Category Archives: dogs and holidays

Reflections on 2020, Covid-19, resilience and our dogs

I’m staying home tonight (New Year’s Eve), in my pajamas and with Izzy. As it should be. I don’t particularly like being out and about on New Year’s Eve, which is a holiday that seems to equate to lots of inebriated people, loud noises (often including fireworks), and general debauchery.

If you are one of my followers who is currently locked down due to Covid-19, I realise that it has been a tough year and that you are probably itching to get back to a normal social life. Try to see the glass as half-full – you are home safe with your dog.

As we see out 2020 and welcome 2021, I cannot help but reflect on the events of this year and the role our dogs have played in it:

  • The best lockdown companions you can have – dogs. We always knew that dogs are great companions but how much did they prove it to us (and continue to do so in many places) during lockdown?
  • Izzy was the host of Word of the Day during our lockdown and she also was the reason I was outside walking twice every day – as usual for us – but even more important for structure to our lockdown days and for the mental health that physical exercise and fresh air bring.
  • So many office-based jobs can be done from a home office – and how many dogs benefited from this? If my friends and clients are anything to go by – plenty.
  • My hope is that employees have proven their ability to remain productive in a working-from-home environment and, therefore, that employers will be more receptive to work from home arrangements going into the future.
  • Working from home cuts down on commuting times, reducing pressure on the environment from emissions which is good for the environment. And reduced commuting times mean added time for quality of life for everyone. More time typically means that dogs benefit from longer walks and bonding time with their owners – and both benefit from the companionship of having the owner around more. I’m not a big fan of commercial day cares, with dogs in an over-stimulated environment and walking/standing on concrete all day – working from home is such a better option for office-based roles!
  • Olive and Mabel – the rise of the dog superstars and their sports commentator Dad, Andrew Cotter. I loved watching all the YouTube videos with expert commentary by Andrew. What an example of “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” With professional sports shut down, Andrew directed his talents in a new direction and he and his dogs have become celebrities because of it. I haven’t read Andrew’s book yet, but it is on my reading list. Here’s one of my favourites from the Olive and Mabel YouTube series:
  • Teaching humans resilience. Dogs live in the moment and how much of that did we need in 2020? They didn’t understand a virus and the need to obey physical distancing. But they did it. And so can (and should) we!
  • A new respect for vaccinations and their role in society. I’m not an anti-vaxxer but I have a healthy respect for what protections proper vaccination can give. How many people are now totally reliant on a global strategy to vaccinate against Covid-19? It makes you think, doesn’t it?
  • Emergency planning – what happens if you can’t be there to take care of your dog? With the prospect of getting ill, many pet parents have finally made the time to make arrangements for their pets.
  • Adoption rates soar – a recognition that it takes time to settle in a new pet and a Covid-induced lockdown provided that time. And while there have been training challenges for puppies raised during periods where socialization hasn’t been possible, overall the role of a pet to support physical and mental wellness has never been more recognised.

The pandemic has also taught us about how much we rely on each other – for trade, for the manufacturing and the movement of goods, and for our economies. I am grateful to all who embraced SUPPORT LOCAL and have deliberately chosen my independent practice to support their dog’s needs, even when faced with reduced incomes and stress brought about by Covid-19.

As many of you know, I embraced Fear Free certification in 2018. Fear Free is about reducing fear, anxiety and stress in animals and promoting these strategies to professionals in pet care and to pet parents. My wish for you is that 2021 is also a Fear Free year – where we see an improvement in the pandemic, and for all those affected, the time and space to begin the healing process.

My best wishes to you and yours for 2021.

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

Izzy’s thank-you Christmas message

Izzy has a friend named Trevor whom she has never met. But it is Trevor who gives us many egg cartons over the course of a year.

This year, Izzy sent him this Christmas message, along with a video:

“Dear Trevor,

Thanks for all the egg cartonz.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas and eat more eggz.

Love, Izzy”

From our home to yours this Christmas season…

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

A Christmas song for dogs

It doesn’t sound very ‘Christmas-y’ to me, but Raise the Woof! is reported to be the first Christmas single written specifically for dogs.

It was made using scientific research into how dogs interact with sound, both noises and the spoken word (like ‘walkkies’).

How does your dog react when you play it for them?

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

Warmth and gratefulness at Christmas

I began my business over 10 years ago because I believed in the need for in-home care for dogs.  Gifts at Christmas from clients are always a surprise because I feel like I’m just doing my job.  But all are appreciated.

In this post, I share some of the gifts given to me this Christmas – and the thought that has gone into them is obvious:

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

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