September 29, 2008 Things I've learned about dogs over the last 40 years.

September 29, 2008

Things I’ve learned about dogs over the last 40 years.

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday…the big 40. Gosh, I don’t feel 40! That used to be considered “old”, or at least “middle aged”. In some ways it’s empowering, and in other ways it’s just plain scary!
I look back at my pets over the past 40 years…well ok 36, I can’t remember much before I was 4 years old, but that is when I had my first dog, a Chihuahua named Dolly. I was born and raised in California and I guess we were rather progressive back then overall, because we actually had Dolly spayed at a low cost spay neuter clinic for a whopping $5.
Dolly ate Gaines Burgers dog food back then mostly, and some table scraps of course. I remember her eating canned Skippy dog food occasionally, because I remember tasting it for her! Hey, I was only five, it happens!
She was plump, not terribly fat, but pleasingly plump. We never heard of heartworm disease back then, and for fleas, we used flea powder. How she breathed through that fog of dust is beyond me!
I remember my mom always complaining that she was stinky. She truly was, you could bathe her and the next day she reeked! What we didn’t know back then was that her diet played a huge part of that odor. We didn’t know about tooth care or brushing teeth. Though my memory is a bit fuzzy, I’m sure her teeth could’ve used a dental cleaning many times. I don’t remember ever hearing of dogs getting their teeth cleaned back then.
I remember her nails as I grew up how long they were. I never knew what a groomer was back then. I’m sure either we did it ourselves, or had it done at the vet occasionally, but we rarely ever went to the vet.
I remember her scooting across the carpet on her rear and laughing, not knowing back then that it was because she had impacted anal glands.
I remember we used Sulfodene on her skin for her constant scratching, which back then my mom attributed to fleas or dry skin if she scratched and nobody knew then what impact diet played on the skin of dogs.
I remember moving to Indiana in 1981 and going to the IGA in Rockville and reading on the cans of Alpo, “with real horsemeat chunks” and thinking EWWW! I was a horse lover and couldn’t fathom anyone feeding horsemeat! I’m guessing that bit of information must’ve caused problems because they no longer have that on the cans.
I remember as she aged, that she didn’t take anything for arthritis, yet she walked so stiff, and she lived in the garage, with her bed in an old hamper turned on its side with a heating pad inside it. I guess my parents thought that was spoiling her back then. Animals weren’t allowed in the house when I grew up.
Looking back, we weren’t good pet owners. How poor Dolly managed to live to be 17 is beyond me. I know now that if she were alive today, she’d be in much better health, living in my house, eating decent food without by-products, corn, wheat, animal digest, and animal fat (non-specified) BHT and BHA in her dog food.
Now I know the damage that those ingredients cause. I’m not saying she didn’t live a long life, but it could have been so much better! If we had the flea control products available today back then I’m sure she would’ve been allowed in the house more.
If Dolly were alive today, she would live inside the warm house in a soft comfortable bed for her old joints; she would be on glucosamine products and painkillers to help with her arthritis. She would eat Eagle Pack Holistic or Innova Evo, she would have a shiny coat, no dandruff, no dry or oily skin, no itching, no scratching, and no odor, and of course, if she were alive today I’d be taking care of her anal glands. I would take care of her teeth and have them cleaned so she didn’t suffer with a mouthful of gingivitis. She would live the life of a member of my family, as it should be.
She still loved us, the poor dear, and I feel so bad that she lived that way back then. I know that if we knew then what we know now, she would’ve been better cared for, yet I still see dogs living that way now. Now there is no excuse for it. Unless you live under a rock, I know you‘ve had to see commercials or read about flea control. I know that a good veterinarian would give a more thorough exam today, point out bad teeth, and try to educate you on proper care. Today groomers are an extremely important part of pet health care. Groomers see pets more often than the veterinarian does, generally speaking, and groomers are the ones who find lumps, bumps, inflamed skin, allergy ears, bad teeth, and are the first ones to point out these issues to the pet’s owners. Most groomers are good at recommending a good food to feed your pet, because we see the effects of a poor diet daily.
Just yesterday, I had informed a client that her brand of dog food, Pedigree has been recalled due to salmonella. In fact, Pedigree, Special Kitty, and Ol’ Roy are some of the brands in this newest recall. Why haven’t we heard about this? Luckily, I get my information from the internet lists that I’m on that try hard to keep us all informed of pet food recalls and problems. Look it up for yourself at
Times have changed, pets are family and if someone isn’t willing to take proper care of their pet, why on Earth do they have one? Why are people willing to pay over $1,000 for a puppy at a pet store but they won’t buy decent dog food to feed it, and then they spend a fortune on vet bills to treat all the symptoms caused by a poor diet?
For that matter, why aren’t more vets enlightened about pet food ingredients? I recently reconnected with a veterinarian in Pine Village at Hoofstock Veterinary Service. Dr. Cathy Alinovi who has recently gone “holistic” in other words, she received more than her veterinary education about pet food. She learned what all those ingredients in foods really are, and she learned that some of the “prescription diets” aren’t what they are cracked up to be ingredient wise. She knows the connection between ailments and pet food and she’s happy to recommend the same foods that I do. She has done her homework on ingredients! She does more than just treat symptoms; she gets to the root of the problem. So many pet ailments can be avoided or treated simply by changing the diet.
You don’t know how happy I am to finally speak to a veterinarian that does some research! It’s nice to be validated by a veterinarian! You also don’t know how happy I am to be able to buy awesome quality pet food at K&K feed store in Attica. I know now that I’ll never let another animal live the way my poor Dolly did when I was a kid. I’m so glad that I grew up, learned more about pet care, and continue to learn. Pet care isn’t just my job, it’s my mission! Education of pet owners is my goal. I promise that I will always answer your questions and try to point you to the best resources. Don’t let Dolly’s life be in vain. Take a close look at your pet and your pet’s care. Are you treating your pet as a member of your family? Do you care for your pet as you do your children? If not, make some changes today. It’s time that we are informed and make better choices for our pets.

