Posts Tagged ‘labrador retrievers’

Would cancer change your dog breed preference?

September 16, 2013 35 comments

Woman Rubbing Noses with PuppyWould you avoid getting a certain dog breed if you knew it had a higher chance of getting cancer?

That is the question I asked myself as I read some recent data on dogs and canine cancer. The data was posted on The Institute of Canine Biology but came from a scientific veterinary review article by Jane Dobson titled “Breed-Predispositions to Cancer in Pedigree Dogs”.

The data was both interesting and sad. In breeds where the prevalence of cancer is high, the attributing factor is most likely genetics. Certain breeds of dogs are just genetically pre-disposed to get cancer more than others.  Whether this is due to closed breed registries I cannot say (I’m just not knowledgable enough about dog breeding to know) but it certainly does give one pause to wonder.

As I looked at the list of dogs, I automatically found myself scrolling down the list to see where Shetland Sheepdogs and Labrador Retrievers fell. Labs were higher on the list (31%) than Shelties (22%), but certainly not as high as the irish Water Spaniel (55.8%) or the Flat-coated Retriever (50.3%).

I found myself whispering a silent “Thank God” and then wondering to myself whether a higher-risk for cancer would change how I felt about a certain breed. If Shetland Sheepdogs were higher on the list would I feel differently about getting a Sheltie again? Would the data influence my decision to stay away from certain breeds? To be honest, I don’t think so, but then again, I am not the owner of a Bernese Mountain Dog or a Vizsla or a Rottweiler or one of the other breeds topping the list. Maybe I would feel differently if my favorite breed was one of these dogs. I just don’t know.

How about you? Would you choose another breed of dog if you knew cancer was more of a possibility?

Black and White Sunday #49 – Daisy the Beachcomber

August 25, 2013 36 comments


My thanks to our hosts for this blog hop You Did What With Your Weiner, My Life in Blog Years and Dachshund Nola.

Unfortunately, doesn’t allow Java script so I can’t provide a direct link to the linky, but you can join here.

Daisy: Love in Progression – A look back

July 31, 2013 19 comments

IMG_6216Today I am taking another look back to the early years when Daisy first came to live with me.  Daisy is a former puppy mill breeding dog who was estimated to be four years old at the time I adopted her. She was afraid of everyone and everything. She practically crawled on the ground the first few days she came to live with me. This is an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab).” It highlights the progress Daisy had made after I adopted her in 2007.

I hope it gives hope to those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress can be made. It takes time and patience and often happens in fits and starts – for every step forward, there are two steps back, but it is so rewarding when you start to take those steps forward.  The key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also need learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.

This post is from July 11, 2011, a little over three years after Daisy first came to live with me.

It starts slowly at first. Very slowly.

Hanging out on the couch next to my sweet older girl, Aspen. Her lifeline. Being near me, this strange human, is too much at this time. But with Aspen as a buffer, she can cope with me being on the same couch with her.

When Aspen leaves us, we start again. She joins me on the couch but only if I pretend she is not there. Always, always at the other end of the couch as far away from me as is possible. Uncertain. Fearful. Alone in her own world.

If I leave the couch or the room, she is gone like a flash, with only the hint of a whisper. Silently. Ethereal. A ghost.

Over time, she discovers that an exposed belly can bring delightful touches. Belly rubs. Softly spoken words. Love.

When a new man enters our lives – a furry, curious, attention-seeking little guy. She discovers competition. Attention to be shared. With it brings little movements – a little scooch closer, and then a little more. And always, the exposed belly. Waiting. More belly rubs to be enjoyed.

As time passes, little movements progress into sideways glances and the thump, thump, thump of a tail. “Will you be my friend?” she seems to ask. The answer is “Yes. Always.” And then, slowly, a nose to my cheek.

One day, there is the lick of a tongue and a yellow head on my shoulder and again that thump, thump, thump of a tail. Confidence. Happiness. Joy. A smile. A new light in her eyes.

