Animal House – Pet Care

Just scroll down to find your Sally Ross article – in order of published date: From street dog to diabetes alert dog;  The joy of adopting a street dog, What’s in a dog’s name, Training tips for your dog, Vetting the vet’s advice, What to do when your pet goes AWOL, Is it time to say “goodbye?”, See Spot fly

From street dog to diabetes alert dog (DAD) – she could save your life.

Sally Ross, a Mazatlan resident for 29 years, has embarked on a new career. She’s crazy. She’s crazy about dogs, cats, chickens and iguanas. She’s also crazy smart. When she was three years old she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, then called juvenile diabetes. Now she has combined her love of dogs with her type 1 diabetes. She is taking the rigorous ADI course – Assistance Dogs International – with the intention of training her street dog, Tania,  into a service dog to assist people with type 1 diabetes. It’s possible for a diabetic to die during the night; a service dog can sense the symptoms through smell and save their life. This is a long and complicated journey. Below are notes from her diary.

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Sally Ross with Tania

The fast facts on diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce the insulin it needs. Type 2 diabetics may take oral medication, but type 1 diabetics must inject insulin as the body produces no insulin whatsoever. Type 1 diabetics must maintain a careful balance between exercise, carbohydrate intake, and insulin injections to avoid complications. High sugar levels (hyperglycemia), will eventually lead to complications including blindness, limb loss and kidney failure but low sugar levels (hypoglycemia), are frequently fatal if not treated immediately. Diabetics run the danger of becoming accustomed to the feeling of low blood sugar levels and may not be aware of the danger facing them, especially when asleep.

The guidelines for Assitance Dogs International, ADI

Remember the Beslan school hostage crises? This was in September 2004 which involved 777 children taken as hostages, and 380 people died. ADI brought in therapy dogs to assist the students. Internationally recognized, ADI is an umbrella for the following three: assistance dogs: assist the blind, the deaf, and those in a wheelchair; service dogs provide a service -scent, etc; and therapy dogs to provide emotional support.

Part 1

Dogs have been recognized as “man’s best friend” for many years, but the true potential of these animals is just beginning to be recognized. Canines depend on their sense of smell just as humans depend on their vision. Not only are dog nasal membranes at least 50 times larger than human membranes but their two nostrils operate entirely independently of each other. Dogs are gifted with the ability to detect scents that the human being cannot distinguish, including the chemical changes caused by a diabetic’s sugar imbalance. Their noses are so efficient that they can identify a diabetic imbalance 15 minutes before even a glucometer (glucose testing machine), can identify the problem. ADI certified dogs are required to be able to assist the diabetic in three very important ways: 1) identify the problem, 2) notify the person they have been trained to advise, and 3) bring the appropriate medical equipment.

Assistance dogs were initially bred from carefully selected Labradors and retrievers, but some programs (Dogs for the Deaf out of Medford Oregon, for example) are having great success with training rescued shelter dogs. As a type I diabetic, it is my goal to have Tiania, my drastic street dog rescue, trained to be my diabetes alert dog. My vision (and I am determined) is to eventually open an assistance dog school with ADI certified trainers here in Mazatlan to train rescued dogs to be to be Diabetes Alert partners. Stay on this page for diary notes as I learn more and more about this complicated process.

Part 2: Notes from Sally’s DAD Diary:

A Diabetes Alert Dog (DAD) trainer at the Karen Pryor Clicker Conference commented about the difficulty of accumulating sufficient hypoglycemia/hyperglycemia samples with which to train the dogs. I commented that this may not be an issue for me as I am a diabetic, to which she responded, “you are so lucky!” – and immediately apologized, but I am still laughing. Medical corporations have been unable to isolate the chemical that Diabetes Alert Dogs smell, so trainers depend on diabetics to supply carefully collected and stored samples for dog trainers.

I have been accumulating and storing samples in an uncontaminated environment and was confident about my quantity of supplies but to my surprise I am almost out after less than two weeks of having trained Tania in scent detection.

Non-diabetics maintain sugar levels of 80-120, a diabetic strives to stay over 100, but under 200 (after meals) to avoid complications. I felt “funky” the other evening and tested in at a whopping 48. Once again I recognize the importance of a Diabetes Alert Dog that immediately alerts to levels dropping below 80 or rising above 200. I could not take samples to train Tania, however, as she needs to recognize levels long before they drop this low. Interesting point, Diabetes Alert Dogs identify sugar level imbalances almost an hour before a glucometer identifies them.

I am working with Tania’s scent detection skills with people. Scent detection for Zeuss (the purebred toy poodle) will start upon my return for the CARAT Conference (Clothier Animal Response Assessment Tool) to be held in Chicago early next week, and Nika, my black lab street rescue, is much happier lying on the couch or stalking Minnie the Guinea so her DAD training is going to the wayside though she makes an excellent security/guard dog.

April 2013: It feels so good to be home after having attended 7 dog-oriented seminars and conferences over the last 6 months. Now I can finally settle down and focus on my project of training street/rescue dogs to become Diabetic Alert Dogs. I started training 3 (of my 6) dogs with relatively predictable results. Nika, the 8-year old black lab street rescue who lived at Casa Nika Bazaar with limited human contact for several years is really not interested in scent training. Zeuss, the obnoxiously tenacious purebred toy poodle that I had purchased as a 6-week old puppy who barks insistently when food is left on the table has shown his exceptional scent abilities and may be destined to dominate the first chapter of this project. He has also convinced Nika to surf the counter tops and bring scraps down to his level. She graciously accedes if for no other reason than to get him to shut his mouth.

