Bringing home a second dog

Bringing a new dog home is always exciting. But knowing the right way to do it and knowing what to expect makes the move easier on everyone. Bringing in a second dog, poses some unique challenges, but nothing that cannot be dealt with, when handled with thought and care. When bringing in the second dog, the first dog should play a critical role in all decisions. Bringing in a second dog is very unnatural for dog and the disruption in the dogs life needs to be carefully addressed.

When considering what dog to bring home, let age and gender of your first dog play a role. Consider adoption only after your first dog is 2.5 yrs or above. Younger dogs will find it harder to cope with the change in environment. Try to ensure that your second dog is at least 2 years younger than your first dog. This will help your older dog to take on a parental role in the new household. Getting dogs that are closer in age might create a sibling relationship and we all know how turbulent that can be, particularly at a younger age. I remember being pulled up by my headmistress because my sister and I were fighting so bad and she was playing tarzan with my pig tails and I kicked her to get her out my my hair…literally! Imagine your dogs doing the equivalent and you know what you have on your hands!

Gender should also be a consideration. Opposite genders do find it easier to get along. Specifically, of you have a female dog, it’s best to get a male. If you must get another female, the age dynamic explained earlier becomes even more important. Female dogs, contrary to popular belief, have a higher guarding tendency. Given that, bringing home another female close in age or older can trigger this guarding tendency and it might lead to fatal fights that we certainly don’t want to deal with. There are exceptions to these, but it helps to keep these criteria in mind, if you had the luxury to chose.

Next comes the process of introducing the dogs. Here, the most important thing to do is to TAKE IT EASY. Don’t rush the decision or the process. Let your existing dog and the potential new dog meet on neutral ground. Take them for walks, maintaining a distance between them. They don’t have to meet and play on the first visit. Schedule more than 1 visit and gradually decrease the distance between them.

When we went to get Tiggy, we visited the PPF shelter. We used the vast space outside and let the dogs have a choice there. The space was so vast that they kept their distance and barely acknowledged each other. But contrary to appearances, dogs are very cognizant of each others presence and will work out how to meet. Give them the time and space and let them do it at their pace.

Nishi & Tigger – best of friends

Once the dogs are able to meet and have shown that they get along, that’s the point at which you can decide to take home the second dog. If we brought home a second dog, against the will of the first one, then we have only ourselves to blame if the first dogs starts acting out and it will take a lot of effort to set things right. Sometimes things may never settle down.

Let’s assume that you have found the perfect friend for your dog and have decided to bring the second dog home. Take your first dog out of the home and bring them into the house together. Neither should be welcomed by the other in the house. This is critical in starting to get the first dog to understand that your home is now a shared space.

Once the dogs are home, it is likely that one or both dogs start resource guarding. Anything can be a resource – food, human contact, toy, beds etc…In situations like this, don’t let the dogs get stressed over this. This can lead to bad blood. Remove the dogs from the situation all together. If food is contentious, feed them in different rooms. If people are contentious, two people pet both dogs simultaneously or don’t pet either dog when the other one is around. If the bed is contentious, provide several other options, so that the dogs can chose what they like best. Take away the contentious bed. Basically, change the situation. Don’t feel helpless. Don’t put your hands up in the air saying you are helpless and expecting the dogs to change behaviour. Instead, take charge and change the situation. You are the sentient human being there. Over time, they will learn to cope. Dogs are very good that way.

Another source of stress can be sexual hormones. This poses problems in several different ways. We, in India have several street dogs that are in and out of heat. This could cause tension at home. Male dogs get very stressed in situations like that. But having two male dogs can add to the stress. I don’t need to explain the in-house stress of having 1 male and 1 female dog either. Over all, the situation is far more manageable and stress free of the dogs are sterilized.

One little tip from my own experience. Nishi was helped immensely by our fostering. We fostered pups, who came home, healed and left. This not only taught Nishi how to be a lovely caring nanny, but also taught her not to feel insecure when a new pup comes home. However, try this with caution. Nishi might have been unique and it might not always work for everyone.

Now, not that there are no exceptions to all of these. Sometimes dogs of the same gender may get along famously. My Tigger and Nishi do. Sometimes, a completely strange dog brought home might just settle in. But if you have a choice and are looking for the right kind of dog to bring into your home, consider the above. It makes it a lot easier on the existing dog & the new dog & on the rest of your family.

Once the new dog comes it, it will take time for the dog to settle down. So give your dog that time. Don’t start training or long walks. Allow for loads and loads of sleep. And if the dog comes from a stressful past, it WILL take 9 – 10 months for the dog to recover fully and the brain to grow out again. I will soon have another post on adoption and what to expect. But for now, if you are considering a second dog or know anyone else who is considering one, do pass on this information. I hope the new member is accepted well and settles down well. My favorite quote on this topic is “Dogs are like chocolate. It’s impossible to stop at 1”.

(Yet another valuable Turid Rugaas lesson)

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We like Dead Skunks and we cannot lie

Yeah! I know…we all want to think our dogs are posh dogs. We want to wash them in shampoos that smell of berries, put shiny collars on them and think that our dogs love the good things in life. Yes, they do love the good things in life. But their idea of good things and our idea of good things are perhaps a tad different.

All said and done, dogs adore half dead or fully dead rodent. Yeah…squeal all you want. But that’s what it is. So, it does not take much to figure out that a toy that looks and feels like a half dead rodent is going to be popular with them.