Three years pass. Patient, loving, gentle years. Now there is the automatic entrance and leap onto the couch followed by the exposed belly and questioning look “Belly rub?” Me on my computer. Working. And, then it happens… the slow, steady scooching. Closer. Closer still. Thump, thump, thump. Sideways glances now coming with steady progression. Thump, thump, thump. A sigh from me and the moving of the computer to a side table. My hand comes up to pet her ears, her head and neck. A kiss to her cheek. Loving words.

Ahhhh. Sweet moments in time. Savored. Treasured. Enjoyed.



Living with Daisy in the NOW – A look back

June 26, 2013 11 comments

IMG_4259Today I am taking another look back to the early years when Daisy came to live with me.  Daisy is a former puppy mill breeding dog who was estimated to be four years old. She was afraid of everyone and everything. She practically crawled on the ground the first few days she came to live with me. This is an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab).” It highlights the progress Daisy had made after I adopted her in 2007.

I hope it gives hope to those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress can be made. It takes time and patience and often happens in fits and starts – for every step forward, there are two steps back, but it is so rewarding when you start to take those steps forward.  The key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also need learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.

This post is from October 28, 2008, almost a year after Daisy first came to live with me.

If you have been lucky enough to adopt a second-hand dog, then you know the wondering that often accompanies their entrance into our lives. You wonder…Was my dog loved in his former home? What was my dog’s former owner like? Does she cower because she was abused? Was he treated well before he came to me? Where did he learn that quirky behavior?

For me, I never had any doubt that my last dog, Aspen, was loved by her former owners. She was such a loving and affectionate dog that I KNEW she had been loved and cared for during her early years. She displayed none of the typical behaviors (cowering, shaking, running in fear, etc.) that would indicate abuse or mistreatment. In fact, I was pretty sure that the decision to give her up was probably not an easy one. She was 9 years old, had medical issues, and likely cost her former owners a good amount of money. However, I did wonder why they surrendered her saying she kept jumping the fence when I knew that her nine-year old debilitated hips could never have allowed her to do so. Were they hoping to avoid giving her a death sentence by stating the truth? Did they surrender her because the medical issues just became too much? Or, as is often the case with an older and sick dog, did they surrender her to avoid having to make the decision to put her to sleep?

With Daisy, I often wonder a whole host of different questions:

  • How bad were her former living conditions?
  • Where did all the scars on her body – the spots where no fur grows – come from? Were they caused by another dog? Or, were they caused by the puppy mill owner himself/herself?
  • Was the puppy mill owner a woman? Is that why she is so comfortable approaching men – even ones she does not know? Is that why she is so tentative with women vs. men?
  • Did she live outside? Is that why her ears have scars? Did the flies bite them?
  • Does she like little dogs so much because they remind her of her puppies?
  • Why did the owner feel the need to tattoo a number in her ear (201)? Were all the dogs that lived at the puppy mill tattooed too?
  • Why was she surrendered to the service organization at age 4? How did she come to escape her personal hell?
I know that I will never have the answers I seek, nor am I sure that I truly want to know all that Daisy has been through, but part of me still wonders. When I am rubbing her belly, something she has only recently let me do, I see those scars and try to imagine what it must have been like for her. Disturbing thoughts I know, but when you love a dog as much as I love Daisy, you think that knowing what happened in the past will help you to erase those memories from her mind. The truth is that I can only start from here. Today. Now.
What I do today can only have an impact her the future, not her past. I choose to give Daisy everything she never had the chance to have before – love, kindness, the chance to run free in the woods, to experience new smells and new friends, and, yes, to have the occasional ice cream cone.
Living in the NOW with Daisy means forgetting about her past and focusing on being with her in the present (and in the future). Being present with her. Spending quality time with her – on her terms, and loving her. Could a dog want for anything more?

Daisy as Good Citizen (A look back)

May 2, 2013 9 comments

DSC00089Today, I am sharing another blog post from Daisy’s blog, Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab).

Daisy is my former puppy mill breeding dog that I fostered and then adopted in November 2007.  Even though I don’t write on her blog much anymore, I still treasure the words I wrote back then because they remind me of how far Daisy has come in the past 5 years.

