Thursday, October 6, 2011

Maxie's Near Death Experience

Beware!  These bags can suffocate your dog!
 One of the first stories I heard when joining my dog club was from another member who tragically lost her Papillon one night when he didn't come to bed when called.  She found him dead in the kitchen with his head stuck in a doggie treat bag  -- suffocated!  Ever since, my husband and I have diligently cut the bottoms out of every potato chip, pretzel, treat or ziplock bag before we throw it in the trash.  We carefully secure every chip or cookie bag closed before sitting it down anywhere, push in every chair around every table and desk so the dogs can't get up there, plus I moved my kitchen trash can behind a closed door, and don't allow food trash to go in any other can.  I make sure there are no treats left in the pockets of my pants and jackets, turning them inside out if possible, and throwing them straight into the washing machine where the dogs can't smell the residue and stick their noses in there searching for crumbs.

I check on Maxie and Willow's whereabouts every minute or two.  It's pretty easy as they follow me everywhere, but even if they didn't I would do frequent checks.  I'm less worried about the big dogs, but I lay eyeballs on them too, very frequently.

Nevertheless . . . . . . .

I can't control every situation or other people's actions, and Maxie had a close brush with that same horrible suffocation death last night.  Were it not for somebody else noticing his predicament, I would have lost my dog.  Here's what happened:

On Wednesday nights, I bring Lucky Lucy as my demo dog, and Maxie to run the course after the class I teach is over.  I attach Maxie's 4' leash to the foot of my camp chair so he can jump on and off the chair, reach water, etc.  I can't leave him in the car because it's too hot in summer, and he whines relentlessly to be with me, but he is content to be on the sidelines and no trouble at all.  It's just me and my students on the field.

Unbeknownst to me, one of them tossed her duffle bag right next to my chair, unzipped, with an open bag of Bil-Jak Liver Treats inside.  I'm out on the field teaching, another of my students starts laughing saying "Aw, isn't that cute."  I say what, and she points to Maxie.  I'm far enough away, it's night,  I can't tell what I'm looking at, but as I approach closer I realize he's standing there, like a statue, with his head stuck all the way into the bag, confused and suffocating!  I race over and remove the bag.  Maxie stares ahead.  I find out later the bag was about 1/4 full of liver treats, and Maxie had his head in there long enough to eat them all.

People!  It only takes a minute for a 7 lb dog to suffocate!  What if Nicole hadn't noticed him? I doubt I would have gotten to him in time, though I check on him every few minutes.

Later, I called all my students together and told them, AS I'M TELLING EVERYONE WHO LANDS ON THIS PAGE, PLEASE keep your treats safely away from all other dogs, close all treat bags, zip up training bags, close your coolers, cars, trunks, etc.  Not every dog is crated or leashed every single second.  We all know dogs love food and toys and will grab whatever they can reach.  In fact, our Agility Director came over and commented that she started keeping all the treats in her car locked up in a crate after finding a little terrier rooting around in her open SUV, munching on a bag of treats.  But I know most people aren't that diligent.   People leave their SUV's open all the time. I see open treat bags laying on chairs and blankets, in class and at trials.  I recently witnessed a little potato chip bag being blown off the top of a large crate onto the ground, open and half full.  The owner was nowhere in sight, probably thought it was out of reach of most dogs. Instructors should take on the extra responsibility to teach this.

For my part, last year I began using a red Igloo Playmate after training with Charlie, a pesky little Boston Terrier, who could not resist snatching toys and treats out of my duffle bag.  The Playmate has hard sides, keeps things cold, holds everything, and is the easiest thing I've found to open and close.   No zipping and unzipping.  Just push a button/slide the top to one side.  I like that the lid stays attached. 

Still, despite this due diligence, one day Charlie managed to snatch a tube of string cheese that was sticking slightly out of my pants pocket while I was sitting in my chair, and while we chased him around the field trying to get it back, he gulped the whole thing down.  Miracle of miracles, he passed the plastic a few days later, with all the cheese gone, but he could just as easily have choked to death or sufffocated, as these stories illustrate:
  •  At a recent trial, we were sad to hear of one competitor's dog who killed himself rooting around under the seat of her van for a fallen treat, got his head or collar stuck, and broke his neck struggling to get out.  She had gone inside for "just a minute".
  •  An agility competitor with Rhodesians (big dogs), was unpacking her car into her motel room.  The dogs went in first, then the food box, then she went out for her luggage.  When she returned she found one of her dogs dead on the floor, choked on a piece of plastic out of the food box.  Can you imagine her horror?????
This morning I awoke to Maxie vomiting on our bed.  We later discovered he had vomited on both couch cushions in the night, on my knitted afghan, and my yellow sweatshirt was stained with bloody vomit.  I had to wash diarrhea off of Maxie's culottes this morning.  I'm still cleaning up the mess, and hope to god his digestive system isn't screwed up by too many rich liver treats.  I'll be watching him all day, and I'm very heavy hearted over our close call.  Too close.

Maxie posing as"Walnut Brain"
Let's face it.  Our dogs are basically dumb about lots of things.  We sometimes refer to Maxie as "Walnut Brain", not because he's stupid (no, he's really smart), but because of the size of his little skull.  I mean, how much brains can there be in there? No way can he comprehend all the dangers lurking about him.  Like a child, his safety is in my hands, and now I realize just how much I must rely on everyone else's due diligence to help me protect him.

The only way we can prevent more dog tragedies from happening, in public especially, is for each of us to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.  We each have to project, and predict, and work together, and vow to be responsible pet owners, including looking out for each other's pets.

So please, when you take your dog to a class, trial, or any public place, accept it as part of YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to make sure nothing you do jeopardizes any other dog's safety.  Store your treats safely away.  Secure all bags.  And don't hesitate to correct other handlers when they do something that jeopardizes another dog's safety.  It really does take a village . . . . .

Upwards and onward!

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