Check out those eyes!

One toy that I found that comes very close to this is Skineez. These are squeaky toys, have little beady eyes, are limpid like half dead rodents. There are a few others who make squeaky toys with this structure. But what I like about these specific toys is that they have no stuffing! Yep. They are stuffing free.

Tigger is my true hunter dog! She likes to not just have a kill but actually dismember the kill! So she goes after all her toys and pulls all the stuffing out. Not that she likes eating it, but she loves pulling everything out. In the process, I fear that she might accidentally eat some. So a toy that does not have stuffing that she could eat is always very attractive to me.

Note the “No Stuffing” sticker. I like that a lot

Nishi is my gentle girl. She picks up the toy in her mouth, prances around the home, shaking her head side to side, swinging the toy. Again something dogs love to do with half dead animals rodents – playing with them till they die. So the toy is fun for her to play by herself. In addition, it is a good toy to play fetch with. I have also seen the girls play tug with the toy quite frequently.

So a tug, fetch, engaging toy that the girls can use to play with us, play with each other and play by themselves and not destroy it in the process or harm themselves by ingesting stuffing – That’s why it’s my pick of the day today.

Skineez makes this toy in 2 sizes, shaped like a few different rodents – squirrel, raccoon, skunk or meercat or something like that. I don’t know. Not that I care much, neither do the girls. They have also introduced something called Crazy Critters. We have not used it. So this review does not apply to that toy yet.

Pros: No stuffing, squeaky, good fetch toy and tug toy, dead rodent like structure makes it very interesting for dogs to play with it by themselves.

Cons: Is a furry texture. So can get dirty and might be hard to clean. Not indestructible

Not sure if this is a pro or a con. You decide: It looks so much like a dead rodent that Uttam once saw it in the garden and jumped back thinking it was indeed a critter from our garden that had met an untimely death on our vegetable patch! 🙂

Where to buy: Dogspot, Paws (CALL:+91 80 41317297), Glenands Koramangala, Most leading pet stores

Note: All pictures are taken from Dogspot.in

Joy of Toys

Nishi with all her toys

So, for those of you who don’t know Nishi, let me tell you the only thing you need to know about her. She loves toys! Toys mean everything to her. She will happily swap her meal for a toy. We got her to learn how to swim by tossing a toy into water. We got her to get over her fear of vets by buying her toys. We fixed her Separation Anxiety with toys.

It is quite fascinating to watch her in a pet shop. She walks straight to the toy section, carefully examines all the toys and after a lot of consideration, she pulls out a toy. She is very clear on what she wants. Once she has picked a toy of choice, she is very sure about it and no one can get her to change her mind about it. I once tried to trick her by carrying one of her old toys and placing it in the shelf and then trying to draw her attention to that specific toy. No way Jose! She will pick what she wants and she will walk up to the billing counter, bill it and then start playing with it. Yup! Watching Nishi shop for her toys is quite a sight. 

Given her interest in toys, we buy her toys as frequently as we can. I must add that she is also fantastic at preserving her toys. She destroys nothing. So the toy collection at our house just started piling up. Until…

Until, one day, Tigger came into our lives. Thus drew the end of the toy age. She has systematically started destroying all of Nishis toys. Unfortunately, we have a deal in our house that if the doggies left human stuff alone, they had a free reign on the doggy stuff. Being a fair mommy, I have to stick to my end of the bargain and allow Tigger to do what ever she wants to with the doggy toys. That toy chest is definitely getting depleted and how! It is now important, not only to buy toys, but to know them too. To know what works, what will last and what is safe. Yeah! We know our toys 🙂

Now, it just would not be fair if I did not review those toys. The collective knowledge from the TiN House (Tigger-Nishi House) needs to be duly shared and yours truly will be the scribe 🙂

The first toy I will review is…drum rolls please….The Kong! No surprises there. I will be doing a few posts on Kong Toys. This is just an introduction. The Kong is basically a popular dog toy that can be stuffed with treats. It is made of tough non-toxic plastic that can withstand heavy chewing. Very few toys can withstand as much dog teeth power as the Kong can. The Kong is pyramid shaped with a large hole at the bottom to stuff food in and your dog will pull food out of it. It also has a smaller hole on top, making cleaning quite easy.

We start our Kong-xploration with the Classic Kong. A simple red toy that comes in several different sizes, based on your dogs size. Then there is the colourful variation that is meant for puppies. Then there are the black ones meant for power chewers – those dogs that can chew through stone like it was a lovely soft idli. Then there is the Kong Wobbler, which is slightly different in design. This Kong does not fall down. It stands straight no matter what the dog does and has a little key hole on the side. So the dog knocks down the kong, the food falls out a little, then it stands back straight up again. And finally, there are a whole bunch of variations on the shapes of the Kong. I will not get into those here. Later perhaps!

Now a bit on how to use the Kong. Our Kong came home because Tigger is not too fond of kibble. Then Kong happened. Since then, Tigger seems to love meal time. Meals have become so much fun for Tigger. She gets thrilled at each kibble that rolls out of the Kong. She takes each kibble to a safe place, eats it, really relishes it, then returns back to the Kong for the next kibble. How fun! Nishi has started joining in on the fun and now we need 2 Kongs.

