The Tramp Theory

If you have read my previous post Nearly Nomad you will know I have a concept of community involvement I call “The Tramp Theory”. In short this theory states that people who live particularly independently/transiently experience a unique form of what I would call “fear of missing out”.

In my mind I remember this scene from Lady and the Tramp (which I haven’t seen for years), maybe at this point it is a scene in my mind alone, I couldn’t tell you whether it is actually in the movie. Essentially, the scene I’m thinking of is Tramp looking through a bay window at a happy family with their kids and their dog and there’s a certain wistfulness in his expression, though up until this point he has been preaching the benefits of being able to live your own life on the streets.

For people who move around (personally, I spend eight months of the year at university and four months wherever I can find a job while interspersing that time with trips home and the occasional holiday) I think this feeling may not be uncommon. You see a community and they’re dynamic and involved with each other and a part of you wishes you had those long-term connections.

I often look at the few friends I have, many of whom have spent most of their lives very close to their hometowns and maintained friendships from elementary school and high school, and feel a pang of jealousy. Honestly, I have had good and bad experiences hopping about the way I do (before entering university I varied my location considerably more), but for the most part I don’t regret them as they have taught me a lot. What I do regret is never building a really natural skill for developing friends.

I would consider myself an introvert but in person I come across very outgoing and bubbly–maybe even a little domineering or over-confident– this exterior appearance of assurance though, has not aided me in developing the depth of friendships I desire. I have very few phone numbers in my phone and the vast majority of the good friends I have are spread out across the country (and a few across the world). I honestly can count the number of people I would consider “friends” on two hands.

Growing up I had a group of friends I fell into simply by vicinity (and parental interference): until the age of eight or so I lived on a block with lots of kids on it and we all got along (I mean block-wide water fights type got along), when we moved from there to a new school I again developed a decent sized group of friends (the popular group for want of another generalization). It was a falling out at the age of ten that really started me towards Tramp-hood. I decided I didn’t like how the other popular girls behaved and distanced myself somewhat, and they took offence as only little girls can. From that period on I don’t think I’ve ever had more than two friends in one place at once, and certainly never had a community of people in one place.

Don’t get me wrong, I have some really amazing friends, but one tends to be two hundred kilometre in that direction, another five hundred in that direction, and so on. I just don’t have one central community of people I can text and say, “Lets get together and play board games!” and actually get enough people to play something that requires more than three players.

The idea behind what I call the Tramp Effect is a degree of envy towards more stable people I suppose. The Tramp Effect is when you feel like your pressing your nose against the glass watching a community of people interact in a beautiful way but feel an invisible barrier between you and those people. You might be standing in the room, you may even be involved in the interaction somehow, but you are still at a distance from the intimacy of the community.

I often experience this when I visit my sister’s community. During university my sister developed amazing connections with people both at university and outside university via young adult groups, church activities, studying together, and mutual acquaintances that never fails to leave me awestruck. She generally spends at least two meals a week with large groups of friends and even more of them with smaller groups, she has had fabulous roommates and is an extremely gracious host, she can organize birthday parties and going away parties with ease and there is always a good turnout, and she participates in a myriad of evening activities as a volunteer or as an observer or participant.

I have been privy to these meetings when I visit her and her friends are universally accepting however I find every interaction feels as though it has a caveat–Oh, that’s ______’s sister, of course we’ll be welcoming, of course we’ll humour her. Now, I know this is a bad perspective to operate from but it has been my default all my life. My mind always niggles me with thoughts; Oh, they’re just talking to me to be nice; Oh, I don’t want to text them and suggest doing something if they might feel obligated to do something with me even though they don’t really like me that much.

I’ve mentioned this theory to a number of people and explained it and I generally get one of three responses:

  1. “You just need to put yourself out there! Commit to an activity–that’s why your sister has such a great community, she gets out there and does stuff!” To this I say, easier said than done. As I told you earlier I think I come across almost overly transparent and outgoing, but I have found it seems to put people off more often than not. Further, I spend so much time trying not to have a resting bitch-face or attempting not to speak as bluntly as I would without a filter that I tire out. Past that, I just hate imposing on people or putting them in an awkward spot–I don’t want to invite myself to something someone else doesn’t explicitly want me at, or what if they don’t want to come but feel obligated when I invite them, plus my preferred activities often don’t align with others (think reading, knitting and watching a movie, going for a long walk, or going to a pet store to pet kittens). I also hate being blown off when I do make a plan with someone (because I spend so much time hyping myself up to actually participate in something) that people being flaky makes me nervous to make any plan to begin with.
  2. “I totally get that! I feel like that all the time!” Coming from the person with five friends waiting a few steps away because they want to hang out. I have nothing against this person, they may actually feel exactly that way, but it is sort of hard to believe. Regardless, they at least have enough people they text regularly to have a group chat or a games night, or go fishing with (can you tell I really want to go fishing?).
  3. “I know, but really having tonnes of friends isn’t important–its about quality.” I get the whole quality over quantity argument but it doesn’t help the no-one is available to hang out blues. Also, the Tramp Effect isn’t really about having more friends but about having a good community. It’s about that base group of people some of whom may be only acquaintances, but most of whom you are comfortable texting to hang out.

I think part of the difficulty is that making finding friend groups as an adult is nothing like as a kid or teenager. When you are younger they sort of fall into your life.

What do you think? Do you feel the Tramp Effect at times? How do you find a community as an adult? (Any other closet introverts out there?)

Back to School

Gah! Oh my gosh guys! It’s August! The month that I go back to school.

While I can’t say I love school 100% of the time (see my first two posts ever), I understand that it is necessary to be in the profession I love. However, last year I was diagnosed (as an adult) with ADD. Here’s the thing, I had always found school boring and I was moderately disruptive (that depended a lot on the teacher) but, I’ve always had… how to say this tactfully… a level of scholastic ability that allowed me to get by and do quite well. Alright, very well.

In high school I was on attendance parol from grade 10 to grade 12 and even before that I did distance education for a few years (which I thoroughly slacked on, but somehow managed to survive). I didn’t know I was on attendance parol until nearly a year after I graduated though. How on earth does that happen, you ask? Well, the school called my parents and told them, my parents asked what my grades were, and then proceeded to not bother telling me because it seemed unimportant given said grades.

With that in mind you might anticipate that I rarely had to put much effort into any class. The first class that actually challenged me (calculus) left me in a puddle of tears the night before the midterm, which I eventually kicked in the butt by getting a really great tutor.

When I got into university I also enjoyed a relatively chill study schedule (although to me, in comparison to my previous education, my work load was enormous). I coped reasonably well still though, and merely balanced classes I struggled in with classes I was strong in. I asked tonnes of stupid questions (yes, they exist), annoyed the heck out of my classmates, attended work sessions with profs, and yes, even hired a couple tutors. I didn’t think twice about the elevated difficulty, other than having the occasional moment of the usual: questioning my existence, asking myself whether I was cut out for higher education, crying puddles to wallow in, and calling my parents long distance (lucky I had a great phone plan) to sniffle.

