Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Basic Human and Canine Needs .... (Part 2): Health

My distant ancestors foraged for their food in the wild and did a large amount of scavenging. I do both, not out of necessity. Scatology and coprophagia are grand words related to poop, the consumption of which is a favourite pastime of most Labrador Retrievers. Missus and Mister think it's not good for my health, but if they can eat Belgian chocolates for pleasure, then I can indulge in a decent bit of confectionery of my own. It is a fact that chocolate (especially with a high cocoa content) can cause major organ failure in a dog, just as eating the leavings of foxes and cats could easily cause major organ failure in Missus and Mister. 

Health is all about balance. As with humans, if dogs eat too much of the wrong food, it gives them digestive problems, weight issues, dull coats, bad breath, plaque on their teeth, weak hearts, creaky joints, and behavioural problems. A healthy diet saves on the veterinary bills, but need not exclude a few interesting morsels.   

Whilst on the subject of veterinary bills, I can think of one that Missus should have refused to pay. I'm referring to a consultation with locum vet,Tim Meanie, in which he gave me my 12-week vaccinations, tortured me by firing a microchip into my back, and then told Missus that, in order to keep me in prime health, she must feed me only on complete food (preferably the expensive prescription variety he sold) and nothing else. I'd like to see him just living on biscuits for his entire life. Fancy charging anyone money for that sort of treatment and bad advice. 

My regular vet, Clarissa, is far more understanding. She even has a tin with tasty snacks in her cupboard, to dispense to her best-behaved patients. Apart from this, I am forever in her debt, as she saved my life when I was a year old, after a dog resembling a large shaggy wolf bit me, and Clarissa had to drain the pus out of an abscess as large as a tennis ball from my tummy. 

Mister once calculated how much I cost a year to feed and keep in good health. I can't remember the exact figure he arrived at, but it wasn't nearly as much as he cost. There's my holistic complete food, which is free of GMOs, additives, artificial flavourings, wheat, and soya, and is half the price of the food recommended by Tim Meanie. Other expenses related to my health include vaccinations, worming tablets, flea treatments, occasional ear treatment, and twice-yearly nail clipping. 

Exercise is also an extremely important part of my health. This involves a walk in the park, where I chase balls and socialise with my friends, working-out in the woods chasing squirrels and foraging, runs up on the Downs, which sometimes includes a swim and splash in the dew pond, mad dashes around the garden and break-dancing off the fences in pursuit of foxes and cats, indoor games with balls, soft toys, and the occasional tug-of-war with Mister or with my adopted brother, 'Pack-bro' when he's home from University. Missus doesn't do tug-of-war; her shoulders and her thumb joints aren't up to such a vigorous challenge, as she spends too much time on her PC for her musculoskeletal system to be in optimum condition. 

Missus isn't so weak that she can't find the strength to give me a vigorous groom once or twice a week. Mister reckons she enjoys carrying out the groom as much as I enjoy receiving it. I sometimes find it so relaxing, it sends me to sleep, and, when I wake up, I find I'm as as shiny as a polished conker. I'll leave describing the mechanics of my groom for my next post, which will be dedicated wholly to the subject of rest and sleep.

But one last thing before I sign out. Returning to the subject of Tim Meanie: he would make a wonderful character in a Science Fiction novel - the man in a white coat in a secret laboratory who plunges needles into aliens, microchips them, feeds them on complete dry food, and then classifies them as a hostile species when they try to defend themselves... 

I didn't tell you that bit, did I?  When he microchipped me, I let out a blood-curdling shriek and nibbled him with my little puppy teeth. And you know what he said? You should watch that dog, it's a biter. Me, a biter? I'm the softest, soppiest, most loving Labrador Retriever that ever walked the face of this earth. So you'd aliens better watch the likes of Tim Meanie, as he's a very bad judge of character.    

Come on, Missus, get writing ...You never know, Tim Meanie might be the inspiration behind a best seller. 



Saturday, 16 July 2011

Basic Human and Canine Needs .... (Part 1): Food

When the famous psychologist, Abraham Maslow designed his hierarchy of  human needs, he forgot to mention that the first three levels of his pyramid were also applicable to dogs.

If you live with an author, it is your absolute duty to make sure she attends to the first level: her most basic physiological needs of health, food, and sleep.

With regard to the subject of food, making sure your author eats is not an entirely altruistic act on your part. You need feeding, too, and everything of an edible nature in a house is locked up, shut away, or put out of reach of dogs.

My author, named Missus, has a tendency to become one with her computer - so much so, that I'm afraid  she may one day disappear into one of the fantasy worlds she's creating, and not return. Mister and I have two things in common, we both like our food and we don't like being ignored for too long.

My various ploys to getting fed have varied over time:

As a puppy, I used to scrabble at Missus's legs, whine, and, if all else failed, get under her office chair and wheel her across the wooden floor to her door. On a few occasions, I even managed to depress the lever under the chair's seat and let it down. This last one wasn't popular with Missus, as it nearly caused her to  wipe some important work off the computer. 

Now I'm older, I start staring at her back very hard when I think it's feeding time. Unfortunately for Missus, as I was born during British Summertime, my dog clock is set to that time, which means that in winter I begin staring at her an hour earlier than I should do. If she fails to sense my eyes upon her, I wait until she looks away from the computer to pick up a reference book, or answer the phone, and then I dash across the room to nudge her elbow, leap up and down, thump her with squeaky toys, and generally hassle her. Quite often she says, 'Wait a minute' or 'It's not time yet', and proceeds to keep me hanging on in there for another hour or two.

If all else fails, I make sure to tell tales on her to Mister the moment he walks in the door. I run around him in circles, as well as backwards and forwards between front door and food cupboard. He is most sympathetic and asks me if Missus is starving me.

It is particularly hard persuading Missus to eat lunch when Mister isn't at home to nag her. She completely forgets about the clock, or just doesn't want to leave off what she is writing - not even to give me my lunchtime biscuit and, if I'm lucky, a tomato or a tiny square of goat's cheese.

Sometimes she eats lunch so late it's nearly teatime, and she makes do with a slice of toast to keep her going until she has her cup of tea and home-made cake an hour later with Mister. Home-made cake is one of my allowed treats: a small corner off Missus's flapjack or Victoria Sponge. There are other treats, too, but I'll dedicate a whole post to that subject later.

One advantage to belonging to an author - or, rather an author belonging to you - is that she works from home, so at least that puts a dog in with a chance of food during the day. An added plus for me is that Missus hates going out shopping. This means that she orders all our food on line. A big box arrives once a month containing all my supplies, and a delivery arrives from the supermarket every week containing all the other supplies. I've even discovered that one of the delivery men has dog biscuits in his pockets. 

I always assist Missus putting the food away in the fridge and cupboards, just so I can check out which of my favourites are amongst them. I also assist Missus in the kitchen when she's preparing food, an activity which I'll enlarge upon during my promised post about treats.

But enough for now, as I see we're in danger of slipping past lunchtime - and on this occasion it's my fault...