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Some things just can’t be pleasant

We have our new Everest.

Before I get into the details, I will say first that Cooper does have his annual exam coming up, so we’re going to have the vet take a good, hard look at his ear to rule out infection, hearing problems, etc. If I thought there was something really wrong, I’d get him in much sooner. 

Cooper’s right ear is our next challenge. His ear gets seriously grody.

Every week, we need to clean that sucker out. I’m sure it’s because of the drainage from his allergies (sorry, I know that’s gross) because his eye leaks, too, and this only became a problem after we moved to Louisiana.

But the real issue here isn’t the grossness of cleaning out his ear every few days.

The real issue is his reaction to us cleaning his ear.

To say “he flips out” grossly undermines the extent of his mania.

I can’t even pinpoint how it started, but it’s bad. He is terrified – tail tucked and full-body quivering – he tries to get away. He flails. He bucks. He whips his head back and forth, and not in a pop-rock-Willow-Smith kind of way. More like a deranged possessed demon kind of way.

It’s been getting progressively worse with each weekly cleaning to the point that last night, we gave up. I put the cleaner back in the drawer. I put the cotton swabs on the bathroom counter. And I tried to give Cooper a little back rub, but he wouldn’t come anywhere near me.

Today, I ran some errands and came home to this:

"Try cleaning my ears NOW!"

“Try cleaning my ears NOW!”

I’m honestly at a loss about what to do for a few reasons: Unlike peanut butter plate, we can’t do a whole series of gradual desensitizations because we don’t need to! He’s TOTALLY FINE with us rubbing his ears. In fact, he’s totally fine with us rubbing his ears with a tissue. He only flips out when solution is involved. We’ve tried three different solutions and a vinegar/water mixture.

After the horror of last night’s attempt, John and I had a long conversation. The central question: Can we find a way to make all things pleasant? Or is this a situation where a headlock is our only option? I need to put some thought into a possible approach because I don’t want it to be miserable/scary for him. I don’t want him to flip out and flail and try to get away from us. But, is it like a kid eating broccoli? Or getting a shot? You just have to suck it up and make it happen?


Have you encountered this? Any suggestions? Is there anything your dog HATES but has to do regardless? 

Why I think Emmett’s thyroid medicine is working

For the past two years, we never said the following sentence: “Emmett is out playing with Lucas and Cooper!”

It’s been, “Lucas and Cooper are playing, and Emmett’s sleeping at my feet.”



Emmett plays with his brothers from Maggie Marton on Vimeo.

(Sorry, crappy cell phone video. It was a total spur of the moment capture!)

Quick synopsis: He had several individual symptoms that we took him in for over the last couple years. Unfortunately, the practice we were going to had a lot of staff changes, so for the last two years, we saw 4 different vets. Each symptom was chalked up to something (lethargy = well, he’s 10 now… hair loss on his tail = allergies… rash on his stomach = allergies… weight gain = he didn’t get much exercise while I was in treatment… and so on) and somehow there was never a big picture view.

We took him in for his annual here, and I started talking to her about the fur on his tail. She decided to run a T4 test, and his levels came back as “low-normal,” so not a huge red flag, but when she added up everything else, she wanted us to try him out on a medication for hypothyroidism. Four weeks in, you can see him in the video above. He’s been SO playful! Wrestling and running with his brothers, and the other day he went and dug up a stick to chew on. All this activity is in short bursts a few times a day – he is still 10+, despite the medication – but he’s just seeming so much more vibrant!

I’m happy and relieved, though a little part of me thinks… if only we figured this out sooner.

What about you? Solved any medical mysteries lately? Any unexplained symptoms? Has anyone else seen a big change like this with a new med?

Pet Care Organization Part 3: Health and wellness

It’s time for the task I was dreading… organizing all their healthcare stuff!

I started with this.


Yuck. A big, overstuffed folder of who-knows-what. At least it was sorted by animal…

What precipitated this particular project was, first, that I needed to register the whole herd with the parish (Louisiana’s version of a county) which included sending along their vaccination records and, second, inspired by Amy at GoPetFriendly.com, I wanted to scan their crucial documents to a USB to put in our hurricane evacuation kit.

