Are You Crazy About Your Dog?
From their life's work as a veterinarian, a pet-care columnist, and an animal rescue volunteer respectively, Marty Becker, D.V.M., Gina Spadafori, and Carol Kline have been privy to some incredible stories about dogs and their humans―psychic dogs, heroic dogs, and therapy dogs who have healed their owners physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They've also fielded just about every question under the sun pertaining to our furry friends' health, wellness, training, and behavior: 'Why doesn't my dog come when I call him?', 'Why is she being aggressive at the dog park?', 'Will my house ever be free of tumbleweed hairballs?'
These esteemed experts have compiled a winning mix of heart-tugging, tail-wagging stories about some of the world's most endearing and amazing dogs with essential expert information in the areas of behavior and training, sports and leisure activities, and preventative care and health issues. With comprehensive facts, stunning four-color photography, and awe-inspiring true stories, this is the 'ultimate' book for ultimate dog lovers.
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Marty Becker, D.V.M., is passionate about his work fostering the affection and connection between animals and people that he calls, "The Bond." Dr. Becker is regularly featured on ABC-TV's, Good Morning America. He is a contributing pet-care writer for Parade magazine, and frequent veterinary contributor to The Martha Stewart Show. He also co-writes the award-winning weekly column on pets and their care, PetConnection, which appears in newspapers across the United States and Canada through the Universal Press Syndicate. Becker is also the host of "The Pet Doctor" on PBS. He has been named Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year for the U.S. by the Delta Society and the American Veterinary Medical Association, and also coauthored fourteen pet books that have sold over six million copies including Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul, bowWOW and The New York Times bestseller Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet? Marty and his family enjoy life in Northern Idaho and share Almost Heaven Ranch with four barn cats, three dogs, and four Quarter Horses.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Call of the Wild
By D. Lynn Black
At first glance, Maya is your typical high-octane, lovin'-life boxer with a brain like a mousetrap and a nose for mischief. A natural clown, her favorite party trick is backing up to the couch and sitting down just like a person. I half expect her to ask for the TV remote.
But beyond the endearing, if sometimes incorrigible, personality lies an uncanny telepathic ability. She carries out commands before I voice them, and I swear, when our eyes meet she can read my mind and respond to my emotions. For years, my friends have teased me. 'It's the Vulcan Mind Meld!' they'd say, dismissing this psychic interchange as mumbo jumbo. But even I never realized the startling scope of this rare communication―until the day it was put to a remarkable test.
It happened when Maya and I spent the summer in a remote wilderness area of northern Minnesota. We ventured out on daily hikes, which made our bond even stronger. One day Maya stopped in her tracks, hackles up, staring intently into a thicket. Through the bramble I made out a long, grayish muzzle and upright ears. A fox maybe? I cautiously moved closer until I was staring into the amber eyes of a wolf! It was the first one I'd seen in the wild. I knew attacks on humans were virtually unheard of, but if he got into a tussle with Maya she wouldn't stand a chance.
Fortunately, the wolf seemed as startled as we were and scampered away through the brush. After that, we spotted him regularly. He was a handsome silver dun with a dark patch over one eye. I decided to call him Pirate. I figured he was a lone wolf until one day I observed Pirate trekking along a bluff with his family, a pack of seven: his beautiful dove gray mate, their three gangly, teenaged pups, and two subordinate adults. Curious, they stopped to watch us. Maya, too, seemed intrigued, and I could only wonder if both sides recognized they were canine cousins.
Over the weeks we crossed paths often. The pack let us come within twenty-five feet, sensing a mutual respect, that we meant them no harm. In the evenings I could hear their choral howlings in the distance and found their melancholy night music oddly comforting. One morning Maya and I were hiking along a little-used dirt trail when the sound of motors broke the lazy silence. Three ATVs whizzed past. They peeled off around the bend and then returned, abruptly stopping in front of us―a trio of twenty-something male riders, rather scruffy around the edges. The burly copper-haired leader switched off his engine.
'Nice day for a walk, huh?' he greeted laconically.
Maya's low growl made me immediately uneasy. She didn't like the look of them, and neither did I.
'You live around here?' the beefy redhead asked.
'Yeah, a little ways back,' I replied, in a breezy tone that belied my wariness.
I wanted to move on, but my feet felt strangely bolted to the ground. The men didn't seem to be in any hurry, which was further unsettling. Red lit up a cigarette, leaning against his ATV while the other two sat stoically on their vehicles.
'You all by yourself?' he asked. His intense gaze shot a chill through me.
'Oh, I'm never by myself,' I replied, trying to smile confidently while looking down at Maya.
Red's buddies exchanged wry smirks.
Suddenly, Maya turned and shot off into the woods. My heart stopped. How could she abandon me at a time like this to go squirrel chasing! Fighting panic, I struggled to rein in my fear. Stay cool, I told myself. Act like nothing's wrong.
