sacrifices” and should be prepared for it.

That is why, before you get a dog, you must have the answer to the question: “Who is going to look after the dog?” and that person must be clear about what this onerous dog-parenting responsibility entails.


2. ARE YOU PREPARED FOR A LONG TERM COMMITMENT TO LOOK AFTER YOUR DOG FOR ITS ENTIRE LIFETIME?

You must think carefully before adopting a dog, because you are making a commitment to that dog for its lifetime.

Looking after a dog is similar to raising a child.

But there is one big difference.

Your children will grow up and one day they will become independent and then they will leave you and go away to live their own lives, to pursue their own careers.

But your dog will remain a child forever, dependent on you for its entire life.

Yes, unlike your human children, your pet dog will remain dependent on you for its entire life and will never go away.

Getting a dog is a long-term commitment because most dogs
live for about 10 years.

When you bring a dog into your family, that dog is yours for life.

They say that one dog year is equal to seven human years.

So, a 10 year old dog is equal to a 70 year old human being.

Thus, you will have to look after your dog for its entire lifecycle – as a small baby puppy, as a naughty youngster, in its middle age, and you will have to take care of your dog in its old age.

The normal lifespan of a dog is around 10 to 12 years.

In the normal course, your dog will die in your lifetime.

This is one more big difference between human children and pet dogs – unless you are an old person, in your 70’s or 80’s, barring accidents, in the normal course, your dog will die in your lifetime, whereas your human children are expected to outlive you.

Thus, when you get a companion dog, you must be mentally prepared for this sad eventuality, in addition to the long-term commitment to lifelong care for your dog.

When you bring a dog into your family, that dog is yours for life.

Your dog’s life depends on you.

So, before you get your dog, keep in mind that you are responsible for the dog’s entire lifetime of 10-12 years and your dog will need your extra care when the dog gets old and is not so healthy, right until its death.

A dog’s illness and death can be a very emotionally draining experience and you may not be able to cope up with it.

Before you get a dog, you must be clear that you will have to look after your dog for its entire lifecycle and you must be mentally and emotionally prepared for the fact that your dog will die in your lifetime so that you will be able to cope up with the grief at the loss of your pet dog.

So the second question you must ask yourself before you get a dog is:

Are you prepared to make a long term pet parenting commitment to look after your dog for its entire lifetime of 10-12 years?


3. DO YOU HAVE THE RESOURCES TO LOOK AFTER A DOG ?

Are your present living conditions conducive for the entry of a dog into your life and home?

Is your house suitable for a dog?

Do you have a bungalow with enough space in the compound for the dog to play?

If you have a flat in a high rise residential apartment building, you should think twice before you get a dog.

Your dog will feel “cooped up” in the flat, especially when you leave it alone inside.

You will have to frequently take your dog down for its ablutions.

Also, many high rise residential societies are not dog friendly and discourage pets.

Keeping a dog also entails expenses on food and health care.

Medical expenses can be quite heavy, especially in the dog’s old age.

It required emotional and physical resources on your part too.

Can you afford veterinary care and food for your dog?

Do you have the financial, physical and emotional resources to look after your dog for its entire lifetime?

So the third question you must ask yourself before you get a dog is:

“Do you have the resources to look after a dog?”


THREE QUESTIONS YOU MUST ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU GET A COMPANION DOG

So, before you bring a dog into your life, you must ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Who is going to look after the dog?

2. Are you prepared to make a long term commitment to look after your dog for its entire lifetime of 10-12 years?

3. Do you have the resources to look after a dog?

Once the answers are clear, go ahead and adopt a dog.

Pet parenting a dog is a joyful and fulfilling experience.

You will never find a more loyal and devoted friend than a dog who loves you unconditionally.


DOG CARE – Part 2
ADOPTING A DOG
TYPES OF DOG CARE and HUMAN-CANINE RELATIONSHIPS
(4 ways of “adopting” a dog)
http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2014/06/dog-care-part-2-adopting-dog.html

ADOPTING A DOG
4 TYPES OF DOG CARE and HUMAN-CANINE RELATIONSHIPS

There are 4 ways of “adopting” a dog.

In each case the degree of human-canine relationship varies quite a large extent.

Most importantly, in each case, the degree of attachment to the dog varies greatly.

