Hot Weather Tips for Your Pets

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In summertime, the living isn’t always easy for our animal friends. Cats and dogs can suffer from the same problems that humans do, such as overheating, dehydration and even sunburn. By taking some simple precautions, you can celebrate the season and keep your pets happy and healthy.  The ASPCA offers these hot weather tips for pets:

– A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must; add to that a test for heartworm, if your dog isn’t on year-round preventive medication. Do parasites bug your animal companions? Ask your doctor to recommend a safe, effective flea and tick control program.

Never leave your pet alone in a vehicle-hyperthermia can be fatal. Even with the windows open, a parked automobile can quickly become a furnace in no time. Parking in the shade offers little protection, as the sun shifts during the day.

– Always carry a gallon thermos filled with cold, fresh water when traveling with your pet.

– The right time for playtime is in the cool of the early morning or evening, but never after a meal or when the weather is humid.

– Street smarts: When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog stand on hot asphalt. His or her body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum.

A day at the beach is a no-no, unless you can guarantee a shaded spot and plenty of fresh water for your companion. Salty dogs should be rinsed off after a dip in the ocean.

Provide fresh water and plenty of shade for animals kept outdoors; a properly constructed doghouse serves best. Bring your dog or cat inside during the heat of the day to rest in a cool part of the house.

Be especially sensitive to older and overweight animals in hot weather. Brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs such as bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, Lhasa apsos and shih tzus, as well as those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

– When walking your dog, steer clear of areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. And please be alert for coolant or other automotive fluid leaking from your vehicle. Animals are attracted to the sweet taste, and ingesting just a small amount can be fatal. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect that your animal has been poisoned.

Good grooming can stave off summer skin problems, especially for dogs with heavy coats. Shaving the hair to a one-inch length – never down to the skin, please, which robs Rover of protection from the sun – helps prevent overheating. Cats should be brushed often.

Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.

– Having a backyard barbecue? Always keep matches, lighter fluid, citronella candles and insect coils out of pets’ reach.

– Please make sure that there are no open, unscreened windows or doors in your home through which animals can fall or jump.

Stay alert for signs of overheating in pets, which include excessive panting and drooling and mild weakness, along with an elevated body temperature.

Water Safety

For a lot of families, summertime means swimming time. If your pooch will be joining you on your adventures, be it lakeside, oceanside or poolside, please read our following tips:
– Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool.
– Not all dogs are good swimmers, so if water sports are a big part of your family, please introduce your pets to water gradually.
– Make sure all pets wear flotation devices on boats.
– Try not to let your dog drink pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause GI upset.

For more information about the ASPCA, go to http://www.aspca.org/

Reflections on Friendship

I spent Friday and Saturday afternoon with groups of amazing women – some of them longtime, old friends, others more recent, new friends.  Friday afternoon was a more business-oriented gathering, a discussion on how we can all best use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to reflect not only our various businesses, but also our authentic selves.  Saturday afternoon was a beading workshop – we made beautiful bracelets infused with unique intentions we each set for our works of art.  I came away from both events feeling nourished, renewed, and loved in many different ways.

I couldn’t help but reflect on the role friendship plays in our lives after being surrounded by the energy of friendship at such an intense level for two consecutive afternoons.  I’m fortunate to have an amazing circle of friends, both old and new.  There are the soulmate friends that have been with me through life’s ups and downs for a long time.  They are at the core of my circle, they are the ones who joyfully celebrate every success and every possibility with me, and they’re also the ones who are there to listen and offer support when things get rough.   There are the friends who enjoy some of the same activities I do, such as going out to eat, going to rock concerts and club shows, or going shopping.   There are the friends who share a particular interest of mine, and we can spend endless hours discussing books, or philosophies, or spiritual teachings.

More and more, I find that the lines between these different categories of friends are blurring.  As I become more and more secure in who I am, I no longer feel a need to compartmentalize my life.  I am who I am in all areas of my life, and I don’t need to hold back from certain friends or only share specific things with others.  It makes for a richer, fuller life.  It also attracts more people who embrace the same approach to life and friendship.

