Willow the Westie Terrier

Introducing Willow

I retired last May and, of course, my life changed completely.  One of the biggest changes was the entry of a little Westie terrier puppy named Willow into my life. My wife Marilyn and I are now raising this adorable little furball and the effect on our lives has been amazing.

Marilyn and I had been without canine companionship for over a year when Willow arrived. Our previous dog, Saladin, was a Norwegian Elkhound/Spitz mix, and he brought joy, love and laughter into our lives for forteen years. He was such a special friend that we didn’t know whether we would ever own another dog. We certainly didn’t feel ready last May. Anyone who has ever lost a beloved dog knows what I mean. The void a good dog leaves behind when it passes seems unbearable.

Our Westie Terrier arrives

Then came the fateful knock on the door. One of our neighbors had bred a litter of Westie terrier puppies and one of her sales had fallen through. When she got the dog back it was pretty messed up. She had watched us working with Saladin over the years and asked if we would take this puppy off her hands. She even waived the $600 fee she was charging for her pups. We had some hesitations, but agreed to take the pup on a trial basis. At that point I had no experience with West Highland Terriers at all. Marilyn had known a Westie terrier that lived at a horse farm in Aldergrove where she worked for a while. We were totally unprepared for the Westie Terrier experience. To boot, it was almost fifteen years since we had started a puppy and, frankly, we had forgotten how much work it was. So, in our blissful ignorance we agreed to take the pup.

Well folks, that little Westie terrier may save my life in a very real sense. Getting a dog at the same time as I retired was a true blessing. For the first time in my life I had enough time to devote to the care and training of a dog. The fact that the dog in question was a Westie terrier just added spice to the mix. When you stop and think about it, most dogs don’t have a very good life. We get a puppy and try to shoe-horn it into a life already filled with earning a living and trying to have a social life. The dog is usually loved and pampered, but there simply isn’t enough free time to exercise or train it properly. So the dog spends most of its time alone, seeing its owner briefly in the evenings and on the week-ends. Then, if the dog develops behavior problems, we think it needs to be trained, as if it were a broken appliance that needs fixing.

But you know, I never appreciated this until I found myself with a new puppy and enough free time to try and do it right. I’ve had to throw out a lot of things I thought I knew about dogs in the process. In subsequent posts, I’ll be sharing my experience coming to grips with this new reality. I’m learning all new ways of building a relationship with a dog and a Westie terrier is the perfect dog to teach me. Westie Terriers are so intelligent, so energetic and so loving that they just drag you off into new areas whether you want to go there or not. As time goes on you’ll get to know Willow and me very well as I chronicle the trials and tribulations we go through day by day. Stay tuned. Go Westie terrier!


It’s not the most pleasant aspect of dog ownership, but cleaning up your dog’s feces is important for a number of reasons. There are plenty of easy ways to clean up after your dog and it only takes a few seconds, so please be a responsible and courteous dog owner!

Health Concerns

Leaving a dog’s feces outside presents potentially serious health concerns, both to your animals and to other animals in your neighborhood. Dog feces readily spread intestinal parasites, and when infested dogs ingest or step in their feces, reinfestation can occur. Plus, if your dog goes outside your yard, other animals are also at risk. In addition, bacterial and viral infections, including salmonella, parvovirus, and coronavirus, thrive on and spread via dog feces. Feces also attract flies, many of which irritate or bite pets.

Common Courtesy

Piles of dog feces are offensive to many people. Leaving feces behind makes the neighborhood, the park, the apartment complex grounds, or any site unappealing to others. The problems aren’t only visual; people can step in feces and carry it back to their car or home. Neighbors may even be able to smell feces left on your property, which can detract from their enjoyment of their own yards. Moreover, people who fail to clean up after their dogs are often responsible for the banning of dogs in certain locales. If you enjoy the privilege of taking your best furry friend along when you go out, please don’t jeopardize the privilege for yourself and others.

Ways to Clean Up

There are various implements for picking up dog feces. Many people use small shovel-like tools, but long-handled scoopers are available for the elderly and others who have difficulty bending down. If you don’t want to invest in a specially made item, slide a plastic baggie over your hand, pick up the feces, and then turn the bag inside-out as you remove it from your hand. If you don’t have the time or inclination to clean up feces in your yard, you may be able to find a local service that cleans up dog waste in yards for a fee. Find and use whatever method works best for you.