This post was written on November 17, 2008, nearly a year after I first brought Daisy home.

Friday morning was a cold day at the dog park. The dogs didn’t seem to mind, but I certainly did! I was not ready for the bitter wind that came with the low temperature of 15 degrees. Brrrr! Nothing like having your legs go numb while you watch your dog run and play in the woods. As a hearty Minnesotan I should be used to it, but I’m not.  Despite the weather I was still able to enjoy the sun and  laugh at the dogs and their antics.
Daisy’s buddy, Brutus, a 110 lb. Rottweiler puppy was there, as was her favorite pal, Henry. Everyone seemed ready to have some fun. Brutus was looking for a playmate so the chasing and running began as soon as we got inside the park. Daisy really likes Brutus, but I was still relieved to see that she was okay with Brutus stalking and chasing her. I was expecting her to be a bit tentative or fearful, especially after last week. Thankfully, she wasn’t fearful at all.
Last week Daisy got into an “altercation” with another one of her friends over a stick. In past experiences, Daisy has learned that a stick can be a great toy to play a game of tug. Unfortunately, she chose the wrong partner this time. She chose someone who was not open to sharing the stick. On top of it, Daisy thought she would tell the other dog she wanted it and that led to the altercation between them. It  escalated when other dogs in our group also joined in.  In the end, Daisy ended up with a few bites to her head (just above her ear) and one to her backend (by her tail). She is totally fine, but I think she learned that perhaps she should be a bit more cautious about who to challenge when her stick is taken. It reminded me how careful I need to be when Daisy’s gain in knowledge can be.
As her dog mom, it has been fascinating to watch Daisy learn from the other dogs at the dog park this past year. It’s like she’s trying to figure out how a dog should act. Obviously, some things are instinctual, like the constant need to carry something in her mouth (definitely a lab thing to do), but other things she has learned by watching what the other dogs do.  She started picking up sticks and chewing on them only after watching other dogs do it first. She learned how to drink out of the spout of a water bottle after watching other dogs do it. She learned how to roll over on her back and wiggle around in the dirt and wood chips after watching her friend Turbo do it. She learned how to chase a squirrel after watching her friends Prince and Princess do it (luckily she has never caught one, but I don’t think she would know what to do with it even if she did!).
The first time she left my side to go run through the field with some of her friends was amazing. In the past (and still to some degree today), Daisy has always walked beside me or right behind me. The first time she ran off with her friends was a beautiful moment. It’s like she was saying, “I’m free! I’m free!” Her tail went up, she started bouncing along the trail ahead of me and then off she went flying over shrubs and tall weeds. All of this was learned from watching other dogs and then mimicking their behavior.
But that’s also why I have always been a bit cautious with her. In many ways, Daisy is like a tabula rasa, a blank slate, she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know, so every behavior that she observes leaves an impression on her. You can actually see her watching everything the other dogs do and mimic their behavior. She seems to learn from from every interaction. Picking up a stick and then flaunting it in front of another dog so he or she will chase her, is something she learned from watching her friend, Turbo.
Unfortunately, not every dog displays good behavior. Sometimes they are aggressive or possessive, or they jump up on people, or they nip at other dogs. And yes, sometimes they think that their stick has magical powers and must be protected at any cost. It is because of this that I constantly watch Daisy to see what or whom she is observing. I encourage her when she acquires a new desirable behavior and displays it, and I gently discourage her when it is a behavior that I don’t want her to display.
Overall, I Have to say I am very lucky because she really hasn’t picked up any behaviors that have caused me real concern. But it is something I am aware of each time Daisy interacts with another dog. It made me think that in some ways that my role as Daisy’s owner is very much like a mom or dad’s role in raising their children. Parents are  there to set an example for us. They show  us what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior throughout our lives. Although my job is much, much easier than any mom or dad’s, it is something I take seriously. I want Daisy to be a good citizen –  one that interacts with both humans and dogs in a positive manner.
So today, I want to recognize all those parents out there, to both human and animal. Keep up the good work! May your “child” represent the best of you. And, may they make you proud!
Daisy Sleeping

A Brut Moment Challenge: The moment Daisy and I connected

November 1, 2012 23 comments

Today I am taking part in a challenge from our friend over at 24 Paws of Love. Here is the challenge:

Tell us in a post what was the most monumental moment that you and your dog shared, that changed the course of your lives together.  How ever big or small, what happened that brought an understanding between you and your dog and brought your relationship closer than it was before.  What is that one story in your mind that stands out and you repeat over and over to anyone that will listen?  Tell us all about it!!

