Tag Archives: Patheos

The dangers of leaving your dog in the car – it’s hotter than you think

My dogs Scout and Bandit, who loved to ride in the car. But it’s important not to leave your dogs in the car while you’re running errand – it’s hotter than you think! Photo (c ) 2010 Joanne Brokaw

This post was originally published at Patheos.com in May 2014. But I thought it was worth republishing again here.

Here in Western NY, the weather has finally warmed up and it looks like the s-n-o-w is gone until winter. That means it’s time for a reminder about leaving your dog in a hot car.

In July 2011, I wrote a post for my blog in which I explained how heat affects your dog, and then did some experiments measuring the temperature in the car compared with the temperature outside the car. It’s worth reposting here, since it’s such an important issue – and because I think we have a moral responsibility to put our pets’ needs before our own desires. Sure, it’s fun to take the dog with you while you run errands. But it’s not always what’s best for Fido.

As you watch the temperatures rise inside the Jeep in the following photos, remember that the heat affects your dogs the same way whether they’re inside a car or outside in the heat. So keep that in mind when you’re thinking about taking the dog for a walk in the heat, or with you when you jog, or even for just a round of catch in the park. And it doesn’t have to be summer; it’s the temperature that’s important, and it can reach dangerous levels even in the spring, fall or winter.

First, let’s look at how a dog stays cool.

Dogs can’t sweat to cool themselves down, the way humans can. The only way they can cool off is to sweat through their paws or to pant. As the website Weather.com explains:

“Air moves through the nasal passages, which picks up excess heat from the body. As it is expelled through the mouth, the extra heat leaves along with it. Although this is a very efficient way to control body heat, it is severely limited in areas of high humidity or when the animal is in close quarters.”

In close quarters like a car (or even a kennel), a dog can overheat very, very quickly and in minutes can suffer brain damage or death.

But panting means taking in air as well as breathing it out. So for a dog like a pug – or other breed with a genetically shortened snout – the inability to breathe seriously hampers their abilty to cool themselves down. (That wheezing sound a pug makes is actually the dog desperately trying to breathe. It’s not cute; it’s dangerous.)

In their book, “Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution“, Lorna and Raymond Coppinger talk at great length about the science of how dogs regulate their body temperature. They draw a couple of conclusions worth mentioning:

1) Dogs are great at storing heat but not so great at getting rid of it. The balance point between storing and getting rid of heat for a dog is 60 degrees Fahrenheit for a smooth-coated sled dog. (That balance is 70 degrees for a human, who also has the ability to sweat to cool, something dogs can’t do.) Coppinger, who races sled dogs, says, “I wouldn’t train if the ambient temperature was over 60 degrees because the dogs would be at risk.”

2) As their weight rises to over forty-five pounds, dogs have increasing problems getting rid of heat. And that’s when the dog is at rest.

3) “Since dogs don’t have sweaty, bare skins to radiate heat [the way humans do when they sweat], evaporative cooling is not an option for them. Panting hard cools the lungs and brain, but the only place a dog sweats is through the pads of its feet. The pads just don’t have enough surface area to make them effective radiators.” Add to that the fact that their bodies are covered in fur, and you’ll understand why heat effects dogs much differently than humans.

And you can see why it’s not easy for a human to determine how hot a dog really is.

So here’s the experiment. Continue reading

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Life lessons from a Border Collie

This post was originally published at Patheos.com in June 2011.

Scout after an afternoon playing in the sprinkler and rolling in the dirt. (photo © 2011 Joanne Brokaw)

I was sitting on the floor in the lobby of the veterinarian’s office, blowing soap bubbles for my five-year-old Border Collie, Scout, while we waited for our medications after our consultation with a holistic veterinarian.

A woman sitting near us was watching as Scout happily pounced on the bubbles and then stared intently into my eyes as he waited for the next wave of the bubble wand. Chasing soap bubbles is one of Scout’s favorite things to do in life. (In fact, I just typed the word and he must have read it, because he popped up from his nap and he’s staring at me, waiting to see if we’re headed outside.) Continue reading

My dog eats a live bird (musings on animals doing what animals do)

(This originally appeared on my blog at Patheos.com in May 2016.)

