I took the Von Schnauzer Krauts to the vet this morning for some blood work and exams ahead of their biannual teeth cleaning later this week. Rudy just needed a distemper booster and a blood draw, but because it has been more than 90 days since he last saw the vet, he had to get an exam from the doctor as well per hospital policy. I mentioned that both Rudy’s eyes have been weepy and crusty this spring, and further examination revealed a condition that, since we caught it early, can be treated before it progresses to the point of damaging his corneas and potentially causing him pain and discomfort for the rest of his life. I paid a $39 exam fee for that information, in addition to the tests and medications. Worth it? I certainly thought so.
While I was waiting for the staff to retrieve Reggie from her all-day annual liver function tests, I observed a couple who had two enormous German Shepherds in hand argue with the receptionist about that 90-day exam policy because all their dogs needed was a Bordetella booster. “That’s absurd!” the man ranted. “It’s just a damn revenue scam! You guys space these shots just far enough apart so that you can make more money off us.” The receptionist excused herself to consult the doctor, and I made a point of catching the guy’s eye. “I have complained about that policy myself,” I told him, “but you know, the exam gives them a chance to maybe catch something early and…” He didn’t let me finish. “It’s a dog,” he said curtly. “I love my dogs, but if they find cancer or something, it’s a dog.” He jerked his dogs along with him as he moved to the other side of the lobby from me. I guess those shepherds are just so out of luck if they ever get sick.
Well, it seems to me that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who say they love their pets and those who actually do.
As for me, I am willing to do everything I can do to give my dogs the best quality of life possible while they are in my care. If that means instilling drops and ointment in Rudy’s eyes for the rest of his life, I’ll gladly do it. I hope I won’t have to, of course, for his sake, but for sure that’s what I will be doing for the next 10 days. He wouldn’t eat his breakfast out of his dish this morning, but he would eat it bite by bite from my hand, so I fed it to him that way because he is too skinny to be skipping any meals. If that were the only way he would ever eat, I’d be scooping up wet kibble by hand twice a day every day. How could I not? I am his guardian, his caretaker, his whole world. He is indeed a dog, but he’s my dog, and he deserves good care and a good life. That’s in my power to give him, and it’s my pleasure to do so.
So here are the basics of loving a dog, in my opinion. Just the bare minimum, mind you.
- Spay/neuter as soon as the dog comes into your care or as early as your veterinarian advises.
- Microchip as soon as the dog comes into your care, and keep the registration information current.
- Keep all vaccinations current, and spring for that full examination by a vet a couple of times a year.
- Put a collar and tag with your address and phone number on the dog any time it is away from your house or yard (on walks, in the car, at the dog park, etc.). Always obey leash laws.
- Provide a secure area for the dog to eliminate, and keep it clean. Always keep a baggie or two in your pocket to pick up after the dog when you’re away from home.
- Feed the best-quality food you can afford. Consult your veterinarian to determine the ideal weight for your dog and read the label on the can or bag to determine how much to feed it to maintain that weight.
- Exercise your dog as often as you can: run, walk, swim, play fetch. If you can do this around other people and/or other dogs, so much the better.
- Teach your dog basic manners, such as not to jump up on people. A well-mannered dog is a joy forever.
- Keep your dog clean, which includes checking it often for foxtails, ticks and fleas, and regular bathing and grooming. This is good for its health and makes it more enjoyable to be around.
- Provide plenty of safe chew toys so that your dog has something entertaining to do when you’re away, and so it will leave your stuff alone. Rawhide is non-staining, not too smelly, and fully digestible.
Of course, we go well beyond the minimum in our house. I’d add, let your dog sleep beside you on your bed so you can rub his belly until he falls asleep and starts snoring like a bumblebee. Let him live in the house so he can be with you as much as possible. Arrange your furniture so that he can look out the front window and keep an eye on things in the ‘hood. Make sure he’s warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer. Get his teeth cleaned as needed. Play the games he likes to play. Cuddle with him. Give him the last bite of every piece of toast. And tell him he’s a good dog, every single day.