Pup-arazzi portraiture

Photography-LoveMutt“For cryin’ out loud, Lady, don’t you have enough pictures of me?” Nipper asked, opening one eye long enough to shoot me a dirty look; annoyed that I was trying to take a photo of him snoozing on the sofa.

“But you look so cute all snuggled up like that,” I sighed, snapping off a few more shots. “Hold still. My Facebook friends will go insane when they see this.”

“I’ve seen you naked trying to squeeze into a pair of control-top panty hose,” he replied, jumping down from the couch, “That doesn’t mean I took a picture and posted it on the Internet.”

“That’s only because you don’t have opposable thumbs.”

“I don’t know why you have to keep throwing that in my face,” he sniffed over his shoulder, stalking off to find a more private spot to continue his siesta.

Maybe I am guilty of stalking Nipper like a member of the “pup-arazzi.” But, if you are anything like me, through the years you have taken hundreds of pictures of your pets because they never seem to turn out “right.” Your dog won’t hold still, the cat won’t look into the camera or even if everything else is right, their eyes end up glowing like they are possessed by some demented evil spirit.

My husband and I always joke that we have more photos of Nipper than we do of ourselves. Our friends and family admit that they are the same way about their pets. But who could blame us? Our four-legged friends do so many funny things it is hard to resist capturing the moment.

In these days of point and shoot digital cameras it is easier than ever to take good photos of your pets, according to Ashley and Matt Johnson. The husband and wife team own Love Mutt Photography (www.lovemuttphotography.com), a Cincinnati-based fine art pet photography studio. In the five years that they have been in business, the Johnson’s have become known for their clean, distinctive style and ability to capture animal personalities. The couple have mostly photographed dogs and cats, but have also worked with more exotic pets such as rats. So they’re not pulling our tail when they give advice.

So, what are their tips for amateur pet photographers?

1. Use natural light. Never use flash when taking photos of your pets. It casts too harsh of a light on your subject, giving a “spotlight” effect. Flash makes the background too dark and causes the dreaded “laser” eyes and overly-shiny fur.

Also, use the existing light to your benefit. When you are taking photos, stand with your back facing the light source (either lamplight, windows or the sun) and have the pet face you. Never shoot directly into the light, that will cause the photo to appear “washed-out.”

2. Practice patience. “Show respect,” Matt counsels, “Let the pet check the camera out, with the lens covered, before you begin. This will go a long way toward getting them to hold still and be cooperative. You might even put some treats on the camera. The more they see it as a positive, the better photos you will get. If you do this, you will be 90 percent ahead of the game by reducing their fear.”

3. Shoot from different angles. Get down on their level, the Johnson’s suggest. “You shouldn’t just stand and shoot down on them from the typical human to dog 45 degree angle,” Matt says, “It’s not interesting. Try shooting up at them.”

4. Bribery is good! Treats are a good way to keep a pet’s attention. “We joke that every dog has their Kryptonite,” Ashley explains, “There is always one thing that they can’t resist and that goes for all pets.” Hold the treat or toy directly above the lens of the camera or where you want them to look for the photo.

5. Work with what you’ve got! Use your pet’s personality to your advantage. If you are trying to take photos of an active dog or cat, don’t try to make them sit still. That will just set you both up for frustration. Let them do what they do naturally. “It might take 20 frames to get one that you like,” Matt says, “But nowadays with digital photography, you can afford to take a lot of photos.”

So, pick up a camera and start snapping away!

I’d like to see your photos. Send them to me along with your name, your hometown, the pet’s name, age, breed and a short explanation to marsolete@insightbb.com and I’ll post them on my new Web site. Also, if you have any ideas for stories, I’d like to hear them as well.

Print Friendly

Caring for a honey of a bunny.

MarsieBunnyCar“What in the world is that?” Nipper asked, sniffing my sweater suspiciously. His tail stopped mid-wag and stiffened. “Were you out playing with another animal?”

Maybe,” I replied hesitantly, feeling a bit like I’d been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.

“Out with it you two-timer,” he said, heaving a sigh, then moving his nose onto my pants leg. “Don’t lie to me, that’ll just make it worse.”

“Alright, it was a rabbit,” I admitted.

“A rabbit,” he repeated, sarcasm dripping from his voice. “I see. Now I’ve heard it all. I can’t turn my back on you for five minutes.”