If you prefer to avoid the inconvenience of bringing along a tool and stopping on excursions, you may be able to train your dog to defecate prior to leaving. Keep two things in mind, though: not all dogs can learn to control their bowel movements, and you must always be prepared to clean up feces just in case, no matter how well trained your dog seems. At least carry a plastic baggie along when out with your dog.

 

 

 

 


Is Your Dog an Insomniac?

Water proof dog bedThis might seem like a slightly humorous question to most dog owners. After all, one thing most canines seem to do almost better than anything else is sleep. With so many of us humans living overly intense and sleep deprived lives, it’s easy to be a bit jealous. It’s not all that hard to imagine many a dog sleeping peacefully on the Titanic; just give them a dry enough spot and a waterproof dog bed and they’ll go down with the ship, you might imagine.

Well, that really isn’t so. Dogs are actually quite sensitive creatures and they are prone to almost as many potentially sleep disturbing issues as you or me. It’s true that dogs aren’t likely to be kept awake nights wondering about the meaning of life, but they are sensitive to emotions, particularly yours. If you are going through a tough or intense time, your dog’s mood may well reflect that. If a beloved human or animal friend has departed, that may also cause sleeplessness. Some dogs have been known to miss out on sleep but also to become aggressive during such human crises as a painful break-up or divorce.

Even so, a more frequent cause of doggie insomnia is prescription medication. A number of commonly prescribed veterinary drugs can cause insomnia as a side effect. It’s important to bring up this kind of an issue with your veterinarian as illnesses can also cause insomnia. Trying to figure out whether the cure may be more problematic than the disease can be a real challenge at times. Watch your dog closely.

It’s easy to treat this is a joking matter — like our silly crack about a waterproof dog bed on the Titanic — but if you’ve ever been personally afflicted by insomnia for even one night, you know how upsetting and debilitating it can be. It’s hard to be happy at all about anything when you can’t sleep well. The same applies to your pooch. If your dog isn’t sleeping right, take her to a vet as soon as possible. There’s a lot that can be done to make your dog healthier and a lot happier.

 


The food and Drug Administration is investigating reports that chicken jerky from China is making dogs sick. Here’s their bulletin:

FDA Continues to Caution Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky Products

November 18, 2011

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is again cautioning consumers that chicken jerky products for dogs (also sold as chicken tenders, strips or treats) may be associated with illness in dogs. In the last 12 months, FDA has seen an increase in the number of complaints it received of dog illnesses associated with consumption of chicken jerky products imported from China. These complaints have been reported to FDA by dog owners and veterinarians.

Chicken Jerky from ChinaFDA issued a cautionary warning regarding chicken jerky products to consumers in September 2007 and a Preliminary Animal Health Notification in December of 2008. After seeing the number of complaints received drop off during the latter part of 2009 and most of 2010, the FDA is once again seeing the number of complaints rise to the levels of concern that prompted release of our earlier warnings.

Chicken jerky products should not be substituted for a balanced diet and are intended to be fed occasionally in small quantities.

FDA is advising consumers who choose to feed their dogs chicken jerky products to watch their dogs closely for any or all of the following signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the products: decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption and/or increased urination. If the dog shows any of these signs, stop feeding the chicken jerky product. Owners should consult their veterinarian if signs are severe or persist for more than 24 hours. Blood tests may indicate kidney failure (increased urea nitrogen and creatinine). Urine tests may indicate Fanconi syndrome (increased glucose). Although most dogs appear to recover, some reports to the FDA have involved dogs that have died.

FDA, in addition to several animal health diagnostic laboratories in the U.S., is working to determine why these products are associated with illness in dogs. FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (VLRN) is now available to support these animal health diagnostic laboratories. To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses. FDA continues extensive chemical and microbial testing but has not identified a contaminant.

The FDA continues to actively investigate the problem and its origin. Many of the illnesses reported may be the result of causes other than eating chicken jerky. Veterinarians and consumers alike should report cases of animal illness associated with pet foods to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in their state or go to http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

The symptoms they describe are similar to the ones that showed up in the Melanin scare a few years ago. Note that they aren’t sure yet that there actually is anything wrong with the product. It will probably take the FDA months to come up with a definitive answer.