Tania, the extreme Cerritos rescue, has exceeded my expectations with her quiet, diligent attention. She presently identifies sugar imbalances and gets my attention by pawing me after which she is learning to nudge my hand to show me my sugar is low or to sit to tell me my sugar is high. This part of the training has been relatively simple but it will be a much greater challenge to get her to respond to my sugar level imbalances outside of the training atmosphere.

The joy of adopting a street dog

 By Sally Ross and other happy adopters

(A hot tip about skin cancer…We protect our skin against the dangerous elements of the environment with sun bonnets and sun screen, but how often do we think about the dangers of the sun for our fourlegged friends? White cats are especially vulnerable to melanoma and should not be allowed outside. The sweet white cat at the top of El Faro is a sad example as his bloody ulcerated ears are not the result of cat fights but rather by exposure to the sun and corresponding skin cancer. If you are interested in adopting a house cat, please give special consideration to the white ones as their environmental requirements limit their adoption possibilities.

Regular white dogs do not run the same risks of skin cancer as white cats due to genetic and hereditary factors but albino dogs are even more vulnerable. True albino dogs are very rare. Regular white dogs have some dark pigmentation on their bodies but albinos have no melanin and their entire body, including skin, paws, nose, mouth, and eyelids are pink while their retinas are light grey. Animals thrive with attention so what better way could there be to establish a happy relation with your new pet than to acquire one that must stay indoors with you! Depending on the animal, of course.)

You see these dogs stumbling around town and find even more in Cerritos. They have that hollow, vacant look in their eyes. They are skinny, frequently crippled from painful car accidents, and often covered in sickening black mange. But below the surface of these mournful-looking creatures is a beauty and love that is so immense that it is difficult to fathom – until you have adopted one.

But don’t take my word for it, listen to happy guardians who took the risk, and brought one of man’s best friends home.

SassyAlison and Sassy: Rescuing, saving and adopting a street animal is the greatest reward possible. Ed, my husband, wanted Sassy the moment he laid eyes on her. I was not too sure at first. She was two days away from being ‘put down’ we were told. She was covered with sores on 40% of her body with bald patches on her skin. She had a fungal infection in both ears and she looked like a very sick dog. However, when we sat in front of the cage and looked into her eyes, we were hooked. She had ‘human eyes’ that we felt were beseeching us to save her. That was it! We took her home ‘as is’ and after numerous visits to Dr. Marco and house calls from Dr. Cesar, we brought Sassy back to health. It took a few months to get her completely healthy but we have never regretted our decision to adopt this sweet little girl.

Sassy is now a beautiful, healthy and rambunctious little thing with a glistening and shiny coat. Not a day goes by when she reminds us how fortunate we are to have adopted her. She is not only protective of her home and her ‘parents’ but also protective of her brother Otis whom she lovingly bullies. She shows her love and gratitude in so many ways and she always brings a smile to our faces. The days of being a street dog, homeless, starving and sick are far behind her and she appreciates her home and family. Ed and I can’t imagine our lives without Otis and Sassy. We love them and although they do tie us down to a point, we would not have it any other way. We are humbled by the unconditional love and gratitude they shower on us.

There are so many homeless dogs and cats that need a permanent home filled with love. If you can open your hearts to them and make them a part of your life, you will never regret it. SAVE A LIFE AND ADOPT A DOG!

Rick and Libby: On March 18, 2012 I had just finished having a cocktail on the Malecon at sunset. I wasn’t very hungry so I just ordered a little sushi as an appetizer before going home for dinner. Fortunately I took the rest home with me. Walking home I went through the Plazuela Machado to Liberdad. There I came across a dog rummaging through the garbage for something to eat. I thought “well you probably know where the leftovers are going, don’t you?” The most adorable dog came up to me reluctantly, but once she smelled what I had, she was overjoyed. Needless to say she finished all of the tuna and rice rolls that I had brought home. Well, at that point she started to follow me home and I told her “no, you have a collar and you belong to someone.” My friends were instantly enamored and, I told them “NO”. We sat at the corner of Liberdad and Benito Juarez at which point she jumped on my shoulders and licked my head and chewed my ears. Once again my friends became enamored with her and I fell instantly in love, but once again, I had to remind them that she had a collar and belonged to someone.

I led her back to the street of Liberdad at which point she found another garbage bag to feed from. I went home and left her to the street. After having dinner I put my plate down and announced that I was returning to find the dog. Lawrence, my partner, told me “if you come home with a dog, know that I’m ok with that”. So off I go in search for her. I got to Benito Juarez and had to hook around the corner to Liberdad when I heard a yelp. I just knew that it was her. When I rounded the corner almost all of the neighbors were outside to see what all the commotion was about. I found her sitting on the sidewalk in front of a house. I asked the man at the door if the dog was his and he said “no”. A woman came up to me crying and saying, “the poor dog, the poor dog”. I asked if it was hers and she said, “no, that it had belonged to the woman next to the house that the dog was sitting in front of.” She had told me that the woman who owned her had thrown her out to the streets. Another man came up to me and asked me in English if I was going to care for the dog. I told him that I was, and picked her up from the sidewalk. I had to pick her up because someone had come out of their house and hit her with a stick- that’s why she was crying. Enough to break one leg and fracture the other one. The first woman thanked me profusely for taking her home, as did her brother. Walking home I had another man tell me what a good thing I was doing. We called a vet to come and check her. He took her to his office, put a cast on her leg, gave her all her shots, dewormed, deflead, spayed, and treated her eye infection. He finally gave us a health certificate to bring her to the states. At home in Mazatlan she received the new name of “Libby”; since she was found on the street of “Liberdad” her Spanish name is Liberdad and her English name is Libby. Arriving in Denver, we took her to our vet where she has had surgery. Now Libby has a plate and two screws in her broken leg. She was in a cast for three months, and is recouping beautifully.


LindaNenaLinda and Nena:
I have four cats and two dogs. All four cats, Pancho, Luna, Deuce and Gris were sheltered/ street rescued in Tijuana. As was Sonic, my “toodle” – terrier and poodle mix. I was very happy with my family’s dynamics and they quickly adapted to living in Mazatlán – mainly because the summer heat and humidity crept up on us all.

I started volunteering twice a week at the shelter bathing the dogs, as a way of justifying the number of abandoned street dogs I was bringing in. While working one day, I noticed a little black dog (schnauzer mix) that I thought needed some time away from the shelter and the other dogs in her cage. As it so often happens, when one fosters a dog, one often falls in love. So I adopted her and I named her Nena. After a rocky beginning, she was accepted into our family by everyone else. Nena had originally been diagnosed with hip dysplasia after taking a dive off the Malecón onto the rocks below trying to evade Sally who was trying to rescue her. It doesn’t seem to bother her much anymore; especially when she tears around the house running for the sheer joy of running. She’s a good traveler too, despite the many hours spent on the road. Sonic, Nena and I have travelled to California several times now.

Tracey and Poppy: Recently I’ve read a short story by B. Traven called Amistad. It’s about a French restauranteur in Mexico City who feeds a street dog and eventually comes to see the dog as his pet. Every day the dog comes at the same time, sits quietly in the restaurant doorway, and gazes lovingly at the restauranteur. The Frenchman feeds the dog and gazes back with love and adoration. He can’t believe the manners and patience of the hungry animal and is truly impressed with the dog’s apparent understanding of respectful boundaries. One day, (a particularly bad day in the life of that big city restauranteur), for no fault of the doggy, he throws a rock hard bread roll at him while he is sitting quietly in the doorway staring lovingly as usual. The dog, being used to street abuse and expecting no forever love, doesn’t move or flinch as the roll comes hurtling towards him, and after he is hit, and has the roll at his feet, only stares up at the restauranteur with sadness in his street dog eyes. The story doesn’t end there. It becomes a tale of humans and animals and the commonality of feeling between them. I could be wrong, or lost in translation, but I think the story is saying that the way dogs and humans bond and break bonds, is very similar. Don’t we all love to see those National Geographic specials showing huge tigers and lions with their arms wrapped lovingly around a human? Dogs and animals bond with us forever and a street doggy, (in Spanish called a callejero), probably bonds more readily than any other rescue animal. Poppy The Doggy, aka, Popsy, Poopsy, Popsicle, The Popster, Poppy Poopy Pants, Princess Poppy, and my favourite, Mi Chiquita Poppita, is one of those that never expected forever love and so the joy of being her ‘adopter’ is simply wonderful. She has endless appreciation for any care I give her. She only wants to please. She wants to understand the rules so she can stay. She is profoundly loyal. Nice things are a huge joy to her. I love to see her happy. Watching her rest peacefully and sleep deeply is an immense joy for me because for a very long time people would pass by her in that awful place she was abandoned, and they would say, “Someone should put that poor thing out of its misery.” I’m convinced she has a maturity beyond my own and her eyes can look deep into your soul. She loves the rules and the boundaries. She has boundless appreciation for every little thing. A dear friend once said about doggies: “All they really want is to be near us.” Street dogs yearn for that. And they keep us close to the true joys of life which are giving and sharing.


MielJim and Miel:
Miel came into our lives about seven years ago, and we have been enriched ever since. Lesley (my wife) and I have had dogs as pets for most of our 38 years of married life. We’ve loved them all and they all returned the affection.
But Miel is different, because she was “rescued”. It meant at first she was reluctant to give her love and affection to this strange couple of humans that had entered her life. The previous humans in her life had not treated her well. However, after a couple of months, when she realized we just wanted that from her, our lives and Miel’s changed. I call her Lesley’s “sombra” (shadow). She will literally not leave her side. The degree of commitment between those two females is impossible to describe, unless one sees it in reality. Lesley goes to the bathroom. Miel, sleeping peacefully (by appearances) goes to the bathroom with her. Lesley leaves her comfortable sofa (where Miel is inevitably lying too) to go to the kitchen and Miel follows. When we go to dinner in the plaza, Miel follows – and lies at the feet of the subject of her undying affection.

She likes me too – especially when Lesley is back visiting family in Canada for a few weeks or at a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment. She becomes my sombra for an hour or two or for a couple of weeks. But, when Lesley returns, her sombra returns. When that sombra leaves us, to go to what surely will be doggie heaven, it will be one of the saddest days of our lives. If Miel only knew what richness she has brought to our lives. But now other humans do.


Boochie-2Sally and Boochie:
My heart was broken when I had to have my nine month old purebred cocker spaniel puppy euthanized due to dysplasia issues. Street rescue “Boochie”, with her skinny hair-less body and bloody infected eye, did not seem like a good candidate to replace Leila-Boopsie but she quickly became the love of my life with her sweet sympathetic personality and unquestioning dedication. She sits quietly when I leave but dances enthusiastically upon my return and gives true merit to the expression “a woman’s best friend”. I absolutely adore her and am so glad that she came into my life.

Adopting an ex-street dog is a rewarding venture, but there are certain realities which should be taken into consideration for optimal results.

Do not bring your new adoptees directly home if you already have a dog. Let them meet on neutral territory where your original pets will not feel threatened. They may be a bit confused when you first take them in as they probably once had a home and some basic training but were dumped when the novelty of having a dog wore off. Now they have another chance to enjoy life and will become more energetic and enthusiastic as their health and confidence improve. Contact Mireya Millan at the “Escuela Psicología Canina Millan” for dog training guidance. Her rates are reasonable and she is assisted by her bilingual husband when necessary, phone 981-2635 or (669) 160-9480.

It is important to be aware of some of the common canine diseases and how to prevent or treat them. Street dogs frequently have mange, unsightly skin condition caused by mites burrowing under their skin, because their immune system has been compromised. There are two common types of mange. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious but is easily treatable while demodectic mange (passed from the mother to puppy while suckling) is not contagious but will involve simple ongoing treatment. Take your dog to the vet for a skin scraping to determine the cause of any skin irritations.
Ehrlichia is a virus that is spread by tick bites. It is very common in all dogs in our tropical climate, not just street dogs. Symptoms include lack of appetite, diminished energy, and difficult muscle coordination. It can be fatal though is easily treatable with tetracycline if caught in its early stages. Take your dog to your vet for a simple blood test if you have any doubts. “Moquillo”, or distemper, is a contagious viral disease with very poor prognosis. All dogs should be vaccinated against it; puppies are especially vulnerable and should get their first vaccinations when they are 6-8 weeks old. Distemper is spread through contact with infected body fluids including nasal or ocular secretions, feces, urine, and food and water. Symptoms include runny nose, eye discharge, twitching, and thickening of the footpads.

Two simple rules: Rule #1: Take your new dogs to the vet and have them checked out.
Rule #2: Take photos. From the very beginning, take photos, create a photo album. You will not believe the difference a day makes.

What’s in a dog’s name?

My dog Paloma (dove)

Naming your dog may not be as serious as naming a child but it does have its careful considerations as dogs will respond to the name they have become familiar with. Most Mexicans choose the name of their new four-legged canine friend in a spontaneous manner by naming them after the first thing that occurs to them upon seeing the new dog. The name of male dogs typically ends in the masculine “O” while female dogs with the feminine “A”.

The physical features of the new animal are very important when naming a dog, especially the color. Black dogs will most likely be called Negro/a (Blackie), light brown dogs Canelo/a, (Cinnamon), multi-colored dogs Pinto/a (Spotted) while popular all- white dogs may become Blanco/a (white) or Paloma (dove). Fur is another very influential factor in the naming of the new dog. A very furry dog may be known as Peludo/a (hairy), Peluche (stuffed animal toy), or Greñas (shaggy hair) while dogs with limited or no fur are often stuck with the uncomplimentary name of Pelon (baldie). Some other logical options are Pirata (pirate) for a dog with a spot over one eye, Oso (bear) for a large heavy-set dog, Pulgas (flea) or Chiquita (little one) for small affectionate animals, Loco (crazy) for rambunctious dogs, Bigotes (moustache) for dogs with distinct side-burns, and Orejas (ears) for those with long hanging ears.

Many foreign names have become popular in the local community. Gringo may be the name given to a dog donated or left behind by North American owners. Rocky will always represent the heroics of Sylvester Stalone, Bingo is a logical favorite, and Kaiser may be used for serious, stately dogs. Some names can get confused in the translation, however. Be careful when calling out to your dog named Zeuss (Spanish spelling)… “Hey-ZEUSS!” as you may end up with a gentleman named Jesus at your door wondering why you found it necessary to yell at him. If you named your doggie after Chubbacca, from Star Wars, and call him Chuy for short then you are in trouble again. Chuy is the nickname for Jesus! Avoid Boochie which translates into animal neck. Poopy is the literal phonetic translation of puppy given to his best friend by a very dedicated English student at the local elementary school. Vacinika means potty and is typically shortened to LaNika…what does that say about Casa Nika Bazaar…home of the potty? Nah, home of the party.

There are several unusual names used in reflection of Spanish humor. Como Tú (just like you) is a popular Mexican joke:

Cómo se llama tu perro?

What’s your dog’s name?

Como Tú

Like you.

Perdón pero le pregunté cómo se llama su perro!

Excuse me but I asked what your dog’s name is!

Como Tú!

Like you!

Oye, ($$&#*@$&#*@) te pregunté cómo se llama tu ($#$#@) perro! Andas borracho o qué?

DANG IT, fool! I asked what your (E.D.) dog’s name is. Are you drunk or what?

No, Señor, es que mi perro se llama “COMO TU”!

Nope, my dog’s name is indeed “Like You”.

Be careful around dogs names Sin Calzones (without underwear) as they have the reputation of attacking aggressively and tearing everything off their helpless victims leaving them with no clothing whatsoever, not even their interior clothing. SoloVino (came alone) is a very special name for that very special dog that showed up alone one day… and never left. SoloVino steals your heart with big wistful eyes and hopes to become a permanent part of your family by showing you unlimited love, affection, and dedication.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the variety of dog names available. Sit down with a pen and paper and start writing down everything that occurs to you while watching or thinking about your dog and translate it into Spanish. Take your finalized list to a trusted Mexican friend before making any final decisions, however, to prevent any misunderstandings.

Young puppies easily learn their new name but teaching a dog a name other than that which they grew up with can take a bit more time. Mireya Millan, (Escuela de Psicologia Canina Millan 981-2635) suggests calling the dog their new name while offering them a tempting snack. They will associate the name they hear with good things and quickly adapt to their new identity.

Training tips for your dog

Perhaps you have a new wo/man’s best friend in the family, or maybe you have finally come to the conclusion that you have lost control of your household, and it’s time to regain power over your pets. I used to compete for the coveted title of “most uncontrolled canine companions” but dog psychologist, Mireya Millan, gave me valuable advice that has had a tremendous affect on my household. Perhaps her wisdom, combined with my experience, can help you too.

On house training – crates and pads

There are many theories and practices of house training. If you have a puppy, house training is your first task and your first test of understanding, and establishing who the boss is. It’s the very beginning of discipline followed by a reward – without making your puppy feel ashamed. There will be frustrating sessions you’ll share with your puppy; some dogs understand it immediately, and some just don’t get it. Remember, most puppies do not realize what they are doing, nor do they have the muscular control to hold their movements until they are about eight weeks old. Gentle encouragement is always welcome. Pet stores sell puppy pads which are a plastic lined fabric with special scents that encourage the animal to pee on them. Eventually you move them to the preferred relief area. Adult diapers offer the same option at a more economical price. Just moisturize the diaper with your puppy’s urine.

For me, however, the best way to house train is with a crate. Crate training takes advantage of a dog’s reluctance to soil his small home while providing a familiar enclosed area that alleviates his anxieties. The dog will come to know the crate as his sanctuary, so it’s vital the crate should never be used for punishment purposes. The key to crate training is timing. Puppies will relieve themselves 15 or 20 minutes after having eaten or drunken water, so plan your schedule around that. Be sure to take him outside after meals, after naps, before bedtime, and possibly if he whimpers during the night. Avoid returning him to the crate immediately; he should be allowed to play a little after peeing. You don’t want the crate to signal the end of his freedom.

Adult male dogs which have not been neutered, urinate incessantly to mark territory and to show dominance. I recommend having your male dog neutered as soon as possible (see article below, “Vetting the vet’s advice”, on veterinary suggestions for timing). I have had numerous adopted male dogs neutered after they had reached adulthood and within weeks, because hormones need time to adjust, the constant urinating does dissipate. Male or female dogs that suddenly start peeing out of character may have a urinary tract infection. Urinary tract infections are common and very uncomfortable; pets look for a way of relieving their discomfort by peeing in new areas. It’s important to get them to the vet quickly. The solution is often as simple as a change in diet, or regime of antibiotics.

Come! Sit!

Teaching your dog the COME command is one of the most important training lessons. Some dogs are allowed to roam freely. Others slip off their leashes. When your dog is not at your side he is not under your control and therefore vulnerable to his own whims and desires. Consequences may include getting involved in a dog fight or going into unwelcome areas and scaring people. But there is no greater horror than the sight of your dog running desperately between cars on a busy street and refusing to obey the “come” command. To teach your dog the come command you must show him that it is a rewarding activity to participate in. He will hesitate to respond if he thinks that coming to you means that the party is over, time to go home, back to work. Start by taking your dog to a relatively enclosed area where he will not be distracted and you have his full attention. State “come” and offer him treats. Hold them over his head so he will sit. With tasty treats, he will learn quickly. Wait until he looks you in the eye, instead of at the food, to give him his prize. Now he will associate the positive reinforcement with you, and not with the food. After he has become adept at responding to your command in a private area, take him to larger space with more distractions and continue building on getting him to concentrate on you – instead of on surrounding activities.

Stop barking! Collars, cans, and water sprays

Is there anything more annoying than a dog that barks incessantly all day… and even worse, all night long? The problem becomes exaggerated because dogs are companion animals so if one dog starts to bark, the others will instinctively join in. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, the most acceptable being the presence of a stranger or some unusual circumstance. The truth is, that most dogs bark due to boredom or lack of training. Before leaving him home alone try taking him for an extensive exercise – there’s a good chance he may nap in your absence. But what about your neighbor’s dog? Possibly your neighbor is not aware of the yapping; the owner has left the building so a friendly conversation such as “did you know Blanco never stops barking…” may resolve the problem. May.

The more I verbally scold my little poodle, the more he yaps and gets excited. Now I have learned that the sharp sound of a magazine hitting my palm immediately shuts him up. I’ve also read that if you fill up a tin can with pesos, duct tape a lid, and shake it hard, that will teach him to stop barking. When the barking stops, leap into an enthusiastic tone and a treat should soon follow. My cocker barks and runs around in hysterical circles whenever it starts to rain or sprinkle. I want to comfort her, yet she must cease the annoying barking. I’ve found if I lower my voice to a tone of authority I have won her confidence and she calms down. Nika, my black lab, was barking aggressively and lunging at anybody who dared to walk by my front door. The problem was, I was never there to scold her on the spot. In desperation I purchased a citronella bark collar which “humanely and effectively deters excessive barking”; as advertised on Amazon ($50 US), the collar actually resolved the problem in less than two days. If Nika barks now the collar emits a gentle citrus spray mist – this startles her and she stops barking right away. I cannot recommend this collar highly enough; however, in spite of the manufacturer’s claims, the collar does spray when another dog barks, so should only be used in single-dog households. I also purchased from Amazon, the Pet Safe Ultrasonic Indoor Bark Control, with fairly decent results. The bark activates a harmless two second ultrasonic tone which only the dog can hear. Your dog learns to associate the bothersome tone with its barking. Certain pets are more affected than others, so I use it sparingly.

Ok, then you have the neighbor’s dog that goes off full blast all day long, all night long, does not let you sleep, and you have absolutely HAD it! The friendly conversation about Blanco has clearly not worked. I do not recommend outdoor ultrasonic bark control machines because their effectiveness is blocked by walls and other natural boundaries. The best option available is found at the local toy store. The super duper oversized water gun! Be sure to get a gun with a long enough range to reach your target and with a sufficiently strong water stream. The gun has the same affect as other training tools – startling the animal and discouraging him from continuing with his unacceptable behavior. A word of caution, be aware of your surroundings; you may not want to get caught on a roof in your night clothes playing with an oversized squirt gun at 2:00 a.m.!

