Posts Tagged ‘Raja the World Traveler’

Vail is for the Travel Dogs!

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Raja just came back from his ski trip to Vail, Colorado.  Basically, we’d like to say, Vail is totally for the dogs and Raja sure wasn’t the only travel dog on that mountain. 

Eric and Alonzo, suitably snow-suited.

Meet Alonzo, the Portuguese Water Dog.  Alonzo is a snowbird in winter and a sunbird in summer.  Between November and April, when he’s not snow suited up and hanging out slope-side, Alonzo can be found in the Minturn Tune Shop, about 10 minutes outside Vail Village, helping his family Eric and Gel in their ski and snowboard shop.  A Portuguese Water Dog completely fits Eric and Gel’s lifestyle.  Hardy and gentle (say “cookie” and he’ll smile for the camera), Alonzo loves water, frozen or sloshing.  Between May and October, he travels to assist at the Rehoboth Beach Surf Shop in Delaware to help with surfing lessons and play in the water.  Gel and Eric never go anywhere without Alonzo; they even ski separately so he’s never lonely.  (Raja completely approves.) 

Candice and Bernie, stylish snowbirds.

This stylish pair are Bernie with Candice.  Bernie is a Beagle Mix from Texas, but he also does the reverse snowbird flight up to Vail in the winter to visit his doting Grandparents.  On a walking tour of elegant and rustic Vail Village, Bernie is wearing a stylish plaid town coat and is beautifully accessorized.  Looking on from behind, Raja says two paws up for Candice’s protecting her little cowboy from the sudden cold of the north.  When travel dogs travel, changes in climate hit them suddenly.  Just as we put on our ski clothes and hats, traveling dogs need the same consideration we give ourselves. 

Raja, cozy apres ski.

Raja is also keeping warm while rocking the trapper hat trend and relaxing (perhaps half snoozing) in Garfinkel’s Pub’s sunny deck après ski.   Do Vail restaurants all accept dogs?  Well, most do on the decks and a few gem-like ones invite dogs inside.  Garfinkel’s welcomes Raja every visit because… well… because it’s a happening place and saying dogs can’t come sit on the deck just isn’t very cool when you’re located right under the frosty Rocky Mountains where you can watch the sun go down behind the snow.  Garfinkle’s doesn’t have deck heaters, though.  So when you go, wear your trapper hat too! 

Raja and I aren’t saying good-bye to Vail yet.  Upcoming stories and our upcoming Dogster feature will tell you more about dog-loving Vail, Colorado!

THIS JUST IN: SHIH TZU RESCUE:  This little Shih Tzu three-year-old needs a ride from a shelter in Miami to a foster home in Pensacola this weekend (January 14-15).  Shih Tzu rescue will pay for gas and food on the road.  If any blog reader can

Patches needs a ride.

help out, please email Raja and me at

Button up Your Dog’s Overcoat: Taking Care in Flu Season

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

If it's ski season, then it's cold weather season for small dogs. Raja helps buy new gear.

Thanks to all the readers who emailed and posted in.  Raja will be delivering two cases of Blue Buffalo dog food to his local shelter before flying to Vail, Colorado for his ski week.  It’s dog flu season, so he’ll be protecting his immune system, in part, by taking coats, hats (yes dogs lose heat through their heads like people) and boots (right, the soles of the feet are a prime heat loss location and even the sled dogs wear boots… in fact the canine boot business began with the sled dogs of Alaska).  But I digress….

Canine Influenza was identified by the Center for Disease Control in 2005.  So it is a relatively new influenza, a serious problem for dogs only, not transferable to their humans.  If your dog displays the symptoms, don’t wait around.  You need a vet and Clavamox.  Thanks to Carol Mahler, RN and Shih Tzu specialist, I have the scoop on Canine Influenza and how antibiotics assist in dealing with this viral illness.

A mutation from a horse virus, canine influenza spreads between dogs and can even be spread through the human touch, dog to dog- so do not fondle every new dog you meet or pick up every product you see in the pet boutique and then pat your dog.  If you volunteer at a shelter, please wash your hands and change your clothes before greeting your own dog at home.

