Be your dog’s best friend

It’s been 3 months since we added Osiris – to our family. He’s a handsome boy from a long line of show champions. He was deemed best suited for the pet life, and he is proving to be quite an amazing pet and a charming fellow. Osiris and Ro cannot help but to stir curiosity and compliments from strangers everywhere they go. You see, due my husband’s career, we travel often. We found it easier to live where Mike works (a novel idea, I know). As a result we’ve lived a nomadic lifestyle for close to a year, bouncing between Marriott hotels. We’ve found that when having Great Danes as pets plus living in a hotel you will be stopped, and often, by strangers who are interested in asking tons of questions about your dog. (As a sidenote: I can assure you that hotel living makes for great stories to share over drinks.) 

If you were to ever meet us you would come to realize that we are always happy to answer questions regarding our dogs. I try to answer with as much clarity, honesty and depth as possible. We believe that educating others about dogs, and especially Great Danes, is a part of being a good dog owner. It’s not just a responsibility, but a duty to spread the knowledge. You will never know when you might be speaking with a future-first-time-owner of your dog’s breed.

During one of these Q&A sessions I was shocked to realize that many people didn’t know that their dogs teethed. That much like human babies, dogs lose their baby teeth. So, in response to those who were wondering about this subject matter, I’ve decided to continually update this blog section on training tips based off of things I’ve learned while raising my two dogs.

First tip of the day – Learn how to be your dog’s best friend

There is literally a book on how to achieve this. If you too just found out that your dog teethes, or you don’t know what your dog was originally bred to do then you are missing out on basic clues as to how to be a  suitable companion for your dog.

And that is okay as long as you commit to researching as much information about your dog and it’s origins. Everyone has to start somewhere and reading this book is a great place to begin. If you don’t like reading, you can buy it at Audible. It was a great way to pass the time during one of our long 13 hour road trips.

Second tip of the day – How to deal with puppy teething

In order to deal with teething you need to first recognize the signs. At 4 weeks, your puppy developed their ‘milk teeth’. These tiny teeth will begin to fall out as a final set of adult teeth erupt. You may see obvious signs of chewing such as drool, foul breath, and blood spots. Fortunately, our breeder gave us a heads up that Osiris’ siblings had started to teethe.

Your pup, like Osiris, may become irritable and begin to chew on things that are not his toys, like your hands, blankets, shoes, wood etc. He’s looking to alleviate pain and this is where your help is required. You have to pay attention to him, and start to redirect the chewing to more appropriate items. It is not okay to let them chew on your hands. By letting your dog chew on your hands, he’s learning that it’s okay to handle humans with their teeth. You don’t want to encourage this behavior as it can lead to nipping and biting.

Again and I stress, you do want to redirect him immediately to chewing to one of their own toys. Simply stop him in his tracks by replacing what ever he is chewing on with a toy. Yes, its that simple. Be consistent and timely about executing this training tip.

Within a day of his siblings, our little Osiris lost a tooth too. Their teeth will be really small and most likely he’ll swallow it before you have a chance to find them. I have to admit Mike had a hand in helping the tooth “fall” out. Mike gently and swiftly tugged the tooth out. Osiris was immediately given gratuitous praise and treats. We did this to let Osiris know that this experience doesn’t have to be a weird, or painful one. If you do find yourself looking to assist them, then make sure the tooth really is on the verge of falling out.But most importantly do not make this event a traumatic one. Remember your dog is in their formative years, and what you do now may have a life long impression.

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I was shocked to realize that many people didn’t know that their dogs teethed.

You can also give your dog ice cubes, or even buy teething rings like the one you see in the photo below. These are great because you can freeze them and they providing chewing relief for hours. I do not recommend raw hides. In fact, never give your dog raw hides.

pPETNA-5214294_alternate1_t300x300I don’t recommend raw hides because once digested, the smell returns in a gas form (a fart) which is a toxic chemical assault to one’s nose. YUCK!

But mostly you shouldn’t give your dog raw hide because they are a major choking hazard and hard for your dog to digest. Most good breeders will back me up on the latter part of this statement and should have warned you before you took your pup home.

