Traveling Dog Lady: Archives of my articles from DoggyWoof blog, part 1

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Archives of my articles from DoggyWoof blog, part 1

About K.S. Mueller

K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites;; and Follow K.S. Mueller on Facebook and Twitter!/k2k9.

Rescue a pet: you just may find the love of your life

When we adopted Hobie in 2000, and Hector a year later, we didn’t really “rescue” them per se. We got them for free. We did not go through an agency but got them from friends/acquaintances, in each case. The same was true for Timba many years before that, and the countless cats we have raised. I consider Hobie and Hector the true loves of my life, as far as animal companionship is concerned. I know my significant other agrees — he especially loved Hector, so very much. So, we “rescued” the two of them, but not in the same sense that the word has taken on since the last decade-and-a-half.
Hobie came to us when a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-co-worker was unable to keep the young puppy (pets were not allowed where they were living, in an apartment in the city). I took one look at him and fell hopelessly in love. Today, more than 13 years later, I can say that I still feel the same way. As I watch him age and become more and more disabled, my love grows.
A year after we adopted Hobie, a good friend’s dog had puppies on a nearby farm. Hector was one of the pups, and Hobie actually chose him from the litter. They became the best of friends, and there was nary a bad word said between them in the 10 years we were all together. Hector stole a piece of all of our hearts, and then some. He’s been gone 18 months or more, and my heart still aches just to type his name or see his picture. Thankfully I have hundreds of photos of him, though seeing them is always bittersweet.
Charlie Brown, and later his brother, Cooper, were adopted through a rescue organization here in the northeast that helps transport pups from the sure-to-be-killed south to the unlikely-to-be-killed northeast. Although I had volunteered for a different rescue organization a few years ago, this was my first experience adopting through “rescue.” Some people may think it’s like an act of Congress adopting a puppy or kitten from a shelter or rescue. In fact, some have said it is easier with a human child, you go to the hospital, give birth, and bring it home. No questions asked, and no owner’s manual! Adopting a puppy or kitten from a rescue or shelter will entail filling out a bunch of paperwork, providing references, and having what’s known as a “home visit” where a stranger, usually a volunteer for the organization, comes and checks out your house to make sure it’s fit for a new animal.  This is true whether your new charge is a baby dog or cat, or a full-grown mutt or feline. Some folks find this a turn-off, but in this day and age, with dog-fighting rings and other bad people out there, sadly, it is a necessary and quite painless process.
Be prepared to answer questions about…
  • Income
  • Work schedule
  • Who will spend the most time with the pet?
  • Are there other pets in the home?
  • Are there children or elderly in the home?
  • Is your property is fully fenced-in?
Thankfully, we passed with flying colors!
I didn’t quite have the same reaction to Charlie Brown and Cooper as I did to Hobie (that is to say “love at first sight”), but you know what?  I didn’t have that reaction with Hector, either, and it turns out he was one of the great loves of my life. Cooper, who lost his leg at a very young age, is an inspiration and it has been suggested he’d make a great therapy dog. Sometimes when he’s lying asleep beside me on the couch (or bed, yeah, ok?), I am in awe of how comforting he is. Charlie Brown, even though he’s the same age as Cooper, is in the “terrible twos” stage, so I get annoyed more than overjoyed at the moment.  But I still love him, and I know that one day, he will be the best dog in the world, just like all his predecessors.
So, if you’re thinking about adding a pet to your family, rescue a pet from a shelter or rescue organization. You will probably not be disappointed, and you just may find the love of your life.
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

One year later, a puppy grows (and grows, and grows)

