Sunday, November 29, 2015

Creatures of Habit - Moving With Your Pet

Imagine, if you will, that you spent your entire life in one house. You have only ever known life under one roof. Your familiarity with the place runs deep and you know all of its nooks and crannies. You can imagine no other place that would feel so comfortable for you to spend your days.
Now, imagine if you will, without warning you are forced to leave your longtime home and are moved elsewhere. You are torn from your element. You are in unfamiliar territory. You have no choice but to adjust to your new surroundings.
This is what I imagine it must feel like to a pet who is faced with a new house. Simply changing a pet’s environment from house to house could have a huge impact on their whole way of interacting with their world — at least temporarily.
Most of our domesticated pets are creatures of habit. They wake up every day anticipating a meal. Many of them are better than alarm clocks at getting us out of bed to feed them. Some pets will go on a hunger strike if their owner leaves for vacation. Some cats will stop using the litter box all together if the type of litter that they are offered is changed. So you can see how changing a pet’s entire habitat might shake them to their fluffy core.
As a veterinarian, I encounter many patients that have some degree of anxiety with changes. These changes may be short and temporary ones such as loud noises, fireworks, storms or trips to the vet or the groomers. Others have to cope with long stays at a boarding kennel or even with an ill or hospitalized owner or with a new addition to the family. In some situations simply acclimating the pet to change slowly can help — other times the only solution is anti-anxiety medications and behavior training.
My brother recently purchased a new house and naturally he took his cat, Fedora, with him. She had lived in a one-bedroom apartment for several years and found herself moved to a much larger two-bedroom house with a full basement. One would think that Fedora would have been ecstatic with the change — more than twice the room to run and romp and be a cat. Instead I got the phone call after they had moved her into her spacious new abode that she had holed up and was living within a recliner in the basement. I advised him to let her be and make sure she had plenty of food and water and a litter pan available and that she may very well come out on her own. It took her about a week but she did eventually leave the confines of the chair and even made her way to the top floor where she can be found today overseeing her vast kingdom.
My own dog, Marty McFly, had to be slowly introduced to my new home a few years ago. As he ages, he does not accept change as gracefully as he once did. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to bring him with me on my repeat trips to the new house to get him used to being there while I deposited my boxes and belongings. Marty seemed to get more and more agitated as I packed my things from one house to be brought to the next but after a few days of living in the new house you could tell he was no longer waiting to “go back home” every time I opened the door.
Moving can be an exciting and stressful time, for both humans and their pets. Many times it can be a bigger ordeal for your pet’s mental status than anticipated, so takes things slowly, if possible, to ease the transition for your furry family members. Getting them acclimated to the change may be a challenge, but being positive and patient will help them adjust, and soon you will both have a new place that you can call home.
By Dr. Marisa Tong

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude: This Veterinarian Counts Her Many Blessings

                        My original intention for this particular column was to write about my “pet peeves” in veterinary practice.  In fact, I had written three detailed paragraphs of peeves, before I realized the very negative tone my column was taking on. At that moment, I decided instead to celebrate the “reason for the season” and acknowledge the things in veterinary medicine that I am grateful for. With apologies to my turkey patients, I would like to share my reasons for being a “thankful veterinarian.”

                        Without a doubt, my greatest delight in my profession is the numerous opportunities I have on a daily basis for hands-on contact with my four-legged patients. I feel so very blessed to be able to see, pet, talk to and care for animals day in and day out. My day and every veterinarian’s day is naturally filled with heartwarming, blood pressure-lowering experiences that make smiles frequent and easy.

                         Over time, veterinary professionals become experts at animal body language and I love being able to discern what pets so desperately want to communicate.  Nothing is better than the Golden Retriever whose exuberance overwhelms him as he flops belly-side up at my feet, or the tail-less Welsh Corgi that must “wag” her entire bottom to share her joy at my appearance. 

During my daily toilings, I also get to be “schmoozed” by my feline patients that have lowered themselves to my “human level” to participate in my physical examinations. In addition, I’m keenly aware of my unhappy feline patients’ vocabularies and airplane ears when they disapprove of my actions.  I have learned from many of my feline patients that I must aspire to “schmooze” them if I truly want to win acceptance into their club.