Long awkward moments crawled by in tense, agonizing silence, punctuated by Red's unnerving stares. Why didn't they move on?
'Of course, you're never alone for long on this trail,' I ventured in a loud voice that didn't sound at all like mine. 'Actually, the traffic out here really picks up about now.'
'That's funny―we haven't seen anyone, have we boys?' the leader remarked, darting a bemused glance at his cronies.
I didn't like where this was going. Images popped into my head of unspeakable things that could happen to a woman alone in the woods.
Just then came a rustling behind me. To my great relief it was Maya, bounding through the trees to stand at my side. Incredibly, on her heels was the wolf pack, led by Pirate. Maya had summoned the cavalry!
I watched, awestruck, as the pack spread out in a semicircle behind me. Heads lowered, tails straight out, their piercing gold eyes aimed dead ahead on the ATVers. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, but there was no mistake. This was a threat formation, a grandstand show of intimidation, wolf-pack style!
The men froze in stunned silence, the look on their ashen faces priceless. Several intense minutes ticked by while the pack didn't budge an inch. Who would blink first? Finally, in almost comical slow motion, the petrified trio fired up their engines and then sped off, not to be seen again.
I collapsed in joyous relief to hug my canine heroine. For just an instant a look seemed to pass between Maya and Pirate. I swear I saw Pirate grin before he turned and bolted with his pack back into the wild. I had just witnessed something wholly extraordinary, seemingly beyond instinct, and clearly beyond mere chance. Maya's SOS call of the wild had bridged the worlds of human and animal, domestic and feral, while losing nothing in translation. I wondered if perhaps there were no boundaries after all, only a communication gap―born of ignorance, misunderstanding, and Homo sapiens arrogance.
As Maya has shown me, maybe we just needed to open the channels―and listen.
Hart of Gold
By Aubrey H. Fine, Ed.D.
It's been over twenty-five years now since I began using animals in my child psychotherapy practice. A number of the children I see feel painfully isolated and unlovable, and I've found that something about the animals―whether dogs, birds, fish, or rabbits―seems to reach through their often self-imposed walls and allows them to give and receive love.
One of the most memorable of these children was a young teenager I'll call Sarah. The thirteen-year-old was referred to me when her school counselor observed that Sarah seemed deeply demoralized and withdrawn.
At our first session, Sarah arrived wearing a baseball cap pulled down so low on her head that the brim hid her eyes. She was overweight, wore her hair in a chin-length bob, and was trembling―clearly she was very frightened. When I greeted her, she barely responded; her voice was practically a whisper.
Then Hart, my black Labrador 'co-therapist,' walked quietly to Sarah's side and sat close to her chair. Unlike my other dogs, Hart never nudges anyone's hand to ask for attention; she gives comfort simply by being nearby. At that first meeting, Hart sat by Sarah, ready to be petted if Sarah felt like it. Sarah didn't react to Hart's appearance at first, but after a few seconds, she reached out and began stroking Hart's head. Within minutes, her trembling decreased. During our session, she spoke very little, and when she did speak, it was very quietly; at times she would shiver with fear. The only time she seemed to relax was when she touched Hart.
Sarah and I spent the first two sessions getting acquainted. Our progress was slow, as Sarah divulged little, but I didn't want to push her. My goal was to build a relationship with this obviously troubled girl―a connection based on trust. I did learn that Sarah had no real friends and that she felt like an outcast. She was afraid to speak up, afraid to approach others―she said she was pretty much 'just afraid.'
Our work together was interrupted after the second session. Sarah's fear and loneliness had been driving her to cut herself on her arm, initially with a pin and then with a razor blade. For months, she'd kept her wounds hidden from everyone, but eventually she showed her arm to a girl at school, who became frightened and told the counselor. The counselor immediately had Sarah placed in a psychiatric facility. Although this was terribly frightening for Sarah, it was necessary for her safety. It was also the turning point in our relationship.
During the almost two weeks she was in the facility, Sarah called periodically to let me know how she was doing. I was glad that the work Hart and I had done to earn her trust had succeeded, and she felt she could turn to me for support.
On Sarah's first visit with me after her release, she was still quiet but seemed more at ease. As we talked, Hart sat close by her chair, more alert than usual to Sarah's every move.
At one point in our session, Sarah's reserve finally crumbled. Pushing up her left sleeve, she showed me her newly healed scars. As she lowered her arm, we both noticed that Hart's eyes remained fixed on the crisscrossed, reddish-pink lines etched into her skin, the visible traces of her inner pain. As I watched, Hart lifted her gaze to meet Sarah's eyes with an expression that I can only describe as puzzled. For a long moment, the girl and the dog just looked at one another. Then Hart lowered her head and began softly and tenderly licking the scars on Sarah's arm. For a startled second, Sarah sat still, and then she bent over Hart and held her close.
