The story of a Saint Bernard who was rescued by your faithful bloggers from neglect and maltreatment

Sure, she's got issues. Who doesn't? We're working on them. But she's got her forever home now and she knows it!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

How to mitigate a large muddy dog


Recently a friend and reader wanted to know some tips on managing St. Bernard drool. What drool?

The question got me thinking about other, more immediate problems perhaps less top-of-mind for my Manhattanite pal. Like mud mitigation. Whether you have a backyard, open space or a tiny corner of grass under an urban tree, a large dog will find the mud. Here are some mud management tips that we've discovered:

  1. Instead of mud flaps, try a T-shirt. A medium-sized woman's T-shirt works great on a 125-lb. Saint. We especially like long-sleeved jerseys, which cover up the mud-magnet front legs nicely. The waist area can droop and drag as it gets wet, so use a string or rubber band to keep it tight. A place called Muddy Mutts offers a dog raincoat for this purpose, but I suspect the waders-style covering might prove embarrassing for the animal.
  2. When you get home, pull off the T-shirt and voila! Clean fur, except for the feet.
  3. A good foot wash with the garden hose can take care of the remaining mess. Foot baths work even better, but our Saints don't like water between their toes for prolonged periods.
  4. Towel dry. This rub-down is often much-loved by the big dog, so a word of advice: Occasionally provide the towel-dry when the animal is not muddy or wet. Some people underestimate a Saint's intelligence. You do not want deliberate mud-gathering in order to prompt the luxurious towel rub.
  5. It's best to assume that even a foot wash cannot get rid of those tiny bits of sand and muck that have worked their way up into the thick Saint fur. So, once you've thoroughly dried each paw, try socks. (More on this later.)
  6. Even with all this, you may still find stray dirt around the house. So for the last step (or perhaps, resort), try using your old sheets as floor cover-ups. Now the tough part is getting your big dog to lie on top of the sheet instead of right next to it.
Lest readers think this is all too much, you do not need the socks and the sheets all at once. And manufacturers, please consider the potential of four-footed house jammies for the big dog. After all, if people will put coats and hats on their dogs for no purpose at all, why not make a covering that actually does some good?

What do you do to keep the mud outside, where it belongs? Please share your tips, too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Daisy's summer vacation


Home improvement project

New shoes

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sick day for Daisy


When I returned from a late night discussing the demise of newspapers with other journalists, Tom and Daisy greeted me enthusiastically. But Daisy seemed uncomfortable. Tense, I thought, and wondered if she'd seen a scary dog that afternoon. I rubbed her back, where Sheryl, the "animal educator," said she carried her anxiety.

We quickly learned the problem when Daisy started agitating to go outside. But she walked slowly, as if she were dizzy. Soon enough we realized that we had a sick dog. She wandered around the yard, eating grass and trying to throw up. It grew late and she still wouldn't come in. Finally we went to bed and left the door cracked so she could enter if she wanted.

I woke up at around 4:30 a.m. and Daisy was still missing. I went outside and there she was, looking uncomfortable and surrounded by a wide, flattened area of grass. Apparently she had been getting up and plopping down all night, unsuccessfully trying to find a comfortable position. By that time she did want to come inside.

The next morning Daisy slept in and we worried. Should we take her to the vet? Get a bunch of tests? Did she have some awful disease? Had she eaten a poison mushroom?

Tom argued for patience and for dogs' ability to take care of themselves.

Here's a great summary on when to worry about vomiting, written from a veterinarian's point of view. I like the distinction in cause between "indiscretion" issues, such as eating table scraps or garbage, and food allergies. Drug-related problems, parasites and more serious illness could also be the source. Dogs can get canine influenza, but it's a respiratory disease.

Daisy has a long history of indigestion. She is very sensitive to changes in her diet and any kind of stress. Fortunately we've learned that a tablet or two of Pepto-Bismol can really help. She also often self-medicates with grass. In this case, however, neither did the trick. I am ever so glad that whatever the cause, the condition resolved and we did not have to resort to a blood test, barium swallow or endoscopy.

