November 2010

We live in the High Peaks area of the Adirondack Park of New York. There’s one thing you can always count on – snow!

Our back yard

It snowed some yesterday, about 5 inches, just a preview of things to come. The dogs, Tsunami and Annie were ecstatic. They love to play in the snow like otter dogs, leaping, sliding, rolling and nipping at snow balls.

Soon though, depending upon the temperatures and the type of snow, Annie develops hugs ice balls on the bottom of her paws and between her toes. She’s then forced to lie down and try to lick and bite the ice balls from her feet. It’s a painful situation. I have seen dogs with bloody feet due to ice ball paws.

Annie is building up ice in her feet

Both dogs are German shepherds, but Annie is a long haired or coated version of the breed. It is considered a show fault though not uncommon in the breed and shows up periodically in many lines. I don’t much care about confirmation shows but I can see why a coated shepherd is undesirable. Though beautiful, the long coat is subject to tangles and burrs. In many cases, like Annie, the coated dogs lack a dense undercoat which protects them from the elements. The German shepherd dog was bred primarily in the early days as a sheep herding dog – a dog that had to endure the elements everyday of the year regardless of the weather. Tsunami has a traditional coat. One good shake and she is rid of rain, sleet or snow – a wash and wear dog who can hike all day in any weather.

Coated shepherds are not the only dogs to suffer from paw ice balls.

Popsicle toes

Just about any dog with whispy fur between the toes or under the feet has the same problem.

Fuzzy footed Annie

There are some things to do that will help:
1) clip the fur between the toes and between the pads of the feet
2) spray the foot with vegetable oil spray
3) put boots on the dog

I used to clip Annie’s fuzzy feet. She hated the process. And we kinda like the look of her fluff feet.

I have tried the vegetable oil. It doesn’t last that long and needs to be re-applied, especially if you have a dog with a palate for vegetable spray. Annie would just lick it all off.

So, we boot up. We got a real nice, sturdy, comfortable set of boots from the Canine Kingdom

Annie shows off her boots

They’re well made, are designed to fit properly and have a nice treaded sole. Most importantly, Annie is not offended by them. She readily hops on the couch to allow me to slip them on and strap them up. That may not sound like a lot – but you don’t know my Annie. If she doesn’t like something…case closed. There are no negotiations or re-visiting the subject.

There are some other good reasons for a good set of dog boots. Every year I read of dog electrocutions in cities. I don’t know the science behind it but the combination of water and salt and deteriorated infrastructures have led people and pets to get electrical shocks when they step on metal sidewalk grids. The thick lugged soles of these boots can help in those situations.

Most municipalities use salt on roads and sidewalks. This stuff is dangerous if a dog ingests it. What dog does not lick its wet paws when they come back in the house? Better they wear boots which protect the feet from toxins.
These boots are comfortable. They could easily be used indoors to provide traction if you have non-carpeted flooring. Lots of uses…a good product…and a nice gift for the pooch.

Best dressed do in town

Like her hand beaded collar and lead? Check out the Kenyan Collection at the Canine Kingdom.
Semper Fido,


They’re everywhere! Dozens of retail stores in Manhattan have shut down. The most posh hotels have closed their doors. Island resort hosts are scratching their heads and more.

Bed Bugs Crawling on a Mattress

The bed bugs have invaded. Once the plague of slum neighborhoods the bed bugs have moved uptown – wealth and riches mean nothing to these biting pests.

For the past few months the bed bugs have made headlines. We know what they look like, what they can do, how resilient they are and what they like to eat …blood!

Man’s best friend – the dog – is ready and willing to help us detect their presence and let us know when it is safe to curl up in bed for a night’s snooze.

The nose knows. Dogs have proven to be effective in detecting so many distinctive scents when properly trained. Who can forget the images of those brave search and rescue dogs sniffing through the remains of the World Trade Center, wading through the flooded houses in New Orleans, searching through the rubble of homes in Haiti? The SAR dogs always come to mind when we think of detection dogs who are trained to find live people and human remains.