Something shifted in Sarah that day. During that session, we talked about her cutting, and she was honest with me about it. From that point on, our progress accelerated.
Sarah's connection with Hart grew stronger as the weeks went by. Some afternoons, we took my dogs to a park near the office. I walked my other dog, PJ, while Sarah walked Hart. She would open up as we walked along, chatting together, the dogs trotting ahead of us on their leashes. On these walks, I often carried my umbrella cockatoo, Snowflake, on my shoulder, and Sarah got a real kick out of that.
At the park, I saw an entirely new side to Sarah: she giggled while she played with Hart―rubbing the dog's belly and scratching her head. When Hart got excited, she didn't just wag her tail; her whole back end would begin to wag, going from side to side at a mile a minute. The sight always made Sarah laugh out loud. It was so rewarding to see the unmistakable happiness in her eyes.
Over the next eight months, Sarah made many positive changes in her life―her academic performance improved dramatically, she began to volunteer at a nursery school, and she especially loved helping at the local animal shelter. Slowly, we began to see less of each other, until one afternoon we agreed her therapy was complete.
Two years after our last session, I received an e-mail from Sarah, telling me she was doing well and thanking me―and Hart―for our help during that difficult time in her life. Some months after that, she came to the office to visit. As we talked about her past, she recalled how she'd felt separated from others and empty inside.
'It was like a glass wall divided the world into two,' she told me. 'I was on the other side and couldn't get in. You and Hart helped me learn to break through that wall.' She turned to look at Hart and smiled. 'It's funny that it was a dog that taught me how to talk to other people.'
My work with Sarah showed me, once again, the healing power of animals. At difficult moments, Sarah had held on to Hart, clasping the dog in her arms and burying her face in Hart's warm, soft fur. I believe it was the silent comfort of Hart's presence that enabled Sarah to finally verbalize what she needed and wanted to say.
Sarah was simply one of those children who healed best with the help of a security blanket―only in this case, the blanket came in the form of a black Labrador named Hart.
By Lisa Price
We both know the end of our time together is approaching, my dog and I, but still we hold on. I lie on the floor, my arm around his furry neck, scratching his chest as I watch a marathon on TV. He's lived a long life for a shepherd-Lab mix, nearly fifteen years, but his black coat is still as glossy and thick as it was in his puppy days. People often ask if he is part wolf.
Watching the marathoners reminds me of all the miles Kliban and I have run through the years. We have probably run ten thousand miles together as I trained for races, through all seasons. I was there when Kliban was born, and I named him after a cartoonist I liked. His presence has been the one constant thread, the singular unchanging color, in the tapestry of the past fifteen years.
Threads of that tapestry have unraveled, people have gone, and there are memories that only the two of us share. 'He's just a dog,' people who have never had a dog might say. But there is a wisdom, born in the shared years, that glows in those luminous brown eyes, now clouded with the blue of old age above a graying muzzle.
When we hiked the Appalachian Trail together, we fell into a pattern that mirrored the way he always lived in my life, his self-appointed guardianship of me. He always trotted ahead to wait for me, standing protectively where he could scan the trail ahead while keeping me in sight. As I slept, he protected me, once even charging a wild boar that rooted around our tent in Tennessee. Twice on the trail he disobeyed me. Once, in Virginia, he returned from his vantage point and blocked my path. As I kept trying to go around him I grew irritated―until I finally heard the ominous shakes of the rattlesnake up ahead.
And in New York, where we had hiked a long two days without water during a drought, he suddenly disappeared for a stretch of many minutes. I yelled at him when he finally reappeared and approached, until he rubbed his wet chest against my legs and then led me to the water.
The words 'good dog' made him quiver with happiness, and that was all he ever wanted.
But now the arthritic hips have finally failed, the vision has dimmed, and the internal systems have worn out. Still, how I dread that last good-bye, that scene at the veterinarian's office when he will be 'put to sleep.'
And yet, as I hold him and feel his thin shoulders, I know it is time. So I tell him so and start to cry. 'Tomorrow,' I tell him, 'I'll make the appointment. You've been so tough and brave, protecting me all your life. It's okay.'
'You're a good dog,' I tell him, and he responds with a quiver. 'It's me you've been waiting for, I finally understand. I love you, and I'll never forget you. I wish you could be with me my whole life, but I'm ready. It's okay. You can rest now.'
I can't stand it. I get up and go into the other room, turn on the computer and try to work for a while. When I return twenty minutes later, Kliban has gone, with dignity and peace, protecting me this one last time.
©2008. D. Lynn Black, Aubrey H. Fine, Ed.D., and Lisa Price. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Ultimate Dog Lover by Carol Kline, Gina Spadafori, Marty Becker D.V.M., Mikkel Becker. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.
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