Year of the Dog

2018 is the Year of the Dog in the Chinese calendar.

The dog is the symbol of loyalty and honesty (which isn’t terribly surprising).  People born in the Year of the Dog will possess the best qualities observed in our dogs:   things like honesty, loyalty and intelligence.

The Temple of Eighteen Deities in Taiwan is often cited as an example of the dog’s loyalty in the Chinese tradition.

Taiwan dog

Statue of dog by the Eighteen Kings Temple. Photo by David Chen of the Taipei Times

As the story goes, 17 fishermen and their dog were crossing the Taiwan Strait when their boat capsized.   All of the fishermen drowned but the dog survived.  When the bodies washed ashore, the locals prepared a collective grave and ghost temple on a cliff overlooking the shore.   The dog was so loyal to its masters that it jumped into the grave with the bodies and refused to leave.   The dog was buried alive and called the 18th of the Eighteen Kings.

Chinese New Year begins on 16 February 2018.

 

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Do Unto Animals – book review

When Tracey Stewart’s book was launched in 2015, it was to great fanfare and lots of reviews.  It has taken me a while to get this book to the top of my reading pile.

Do Unto AnimalsThe theme of the book is ‘how to give back’ to animals of all types.  The first 70 or so pages are about domestic dogs and cats and the remaining 110+ pages are about other creatures including wildlife and farm animals.

To be honest, I think Stewart could have cut the chapters about dogs and cats and focused solely on the ‘other’ creatures.  The advice given for dogs and cats is pretty basic and not particularly well thought out because the information is so brief.  For example, she has included two pages about dog massage with 6 ‘moves’ and the usual warnings about ‘not to be substituted for veterinary care.’

The book comes into its own, however, when the other animals become the focus of the text.  For American audiences, the chapters about backyard wildlife and the roles of each of the ‘pests’ is enlightening. In the farm animals section, she covers pigs, cows, goats, sheep, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.  And for each type of animal, she includes a hard hitting ‘what makes a pig (cow, goat, sheep, horse, chicken, turkey, duck or goose) unhappy.’

These pages constitute a simple ‘list of shame’ when it comes to factory farming and the realities of individual consumer choices for meat, dairy, and even feather down garments.

The best part of the book, in my opinion, are the illustrations by Lisel Ashlock.  In full color, these adorn every page of the book and are a reason why this book should be owned and shared in print version (not electronic).

My overall grade:  A-

Tracey Stewart has a veterinary technician qualification although her first career was in design.  She is the wife of comedian and talk show host Jon Stewart.  Both are committed to animal welfare, with a large animal family of their own on their New Jersey farm property; part of the proceeds of each book sold go to support Farm Sanctuary.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

A date in the red zone

Izzy has a boyfriend named Bergie who lives across town from us.  Bergie is approximately one year younger than Izzy, but from the day they first met on an organized Greyhounds as Pets walk, it was clear that these two really enjoyed each other’s company.

We make an effort for them to have dates on a regular basis; one of their favourite places is the red zone – this is an area in eastern Christchurch where homes were demolished after the 2011 earthquake; the residents were bought out by the government so they could relocate elsewhere because the land is unsuitable for building.  There are a few locations in the red zone that are fully fenced, allowing greyhounds the opportunities to do zoomies in a safe environment.

Bergie the greyhound

Bergie

This area of the red zone is very sandy (which is why it isn’t suitable for re-building).  It is, however, very good for digging holes.  Bergie likes to dig holes for Izzy and she likes to watch…

Digging a hole for his love

Bergie digs a hole for Izzy

And greyhounds generally like to do zoomies (short bursts of running).  Here is Izzy chasing Bergie:

Izzy is now asleep in her bed after having a great day with Bergie.  (I think their next date will be at the beach – Izzy loves the beach!)

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Finances and financial sacrifices

When you make a commitment to a dog, you make it for life – or at least you should (although from many of the listings I see in Facebook groups and on Trade Me, it is clear that others don’t believe in the lifetime commitment).  With that lifetime commitment comes a fairly significant financial commitment.

That’s why I applaud the recent survey undertaken by the American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) concerning the cost of pet ownership.  Although this survey was done in the USA, I would expect the findings to be broadly transferable to New Zealand – certainly the recommendations are!

