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John Lawson on Kerry Blue Terriers

 

Mary Bavaro kindly sent in these two articles written by John Lawson which she recently obtained. About four years ago, Mary Bavaro was "Hot Dog Mom" at her daughter Jaime's school the same day as John's wife. They got talking about kids and dogs and the next thing she knew, John asked to interview her.

FRISKY KERRY BLUE STAYS YOUTHFUL

If you didn't know your dogs, you could be forgiven for mistaking that Kerry Blue Terrier standing at attention in the show ring for a stuffed animal from a carnival midway. Stock still, its coat distinctively clipped, the animal does look positively toy-like. But neither its appearance nor its immobility are natural to this medium-sized, highly active dog.

Curiously, its active nature has diminished the animal's popularity on the pet scene, according to breeders Vito and Mary Bavaro of Caledon, Ont., 88 kilometers northwest of Toronto. Comparing Kerries to children, Mary Bavaro says they seek a lot of attention; her own pet "is constantly at my heels, following me around wherever I go."

Of greater dissuasion to the potential Kerry owner is the maintenance of the carefully contrived coat, which Vito says must be clipped monthly. "If you don't take care of a Kerry coat, it becomes very curly, very long, matted and unmanageable, and you end up with (what looks like) a sheepdog - you lose what you've bought." While he spends 12 hours preparing his own award- winning puppy, Spirit, for a dog show, "anyone can learn to scissors them good enough for a house pet."

Interestingly, for years Kerries were shown in the rough in their native Ireland, but Vito says today the show standard is the same everywhere. Hyperactivity and clamouring for attention notwithstanding, Kerry Blues have some exceptional qualities to make them "an outstanding pet," the Bavaros say, among them, they don't shed and have virtually no dog odour.

People with dander-type allergies likely won't be affected by a Kerry Blue, says Mary, citing first hand experience. "Our daughter, Jaime, an allergy sufferer, has had no problem with our Kerries, yet when we go to a dog show, I have to shoot her up with antihistamines, otherwise, her eyes will water."

Burglars beware. The Kerry has a knack for distinguishing between friend and foe, and the latter brings the fighting Irish out in the dog. Named after Kerry County in southwestern Ireland where the breed was discovered, the versatile Kerry has been used over the years for everything from hunting and herding to policing and guard duty. The "Blue" refers to the coloring, which varies through greys and silvers on a black base, resulting in a look of blue steel.

The Complete Dog Book, official publication of the American Kennel Club, notes that Kerries "at six and eight years of age might be taken for young dogs," and the Bavaros concur "Both in appearance and activity level," Vito says. ~We had a 12 year old Kerry who had to be put down because she had cancer. But she was as active as when she was a puppy, right to the end."

KIDS CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO PET'S HEALTH

You often hear a dog or other pet described as being good with children. It doesn't always follow, however, that those children are good with pets. Indeed, your pet doesn't have to actually be a guinea pig to be treated like one. Consider the following, all true incidents:

Little Zeta was so taken with her newly pierced ears, just like Mom's. A few days later, while rummaging through a drawer, she came across a single-hole paper punch, which reminded her of the tool used on her lobes. How nice it would be, she thought the innocent, to give the family dog the treatment - just like her. Mom came running when she heard the animal's tortured shriek and averted a potential crisis.

Young Jodie, who loved to play cops and robbers, was at a friend's house in the country. He knew nothing about gun-shy dogs, those canines that cringe at such sharp reports as discharging firearms, thunder and so on. The man of the house regularly hunted and practiced target shooting on his sizable spread, but the dog of the house never could get used to it, and would cower at the mere sight of a gun. On that particular day, when Jodie pointed his toy gun and began "shooting" the dog, the cornered animal charged and nipped the boy on the nose, fortunately, barely breaking the skin.

Johnny and Carole were delighted when an old family friend dropped by to visit their mother, for she had brought her newly acquired Persian kitten. While the adults were visiting inside, the youngsters took Kitty outside to play. It occurred to little Johnny that he didn't know whether cats could swim, and since his sister could do nothing to enlighten him, a little research was in order. Into the family's in-ground pool went the kitten. As it turns out, Kitty could swim - but not indefinitely. After an admirable show of laps, the hapless cat, energy depleted, started to go under, and as the youngsters fished it out with the leaf skimmer, they suspected for the first time that they might have been doing something wrong.

Discomfort, pain and trauma are often innocently inflicted on a pet by children who see the animal as just another plaything. Such incidents can have tragic results, both for the child and pet. Frequent reports of children being bitten or mauled by normally docile animals who ~just went crazy~ often unjustly place blame on these threatened creatures, who are merely reacting to an instinctive defense mechanism.

Dr. Wallace Pugh, a veterinarian, tells of children who have put elastic bands around the neck, leg or tail of animals, later forgetting to remove them. The tight band, invisible beneath the fur, can impede blood circulation or, at the very least, cause a painful sore. Pugh explains that when children get bitten, there usually are circumstances behind the incident - "teasing, or just the fact that (the animal) is not used to the children, screaming or excitement, running, that type of thing.n

In other cases an animal may not know a particular child and misread the youngster's actions: a loving hug might be interpreted as an act of aggression. Parents are advised to take a prevention-is- the-best medicine approach. Unsupervised activity involving children and pets should be avoided, especially when strangers are around. Put your pet into protective custody. Confinement or isolation will often benefit all around.

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Today is September 26, 2016

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