The Grey-Hairs: Growing Old with Pets

Guest author Katie Kapro holds her MFA in nonfiction writing. When walking around town, she often finds herself talking to more dogs than people.

Binkie cringes when I call her dog Mick Jagger. “Mickey,” she corrects. “His name is Mickey.” I’m sure her only memory of Mick Jagger is from my mother’s rebellious teenage years, a scandalous poster on the bedroom wall or a song blasted too loud on the record player. Binkie had a lot going on in those days – she worked part-time at a law firm and raised my mother and her four siblings.

Now, Binkie is 90 years old and it’s just her and Mickey, a whippet-chihuahua mix with the personality of a nightclub bouncer.

mickey the commander in chief

Mickey is the size of a chihuahua and the shape of a whippet. He carries himself with natural machissmo – his muscular chest, straight forequarters, and upward-tilted jaw declaring his power to the world. There’s no question that he pushes Binkie around, yapping everyday at exactly 4:15pm for his healthy dinner of kibble, steamed green beans, and carrots. Sometimes she pushes back. “You already had your dinner, Mick,” she’ll say, wagging her finger. He yaps. “Nope. No more for you.” He clicks away on the linoleum to pout.

I swear he understands her tones better than I do. They keep one another engaged with the world and irritate one another just enough to give life that good edge.

Mickey was the product of divorce, nobody wanted him, and he made his way to my grandmother through a series of friends five years ago. Now they are all but inseparable. As Mickey gets older – the little grey hairs on his chin now in the majority – her house transforms into a senior dog haven.

Sometimes as dogs grow old, their owners give in to the momentum of aging. They don’t take their dogs to the park anymore for fear it will hurt their joints, they don’t buy them treats out of concern it will hurt their gums. Binkie doesn’t bow to those worries. Sure, she dotes on him by laying big soft blankets over the couch and giving him extra plush toys to destroy, but she doesn’t just let him mope around the house. She’s better at this growing old thing than most.

There is an empty ice cream carton in Binkie’s freezer that she warns me about every time I visit. Instead of ice cream it holds chicken bones, fruit rinds, all sorts of perishables she doesn’t want to throw in the can in the hot garage. “Whoever finds me when I die, I don’t want them to have to deal with putrid trash too.” Ever the pragmatist. Binkie has been prepared for her death for years. She has her will all sorted out, knows who is getting the crystal wine glasses and who is getting the flag from her husband’s funeral.

She also made a plan for Mickey.

Few of us think about setting up a stable home for our pet if something traumatic happens and we’re unable to care for them. We make plans for houses, cars, kids, and even trash, but pets get forgotten. There’s the assumption that someone will take care of the dog, so why worry about the details? The details, though, can make a huge difference to the physical and emotional health of an animal.

Say a man includes his dog in his will. That’s great, but it turns out it can take weeks or even months for a will to be read and fully processed.

Instead, the man could set up a pet trust. As part of that process, the pet owner names a pet trustee who will step in immediately and make sure his dog doesn’t slip through the cracks. It’s also a huge help for the person who ends up caring for the animal – after all, we all like a little notice before bringing in a new family member.

It can be less disconcerting on an existential level to focus on the day-to-day instead of the vast, unknown future. But it doesn’t have to be a big scary thing. Be like Binkie: get good at growing old. Whether we’re in our twenties, forties, sixties, or nineties, we’re all aging; we might as well get good at it and take care of our animals in the process.

Posted in guest post, pet care | 1 Comment

Labor Pains: Petplan Finds Working Dog Breeds Are More Prone to Injury, Cancer

As America recognizes the contributions of its workers on September 5, Petplan pet insurance is marking Labor Day with a celebration of the working dog. From Boxers to St. Bernards, Portuguese Water Dogs to Rottweilers, working breed dogs are larger than life—and so are their vet bills.

Beau

Petplan claims data reveals that working dog breeds experience more severe injuries and illnesses than their non-working counterparts. What’s more, the average paid claim for working dog breeds is 35% higher than other breeds.

Of the top ten most claimed for conditions of working breeds, three can be particularly costly: cruciate injuries, cancer and foreign body ingestions. These have the most expensive average treatment costs at $3,480, $2,033 and $1,755 respectively.

The risk of cruciate injuries in working dogs is 60% higher and claims are 65% more expensive compared to other dog breeds. The breeds’ risk of cancer is 40% higher. While it makes sense that working dog breeds would experience these conditions due to their size and physical activity, the data around claims for foreign body ingestion seems surprising.

“We think of working dogs as being very trainable and having self-control—certainly more than your typical family Labrador who eats anything in sight,” says Petplan Veterinary Manager Elyse Donnarumma. “But honestly, it makes sense that they are treated so often for foreign body ingestions. Working breed dogs need a job and they need to stay busy and stimulated. When they aren’t, well, they come up with their own activities.”

Case in point: Petplan-protected Beau, a 9-year-old Samoyed from California who had to have a tennis ball removed endoscopically in April to the tune of $3,209.03.

Bosley - DESIGNED

Bosley, a 7-year-old Great Dane from Pennsylvania, racked up $3,448.32 in vet bills last March after he sniffed out and ingested two stuffed animals (a bear and a bee).

