How to Keep Your Dog Active This Winter

dog-sledding

By Megan Schneider from Kurgo Products

Snowflakes are flurrying outside a frosted window while you’re curled up in front of the fireplace, hot cocoa in hand. Your pup snoozes beside you as you pet him. The last thing you want to do is get up and go outside, right? This winter, that doesn’t have to be the case! Your dog still needs exercise for his mental health and yours. Here are some fun ideas to stay active both indoors and outdoors.

Plan a puppy play date. This one is the best of both worlds. First, you get to hang out with your dog. Second, you get to hang out with your friend and his or her dog. And, bonus, you can do this one inside or out. If you want to play outside, great! You deserve a lot of credit, because it’s cold out there. Just make sure you bundle your dog up in a dog coat to keep him warm! You can go to a dog park, take a walk, or even just play fetch with the pups in your back yard. However, if you’re like me and can’t always bring yourself to brave the frozen tundra, you can also have a play date inside. Set up a mini obstacle course for your dogs – you can use things like cones, spare tires, and poles to set up a basic course – and have a little friendly competition with your pal!

Jogging with dogFind a dog park. The great thing about dog parks is that there are both indoor and outdoor parks. Whatever suits you and your pup’s lifestyle better is fine. Again, if you will be keeping him outdoors, make sure he is prepared for the cold in a warm dog jacket. You might also want to consider dog shoes or a salve, like Musher’s Secret. At the dog park, you can do all sorts of things – play fetch with a ball or Frisbee, let your dog make new friends (just be sure to keep an eye on him), run with him, or so much more. However, taking your dog to an indoor park could be more beneficial to both you and your pup than an outdoor park. First, there are no other creatures waiting to sabotage your play date. While ticks and mosquitoes are more of a summer worry, there are always a few stragglers – I’ve been pulling ticks off my dog all November long! An indoor park allows you to enjoy playtime with your pup with peace of mind. Additionally, when you play with your dog outdoors, chances are he loves to dig in the dirt or snow – this may be entertaining to watch, but it makes a lot of extra work for you later when you have to bathe him for the third time in two days. Finally, indoor parks keep both you and your dog out of the cold so you don’t have to worry about all the extra layers for both of you.

Create a scavenger hunt. This may require a little extra effort on your part, as most dogs have an amazing sense of smell. However, it will be worth the effort to see how happy this makes your dog! Snow is great for a scavenger hunt because even if you don’t have a great hiding place, the snow covers everything. Pick a few items such as treats, toys, and tennis balls and hide them across your yard. You’ll both get a decent amount of exercise trekking through the snow, and you’ll have a blast watching what he goes after first! This one can also be done indoors. Since you have less space inside, change it up a bit – show your dog a treat or a toy and tell him to sit and stay while you hide it. You can do this one at a time or with several items at once.

Bring him to your favorite retailer (or his). There are all sorts of clichés about kids in candy stores and girls in shoe stores – but have you ever seen a dog in a pet store? He will be in literal (read: figurative) heaven traipsing down aisles filled with toys and treats. You can let him pick out a new dog toy or new treat flavor, or maybe even a new dog bed. Additionally, you can also take your pup along to your favorite store. Many major stores, such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, and LUSH Cosmetics all allow dogs in their stores. Shopping and hanging out with your dog? It doesn’t get any better than that! Just always be sure to call the store first to make sure dogs fit into their specific store policies.

Dog and snowshoesBundle up and get outside! This one is the most obvious of all, which is why I saved it for last. Yes, winter is cold and snowy and we don’t all love it. But chances are, your dog does. So bundle yourself and your dog up, get outside, and start a game of fetch or go for a walk. After all, there’s nothing cuter than watching your dog frolic through freshly fallen snow. Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, try something new – there are all sorts of fun winter sports you can do with your dog, such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or skijoring. All three require a bit more effort than your typical snow day with your dog, especially skijoring – it is a new sport that combines dog sledding with cross-country skiing. But all three promise to be tons of fun, as well!
Whatever you decide to do with your dog this winter, just have fun. And, most importantly, make sure you always make time to exercise your pup – it will keep him both happy and healthy!

