What’s A Nice Dog Like You Doing With A Joint Like This?

Nestled between the many disadvantages of living in New York City there is the benefit of always having something current to write about and something interesting to do at lunchtime.

It all began when Lea-Ann, our founder, leader and editor, reminded me that it was time for a new column and hinted that the next edition was going to deal with inflammatory joint disease, osteoarthritus. Although I have written about the subject in a number of my veterinary/pet owner books it didn’t seem like something I could write about with the breezy style I like to use here. I hate to digress but this is one of the few places I can write in my own, natural voice, like a letter to a friend. When considering all the books I have written, there should be a memorial called The Tomb of the Unknown Narrator, but The National Cemetery at Arlington sort of beat me to it.

So I thought, I pondered, and I stared at the empty, gray screen in front of me as silence rose like water inside a submarine. No pressure there. Who was it that said writing was easy; all you have to do is think until blood pours out of your forehead? Some literary hemophilic, whose name I cannot remember gets the credit.

Now here’s the good part about living in New York City. The phone rang, cracking the silence like the climatic scene in a Stephen King movie, its suddenness lifting me out of my chair. It turned out to be a pleasant call from a nice fellow, a public relations person inviting me to a PR luncheon being given in midtown for David Frei, an AKC-licensed judge who has hosted the Westminster telecast since 1990 and is on my list of favorite dog people. And let us not forget that there was a nice lunch involved. Another digression: it’s lunch when you go to the fridge and dig for the salami; but it’s a luncheon when it’s a get-together at a good restaurant with six or more people and someone else is getting the check. Don’t ask me, I didn’t make the rule. The invitation served a number of purposes. First, it took me away from the hard work of writing. Second, I just might find something to write about. Third, there was a nice lunch involved (oops, I meant luncheon). Did I say it took me away from the hard work of writing?

The point to the gathering was to make as many folks in the media as possible aware that David Frei, “”one of the most authoritative voices in the dog show world,” will serve NBC as expert television commentator on the network’s major new event, “”The National Dog Show Presented by Purina”” and hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia. The show takes place at the Fort Washington, Pennsylvania Expo Center. It will be taped, and edited into an exciting format and then aired on NBC immediately following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, November 28, from noon to 2 p.m. Okay. Okay. So far, I have shamelessly plugged:

  • David Frei (whose new hit book is “”The Angel By My Side””)
  • The National Dog Show Presented by Purina
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
  • The Philadelphia Kennel Club

But really, there is a good reason for all this because it does have to do with osteoarthritis. The luncheon took place at one of New York’s best delicatessen-restaurants, Wolfe’s, (oops, I did it again). The group met in the mezzanine with the traditional hello-how-are-ya handshakes and greetings. I really enjoyed all this because I hadn’t been out for a long time due to a long illness, and it was good to see some of the people I knew. Eventually, we were seated so that we could be introduced to Frei and hear the pitch for the Thanksgiving Dog Show Special. You knew it was David because he was one of the few wearing a suit.

Fortunately for me I was seated across from a dear friend and colleague, Valerie Feldner, who is a staff writer for TV Guide, an editor and teacher, one whom I admire greatly. Valerie has been a life-long lover of animals with a special passion for elephants, is a staunch member of the Dog Writers Association of America, and for TV Guide writes about natural history, programming, animals, and the media. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, National Wildlife and a number of in-flight magazines, among others.

It was pure conversational pleasure with her and several others, not the least of which were David Frei and his wife, Cherilyn, who recently began her work as a chaplain at a major New York hospital. I was surprised to learn that they had moved to New York from Seattle.

As a gesture to my unwritten column waiting for me back home I asked, “”Anyone here have something to tell me about osteoarthritis in dogs?”” Valerie came through like bread upon the waters. She told me that her Greyhound at home lived with the painful disease. He was first diagnosed at the age of nine. She started seeing symptoms when he began to favor his right shoulder and was not walking normally. In his previous life as a racing dog, he sustained a track injury on that very shoulder and leg. Valerie had adopted him when he was four.

I peered over my hot Pastrami sandwich, which was piled five inches high, oozing mustard and half-sour pickles, and listened attentively between bites and sips of Doctor Brown’s cherry soda. Lord, I love luncheons. She told me that Sir Snoutleigh is a thirteen-year-old male dog, weighs 78 pounds and has a white coat. Feldner, who resembles the “Draw Me”” illustration on matchbook advertisements said, “”Greyhounds often sustain pain so well that it’s hard to tell that something is wrong. They bear it in a very dignified way, but from the beginning I could tell something was wrong because of the way he favored his shoulder, especially when he was running. You can usually tell if something is wrong by the dog’s body language.”” She mentioned that he is on a prescribed medicine, which has helped him quite a bit. She continued to explain that the weather usually has an adverse effect on the condition with heat and cold causing some pain. “”With the passage of time every day has become a troubled day, where before it was intermittent, it is no longer an occasional pain.”” The dog now requires medication on a daily basis.

Valerie was quick to point out that all kinds of dogs with all kinds of owners can get this. I mentioned that I had a Siberian Husky who became arthritic as an older dog. Evidently, it can come from old age, from an injury, hip dysplasia, ruptured ligaments and various other conditions of the joints, although it is seen largely in old age. She also gives her dog vitamin supplements and fish oil capsules hoping to help the things surrounding the arthritis such as the skin and the cartilage. “”The thing about joint disease is that you are always medicating, rather than curing. “Dogs,”” she says, “”require a lot of love, time, energy and care. That’s the way they are. You cannot have a dog and say don’t be who you are. These are the things that happen with age and you cannot resent a dog for getting old.””

One of the key elements emphasized by David Frei and the folks providing the luncheon was responsible dog ownership. Valerie believes it is the issue of the next 10 years.

So the moral of this piece is that when the muse is out to lunch, it’s a good idea to join her.


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