“It was a social petting need,” I offered, lamely. “It didn’t mean anything.”

Well, actually it did, but Nipper doesn’t to know that. I held a rabbit, cuddled it, even gave it a kiss or two because it was so darned cute.

The bunny in question was Hopper, a dark grey, lop-eared rabbit owned by Barbara Nagel of Fort Thomas, a fifth-grade student at Johnson Elementary School.

“Bunnies are cute,” Barbara explained, “But they need a lot of care if you are going to keep one as a pet.”

The 10-year-old is an expert rabbit keeper, having acquired Hopper from neighbors two years ago.

“They got a dog that was part retriever,” she said, rolling her eyes, “And they didn’t play very well together. So they had to find another home for the rabbit.”

Barbara’s mother, Sandy, said that before Barbara could take on the responsibility of a bunny, she had to do some research.

“I don’t know nothing about birthin’ no bunnies,” she quipped. “Seriously, though, I wanted this to be a learning experience for Barbara. The bunny was going to be her sole responsibility, so I wanted to make certain that she was prepared.”

So the little girl headed to the library and checked out a half dozen books on rabbits and their care. She took the opportunity to write a report for school which then went into her writing portfolio.

“She got a good grade on it,” her mother added, proudly.

“I thought it would be super-easy to keep a bunny,” Barbara recalled. “And I found out that it’s not! There’s a lot to it. The truth is, they poop a lot and you have to keep their cage really clean. I do it at least once a week with a little shovel. First, I scoop out everything then take the tray from underneath and scrub it and put fresh lining around the cage. She throws a lot of litter and I have to replace that a lot.”

The little girl flinches. “Oooh, stop that,” she gently rebuked the errant bunny, placing her finger gently on its nose, explaining, “She doesn’t bite hard, just nibbles. I call it a love nibble.”

“Now, now, Hopper,” she coos, placing a kiss on the tip of one of its ears, “Be good, we have guests around. Bunnies are very loving animals. It just takes them awhile to get used to you.”

Rabbits also shed, Barbara said, especially in the Spring and Fall. “That’s when they change their fur, so you have to keep them brushed. They are very clean animals and lick themselves so you don’t have to give them baths.”

“The vet cuts her toenails once a year,” she added, “And checks her teeth to make sure that they are OK.” To ensure that her rabbit’s teeth don’t get too long, Barbara gives her chew sticks to gnaw on. This past Christmas, Hopper received several in the shape of pizza, burgers and soda bottles.

But, she believes that all the hard work is worth it because, “She’s the best rabbit in the whole wide world!”

I’d like to see your photos and hear your stories. Send them to me at: marsolete@insightbb.com with your name, your pet’s name, age, breed and a short explaination and I’ll post them on my new Web site: www.marsiesmenagerie.com. You can also become a fan of Marsie’s Menagerie on Facebook. Come join in the fun, but always remember, no nipping!

Print Friendly

Keeping paws warm and pets happy

MarsieNipper“There is no way that I’m going to be seen wearing boots!” Nipper scowled indignantly, wrestling his paw from my grasp. “It’s unnatural, you don’t see dogs running around in the wild wearing boots!”

“Cocker Spaniels don’t exist in the wild,” I reminded him, “Your natural habitat is the sofa, so you’re wearing boots!”

“Lady,” he said, pausing to scarf down the Snausage I’d given him as a bribe to hold still, “You are not the boss of me! This is animal cruelty; in some states you could get arrested.”

“Go tell it to Oprah,” I replied, wrestling the fourth boot onto his left hind foot. “Plus, don’t talk with your mouth full. I’m the Mommy and what I say goes. So, c’mon, let’s go take a walk.”

He refused to stand up, so we didn’t get very far.

But what’s a responsible dog owner to do? It’s cold and snowy outside. There is salt and chemical de-icers on the sidewalks and roads and that has to be hard on their paws. I wear boots, so shouldn’t he? Plus, they’re way cute.

“The ones who pull sleds need to,” said Cheryl “Sissy” Stupprich of PetSuites, the pet resort and spa in Erlanger. She’s been a professional groomer since 1994 and has worked with literally thousands of dogs. “But house pets, who go out into the snow for 10-15 minutes to use the bathroom, not really.”

