Greyt Inspirations Life

A little about our life, our business and our pets.

Service dogs and “disarming”

There are two very interesting dog items in the news this morning.  First, new U.S. Senator Al Franken (yes, the former Saturday Night Live comedian) has introduced a bill that would provide service dogs to veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There’s been an experimental Veterans Administration program with dogs helping vets with PTSD and depression and now Sen. Franken would like to take the program live so it can help all Iraq and Afghanistan vets who need dogs.

Research with the VA is showing that specially trained dogs can help psychologically wounded veterans.

The dogs’ companionship, Franken said, provides invaluable health benefits — both physical and emotional — to veterans suffering from debilitating injuries and psychological disorders.

The service dogs will help “reduce the suicide rate among veterans, decrease the number of hospitalizations and lower the cost of medications and human care,” he said.

That sounds wonderful!  However, the program would only provide service dogs to new vets.  It would not provide dogs to older vets — vets who experienced PTSD or depression from previous conflicts.

The Daily Kos blog would like to have the legislation expanded to provide a service dog to any veteran who needs one:

So I ask you to support this great idea, but help veterans of all eras in having Senator Franken’s noble proposal expanded to include all veterans alive who are wounded in the spirit.  If this seems to be a good idea to you, please support Senator Franken but let him know that there are more US combat veterans than just from the two most recent wars that could use his help.

Senator Al Franken

Democrat – Minnesota



DC Phone: 202-224-5641


Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times How had the 35-pound bouncing ball of fluff become a public menace? Krieger says it wasn't apathy on her part. She enrolled Cotton in puppy classes and basic training at the neighborhood PetSmart. She bought a library of self-help books and videos. Nothing worked.

Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times How had the 35-pound bouncing ball of fluff become a public menace? Krieger says it wasn't apathy on her part. She enrolled Cotton in puppy classes and basic training at the neighborhood PetSmart. She bought a library of self-help books and videos. Nothing worked.

There’s another interesting story today in the L.A. Times:  “When “Dog Whisperer” Can’t Help” by Diane R. Krieger.  Ms. Krieger describes her dog Cotton, an American Eskimo dog, who had a serious problem with biting.  The Kriegers had tried everything — classes, muzzles, even appearing on Cesar Millan’s television program and working with private trainers.  Cotton was still a biter and a dangerous dog who would try to bite anyone who came on their property.  The Kriegers were at the point where they were considering having Cotton put to sleep.  That’s when Ms. Krieger heard about a procedure — a controversial procedure — called “disarming.”

Here’s the description:

One day while channel surfing, I happened upon an Animal Planet special counting down the world’s top 10 “extreme biters.” The domesticated dog came in at No. 4. (Hippos and Komodo dragons took the No. 3 and No. 2 spots, with the cookie-cutter shark the undisputed champion.) There, to my delight, was Dr. David Nielsen, a veterinary dentist based in Manhattan Beach, talking about a miracle fix: “canine disarming.”

Instead of extracting the four canines, Nielsen cuts away 4 millimeters of tooth using a CO2 laser. He acid-etches the live pulp within, fashions a bell-shaped cavity that he packs with two kinds of human-grade composite, and light-cures the top for a smooth, flat finish. He also blunts the extra set of pointy incisors.

Disarming isn’t a new idea, but Nielsen’s technique is one he pioneered, though he shares credit with his now-departed pet whippet. The small greyhound had “played Frisbee so much and chewed so hard trying to get out of cages” that he’d busted off all four canines right above the 4-millimeter level, Nielsen says. One day the whippet cornered a technician in Nielsen’s office and flew at her face. Instead of tearing flesh, he merely pinched her cheek. The blunted canines blocked even the incisors from their shearing action.

A metaphorical light bulb came on above Nielsen’s head.Now he figures he has disarmed some 300 animals in the last dozen years, not all of them dogs. A short while ago, he treated a kitty whose love bites had turned a little too intense. He’s also used the procedure, for various reasons, on wolves and a tiger.

Nielsen may be something of a maverick. Dr. Gail Golab, head of the American Veterinary Medical Assn., says that disarming dogs was once fairly common, but that it fell out of favor several years ago as behavioral modification techniques improved. The association is opposed to either tooth removal or disarming, primarily on the grounds that neither addresses the underlying cause of aggression and may lull owners into a false confidence that the animal can no longer inflict injury.

The American Veterinary Dental College agrees that disarming is controversial, but in a position statement adopted in 2005 it endorsed the procedure in “selected cases.”

In June, I signed Cotton up. It would cost a pretty penny: $1,600. But it’s easy to see why. Nielsen uses state-of-the-art human dental and surgical techniques. Cotton would be sedated before full intubation under general anesthesia. He would receive an IV drip of fluid potassium, and technicians would hook him up to a battery of machines monitoring his oxygen level, heart rate and blood pressure. The doctor would consult digital X-rays taken just before the procedure and track his progress with more X-rays along the way. Cotton would get deep scaling before the procedure and a foamy fluoride treatment after. And he would go home with enough antibiotics and pain relievers to last a week. Once he recovered from the surgery, there would be no lasting side effects: Cotton would be able to eat, chew and play normally.

For all the technology, Nielsen says the most profound effect of canine disarming is psychological. “You can see it in their eyes almost the moment they wake up from the anesthesia,” he says. “It’s like they’re wondering, ‘who took away my knives?’ ” An epiphany that humbles and subdues them for all time. The Bumble from “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” comes to mind. Remember how sweet the ferocious yeti becomes after Hermey, the misfit elf-turned-dentist, does his handiwork?

