Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Do you know how to tell if your dog is dehydrated?
Stick the tip of your finger underneath his (or her) upper lip against the gums -- if it feels moist, your dog is okay. But if it's dry or tacky, your dog is dehydrated.
Bao has always had a problem with drinking water. He doesn't like water. He's never liked water. I used to make a joke about it. I'd tell people, He's like me. He prefers Scotch.
But in Southern Arizona in the summer, this is no longer a joking matter. With Bao's gastrointestinal "issues" hydration is absolutely vital. I understand that. Unfortunately, he doesn't. And reasoning with a Shih Tzu is like reasoning with a two-year-old.
So what do you do with a dog who won't drink water? Our vet offered to teach me how to hydrate him subcutaneously -- but I put that idea in the "If All Else Fails" box. Using a syringe and shooting water into his mouth worked for a few days, until he caught on and figured out how to spit it all back out at me. Dipping my finger in water and letting him lick it off works, but it is -- how can I put this -- time consuming. (I suppose I should be grateful he's not a Great Dane)
So I got soup bones and boiled up some beef broth. Voila! I still have to coax him, but at least he'll drink it. However, coax is still the operative word.
But seriously, if anyone out there has a a better idea, I would absolutely love to hear it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Thirty years ago, nobody would have ever dreamed of having the family dog's teeth cleaned!
So what happened?
Dog food happened. Commercially prepared dogfood in cans -- and at first, that wasn't a bad thing. It was handy. Ir was convenient. You gave your dog canned food, and you supplemented it with table scraps and bones.
Then, conglomerates happened. Big companies swallowed small companies. Managers realized that pet food was big busines, and some bright MBA figured out there were more profits to be made from dry pet food than from tinned pet food. Billions of advertising dollars were spent in an effort to persuade people that these dried foods were "better". Part of the campaign consisted of bad-mouthing things like table scraps, raw meat and bones. Table scraps aren't healthy and raw meat can give your dog tapeworms, we were told. Worse, bone splinters can lodge in your dog's intestines and kill him. Yikes.
So we stopped giving our dogs table scraps, raw meat and bones.
And now our dogs need to have their teeth cleaned. Under anesthetic, no less. Why? Because dogs are carnivores, genetically engineered to eat raw meat and bones.
I'm guilty. I listened to the "expert" advice and tried to follow the trends, but Bao was smarter than I was. He wouldn't touch canned dog food, and he'd rather starve then eat the dry stuff. But I did stop giving him bones, because I was scared a splinter would lodge in his intestines, and he would die. So he developed tartar, and that's probably why he's got the heart condition. The tartar breaks away, enters the blood stream and causes heart disease.
Please, throw out the kibble and feed your dog raw meat. And give him bones. More dogs die under anesthesia having their teeth cleaned than because a bone has lodged in thieir intestines. As for raw meat, you can cure a tapeworm with a pill, but at this writing, canine mitral valve disease is a death sentence.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dogs live in the moment. When they're happy, they're totally happy. Tomorrow doesn't worry them.
Bao doesn't worry about his defective mitral valve. It doesn't hurt, and it doesn't affect his life. So as far as he's concerned, it's not a problem. He rolls over on his back so that the ceiling fan can blow cool air on his tummy, and he's a happy camper, living in the here and now.
Of course, I worry enough for both of us.
Buddhism teaches us to live in the moment, to enjoy the moment. No regrets, and no worries. Just here and now. Because when you stop to think about it, here and now is all we've got.
I'm trying not to worry so much.
We're in Mexico right now, escaping from the triple-digit, Scottsdale heat. There must be a storm somewhere, because it's overcast and there's a big surf pounding in. Bao loves it here. He loves sitting on the banquette and watching people come and go on the beach. He loves walking on the expanse of hard sand at low tide. He's sleeping at my feet as I write this, his dear, soft little muzzle nestled against my instep.
He's happy. I'm happy.
Here and now is good.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I haven't been blogging because I was scared Bao was going to die.
His heart murmur got worse, much worse. He has a faulty mitral valve (a common condition in small dogs) and the first prognosis was grim: "When he starts coughing, that means he's in congestive heart failure. Here are some pills. But there's not really much we can do. Just watch him, and bring him in when he starts coughing."
So you can see why I didn't feel like blogging!
Then, more bad news. Bao's developed a hernia (probably as a result of the surgery he had last year) and it's become difficult for him to poop. He squats and pushes, but nothing comes out. Awful. The hernia could be easily repaired surgically, but because of the heart condition, anesthetic now poses real risks.
Okay, that's it for the bad news.
Now for the good news.
We've found a wonderful veternarian in Scottsdale -- Dr Mike Soltero. He's trying to manage the hernia/constipation problem pharmeceutically and (fingers crossed!) it seems to be working.
More good news -- there's a specialist canine coronary unit at Colorado State University, and they've developed a technique to repair faulty mitral valves in small dogs. We went up there last month.
The best news of all is that the heart problem hasn't affected Bao's day to day life one bit. He's his happy little self. Watching him prance along Scottsdale Road, you wouldn't think anything was wrong with him.
So, we're back ... this has all been very difficult, but I guess as we get older, we have to anticipate these kinds of problems. People, and dogs too. I've learned a lot in the past few months, and I'm thinking that if Bao and I share the rest of our journey together, our experiences might hopefully be helpful to someone else.
I've missed you.