Fast forward, apply for vet school, and get in after taking the minimum requirements: I suddenly am in a professional college. Each regular (two semester) school year now I take almost an extra semester worth of credits compared to what a full load of courses in undergrad was. By the end of first semester I was drowning, I got my first fifty ever, I was personally miserable, I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything, was struggling to really listen to more than twenty minutes of any lecture (especially since I had jumped from a couple of hours of lecture on any given day and a lab to eight hours of school per day), and then I swore at a professor… during a final… in front of the class.

I apologized after the incident and the prof gave the best possible response (being more concerned for me and my classmates perception of me than about the incident itself) however, this moment marked a turning point for me. I began to ask myself: Why am I so miserable at school? I’ve never liked school, although I love reading and learning, but in lower grades I never had to put in more than minimal effort which made school tolerable to some degree. Plus, I spent every other moment of my time with a horse, a dog, working, or on a computer.

At different times it had been suggested to me that I should get tested for ADD/ADHD but, although I knew my mind often ran along the same lines as people I knew with ADD/ADHD, even as a child I had found the idea of being diagnosed to be distasteful. Not because I looked down on those kids that had it but because I couldn’t see how being identified as weird could be helpful in any way. My parents never pushed me to be tested because of my high academic achievement, and out of respect for my wishes.

I saw a diagnoses of ADD/ADHD as something I could use as an excuse not to achieve not as a possible removal of a hinderance to my achievement.

So, I continued to put it off before finally making an appointment in February of last year. I jumped through a bunch of hoops (which were mainly questionnaires asking me to rank how often I feel certain ways or think certain things on a numerical scale) and in late February or early March was told I was indeed within the ADD spectrum. What next?

I got a prescription, which my doctor carefully explained to me may or may not work for me in particular because much like many drugs used to help alter peoples mental states, it doesn’t affect everyone the same and requires a lot of fiddling around to get the dose right even if the drug is the right choice for me. I went to the pharmacist and was told how it might make me feel when I first started taking it (yeah, nausea was a thing for me). Finally I sat at home with the lowest dose of my new daily routine, which I was to double if it worked but didn’t work enough (have fun trying to make that distinction).

I ended up staying on the first prescription I was given and found a middling dose that worked for me–where the nausea died down and my sleep was least disturbed. I also realized that the toys I regularly brought to class and exams were actually fiddle toys and bought myself a few more that were more fun (but also discreet).

When I try to explain the difference the medication makes to my mind I have found a few metaphors that work for me, my go to though is: Imagine you lived in an one bedroom apartment and all your life you thought everyone lived in a one bedroom apartment. Then one day someone called you up and told you you had finally qualified for your adult house. You went to the address they gave you and found out that all your life everyone else had been living in two story, three bedroom, two bath houses and that that was normal.

I felt like a stranger in my newly focused mind: my peripheral vision had narrowed, but suddenly my binocular vision was eagle eye strong.

And I felt like I was cheating. I had gotten through life without this for over twenty years and suddenly, I get into a more difficult program and I get a new toy to make my brain work better? I mean sure, I can still use my new laser focus to watch cat videos but what if by taking this thing I was not just equaling other people but surpassing them? How is that fair to them?

I would express this to those close to me and they would ask me things like: do you think people who take anti-depressants are cheating?

The trouble is, to me, those people are truly sick. I never thought of myself as sick. I never thought of myself as disabled (which is why I didn’t sign up for DSS–Disability Services for Students). I felt like such a fraud when I woke up in the morning feeling more lively and popped my pill which allowed me to pay attention to forty out of fifty minutes of each lecture instead of twenty. I felt like a fraud when I picked up my prescription. I felt like a fraud each time I studied four days ahead of time instead of cramming for the usual two.

I felt like a cheater when I looked forward to the next school year, when I could stay on top of things a bit better from the start.

Applying for government student loans this year, I still feel sick checking off the “Disabled” box, followed by the “ADD” box, and having to get a doctors note to prove to the government that I am “permanently disabled”.

I can’t say I have a solution for this. I think over the summer I have come to terms with it a little more, but like I mentioned above, my student loan application sort of set me off. I really considered not checking the box. I considered being unidentified. I realize though, that as long as I stigmatize mental health for myself and refuse to accept an invisible and unquantifiable issue as real, I can’t extend the understanding I should have towards others.

So I checked the box because I’m ADD, I don’t view myself as disabled (although I am by the governments definition), but my brain chemicals balance in an abnormal way and that is okay, but also treatable. And treating it is fair to me, and doesn’t hurt other people.

The Calm

Hey guys! Thought I’d hit you with a short story (the poem is still in the works) that was inspired by some locations I visited on holiday.

The first location that this story blossomed from is the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax very near the water front. This gallery was composed of two buildings with three floors that were connected by the shared lower floor. I didn’t get to go through this gallery as thoroughly as I would have liked because I got there near closing however I was particularly struck by a small exhibit they had tucked out of the way on war art and propaganda (mostly from World War Two I believe). I have talked previously about my draw towards the military and this exhibit resonated very deeply for me, both as an amateur artist and a hero lover.

The William deGarthe Gallery in Peggy’s Cove was the second place that was in the back of my mind in writing this, as well as his artwork in the Peggy’s Cove church. Two large paintings in the church depict a ship in a storm with sailors looking out, with a second picture of Jesus that they are looking towards. The gallery that exists in deGarthe’s former home displays many oil paintings depicting the life of the local area and the ships that traversed the seas in those days, in both beautiful and terrifying conditions.

Also, if you ever go to Peggy’s Cove, there is an seemingly ancient old man with a little shack of reclaimed fishing supplies, glass objects burnished by the sea, whale jaw bones, and everything else you could possibly imagine to be in the cutest and least touristy shop ever. And the least touristy bit is important because everything else in Peggy’s Cove is designed with tourists in mind, I imagine in the down season almost all of it closes up.

Anyways, if I’ve intrigued you read on for the story of a shy girl struggling with self-consciousness, and her own oddness.

 

 

She stared. The waves roared like lions, but towered like mountains. Somehow these solid, immovable beasts tore about the ship, moving too fast for anticipation, rolling it about. The corner of the foremasts middle sheet was torn away and flapping in the wind while a sailor tried desperately to cling to the mizzenmast. Each moment was an eternity as the thunder cannoned on. How it could be so dark in mid-afternoon was mystifying.

“Excuse me, miss?”

Ella-May shook herself from her revere and looked away from the oil painting. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry but you’ve been standing in front of this painting for almost an hour, and my colleagues were wondering if you were all right?” The young african-american man inquired.