So what are we supposed to do in the meantime? As far as I can see there’s only one responsible thing to do and that’s to cut the chicken jerky out of your dogs diet. You might think that you can just avoid the Chinese product, but that doesn’t work in today’s globalized economy. Products from China are shipped over here in bulk and then repackaged without any notification of where the product came from in the first place. That was the case in the Melanin problem a few years ago. Chinese wheat gluten was being used in many of our lower priced dog foods, and that gluten had been laced with Melanin to increase the perceived protein content. The problem wasn’t with Chinese dog food so there was no way to protect yourself based on where the food itself was manufactured.

The best thing you can do is switch to a better quality dog food. Or you can try making some of your dogs food yourself by following these recipes that you can download for free.

If your dog really, really likes chicken jerky you can make it yourself. The key to making delicious dog treats is to get yourself a dehydrator. Then all you have to do is slice the chicken into thin strips and dry it for a day. The same thing can be done with liver or heart to make great healthy treats that your dog will go nuts for. One caution, though. Put the dehydrator outside on the carport or the balcony. Drying meat products give off a powerful smell that you really don’t want being pumped into your living space. I know this from personal experience.

March 20, 2012 update

The FDA is continuing to investigate this. Things are looking worse rather than better with reports of some deaths in dogs. Please don’t feed this stuff! Here’s an excerpt from the latest FDA update on this matter:

In 2011, FDA saw an increase in the number of complaints it received of dog illnesses associated with consumption of chicken jerky products imported from China.

FDA previously issued a cautionary warning regarding chicken jerky products to consumers in September 2007 and a Preliminary Animal Health Notification in December of 2008. The number of complaints being received dropped off during the latter part of 2009 and most of 2010. However in 2011, FDA once again started seeing the number of complaints rise to the levels of concern that prompted release of our earlier warnings.

Since the issuance of the CVM Update on November 18, 2011, the agency has received numerous additional complaints regarding chicken jerky products.

What are the products involved

The cautionary update specifically refers to chicken jerky products that are imported from China. These dried chicken jerky products, intended for dogs, may also be sold as tenders, strips or treats.

Signs of Illness

The signs that may be associated with chicken jerky products include decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption and/or increased urination. These signs may occur within hours to days of feeding the products.

Laboratory tests may indicate kidney problems, including Fanconi-like syndrome. Although many dogs appear to recover, some reports to the FDA have involved dogs that have died.

FDA continues to investigate the problem and its origin. Some of the illnesses reported may be the result of causes other than eating chicken jerky.

Why aren’t these products being taken off the market?

There is nothing preventing a company from conducting a voluntary recall. It is important to understand that unless a contaminant is detected and we have evidence that a product is adulterated, we are limited in what regulatory actions we can take. The regulations don’t allow for products to be removed based on complaints alone. This is an ongoing investigation and FDA will notify the public if a recall is initiated. Currently, FDA continues to urge pet owners to use caution with regard to chicken jerky products.

Should I stop feeding chicken jerky treats to my dog?

Chicken jerky products should not be substituted for a balanced diet and are intended to be fed occasionally in small quantities.

FDA is advising consumers who choose to feed their dogs chicken jerky products to watch their dogs closely for any or all of the following signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the products:

  • decreased appetite;
  • decreased activity;
  • vomiting;
  • diarrhea, sometimes with blood;
  • increased water consumption; and/or
  • increased urination.

If the dog shows any of these signs, stop feeding the chicken jerky product. Owners should consult their veterinarian if signs are severe or persist for more than 24 hours. Blood tests may indicate kidney failure (increased urea nitrogen and creatinine). Urine tests may indicate Fanconi-like syndrome (increased glucose).

Veterinarians and consumers alike should report cases of animal illness associated with pet foods to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in their state, or electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal.

More information regarding How to Report a Pet Food Complaint can be found at http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

Keep the Treat and Have it Tested

If your pet has experienced signs of illness, please retain the opened package and remaining pieces of the chicken jerky product that are in the original packaging. It is possible that your samples will be collected for testing. If your product samples are collected, please be sure to provide the FDA official with all of the sample that you have. The extensive testing that is being conducted may require multiple pieces from the package. It is also possible that a toxicant may be present in some of the samples in the package, but not all. We may be able to get better or more accurate testing results with a larger sample size.

Other articles about dog health issues

More articles on Westie diet.
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