In short

Knowing basic information about your dog’s physical and mental being will help you to train your dog to become the best that he/she can be. A well behaved dog, who trusts and responds to their parents reap the rewards of a privileged life. People often comment on how well behaved our dogs are and are impressed that we are able to take them to public settings, like restaraunts or clothing stores. However, because we understand our dogs we were able to train and prepare them on how to live peacefully among their human counterparts.

Treat interaction with your pup as a training opportunity that will help him to trust and bond with you and your family. Today’s tip will help your pup from chewing on anything that’s not his and also show him that he should be comfortable when people handle their mouths. This is important because you’re going to have to start brushing all of those new sparkly adult teeth soon.

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Healing power of puppy love

In the summer of 2014, shortly after our tragedy with Isa, Mike and I noticed that Raro had become acutely shy of new people. This change in her attitude was not apparent until Isa’s absence. We soon realized that for the past year Raro, a very naturally submissive dog, had been using her oldest sister as a doggie shield. She’d let Isa absorb all of the love and attention rained onto them by passing strangers. But now that she was an only pet Raro, did not care for the attention, in any way. Every time someone approached  her, Raro tensed up, pulled away and tried her best to become invisible. She only wanted to play with other dogs, and even then if the dog’s owner wanted to greet her, she’d cower and run away. This was such an unexpected behavior to us, and I felt as though somehow we’d failed as pet parents.

Her loneliness and dependency on a pack became scarily apparent when in late August Raro experienced an almost near death accident. I naively thought she was capable to staying tied outside, while I could make a quick trip into a local pharmacy to pick up some items. This wasn’t new, we’d often leave Raro and Isa outside, waiting for a few minutes back home in Jacksonville. However, I came to see that I was horrifically wrong. A few minutes into my shopping trip a stranger screamed into the store stating that “Who ever had a big dog tied outside, it just ran away!”

My heart. Stopped.

Oh my god, someone must have approached her while she was outside and she freaked out and took off. I immediately dropped everything and sprinted through multiple lanes of traffic and oncoming vehicles only hoping they would see me before slamming on breaks. As I frantically looked around and continued to sprint, I couldn’t help but to think this felt surreal, and movie like.  Pedestrians standing on the sidewalks pointed in her direction when I’d yell at them “Have you seen a big dog”. Fortunately, the 50 pound sign that she had been tethered to was going along for her wild ride. As Raro made it down the sidewalk, and into a nearby neighborhood she must had made such the scene, because people were still standing and talking about what they had seen and heard. As I continued running, I knew I was hot on her trail, I could still hear some of the conversations “some huge dog running…”

Thankfully, a taxi driver who had been watching volunteer to pick me up at no charge to cruise around the neighborhood that some spectators pointed me to. I was so thankful, because I started to lose steam, especially since that morning Raro and I had been running through the hills of Rock Creek. We finally found her though. She was still galloping but free of her tag along sign. I called to her, but at first she didn’t even hear me. After I jumped out of the taxi and rushed by foot again, she reluctantly turned around to look at me. She cowered  a bit and practically crawled back to me. I could see that she was exhausted and feel how frightened she was. She slowly sinked into my arms and I promised I would never let her down again.

Shortly, after this incident, Mike and I decided that we needed to build up her runined self esteem. We thought besides some training in greeting strangers we needed to expand the pack. The hunt for another puppy began. We considered getting her a puppy from her original litter, since there were a few still looking for homes. I remember her half brother, Diezel and really made a push to get him, but we decided that as sweet and wonderful as he was, he would be too passive. They just wouldn’t be exactly what we were looking for. We needed to partner Raro up with another bull headed  strong will pup like Isa once was.

Our search ended when we came across a Litterbox announcement of a beautiful Dane named Sandy who was happily expecting a large litter of 9. After a puppy visit in November, we had the awful decision of having to pick one of the two that Ophelia, the breeder recommended would be a good fit for our home. After a night of dilberation we called her up and filled out the paper work. On January 7th, we finally brought him home. So with out further delay here he is, our newest family member – Osiris, the 13 week old Great Dane pup.

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And as for Raro, let’s just say, she’s been too tired to be scared anymore.