Ella glanced over at the others he had shifted his hand towards when he had mentioned colleagues. A white button up shirt barely covered the bust of the red lipsticked whisperer Ella had noticed on her way in, while the raven haired girl beside her sported deep purple lips and a slight smirk.

“I’m fine thank you…” she glanced down at his name tag, “Timothy.”

He glanced back towards the girls and then to Ella. She wondered if it was compassion flickering in his eyes in that moment, maybe he knew she felt judged and a little embarassed. She held his eye a moment before snapping her own eyes back to the five meter by three meter painting. Now Timothy turned to it as well, his back shifted towards his colleagues.

Almost whispering Ella asked, “Do you ever imagine being there?”

“I can’t. What do you imagine it would be like?” Timothy asked, it seemed genuine.

“I can feel the salt blasted wood of the rail under my palms and see the storm coming in the distance even while the sun beats down on me. The wind begins to whip my hair about before the waves even near. There’s no getting around it…” Ella petered off.

You sound silly Ella, her mother Samantha’s voice snipped in her head. Nobody wants to hear your flights of fancy, and your notebooks taking up all this space. Notebooks, sketchbooks, jabbering on, what does all this…

“I think I’m below decks,” Timothy said in a low whisper, stopping the voice in Ella’s head.

“What?”

“You were talking and I found myself on board.”

Ella’s brow puckered with a frown. “I hope you’re not there for any sinister reasons.”

“No, I’m securing the cargo. We have spices and silks to protect.”

“The storm picked up speed though, the other sailors and I are preparing, battening down as best we can. I’m climbing the rigging. The wind keeps pushing me about!”

“I’ve come on deck now and the storm is on us,” Timothy whispered more emphatically.

Ella’s eyes stayed fixed on the picture. “We’ll try our hardest, but we may go down. The captain has experience though, and we all know our jobs.”

“That’s all the luck anyone can hope for,” Timothy replied.

Ella fell silent and nodded, her breath coming a little bit faster. Timothy turned toward her.

“I’m off work in half an hour,” Timothy began. He stopped though and seemed to be waiting. Ella turned her cool blue eyes back to his hopeful brown eyes. “Are you going to be staring at another painting this afternoon?”

Ella nodded slowly. “I was going to go to the war and propaganda exhibit and remember how dear Jake, the soldier in The Trench Lament, got all that dirt on his face and why he looks so sad.”

“He does seem like a Jake, doesn’t he?”

“I think so.”

“When I get off work, could I join you and Jake?” Timothy asked tentatively.

“I think I would like that,” Ella smiled.

“Maybe we could grab a coffee afterwards,” Timothy continued casually.

Ella’s chin fell slightly and she blushed. She looked off to her other side, away from Timothy. He’s clearly some artsy-fartsy hooligan. Can’t he get a real job? Samantha’s voice echoed in her mind about the eighteen year old boy she’d liked at sixteen. I mean really, selling drawings at the harbour front? What does he make, ten cents. He’s not even planning to go to university…

“Miss?”

Samantha was cut off yet again, Ella couldn’t remember a time that happened in real life. She looked through her lashes back at Timothy.

“I don’t know your name, I’m sorry,” Timothy said with a smile.

“It’s Ella.”

“Ella, I didn’t mean to get your guard up. I can just come hang out with you in war and propaganda if you don’t want to do coffee.”

“No, I…I…” Ella was at a loss.

“Maybe, today we can look at The Trench Lament and maybe next time you’re in we could look at something else?”

“Next time?”

“I’ve worked here awhile. I noticed your in at least twice a week, please don’t think that’s weird! You just have something striking about you, your icy eyes and your confidence… I’m sorry, I’m being super weird,” Timothy stammered. “I’m just going to leave now.”

“No!” Ella exclaimed. For the first time their conversation rose above a friendly murmur.

Timothy stopped and Ella locked eyes with him. “I would really enjoy some company to look at the art with.”

“Okay. I’m here every day except Sunday and Monday, and I always get off at 4:30 if you want to look at art together.”

“Thank you,” Ella whispered.

Timothy reached towards her, briefly, but then his hand fell back as though he had only been about to punctuate a word with it. He opened his mouth and closed it before finally finding a reply.

“My pleasure.”

 

xx.

Red Dirt and Potatoes

Ah, back in the land of the living. It’s been awhile. I chose to leave my laptop home while I was on holiday for a few weeks and had a busy period before that meaning I haven’t posted in a while. Honestly, I just wanted to say hi… I’m still existing.

I spent my holiday in Canada in Nova Scotia and PEI. I was in Halifax and Charlottetown for longer periods and travelling around in between. I really enjoyed PEI, where some of the most notable features are its red dirt, potatoes, and beaches (plus it’s the setting of Lucy Maude Montgomery’s famous Anne of Green Gables series). Plus I won an iPad, so there’s that.

I have a poem in my mind from the trip that still hasn’t worked itself out, so until it does I am just going to give you beach recommendation: On PEI go to Greenwich beach. It’s in a national park and there is an interpretive centre but as a swimmer I only really cared about the beach. It has wonderful, fine sand that extends far out into the water with no seaweed that I saw and no debris in the water. It was also free of jellyfish when we were there (which can’t be said of any of the other beaches). It has a designated swimming area and lifeguards (which I generally don’t worry about but for the family it might be good). We went there in the late afternoon and it was pretty quiet, a few families and the lifeguards were around.

Anyway, would definitely recommend!

I know this is not anything like what I normally post but I’ll be back with my more typical fare shortly.

 

xx.

A War of Dust

“War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.” –Thomas Mann

I once considered joining my country’s airforce very seriously and also had a great affinity for the Navy Seals and the Coast Guard, both of which I looked into. None of these were spurred by seriously nationalistic feelings (some of these divisions don’t even exist in my country), although I do love my country. Of my many reasons I often put my affinity for the armed forces down to two main things: I am drawn to heroism very strongly and I feel very at peace with the idea of my own death (at some point, which by the grace of God isn’t today and most likely isn’t in the near future).

In the end I found that I most likely lack a few required qualities. I can’t follow orders that I find lacking in sense, vision, compassion, and/or thought; I am characteristically cynical of others motives (including those of military groups and countries); I dislike bureaucracy and bullshit; and and I am strictly guided by my morals (which really haven’t come to a firm place on killing groups classified as “enemies”, I mean is killing a killer really justice?). I also seriously struggle with discipline and scheduling. Cumulatively, I felt these character “flaws” most likely restricted me from service.

Ultimately, I will fight for myself personally but often the moments when others would like to challenge me are my moments of miraculous level headedness. The result is a tendency to fight verbal battles on fronts most people don’t care about.

Recently a watched a movie called The Water Diviner, and while I can’t say the reviews for it were stellar (to each their own) it struck a chord in me that runs deep. My love of heroism has always run contrary to my cynicism and my position on the futility of violence, and this film played to both sides of my heart. It showed the action, the noble sacrifices, and the alpha-personality role to a T but spliced it with the pain of losing children, and the devastation left behind after wars (both human and environmental).