Let me illustrate this point by giving you some examples.

FIRST DEGREE of DOG CARE

When I was in Mumbai, every morning at 6 AM, I would start from my home opposite the Oval near Churchgate, walk down to Marine Drive via CCI, and then go for a brisk walk cum jog to Chowpatty.

Then I would turn back, and walk down to “land’s end” at Nariman Point at the southern end of Marine Drive to do some light exercises.

I noticed that every day a woman would come there in a car.

The moment she got out of the car, a large number of stray dogs would come running to greet her.

She would then sit on the parapet by the sea and feed the dogs biscuits which she had carried with her.

The lady would sit for half an hour, “talking” to the dogs, while the dogs frolicked around her, and after that the lady would leave in her car.

This was her routine every morning.

I will call this the “first degree” of dog care (or human-dog relationship).

SECOND DEGREE of DOG CARE

In the 1970’s, when we were undergoing training near Jamnagar, a female dog gave birth to a litter of 5 pups in the garage of our bachelors’ accommodation.

After a few days, the mother and puppies wandered away, but one puppy remained and could be seen in hanging around the corridor.

We bachelors “adopted” the small puppy.

We fed the dog every day, and soon it started following us around.

We called a vet from town and got the dog inoculated.

In jest, we had named the dog after our hard taskmaster training officer.

The dog started responding to the name.

The dog used to come with us on our jogs, hang around while we played a game, and sit with us in the evenings when we had a drink.

But we never allowed the dog inside our cabins – the dog used to sleep outside in the corridor where we had made a place for him with a blanket and water and food bowls.

When we proceeded to sea for our competency training, we “handed over” the dog to our junior batch, and when we came back a few months later for our second phase of training, the dog was very much there.

We left for sea a few months later and I am sure the dog was looked after by the bachelor officers who came to live in the block after us.

This is the “second degree” of dog care.

THIRD DEGREE of DOG CARE

We saw that in the first and second degrees of human-dog relationships, the dog is not allowed inside the house.

The dog lives outside, either on the street and or in your compound, and you give it minimal care.

I have seen many persons keep rescued dogs below their buildings, either on the street or in the building compound, and they feed the dogs and keep water for them, and, in some cases, ensure vaccinations and minimal veterinary care too.

In the third and fourth degree of dog care, the dog lives in your house.

Let me give you an example of the “third degree” of dog care.

I had a friend in the army who had a dog.

He had entrusted “dog care” to his batman (also called sahayak).

The sahayak was the de-facto master of the dog.

Yes, the sahayak would look after all requirements of the dog – food, water, grooming, walks, exercise etc.

The officer and his family would play with the dog whenever they got time.

But in the same manner as some parents delegate their parenting duties to a “nanny”, the officer had delegated dog care to his sahayak.

Even when the officer and his family went to their hometown on leave or on a vacation, the dog would stay behind with the sahayak.

Like the army, many other organizations like the police or some civil services provide you with attendants who can look after your dog.

If you can afford it, you can hire servants to look after your dog.

In this “third degree” of dog care, your dog is like a child looked after by a “nanny” where you delegate pet-parenting to someone else.

FOURTH DEGREE of DOG CARE

This is the highest form of dog care where the owner treats the dog like his own child.

You look after your dog personally.

You treat your dog as a member of your family, just like your human children, and you do everything possible for your dog like you do for your human children.

You are ready to make sacrifices in your career and personal life for the sake of your dog.

You forgo travel, vacations and holidays, and you cheerfully curtail your social life and make lifestyle changes for the sake of your dog.

You are deeply attached to your dog because you love your dog very much.

This highest “fourth degree” of dog care is very demanding and you should be prepared for a long term lifelong commitment of full time parenting.

Remember, your human children will grow up and go away but your dog will remain a perpetual child.

Your dog will be with you forever for his entire life till his death.

You will have to care for your dog through his entire lifecycle of 10-15 years, including caring for your dog in his old age and you will have to undergo the agony of seeing your dog die before your eyes.

You will have to bear your dog’s medical expenses, which can be quite substantial since veterinary care is costly.

Most importantly, you will get emotionally attached to your dog and your dog will become a very important part of your life.

Are you ready for this highest “fourth degree” of human-canine relationship?