The biggest reason, in her opinion, to put boots on a dog is to help provide traction. Sand, rather than salt or chemicals is the best way for a pet owner to achieve this. She does suggest that when you get your dog groomed in the cold weather, not to have the fur cut out from between the pads. “There’s a reason for it,” she counsels, “Hair is a natural insulator from the cold, sort of “nature’s snow boot.”

So, dogs don’t really need boots, she said, “But if it makes you feel better as an owner, go for it.”

Jean Pritchard, D.V.M. of Fort Thomas Animal Hospital agrees. “I think that in general an average pet doesn’t need them. The main thing is to keep the paws dry. The longer that moisture is left in contact with the area between the paws the more chance you have to allow bacteria to proliferate.

A dog’s pads, she said, are tough and thick. The biggest problem is that people get motivated to do a lot.

“Nobody ever asks me about boots for cats,” she quipped, “Only dogs. That’s because cats are smart enough to take one look out the door and come right back in!”

Print Friendly

Everything Pets Expo brings pets and their people together.

TurtleLoveDr. Doolittle wasn’t the only one “talking to the animals” this past weekend at the Duke Energy Convention Center at the Everything Pets Expo, a pet-centric trade show offering education, entertainment and equipment.

Animal Communicator Donetta Zimmerman was there doing animal psychic readings, there were agility demonstrations with dogs running obstacle courses, discussions about the suitability of exotic animals for pets and “Ultimate Air Dogs” competing to see who could leap the furthest into a pool. Attendees were taught how to make home-baked treats, “makeovers” turned dogs from “dingy to dazzling” and representatives of The Late Show with David Letterman were there to audition local house pets for upcoming “Stupid Pet Tricks” segments.

“We’re having a great time,” said Angela Cooney of Bethel who was attending with husband, Anthony and their children Livie, 5, and Max, 2. She was holding Max up so he could gently stroke the nose of one of the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Squad horses. This was the family’s second visit to the show.

“This is a great event,” she said. “We came a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, so now we’re back. The main thing we wanted to see were the ‘Fly Dogs.’ They are pretty amazing and it seems like a lot of fun. Our Border Collie, Zellie is 4 months old now and really likes Frisbees and jumping, so we’re thinking about getting her into something like that.”

Anthony Cooney believes that it is good for kids to interact with pets. The family owns three dogs, three horses and three cats. “It helps to build character,” he said. “It teaches them responsibility and makes them happier throughout their lives.”

Pam Elliot and Jeane Doan of Guilford, Ind. were all smiles as they perused the aisles tightly holding the leashes of Lily, Rosie and Cassidy, three friendly and fluffy Japanese Chin dogs. They were here to volunteer time working at the West Chester based “Lucky Chin” rescue group booth.

“It’s great to see all of these pet people together at one time,” said Elliott, straightening the squirming Lily’s colorful bandana. Self-professed “dog people,” they also own two Boxers.

“When the doorbell rings at our house it is pretty exciting,” Doan said, chuckling, “All you hear is barking and us yelling, ‘Shut up, shut up, stop, stop…stop!’”

Over at the “Bird Fever” exotic bird store booth fourth-grader Elizabeth Stevens, 9, of Springdale was cradling Cocoa, a white Umbrella Cockatoo. She was attending the expo with her Aunt, Sylvia Bain of Green Township.

“I love animals,” she said, grinning and complying as her feathery pal stretched out a wing indicating that was where she’d like to be rubbed.

“I don’t have a lot of pets right now, just a Bearded Dragon named Spike and Miranda, who is a Hound mix.”

What the little girl likes most about pets is, “Even if I want to be alone I can still be with them and talk to them. They always listen, you know?”

Stevens believes that kindness matters. “It’s important to always take good care of them,” she said. “What you do for them may come back to you; because someday you may be need to be taken care of yourself.”

Print Friendly

Owners need to practice calm before (and during) the storm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA KaBOOOOOMMMMMM! A clap of thunder rattled the house.

“Lady! Lady! Woof, woof, woof! Let me out, let me out, NOW!” Nipper arfed impatiently scratching at the door.

“Why?” I asked suspiciously, narrowing my eyes, “Just so you can go out on the porch to run around, bark like a nut-case and annoy the neighbors?”

“Well, yeah,” he admitted, prancing about. “C’mon, there’s a storm out there; I’ve gotta go show it who’s boss.”