Photo by Pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

My dog Bailey was just outside, just hanging out in the grass, enjoying the evening air. She’d been outside maybe ten minutes when I went out to bring her in and saw that she had something pinned to the ground…it was a bird. I called to her, she moved towards me, and the bird jumped away. Bailey went after the bird, pinned it, and let it go. It hopped, she pinned it again. When it flew up about a foot, Bailey leaped up and caught it midair.

And the race was on. I told her to drop the bird, trying not to freak out. The bird was alive, squeaking and flapping its wings. I threw Bailey’s favorite ball in the hope I could distract her long enough to throw the leash on her and get her away, but all she did was run around with the bird, periodically dropping it to yank out feathers and then grabbing it again and taking off, bird bones crunching audibly as she chewed on the run.

My god, the poor bird! I tried to chase Bailey (bad idea). She’d drop the bird, I’d call cheerily and throw the ball again, and she’d start running. I used every attention-getting trick she’d trained with, to no avail, the bird getting smaller and smaller and me getting more and more panicked as the seconds ticked by. Could the bird even be saved now? There was no blood, just feathers flying. Maybe there was still a chance.

Eventually I ran into the house, reached into the fridge, grabbed a handful of mashed potatoes, and ran outside to throw them to the dog. She came running gleefully, but only because she’d already eaten the bird.

THE WHOLE BIRD. The head, the beak, the feet, and most of the feathers. I’d love to tell you what kind of bird it was, but the only thing she didn’t eat were a few feathers and the entrails, which oddly enough were left intact in the grass.

The entire scenario, from the moment I spotted her with the live bird until the time she finally came to me? Maybe two minutes, max. Probably considerably less, although it felt like an eternity.

I called the vet. We’ve just finished more than three weeks of dogs with stomach viruses and diarrhea and antibiotics, and I have no idea what’s going to happen to all of that bird that Bailey just ingested. The vet receptionist told me that dogs usually digest that kind of stuff really well, implying that this was a common thing, dogs eating entire birds. When I asked about the head, the beak, the feet, she simply said, “Yes.” When I pressed her – my dog ate a whole bird – she offered to have the vet call me to reassure me everything would be fine.

Will it be fine? To say that I’m traumatized is an understatement. I watched a bird go from hopping and flapping one minute to feathers and entrails the next, its life taken before my eyes by the animal that I cherish. There wasn’t even any blood; just feathers and that little string of bird guts. My dog did that.

I’m horrified that Bailey didn’t listen to me. She knows these commands cold and I tempted her with her favorite things. She should have listened to me. Then again, I had nothing to offer that could match a live bird. In her mouth.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. A few summers ago, she and Bandit made quick work of the three tiny baby bunnies that had been living in the back yard, bunnies who made the bad choice of hopping around right under the dogs’ noses and flaunting their frailty. It took me weeks to get over the fact that my dogs killed bunnies.

Of course, I understand that this is real life, it’s nature, it’s animals doing what animals do. We have a hawk that often visits our yard; I’ve come outside to find more than one headless sparrow who couldn’t escape the clutches of a bigger, stronger predator.

But at this moment, a few pin feathers still fluttering across the grass, this is too much nature for me. When I came inside after inspecting the yard for any body parts (there were none), Bailey was guzzling down a bowl of water and panting, her tail wagging, she clearly joyful for the hunt and capture she’d just executed. I looked her in the eye and, my voice shaking, whispered, “I can’t believe you just did that.” She stopped wagging and lowered her head a bit, and as our eyes met we both realized that, despite our mutual love and deep emotional connection, she will always be a dog and I a human. She will always eat birds and I will always be traumatized by it.

I reached out to hug her. She nuzzled my neck. I stroked her head and cried.

Bailey is sound asleep at my feet as I write, but I can hear her stomach gurgling, the bird likely making it’s way through her intestines. I’m praying she doesn’t throw up, at least not before darling husband gets home. The last thing I need now is a dog barfing up a bird’s head.

Confessions of an office (and school) supply addict

photo courtesy of pixabay

photo courtesy of pixabay

(Note: This post is cross posted at Patheos.com)

I spent a half hour today sharpening pencils. I enjoy the act of standing at an old-fashioned sharpener and turning the crank, hearing the blade grind the wood and graphite to a fine point and watching the shavings build into a pile at my feet. It helps me clear my head when I’m stressed, on a column deadline, or stumped by the Sunday crossword.