Symptoms include: sleepiness, lack of appetite, a runny nose and, finally, a cough.  Short nosed dogs may never get to the cough because their passages are so small, so don’t “wait and see.”  The virus itself weakens the system allowing secondary bacterial infections to thrive, which is where the Clavamox comes in.  The Clavamox combats the bacterial infections, rendering the viral infection weak and negligible.  This seemingly mild respiratory problem can progress to pneumonia, so too much “wait and see” can be dangerous.

Returning to winter warmth.  Yes, it is true that nobody catches a cold by being cold.  But challenges to the body, like sustained cold, can challenge the immune system.  Vail Valley, Colorado was hit last week by a wide spread human respiratory influenza- meaning even winter-hardy mountaineers can go down fast when a virus attacks.  Yes, dogs of long ago didn’t have coats, but dogs of today live much longer.  Protecting the body’s first line of defense- the skin and temperature maintenance- is part of dog longevity.

Raja and I want to wish everybody a happy, healthy New Year and lots of winter fun!  And next blog, we will tell you all about Raja’s adventures in the snowfields of the majestic American Rocky Mountains!!!!!!

Amazing Girl Scouts: Caroling for Animal Shelter Donations

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Wonderful NJ Girl Scouts Carol for the Animal Shelter


So busy during the Holidays… buying presents, going to parties, worrying about what to wear, hoping for special gifts, a little nagging worry in the back of the mind about parents and money.  Look what a troupe of wonderful Girl Scouts in New Jersey did… they took time from their busy lives to carol for donations to the local Animal Shelter!  

On Monday, a note in all mailboxes (perhaps they targeted dog loving homes?) on the proposed caroling route announced the Friday night event.  The shelters need: 

* food of all kinds (half opened bags are OK)

* used blankets, quilts and towels (clean please)

* pet toys (used-but- not-abused are OK)

* pet comfort products (paw cream, sweaters)                                                     

The girls showed up on time, sang “Jingle Bells” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”, took pictures with Raja, hugged all around and then whisked our bag of fleece throws and greenies into their following mini-van.   They next day, they dropped it all off and played with the shelter dogs. 

Aren’t they flat out wonderful?! 

So back to the list… technically these items can end up in the local shelter even if your local girl scouts have targeted other charities this season.  Just load them up and tote them over.  OK… please?  You know you’ll feel warm and fuzzy immediately after.

To keep you in the know about Raja’s Travel Dog Schedule: Raja will be spending the Holidays at home en famille and shortly thereafter he will go on his annual ski trip.  Where will he go to ski? For every blog fan who posts in a guess this week, we will donate one can of primo Blue Buffalo dog food to our local shelter.  Paw to heart, we promise.

Travel Dog Health Watch: Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

In your vet's loving care is where you want to be when you're feeling bad.

As most dog travelers know, tummy troubles go with the territory of travel, but as we have previously blogged, careful management of local foods and water along with added probiotics can pretty much prevent tummy trouble on the road.  Especially for dogs who enjoy the nomadic life. 

Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis (HGE), however, is serious tummy trouble and it can strike dogs on their home turf without warning.  While all dogs can and do get HGE, small dogs between the ages of 2 and 4 are the prime targets and, as we know, small dogs dehydrate fast. 

Symptoms of HGE are fairly horrible: sudden onslaught of bloody diarrhea and, sometimes, vomiting.  Dehydration can happen quickly and shock quickly follows. 

HGE is not the kind of stomach trouble that can be treated with canned pumpkin.  Your dog needs IV fluids with potassium and subcutaneous antibiotics NOW.  This is not an illness where you can watch and wait. Do not mop up the rug, but wrap your dog in a soft, warm towel and take her to the vet, or after hours, to the emergency vet service. 

Who knows what causes HGE!  A strange new food, anxiety, a bacterium, a virus, a parasite are causes that have been investigated, but thus far the cause of HGE is undetermined.  Your vet will diagnose HGE because of the symptoms as well as through the blood test that will reveal a high packed cell volume (PCV) of hemoglobin. 

