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Wine and the Working Dog

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 10:13

Image: Dog In Vineyard There’s no doubt that dogs are hard workers. Among the more popular canine career holders are service dogs, therapy dogs, herding dogs, and search and rescue dogs. One of the less well-known pup professions is serving as a mascot, yet dogs have represented organizations as mascots for hundreds of years.

Mascots are most commonly associated with colleges and universities, but many national businesses have had famous mascots as well. Think Gidget the Chihuahua from Taco Bell and Bullseye the Bull Terrier from Target.

There is one type of business where you might not expect to see a mascot, however: a winery. In reality, many wineries have 4-legged mascots, and these furry ambassadors are integral to their workplaces. We found some dogs hard at — ahem — work in wineries around the country. If you’re planning a trip this fall, here are some wineries and their mascots you might want to consider checking out.Milano Family WineryZeus is the head dog at Milano Family Winery in Mendocino County, California. A 6-year-old Pomeranian, Zeus has been working at the winery for about 4 years. He arrives every morning ready for business with Deanna Starr, winery owner, winemaker, and Zeus’s “girlfriend.”

According to Deanna, Zeus took to his duties with great enthusiasm from the start of his career. “He is very thorough at overseeing all of the operations and greeting guests,” says Deanna. How does Zeus get along with the winery’s customers? “They love him,” Deanna says. “They ask about Zeus if he is not around. And he is about as cute as they come — he even smiles!”A Gust Of SunJewell, Cody, and Abbey, a trio of West Highland White Terriers, have been working at A Gust of Sun Winery and Vineyard in Ransomville, New York, since the winery opened its doors in 2011. Ages 13, 11, and 10, respectively, the pups can be found hard at work everyday as the official greeting committee and guest companions at the winery. “People come from all over to visit them,” co-owner Shane Gustafson notes.

Having 3 mascots — with 3 very different personalities — serves guests well. “Jewell fancies herself the princess of the pack,” Shane says, “despite letting her brother Cody have his way most of the time.” While initially appearing sweet and demure, Jewell can actually be quite bold when her spicy personality makes itself known.

Sweet, charming, and intelligent, Cody recognizes many words and performs tricks for winery goers. “You can tell when he’s trying to understand something because of his characteristic head tilt when you speak to him,” Shane says. “He’s also the face licker of the bunch!”

Abbey is the shyest of the pups. Says Shane, “She’s an unpretentious tomboy who loves to play rough with her brother Cody, yet is reserved and cautious in new situations. And she’s always open for snuggles.”Sleeping Dog WinesLarry Oates, owner and winemaker at Sleeping Dog Wines in Benton City, Washington, says, “With a name like ours, of course we have a canine figurehead.” The winery’s current ambassador is Jett, a 4-year-old black German Shepherd. “Jett had a fragmented life before we adopted her 2 years ago,” says Larry.

Although Jett’s manners have improved significantly since Larry first brought her home, “it can be trying at times when Jett barks loudly at our visitors,” he says. “Once she settles down and customers get involved in tasting the wines, they become smitten with Jett — just in time to be barked at again as they head to their cars.”
Pearmund CellarsAt Pearmund Cellars Winery and Vineyard in Broad Run, Virginia, Tug, a 7-year-old Golden Retriever, has been the official greeter for 3 years. “Tug came to us with no training or discipline,” explains Chris Pearmund, winery owner and Tug’s dad. “After training him on basic dog rules, he adopted the winery as his job.”

Tug watches from the winery entrance as people exit their cars, then walks over to them with a wagging tail to say hi and ensure a welcoming environment. Then he walks patrons to the door and waits for the next car. If customers get by him without a proper greeting, Tug seeks them out inside the winery, bypassing those he has already greeted. “He never misses anyone,” notes Chris.

As for the customers’ reactions to Tug, “it’s just amazing,” says Chris. “His Facebook page is more active than mine! Customers want their picture taken with him, and kids ask to come visit our winery just to see him.”

Tug’s hard work certainly seems to have paid off. He was voted Best Wine Dog in Virginia last year!White Mountain WineryWhite Mountain Winery in North Conway, New Hampshire, is the domain of Doc and Lucy, official winery greeters. Doc, a 5-year-old Labrador Retriever/Pit Bull mix, was a shoe-in for the job, according to co-owner Bryon Gil. “He was our family pet before we opened the winery,” Bryon says. “So it was a no-brainer that he’d help out with the family business.” Lucy, a 2-year-old Whippet mix, came along as business grew.

Many of the winery’s customers are pleasantly surprised to find 2 feisty pups when they visit. “Now that our customers have gotten to know Doc and Lucy,” Bryon says, “they stop in just to say hi even if they are not there for wine.”
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of HealthyPet magazine.

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Where’s the Best Place for Your Elderly Dog to Stay When You're Away?

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 15:10

Image: Elderly golden retriever istockphoto 515672176 Any dog owner knows that leaving your best friend behind while you travel can be difficult — for both you and your dog. But when you’re trying to find the right place for an elderly dog, there are many additional factors to consider.

There are lots of potential challenges that can come with age: mobility problems, anxiety, loss of sight and hearing and other health problems. You’ll need to think carefully  — and be realistic —  about how he’s doing when making plans for him.