So, we decided to check out the Kong Wobbler for. Since it stands straight all the time, Tigger was at a bit of a loss on how to use it. But Nishi loves it. She whacks it hard on its head, makes it fall down, drops a few pieces of kibble and munches on them while she watches the wobbler jump back to position. I think she quite likes the sound it makes as well. BUT here is the catch – the key hole being so small means that kibble like Royal Canin & Hills Science Plan don’t come out that easily. RC needs to be broken up and filled into the toy. Also, I will not be able to use them for intermediate and advanced use of the Kong.

The Kong is not just a toy. It is something that challenges your dog and makes your dog work for her food. Once the dog is finding it easy to pull kibble out of the Kong, you can start adding challenges like adding cookies that are larger or sticky food like peanut butter etc into the Kong and watch how your dog strategizes to pull the food out. She might crush the food first and then pull it out, lick it out or device some other plan. The whole idea is that she needs to use her brain. A great idea is to get rid of that food bowl all together and start using toys like this instead. The more your dog spends time and energy in figuring out stuff like this, the less time is spent on figuring out what furniture to destroy next.

Check out this video on beginner level use of the Kong

Once your dog is doing the beginner stuff easily, there are many many sites that show several things that can be fed in the Kong. There are Kong-Recipes even.
http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/how-stuff-kong-toy
http://www.caninemind.co.uk/kong.html
  
The ideas are plenty and all it takes is a bit of weekend fun project with kids to get some stuffing made and give the Kong to your dog before you leave. Sure the house might be a bit messy when you get back. But at least your sofa will be intact. Worth it right?

Pros: Long lasting. Durable. Non-toxic. Does not need supervision; Safe. Does not get boring as it can be made interesting by changing the stuffing. Can provide mental stimulation for dogs. Can keep dog occupied for a long time, distracting them from being destructive. Can turn meal times into fun game times.

Cons: Expensive. Needs initial training for the dog to learn to use it

Where to buy: Pawsthepetstore.com (Also available in the physical store near Brigade Road, Bangalore), Dogspot, Glenads & Cessna (These two shops have only some limited options)

TiN Verdict: This is one toy that is a must have in your toy cupboard. Even if you don’t buy any other toy, do invest in an appropriate Kong. But do your research on what is the right Kong for you. Once you spend the money on it, do spend some time in teaching your dog how to use the Kong. Totally worth it!

How to stick tweezers into your dogs nostril!

Now now! Don’t wince and dismiss this blog as some psycho’s sick fetish. Bear with me a bit. I am now going to head back to Nishi’s health and some coping strategies we used. As my earlier blogs indicate, Nishi’s accident left the right side of her face completely damaged. Her right nostril does not produce any moisture resulting in crusting on the inside. We have to frequently clean it out (at least once a day) using tweezers for this purpose. How annoying and scary for a little dog like her. While few of you have perhaps had to stick something up your dogs nostril, I am sure you frequently encounter situations where your dog has some irrational fear of something and you want your dog to get over that fear and get comfortable with that object or situation, just the way I needed Nishi to get over her fear of tweezers and get comfortable with me putting it in her nostril. So, here’s how dealt with this.

Picture taken 3 months after her accident showing the constant crusting in her right nostril

One afternoon, we found ourselves sitting on the floor and pinning Nishi baby down, trying to calm her down, wrestling with her and the tweezers and losing the battle, losing patience and the will to continue. Finally I gave up, stood up, threw the tweezers away and yelled out that I could not do this any more. What the hell were we doing? Here was a puppy who had just been through hell and we were making things worse. We are her parents. We had to be making things better! “Why won’t she understand that this wont hurt and it’s for her own good Uttam?” I yelled. He calmly said “How is she to know that?”.  I huffed and walked away.

Finally when the frustration gave way to reason I kept turning that question in my head. “How is she to know that it won’t hurt her?”. I had to tell her. I had to somehow tell her. But how? I took a deep breath. I knew then that I had to learn to communicate with her. She was so good at telling when when she was afraid or happy or sad or hungry. Could I not tell her something? I went back out and found her sitting in a corner, feeling utterly miserable about this whole episode. My heart went out to her. I took a few cookies and went up to her, knelt in front of her, apoligized and gave her some cookies. She tentatively look a few then started slowly wagging her tail and licked my wrist. Bless her little soul for getting past it so fast. A tear dropped down my cheek and I was determined to make it all better.

I got up, shook myself the way she has taught me to shake myself [and fetched her ball. We started playing. We forgot all about the episode and we had a fun fun game. She finally collapsed after a tiring game of chase .(update: I no more recommend playing fetch with  dog).] I took a few more of her favorite treats and went up to her and started giving her the treats one at a time. I slowly pulled the tweezers our and put it on the floor, far away from her and continued giving her the treats. I don’t think she noticed the tweezers. I kept the treats coming and slowly started moving the treats towards her, talking softly to her. At one point, she noticed it from the corner of her eye and froze. I stopped moving it and pulled it away. I continued talking softly. Wearily she moved her attention back to the treats. I slowly moved the tweezers closer again. She kept an eye on it, while she continued to take the treats. I stopped moving the tweezers. Just kept talking to her and treating her. Finally she lost interest in the tweezers and rolled on her back asking for a belly rub. I took the chance and moved the tweezers closer. After a 30 min long session of treating and conversation, the tweezers were right under her nose on the floor. She had examined it and decided that it was not worth thinking of. Battle 1: WON! “Tweezers are are not the enemy.”

