Why You Should Help A Dog In Need

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Something that concerns me is that not everyone takes the time to understand the family dog. Owning a pet is a responsibility. Since dogs can’t speak our language, it is not enough to love an animal. A dog owner must become knowledgeable of symptoms in order to promote the dog’s health.

I developed an understanding of the time people invest in learning about their animals through pet sitting. For instance, Bulldog puppy Fancy’s parents called my house the “Doggie Disneyland” because Fancy loved to come over and would pull the leash towards my house every time they walked by. Just as children seem to like the toys at friends’ houses better than their own, the dogs I babysat just loved all the new and different toys at my house. My old Sunshine didn’t mind sharing house and toys with any of them. When Sunshine passed and I got Sugar, Sugar didn’t mind sharing either and I often found Sugar sharing her couch with whomever we were babysitting at the time. I’ve seen a lot of dogs, some cared for, some neglected.

Another situation had a less favorable result. I babysat Cleo, a dainty little King Charles Spaniel [pictured above]. She was quiet and non-demanding. She was happy to just sit on your lap all day. Her family often went away for the weekend to their desert home or on trips to Hawaii so Cleo spent a lot of time at my house. Once my pack grew to 4 dogs, Cleo would still visit here during the day for short periods of time but mostly stayed at her own house where I would continue to provide care for the absentee parents.

When you spend so much time with dogs, you notice all the little things that might go unnoticed by people who are “too busy.” I often trimmed her dew claws that were so long they started curling and her long toe nails that turned sideways. I cut off the dreadlocks that developed behind her ears which were caused by scratching and lack of daily brushing. I would also brush her teeth to try to get rid of the tartar build up and bad breath. She really seemed to enjoy her coat being brushed. These are things I do for my dogs every single day so I couldn’t understand why her owners didn’t pay more attention to these details. Sadly, they also didn’t inform themselves about diet and she was a bit overweight from table scraps including the fat and trimmings from the owners’ steak dinners causing her to have pancreatitis.

Cleo also showed signs of hip dysplasia. She was purchased from a pet store at the mall. After having worked with rescues all these years, I learned that it is much better to do the surgery early to correct any condition that will be crippling if left unattended. Poor Cleo never got the surgery she needed for her dysplasia and was allowed to jump up and down on the furniture and to go up and down the stairs or to jump up and down off the owners’ beds. In just a few years, Cleo became very lame and the owner finally started to give her joint supplements but did not alter any of the behaviors that exacerbated the condition. They didn’t manage her weight so she was a chunky girl on top of everything else. I tried to suggest that surgery earlier would be better sooner than later but their lifestyle was always “so busy” that they couldn’t make the time for the rehab.

The last two times I babysat her I couldn’t even take her for a walk. She barely managed to walk down the block. I would carry her to the park so that she could enjoy a little sunshine and watch the other dogs and kids play. She managed once to break open the baby gate that was keeping her in the kitchen at her owner’s home and I found her upstairs. The owners finally decided to do the surgery to correct the problem.

There are potential complications with any surgery under the best conditions but when things have been neglected for so long, the complications get compounded. Arthritis was moderate to severe and her body’s immune system was so compromised from months of enduring the pain that after the surgery her recovery was very slow and she came down with canine immune hemolytic anemia. For more information, see this article.

This was a case of waiting too long to do corrective surgery of a congenitally, progressively degenerative condition and not taking the necessary precautions to alleviate or slow down the progression.

I got busy with the needs of other family members and pets. I had not spoken or seen this neighbor for quite some time and chocked it up to everyone being busy. But months later I sent her a few texts and e-mails and got no response. I wondered what I might have done to make her mad at me. Did I forget to get their mail or pick up a package from their front porch?  Not in a million years would I have guessed what she said.  She told me she was mad at me because when I watched her dog ,I took her for walks when she shouldn’t have been walking and that it was my fault that she needed the surgery because I aggravated her condition and she resented that it took so much of her time.

After all the nurturing care I provided this little dog, sitting on the floor with her hand-feeding her one kibble at a time when she wasn’t feeling well, carrying her around, grooming her and making her feel special, I never would have guessed that was the reason. Never once did she take ownership of the dog’s deteriorating condition. Her approach was blame someone else for her own failure to take responsibility.

Elena Flyer is a Californian owner and lover of animals: horses, dogs, birds – you name it! She is actively involved in the community whether through therapeutic dog visits to healthcare facilities, or volunteering at Labrador Rescuers.

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