Caring for Critters Round Robin: Preparing for sudden injury

I am participating in the Caring For Critters Round Robin hosted by Heart Like a Dog. Think of the Round Robin like a relay race, each blogger passes the baton to a fellow blogger, who will then share his or her experience in caring for an ill or injured pet. Kol’s Notes ran ahead of me yesterday and tomorrow SlimDoggy will take the next leg!


We have been lucky with Shiva. In the five years she has lived in our home, her physical health has never faltered. I wish I could say the same for her mental well-being. The Shiva stories are somewhat legendary among those brave enough to cross her zigzagging path. If you dig through this blog’s disorganized archives you will find tales of such bizarre canine decision-making you will wonder how this dog has all of her limbs intact. It is something we ask ourselves every day.

The first thing you need to understand is that Shivas a born without an instinct for self-preservation. Believing themselves invincible, they crash through life, leaping from one distraction to the next. If Shivas lived in a world of factions, they would only ever be members of Dauntless.

Hmm, this bush full of bees looks like the perfect place to shove my head

Hmm, this bush full of bees looks like the perfect place to shove my head

This is why our Shiva’s history is made up of tales of near disaster. From scaling cliffs, to climbing trees after porcupines, to throwing herself from walls over six feet tall, Shiva likes to make sure her people are paying attention. Her agility career was filled with episodes of this sort of madness. Why run up the teeter from the ground when it is much more fun to lunge onto the end facing the sky? Why take one jump when it is faster to take three in a single stride? Why wait for a reward when it is funnier to bound over the fence and race through the barn, stealing treats from other dogs?

Outside of the ring, her attitude was, and is, no different. There are so many stories, I have forgotten the details of most of them. Unfortunately, I’ll never forget the time she crashed a wedding. I am still not sure I am ready to share that story. For my own sanity, it is best to pretend I don’t know how many times she has run into the walls of our home, how many stairs she has slid down, how many floors she has met with her face. We have stories of infinite number involving skirmishes with other animals, domestic and wild, desperate attempts to fill her belly with food from the vehicles of strangers, and, of course, her most infamous moment of all, the incident at the drive though. At the dog park, we often joke we know where she is by the trail of screams and laughter Shiva leaves in her frenetic wake.

Sometimes we laugh too. More often, we are horrified.

Given all this, it is stunning Shiva has made it to the approximate age of six with only one trip to the emergency vet. I was so sure during her panicked fight with an agility jump standard, resulting in several long seconds of choking, that her healthy streak would end. Amazingly, the only serious misadventure we’ve experienced together was an actual fluke, one I cannot even blame on her crazy nature. We’ll never know what happened that November evening in the woods, a place Shiva has roamed many an evening before. I will also never be casual about the possibility of serious injury again.

The idea of this post isn’t to recount the near misses of my dog’s past. Rather, it is to reiterate the fact that accidents do happen, no matter how careful we and our dogs may – or may not – be. Most are preventable but sometimes we are blindsided. The only thing we can truly control is our reactions to these often scary incidents.

I don't know what you're worried about. Life is awesome! I can't wait for my next adventure!

I don’t know what you’re worried about. Life is awesome! I can’t wait for my next adventure!

Have a plan

This might sound painfully obvious but until disaster happens, you may not think about the details. I know I didn’t.

  • Do you know the phone number and address for your closest after-hours vet clinic? Looking these things up in the midst of a crisis is no fun. Trust me.
  • Do you have money set aside so you can pay up front? Pet insurance is great for reimbursement after the fact, but it doesn’t help if you don’t have the cash or credit on hand. Most clinics won’t even look at your pet unless you prove you can pay.
  • Do you know how much you are prepared to spend or how far you will go to save your pet if the worst happens during surgery? These are tough questions but I remember being rendered speechless when the emergency vet asked if we wanted him to resuscitate our dog should she go into hear failure. I was so worried I couldn’t think of any rational response. Breaking down at the clinic did not help me or my family.

Prepare your pet

Following a bad injury and the subsequent surgery, your pet will likely be put on several weeks of crate rest. This is not easy for most dogs. We expected it to be especially hard on Shiva who is used to two long walks day plus hours of play time. Active animals can struggle just as much as humans against sudden restrictions. I know I am a terrible patient. It wouldn’t have surprised me if Shiva turned into the same. Luckily, we had a few things built in to Shiva’s lifestyle that prepared her for the temporary change.