Ask your vet to look for Coccidia, a parasite that causes the same symptoms and request a titer with the blood test to see about Parvo Virus (that has been cropping up in New Jersey and New York shelters), just to be safe.  (A titer is a test that measures the amount of antibodies in the blood.  High concentrations of antibodies to a certain virus mean your dog is usually immune.) 

Holiday times, like travel times, cause both good and bad stress for pets.  Both happiness and anxiety can affect the tummy similarly. 

Raja and I wish you Happiness and Health and Love and Peace this Holiday Season and Always!

Thankful Doggy Treat Recipes for Thanksgiving

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Is this all for me?!

You know on Thanksgiving your dog will be staring hard at that turkey.  He’s going to want some when everybody else is feasting.  But, to be honest, roast turkey can be a problematic meal for dogs.  The meat, as we prepare it in a roast, is rich and oily.  There are lots of small bones that hide as dark meat and are easy to miss.

Following are three doggy friendly, healthy and Raja approved Thanksgiving treat recipes that should keep the hound at bay.

Turkey Meatloaf for Doggies

Combine:  2 eggs, ½ cup oat bran, ¼ amaranth seed, ½ cup shredded carrots, ½ grated sweet potato, with one pound ground turkey and place in a greased 11” loaf pan.  Bake at 375 F for about an hour or until a meat thermometer reads 165 F internally.  Cool and serve cut into squares.

Turkey Leftover Hound Hash

Combine: ½ cup craisins (make sure the only ingredients on the bag are cranberries and cane sugar), ½ cup finely diced sweet potatoes, and ½ cup finely diced white potatoes and simmer gently in 1 ½ cup low sodium chicken broth until the potatoes are tender.

Combine with 2 cups diced white and dark meat (free of skin, small bones and cartilage), allow to marinate for a few minutes.  Serve in small, treat potions because this is a rich meal. *To cut up turkey meat, especially dark meat, for your dog, always cut small dice across the grain.  This method will help you detect the splintery leg bones in the thighs that look just like the meat itself.

Puppykin Muffin Treats

Combine ½ cup sugar (if you feel it’s OK to be a little bit bad sometimes- use raw sugar if it makes you feel better), ½ cup vegetable oil and mix well.  Add 3 eggs, mix well.  Add in 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (your own or canned, but if you make the puree yourself, use the roasting method so it’s thick and not watery) along with ½ cup low salt chicken broth.  Add in 1 ½ tsp aluminum-free baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, ¼ cup ground flax, ¼ cup oat bran and 3 cups whole wheat baking flour

Bake in greased muffin tin for 375 for about 15 minutes.  Alternately, you could make these as mini muffins (shorter cooking time, so mind the oven) for bite size treats.                                                    ***

Remember, dog allergies are thought to start when a dog is fed the same food consistently and redundantly.  Variety is the spice of life.  Moderation in all things creates balance.  (You can probably buy amaranth and flax seed in the health food section of your grocery.)

Raja and I say “ Deepest Thanks,” for all our fabulous friends, blog readers, book buyers and people who are kind to animals far and wide!

Agility Update: Agile Shih Tzu Zones in on Championship!

Monday, November 7th, 2011

In June 2011, Raja and I reported from the Canine Performance Events Agility Nationals in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.  We followed the careers of Cy and CT, two Shih Tzu, and Skamp, a Mini Aussie.  And we promised to keep you in the loop as Cy and CT achieve their goals of Champion, as well as to keep tabs on Skamp’s career.  Following is an inspiring interview with Carolyn Linsday, owner of Cy and CT, and Rhea Hartley, owner of Skamp.  You know that some of you will want to get started in agility after you read this.

CT, Cy and Skamp (fore) with Chloe and Cara, co-owners of Think Pawsitive training facility in New Berlin, WI


With Carolyn’s dogs, we focus on Cy, who will Champion before CT does.  Rhea’s Skamp is competing casually now, but casual competition might suit some lifestyles best. 

Helen: Carolyn, as I understand it, Cy’s Championship category is the highest and hardest.  

Carolyn: “Cy’s title will be the C-ATCH (CPE Agility Trial Champion).  He will compete in all of 7 required categories, including the ominous jackpot, in which the dog and the handler are separated remotely as the dog runs the course.” (This is always the hardest for Cy personally.)  

