Thursday, May 23, 2019

Watching People Ruin Their Pets. When Do You Intervene?

I saw an event unfolding last night that was not new to me, unfortunately.

A young women buoyed down by screaming, demanding, unrelenting children drags her new puppy in the hospital entrance. This puppy is a small, gangly, mopey, shy, quiet, a wallpaper scruffy scrawny little bag of bones. The last in tow.

As with every exam, my clock, the time you pay me for, begins the moment I set eyes on you and your pet. Being a vet who can only obtain the clues your patient can't verbally provide for you, is about observance. I do most of my work without the client talking or my hands on my patient. In many cases up to and almost 50 % of what I need to know comes from me just watching you and your pet interact before I even start taking notes.

This puppy was perfect. I knew he was perfect within the first minute of seeing him interact, or rather not react to this chaotic crew. He kept his nose down, his tail low, and his feet nimble. He went where directed, no argument, no challenge, no expectations. He sat next to a child ignoring him,,, the ipad was far too captivating. He rested his head on the baby seat carrier next to two month old toes wailing for a binkie. This puppy was last on the totem pole and he was so comfortable with this lot he had been lowered into that he didn't ask for anything more.

I loved him completely for just being so content in the cacophony of cries he misplaced himself within.

My pup Fripp. Abandoned in a box on the side of the road at 2 months old.

Trust me when I say this: puppies are born perfect. People screw them up. Even people who aren't trying to do it intentionally. It's just like kids. Why do they care so much about your opinion of them? Why are teenagers so internally conflicted? Fight so hard, care so much to be accepted? Because that's what youth costs. Puppies, like kids, need time, attention, acceptance, patience, and they need you to as much as possible. They need you to put them before yourself. That's what maturity costs. Juveniles often cannot articulate the exact origin of their dismay, but you know there is conflict if they aren't fitting into your life. The hard part isn't recognizing there is an issue, the hard part is stepping out of your own demanding, busy shoes and trying to fit your fleshy feet into their furred paws. March to the beat of a life without schedules, jobs, financial pressures. These are your problem, not theirs. They cannot relate to you. What happens when old and tired meets new and energetic? Division. Division leeches adoration. Puppies and kids need adoration. Maybe above all else.

My pup Storm. Abandoned at a shelter in NC.

I see far too many new pet parents who hold angst. Many know there is a problem. They can state it in pointed fingered deficiencies.

"It was a puppy mill puppy," (from which they paid for knowingly..), therefore insinuating every issue stems and is related to this... an excuse for us is easier than a plan to overcome.

"She was abused,,, " often a specific example follows to solidify the defense claim, "by a man with a hat. We know that because she is always afraid around men with hats." (Maybe she never had seen a man with a hat before? And, the point is??).

"She can't be crated." (I promise this is not her fault. It's why we start crate training at adoption. You don't go to any shelter in the world and see a room of "uncage-able" pets do you?).

"She can't walk on a leash." (what?)

"She doesn't like other dogs." (OK, that's setting her up for a big problem when an emergency happens, and it's also not fair to her to be so afraid of her own brethren. It's why we socialize as puppies. And, who was responsible for that?).

For new pets these issues, amongst the too numerous others, cause conflict. For the parents it adds stress and angst to an often already overburdened life.

Please don't give me, the veterinarian, the laundry list of "can't" or excuses as to why it "can't" be resolved.. I don't want to hear it. I don't subscribe to it, and, most importantly it isn't helping anyone involved. If you are giving me a problem that is affecting your pets ability to fit into your family we have to address it, solve it, and be prepared for other problems to follow. A road block is a dead end. More of these are likely to follow too.

My pups; Storm, Charlie (my local shelter rescue), Fripp.
All are PERFECT!
In some cases pet parent can't define the exact source of the angst, but, its palpable, and it's looming. I have to ask them to look at themselves? How did they contribute, exacerbate, precipitate, create the issue? It didn't happen without someone responsible for it. It is us, humans, never them. They are perfect. Your job, as their parent, their lifeline to everything in this world, is to help them feel that they are loved unconditionally. Isn't that after all the attraction to them we hold?