UPDATE:I now recommend different methods. If I had to do this now, I would just put the tweezers down and sit calmly around it and allow Nishi to examine it. I know she will take time and pretend like she is not interested in it. But eventually she would examine it. If I saw she was not nervous around it anymore, I would encourage her to examine it by leaving a few treats near it and just giving her time to examine it at her own pace, even if it took an hour 

Now I had to move to step 2:” Tweezers are friends!”. For this, I went back again, picked up a few more treats, and everytime I dropped a treat on the floor, I dropped the tweezers with it. At first, she jumped back, looked at me confused, then slowly steered clear of the tweezers and picked up the treat and bolted! But as we continued doing it, she started to ignore the tweezers. After the 10th time, we moved to the next level. I’d drop the tweezers first, then drop the treat a few seconds later. By the time I had done that a few times, she got the idea. “Tweezers means Treats”. Now the tweezers had become her friend. She started wagging her little stubby tail when she saw that small piece of metal.

This step was so successful that by the next day, when I pulled the tweezers out she would start prancing about. So we started playing a game. I would touch it to her little nose, make a little high pitched sound – “boop” – and then run. She would chase me and when she caught up to me I would pet her, treat her and repeat. She would stand look up and offering up her little black nose for the “boop” and ready to chase.

UPDATE:I now recommend different methods. If I had to do this now, I would tone down the excitement, slow down the process so that she had time to realize learn and process faster

After 2 days of this, on the 3rd day, I decided to go for the last and final step. I dreaded it! If just getting over the fear of the apparatus took so long, how long would it take to put it in her nostril and clean? I took a deep breath [and we started with a high energy game of ball.(update: I no more recommend playing fetch with  dog).] When she was exhausted, we collapsed under the fan and we started playing a mild version of the “boop” game. “Boop” and treat and pet. No running. After a few attempts, I tentatively put the tweezers a little into her nostril and quickly pulled it out and treated her, dreading that she was going to get up and bolt. To my utter surprise, she had no reaction at all. She just kept playing the “boop” game, slowly losing interest in it. She finally fell flat on her side and just wanted to be petted. I continued the “boop” game, petting her everytime I put the tweezers a little deeper into her nose. She seemed to have lost all interest by now. After a few seconds, she just shut her eyes. I am not sure if she was sleeping. I ventured trying to clean up a bit and no reaction! So I went ahead and cleaned it all up. No reaction at all! Hmm…perhaps she was tired. I had to try again to be sure. So later in the day, we tried the whole thing again. First ball play, then the “boop” game. This time, it was right after her meal. So she was not particularly interested in the treat and she had lost all interest in the “boop” game, but did not really care about the tweezers. It was as if she was telling me “Mommy! Please stop with that silly game. You want to clean my nostril? Just do that and get it done with. This boop game is no fun at all”.

Today, we breeze through it. Before bed, we have a routiene. I have to brush her teeth, clean her eyes, put drops in them, clean her nose, put moisturizer inside her nostrils and on her snout. She is quite bored through all of it. But she is not scared. She tolerates the whole thing, waiting to be done. Then we start petting her profusely. If she is interested, she stays back and gets petted. Else she bolts after the toy that has been on her mind all along.

It’s been two years since I managed to get Nishi over her fear of that dreaded metal object. Now, after a lot of reading, I realized that this technique has a name to it – Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning or DnC or D&C.  

Desensitization is what I did as Step 1 – teaching her The Strange Object is NOT THE ENEMY. So exposing her to the object at a distance or intensity that will not spook her and then slowly increasing intensity or decreasing distance. Till she finally is close enough and is realizing “This is not scary. It’s not going to hurt me”.

Counter-Conditioning is Step 2 of this process – teaching her that this non-enemy is actually HER FRIEND. So, basically, every time she is in the proximity of the object, treating her to something she loves. Eventually, as approaches the object, she starts expecting great things. In her mind “Tweezers are cool. They get me treats” and the very sight of this object makes her so happy.

We have since, used this method to deal with so many fears. We got her over her fear of water and taught her how to swim. In fact, we even taught the vet about it. When we took her to the vet and he had to clean her nostril, she started wriggling. We told him to slow down a bit and play the “boop” game and give her some treats. I had carried the treats with me that day. He was amused, but humored us. Now, he and Nishi are best of friends because she will let him do anything to her – Anything! The “boop” game is powerful 🙂

This is a video of Nishi swimming. 
Desensitization was achieved by us getting into the water.
We stood 2 feet apart and let her swim between the two of us.
We did this till she realized that she could swim then gradually increased distance
Since she loves to play, we used her favorite floating toy for Counter-Conditioning.

If anyone reading this has other suggestions on how they got their dog over irrational fears, please do leave comments. I would love to know.

Vacation Time!

We love road trips as a family

We are just back from a wonderful vacation. When we go on vacations, we insist on taking Nishi. Now that we have Tigger with us, it was a cozy family of 4 that headed out. Over the years we have picked up some useful tips & tricks along the way that make vacations that much easier. I thought this would be a good time to share those, while it’s fresh in my memory.