Sighing, I opened the door and watched in amusement as our 14-and-three-fourths-year-old, arthritic dog ran back and forth, barking at the top of his Cocker-Spaniel lungs. Spring, and its thunderstorms, used to be a major trauma at our house, causing Nipper to shiver and cower. That changed last year, when he went deaf. No longer able to hear the loud claps of thunder, his fear dissipated and was replaced by excitement. Now he loves stormy weather; happily wagging his tail and sniffing at the air.

But, what about the owners whose pets are still bothered by storms? What can we do to comfort them as we go into thunderstorm season?

Nipper’s vet, Aaron Stamper, DVM of Highland Heights Animal Hospital (www.petwow.com) suggests putting your pet in a place in the house where they can’t watch the storm; preferably in a spot that has as much sound proofing as possible.

“There is evidence to suggest that dogs and cats can sense when a storm is coming,” he said. “Most likely from barometric pressure change, and so anxiety sets in from past experiences.”

It is the sound, he believes, that causes most of the pets’ anxiety. That would be why Nipper’s reaction to storms has changed since he lost his hearing.

“The sound of thunder extends from the highest to the lowest frequency,” Stamper said. “And since dogs hear better than we do it stands to reason that pets would be more sensitive to the loud noise created by storms.”

Stamper, who owns several dogs, has successfully used ear plugs on his own pets to help keep them calm.

“They are easy to put in,” he said. “Safe, comfortable and easy to remove.

“Most ear plugs are designed to drastically reduce the noise of firearms which is similar to the frequency and decibel level of most storms.”

How about medications? Even though it would be preferred not to use them, he says that tranquilizing medications are probably the most widely accepted means of curbing the effects of storms or fireworks for pets.

The problem is, it is difficult to control the timing. You can’t predict exactly when a storm will hit and the medication needs enough time to take effect before it does.

According to Stamper the most commonly used drugs are Acepromazine, a long acting tranquilizer lasting six to 12 hours and Valium that lasts two to four hours for most pets. Acepromazine takes about two hours to be effective making it not desirable when a quick storm pops up and Valium is not great for storms that last long into the night as it often wears off. There are some other tricyclic anti-depressant drugs like Elavil and Xanax.

Karen Pilis, behaviorist for All Creatures Animal Hospital (www.all-creatures.com) in Amelia, finds that there are two versions of thunderstorm phobia.

“The first is caused by the owner,” she said. “The second is an actual phobia from the pressure and noise of a storm that the owner has no contributing factors to.”

For example, she explains, “Two dogs I adopted at the age of 10 came to me with the phobia and no matter what I did I couldn’t change it. The ones I have had since puppies have never had storm phobias. Only the ones owned by someone previously have had it. The way that a dog behaves during a storm has everything to do with the owner’s reactions.

“You gasp and the dog wonders what the problem is. The fear transfers to them and then we reinforce that fear because we comfort the dog and we pet them. So every time a storm happens, the dog knows the fear is going to begin again and the behavior is then trained into the dog.”

Owners need to be able to show their pets what is and is not acceptable by example. If a pet reacts to a loud clap of thunder, she says that you must correct that immediately. “Tell them to lie down, that’s enough. If you don’t allow them to overreact, that is how the animal will continue to behave. Make sure you are relaxed, think about your own behavior and body language is saying to the dogs.”

“And,” she said. “It’s not just undesirable behavior that deserves attention. You should reinforce desired behavior with food, verbal or physical praise.”

Most of what the experts told me covered canine, not feline behavior, so I called Cheryl Franklin, owner of Confetti Cats in Mt. Lookout (www.confetti cats.com). She has owned cats since grade school and is considered by many to be an expert in the area. Through the years, she has had several fearful felines.

“The best thing that I have found,” she said. “Is to put them in a part of the house where they don’t feel the storm. That means a calm place not exposed to the windows or to the sounds. I play classical music on the radio and leave the lights on.”

She believes that the agitation cats exhibit during thunderstorms is not necessarily from fear, but more of a sense of protectiveness of the house.

“Our energy can also affect how they respond,” she admits. “We can transfer our feelings to them. I see it all the time. People come in here and ask questions about their cats’ behavior, and I find that there is something going on in their own lives, health related or work related and they realize that they are transmitting that information to their pets. After all, their role in our lives is to absorb some of our stuff.”

