Some connections are just fated to be, and my wife and I believe it’s fate that led us to adopt our beloved pug Palmerston a few years ago—then a bouncy six-year-old bundle of energy with a confident swagger and a penchant for tasting all things edible … and many that are not.
But fate can also be cruel, we learned, when shortly after taking him in, Palmy suddenly went completely blind from a rare illness called S.A.R.D.S. (Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome)—turning our lives upside down in a span of a weekend. But Palmy’s admirably pugnacious approach in coming to grips with his new reality taught us both a valuable lesson we needed to learn: if he could adjust, so could we.
One of the first things we did after that fateful weekend was set up a system of bumpers to protect him from head-against wall collisions. After trying a few things to little success—towels taped to the walls seemed ineffective, while foam floor padding was just too unsightly—we finally found salvation in packaging. Manufactured by the Toronto-based Polyair Inter Pack Inc., the clear plastic film void-fill packing cushions (see image at top)—reclaimed from a series of online shopping excursions—turned out to be the perfect bumper material for our limited apartment floorspace. Attaching them at the pug’s head height to the walls throughout our apartment with double-sealed tape now allows Palmy to gently bounce off these remarkably resilient air pillows as he goes about his business without any lasting harm to his physical well-being or pride, sometimes with unintended humorous consequences.
To reward Palmy for his continued bravery and stoicism more than two years since losing his sight, we reward him with some top-of-the-line dog treats from time to time—giving us an amusing insight on what really turns a dog on. In Palmy’s case, the Vetdiet Tender Delights from the Anjou, Que.-based Groupe Vetdiet International Inc. did the trick perfectly from the get-go. Maybe it’s a case of the pug’s other senses becoming heightened to compensate for the blindness, but he was starting to go wild as soon as I began opening the resealable, 150-gram stand-up pouch of the brand’s Honey-Glazed Salmon Formula tidbits inside an attractive package decorated with outstanding canine photography and a clear see-though window to visually appreciate the remarkably high quality of the contents. Needless to say, Palmy is head over heels with these moist and tender little chews, while I’m seriously impressed with the sturdy resealable closure at the top of the pouch that does an outstanding job of keeping the remaining treats inside fresh and aromatic for weeks on end.
Not to be outdone, the new DentaLife Chews from the Mississauga, Ont.-based Nestlé Purina Petcare also evoke a similarly Pavlovian fervor from Palmy whenever I start fiddling with the attractive, resealable 595-gram stand-up pouch filled with 24 elongated strips formulated to maintain sound canine dental health and a relatively fresh doggy breath. Although the pouch does not have a see-through window, the large-sized product images, adorable canine photography, large typeface and bright colors on the front panel provide plenty of jovial visual pizzazz for the glossy multilayer plastic construction, along with a wealth of useful product information clearly communicated in great detail on the back panel.
Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can certainly teach a blind one a few things, as I discovered with the recent purchase of a Pro-Training Clicker from the Hutto, Tex.-based Starmark Pet Products Inc. A clicker, as you may expect, is a training device that makes a sharp click sound when pressed. The idea is to pair the sound to the giving of a treat, which is then associated with an action: be it doing a rollover, sitting down, or returning to the master on command. I actually learned a great deal about the process of canine behavior modification by reading the entire three-panel foldout insert included inside the attractively designed blisterpack, which provides plenty of easy-to-follow instructions, tips and black-and-white photography to deliver on the package’s explicitly stated promise to “increase communication & improve behavior.” Similarly, I was quite impressed by the thoughtfulness of leaving a die-cut open window in the center of the blister dome bubble to enable a shopper to actually squeeze the clicker’s push-button right there at the pet-store display rack to get a feel for the product. Although it’s still early days, I have already managed to train Palmy to sit still and bow his head like a good little samurai before he gets his reward treats. As you may have guessed, I’m pretty proud of the little guy.
Paul Pethick is a Toronto-based writer and editor working in the healthcare communications industry.