Preparations

There are no dearth of dog-friendly resorts these days. But there is a dearth of resorts that actually know what dog friendly means. It’s a good idea to get a first hand recommendation and then call and confirm that they are still dog friendly and will be ok with your dog. One of the resorts we went to a few years ago has suddenly turned non-dog friendly. The owner of the resort was never really a dog-person. I guess that was bound to happen. Another 5-star chain suddenly changed it’s policy to accommodate only dogs under 5kgs. What is that? A dog-cat? In any case…first hand recommendation and verification saves us from possible disappointment.
The second part of the preparation, and this should have started much sooner than the expected vacation dates itself – preparing the dog for car rides. With Nishi, we never had trouble. She was born for road trips and just loves it. But Tigger is different. She gets very car sick and starts vomiting in the car. When she came to us, understandably, she was also terrified of cars. We took 2 months to get her used to the car. We took her to places that she might like – parks, pet shops, to houses of friends who have dogs…generally convincing her that car rides are good. Today she jumps into the car herself or asks politely to be picked up and put in. Nice! Meanwhile we figured out how to deal with her vomiting. We just don’t feed her for a few hours before the drive and try to drive steady and smooth.
On the day of the vacation, it’s a really good idea to stick to your daily routine till the doggies have finished their morning business. We learned this the hard way. On Nishi’s first vacation, we were so excited that when we got up I started packing.  She immediately sensed that something was up, got excited and did not poop. And…the whole drive was…traumatic! She kept farting, but would not poop at any of the stops because the whole thing was too exciting for her. What was supposed to be a 7hr drive became a 9hr drive 🙂 Nowadays we wake up, try our best to pretend everything is normal, she goes out for a walk, she poops and THEN all the excitement starts. 
Dogs will need their own little bag packed. Let me try to create a nice little check list below.

Medicines

First come the standard generic medicines – pain killers, anti allergic and antacid. Pet vacations are usually amidst wilderness. One needs to be prepared for dust, stings, bites, thorns, ticks etc…I pack some eye drops, tweezers, cotton and NS (saline solution). We discovered that most of these places don’t have vets or pet pharmas and even if they do the focus is on big farm animals. No one has a clue what to do with a dog. As a precaution, we always have our vet on speed dial and also let him know that we are going on vacation. We often squeeze in a health check up before we leave, get any prescription medicine needed, describe to him the place we are heading to and get last minute advice from him, if any. Sometimes we try preventive tick and flea medicine. But we have now given up on that. One of my friends gave a brilliant recipie to fix the issue when we return and I think that works just fine for me. Here is the recipe. Thanks Chinthana 🙂
  1/2 bottle Apple Cider Vinegar
  1/2 bottle water
  1 tbsp neem oil
  Few drops of detergent
  Shake well – spray on dog or massage in – brush after dry

Bedding

We let Nishi & Tigger on our bed. However, not all hotel & resort owners are ok with that. We found that carrying her bed was comforting to resort staff. When we went on our first vacation, we stuffed a soft donut bed in the back seat and Nishi managed to sleep on it during the drive. When we got off, the resort owner saw the bed and I think I saw a look of relief on his face. 
Nishi’s first donut bed that went with her on her first vacation
Donut bed or no bed, our dogs politely request to get on the bed and I just can’t say no. But resorts insist on white sheets, not exactly ideal for snuggling with a furry creature on. In order to ensure our vacation is perfect in every way, we first get rid of any resort fleece & quilt as soon as we go, cover the entire bed with our own spread, that we carry from home and take back any vacation paw prints our dogs bring in for us, as momento from our vacation 🙂 It’s our dogs mess and we keep it.
Now, back to our first vacation, where we were not as wise. We did not carry a bedspread. It was during Diwali & the crackers scared Nishi. Come morning, to our horror, we discovered Nishi curled up near our feet, on the bed, looking happy to be there and the bed linen looked…well like a wet muddy dog and rolled in it. What can I say? Well…we went up to the resort owner and told him that our dog had stepped on the bedsheet and that we would be happy to pick up the cost of replacing the bedsheet. After all, we don’t want to be the idiots who got pets kicked out of there, making the option unavailable for all of you. Plus, we ourselves would want to go back again.

Leashes, Tethers, Collars & Harnesses

This is critical. Pet vacations tend to be in wilderness where there IS a risk of elephants, boars, bison, leopards & people. Erm…what I mean is…there is also the added dimension of other guests who do not like dogs. Keeping our pet out of the way of all of these “creatures” while still ensuring a good time for our pets is important if we have to have a pleasant vacation and be allowed to go back. 
We carry 1 retractable leash for Nishi, that is with us at ALL times. Retractables give us the flexibility

of how much we want to restrict her movement depending on the situation. On one vacation, we tuned a bend and saw bison! Yup! We had to quietly pull Nishi back, put her on the leash and move back. On another occasion a horse decided to chase her. Things happen! Yes, vacation with pets are definitely  quite adventurous.  

