DEAR READERS: I am happy to let you know that I have a new website for my writings and archives of this column, DrFoxVet.com. Be sure to visit and "like" my Facebook page at Facebook.com/drfoxvet, where you can join our growing community of pet parents to share news, information and products to improve the health and well-being of our animal companions.
DEAR DR. FOX: My "grandbaby," a 12-year-old female German shepherd/husky-mix, has been diagnosed with renal/kidney failure.
She was losing weight, her fur was clumping in mats and she was generally being cranky for at least six months before my daughter took her to the vet last month. I just found out from another family member that Kachina has about three weeks to live because her kidneys are giving out.
I had been living with my daughter and all the grandbabies until several months ago. We parted on unfriendly terms. Kachina was crated most of the time -- except when I was there or my daughter was home -- sometimes with very little or no water. She was let out several times a day and night to do her business. But there were times when I was not there, and my daughter would come home late from work and then go out very late at night. The poor dog was crated for hours and hours.
The dog did not like dry food only. Dinner was usually dry and canned; for breakfast, I would try to fix it up by adding chicken broth, yogurt or small amounts of canned food. My daughter would angrily tell me, "You're spoiling her. If she won't eat, let her go hungry." For years, this dog has never had a bath, a car ride or a walk; she never even had her nails clipped.
I am convinced that going without water, being crated for such long periods of time and being forced to eat dry food that wasn't good for her all led to this sad diagnosis.
My heart is breaking. My daughter seems jealous and is constantly berating me for being kind and loving to Kachina. My daughter sprays her with a water bottle when annoyed.
Is there anything that can be done to help make my precious grandbaby more comfortable and maybe slow down or halt this disease? I'll do all I can. I hope there will some way that I can visit her. -- P.B., Fairfax, Va.
DEAR P.B.: I wonder, as you do, how a caring person such as yourself could have a daughter who mistreats a poor old dog as yours does. If the dog were a human child, you would call the state child protection services. But, regrettably, animal protection laws are inadequate and poorly enforced.
There is a man in Minnesota (where I live) who neglected several horses he owned or was boarding for other owners. Not until the horses were close to death from starvation were the local animal protection authorities able to seize them and put the poor animals into protective custody. After a trial on misdemeanor charges for this repeat offender -- who should have been prosecuted for felony animal cruelty -- the judge allowed this man to keep the horses. Animal protection laws are trumped generally by business interests.
In the case of your poor Kachina, is it possible for you to make peace with your daughter and convince her that the dog should be living with you? If that is not feasible and she refuses to provide the dog with appropriate veterinary care, I would call the police and animal control and file a complaint, or at least threaten her with this if you think it might lead to her giving you the dog.
I am sure that Kachina's saga is not unique, and in many instances there is no family member like you to intervene. So many dogs spend long and painful hours in crates or cages while their owners are out at work, then out again enjoying life with no regard for their neglected dogs who are simply kept to relieve the owners' loneliness.
DEAR DR. FOX: Here is our "empathosphere" sensitivity animal story about our collie, Taylor:
When I was hurt from being bucked by a horse, our collie ran to the house and barked relentlessly until my husband came out and found me disoriented and lying on the ground.
Two years later, he would not leave my husband's side. Wherever my husband went, Taylor wanted to be right next to him. He was constantly under my husband's feet.
About eight months later, my husband found out he had cancer. We feel Taylor could sense this and that might explain his clingy behavior. -- S.A., Moscow Mills, Mo.
DEAR S.A.: I very much appreciate your added support for the existence of what I call the "empathosphere," a term now gaining more recognition on the Internet. I first documented this extraordinary aspect of animal awareness in my book, "The Boundless Circle: Caring for Creatures and Creation" (Quest Books). Skeptics who cannot take the leap from the realm of rational materialism to this metaphysical dimension of emotion and awareness are missing out on the wonder and mystery of conscious life and what some call the power of universal love. Collies are a highly empathic, protective breed, so it is not surprising that Taylor recognized your need for help. Dogs have been shown to be able to identify certain forms of cancer in humans by the change in scent, which your husband may have had while the cancer was becoming established.
There is no need to conjure mystical or magical interpretations of your dog's sensitivity and behavior. But there is a need for our own species to recognize that we are not the only intelligent life in this universe -- other animals are our equals, if not our superiors, in many ways!
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
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