The internet, and in particular, social media, has added another dimension to friendships.  I’ve “met” and continue to meet a lot of wonderful people on Facebook and Twitter, and I’m thoroughly enjoying these connections.  Are they friends in the traditional sense of the word?  Probably not.  But yet, I feel that if these online friends were to reside in the same geographical area as I do, some of these friendships probably would turn into the real thing.   As it is, they add yet another dimension to this wonderful thing called friendship.

Unique Cat Products With a Modern Twist

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I recently came across a wonderful blog titled “ModernCat“, featuring some of the most unique products for cats I have seen anywhere.   I had so much fun cruising around the site that I wanted to share it with all of you.

From the owner of Moderncat:  “This blog is a resource for cat owners with a modern style. I seek out the newest products for living with cats in a modern home. I try to identify not only products that fit a modern aesthetic, but also items that are truly innovative and that make living with cats a more enjoyable experience. Moderncat combines product reviews with other useful information for cat owners in a clear and concise format.

In addition to working in consumer product development and marketing, I am a dedicated cat owner with a background in design. I am passionate about this topic and hope that this blog will serve as a useful resource.”

I hope you enjoy looking through this site as much as I did.  While my own living style is neither modern nor traditional (I prefer to think of it as “eclectic”), I love unusual and unique things, and this site definitely fits the bill.

Arthritis in Cats – How to Recognize and Manage It

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Arthritis, a condition that affects as many as 1 in 3 adults, also affects our pets.  It is a condition in which an animal’s joints become inflamed.  It is accompanied by pain, heat, and swelling in the joints, and it usually results in increasing stiffness and immobility.   Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis in animals as well as in humans. Over time, the cartilage that cushions joints wears down and bones start rubbing against each other. As the condition progresses, the friction can wear down and damage the bones themselves. This kind of arthritis is most common and causes the most pain in the weight-bearing joints like the shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, and ankles.

Osteoarthritis is a common, but under-recognized condition in senior cats.  The signs are often subtle, and can can be hard to distinguish – cats can’t complain about their aching joints, so all that pet owners see is a response to pain.   Cats with arthritis might avoid the activities they used to enjoy, some may become depressed or change their eating habits, others may simply seem grumpier than usual.  Since these symptoms can also indicate other very serious problems, a veterinary visit is imperative to ensure proper diagnosis.

There is no cure for arthritis, but it can be managed holistically: 

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements such as Cosequin and omega-3-fatty acids can be useful in cats with mild to moderate disease. 
  • Adjust your cat’s environment – add steps or ramps to allow easier access to favorite sleeping areas, use litter boxes with a low entry for easy access and high sides for cats that can no longer sqat, use a fine consistency litter that’s easier on the paws.
  • Manage obesity to reduce additional stress on your cat’s joints.
  • Gently massage the large muscles around joints if your cat will tolerate it.
  • Acupuncture can be an affective treatment if your cat tolerates the visits to the acupuncturists’s office and the needles.
  • I’ve found Reiki to be a wonderful modality to help alleviate the pain and stiffness that can come with arthritis, especially in advanced cases when massage can be too painful. 
  • I recently started Amber, who has some mild arthritis in her hindlegs, on a Flower Essence Blend called “Run and Play.”  She seems to be a bit more playful since I started her on it, so I’m going to keep going with it. 
  • For severe cases, your veterinarian can prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medications.

By being aware of subtle changes in your cat and making the necessary adjustments, arthritis does not need to become a debilitating condition, and you can do much to keep your arthritic cat comfortable.

An Interview with Dawn Kairns, Author of “Maggie: The Dog Who Changed My Life”

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It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Dawn Kairns, the author of Maggie:  The Dog Who Changed My Life.