When I told friends earlier this week that it’s been a year since we adopted Charlie Brown the so-called hound/collie mix, everyone seems astonished that an entire year has passed. When I brought him home that first day, he howled like a wolf in the back of the car for a few minutes, but then settled down and went to sleep. I pulled the car over, near the former military base known as “Fort Devens” and took a couple of pictures of him snoozing in the back seat. I couldn’t believe we were bringing another dog home, so soon after the sudden death of our dear, beloved Hector hound dog just five months earlier. But there I was, puppy in hand, about to launch into the next adventure.
It’s often said that you don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need. That was true of Hector, who challenged me as none other had before him. But it’s even more the case with Charlie Brown. The challenges are different from any I’ve known with other dogs — namely, house-breaking, what a chore! — and then there’s the digging and eating furniture and other foreign objects. I should have collected all of the items I either pulled out of his mouth, or found in a pile of vomit!  It would include an antique upholstery nail (that one I grabbed out of his mouth); an auger-shaped screw (same); anything plastic or wooden; a decorative piece off grand-dad’s end table (I cried); rusted pieces of metal (didn’t sleep all night after that one!).  None of my previous dogs presented us with those particular challenges.
Every dog is different, and they teach us so many lessons, don’t they?
Today, our puppy is still a puppy at 15 months old, (and he is huge). Five months ago, we adopted his brother, Cooper, who was surrendered back to the rescue organization at 7 months of age. This is the age when pups are known to challenge their humans most of all. Sadly, most dogs are surrendered to shelters between the ages of one and three years, for reasons mainly attributable to humans being unable to handle the challenges a young dog will present, repeatedly, during these growth phases. We know our dogs will get more rambunctious during the next 18 months, but then…. then? After “the terrible twos”, the rewards will be 100-fold. We’ve been through this before. We’ve had many “best dog in the world” canine companions, and we had to get through the trials and tribulations to come out on the other side with great dogs. These two will be no different, they are already showing us their remarkable personalities. They’ve stolen a piece of our hearts, as did all our previous hound-y family members.
Some day, we will look back on this and remember when Charlie Brown and his brother Cooper were puppies; and we’ll say, “I can’t believe that much time has gone by.”  But for now, we’re just enjoying the ride.
Did somebody say “Ride!”?
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

Arthritis, Your senior dog, and You

Dog lovers share a lot with their dogs, including arthritis pain and discomfort. The affliction is just as prevalent in dogs as it is in humans, and vice-versa. Here are some tips for helping your arthritic dog (usually elderly) cope with the challenges this chronic condition can bring.
First and foremost, give your dog supplements. I’ve tried many. Back in the early 1980s, my beloved black Lab, Timba (who lived to be 18!) was afflicted with terrible arthritis. She accompanied me to work every day of her life, and when it became clear that maneuvering the stairs at our spacious office complex, and getting in and out of the car, became major obstacles, it was devastating. A horse-loving friend brought me a big bucket of powdered glucosamine and chondroitin (for horses). She instructed me to lower the dosage and sprinkle the powder on Timba’s food. (I might add, this was before these type of supplements were available for humans and small animals — remember it was the ’80s!) Within weeks, Timba was not only climbing the stairs and hopping in and out of the car effortlessly, she was also running again (well, ok, trotting), and she was also peeing, a lot! Now we know why someone invented the phrase “peeing like a race horse”.
Decades later, I’ve tried many, many different supplements for Hobie, who turns 13 this week. The best one I’ve found, after much searching, is called Phycox. They are soft chews that smell like sausage. He reminds me of his twice-a-day dosage like clockwork. We never miss a dose thanks to his barky insistence. These supplements were originally prescribed by our vet, but I ended up finding them online and can buy larger quantities that way. I also sneak one to three-legged Cooper once in a while, as he puts a lot of strain on that one front leg. It certainly can’t hurt, right?
The next thing is assistance devices. Unfortunately, we have three full flights of stairs at our house, and Hobie must maneuver these several times a day. He’s a trooper! Just when I think we’re going to have to start bringing him out the front door (only three steps), he surprises me by joining me upstairs in my office while I work. We have a ramp for getting in and out of the car, but he often just looks at me and expects me to lift all 80 pounds of him (which I can do one section at a time: front legs first, then the back). There will come a time when we will have to baby-gate the longer stairways, and help him in and out of the front door. He won’t be able to go on car rides at some point. We’re not looking forward to that. Some dogs have wheelchair-type devices — they are expensive, but if the dog’s quality of life is otherwise good, it’s probably a great investment. We are lucky, the most well-known manufacturer of these custom-made devices is right here in Massachusetts, less than an hour away from where we live. Doggie slings and harnesses are also a good thing to have handy for your arthritic hound.
Massage or acupuncture: unless you know what you’re doing, you might want to have a professional deliver a doggie massage to your pup. I tried to massage Hobie once and his leg ended up locking up on him and he couldn’t even stand up. So much for my dream of becoming a doggie massage therapist! Although we’ve never tried it, acupuncture for dogs seems to bring great relief.
Trim those nails! This is so important. A canine with arthritis has a hard enough time getting around without having clicking talons added to the commotion. Most older dogs will let you trim their nails even if they balked in their younger days. I take Hobie to the groomer, he still tries to take a bite out of me when I approach with the clippers! A 10-minute visit to the groomer (no appointment necessary) and 15 bucks will do the trick. Don’t hesitate to do this regularly and often, it helps an arthritic dog more than just about anything. The results are very dramatic.
A few more things should be mentioned: gentle exercise, short but frequent walks, fresh air, sunshine, a soft, warm place to snooze, a doggie aspirin on particularly bad days and lots of love and attention are crucial for your painful hound. Hobie likes it when I help him up onto the couch so he can snuggle with us.
As I clear the tableau of middle age, I, too, suffer from painful inflamed joints. There were many things I imagined I would share with Hobie when we adopted him 13 years ago. Arthritis wasn’t one of them!
Share your questions or tips for canine arthritis care in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

