My friend Spot

Spot, who was very special to me, passed away on 10 January 2023 after a short illness.

I am sure many would say that Spot is not a particularly original name for a dog, but it suited him. A greyhound, his race name was Inspector Spot and, as a white and black greyhound, he had many spots.

He was also Izzy’s best mate.

When they were out and about together, we would often be asked if they were mother and son, or littermates. No, we would reply, just good mates. Here’s just a few photos of their many cafe visits together.

Seeing them side by side, I often thought of the novelty salt and pepper shakers that you can buy: two white and black greyhounds. From a distance, such as when we let them off for a free run, we couldn’t tell one from the other.

Spot was a very good example of how dogs can bring people together. I met his Mum when Izzy and I did her home check for Greyhounds as Pets. During that first meeting, I was required to ask if the adopter had any preferences as to colour of their hound. As many of us know, white-haired dogs seem to shed a lot and this was true of Izzy. As Izzy was being patted and shedding unceremoniously on the carpet, I received the dry reply, “probably not white.”

We would laugh that, just weeks later, she showed up with her newly-adopted Spot at a greyhound group walk. Spot was the only match at the time she was adopting and, with his personality and charm, the issue of white hair and shedding was soon forgotten.

He was a keeper.

I now count Spot’s Mum as one of my closest friends. We have taken walks together, dined together, taken a short holiday in Hanmer Springs together. With few exceptions all of our activities have included Izzy and Spot and, since March 2022, Sox and Spot.

In 2018, Spot strutted the catwalk at my fundraiser for Greyhounds as Pets, Greyt Fashions. His coat, made from a repurposed candlewick bedspread, was one of my favourites.
Spot also came to doga class in early 2020

Just weeks before the global pandemic locked us down in March 2020, Spot and his Mum participated in filming of my online workshop for Greyhound Massage and Stretching.

Spot and his Mum were always invited to Izzy’s birthday parties, most of which occurred on the beach and one memorable birthday when we hired the Dog Swim Spa so Izzy’s friends could try swimming. Spot always enjoyed my doggy birthday cakes.

Spot also featured in Pet Life Magazine, in my column about dog-friendly dining

A particularly memorable outing with Izzy and Spot was to the Leeston Dog Park on a winter’s day. There were several large puddles in the park and Spot took the time to wallow in an invigorating mud bath.

When we volunteered one year at the Amberley Christmas Market for Greyhounds as Pets, Spot became fascinated by a cat which wasn’t moving. It was a garden ornament fixed to the top of the fence.

Occasionally, I would do “A Spot of Daycare” which allowed Spot and Izzy to enjoy each other’s company during the day without doing anything particularly special. It didn’t even matter when I noticed that Spot was killing off some of my plants – showering them with love, his Mum would say.

Spot wasn’t always happy with my small two-seater sofa and we would joke about his obvious displeasure at my substandard couch

Spot on my substandard couch

….until his Mum replaced her furniture and Spot had to become accustomed to a two-seater at home, too.

Spot was retired from racing after suffering a broken hock, which was repaired surgically. For this reason, he became a regular client in my massage practice soon after he was adopted. He particularly enjoyed a warm wheat bag when his muscles were tight. Warmth worked wonders for him.

Last year, 2022, was a year of transition. Izzy passed away in December 2021 and I needed a dog to demonstrate at massage workshops. Spot stepped into this role, for which I will be forever grateful.

Spot (top photo) at his first massage workshop in 2022. He took over the role of demo dog after Izzy (bottom photo) passed away

When I signed a sponsorship agreement for Greyhound as Pets in 2022, we used Spot to feature in the advertisement for the sponsorship.

When Sox arrived on the scene in March, Spot was gently mentoring him in greyhound pet life. Yoda to my Luke Skywalker, a Greyhound Master.

Perhaps the most bittersweet of memories I have of Spot is from our time together in October last year. His Mum had to go out of town at short notice, with Spot staying with us for over two weeks. Spot slotted right into our routines, hassling me for morning walks alongside Sox when I was trying to tie my shoes, hunting a hedgehog together (I am quite sure that Spot encouraged Sox to pick it up while he looked on innocently in the background), and making trips to the red zone for off-lead walks. While Sox slept on the sofa, Spot slept on a dog bed in my bedroom. On several occasions, he cuddled up in bed with me, too.