By night time, Daisy was ready to eat dinner and visibly improved. This morning she was back to her usual self. Our lesson? Learn to read your dog's body language. Daisy couldn't have verbalized her discomfort any more plainly. Another lesson: Don't panic! Save hundreds of dollars!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Daisy Goes to College


We apologize for being so out of touch. So much has been going on!

Daisy attended numerous educational sessions over the summer and fall, led by excellent teachers. Even though she didn't graduate, she is now attending college. She comes to classes at Santa Clara University, although, truth be told, her record is rather poor. Not only does she miss numerous classes, she often fails to pay attention to the speaker, instead bothering other students. Fortunately, she has not been known to text or surf the Web during sessions. That is incredibly rude, as we all well know. But whimpering and begging other students for pets is not much better.

She does seem to enjoy the class on race, gender, and politics in the news. The online journalism course she is taking seems to interest her, but it's late in the afternoon and she starts to get antsy. You know how it is.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Music to calm a Saint Bernard

Our friend Bruce Koon wonders whether music can help calm an animal anxiety attack. Funny he should ask! Here's Daisy's list of favorites. Pop one into a CD player and soon she'll be splayed out on the floor, rolled onto her back, legs akimbo in pure bliss. You might try them if you're stressed or if you have an animal companion that is.

1) Slack Key Guiter, Vol. 2 (Palm Records), a Grammy Award winner. Entertainment Weekly calls it "pleasant, if somewhat sleepy." Perfect!

2) Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters, Instrumental Collection (Dancing Cat Records)

3) Miaow! Sampler (Big Cat, London), especially Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void. (Note: Daisy's not cat-phobic at all.) This one was apparently described as "nocturnal trance music" by a reviewer.

Calming, indeed! But here's a surprise hit, perhaps, in the context of the others.
4) Mad Professor's Black Liberation Dub and Anti-Racist Dub Broadcast

And she's also very fond of
5) Lee Scratch Perry's Experryments at the Grassroots of Dub.

Sure, call her "old school." She doesn't mind.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Report from doggie summer school

Apparently no one cares about fava bean faces. Harrumph. NPR says they're "magic," but maybe not, eh?

My guess is that our loyal audience would like to return the subject to Daisy. Of course! We had an eventful summer working on exposure training along a lovely beach bluff trail, complemented by some superb training sessions with Daisy's special ed teacher, Sheryl Carver.

First, we attended an all-day TTouch training session with hordes of very small dogs -- the very type that scare our Saint most of all. Well, perhaps there were about 15 there. But it seemed like a nightmare to Daisy, I'm sure, once we arrived after a long winding road through the redwoods. Daisy's chief concern was being jumped by a small, fuzzy white animal. These are the type that appear cuddly but in fact are quite vicious. My own chief concern was the poison oak that seemed to cover the landscape where we were training.

The little animals and their owners had gathered in order to learn enough of the Tellington TTouch method to apply it at home. TTouch uses circular motions along an animal's body in order to stimulate the release of calming hormones. At the same time, it helps dissipate the stress hormone cortisol, which can get stuck at a heightened level.

At least that's how I understand the desired outcome. The explanation on Tellington's Web site is not helpful at all: the technique, it says, serves to "to awaken cellular intelligence." That's a bit general for me. Not only that, one's cells pretty much have to be intelligent all the time. (See Nels Quevli, although perhaps the goal is not to awaken, but to manipulate cell signaling: see this chat with Guenter Albrecht-Buehler, who has challenged accepted thinking about the control of cell function.) It also makes the animal more aware of her own body -- important in Daisy's case because once she's outside of the safety of home, she completely loses her focus and forgets she has four feet and a very large, reliable body.