Beat The Holiday Blues With Your Dog

The holiday season is tough for some people. The days are shorter and colder. The dark of night seems particularly long. This can be trying for anyone who has seasonal depression, or regular depression, or even just a mild case of the blues. Many people have experienced losses around the holidays, or miss and remember those they lost earlier in the year. Some have lost jobs or houses during the past few years, and the economy is not improving fast enough. Even the most happy-go-lucky person can get stressed-out and down in the dumps at this time of year.
Enter the family dog! Who better to get the humans up and out of the doldrums? It’s been proven that people who own dogs exercise more, get more sunlight all year ’round, handle stress better, and are generally healthier than their non-dog-owning counterparts.  Who can resist those big, brown eyes asking for a morning walk around the block, or a quick game of fetch in the back yard before the pet-parent heads to the office? Why, around our house, our dogs have been known to yank the leash right off its hook near the kitchen door and bring the leash to us.  If that doesn’t scream “Take me for a walk!” I don’t know what does.
Your dog doesn’t need to be a registered or certified therapy dog to offer you the benefits of his inborn therapeutic abilities. Just cuddle with, or pat, a dog and you’ll reap the rewards instantly. They keep you warm, lower blood pressure, and put a smile on your face.
So the next time you’re feeling blue or stressed out about the holidays, take a moment to “have a moment” with your dog. It will do you both good.
Happy holidays from K.S. Mueller, and hounds Hobie, Charlie Brown, and Cooper.
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Celebrate Your Dog’s Birthday

My two puppies, Charlie Brown, and his brother, Mini-Cooper (the three-legged wonder), were born on 11/11/11. Pretty cool, right? Thanks to a remarkable woman who fostered these little babies along with their six brothers and sisters, and their mama, I’ve managed to stay in touch with all of the other adopters throughout this first year. We’re planning a tentative puppy reunion to celebrate their first birthday.
So far, we have two ideas: One, meet on the beach on Saturday, or Sunday, let the dogs romp, take some photos and have a good time. Weather permitting, of course. Two, everyone comes to my house to take advantage of my fenced-in yard. This option does present some issues such as parking, entertaining and refreshments, use of bathroom for humans, and putting the cats in a safe place (imagine the cats thinking “How did they multiply?” when they see all the look-alike dogs).
About a month ago, I sent out an email to all the adoptive parents asking if anyone would be interested in a first-birthday celebration. Only three of the seven adoptive pet parents seemed interested. One of the three interested pet parents has moved out of state, too far away to join us, but has become “friends” on Facebook, and we stay in touch quite frequently. Her pup looks exactly like Charlie Brown. The other two are ready to drive just about anywhere to make this happen (as am I). The others (including the adopter of the mama dog, Kate) have been silent. Former foster-mom is pretty much up for anything.
Most dog lovers probably don’t get the chance to remain in contact with the adopters of the original litter of puppies their dog came from, especially (as in our case) when they are mixed-breed “mutts.” But if you are so lucky, what a wonderful opportunity for some photos and a play date to burn off excess energy (assuming every one of the pups is as successfully socialized as mine, of course).
As long as your dog is well-socialized, and your family doesn’t mind putting up with a pack of dogs for a couple of hours, you, too can celebrate your dog’s birthday with a play date at your home. The easiest option is in your own back yard, and hopefully it is fenced in. Invite your dog’s favorite canine friends, have the guests bring presents (toys or treats are best), serve refreshments for both humans and dogs (no chocolate for dogs, please!) and break out the cameras. Let the dogs play in the yard before eating, and don’t over-feed, just a couple of small treats for each dog will suffice. Make sure plenty of tennis balls are available, as long as none of the dogs will fight or get possessive over the toys. Keep bowls of water freshly topped up. Keep the event short, one hour, two at the most.
Not up for hosting people at your house? As an alternative, get everyone together at a dog park or other safe location where the dogs can romp and play for a short time, and don’t bring any presents or worry about food or refreshments for anyone. Bring plenty of water to cool off the dogs, and make sure leashes are handy and dogs are fully identifiable with info tags on their collars.
If your dog does not play well with others, but you still want to celebrate his big day, don’t worry, you and your human pack can still have a great time commemorating your dog’s birthday. Grab a leash and take your pup on a nice walk either alone, or with the family. Take Puppy for a ride in the car (most dogs love this!) to nowhere special. Buy some new toys and a few special treats, put a birthday hat on his head, and take some photos.
Above all, be safe, have a great time, and take lots of pictures.  After your guests have gone home, snuggle with your dog while watching a dog-themed movie or TV show, or reading a dog-themed book.
Even if you skip commemorating your dog’s birthday, he won’t mind. Dogs don’t pay attention to the calendar!
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month