Do you have the time, commitment, temperament and resources to look after your dog?

This highest form of dog care is very demanding – you can take my word for it.

This is genuine pet parenting.


SHOULD YOU ADOPT A DOG?

If you want to adopt a dog, especially a rescued dog, by all means do so.

But please be very clear about the type of dog care you will be able to provide to your dog.

The worst thing you can do is to get your dog used to the “fourth degree” of dog care where the dog gets deeply attached to you and becomes totally dependent on you, and then you “abandon” the dog because you realize that you cannot bear the commitment and responsibilities of looking after your dog or you are reluctant to make sacrifices in your career and lifestyle for the sake of your dog.

So, think properly before you adopt a dog – make sure you do not land up in a situation where you adopt a dog in haste and make the dog suffer later.


DOG CARE – Part 3
LOOKING AFTER YOUR PET DOGS IN THEIR OLD AGE AND ILLNESS
http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2014/06/dog-care-part-3-looking-after-old-and.html

LOOKING AFTER YOUR PET DOG IN HER OLD AGE AND ILLNESS

On 05 May 2014, more than four months ago, when my pet dog Sherry was in a critical condition, dangerously ill with a life-threatening illness, in the veterinary hospital, we had two choices:

1. Put her to sleep (Euthanasia)

2. Try our best to save her life and put in all our efforts to nurse her out of her severe illness

We chose the second option.

We decided to look after Sherry in her old age and give her our loving care in her illness, to the best of our ability

Sherry was diagnosed with diabetes and then developed pyometra.

The last one month has passed in a daze – twice a day visits to the veterinary clinic for Sherry’s treatment, her diet, her medicines, her twice a day injections of insulin, sitting with Sherry, feeding her, talking to her and comforting her.

All of us, my wife, my son, daughter-in-law, and daughter, even my old mother and mother-in-law, and, most importantly, the veterinary doctors, we are all contributing, trying our best to save Sherry.

My wife is putting in tremendous efforts caring for Sherry, getting up early in the morning to make food for Sherry, give her the insulin shot, and then in the evenings too, after returning from work.

I try to be with Sherry 24/7 and comfort her, take her for her walks – in her illness, Sherry always wants my company.

On 02 June 2014, the veterinary surgeon had planned to operate Sherry for pyometra, but she was in such poor shape that she was unfit for the operation.

Since the risk of the operation was great, and she had open pyometra, it was decided not to operate but let her be as it is.

Sherry is bravely pulling along, but it seems the diabetes is affecting her eyesight and her vision is getting impaired, and she is showing symptoms of blindness, especially at night.

For us, Sherry is not a dog – she is a member of our family – and we will try and do everything possible for her like we would do for our own children, for Sherry is just like a human daughter to us.

Let us see how things go along. 

Sherry is old now, and ill too, with diabetes and pyometra, and losing her vision.

We will look after Sherry to the best of our ability, give her good loving care, and hope for the best.

For more than 8 long years, Sherry has given us her unconditional love and devoted loyalty.

Now, it is time for us to give her the same love and loyalty in return.

For those who are thinking of adopting a dog, I would like to say one thing:

Before you adopt a dog, ask yourself whether you are fully prepared to look after the dog in its old age and take care of your dog in case it falls ill.

So, before you get your dog, keep in mind that you are responsible for the dog’s entire lifetime of 10-12 years and your dog will need your extra care when the dog gets old and is not so healthy, right until your dog’s death.

A dog’s illness can be a very emotionally draining experience and you may not be able to cope up with it.

Before you get a dog, you must be clear that you will have to look after your dog for its entire lifecycle and you must be mentally and emotionally prepared for the fact that your dog will die in your lifetime so that you will be able to cope up with the grief at the loss of your pet dog.


DOG CARE – PART 4
Human – Canine Relationship
EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT versus “UTILITY VALUE”
Poignant Love of a Pet Parent

MY DOG AND ME
Poignant Ponderings of a Pet Parent

MY DOG AND ME

Till Sherry came into my life, I did not know that a human could get so deeply emotionally attached to an animal.

I never imagined that I would start loving my pet dog Sherry so dearly.

And I never expected that Sherry would love me so devotedly and become an inseparable part of my life.

For over 8 years, Sherry had been a tough healthy high-spirited dog.

