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Loss of a Beloved Pet

This past week has been a rough one for the Underdog’s Family. We lost our own very beloved furry friend Prim this week due to complications from a sudden seizure. It’s been a rough week for us all and we miss her very dearly.

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A fuzzy Prim just after she was groomed.

Prim came to us via a family friend about two years ago. She was an older gal estimated somewhere around 10-12 years of age. She was a special needs dog who, due to a severe eye infection when she was rescued, had to have both of her eyes removed. She was also mostly deaf. But her nose worked well and so did her tail and she loved to go on great sniffing fests searching for kibble or exploring out in the backyard. You can read about her story here in our two part blog on special needs dogs: and

While we only had her for two years, and knew her time with us was likely to be shorter than had we adopted a younger dog, the hurt after her passing was just as strong as if we had cared for her throughout her entire life. You know when you adopt an older dog that they will not get to be with you as long as if you had adopted a new puppy or spry youngster. But old dogs are so appreciative of the basic kindnesses in life. Prim had a very rough life before she got to us. And we were able to provide for her the last three years of her life with good food, good treats and mountains of love. And that’s the best part about rescuing.

I don’t often re-share stories from the internet, but the one below really touched my heart strings given the recent loss of dear Prim. I do strongly feel that we can learn a lot from our faithful friends. So hug your fur friends for us and be thankful that they are apart of your lives. <3 <3 <3


Here’s the surprising answer of a 6 year old child.

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that dogs’ lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.”

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay for as long as we do.”

Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

• When your loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
• Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
• Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.
• Take naps.
• Stretch before rising.
• Run, romp, and play daily.
• Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
• Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
• On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
• On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
• When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
• Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
• Be faithful.
• Never pretend to be something you’re not.
• If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
• When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

That’s the secret of happiness that we can learn from a good dog.

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Traveling with your Pets

This week I’m on vacation out on the lovely, surface of the sun, Death Valley. While out here in the blistering of temps, I do think back to my own three furry canine companions and wonder what they’re doing while I’m away. Did I get them the a responsible pet setter? Are they thinking about how I have clearly abandoned them forever? Are they happy, healthy and well cared for?

Stress in leaving your canine companions behind is a real thing. Our day to day lives literally revolve around their care and well being. We make sure they get their breakfast and walk before work. We make sure we don’t stay too late at work or we make arrangements to have a neighbor or friend swing by to take care of them. Vacations too are no easy task. We have to decide whether to take them with us, leave them with a friend or family member, board them, or have someone stay in our home while we are away.

While out here, I marvel at those who have decided to take their pets with them. Out here, most of the national parks prohibit pets, so their canines are stuck in an unfamiliar hotel room all by themselves. Others take their furry companions with them on the trails that are allowed and their fur-ladened companion looks even more miserable than I did hiking back up and out of the canyon during the 108 “dry” heat.

You know your pet best and you alone get to decide their how they are cared for. But do try to think about your vacation from their prospective. While it’s easy for us to understand that this vacation away from home is only temporary. We know this blistering heat will soon be relieved by an full powered AC drive back to the hotel. We can choose when we need to take a break on a hike, when we’re thirsty and more, but our canine companions are mostly just along for the ride. Seeing new sights and sounds can be fun for many, but scary for others.

Whether staying at home or taking them with, make sure you have all their contact information on their tags updated. It’s easy for a pet in a new area to get lost or confused about where their “home” is. Microchipping, where a small grain of rice sized computer chip is placed under the back of the skin, can greatly assist in the reuniting of a lost pet. These can be digitally scanned by special readers that can give full contact info and medical issues the pet might have to the device that scans them. Plus microchips won’t fall off or get lost, like collars or harnesses. These are fairly affordable and most vets charge $20-$40 per chip and they last the pets lifetime.

If you’re traveling via airport, some airlines to allow pets to make the journey as well for a fee. But these types of travels I would not recommend for your pet. Airplanes are loud, scary, environments for pets. There’s little “practice” you can do beforehand to help your pet get accustomed to the sounds, sights and smells before your grand adventure. And once you’re up in the sky, there’s little options for either of you if things go poorly.