  • Shiva has long been accustomed to the routine of a crate. It was nothing to her to sleep inside her enclosure when we had to leave her alone to go to work. She had no difficulty relaxing and giving her body a chance to heal.
  • Shiva is used to being carried. Though she is a medium-sized dog of about forty-five pounds, we have spent a lot of time getting her used to being handled. Most of it was in play and for the purpose of fooling around, but because Shiva learned to trust us when we lift her up, she didn’t struggle when we had to carry her up and down the stairs during her convalescence. She accepted that it was just something we were doing and that everything would be okay.

White Coat Syndrome

Shiva is not a fan of the vet. Is any animal? But for a dog who is fearless in the face of coyotes and ten-foot gaps, the emergency vet represents all of her worst nightmares wrapped into one terrifying individual: stranger danger, new environment, small space, and usually someone standing in a doorway. Because we have moved around a lot, Shiva has never seen the same doctor twice. This has prevented her from building a relationship with a health care provider. As we can never predict Shiva’s response to strangers, it is a tricky thing to navigate for us. However, even if your pet is somewhat bonded with a regular vet, when it comes to emergencies, it is unlikely he or she will be attending the usual clinic. It is important to recognize this experience might be even more frightening than usual.

  • In all health situations, you are your pet’s advocate. If you know something that might make it less scary for your dog, such as being examined on the ground instead of on the table, or you holding him or her during the examination, instead of an assistant, it is your job to speak up. A caring vet, as most are, will be more than happy to oblige if at all possible. They have your pet’s best interests at heart as well but they don’t know unless you tell them.

I hate to suggest it, even I have an automatically negative response to the word, but muzzles can also be a dog’s safety net during these scary times. When an animal is in pain and thrust into a new place with a stranger prodding him, it is understandable he or she might react. Even if your dog has never bitten anyone before, it is possible her inhibition might be non-existent in an emergency. Any sign of aggression is placing him or her in danger. At the very least it prevents the vet from examining him or her properly.

  • While your dog might being upset by a muzzle in an already frightening situation, if you purchase one in advance and treat the tool as something natural and rewarding, it will be much less aggravating. Muzzle training is not just for aggressive dogs. There are some great online resources that detail how to make it a calming experience for your dog.


  • It might sound a little like jinxing your pet’s health but I don’t know if it is possible to be too prepared. Your pet doesn’t speak English and has no way of knowing what is to come. If you work to create positive associations with places and smells when your pet is healthy, it will be much less stressful in the event the situation is real.

I hope my experiences have provided some helpful tools. With such an adventure-seeking dog on my hands, I know it is possible another injury is in our future. Maybe next time we will all be more prepared. If there are any suggestions or resources you can add, I would be extremely grateful.

Thank you to Heart Like a Dog for running such a useful blogging event and inviting me to contribute. Don’t forget to check in with SlimDoggy tomorrow to learn more about dealing with Spondylosis deformans (fused spine).

Supporting Insanity – When to Make the Call

This post is part of a series wherein struggling pet owners submit pleas for help to the expertise of blogland. Everyone’s experiences are unique. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. What you think common sense may be revolutionary for someone else. You never know what may resonate. My hope is that together we can help good pet people feel a little less alone.

This is a very different type of question from the others in the past. The reader doesn’t have a concern for her own pets, rather one belonging to someone she doesn’t know.  It has brought up multitude of other questions in my mind on a topic I haven’t explored in any depth. I am curious to read your take on the situation.

The email reads:

Hi, I hope you have some advice. I don’t know the right thing to do here and hoped others could help? I’ve never complained about anything before and don’t want to look like I am being all judgmental when it could be nothing. But I worry about this poor dog and if things really are bad I think something should be done to help. I would feel awful if I could have done something and didn’t.

Every day I pass a dog on the main road on my way to work. I work night shifts a lot so the dog is out there in the evening when I go and is there at four am when I come home. He is be tied up on a rope and he is always laying on the front step. He was there all last winter and summer and will probably be there this winter as well. I can’t really tell but there doesn’t even seem to be a dog house for him or any dishes for water.

Before I sent this email I walked by the house to get a closer look. The dog was outside in the afternoon and it was raining. When I made eye contact with him he tried to stand and I noticed he had trouble getting up. He barked at me once and took a couple steps and it looked like he was limping.