And finally, Petplan paid a $2,312.85 claim for Lily, a 5-year-old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog from Maryland who ingested a sock in January.

“Our data certainly shows that working dog breeds may have the heart of a lion, but their bodies aren’t always so brawny,” says Natasha Ashton, co-founder and co-CEO of Petplan. “With all the trouble they can sniff out looking for their next ‘job,’ it’s absolutely essential that pet parents protect working dogs with insurance. We pay a lot of unusual claims for all kinds of dogs and cats, but working breeds seem to take the cake…and sometimes the fork and the napkin, too.”

For more breed health tips, news and information, point your paws to www.petplan.com.

Lily

Posted in dogs | 1 Comment

Surf session brings joy to children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

Surf Dog Ricochet breaks barriers by surfing with severely disabled 3 year old girl who has tracheostomy/breathing tube on board.

Surf session brings joy to children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

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Ricochet has been creating unique surfing experiences that empower individuals with disabilities for over 7 years. But this was the first time she surfed with a child who couldn’t breathe on her own. Notice that 3 year old Bailey’s mom is holding her breathing machine with a big smile on her face. Yes Bailey, YOU are surfing!

Bailey has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a disease that robs individuals of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to stand, sit, crawl, walk, swallow food effectively, or breathe. It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants. Bailey has type I SMA which is the most severe and common.

Bailey, along with several other children with SMA broke barriers last weekend at a special surf session with Ricochet and Cure SMA.

Since many of the children aren’t able to hold their heads up, a bath chair was attached to the surfboard to accommodate the challenge and keep the children comfortable.

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Thanks to an incredible team of skilled volunteers, the participants with SMA got a thrill of a lifetime. Safety is our number one priority and having children who are profoundly disabled takes the utmost expertise of the water team and Ricochet.

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Some of the children like Bailey have a tracheostomy, a surgical procedure to create an opening through the neck into the trachea so they can breathe. Therefore, getting water into the opening could cause aspiration pneumonia. With this in mind, the water team picked the surfboard up each time a wave came into shore.

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They stayed in very shallow water, and when a small wave came, they strategically lowered the board, and a volunteer held onto the back, walking it to shore.

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Once the board came to a stop, it was again picked up by the team. This protocol keeps water from getting onto the child, while still providing the kids a surf experience with Ricochet.

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5 year old Riley is Bailey’s sister and has type II SMA. She is weak and cannot hold her head up on her own. But, she was telling everyone she wanted to be first to surf with Ricochet.

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For a child with SMA, going from a stroller full of gear to a surfboard full of cheer gives both the child and the parents the opportunity to do something they never thought possible.

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Children who aren’t as severely disabled were able to go further out in the water, but safety is still our number one priority so we had a volunteer on board, and a team on the ready.

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5 year old Logan wore a pair of goggles to keep water out of his eyes. But he never stopped saying “again, again, again”.

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5 year old Avery has type II SMA. It’s often impossible to perform the basic functions of life, but it doesn’t affect the ability to think, learn, or have hopes and dreams.

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23 year old Robyn has type II SMA.

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Robyn isn’t able to hold her head up by herself, so her brother supported her head as they rode to shore!

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Yawns and smiles = a perfect day!

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These individuals definitely have a fighting spirit, and just like Ricochet, they believe anything is possible. Surf’s up!

There are four primary types of SMA: type I, II, III, and IV. Type I is the most severe and most common. Type II individuals can typically sit up without help, but are unable to walk. Type III individuals can initially walk, but have increasingly limited mobility as they grow. Type IV is very rare and usually surfaces in adulthood. It leads to mild motor impairment.

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The non-profit, Puppy Prodigies is blessed with volunteer water men and women who are very highly skilled, trained and experienced in surfing, dog handling, and the disabled community. Couple that with an Executive Director who has a degree in service dog training, plus a dog who has extensive training as a service dog, and you have a team that prides themselves on high standards. Their number one priority is safety and we abide by all the rules, regulations and laws governing the unique work we do. Their insurance covers Ricochet, those she surfs with, and our volunteers. It is because of these practices that we are able to provide these surf sessions with the utmost conviction.

Ricochet was honored to help raise awareness of SMA. Please get on board and join her by sharing this inspirational story of children who have a spirit much stronger than the body that houses it. Be sure to watch the video to see all the fun!

To learn more about Ricochet check out these links:

http://www.surfdogricochet.com
https://www.facebook.com/SurfDogRicochet
https://instagram.com/surfdogricochet/

To learn more about SMA visit these links:

http://curesma.org/
http://www.ionispharma.com/

Photos by:
Killer Surf Pix
Ionis Pharmaceuticals

Posted in dogs, people helping animals | 1 Comment

“Ya’ll know Kanye West-ie?”

Everyone does now!

The results are in for the 2016 wackiest name contest sponsored by Nationwide. Categories include both dogs & cats! Yeah!

Starting with the dogs: congratulations to “McLovin the Stud Muffin,” “Kanye Westie,” and “Angus Von Wigglebutton” earning them the top 3 spots.

For the cat division: the stakes are higher! From #1-#3 are “Agent Jack Meower,” “Shakespurr,” and “Meowmadeus,” respectively.

My personal favorite is the cat name “Sharkbait Hoo Haa Haa”.

You can see all of them here. What is your favorite?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment