Dreams of Old Dogs


"The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime." "Free Four" - Pink Floyd (Roger Waters)

Nearly two months ago, we lost our dear girl, Sadie. By dog years, she lived to ripe old age of around 16. Still, it seems she was taken way too soon. Fortunately, she retained her relatively good health until the end, with only arthritis gradually hindering her mobility. In her later months, she slept more and more and I'd love to occasionally see her feet twitching as she dreamed...of what I can only guess. But given her lifelong hobby of chasing squirrels and rabbits, even when her spirit was far more willing than her body, I'm pretty sure she was imagining herself being on the hunt.

Dog Phobias. Case study: Sadie and Ella

Phobias are strange things. Most of us have them to some degree. I myself have a pronounced fear of heights. Some call it a phobia, which implies an irrational fear, but I'd call it common sense fear of bodily injury due to falling from a great distance.

Dogs are similar in this regard. But our two girls, Sadie and Ella, couldn't be more different when it comes to weather conditions for instance. Ella shows a total disregard for thunder and lightning, whereas Sadie goes to her "safe spot" behind our couch and will wait out the duration of the storm, sometimes trembling at an especially loud crack of thunder. She's gotten a bit better as time goes by, but no amount of petting and soothing talk will completely dispel her fear. And according to canine psychologists, by overcoddling her, I may have only been rewarding and reinforcing her fearful behavior. Oops.

After 13 summers of occasional loud & violent storms without incident, any intelligent animal should realize thunder & lightning are a natural occurance and nothing to fear, right? Then again, lightning strikes DO account for around 50 deaths and 300 injuries on average annually in the U.S. alone, so maybe her fears aren't totally irrational. Ella, on the other hand, has no qualms whatsoever about going out in the middle of a loud thunderstorm. So who is the smarter dog? The one who blissfully ignores the forces beyond her control? Or the one who spots potential danger and avoids it at all costs?

Holiday Reminder: Dogs and Chocolate Warning

If you're a dog owner, you're probably aware of the fact that chocolate can be highly toxic and even fatal if ingested by your pet. The specific ingredient that can wreak havoc with a dog's digestive system is a family of compounds known as methylxanthines. Two of these compounds, caffeine and theobromine, are found in varying amounts in chocolate.

While it's up for debate just HOW lethal these substances are to dogs, experts agree that some dogs are especially sensitive to the compounds while others seem to be able to take in larger amounts and suffer little or no negative effects, mostly depending on the weight of the dog and the type of chocolate. Baker's chocolate is very high in theobromine, while milk chocolate, which is more commonly found in holiday favorites like chocolate bunnies is less dangerous. When I was younger, my family dog, Bootsy, got into an Easter basket and ate the better part of a chocolate bunny, seemingly without suffering any ill effects. She wasn't especially large and was a mixed breed, so toxicity may depend on other factors as well.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea or hyperactivity which can come on very quickly or take several hours to appear. In severe cases, this can be followed by This can lead to hyperthermia, muscle tremors, seizures, coma and even death.

If you suspect chocolate poisoning, it's important to administer first aid to you pet as soon as possible. Steps include inducing vomiting and feeding them an activated charcoal slurry, which absorbs the toxins. More detailed instructions can be found here.

And here are some additional resources:

An interactive dog and chocolate toxicity chart from National Geographic

Scientific American article on dogs and chocolate: fact vs. fiction

Happy Easter, Passover, and belated Vernal Equinox!