Cotton was successfully “disarmed.”  Now when he tries to bite things he only succeeds in barely scratching them.  But, as you can see, this is a controversial — and expensive — procedure.  Disarming is only used in very selective cases.  It’s always best to try to address the reasons why a dog is biting and to try to train the dog to quit the biting.  But, when faced with either putting the dog to sleep or finding another solution, disarming can offer an owner a way to save the dog.


July 27, 2009 Posted by | dogs, Pets | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bad week for famous people and their dogs


Lots of pet news over the weekend!  Some of it sad.  Did you see that Oprah has lost one or two new puppies that she recently adopted from a very upscale shelter in the Chicago area?  The puppies came down with parvo.



Oprah and Sadie

Oprah and Sadie

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey has brought attention to the issue of canine Parvovirus – an illness that every Boston area dog owner should take measures to prevent. 


Oprah recently lost her Cocker Spaniel puppy Ivan to Parvo. Oprah’s second puppy Sadie, Ivan’s littermate, has also been diagnosed with Parvo and the dog continues to fight for her life.


It’s believed that the two Cocker Spaniel puppies caught Parvo while staying at the PAWS animal shelter in Chicago. Animal shelters, kennels, doggy daycares and other locations where multiple dogs congregate create the perfect setting for the spread of Parvo. (more)


Parvo is a deadly disease to any dog but young puppies are especially susceptible to it.  Proper vaccine procedures protect most dogs and puppies from catching the disease but immunization of pups can be dicey.  Puppies retain immunity from their mothers for several weeks after they’re born.  You must begin vaccinating puppies before that immunity wears off or the puppies may be vulnerable to viruses and diseases like parvo.  Puppies and dogs coming from an animal shelter environment are often times at much higher risk for these disease because there are so many dogs in one place, with dogs passing through who may carry the diseases.


We send our sympathies to Oprah on the loss of Ivan and we send prayers for little Sadie.



Ghenghis Khan

Ghenghis Khan

Another famous person lost a dog last week when a propane tank exploded at a boarding kennel.



A Chow Chow puppy belonging to Martha Stewart was one of 17 dogs to die of injuries sustained in a freak propane explosion at a Pennsylvania kennel.


The blast occurred Friday at the Pazzazz Pet Boarding kennel in the Pocono Mountains.


Fifteen dogs were killed in the explosion – including Stewart’s puppy Ghengis Khan – and two more died over the weekend, according a post on her blog…


The fire blast was ignited when the tank of a propane truck delivering a supply to the kennel suddenly went up in flames. (more)


Ghenghis Khan was the grandson of Stewart’s beloved dog, Paw Paw, whom she lost in December at the age of 12.


We send our condolences to Ms. Stewart as well.


In other news, there’s an excellent story in the L.A. Times about why the Obamas may be having a hard time finding a Portuguese Water Dog to rescue.  (Don’t you wish they would just hurry up and get a dog?) 


The Obama family dog saga

Why has it taken so long? Because the type of dog they want doesn’t often turn up at the local shelter.

By Judith Lewis 

March 15, 2009

In the first two months of his administration, President Obama signed an economic stimulus package into law, lifted restrictions on foreign family-planning clinics and drew up a plan for pulling troops out of Iraq. 


But he has left one early promise unfulfilled: He has not yet acquired a family dog.


Late last month, the Obamas seemed closer to their goal when Michelle Obama told People magazine that, after studying which breeds were least likely to trigger daughter Malia’s allergies, the family had settled on a Portuguese water dog. But the statement was almost immediately modified: The first lady had spoken too soon. The quest for a White House canine continues. 


So what’s the problem? Why has a task as simple as getting a dog eluded the Obamas for so long? Perhaps the answer can be divined in Michelle Obama’s interview: She said she wanted not just any Portuguese water dog but a rescued one. An adult with a good temperament. Perhaps even house-trained.


Lewis goes on to explain that Portuguese Water Dogs are a rather rare breed.  That they almost never end up in shelters.  That they are not being bred by commercial breeders.  They when something doesn’t work out in a dog’s home after he’s been purchased from the breeder, the breeder takes the dog back and re-homes the dog herself.  And that there are breed rescue groups who take care of any other Porties who need help.  So, finding a random Portuguese Water Dog to rescue isn’t going to be easy.


But, she also says that the Obamas might be sending the wrong message by putting the emphasis on rescuing a dog:


Symbolically, it would be nice if the Obamas could rescue a dog. But to insist that the only good dog is a rescued dog is to relegate our future with the canine species to random relationships in which humans are forced to settle for whatever renegade breeders produce and fail to care for.


The idea of “renegade breeders” kind of surprises me.  Far less than 25 percent of the dogs found in shelters are purebred dogs.  The rest are mixed breed dogs — dogs who have been strays, who have bred on their own and produced mixed breed puppies, or the result of “oops” litters in somebody’s home.  Maybe Fluffy got together with Butch next door when their owners weren’t watching and nine weeks later there were some mixed breed puppies.  None of these things happened because of “renegade breeders” and yet these dogs are found in shelters.  Lab mixes — since Labradors are the most popular dog in the United States — and the bully breed mixes (the so-called “Pit Bulls”) make up the majority of dogs in shelters, and these aren’t coming from “renegade breeders” either.


It’s very popular right now to blame dog breeders for every problem in society.  The truth is that if we had more responsible pet owners we would have fewer dogs in shelters.  Breeders can’t control what you do with your dog after you take him home.  They can’t make you keep your dog in a fenced yard or have him neutered.  They can’t make you take your dog to get his shots and prevent disease and illness.  They can’t make you feed your dog a good dog food.  Yet anytime something happens to a dog, from producing an unwanted litter to developing a dog food allergy, someone wants to blame the original breeder.  It’s time for it to stop and for owners to be responsible for their own dogs.

March 16, 2009 Posted by | dogs, Pets | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment