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It’s a dog’s life so take good care of it

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By BEN OLSON/for The Herald  —  I’m sure I mentioned in a column last spring that I got a dog, my first since I lived in rural Wisconsin. I’ve always had labs or spaniels, or a mix of the two. If there was nearby water, they would find it and go in, regardless of the temperature or who’s car they were about to get in. They barked when startled, but not very often for no apparent reason. The labs appeared cleaner. The spaniels managed to get full of burrs and anything else that would stick to them. They both brought ticks into the house, some attached to them, others catching a ride to find a new host.

My new dog, Bert (he hasn’t shown a preference for the spelling, but the vet had to know if it was with an ‘e’ or a ‘u’) is of a type of dog that I haven’t dealt with before. Although with a headshot promo photo, he sure looks as if he could be a black lab, but he is not. According to the owners of the mother, who will also attest for the alleged father, he is a mix of Great Pyrenees, Border Collie and Australian Shepard. This could account for the tail that curls in a full circle and the way he stares at sheep as we drive by them down in the valley. Did I mention the barking? He feels that it is his duty to alert us to any perceived danger that is lurking outside our house, day or night. 

He is an ideal companion for a walk down a lightly used hiking trail or an old forest service road. We both need the exercise and he likes the fact that he can do all the things that seem to make a dog happy- run, jump and sniff at things. A human may never know what scents are unfolding before a dog’s nose as they work their way down the trail. It does command their total attention at times.

Although he is as friendly as a dog could be, his size and alertness seem to frighten those who don’t read dog body-language very well. He plays very well with some other dogs, and there are others that seem to intimidate him. A dog being afraid of dogs? At 60 pounds, a month shy of his first birthday, he’s about as big as he’s going to get.

Like every dog that I’ve ever known, he is very interested in what I happen to be eating- almost as if it’s better than what I normally feed him. He gets a nice helping of table scraps every day, though. A real variety- maybe some eggs in the morning, perhaps the remnants of a burrito for lunch and the unappetizing portions of the chateaubriand for dinner. What I have found at this late stage in my life is that there are certain things that a dog- any dog, shouldn’t eat. Chocolate. I can’t imagine that I would ever have so much chocolate that I would want to give some to a dog. That’s fine, though- it’s not good for them at all. Avocados are just not good for your pup- finish them with the rest of your salad. Onions and garlic are not good for the dog, either. Please keep that in mind when you pour the rest of the casserole over Rex’s crunchies. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. Although I know of no dog that will turn down a piece of cheese, dairy products are hard for a dog to digest. Macadamia nuts are poisonous to most dogs. Foods with lots of salt or sugar are not good for the pup and neither is caffeine. Raw dough with yeast can be very dangerous to dogs,  as the yeast can continue rising in the dog’s stomach, causing severe pain, or ferment, possibly giving the dog alcohol poisoning.

After listing all the things your dog shouldn’t eat, the things that they can eat is pretty much everything else. It makes them so happy. But don’t let them beg- it’s a pitiful thing to behold. When you’re done with what you plan on eating, the rest could be presented to them in their bowl in the utility room. Keep a nice bowl of clean water next to their food dish at all times. 

Having a dog again is a real joy. It’s like a surrogate child that can’t talk back and won’t get you arrested if you run into the post office for a minute while you kept them waiting in the car. Vet bills are a lot more than I remember them being in the past, but that is all part of being a dog owner. My cat, however, has still not forgiven me for bringing a dog into our home.

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass. Ben is a regular contributor, as well as the Entertainment Report’s columnist. Ben Olson photo

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