Category Archives: dogs and holidays

Misplaced priorities (why does Giving Tuesday come last)?

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving Day was always the start of the holiday season.  In fact, Santa Claus would enter Macy’s Department Store at the end of the Thanksgiving Day parade to officially open Christmas shopping season.

The retail industry has changed a lot since then.

The 2019 holiday shopping season has officially begun with reports of traffic around every shopping mall in the area – shoppers taking advantage of Black Friday sales.  And it wasn’t just on Friday, of course.  These retail sales last the entire weekend through Monday.

Then someone came up with the idea of Small Business Saturday, contrived to help small business make some sales while customers may still have some money left to spend.

Then Cyber Monday.  Another date created by retailers to encourage people to shop online.

And at the end of the line – Giving Tuesday – a day designed to be the international day of charitable giving.  Animal shelters and re-homing agencies always need your donations and hopefully, you will have some left over.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday banner from the Michigan Humane Society

It seems to me that the priorities are backwards.  I’d rather see the Friday after Thanksgiving be the day of giving.  Give thanks and then give to others who are more in need…

(All of this focus on buying stuff does my head in)

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 December

pets-like-owners-expand-over-christmas-fanny-wright

Fanny Wright was born in Scotland and was a lecturer, social reformer and feminist.

If you are concerned about your dog’s caloric intake over Christmas, I strongly recommend a massage voucher for a gift – no calories, and we will get your dog moving better so they actually burn more calories which helps with weight loss.

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

The housewarming

This weekend we were invited to Ben the Greyhound’s housewarming (his parents were there, too).  This was a chance to get together with some of our closest hound friends in a dog-friendly and informal setting.  Of course, I brought the treats for the dogs:  salmon squares and my newest recipe:  a frozen yoghurt treat with peanut butter, banana and honey.

There is nothing more enjoyable than being able to relax and talk and you don’t have to leave your dog at home alone.

Since dogs are family, I think it’s important to include them in special moments.

The next day, I had to attend an event called the Miniature Schnauzer Christmas Picnic which I had agreed to sponsor.  At our stall, we were signing dogs up for our Birthday Club.  Membership is free – and qualifies dogs for special offers when their birthday comes around.  We will help the parents book their dog’s massage, order a cake, organise a massage party for the birthday dog and guests, or schedule a bake-your-own dog treat party.

Both my friend and I were speechless when a woman told us, “Oh, I don’t celebrate any of those things with my dogs.  I don’t know their birthdays and we’ve never celebrated on a certain day.  I don’t give them Christmas gifts, either”

As she walked away, we both found our voices and asked each other why anyone would have a dog and not mark anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions? Dogs are such simple creatures, that almost anything can be special and a reward for them.

So my advice is get celebrating – with your dog and their friends – because it is these special moments that you will remember.

Bens housewarming

Ben the host and guests

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

Halloween – proceed with caution

Halloween Dogs

Halloween is almost upon us and it’s important to remember that not every dog enjoys this holiday.

It could be as simple as a dog who does not want to be dressed up in a costume.  You’ll know.  The ears are flat, the tail is between their legs and they are not happy.  So if this is your dog, please don’t make them dress up.

If they are fearful of strangers, then the constant ring of the doorbell is likely to upset them.  Create a nice safe space for them in another room of the house as far away from the door as possible, play them soft music and include some enrichment toys.   Take turns visiting them while the Halloween trick-or-treaters come and go.

Then of course there is all the candy that is collected and handed out.  Chocolate contains theobromine which is toxic to dogs.  Generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine.

If your dog has eaten chocolate and you ring the vet for advice, they will need to know:

1.      Weight of your dog

2.      How much chocolate was eaten

3.      Type of chocolate

If you don’t know any of the above critical pieces of information, then get your dog to to the vet if they are open and, if not, to an emergency vet clinic.   Vets will usually induce vomiting as a first step to treatment.

The symptoms of theobromine poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Racing heart rhythm progressing to abnormal rhythms

Your dog can die from theobromine poisoning.


An increasing threat to dogs is the number of sweet products that are manufactured with xylitol, an artificial sweetener.  Sugar-free chewing gum, mints and sweets often use this sweetener and many other ‘sugar free’ products also use it.

If you have anyone diabetic in your house, chances are that you are buying products with xylitol in them.  Some medications also use it for flavouring instead of sugar – peanut butters, too.  (Clearly, some of these risks are year-round and not just Halloween risks).

The symptoms of xylitol poisoning include:

  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Depression
  • Walking drunk
  • Acute collapse
  • Vomiting
  • Trembling or tremoring
  • Seizures
  • A racing heart rate
  • Jaundiced gums
  • Black-tarry stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Bruising
  • Clotting problems

Your dog can die from xylitol poisoning.

