Home Claws & Paws Owner believes dog is skittish on stairs because he sees a ghost

Owner believes dog is skittish on stairs because he sees a ghost

By Steve Dale

Q: When we moved into our house, it seemed as – in general, Max our 9-year old German Shepherd mix, became a tad more skittish. We’ve lived here just over a year, and last week Max began to hesitate at the same spot going up stairs, at the very last stair from the top. When he does this he looks around, as if he’s looking for something. I’ve followed your work for some time, and you frequently write about how keen dogs’ senses are. Clearly, because of Max, we’ve learned there’s a ghost at the top of our stairway. Who do we call? – V. S., Las Vegas City, NV

A: Really? Is this just a set up for me to promote the upcoming “Ghostbusters” movie?

Not sure how serious you are regarding ghosts – and while I suppose anything is possible, I am far more inclined to believe that your dog may have slipped at the top of the steps (perhaps it’s a wood surface), and might have been painful, particularly since Max is an older dog possibly with some arthritis.

Of course, Max remembers. All it takes is one time. You trip over an uneven sidewalk outside, I bet you remember the next time you’re walking in the same place.

Another possibility is that Max was once spooked as he happened to reach the top of the stairs, maybe a loud noise from outside, or someone in your house knocking something over.

If you think Max is seriously bothered, give him a reason to love that last step. You can become of cookie ghost – randomly leaving surprise cookies at that last step for Max to find. Also consider having your veterinarian check out Max for arthritis.

Q: My neighbors are physically mistreating animals, someone needs to do something. There are hidden crimes going on. What do we do? – W.R., Wroclaw, Poland

A: We know that when there’s animal abuse going on in a home, there’s an increased chance that spousal and/or child abuse concurrently happening, or will soon begin to occur. Of course, abusing an animal is bad enough – and what you describe may be a felony in the U.S., In Poland, I’m unsure.

In the U.S. veterinarians finding signs of animal abuse should report what they’ve found to local law enforcement, animal control and in some places even state child welfare agencies, as that is how significant the link is between animal abuse and child abuse. Of course, people who abuse animals may not visit the veterinarian, and vets can’t report what they don’t know. However, concerned citizens can report, even anonymously.

In the U.S. the reality is that agencies may not pursue animal abuse as they should, given the connections it has to child and spousal abuse; these often underfunded agencies are often backed up with cases. Sadly, without a photo from a veterinarian or another animal professional, officials may lack the proof to do much to intercede until something really bad occurs. Still, the more neighbors who step up, the better.

Several voices demand more attention than one voice.

However, I am unfamiliar with Polish animal welfare law. Contact local law enforcement, a local animal shelter and/or veterinarian.

Q: Our 18-year-old cat, Serena, offers sad meows. She bellows these sad sounds just before lying down. Two years ago, her sister, Venus died, and that’s when the long meows began. My heart breaks. Could she still be mourning? What can I do to help? – G.G., Macon, GA

A: It’s unlikely Serena continues to mourn two years later, though, we really don’t know how long a cat can grieve. We don’t know why some cats attached to siblings or other household cats mourn, while others demonstrate no apparent sorrow.

Do visit your veterinarian. An older cat meowing may be in pain. Or your cat may be anticipating pain that may occur when lying down. Arthritis is common in older cats. The loud meowing could also be a result of hearing loss.

Loud vocalizing in an older cat could also be a sign of feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome or “kitty Alzheimer’s.” To confirm a diagnosis, your veterinarian will ask if Serena displays other signs of cognitive changes, which can include pacing and/or yowling overnight, accidents outside the litter box, changes in interactions with family members, changes in activity, and/or general confusion.

It’s also possible that after Venus died, Serena might have offered one of those elongated “sad” meows and you responded compassionately. In the process, you may have accidentally “trained” her to repeat the sad meows for attention.

Or, I concede, unless you are part cat – you might never really know what Serena is saying or why.

Q: We can hardly go outdoors without smelling a skunk. Moreover, our dog has now had two close encounters, which created a stink so bad in our home we needed professionals to come in and de-skunk. Do you have any advice? -D.D, St. Paul, MN

A: It’s that time of year. Here’s a “recipe” that I’ve historically offered. And you can find it in a myriad of places online.

  1. Get a clothespin – that’s for your nose.
  2. Wipe your pet down with a solution of one-quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup sodium bicarbonate and one-teaspoon liquid dish soap.
  3. Dunk your stinkin’ pet into a bath of two parts tomato juice and one part lukewarm water.

This “recipe” works fine. However, I developed it 20 years ago. Today, you can do better by purchasing one of an array of manufactured products specifically made to shampoo skunked dogs. Your best bet may be Fresh Wave Pet Shampoo (freshwaveworks.com, and various retailers). It’s all natural, and actually zaps odors rather than masking them with another odor. Simultaneously, you can treat the house with Fresh Wave crystal gel, soy candle and/or Fresh Wave spray.

So, you never need to deal with skunk spray again, don’t leave your dog outdoors unsupervised, particularly in the evening (since skunks are nocturnal).


(Write to Steve at Tribune Content Agency, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 154, Buffalo, NY. 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state.)

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