I am still drawn towards the military. I have a deep and abiding love for soldiers/warriors and a heart for hurting people, but now when I consider military roles I look towards the support of veterans and opportunities that allow autonomy.

I digress though, I wrote this all to preface a poem I wrote today:

 

A War of Dust

This is where we truly dwell,
among the lime and dust.
With filigree and quietude,
lacking only trust.

Metal stacked upon our chests
and cross our shoulders strong.
Our beliefs upon our hearts
Not guiding us for long.

Heartbeats only marching on
until they meet the threat.
Then though strong, we faint upon
conviction just as set.

Pride and honour batter ’bout
high upon the bastion,
until ideals bend to know
truth will not ride death in.

So search among the rubble,
the chaos and the ruin,
there you’ll find the end results
are surely no reunion.

And filigree and quietude
will under feet remain,
For filigree upon the chest
Without trust raises Cain.

 

xx.

Poetic Memory

April

 

I still taste the air
we breathed that April.
Sweet melancholy,
and crisp blues.

I still feel you,
the soul that’s beside me.
Roan velvet,
whispered in the dark.

I still hear the breath of
our departed love.
Clear thunder heads,
and shuffling grass.

I still see liquid gold,
our flowing banner.
Our war and peace,
a mirage vision lilting on my lips.

 

xx.

P.S. This is extremely retrospective, and isn’t based on recent experience though it was written recently. I don’t feel it needs introduction.

Ink Wings

Flying is only possible in life because someone once lent us their wings and taught us how.

There is an unquestionable power in large animals, even when they are small. They posses an undefinable confidence in their being that has always astounded me.  Today I started in my vet clinics large animal branch and I can’t tell you how good it felt to tumble back into a familiar part of the veterinary world, with some very interesting cases and learning opportunities. Even dealing with an aggressive bull today, while I certainly found myself jumpier than normal and a bit behind the ball in some ways with the other cases, I felt calm, happy, and composed. While I enjoyed my month of pets there will always be something that draws me to animals that outweigh me (by huge amounts).

I can’t say whether it is the challenge of handling them or the satisfaction of feeling capable to do so but, while many vets have suggested I might change my mind, I do still feel inexorably bound to work with large animals.

Perhaps this change is why my mind was drawn back again to horses on my drive home. I miss riding, it used to make up hours of my day almost every day. I’ve been distracted by this, and a phrase came to me (this may be a quote, but I have no idea who from): My boots give me roots, my horses give me wings.

While I know my horses aren’t the only thing that give me wings, I also know that many of the things that act as my wings are not in my life presently. My pets have been wings for me, all of which have passed away except my one cat who lives with my parents (and adores my dad) because my living arrangements are not pet friendly. Random adventures outdoors, especially when I lived out of town, have been little wings for me (it seems time is just very tight for this sort of thing at present). Travelling (for fun) has been my wings at times. All these things have stopped for the most part, due to university, due to commitments, and due to financial constraints. I miss my wings.

I am considering getting three tattoos in the near future to remind me that new wings are always in the making, and to honour the wings in my past:

  1. Line art style mountainscape—so I can look down and know there’s adventure around the corner to find if I just go out and find it. I would do this along the inside of my left wrist because I wear big chunky watches on my left hand and I would have it made so my watch covers it (professionalism and all, it would be nice to be able to cover it up).
  2. A quote, I want it to say: You were a great champion. When you ran, the ground shook, the sky opened and mere mortals parted.—this would be in honour of my first horse Smokey, my original wings. I don’t know where to put this one though, I was definitely considering a single line of spidery handwriting along my rib cage, horizontally, near sternum level but I feel like it might wrap all the way around my back. I also considered doing it in two lines but vertically along my ribs (sort of in line with where my arm rests when I’m standing).
  3. Three paw prints no bigger than a thumbprint—one for each of my border collies who have passed on. This would go along the side of my foot just above the walking surface (and yes I know they fade faster there), the symbolism being that each dog still walks with me. I haven’t decided whether I want them on the right or left and whether I would have them on the inside of my foot near the arch or along the outside of my foot.

What do you guys think? Which do you think would be the best? Would you do all of them? Do you think tattoos are unprofessional? Any artsy people out there who want to draw what they imagine would look good? (I know the invariably cliche tattoo design request, no pressure!)

The Case of the Fractious Feline

Before I begin: to avoid offending any potential feline readers of this (as I know they enjoy the occasional keyboard sitting session) I have omitted the three letter D-word and replaced it with the less offensive terms–Droolers, and Big Paws.

You may have read a previous article on this blog entitled The Case of the Dangerous Drooler. Near the beginning I made the generalization that about ninety percent of the poor behaviours I have observed in the Big Paws are due to parenting failures (directly or indirectly). Although I acknowledge, even perfect Drooler parenting will not prevent all incidents.

Having made that previous observation you may find this one hard to swallow but when it comes to our feline friends I would say probably… fifty percent of their bad behaviour is absolutely not DIRECTLY your fault. Don’t stop reading there though!

So, lets begin. The generalization in my Drooler article about urbanization and poor understanding of animals still holds here (it’s in the first few paragraphs if you want to go back and read it), as do my recommendations regarding pet first aid, knowing when your pet is sick, and knowing how to feed your pet.

Three cat specific notes though:

  1. On health concerns: a panting cat is a major concern. Cats don’t and shouldn’t pant.
  2. On feeding and obesity: statistically while obesity is above fifty percent in dogs (in North America) it is even higher in cats and it is a problem. Obesity puts extra strain on joints and bones and can make your cat unnecessarily sore, interfere with their breathing (either due to fitness level, or because fat is inflammatory), and lowers their life expectancy. We’ll talk about this a little bit more later on.
  3. However, visually obvious, rapid weight loss in cats is also a health concern (I’m not saying you shouldn’t put your obese cat on a diet, I am saying that if you can very obviously see your cat loosing weight over the course of a week, or even a month it isn’t healthy weight loss and there may be another underlying problem or you may have cut them back too far).

This article though, like the previous is going to address feline behaviours and training. A caveat, I am not an expert–this is based on observation and is meant to provide a jumping off point for you to continue learning from.

I’ll start with a story:

The tech walked into the alien landscape, assessing the damage. The room was a disaster, but it would need to be fixed before they could settle in for the next storm. She dragged away the old and tattered blankets and carefully disinfected the counters and chairs, who knew what alien had last inhabited this place.

The tech lay out a new blanket and sprayed it with Drooler Detractor. then swept and mopped the floor. Glancing around the room she took out her spray once more and dispersed it sweepingly across the room, plugging in a nightlight-like contraption that would continue to add more as needed to the air. Examining her handiwork she smiled before sprinkling a salt ring around the whole premises to keep out faeries, and walking out the door.

