Thursday 31 May 2007

Smoke gets in your eyes

Today is World No Tobacco Day.

An estimated 650 million people on this planet smoke and half of those will die as a result of smoking. Equally alarming is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people who have never smoked die each year from diseases caused by breathing second-hand tobacco smoke which is aka passive smoking, involuntary smoking, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke or ETS exposure. Call it what you like, it aint good for you nor for your dog. I read the story of Winston, a Yorkshire Terrier, who made a recovery from long-term chest problems after his owner gave up a forty year old habit. What about all the others we do not hear about? We read and hear about the effects of passive smoking on us humans but rarely do we hear about the effects on pets. However, studies on animals show that they are as much affected by exposure to tobacco smoke as we are and that it is as carcinogenic to them as it is to us.

Monday 28 May 2007

Snowy's father is 100 years old

Tintin and Snowy’s spiritual father Hergé would have been 100 years old this month. Georges Rémi aka Hergé was born in Brussels on 22nd May 1907.
Tintin is not a proper name nor is it a surname, it is a totally unique world, a myth or a saga. Tintin surrounds himself with friends who become his family. Among his friends Snowy comes first. In French Snowy is called Milou. The Tibetan monks called him “ Morning Snow” in Tintin in Tibet because of his exceptional whiteness. He is a wire fox terrier.
Admittedly he is a dog but he is above all, the faithful friend of Tintin with a generous spirit. Tintin, a top reporter, keeps travelling around the world and acts more like a detective always seeking the truth and fighting against injustice. Snowy is always with him. He is generous and faithful and both he and Tintin are always on the move. Snowy’s flair and courage will often save Tintin from imminent danger. Not only is he Tintin’s most faithful companion, he is prepared to die on his master’s grave in Cigars of the Pharaoh. He is Tintin’s first and only companion but he is also his alter ego and his only confidant. They are always on the same wavelength in thought but also in conversation.
Hergé either had a dog himself or must have studied dog behaviour closely. Perhaps he was just wishing for a faithful companion.

Thursday 24 May 2007

Have we gone completely bonkers?

After canine manicure, canine hairdressers, hotels for dogs, birthday parties for dogs, swimming pools for dogs, dog marriages, dog fashion shows, we now have yoga for dogs. In America where this practice first started it is called “ruff yoga” or “doga”. It is immensely popular and some gyms in the UK offer this new form of “working out”. It has not reached our Belgian shores yet but maybe there is a business opportunity here for me or for anybody who can talk to animals, who can stroke them, who can speak gently to them and who can get them to adopt postures which come naturally to them anyway.
From what I read dogs respond very positively to the gentle energy in the room where these classes are taking place. A yoga expert says: “It’s a healing thing.” What does this mean please? I gather, it is more a way of making sure that dogs are not left out of their owners’ quest for physical enlightenment. It is a new way to spend time with your favourite pet. Chilling out with your companion. Experts say we have to look at our dogs closely and say to ourselves that when they are playing with a ball or happily leaping after a Frisbee or trotting along beside us on a country lane, they are in fact angst-ridden, tense and extremely stressed. Have we gone completely mad?
My advice: if you want to spend quality time with your dog, take it to dog training classes.

Sunday 20 May 2007

Can anything good come out of Iraq?

When Marines enter an abandoned house in Fallujah, Iraq and hear a suspicious noise, they clench their weapons, edge around the corner and prepare to open fire.
What they find during the U.S.-led attack on the “most dangerous city on Earth,” however, is not an insurgent bent on revenge but a tiny puppy left behind when most of the city’s population fled before the bombing. Despite military law which forbids the keeping of pets, the Marines de-flea him with kerosene, de-worm him with chewing tobacco and fill him up on MREs.
Thus begins the dramatic rescue attempt of Lava from Iraq and Lava’s rescue of at least one Marine, Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman, from the emotional ravages of war.
From hardened Marines, to war-time journalists, to endangered Iraqi citizens, From Baghdad, With Love tells an unforgettable true story of an unlikely band of heroes who learn unexpected lessons about life, death and war from a mangy, little flea-ridden refugee.
The book has just been translated into Dutch and is on the bestsellers list.

Please use the Amazon link below should you wish to read this book.

Thursday 17 May 2007

European Passport

The other day Jose Mourinho, the Portuguese manager of Chelsea was arrested and cautioned by police over a row about his dog. A spokesman for Mourinho said: "The incident occurred because of a misunderstanding over documents required for veterinary regulations”.
Mr Mourinho is believed to have refused to allow the police to take the Yorkshire terrier.
Scotland Yard, which stressed that the operation was led by the Animal Health and Welfare Service, confirmed the dog was to be seized under the Animal Health Act of 1981 and Rabies Order Act of 1974.
We travel to North Cornwall with Belle very frequently and we have never had a visit from Scotland Yard. That would give the patrons in our local pub something to talk about. But of course we are not celebrities and we meticulously follow the rules.
Belle has a European Passport and it is scrutinised with as much vigour as ours. The microchip has to be read and the dog has to have all the required vaccinations plus a certificate that it has been wormed and has had an anti-tick treatment within 24 hours to 48 prior to entering Britain. Only certain transport companies and routes can be used to bring dogs into the UK. It is also specified that you may not bring a pet into the UK from a private boat or plane. We use Calais as our port of departure but perhaps Mr Mourinho does not.
This story obviously appealed to the Chinese as the incident was reported in the China Daily.