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End of a chapter, but not the story

I know it’s been a while since the last post, however, I felt compelled to come back and explain my almost 1 year absence. A few weeks after posting my first article we tragically had to say good bye to our sweet Isa. The announcement was as follows:

Friends and family,
It is with heavy heart that we are finally able to share our sad news. Over two weeks ago, Michael and I said goodbye to Isa, our beloved 11 year old Great Dane. As you may have known, for the past year Isa has battled several complications resulting from a disease known as Mega-Esophagus. After a rapid decline in her health this month we made the heart breaking decision to let our sweet girl get some rest. Thank you all for your thoughts and well wishes over the past several months. Most importantly thank you for being friends with our sweet old girl Isa – the Greatest Dane.

Goodbye sweet girl.

After losing Isa on July 13th, it took another two weeks for my husband and me to feel comfortable enough to even share the sad news.  The healing process is still an ongoing journey. It took 3 months, a move, and many miles of stress busting runs for me to get through a day without shedding a tear.

To those of you who have recently experienced a similar loss – I am deeply and truly sorry. The heartbreak literally leaves you feeling as though a hole was cut out from your heart. I’ve found that even during my happiest days I could never quite feel whole again. Sometimes, I still think I will see Isa saunter in my room and look at me with her “move over, I want to snuggle” face, and it kills me to know I won’t ever get to again. But life – as they say – goes on.

Today, I try not to think of my suffering as some kind of punishment, instead I’ve learned to embrace the feeling. I remind myself that I feel this way because I now know what its like to love and be loved unconditionally. There’s no physical object on earth that can replace these feelings, and a broken heart is such a small price to pay for such a deep bond.

So, on this note, yes, I am saying goodbye to my beautiful girl, but also thanking her. For Isa opened my heart and prepared me to become an wonderful pet parent, and even better human. She showed me how to love.

A wonderful end of the day photo,

Isa walking home.

Balls are dangerous

Raro and her tennis ball.

Raro and her tennis ball.

Meet Raro, our 2-year old Merle Great Dane. As I write this post, she’s managed to find a spot next to me on the floor, and is feverishly chewing the head on a bright green and pink hippo, stolen from my friend’s pup, Zara. The toy itself, is made of what appears to be a rather flimsy, thin, rubber material that I assumed would break in a day or two. Surprisingly, after several months she hasn’t even punctured it! It’s always amazing to discover which toys break and which ones can stand up against the jaws of a power chewer. But one toy that we are weary of allowing our dogs to play with unsupervised are tennis balls.

Tuff Balls - Industrial Strength Dog Toys

Tuff Balls – Industrial Strength Dog Toys

The ball in the picture above was given to us at a charity event for animal shelters. These types are Raro’s favorite, because she’s mastered the art of splitting it in two in a matter of minutes. So much for Tuff Balls. Balls like these are commonly found in pet stores and marketed as rugged or safe toys for dogs. But did you know they can be dangerous?

Tennis balls are considered to be top five most dangerous toys for large breeds to play with. Like Raro, large dogs can have a more powerful bite, and most importantly larger mouths. On top of that it’s shown that the glue can actually destroy a dogs tooth enamel. Yikes!

So your wondering, “why is there a picture of your dog playing with the very toy that you know to be so dangerous?”

I would say to you the key is not to allow your dog to play with these toys unsupervised.  A simple game of fetch can become life-ending if the ball you’re playing with is crushed. It compromises the integrity and structure of the ball after which it can easily become lodged in your dog’s throat. As soon as we find, see or hear a tennis ball break we toss it out.

But if your dog is like Raro, and loves, Loves, LOVES tennis balls here are a few suggestions. The first being, don’t buy the Tuff balls. In my experience, they break just as easily if not faster than any other ball. I’ve witness her breaking them in the store. Your dog will become an expert at finding it’s weak spot. For power chewers, try

  • Natural and tough to break Deer or Elk antler. Antlers naturally molt seasonally, and pet stores are stocking up on them across the nation. A 12 inch long, maybe 3 inches wide antler lasts Raro a year to chew through. They are usually priced at about $29 – $40 dollars, depending on the size.
  • Knotted ropes I like to get the smaller portable ones and carry them with me to dog parks.
  • Finally, many of the Kong brand rubber toys have lasted pretty well for our dogs too but I am especially partial to the Kong frisbee.

At the end of the day, the lesson is, watch what your dog chews on, you never know when your decision could be a life saving one.

