The night of uncooked rice

*I want to say, if you found this page because your dog ate rice, click here to get to that portion of the post. Later, come back and enjoy :)

The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too. ~Samuel Butler, Notebooks, 1912

Over the years, my home was also the home to many dogs and cats, several goldfish, a bird, and a guinea pig. (I'm a sucker for a furry face).

I’m no stranger to animal loss or sickness. That doesn't keep me from getting broken up every time I see a sick animal or from fighting the urge to take stray cat, dog, anything home with me.

For first time in my life, though, I am basically caring for another living being entirely on my own. I’m not alone in the sense that I have absolutely no help; my parents are awesome about helping with Luna and love being dog-sitters. (I joke they like to see her more than they do me)

But, ultimately, she is fully my dog. We live three hours from my folks and, therefore, they are not there when, say, she gets into a bag of uncooked rice at one in the morning. In this sense, I am the one who makes the decisions and deals with the struggles.

Being a dog parent has its own set of trials. There are so many conflicting ideas of what you should and shouldn’t do, feed, buy, or give your dog. And, while the internet is a useful tool in many ways, it is also sometimes unhelpful when you are a fearful dog parent googling “is ____ bad for dogs” at 2 a.m.

This is a lesson I, and many other dog parents, know all too well.

Part of this problem has arisen because, like people, no two dogs are exactly the same. Therefore, no two dogs react to everything in the exact same way.

For instance, Luna generally has, what I like to call, a stomach of steel. This might make me sound terrible, but there are occasions when I can’t tell you exactly what she’s eating, short of taking it away from her. Sometimes I wonder if she’s gnawing on her gums or something.

My brother’s dog, Jaxby, is the opposite. There are many things he isn’t allowed to have simply because it doesn’t sit well on his stomach. This is just how it goes.

All of that said, there are some things you should NEVER give a dog.

Back to the late night/early morning rice episode: it was a late, rather stormy night, and I’m just getting into bed. Turn off the light about 1:30 a.m. and suddenly I hear a crash. I get up and run into the living room, where Luna had snuck off to. When I get there, I find her in the middle of floor eating rice off the floor. Instantly I shriek, she stops and stares, then tries to start eating again. Grabbing the vacuum with one hand, and pushing her away, I try to remember the things I had heard about dogs and uncooked rice.

After getting it up, I start trying to Google what to do. Eventually, with a friend’s help, I find that, it’s not just bad for dogs to eat uncooked rice, it can be life-threatening, depending on the amount.

A few phone calls to the emergency clinic and some hydrogen peroxide drinks later, the problem is resolved and we go for another walk. It’s close to 2:30 or three a.m. by this time and I am ready to collapse. Luna is clearly exhausted by this time, but that’s another concern; being lethargic is a sign of illness in dogs.

Sitting here now, I am amazed at how much confusion there is over things like rice. The responses varied from the “it won’t hurt ‘em one bit” to the “CALL THE VET, RICE IS DEADLY!” This kind of information isn’t at all helpful, especially to new owners.

In theory, when becoming a dog owner, one will do massive amounts of research. In reality, that’s highly unlikely. Some do, but I imagine I’m not the only irresponsible one who didn’t.

This is why I’ve decided to post this. Hopefully some new owner out there will stumble their way onto my post late one night and find, not panic and confusion, but genuinely helpful responses.
I talk to him when I'm lonesome like; and I'm sure he understands. When he looks at me so attentively, and gently licks my hands; then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes, but I never say naught thereat. For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes, but never a friend like that. ~W. Dayton Wedgefart
Things to know:
Find a vet you trust: It can be pricey to care for a dog/cat/turtle/whatever, but the reality is, a small check-up because you’re a bit neurotic will be easier to pay for and deal with than a massive surgery because you are too relaxed.

Most vet offices keep certain regular business hours, which isn’t always convenient at 2 a.m., but they are also rather understanding in an emergency. If they aren’t, maybe you should consider finding another vet.

And always try to keep the number of an after-hours clinic on-hand. Even if you don’t go, I’ve found them more than willing to answer questions over the phone.

Lastly, make sure you visit regularly, especially in their early years and especially in their later years. Honestly, my dog sees the doctor more than I do, not because she’s sickly but more probably because I’m a worried one.

Try to train: Even if you can’t fully train your dog (which can be a full-time job in and of itself), it’s a good idea to teach it a few basics, like sit, stay, come.
Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend. ~Corey Ford
There are many reasons why you take some time to teach your dog some commands. First of all, and most obvious, it can make you more confident and help make the dog more well-behaved. But it goes beyond that.

One of my favorite sources, is a website called Dogster (it also has a companion site known as, Catster). This site is devoted to dogs, dog owners, and dog experts. They have daily and weekly blog updates from these experts and articles published that involve dogs in some way. They even have dogster pages, which is like a Facebook for dogs.

It’s often my go-to site. One of their major topics is on dog training. According to the article, training your dog can also benefit them in many ways. It can instill confidence in your dog. It also creates boundaries, helps avoid confusion, and prevents problems. But most importantly, it creates a bond between human and dog, which helps the dog learn to trust you and follow your cues.