This book is a deeply moving story of the powerful connection between the author and her soulmate dog Maggie. This kind of a relationship tends to happen only once in a lifetime, and those of us who have been fortunate enough to share such a special relationship with an animal will find ourselves going down our own memory lane as we savor this book. Maggie enriched the author’s life in ways she never could have imagined when she took that little black Lab puppy home with her. Maggie’s joyful exuberant spirit touches all who come into contact with her. Maggie opens the author’s heart and teaches her about trusting her intuition and listening with her heart. Interspersed with well-researched information about pet health care and advice on how to deal with the grieving process following the loss of a pet, this book shows us that animals are so much more than just pets. They are spiritual beings who are on this planet to teach us about joy.

Please join me in welcoming Dawn Kairns to The Conscious Cat!

Dawn, “Maggie” is your first book.  How did you become a writer?

Writing was always a natural way for me to express myself, really, even as a child.  When I felt my parents didn’t understand me, I wrote letters to express my feelings in ways I couldn’t always do verbally. I had a diary, of course! I have written informally in journals for years, more as a spiritual and personal growth practice. In my 30s I began the practice of writing all of my dreams in notebooks.
   I did write and have published several articles in nursing and health journals when I was an R.N. and as a family nurse practitioner. After Maggie died, I began writing articles about dog behavior, and of course began my book in her honor, even though in those first days after Maggie died, I didn’t realize I was starting a book. I was merely writing everything I could remember about her as a way to cope with my grief. It was only over the next several months that I decided to turn my writings about my life with Maggie into a book.  It was in that time that I knew my writing needed some work, and I took a course through the Institute for Children’s Literature. But I think it was in the writing, editing, and re-editing of Maggie that I found my voice as a writer.

What was the process of writing about Maggie like for you?

Writing about Maggie was a Godsend after she died. It was the way I stayed most connected with her; it is what got me through those first excruciating days. I loved the writing of it, and the editing of it less so because I had to be more objective.

What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?

I have several hopes for readers. I hope readers will begin to look at dogs/animals as equal or different beings, not lesser than or below humans, to see them as the incredible spiritual beings of light that they are; I hope readers will open themselves to the sixth sense communication our animals are capable of if they don’t already recognize that their animals are capable of reading their thoughts.
   My hope is for readers to trust their intuition with their pets even if their inner voice is in disagreement with an expert’s diagnoses. No one knows our pets like we do and I want readers to trust themselves enough to advocate for their pets with their veterinarians.
    I really want readers to question commercial pet food and recognize its potential role in the health problems many of our pets develop; I want them to explore alternative diets such as balanced home-cooked foods and healthier, holistic pet foods with meat ( not meat byproducts) as the primary ingredient, and with minimal or no carbohydrates.
   I want readers to become aware of the messages their dreams can hold for them; and to recognize that they, too, probably have clairvoyant dreams but may just not be aware of it.
   Finally, I want those suffering from that deep pain of losing a cherished pet to feel understood and supported in their grief, and that yes, it can be as bad as or even worse than losing a loved human. I want them to know that intense pain will ease in time and they will love again.

In your book, you share the emotional toll Maggie’s diagnosis took on you.  What was most difficult for you during that time? 

The most difficult part for me after learning Maggie’s diagnosis was that I simply couldn’t begin to imagine her not being in my life – we were so much a part of each of our souls. (Even as I speak these words, tears come from the memory of that deep connection, even though it’s been 8 years since she passed!) What made it harder was that I felt some part of me had known she had cancer and I hadn’t honored my intuition, and that I was losing Maggie several years earlier than I otherwise may have.

How did you deal with the many challenges such a diagnosis brings? 

Maggie’s cancer was pretty advanced by the time she was correctly diagnosed. She was a dog so full of life that doing anything at this point to compromise her aliveness, such as radiation and its side effects, was not a choice we were comfortable with. What seemed most important to both my husband and I were making Maggie’s remaining days as loving and quality as possible, and spending as much fun time together as possible.

Do you have any tips for others who are faced with a cancer diagnosis for their pet? 