I don’t know what to do and I feel so bad! Do you think I should call police? Do you think they can do anything? It seems like cruelty to me to have a dog tied up without anything in the cold. I don’t know the people who own him and I don’t feel comfortable approaching them. Maybe everything is fine and the dog is okay but I can’t stop worrying. I cried all the way to work because he looked so sad. What if he is really hurt and I didn’t do anything? Is there anything I can do? Should I just mind my own business? I don’t know about reporting it because what if the owner gets mad and hurts the dog more or has the dog put down? What is the right thing to do?

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions for her? Have you ever witnessed something you considered reporting to authorities?

If you have a question you would like answered, fill out the contact form and I will post it up as soon as I can. All submissions will remain anonymous.

Supporting Insanity – Backyard Aversion

This post is part of a series wherein struggling pet owners submit pleas for help to the expertise of blogland. Everyone’s experiences are unique. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. What you think common sense may be revolutionary for someone else. You never know what may resonate. My hope is that together we can help good pet people feel a little less alone.

I received an email a few days ago with a problem that stumped me. While it is related to dog agility, I think the potential cause of the dog’s reaction is fear-based and may not have anything to do with the activity the dog was performing at the time. Since I know a lot of you have worked very hard with your dogs in alleviating similar fears, I have hope you will be able to offer some support.

Here is the question:

Help! My dog, usually overflowing with confidence, knocked a bar last week. Now I can’t get her to even go in the back yard, much less take a jump at a lower height to get her confidence up.

I use only positive reinforcement training, so when she knocked the bar, I think I said “oops, try again!” in a happy voice. Now, she cowers when I try to take her outside, cowers when I try to touch her, etc. The weird thing is that she is just fine with the jumps in class and at an expo we attended over the weekend.

Tonight I took the bar off the jump and had her just walk through it inside, and she was obviously uncomfortable and wanted to leave (but I had the treats, so she wouldn’t).  Any suggestions? Thanks!

If you have any tokens of advice, please share them below. Words of encouragement or commiseration are also very welcome!

If you have a question you would like answered, fill out the contact form and I will post it up as soon as I can. All submissions will remain anonymous.

Supporting Insanity – Crate Hater

This post is part of a series wherein struggling pet owners submit pleas for help to the expertise of blogland. Everyone’s experiences are unique. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. What you think common sense may be revolutionary for someone else. You never know what may resonate and keep another animal out of a shelter. My hope is that together we can help good pet people feel a little less alone.

“To crate, or not to crate?” It’s a question most people face when living with a dog. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy one as every dog is so different. Some look upon the crate as a place of security and comfort and others see it as a terrifying trap. Today’s submitter has one of each.

Here is her story:

To preface, my husband and I have two dogs, both rescues, a cockapoo and a lab/great dane mix. My husband was raised to firmly believe that dogs should be crate-trained and that they are happier and better off for it. However, I was raised the opposite, and still really feel that unless the dog does damage to the house or actively seeks out refuge the crate, there is really no reason for them to be in there. (Not saying either is right or wrong, just how we were brought up.)

The lab mix ADORES his crate. Just the word “crate” sends him into an excited tizzy and he runs into the other room and promptly sits his butt down waiting for his treat. He won’t go to bed outside of his crate and usually begs for us to put him in there when it’s his bed time. Since he is destructive when not crated, this is a big win for us. And my husband especially, because it supports his notion that dogs want and need to be crated when their owners are not home.

Then there is my dog, the cockapoo. She HATES her crate. When I first got her 4 years ago, I tried to crate her at night and she would whine nonstop and scratch the door and my roommate at the time (and I) was driven insane. Since she is all of 20 lbs soaking wet and not destructive, I decided not to crate her. But my husband doesn’t agree. We’ve fought about it many a time and the end result is that she is crated during the day when we’re at work, but not at night.

However, her reaction to her crate is getting worse. She is an anxious dog as it is, but as soon as we even start to walk towards the room with her crate in it, she cowers, and starts shaking. We’ve tried everything we can think of – feeding her in there so maybe she’ll like it (door open and door closed attempts), giving her a peanut butter bone in there, enticing her with chicken or some other savory item, I even actually tried to climb in there the other day to show her it’s not so bad! (I’m a loser). I hate the feeling that I am punishing and also stressing out my dog, it kills me!