And suddenly, Sherry fell ill, very ill, and as she lay in a critical condition on the examination table in the veterinary clinic, a frail skeleton, almost a lifeless shadow of her former self, the veterinary doctors painted quite a dismal picture – her blood reports were haywire, she had severe pancreatitis, her abnormal sugar levels indicated she had diabetes, so she could not be operated upon for her severe pyometra – things looked bad, very bad – it seemed that her chances of survival were quite bleak.

They gave us two choices:

1. Put her to sleep (Euthanasia or “mercy killing”)

2. Try our best to save her life and put in all our efforts and resources to nurse her out of her severe illness

While the first choice was being contemplated, I looked at Sherry.

Sherry looked at me.

I cannot forget the poignant loving look in her eyes.

I could read through the language of her eyes that Sherry wanted to live – the yearning look in her eyes indicated that she wanted to be with us.

We too wanted Sherry to be with us for as long as possible.

So we chose the second option, to try our best to save her life and nurse her back to health, and the next few days passed in a daze – daily visits to the veterinary clinic for Sherry’s treatment, her strict diet, her medicines, her twice a day injections of insulin, constantly sitting with Sherry, feeding her, talking to her and comforting her.

It was on one of these days, late at night, while comforting Sherry who seemed to be in agony, sitting with her and cuddling her, I switched on the TV, and what I saw was incredible – a fantastic coincidence.

The scene in the movie on TV was a mirror image of what I was doing at that moment.

Here, Sherry had put her head on my lap and I was lovingly caressing her neck.

And on the screen, there was an old man and a dog sitting in exactly the same manner, and the man was lovingly fondling the dog exactly as I was fondling Sherry.

Was it sheer coincidence, a quirk of serendipity – or was it an enigmatic message for me?

The scene on the TV screen before me was the episode of “Candy and his Dog” from the movie “Of Mice and Men”. 


OF MICE AND MEN

One of the most poignant books I have read is “Of Mice and Men” – a novella written by John Steinbeck, winner of the Nobel Prize.

OF MICE AND MEN was published in 1937 and it was John Steinbeck’s first successful book that brought him fame as an author.

The novel “Of Mice and Men” has been enacted as a play on stage and also has been made into a movie (which I was watching that evening on TV).

The setting of the story is a ranch in California during the Great Depression.

The narrative describes the volatile life on the ranch and the precarious relationships between human beings on the ranch – friendships and tensions between the migrant ranch workers (farmhands) themselves and also between the farmhands and the owners.

One of the book’s major themes, and its most poignant sub plot, revolve around Candy and his dog.


CANDY AND HIS DOG

It is said that a dog is a man’s best friend.

This statement aptly describes the relationship between Candy and his dog.

Candy has had his dog since he was a pup.

It is his only friend and companion. 

Candy has been alongside his dog for all of the dog’s life and has had a close relationship with his dog.

Candy remembers the time when he first got the dog.

He always proudly tells everyone that his dog was the best sheepdog.

Unfortunately, Candy’s dog, once a tough healthy impressive sheep herder, has now become blind, toothless, rheumatic, weak, and is in frail health due to old age.

A dominant ranch worker says to the ranch boss, and to the other ranch-hands present, that Candy’s dog is so old that he can hardly walk, the dog has no teeth, the dog is blind and deaf, the dog cannot chew, so Candy feeds him milk, and he asks the ranch boss to tell Candy to shoot his old dog.

All of them tell Candy that his dog is of no good to Candy, and the dog isn’t any good to itself too, since the animal is in misery due its old age infirmities – so why doesn’t Candy shoot the dog and relieve the dog of his suffering?

The ranch boss says that the dog is no good and remarks sarcastically: “…I wish someone would shoot me if I got old and (became) a cripple…”

All the ranch workers suggest that it would be best to shoot Candy’s old dog.

After hearing everyone, the ranch boss decides that since the sick old dog is a useless burden, it would be best to end its suffering by shooting it dead.

Candy is unable to “let go” and tries his best to hold on to his old blind, deaf and disabled dog for as long as possible.

Candy reminisces and tells everyone about the dog.

He describes the time when he first got the dog and mentions that it was the best sheepdog he has ever seen.

Candy harks back to the time when both he and the dog were useful and of great value to the ranch – he was the best ranch handyman and his dog was the best sheepherder.