After they have tried to solve the source of their angst at home, usually with even more destructive options: like crating all day to avoid the chewing destruction. Chaining outside to avoid the inability to housebreak. Bark collars to shut them up. (They are barking for a reason, ever think of that?). Letting them run loose, because it is "natural." like the "natural" hit by car? After all of this fails they come to see me.

Serafina.. found after being hit by a car, multiple fractures,,,
my favorite part of my work day.

To be very successful in the capacity I wish to be as the family veterinarian, I think that I need a sociology, psychology, social worker and law degree, on top of my vet degree. People screw up everything. I know its not exactly the answer your therapist provides, but, damn, it's what the real life vet believes. YOUR PUPPY IS PERFECT! IT'S YOU. I'm sorry. YOU!

I have three perfect puppies who have been brought to me this year with owners who can't find the reason when they look into their doe eyes to want to keep  them. And, its always the same. It's always the same thing that I hear. "They (the accusatory kind of they), don't do...." whatever. The complaints at the end of the sentence might be a little varied, but essentially these clients want a quick fix to get this puppy to meet the restrictive containment of their humans life. They need to pee or poop less. They need to be quieter in the crate for longer periods of time. They need to bark, play, and overall NEED less." It is a recipe for disaster when these requirements meet my clinic. How can I possibly cure your overwhelming life? It's not your puppies fault you have no time for them. They are demonstrating that you have no time for them. Their lack of training, their rambunctious, unmet energy is your failing. Not theirs.

Here's last nights scenario;

This client had just gotten her puppy. He was 5 months old. (Not the typical new puppy age).

"Where has he been?" I inquired.

"He failed out of a service dog program because he had separation anxiety." She then went on to describe how he was so anxious and afraid being left in his crate that she was finding him covered in his own urine and feces every time she left him alone in it. After some heated phone calls between the previous owner, (the supposed service dog training mom), it was discovered that he had never actually been crated, and he had never been left alone. Obviously he wasn't going to jump into a crate and be left alone and be happy about it. He had been set up to fail. Who created the separation anxiety? his previous mom. Some human set him up to be screwed in his next life with the inability to be crated, and never having been left alone. It isn't fair for him to be punished now for things he never learned. Sadly his next life hit him at 5 months old. I was also pretty perplexed how this could be any legit service dog organization? Of course he failed. He was destined to only fail. His new family consisted of a newborn baby, (like those we time stamp in weeks), and a three year old.. who liked to push buttons. The dog was for him, the three year old. He may be capable of feelings, but all I saw was indifference to anything other than the ipad. And three is too young. I stand by this. If you are an adult and you want a dog , fine, thumbs up, go for it.. but your kids under 10, you cannot convince me they are capable of the focus and attention a puppy requires. Stop setting the kids and the dog up to fail. Who is going to pay the consolation prize? The dog, always the dog.

Pets require time. Just like kids. When their needs are not met to their satisfaction they escalate. They escalate until the demand is manifested as a scream. And they tend to be the squeaky wheel that gets the time and attention and toy. The pets in highly active families learn to adapt. They are excellently skilled at adapting, but, they still need you. Many can adapt to being content tag-alongs; off to the beach, the lacrosse field, the family outings together. But, an untrained, unversed puppy, they are too much to manage on top of your kids.. so they get left behind. They get crated. Often too often when life gets too crazy to accommodate them.

When I am asked how much crate time is ok? I have to answer that every pet is different. But in general the puppies that are 8 weeks to 4 months old need lots of playtime.. like at least 4 hours a day. They need to be walked every 2-4 hours. During this time we work on leash walking, potty training. It is their time with you. They need to be fed 3 times a day. And they pee and poop A LOT! It's a full time job. If you already have a full time job and two full time kids why are you getting a puppy?