After attending to her other duties in the community the tech returned to the same door. She carefully made the sign of the cross over herself and kissed her rosary before spraying herself down with Drooler Detractor and stepping across the threshold. The battle that day would be arduous but all preparations had been made.

 

Did that sound crazy? Well, it’s actually not that far from the truth minus the salt ring, the sign of the cross/rosary (if your tech isn’t religious, if they are… who knows), and if you change the name of the spray to Feliway, this would probably be for a cat that is known to be difficult but even for a cat that is pretty chill we will take precautions.

So why are cats treated with such caution? Because even the nicest cat at home can become a terror in the veterinarians office.

Why? You may ask. Cats are creatures of insane habit, I mean almost obsessive. Moving their litter box three feet to the left may result in them peeing in your bed in protest, adding a new cat or saying goodbye to an old cat in the household may result in months of mournful nighttime meowing, a new person arriving in the house or someone moving out may result in mild depression or major changes in sleep habits, to name a few of the many changes that can set a cat off.

I mean, don’t even get me started on changing litter or food types. The kicker with the vet is not only could you be changing their environment two to three times (house in general to kennel, kennel to exam room, exam room to treatment room) you are also changing their people; their companions; the smell; the availability of food, water and litter; and the motions and touch being applied to them.

So imagine taking your most neurotic, homebody friend and sending them to… I don’t know, rural Asia. Now try to navigate the newly induced panic attack while performing a slightly invasive medical examination.

Alright, now what can we do about this?

There’s definitely a few things, starting with picking your new queen/king:

  1. Cats have distinct personalities, and while I definitely encourage adoption I would also say you need to carefully consider any cat you intend to have join your family (especially if it is going to have to make nice with other non-human family members, or children). While that grumpy cat sitting at the back of his cage, making funny noises at you might seem the most in need of a rescue he may not be the best fit for your home, or your lifestyle. Age can play a role in determining whether or not a cat will adjust well to a busy household or a multi-pet household (kittens may be more amenable to these situations as they are curious and still learning what they like). This is NOT ALWAYS the case, but don’t disregard it because you want to live in fantasy-land either.
  2. There are tonnes of REALLY nice cats in this world, find one that will love your lifestyle as much as you do and don’t feel bad for insisting on that. It seems inheriting cats is becoming increasingly common, and while I encourage trying to work with an inherited cat, if it is making your life miserable because you two just aren’t compatible that is okay, seek out the right place for the cat so you can both be happy!

At home:

  1. Never allow biting people, playful or not, it is inappropriate and sets a precedent, just like letting them climb up your leg, or scratch at you. There’s tonnes of great toys and scratching posts out there and you should make full use of them.
  2. Provide their food and water to them in the kennel they will someday be travelling in, or make it into a comfortable bed with all the amenities they may want. Frankly, normalize the kennel. Practice closing the door for short, and then longer periods.
  3. Eventually drive them around the block with them in their kennel, or even to a parking spot two houses down if they are freaking right out. Do this once a week or once every couple of weeks so the kennel and the car don’t automatically mean vet. While you’re driving with them put a few treats in the kennel (not too much, no one wants a barfing cat on their hands, and on vet trips this may not be an option as they may need to be fasted for surgeries).
  4. From kitten-hood poke and prod them (gently) in odd and unexpected ways. Flip their ears back and look inside (this is good even if they aren’t going to the vet as it allows you to check for ear mites), open their mouths (super gently, and please don’t get bit, if you don’t know how to do this safely find someone who does), bop their noses (bop gently, not that this is a veterinary procedure, it just teaches tolerance), cradle them in your arms and lift their tails briefly and gently (as though someone needed to take an anal temperature, which generally takes about thirty seconds), get them used to lying in lateral recumbency and dorsal recumbency (on their side and back) and being gently restrained in these positions, get them used to having their legs restrained (gently), play with their feet, trim their nails (again, learn how to do this well and safely from someone who knows). Heck, if you’re adventurous teach them to enjoy a bath (I recently bathed my six year old cat for the first time and he was fantastic, although I recommend a nail trim prior and generally would not try it with a mature cat, but since Piper is… well, Piper I chose to chance it. Just be careful of the eyes, and ears, also RINSE WELL and get a CAT SPECIFIC shampoo as cats themselves are prolific groomers and will most likely be consuming orally any soap left on them which could be dangerous).
  5. Practice the reverse burrito. Okay, this sounds like a joke when you read it but I am dead serious. The reverse burrito is a common low-stress restraint technique for cats undergoing procedures. The normal burrito involves the head being covered (this is also relatively common depending on what is being done). In the reverse burrito you lay a towel out flat and position the cats head near the edge of the towel, with the cat lying on its stomach on top of the towel. From there you wrap the edge of the towel around the cats neck (so that it is snug enough the paws can’t come popping out, but not uncomfortable) and proceed to wrap the rest of the cat up like… well a burrito, tucking the bottom under the cat at the end while maintaining a hold on the neck area of the towel and cradling the body snuggly. My cat is absolutely un-offended by this, and yours could be too!
  6. One final, more sensitive at home management item: MANAGE YOUR CATS WEIGHT. An obese or morbidly obese cat will feel like crap, they will be more sore, more easily loose their breath, and more stressed on a day to day basis than they should be. This can be worked around with simple, and basic calculations of your cats ideal body weight (if your unsure talk to your vet about this) and feeding your cat with that in mind. I understand you probably won’t be weighing out their food everyday, but since most feed bags measure metabolic kCal/g or kg of food weighing will be the most accurate way to figure out how much food your cat should get. Try to weigh out the food when you change the amount your feeding or the type of food (which may differ in calorie density or particle density), particularly when your kitten is in their rapid growth phase, and then find a measuring cup that fits exactly the right amount of food. Also note that your cats metabolic requirements change after they are spayed or neutered (same goes for Droolers). Managing their base stress level by keeping them in their ideal fitness and body condition, can significantly reduce how stressful being at the vet clinic is.

At the clinic:

  1. Try to find a clinic that has a cat specific exam room (trust me, this is becoming a thing). That way your kitty won’t be getting a nose full of unknown dog when you are trying to keep him chill. Even better if you can find a place with cat specific waiting room accommodations too (this may be in the form of cat shelves which put them up above the fray, a separate waiting area, or even just feliway (pheromone spray) sprayed towels that can be draped over the kennel).
  2. Make your appointment as early as possible during the day (or see if the clinic has a “cat day” where all their appointments are cats, or even just an appointment right before lunch or during a quiet day). This ensures there’s not two german shepherds, a pomeranian, and a great dane hanging out in your cats space before the appointment even begins.
  3. Arrive for your appointment juuuuust ahead of time (like five minutes if you can manage it that close without being late, but don’t be late!) or leave the cat in the car with another family member while you go in and check if the wait time is going to be super long. You could even call ahead if it’s just you, to see if things are running on time, although make it short and sweet because on a busy day this might drive the receptionists a little nutty.
  4. Have a familiar towel in the kennel that is fluffy/thick enough for your cat to feel a little hidden. Also, on the subject of kennels have one that you can remove the top off of if kitty doesn’t want to walk out once you are in the exam room (super handy).
  5. As with Droolers WARN US if your kitty is a known biter or typically aggressive towards yourself or strangers, this really informs our handling approach. We may leave kitty be while we take a history instead of immediately opening up the kennel door.