I’m not saying that the furry one will require an obedience class (some might). I’m not saying you should avoid the class. I’m simply saying that it’s important to train and how you do that is up to you, as long as it works. There are universal dog signals that one learns in training classes that you might not learn if you go it alone, but, I believe that as long as it works, that’s what matters.

I don’t if anyone else knew this kid, but growing up I had this friend who super smart. However, he was always in trouble. I never could figure it out.

One day I asked him “How do you always get in trouble?” His response? “I get bored.” What was happening was this: he would do the work and get done before anyone else. And instead of sitting there quietly or amusing himself, he’d start pestering the person next to him, which ultimately got him into trouble.

I imagine many dogs are the same way. And the smarter the dog, the more trouble it can think to get into. So you should envision training as a means of channeling that energy and the smarts.

And the biggest key, make it fun. The concept of dominance and control training has gone by the wayside for a reason. Those methods only taught the dog to fear, which just meant they were keeping it all until time to revolt. If your dog learns to trust you, they will be more likely to listen to you.

Reputable trainers consistently agree that positive reinforcement is the best way to train. That’s not to say a dog shouldn’t be punished for doing wrong, but how and when you do that are big aspects. Don’t punish too severely (that’s unnecessary) and don’t wait too long (because they will just be confused).

If possible, study the breed: Now I realize, this isn’t always possible. Rescues and strays are the way to my heart, but I’ll be the first to admit, they’re aren’t always easy. One reason, is that you don’t often know what breed(s) they are, which can make it more difficult.

However, I’ve been told on many occasions, that having a dog who is a mixed breed is actually often better. All I can say, is mine is a sweetheart most of the time and I really don’t know what breed(s) she is.

If you do have the luxury of knowing the breed, you can use this to your advantage. Some breeds are more likely to have certain medical problems, have special diets, have particular behavior quirks. If you know the breed, you should study more about it, as you can better predict how to help your dog. Don’t use this stuff as an excuse for when it misbehaves, though, because that’s just a cop-out.

Dogs have a different diet than humans: I’ll the first to admit that my dog eats most things. She was taught early-on to sit while we were eating. She doesn’t beg. She just sits and watches. And occasionally gets some as well. If I give her food, I do reinforce the commands and tricks she knows.

That said, there are some things that dogs can eat, that humans should not, such as raw meat. But more importantly, there are things that dogs should NEVER eat. I made a list of the few things I know below.
  • Raw/Uncooked rice: Dogs should never, ever, ever get uncooked rice. Uncooked, rice will soak up the moisture in your dog’s stomach and could cause major indigestion, constipation, or, in worse case scenarios, I’m pretty sure it cause some vital organs to fail.
    If, like in my case, they accidentally ingest some, you need to be on alert. If it’s a very small amount, it MIGHT be okay, but you should call a vet right away. Generally, what they’ll tell you is that you should probably bring them in. If you can’t or think it’s not that bad, you could wait. 
There are ways of getting them to vomit, but first consulting a vet. REPEAT: ALWAYS CONSULT A VET BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO INDUCE VOMITING! (I almost feel like I should repeat that again. I pray that, if you are reading this, you will use sense about your dog’s life and not solely rely on the internet.)
  • Grapes: Dogs should NEVER eat grapes. I honestly am not certain what the reason is, but I think there’s something in the grape that is essentially poisonous to the dog. All that matters is, don’t do it!
  • Alcohol: Now, I know that some people think that it’s funny to get your dog drunk. But the reality is this: alcohol is really really bad for your dog. A dog’s body processes it differently, and probably more quickly, than you or I. It can cause death. Don’t do it.
  • (Added 2/26/12) Chicken jerky: Most dogs love the stuff. However, it's not always good for your dog. A lot of the jerky is made in China and, while it's not been confirmed, there are connections between this jerky (from China) and major illnesses. There have even been dogs who've died and it was suspected this was the cause.
Well, there are a lot more, but this is getting insanely long, so I’m going to direct to back to dogster: Here is an article talking about foods and things you should avoid; it’s Thanksgiving-related but I imagine it will work for most of the holiday season.

And here is an article with a full list of more things you should NOT feed your dog.

On a happy note, there are human foods that are really good for dogs, such as baked potatoes, eggs (in certain ways). Some foods, while they may be fine for dogs, are just not fine for certain dogs. Their stomachs can’t handle it. And that’s okay, it’s just something you learn. READ THE LABELS! Reading and informing yourself of what is in the food or treats that you give your dog is important. Even food that is made for dogs is not always good for them, just like some "human" food isn't fantastic for us.

Ultimately, you just have to remember that being a home to a dog is not easy. Although I don’t have children to compare it to, I imagine it’s very similar. Except the dog doesn’t speak your language and you don’t speak his/hers. Eventually, the two of you will come to understand one another, it just takes time and effort. It can sometimes be so frustrating. And it’s frustrating for your dog, too.
In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. ~Edward Hoagland
But, trust me, it's so worth all of those struggles. Being able to come at the end of the day to a living creature that is so incredibly happy to see you, is one of the best things I think I've ever experienced. Knowing that unconditional love is indescribable.
I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive. ~Gilda Radner
I just hope that, if I ever have children, I'm at least half as attentive to them as I am to my dog. :)
The difference between friends and pets is that friends we allow into our company, pets we allow into our solitude. ~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com

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