Protecting man’s best friend

Castiel relaxes in the shade during a summer in Tucson, Ariz. Senior Airman Betty R. Chevalier adopted Castiel as a puppy and adjusted to raising a dog in southern Arizona with multiple hazards in the area. (Courtesy photo)

Castiel relaxes in the shade during a summer in Tucson, Ariz. Senior Airman Betty R. Chevalier adopted Castiel as a puppy and adjusted to raising a dog in southern Arizona with multiple hazards in the area. (Courtesy photo)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- On January 11, 2013, my coworker's dog gave birth to litter of puppies. In March 2013, I made one of those puppies part of my family. Castiel was only 12 pounds and curious of everything. I always had dogs growing up, but raising a puppy in southern Arizona was a whole new endeavor.

Southern Arizona has many hazards that can harm and potentially kill a dog. The biggest and most obvious danger to dogs here is the heat. I get dehydrated and tired being outside for small amounts of time in shorts and a t-shirt. I can only imagine how quickly Castiel gets exhausted, especially since he runs around in a black fur coat. Dogs do not have the ability to sweat and they can quickly have a heat stroke. To keep Castiel hydrated, I always make sure he has access to water and spends time outside during the cooler hours of the morning and evening.

Aside from just the hot air, think about the ground. When we wake up at 5:30 a.m. the sun is already rising. Fast forward to 8 p.m., the sun is setting. That means for more than 14 hours of the day, the sun has been baking the ground. Imagine walking on that with bare feet. Now think about your dog's paws. Dogs have no protection on their feet, so paws can quickly burn on concrete, asphalt and even dirt. Luckily, there are multiple places online and in Tucson where you can purchase dog booties.  Even with a funny name and look, these booties are built to deal with the extreme heat and help protect your dog from unnecessary pain.

While the weather is the major concern, many animals here including snakes, Gila monsters, javelinas, scorpions, packs of coyotes and toads can severely injure your four-legged friend. Besides the obvious cacti, there are also many harmful plants in Arizona, which can make your dog very sick if ingested. 

Tucson has multiple emergency service vet hospitals in the unfortunate event of your dog stumbling upon these hazards. From personal experience, emergency services are extremely expensive, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the emergency. To help prevent these events, there are many organizations and groups that offer avoidance training.

Although training helps prevent accidents, Castiel is still a very curious puppy. He will chase lizards any chance he gets. Fortunately, he hasn't had a run in with a snake yet and hopefully his training will kick in if he ever does.

Always take care of your dog and know what you can do to help prevent any injures. Now at 1-year-old and 90 pounds, Castiel is fearless. He doesn't understand it's 110 degrees Fahrenheit outside or the animal he sees can hurt him. Since I know the hazards Arizona possesses, I will do all I can to protect him.