I make the mistake of asking. I am always met with indignation. Want seems to be an acceptable answer.. but, it doesn't serve your puppy. What is right for them?

It is my job, my purpose, my place to put them in front of your needs. To not set them up for failure. To find the place in your family where they belong, just as they are, a child growing and evolving and learning. Living to be a part of the place you are already solidly within, and  they are not.

I have watched too many families ruin a perfect puppy because they cannot put the puppy in front of themselves. there is no room in their too busy and cluttered life to allow them to grow, branch out, learn what works and doesn't. They are expected to be completely pre-programmed. Know what the dog before them, who had 14 years to figure it out did, and they are then brought to me.

The puppy I met last night was being diapered and drugged to fit better into the morning routine. Which allowed him time outside by himself while the kids and adult were getting ready. Wake at 430, leave at 630, no time  to play. He was fed, put outside and then crated. His frustration with this schedule was displayed by coming unraveled to the point he covered herself in his own pee and poo.

Mom wanted a stronger medication than her OTC to resolve the issue.

There are times I want to abandon civilization. Die in my own white coat and spare the pets of the world the neurosis we inflict upon them.

And yet I stay standing.

"Your puppy was set up to fail by his first family. He is being set up to fail again. He needs more time and attention. When he doesn't get her needs met he escalates. (Sound like your kid at the grocery store?). When he is ignored enough times he will develop his own bad habit, like barking, biting, growling, becoming aggressive, or even withdrawn. He is going to try everything he can to get the time and attention he needs. (I want to add hear in bold print AND DESERVES! but I am still dealing with a human who is putting her last and that won't work).

Melt down begins. "So you are telling me there is no answer?"

"No, I am telling you that we both recognize there is a problem. If you can't give him the time and attention he needs you can either pay someone else to do it; daycare, dog walker, etc. Or, you can re-home him so she can try to have his needs met elsewhere, Or do what I do, and, get a puppy for your puppy. But, there is no way around the needing to find more time dilemma."

I think I spoke to her for over an hour. I tried every imaginable conceivable idea I could muster.

In the end she wanted medication. It came back around to this.

"Medication is used while a behavior plan is being formulated. It is a bridge to allow time for the training to solidify. If medications are used and training fails the medication may need to be continued for years, maybe indefinitely."

"I am on anti-anxiety medication."

"Were you started on it when you were three? So you wouldn't cry? Or need a diaper?"

In the end I fear for this perfect pup. I fear he will be lost in the family that has no time for him. Lost in the expectations he hasn't been made privy to. Lost in the drugs his mom is intent on finding for him. And lost to a society that cannot possibly solve the problems that mount.

As she left she said to me that " She has lost her hope." I am losing mine too, I wanted to reply.

I want to add here that as frustrated, afraid, and concerned as I am, I recognize the scenario doesn't have a lot of options. And, I also recognize and verbalized that this mom needs to take care of herself too.. she, in typical mom fashion, dismissed this as relevant. My job is to be her puppies advocate. I have to figure out a way to help her help him. I HAVE TO! We BOTH have to...

Here's my recommendation for this puppies current dilemma. Crate for varying periods of time throughout the day, but, only after periods of playtime, exercise, training (remember training, yeah, this is so often over looked I cannot even mention it. Add another source of setting up to fail). Someone needs to be more  focused and generous to this puppy. NOW. The reply I got was, "there is no time." face palm.

When do  I intervene? When does my perception of the road ahead, the awful scenarios I have already witnessed; the dogs who resort to biting for attention and are euthanized because of it, and the dogs sent to live their lives alone in a cage, a chain, a shelter because they were perfect once and are ruined now?

I offered to re-home him. I offered to keep helping. Take the puppy during the week when mom was at work. It seemed that no matter what  I offered it wasn't the right answer.

The true joy in having a companion is watching them evolve into their own being. The antics, preferences, idiosyncrasies, quirks, etc. etc.., i.e. recognizing they are their own individual who enriches our lives as they live their own within the family we create for them. To try to mold them into what is easy or efficient for us is setting them up to fail. We know that for ourselves and our children already, don't we?