Spot and Sox, awaiting dinner

I would later say when his Mum returned to collect him that I would always cherish the close time we had together, not knowing when I said it that Spot would be gone within a matter of weeks.

Spot’s last official event for The Balanced Dog was at my stand at the Women’s Lifestyle Expo in late October.

We had planned to use Spot’s love of the beach (taught to him by my water-loving Izzy) to teach Sox to love the beach this (southern hemisphere) summer. Sadly, it was not to be.

Spot was a pet for just over five years; reflecting on all the things we have done together and many happy memories, it seems like he has been a part of my life for a lot longer.

Is it possible to love a dog that is owned by someone else as much as your own? Yes, I think it is, particularly going by the number of photographs of Spot that I had on my phone and computer. Time has slowed to a crawl since Spot passed away and I have placed a photo of him in frame next to one of Izzy so that when I light a candle at night, it shines for both of them in case they want to come for a visit.

He should have been with us for much longer. Izzy made it to almost 13, Spot was taken from us at age 10. I think that is what makes his loss even harder.

Spot, I hope you are up there with Izzy enjoying a summer day at the beach. I miss you dearly and promise to look after your Mum. Sox and your other greyhound friends will give her lots of cuddles in the days to come.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Impact of stress, temperament on working dogs to be explored in new research

A commitment to animal care and welfare—specifically in working dogs—is the driving force behind the newly funded research project

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) has announced a research grant to Colorado State University (CSU). The pilot study aims to measure the Allostatic Load (AL) of dogs, which is understood as the ‘wear and tear’ on the body due to chronic or frequent stressors.

AL in humans is affected by genetics and personality, and high AL is a predictor of negative health outcomes including heart disease and cognitive decline. After successfully validating AL in primates, the research team seeks to validate canine AL for the first time.

“Developing a reliable method of measuring chronic stress will help ensure we are taking proper care of working dogs as well as pet dogs,” says CSU association professor, Barbara Wolfe, DVM, PhD, DACZM,, principal investigator of the project. “If successful, this tool could be utilized to predict success in working dogs and identify when working dogs are experiencing unhealthy levels of stress.”

The study will involve analysis of early life events and lifestyle factors that may influence AL in Labrador retrievers raised and trained to be as guide dogs, as well as in Labrador retrievers raised as pets. Researchers will use blood sampling to compare biomarkers associated with AL to these lifestyle and event factors to determine any association between AL and potential stressors.

While many studies to date have used a single biomarker, such as cortisol, to determine canine stress, measuring AL tests multiple biomarkers of stress which allows for a more accurate measure of the accumulation of stress over time.

“This project reflects HABRI’s deep commitment to animal care and welfare,” says the institute’s president, Steven Feldman. “Understanding how to improve the lives of our canine companions is crucial to strengthening the human-animal bond.”

Source: Veterinary Practice News

Saving money on dog care

With a recession this year almost guaranteed, and consumers experiencing rising costs daily, I have promised readers of my newsletter my recommendations on money saving tips for dog care. I decided to make this a blog post to reach a wider number of readers because rising costs are a worldwide phenomenon.

It’s important to note that we all want/need to save money in a time of rising costs, but as dog parents we don’t really want to sacrifice quality of care. My tips are aimed at achieving both.

And just a reminder that I live in New Zealand; the products and services accessible to readers elsewhere will vary. Quoted prices are in NZ dollars.

#1 – Brush those teeth!

Dental disease is the most common condition seen by vets and the costs for dental procedures can hit the pocket when you least need it. A dentistry procedure to scale and polish teeth will easily set you back NZ$700, with the costs escalating to between $1,000-$2,000 when extractions are needed. The worse your dog’s teeth, the higher the costs involved.

Prevention is better than cure. The gold standard for dental care is daily brushing of the teeth with a pet toothpaste; the physical motion of brushing helps to remove plaque and the enzymes in pet toothpaste remain in the mouth to prevent plaque from forming into tartar (calculus). The only way to remove calculus is through a scale and polish procedure.

I sell toothbrushes for only $8.50 each; a tube of toothpaste will set you back between $24-26 at most pet shops and veterinary practices.

You do the math.