American Humane Association designates October as Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month to bring awareness to the overwhelming number of dogs in the U.S. in need of loving, forever homes.
Did you know there are nearly 78.2 million dogs in the U.S. who do live in loving homes? Approximately 39 percent of U.S. households include at least one dog. Most people have just one dog; 28 percent of households have two dogs; and 12 percent have three or more dogs. The number of male vs. female dogs in households is about even.
Twenty-one percent of dogs in U.S. households were adopted from a shelter or rescue.
National estimates indicate that between approximately 5 and 7 million dogs and cats enter the nation’s shelter systems each year, and about 3 to 4 million are euthanized due to overcrowding and lack of adoptable families. Owner surrenders and strays picked up by animal control are about even in terms of how the animal ended up at a shelter.
A whopping 25 percent of dogs who end up in shelters or rescue organizations are purebred; and nearly 20 percent of the dogs surrendered to shelters were originally adopted from a shelter in the first place.
American Humane Association suggests visiting your local shelter to find the right dog for you. Or, if you want a specific breed, look for a breed-specific rescue group in your area.
Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue saves a life, but it can also improve your life! Be it for companionship, an exercise buddy, teaching your children responsibility and responsible pet ownership, or having a dog to train for agility or service. Not only that but pet ownership has been known to lower blood pressure and people who walk their dogs regularly tend to stay fit. Finally, adopting a dog from a shelter is economically affordable, and your money goes to a great cause.
So, get on-board. Adopt a shelter dog in October and help lower the statistics.
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

Debunking Five Myths About Three-Legged Dogs

We recently adopted a three-legged “tripod” dog. He is only 10 months old. He lost his leg due to a bad break caused by an accident, and the leg was unable to be repaired.
Most three-legged dogs are not so young. The majority of dogs who lose a leg are older, and most develop cancer in the leg or shoulder area, which requires amputation.
Regardless of their age, these dogs are remarkably well-adjusted creatures for the most part, and having only three legs doesn’t slow them down.
Here are five myths about three-legged dogs:
  • They fall down, a lot. So far, this has not been our experience. Granted, we’ve only had the dog for a couple of weeks, but he has managed to stay upright except for perhaps two times when he lost his footing on a wet surface or was just clumsy.
  • They can’t go up or down stairs easily. Think again! Our guy runs up the stairs three-at-a-time, and actually gets to the top faster than his litter mate who is the same age and has four-on-the-floor. Descending stairs is a tiny bit more difficult, but just a tiny bit.
  • You can’t take a three-legged dog on a walk. Wrong again. Our guy loves to see the leash and sits proudly waiting for it to be put on. Out the door, he pulls just as hard as his brother, and can keep up on the walk just fine. We don’t go for LONG walks, that would not be smart. But a brief, gentle walk, around the block, say, is just the thing to keep your tripod in shape and on the move.
  • Three-legged dogs can’t swim. We live on a lake, and while we have not actually tried swimming with our tripod yet, he has stepped into the (very shallow) water and got his feet wet — all three of them! There are a lot of online resources for three-leggers, and a few of them sell flotation devices for “tripawds.” We can’t wait until next summer to try out one of these flotation vests on our dog!
  • He wants to play fetch, but he can’t.  He can get to the ball even faster than his four-legged counterpart. Just use common sense and don’t play for too long of a period of time. Be creative and bounce the ball on a hard surface so he doesn’t have to run as much, or throw it up in the air and have him catch the ball mid-air. There are lots of ways to have fun with a ball-crazy dog other than just throwing it long distances.
You get the picture. Having three legs doesn’t phase the animal. We humans can take a lot of lessons from our dogs. This creature lost a leg and didn’t even think twice about it, he just lives in the moment and does what he wants to do. He doesn’t ruminate the loss of his leg or need psychological therapy. He doesn’t need to know “what happened” like every human we encounter on our walks!
If you have a three-legged dog, be prepared to tell his “story” to every human you meet. Be ready to see the looks of shock on people’s faces (especially children). Have a script ready for people who “feel bad” or children who seem frightened. I always say “He’s fine, it doesn’t bother him, so why should it bother us? Look — he can run, and jump, and play just like his brother. In fact, he’s even FASTER!”
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

Do Pets Really Relieve Stress?