First, I want to talk prevention. So many things about whether or not our pet gets cancer are out of our hands, like genetic and environmental causes, but the diet we feed our pets is one element we can control. My first tip is to really educate yourself about pet nutrition and feed a diet of whole, quality foods (this can include a high-quality pet food) to support your pet’s immune system and overall health, rather than feed a highly processed, even veterinary recommended commercial brand.
   Once a cancer diagnosis is given for your pet, I would definitely research and explore all of your “traditional’ treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation depending on the age of your pet. Know who you are and who your dog is and what choices you can and can’t live with. Occasionally, a surgery can be “curative” (three years without recurrence is common with thyroid cancer if caught in the nodular stage) as it very possibly would have been in Maggie’s case had she been diagnosed correctly. Some of my reading has suggested that chemotherapy in animals does not have the negative effects that it often does in humans. Talk to cancer experts, including an animal oncologist and organizations like the Morris Animal Foundation and Canine Cancer Research who devote themselves to finding cures for cancer.
    If you choose to do surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation with your pet, I encourage alternative treatment modalities to support your animal’s natural healing abilities. These can include Reiki therapy, acupuncture, Tellington Touch, and massage therapy. I recommend these complementary modalities even if you choose not to do surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, as they support your animals’ overall sense of well-being and health. At this point I’d seek out a vet or practitioner with a vibrational medicine approach to work with the energy frequencies of the health issue.
   Finally, be sure you get the support you need because the grief process can begin the moment your pet is diagnosed with cancer. Nurture yourself with the type of body and energy therapies I recommended for your pet. Turn to loving, supportive friends and family.  Create quiet and alone time to feel what’s going on in to listen within. Spend as much quality time as you can with your pet.

Who or what inspires you?

Oh, so many things inspire me!  Animals inspire me in their glorious presence and unconditional love. Nature is one of my greatest inspirations: hiking through the heart of the mountains and hearing and seeing her streams, meadows of wildflowers, hummingbirds, songbirds, the breathing in and out of the ocean, a sunrise, a sunset! Synchronicity  and messages from the other side inspire me. People helping people, people helping animals, animals helping people, animals helping animals – these all inspire me.
   I know I can’t possibly name all the people who have inspired me in my life, but to name a few, I’ll start with my father, Oprah Winfrey, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, & Wayne Dyer.

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?

At my library presentation earlier this month in Parker, Colorado, it was the way the audience came into their hearts and opened up with their own stories during my book presentation of Maggie: the dog who changed my life; and the way most of them stayed seated even when my presentation was finished. I experienced once again how speaking of our animals magically brings people to a level of genuine being with themselves and each other, a place no one is in a hurry to walk away from.

Are you planning on writing another book?

I do have an idea for a next book, but no immediate plans to start it as I am still pretty busy with MAGGIE!

What are you reading at the moment?

It’s always been hard for me to read just one book at a time, so I have several going: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, Handbook for the Soul edited by Richard Carlson & Benjamin Shield, & The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle awaits me on my nightstand, but I don’t dare start it yet!

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Dawn!

Thank you, Ingrid, for your time and interest in my journey with MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life!

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You can learn more about Dawn and her book on her website and on her blog, Dawn Kairns and Maggie the Dog .

Father’s Day Reflections

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Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! 

My dad passed away five years ago.  While our relationship was complicated at times, I always knew that he loved me, and I have lots of wonderful memories of him.  His life was shaped to a great extent by his experiences during World War II in Germany, and as a result of experiencing so much loss at such a young age, he held those he loved close to him – at times, too close for a daughter who wanted to spread her wings and fly from the nest!   

He instilled in me my love of nature – some of my earliest and fondest memories are of long walks in the woods and parks near our home.  He taught me the names of all the flowers, trees, butterflies and animals we’d encounter on those walks.  He loved the Alps – his happiest times were spent hiking those beautiful mountains.  The photo above is of a town in Austria where we spent many childhood vacations. 