Remember, too, that you need to get your dog accustomed to teeth brushing so that it is stress-free for both of you. Whenever someone buys a toothbrush from me, I’m happy to give them a free 15-minute consult to talk them through the basics of teeth-brushing.

#2 – Ask for a script for ongoing medications

For dogs that require regular medication such as for arthritis pain, incontinence, heart murmur, or other chronic conditions, it is worth checking on prices of these medications online. The online pharmacies in New Zealand buy from the same suppliers as vet practices, but the mark-ups are often less. MyVet.co.nz and Vetpost.co.nz are just two examples.

These outlets can legally supply your dog’s medications if they have script from the vet who is treating them; this is no different than having a script from your GP for medication that you buy from your local pharmacy.

Vet practices are entitled to charge a script fee for writing a script for your dog’s medication, so factor this into your cost calculations. The Veterinary Code of Conduct explicitly states that a veterinarian cannot refuse to write a script when one is requested.

Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for a script; this is happening more often every day (MyVet.co.nz has been operating for 15 years now; it’s the original pet pharmacy in the country). And, since times are tough, if you are a loyal client of a vet practice and you show them what price you are able to source your pet’s medication for, they may choose to sell you those meds at that price.

When my Daisy was taking regular medications for arthritis and incontinence, my veterinarian told me, “we know you spend a lot of money with us, Kathleen, and you’re a loyal client. We’ll sell it to you at that price rather than lose your business for the medication.”

#3 – Reuse

In the category of ‘every little bit helps,’ re-use plastic bags and wraps as poo bags. This includes previously used courier bags, bread and bagel bags and wraps from toilet rolls and paper towels.

#4 Team up with others

I often see posts on Facebook groups like Christchurch Pets asking where a person can buy a single flea treatment because they cannot afford to buy a 3-pack. In most cases, you will always spend more buying single items than in bulk. A better way would be to team up with others and share the costs of buying a 3-pack.

Similarly, when buying dog food, a larger bag will almost always be more cost-effective than a smaller one. If you can’t buy with friends who use the same food, use social media to team up with people in the community who feed the same food that you do. Dog food should be stored in an airtight container, making it easy to divide a bag between two or more owners.

Most mobile services, including mine, offer multiple dog discounts for dogs that are treated at the same appointment at the same location. Coordinate appointment times with your friends at one of your homes and share the savings.

#5 Switch to a NZ Made Food

This tip comes directly from one of my regular clients.

She noticed her imported food from Australia was going up in price significantly every time she paid for it. She looked for equally healthy alternatives and formulations and found that most of the brands of NZ Made kibbles were more reasonable priced. She’s tried two options and settled on one for her dogs.

#6 Shop during sales and use auto ship discounts

When food, treats, toys and other items go on sale, take advantage of the discounts. Some retailers offer autoship options with discounts on regular orders. Most autoship functions allow you to cancel or re-arrange delivery dates and so if you find something on sale elsewhere, you can delay your autoship to a later date.

Discounts add up. Wise consumers know that in the long run you save money when buying things you will need when they are on sale, setting them aside until you need them.

#7 Check prices

Take the time to check prices on regularly purchased items like food and treats.

Some local stores offer good pricing that beat the prices of larger stores and retailers. For example, many of my clients use Burwood Produce Horse and Pony Supplies and Best for Pets in Christchurch for kibble and raw foods, respectively. Competitive pricing and you are supporting local!

#8 Buy for value and not just lowest price

Know quality when you see it and be prepared to pay more because quality products will last for longer. A harness or lead should last the dog’s lifetime, for example. Remember that CHEAP can work two ways: low price or poor quality.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for January

Wishing you all a happy and peaceful 2023!

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

One year on

Today is the anniversary of Izzy’s passing; I have been dreading the approaching holiday season knowing that this time in 2021, her health was failing and our time together was running out.

She departed on a day very similar in weather as today, overcast with some rain. The hardest part of opening your heart to a dog is knowing that the day will come to say ‘goodbye.’

I am building a new relationship with Sox, who arrived in March of this year. Still, I feel her loss.

You no longer greet me

As I walk through the door.

You’re not there to make me smile

To make me laugh anymore

Life seems quiet without you.

You were far more than a pet.

You were a family member, a friend

…a loving soul I’ll never forget.

It will take time to heal.

For the silence to go away.

I still listen for you

And miss you every day.

You were such a great companion

Constant, loyal and true.