For more in-depth and specific obedience dog training, I recommend Mireya Millan of “Escuela Psicologia Canina Millan” (sister of dog whisperer, Cesar Millan) who achieves excellent results in a short time, at reasonable prices. She does not speak English but she brings her bilingual husband to classes when appropriate. You can reach Mireya on her land line: 981-2635 or her cell: 669 160-9480.

Vetting the vet’s advice

For years, I have been relying on the advice of three wise men. I am fortunate to draw upon the knowledge of these three Mazatlan veternarians; Dr. Rafael Aguilar, Dr. Marco Antonio Cardenas and Dr. Cesar Duarte. I suggest you meet them all and apply an old fashioned remedy – go with your gut. Who do you like, respect, and want to treat your animal? Perhaps the answer is all three. I interviewed the doctors and asked their opinions and preferences for vaccinations, spaying options, and nutrition. Below are their answers.

The shots

Distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and lepostirosis are prominent in Mazatlan. They are highly contagious and frequently fatal. I had been too relaxed about having all my dogs vaccinated on a regular basis, until the newest member of the family died of distemper (moquillo), throwing me into a hysterical panic to get the rest inoculated before it was too late. Dr Marco Antonio recommends deworming puppies when they are 30 days old if the mother had been dewormed, or 15 days old if not, and a follow up treatment 15 days later for all.

Puppy vaccinations should start at six weeks for distemper, parvovirus, and kennel cough; at nine weeks for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus coronavirus and parainfluenza; at 12 weeks for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza and lepostirosis. These should be followed by vaccinations for rabies and giardia. Dr. Marco Antonio recommends starting heartworm treatment when a dog is three months old. If a dog has been in a mosquito-infested area, tests for heartworm should begin sooner than three months. He vaccinates his adult dogs against distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza, hepatitis, lepostirosis and rabies once a year and follows up with giardia and kennel cough (nasal vaccinations) three weeks later. Heartworm medication should be taken on a monthly basis.

Dr Cesar raised a crucial point: a puppy whose mother was vaccinated should not receive vaccinations until ten days after they are weaned as they will still have her defenses in their systems. If the mother was not vaccinated or her status is unknown, puppies should receive their shots when they are about five weeks old and continue through a series of a total of three sets of vaccinations given over a 10 week period. He recommends yearly multiple vaccinations, monthly heartworm treatment, and can provide Frontline for tic and flea control at discounted prices from bulk purchasing.

Dr Rafael’s top priority is to get the animals protected with their vaccinations as soon as possible. Puppies can be vaccinated at a minimum of six weeks but must not have their mother’s antibodies as the additional vaccines will block each other out and destroy all the immunity. He starts with a multiple vaccination for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, coronavirus and parainfluenza, repeats the same treatment two weeks later, and adds lepostirosis on the third and final vaccination. He feels that the necessity of other vaccinations depends on the environment where the animal will stay. Kennel cough (bordatela) is only necessary if the animal will be left in a kennel, giardia is not common in Mazatlan. Rabies shots should be given once a year for two years after which they can be given once every three years.

The neutering

Proyecto Animales de la Calle (PAC) has a pretty poignant poster in local vet offices showing how many offspring are created from one unfixed female cat in an amazingly short amount of time. It is a shocking eye-opener to realize that one unfixed female cat can be responsible for the reproduction of 376 cats in three years and an astonishing 11,801 cats in five years. Male cats yeowl, fight and leave a horrendous spray. Male dogs urinate incessantly to mark territory, may become aggressive, and will leave home in search of that lovely female dog that is in heat. Female dogs go into heat every six months… do the math. When should an animal be spayed or neutered?

Dr. Cesar recommends neutering male puppies at three to four months of age, once the testicles have dropped. He admits that his preference to spay female puppies and kittens after their first heat is controversial but feels it is important for the animal’s hormones to be fully developed to avoid hair and skin problems in later years.

Dr. Rafael recommends neutering male dogs when they are between three and half and five months old and emphasizes the importance of spaying female dogs before their first heat as 90% of female dogs that are fixed before their first heat remain free from mammary cancer. He says kittens should weigh 1 kilogram before being operated on, regardless of their age.

Dr. Marco Antonio discussed the importance of spaying a female dog before its second heat (estrus) to prevent mammary cancer. 05% of females spayed before their first heat, 8% of females spayed before their second heat, and 26% of females spayed after their second heat are diagnosed with this disease. He recommends spaying male dogs before they turn 5 months old or they will start marking territory.

Although Dr. Marco Antonio recommends spaying and neutering cats before they are 5 months old, he insists that they must be healthy, should have been vaccinated, and prefers to test adopted felines for heartworm, feline leukemia, and feline HIV before operating.

The diet

Over the years I’ve learned what my dogs can eat and tolerate. For instance my Niña likes The North Beach Diet – fishermen proudly feed her tasty raw chicken legs. She enjoys her chicken cuisine and has miraculously turned into one large, healthy aggressive beach dog. But Niña is the exception to the rule. Be very careful with uncooked meats as they quickly spoil and even worse, avoid chicken and fish bones at all cost as they may splinter in the dogs stomach causing invisible internal bleeding that can result in a slow painful death.

Dr. Cesar explains that some fresh fruits and vegetables including apples, broccoli, carrots and lettuce provide excellent nutrition and snacks for your dog but cautions against avocados, grapes, and nuts which can be poisonous. He recommends dry dog food (croquetas) as their rough texture helps to clean the teeth and suggests putting children’s toothpaste on a small toothbrush for a quick simple dental cleaning.