Options for pets flying via airfare is pretty limited. There’s either under the seat in front of you or under the plane in with the rest of the cargo. Both options can have severe, life threatening dangers for your pet. There have been numerous stories recently of dogs (and other pets) dying from stress, overheating or lack of oxygen on their flights. Short nosed breeds like pugs, boxers, shihtzus etc are most at risk due to the nature of how their face is structured which already restricts oxygen flow. Under the seat is cramped, overhead bins lack air flow, and cargo bays are devoid of people and cramped with luggage. Plus pets have to sit out on the tarmac in the hot sun or cold winter waiting to be loaded on with the rest of the luggage.

If you decide to leave your pet at home, finding a family friend is normally the safest bet. Someone who can either stay with your pets in your home (most ideal) or someone who can take your pets with them to their home for the duration. It is helpful to have a pre-written care document that has all their critical information written out. Include things like feeding instructions, medical applications, walks, cues they know, emergency contact info and vet/hospital numbers and addresses. Having this document can assure that your caretaker will know what to do should something happen.

Options like are popular if you’re new to an area or your friends and family cannot take your pets. This online service matches you with a nearby pet sitter who can swing by for visits each day, perform daily walks and/or stay with your pets the entire vacation. I’ve used Rover a few times now, and have had mixed successes. Some of the folks on there are very reputable and perform their duties exactly as described, others take a more lenient route and show up just when they’re needed to let the dogs out and then return back to their own homes.

Boarding should be done selectively as many boarding facilities are ill equipped to deal with shy, fearful or elderly pets. Boarding facilities can be loud, busy places that can easily overwhelm the nervous, frighten older or handicapped pets. Make sure when selecting a boarding facility you ask around to get where other’s board their pets and tour the facility well in advance of your trip so you can switch if necessary. Word of mouth and recommendations from friends work well for weeding out the good and the bad facilities.

Travel, for business or pleasure, happens, and as a pet owner we need to make sure that we have a blast and so do our pets. Ensuring their basic needs are cared for and they are safe and secure will help ease your mind while you’re away. Enjoy yourself, relax a bit, and take a break from the daily tasks of pet care.

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Understanding Fear

There’s an old superstition that if parents comforted their babies too much, they’d learn to cry for attention and become spoiled. Instead, parents were told to simply let their children cry it out. Unsurprisingly people apply this same old superstition to their dogs too. Dog’s who show signs of being scared or startled by things, we’re told to ignore or turn away from so we don’t encourage that behavior. As the fireworks season is still upon us (sorry doggios!), I think it’s important to look at what are doing to help our poor, terrified four legged friends cope with what I’m sure they think is the end of the world…

You can apply something a dog likes or enjoys to a behavior in order to increase the likelihood that behavior will happen in the future. In dog training lingo, this is called positive (because you added something) reinforcement (because you want to behavior to happen more frequently). Giving a dog a treat after a behavior is exactly how this training works. It’s not (as some believe) used as a bribe, which typically would be used before the dog performed the desired behavior. Instead it’s used after, as a payment for them doing what you asked.

This type of reinforcement works great for getting the dog to perform a trick or learn a new command. However what about when your dog is scared or frightened by something? Can your comfort make them more scared or more frightened the next time? The answer is kinda yes and kinda no.

The first big difference with a dog who is scared is that what they are experiencing is an emotion which shows itself in various behaviors. Your dog might slink down to the ground, have their tail tucked and have white “whale” eyes. These are all behaviors, many unconscious, the dog displays to show their emotion. These behaviors may be reinforced, but the fear itself cannot be.

A human example would be if I asked you to “be afraid.” You might open your eyes wide, open your mouth, you might add some kind of scream or sound to indicate you were startled – these bodily displays are all deliberately chosen based on what you think fear looks like. Now imagine if I snuck up behind you & lit off a firework. *BOOM*

What you experience in the second is involuntary. It’s natural. It’s instant. A high pitch scream, a jump, your heart will race, and a sense of panic fills you (plus a lot of distrust towards your new found dog trainer!). These reactions stem from the actual emotion you were feeling. They caused those bodily reactions.

Petting, feeding and/or talking softly to a dog who is scared helps the fearful feelings dissipate. The same way yours might when a friend or loved one gives you a hug or a pat on the back. Comforting this fear and helping them calm down after being startled or frightened is 100% the right thing to do. You’d do it for your human friend, so do it for your canine friend as well. Give them somewhere to hide at, talk soft, comforting words to them and make sure they feel secure in wherever they have taken refuge.

