The bitch in apartment 203. 

Zoe, is a beautiful, big brown eyed, orange roan cocker spaniel. In all her 5 years of existence she has never once obeyed anyone. She does as she pleases and what she wants. 

This story goes back 5 years when a 45 day old Zoe also then knows as zo monster ( you will soon find out why) bullied 2 fully grown adults into letting her sleep in thier beds. I say bullied because while there were a lot of puppy dog eyes, she mostly just bit us if we tried to get her off the bed. Those tiny sharp teeth….

We tried for years to toilet train her  but she insisted on peeing on the first stair of the staircase. This yellow river haunted many a maid. One fine morning, she stopped. She chose the downstairs bathroom as her spot and toilet trained herself to pee on the drain hole. It was beautiful. I know not how she learnt this or what triggers it to this day. 

Unlike most dogs that like being coddled and petted, Zoe will only ever lie down for a belly rub when she wants one. She spends her days staring out the balcony thinking and dreaming for hours. You can throw any amount of balls, squeakers and treats at her but she will not yield. She will not let you touch her paws or carry her ( trust me you can’t resist the urge to) and like any self respecting lady, she will hurt you if you try to grab her from behind.

She’s curious so when she’s walking down the street, she will stop and sniff other dogs. Only, the other dog will not get the same opportunity. The moment that mutt tries to sniff her back, a nightmare unfolds. There’s a lot of air biting and growling that sends some very large dogs running, with their tails between their legs. 

In the dog world, this 10kg cocker, is an alpha. She makes no attempt to hide it and she does not have friends, just subjects. I have watched for years as she comfortably establishes  an alpha position with dogs twice her size. They will learn to leave her be and they will bark when she barks. She will also sit on a chair at the vet,this cracks me up every time.

Yet this gorgeous blonde makes one hell of a companion. Our relationship is based on her never giving me what I want but always stepping up when I need something from her. Today I’ll only share one instance of this. 

I recently adopted a 2 year old golden retriever, Thalia, who is scared of the wind and trees and sounds and basically everything. She’s a goofball who loves to play. While Zoe has never been comfortable with other dogs, I witnessed an amazing few months of her stepping up to make room for Thalia. It’s an odd bond. She refuses to play any game that Thalia initiates and will not let her sit next to her. However, she will stand on two legs and lick her when she gets vaccinated. Share all her toys and food. Smack her in face when she feels like and every once in a while I catch her cuddling up next to her after she’s asleep. I was warned by several people that this was a bad idea but it’s worked out fantastically.

She’s a peculiar little creature, my Zo monster. 

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How I became a bad ass puppy!

 

On a cloudy Monday morning at 7 am, I could hear my alarm ringing. Like most mornings I slept through it. After about 2 hours I decided, it was time to wake up. So obviously, Zoe followed me around, wondering what we would do that day.
Despite hearing it everyday,she went ballistic when I said “walk“. Ran around in crazy circles. Wrestled with her brace. Attacked the leash. Scratched the door and finally gave me the head tilt.  We headed down the stairs while she  pulled with all her might. All 11 kgs of her in overdrive!
That’s when it happened. *snap* I heard it loud and clear, right before I could hear my heart, pounding in my chest. The sound of the leash breaking. Before I could blink, in a split second she was out, like bolt on a mission. Running through the open gates. Her tiny legs pushing forward with all the strength they had. I could almost swear, I heard her scream “freedom“!
Obviously given my fantastic calm during a panic situation. I screamed like a little girl and did what I thought was logical. Ran after her.
There I was, screaming… “Zoe stop! Zoe No“. Heaven knows why! She doesn’t even obey those when she’s not running away!!
That’s when I saw them….. The pack of strays. Barking in scary symphony. She, obviously being super intelligent, barked back and ran towards them. Towards!
By this time the neighbours had come out to watch. I ran faster, hoping I’d catch her before the strays. My heart was in my mouth. They were literally 3 times her size!
Just then, thanks to my wonderful coordination, I tripped over my self. Maybe it was the fear, or the adrenaline but I could swear, I fell in slow motion. I could hear myself say “oh no. Not my face” and then the sound, of my knees hitting the payment, drew a lot of gasps from onlookers.
As I looked up, expecting to see the worst, me and approximately 10 neighbours saw the weirdest scene. Tiny crazy eyed Zoe, chasing away a pack of fully grown dogs. I would laugh, if I wasn’t in searing pain and bleeding from both palms.
Before I could dust myself off,there she was, walking towards me, with her tiny tail stub swaying. She almost looked confused at all the fuss.
As if falling face down wasn’t embarrassing enough, turns out it was all for nothing!
So that’s the story of how Zoe, my tiny cocker spaniel established just how bad ass she really is!

To spay or not to spay?