Helen: How many points are required for Championship like Cy’s? 

Carolyn: “For Cy’s title, he has to complete in the categories of Handler Games, Strategy Games and Fun Games. Cy started in CPE at Level 1 (you are allowed to start as high as Level 3), so when Cy receives his C-ATCH he will have completed 120 qualifying runs!”

“Cy’s first trial was in August of 2005 when he was only entered in a few events- and the same in 2006. It was 2009 before we started doing a few more trials, so it has been a slow process getting this close to our C-ATCH.”   He has now only 11 Q’s to go!

Helen: What does his achievement mean to you?  In what ways does this fulfill a dream for you?  What have you done, day to day, to work toward this goal? 

Carolyn: “Cy and I are partners on the agility field. We have to work together to have a good run and Cy and I have a very special relationship during a run. He just wants to do what I ask him to, so, if I give him the right signals, he is happy to do what I want. In the beginning, we did not have much training and we both learned a LOT of bad habits, which have had to be retrained for both of us.” 

“I cannot describe the feeling you get when we have a really awesome run where we are both in sync and everything goes smooth. It isn’t a feeling that we are anything special, but that we are a special partnership. I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t run agility can fully understand it. It is a sense of accomplishment that you have both done your job to your best ability. Although those runs are especially special and awesome, every run has something in it to be grateful for.  I can always find something that they did well, even if we don’t Q (qualify).” 

Helen: How has Cy benefited from his training and competing?  

Carolyn: “I think doing agility gives a dog confidence. It teaches them to work with you as a team. Both Cy and CT were never shy, but I have watched others who were able to overcome shyness because of agility. They love the special attention they get from me while we are training and at a trial- the treats, the praise and just spending time with me. They like using their minds and they know when they have figured something out or that they did a good job. It helps keep them fit. A lot of people are surprised to see a Shih Tzu competing, but of course we know they are not just couch dogs. They love running and jumping. They only jump an 8″ jump so it is not too hard on their knees. They could both jump 12″ if they had to.” 

“Cy is a momma’s boy, but he is also confident enough that he can stay in his crate while I walk a course or someone can hold onto his leash, he may look for me, but he does not get over stressed. He knows he is going to get to go and play.” 

“Being at an agility trial does relieve stress for me. Everyone at a trial enjoys playing with their dog and understands what it feels like when you have that special run. You just can’t find that with someone who hasn’t experienced the feeling. We are all supportive of each other. I have only competed in the CPE venue, but I have found it to be a very friendly group.” For CPE, the canine/human team compete against their own challenges and every dog can become a champion some day! 

Helen: Rounding things off, on average, what does it cost to train and achieve a champion?  

Carolyn: “The cost averages around $12.00 per run, so we have spent a considerable amount of money. There are no cash prizes, only ribbons, of which we have a lot. We will receive a special ribbon, a plaque and a “bar” (like from a jump) especially decorated and everyone at the trial is welcome to sign it, something to remember that special run. Of course the ribbons don’t mean anything to Cy and CT, but the praise and treats they receive tell them they have done a great job and we have had fun together.” 

Helen: How do you feel agility achievement enhances the breed of the Shih Tzu?  

Carolyn: “I do think people change their perception of the Shih Tzu when they see them compete. I have heard a lot of people say they thought they just like to sleep and stay indoors. People are very surprised at how fast they can run. I will say they don’t have the endurance that a border collie has, but they can compete throughout a full 3 day trial without a problem. I am careful when we are at outdoor trials in hot weather.”

“My husband and I saw a Shih Tzu walk into a pet store once and were both instantly intrigued with the breed.  They are sturdy dogs, caring dogs, funny dogs, ready to please. They can be a bit stubborn at times, but I have always been able to easily work through that. It is the only breed I will ever have!” 

Helen:  Thanks so much Carolyn.  I’m sure Cy will finish sooner, but you know Raja (also very stubborn) and I will be reporting at the 2012 Nationals! It would be incredible to be there for the moment!  Now let’s talk with Rhea.  Skamp’s career is more relaxed- just enough competition to have fun, but no pressure for the long term.