So I dug in! This turned out to be a simple project that I completed in 3 steps:

1. Dumped everything out.

2. Paged through all the documents and PURGED.

3. Hole punched all the important pieces for a 3-ring binder.

All told, it took less than two hours, including a coffee break. AND!! There was an unexpected GEM discovered in the piles. More on that later…

Here we go in detail:

1. Dump everything out.


Empty the contents of the files, folders, or bins where you’ve been stashing all your vet records. This is sort of like the emptying process we went through in the “stuff” organization process. At this stage, I assembled my supplies: my label maker, an old binder, and a set of dividers.

2. Flip through every single page and get rid of what you can. 

My recycle pile!

My recycle pile!

I saved every single credit card receipt (I toyed with the idea of tallying them as I cleaned it out, but… I couldn’t bring myself to do it). Those were the first to go. I also saved all the purchase orders for their monthly medications. Those went in the recycle pile, too. As I sorted, there was an odd quantity of duplicates. I’m not sure how it happened, but we ended up with two copies of a lot of records. All the doubles went in the toss pile.

This part took the longest, but there was an unexpected gem in the pile. I can’t believe this myself…

When we adopted Emmett (July 2006), the shelter faxed his paperwork to us – back when people still faxed! ha! – but the fax didn’t come through all the way. Several pages were cut off, so they dropped a copy in the mail. The cut-off pages didn’t contain his health info, so we were able to give them to his new vet and move on. When the mailed copy came, I stuck it in my Emmett file and never looked at it.

Well, wouldn’t you know… In that file is a letter his foster mom wrote to the shelter about what he was like as a foster. It is the most touching, heartwarming letter EVER about Emmett’s time at the county shelter, then her pulling him out and keeping him until FOHA had space for him… and it includes her return address!! I got teary eyed when I realized that I can write her a thank you note! So happy!

3. File!

Because the huge chunky file took up significant real estate in our filing bin, I decided to go with a 3-ring binder instead. It fits neatly on a shelf, and it’s simple to add papers as we go along. On the inside flap I stuck their official parish licenses in case I need to access those quickly.


Their rabies certificates are the first document in each of their individual sections. And, because I’m nutty about these things, I found a printable binder cover on Pinterest to make it cute! :)


Bonus Task

Because I wanted to take the extra step to put these documents on a USB for our hurricane evacuation kit, I scanned in the important docs: rabies certificates, shot records, and parish licenses. Then it occurred to me that I need to find some sort of waterproof container for the drive…

Which leads me to my next pet care organization project: emergency preparedness! Coming next week! :)

In the meantime, are you taking on any pet care organization projects? Have you sorted through your pet’s medical files in a while? Is it time? Who knows… you might uncover an unexpected treasure!

Stinking allergies.

I’ve been working on a post about the boys’ Halloween costumes – and if you follow on Instagram, you saw Emmett trying on one option last night – but UGH! Fun is on hold.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know Cooper has a sensitive little system. He’s allergic to everything – and that includes, as we discovered this morning, fire ants.

He got attacked in the yard. His face started to swell. He threw up twice then sort of staggered around the kitchen. Here’s my baby just before his eyes swelled shut.



Wahh!! By the time we got there, he had all these tiny little bumps under his eyes and on top of his nose. Anyway, they’re keeping him at the animal hospital, and I’m in a panic.

I’ll finish the Halloween post this weekend, including a delightful photoshoot of my guys (and gal!) trying on 7 different costumes! In the meantime, I’m going to go put the vet’s office on speed dial so I can check on him every hour on the hour!

Has your dog experienced anything like this before? What kind of allergies do you deal with?

UPDATE: Cooper is back home from the animal hospital! He get dexamethasone and diphenhydramine injections, and we have a prescription to give him every four hours for the next 24. His face seems back to normal, and the vet said, “He can see again!” I’m feeling incredibly grateful. What a scare. Thank you for all the kind words and wishes!!!

Accommodating a senior dog

“His teeth are in great shape for a dog his age,” our new vet said.