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Paralysed for life

The media has gone very quiet on the fate of poor 5 year old Thomas but I gather the poor lad may be paralysed for life on one side. The carotid artery was severed in the attack; a blood clot developped as a result and Thomas suffered a thrombosis followed by an embolism.
Of course we are asking ourselves why the Belgian Government is not addressing the problem of dangerous dogs? There are always more pressing issues in politics. I remain convinced that the problem lies with irresponsable owners who are incapable of handling dogs. Dogs are not born aggressive and it is not in their instinct to attack. They are conditioned by their environment and by the people who interact with them. Most dog owners do not know what to do when they first get a dog. I am repeating myself but a dog is not a cuddly toy, not a baby human, not a fashion accessory. A dog is a pack animal who reacts to certain rules which humans ignore or fail to implement. It is therefore very important to follow training classes with experienced trainers who will guide an owner through a process which is informative but also fun. A dog is a very responsive creature and wants to please its owner. So yes for me it is quite clear: a dangerous dog has an irresponsible owner.

Monday 14 May 2007

Dog or killer?

Thomas, a five year old boy, was attacked by an American Staffordshire Bullterrier over the week end. On the social estate in the south of Brussels where he lived dogs are not allowed but they are “tolerated”. The boy was walking in a narrow alleyway with his grand parents when the dog jumped on him from behind and bit him in the neck and on his head. The dog would not let go. Its owner had to physically open the dogs mouth to release the boy’s head. Thomas is in a coma as a result. The dog has been put down.
It is of course terrible when such things happen but we have to ask ourselves why. Why is it that these dangerous breeds often fall into the wrong hands and are owned by irresponsible people who do not train them properly? Or train them wrongly?
These type of dogs have existed for millennia and were used in battle and for guarding, but they also served utilitarian purposes, such as farm work. Specifically, these dogs accompanied farmers into the fields to assist with bringing in bulls for breeding or slaughter. They were known as cattledogs or bulldogs. They helped the farmer by subdueing the bull if it attempted to gore him. Typically a dog would do this by biting the bull on the nose and holding on until the bull submitted. Because of the nature of their job, bulldogs were bred to have powerful, muscular bodies, and the resolve to hold onto a violently-struggling bull, even when injured.
Eventually these dogs' purpose inspired the widespread practice of the bloody sports of bull baiting and bear baiting. They were also bred to be intelligent and level-headed during fights and remain non-aggressive toward their handlers. As a result, Victorian fighting dogs generally had stable temperaments and were commonly kept in the home by the gambling men who owned them. After immigration to America, the dogs were bred to be even stronger to work as much as farm dogs in the West and fighting dogs in the big cities. In addition to the "locking jaw" ( the dog does not let go ) myth, it is widely believed that "pit bulls don't feel pain". However, pit bulls have the same nervous system of any other breed, and they can and do feel pain. Historically, those dogs that would tolerate or ignore discomfort and pain and finish the task they were required to perform were the dogs that were bred and the sort of dogs breeders strove to produce. Interestingly enough, pit bulls or dogs that appear to be pit bulls are the most commonly found dogs in dog pounds and they are often destroyed due to the stigma associated with the breed.When aggression becomes a problem the reasons can often be traced to such things as improper handling, lack of socialization or training, a misreading of dog behaviour by the owner, lack of discipline, or even disease. When an owner is startled by a sudden, aggressive outburst, it is generally because he has been unaware of problems that were brewing. Dogs involved in attacks overwhelmingly have a known history of aggression, even though many dog owners deny or minimize this fact. Here in Belgium pit bulls are sometimes used for dog fighting, due to their strength, courage, dog-aggressive tendencies and widespread availability. Although dog fighting is illegal, it is still clandestinally practiced. Often authorities are incapable of stopping this. In England pit bull terriers are regulated under the Dangerous Dogs Act, administered by the government agency DEFRA. There is no proper legislation about dangerous breeds in Belgium but from what I have read, it would seem that the various political parties which have studied this issue have not come up with a realistic proposal that could lead to an enforcable law.

Friday 11 May 2007

Nothing to do with dogs

This is the second time in two years that the Belgian authorities have "advised" His Holiness the Dalaï Lama not to visit Belgium where he was to address the 5th International Conference of Tibet Support Groups today. The Chinese authorities made it known that the Dalaï Lama's address to the Conference would not enhance a favourable climate for the Belgian economic mission to China led by Crown Prince Philippe at the end of June. The Chinese Government's persistent attempts to exert pressure on small nations to restrict the movement of the Dalaï Lama is a case of outright bullying, gross interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, of aggressive diplomacy. They undermine the efforts that have been made for a resolution of the issue of Tibet. His Holiness the Dalaï Lama decided to cancel his visit to Brussels in order not to inconvenience a host government. Many participants at the conference will be disappointed as is the general Belgian public.

