“How did she lose her eye?” is a question that every single person who has ever met Freckles always asks.
To be completely honest, I’m not really sure as it happened prior to us adopting her. From what we were told, when she was just a very young puppy, she had an accident with a crate that caused her to have her eye removed.
A couple of weeks ago, someone on a private Facebook group I belong to was asking for advice as her dog also had to have it’s eye removed from an accident.
To be honest, you would hardly know Freckles only has one eye other than looking at her. She has had no problems going up and down stairs (except for the ones into our basement as they are both steep and wooden). She has no problem jumping on and off our bed (which is very high) and couches and even does so in the dark. I think I’ve only see her not make it up a handful of times. She goes to daycare and plays all day long without any problem.
I will say the only minor thing is her depth perception. There are times where if you place a treat right in front of her, she might not see it right away. But she does eventually find it using her nose (and sounds like a little pig grunting as she does it).
When we go for a walk, she likes to walk only on my right side so she can see me at all times. She does get scared if a dog or anyone (specifically young children) get right up to her and her instinct is to stop and hit the deck.
Dogs are very good at learning to adapt to anything they face. They are resilient and I think a lot of people could learn from them.
Recently, members of the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association voted to ban procedures such as debarking, tail docking, piercing and other cosmetic procedures that are deemed as “medically unnecessary”. One of the procedures listed is one that many involved in animal rescue and welfare have been fighting to be banned is the declawing of cats.
Thankfully, more and more places in the world are starting to ban this unnecessary cosmetic procedure.
So why would anyone want to remove their cats claws?
There are cat owners out there who do so to prevent their cat from scratching (which is what cats naturally do).
What does it mean to declaw a cat? I will warn readers who are unaware of the procedure right now, it’s quite gruesome and I am choosing to not show any images of it.
It is not a simple surgery that removes the cats nails or anything like a manicure. As cat’s claws are attached to the bone, declawing involves amputation of the last bone of each claw. In humans, this would be akin amputating each finger at the last knuckle on a hand. I won’t go into much detail, but as you can image it’s quite a gruesome surgery for any vet to be asked to perform.
The procedure itself is awful and then there are the complications that can arise from the procedure. As the soft tissue is still attached, it’s incredibly painful for a cat to put weight on their feet following the procedure. As with any major surgery, there is a risk of infection, tissue death, lameness and nerve damage.
So what can cat owners do to deal with their cats scratching rather than get them declawed?
There are a variety of options for cat owners that don’t involve surgically removing your cats claws that are much more humane and cheaper (because as with any medical procedure for your pet, it’s not cheap).
One of the simplest things cat owners can do is to keep their cat’s nails trimmed. The article linked is a great resource for cat owners of the do’s and don’t of keeping their cat’s nails trimmed.
Another option and a very popular option is to get your cat a scratching post. These can be found at pretty much any store that sells anything for pets. If your cat needs some incentive to use it, try rubbing some catnip on it.
Many people are of the belief that cats scratch items because they are behaving badly instead of realizing it’s a normal behaviour of cats. Cats scratch because they are removing a dead outer layer of their claws, marking their scent (as they have scent glands on their paws) and to stretch their bodies.
Many people are of the belief that unlike a dog, you can’t train a cat and that’s simply not true. Like dogs, positive reinforcement is recommended. When your cat scratches where you want them to, offer them praise and a reward such as a treat and pets. Never yell or throw items at your cat if they are scratching. Instead, behavioural experts recommend that you make a loud noise such as clapping your hands if you catch them scratching something they shouldn’t be.
At the end of the day, cats are going to scratch. Expecting a cat to not scratch is like expecting a dog not to bark or a child to never cry. It’s not going to happen.
So if your solution to a cat scratching is to surgically remove their claws or to give them away or worse, abandon them, I would suggest never owning a cat.
Just before Christmas, I was putting on one of Max’s booties when I noticed something on the back of his front right leg. It was a small little flesh coloured bump that looked like this:
At first, I thought it might be a bump from chafing from one of his booties as it was located right above where the top of his booties was.
I knew I had to take Dolly back to the vet to get her paws checked out due to a major allergy flare up, so I also booked Max in to get the bump looked at.
I went in thinking it was maybe just a tiny cyst or pimple on his skin and that they would either drain it or say it was nothing. I was not prepared for what happened.
Right away when our vet saw it, she told me it was likely a mast cell tumour. Upon that, she took a needle and aspirated it, took the sample to the back and had it looked at right away. I was standing in the exam room left kind of stunned and confused at to what I had just been told.