I guess I just don’t know what to do. Do we keep pushing her to see if we can get her to like her crate, or is it a lost cause? My husband thinks she is just being manipulative and knows how upset I get seeing her in distress and thinks I will cave if she hams it up and shows how sad she is to be crated. I dunno, I think that might be giving my dog a bit too much credit in the cognitive abilities department.

I guess my end question is: to crate or not to crate? And if the answer is to crate, how to I figure out what is causing her behavioral reaction and fix it? I can’t stand seeing her so upset and can’t continue trying to crate her if that’s her reaction – since she’s a 6-year-old rescue whose been through dog knows what, I just can’t impose any more discomfort on her. (I am a big baby, I know.)

If you have any tokens of advice, please share them below. Words encouragement or commiseration are also very welcome. I appreciate all of your support.

If you have a question you would like answered, fill out the contact form and I will post it up as soon as I can. All submissions will remain anonymous.

Supporting Insanity – Loose Leash Woes

This post is part of a series wherein struggling pet owners submit pleas for help to the expertise of blogland. Everyone’s experiences are unique. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. What you think common sense may be revolutionary for someone else. You never know what may resonate and keep another animal out of a shelter. My hope is that together we can help good pet people feel a little less alone.

A few days ago I received an email from the writer of the very first question submitted to this blog. Kayla* and her feisty rescue dog, Poppy, are doing much better since May but are sill having some major issues with loose-leash walking. It’s such a common problem and one I am sure many of you are working with as well.

Here is her most recent letter:

I am not sure if we are allowed to ask for advice twice but I am stuck and desperate for advice about my walking situation. My dog, Pearl, seems very similar to Shiva and watching all the progress you have made with her is always encouraging (although I wish I could transplant you to the States to help me in person!). We have made A LOT of progress with Pearl calming down and not being a bouncy ball on four paws. My biggest biggest issue right now is walking. Aside from leash reactivity issues, Pearl is a puller. She lunges at other dogs, squirrels, rabbits, but she pulls the whole time we walk.

We have tried pinch collars, gentle leaders, easy walk harnesses, we have tried “be a tree” techniques and clicker and treat techniques. She ignores praise, she ignores corrections, because OMG the outside is just SO INTERESTING. We have tried turning and going the other way anytime she starts to pull, but we end up walking in circles forever. She is a high energy dog and we NEED to go for long walks every day, usually three times a day, to “take the edge off.” She jumps over the fence in our yard (another training issue we are working on) and we’ve stopped going to our local dog park for a variety of reasons, so walks are really her main source of exercise for the time being.

I am happy to try techniques that build loose leash walking in the house or one step at a time (she does well in the house since there isn’t so much going on), but I still need to find a way to keep taking longer walks in the meantime, if that makes sense. And I don’t care much if she heels, I am fine letting her sniff and zig zag around, as long as she doesn’t pull. I feel like I should start with loose leash walking and progress to heeling, although if that is the wrong way to think about it feel free to correct me!

P.S. The only place we can go for agility classes where we live teaches using pinch collars/e-collars. Is that usual? They seem very positive as far as the rest of their training philosophy, focusing on praise rather than correction and trying to make it fun for the dog, etc. We really want to do agility and think she would love it, but I am hesitant (especially as when we used a pinch collar in the past its rubbed her neck and caused red marks- although she doesn’t seem to mind or react to it really at all, which is why it wasn’t effective). She is NOT a fearful dog or anything, just a high energy dog with a high prey drive (I think).

If you have any recommendations for Kayla, please share them below. The more resources, the better! Words of encouragement or commiseration are also very welcome.

*Names have been changed

If you have a question you would like answered, fill out the contact form and I will post it up as soon as I can. All submissions will remain anonymous.

How To Find a Good Dog Trainer

When I say our dog trainer helped change our lives and drastically improved my relationship with Shiva, I am not exaggerating. I highly doubt I would even have started this website if it hadn’t been for the advice she gave. I would be too exhausted. With a dog like ours, with as many issues as she had, the right trainer was crucial. I only regret waiting as long as we did to find her.

Honestly, we got lucky with our choice. We could just as easily have gone with somebody else who may not have understood our needs and our lifestyle. Back then, I had no idea what to look for. It’s not a decision that should be made lightly.  That’s why I thought I should put a list together to help those still searching.

Things to Look For in a Dog Trainer

An Appealing Website

I know I may spend more time on the Internet than the average person, but I think a majority of people now search for most of their products and services on the web. When was the last time you opened a phone book? Therefore, every good trainer should have a clean website that outlines who they are and what they are about. I think you can get a good feel for someone’s personality based on how they present themselves online. It’s an important first impression.