He worked hard at a job he didn’t enjoy all that much to provide for my mother and me.  We were by no means rich, but he always made me feel like we were.  He loved to travel, and after taking early retirement, for the next nine years, he and my mother traveled extensively.  He especially enjoyed his travels in the Western part of the United States – every Western movie he’d ever seen came to life for him there.  He would talk about those trips for years to come. 

He had a difficult time dealing with my mother’s death, and his life contracted again.  He didn’t enjoy traveling by himself, and other than his annual visit to the United States, he stayed close to home.  When he became ill with prostate cancer, I wasn’t sure he would want to fight – but he surprised me.  He wanted to live, and he survived.  Then he decided that it was time to make a lifelong dream come true.  He sold his home of forty years almost overnight, and bought a condo in the Black Forest, where he spent the last two years of his life in an environment that he loved.   Having been a life-long worrier, he learned to live in the moment and “appreciate each flower and each butterfly,” as he once told me.  He passed away after a short illness, and knowing how happy he was the last two years of his life was a great comfort to me.

If you still have your father, tell him that you love him today.  My dad had a long, sometimes difficult, but ultimately good life, and I miss his physical presence in my life.  His spirit is never far from me.

Book Review: “Probable Claws” by Clea Simon

probable_claws_145I love reading murder mysteries that feature cats, and this series is one of my favorites.  “Probable Claws” is the fourth in the series, the other three are “Mew is for Murder“, “Cattery Row” and “Cries and Whiskers“.  All feature cat and rock and roll loving freelance writer Theda Krakow and her black and white tuxedo cat Musetta.

In “Probable Claws”, Theda finds herself the prime suspect for the murder of a shelter veterinarian, with Musetta as the only witness to what really happened.  Theda is released on bail thanks to the connections of her former cop boyfriend Bill.  Now she has to find the real killer before she and Musetta become the next victims.

The plot is exceptionally well-crafted, the characters are multi-dimensional and likeable, and you find yourself wanting to savor the story while at the same time wanting to race to the finish to find out who did it. 

You might want to consider reading the entire series from start to finish.  One of the things I enjoyed about all four books, almost more than the actual plot lines, was the character development.  By the time you’re into the second book, you feel like you’re reconnecting with old friends.  I sure hope that “Probable Claws” won’t be the last in this series.

The Senior Cat Wellness Visit

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Regular veterinary exams are important at any age, but they become even more important as your cat ages.  Typically, veterinarians recommend annual exams for healthy pets up to age 6 or 7.  There is some controversy in the profession regarding the frequency of exams in younger cats, but most experts agree that even healthy senior cats should be examined at 6-month intervals.  This is important because:

  • Many disease conditions begin to develop in cats in middle age.
  • Health changes in cats can occur very quickly, and cats age faster than humans.
  • Cats are masters at masking disesase and by the time symptoms appear, they can present as acutely ill.
  • Cat parents may not always recognize the existence or importance of sublte changes, especially in multi-cat households.
  • Early detection of disease results in easier management and better quality of life.

A typical senior wellness visit will include the following:

  • Obtaining information from the cat’s person  regarding any behavior changes, changes in activity or litter box habits, changes in eating or drinking, current diet and supplements, and more.
  • A thorough physical exam that includes checking weight, skin and haircoat quality, oral cavity, ears, eyes, thyroid gland palpitation, listening to the heart, abdominal palpitation, checking of joints and muscle tone.
  • Bloodwork to check a complete bloodcount, chemistry screen and thyroid profile.  For more information about why bloodwork is so important, read “Bloodwoork For Your Pet:  What It Means and Why Your Pet Needs It.” 
  • Urinalysis to assess kidney function and bladder health.

Senior Feline Care Guidelines

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The American Association of Feline Practitioners has completed an updated version of the Senior Care Guidelines.  The guidelines will be published in the September issue of The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.  They address a broad range of issues including medical, behavioral and lifestyle considerations and will help veterinarians deliver consistent high quality care for older cats.  I’ll be sharing some of the highlights from these guidelines over the next weeks to help you make informed decisions about care for your own cats.

While there is no specific age at which a cat becomes a “senior” since individual animals age at different rates, the AAFP uses the following definitions:  “mature or middle-aged” (7-10 years), “senior” (11-14 years), and “geriatric” (15+ years).  The guidelines use the term “senior” to include all of these age groups.

The guidelines address the recommended frequency of wellness visits, the minimum database of lab values such as bloodwork and urinalysis that should be obtained at each visit, routine wellness care, nutrition and weight management, dental care, anesthesia and the special needs of the older cat, and monitoring and managing specific diseases.

The guidelines are dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jim Richards, the famed “kitty doctor” and former director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2007.  Two of his favorite quotes were “Cats are masters at hiding illness” and “Age is not a disease.”

Look for more information on the Senior Care Guidelines in future posts.

How to Shift Your Mood in an Instant

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About a month ago, I talked about how making a conscious decision to get happy can really make a difference in how we feel and how we approach our life.   But some days, our mood and energetic vibration just seem to be such that even getting to the place where we can make that decision can be a bit of a stretch.

For those days, it helps to have a ready list of thoughts, images and actions that can help to shift your mood and vibration almost instantly.  You can’t think of something beautiful or someone you really love and not feel better.  Picture a place where you’ve always felt good in the past, and just thinking about that place will change your mood.  Put on a beautiful piece of music and your vibration will change.

Here are some of my “vibration shifters:”

  • Watching Amber sleep in her sunny spot.
  • Amber’s purr.
  • Listening to music – depending on what mood I’m trying to change, it can be anything from symphonic power metal to Jimmy Buffett. 
  • Imagining myself walking along the beach at sunrise.
  • Reading a favorite passage in a favorite book.
  • Ice cream – preferably Ben and Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough or Cherry Garcia.

Just writing these down shifted my energy into a better feeling place.  What are your mood shifters?

 

Book Review: “Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog” by Ted Kerasote

Today’s book review is about one of the best dog books I ever read, “Merle’s Door:  Lessons from a Freethinking Dog” by Ted Kerasote.  I think cat lovers will enjoy this book just as much as dog lovers – and there is a cat in the book as well!

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Books about dogs are everywhere – from understanding and training them to stories about them.  But no other book presents the unique blend of being both a moving love story between a dog and his human, and fascinating and well-researched information about how dogs think, communicate, and interact with their world.

The story begins when Merle, a big, reddish dog, appears out of nowhere near the San Juan River, where Ted Kerasote, a well-known nature writer, is on a rafting trip.  Merle chooses Ted as his human, and Ted takes Merle home to Wyoming.  Thus begins a 13-year relationship built on that initial freedom of choice for both dog and man – a choice that enriched both their lives in ways neither of them could have imagined. 

What follows is the story of a deep and balanced human-animal bond.  This is a relationship based on equality and freedom – Kerasote never subjects Merle to his wishes, but always offers him choices.  The door, a real dog door that Kerasote installs for Merle, becomes a metaphor for the opening of a whole new way of looking at how dogs view the world.  It shows how dogs, if given the opportunity to utilize their innate intelligence, can become fully realized beings with their own emotions, interests and thoughts, rather than the eternal puppies so many pet dogs turn into.

The door metaphor also extends to what the book really is – a love story.  It symbolizes the opening to loving fully.  Heart-touching, funny, moving and absorbing, it takes the reader on the 13-year journey of Merle and Ted’s relationship.  If you’re not weeping by the end of the journey, your heart is made of stone.  No matter how many times I’ve read the book, I still cry at the end. 

The book is packed full of interesting facts about dogs, from the latest research on wolves to explaining how sharing leadership with your dog, rather than treating him as your subordinate, can help create happier and healthier canine companions.  It is a must read for any animal lover – it will change the way you look at how animals communicate and deepen the bond with your own canine companion.

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