Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fancy Dog

So we went out for a lovely lunch yesterday at a Chinese restaurant run by Vietnamese people in one of the ugliest strip malls in town.  The kids were mostly perfect, although they cried a lot when our lunch companions tried to hold them.  We need to work on that.

When we got home, we headed upstairs to feed the kids and put them down for a nap.  On the way up the stairs, I took a hilarious picture of Cobra, triumphantly brandishing her mom's breast pump bottle/suction cup contraptions.  (Mom won't let me publish this picture because I'm too inept to figure out how to crop her face out of picture and she doesn't want her image associated with this blog.)

Right after snapping the pic, I accused my wife of farting.  We both instinctively looked around for the dog, whereupon we saw this:

 This is the carpet that we had installed in the addition about three months ago.

After a long bout of cussing, I set to the task of cleaning up the mess as Mom fed Cobra and Butterbean.  The cussing continued throughout, and the dog, Stella, cowered in the farthest corner of the house.  As I waited for the carpet cleaner to soak in, I dashed off this little note to the listserve hosted by the breeder who was responsible for creating our dog.

Hi fellow Swissy owners,

I thought I would turn to you before contacting the Swissy rescue society.

Stella (Maximus x Inside Affair 2007) is a strikingly beautiful, 120 lb female with a very sweet temperament. She's been through two levels of obedience training in which she was a solid B student, and, despite her initial anxiety, has become a good wagon-puller. However, she has a few, um...irksome traits not well suited to a house pet.

Her skittishness is almost crippling. If I scoot a box two inches on the wood floor, she goes crashing through the house to escape the perceived threat. Same with a plastic bag, or any bumping or shuffling of items. When I carry something scary, she stays 1/2 step in front of me, cowering and cringing, and inevitably getting herself backed into a corner. I have tried some desensitization with treats, and it works okay while we are training, but in day-to-day life, that goes out the window.

She has persistent but unpredictable urinary incontinence. We waited to get her spayed (as recommended) until she had gone through heat (a 28-day nightmare), but it doesn't seem to have helped. She still dribbles regularly and occasionally pees in her sleep, most memorably on the first night after we had new carpet installed. Our vet started her on estrogen therapy a week ago, but I didn't like her diagnosis. The vet says she has "spayed bitch incontinence. " I pointed out that she had it before she was spayed; but the vet insists that hormone therapy should be the first step. I wanted to try to get her on the anti-anxiety med Clomipramine- -which has the welcome side effect of urinary retention--and kill two birds with one stone. The vet didn't agree.

The cause of my immediate frustration is her digestive problems. She has room-clearing gas about 90% of the time. Gas relief remedies from the pet store don't do much. I started giving her Gas-X recently, and that seems to help. I don't know if I should do that regularly--I should ask the vet. Stella also has bouts of diarrhea (or at least very loose stools) that last for weeks at a time. I have experimented with different foods; but the gas is almost always present and the diarrhea comes and goes regardless of what kind of food she has. She is in the midst of one of these bouts right now, and I am currently letting the carpet cleaner soak into the section of our stairs where she shat all over the still-new-but- no-longer- pristine carpet while we were out to lunch.

I know that none of the above behaviors are her fault (how can we blame a creature we bred to our specifications for anything?), and I know there are probably medical solutions for them. I also realize that, since my wife and I had twins 8 months ago, my patience with Stella is getting short. I know there are worse problems that dogs can have. And I know that Swissys aren't known as low-maintenance dogs. But seriously. Is this typical?

Can someone offer me some solutions, or share some worse stories so I don't feel so beleaguered?

I feel a little better now.


The breeder called me within five minutes and talked me down for about half an hour.  And then I started receiving angry responses from other Swissy owners on the listserve.  Apparently, I am an ogre who torments his dog with babies and boxes.  Whatevz.

And yes, I know that as a person who had to fill out an application with a personal statement and have an interview in order to be considered worthy of paying a lot of money and flying to another state to acquire a fancy purebred dog while perfectly good mutts languish in shelters, I deserve everything I get.  I offer myself willingly as an object of your Schadenfreude.  You are welcome.

Perhaps you would also enjoy knowing my rationale for getting a purebred.  It goes something like this: "I'm not getting a dog out of altruism.  I want a dog with certain characteristics.  Dogs do not occur naturally.  They are man-made.  I want one that is made to my specifications.  Mutts can be great, and I would adopt dozens of them if I had the acreage.  But I have specific needs in the one dog I can fit in my life, and by getting a particular breed, I have a better chance of meeting those needs."  Oh, the hubris!

Here's the good news and product endorsement.  I scrubbed the shit out of the carpet (literally and figuratively) with Bac-Out by Biokleen, and then used Biokleen Carpet and Rug Cleaner in our rug shampooer rig.  And this is what the carpet looks like now:

Stella is now canus non grata upstairs.  The stairs are blocked off by boxes.  I am an ogre.


  1. One big serving of Schadenfreude, coming right up!

    Of course, mixed breed rescue dogs shit all over the floor too. Actually, Scoobie has been more of a pisser. Rex (may he RIP) puked butter up all over the car at the halfway point between Mount Jackson and Schenectady, in December in charming Hazelton, PA. Handiwipes from the quickymart didn't

    What specifications were you looking for in a dog, anyway?

  2. My specs were: big, beautiful, mellow, not high strung, not slobbery, not sheddy. She satisfies a lot of those criteria.