Now Candy is crippled, as he has lost a hand in an accident, and he has become too old for vigorous work on the farm.

And Candy’s dog is in a similar situation – blind, deaf, disabled and too old to be of any use.

Candy has had his dog since he was a pup.

His dog is his only friend and companion on the ranch, especially after Candy is crippled after losing his hand the accident.

Candy pleads with everyone not to shoot the dog and begs to save the dog’s life: “…I am so used to him…I had him for so long…I had him since he was a pup…I herded sheep with him…You wouldn’t imagine if you look at him now, but he was the best sheep dog I have ever seen…”

But no one listens to his pleas, and the dominant worker called Carlson takes Candy’s dog outside to be shot and buried.

Candy’s dog is “put to sleep” and Candy is heartbroken when he hears the gunshot.


UTILITY VALUE – FATE OF THE “USELESS” WHO HAVE OUTLIVED THEIR USEFULNESS

The “mercy killing” of Candy’s Dog symbolizes the helplessness of valueless persons.

The dog is a metaphor for Candy himself – old and crippled and not of much use to anyone.

Maybe, for Candy, the fear he feels for his dog’s death is parallel to his own fear that when he has fulfilled his purpose and he is no long effectual, when he has outlived his utility, he too will be disposed of as readily as his dog.

The story of Candy’s dog serves as a harsh reminder of the fate that awaits anyone who outlives his usefulness.

To summarize, in the novel “Of Mice and Men” John Steinbeck has portrayed a poignant situation – the hapless ageing ranch worker Candy realizes that both he and his dog have “outlived their utility” when he helplessly watches the cruel way in which his beloved dog is treated.

Candy’s dog was once a great sheepherder.

But now the dog has become blind, deaf and disabled due to old age.

The dog can no longer herd sheep.

Candy’s dog has lost its usefulness – the dog no longer has “utility value”.

So, since the dog has become “useless” – the dog is shot dead.

Candy finds himself in the same position as the dog.

Candy realizes that just like his dog has lost its “utility value”, Candy himself has lost his “utility value.

Candy is anxious, and he is worried about his own future, and he speculates whether he would be fired from his job – if they could get rid of a “useless” dog, what prevents them from getting rid of a “useless” worker?


ME AND MY DOG

There was a time when I was the sole breadwinner for my family.

I provided for my family and I was “useful” to them.

I worked as a Naval Officer and I was “useful” to the Navy.

Today, after my retirement, as far as the Navy is concerned, I am a retired “veteran”, and I am not “useful” to the Navy anymore.

Also, now, after my retirement, I am no longer the “breadwinner”, and my wife and children are financially independent.

So, as far as my family is concerned, in the “material sense”, I am “useless”.

As I told you earlier, I have a dog called Sherry.

Once upon a time, Sherry was a great guard dog (and for me, a loving companion).

Unfortunately, Sherry has been ill for the past few months.

Today, Sherry is a blind diabetic dog – she has diabetes and has lost her vision due to her diabetes.

Like Candy’s Dog, Sherry too has lost her “utility value”.

So, aren’t we in the same situation as “Candy and his Dog” so poignantly described in John Steinbeck’s masterpiece novel “Of Mice and Men”?

I am “useless” thanks to my retirement.

Sherry is “useless” owing to her illness.

Me and my Dog – both of us have lost our “utility value” and have become “useless”.

Is that why we are holding on to each other?


DOG CARE – Part 5
LOOKING AFTER A DIABETIC DOG – LIFESTYLE CHANGES

LOOKING AFTER A DIABETIC DOG – LIFESTYLE CHANGES

I had brought out above in Part 2 of this series on DOG CARE (DOG CARE – Part 2 – ADOPTING A DOG) that if you get a dog into your home, there are two basic types of “Pet Parenting”.


BASIC TWO TYPES OF PET DOG PARENTING:

1. You can personally look after your dog

2. You can “outsource” dog care to someone else

(This is akin to human parenting where either the mother looks after her own child or the mother “outsources” childcare to a “nanny”)


PERSONAL PET PARENTING – DIABETIC DOG CARE

We, my wife and me, belong to the first category of pet parents and we look after our pet dog Sherry personally.

