"With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black, cat-shaped holes in the universe."
-- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

So Long to Rawhide

Keep movin', movin', movin',
Though they're disapprovin',
Keep them doggies movin' Rawhide!
Don't try to understand 'em,
Just rope and throw and grab 'em,
Soon we'll be living high and wide…”

No, not THAT Rawhide.  I am saying goodbye to the popular dog treats made of rawhide.

Ever since we got Uno, I have been leery of rawhide products.  Lots of people say they are fine and their dogs have eaten them for years with no problem, but others say the material does not digest properly and can be a choking hazard.  Even with the warnings though, it’s hard to avoid.  This is not some rare delicacy—there are aisles and aisles of pet stores dedicated to the stuff and it comes in every size, shape, and flavor imaginable.  Still, being overprotective, semi-hippie dog parents and since Uno was not picky about chew toys, we decided to stay on the safe side and avoid it.  Instead we went with Nylabones (I highly recommend them), rubber Kongs (also great), and stuffed friends of every variety (we tend to lean towards dragons, but that is probably more a reflection of our taste than Uno’s).

Nevertheless, rawhide seems to be quite insidious and it has wormed its way into our household three times, all with negative results.

Rawhide Infiltration the First:

When Uno was still a tiny yellow fuzzy bundle of clumsy big feet and baby teeth—(In my head, I just transitioned into my high-pitched, pouty-lipped baby talk voice.  It was unavoidable really.)—I bought him a pink egg-shaped treat that had chicken paste in the center.  I really don’t know why; I think it was on sale. When I bought it, I didn’t realize the outside was made of rawhide.  Then the hubby read the package and pointed out my error.  But… eh.  It was already in the house and Uno was so small, we figured it would take him a while to get into it anyway, so we decided to let him have it while monitored. 

It was love at first bite.  Uno grabbed that thing and wrapped his furry paws around it and went to town with a passion.  It did take him a long time to make a dent in it though and after a long chew session we decided he’d had enough for the day, so we reached to take the egg away.  And that’s when our sweet, adorable, three-month-old baby bared his teeth and GROWLED more ferociously than either of us thought possible. 

I searched all through PetSmart’s website and cannot find the egg toy, 
but here is a picture of Uno holding it. 
You can already see the rawhide-induced evil in his eyes.

As soon as we got over the shock of this eighteen-pound bag of bones threatening us, we took the treat away, put the pup in time out, and decided this was a situation that needed to be remedied quick.  Uno had never behaved that way with any of his other toys or treats before and never hesitated to let us take his food away from him, but he was SERIOUS about that egg.

So we used it as a training tool.  Once in a while, we gave the egg treat to him (it got slimier and slimier as the days went on) and let him chew on it for a few minutes before trying to take it away.  If he let us, he got praised and got the treat back.  If he didn’t let us, it was time out and no treat.  It took several attempts before he would behave with it.

Rawhide Infiltration the Second:

The egg treat obsession was weird, but we didn’t at that point connect any weirdness with the rawhide part.  We were still avoiding rawhide in general and were now also avoiding the pink egg toys because, in addition to making our puppy act feral, it was also just kind of gross.  Then, for Uno’s first Christmas, someone gave him a bag of small, thin rawhide chews.

We weren’t excited about them, but… they were small and they were a gift, so we decided to try them with supervision.  Well, to make a boring story shorter, he got choked on one of them.  I had to reach into his mouth and pull out the white, sticky mess that was blocking his throat.  Those went in the trash and the rawhide avoidance was back on.

Rawhide Infiltration the Last:

Like this, although I don't think
it was the Kong brand.
This Christmas, Uno got another rawhide chew, a big bone-shaped one this time.  At first we just put it away, intending to give it to someone else or donate it.  But… eventually we decided to give it a try, since Uno is bigger and older and healthier and we could monitor him with it. (Are you seeing a pattern yet in our parenting?)  So, we gave our sweet, gentle, sixty-five pound dog the rawhide.  And then we tried to take it away.  And then he growled at us.  Again.

Uno is almost two and he has NEVER acted possessive of ANYTHING else.  Toys, Nylabones, treats, food, Frisbees, stuffed animals… all are to be shared with mom and dad.  He may play keep away.  He may ignore our command to “drop it” and run around the yard instead.  But the only thing he has ever felt the need to defend by aggression is rawhide.  And I have no idea why.

We should have thrown the thing away immediately, but we are gluttons for punishment or at least for training opportunities, so we went back into time-out/reward mode. 

Until last night. 

This is just a yawn,
but you get the idea.
Quick background:  Uno is scared of our black cat, Gink.  Gink is declawed and fourteen years old, but he’s also scary and extremely “assertive” and really put Uno in his place when he was a baby.  Uno gives him a wide berth.  When they are less than three feet away from each other, Uno does not look Gink in the eye.  If Gink is in the kitchen when I put Uno’s food in his bowl, Uno will wait outside the gate and whine until I pick up the black menace and remove him from the area.  Uno is totally and completely cowed by that cat.

Last night, while Uno was chewing on his beloved rawhide, Gink jumped up on the couch near him, and Uno ROARED and LUNGED and GROWLED and SNAPPED and pretty much scared the crap out of everyone.  He did not touch Gink, but I fear that if the cat had been stupid enough to come any closer, he would have.

The dog got locked in the kitchen, the rawhide got thrown in the trash, the too-startled-to-move cat got comforted, and the husband and I decided—once and for all—that we will not allow any more rawhide into our home.  Period.  This time we’re serious.

I really don’t know what it is about this substance that turns our sweet boy into a rabid monster.  I realize this must not be a common side effect of rawhide because pretty much everyone else we know gives it to their dogs.  But for whatever reason, it brings out the devil in Uno, so we are done.

So, be forewarned that any Christmas, birthday, or Valentine gifts containing rawhide will be returned or donated elsewhere.  Thanks, but no thanks.

"Dear Santa, Please bring me a treat
that will not make me crazy."

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