Tag Archives: Dogs

Best. Dog. Ever.

This post will probably annoy a lot of dog owners, but it has to be said. I am the lucky caretaker of the best dog ever. Truly.

Zoey has been in my life for all of her nearly 9 years (I was given her as a gift when she was 9 weeks old, by Thing #2 – best gift he ever gave me), and I’ve always known I’m pretty lucky to have her. She’s a black Labrador Retriever, and she’s beautiful, extraordinarily smart, loving, sweet, playful… all the great qualities one wants in a canine companion.

This week, though, I am reminded why she’s extra special. On Thursday, I noticed what the vet calls a “hot spot” on Zoey’s right hip. A trip to the vet ended with a steroid shot, a shaving and cleaning of the very sore, very tender area, and we were sent home with steroid pills, an antibacterial spray, and a cone of shame. This is the first time Zoey has had anything like this that required so much in the way of take home accouterments.

Now, let me preface the rest of this post by saying before Zoey, I shared my life with two cats, whom I loved very much, one of whom I had for 18 years, until his death in 2004. In their lives, I had to give them pills, ointments, etc., and it was always an ordeal. So when the doctor gave me these Prednisone pills for Zoey, I thought “uh oh, this is going to be an ordeal.” The vet made the usual suggestions – wrap the pill in cheese, wrap it in chicken, use some of the “new” pill wrappers on the market – so I left the vet’s office with some ideas, just in case.

Last night, she was due for her monthly dose of Heartgaard, so I ingeniously cut a hole in the Heartgaard chew and placed the pill inside. Brilliant, right? I really didn’t need to worry, though. Zoey inhaled the Heartgaard chunk with her usual gusto, but the pill fell out in the process! I was worried. Now what would I do? But Zoey, true to form, sniffed the pill, and licked it right up and swallowed it! Yea!

This morning, I thought I would simply try to give it to her, no sugar coating, so to speak. So, as I had done with my cats all those years ago, I firmly grasped her snout in my left hand, and with the pill in my right hand, pushed my fingers between her front teeth, forcing her mouth open. I popped the pill in the back of her throat, rubbed her neck, and presto! She had swallowed it! I was so thrilled!

But next came the more touchy operation. The vet had purposely given me a spray antibacterial so I would not have to touch the affected area which is so sore, Zoey yelps anytime it’s touched. Even when I sprayed her last night she yelped. I’m sure it must sting as the area is raw and a vicious red color. So, this morning, I took out the spray and sprayed her – once. She yelped and ran into the dining room and then looked back at me. I begged her to come back to me, that this was medicine that would help her, etc., etc., but she was not having it.

So, I appealed to her tummy, which is usually what works where Zoey is concerned. I reached in the treat jar, which got her attention and caused her ears to go up. She still wouldn’t come to me, though. So I held up the cookie in one hand and the spray in the other and I said “If you let me spray this on you, you can have this” motioning with the two items. She slowly came toward me as if she completely understood, and offered her right hip to me. I sprayed three times, and she yelped but stayed in place, and she was rewarded with not only the cookie, but lavish praise, too.

And that’s why I think she’s such an extraordinary dog. She made a decision, I believe, and realized that a few seconds of pain was worth the treat. I could see her making that decision. And that’s why she’s the…

Best. Dog. Ever.




Who doesn’t love a basket full of puppies? Two days ago, Scarlott, a Great Dane in the Service Dog Project out of Ipswich, MA, gave birth to eleven (11!) live puppies, and one who was stillborn. Scarlott’s puppies will eventually be placed with people who have Multiple Sclerosis, individuals with Friedreich’s ataxia, and veterans with disabilities. Each dog receives extensive training for balance, and once a dog is paired with an applicant, the dog is uniquely trained to suit the recipient’s needs. I am completely hooked on watching the litters grow up and have tuned into the Service Dog Project (and other dog breeding programs like it) for more than two or three years via their live webcam feed on http://www.explore.org.

Wednesday night, when Scarlott was in the throes of puppy birth, I (and 2,400 other people) was tuned in as puppy #8 was born, unmoving. One of the volunteers worked on that puppy for more than 30 minutes and was able to save its life, much to my relief. I was literally misty eyed and could barely remove my eyes from the screen! Then, to my dismay, puppy #10 was stillborn and despite the volunteers’ best attempts, the pup could not be saved.

Now, two nights on, Scarlott appears to be an able and loving mother to her eleven remaining pups. She is attentive, anxious, loving, nurturing, exhausted… all of the things you would expect a new mother to be.

Scarlott and Pups

I wonder if she might have any memory now or in the future of the puppy who didn’t make it. We don’t know that much about the cognitive function of dogs or what role memory plays for them. If the videos of dogs welcoming home their masters and mistresses from Iraq and Afghanistan is any indication, though, it is apparent that dogs do have memory – very acute memory indeed.

Zoey, my beloved Black Labrador Retriever, was one of seven puppies, and I got her when she was about 10 or 11 weeks old. I’ve often wondered if she remembers her mother or her brothers and sisters (or her father, who was named Rowdy Piper!). She certainly seems to miss me whether I’m gone for 30 minutes or a week… is that simply because I feed her and give her treats and toys? Or is there a deeper, abiding love there?

I don’t know about Zoey, but there certainly is for me. I have no greater pleasure than having her in my life.