I knew from the first moment I read about the challenge, I would be writing about Daisy. Although she is the most wonderful dog you could ever imagine now, she was a really big challenge in the beginning. Being a former puppy mill breeding dog, Daisy was fearful of me (and others). In the past, humans had always meant pain to her. Getting close to her ,and connecting with her, was difficult. I had to think outside the box – a lot. I had to learn patience, how to move slowly, and speak in a soft voice. For every step forward there were two steps back.

Our challenges included the following:

  • Getting in and out the door to the backyard
  • Building trust
  • Riding in the car (Daisy would lie flat out on the back seat as if she were hanging on for dear life.)
  • Wearing a collar
  • Going for walks
  • Letting someone touch her
  • Approaching her

There are so many moments along the way that brought our relationship closer, but perhaps the one I remember most fondly I shared on her blog about a year after I first brought her home. I’m going to steal my words from the post I wrote back then, “Have a Daisy Day”, and share what I remember as the moment our relationship changed.

Most mornings, Daisy and I pick up Henry, another wonderful pet sitting client, and head off to the dog park. Daisy, as is her wont, claims the full back seat as her own; sprawling across the full length of the seat so she can sleep comfortably. Henry rides shotgun; always alert for the lone squirrel crossing the street or another dog on a walk. On occasion, he looks over at me with his adorable puppy-dog eyes and I cannot help but pet him and tell him how cute he is – an absolute truth and he knows it.

Usually, when we drop Henry off, Daisy remains sprawled in the back sleeping until we near home and then like some hidden radar, she sits up (after the 1st stop sign on our street) and looks out the window. Sometimes, she will stand up, tail wagging, as she waits for me to pull into the driveway and then into the garage.

But, recently Daisy has added a new behavior. After we drop Henry off, she climbs into the front seat, where she sits until she falls asleep, head drooping down  lower and lower until she finally lays down; or she curls up in a ball (so she can actually fit her lab body into the seat) and lays her head on my lap between the stick shift and my bottled water. It’s the first time she has really sought me out for affection in this way. I know I may be adding human emotion into the mix, but it’s almost as if she feels more at peace being near me. When she rides up front, her whole body relaxes and she sleeps more deeply, sometimes snoring gently. She seems to love that I can pet her continuously from that position.

For me, it is the most peaceful ride I have ever had. There is so much love that is contained in that one small moment in time. Knowing how afraid Daisy was to trust anyone, including me, for so long makes it all the more amazing and beautiful. How is that a dog so mistreated and unloved for so much of her early life could trust enough to let me see her vulnerable? I know I’ve said it before, but I really am lucky. She is one special dog and I don’t think I will ever be the same again. She has taught me so much in the past 11 months that she has been with me, including: love, patience, trust, commitment, beauty, peace, and the joy that comes from the small things in life. It’s my wish that everyone gets the chance to be blessed with the same.

Have a Daisy day on me.

Yeah. That’s definitely the moment our relationship changed.I’m smiling even now as I remember those moments. I love my Daisy.

How about you? Is there a moment when your relationship changed with your dog? A moment when you really connected? A moment when there was a breakthrough? I’d love to hear your story.

Dog Park Fun

October 29, 2012 22 comments

For last week’s Wordless Wednesday, I shared a photo of some of the dogs (including Jasper) playing chase at the dog park. There were actually a series of photos I took that day featuring the same group. I thought I would share them today and make it an easy going Monday morning post.

I hope they bring you a small smile as you begin your week. Have a great day!

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