It’s the great debate in our household. Are the pets creating stress, or relieving stress? My answer? It’s a little of both.
We have three cats and two dogs, and are considering adopting a third dog. If that happens, it means each species will outnumber the humans! Our cats are each three years old each and our dogs are 12 years old and eight months old. The 12-year-old is delightful, totally well-behaved, trained, relaxed, easy-going, “chill” (despite the arthritis that has slowed him down considerably). We are so proud. Remembering how he was when he was a puppy, we feel we’ve accomplished quite a remarkable feat. The 8-month-old we lovingly call “Devil Dog”.  He’s also delightful, but he can cause a lot of stress when he digs a hole in the back yard, chews on furniture, swallows things he should not (only to hurl them up later!), and chases the cats who, I truly believe, taunt him.  We find ourselves counting to ten and taking deep, cleansing breaths — a lot.
It’s a well-known fact that petting a cat or dog can lower blood pressure. Cuddling with said animal produces oxytocin, the feel-good hormone generally reserved for mommies and their babies. Walking your dog gives both human and canine daily exercise. These factors lower stress and stress hormones. What pet parent doesn’t love coming home to those wonderful nightly greetings after a hard day at the office? Can you look into those big, brown eyes and not fall hopelessly in love? Many of us allow our pets to sleep in bed with us, and that comfort and cuddle during the overnight hours can soothe many a nightmare or insomnia-plagued individual.
Once you get through the puppy phase, your dog will likely end up a great companion like our 12-year-old. A source of comfort, happiness, joy and unconditional love with beautiful eyes, a shiny, white smile, and a thumping tail. Yes, a stress-buster.
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

Handling fireworks and thunderstorms

The 4th of July has come and gone, and as a dog person who lives on a lake part-time and near an ocean beach the other part, neither location was “ideal” for escaping the fireworks, and thunderstorms can be more than just a little intense.
Here on the lake, the neighbors have a tradition where they all pitch in for a massive fireworks display similar to those you might attend put on by town officials. But the lake’s event is not put on by town officials, firefighters, or anyone else qualified. Lest we think that it’s only one night, on the 4th of July… nope! Any excuse for fireworks: let’s not forget Massachusetts (Boston) sports fans are unmatched for their rabidness. Between wins (of which there are many) and holidays (year-round, yes even in the winter, the bombs burst in the air!) well, firecrackers are just a fact of life on the lake. Not only do they light off the pretty oooh-and-ahhh type, and the small, annoying firecrackers, they more often than not go for the bomb-like explosions of M-80s and cherry bombs. I am always concerned “someone’s going to get hurt.” And no, I do not contribute to the cause!
But enough about that, this is about the dogs. I moved here in 1985 with my faithful black Lab-mix companion, Timba. Timba was unafraid of fireworks or thunderstorms, surprisingly, and we never thought twice about either event. 
In 2000, we adopted Hobie, a Lab/Shepherd mix. Hobie, 12, is terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms. Hobie will pant and pace excessively, and try to hide in small spaces such as under a desk, or inside a closet or shower stall. He will paw at me incessantly until I go with him – usually to “the bomb shelter,” a place I set up in our laundry room in the basement when he was a pup. I have there a lawn chair, and a radio, and I sit down there and read a book while he sleeps, until the fireworks pass. This could be many hours, as the fireworks display here on the lake is extensive and goes on well past midnight for many nights in a row. I’ve tried everything with Hobie: taking him for a walk and tiring him out, soothing him, ignoring him, sitting in the shower stall or closet with him (or under a desk), playing loud music and shutting all the windows (that one works best), bringing him to my office four miles away (that works, too!) and the Thundershirt. Alas, Thundershirt did not work on Hobie, but it did work for our other dog, Hector.
Hector, 9, who passed away unexpectedly last summer, reacted differently, but equally intensely, to fireworks and storms. He, at 85 pounds, and taller than me if he stood on his hind legs, would climb onto my lap, wherever I happened to be sitting, even if I was at a desk! He could not get close enough to me, and would claw at me and try to sit on me, or as close beside me as possible, all the while panting and just half-sitting, more like standing up, which hurts your thighs if he’s trying to get into your lap! But, aha! The Thundershirt worked on Hector, hooray! 
Enter, Charlie Brown, our 8-month old puppy (and boy am I exhausted! but that’s another essay). No fear of either fireworks or thunder. Ahhhh, relief. Anybody want to buy two Thundershirts?
Do you have any tips for helping your dog during fireworks or thunderstorms?
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

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