What is a mast cell tumour? Is that cancer? What caused this? He’s been so healthy, how could this happen?
When she came back about 10 minutes later, she broke the news that she had found a mast cell and that she wanted to remove it. She then started to explain there are three different levels of mast cell tumours with level three being the most aggressive and potentially, the most fatal.
The vet suggested that we book him in for surgery to remove the lump the following week on Monday, which was thankfully only three days away. So just as I was booking him for surgery, they took him to the back to take a blood sample to make sure everything was fine prior to performing surgery and making sure there was nothing that could cause an issue with the anesthesia. She also completed a physical exam to specifically check his lymph nodes, they were completely normal meaning the mast cells had not spread. This put my mind at ease a tiny bit. But as mast cells can release histamines and cause an allergic reaction, he was prescribed antihistamines up until the day of the surgery.
When I got bak to the car with Max and Dolly, I was shaking. I cried, I was scared, I almost had a full blown panic attack in the parking lot.
My mind was spinning as I was driving home. When I got home, I sat down and started researching. What causes mast cells? They don’t really know. Are there certain dogs who get them? Yes, breeds like Boxers and Boston Terriers (which Max is part) are more prone to them. What is the survival rate? If caught early and it’s a low grade, high and it can be completely removed through surgery.
When Monday morning rolled around, I woke up early and took Max into the vet (he was not impressed by not getting breakfast that morning). I felt awful leaving him, especially considering he hates the vet and was pulling towards the door as we were waiting.
Dolly and Freckles were so confused when I got him but Max was not with me. Within three hours of dropping him off, the vet called to tell me that surgery went really well and that she was able to get some good margins.
Thankfully, my parents were in town and were staying with us for a few days, so my mom was able to come with with me to pick Max up and most importantly, sit in the back seat with him.
When we was finally brought to us after the tech went over the care instructions for him, he was happy to see us but pretty out of it. My mom wrapped a blanket around him and carried him to the car and we went home.
One of the biggest things we had to do was to not allow his incision spot to get wet for two weeks and to not allow him to lick it, as he could get a serious infection. I knew he would refuse to wear the cone they gave us, so I went and bought him a soft, inflatable cone that made it look like he was on a long haul transatlantic flight (as it looked exactly like a travel pillow).
He was quite hungry when he got home but as they always recommend after surgery, he only got 1/2 of his normal amount of food. The trickiest part was limiting his activity as we have a lot of stairs in our house and he loves to jump on and off our bed and couches. Thankfully, he let my mom carry him around for a couple of days.
Next week, I talk about how diet plays a huge role in mast cell tumours and what changes I made to his (and all of my dog’s) diet to ensure we never have to deal with this or any other cancer scare ever again.
There is sometimes a bit of debate amongst pet parents which is better: a collar or a harness.
While all of my dogs have adorable collars, personally, I prefer to use a harness for all my dogs when I walk them and will explain why.
First, I find it much easier to walk a dog (and especially a dog that pulls) with a harness. With a collar, if a dog pulls, they are going going to choke themselves. If you have a dog who pulls, a harness will put broad pressure across the chest instead of the neck. Another reason is that many trainers (good trainers anyways) will recommend a harness that not only have a clip for the leash in the back (like almost all harnesses do), but recommend one with a clip for the leash in the front of the harness. Using the harness and clipping the leash in the front makes it much more difficult for a dog to pull and can make walking a dog that likes to pull much more manageable.
I know pulling is a reason why there are some people out there who choose to use things like choke and prong collars as a way to prevent their dog from pulling, I am 100% against them and choose to use force free training for all of my dogs.
The second reason I use a harness is safety. What do I mean by that?
Have you ever seen or heard of dogs slipping out of their collars? I have and I’ve had dogs that have done this, including Dolly. You obviously don’t want a collar to be extremely tight around a dog’s neck if you choose to use one. But, dogs have a way a maneuvering their head and slipping out of them.
Dolly is a dog that will full on stop if she’s scared and the one time my husband and I took her around the block with just her collar thinking it would be fine, it wasn’t. She stopped, we went forward and the next thing I know, her collar and leash are on the ground and she’s starting to run away. I can’t even begin to describe the ultimate panic I felt at that moment. Thankfully, I somehow managed to stay calm and called her back over to me and she can came right over. That also shows the progress we’ve made with her since her days of hiding under in the office under the desk and shaking.
