DEAR DR. FOX: This question may not be appropriate for your column, but you have been so helpful advising about how to cope with the loss of a family pet, I thought I'd ask.
I wanted my husband, a Korean War veteran, buried at Arlington National Cemetery with the ashes of his beloved German shepherd, Samantha. Two of her littermates served in combat. She did not serve in any war, but she served after by helping my husband better than anyone or anything else deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder. She helped him through his depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and helped him get exercise and a good night's sleep. Even if she was not a serving military dog, it distresses me that the military authorities won't even allow me to scatter Samantha's ashes over my husband's grave. What should I do? -- Alexandria, Va.
DEAR ALEXANDRIA: I greatly sympathize with your concerns over the insensitive rules of military officialdom that make no sense unless one believes that dogs and other beloved animals have no significant place in our lives or death.
Yet the ritual of co-burial goes back in different civilizations for millennia. It is an indicator of deep respect and affection for the remains and memories of particular animals whose lives the deceased had shared.
While the U.S. military has used all kinds of species in various wars and military insurgencies for centuries, it is telling that there is no national monument for such service animals in our nation's capital. There is such a memorial in the heart of London, close to a major war memorial to fallen soldiers.
The U.S. military has a dubious record when it comes to facilitating the transport home of local dogs from war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. These animals are often adopted as camp mascots and serve as camp guards. Most importantly, they give emotional support to troops.
It will take an act of Congress to get these burial rules changed. It's a shame that reflects the even greater shame of a dysfunctional government and authorities who have no feeling or respect for the close bond that so many citizens enjoy with their animal companions.
As for today's soldiers suffering from PTSD, many become heroin addicts or suicidal after being prescribed analgesic drugs such as hydrocodone and hydromorphone rather than having a good dog co-therapist.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have enjoyed your columns over the past several years, and they were helpful with my dog, Daisy.
I thought of you when I was burying her, wrapped in her favorite "bankie." I followed your advice and gave her a small blanket some years ago, and she was never without it. It was her comforter and often she played games under it. Thank you. -- J.V., Washington, D.C.
DEAR J.V.: I am glad that my advice was helpful in your care of Daisy. Thanks for reminding me to tell readers how much dogs, and many cats, enjoy having a small blanket or towel to have put over them. It can help them feel secure. Some will make a nest out of the blanket and even learn to cover themselves with it.
Some of our dogs liked to have their blanket tossed over them for a game of hide-and-seek. One of our dogs liked to wear his blanket as he paraded around, which our other dogs found exciting, seeing a shape-shifter in their midst!
MYSTERY POISON IN PET TREATS FROM CHINA
To date, the Food and Drug Administration has received reports of illnesses in 3,600 dogs and 10 cats in the U.S. since 2007. Some 580 dogs have died. The culprit is pet treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes or dried fruit. They are all imported from China and sold under a wide variety of brand names.
Veterinarians have seen decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea within hours of dogs eating these treats and have had repeated cases of kidney failure and gastrointestinal bleeding.
The FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine has not yet discovered the cause of illness, even after conducting more than 1,200 tests, visiting pet treat manufacturing plants in China and collaborating with toxicology researchers.
Small dogs eating a large amount of treats seem especially vulnerable, which I theorize may point to possible high abnormal protein consumption.
A number of jerky products imported from China were removed from the market in January 2013 after a New York state lab reported contamination with antibiotics banned for use in the U.S., including Milo's Kitchen Chicken Jerky Treats, Del Monte Chicken Grillers and Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek Ranch dog treats, both made by Nestle Purina. These drug contaminants are not considered to be responsible for the poisoning and death of dogs and cats consuming these treats.
My advice is to READ THE LABEL on whatever pet treats you intend to purchase and decide accordingly. Several brands indicating "Made in China" also bear a food irradiation symbol. For dogs, try my buckwheat Good Dog Treats recipe on my website, DrFoxVet.com.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)