The overall findings were:

  • On average, American pet owners spend $1,560 per year on their pets
  • One-in-four say their pets cost more than they expected
  • More than 3-in-4 Americans would make financial sacrifices for their pets

And the survey even asked how these pet owners would make financial sacrifices, if they had to, to fund emergency pet care expenses which is illustrated in the graphic below:

The Financial Impact of Fido by the American Institute of CPAs

To help Americans fully understand the financial commitment that comes with bringing a pet into their home, the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission has the following tips:

  • Be honest with yourself financially – If you are struggling to pay off your student loans and have credit debt piling up, does it really make financial sense to get a pet?  Pets are great but they are meant to help relieve stress, not add to it due to financial difficulties.
  • Do your research – Though the cost of routine care may be predictable, it varies widely from animal to animal, and even from breed to breed, across the full spectrum of family pets. Know ahead of time the probable cost of care that will come with your companion.
  • Make a budget: “pre-pet” & “post-pet” — Include all related expenses, i.e. food, treats, leash, crates – including tank for fish, lizards, etc.—toys, vet visits, grooming and other services such as boarding and day care. If your pet will require a habitat powered by electricity, be sure to factor in the impact it will have on your utilities bill.
  • Be prepared – If you’re worried about unforeseen costs, use an emergency savings calculator to help you regularly set aside funds, or consider getting pet insurance.
  • Buy in Bulk – Items such as food, treats and preventive medicine can be purchased in bulk, reducing the overall cost per unit.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Found Dogs – book review

For anyone interested in animal welfare, the story of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels is both sobering and encouraging.  Their rescue and the legal cases that followed were thoroughly documented in the New York Times bestseller, The Lost Dogs, by Jim Gorant.

The Found Dogs by Jim Gorant

In 2017, to mark the 10th anniversary of the bust which rescued the dogs, Gorant came back with this slim volume to update us on the stories of the dogs and people involved in the case.

Told simply and straightforwardly, the book opens on the property at 1915 Moonlight Road which is now the Good News Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs.  In 2016, a ceremony at the property reunited many of the people involved in the case and the adopters with the dogs who had been saved.  51 dogwood trees were planted along with 51 plaques depicting the names of each of the dogs found at the property.  In some cases, the adopters were planting the trees for their dogs in memory, because by then many had already passed away.

Part II of the book is the longest part of the book; it’s an alphabetical list of each of the dogs by name and their story since being rescued.  Some are heartbreakingly short.   Other parts of the book update us on the key people involved in the bust and the legal case, and a discussion about what has changed in the last 10 years.

Much like the documentary film The Champions, the book couldn’t have been published too soon.  Many of the Vick dogs have passed, including cover girl Little Red whose story opened and closed The Champions.

Definitely worth reading and, if you are like me, adding to your ‘real’ dog book collection.  (I’m talking physical books, not Kindle files!)

And the last words go to Jim Gorant:  “As the dogs showed us – and continue to prove – accepting the state of things as they actually are and forging on in the face of those realities is the only way to make progress and create a new, better reality.”

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Pets (not siblings) are a child’s best friend

Children get more satisfaction from relationships with their pets than with their brothers or sisters, according to research from the University of Cambridge. Children also appear to get on even better with their animal companions than with siblings.

Child's best friend

The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental

Matt Cassells

The research adds to increasing evidence that household pets may have a major influence on child development, and could have a positive impact on children’s social skills and emotional well-being.

Pets are almost as common as siblings in western households, although there are relatively few studies on the importance of child-pet relationships.

‘‘Anyone who has loved a childhood pet knows that we turn to them for companionship and disclosure, just like relationships between people,” says Matt Cassells, a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the Department of Psychiatry, who led the study. “We wanted to know how strong these relationships are with pets relative to other close family ties. Ultimately this may enable us to understand how animals contribute to healthy child development”

This study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, was conducted in collaboration with the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, part of Mars Petcare and co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of a larger study, led by Prof Claire Hughes at the University of Cambridge Centre for Family Research.

Researchers surveyed 12 year old children from 77 families with one or more pets of any type and more than one child at home. Children reported strong relationships with their pets relative to their siblings, with lower levels of conflict and greater satisfaction in owners of dogs than other kinds of pets.

‘‘Even though pets may not fully understand or respond verbally, the level of disclosure to pets was no less than to siblings,” says Cassels. “The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental.

“While previous research has often found that boys report stronger relationships with their pets than girls do, we actually found the opposite. While boys and girls were equally satisfied with their pets, girls reported more disclosure, companionship, and conflict with their pet than did boys, perhaps indicating that girls may interact with their pets in more nuanced ways.’’

“Evidence continues to grow showing that pets have positive benefits on human health and community cohesion,” says Dr Nancy Gee, Human-Animal Interaction Research Manager at WALTHAM and a co-author of the study. “The social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life but there is still more to learn about the long term impact of pets on children’s development.”

Reference
​Cassells, M et al. One of the family? Measuring early adolescents’ relationships with pets and siblings. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology; 24 Jan 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.appdev.2017.01.003

Source:  University of Cambridge media statement

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Doggy quote of the month for January

Dr Karen Becker on progressive veterinarians