DEAR DR. FOX: As to the question posed in a recent column -- "Where should a sleeping dog lie?" -- I have an answer:
I am 85 years old, and have not lived more than six months of my life without a dog. All of them have been rescue animals (many before there were even rescue groups), and, with no exceptions, I have had the privilege of sleeping in bed with each one. In fact, on those rare occasions when I didn't have a dog right next to me in bed, I never slept as well as when a dog was glued to my side.
I am justly proud of the fact that both of our daughters have the same love of animals that surfaces in so many ways. Our youngest daughter made a profound observation awhile back: Soren (our current dog named for the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard) weighs 40 pounds when he's awake, but when he's asleep, he weighs more like 240 pounds. They are like rocks when they are comfortably asleep beside you.
I will forever marvel at those folks who have dogs but fail to regard them as members of the family. In our case, our precious dog of the moment is the most important part of our family: always there for us, asking nothing but always giving love. They epitomize the agape form of love -- the unconditional kind. -- A.W.Z., Gaithersburg, Maryland
DEAR A.W.Z.: Yes, indeed: agape! Dogs are pack animals. They feel secure when they sleep together. When we take them into our homes, their human family is their surrogate pack. So, whenever possible, it is quite natural to allow the dog to sleep with a family member. Couples who sleep together may need a larger bed.
The only caveat is the dog must have no fleas, ticks or sarcoptic mange. Regular close contact with a dog in the home (not necessarily in the bed) helps children ward off allergies and infections.
DEAR DR. FOX: My little female cat, Minnie, who is 2 1/2 years old, has had chronic rhinitis since she was born. We found her in our woods when she was about 3 months old, and we took her in to the vet for spaying.
The vet wanted to euthanize her; she said there was no cure for it. We surely did not do that. Three vets later, the only thing we've found that helps is a round of antibiotics for about three weeks. We don't do that often because she can't live on antibiotics.
She has a good appetite and maintains a good weight. She is better in warm weather, but still quite miserable with this problem, and it breaks my heart -- it seems there is nothing that can be done for her.
Do you know of any possible treatment to help her? -- C.H., Rhinebeck, New York
DEAR C.H.: I am glad you chose not to go with the veterinarian's advice to euthanize her, and instead gave the animal a chance. I hope she was not spayed at that time, being so ill. No doubt exposure and poor nutrition crippled her immune system, allowing for the upper respiratory and sinus infection to take hold.
Periodic treatment with antibiotics does help cats with chronic sinusitis. In cats with a different history, other causes of this condition include dental disease with spread of bacteria from the tooth sockets into the sinuses. In other cases, a food allergy or underlying viral infection, such as herpes or feline AIDS, is the cause.
Irrigating the sinuses under light, general anesthetic may help.
A VOICE FOR ANIMALS BY A HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST
The late Cesar Chavez, president of United Farm Workers of America, with whom I shared the podium at an animal rights conference in California, posted this statement on Dec. 26, 1990:
"Kindness and compassion toward all living things is a mark of a civilized society. Conversely, cruelty, whether it is directed against human beings or against animals, is not the exclusive province of any one culture or community of people. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bull fighting and rodeo are cut from the same fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent toward all life will we have learned to live well ourselves."
He was a rare social reformer at that time to link violence toward humans and other animals with the long-overdue revolution of nonviolence toward all sentient beings. I am glad that as a veterinarian I do not have to work in one of the cruelest sectors of animal exploitation, namely the factory farms or CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) that blight and pollute much of rural America.
(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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)