That is why we have had to change our lifestyle when our pet dog Sherry got diabetes.

From morning to night, our lives now revolve around Sherry.

Our lifestyle and our routine are now governed by Sherry’s routine of her strict diet and timely insulin injections twice a day.

(We never imagined that we would have to administer injections and that too for Sherry)

We have to make sure we feed Sherry the prescribed diet in a timely manner.

We have to be careful Sherry does not injure herself and keep an eye on her in case she becomes sluggish due to blood sugar levels.

One of us, either my wife or me, have to remain at home during her food and insulin time, twice a day, in the morning and in the evening.

This can affect social life – for example, if there is a social event in the evening, only one of us will be able to attend.

To make matters worse, our pet dog Sherry became blind (this happens to most diabetic dogs).

Looking after a blind diabetic dog is now an even greater responsibility.

We are working on helping Sherry acclimatize to her loss of vision and the results are encouraging.

I think we have been able to keep Sherry in good cheer despite her tragedy and trauma of sudden blindness.

I will write about it in Part 6 of this series on “Dog Care”.


DON’T ADOPT A DOG UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO LOOK AFTER YOUR DOG FOR HIS ENTIRE LIFETIME

It sounds romantic to adopt a dog, especially a rescued dog.

But it is an onerous responsibility to look after the dog, especially when your dog becomes old and ailing with infirmities.

Once you adopt a dog, you will have to look after the dog for his entire lifetime.

If you want to adopt a dog, especially a rescued dog, by all means do so.

But please be very clear about the long term commitment, the resources required (time and costs) and responsibilities of looking after your dog and make sure you are ready for the career sacrifices and lifestyle changes you may have to make for the sake of your dog.

The worst thing you can do is to adopt a dog and then “abandon” the dog because you realize that you cannot look after your dog.

It is most cruel to abandon a dog which has become deeply attached to you and is totally dependent on you.

Unfortunately, nowadays, especially in urban cities, we see that many people are abandoning their dogs once they realize the onerous nature of pet parenting duties and are not willing to change their lifestyle, bear the responsibilities and costs, or make sacrifices for the sake of their dogs.

So, think properly before you adopt a dog – make sure you don’t land up in a situation where you adopt a dog in haste and make the dog suffer later by neglecting or abandoning your pet dog.


DOG CARE – Part 6
BLIND DOG PARENTING – HOW TO LOOK AFTER A BLIND DOG

LOOKING AFTER A BLIND DOG

A dog can become blind due to many reasons.

Diabetes is a major reason for loss of vision in dogs – dogs with diabetes develop cataracts which may result in blindness.

Whatever the reason, losing vision and becoming blind is traumatic for the dog and distressing for the owner (pet parent).

A vet once told me that a dog got so traumatized and depressed after becoming blind that the dog had to be put to sleep.

Unlike human beings dogs cannot speak and nor can you explain things to them like you can do to human beings.

Dogs get confused and disoriented when they suddenly become blind.

Pet parents become distressed and anxious when their dogs become blind.

A pet dog’s blindness will necessitate lifestyle changes in both the pet parents and the dog.

As a pet parent, you have to overcome your own personal grief, and you will have to help your dog cope with blindness.

Here are a few things dog owners (pet parents) can do to help their dogs mitigate the effects of blindness and with cope up with the tragic situation of losing vision.


COMFORT YOUR BLIND DOG

You must constantly comfort your blind dog.

Try to always be at your dog’s side, touch your dog, and talk to your dog in a loving reassuring voice.

You must “talk” to your dog much more.

Speak to your blind dog in your normal, cheery voice.

Your voice will be very soothing for your blind dog.

In fact, in the initial stages of your dog’s blindness, lovingly caressing and cheerfully talking to your dog will relieve your dog of the distress, agony and sense of isolation due to sudden loss of vision.

Talking to your dog will provide comfort and lessen the dog’s sense of isolation.

Your voice and your touch will assure your dog of your companionship.

The most important factor in how well a dog copes with blindness is the love and reassurance you give your dog, as a pet parent.

You must remember that despite becoming blind, your dog can continue to be a loving companion – in fact, the bonding between you and your dog will become stronger.


HELP YOUR BLIND DOG RE-ORIENT TO THE ENVIRONMENT

Sudden onset blindness can be much harder for both the dog and pet parent, than a gradual loss of vision.