Think Pawsive's indoor arena makes it easy and comfortable for dogs to compete and learn in all seasons.


Rhea, when you started out in agility with Skamp, what were your goals and dreams for Skamp? 

Rhea: “The first time I saw an Agility Competition, I saw a bonding between the handlers and their dogs.  That was what I wanted for Skamp and myself.   My goals were for Skamp to become more focused on the agility course, become more obedient and the big dream was some day to have her qualify for Agility Nationals, which she accomplished  in June.” 

“Skamp is retired, but seeing her compete again this past week-end I do believe she does enjoy it.  Enjoying it doesn’t always mean they have to be perfect.  I just want to make sure she is always having fun”.  

Helen: How has agility been beneficial to Skamp and how has it been beneficial to you? 

Rhea: “Agility keeps her active, moving, and still lets her know she needs to be obedient to certain commands.  When I have been in training, Skamp is always assured of having fun times with Mom.  Now that we aren’t in training, she doesn’t always receive that one on one time with me.  Yes, we go on walks daily, but there is a big difference between walks and training!!  Agility training and competition has brought lots of new friends into our lives.  I also think that Agility Competition has allowed Skamp to be more socialized, so she enjoys being around other dogs.  I also enjoyed running with Skamp because she kept me going.  Very good exercise!!!” 

Helen: And you and Skamp are still attending Agility Events, right?

Rhea: ‘Skamp and I enjoy going to Agility Events because, once you have been in it, you are kinda “hooked”!!  It’s kinda like fishing!!!  I noticed this past week-end, Skamp would lie in my arms and watch the other dogs run.  Her head would go back and forth! I enjoy going because I learn from other handlers. It is always fun to see other dogs have a GREAT run.  Believe me, I saw some top notch dogs this past week-end along with their handlers.  It also thrills me to see the “Junior Handlers” because you know CPE has taken them away from television/computors and other activities and you see a love from them for their dogs.  It just is sooooo exciting to watch!!  All I can say is, “I never get tired of watching”!!!’

“Skamp has learned a lot from her training sessions.  Before training, she had a problem focusing and listening.  When we go hiking, we do let her off her lead and she does come when called.  I have also noticed that through all of the training she really gets excited with all of the praise.  Skamp is an Aussie and that breed can be very stubborn, but, through agility, we have pretty much broken that cycle.  We are never afraid of taking her with us regardless where we go.  Skamp is always with us with fishing, hiking, trips to other states to visit friends or relatives and she does GREAT.  Everyone loves Skamp!!!”  

A future junior handler enjoys some Halloween fun with Skamp, CT and Cy

Readers, a lot of Agility Training yields the honor of National Champion living in your midst.  A moderate amount of Agility yields a dog who listens better and can move with confidence wherever her paws take her.  Everybody Wins With Canine Performance Event Agility! 

Many thanks to Carolyn, Rhea, Cy, CT and Skamp.  Raja and I will be seeing them all at a fairgrounds somewhere in rural New York State in June 2012!

In her Carolyn's Originals Halloween dress, Skamp plays in the grass.

All Fleas Must Die

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Raja, a dog of peace, agrees with me.  You do, too.  But how can we cause fleas to meet their fate? 

In parts of the Central and Eastern United States warmer-than-usual summers, torrential rain, and lingering wetness in the last third of the season have created the perfect storm of fleas going into fall.  Even areas that have traditionally been fairly flea-less are now fully-infested.  Fleas are not fun and a feckless response to fleas is irresponsible. 

I don’t know what kind of long term flea management you are planning upon: hovering over your pet all day with a small comb and a piece of Scotch tape, on-pet flea treatment, bombing the house with pesticide gas, burning the lawn, moving to the Arctic circle…  certainly there are many options.  But, to begin to restore your pet to sanity, you will have to get the fleas that are on your pet right now good and dead, good and quick. 

Two methods for instant flea obliteration: 

Neem Oil Shampoo and Neem Oil Conditioner: Pop off to the Health Food Store and pick up some Neem oil shampoo and conditioner.  Make sure Neem is the first ingredient in the ingredients list.  Neem, or Azadiracta indica, is an Indian tree.  Its bark has medicinal, anti-fungal, anit-inflamatory, anti-viral and anti-ulcer properties and it is completely safe to touch and use on the body, according to the FDA, but it is very bad news for bugs. 