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Every pet owner has spent time wondering if spaying is the right thing to do. Be it a moral dilemma or a health concern, its one of the hardest decisions you will have to make as a pet parent. I recently had my 3-year-old female cocker spayed and these are my notes!

1. Age : While it is recommended that you spay after the first/second heat, early spaying has way to many adverse effects. I waited a little too long because we were moving around and the stress seemed overwhelming. However, do not be afraid to go ahead with the surgery if your dog is healthy, even if she is older.

2. Choosing a surgeon : Make sure you walk through the procedure, while some people believe leaving behind one ovary is good, it may result in infections later on that can be fatal. It is ideal (my thoughts people may disagree) to remove both ovaries and the uterus. Pick a surgeon who is careful and experienced, I say this because they must remove the stump as well. Many times its left behind resulting in a fatal infection later on in life.

The surgery is laparoscopic, do not settle for anything else. This way there is minimum pain and faster recovery. The slit is tiny, insist on solvable stitches. The procedure takes about half an hour if all goes well. Speak to your vet about possible complications for your specific pet and the general ones.

3. Proper check up and Anesthesia : While spaying is considered a “routine” procedure by vets. Do not neglect the pre-blood work and tests. Anesthesia can have life-threatening consequences for your pet in case of certain underlying problems. Read the consent forms carefully and have your vet walk you through anything you need to be prepared for , both mentally and financially. To give you an example, Zoe (my dog) had a severe reaction post surgery and her face started swelling , her eyes were swollen and she was hypoglycemic. We had to administer immediate injections and keep her under watch until the swelling went down. It gave me a big scare!

4. Pre- op care : Do not feed your pet 10 hours before the surgery no food no water, they tend to vomit when they are sedated. Ensure they are in good health the week of the surgery, if not , it’s always wiser to move it. especially if they have an upset stomach. Bath them a day or two before so that the chances of catching an infection are lower.

5. Post op care: The incision will be covered post surgery, if the dressing wears off do not try to put it back on. Take pictures of the incision daily for the next 10 days. Any swelling or discharge need immediate medical attention. Buy and Elizabeth collar, this will make sure they don’t chew the stitches, it’s absolutely necessary.

The first day will be HORRIBLE, Zoe was in agony, she was moaning and groaning and wasn’t able to sit in one place for more than a few seconds. She was evidently in pain and the meds were making her vomit. Prepare accordingly, ensure they have space to lie down, they will be very uncomfortable. Spread newspaper as they will vomit, it is common post op. Most dogs will have no appetite to eat for the next few days (2 at max). Do not force feed, ensure they provide IV fluids during surgery to meet their energy needs for the day.

Nausea will persist for the first 3 days, beyond you must seek medical attention for risk of de-hydration. Provide plenty of water. Zoe drank a lot of water but refused to eat for 2 days. Within 3 days they should be back on their feet and in mild discomfort. Do not provide any forceful physical exercise as this may rupture the stitches. They will also be on a course of antibiotics.

It is common for dogs not to pass stools for the next 3 days as well, since they may be in pain and unable to do so. Do not force feed them or use a laxative at this point yet. It is imperative that you do not change their diet and provide their regular food. This will ensure they have a normal stool on the 4th day, if not see a vet on day 4. Follow up with the vet for a check up and ultra sound on day 4 and day 10.  Do not bathe them for 14 days post surgery. They bounce back after a week, this is just to let the incision heal properly.

Sometimes, in-case of thyroid issues, weight gain is a concern after spaying. So monitor their diet and you should be good.

5. Ask for help: While transporting your dog to the surgery will be easy, post surgery, you may need help. They will sedated so you will have to carry them if needed in a comfortable position. When the sedation starts wearing off, they will be in pain and squirm so to make sure they don’t move around too much and rip their stitches, you will have to be around to keep them calm. Which means someone will have to run around clearing bills and buying meds for you. If side effects kick in, you may need to rush back to the vet or need someone to act calmly while you panic.

6. Finances : All thing veterinary are expensive as you already know. In Bangalore, Cupa (the clinic not the college) in RT Nagar does it for a decent cost of Rs 3500. I prefer this clinic as they have very experienced vets and keep clear documentation of treatments. They are also open 24×7 which is a blessing for these kinds of situations. Meds, post op injections (if any), E-collar and the AD diet should all make a small Rs 5500 worth hole in your pocket. A small price to pay for a better quality of life for your pet companion. 🙂

Please note, spaying is not a quick fix for aggressive behaviour!