Megan Schneider graduated summa cum laude from Temple University in 2016 with a degree in advertising research & strategy. She has written content for blogs as well as for advertising and promotional materials, and is currently writing for Kurgo, a company committed to helping people and their dogs get out and enjoy the world together by creating high quality dog travel and outdoor products.

Chris Willingham, Mama Lucca, Juan Rodriguez – Why we love them.

Parade magazine cover "A Marine's Best Friend" featuring MWD Lucca
NY Time's bestselling author Maria Goodavage's book cover to "TOP DOG" featuring Marine WMD Lucca.
NY Time’s bestselling author Maria Goodavage’s book cover to TOP DOG featuring Marine MWD Lucca.

Thank you to Parade magazine for sharing Lucca’s story with the world tomorrow.  Lucca K458 was a military working dog to whom we were introduced many, many years ago, while she and Chris were working together. MWDTSA is proud and honored to have supported them on multiple deployments.  We shared their story with the world via our MWDTSA Hero Dog nominations.

This team is worthy of the praise they received.  Along with Chris, we also have great respect and admiration for Juan who also played a huge role in Ms. Lucca’s life.

Could not be any prouder and I know our mutual friend, Terry, who was a Vietnam era handler and has now passed on, is smiling down today.  He was so proud of Chris.

A new book will be released soon, Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca.  It will be a both worth reading.  We’ll be writing a review in our Kennel Talk soon.

Puppy Love

Miss Lola on the couch

MWDTSA has a lot of heart. We have amazing donors and spectacular volunteers. We have a lot of supporters, too. Including some of the canine persuasion. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share Miss Lola’s letter to any lonely deployed K9 boys out there. What dog could resist a girl like this?

Miss Lola relaxing in the car
Miss Lola relaxing in the car

Hello, fellow fur loves! My name is Lola and I am 18 pounds of pure Pug fury. I’m a lean, mean fighting machine. (Ok, maybe not THAT lean!) My mom keeps telling me about these awesome dogs that sniff out bombs and bad guys for a living, so I wanted to get to know some of you. First things first, allow me to give you my stats:

Age: 8
Nicknames: Round Mound of Hound, Fatty McFatty
Siblings: 1 fur brother, 2 little humans
Marital Status: Single and ready to mingle, if you like curvy girls 😉
Job: Snoring so loudly that I wake up the whole house
Likes: Food, naps, food, ear rubs, food, stealing toys from the little humans, food, chewing up said toys, did I mention food??
Dislikes: Long walks, any human that doesn’t feed me, and on most days, my 2 little human siblings
Aspirations: To grow a snout and be a bad a$$ bomb dog

So there you have it, the real reason I want to get to know you…I want to know what it takes for me to become a MWP, Military Working Pug. Yeah, yeah, go ahead and laugh your furry tails off. My mom calls me “tank” for a reason! I plow through anything that stands in my way and I’m one tough cookie. Any advice that you fellow fur loves could give me would be great. Whew, I’m pumped just thinking about the possibilities! In the mean time, I will start training to become one of the best and brightest of the US Military…right after my nap.

To keep you wanting more, I have attached a picture of my lovely physique. I’m sure you’re panting heavily after seeing this, hope to hear from you soon!

Should any suitors be interested in writing to Miss Lola, you can reach her via her very cool mom, Nikki. nikki@mwdtsa.org

Walking Post

Duke X601

Walking post was my responsibility, along with the handler the Air Force assigned to me. Heading towards nightfall, we loaded in the back of a deuce and a half and then drove out, with several other teams, to be posted along the perimeter of our Air Base.

My responsibility was serious. I had to stand guard all night long on the stretch of boundary to which I and my human counterpart were assigned. We had to keep the base assets and personnel safe. My handler was also my responsibility. You know, he worked hard, but he had many shortcomings. Lord, he could barely hear the quiet threats of the night and he couldn’t smell a snake if it bit him– which wasn’t an idle threat.

We had maybe 200 x 200 yards to guard, depending on the terrain and conditions. There were things out there in the dark, there really were. Most nights I didn’t worry my handler, too much. We’d walk, endlessly it seemed and then, for a few brief moments, if all seemed well, we might sit to take a load off. My buddy talked a lot about a place called home and I loved to listen to his voice. Home sounded great, I could hardly wait to get there.

