I may be a registered Democrat, but yesterday I decided to vote for a party I could never kick myselffor endorsing: The American Shelter Dog Party.This is always a winning ticketin my book, regardless of prevailing political winds, so I proclaimed party pride by taking in a new foster dog from my local animal shelter, Animal Care & Control of New York City.
The canid-ate whogot my vote, dog #880061 on the left (pun intended), is a runty little sweetheart ofa pit bullwho is fully grown at a mere 29 pounds (!).I’m not sure whether her growth was stunted asa result of malnutrition – her spine does stick out of her skinny back and she’s extremely ribsy -or if she’s just a freak of nature. And although I’ve heard tell of such “pocket pitties,” she’s officially the smallestone I’ve ever rescued, with a puppylike cuteness about her face that led me to call her perma-pup, as in permanent puppy.
Perma-Pup is a fine nickname, but I still needed to come up with an actual name.
It’s rare that I getthe chance to actually name a dog, so this was an exciting opportunity I wasn’t going to take lightly. Usually, my rescues arrive pre-named and already know their names, so the most I can do is bestow at leasttwo nicknames on each of them. Tiki, for instance, came with the appalling name Tinky – which was simply unacceptable considering his noble, majestic bearing- but since he already knew the name, I tweaked it slightly, and it worked. He recognized his name, and I no longer cringed. Around our house, he’s also known as Tiki-Bear, T-Bear, Tibor, orjust plain T.
They were calling my new perma-pup Betty at the shelter, but she didn’t strike me as a Betty. So I thought about her small stature, and how she’s a dwarf pit bull, kind of like a dwarf bunny: a subset of the breed, a smaller species of pit. Honey, as in “Honey, I Shrunk the Pit” came to mind… nah, no good.
And then I got to thinking about Tod Browning’s classic 1932 movie “Freaks,” and two of its lead characters, the diminutive Hans and Frieda (the actors playing them, siblings Harry and Daisy Earles, would later portrayMunchkins in “The Wizard of Oz”). So that’s how Frieda the perma-pup pit got her name.
Of courselittle Friedawould have to arrive with a honking case of kennel cough when I have a house full of dogs. Kennel cough is a highly contagious, airborne virus, so it transmits with frightening speed from dog to dog and can take weeks to cure. But the good news is that humans cannot catch it, and neither can cats. So I set up a crate forFrieda in the felinewing of my apartment, where the residents are presently rolling their eyes at their sucker Momforcrowding our house withyet another specimen of the “inferior” canine species.
But even before I could address the matter of the cough, there was the matter of giving Frieda a bath. I hated to get her wet while she wasn’t feeling well and it’s cold outside, but she was covered with a coating of slime that simply had to be washed off. I lifted Frieda into the bathtub,where she quickly demonstratedwhat all good pits are justly famous for:stoiccooperation with any and all indignities a human could possibly dish out. I lathered her up twice with my favorite product for sensitive canine skin, TheraNeem Pet Shampoo,then gently hosed her down and toweled her dry.
Two of my canine crew aresweet seniors– Tiki and Sheba – and I don’t want to overtax them witha nastyvirustheir slower immune systems can ill afford. So every time I handle any part of Frieda, including her collar and leash, I take care to wash my hands thoroughly and decontaminate them with CleanWell,the all-natural hand sanitizer that’s used by President Obama.
To reduce the severity and shorten the duration of her hacking, sneezing, and wheezing,Frieda’s been getting five-times-daily doses of Umcka Cold Care cherry-flavored syrup, my secret weapon against kennel cough. The shelter’s medical staff prescribed a once-a-day dose of the antibiotic Doxycycline, so she gets that with a chunk of cheese in the evening (fetaisher fave). At meal times,to offset any stomach upset from the antibiotic, she gets acidophilus capsules hidden in her food, which she snarfs so fast she doesn’t even notice the strange white pills, which a more finicky dog might take pains to avoid.
To correct the skeletal condition of Frieda’s physique, I’m feeding her Wellness Chicken canned food. The equivalent of a medicinalchicken soup, it will fill her out and help combat the cough. When they’re not rolling their eyes,my brazencatshave beenbusy sticking their paws inFrieda’s crate to steal her food as she inhales it, so I must gently swat them off for fear that one of them might accidentally lose a leg. Luckily, Frieda’s been a good girl, so the most she’ll do is bark at the feline foodies, as if they were annoying tuxedo’d waiters at a restaurant.
Do you have a complicated dog-care story? Please share it in the comments!