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Handling Pet Allergies

    One of my favorite authors is veterinarian James Herriot who left us a wonderful collection of heartwarming stories about many of his canine patients. I love all the tales and have read each of them many times, but the one that comes to mind for this article is the story of Jingo and Skipper. Actually, it's about Jingo II . . . .
    Skipper and Jingo were the best of friends and lived and played happily together for many years with their humans, a doting couple who adored their dogs. Eventually, Jingo, who was the older of the two, began to falter and after a brief illness, passed away. James Herriot recalled how difficult this was for his owners and discovered a couple of months later that it was extremely traumatic for Jingo's friend who was left behind. Skipper virtually stopped eating, and then grew so weak that it was all he could do just to drag himself anywhere in the house. His owners were frantic - it looked as if they were soon going to lose another dog. James tried everything - vitamins, an assortment of tempting high protein and high calorie foods and supplements, charcoal - but still Skipper refused to eat and was literally slowly starving himself to death.
    After all his remedies had failed, James began to think that perhaps there was nothing he could do to ease the little dog's broken heart over the loss of his friend. One day he got a call from his owners, who asked if he could please come as soon as possible. Assuming that he was being summoned to put Skipper out of his misery, James hurried over with his bag.
    But when he arrived, he was greeted by an amazing sight. For the first time in many weeks, Skipper was attempting to move out of his basket with a gleam in his eyes! Though it took him several minutes to cross the room, he was determined to reach the couple's new puppy, Jingo II, who was a miniature replica of his old friend. When Skipper finally reached his goal, he gently, weakly gnawed at Jing's ears, something he had done for years with his predecessor. Quietly, his mistress placed a bowl of food nearby as the two were playing. At the scent of the meat, Skipper lifted his nose, walked slowly over to the bowl and began to eat.
    This story beautifully illustrates that a puppy can literally be "just what the doctor ordered" for an older dog. Many of my pet sitting clients have told me about the positive transformation in their older dogs and how it seemed to turn the clock back for them when they introduced a puppy.
    So, how do you do this? What's the best way to make the transition?
    First, know your older dog! Is she receptive to younger dogs? Can he become receptive to a puppy? To answer this question, begin by taking your dog to visit puppies at your local shelter and observe carefully as they meet. If your dog is relaxed and can handle the higher energy of the pup, this is a good sign. If your dog is tense or showing any signs of aggression (head down, ears back, growling, etc.), it may not be a good idea - you might consider finding an older, calmer dog. Some older dogs simply don't want the challenge of being around a puppy - after all, as cute as they are, puppies can require a lot of attention. Your "Jingo" may not want a tiny "Skipper" gnawing on his ears all the time!
    If you decide to adopt, start by separating the two at first when you come home and allowing them more contact as time passes. Make sure they each have separate feeding and sleeping areas initially. Eventually they may want lots of snuggle time together, but ensure that your older dog doesn't feel usurped at first and that your new puppy has a quiet haven if she needs it.
    Understand that even the most patient dogs have their limits and may growl at a persistent puppy. Your job in this case is to ensure that the pup is getting enough daily exercise to release all that extra energy.
    Another thing to be watchful of is if your older, bigger dog plays a little too roughly with the new puppy, who could be inadvertently injured. It's best to supervise their playtime first hand while the pup is still growing and getting his sense of balance.
    Puppies who are raised with older, calm dogs learn the ropes of good behavior faster. They watch and imitate their older buddies and can breeze through the 'puppy stages' with less stress, which is one of the many benefits of having an older and younger dog living together.
    Also, because dogs are highly social animals with a pack/group outlook on life, they really appreciate having canine chums nearby. They dearly love their humans but nothing beats a dog friend to hang out with and sleep with and play with and chase squirrels with and (fill in the blank) with . . . . !

    Deborah Dobson, FizzNiche Staff Writer