My handler was nervous much of the time, but heck, you couldn’t blame him. I mean he was all of 19 and sometimes there were people out there trying to kill us. And the night, well, it does take its toll when you are at war and fear is already in the forefront of your mind. Usually things went smoothly, but every so often, just enough to keep us on our toes, we were challenged. I never failed my challenge, I never failed my country, but most importantly, I never failed my partner.

I know my buddy is anguished still about the time we were in Vietnam. But, he needs to know that I’m still watching over him. I am still his “Guardian of the Night”.

During the Vietnam War, dogs like Duke X601 guarded base personnel and assets at bases across southeast Asia; Vietnam and Thailand.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Traumatic Brain Injury

I think there may be some folks wondering about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and its use to treat Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I did some research online and thought I would share some information. Much of this information comes from the Mayo Clinic website which is a website that I believe is reliable.

Normally dry air contains about 21% oxygen. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room. The air pressure in the room is raised up to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions your lungs can gather up to three times more oxygen. As this oxygen circulates through the body, release of growth factors and stem cells are stimulated. These substances promote healing. Injured tissue requires increased oxygen to survive, heal and fight infection.

Currently TBI is not one of the injuries or illnesses traditionally treated with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. Its effectiveness in this condition is considered unsupported by research/scientific evidence. Therefore most insurances will not cover this treatment and the VA does not provide it. However, some physicians/neurologists think that it is effective in treating TBI. Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment is typically an outpatient treatment and does not require hospitalization

As with all treatments or medications there are potential complications. These include temporary nearsightedness, seizures as a result of too much oxygen in the central nervous system, organ damage caused by air pressure changes and middle and inner ear damage including ear drum rupture due to the increased air pressure.

Since TBI affects so many parts of a persons life and presents so many ongoing challenges, I think it is certainly understandable that a person might want to pursue any treatment that might help. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a treatment for TBI that may be provided by the neurologists in the Healing Heroes Network. Their website is healingheroes.org. Other physicians may also provide this treatment for TBI.

Jeanne Dedrick

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—Part Two

If you are a spouse, friend or family member of someone that you suspect may have PTSD, what can you do to help?

  1. Become educated! Two helpful websites are the National Institute of Mental Health and the Mayo Clinic websites. (www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/ and www.mayoclinic.com) Also the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has a good website and in some communities provides a support group for families. The telephone number for NAMI is 800-950-6264. Their website is www.nami.org/.
  2. Take care of yourself! Don’t take responsibility for any difficult behavior the person with PTSD may display. Don’t take that person’s anger that is a part of the PTSD personally. Get help for yourself if you need to.
  3. Be a good listener! Listening means engaging with that other person in a non-critical manner and not just waiting for your turn to talk or thinking about what you are going to say next—or planning supper, etc. This requires some patience but can be a very healing thing. As a nurse in mental health we called this “therapeutic listening” and it is very important.
  4. Encourage the person with PTSD to seek appropriate treatment and if they do, support that treatment. If the person with PTSD refuses to seek treatment, continue to encourage but not “nag” (think encourage but in a negative way). I have tried nagging myself and have never found it to be very productive. Mostly I just cause frustration for myself and then there is a tendency to direct that frustration at others inappropriately. Remember each person is responsible for their own attitudes, actions and feelings. And see #2.

However, if you know or suspect that the person with PTSD is thinking about harming themselves or someone else, this is an emergency and you must do whatever is necessary to get the person help, including contacting 911.

Some signs that a person may be feeling suicidal are:

  1. Giving away cherished belongings. Getting their “affairs in order” with no logical reason.
  2. A sudden lifting of depression. Although this may seem like a good sign this can reflect a person’s relief that they have a plan to end their pain.
  3. Talking about suicide or expressing hopelessness or helplessness or wishing that they were dead. Sometimes people believe that if a person talks about suicide, they will not do it BUT this is absolutely NOT true.
  4. Risky or destructive behavior.
  5. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
  6. Stockpiling medication or acquiring a weapon.
  7. Withdrawing from social contact.
  8. Preoccupation with death and dying.
  9. Increased alcohol or drug use.
  10. Increased mood swings or a sudden personality change.
  11. Expressing feelings of worthlessness, guilt or shame.