While kitty temper tantrums may be harder to avoid than Drooler ones, there is still a lot you can do to prepare and “train” your cat for clinic situations. These things are part of the fifty percent of behaviour that is under your DIRECT control with your cat.

The other fifty percent could be them keying in on your indirect reaction to being in medical situations (maybe you’re breathing harder, or your heart is pumping faster) and reacting themselves, it could be a smell on the vet that they aren’t keen on, it could be them having a bad day (Droolers have these too), it could be them feeling one too many bumps on the car ride, it could be that a dog barked as you walked into the exam room. Whatever it is these factors have to be dealt with in the moment, but like with our D-O-G-G-Y friends, setting a firm foundation of correct behaviours prior to arriving at the vet is a HUGE part of helping them cope with the new situation.

Cat handling techniques in clinic have dramatically changed over the last two decades, favouring low stress, and minimal handling techniques in order to improve their experience with us but we really appreciate if you do your part too!

A calm cat is a cat that has blood drawn without blowing the vein (more often, if veins are super friable this may still happen), its a cat that purrs in the exam room and rubs up against the vet, its a cat that stays collected for a temperature, and climbs onto the scale because its just chilling out, exploring, its a cat that will take a treat nicely after its vaccine, and often doesn’t need our help to get its nails trimmed.

Frankly, a relaxed and well adjusted cat is a cat we simply see less often and for shorter periods of time, because it doesn’t have to come in to be sedated to be groomed or to have four people help get its nails trimmed (I’ve seen this happen!), and it’s vaccine appointments take no time at all.

#relaxthecat

#pawsoutclawsout

 

xx.

Sunshine Bloggin’ It

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s a new form of chain mail?

Well, I have to say thank you to the Mainepaperpusher (Linda) You should definitely check out her blog… here!

So, I didn’t know what the Sunshine Blogger Award was and with that in mind I’m going to give you a brief rundown of what it is: The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community. (Not my words, the description I got.)

So how does this work?

Well, it’s the bloggy, friendly equivalent of chain mail… which coincidentally I always ignore. So, to those whose blogs I plan to link–feel no obligation to continue the chain, I’m doing it because… well, Linda rocks!

Also note, for many of these blogs I am a silent observer so, well… sorry if you don’t recognize me! Some of them are single posts too, just certain ones I’ve read and liked. To any blogs I follow and didn’t list, or that I comment on regularly and don’t have on here, I mean no offence! I tried to include some of the blogs I less actively comment on or that I recently reread after an absence.

Basic info:

Generally you link back to your nominator.

You answer the 11 unique questions chosen by your nominator.

You nominate another 11 blogs (no tags-backs!).

You make a set of 11 questions for your nominees.

And you put up the Sunshine Blogger Logo at the top of your post and give the rules.

Now, this has been a long time coming. Mainly because I forgot about it, partially because compiling a list became a real process, and partially because I was dragging my feet on unleashing my first ever piece of “chain mail” unto the world. I have decided that it will be my one and only. So, enjoy it guys, in no particular order (if you want to go straight to my answers to the questions from Linda just go past the list)!

Dogtown–I love the simple things and hearing about peoples lives and this blog is one of my favourites for that.

D.I.Y.-ing Machine–I specifically love this post because I relate to it super strongly, but in general I love to see other people accomplishing their creative ideas and this is the place I look to for that.

jhubner73–This one is because it gave me a new Canadian artist to listen to who, honestly, didn’t scar my ears and sounds chill enough to chill me out (a tall order!).

Until Tomorrow— One of those, thank God I’m not alone, posts I read a while back.

Monahchopsis–One of my favourite places for a poetry fix.

Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera–For the love of photography.

Observaterry–A walk on the arty side of my love.

Tea and Bannock— This article fabulously addresses mental health, self care, and a culture of busy people, relating specifically to higher education and I love it!

Hawaii Pacific Review— A poignant poem on breaking, power, beauty, and death and the relationship between it all.

Travel 67— Some striking Geisha’s (I am unsure of some of the terms used) and fabulous photos of the moment.

Sketching Family— Another arty trip.

And an extra little something for those curious clickers…

Now for Linda’s questions:

1. What do you believe is the root of the world’s problems today?

Probably greed, and ignorance. I just hate the “I worked hard for this so I’m not going to share because you haven’t worked hard enough/gone through enough in my opinion to deserve my government-papers-that-confer-value” and the “I-think-Google-and-me-are-smarter-than-my-doctor” attitudes. I mean, don’t enable and do advocate for yourself. However, while you’re at it stop trying to tell me that you need a new sports car every year and don’t want to pay taxes when you won’t step off your pedestal and help out the less fortunate without being forced to, and stop insisting that someone with eight years of education is lying because of twenty minutes of googling. Doing away with those attitudes could help us turn a corner towards supporting all people (regardless of nationality or economic circumstance) and advancing innovation and problem solving.

2. If you could be a television star, what character would you want to be?

Hawkeye, both Dr. Benjamin Hawkeye Pierce and the Hawkeye/Clint Barton at once but in parallel universes (so, not like a Clark Kent/Superman thing where I have to change in a phone booth or anything) and you know, female versions of them.

3. Other than basic necessities, what are 3 things you would take with you as you colonize Mars?

Um, is a bag/box/storage pod of books a single item? I’m going to say yes. So, that, and since its “things” I’m going to say family doesn’t qualify, and pets don’t so… a fairy garden of earth plants, and…my favourite pocket knife.

4. What is the title of the book you would write if you were stranded on a desert island?

Lessons of Lakes and Rivers: The Mirage Reflections

5. If you were a color, what would it be, and why?

Sea glass teal–because while I’m easily understood as I am now, you’ll never completely know where I’ve been, or clearly see whats inside/who I am. I think never truly knowing a person is true of anyone but the whole not knowing me/where I’ve been isn’t because I’m trying to be cryptic or melancholy, it’s just because of the sheer number of adventures I’ve gone on completely within my own mind.

6. What food do you absolutely detest?

I hate the texture of tomato innards.

7. In the “Queen/King of the World” election, who would you vote for and why?

Ryan Reynolds, because he has a fantastic sense of humour and seems to tell it like it is. I don’t think he would take himself too seriously, and he might even get something done.