A DOG HIS AGE?! I thought. WHAT is she talking about? He’s a PUPPY!

I was indignant.

It was the same sort of angry annoyance I felt the first time I didn’t get carded…

But, of course, he’s not a puppy. My little, huggy-bear, smoochy-face Lucas is 7ish years old. According to the ASPCA, “Most dogs enter their golden years between seven and 10 years of age, with large/giant breeds becoming seniors earlier than small breeds.” At around 80 pounds, Lukey’s a pretty large breed… and lest we forget his genetic ancestry.

Add that to Emmett’s 10ish years, and we’ve got the beginnings of a retirement community going on over here!

Old dogs


In truth, when I stepped back and thought about it, I realized we’ve been making subtle accommodations for them without ever giving conscious thought to the aging process.

We put a bench at the foot of our bed because Lucas was having a difficult time jumping up. Now, Emmett won’t jump up on the furniture at all, so I placed a dog bed in my office (while the other two usually lounge on the furniture like so, Emmett was always on the floor as shown in that pic… not good for his aging bones). We feed them less, though we’ve increased our exercise regimen. They both get joint supplements. Lucas can’t jump into the back of my SUV anymore, so we taught him to put his front paws up, then we lift his back, though I think we may be investing in a ramp in the near future.

All these changes happened incrementally. We barely even noticed, really.

On the one hand, I guess that shows they’re aging well.

On the other, it shows that we need to be more cognizant of their elderly pup status.

A few things I’m thinking about:

  • Purchasing more rugs. Our house is all wood, and Lucas is starting to show signs of his back legs slipping on the wood as he tries to get up. (Added bonus, it’ll help Newt gain traction when Cooper is in all-out chase mode.)
  • Adding pumpkin to their diet to encourage digestive health.
  • Replacing (or repairing, if possible) the worn out dog beds that don’t have any cushion left.
  • Scheduling twice-a-year checkups with the vet instead of just an annual shot fest.

What am I missing? Are you currently accommodating a senior dog? Any tips or tricks? What’s working for your senior pup? 

Do dogs dream?

You probably have anecdotal evidence that your dog dreams. Maybe he runs in his sleep or yips or snarls or even sleep walks. Maybe you have theories (he finally caught that squirrel!) about what your dog dreams.

Interestingly, there is a ton of research that shows dogs do, in fact, dream just like we do. They take information from their day and assimilate it in an abstract way.

Back in 2001, MIT researchers used brain monitoring technology to watch rats’ brains as they learned to run a circular maze to earn a food reward. They used the same technology to monitor their brains while they slept, and for many of the rats, the brain patters matched, indicating that they were dreaming about running the maze.

In a Pyschology Today editorial, Dr. Stanley Cohen writes that it would be more surprising if dogs didn’t dream since we understand so much of their brain structure and function. Further, he shares how to tell when your dog starts to dream:

It is really quite easy to determine when your dog is dreaming without resorting to brain surgery or electrical recordings. All that you have to do is to watch him from the time he starts to doze off. As the dog’s sleep becomes deeper his breathing will become more regular. After a period of about 20 minutes for an average-sized dog his first dream should start. You will recognize the change because his breathing will become shallow and irregular. There may be odd muscle twitches, and you can even see the dog’s eyes moving behind its closed lids if you look closely enough. The eyes are moving because the dog is actually looking at the dream images as if they were real images of the world. These eye movements are most characteristic of dreaming sleep. When human beings are awakened during this rapid eye movement or REM sleep phase, they virtually always report that they were dreaming.

Personally, I’ve always known – yes, anecdotally – that my dogs dream. Emmett has bad dreams. His fur stands up. His lip curls. He snarls and whimpers. Lucas has active dreams where he’s running and chasing (and, probably, catching! it’s a dream after all!) because his legs windmill in the air or his nails click on the wood floor as he moves rapidly in his sleep.

Cooper, though… Cooper has good dreams. No, Cooper has great dreams! I think he’s playing with Newt or running with Lucas or snuggling or ripping up toys or… who knows… all of those at once. Why do I think that?