Not all of my patients are jubilant to see me, and therefore, I take on challenges of winning their love in my daily activities. I actually enjoy assessing a situation with an unruly animal and turning it into a more pleasant and safe experience for all involved.  Often, these situations involve working with the animal, not against it.  I am grateful for the ability to seize the moment, if you will, to bring order to an often well-deserved animal protest. 

Another great pleasure for me is being able to bring my own pets to work everyday.  While I strongly believe that there should be pets somewhere in every workplace, I also realize that this rarely happens. I am so very fortunate that there is no question that my pets will be at my place of employment.  They give me tremendous gratification as they share my daily life and I would have it no other way.

I am also deeply appreciative of the fact that I am not only surrounded by animals, my love and livelihood, but also by exceptional, animal-adoring people, my employees.  Support staff in a veterinary office are special people with inherent compassion and kindness for animals and people.  I take great pride in hiring and maintaining employees who reflect my own adoration of and desire to care for animals and people.

Veterinarians and their employees participate in another daily experience that brings enchantment to all of us, namely the observation of the “human-animal bond.” To view the love and kindness that is shared between humans and animals is an unsurpassed experience that I am delighted by everyday, be it at a proud puppy owner’s first visit or during a heartrending goodbye to an aged or ailing pet. I am so very grateful that there will always be animals and there will always be people who love them unconditionally.

Undoubtedly, my greatest blessing in life has been my veterinary education. A few years ago at a Thanksgiving gathering as my family sat down to a feast-filled table, we took a moment to each express what we were grateful for.  Some searched to come up with an expression of gratitude, but it was a no-brainer for me.  Besides my family, my greatest gift in life is my veterinary education, as it has given me everything in my life that makes me who I am…from the ability to have a happy marriage to another veterinarian and a home on a beautiful farm with animals I adore, to a job that I can whole-heartedly and still say I am thankful for and love.

By Dr. Bonnie Jones

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My Two Wives and Me

          This isn't what I intended to write about, but when I saw my wife sleeping on the bed, looking so cute with her head on the pillow, I changed my mind. Besides, who wants to read about my decrepit neck again, anyway?

          After I began to stroke her soft, silky hair, pat her on the head, and rub her paws just how she likes, she opened her eyes and commenced to lick my hand. What!? No, I don't mean my wife, Bonnie. I'm referring to my dog wife, "Robbie."  What kind of column do you think this is?

          Polygamy has been rampant in my home for quite some time. I must confess I'm actually in my third plural marriage. But before you contact the authorities, I've only had one human wife. The other three have been Border Collies.

          Much has changed over the years since I began veterinary practice in how people view their pets. Not mere possessions anymore, pets truly have become family members. While most are thought of as children, and I'm right there with you, there is something about female Border Collies that goes beyond that.

          Oh, the relationship may start as parent-child, but as female Border Collies mature, at least the ones I have known, they tend to become somewhat bossy and perhaps a wee bit jealous of other females, human or canine. They also become very good managers of their human's life. For instance, as chore time draws near, Robbie begins to pace, the dog equivalent of a human toe-tap, and with her soulful eyes, gives her human the "look." Dare I write this, and I can almost feel the thin ice cracking beneath my feet, but female Border Collies quickly go from being a dependent to being like a second wife.

          I don't mean that in a bad way. After all, other than his mother, who cares more about a man than his wife. I learned that the day I let my guard down and was about to receive the business end of a charging ram. Robbie jumped between us, and had him by the throat. His wool saved him; Robbie saved me. I'm also learning it now, when, regarding my aforementioned neck, I hear Bonnie tell our employees, "Don't let him pick anything up", "Don't let him lift that dog!"

          Regarding the jealousy issue, Robbie isn't aggressive about it, she's passive-aggressive. When it comes to Betsy, our Corgi, and her cute antics, Robbie ignores her, preferring to look the other way. As for Bonnie, Robbie has never felt she needed to listen to her. That doesn't go over real well.

           And when we go on family excursions in my Jeep, it does get a little uncomfortable to watch them wrestle over who gets to sit in the front passenger seat. Bonnie always wins. Sleeping arrangements are another matter. We start off with two on the bed, but sometime during the night Robbie manages to work herself into the middle, often with her head resting on my leg. What do you suppose that means?

          This time of year, I can't help but reflect on our relationships. November 24th marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of when I fell for a smart, freckle-faced girl in the basement of OSU's Ann Tweedale Alumnae Scholarship House, while watching an episode of M*A*S*H. On December 3rd, we will celebrate Robbie's twelfth birthday.

