Today Roxy went for her annual vet visit – a wellness exam, according to the bill. And she is indeed well, even earning ‘dog of the day’ status for not freaking out during the exam or booster shot. We left with precautionary dewormer and preventative flea treatment (it’s going to be another hot summer). It got me thinking about how the concept of a good dog owner has changed over the years.
It seems more complicated than it did when I was a kid. Our vet wasn’t too concerned with shots, beyond the puppy years. Kids and dogs wandered all around the neighbourhood and if someone had said dogs didn’t belong in the playground, even adults would have laughed. We fed the dogs whatever dog food was sold at the grocery store, gave them scraps from the table, and tastes of whatever we happened to be eating. They got flea baths or flea collars every summer, but they didn’t go to a groomer unless they were show dogs. All the dogs in our neighbourhood seemed none the worse for wear.
These days, you have to be more careful – choosing food that you can be sure was made with safe ingredients, visiting the groomer at least a few times during the year, keeping them on leash and out of playgrounds, and scheduling check ups, tooth cleaning, and booster shots with the vet.
I’m not particularly nostalgic for the old days, but I do think there should be places for dogs to run off leash and times (realistically, short times) when they can shed the perfectly-groomed-city-dog look and get as muddy and messy and smelly as they please.
And there are also ways we could be doing even better:
We’ve stopped sending biodegradable food scraps to the landfill, so it’s probably time to stop dumping biodegradable dog waste there, too. The most environmentally friendly options are pick up by dog composting companies or simply flushing it down the toilet. (But don’t send your cat’s waste down the toilet – even after treatment, it’s still toxic to ocean life.) The biodegradable bags, unfortunately, have to go to the dump, where they probably won’t break down very quickly. There are plenty of other ways you can be an eco-friendly pet owner, too.
Keep your dog, and everyone else’s pets, protected by keeping their vaccinations up to date and using preventative flea and tick treatments. Ticks are on the rise worldwide and some vets are now recommending year-round protection against them.
It’s important to have your dog tattooed or chipped, sure, but you should also get them licensed. It doesn’t just mean avoiding a fine if they get picked up by animal control, it also means getting a more accurate census of the number of dogs in the city, which can translate to more city resources being allocated to amenities for dogs and their owners.
Don’t support puppy mills – get a dog from a well-respected breeder, or better yet, adopt one from a shelter. Then, make sure they are spayed or neutered when the time comes.
If you live in a potential disaster zone, as overdue-for-an-earthquake Vancouverites do, make sure you have a disaster kit for your dog, alongside the ones I know you are not procrastinating about making for the human members of your family.
And don’t forget to support the folks in your community doing good work on behalf of the canines in our community. Donate, volunteer, recommend – those shelters and rehabilitation centres, along with dog advocacy groups, could use your support.