Here are a few examples:

Unleashed Potential

Dan the Dogfather

Sublime Canine

Voice 4 Dogs

Notice a big difference? I am sure  you have already formed opinions after a few clicks. In this case, I’d trust your instincts. A dog trainer, at least a good one, will become an important part of you and your dog’s life. If you don’t like them online, when they are working to show their best side, you probably won’t like them off. Continue reading

15 Things To Purchase Before Adopting a Dog

There are a lot of things I wish I had known before adopting Shiva. I especially wish someone had informed me of all the little necessities to stock up on. While we had bowls, leashes, toys, and plenty of food, little did I know I would need a lot more than that to get through the first six months. Here on Rescued Insanity, I like to do what I can to support dog owners who may be as clueless as I. The following list is designed to aid those who are bringing a dog home for the first time. Especially if that dog comes from a shelter or rescue organization and is slightly insane.

What to Buy Before Adopting a (Crazy) Dog

1. Band-aids – Not for the dog, but for you. Chances are the dog will have no leash experience and will probably pull. Not only does this injure your shoulder, but it can do a number on your hands. I was prepared for the arm-out-of-socket feeling but I had no idea about the blood. Or the calluses.

2. Leather gloves – See above.

3. A top-of-the-line vacuum – This may be obvious to some people but I thought that adopting a dog with short-hair meant shedding wouldn’t be a large problem. Turns out, my short-hair dog sheds more than my Siberian Husky ever did. Furthermore, the first few weeks can be very stressful for your new dog, which means he or she may be losing more fur than normal. It’s a lot easier to handle if you have a vacuum that doesn’t make you swear.

4. Clothes, especially pants, that match the fur of your dog – See above.

5. Really, really cheap shoes – For the first six months it’s a good idea to store the Christian Louboutins under lock and key. The cheaper the shoes, the less you will cry when your new dog strews pieces of them all over your living room floor.

6. Locks for cabinets, bathrooms, closets, garbage cans, laundry baskets, and refrigerators – Even if you don’t think your dog can open that cupboard door above the stove, lock it anyway.

7. An easy to clean living room rug – Or a really cheap rug that is easy to replace. Or, even better, just get rid of all rugs entirely. After last summer’s case of mild heat stroke, I was so thankful we’d gotten our area rug for free.

8. Ear plugs – Your dog may take awhile to adjust to sleeping in a new place. If you are determined not to give in to the cries, these may help.

9. Gas Mask – Not necessary really, but it wouldn’t hurt. Especially for practically husbands who have never even changed a diaper.

10. Sweatshirts with pockets – It would be even better if every item of clothing you own has a pocket on it somewhere. Preferably extra deep ones.

11. Super understanding neighbours, or neighbours with a yappy dog of their own – I realise this may not always be possible but if your neighbours aren’t “dog people” you may have a battle on your hands. Many rescue dogs suffer from mild separation anxiety and this is something that takes a lot of time to work on. We lucked out in that our neighbours have a yappy little yorkie and so didn’t complain too much about our dog’s six months of howling.

12. TylenolWine works too. By the caseload if you can manage it.

13. Marriage counsellor – This may not be necessary right away but if you are the kind of person who “can’t have just one” it may become more essential later on. It’s always good to keep it on your radar!

14. A cell phone – You probably have one already but let this serve as a reminder to have it with you at all times when you are out. Once you have a dog of your own, other dogs have this knack of finding you when they are lost. They seem to sense you won’t be able to ignore them without feeling really guilty. It’s easier to find the dog’s home if you have means of communication on hand.

And, most important of all…

15. Towels. Lots and lots of towels.

I do hope this list doesn’t dissuade anyone from adoption. That was hardly my intention. Every dog is different and you may find some of these items superfluous. But I feel it’s my responsibility to be upfront about such things. The way I wish people had been upfront with me. Besides, if any of the above makes you nervous, you may not be ready for a canine companion after all. Perhaps a cat is more your speed. I’ve never heard of a kitten eating designer shoes.

If you have a second and are interested in winning a set of gorgeous juniper fetching sticks from Molly Products, make sure to check out Shiva’s featured K9 Kamp post at Peggy’s Pet Place. You won’t be disappointed!

Happy Friday!