, Salem, MA

November 1, 2013

Ask Dog Lady: Dog's health a cause for concern

Ask Dog Lady
Monica Collins

---- — Dear Dog Lady,

I was raised by parents who were breeders, so when I noticed that my friend’s Saint Bernard looked underweight I mentioned it to my friend and was told in a “none of your business” attitude that the veterinarian says she’s “fine.” That was months ago, and the dog’s spine and hip bones are very visible through her fur, her nose is always very dry, and she doesn’t eat well. I sneak her food whenever I’m in the house, just dog food with warm water on it, and she wolfs it down eagerly, but the owner says she doesn’t eat when food is offered to her.

How do I get my friend to take her dog’s health seriously?

A: We all know that minding our own business is the preferable course. However, in a case like this, you must ask your friend about her dog’s condition. Sure, you risk being a Buttinski but, in the matter of a living creature’s health and welfare, your meddling is warranted.

You have credentials. Tell your friend you come from a family of breeders. You know how a dog is supposed to look and the Saint Bernard doesn’t look well. Point out the bones and the dry nose. You can say all this with care and compassion. Arrive girded for the conversation with names and contact information for a couple of well-regarded veterinarians, as well as information about brands of prime dog food. Also, bring the contacts of a Saint Bernard rescue organization. Offer the information without judgment.

Your friend may be overwhelmed caring for this animal. A Saint Bernard dog is the size of a small horse. The breed requires much food, good exercise, and a snowy Swiss mountain all their own. Their slobber runs in rivers. They are great dogs and renowned for helping humans in distress. Your friend, however, may not want to keep this sort of a high-maintenance pet and will be relieved for a graceful way out.

Dear Dog Lady,

My dog, Spooky, has seen my beaus come and go. My current (for the past year) beau got along smashingly with my pooch for about six months. Then, Spooky began to act destructive while he was staying with my guy at his home while I was traveling for work. Trash cans overturned, bathrooms wrecked and even urinating on his couch. It became such a problem that Spooky no longer stays with my fellow while I travel, but with a friend (female and no problems). I love this guy, and he tolerates the dog despite the bad behavior. Any ideas on how to correct the problem and keep both of the loves of my life in the same picture?

A: You have to be part of this picture too. When Spook wreaked havoc the first time, you should have immediately stepped up to make things right with your beau by reimbursing for damages and cleaning — no matter if he gamely insisted the animal antics were OK. You should never have allowed the dog to bunk with him again. Staying with your female friend seems a more successful strategy. Still, don’t tax your intimates. Friends don’t let friends mind the dog.

When you leave town, arrange for reliable, professional dog care and pay for the service. Ask at your veterinarian’s office, the local dog store, or neighborhood dog walkers for referrals to pet sitters. On the Internet, go to, the website of Pet Sitters International, a professional organization. You can search, via ZIP code, for a referral to a Spooky sitter.


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