It is possible that dogs can and do slip out of harnesses if they are not properly fitted (as was the case for Max years ago where he had dropped some weight and the harness was too loose so he was able to slip to of it) or you are not using the right kind of harness. What does that mean?
Going back to Dolly, I had changed the type of harness for her last year as the one harness she did have, caused so much chafing across her chest, she lost hair.
So I decided to get her a harness that would be much kinder to her sensitive skin and would be comfortable for her.
The harness was great for dogs that pulled…. forward. If your dog pulls, the harness gets tighter. If a dog is not pulling forward, it’s not as tight. Dolly, is not a dog that pulls forward, but instead pulls backwards.
I was walking the dogs one day when a couple of small children wanted to say hello. I allowed it (as they asked and their dad was right there), but I did not see at first that the one child was holding a huge stick. Dolly saw it as the child was approaching and got scared. So I asked the child to put the stick down, which they in turn, threw the large sick down. At the moment, I felt Dolly’s leash let go of tension. I look back and she had shipped out of her harness and like previously, was starting to run away. I immediately, dropped Freckles and Max’s leashes, got down to get level and calmly walked over to her and was able to grab her with one hand and put her harness back on with the other one while having to ask the children to just give her space. Thankfully, we were only one block away from our house. I immediately put her in the car and we went to Homes Alive to buy her a new harness, which is the harness she currently wears.
My dogs still wear collars and bandanas, but wear them more as accessories. They will always use a harness for walks. As I always say, do what works for you and your dog (except trying doing so using force free training).
With the winter months comes snow, ice and cold. That can be challenging for any dog owner, especially if you have smaller breeds or any short coat breed dog that does not do well in the cold.
As soon as the temperature drops, all my dogs wear jackets (we specifically really like Hurrta) and when the snow flies, they all wear booties to protect their paws.
My dogs are good up until -30C hits and then the only one who I will even take out for a short walk (meaning up the street and back) is Dolly. It also doesn’t help that I’m someone who’s had hypothermia twice and has low iron, so the cold weather and I do not get along.
So, how do I keep my dogs active when the temperature drastically drops? Well, there’s a few things I do.
I’ve been taking my dogs to daycare since 2008. I remember telling people at the time that I had to drop Bandit off and pick him up from daycare and people laughed. They thought the concept of taking your dog to daycare to play and burn off energy was absolutely ridiculous. Funny thing is that those people all now take their dogs to daycare. I was just ahead of the trend.
I truly believe that whoever came up with the idea of doggy daycare was an absolute genius. While it’s not the cheapest of options, if you have a dog that needs to burn off energy and does not do well in the cold weather, daycare is the best thing. I have been fortunate to be able to take my dogs to the same daycare for the past 10 years and have gotten to know the staff quite well and they are also a member of the Alberta Force Free Alliance (which is incredibly important to me).
Not sure where to take your dog? Stay tuned for a post where I talk about how to choose the best doggy daycare.
Unfortunately, the indoor dog park here in Edmonton sadly closed last year. I know that was a very popular option for a lot of dog owners in the city as it was a warm and safe place to take your dog.
What if you live somewhere where doggy daycare is not available (such as a small town)? Then what?
Canine Enrichment Activities
Do you just hand feed your dogs treats? Or just put their food in a bowl?
There are now many options for canine enrichment where your dogs need to work at getting their treats or food out.
One the best options is putting a treat, peanut butter (100% natural peanut butter only) or some of their raw food in a Kong and let them work at trying to clean it out. A great challenge (and great if you have a teething puppy), is to trow it in the freezer before hand and then give it them.
Along the same line of a Kong is a Tumbler toy where you put a treat in it and your dog needs to roll it around to get the treat out. It keeps Max busy and frustrated for hours at a time (especially if you put in a treat that is hard to get out).
While Max like to think they are mini shag rugs, Dolly and Freckles love their Snuffle Mats.
So what can you put in a snuffle mat? Anything you want (except raw food because that would be a gross mess). If you feed kibble, you can put their kibble in there or you can hide some treats in there for them to dig around and find.
If you do feed a raw diet, you can also use a Slow Feeder bowl and then your dogs will need to work at getting their food out (which also works well if your dog eats their food way too fast).
The great thing is that there are many different options and games you can get for your dog from your local pet store to keep them entertained in the cold, long winter months.
While none of these options are going to replace taking your dog out for a walk, they will help your dog burn off some energy which in return, will help you keep your sanity.