September 15, 2008 Butterfly Births and Broken Hearts

My kids and I witnessed something rather amazing today. I had bought a squirrel feeder a couple weeks ago and I hadn’t had time to put it up yet, so it was just leaning against my porch. When I was ready to hang it, my son tells me, “no Mom, you can’t hang it yet, it has a cocoon on it”. Sure enough, underneath the little seat where the squirrel would sit to eat his ear of corn, a little chrysalis was hanging. I left it alone until yesterday when we showed the little chrysalis to a friend. I could start to see through the tiny green bag and could see the outline of wings. We put the squirrel feeder upstairs on our screened in porch so we could observe it as it went along.

Well, today we went out, and it had hatched! A wet Monarch butterfly had just crawled out of the now transparent chrysalis and hadn’t even opened up its wings. My son couldn’t resist and he put his hand out for it to crawl on. The little butterfly took to him right away and we watched it for a long time and even took several photos of it walking all over him, up his arm, on his head. I had never been this up close with a butterfly before. Usually they fly away so fast I can’t get any photos. This one however was still trying to dry out from hatching, no easy feat on a rainy day.

We took the little butterfly out to our newly planted mums and it sat there with its wings held together looking rather miserable with the nasty weather. The kids even made a makeshift umbrella for it, so it wouldn’t be rained on. I gave up and said, well let’s put it back upstairs on the porch so it can dry out and we’ll check on it later.

Never missing an opportunity to learn something, we looked up Monarch butterflies on the internet and found out some fascinating facts. For instance, did you know you could tell the difference between male and female Monarchs? Females have wider veins in the wings, therefore darker wider lines. Our butterfly was a girl! The kids even named her “Julie”, and between doing some writing and learning all about butterflies and their lifespan, habitats, migration and body parts, they kept a close eye on her and checked on her to see if she was ready to fly yet.

I went up to check on them and they told me they saved her from a cobweb in the corner, apparently, she walked up the screen and managed to be caught. They killed the spider, knocked down the web, and set her free again. Julie looked indeed grateful! She continued to walk all over my son, and make herself comfortable on her new “Mommy”. Since he was the first person she saw, I told him that she must think he’s her mom. Well that and from our research we found out butterflies are cold blooded and don’t care to be cold, so sitting on his head was a nice warm spot for her!

