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September 22, 2013

What is a Bad Dog? Toxic Cleaning Ingredients to Stay Away From!


Ernestine Reporting

Yea! I got the banner spot! Lots of news from the 3 Crate Escapes including new bulletin boards going up this week featuring;

  • dog nutrition and training articles,
  • ‘Chews A Cause’, our rescue organization/ donation program, is restarting, bring us gently used dog items!
  • updates on Last Hope K9 Rescue, our ‘in the field’ partner, for finding forever homes for homeless dogs. Belmont Crate Escape is fostering dogs rescued  by Last Hope; stay tuned for photos and information!

I have chosen an article from the NY Times to share with you.  After I read it, I debated whether to blog it, because I know we are all such extreme dog lovers and caretakers, that we would never……

… the next thought was, none of us are perfect. October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month. Rescuing your dog is a wonderful deed, but like almost everything else, there are no guarantees. Also, like most things DOG, there is love.

Later, Ernestine

Bad Dog

Rachel Maizes

My dog, Chance, is old. White fur circles his eyes, coats his muzzle, sprouts between his toes. Although still alive, he looks like a ghost. He used to stand like a champion, his chest and muzzle forward, his hind legs back. Now he can hardly support himself when he sits, balancing precariously like a pile of kindling propped against itself.

He takes an anti-inflammatory medication for arthritis and pumpkin for constipation and fish oil and glucosamine for his joints and mind, though it may be too late for the latter. He walks an endless circuit between the guest room and bedroom and master bath searching for what I don’t know. When he tires, he lies next to me as I work. Sometimes he groans.

I think about what it means to have cared for Chance for most of his life. It confirms that I, too, am growing older. I turned 50 a few months ago. Overnight, wiry gray hair has sprouted at my temples. Always a theater buff, now I attend matinees. My back stiffens after weeding. In the mirror, I see a face rearranged by gravity’s heavy hand. I remember Chance as a gangly puppy with floppy ears. I keep a picture of myself as a young woman, a 20-something with spiky hair, my arm around my mother, now dead 10 years. A dog’s life is shorter than ours, but ours is, as the Talmud says, “k’heref aiyen,” like the blink of an eye.

Chance’s fur is long and mats easily. I brush it, collecting thick, webby piles. My second husband, Steve, saved the fur of a dog he once owned and a friend wove it into cloth. It’s one of the things I love about Steve, the over-the-top affection he bestows on animals. I toss Chance’s hair into the trash or scatter it outside for birds to install in their nests.

Fourteen years ago my ex-husband and I adopted Chance from a shelter. He was a 4-month-old puppy, an Australian Shepherd mix, with brindle fur. We had another dog, Tilly, a 2-year-old black Lab, who trained him. When we told Chance to sit, he glanced at Tilly and followed her lead. We crated Chance, as the shelter recommended, keeping him in an enclosure for brief periods of time to housebreak him and give him a sense of security. Once I left him in the crate for several hours. I returned to find him trembling, squeezed into a corner of the crate to avoid the puddles and piles he had made. No emergency had kept me. I had been chatting with a friend and time got away. It wasn’t the only time I failed Chance. It was easy to fail him, a mere dog, who couldn’t insist that I return, who couldn’t even embarrass me by telling the story.

When Chance turned 2 he became aggressive. He growled at other dogs and bared his teeth. He flattened puppies under his heavy paws. He chased children and cyclists, clamped down on their ankles and knocked them over. He even bit Tilly in a scuffle over my bed.

When I tired of apologizing for him, I hired a trainer. She told me his aggression was set off by fear. She said to keep him away from unfamiliar dogs and people, for their sake and his.

I fled when other dogs approached. If I was distracted and we crossed paths with another dog, I ordered Chance to sit and rewarded him with meaty treats if he stayed calm. Most days he preferred the fight. He hurled himself at the other dog, barely restrained by the leash. He barked furiously, drowning out my attempt to explain to the other dog’s owner, “Chance doesn’t like to socialize.”

I didn’t know when I adopted Chance that puppies need to interact with other dogs to learn social cues. A well-socialized dog employs a soft growl to tell another dog “you’re in my space.” A puppy who interacts with a variety of other dogs learns to roughhouse in a playful, rather than a threatening, way. Chance had Tilly for company and I mistakenly thought that was enough. I was depressed and in a bad marriage. Nothing got me off the couch. By the time I started taking better care of myself and walking the dogs every day, it was too late.

I divorced my first husband and the dogs took care of me. Chance made me feel safe in a large, empty house. Tilly shared my bed, resting her head on my ex-husband’s pillow. But I hated being the owner of a bad dog. I felt ashamed turning away someone whose dog wanted to play and telling a schoolchild she couldn’t pet Chance. I lived in constant fear of him attacking someone.