There are four standards of dog food on the market; common, commercial, premium, and super premium. Dr. Marco Antonio feels that the higher quality foods are worth the investment as they are made with superior ingredients resulting in less consumption, less excrement, better health and a superior quality of life. He sells Hills Science Diet for normal dogs and Hills Prescription Diet for dogs with special health problems such diabetes, obesity, and kidney problems.

Dr Rafael says that most commercial dog foods, starting with Pedigree and above, are sufficient. He acknowledges that premium dog foods have their benefits but that the price can be prohibitive. He summed up his feelings with the comment… “the most important thing for you to give your pet is a lot of loving.”

The grooming

Perhaps the best way to close this article is to discuss grooming options. Some dogs do just fine with regular dog shampoo or moisturizing bath soap and a hose but try as you like, you cannot forget about those adorable glamorous cuts. The dog groomers at Vet Pacifico introduced my tiny two month old toy poodle to grooming by putting the buzzing razor upside down on his back. Zeuss screeched and hollered before thinking it over a bit and downsizing to a soft whine before deciding that it might really be ok. Now he loves being groomed and will reach his paw out for more attention if the process is interrupted. Both La Jungla locations offer quality grooming service, and Mina at Golden Zone location will also pick up and drop off your dogs if you live in that area (913-1631). Many of us were initially delighted with Martita (669-431-3962) who serenades your dog while carefully detangling all those nasty knots at your residence but her scheduling problems can become more frustrating than their matted fur. She loves the animals and does a wonderful job, typically spending two hours on each animal, but one must have a lot of patience to wait for her.

I’d like to thank the vets for their patience with me, and taking time to explain their various beliefs. These three wise men are only a phone call away.

Dr Rafael Aguilar (La Jungla, 981-6197), Dr. Marco Antonio Cardenas (Veterinaria del Pacifico 982-6727), and Dr. Cesar Duarte (cell 669 108-1187). Dr. Cesar specializes in making house calls.

What to do when your pet goes AWOL

lost-dogYou swear it could never happen to you. You adore and take such good care of Foxy. But suddenly Foxy is not around, where did she go? She was just here… you start by looking for her in all her favorite spots. Under the couch, on the bed, in the garden, she’s not there! You shake the bag of dog bones, sure she will come out of her new hiding place -to no avail. So you go out to the street, she would never go out alone, but regardless… whistle, call her name, she would not have gone far, where could she be? You contact everybody who has been in your house that day and finally have to go to sleep, praying that she will be at your front door with a mischievous grin on her face the next morning.

But she isn’t. It has happened to me, it can happen to you, it can happen to anybody. You have to be preventative and be ready in advance.

I repeat, be preventative. Start by getting an identification tag for your dog or cat as soon as possible; “placa” in Spanish. La Jungla vet clinics are centrally located with one location on Camaron Sabalo #310-a few blocks from Panama Restaurant, and on Ejercito Mexicano #600 next to the “vieja/old” Ley. Your pet’s updated ID tag is well worth the $50 peso (yes, fifty peso) investment that is quickly inscribed to your liking. Vet Reino Animal has nice, high-quality ID tags for $120 pesos each, but their location out on Santa Rosa #335 may be inconvenient for those without a vehicle or who hate thick traffic. It is important that your dog’s ID tag have both a phone number and an address. Your address is important as the dog is possibly right around the corner with a neighbor. I prefer to use my cellular phone over my landline for security reasons. If there is room on the tag, I think it’s important to include the name of your pet.

Not always available in Mexico

Not always available in Mexico

Many Canadian/USA dogs have electronic chips which may be of great value up north but the corresponding machine to read them is generally unavailable in Mexico, even more true in Mazatlan. But do have simple digital photos of your pet that show any special characteristics that might help to identify them stored on your camera. Then the reality sets in that your dog is really gone. She may have been stolen for ransom or personal use (breeding) or she may have been hit by a car or she may have simply gotten lost. Start immediately and plaster your neighborhood and local vet offices with flyers. The sad reality is that the coffers are empty and money talks. Include $$$ RECOMPENSA $$$, and attach a clear photo of your dog, a brief description, and a phone number. Hit the internet. Leave messages and photos on MazatlanLife, MazMessenger, WUM, Facebook, contact Amigos de Los Animales, Proyecto Animales de la Calle, get the word out.

Still no luck? Don’t give up yet. (Remember how long house-training took?) Put an ad in the classifieds. I recommend El Noroeste. El Debate is also an excellent option but they cover the entire state of Sinaloa, whereas El Noroeste’s focus is on Mazatlan. The offices of El Noroeste are located on Ejercito Mexicano #708. They must receive the ad by 6pm in order to get it into the following day’s publication. They will help you reword your ad if Spanish is your second (or nonexistent) language. Their rates go from a simple 10 word ad for three days at $144 pesos or an ad with a photo for $2,216 pesos for 10 days. Photos are expensive but they draw important attention to your classified.

There is no guarantee that Foxy will come home, as there are so many options and obstacles out there, but don’t give up. I will always remember when a young boy’s voice was on my answering machine: “Senora? Su perro se llama Kid? Es que lo atropello un coche. Tratamos de salovarlo pero se asusto y…” Senora, your dog is named Kid? He got hit by a car. We tried to help him but he got scared and… He deserved a recompensa, if even in the form of a new back pack with a big dog face on the flap. Over the years I’ve been involved in finding four dogs. Some remain lost. But some, are lost and found.

Is it time to say “goodbye?”