Reasons to spay and common concerns—>https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/how-will-spaying-change-my-dog

http://www.cesarsway.com/dog-rescue/spay-and-neuter/best-age-to-neuter-or-spay

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Sunny’s – Off the leash! ;-)

Rach and Zoe IMG_20140622_160334017_HDR
As a dog owner and animal lover, weekends are hard. You have to make the choice between spending time with your precious pooch or socializing with fellow humans.
But don’t let the lack of options where you can take your dog along get you down. There are plenty of pet friendly places in Bangalore for those who care to look!
As and when I personally try most of the places I will post them up 🙂
Sunny’s – Lavelle Road
So when a restaurant is named after the owner’s dog, there’s no room for a second thought. I visited with my best friend and my Zoe! It’s the pretentious kind of place obviously so do not expect everyone to be nice.  Sunday lunch , the place was crowded and we had made a reservation. At a first glance we were quite uncomfortable, dozens of judging eyes looked at us like we were aliens.
It all changed when the  polite staff and escorted us to our table without any fuss. They didn’t insist that I tie her up or anything. In fact when Zoe was being her usual self and jumped to greet the waiter, he smiled and greeted her right back.
The table could have been less closer to the kitchen but it worked out since not many people had to cross that area giving Zoe a chance to calm down.
Lets start with decor, the outside is pretty with a lawn setting and perfect for Bangalore weather! The inside is cozy and for a more intimate group.
Food: The crab cakes were recommended by my friend and she was right! They were tiny portions of heaven!
Sunny’s golden fried prawn are a must have! Yakitori Chicken skewers were just okay.
For main course we had Fettuccine with chicken breast and sun-dried tomatoes and the sea food pasta, both were fantastic! The portion sizes were a bit too large and we ended up having to take it home but not complaining at all!
Zoe tried some grilled chicken and of course since she thinks left over cheese is yummy, so  she was overjoyed.
The experience: Making sure your dog is well-behaved is your responsibility at least in terms of ensuring they don’t soil the place.
Zoe is  extremely hyper and hardly understands social conduct so getting her to sit was an achievement in the middle of a crowd.
There was a family with 2 adorable little girls who spent their entire lunch at our table to the embarrassment of their mother. But it was wonderful watching them. Zoe was at her best given she loves kids and more than happy to give high fives and sit when asked. She’s an attention seeker this one. Overall it was a great Sunday afternoon and we got to meet Sunny on the way out .
Definitely going back! If you are looking to mix your friends and your pets, perfect place for lunch.

A ray of hope..

This post deviates from my usual focus on food and with good reason. Today I witnessed one of the most wonderful examples of human compassion and community.

A few weeks back, a stray dog gave birth to a litter of 6 puppies close to where I live. While the mother fiercely guarded the puppies for the last few weeks, they were too young to venture out in her absence and though we could all hear them screaming throughout the day, no one could figure out where exactly they were.

This morning when I stepped out for a walk with my dog, she kept sniffing the drain hole next to our house and just wouldn’t move away. Suddenly a tiny tail emerged from the hole and fearing it was a rat, I moved away. I was however pleasantly surprised to find it was followed by the cutest little nose of a stray puppy. One by one 5 of them came out curious to see what the fuss was about.

This entire event however turned terribly sad when the last puppy started screaming at the top of its lungs. It was stuck somewhere along the closed drain line unable to get out-and-out of sight. The mother who was helplessly running along the sidewalk was nothing but a bundle of bones. Clearly unable to find food and protect her litter at the same time.

I put out some food for the mother and went looking for a flash light in the hope of helping the lost puppy. When I returned in 10 mins. More neighbors had come out and left food for the mother and the pups. In almost a magical moment the people who hardly knew each other became friends in their cause to help the mother find her lost pup. We managed to find a loose tile and pull out the pup. As if they already hadn’t suffered enough,it rained heavily this evening. However, the strays were not fighting alone, I put out a dry carton for them to take shelter. Almost every neighbor was cautious while taking out their vehicles for fear of  running over the curious puppies who were happily wandering around. The people who lived on the ground floor even slowed down passing by traffic.

It was wonderful, despite the heavy rain and poor visibility dozens of cars moved carefully to their left allowing the puppies to remain at play until their mother came back. When I went downstairs to leave dinner and clean water for the mum, I couldn’t help but smile at the numerous paper plates and plastic containers that surrounded the little carton box.

Everyday dozens of strays face cruelty at the hands of heartless human beings. In the midst of all that evil, it was just heart warming to see so many people helping these innocent creatures make it through a hard day.

Please do let me know if you would like to adopt any of the six strays. They are too young to be vaccinated but will be de-wormed as soon they are old enough to leave their mum. I will be putting up pictures soon.

Travelling with a pet – Bursting the bubble

For some unknown reason people who travel with pets are treated with scorn. Why is it frowned upon to want to keep your commitment to an animal that depends on you? Shouldn’t it be more frowned upon to abandon them just because your life is moving to different location?

Every step of the way the process is made harder and filled with a dozen vultures tying to extort money from you, justified by the assumption, that for some reason you must be loaded, if your willing to let your pet travel. Having gone through this experience myself I thought it would be helpful for a fellow animal lover to know the process and avoid getting ripped off by agents.