Yet in some ways, I am the perfect owner for Chance. An introvert, I identify with his desire to be left alone. I empathize with his feelings of jealousy. When Steve and I married and Tilly transferred her loyalty to him, lying at his feet instead of mine, I could hardly suppress my rage.

It’s easy to love a well-behaved dog. It’s harder to love Chance, with his bristly personality and tendency toward violence. Yet in the end, I measure the success of my relationship with Chance by its challenges, because if I can’t love him at his most imperfect what use is love?

A few years ago, an old yellow Lab got loose. The dog lunged at Chance, sinking his teeth into the soft flesh of his throat. He bit his head and tore at his face. The Lab foamed, reveling in the attack. I kept hold of Chance’s leash and screamed at the owner, but she was frozen. I didn’t see how Chance could survive multiple, vicious bites.

Finally, the owner pulled the Lab off by his hind legs. Chance whimpered. He hadn’t fought back. What saved him were the other dog’s teeth, so worn by age they were mostly ineffective. Chance’s teeth were sharp and he was young and strong. Why had he held back? Perhaps he wasn’t such a bad dog after all.

In his old age Chance has mellowed. When we walk, he attends to what is directly in front of him, a flagpole or a mailbox, barely sensing other dogs. It takes us 40 minutes to go around the block, but when I look at him he grins. It’s his favorite time of day and mine.

I try to be gentle with Chance, hoping when the time comes others will be gentle with me. When I catch myself tugging his leash, I remind myself these are his last days and to enjoy them. The night before Tilly died she tried to get my attention, resting her muzzle on my keyboard. I moved her aside. I was busy writing and I thought there would be time to play, not knowing her cancer would take a dramatic turn in the morning and we would have to euthanize her.

I often think back to that night, wishing I had cuddled and cradled my girl. I hope not to make the same mistake with Chance. Steve scratches his belly every night before we go to bed. Chance deserves at least as much from me.

He is, after all, my good dog.

Household Cleaning Products that are NOT Dog Safe

Many of us use cleaning products in our homes that are not exactly pet safe. Ingredients such as bleach, ammonia, chlorine, glycol ethers, and formaldehyde can cause problems in adults and children, but pets are particularly at risk for things such as cancer, anemia, and liver and kidney damage, according to studies that include data on pets. Here’s what you need to know.

Toxic Ingredients and Their Effects on People and Pets

Avoid purchasing or using products that include these ingredients:

  • Ammonia — Used in many degreasers for ovens, glass, and stainless steel, ammonia burns mucous membranes and contributes to asthma. If it is mixed with bleach, it creates a poisonous gas, which can be deadly to small animals.
  • Chlorine — Used in disinfectants, toilet bowl cleaners, and automatic dish detergent, chlorine is also used to bleach coffee filters or clean pools. It can cause dizziness, vomiting, and laryngeal edema. Avoid this ingredient, and be careful about letting your pet swim in the pool.
  • Glycol ethers — Found in glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, and spot removers; linked to anemia, lung damage, and kidney damage in people and pets.
  • Formaldehyde — Used in products such as soaps and even some pet shampoos; a carcinogen that can contribute to asthma.

Cleaning Products that are not Dog Safe

Here are a few to watch out for, with some alternatives:

  • Floor Cleaners — These include Pine-Sol and Mr. Clean. Even if you manage to get all of the residue off the floor, the vapor lingers and is dangerous to your pet.
  • Bathroom Cleaners — These include Clorox Bathroom Cleaner and Scrubbing Bubbles. Try a product such as Ecover Bathroom Cleaner instead. And never use a continuous toilet bowl cleaner such as Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner. The temptation to drink out of the toilet is a quirk in many of our pups (and cats!).
  • All-Purpose Cleaners — The most common toxic, all-purpose cleaners that scream “Danger!” are Mr. Clean Multi-Purpose Spray and Formula 409.
  • Drain Openers — You may think that since this product is poured down the drain, it can’t be harmful to your pet. But the toxic drain openers give off dangerous fumes long after you’ve emptied them. For a nontoxic, pet-safe option, try Earth Friendly Enzymes Drain Opener.
  • Glass Cleaners — It may seem that glass cleaners, as seemingly “simpler” products, are safe, but don’t be fooled. Instead of something like Windex, try a product such as Nature Clean Window and Glass Cleaner.
  • Laundry Detergent — Laundry detergent can leave residue on clothes and pet blankets, which can be harmful to your pet, especially those who chew on their bedding. Avoid detergents with toxic ingredients like Tide and Cheer and try something like Down East’s Liquid Laundry Detergent.

If you do decide to keep toxic cleaners, make absolutely sure they are put away. Put child safety locks on cabinet doors or put cleaners up as high as possible. Never use them when your pet is in the same room, air out the house after cleaning with them, and never leave any residue. Remember, even when the toxic cleaners are stored and closed, the vapors left behind can continue to harm both us and our pets. The warning signs are clear; we recommend making pet-safe cleaning products a rule around the house.



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