What do you suppose he’s dreaming about? from Maggie Marton on Vimeo.

What about your dogs? Do dogs dream? Are they “active” sleepers, moving and running and barking? Do you have theories about their dreams? Are they catching squirrels or eating ice cream? 



Who cares for your pets when you’re away?

Some people have a friend stay with their pets. Others have the kid down the street check in, while others hire a professional. There are a lot of options. Which is the right one?

Last week, Pamela at Something Wagging This Way Comes shared a tongue-in-cheek post called Top 10 Traits of a Pet Sitter Who Won’t Kill Your Dog. She took a humorous look at the topic but cited some heart-wrenching examples to illustrate the importance of finding the right pet sitter.

It came at the perfect moment: That very day, a husband and wife team of pet sitters came by to meet the boys and talk about their experience.

My babies need top-notch care!

My babies need top-notch care!


It’s going to work out with these pet sitters for days when we’re away, though they don’t offer overnight care, so we’re still going to need to find another solution. Possibly a boarding place in New Orleans… TBD…

When I shared Pamela’s post on Facebook, it sparked a good discussion, though I was saddened to hear how many people have horror stories from pet sitters! Our pet sitter in Bloomington, Ann of Bloomington Pet Pals, offered a few really valuable suggestions, which I wanted to share here. Ann wrote:

  • They should have a federal tax ID number which just means they pay taxes as a business. They should also carry liability insurance which protects your pets and property. Ask to see proof of their insurance and what it covers – see if it covers transporting your pet b/c that’s a special provision you have to add. Ask if they have had any claims. Ask to see proof of their bond. If they don’t carry liability insurance and a bond, look for someone else.
  • Ask if the person you meet is going to be the only one doing the sitting. Many times, you meet the owner of the company but they may use others to do the job, which isn’t necessarily bad, but you should know.
  • Ask if everyone who works for them is covered by their insurance or bond.
  • Your sitter should be in communication with you daily (at least) while you are away – via text or email. They should send photos. If you know your neighbors ask them to watch for the sitter and notice how long the person stays – are they in and out in 5 minutes or do they stay the length of time they say they will?

Such great advice. While you can’t predict or prevent every problem, doing your due diligence is critical when it comes to finding someone to take care of your fur babies!

Who takes care of your pet when you’re away? Do you hire a pet sitter? Go to a kennel? Any other advice to share with someone who’s considering a pet sitter? 


Idiopathic head tremors

Editor’s note: This is a guest post that I requested on behalf of everyone whose dogs are suffering from idiopathic head tremors. Based on the comments from my previous post (found here) I knew this was a topic that warranted further review. If you have additional questions, please leave them in the comments so we can continue our discussion!


Cooper, my guy with idiopathic head tremors

What You Need to Know about Your Dog’s Idiopathic Head Tremors

Many dog owners have to watch their precious friends suffer from idiopathic head tremors on a regular basis. This problem can make owners feel helpless as their pets experience uncontrollable “head bobbing.” Some dogs bob their heads side-to-side, while others bob up-and-down. Either way, many have described the bobbing as resembling the “dog version” of Parkinson’s disease in humans.

Idiopathic head tremors can occur with just about any “bully dog breeds.” Some of these breeds include Bulldogs, Pit Bulls and Doberman Pinchers. Researchers continue to conduct studies. Yet, currently, no one really knows for sure why the tremors occur. Theoretically, the tremors are harmless. However, they can sometimes resemble seizures, which can be very stressful on owners.

How to Deal with Your Dog’s Idiopathic Head Tremors

If your dog experiences these annoying tremors, it’s important to remain calm. According to experts, the head bobbing doesn’t actually affect your pet. Yet, panicking will only cause your best friend to panic as well, which may cause the tremors to increase.

Instead, evaluate the condition of your dog. Is your buddy responsive and alert? What color are your furry buddy’s gums? Have any other parts of your pet’s body been affected by the tremors?

A typical idiopathic head tremor episode will generally last around three minutes. Once the head bobbing is over, your dog should return to normal, as if the tremors never occurred at all. If your dog does appear to have been affected, contact your local veterinarian immediately.