We talked with Dr. Grace Anne Mengel, who works in the primary care service at the University of Pennsylvania’s Ryan Veterinary Hospital, about what traveling owners should think about when considering care for an older dog.
Boarding at Traditional Kennels Senior dogs can stay in kennels, of course, but there are several things to contemplate before choosing to board your furry friend:
  • Potential for stress: “As they get older they do get more stressed about being in a kennel environment, and then you do worry about things like bloat, which can be life-threatening,” Dr. Mengel says. Think about whether your dog has been stressed from being in new or different environments or even just being away from you.

  • Vaccine policy: You should inquire about the facility’s vaccine requirements, and then talk to your vet to make sure your dog is up to date on all needed vaccines. Some might be required by the kennel, like rabies, while others might not be, like the flu  —  and that means your dog has the potential to be exposed to something against which she's not already vaccinated. Your vet can advise you as to whether you should consider a vaccine your dog hasn't already had. “Similar to people, it’s the younger and older who are going be more susceptible to infection than the middle-aged in general,” although the risk is still there for any age dog, she says.

  • Flooring: “Those arthritic dogs, if they’re laying around all the time, they’re going to get stiff and surface is a big deal,” Dr. Mengel says. She suggests asking whether the facility has “surfaces that are non-slip so that they don’t slide around on the floor when they’re trying to walk.”

  • Exercise needs: Ask about whether the kennel offers playgroups that are created based on age or temperament. Or, if your senior dog doesn't play with other pups, see what other opportunities she'll have for exercise. “An older dog may not want to play with all the young, bouncy dogs,” Dr. Mengel says. But she should still get a walk to stretch her legs or the chance to spend time outdoors.

  • Comforts from home: You can also check to see whether the facility will allow you to bring your dog’s own bed so she has something familiar and comfortable with her. If not, you might ask about what kind of bedding or soft surface will be available, particularly for dogs who are arthritic.


If you’re trying a new facility, it’s a good idea to do a short practice run, maybe leaving your dog there for a day or half a day if they offer day care, so she can get used to the place and people while you’re nearby and available to come pick her up if needed, Dr. Mengel says.
Staying With Family or Friends As your dog ages, you might think about asking a family member or friend to take care of her instead of bringing her to a boarding facility. “It’s really nice when you have other family members who the dog knows, because that can be really helpful when you travel, if the dog can either stay with them or they can stay with the dog,” Dr. Mengel says.

Of course, there’s no place like home. But if your pooch is familiar with your friend or family member’s home, and they’re OK with hosting her, that can be a good option, too, she says.
Hiring a Pet Sitter You can hire someone to stay at your home 24/7 while you’re gone or set it up so the pet sitter comes in multiple times a day to feed your dog, give her attention and get her outside.

Depending on the dog, you might want to try this option out on a short-term basis first to see how it goes — maybe for one night while you’re not far away. Take some time to get your dog used to this person, if it’s someone new to her.

Many areas have pet-sitting services, and you might think about asking your vet if there’s someone they recommend.

Medical Boarding If you can’t have someone care for your pet at home and she struggles with getting around on her own or has other medical issues, check with your vet to see if they offer on-site boarding — even if it's not something they advertise.

“If it really is a dog with mobility issues, some veterinary clinics will offer medical boarding for patients, whereas they don’t do normal boarding for healthy animals,” Dr. Mengel says. “I prefer it be someplace where somebody’s there overnight rather than leaving a dog overnight with no people there — same with boarding kennels.”

Not all facilities have staff that are trained to help assist dogs — especially large dogs — with standing or walking, but some medical boarding facilities have veterinary technicians who can help your dog with this.
Take Your Dog Along It’s not always realistic to take your pet with you or to avoid travel, but that’s the tactic some owners take. Just be sure you're keeping your dog's health and safety at the front of your mind, because if your dog has numerous medical issues, taking your pooch someplace far from the vet who knows her might not be the smartest move.

“I have one client who just takes her elderly dog with her wherever she goes, so if she goes on vacation she takes the elderly dog, because the dog gets stressed [otherwise],” Dr. Mengel says. 

She says you can also talk with your own vet about whether there are any medications that would help to reduce your dog’s stress.
Plan Ahead for Emergencies No matter who is caring for your senior pet, they should have the contact information for your regular vet as well as any veterinary specialists you see regularly. You may also want to have an emergency contact who knows what you want for your dog and can make a difficult decision if you can’t be reached — especially if you’re traveling overseas or someplace where it’s hard to get in touch with you.

“While it’s hard to discuss that, if it is really an older dog who already has preexisting health conditions, it’s good if there are people who you trust who can be in the loop because, God forbid a decision needs to be made while you’re away, they know your wishes,” Dr. Mengel says. “You don’t want people to have to be frantically making phone calls” if your dog is suffering.

In the end, it all comes down to trusting your gut... and maybe also your vet and emergency contacts.

“It is very much an individual dog scenario, and that’s where it’s good if people are in tune to their dog and kind of use their instinct a little bit as to what would make the dog most comfortable,” Dr. Mengel says.

And, of course, if you have any doubt or questions, talk to your vet.

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