Put your pet in the tub, but do not run water yet.  In a plastic bottle, mix 30% Neem shampoo and 70% water and begin by soaping up your dog’s neck in a ring all around.  Fleas run for high ground, so you want to cut them off as they run toward the top of the head. Now turn on the warm water; dampen and shampoo your pet.  You may wash the head, ears and face, but avoid the eyes.  Try to leave the shampoo lather on for ten minutes- do your best.  Rinse well and use the Neem Conditioner as directed.  Dry as usual.  The fleas will be dead, the coat lustrous and the pet will stop looking hysterical all the time.  Now figure out what you will do about the house.  (Special thanks to Three Rivers Veterinary Clinic in Madison, NJ for this tip and technique.) 

Lemon Joy Dish Detergent:  Use the Lemon Joy dish detergent exactly as instructed for the Neem shampoo.  You will not need to leave it on for as long.  Your pet’s coat will come out lustrous and smooth, but Lemon Joy is a strong detergent.  It kills the fleas by destroying the cuticle of their exoskeletons.  And it does the job well.   Multiple frequent shampooing with Lemon Joy will make your pet’s skin dry and itchy, so use it effectively the first time and then look toward household flea annihilation by whatever means you can approve and afford. (Special thanks to my dear friends Pat Eskierski, Mary Richmond and Fran Connelly for this tip.)  

Let’s rid the world of fleas one pet at a time!

Ideas for Defraying High Veterinary Costs for Pets

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Working hard looking for answers.

We promised we would research what pet owners can do in case of high costs and low funds for veterinary care.  There is no magic solution, we discover.  BUT there are lots of options and you must persist and follow through. 

Small Charities: There are hundreds of small charities that offer grants for pet owners. If your pet is a pure breed dog or a service dog, there are charities associated with those specific categories and online research reveals your options pretty easily.  But bear in mind, charities are not bottomless.  Apply at the end of the fiscal year and you are scraping bottom.  And applications take time.  

Charitable Vets: Sometimes vets can discount care and even trade care for work such as cleaning facilities, walking dogs or doing painting and repairs.  Do not feel shy to ask the primary vet in a businesslike and professional way.  We keep in mind that each veterinary office is, at root, a business and vets need to pay lots of bills to keep the doors open; to negotiate work for care is not a right, but a wonderful blessing when it happens.  Not all vets have the wiggle room to commit to care for work structures. If you get lucky, please follow through on all commitments so this kind of good faith can continue between some vets and some patients.  If you have been seeing the same vet for years, the relationship should be well enough established that your vet can meet your request at some level.  

Animal Shelters are always assisted by charitable vets.  Your local shelter’s administrator may share the list.  Most communities have several local shelters, civic and private.  

Veterinary Schools: Some veterinary schools offer discounted care.  Your pet’s care is always overseen by a supervisor who is an experienced vet.  Your pet is not a lab animal, but a true patient in these situations.  To find out if a veterinary college is near you, use an online search engine looking up veterinary programs by state.  Contact information is often at the bottom of the home page. Call the program’s main number; ask to be connected to the specialist who can tell you about discounted veterinary care by supervised learners. If this situation works out for you, remember you are still the consumer and you still have rights and agency regarding your pet’s care.  Assist the program by bringing copies of all previous medical records and list of current meds. 

Clinical Trials: Eligible pets with a variety of conditions can participate in Clinical Drug and Treatment Trials, especially when existing treatment has been ineffective.  The ACI, Animal Clinical Investigation, LLC in Washington, DC at   is a good resource to investigate opportunities.  

Meds: If your pet’s prescriptions are too expensive, ask your vet to consider another manufacturer or a generic. You may also look on the box, read the name of the manufacturer, search engine the main office, and call to ask to whom you should speak to see if there are any donated meds for hardship cases.  It never hurts to ask and veterinary medicine manufacturers indeed do donate thousands of prescriptions yearly for free.  The skill here is to keep asking until you reach the administrator who can handle your request.  Do not accept “no” from the receptionist ever! 