Not every suicidal person displays the same symptoms or any symptoms at all. Males are more likely to use a lethally certain method for suicide. However, each person is different. Don’t take a chance with someone’s life. Asking about or talking about suicide will NOT “put the idea in their head” but may save their life. Try to remain calm and non-judgmental when talking to a suicidal person. Again, listening is very important.Some other useful phone numbers/websites are:

*Veteran’s Crisis Line—–800-273-8255 Press 1 for the Veteran’s Crisis Line (This number is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). The website is www.veteranscrisisline.net/.
*www.ptsd.va.gov
*www.helpguide.org

Now a note from my heart. If you believe you may be suffering from PTSD, please get help. I have heard and read that some people that are still active military are concerned that a diagnosis of PTSD will negatively affect their career. That is why I have included some nonmilitary resources. I sincerely hope that this concern will not prevent you from getting any help that you need. You have served your country and your fellow citizens well and you deserve the best quality of life possible.

Jeanne

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—Part One

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. As I noted this, I thought of all the members of the military that deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dealing with PTSD is no small, insignificant task. And if it is not dealt with effectively, it can lead to suicide.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD develops following a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. PTSD was first brought to widespread public attention in relation to veterans of war but it also can follow many other kinds of traumatic events. PTSD is a result of damage to the healthy “fight or flight” response to danger. People with PTSD will frequently feel frightened & anxious even when they are not in danger. In addition there may be other symptoms such as hyper vigilance, nightmares, “flashbacks”, insomnia, feeling numb, depression, feelings of guilt, angry outbursts and avoidance of places and events that trigger memories of the traumatic event. There is a website connected with the DOD that offers an anonymous screening tool to assist in determining if a person might have PTSD. The link is www.militarymentalhealth.org/PTSD_screening.

There is hope! The most common treatments for PTSD are psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) and medication or both. Some people find a support group of others who have experienced a similar trauma to be very helpful. Some have found “man’s best friend” to be a calming, relaxing presence and therapy dogs can be trained specifically to assist with PTSD. The treatment that works best for one person may not work as well for another. Treatment must be individualized. It is important to seek treatment from a mental health provider experienced with PTSD. Sometimes one of the hardest parts of treatment is actually seeking it. Some people choose to treat their PTSD on their own with alcohol or other potentially addictive substances but this just further complicates the situation. Asking for help does not signify weakness but strength and courage. Treatment is available in the V.A. system but also in private clinics and community mental health centers. Most private clinics accept health insurance and most community mental health centers have a “sliding fee scale” so the cost of treatment is based on a person’s ability to pay. There is also a non-profit organization called the Healing Heroes Network. Their mission is to connect veterans injured in the line of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11/2001 with quality low cost healthcare anywhere in the United States. This care is treatment that is not provided or covered by the VA or that is not available in a timely manner through the VA health system due to backlogs. Their website is www.healingheroes.org.

Another potentially helpful website is www.maketheconnection.net. This website provides education, support and connections with other veterans and also some self assessment tools. Another website is www.battleindistress.org. This organization also has a Facebook page and is another way to connect with other veterans and be a part of a supportive community. If you are suffering from PTSD, it is very important to know and remember that you are not alone and that there is help and hope.

Jeanne

MWDTSA Hero Nomination

Posha

This is Posha.  He has been nominated by MWDTSA to the AKC’s Award of Canine Excellence.  Read his story and the stories of other nominated heroes on our website at www.mwdtsa.org.

Sadly, we have lost Posha to cancer, but we fully support honoring this amazing dog for his role in his handler’s receipt of a Navy Cross, the second Highest Combat Award that can be received after the Medal of  Honor.  Their Navy Cross is the highest award ever received by a dog handler while actually working his dog.  I am honored and humbled to call Billy a friend.  Please join me in wishing Posha’s legacy the honor it so richly deserves.