"If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them."

Wednesday 9 May 2007

A little help goes a long way

Webster, Belle’s only friend, is a yellow Labrador. Recently he was very ill with pneumonia and thanks to his mistress’s good care and loving attention and the vet’s advice he recovered. I also may have helped a little. I had a word with Saint Roch.
This French noble who early developed a sympathy for the poor and sick is reported to have been born with the image of a red cross on his breast. Orphaned at the age 20, he gave his fortune to the poor, and became a mendicant pilgrim. While on pilgrimage Roch encountered an area afflicted with plague. He stayed to minister to the sick, and affected several miraculous cures, usually by making the sign of the cross over them, but contracted the plague himself. He walked into a forest to die, but was befriended by a dog. The dog fed him with bread stolen from his master's table, and Roch eventually recovered. When Roch returned to Montpellier where he was born in 1295, he was arrested for being a spy. He languished in jail for five years, never mentioning his noble conections, cared for by an angel until his death.
Saint Roch is usually represented in the garb of a pilgrim, with a wound in his thigh, accompanied by a dog carrying a loaf of bread in its mouth.
It is said that: “that who that calleth meekly to S. Rocke he shall not be hurt with any hurt of pestilence."
He has become the patron saint of dogs and in Bolivia his day – 16th August - is celebrated as the "birthday of all dogs", in which the dogs around town can be seen with colourful ribbons tied to them.

Sunday 6 May 2007

Prozac for dogs

I have just been catching up with the Prozac for dogs articles in the media and on other blogs. I cannot believe what I am reading. Someone suggested it was the beginning of the apocalypse and I agree with this person. What is wrong with our society? American society I should say because that’s where Eli Lilly have just won approval to sell its blockbuster antidepressant. Eli Lilly is not manufacturing this drug for the good of dogs but to further increase their multimillion business. Remember Prozac is Lilly’s most lucrative medicine. People are so gullible, so dumb and often so brainwashed to think that a pill will take away all ill. Humans can be treated in the first place in which ever way they choose. Traditional medicine or any type of alternative medicine or therapies ranging from homeopathy to spiritual healing, freeing charkas, reading tea leaves, magic diets, Gregorian chants and the list is endless if you search on the internet. But dogs do not have this choice and are utterly dependent on their owners.
Only the other day I was contacted by a lady who had a problem with her dog. She was an 80 year old grandmother whose children had bought her a Neapolitan Mastiff. The dog was only 7 months old but was showing signs of aggression towards her grandchildren when they came to visit. Rule number one: do not give a dog as a gift to someone especially if this dog is not an appropriate breed. This really gets my goat.
Dogs are not cuddly toys, they are not a furry baby human, they are not a fashion accessory. They are animals. Pack animals at that and they live according to certain rules. Most humans who buy a dog do not know these rules and most behavioural problems are due to man’s ignorance. A dog when he arrives in a human family as a puppy does not know anything and needs to be guided to become an obedient and a nice balanced creature. A dog needs attention, exercise, proper handling and training.
A few rules: do not buy a dog if you work from 8 till 8. Reconsider having a dog if you live in a small apartment without easy access to a park or forest. Dogs do not take exercise in shopping malls! Go to dog training classes and start as soon as you get the dog. Give your dog attention; this does not mean you have to cuddle it all day long or it sleeps on your bed or you give it treats or you pamper it like a doll. Dog training is easy but it takes time and effort and patience but if you do it properly and become a responsible owner your dog will not need Prozac. I can guarantee it.
I have recently helped Belle with homeopathic remedies. She was suffering from separation anxiety.

Saturday 5 May 2007

Not all in the mind

A pilot study undertaken by eight vets found that 79% of animals treated with homeopathy over a six-month period showed an improvement in their condition, according to their owners. A total of 767 animals were assessed, with particularly good results for arthritis and epilepsy in dogs and hyperthyroidism in cats. Co-author Dr Robert Mathie commented: "Although research has shown that homeopathy can be effective in treating mastitis in cows, there has been little investigation into the use or effectiveness of homeopathy in companion animals. Homeopathic vets and pet owners frequently report successful results from the therapy, and further good quality research is required. This pilot is the first step towards the identification of suitable future research projects." Ref: British Homeopathic Association

Wednesday 2 May 2007

My canine godson

Although rare outside its native France, meet my canine godson, Bounty, a 8 month old French Spaniel (Epagneul français). This breed of dogs was developed in France as a multi-purpose gundog, capable of pointing and retrieving. It is a very old breed with documentation of the breed back to the 14th century where is was used for net hunting and falconry.
This dog looks and acts the part. He gives the impression of compact power and agile grace. His head is noble, carried proudly and his expression is intelligent and alert. His muscular body bespeaks both staying power and dash. His every movement shows him to be a wide-awake, hard-driving hunting dog possessing stamina, courage and the desire to go. And in his expression are the loyalty and devotion of a true friend of man.
The breed is very popular in Canada where it was introduced in the 1970s.
I should just add that it is quite normal in Belgian and French cultures to be a godparent to a furry creature.