Do you have any story ideas? I’d like to hear them as well as see your pet photos. Send them to me at: marsolete@insightbb.com with your name, your pet’s name, age, breed and a short explanation and I’ll post them on my new Web site: www.marsiesmenagerie.com. You can also become a fan of Marsie’s Menagerie on Facebook. Come join in the fun, but always remember…no nipping!

Print Friendly

Exotic pets can creep, crawl and slither into your heart.

Marsie-snake“That’s it, I am so out of here,” Nipper scowled, sniffing me. “First, you come home reeking of other dogs, then cats. I understand that it’s a business thing because you write a pet column, but this, this is too much. That’s frog pee if I ever smelled it. Admit it, you’ve been cavorting with reptiles.”

“So, you’re leaving?” I asked, going into the kitchen and extracting a homemade dog biscuit from the cookie jar.

“Yes,” he nodded, following me, tail wagging involuntarily as he eyed the treat. (That’s why dogs could never excel at poker.)

“Where are you going to go? After all, you’re not allowed off the front porch without a leash,” I gently reminded him.

“That could be a problem,” he replied, “So, I’ll tell you what, give me that cookie and we’ll call it even.”

Between you and me, Nipper has reason to be jealous, I did hold reptiles, lots of them, even a Tarantula at Cool Critters Outreach.

Cool Critters Outreach (www.coolcrittersoutreach.com) is an animal rescue and education program started by registered reptile specialist Brian Gill in early 2006 as a way to educate the public about reptiles and invertebrates.

The rescue arm of the organization takes in unwanted and abused reptiles and invertebrates, nursing them to health, placing them in aquariums/ wildlife sanctuaries or adopting them out to new, experienced owners. They also offer a “Pet Sitting” service for owners who want to leave their pets with experienced caretakers when taking out-of-town trips.

Brian’s interest in exotic creatures began in childhood, even though his parents didn’t allow him to have any. He more than made up for that as an adult, starting with a Corn Snake he received as a gift.

“What began as a hobby,” he said. “Grew into much more. Now it has been over a decade, and I’m up to 70 or more animals. Go figure! But this is what I feel I was meant to do.”

Animal rescue and education was not his original career path. He was a Child Support Training Supervisor for Hamilton County Job and Family Services for nearly 14 years when a layoff caused him to reevaluate his goals.

His wife Richelle, shares his passion and now acts as Director of Operations for Cool Critters Outreach. The sanctuary for exotic snakes, lizards, geckos, turtles, alligators and invertebrates of all kinds is housed in the basement of their Finneytown home.

The home that the Gills share with their three children and a literal “Noah’s Ark” of wildlife (including three dogs, a kitten and two ferrets) is indistinguishable from the others on their quiet suburban block, until you spot a cage sitting in front of the garage door. Inside is a giant Iguana, enjoying a sun bath. Giant tortoises roam two penned-in areas in the back yard.

What struck me was how neat and clean everything was. Even with dozens of cages and tanks, including a locked alligator pen with its own pond, the only smell was that of fresh greens being chopped for a “Critter Salad” of fresh turnip greens, kale, mustard and collard greens. A refrigerator is stocked with a freezer full of frozen rabbits, rats, mice and chicken parts. I also spot artichokes, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, grapes and bananas. In the corner, large tubs house crickets and mealworms.

“Our goal,” Brian said. “Is to dispel some of the myths and rumors that people have regarding these animals. We also want to help people understand what it is to keep a reptile or invertebrate as a pet. The problem is, people don’t understand what a commitment owning one is going to take long-term.”

Brian Gill’s top five suggestions for people considering reptiles and/or invertebrates as pets
1. Find out what the animal’s lifespan is. Some can live for over 100 years. If you should pre-decease your pet, how will they be provided for after you’re gone?
2. How big will the animal get? For example: A tiny snake can grow to several feet in length very quickly.
3. Where will they live? Do you have the proper space in your home and can you expand that as the animal grows? How will you regulate the light, heat and humidity? Some creatures may need environments that are half land and half water. Will it be a hardship to keep the area clean and well-maintained?
4. What are their dietary needs? Get the specifics. Some eat only live food such as crickets, mice or rabbits. Are you able to accept that? Many people can’t. Be honest with yourself because those are the realities of owning exotic pets. Determine where you will get their food and how/where it will be prepared and stored.
5. Find a veterinarian who specializes in reptile in advance of getting your pet. Your new companion will need regular, professional care on the same level as cats and dogs.

