I\’ve often wondered how parents of three children manage. After all, most adults only have two arms; most families have only two adults, maximum; and there are only two windows in the back seat of most cars. Foolishly, I never did wonder how people with three dogs survived.
Here\’s the story at our house, in this winter of 2011. Twelve-year-old Lexi, neat as a pin otherwise, has acquired the nasty habit of poop-eating. (Be forewarned: the following material may not be suitable for the delicately nurtured.) Not her own poop, but the other dogs,\’ especially Bisou\’s. She is like a heat-seeking missile, zeroing in on excreta with speed belying her age, while pretending deafness as I try to call her off her prey. I pooper scoop the yard every morning, but cannot be out there to whisk away every scat from every dog during the day
I have consulted several vets about this. To a woman, they have shaken their heads and said it\’s a nasty habit, popular among dogs, and virtually impossible to break. It does not, they have assured me, hurt the dog in any way.
Unable to muster a Zen attitude towards this problem, I persuaded my husband to install a line across our yard, and a chain running along it to which I could attach Lexi when she needs to go out. And so I do. Every time Lexi needs to be let out, the two other dogs–yapping and swirling and beside themselves with eagerness to go outside–have to wait until I have attached Lexi to the chain. This doesn\’t sound like much, but time after time, day after day, it gets old.
Wolfie, during the recent snow and ice events, has cut both his hind pasterns by crashing through the ice crust or being scratched by sticks and stones lurking under the snow. The wounds don\’t seem to bother him much, but they are swollen. I put warm salt-water compresses every day on them, hoping to forestall infection.
This means that I cannot take the dogs out into the woods or field for exercise, since every time I do this Wolfie\’s wounds open and bleed. The only way to exercise him is to walk him on leash up and down our icy driveway. And because Bisou, if left behind, would have a nervous breakdown, she has to come along too, on leash.
For a long time, I couldn\’t figure out why Bisou, at over a year old, would still occasionally poop in the house. I\’d never had this problem with a dog before. I thought she might have neurological issues.
We have always kept a well-stocked bird feeder in the back yard, and there is lots of seed spilled by the birds not only around the feeder, but under the bushes and trees where they congregate to enjoy their meals. The dogs love the bird leftovers, especially when sprinkled with avian poop. It finally occurred to me that the vast quantities of bird seed that Bisou would consume in the briefest excursion outside might be affecting her digestive tract. All those sunflower seeds and shells are a lot of fiber for a little dog.
A few days ago, we moved the bird feeder to the front yard, to which the dogs don\’t have access. However, because there are still masses of leftover seeds and shells in the backyard, I have been taking Bisou out on a leash–into single digit temps in the morning, in my pajamas; into blowing blizzards whenever she gives me a meaningful look during the day; into the frozen night, last thing before bed. And give me meaningful looks she does, all day long because, hey, who wouldn\’t want to be taken out for a romp in the snow? However, the leash routine works. There has not been a poop in the house since we started this regimen.
So things are actually perfect. I have total control over Lexi\’s poop-eating, Wolfie\’s wounds, and Bisou\’s house training…as long as I spend most of my day and part of my night obsessing about, keeping track of, and interacting with my three dogs.