Monday, September 7, 2009

20 pounds lighter and a happy boy!

When Harley lived here before, the previous owners used to chain him when he was outdoors because they couldn't control him.  And they did, literally, use a chain.  They had taught him to aggressively chase everything in site. Now, he is free to prance around the property, look for toys in the yard bushes, and carry his soccer ball around while following us all over the yard. He says he is happy as a clam and he is a very well behaved dog -- for a dog.

Harley acquired this ball himself during garbage week, on one of his nightly walks with dad.  In fact he brought home a couple before finding this one, and as this last one proved to be the best, the others were returned for recycling to any dog that wasn't as lucky as Harley was with his new prize.  If he had his way this ball would go everywhere with him.

We don't have a fence, but Harley knows his boundaries, and when the neighbours want to approach him, he knows to look for permission before interaction. Other neighbours have dogs that bark tediously, for hours, and we have a dog that only barks to tell everyone "I'm having a great time playing with my owner," with the only other barking happening when we have intruders on the property. Barking doesn't happen with friends unless the friends wind him up and encourage it. It is such a happy bark and I love it when an animal's eyes sparkle!

Thanks to confirmation from Deb Zoran in her presentation last year, I knew that measuring out Harley's 'low calorie' food was the only way to reduce his size as much as we needed to. We started at 68 pounds when we took him in, and he now weighs 48 pounds. My partner did manage to reduce ten pounds of his weight by walking Harley, but the other ten was a little harder to accomplish and has required patience and time. This, of course, was complicated by Harley's intolerance of chicken, and the need to eventually resort to a veterinary product for his itching. This product does seem to be keeping him healthy and happy, so for now we aren't experimenting with other off the shelf foods we might prefer. We do, of course, give Harley treats of fish, and he has had freeze dried duck and quail hearts that haven't caused a reaction, which is great. Some dogs may suffer from general "poultry" allergies, but I am beginning to suspect that this would be caused by the food given to the "poultry" in those cases, not the food given to the dog. I am not up on the chemical composition of different poultry meats, so this is only an opinion on my part.

We have found Harley loves the freedom of shorter fur when the weather is warm, so we have been having it shaved at least twice each summer. He is looking younger and sleek these days and I will post a photo when I can find a program that will adapt to this new computer with "Vista" rejecting every choice I make.

If we are being honest, here, since the last posting we had to have a benign lump removed that reduced Harley's weight by one pound, and his fur, when full, is also another pound, so by mid winter he will probably gain a pound unless we work really hard to reduce his body fat by a pound before that. The difference in personality and health is so great that we must do what we can to preserve it.

The one problem we still have with Harley's allergy to chicken is that while we are very careful not to feed him anything that has chicken, there are the crows that like to sit up on the chimney and shuck oysters, or chew on the bones they find in garbage.  These get left behind, and we can't always be aware of what is lurking in a corner of our yard, so have to try to be diligent regarding whether he is after something a little too interesting.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Meet Harley:

Our boys are a little traumatized as they are presently having to share our attention and time with a dog who badly needs it.

When we purchased our home, the former owner moved into a small apartment along with her belongings. She is in her 80's, and has major issues over letting go, so there is little room for a dog that should weigh about 50 pounds and is upwards of 68 pounds.

We have been paying for all food, veterinary, and licence needs, but have had no time to address the lack of room in the apartment, or the fact that a large dog needs exercise. He has been walked regularly by someone who loves him, but that person can't correct the conditions of the home, so until the apartment is cleaned enough to eliminate the flea population, I will be getting more exercise.

One issue I addressed with the first meal served is that the canned and dry food he received was being provided mixed together so he would have to eat all the contents of the dish to get the canned he loves so much. When I separated the two, he only ate half the dry that had previously been provided, and he was happy to 'nibble' when hungry instead of gulping the whole meal at once. I may again manage to reduce stomach size.

Here is part of what we have been battling with weekly shampoos at the vet, pills, etc., to combat the skin irritation that we believe is probably caused by fleas. We are checking pet food ingredients as well, while reducing his weight.

Poor old Harley is not properly trained for walking, but I found the 'Easy WAlk Training Harness for Dogs', and a retractable leash with fingertip control made it so that my first walk with him was just fine. In the past he has a tendency to grab at the lead and pull the leash in his mouth, which gives him control of the situation. With the halter I found, his large weight and strength, which would normally be an issue for me with a back disability, was non existant. He also nips at mens' hands in an attempt at play, but he is too aggressive with that, and I again found that as long as I maintained control, there were no such issues between the two of us when 'men' didn't interfere with the interactions.


This morning, with the new harness, I managed to walk Harley right through our hoard of squirrels eating breakfast on the lawn. He hesitated for an instant in thought of what he would do if I wasn't in control, and then looked at me for leadership, which is what you need when walking a big dog. At this point we are assuming that the skin irritation which consisted of bumps and red 'hot spots' was not caused by fleas, but by a possible intolerance to chicken. Now we have to hunt for pet food alternatives in a world of "chicken" and "fruits and veggies" on the labelling.


Yesterday Harley had a 'lumpectomy' to remove excess growth on his chest. No use of the new harness for a short period, so it is a good thing DH is on holiday. It is amazing to see Harley's profile that doesn't have this massive lump hanging down between his front legs.......he probably needs a smaller halter now. We had already reduced his weight by 10 pounds and are wondering what this 'removal' of fatty tissue will do to his weight.