Send your pet photos and stories to Marsie Hall Newbold at marsolete@insightbb.com, with your name, your pet’s name, age, breed and a short explanation and she will post them on her new website: www.marsiesmenagerie.com. You can also become a fan of Marsie’s Menagerie on Facebook.

Print Friendly

Holidays can be harmful to your ‘hungry’ pets.

“Whatcha eating?” Nipper, my Cocker Spaniel asked, sitting down in front of me, an expectant look on his fuzzy little face.

“Grapes,” I replied.

“Can I have one?”

“It’s ‘may’ I have one, and the answer is no. Grapes are bad for dogs.”

“Oh, c’mon, just one won’t hurt,” he sighed.

“No way,” I said firmly. “I’m a responsible pet owner and besides, I’m not in the mood to drag out the carpet cleaner to clean up the results.”

He made a few growly noises under his breath as he trotted into the kitchen to see what was in his bowl.

That little stinker was cussing at me and I don’t care. I’m not giving him grapes or anything else that I know is bad for dogs.

This is the time of year when pets are most vulnerable to ingesting things that are bad for them.

Dr. Joseph Bruner of Greater Cincinnati Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Services knows this firsthand.

“We see a lot of animals in the clinic who have eaten things they shouldn’t during the holiday season,” he said. “But owners can avoid trouble by being aware of potential problems before they happen.”

The first thing that Bruner cautions owners against is feeding their dogs and cats table scraps.

“If you want to give them something special, give them a pet treat like a Milk-Bone. It doesn’t matter what they are getting, just that they are getting something from you.”

“Feeding them from the table,” he said, “is just setting them up for digestive trouble. It is best to keep them on their regular diet.”

What we really need to protect our pets from can be divided into two categories: Foods and decorations.

For example, chocolate is toxic to dogs. It can cause upset stomachs and even death.

The worst offender, according to Bruner is baker’s chocolate. As small an amount as one square can be deadly.

Another is foods containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol. It is most commonly used in sugar-free chewing gum.

It is very toxic to dogs and cats, causing life threatening hypoglycemia, so keep all sugar-free candies in a safe place.

Other foods that are known to be harmful are grapes and raisins that can damage the kidneys. That means that fruitcake is definitely off limits.

“Keep them away from onions, garlic, chives and other foods from that category,” Bruner cautioned. “They cause anemia. For example, a package of onion soup mix can be deadly.”

As if our pet’s breath isn’t bad enough, we have to worry about this.

“Be careful where you place food items if you have pets in the house,” he said. “Don’t put snacks out on the coffee table where they will be able to reach them, or food gifts under the Christmas tree.”

The second category of “stuff” we need to be mindful of is ornaments and decorations.

Cats in particular, love houseplants. Poinsettias, mistletoe and holly are toxic. So keep them out of reach or better yet, go with artificial plants just to be safe.

One of the most common problems Bruner sees is pets eating tinsel and long, thin ribbons

“If you have an animal, don’t use either one,” he sighs. “They see this shiny stuff and think, ‘Mmmm, that must be good to eat’ and it is just not worth it.”

How do we know when to call the vet?

“When your pet suffers from vomiting and/or diarrhea, has a loss of appetite or has ingested what you know is a bad thing,” said Bruner. “It is better to be safe than sorry.”

The main thing is to try to think like a dog or a cat during the holiday season.

What would you want to get into? Be mindful of their needs and temptations and keep those things out of paws reach.

Just a few extra minutes may save you and your four footed pal from having to make an emergency run to the vet while the rest of the family is having fun celebrating.

Print Friendly

Where should sleeping dogs (and cats) lie?

SleepingPets “What’s the matter, getting kinda creaky in your middle-age?” Nipper asked, groggily through a yawn. I was sitting on the edge of the bed, afraid to stand because my right leg had gone numb during the night. “No,” I sighed, flexing it to try to get the blood flowing. “It’s from you sleeping on top of my legs.”

“Don’t blame me,” he said, turning over and laying his head on my pillow, “You should have moved.”

Nipper’s right. I should have made him move, but couldn’t. In the throes of sleep my common sense goes bye-bye to the point where it’ll register in my unconscious that I’m uncomfortable, but I’ll be too sleep-addled to do anything about it. So I wake up half-crippled on a regular basis.