A leash is no use without something to strap it to. We have Nishi on a body-belt or breast-belt or harness at ALL times! We never take it off. But trouble is that Nishi just loves to swim. At the sight of any water body, she plonks herself in it. And we end up with a soaking, muddy harness. We cannot rule out rain either. Having an additional one can be handy.
Ground peg and 15mtr long tether
We also carry a 15mtr long tether. We put this down in the dining area where we tend to spend several hours during our vacation. Not all guests will appreciate a dog roaming around. To avoid unpleasant situations, when other guests trickle in and are eating, we keep the dogstethered. It’s also useful to keep her in sight after sun down. We don’t want her becoming a meal to some wild animal. We were told, on our first vacation that leopards found dogs particularly enticing and the locals had named them “Naayi Chirate”, meaning “Dog Cheetah”. Our routine when on vacation: we wake up when the sun is up, get as much of time in the sunlight. After sundown, she is put on a long tether till we finish dinner and drinks and we retire to the room.
I have seen a shorter version of this at Paws. The long one, with the peg is available at  Shreenidhi Vet Pharma, No. 49, Opposite to Veterinary College, Bellary Road, Ganganagar, Bangalore – 24. Ph: 23533238
Short Tether
A short tether is a nice to have, for road-site stops during the drive. Often we stop to get coffee or breakfast. We pick places with outdoor seating, where we can get the dogs out and tether them close by. But given these are highway eateries, a 15mtr tether will give her room to run on to the highway. A shorter tether is more convenient for these stops. But it’s not that hard to manage without it as well. The retractable will work too.
I have seen these occasionally at Glenands and Paws, the pet store.

Food

Most resorts that are pet friendly and have dogs of their own have been more than happy to feed our dogs too. But we still carry our own kibble, for a few reasons:
  1. Not all resorts oblige and we don’t want to be caught stealing food for our dog
  2. On several vacations, Nishi has been so excited that she has been unable to eat and just crashes at night. She then wakes up in the middle of the night and asks for food. We just leave a bowl of kibble in the room, with “Laksman Rekha” around it, for Nishi’s midnight repast.
  3. The food the resort serves might not always agree with our dog

We also carry a few additional bowls for water. One in our room and one kept near the dining area, where we spend a lot of time. It also reinforces in our dogs that this is the place to come back to when you are tired and done romping around.

Miscellaneous

Towels:  As I mentioned, Nishi loves to swim. On one vacation, she came back with a fungal growth

from these swims. Now, as a precaution, at the end of each day, she gets a fresh water bath. No soaps and chemicals. Just fresh water to get rid of the mud and anything else on her, and get her ready to climb into bed with us without covering us in slush. NO resort, however dog-friendly, will provide a towel for a dog, even in case of rain. Consequently we carry our own. The Furminator towel is a bit expensive but well worth it’s money. It’s so good that I went and bought one for myself to use at the gym. But now I cannot tell what is their towel and what is mine. I have given up using Furminator on myself. Paws & Dogspot sell the product online, while Glenands & Paws have it in store, in Bangalore.

Furminator Towel available at leading pet stores
Poop Scoop: Some resorts are in complete wilderness and have several dogs, cattle etc of their own. In such places, we have not found it necessary to clean up after her. But some others are more…how do I put this…upscale! In such places, we always clean up if our dogs poop. Afterall, we don’t want to be the ones who got the resort to change their pet policy 🙂
Etiquette: We have found that not all pet-friendly resorts are similar. Their level of comfort with dogs vary widely. Those that have dogs of their own tend to be more tolerent, but don’t count on it. Hence, we follow some ground rules. Even if they are pet-friendly, we don’t want guests to complain and get the resort management in trouble. Guests tend to be sensitive about dogs in dining areas. As a courtesy to such guests, when they are eating, dogs always go on leashes. If there are kids around, the dogs are kept on a leash and released ONLY if the parents tell us we can do so. Other than our own room, the dogs do not get into any other building without confirming that it’s ok. This goes for dining areas and common rooms as well. If those places are not dog-friendly, then we eat outside the area, where our dogs are allowed. Our room is kept as clean as possible – no paw prints on bedsheets, fleece, walls etc…No poop left on lawns, pathways, flooring etc…You get the drift…We are super cautious and sensitive to possible objections others might have. Even if we think it’s not justified, we are not in a majority and we don’t want to push our luck.

Off Leash Play: One of the main reasons we go on vacation is so that we can take the dogs off leash and let them run around like mad puppies. But off-leash play comes with it’s element of risk and we find it our responsibility to evaluate the risk and mitigate it. On Nishi’s first vacation, we tried it for short periods, taking her off the leash in bright day light, after having excersized her sufficiently, ensuring that she is not bursting with energy.  Whenever she disappeared out of site, we would call her and and walk in the opposite direction, teaching her that she needs to check on us regularly if she needs to know where we intend to go. We also have a conversation with the resort management about the size of the perimeter, wild animals if any, safe timings and possible electric fence timings. Last thing we want is for our dog to get electrocuted right. We ask the hosts if there is a large open space or maidan where we can take the mutts and let them off leash to run around. If the resort has dogs of it’s own, that Nishi manages to befriend, that is a good thing. We take that dog along on our walks. The host-dog knows it’s way around well and will usually guide Nishi back to the resort even if she gets lost. We also found that Nishi had a tendency to follow any human who decided to take a walk. Not all humans know how to handle Nishi. To avoid such situations, when we are in the room, Nishi is required to stay in the room with us. But if she runs around enough in the maidan, she is happy to relax in the room when we are relaxing. We have gradually built confidence to give her more freedom on these trips and she has proven to be a good wise girl, guiding her little sister as well.

Swimming:All dogs can swim. But most don’t know they can. Dogs don’t need to be taught to swim. They just need to be given confidence that they can. Once they gain the confidence they can enjoy it a lot. Our situation compelled us to teach Nishi that, as she needed it for physiotherapy. Vacations are good times to do that, but forcing a dog into water can be very traumatic for a dog and definitely not their idea of vacation. While Nishi jumps into water like she was born to swim, Tigger is currently not there yet. But I will be teaching her soon. Once I do, I’ll video it and write another blog on how I did it. Subscribe to my blog and watch this space for that how-to.