 

 

Isa Sick and living with Mega-E

I had hoped that my very first blog on this site would be about my wonderful beloved pair of four legged pooches in their full quirkiness and glory. I imagined it would be on the topic of something much more thrilling or happier in nature. Instead, I’ve decided to share the struggles (and wins) we’ve encountered when caring for our sweet Great Dane, Isa as she settles into senior hood with Megaesophagus (Mega-E).

Relaxing in Alexandria Park

Isa relaxing in Alexandria Park, Jacksonville Florida

In case you’re wondering, Mega-E is a condition that can occur in humans and dogs alike. It’s typically the result of the esophagus suffering from some kind of trauma, leaving the passage way distended. In Isa’s case, it occurred after many years of woofing down too much food quickly and often without chewing. Over the years she’d occasionally vomit up her food which turned into a monthly ordeal but gradually turning into an almost a weekly occurrence. Despite best efforts to slow her food intake down, on December 24th of last year, she choked up her entire dinner of dry kibble with such force that it expanded her esophagus to an irreparable size.

Christmas with Isa and Raro

Raro (left) and Isa (right) on Christmas day in Canfield, Ohio.

We didn’t realize what had happened until we noticed gurgling sounds in her throat wouldn’t stop. Despite us having stayed up with Isa to comfort her while she struggled to keep food in her stomach down, we simply weren’t prepared for what was in store for her that night. I won’t go into all of the details of her suffering, but if you are on this site, you might already be familiar with this information. You may be looking for answers to the same questions that haunted us after realizing we had a victim of Mega-E: What can I do to cure this? Will this kill her? Will she ever be the same again? How can I help my poor baby?!

Unfortunately, there is no surgery, or cure for this condition. It’s simply a fact of life for her now and the best thing you can do is manage it. Without special care, Mega-E can be life threatening. However, you can provide a better quality of life for your pooch, by:

  • Blending food into a pulp similar to a smoothie
  • Feeding your dog small quantities of food (we feed Isa three times a day)
  • Placing a pillow in your dog’s bed, or rest area, so that she can prop her head up
  • Not allowing your dog too close to bedtime
  • Have her seen by your vet, she can provide you medicines to allow the throat to relax, anti heart burn medicine, and antibiotics in case food particles get into her lungs – which can cause an onset of pneumonia
  • Buy a harness if you’ve only had a regular collar. It will alleviate pressure to her throat.
  • Buying or building out a Bailey’s chair
  • Getting a prescription of Sucralfate from your vet (about $15.00) will help gastrointestinal motility

Since Isa’s health was worsening so quickly and because Great Dane sized – anything – is close to impossible to find, I decided to build out a Bailey’s chair.

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A 3-D model of the chair’s blueprint I built out with an Autodesk program on my iPad.

The purpose of this chair is to provide a place for your dog to eat while allowing gravity to naturally do what the esophagus would have done. While your dog eats and sits in this chair it will facilitate the movement of food from your dog’s mouth down into her belly so that she can properly digest, gas and irritation free.

I used this video to guide me in the right direction of obtaining the right points for measurement. Our chair however, was customized so that one person could easily lift a 100lb dog into it by herself. This chair also has to be comfortable enough so that your dog can sit in it for up to half an hour after eating. I’ve modified this model to include a seat cushion at the bottom.

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Isa sitting in her chair for the first time.

So far, this chair helps Isa to keep all of her food down. The trickiest  part now involves figuring out ways to keep her comfortable, and even yes, entertained while sits and waits. If you are going to build a chair I recommend that you create a way for your dog to keep ventilated while she sits inside. Isa overheats easily because of a pre-existing liver issue, and all of the extra cushions 😉 inside. My husband has been making Pedialyte ice cubes shaped like hearts to keep her occupied while we wait for the timer to let us know we can release her. In case you haven’t realized this we love our dogs!

Icecubes of Pedialyte

Heart shaped pedialyte for days when Isa’s a little dehydrated.

I’d also recommend that you position the chair in a direction so that your pooch can see where you are. Your pooch might get awfully bored, and start to wiggle which can lead to her contorting into bad positions and defeat the purpose of this chair.

Future, modifications to this chair will include holes in the bottom that will allow her feet to stick out, and no table top. I feed her prior to putting her in the Bailey’s chair is easier for her since she spends less time inside.

Isa has both up days and really bad down days. Our goal is to make sure the up days outweigh the latter.