          I first met Robbie when she came to our office to be dewormed with the rest of her litter at four weeks of age. Bonnie actually met her two weeks previously when she went to their house for an initial deworming. She told me about the three female puppies. One was a classic black and white beauty, another had more extensive white markings, and the third had funny-looking freckles all over her face and legs. It had been nearly three years since the passing of my second dog wife, and I still had a good-sized hole in my heart. It was time for a puppy.

          The first two puppies didn't seem to care for me. The freckled one licked my nose. That's all it took. I guess I have a thing for freckles, intelligence, and dedication.

          This holiday season I will be forever grateful for the love and support of my two fine wives. I only wish I could stop time. May all of you be so blessed. Happy Thanksgiving.

By Dr. John H. Jones

A Tribute to the Lima Police Canines and Their Handlers


                       More than 14 years ago Lima Police Sergeant Ron Conner approached me about providing veterinary care for the Lima Police Canine Unit.  At the time of this request, I was somewhat naive about this important role, however, the decision to take it on was an easy one. While I knew I would be performing basic veterinary care for these canines, what I wasn't fully prepared for was the unique human/animal bond the handlers and their canine partners share.

                        Not many people can say that they spend 24/7 with a "Best Buddy" that would take a bullet or give up his or her life for them. Sergeant Conner had just such an experience with Canine "Argo" during his career.  Argo, a male German Shepherd with beauty inside and out, once launched himself out of his cruiser to rescue Sergeant Conner during a violent encounter with a bad guy. This event led to Argo being rewarded the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association's Service Dog Award during his active career.

                        To develop such a bond starts with careful selection of dogs with appropriate ability to learn, as well as "drive" to work. German Shepherds have traditionally been the preferred breed for this role, although other breeds such as the Belgian Malinois and Golden and Labrador Retrievers are commonly used, too. Currently, the Lima Police Canine Unit consists of five German Shepherds, ranging in age from 3 to 8 years old.

                        All service dogs need to be physically fit, especially when it comes to joint health. Ideally, they should have their hips and elbows certified by veterinary radiologists before entering service. Once prospective Lima Police dogs pass screening for intelligence, drive and joint health, their next stop is a visit to our veterinary hospital for a health assessment.  A thorough veterinary exam is conducted to insure the dog is free of congenital defects and in good general health to reliably perform the services they are asked to do.

                        The tasks of the Lima Police Canines include, but are not limited to daily patrol work, suspect and narcotic tracking and public demonstrations.  These incredible canines and their handlers do a minimum of 15 minutes of training daily, two 8 hour training sessions as a unit monthly, and they attend 1-2 regional week-long seminars annually to learn from others outside their area.

                        Living and working day-in and day-out with these service dogs definitely leads to an intensely cohesive bond. As described by Sergeant Conner, these canines and their handlers know each other inside and out, and can sense each other's emotions, tension, and even illness. The dogs live to work and are highly skilled at knowing when to "turn the switch on," yet can walk in to a classroom of young children and be a friend. 

                        These abilities are truly the end result of the strongest of relationships between canine and handler that lead to undying devotion on the part of each. Sergeant Conner states, "There's nothing better" when the two members of this exemplary bond get into a cruiser together.

                        The saddest of days is when age or terminal illness impacts the canines and retirement appears on their horizon.  Handlers must then struggle to give these dogs an ongoing sense of employment when they no longer get to go to work together.

                        Current Specialty Unit Commander for the Lima Police Canine Unit, Sergeant Nick Hart, has already thought about his six year old canine, "Bailey's" retirement. He intends to continue to give Bailey training and play sessions in his golden period, but of a lower caliber, to stimulate his mind and body---a philosophy all two and four-legged retirees benefit from.

                        When working with these service dogs in an exam room, I am repeatedly awed by the bond the Lima Police canines and their handlers share. The handlers are very skilled at guiding their dogs through proper behavior for sometimes uncomfortable procedures in the veterinary hospital setting. However, at no time do I ever feel at risk while in a small room with a four-legged weapon such as these.

                        It is truly my honor and privilege to protect and serve those that live to protect and serve others, be they two- or four-legged.  Thank you, Lima Police, and, especially, the Lima Police Canine Unit, for your commitment to excellence, for recognizing and using the skills of service dogs, and for all you do to keep everyone safe.
By Dr. Bonnie Jones