Exercise & Social Contact are Essential for Dogs

There’s one more story I’ll share from my junket with Helping Paws Across Borders. We brought state-of-the-art knowledge and medications to Belize but our equipment was only what we could stuff into our luggage – bare bones. It was field medicine as usual until my work was sidetracked by the angst-ridden account of an aggressive dog named Queen who was permanently tethered inside her home. What most of us would label animal abuse turned out to be a case of remarkable ignorance, a decidedly curable condition. Queen also needed to be spayed.

The Queen of Great Britain is the formal head of state of the independent nation of Belize. For all I know she was the namesake of my patient but the similarity definitely ended there. Queen and her elderly owners occupied a one room wooden house on stilts. Tethered to the wall by a 3 foot rope and never permitted outside, even to eliminate, she was mean as a snake.

I spayed Queen but I also had a heart to heart with her loving owner. In his village, property lines are nebulous, fences nonexistent.  His reason for confining his dog inside was the fear that she would kill the 3 ducks who lived under the house. The idea of leash walks never occurred to him; he’d never seen it done.

Dogs have essential behavioral requirements. For many, the closer the confinement, the greater the risk of aggression. Queen had gone stir crazy; she really needed to get loose to sniff and explore. I gave the old timer straight-forward advice on exercise and social interactions and wrote it down for him. He said he could read but we had our doubts. What was beyond question was his devotion to his dog. Emotion and logic are often strangers.

A final note of gratitude for the generous contributions to our home-grown organization, Helping Paws Across Borders. Every dollar was spent to purchase medicine and supplies. Anyone can help support the next trip by emailing our intrepid leader Angie (helpingpaws@comcast.net). Go to facebook.com/drjeffnichol for photos of Belizean pets and their families. A donation of time and expertise from an animal-loving accountant could establish our group as a tax-exempt 501(c) 3.