I picked up the yellow No. 2 pencils while I was out running errands. I limited myself to just one box because the truth is that if I didn’t, I would have skipped the milk and bread and spent the grocery money on school supplies.

Never mind that I don’t have kids in school anymore or that I’m not in school myself. It’s “Back to School” time, which means supplies are on sale, and that’s a dangerous time of the year for me.

Because I’m an office supply addict.

I have an abnormal addiction to pens, paper, pencils, notepads, journals—you name it. I rarely walk out of a store without purchasing some sort of stationery item—paper clips, file folders or a snazzy new pen.

I have a notebook in every room in my house, one in my car and one in my purse, so when I have an idea I can write it down quickly, before I forget it. I keep a supply of pocket folders in a range of colors to suit my every mood. I have a panic attack if I can’t find my stapler.

I think my addiction is rooted in my childhood. As a kid, I loved getting ready for the new school year, the smell of autumn and new possibilities in the air, my book bag filled with folders, freshly sharpened pencils and clean, white notebook paper just begging to be filled with stories, notes and essays.

Every fall, I would vow that this would be the year I would stay organized. This year, I would put the science notes in the science folder and the English notes in the English folder. This year, I would save all of the quizzes so I could study for the cumulative final. This year, I would record every homework assignment in my pocket calendar and never again be scrambling at the last minute to complete a project.

But it always ended the same. In less than a month, I had geometry theorems mixed in with grammar notes. I would show up to science class with my Spanish textbook (“Wait,” I’d ask. “Que hora es?”) and had taken to writing homework assignments on my hands (I had the first Palm Pilot). My locker always looked like a tornado had blown through a paper factory.

It’s more than 30 years later and I’m still not organized. I’m continually digging through a towering pile of folders on my kitchen table to hunt for research notes, paper clips and pens. I have three calendars within arm’s reach, but I never know what day it is.

I know what you’re thinking: there’s an app for that. Calendars on your phone, e-books, virtual folders and documents. But I’m not interested.

It’s not just the fact that I can’t keep up with the latest technology on a writer’s budget. The truth is that I like doing things the old-fashioned way. I like putting a real pencil to actual paper and scribbling away, crossing out words, rewriting sentences, and doodling in the margins when I’m mentally blocked. I think better that way.

And science backs me up on this. Study after study has found that students who take notes longhand actually comprehend and retain information better and longer than students who take notes on a laptop. Researchers think it has to do with the cognitive process necessary to listen to someone speaking, digest the meaning in their words, and then succinctly condense the information into notes. Our brains process that differently then when we’re typing the words verbatim on a laptop.

In other words, a valid rationalization for me to buy more office supplies. Thank you, science! Pencils and notebooks are still on sale! Who needs groceries, anyway?

(A slightly different version of this appears in my book “What The Dog Said,” a collection of humor columns penned over the years. It also appeared in the October 2015 issue of Refreshed Magazine.)

Mrs. Robin’s babies

The first of Mrs. Robin's eggs have hatched!

The first of Mrs. Robin’s eggs have hatched!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the struggle Mrs. Robin had building her nest and the lesson she showed in perseverance, and over on my blog at Patheos, I’ve been blogging about Mrs. Robin and her eggs. (You can read the posts at Patheos (with photos) by clicking here.)

But since today was so exciting I wanted to share the news here, too: two of the eggs have hatched! I found an eggshell in the grass this afternoon, a shell that hadn’t been there earlier in the day. So I snuck up into the garage attic to peek out the window at the nest. Mrs. Robin flew away just long enough for me to snap a couple of photos. One looks as if it had just emerged from the egg.

I’m so glad we get to follow along with the miraculous birth of her babies! Stay tuned for more photos – Mrs. Morning Dove is also sitting on eggs!

I’m blogging at Patheos.com

If you’ve been wondering where I am lately, here’s some big news: I’m recently taken over the Heavenly Creatures blog at Patheos.com, where I’m blogging about animals, life and spirituality! It’s a fun new writing opportunity, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to write about something I love and (hopefully) make a little money at the same time. Check out the new blog at http://www.patheos.com/community/heavenlycreatures!