We got on with our day, leaving Julie upstairs until we were sure she was ready to fly. She could easily escape, the spaces between the deck boards were wide enough she could go through them. I didn’t expect her to be there later when they went back up.
To their horror and mine, they came down yelling that a praying mantis was eating Julie! Oh no! I went upstairs ready to do battle with the killer bug that was eating our friend, armed with a 3-foot long piece of PVC pipe. There it was, high on the screen with poor little Julie in its grasp. I knocked it down, but it was too late. Julie was dead. Therefore, in a period of about 8 hours, we witnessed the birth and death of something beautiful. Sometimes life just isn’t fair, rescued from a spider, only to die by a praying mantis. The circle of life around here goes too fast! It’s so hard to deal with death when you are a child. No matter how small or insignificant, life means something.

I’ve discovered my son has a way with animals of all types, and a tender heart when things go wrong. I guess that goes to show you how much love when you become a “mom”, even if you become a “mom” to a little butterfly.

September 1, 2008 It's official, I'm an author!

This month has been a whirlwind of things going on. After the fair, I was gearing up and growing out Jasmine for The All American Grooming Show, for creative grooming, in between grooming my customers dogs for the summer of course. August 1st, the book I wrote last summer was finally published and on the market! “The EVERYTHING Dog Grooming Book” by Sandy Blackburn has finally been born!
(Clears throat, ahem… “I’d like to thank all the little people….”)
It’s a surreal feeling, being a published author. I know writers try for years to become published and honestly, this was just a fluke, I did not intend to write a book but they approached me! How could I say no? This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to make my mark on the world. I have to say, I’m proud of the book as a whole.
Adams media is the publisher and they have a series of EVERYTHING books about well, just about everything! It’s a lot like the “for dummies” books you see at the store, very easily explained only they don’t insult you by calling you a dummy. (I have some of the “for dummies” series of books at home too, but the title really does put me off, I’m no dummy.)
It’s a how to manual about grooming your pet, well everything you can cram into 255 pages. There is so much to grooming there’s no way you can put it all into one book, which explains why I have my own library of grooming books at home. I used this opportunity to explain all that groomers do. Unless you watch the entire process, I can assure you that you have no idea how much work is actually involved. Most people go to groomers not only for haircuts, but also for bathing and nail trims because it’s just not that easy to get the job done at home. My book has a lot of information on training your pet to accept grooming more willingly and different household products that you can use to help you groom your pet.
Some people have asked me if I’m shooting myself in the foot by writing a book telling people how to groom their pets at home. The simple answer is no of course not, once people try it themselves, they will either: A. Like it and decide it’s something they want to do or B. Try it, decide it’s too much work and call in reinforcements.
I’m not offended either way. There are enough dogs in Attica for 10 groomers!
However, it was nice going into detail about exactly what we do and how we do it. I’ve been grooming for so long I had to stop and really think about questions that I had before. I asked numerous people what they wanted to know how to do, or why we do it, and I was surprised at some of the questions that I just assumed everyone knew the answers to. You never stop learning!
Writing the book was the easy part, I wrote the book last summer from April to July. I had a killer deadline! Waiting for the entire process of editing, rewriting, reviewing, and numerous changes later, actually seeing the book in print took about a year! I still don’t know a whole lot about the book publishing industry, as I did this all via computer and online to editors. What I do know is, there are tons of people with certain jobs to do and they do a very thorough job at that!
I was glad that I had the final word over what changes I would accept and my editors were very patient and nice to me and walked me through the process.
I’m still on such a high since the books arrived that I haven’t come down yet! Now I truly appreciate what writers go through and the ups and downs of getting a book published. I get why it’s such a big deal now!
I so admire those who can write novels and stories that they can make up in their heads, which will never happen to me. I can’t do fiction. I have zero imagination for making up stories and plots. I’ll stick to the how to manuals and writing true stories, that’s more my style. I’m sure teachers who read this column shake their heads at my grammatical errors, sorry people; spell check only does so much. This is just me; this is how I speak and how I write. I’d love to write flowery words and poetic verses but that’s not going happen either. I’m a “tell it like it is” sort of person. Thank you to “The Neighbor” newspaper for accepting me and my frank opinions and bad grammar! So, if you are looking for a how to manual on dog grooming, “The EVERYTHING Dog Grooming Book” is available in bookstores and online and of course, at my salon!