Relocating your pet from India to the middle east. (The below steps are valid for UAE and Oman.)

Let’s start with documents required.

a. Export certificate from India – This can be obtained from the Quarantine office at the respective airport in(Mumbai,Chennai,hyd, blr,delhi,kolkata) my experience was with Bangalore airport. You do not need a middle man or an agent. Contrary to what they tell you, it only takes 1-2 days for them to issue it and all they need are your documents. The quarantine office is in the Alpha-3 bldg in the airport. Enter the airport and take a left just before the entrance, it’s the 3rd bldg. You need to submit you ticket copy, your passport copy, the vaccination card copy and the import certificate issued by the country you are going to. The dog’s name, age, colour, breed, gender should be clearly mentioned. This certificate for export can be obtained only 7 days prior to flying. It is valid only for 7 days and you must fly out within those 7. It costs nothing but you may have to pay Rs 500 depending on their mood.  You can call them before hand to get an appointment. You have to go personally to submit the documents. The phone number is here and the man is actually very helpful :

http://www.bengaluruairport.com/airportInformation/reservedFunction.jspx?_afrLoop=1700006394524488&_afrWindowMode=0&_adf.ctrl-state=1cfuxge8ec_4

b. Vaccination card (pet passport – it’s just a book with pets and your name details, the worming record and vaccination stickers and dates.) The vaccinations have to be less than 12 old and at least 1 month old. The required ones are :RABIES
DISTEMPER
HEPATITIS
PARVOVIRUS
LEPTROSPIROSIS

Of course your vet will add some just because you are moving. I recommend Kennel cough.

c. Import certificate – In Oman and UAE, the ministry of fisheries and agriculture issues the certificate valid for 30 days. It should be applied for at least 15 days prior to travel. It costs OMR 60/- . Submit your ticket, passport copy, visa copy, the vaccination card and a photograph of the pet. These guys will apply and obtain it for you for the price of OMR 60 itself :http://www.muscatvets.com/ . Just give them a call. Microchipping is not required for the middle east

d. Govt. Vet’s health certificate. – Please ask your vet to mention that the dog is in good health to fly. and stamp his registration number with signature.

e. So the paper work is done. The next step is the Airline. While Qatar and Lufthansa are the most pet friendly, in fact Air France is simply the best. None of these fly to the middle east and if they do, the flights are just too long. However, Air India does accommodate pets.Below 5 kgs they can be in the cabin, above that they will be in the hold on the same flight as you. You need to inform them minimum of 3 working days prior to flying. However, the earlier the better since they have to arrange for the carrier. The reservations manager is a really nice chap and he will help you through the process. It will cost you twice the excess baggage charges regardless of how much luggage you have. The wt of the dog + the wt of the airplane compatible crate * 2 * excess baggage cost

f. The pet needs to be in an airline compatible crate, your vet can acquire one for you or rent one for you. They are expensive. The dog should be able to turn around and stand comfortably as per the flying rules so it has to be big enough. Please stick a copy of all the documents onto the cage. Keep the originals with you. You can also cargo the pet but that will work out way more expensive.  The crates cost a minimum of Rs. 7000 if you have a small breed so renting makes more sense. Please do not sedate the pet, it is not required by the quarantine office and is dangerous for the pet’s blood pressure during flight. you can use herbal calming food to calm them down, these are available at any pet store.

That’s that. Arrive at the airport and the airline will guide you. Land, pick them up at baggage and the quarantine vet will guide you. As long your vaccination is sorted there is no need to worry. Do not hire these middle men, they only acquire documents and then leave you to fend for yourself and whats worse charge extreme amounts of money for these basic documents.

Hope it helps.

I think…cute..might be a super power..

It is the first day of Eid holidays and I wanted to do nothing but sleep and watch the mentalist! However as any self respecting Cocker Spaniel owner will tell you, inactivity is a rare luxury for us. I woke up this morning to fish breath kisses and unstoppable pawing. Since then every time I sat down to write or watch something I would be pawed into surrender and end up playing fetch. Finally at 6 pm after a long walk, Zoe decides to take a nap. Desperate to find out if Jane gets any closer to identifying Red John, I settled in with my laptop and put on my head phones. Halfway through the episode, A loud noise drags me out from under the covers and rushing into the kitchen.

There she was.. surrounded by lunch, dishes everywhere and paws covered in gravy. After yelling for about 10 mins, for the entire duration of which, she tactfully held her head low, she slowly looked up at me. Her tiny head tilted to the right, big brown eyes and snout covered in yogurt . Oblivious to what I was saying and wondering what the hell happened.

I think cute might be a super power. Damn you dog lover dna!

zoe