We were there to learn TTouch and to let Daisy hang around tiny dogs without flying into a panic attack. We didn't get far with either at first. As usual, we had to stay about 40 feet from everyone else, hiding behind bushes and pacing around in order to keep the anxiety level down. As a result, it was difficult to hear the TTouch explanations.Ah, but one class member, hidden most of the day inside a big, tent-like dog container, proved to be a wonderful surprise! "Chance," his name was, and he was a very large fellow. Still under a year old, nevertheless he stood a full head taller than Daisy and had big, brown eyes. Unfortunately, this mastiff was somewhat human phobic, and did not like eye contact or loud noises. But Saint Bernards were okay, so at the end of class, the two spent a little time "together" -- that is, within about 10 feet of another while going through a confidence course at the same time. Under carefully controlled conditions, with one person holding a leash on each side, each animal walked through a maze, balanced on a foot-high boardwalk, and stepped through tires. They both did beautifully, and what a success for Daisy! While she did trip on the boardwalk while sneaking a look at Chance, otherwise, she managed to pay attention and even walk by all those little white dogs without a hitch.

Once the day was over, Daisy leapt into the red Mini Cooper and collapsed. But all the way home and into the next day, she made it clear that she was very proud of herself.

I felt fortunate to have avoided the poison oak, although Sheryl got some. And Daisy has been very bad about stomping right through that fava bean patch at home.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Miracle fava bean or evolution in action?

This morning we harvested a few items from our small garden. The take so far has been rather meager because of two factors: 1) A big-footed Saint Bernard who thought the area had been prepared for recreational purposes. 2) A ravenous and vindicative gopher who delights in cutting plants off at the ground right when they're ready to produce.

But here's the thing --- in our tiny collection of vegetables we found a miracle!

We're not sure what to make of this expressive fava bean. Was it a sign from a higher being, meant to indicate that we should take life less seriously? Was it evidence that plants are beginning to evolve faces, as Tom suggested? Daisy, for her part, couldn't understand the excitement.

What do you think? Please vote to the right and help us settle this important question.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dogs in Hawaii - Always Cheerful?

Digg!Tom and I disappeared for a week from Daisy's life, leaving her in the capable care of her cousin and aunt. How did it go? Well, more on that later.

For now, we'll concentrate on the dogs we met while on our fabulous vacation in, yes, Hawaii! We visited the Big Island. While we did spend most of our time swimming and snorkeling, we also ventured out on the land a bit to see what the dogs were up to. First, we discovered that most dogs do not go out during the daytime on weekdays at all. Are they sleeping off a wild weekend? Staying cool? It's hard to say.

But, come Friday afternoon, they emerge. The first pup we saw was 20 yards out from the shore, swimming with his human companion in a prime snorkeling spot at Honaunau Bay, called Two Steps for short. This seemed to be a regular activity for the two. (Tip for snorkelers: Leave the dolphins be. They need their sleep time during the day.)

We also spotted a couple of Basset hounds (see above) who had stopped for shaved ice one evening in Kailua-Kona Town. And this individual to the right was part of a greeting committee for kayaks at the Kealakekua Bay. He had just finished his job and was off to a nearby party.

Is it possible to generalize about Hawaiian dogs? Probably not. But they did all seem awfully mellow and good-humored, even when they had been charged with guarding someone or something. It's probably the warm air and all that salt spray that makes for a positive outlook and good temperament.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Daisy's theme song

Daisy and I co-composed a song about our escapades. It sort of has a wannabe Kings of Convenience breeziness, and Daisy consulted by whining or snuffing at certain chord progressions. The lame lyrics are all hers.

Play Daisy, Day by Day (mp3)


Friday, May 23, 2008

List of things Daisy has learned to do in her parents' absence

Tom and Sally are off to Hawaii, taking in sites like the Wai'po Valley. Meanwhile, Daisy has decided to reveal a repertoire of super-canine skills, previously unbeknownst to her parents:
  • Balance an eel on the tip of her nose, Father William style

  • Compose and perform guitar ballads full of suspended seconds

  • Sleep uninterrupted, save vigorous squirrel dreams, for thirteen hours

  • Solve the mystery of 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42

  • Make banana pancakes

  • Rescue three small children from riptides, and simultaneously block their sandcastle from waves

  • Dig a CO2 sequestration pit big enough to end global warming
Being a modest dog, she'd probably rather I didn't tell the world about her deeds. Good thing she can't read.