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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: May 10, 2018

Old Dog, New Tricks

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

A lot of people, seeing their beloved dog aging, choose to get a new puppy. This follows an old saying, "The old dog teaches the new pup." I was always intrigued by this strategy, but my husband and I have never gotten a puppy. We've rescued and re-homed some, but it always seems like when there is any kind of dog vacancy in our lives, God sends us an adult dog who needs us. But people who swear by this method say the pup does watch the older dog, and model that behavior; and if the pup gets out of line, the senior dog does the disciplining; teaching them what the "rules" of the house are.

However, at my house we recently have had an example of where our senior dog, Ivy, who is probably around 8, learned some irritating behavior from our younger dog, Wolfgang.

Living here in the south (and really almost everywhere) heartworm is a very serious risk for dogs. And of course, our flea "season" is year-round. So my dogs are on a monthly combination medication for fleas and heartworm prevention. The pills are about the size of a quarter for large dogs like ours, and are billed as "palatable," meaning most dogs should eat them happily because they taste good.

Our beloved Zoey, the pit bull, ate these pills like candy. So when Ivy arrived on the scene here about 7 years ago, she watched Zoey, our senior dog, gobble her pill and promptly ate her own. No problem, about as convenient as pilling a dog can be.

Unfortunately, Wolfgang has a different opinion about the pills. Instead of viewing them as a treat, he'd mouth it, and then eject it onto the floor. He was not inspired by watching Ivy eat hers. Since he refused to eat naked pills, I tried wrapping it in "flat cheese." That's what we call the nasty, rubbery cheese squares in plastic-wrap that are excellent for giving pills to dogs. You just wrap the pill up in some flat cheese, squeeze it together, and 99% of dogs will gobble it up.

Not Wolfgang. He surgically separates the cheese and pill, eats the cheese, and leaves. Literally leaves, and I'd have to grab the pill before Ivy ate it.

I tried everything. I cut the pill in quarters, and hid the pieces in slits in a hot dog. Nope. I rolled raw hamburger around it " no way. Out of desperation, I pounded the pill into powder, and then thoroughly mixed it with hamburger, and put him in his crate with it. (I have to do that, or Ivy would steal and eat it.) He ate it pretty slowly, but he did eat it. Now, it's kind of a hassle to go through this every month, but it's better than having fleas in the house or treating a dog with heartworm.

But then Ivy, who observed all my efforts with interest, starting being unenthused about her naked pill. Since I already had the hamburger to mix his, I started putting hers inside a little ball of hamburger. The first few months she ate it with enthusiasm. Then she started eating the burger first, then slowly consuming the pill.

This week, she ate the meat, and then went to bed, leaving the pill on the floor. She watched with the dog face we call "side eyes" while I picked up the pill and put it into her food dish. When it was time for her dinner, I added her food to the dish. She ate all the food with her normal enthusiasm, but the pill remained in the dish.

So I have resigned myself to making special "pill hash" for both dogs every month. Maybe in some houses the old dog teaches the young pup. In our house, the young dog teaches the old dog, who then teaches the human.

And I'm left to ponder the mystery of why dogs won't eat a pill designed to taste good, but they eat, with great enthusiasm, horse poop, rotting fish carcasses they find on a shore covered with flies; or the paper bag someone discarded that has hamburger grease on it. Maybe they should make pills that taste like that.

A happy mother's day to all mothers. A first-time mom recently said something that caught my attention. She said, "You never know how many things there are to worry about, until you have a child." This is so true, and reflects a mother's unending drive to protect her children from hurt and harm.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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