If your dog suffers from tremor episodes several times per day or over a period of a few days, that’s a good reason to visit your vet. Most pets never experience tremors while actually in the vet’s office. So, try to get your dog’s episodes on video. That way, your veterinarian can review the footage and use it to help him/her make an educated diagnosis.

Are Idiopathic Head Tremors Hurting Your Dog?

Many dog owners have reported their pets having recurring idiopathic head tremors for a while. Then, they suddenly just stop altogether. Until that happens, keep a journal which details the tremors. This will help you better understand what some of the possible triggers may be for the head bobbing condition.

In the meantime, remain calm, because these seizure-like symptoms are not life-threatening. That means they have no long-term effects on your dog. The actual point of treatment is to lower the stress and anxiety levels of dog owners who hate watching their pets suffer.

Dog owners with pets who suffer from idiopathic head tremors say that their buddies are entirely aware during episodes. Their ears stay up as if alert. They respond to your calls and commands as usual. And, their appetites aren’t affected.

The next time your dog suffers a tremor episode, simply try calling her/his over to you. Then, have your pet sit still so that she/he can focus. Usually, this will help to release your pet from the “tremor trance.” Some owners even say that doggie treats can also release them from the trance.

This article was written by Ryean Bishop for Bannock Animal Medical Center (BAMCvet). Worried about your pet’s idiopathic head tremors or other medical issues? Contact BAMCvet to schedule your pet’s appointment today.

Finally, for reference, here’s a video I posted of Cooper having a tremor on Saturday:

Idiopathic head tremors: A typical Cooper tremor from Maggie Marton on Vimeo.

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Leave a comment, feed a shelter pet

The State of Pet Health Report, the first report of its kind from Banfield Pet Hospital, has a brand new consumer-friendly home on the web, www.StateofPetHealth.com.

StateofPetHealth.com gives pet owners access to the PDF version of the Report, as well as the latest news, insights, & tips on preventing disease in pets, including overweight & obesity, kidney disease, arthritis, and more – all from the comfort of home.

StateofPetHealth.com features include:

  • Overweight & Obesity: Check your pets’ Body Condition Score and daily caloric needs
  • Check out geographic trends and trends in disease
  • Learn about the top diseases affecting pets and which breeds are most at risk
  • Prevention tips and many other special features to ensure pets live long and healthy lives

Check out the report when you have a chance. It’s chock full of really interesting information!

And now, to celebrate the report,  for every comment that this post receives between now and Saturday, Banfield will donate one bowl of food to a pet in need through the Banfield Charitable Trust. What could be easier? Leave a comment; feed a shelter pet! Let’s see how many comments we can get in a week!

New here? Welcome! You can subscribe via RSS or email so we can keep in touch and keep talking dogs!

Do you have a pet care emergency plan?

Several weeks ago I had a reaction to one of my many medicines and landed in the emergency room in the middle of the night. (Stupid cancer.) Thankfully, my mom was able to make the hour-and-a-half drive down to help me and take care of the boys.

Emmett is busily researching emergency preparedness.

That experience, combined with the heartbreak of watching people across the country dealing with fires, floods, and more, got me thinking about my pet care emergency plan. Do you have one?

Some things I’m thinking about:

  • I have fabulous pet sitters who my guys know really well. In an emergency, I know I could count on them and that the boys would be comfortable and happy with them. If you don’t have a pet sitter or boarding facility lined up, consider arranging something in advance so in case of emergency, your pup isn’t meeting a new person or going to a new place.
  • Beyond professionals, or for an odd time of day, I know I can call my mom and my wonderful next-door neighbors anytime, day or night. Although, I asked them both if that was okay first – not everyone wants a midnight call.
  • For additional preparedness, consider making an emergency kit for your car that contains a little food, leashes for each pet, and a photocopy of their shot records. If you’re ever in the unfortunate situation of being evacuated, you’ll be ready to go – with your pets.

I’m sure I’m skipping over a lot of things you can do to have a solid pet care emergency plan. What am I missing? Do you have a plan in place?