Now for the flipside. Behaviors on the other hand can be reinforced and repeated. A perfect example of this is a dog whining. The dog whines and it’s owners reach over to comfort the dog with some pets. The dog whines later while dinner is being made so the owner toss him a scrap to keep him out of your hair. Repeated over time, the dog learns that whining gets him or her attention and therefore will do so again, not to annoy you, but simply because it gets him what he or she wants.

Emotions are strong in animals, just like they are in humans. They feel a lot of the same feelings we do and we should do our best to make sure those feelings are good ones. Fireworks seasons is still active and booming away, so try to do all you can to make sure your pet feels safe and secure wherever they are. Esther enjoys taking refuge under the bed, so I make sure she has easily accessible water and food nearby so she doesn’t have to feel so exposed when the world is ending. These small adaptations you can make for your dog can help them through dealing with all the fearful emotions of fireworks season. Take comfort in knowing it will only be a few more days before its over! Stay safe and have a great week!

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Finding a Reputable Breeder

I have written in the past about where you should get your next furry family member from (see post about Puppies here) but I know that some folks still desire the “purebred” puppy route. While there are tons, and tons of puppies (and dogs!) available at your local shelter, you might need to be patient and search a larger area to find one that meets your lifestyle and desires for a companion. I will always say SAVE A LIFE and adopt your next family member.

There are so many terrible dog breeders out there that it’s difficult to determine even where to begin if you do decide to purchase a dog or puppy. Some reasons for doing so might be if you desire to show a dog or compete in certain dog competitions that require a “purebred” dog. I use “purebred” in quotes only because a lot of the so call purebred dog that are acquired from these unreputable breeders are anything but.

This facebook post had a great summary of thirteen things you should evaluate breeders of dogs on. I’ve highlighted the ones I especially like below (the ones I skipped don’t apply to the US).


  • Unethical breeders tend to sell via the internet. Facebook, Preloved, Gumtree and others are all places that they advertise. Google the person’s phone number, username or email address. See if you can find other ads posted by them.


Unethical breeders breed for profit. They mass produce dogs, sometimes on an infeasible scale and ship their puppies all over the country/world to make the quick buck. They don’t care about where their dogs end up, or if they live out a life in pampered comfort. They want the cash for their “crop”.


  • They don’t ask anything about you. Ethical breeders want to know everything about you, your family, your experience with dogs etc etc. They will insist that you visit the pups several times. If you are not questioned lots then you need to worry.


Again, that buck is calling. They don’t worry about who you are or what you want to do with the dog. They won’t tell you about the breed your buying or ask if you’ve had these dogs in the past. A lot of folks have run into issues with that getting a breed they are totally unprepared for because a) they didn’t do their own homework first and b) the breeder sold a puppy to an unprepared family purely for profit. The so called “wolfdogs” are a great example of a breed that quickly gets people in over their heads. Turns out owning a wolf is 10,000% different than owning a dog.


  • Sheds… Don’t buy a puppy that has been reared in a shed at the end of the garden. That pup would have missed out on essential socialization and habitation.


Money. Money. Money. It costs to afford a fancy facility or to convert your own home into an area that can support, care and raise/socialize new puppies. Those who mass produce dogs or even who just do a few litters a year in their back yard or shed away from all the “normal” experiences a dog will encounter (children, adults, vacuums, laundry machines, tv, etc) stunt their puppies socialization period significantly. This stunted level of experience leaves you at a disadvantage and at risk of developing a reactive or fearful adult dog.


  • Meeting places. Unethical breeders and dog traders will sometimes offer to meet you somewhere to ‘save you the trip’. Always insist that you go to their home. Never buy a pup in a car park (parking lot).


ALWAYS ask to see where the puppy was raise. Check out the other liters (if present). See how the mothers and fathers are treated. So many breeders will offer to meet you elsewhere to avoid having you see the squalor your puppy was raised in and the hell the puppy’s parents are trapped in.


  • Ethical breeders will never ever sell a pup before it is 8 weeks. Check the puppy that you are buying to make sure that he or she is over 8 weeks.


Seriously. 8 weeks minimum. 12 weeks preferred. Good breeders know all about how important socialization is for their pups, and keeping them a bit longer with their parents gives the puppy a headstart on knowing how to be a dog. Plus good breeders have socialization programs in place to provide you with a puppy who has had a great, diverse positive experience in his or her life so far and is ready and prepared with the skills necessary to tackle the real world.


  • Worming and flea treatment should have been done. Ask for dates and products used.


Lack of shots or vaccine records is an indication of a breeder that is cutting costs to maximize profit. They don’t care about their wards and are only in it to make a quick buck. Ask for the parent records too. A few of the terrible breeders I know of in our area only vaccine the puppies and the parents are left to suffer from untreated flea/tick and worm infestations.


  • Ask to see photos of your pup from birth until now… puppy farmers and dealers won’t have those photos.


For those of you who currently have a beloved furry family member, I challenge you to open up your phone. How many dog/cat/pet pictures do you have? If you’re like me, I bet it’s a totally reasonable amount 😉 Puppies especially have tons of photos because they are so damn cute! Breeders who raise their puppies in sheds have their “for sale” photo and maybe a photo of their parents. And that’s it. The breeders weren’t present in their puppies’ lives and the lack of photos shows that.


  • Question at length…. and walk away if you are concerned about the answers, or lack of answers.


Seriously. Walk away. I know it’s hard. I know you want to “save” the sad little puppy in the window of a car or in the walmart parking lot. But do not. Your money goes right back into ensuring these breeders stay in business. That they create more puppies with more parents who suffer their entire lives trapped in a cage. Do not let the cycle continue.


  • Always see Mum- the actual Mum. The real Mum will have milk and will be interacting with her pups. Fake Mum wont. Ask to see photos of Mum over the years.


Mom and puppies should be together. Mom should be in good health and happy. She shouldn’t be bred ever cycle or trapped in a cage. Check out her behavior. Is she nervous or fearful, overexcited or panicked? These are all signs that she’s not been socialized and is definitely not a member of the family and lives her life trapped making puppies for her owner’s profit.


  • Genetic testing- ask what has been done and ask to see the results.


I cannot state this enough. The breeders I know that are terrible do NOT do genetic testing, as a result their puppies grow up to have terrible genetic diseases and disorders that end up costing you money or even your puppies life. The one breeder of Norwegian Elkhounds has a breeding line in which ALL of the adults have severe (and very painful) glaucoma. She was still breeding them despite the clear issue with the breeding line because “no one had ever complained.”


  • Reduced prices for the last pup in the litter.. it’s just a way to pull you in and make you feel sorry for the remaining pup. Ethical breeders do not reduce their prices and often have homes lined up for their pups before they are born!


This is sure sign that the breeder is trying to dump their stock to make room for more. They want this puppy out of their care so they stop losing money trying to keep it alive. They’re willing to take a slight loss in the sales price to make an empty space for the next puppy which they can sell at full. The “last pup” sales tactic works well too and tugs at the heartstrings of new pet owners who can’t bear to think of a lone sad puppy all by him or herself.


In summary, the best way you can make sure you aren’t going to be supporting a terrible breeder and furthering the suffering of those puppy’s parents is to adopt. You’ll save a life and get an adorable fluffy as a bonus. Additionally, I challenge you to try and find a breeder who adheres to all of the above rules. It’s surprisingly difficult.

A person tale, to show that even with a strict vetting system you can still get into trouble buying from a breeder. My first ever family dog was a purebred sheltie name Kayla. I researched dozens of breeders in the area (and some that were 500+ miles away) with a very strict list of requirements. She was the only one who passed my inspector and we agreed to met her.

The one thing I had forgotten to ask her, as a child of only 15, was about the genetic testing of her line. Turns out her breeding line had a genetic marker for having severe drug sensitivities. These drug sensitivities result from a mutation in the multidrug resistance gene (MDR1 gene). As a result the heartgard medicine used monthly to prevent heartworm as recommended by our vet, killed her.

It still hurts to know that her death could have been prevent simply if the breeder had taken the time to test her own breeding stock. My mom had called her to tell her of Kayla’s death and she casually mentioned that a few of the other dogs in Kayla’s liter had also passed away from “unknown” causes. I would bet money that it was because of this genetic predisposition to drug sensitivities.

Kayla was only three years old at the time. One simple test could have saved her life, but to minimize expense this was skipped and we lost a beloved family member as a result. Adopt don’t shop people. Save yourself from the heartache.