And Finally

Nishi never stops on vacations
Don’t bother with photos. I mean it! I tried very hard on our first vacation and failed miserably. Vacations are so exciting for Nishi that the only times I manage to get a picture is when she is passed out. Not much of a picture right? Now, we only shoot videos. It’s the only thing that manages to caputre the sheer energy and joy of a family vacation with pets. But a word of caution. The camera can be quite distracting. I pull it out only when I know that we are fully in the clear – no guests around, no cows & horses around, no main road in the vicinity etc…Then out comes the camera and I end up with hours of footage of pure madness and sheer joy. I can watch those videos a million times and each time it lifts my spirits and fills my heart with pristine. It’s all worth it and I recommend pet-vacations to everyone. Just do it!
Check out our vacation video and visit Nishi’s YouTube Channel for more vacation videos

Project Casa-de-Nishi Commences

We recently moved into our new home. It was not really our choice to move out of our old apartment, nor was the current choice of apartment something that thrilled us to bits. I want to say, we did not have much choice in the whole matter. But I refuse to say that and there is a truck load of ranting that will unload if I decide to discuss this. I’m guessing no one reading this blog would care for that truck load. So let’s just move on…

Anyways, our current apartment is half the size of the old one and clearly anyone would wonder if we have suffered attack on our coffers. Steering clear of the coffers issue, let me assure you that the real reason we moved into this house lies hidden outside the house. Yup…you heard me, we moved in for what was out – the garden.

I figured that I am out of the house for 12 hours a day. Uttam will perhaps do the same. So the only person who will be at home most of the time is Nishi. Oh yeah, I did call her a person. Anyone surprised by that? If you have read any of my previous blogs, then I guess not. So back to this “person”, who spends most of her time at home, I figured, that a house that works best for her would work best for our family. The garden space here is twice that of indoor space and so far, this arrangement has worked great for us.

Now that we are here, with such a massive garden, we got to think of gardening right? So I have been doing intense research on dog friendly gardens. I think my name should be Binary. My erstwhile bosses have mentioned and my sister often teases me that if I take up something it is with all gusto else I don’t give two hoots about it – All or Nothing 🙂 So in my gardening “all”, I have picked up several tips that I think might be very useful for pet owners. I am going to combine that with the infrastructural availability in India to present what best we can do in India for our doggies.

Dog-Friendly Garden Tip #1:  “Go for Container Gardening“. Meaning: take off everything from the floor and put them in containers of different kinds. This tip was repeated in almost all resources I referred. There are far too many ways in which dogs can destroy lawns – they can just charge up and down the lawn, dig it up furiously looking for God knows what, crap on it (and then you have to spend hours inspecting every sq centimeter of your lawn). Plus, the way Nishi bolts in and out of the garden, she brings in half the garden into the house. While I love the concept of living outdoors, I think Nishi and I have different notions of bringing the outdoors indoors. So, a filler like wood chips, gravel, tiles, sand etc are highly recommended.

I’ll briefly visit why I rejected most of the suggestions and settled on sand. Anything permanent like tiles or mosiac was out, as this is a rented house. I don’t intend to stay that long. So making something permanent sounded absurd to me. Wood chips could be dangerous because some dogs tend to chew on it. Nishi herself might not. But I frequently have other dogs over and I cannot risk them choking on splinters. Uttam was quite partial to pea gravel, but for me it was a big no no. Given Nishi’s poor hind legs, I was keen on providing her a soft surface. Plus, when there is a dog “pawrty”, some dogs get too excited and poop on the party…or during the party…whatever. Cleaning it up from gravel when I am in pencil heels is not an option for me. So, sand was eventual choice. As I write this blog, sand is being packed into the garden. Let’s see how that works out. If it does not, do follow this blog and you will be duly notified 🙂  

Now we come to the containers – the most exciting part. Containers don’t have to be boring pots. Any area with barriers will work. We started building out our first “container” yesterday – A spiral garden. I bought 200kgs of rocks from the nursery close to home and it took Uttam, Nishi and I a few hours to build this last night. I don’t know about Uttam, but Nishi and I had a blast. Nishi kept trying to add her toys into the spiral garden. She would come, inspect, sigh disapproval and then leave only to return with a toy and chuck it in. After the whole thing I played a few rounds of fetch with her and we wrapped up nice and muddy. Just the way we all like it. Wonder how long this vacation period will last. But for now, we are having fun. I will post more tips as I “unearth” them 🙂

The Beginning of a Spiral Garden – Part of Container Gardening

The Storm after the storm, with a capital S

By mid 2011, Nishi had already been to hell and back. Because of one critical mistake from us our 11 month old puppys face was driven over by a speeding cab. It took us several weeks to be convinced that she was not going to die. We stroked our puppys little head as she went through surgery after surgery for several months. We cried at each complication we discovered in her eye, nose, teeth, jaws etc…but Nishi led us through it bravely. Eventually we were contemplating a sigh of relief at having perhaps salvaged more or less a whole puppy and learning to come to terms that she was going to have some disabilities for life. And then all hell broke lose all over again.

