Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Drool Too Two

As you may recall, our last visit to the Drool Zone promised more watery discussion. So, without any more delay, let's explore why dogs drool.

Remember Pavlov's dog? Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov was attempting to prove conditioned reflex by showing a dog some meat while ringing a bell. The dog drooled because his mouth anticipated eating the meat. Automatically the dog's mouth produced the juice to aid in digestion.

Eventually, the dog would salivate upon hearing only the bell. Pavlov figured people had the same tendencies, not so much drooling, but the conditioned reflex stuff. Had Pavlov done his experiments with humans rather than dogs, the volume of spit would have been more difficult to measure and Pavlov may not have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1904.

As we know, dogs have more reservoirs of saliva available to them than people do. This is why we notice the drool factor in dogs that leads to the distressing appearance of glumps of spit on walls and assorted other surfaces in the home.

What is most fascinating to observe drool wise, is when the drool becomes thickened and hangs from the dog's jowls. This strand of saliva has the remarkable ability to stretch, sometimes to great lengths. Then this string swings precariously. You may chase it with a dishcloth hoping to catch it before it lands somewhere but it is difficult to predict its sticky trajectory. This phenomenon is known as the Pendulum of Yuck.

Bon appetit.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Save the Cookies

Christmas offers a lovely excuse to bake cookies to share and enjoy. The other day, after some merry baking, I'd just finished bagging up some cookies to give. There were several left so I arranged them attractively on a pretty plate with a holly design. Strolling jauntily, humming a holiday tune, I headed to the dining room to display the cookies in the fancy cake dish.

Then I tripped. On the way down I did a one quarter turn- no doubt it was an unconscious desperate attempt to save the cookies. The cookies and the gorgeous holly plate took flight from my left hand. I landed on my right side, my arm pinned under me. My shoulder absorbed most of the force. It hurt a lot. I lay there thinking: please don't be a rotator cuff injury.

The cookies were strewn on the rug. How fortunate that I'd vacuumed the day before. The dog hair will be at a minimum. I sat up and noted that the beautiful holly plate appeared unharmed. My husband appeared. "Oh my God!" he said. "Are you alright?"

"Yes, yes." I pointed at the cookie carnage. "Save the cookies!"

As he gathered the broken cookies and reassembled them on the festive holly plate, our dogs drew near. They had been silently watching this little drama and wanted a part of the unexpected bounty. Like hyenas circling ever closer to a lion's kill, they moved in. A glare from this wounded lioness convinced them to retreat. My husband placed the damaged cookies on the resplendent holly plate in the cake dish.

"OK. Go ahead." I told the dogs. A few Shortbread crumbs wouldn't hurt them. Cookies are made to be enjoyed and shared.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Don't Eat the Poinsettias

At this festive time of year, let us be alert to everyday dangers!

The following are common poisons that your pet is likely to encounter.

1. Accidental ingestion of medications.
2. Rodenticides (rat poison)
3. Methylanthine toxicity (Chocolate)
4. Plant poisoning
5. Household chemicals
6. Metaldehyde (slug bait)
7. Insecticide
8. Heavy Metals (lead and zinc coins)
9. Toad poisoning (buffa toad Florida)
10. Antifreeze
11. Walnut poisoning
12. Alcohol
13. Strychine

(List compiled by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.)

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 1-800-548-2423

For classes and/Pet First Aid booklet visit:

for further information on general pet care

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Customer Service with a Patronizing Touch

As did presumably all other addressees served by the Royal Oak Post Office, I received a letter a couple days ago. It was from Jeff Helmuth, Postmaster.

The Letter read: "Dear Postal Customer,

The United States Postal Service is determined not to have a repeat of last year's record number of accidents caused by snow and icy conditions.

It will be necessary for you to remove the ice and snow from your steps sidewalks and porches within 24 hours of each snowfall. If conditions are unsafe, carriers are instructed to suspend delivery and bring the mail back to the Post Office.

Your carrier strives for complete customer satisfaction and this includes daily delivery of your mail. Please assist your carrier in staying healthy and safe this winter. "

I don't know how everybody feels about this, but I'll bet I'm not the only one who is offended. You can just see Jeff the Postmaster shaking his finger as he orders you to clear your snow now! Accidents in wintry weather are all your fault! Shame shame double shame!

Can you imagine if you received such a letter from FedEx or UPS? You'd stop using their service and switch to a company that treats you with respect. When an organization thinks they are superior to the customer and lets it show- than the customers leave. Could it be, that more customers would leave if the Postal Service was not a government entity?