Muffins, one of our many clinic cats..
She was once feral. She now lives her life on her terms, and is unwanted because no one can see her for her, and love her in spite of it, except for us.

Medicine is as much intervention as it is hope. I question when to do either in a greater degree often. When do I intervene? Often and early. Every pet I fear is being forgotten, neglected, abused, or dismissed gets an intervention plea. Every, Single, One. I give out my email, my phone number, make an intro with my Office Manager (who has three kids and is far more adept at compromise than I), and I make weekly phone calls to inquire. I also offer to re-home. I know what shelters know. That if I can't fix it that pet will pay for it.. Bring them to me before dumping at a shelter. It happens. People screw them up and then give them up.

When clients arrive who cannot see their own participation in the poisoning of their pet, or, when blind pride will cost them a happy pet soul, I resort to hope. It's all I can do in some cases.

P.S. I wish more than anything that I could post the photos that I have of these pups. How much I worry for them every single day. And, how much I have to lean on hope because my influence of medical intervention limits my ability to stalk their homes. Why isn't there a social service for pets? Why? Because we live in a country where pets are property. Their rights end at food, water, shelter, and abuse.. not the kind that includes mental well-being and kindness that exceeds empathy.

Poe, our parvo puppy.
Puppies get sick, they need lots of time, training and vet care.. it is why they are often the most susceptible to abandonment, financial, emotional or otherwise.
Here's my real-life chart of euthanasia, abandonment, and pet related vulnerability;
X axis; age of pet; months to years
Y axis; desire to intervene on pets behalf to include; emotionally, financially, and medically.. new pets get a fraction when compared to pets in the family for years, as they age it declines. Based on my experience alone.

For related blogs see;

The Real Cost Of A Puppy. Parvo Puppy Poe.

Second Chance Cole. Your pet can live without and past you.

The Challenges Of Puppy Adoptions/Purchase

Planning Your Pets Lives Beyond Your Own.. A Moms Guide To Pet Parenting,,,

Top 10 Mistakes New Pet Parents Make 

Want to know what kills me? Watching a person ruin a perfect soul. Happens. That's what costs me my soul saving soul.

For more information on anything and everything pet related please ask us for free at

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I am also posting lots of informative videos at my YouTube channel here.

Thank you for reading and sharing your life with the companions who remind us why life is worth working so hard to keep them in the lifestyle they have grown accustomed to.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Spring Floribundant. Reflections on old shoes and the new lives filling them.

The first fully warm day of 2019.

The grass is green, climbing, soft and sweet and succulent. It is tall enough to trip over, and in need of a mower already. The flowers are on their second act. The floribundant fireworks display show is eeeking closer. As I lost myself in the tasks of Summer prep, cleaning, weeding, and mental mapping of the days ahead I wait for all year, I got lost.

Multiple times I had to remind myself that this is Storm and Frippies first Summer. That they don't know this part of life with me on the farm with all of the bursting beings about to emerge. All the long days to work the earth. Play in the sunshine. Plot the course of the long days with endless adventures yet to find. They don't know long stretches of days that start and end with the sun in our faces and the bounty in between our toes. They don't know where water bowls are. Dog beds for all weather napping, and the escapes under the bushes where the earth is cool and malleable.

They don't know to head for the stream or the pond for a quick dip to feign off the panting fits, even after their big brother by a decade, Charlie, already made two skinny dipping trips in front of them. Charlie's jaunts are obvious to all. His quick departures to the pond elicit screams from the resident pair of geese who see him as an unwanted, untrustworthy invader. The geese take to the water to paddle furiously in circles as they extend their necks and bellow their diaphragm in harassing and chastising profanities.

The puppies are fall babies.. They know what their fate taught them. Shuffling from a home as a newborn, to a dumping ground for unwanted souls, to a shuttle in a rescue van, to a foster home,, and then eventually to our doorstep lost, quiet, and shell shocked..