8. What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?

In an airport parking garage elevator with some singing superstar and her body guard (he’s between her and I and the squish is crazy tight) and she has long dangley earrings. I look over and notice she has a piece of sliced sandwich meat hooked to one of her earrings. So I’m like, “Excuse me, you have a piece of sandwich meat on your earring.” She glances over at her earring, yanks the piece of sandwich meat off and says, “Oh, that’s where it went”, and proceeds to eat it. Throughout it all her body guard doesn’t even move.

9. If you could pick an existing symbol/icon/logo to represent you, what would it be and why?

The Toblerone mountain–to remind myself and everyone who encounters me to explore more.

10. What is your favorite joke that you’ve told more than once?

Oh, cheesy as all get out but the interrupting cow one and less cheesy but also less relevant now unless you change all the names the George Bush and a teenager in a plane one.

11. What is your favorite mode of transportation, even if you’ve never experienced it?

First, horseback, but as it is typically a little too slow… Trains. Love em. Slow enough to see the sights (unless we’re talking bullet I suppose), but fast enough to get you there before your holiday is up. I also love planes, mainly because I find turbulence fun but really there’s less to see. Although, on the unexperienced list would be dragon, hypogryph, and pegasus.

Now, your mission (my eleven questions), should you choose to accept it, is difficult, harrowing even. Know there is no shame in not completing all the objectives, the only true objective is personal reflection (some of the answers here are probably awfully personal so no pressure to post all your answers):

  1. What one thing should someone know about you if they truly know you?
  2. What is one thing you regret doing?
  3. What is one thing you don’t regret doing that others might think you should?
  4. What is one thing you regret not doing?
  5. If you had to get a tattoo what would you get (feel free to draw this one or put in a picture)?
  6. What is your opinion in the debate about doctor assisted suicide/human euthanasia (controversial I know, don’t feel obligated to answer even if you are doing the questions)?
  7. Are freedom and law and order at odds with each other?
  8. If you could make up any word and it would instantly become part of the vocabulary of the world what would the word be, and what would it mean?
  9. If your life where reduced to a single haiku what would the haiku say (in your own words)?
  10. What where the first words out of your mouth after you made the biggest mistake of your life (thus far), do you think they were fair?
  11. If you knew that the love of your life (assume you believed such a thing existed), your true match, had passed away before you ever met them, would you still pursue an imperfect love with someone else?

The Case of the Dangerous Dog

The bark is very rarely worse than the bite.

Wow guys, it’s been two weeks since my last post! The last couple of weeks have been amazing work wise, and fun during my off time, but also super busy. Regardless, I’m back!

I thought today we might talk pets! Specifically dogs, because who doesn’t love dogs. Maybe later we’ll talk about our feline companions.

As you might already know I am a vet student, which means I often deal with your pooch pals when they are feeling NQR (not quite right). I mean, yeah, I also see dogs (and puppies) coming in for vaccines or just a wellness exam but more often you bring in your dog because there’s something going wrong,

Now, I love my dogs, and much of the time I love your dogs too but… well, some dogs…

Let me be clear though, probably ninety percent of the time it is NOT your dogs fault… it’s YOURS. However, it is most often inadvertently your fault so, don’t feel too bad I guess (just bad enough to change a little bit).

I want to step back a second though. Over the last three decades much of the world has undergone massive urbanization, which leads to a disconnect between people and animals. While many people were closely involved with farms or related to people from farms one or two generations ago, today many people deal very little with what the animal industry terms production animals (cows, goats, pigs, horses to some extent etc.).

Those with family pets growing up might also know that while many farm kids have chores and learn a lot about the health of their animals, many kids with pets are not held responsible for paying attention to the pets health, eating and drinking habits, or grooming.

Together, the disconnect from farming and the low levels of responsibility given to young people for their pets means that fewer and fewer people (in the younger generations) know how to administer proper first aid, how to judge when an animal is sick enough to need a vet, how to train their pet, or even what to feed it. Even amongst the older generation there are many misconceptions with pet care because growing up the standards were different.

These are all hot topics but I’m really only going to talk about training today (in which I am not an expert, only a concerned observer). I will briefly say of the rest:

  1. Pet first aid is a thing and taking a course or asking some basic questions of the veterinary technologist at a checkup is super recommendable.
  2. On knowing if your animal is sick–if in doubt call the vet clinic and describe the problem to us–most clinics have fantastic reception staff who will quickly identify if your case requires urgent action or could be booked in for tomorrow or even next week AND if the vet is free they might even present a summary of your case to the vet and give you some free, sound advice straight from the horses mouth. Just please be friendly on the phone and go easy on us if we have to put you on hold, we are often quite busy.
  3. Finally on food, food is not love, and obesity is dangerous. There are myriads of options out there but the most important thing to do is feed the appropriate amount and keep your pet at their ideal weight, whatever you choose. If you choose a raw diet though YOU have a SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to tell EVERYONE your dog interacts with that it is on a raw diet, especially when there are children involved (due to high risk of E. Coli, Salmonella and other pathogens possibly present in raw meat; and because dog kisses from dogs on raw diets are not welcome in any world including the veterinary world).

Now, back to the topic at hand–training. I personally hold all types of dogs to the same standard: NO JUMPING, NO GROWLING, NO BITING. I don’t care if your dog is a 90 kg mastiff or a 2 kg chihuahua, it should meet these three criteria to be what I would call a good dog. These are super basic standards, but when your pup is feeling NQR they can become more difficult for the dog to keep in mind if they aren’t well established.

Now I can hear some people already, “Oh, but Joey Chihuahua is so tiny, if he jumps up it doesn’t matter!” Here’s the problem, I have been climbed like a tree by chihuahua’s, pomeranians, and a variety of other small and toy breeds far more often than by mastiffs, german shepherds, border collies, etc. and their nails hurt like heck (nail trimming is also a pet peeve of mine).

Most people acknowledge that a large breed dog jumping up is not okay–they at least try to train them not to, and apologize profusely when they do. With the little guys though, their jumping is treated as a cute parlour trick. Not so, jumping sets a precedent. If you say yes to jumping you are saying, “My space is your space, take it!”

This creates tech/vet/student climbing tinies that try to perch on your shoulder like parrots, or jump off it like flying squirrels. Not only is this dangerous for the dog but it forces us to use increased restraint which is never as nice as being able to hold the dog loosely and calmly, and makes any procedure way more difficult than it should be.

Now for those of you who let your large breed puppies jump and say you’ll train them not too when they’re bigger and it matters, STOP. Think about it, if you want your kid not to throw food at the table do you wait until their five and their hands are big enough to throw significant amounts significant distances? I HOPE NOT!

Now, the no growling rule gets some people. Maybe your looking at me thinking, “Hey, look, he never acts on it. He’s just letting me know he’s not a fan. Plus, how do I stop him.”

If your dog is an adult this may get really difficult, and you may never totally fix it but bear with me and try, for the love of your vet okay? Your dog may never act on his growling with you but how hard do you push its patience? Techs/vets/students don’t have the luxury of saying “Oh, he growled at me as we were trying to get his pre-anaesthetic meds in, I guess we won’t do the surgery today. Lets wait until he’s in a better mood.”