A dog with sudden onset blindness is plunged into darkness without warning will become disoriented due to which the dog will experience trauma and anxiety.

As a loving pet parent, you must help your dog overcome this disorientation caused by sudden blindness.

One mitigating factor is that dogs do not rely on their sense of vision to the same extent as do humans.

Your dog depends on other senses like hearing and smell

Of all your dog’s senses, eyesight is third in order of importance after hearing and smell.

You can help your blind dog re-orient by facilitating your dog in using these senses of smell and hearing, along with the sense of touch.

It is best to start re-orienting your dog in a known environment – like your home.

Then, gradually extend to other familiar environments, like your dog’s regular walking routes and play area in your compound.

Be patient when you guide your dog in his familiar surroundings.

Let the dog sniff around, recognize familiar smells – and if you are outside – let the dog “mark” familiar spots.

Help your dog “map-out” his surroundings in his mind, both inside your house and outside.

To help your blind dog negotiate his way around, teach your dog “key words” such as “1-2” for climbing stairs, “walkie-walkie” for the dog to follow you, “stop” for your dog to stop whenever there is some obstruction/hazard etc etc.

You will see that within a few days, your blind dog will re-discover and map-out your house and his familiar surroundings.

You must facilitate your blind dog to overcome the disorientation caused by sudden blindness and re-orient himself by allowing your dog plenty of opportunity to explore and sniff around.

Soon, your blind dog will start enjoying going out on walks with you as before.

However, you should be very careful to ensure that your dog does not injure himself, so keep an eagle eye and a tight leash.

As time passes, you will notice that your blind dog’s sense of smell, touch and hearing will become more sensitive and, to a certain extent, this will compensate for the loss of vision.


TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO AVOID INJURIES TO YOUR BLIND DOG

You must take precautions, both indoors and outdoors, to ensure that your bind dog does not injure himself due to his lack of vision.

Remember, a blind dog cannot see things like before – the blind dog can only smell, hear and sense things.

Inside your home, remove all potential hazards, like tables with sharp edges and other obstructions, by rearranging your furniture in order to make your home safe to move around for your blind dog (you must do this quickly, before you start re-orienting your dog to your house).

A blind dog may have a tendency to walk close to the walls in order to avoid obstacles in the middle of the room so ensure you close cupboard doors, slide in all drawers and keep areas near the wall clear of objects so your dog does not bump into them.

Outside, you must keep your dog on a tight leash and be very alert to ensure your dog does not injure himself by stepping onto sharp objects or banging his head or nose into walls or things.

Preventing injuries is particularly important for blind dogs who have diabetes, since curing of injuries is difficult in diabetic dogs.

Do not scare your blind dog by suddenly touching him or by moving objects (like his food bowl) towards him.

Talk to your dog before you extend your hand.

Tap your dog’s food bowl and call out “Food” or “Mum Mum” to your dog and let your blind dog slowly sniff and approach so that he does not injure nose by banging it against the bowl.

Avoid taking your dog to unfamiliar places where the dog will get disoriented and is likely to injure himself.

As I said before, preventing injuries is particularly important for blind dogs who have diabetes, since curing of injuries is difficult in diabetic dogs.


MAKE LIFESTYLE CHANGES TO CARE FOR YOUR BLIND DOG

You will have to keep the “morale” of your blind dog in high spirits at all times in order to prevent your dog sinking into despondency and depression due to his blindness.

For achieving this, you will have to make changes in your lifestyle.

When your dog becomes blind, you will notice that the dog’s personality may change and your dog may become more affectionate as he becomes totally dependent on you.

A blind dog’s constant need for love and companionship may create “separation anxiety” in your dog.

Your blind dog will always want you in close proximity and will hate to be left alone.

Your blind dog may howl in a heart rending manner if he senses you are going out and leaving him alone.

This means, that if you have a blind dog, you or someone from your family will always have to be at home.

You will not be able to go out together.

You will not be able to leave your blind dog at a boarding kennel and go outstation on vacations.

Even if you have to go out on work, someone will have to be at home to look after the dog.

Many people are ready to look after a healthy dog.

But it is difficult to look after a blind dog.