It didn’t start out that way. When Nipper was a puppy, Tom and I (well, to be honest, Tom) took a “tough-love” stance. Nipper was going to sleep in his own bed. (If left up to me, the puppy would have slept on the pillow next to my cheek from night one). But, my husband who is much more pragmatic bought a human baby play pen. We put it in the corner of the bedroom and that’s where Nipper slept.

I wanted to give in the first time Nipper cried, but “Testosterone Tom” stood firm and declared: “Somebody has to be the Alpha here and it’s obvious that it has to be me!”

One fateful night when Nipper would not quiet down despite repeated “corrections,” Tom avowed, “It’s him or us.” He put Nipper into his crate and deposited it in the basement. The howling was heart-wrenching. But as responsible owners we had to wait him out, even if it meant sleeping with pillows over our ears to muffle the sound. “Nipper,” Tom (whose father was a dog breeder) proclaimed, “Will be what we make him!”

And he was, sleeping on his very own doggie bed until he got old and grey. Then, for some reason (that he won’t elaborate on except to say, “He’s our guy”), Tom softened up and let him up on the bed. A couple of years ago when Nipper started having trouble hopping up on his own, our ornate, cherry, four poster bed was disassembled and put into the garage. We now sleep on a mattress and box springs on the floor to accommodate the dog.

The things we do for love…

Tim and Jerri Lenz of Independence recently upgraded from a queen to a king-sized bed to accommodate their bed partners Dawn, a 50 lb. mixed breed and Dora, a 40 lb. Corgi mix. They too, started off with good intentions.

“When we first got Dawn,” Tim said, “She slept in a crate; but then, it dawned on us (a Freudian slip, perhaps?) that she couldn’t be much of a watchdog in a cage. If something happened, how much protection could she be?”

So, to ensure the safety of the family, Dawn was released from the crate. But, how did she end up sleeping on the bed?

“It was winter,” he recalls in a sympathetic tone of voice, “And with the programmable thermostat it got kind of cold in the house at night. We have an electric blanket, so she would come up and lay on that. It wasn’t a problem at first, because she stayed at the foot of the bed, but then we got Dora.”

“And they took over from there,” Jerri says. “The dogs pretty much rule the roost. It’s sad but true and I admit it.”

The couple, who has been married for 20 years now share their extra-firm bed with the grey-green comforter, dust ruffle and coordinating decorative pillows with their two dogs. Dawn sleeps at the foot and Dora snuggles between Tim and Jerri.

“It works now that we have the larger bed,” Jerri said, “With the queen it was terrible. I would wake up hugging the edge of the bed and the two dogs would be sprawled out to their full length. So we had to make the change. But I’m not sorry, I enjoy having them up there.”

“And we haven’t had any burglars!” Tim chuckles, “Don’t forget that. Not that we had any before, but that has to count for something!”

So, Tom and I aren’t the only ones who lie down with dogs (or other animals. One of my friends slept with her rabbit until she woke up in the middle of the night with him trying to make love to her head, but, I digress.) Bottom line is, is it a good idea to allow your pet to sleep in bed with you?

“The question I would ask you is this,” Steven Stratemeyer, D.V.M. of Evendale-Blue Ash Pet Hospital intones, “Whose bed is it?”

Stratemeyer has been in practice as a veterinarian for 30 years and is an expert in teaching people how to train their pets. He believes that there is nothing wrong with letting your dog or cat sleep with you as long as it is on your terms.

“It is only a problem when you think it is a problem,” he states. “What the dog wants is a good leader. If the dog wants to get up on the bed or couch or whatever, he needs to earn the right by doing a particular behavior; by sitting down, lying down, whatever. If it wants to be in bed with you, you should make it ask for permission first.”

“If you go to bed and the dog is in bed before you, then who is in charge?” he asks. “I have people who will come in and say they rolled over in the middle of the night, bumped their dog and they got bit. When that happens, it has become the dog’s bed, not yours and that’s where there is a problem.”

The doctor concurs with my husband. “The people have to be in charge. There has to be a leader, and that should be you. Believe me, a dog is just a dog and he or she doesn’t make the right decisions.”

Cats, he admits, are a little different in that they are not as domesticated as dogs. But, training is the same in that you reward positive behaviors and they will continue.

“For example,” he said with a mischievous grin, “I’ve trained one of our cats to bug my wife at night and leave me alone.”

Print Friendly
No Nipping