Loans:  Yes, your bank can issue small loans for veterinary care.  Loans of 10,000 and under are not too difficult to negotiate if you have any collateral or credit at all.  Getting a grant is much nicer, but getting a loan happens much more easily, and sometimes you do not have time to wait. 

Save up: If your vet warns you that cataracts or kidney stones or liver trouble are on the horizon, now is the time to begin to scrimp and set cash aside.  Every vet visit is an opportunity to hear the early warning and plan. 

This post was not as cheerful as I hoped it would be.  Our research reveals that being professional, proactive and persistent will help in your quest for easement of high vet costs. 

Here’s wishing all of you health and happiness every day!

Raja’s Report: Dogs of Peru

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Wearing my Inca hat in Cusco

Raja here, barking about something I know from personal contact… What’s it like to be a dog in Peru? 

First, Peru has a national dog, the Peruvian Orchid Dog. Generally Hairless- but crested with a stylish Mohawk, small footed, sensitive, family oriented and ancient, this breed pre-dates the Incas.

Peru's National Orchid Dog

 They are not the most popular dogs in Peru.  Currently the Schnauzer is the fashionable dog, along with the Jack Russell, the English Spaniel and the Lab.  

I even met a Shih Tzu in Cusco.  Meet Kiwicha, another of my hearty Himalayan breed showing everybody that we Shih Tzu dogs don’t mind high altitudes. 

Meet Kiwicha, a Shih Tzu girl of Cusco!

Several of the popular travel guide books on Peru provide inaccurate, slanderous information about Peru’s street dogs.  Contrary to what they say, Peru’s street dogs are not wild, yapping biters.  The majority is gentle, mild mannered, non-territorial and friendly.  From my first stroll near my hotel in Cusco, I met three new friends who I found had the neighborhood names of Pelusa, Marlon Brando and Shadow.  They peacefully accompanied me on every walk I took and they were waiting to greet me after I returned to Cusco after my visit to Machu Picchu.  The guidebooks are wrong.  Peru’s street dogs are awesome.  (But, you know, don’t go to Peru without your rabies shot, just to be safe, OK?) 

It is said that every Peruvian has a dog and a cat, and this statement seems to be pretty accurate.  One thing that amazed me about the dogs of Peru was that most Peruvian dogs seem to not need leashes.  In big city Lima and in small country towns, dogs stroll about with their owners off leash, even crossing streets in traffic.  Even strolling in public parks where there are other dogs.  Even waiting outside a house on a busy street without straying away or getting into traffic.  How do they do that?  (I rather suspect that only the dogs who are not roamers survive to put their stay-off-the-streets genes into the gene pool.)

Cafe greeter!


As ubiquitous as the New York dog, the Peruvian dog has much more freedom in many ways.  Within a range, they can go where they want and nobody seems to bother them.  So, while the New York dog gets transported from place to place, always chaperoned, always dog walked, the Peruvian dog makes his own decisions and trots on his own paws.  

In Aguas Calientes

Like the New York Dog, the Peruvian Dog often wears clothes for fashion or to stay warm, which is pretty cute since in zones under 12,000 feet in Peru, it’s never very hot or very cold.  Here is a puppy from Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu, in a stylish evening jumpsuit.  This Cusco dog wore his bolero between 5 pm and 8 pm. I didn’t wear any of my sweaters in Peru, but, many people told my family to get me a coat or I’d be cold. 

In Cusco

Dogs of New York often sit in cafes, shop and ride pubic transport.  Peruvian dogs are less welcome in indoors and human zones, but in outdoor zones there are few restrictions.  For example I was invited to walk all through a botanical garden of endangered orchids and threatened enormous caterpillars.  Try that in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden! 

Similar to dog culture in New York, Paris and Marrakech, a traveling dog provides a reason to chat with a stranger and make new friends.  What do Peruvians ask about each other’s dogs?  What’s his name, age, weight, of course.

I gave in and got a coat in Peru. Everybody was too worried about me.

Raja Visits Machu Picchu, Peru!

Monday, September 5th, 2011

In the top agricultural terrace above the citadel of Machu Picchu.