This is particularly so if your dog is diabetic in addition to being blind, since you have to give him the prescribed diet and medicines at the proper times.

So, you will have to give maximum companionship to your blind dog, both indoors and outdoors.

Talk to your blind dog in a cheerful manner, play with him, take him out for walks, and establish your dog’s routines.

In order to help your blind dog adjust better, it is good to take your dog for a walk on the same route where the smells, sounds and feel of the ground are familiar.

Walk slowly and let your blind dog sniff around and help him become comfortable and re-assured.

You will not be able to take your blind dog with you on visits to other places, to avoid disorientation and injury.

In a nutshell, in order to keep your blind dog in good cheer and high morale, you will have to give him constant companionship and spend more time with your dog.

This will entail lifestyle changes involving curtailment of your social life, and may necessitate compromises in your work life too.


BLIND DOG CARE

Looking after a blind dog is a challenging and stressful task.

Words cannot describe the agony a pet parent feels when he sees his beloved dog suddenly become blind and helpless.

Most loving pet parents get terribly distressed when their dog becomes blind and loses his vision.

Remember that your pet dog can sense your emotions, so it is best that you maintain a calm, upbeat, positive and cheerful attitude and do not transmit negative vibes to your blind dog.

You must help your blind dog adjust to vision loss as quickly as possible, and restore your dog’s confidence and keep him in high morale.

Here are some words of sage advice to pet parents whose dogs have become blind:

“What I say to people is, look, your dog couldn’t read, write or drive a car, anyway. He’s already got four other senses that are better than yours. As long as you take good care of him, he’ll be okay.”

~ Nick Whelan, Canine Ophthalmologist, Ontario Veterinary College

When your dog becomes blind, you must lovingly help your dog adapt his lifestyle to compensate for his blindness.

You must bond closely with your dog and develop the dog’s self-confidence so that your dog remains cheerful despite his tragic loss of vision.

When people get dogs they never imagine that their dog can become blind, or develop some other serious disease or disability.

Let me post a poem (I discovered on the internet) in which a blind dog speaks to its “parents”:

I cannot see you Mommy, when you cuddle me so near.
And yet I know you love me, it's in the words I hear.

I cannot see you Daddy, when you hold me by your side
But still I know you love me when you tell me so with pride.

I cannot see to run and play out in the sun so bright
For here inside my tiny head it's always dark as night.

I cannot see the treats you give when I am extra good
But I can wag my tail in “Thanks” just like a good dog should.

“She cannot see. The dog is no good” is what some folks might say
“She can't be trained, she will never learn, She must be put away.”

But not you, Mom and Daddy, You know that it is alright
Because I love you just as much as any dog with sight.

You took me in, you gave me love and we will never part
Because I am blind with just my eyes, I see you in my heart.

~ Sherrill Wardrip


BLIND DOG PARENTING

If you are a genuine dog lover, pet parenting may turn out to be more difficult than parenting your human children.

Your human children will grow up, leave the “nest” and fly away to their careers and to pursue their own lives.

But your dog will be dependent on you for his entire life – you will have to bring him up in his childhood, look after your dog in his old age, and, you will have to endure the pain of your dog dying before your eyes, for dogs only live for around 10 years.

Adopting a dog is a challenging long term commitment – you are committing yourself to look after the dog for the dog’s entire lifetime of about 10 years and care for the dog in its illness and old age.

Remember – it is easy to get a dog, but it is difficult to look after the dog for its entire lifetime.

And, by a twist of misfortune, if your dog becomes blind, let me summarize the essence of Blind Dog Parenting, and recap the 4 points I told you on how to look after a blind dog:

1. Comfort your blind dog

2. Help your blind dog re-orient to the environment

3. Take precautions to avoid injuries to your blind dog

4. Make lifestyle changes to care for your blind dog


Dear Dog Lover:

Remember: It is easy to adopt a dog, but it is a challenging long term commitment to be a genuine pet parent’ and look after your companion dog for its entire lifetime.

Do comment and tell us about your Dog Care and Pet Parenting Experiences and Views.

(This Series on PET DOG PARENTING to be continued...)

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Disclaimer:
1. These are my personal views based on my own experience. These pet parenting tips may or may not be applicable in your circumstances. You may please do your own due diligence before adopting a dog and develop your own ways of looking after your pet dog.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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