Want to know the magic, no growl solution? Drive your puppy nuts, every day, all day, until he is full grown and barely blinks an eye at you. I mean pull their tail (lightly!), tug at and flip back their ears (if they are floppy and again, lightly!) and make them sit still so you can look in their ears; look at their teeth on a regular basis (lifting up their lips and shifting their head around), even scrape your nail on the surface of their teeth, brush their teeth (even if you think its stupid, it doesn’t have to be daily if you really hate doing it but try a few times a week at least), open their jaws (gently!) and look down their throat (this one takes time an patience to get them to accept it); trim their nails, play with their feet, lightly pinch their toes (lightly!); roll them over, lay them down, make them sit nicely on a scale, lift and move their feet and limbs (NEVER forcing them in any unnatural directions of course!); introduce them to new people all the time, and new environments, and new dogs (all once they have their first set of vaccinations of course); practice playing really energetically with them and then having them calm down quickly, take away and return their food mid-meal etc. Throughout all this REWARD them for every time they tolerate it/every time they succeed in getting closer to the desired behaviour.

When you do all these things make sure not to force anything, and be careful with the amount of pressure you apply. If they do growl at you, give them a firm vocal reprimand and a tap (on the nose, on the shoulder, on the paw) to refocus them (and I do mean a TAP, like you were playing a staccato note on the piano or finger painting a single dot with extreme excitement). Now rinse and repeat until your dog barely bats an eyelash when you do weird things.

Side Note: I would NEVER recommend you have young children try to train this sort of thing, as kids most often don’t know how to ensure they don’t apply TOO MUCH pressure to the dog. After you have established acceptance of some of these things though, you might be able to show your kids how to help the dog continue to grow in some areas like brushing the dogs teeth, or playing and then calming down, or sitting on the scale (with you supervising).

Alright, so your dog is being held to these standards now we come to the final and most important rule: NO BITING. First off–if your dog is a fear biter, or has been known to be aggressive LET YOUR TECH/VET KNOW!

You could even mention it while booking your appointment, it may help us choose a time for your dog to come in (maybe first thing in the morning before other clients are booked, maybe last thing in the afternoon after all the other animals are home) and it will help us to at least attempt to set up an environment that will be welcoming for your dog (we have pheromone sprays that we can use in the room, we can set up a dog bed, or maybe have his favourite treats around, or make sure he always has the same tech/vet, or even have a muzzle ready). We want you to be safe and we want to be safe.

That said, you may have done all the right things, and the vet team may have taken all possible precautions and your dog may still end up biting a veterinary team member because what can go wrong, did go wrong despite everyones best efforts. We understand this can happen even though we use every handling technique that we can to reduce the chance of this happening.

Now, to those of you who think a puppy chewing on your hand is funny… Do I need to say anything more than what I already have?

I will say there is, for sure, a difference between playful mouthing and actual biting but while some handlers may be able to make this distinction and train their dog to do one and not the other MOST PEOPLE can’t. So for most people: DON’T EVEN TRY.

Start with a strict no teeth on a person ever, rule and stick to it. Try to keep a toy handy. Have you ever seen canine unit police officers with Kongs in the side pocket of their pants, just below their guns? I have, and I would recommend it when you’re around your puppy (not the gun, the toy). If they want to chew on something, give them something to chew, just not you (and yes, I know police use toys to reward when the dog bites and get them to release sometimes, I’m not suggesting you use it in that way).

This may not prevent your dog from snapping at a veterinary team member at some point, when they are really pushed to their limit during a treatment or test but it will prevent them from learning that biting is appropriate/okay.

When your dog does snap (at you or anyone), which may or may not ever happen this requires immediate and firm correction (but also remember your dog will only connect discipline to an action for like five seconds after it has happened, so the reaction being immediate and short is important). How you correct depends on your training method, but remember reactions should always be proportional.

Adult dogs though, are a whole different kettle of fish. Established behaviours, which the animals have effectively employed to achieve a desirable result (being left alone, making a person stop doing something etc.) are very difficult to change.

Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult I would recommend obedience training, and at the first sign of aggression towards people or other dogs, or the first time it attempts to bite (and I mean a proper bite not puppy play), or when they begin to show abnormal behaviours, find and consult a professional.

You may want to take a dog to the vet and see if the behaviour is pain or disease related but if it is just bad behaviour there are certified animal behaviouralists out there (and I mean PROFESSIONALLY certified) that develop behaviour modification plans for dogs and even abnormally aggressive puppies. And again, ALWAYS inform the person your consulting of the biting/aggression issue BEFORE they start interacting with your dog.

Final word on this: I have seen more bite aggressive small dogs than I have seen bite aggressive large dogs, despite statistics that suggest large breeds are of greater concern than small breeds. I think a major factor of this may be the level of injury a single bite from a large dog versus a small dog can cause. While the 60 kg dog that was trying to bite me when I touched it’s collar earlier this week bothered me and was concerning, it was a situation a encounter less than you would expect and one that I see mainly in dogs that have lacked directed handling/training. Regardless, don’t think your chihuahua biting is any less concerning.

I’ll finish with a story: I once asked a woman if I could pet her chihuahua and when she gave the okay placed my hand, palm down a little ways from its nose to introduce myself. The dog proceeded to lunge forwards and chew up and down the side of my hand and snarl all the while.

Did the dog break through my skin? No.

Was it’s intent and desire to? Absolutely.

Do I consider it an aggressive and poorly behaved/dangerous dog? A hundred percent.

Was I hurt? No.

Was I upset? Not really.

Do I think it is just as concerning as a german shepherd or malamute or any other large breed biting me? Yes.

Was the owner laughing when it happened? Yes.

Have I seen versions of this happen more than once with small breed dogs? Yes.

I understand the owner was laughing because the dog was biting extremely unsuccessfully however, despite the chihuahua biting me being far less damaging than a large breed dog biting me, I find the behaviour equally disturbing and more often ignored. While a large dog that is known to be aggressive is almost always identified to me by the owner before I even get near it, or gives clear signals that it is going to behave aggressively near the outset of our interaction, a small dog with an extremely extensive bite history is often just mentioned to be grumpy, or a little nervous. A bite history is a bite history: whether they broke skin or not, whether the snapped and missed, whether they were “provoked” it is a BITE HISTORY.

I will never judge you for your dog being a work in progress, my dogs are works in progress until the day they die (I mean, there are always new things to teach and do with them) but I will one hundred percent not love, or even vaguely enjoy being around your dog if you are convinced it is an angel and refuse to acknowledge it has any need for additional training when it is clearly behaving poorly. AND if you laugh when your dog tries to bite me or anyone else, I will politely tell you exactly what I think of the dogs behaviour and yours, because that is not okay.

 

xx.