Winter for them was blood tests. Leash training. Crating for the safety of a quiet place they could call their own. Vaccines, more blood tests, spaying/neutering and multiple debates about their chances of seeing the end of their first year.

They don't know how to be outdoor dogs with a day to play free from a leash or a cage. They don't know this season, but, of all the teaching they needed they don't need to know anything more about it than the joy inherent in its glory.

I have had to remind myself all day that these puppies aren't Jekyll. That there is a new chapter in this new growth around us all and that this new beginning for them is more baby steps. It's Spring for us all. I'm a new mom to puppies who haven't yet been versed on this part of life in this season of so much exploding life and newness.

My kids have fur,, they also own my heart. It's the life of a mom who doesn't define her kids by species.

For all of you moms out there I wish you the happiness and joy that only kids and their unconditional love can bring.

If you are a mom (or dad) dedicated to your companions lives I invite you to join me on It is a place to offer support and assistance to other people who center their lives around the kids they adore. It is free to use and we are building a place for people who love their pets to help each other.

If you have a pet related question you can find me there. If you would like to visit me at the clinic please use our website, or for daily inspiration and smiles like us on Facebook at Jarrettsville Vet or Pawbly.

I also have an informative YouTube channel that you can subscribe to here.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Cryptorchid Neuter Canine. What Happens When Your Dog Doesn't Have His Testicles In The Scrotum?

This is Cash. He is an 11 month old German Shepherd.

He was purchased from a private breeder at 8 weeks old. At his first examination I, his veterinarian, found that only one of his testicles was in the scrotal sac where it belonged. He also has a small umbilical hernia.

Umbilical hernia in the center, shaving the scrotal area for the neuter.
An umbilical hernia can be a very dangerous finding in puppies. If the hernia (a hole the communicates with another adjacent body cavity, in this case the abdomen), doesn't close like it is supposed to then the contents of one space can possibly move between them. In Cash's case his intestines could slip out the open umbilical (belly button) hole. If a piece of intestine slips out we worry that it can twist and strangulate, therefore, inhibiting gut function. This can be fatal. All hernias should be checked by a veterinarian frequently to decide if, or when, surgical intervention is needed. Not all need to be closed, or require surgery, but all need to be monitored very closely and if the hole is big enough to let abdominal contents slip through surgery should be planned as quickly as possible.

Correcting the umbilical hernia
My bigger concern for Cash was his undescended, unpalpable testicle.

The testicle in the abdomen.

Abnormally small (the retained, intra-abdmoninal testicle) on the left,
and, the normal testicle (one in the scrotum) on the right.
Cash was seen by me every 3 weeks for his puppy examinations and vaccines. His missing testicle never made an appearance. At his 6 month exam we discussed giving him another few months to let gravity and maturity see if it could coax anatomy into its correct position. At 10 months old he still didn't have two palpable testes so his family elected to neuter him, correct his umbilical hernia, and perform an exploratory surgery to look for the missing goods.

Pre-op bloodwork ($60 for a partial chemistry and CBC) was done and returned normal.

Surgery included; umbilical hernia repair.
pre-scrotal neuter of the left teste.
abdominal exploratory surgery to find and excise the retained left testicle.

Cash did very well under anesthesia and his testicle was quickly and easily found in the caudal part of his abdomen by his urinary bladder.

cost for surgical care was;
anesthesia, $215, approx 90 minutes
medical pet shirt; $28
suture material; $150
NSAID, for analgesia; $20
antibiotic $$30
hernia repair $75
e-collar $15
castration cryptorchid $300
total about $930

Related Blogs;

Retained Testicle In A Dog.

If you are interested in help for your pet and don't know where to go please find us here at It is a free online community dedicated to educating and inspiring pet people everywhere. It is free to use and open to everyone.

I can also be found at Jarrettsville Vet in Harford County Maryland. Visit our Facebook page here, or see our online Price Guide at our website