We discovered that Nishi suffered from a degenerative genetic disorder called Patellar Subluxation. In simple English, the knee cap that keeps jumping out of it’s place. This is often experienced by humans. If you sat on the floor with your legs extending out in front of you and someone sat on your knee and shifted their weight around, your knee cap will slip out of it’s place. Don’t try to do this because, I have watched people experiencing this, scream out in pain and describe the pain as excruciating. But it’s very easy to fix as well. Imagine the knee cap to be held in place by springs. Tap on it lightly or kick your leg out and springs it right back into place.

Now with Patellar Subluxation, these springs are either in the wrong place or get lose. So the knee cap keeps jumping out frequently. Nishi would experience this while just running around in the park. She would kick her hind leg and it would slip back. But the frequency with which this happened started increasing. But we were still not too concerned. After all she was in pain just for a few seconds at a time and we had been through enough to even contemplate another complication with a puppy that had barely completed her first birthday. But of one of the subsequent visits was to reveal that we had no such luxury in story for us. We were informed that the problem was not the pain. The problem was that the knee cap moving so much would slowly start grinding down her bones till the nerve endings got exposed. When that happened, she would be in constant unbearable pain, which would only keep worsening with age. What did this puppy have in store? Whose brunt was she bearing?

With a heavy heart we prepared for another surgery. We learned that the bones would be sculpted to make the knee cap fit better and the spring mechanism would be tightened and repositioned so that it would hold the knee cap in firmly in position. We consoled ourselves that the procedure sounded simple enough. I mean, after an encounter where we were nervous we had left behind a part of her brain on the road. After that scare, this sounded relatively simple. So we went ahead.

After the surgery, the vet recommended that we leave her behind for post operative care. I knew that if we left her behind she would be in a crate. The thought of that made me shudder. We decided to stay home all day and take care of her till she recovered. We did physio every day, dressed her, iced her and gave her hot packages. She suffered through all of it without complaining. We were instructed to keep her tied at all times. But how could we do that to a puppy who had been through so much. So we just monitored closely. The irony in that effort can only be understood by someone who knows Nishi. One fine day she woke up to find that her pain had reduced a bit. So she started bolting around the house in the morning. Her leg was in a tight bandage that but that did not stop her. Keeping one leg stretched out, she was bolting on 3. We were relieved to see her in good spirits, smiled and gently insisted that she stopped playing.

We took her back for a check-up and the vet almost burst into tears. We were puzzled. She was in good spirits. We had done everything religiously. So what was he so upset about? Turned out that it had slipped out again and healed there, sticking it completely out of position. So she was actually still in pain, but was choosing to ignore it and just focus on play. So she was back under the knife. And again. And again.  She was in so much pain that there would be nights she would just sit up and stare into space for almost an hour, not moving, doing nothing. I would wake up and sit with her. I did not know what I could do to ease her pain. So I would just sit beside and and stare with her. Her leg was in a cast for so long that she lost all muscle mass in the leg. We could not take her on a walk because the walk could put pressure on the knee cap again, but she needed the exercise to build her muscles again. The situation was just going from bad to worse. So on the next scheduled surgery date, we said No!

Nishi’s leg in a splint, comforting herself with Teddy, her toy

We went for a second opinion and a third. What we learned there made me sick to my stomach. Turns out that this surgery is a super complicated one to start with. Success rates are very small. But it was indeed a degenerative condition, meaning it would get worse with age and surgery was the only solution. Where were we to go from here? We held each other and cried. Where had we gone wrong? Would our puppy, with boundless energy have to lose her leg? Were her best days behind her and every day bring with it new pain? We had started spiraling down a bottomless pit of darkness and despair.

But then there was a little voice inside our heads. If Nishi spoke out loud, her voice would perhaps sound like that. It asked told us “Do you see how Nishi has put blind faith in you and followed you down every path you have asked her to take. She has faith in you. Why do you not have that faith?”. We picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and got to work.

What ensued was intense research. We spoke to as many qualified people as possible. We looked up what was done in other countries. We explored alternate medicine. We inquired on what was done to humans. The only viable option that emerged was swimming as physiotherapy. So we searched every nook and cranny of the city for a pool that would admit her. We asked all pools and no one would admit a dog. Finally we came across Paw n Claw. The pool would only be open on weekends. We met the owner Adnan Querishi, who would turned out to be her angel in disguise. He took one look at her, heard her story so far, and graciously agreed to accommodate her every day.

Thus started swimming! Short snout dogs really do not like swimming. They struggle in the water. So we got into the pool with her and slowly taught her confidence. We took her favorite toy into the pool. There was no way we would stress her out any more. So we did everything we could to ease her into the water, literally and figuratively. Soon she gained confidence. Within a week she started looking forward to her swimming sessions. She would get super excited as soon as we stated driving towards the pool. We would take her swimming 4-5 days a week, for two and a half months and it was a joy to watch each time. She swam for 2 hours a day, every day for several weeks.

Fast forward to today. I invite all of you to cubbon park to watch her run. It is a joy to watch. And when you know what she has been through, it will move you to tears. She swims like a pro and leaps into any water body she encounters with unbounded joy. She jumps up to hug her favorite humans and showers them with all her love. She runs like the wind, chasing anything that moves. She is my hero. Her heart has more courage than I am confident I can muster. She is a role model. One we were close to losing so many times. But all it required was a little faith on our part. It would have been so easy to give up. Several times we had people telling us that “others” would have given up. But today, when we look at her, we know that we did the right thing by not giving up on her.

Nishi swimming like a pro and her never-give-up attitude
 
Nishi running like the wind!