Tsunami my SAR K9

But dogs have been trained to detect many other signature scents. Many people who have flown into California are familiar with the Beagle Brigade. Long eared Snoopy dogs sniff out illegal food. Each time they find a piece of fruit or a summer sausage they are rewarded with a morsel of dog food for a job well done.

Cops use trailing dogs to pick up the scent of bad guys. Law enforcement dogs fearlessly enter buildings and sniff out the perpetrator. Law enforcement agencies and our military use dogs to detect narcotics and explosives.

Military Working Dog searching for explosives in Iraq

It has been noted that some dogs have a propensity for detecting illnesses – diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, anxiety. It is not totally clear how they are doing it but laboratory studies prove that they are.

Environmental specialists have enlisted dogs to help them detect the presence of rare and threatened species of wild animals and plants. For centuries dogs have been used to find truffles, the elusive and expensive culinary delight.

Recognizing their abilities, exterminators have utilized dogs to detect termite infestations. And now bed bugs.

I spoke with my friend Andy Hanellin the other day. Andy is a dog trainer from North Carolina who produces many types of detection dogs – law enforcement K9s for narcotics, man trailing, and explosives, SAR dogs, service dogs and now, due to the demand, bed bug detection dogs.

A Bed Bug Detection dog at work

It takes about four months to train a dog to passively (a sit and stare at the source) indicate the presence of live bed bugs. Pretty tricky stuff. The dog must ignore the presence of dead bed bugs, any of their sheddings or feces. Andy’s advice – “Detection dogs of any type are only as good as their trainer and handler…carefully choose a reputable company.”

Dogs rock!

Semper Fido,

My dog’s name is Tsunami and my husband’s dog is Annie.

Tsunami & Annie

I am always intrigued about how dogs get their names. Let me tell you about our girls.

A little black German shepherd ball of fluff joined our household in the spring of 2000. We had recently lost our 16-year old Jilly girl and our home was so sad…we needed another dog in our lives.

My husband Hal and I really wanted to work with a search and rescue dog and decided to begin looking for an appropriate pup to train. We found a breeder of working line shepherds. She had two litters available. We sat on the ground and held and played with a blur of cuddly puppies. So hard to choose. Which one would grow up to have what it takes to become a SAR dog? Even the most experienced dog trainers can pick a puppy that grows up only to wash out from a working program.

Who to Choose?

We had a few favorites. June, the breeder invited us into her home to discuss purchase details. We sat down at the dining room table to look over pedigrees. Under the table was a pup – older than the others we looked at – about 3 months old. I sat on the floor and called the pup over. She obliged and curled up in my lap.

“What’s the deal with this pup June?” I asked.

“Oh, she’s not for sale. She’s the last pup from another litter,” she explained.

“Why isn’t she for sale?” I inquired.

“I don’t know,” June replied. “There’s just something about her. Something special.”

After a lot of haggling we came home with that very special pup.

We named her Tsunami because she came into our hearts like a big wave. She went on to dramatically change our lives. She continues to inspire me every day.

Tsunami this Summer

On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked our country. Hal and Tsunami responded to the World Trade Center to search for the lost. Our world had changed.

On July 4, 2002 we received a call from Tsunami’s breeder. A puppy she had sold was no longer welcomed by its owners. The dog had to go. Allergies were cited – sure – on the Fourth of July! June did not have room in her kennels as it was a busy holiday. The dog was going immediately to a gas station to work as a guard dog. Could we take her in?

We’d taken in dogs before and found lovely homes for them. Sure, we said. Bring her over.

She was named Cheyenne. She was skinny, shy, and smelled like a thousand ash trays. Allergies indeed. She tolerated Tsunami, who was very gracious to our guest, barely looked at me and immediately latched onto Hal.

We thought Cheyenne did not suit her but were reluctant to stray too far from that name…it was the only thing that was still familiar to her. Hal renamed her Orphan Annie – or Annie for short.

Annie is still with us. Wise dog that Annie. She cleaved to Hal, stole his heart. He renamed her again – Arfin’ Annie.

Hal with Arfin' Annie

So, what’s in a name? I’d love to hear your stories.

Semper Fido,