Dear Dr. Fox:
"To sleep, perchance to dream." Our recently-adopted 6-year-old male Norfolk terrier's alarm clock is set for about 5:30 a.m., EST -- tolerable in daylight-saving time, but unlovable at the 38th parallel before 7 a.m. Measures taken with our sleeping companion: especially darkened room; last rest stop at 10 p.m., before lights out; and unhelpful efforts to keep him on his feet and moving until our bedtime.
Measures forbidden by his loving mother: water denial post-noon; caffeinated water pre-noon; expulsion; separate bedroom for dog or master; or divorce of dog or master. Master's negotiating position rather vulnerable in face of canny canine. Please help.
R.V.F., Chesapeake Beach, Md.
I wish I could strengthen your negotiating position, but some mothers can be difficult. I guess it's you who has to take the dog out at 5:30 a.m. or else you will be in the doghouse.
Your terrier has you trained for the early morning call. A normal dog should be able to hold his water from 10 p.m. to 7 or 8 a.m.
Do have a urine and blood sample examined, since he might have a kidney problem or a form of diabetes that makes him have to drink and urinate a lot. If he comes through with a clean bill of health, I see no problem in not allowing him any water after his evening (5 p.m.) meal. Then do not let him out early in the morning. Let him sleep on the bed with you and ignore all protests -- even urination. Just ignore and I am sure he will get the message after a few difficult early mornings. Hang in there and don't give in.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I have a 6-month-old domestic shorthair cat that I raised from the age of 2 weeks. At age 5 weeks he had seizures and was put on phenobarbital and clindamycin. He has never acted as a normal kitten. He is still unable to eat dry food, get up on the bed or get off the bed, and he is slightly uncoordinated.
Two weeks ago he had a number of violent seizures. My vet put him back on phenobarbital and says he will have to take it for the rest of his life.
I wonder if his quality of life will decline as he gets older. He was a feral kitten, delivered to me by two young girls in the neighborhood. They said they found him on the sidewalk. Please advise.
P.B., address withheld
I applaud your concern and compassion in taking in this poor handicapped kitten who had a very difficult start in life. In my experience, animals like yours who have a will to live, and those who have variously suffered human abuse and neglect, often make the most inspiring and remarkable companions. Some show incredible courage and spirit, while others show unfaltering devotion once they come to trust their human companions.
Your kitten may have received a blow on the head -- some people try to kill unwanted kittens by putting them in a sack and striking it against a wall or dunking it in a bucket of water to drown them.
Kittens sometimes develop abnormally -- parts of their brains can be malformed if the pregnant mother had a viral infection.
Your veterinarian can help you decide when your cat's quality of life is below the threshold of acceptability. Continue with the anti-seizure medication and give him a pediatric (child's) multivitamin and multimineral tablet daily, crushed in his food, which should not be dry kibble but top-quality canned (moist) or home-prepared.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I have a question about a terrible habit my adopted dog has: Why do dogs like or have the need to roll in smelly, stinky things? Every chance Thomas gets when he's outside he comes back in with the most horrendous smell on his neck. I've also noticed that when I give him a bone or a treat, he'll drop it and roll on it with his neck.
I bathe him in the tub at least once a week (sometimes more) and that's probably not good for his skin. But the smell is so strong that sometimes even a bath doesn't eliminate it.
How can I get him to stop this behavior? We keep the yard picked up as much as possible. The vet's office has no answer. Do you?
Thomas' Mom, Fairfield, Conn.
Dogs will be dogs, and one of their most compulsive instincts is to roll in obnoxiously stinky organic material. I have equated this behavior of dogs "wearing a loud odor" to people who enjoy wearing loud clothes -- bright ties, hot-pink pants, etc. In other words, the dog's highly evolved sense of smell has an aesthetic dimension that is alien and incomprehensible to those of us with a less sophisticated olfactory sense. This ingrained instinct is virtually impossible to inhibit, so you will have to bite the bullet and bathe your dog as needed, just as I do mine!
The "pleasure principle" is evident in your dog rolling on a bone or treat, a behavior that I have seen in wolves, too. But I know of no reports confirming the erroneous belief that wolves will roll in something smelly to mask their own scent before they go off to hunt.
Dr. Michael Fox, author of many books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him, in care of United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
(c)2003, United Feature Syndicate Inc.