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Kari Henley

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My Dog is a Whack Job! Canine Allergies, Anxieties and Ailments, Oh My!

Posted: 04/12/09 06:05 PM ET

It seems the Obama family finally made their choice with Bo the Portuguese water dog. I am sure he will be the most watched puppy in the world! As recent entrants into the mega-watt pet world, I was shocked to find dogs are getting more attention than the most pampered movie star, and some of the most desirable 'designer' breeds or cross breeds are not as ideal as they seem.

Our dog was supposed to be a simple addition to our life. Instead, she is a beloved whack job of allergies, anxieties and ailments that appear to be on the rise. Who knew? I imagined our family dog to lick our fingers, get the newspaper, fetch a ball and lie at our feet. Forget about buying a wardrobe of outfits and doggie jewelry to boot.

We did our research, just like the Obama's, to find a dog that doesn't shed and is considered "hypoallergenic", as one of my sons has terrible allergies. We finally settled on a cockapoo (aka: cocker spaniel and poodle) as the ideal, low maintenance, family dog. It seems you can breed a poodle with just about everything these days to get a hybrid because everyone wants the poodle's brains and temperament, but nobody wants their dog to look like one.

First mistake: driving our cute, furry hypoallergenic dog home, I looked at my sweater, and discovered hair all over the place. Uh oh.

"Can't guarantee, anything, Ma'am," the breeder said. "You have more 'cocker' than 'poo.'"

Great. Now, we have to live with a shedding, non-shedding dog. Luckily the household adjusts with no allergic reactions, and we move on to buy our $1200 electric fence, all sorts of fancy accessories for puppy potty training, and a new crate contraption they are supposed to enjoy. It became a handy clothes hanger.

Now comes the whack job part. The dog starts scratching, biting her feet, and is itchy all the time. She's scared of her food bowl and jumps at the flies landing on the patio door. Our vet cleared that there was nothing wrong with her, so I headed to PAWS, a chic little designer pet store in our home town. I was dazzled at the array of sparkling pet apparel, home-baked biscuits in a glass display case, bumper stickers, key chains and posters advertising "in-house spa doggie pamper services".

This is not the Alpo land that I remember. I found Joanne, the owner of this fabulous place, and inquired about my hypoallergenic dog's itches. She informed me my half breed probably has "food allergies." I asked her to repeat that. We're not talking about my son with the peanut allergies? No, it seems the dog has them too.

Apparently it is all the rage in dog land and many dog's can't digest the wheat and fillers in their food. The cheap chow in the grocery store is sooo passé. Instead we have to start an "elimination" diet. $50.00 later I am trucking home a special organic buffalo meat for my mutt.

Feeling a bit smug and superior that MY dog is not eating the crap in the grocery store, we give it a whirl. No luck. A month later, still scratching, biting and acting like a whack job. Back I go to the doggie designer store. It's a happening spot. Tons of people just hang there with their pets inside the store; chatting like they are on a kid's play date or something. Feeling doggie peer pressure, I tentatively sidle in with the crowd.

Clearly the buffalo is "just not agreeing with her." Everyone clucks at my problems while itchy, trembling Maggie pees in the corner of the store. One of the nearby customers chimes I should hand-bake dog biscuits with pressed vegetables. She tries to sell me a book on how to make your own dog food.

Stunned this is actually my life, I head home loaded with a fancy salmon dog chow instead of buffalo -- to help her skin with the Omega 3's. The irony is not lost on me as I am buzzing the kids through the Wendy's drive-through for $0.99 burgers that my dog, my MUTT is eating salmon tonight and we are eating fast food.

We love our pets, right? These days we will do just about anything for them.
I thought the dog was going to be easy. Somehow PAWS has become my second home and Joanne is now my doggie therapist. I am slouching around her counters like some sort of sap. The food elimination diet is a failure. With deep concern, she proclaims it must be 'environmental allergies' and I need to give her a special bath with oatmeal and aloe to soothe her skin. At $18.00 per bottle, I wonder if maybe I should try it on my hair and give the stupid damn dog the $1.88 bottle of Suave hanging in my shower.

The final straw came this week, as our now grown up dog, who is still afraid of her food bowl, has scratched herself into a frenzy and bloodied her lovely velvet ears.

"Looks like its anxiety," Joanne pronounces; "very common with these 'designer' breeds.
" Off she trots to dig up a referral for her favorite vet because he has, 'excellent 'pet side' manner, and is experienced with these psychological issues.'

"And," she informs me on the sly, drawing me in closer, "if he prescribes the anti-anxiety medication, it is really the same as Prozac and you can get it for $10 at the drug store."

Seriously, that is the final straw. I give up. If anyone is getting Prozac in our house, it will be ME first before the dog. I am not one of those chicks who is going to "Doga" the newest doggie yoga class with my dog for mutual stress management, or take her to a doggie psychic to find out what is troubling her. Maybe I just have to get with the program. Would we trade our little Maggie? Never. Yet, I just have to wonder: would Michelle Obama get salmon chow, hand baked biscuits, aloe conditioner and Prozac for Bo the White House dog?

Here is a clip from CBS news about the craze of 'designer dogs' and how they are not always what they are cracked up to be:

What do you think about the pet craze these daze? Are we over the top? Love to hear your comments

 

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