    We use this a lot where i work. after, of coarse we rule out urinary infection or kidney disease>>> if that doesn't help we try the hormones...
    as far as the diarrhea we just had a dog food rep tell us that using a probiotic such as FortiFlora in the food once a day with nervous boarding dogs helps with the diarrhea. being anxious disturbs the balance of natural bacteria that aid in proper digestion> I will share your blog with a fresher-out-of-school vet friend as well and see what she says... and im sure you know about the dog whisperer and his show on discovery... i love what he does. good luck.

  4. Next time get a bullmastiff. Best. Dog. Ever. Except for the 9 grand we're out to have his knees bionic-ed.

  5. We also had some specific points in mind when we got our Bouvier 4 years ago.What was I thinking?? A 125 pound dog is BIG. He also has frequent gas that is noxious and gets the runs easily.

    We recently changed him to an all meat dog food from a company called EVO, it's helped.

  6. cornsilk supplements help with urinary incontinence. my dog used to getthe odd leak, but has recently stopped so i haven't had a chance to try the cornsilk. but owners who have older dogs more prone to this kind of thing stand by it. so my point is - CORNSILK!

  7. sp--

    What, exactly, are you trying to say? Something about cornsilk? She's now on PPA and DES (estrogen). It's kind of working. That would be great if the natural remedy worked better than the pharmaceutical ones.

  8. Oh goodness. She sure is pretty, but the cringing sound nigh unbearable.

    I have a 70lb slightly-anxious boxerlab rescue-mutt (named Aggro) who has unpredictable digestive disorders. When he was a puppy, he was a nervous pooper. Any time there would be an addition of a new person, large object (furniture, appliances, crates) he would undoubtedly get a case of anxiety-induced runs. I asked the vet why he did this, and he actually shrugged and wrote it off as high anxiety coupled with pre-existing digestive track problems (getting weened at three weeks old will do that, I guess.) For about a week after moving myself, my dogs, and I to Pennsylvania, it was like I basically said I wanted to live piles of dog excrement. Every day, at least twice a day, I spent far too much time cleaning up after a dog that just didn't seem to understand why I had uprooted his life. And the worst thing is that my dog has a sense of guilt for whatever reason, and would try to hide the poop under toys or push furniture over it. And then he'd go lay in his crate and mope.

    Luckily his nervous pooping did stop sometime around the time turned two. Today? Other than being gassy and having occasional tummy upsets and beautiful projectile vomiting, he's a pretty mellow dude.

    So, maybe she'll grow out of it? And even if she doesn't, it is nice that at least the medication is kind of working.

  9. Rook--

    As wrong as it is, hearing others' horror stories about their dogs makes me feel better about mine! I'm glad yours is doing well. Stella does continue to grow up. It's just taking so damn long. We're still thinking about getting her on psyche meds.

  10. To be perfectly honest, I do not blame you at all. I think the box-scooting horror show would be the worst thing to deal with. I had a Pomeranian when I was a child that would flinch any time anyone raised their voice, and then instantly start licking his side like he was hurt. We're not entirely sure, but we suspect he had possibly been abused as a much younger puppy.

    I do believe that some dogs are just more high anxiety than others, and that medication does become a quality of life issue at that point. Hell, if I was afraid of boxes and objects being carried around, I might just want someone to medicate me!

  11. Hiya, We have two greyhounds -- Quasar and Star. Quasar had horrible poop, really horrible runny mess. We bought Forti-flora ( and used it for a few weeks, then switched his food to Innova dry, which has a Probiotic in it. Problem solved! Star was trying to murder us in our sleep with her gas emissions, but her rumbling stomach kept waking us up. For about the past week, we've been putting a PRE-biotic powder on her food. No more gas, no more rumble stomach! But we put it on every day.

    An occasional Pepto-Bismul (sp?) tab is o.k. for dogs, too. I keep a box of 'em in their travel bag.

    Good luck!

  12. We had a very skittish cat. Extremely skittish. Due, I believe, to overbreeding (he's our only purebred). Then something truly traumatic happened to him (too long a story to tell). After the trauma he actually improved a lot. Then another traumatic thing happened. And he improved even more.

    I can't in good conscience suggest you traumatize your dog, but .....

    I have an anxious husband who had some severe digestive problems. Once he started taking medication for depression/anxiety the digestive problems disappeared.

    Maybe doggie-prozac is in order.

  13. Sorry to comment on such an old post, and I hope that you've had better luck controlling your dog's digestive issues by now, but I wanted to see if you'd done any research on raw diets. We have a REALLY fussy English Pointer female who also has spayed bitch incontinence and loads of strange medical problems like food allergies, obscure fungal infections, etc. She was miserable for the first two years we owned her, with diarrhea and gas constantly and vomiting occasionally, no matter what expensive or fancy food we put her on. We switched to chicken-based raw feeding and the results were fantastic and immediate! Solid stools, no more horrendous farts, and no vomiting. I have resources I can share if you'd like :)

  14. I have an 8 month old Swissy...we've had great success with the Bissell Little Green Pro heat..need I say more :)

  15. I would like to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner this year, it was the 80's and most people just didn't know any better. Today, the thought of spraying stuff like that in my home is almost inconceivable. Yes, times have definitely changed! Especially if you're wise paranoid about the implications of exposing children to unnecessary toxins like I am. Curtain Cleaners London


Don't hold back.


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