If you think your dog has ingested a product with xylitol, I wouldn’t muck around.   Get to your vet and don’t wait for symptoms to develop.  They’ll check your dog’s blood sugar level and probably induce vomiting as a first step, but intravenous fluids, careful monitoring of liver function and other supportive care are often required.

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

Writing for Nanny

It’s always been important to me that my dogs participate in our lives.

Sometimes, my dogs have written their own greeting cards.  When my Mum had knee replacement surgery in May 2007, my dog Daisy sent her this card and poem as part of our get well package.  (I found the card when sorting through some of my mother’s possessions).

 

Hi Nanny Greeting card

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

We wish you a Fear Free Christmas

Earlier this year, I gained my Fear Free certification.  For those of you who haven’t yet heard of this, Fear Free is a comprehensive program with certifications for veterinary professionals, trainers, groomers and practices that teaches these carers about the emotional well-being of pets.  Enrichment and the reduction of fear, anxiety and stress are all aspects of Fear Free.

So instead of posting the ‘traditional’ pre-Christmas warnings about tinsel, pancreatitis risks, chocolate etc. that go along with the season – I’d like you to consider making your dog’s Christmas Fear Free.

Let’s consider the Christmas holidays from your dog’s point of view:

Izzy the Greyhound at Christmas

  • “My family are always out shopping and going to parties – I have no routine – and I’m worried.”
  • “These people who I hardly know have come to stay in my house – AND they are sitting on my chair.”
  • “They’ve also brought a dog with them, who wants to drink from my bowl, play with my toys and lay in my bed.  I don’t want to share everything.”
  • “Those little people – they follow me even when I try to hide.  I have nowhere safe to go.”
  • “My family says that this road trip will be fun.  I’m stuffed in the back of the car with bags and gifts.  I think I’m going to be sick.”
  • “I’ve been playing all day with the new dogs I’ve met.  I’m super-tired but I can’t settle.”
  • “Why can’t I play with the shiny balls on that tree?”
  • “Trees are for marking but they are usually outside.  I marked the inside tree and now my Mum is mad.”
  • “We drove for a long time and now there is nothing here that smells normal”
  • “I’m not in my home, and that Man who is in charge says I have to stay outside.  I’m an inside dog…”
  • “They call them Christmas crackers; but they don’t crack – they pop really loudly like a gun and I’m scared but they are laughing.”
  • “No one seems to care about me anymore; it’s like I’m invisible.”

If you think your dog will be feeling anything like these examples this Christmas, now is the time to make adjustments and plans to help them through the fear and stress of the holiday season.  Because the holidays should be Fear Free for everyone.

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

I’m thankful

On Thursday, Americans will celebrate another Thanksgiving Day.  There will be lots of food, family gatherings, parties and – hopefully – if you take the time to observe the true reason for the holiday – you will pause and give thanks for what you have been able to achieve and have been given over the last year.

I’m in New Zealand.  We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (although I wish we did, because I think New Zealand is a great place to live and we are endowed with so much in terms of quality of life.  It wouldn’t hurt us to stop and take a moment to give thanks.)

I am thankful and here’s why:

  • I work in a field that I am passionate about.  Yes, I have worked hard to establish my practice, but I am grateful that the effort has paid off.
  • My customers trust me to work in their homes with their dogs.  I am always aware that, as an in-home specialist, I am entrusted not only with the dog’s care but also access to homes.  You can’t get more personal than that.  I am grateful for the opportunity that these dog owners have given me.
  • My work enables me to travel and meet other people who work with dogs, too many of these dogs are homeless and in need of care.
  • My work also allows me time to visit with my family overseas and we are able to spend quality time together.
  • I have friends, most of whom are also dog people, and they give me support when I need it.  Like recently, when Izzy was hurt and she needed looking after during the work day.  My friend Marie stepped up to do this for me.  (My friends, Izzy and I also do fun dog things together – like beach walks and visits to dog-friendly cafes.)
  • Izzy, my greyhound, is healthy.  Although she is aging, she is aging gracefully and still loves to be my demo dog at workshops and public events.  When the weather is cooler, she also travels with me and visits with the customers.  She’s a true ambassador for canine massage and natural care.
  • People engage with me on Facebook, through this blog, and through the columns I write for NZ Dog World.  I love to write and it is satisfying knowing that people like you are reading what I have to say and to share and take the time to get in touch.

So, on this Thanksgiving Day please take the time to give thanks – even if you are not in a country that officially celebrates the day.

Remember to hug your dog, too!

Izzy resting

Obligatory photo of Izzy, The Balanced Dog’s demo dog and mascot.

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