My heart will always wear

The paw prints left by you.

Poem by Teri Harrison

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Dry pet food may be more environmentally friendly than wet food

Pet owners may have a new reason to reach for the kibble.

Dry cat and dog food tends to be better for the environment than wet food, veterinary nutritionist Vivian Pedrinelli of the University of São Paulo in Brazil and colleagues report. Their analysis of more than 900 hundred pet diets shows that nearly 90 percent of calories in wet chow comes from animal sources. That’s roughly double the share of calories from animal ingredients in dry food.

Feeding dogs and cats dry food instead of wet food may have less of an impact on the environment. Eduardo Gonzalez Diaz / EyeEm/Getty Images

The team factored in the cost of different pet food ingredients across several environmental measures. The findings, described November 17 in Scientific Reports, suggest that wet food production uses more land and water and emits more greenhouse gases than dry food.  

Scientists already knew that meat-heavy human diets drive greenhouse gas emissions (SN: 5/5/22). But when it comes to environmental sustainability, “we shouldn’t ignore pet food,” says Peter Alexander, an economist at the University of Edinburgh who was not involved in the work.

Just how much various pet foods impact the environment isn’t clear, Alexander says. Commercial cat and canine fares aren’t typically made from prime cuts of meat. Instead, the ingredient lists often include animal byproducts — the gristle and bits people aren’t likely to eat anyway.

How to calculate the carbon cost of these leftovers is an ongoing debate, says Gregory Okin, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles who was not involved with the study.

Some argue that the byproducts in pet food are essentially free, since they come from animals already raised for human consumption. Others note that any calories require energy and therefore incur an environmental cost. Plus, animal ingredients in pet food might not be just scraps. If they contain even a small amount of human-edible meat, that could add up to a big impact.

Knowing that there’s an environmental difference between moist morsels and crunchier cuisines could be helpful for eco-conscious pet owners, Okin says. Having that info handy at the grocery store is “super important when people are making decisions,” he adds. “There are consumers who want to pay attention.”

Journal Reference: Environmental impacts of diets for dogs and cats, Scientific Reports, published 17 November 2022

Source: Science News

Doggy quote of the month for December

Laura Jaworski is an American author and artist who specializes in crochet design

Pets Belong with Families Act

Across the USA, demand for public housing is increasing because of the rapid rise in the cost of living. Unfortunately, housing authorities can impose restrictions on families that require housing with their pets. Breed specific restrictions and higher rentals for pet-owning families are too common.

Everyone deserves to have access to the benefits of pet ownership. The ASPCA has continued to work to advance policy solutions that would increase pet-friendly housing and help keep pets and people together. At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) already manages pet-friendly housing within its portfolio of programs, including its public housing program. While regulations require public housing authorities to allow pets, public housing authorities can impose restrictions based on a dog’s breed and size and charge residents more money if they have a pet.

The Pets Belong with Families Act was introduced to Congress last year and, if law, will remove broad and unfounded restrictions on pets in public housing to help ensure that housing is available to eligible families, regardless of their pet’s breed or size. 

Voters in the USA should urge their members of Congress to support H.R. 5828, the Pets Belong with Families Act. Encourage your vet to advocate through their professional networks to help pass the Bill, too.

Sources: ASPCA, Best Friends

Fasting together

This is Sox on Tuesday morning. He was scheduled to go to the vet for a fasting blood test and could not have his breakfast. I didn’t think it was fair to eat breakfast when he couldn’t and so we fasted together.

I couldn’t bear the thought of him being hungry watching me eat as normal. He would have thought something was wrong, or he was being punished or teased. Dogs are sentient, capable of feelings and sensation. Feeling hungry and left out are reasonable assumptions in this situation.

Do you fast in sympathy with your dog?

My Sox is well on his way to a confirmed diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease; a condition we cannot cure but can only find a way to manage. It’s tough when he is not yet 5 years old with a lifetime ahead of him. I was told that Sox would regularly collapse after racing with a condition called acidosis. But I also wonder if he wasn’t already showing the symptoms of IBD (with regular bouts of inappetence and diarrhea) which would have zapped his energy stores.

We will persevere and I will update everyone about Sox’s progress in future posts.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for November

Red and Howling produce lovely dog-themed images. You can follow them along with me on Facebook.