Raja went to Peru specifically to get a chance to see Machu Picchu, the fabled Incan citadel in the Andes… well, more accurately, we wanted to see Machu Picchu and he didn’t want to be left behind.  I have to admit, I wasn’t sure it could be done.  Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is heavily managed.   And this year is the 100th anniversary of the promotion of Machu Picchu by the adventurer Hiram Bingham and the Yale expedition that launched world awareness of Peru’s Inca heritage on a major scale.  So this is a banner year for a fascinating destination. 

You can’t just fly there.  You fly to Lima, the capital of Peru, sitting dark and gloomy on the Pacific coastline.  Then you journey about 750 miles to Cusco, the oldest city in the Americas, at way up over 11,000 feet.  You spend a couple of days trying to get accustomed to the thin air. Then you descend over 70 miles by train, bus or feet to Aguas Calientes, the town outside the Machu Picchu sanctuary at an oxygen- rich 8,000 feet.  (Enjoy breathing semi-deeply.)  

Contrary to what most guide books will tell you, rural Peru is extremely friendly towards dogs and is populated by mannerly pet and street dogs.  The Peruvians of the countryside take great care to make sure their dogs wear coats in the mild winters and to assure that street dogs are neither thin nor mangy.  For now, this is all we will say.  Next post we will share some stories about dog life in Aguas Calientes and Cusco, but for now, let’s cut to the chase about Machu Picchu and Raja’s visit. 

There is no doggie door.  If you want to take your small, well-behaved and quiet dog to Machu Picchu, you will have to demonstrate tremendous politeness and affability at the gate, and you will have to luck out with a sympathetic ticket attendant.  Still, you play the luck of the draw even given optimum conditions. 

Raja got inside.  He scrambled up the shortest of the Inca stairs and got carried up the higher ones.  He visited the central ceremonial center with the houses of the ruling Inca and the nobles and investigated the ceremonial facilities and the altars to the earth and sky.  He met llamas grazing in the public square.  He trotted from the lowest to the highest agricultural terraces where the Inca farmed in temperature microclimates. There he picked up a trail of the Andean fox, but he wasn’t allowed to track it far as the forest closed in heavily at the terrace’s edge.  Finally, he followed the high trail to the Inca’s back door to the perilous and defensible drawbridge, a gap in the ledge walkway built out from a sheer cliff face.  Being from Tibet ancestrally, he didn’t mind the altitude, but he did need to be shielded from the intense sun.  Water breaks were important.  His morning and afternoon ramble ended with a bath, a snack and a snooze in a street side restaurant in Aguas Calientes at the end of the day.

Love those Llamas!


Did it mean anything to him personally to have his hike in Peru?  Yes. He met hundreds of nice people with different voices and behaviors.  He breathed air that smelled different.  His trek the next day down the dust road, along the railroad tracks and up the mountain to the Aguas Calientes Jardín Botánico of indigenous orchids brought him in contact with a host of fascinating scents and physical challenges.  He got to represent for the hardy Shih Tzu breed, not couch potatoes but adventurers and athletes.  For days after the Machu Picchu climb, his little paws twitched at night as he dreamed of Inca roads and the smell of the elusive Vischachas, Peru’s long eared Chinchilla who nest in Machu Picchu’s rock crevices.  He came home happy and healthy with lots to ponder in his doggy mind and a sense of satisfaction in being a companion who didn’t get left behind. 

(What would I have done if he had not been permitted inside?  There are many other trails in the region where you can take a high altitude hike to an Incan ruin.  Machu Picchu is the best restored and the most nationalized, but it is one of numerous Incan sites, all connected by the lines of the sun and stars in the Andes.) 

Most sincere and heartfelt thanks to the officials at Machu Picchu Sanctuary for permitting Raja inside and special thanks to Gringo Bill’s excellent hotel for welcoming him in their nicest room.

I carried Raja near the edge and he hung on to his beloved blue bunny.


Next post we’ll give a report of dog life in rural Peru… not what you might have expected at all.  At the end of September we will, as promised, give a detailed post about ways to seek affordable, high quality and specialty medical care for pets as our US recession lingers.