FUNERAL OF A FRIEND: SAYING GOOD/BYE TO WO/MAN’S BEST FRIEND, by Sally Ross

Mina silently let the tears slip down her cheek, as the veterinarian quietly explained to her that a man’s best friend does not have the life expectancy of a human being. All of us dog owners and lovers have to realize and accept that there is a good chance that we will outlive our canine companions. Two friends, from different walks of life, both lost their dogs the same Saturday night. For them it was totally unexpected. Suddenly within one hour, Fido simply ceased to exist. I never imagined that I would be faced with the same situation a few weeks later.

There is no greater satisfaction than to: Save a dog from a life on the streets, or to rescue a stray who’s been abused, beaten and become angry. Your dedication and caring will show them a loving home- full of security and warmth. Some animals come into our lives full of fear, some with hope, but above all else, they all offer us a new level of love and dedication that we have never known before.

Unfortunately, the day may come when you take a step back and realize that the joy your friend had in the beginning – for all your walks and romps, has been replaced with pain and discomfort. Is it time to say “goodbye?” Is it time for you to “Play God” and decide to stop their suffering?” It’s a difficult decision to make and along with your heart, your vet will tell you, “yes, it’s time, there is too much pain.” Many of you may feel more closure if you stay at your pet’s side during the process of euthanasia; a three part procedure involving tranquilizing and anesthetizing the animal before putting him to sleep. It’s horribly sad, but as animal lovers we must never let our friends suffer: It’s our job to ensure them a safe passage. Others of you may not be able to watch the process because it’s simply breaking your heart. Regardless, always remember that the small portion of time you afforded this friend has no price or measurable value because the love of an animal is beyond our comprehension and the joy you brought into his life has no equivalent.

I’ll leave you with a popular poem that is often read at funerals, or just keep it in your head when your doggie blues descend.

Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor;
those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again,
just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing;
they miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops
and looks into the distance. his bright eyes are intent; his eager body quivers.
Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet,
you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
The happy kisses rain upon your face;your hands again caress the beloved head,
and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet,
so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…
Dedicated to Man’s Best Friend. DEP little kiddos.
Descansa en paz. Rest in peace.

See Spot fly

I remember as if it were yesterday even though it has been more than 20 years; anxiously waiting at the airport luggage chute, concerned that something had happened to the three birds I had had to check for the short flight from California to Mazatlan. There was no need to stress, as a short time later the air was filled with the sound of singing cockatiels as they came zipping around the luggage ramp. Rules for airline travel with pets have changed drastically since then. The following will give you an idea of what to expect when flying with pets, but please check with your carrier prior to departure.

Airlines only accept dogs and cats on flights to Mexico. All dogs travelling to Mexico must have a vaccination certificate stating that your pet has been vaccinated against rabies, and hepatitis, accompanied with a health certificate which must be printed on official veterinarian letterhead, a copy of the vet’s license and it should include the health status and a description of the animal. Some rules say 30 days before, others 72 hours – verify the rules, they do change. Be sure to secure proper id to your dog’s collar or harness with your phone number (cell is best) along with your address. And pop a picture of your pet in your pocket, just in case. Pack a doggie bag; dishes, medication, leashes, treats, toys, and always a bottle of frozen water.

Alaska Airlines and US Airways accept small dogs and cats onboard with handling charges ranging from $100 (US) to $125 (US) per animal per flight one way. The maximum size for hard sided kennels is 7.5” x 12”x 17” and for soft sided kennels 9.5” x 12” x 17”. The kennel is considered one of your two pieces of luggage allowed on board. Only one animal is allowed in first class but up to five kennels are allowed in coach. Passengers may bring a second animal on board by purchasing a second seat. Travelers must be at least 18 years old to travel with a pet. Extra restrictions may apply for short-nosed dogs including boxers, bulldogs and pugs due to potential respiratory problems. Puppies and kittens must be at least eight weeks old and weaned, animals appearing overly stressed or in poor health may be refused. Tranquilizers are not recommended as some animals may have adverse reactions at high altitudes – check with your vet.

Alaska Airlines and Continental Airlines accept kennels in cargo. Kennels must be hard sided and secured with nuts and bolts with have a metal grated door. The maximum size is allowed on most flights is 26” x 24” x 36”, the maximum total weight allowed is 150 pounds. Your pet must be fully enclosed in the carrier at all times when onboard the aircraft. Pets travelling as checked baggage must be contained in a hard-sided kennel designed for air travel. Your pet must be able to stand up and turn around inside the carrier, and the carrier must be leak-proof and lined with absorbent materials. Kennels must be well-ventilated and secure. Kennels made of wire or welded mesh or with a plastic door are not permitted. Kennels are not allowed in cargo during peak holiday seasons due to space limitations.

My Canadian friends tell me the airline, WestJet, is extremely pet friendly. Here is a precis from their website: “permits domestic cats and dogs to travel in the passenger cabin for a fee of $50 each way. Passengers are limited to traveling with one pet whose maximum weight (including carrier) is 22 pounds (10 kg). You must check in two hours prior to departure. For pets too large to travel in the main passenger cabin, WestJet allows them to travel as checked baggage for a fee of $50 each way. The maximum combined weight of your pet and the carrier is 100 pounds (45 kg). Space demands in peak season and temperature swings in the cargo area, may prevent you from taking your pet. When travelling in the passenger cabin, pets must be contained in a soft-sided carrier with maximum dimensions of 16″ long x 17.5″ wide x 8.5″ high. The maximum carrier size is 36″ long x 24″ wide x 26″ high.”

To ensure Spot’s safe travels I recommend you telephone and talk to an employee to verify rules and website information are current.
Alaska Air: 1-800-252-7522
Continental Airlines: 1-800-575-3335
US Airways: 1-800-428-4322
WestJet: 1-888-937-8538