Dear Readers, because this is a queer column, I get a lot of questions about pets — dogs in particular. This week, I present a cache of rapid-fire dog advice, written from a home full of tennis balls and chihuahua fur.
Dear Queer Abby,
Why is my jack-chi such a dick on his leash and such an angel off of it? What’s the fix?
Wacked out in Wyoming
Leash aggression is real!
As time-consuming as it may be, I do believe in positive reinforcement training. When you see another dog on the street, I want you to take out the best treat in the world (something stinky and chewy and meat-like that your dog will go bananas for), get your dog’s attention, make him sit, and then say some word, like “FRIEND,” in a nice voice as you give your dog the treat while the other dog passes by.
It will take a while, but your dog will eventually get the picture that when a dog appears, it means he sits and gets a treat.
In the meantime, project calm, assertive energy as your speed-walk past other dogs, and if people’s off-leash canines run towards you and they let out an easy-going “He’s friendly!” I want you to yell “MINE’S NOT!” and furrow your brow as them as you calm-assertively power-walk away.
There is no reason to let your dog sniff strangers if your dog isn’t having a good time doing so. Sorry, strangers.
Dear Queer Abby,
My dog is like Beija (Queer Abby’s anxious former dog, as described in the book Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home, of 16 years who disliked men and children, who barked and jumped at people and peed on the floor with regularity).
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. How did you cope?
Stressed in Schinecktate
There are no bad dogs. Perhaps your dog isn’t doing the things you wish she could or fulfilling the destiny you’d hoped for her, but I know for absolute certain that there are times when she is comfortable and happy. She may be a terrible candidate for the dog park, or for babysitting, angry at posing for photos and hard to hug, but acceptance of the things she *can* do is going to offer you more than counting her losses ever will.
Focus on those moments of dog joy and appreciate her for who she is. If she’s like Beija, those are times when she gets to go for a walk in an unpopulated area, when she furiously wags her tail for a really good breakfast, or when she gets to roll on her back in the sun, grinding the scent of grass or a rope bone into her fur.
Part of accepting these moments of joy is setting your dog up for success. If there are things she faithfully fails at, don’t make her do them. If she is going to pee in the house while you’re away, confine her to an area with puppy pads. If she is always going to bark at the door at 4 p.m. when the mailman comes, keep her in a different part of the house with the radio or white noise.
Your anxious dog doesn’t mean to be bad, she’s just, in the greater scheme of things, reacting to a giant frightening world.
Your dog is so so lucky to have you. Keep the faith!
Dear Queer Abby,
My 4-year-old dog has a mast cell tumor and the excision is going to be really big. She also has six other growths that are growing, and the cost of the excisions is around $1200. The other growths may not be mast cell tumors, it’s possible it’s just the one.
The biopsies are $200 each, and the vet says sometimes they grow back faster after removal. I don’t know what to do.
At the end of my rope in Ann Arbor
I’m so sorry to hear about these tumors in your very young dog! There is almost nothing worse than the feeling of your finances intersecting with monumental decisions regarding your loved one’s health.
A sentiment that serves me in many situations is: More Will Be Revealed.
Note: I am not a veterinarian. I’m not even a vet tech. I’m just a person who has handled dog cancer and end-of-life decisions for several senior pets. Please consult with a professional, and just take my word as a sympathetic friend & dog-comfort advocate.
With the vet’s approval, I think you should get all the tumors biopsied. Your dog is young. This is information worth having.
If you can get rid of the tumors in one sweep and know your dog stands a good chance of being cancer-free, then wonderful, and it is worth the money to save your dog’s life.
If your dog is just riddled with malignant, cancerous tumors that will continue to return no matter what you do, and if these tumors foretell the slide towards the rainbow bridge in spite of medical intervention, then I don’t see the point in putting your dog through unnecessary surgeries.
If this hospice-leaning scenario is the case, I think you should make your dog as comfortable as possible and give her the absolute best year that you can. Invest some of that would-be surgery money in the best raw or homemade food, dog walks, beach trips, and the fluffiest dog bed imaginable. Get a dog toy with the loudest squeak, and treats with the strongest smell.
I’m rooting for both of you.
Ponyo and I hold our wands to the sky for your pup.