My mail was delivered a few minutes ago. My carrier isn't talking on the phone or smoking a cigarette. She is focused on delivering the mail to the houses on her route. She is wearing rugged walking boots, a warm coat, gloves and a hat. In other words, dressed for the weather and her job. Evidently my property was adequately clean of treacherous ice because the mail carrier placed the mail in the mailbox and departed in a vertical manner.

No doubt Postmaster Jeff has noticed that weather conditions occur. Here we are in southeast Michigan and it is December. A few days ago we had rain. Then the temperature dropped to below freezing. Then it snowed. Then the sun shone. Then overnight the temperature dropped to the teens. This makes for challenging clean up to prepare for those who deliver in rain and sleet and dark of -what was that slogan again? Notice they don't use it anymore.

I sincerely hope that nobody slips and falls out there in the dangerous outside. Meanwhile, we grown ups do the best we can to clear a safe path for all. We do it even if we are not told to by a government bureaucrat.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bubba the Cat

Some cats live a wild life. Literally. They are just as wild as the squirrels or the sparrows or the skunks. Feral cats are the offspring of domestic cats that have, shall we say, run away from home. Feral cats also come from non neutered house cats that are allowed to roam and impregnate wild cats. Some feral cats live in colonies.

There was one such colony in my own neighborhood, one street over. A bunch of cats lived in an unused garage. Who knows how many. Dozens? Hundreds? It's tempting to say, so what? Cats have just as much right to live as raccoons or bumblebees. Sure they do. But here's the thing. These wild cats must eat. Among other things, this threatens the songbird population. In fact, one day I saw a wild cat with a baby rabbit in it's mouth right under my backyard bird feeder. You may say, this is good. Keep the varmint population in check. I say, that's what hawks are for.

Feral cats use my flower beds as their toilet. Nobody comes up behind them with a plastic bag to pick it up, the way I do with my dogs. And if I let my dogs run wild and mate willy nilly, there would be complaints from the neighbors. All I'm saying is, that all cat owners need to be responsible for their pets. If they were, there would be no feral cats.

But this is about Bubba. Let's talk about Bubba. About four years ago a wild litter of cats was born. One of these kittens was a black and white boy with green eyes. A nice lady took this kitten in and her young son named him Bubba. The boy loved Bubba and wanted to hold him and pet him and overall, treat him like a house cat. Though Bubba seemed to tolerate this good fortune, he escaped the first chance he got. He was found and coaxed close enough to be grabbed and returned to his luxurious prison. You guessed it, he escaped again. And again. Each time it was more difficult to recapture Bubba.

The boy's mother actually camped out in front of my house one night in hopes of spotting Bubba and returning him to caring captivity. Bubba was having none of it. He was born wild and chose to live wild.

Bubba is fairly long lived for a feral cat. After four, or is it five years now? I still see him now and then, under a car in a driveway or walking down the sidewalk. How does he live? Kindly folks put cat food on their back porches. Does Bubba supplement his diet with songbirds and garbage picking? How many children do you suppose he has sired by now?

For more information on feral cats:
feral cat allies-
for facebook users:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Caution: Drool Zone

Anyone who has ever experienced a Newfoundland or Saint Bernard up close has noticed that things tend to be particularly moist. All dogs drool, of course, but some dogs have a style of mouth that flows more freely.

A dog's saliva lubricates food to help move it down the throat, much like it does in the human mouth. The sub lingual gland runs just below the bottom teeth with openings for oozing saliva from front to back. Keeping supplies of the wet stuff is no problem, in both man and beast there are also salivary glands behind the throat (parotid) and below the cheek (mandibular). Dogs have extra water power with a gland under the eyes (zygomatic).

What makes some dogs's faces seem extra damp is mostly due to lip style. The looser the lips are the more liquid can drip out. With so many breeds of dogs, come variety in head shape, jaw and teeth structure, coat type, etc. So it's no surprize that there are different lip types.

Notice, for instance, the difference between a Bull Terrier's lips and a Bullmastiff's lips. Lips are the fleshy areas that surround the mouth cavity, they tend to be a different color than the other skin. In dogs the lips may be less noticeable because the muzzle surrounds and sometimes over shadows the lips. Some dogs have a hanging muzzle like a Bloodhound, you have to search for the lips. In a stubby muzzle, like a Pug's, the lower lip is obvious but the upper lip in obscured by the muzzle. A Borzoi's smooth tapering style muzzle leaves the lips easy to see.

The skin that hangs from the muzzle around the lips is called the flew. The flew is that flap of skin that is able to fling spittle with a shake of the head.

Size matters too. A Boxer has pretty loose lips but so does Mastiff. And bigger dogs have bigger mouths and bigger glands. The better to soak you with the old head in your lap trick.

Just why do dogs drool? Stay tuned. In the next installment of Drool Theater we'll visit the Pendulum of Yuck.