Friday, 3 February 2017

Great news!

Today, after more than six weeks of anxiety, we received the welcome news that the second CT scan of Penny's body showed no changes in the 'spots' that had shown in the first CT scan four weeks ago, so the specialist vet has classified them as benign.


So now we need to keep resting Penny and give her a while to get over the anaesthetic from the last scan, and then it will be time to decide what to do about her torn cruciate ligament.

In the meantime, we are restricting walks to a gentle stroll in the evenings. We try to limit it to ten minutes, but if Penny seems happy we let it go a bit longer. Tonight we explored a new dog park near us. It was so tiny that in normal times we would have thought it unsatisfactory, but at the moment it suits us fine.

One way that Penny has been keeping herself occupied is in hunting for rats in the straw-bale vegie garden.

Sometimes when hunting rats you have to brush through quite a few spider webs, but that doesn't stop Penny staying on the job.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

a worrying time and grass eating

Bette Davis is supposed to have said, 'Old age ain't for sissies.' Or, as I've heard it often said here in Australia, old age ain't for wimps!

I agree, in terms of my own life, not that I yet consider myself old... But I'm sure not young.

And in terms of of dog ownership, a beloved dog getting older can be stressful. It's been about six weeks since I blogged, and the hiatus has been mainly because Penny's been plagued by one problem after another and I kept waiting for her to be back to her usual energetic self.

Well, perhaps that will happen, but if I keep waiting it might be another six weeks, so I thought I'd write about what's been going on.

To sum it all up, she had an x-ray to check what was the cause of her ongoing limp, and to our surprise and that of our vet, it turned out her right leg has a completely torn cruciate ligament. We'd both thought it would be her lower spine that was the problem. The x-ray didn't specifically show the tear, but the specialist felt sure it was the problem.

To a certain extent, a torn cruciate ligament is an easier problem to deal with, given that she had cruciate surgery in September 2010 and made a good recovery.

But the x-ray showed some 'spots' in her body and so we arranged for a CT scan, which showed some issues in her liver, upper spine and her lung. The surgeon says they might be just part of the ageing process and we could keep an eye on them. But he won't do the cruciate surgery until he feels he's checked that out. So we'll have another CT scan in a week's time. That's three weeks after the original one. He's looking to see if any of them have changed in that short time.

It's been hot weather, so it's not too hard to convince Penny that she should rest and take life easy. We started her on pain relief - anti-inflammatories - but after a while her bowels seemed upset, so we've taken her off the tablets and put her on a bland diet.

We're obsessing about her poos. I'm sure anyone who has a dog understands this obsession. Her  gut is settling, we think. But yesterday she - as usual - grabbed something from the front garden and it must have been bad, or maybe it had something on it that bit her, and she rushed around eating grass for what seemed like ages.

Her appetite is good and she poos regularly, so we're just watching and waiting. But this afternoon, she vomited up this:

What a mystery. How could a bunch of grass sit in her digestive system and come back up, when all the other food is passing through normally?

It's not the first time she's used grass to self-medicate. She has always done that. But usually it comes out the other end. I just checked my past blog entries for ones that focus on grass-eating and there are ten! Sometimes she's pooed out the grass, sometimes she's vomited it up, and sometimes she even ate grass after vomiting something revolting she'd snatched as we walked.

In the midst of all this stress, it's kind of amusing to re-read my old post about how silly I was to buy pet grass. That pot of grass has turned out to be wonderful, given that it's hot and dry here in Melbourne and most of the grass in our garden is dying off. (I let weedy grass grow in the garden for Penny's sake.) The one little pot has multiplied into a big bunch of luscious leaves. You can see it in the background of this photo of our back patio, which has been spread with mulch to encourage her to wee and poo there, seeing she can't get down the back steps. (She refuses to toilet anywhere but the back yard, though, so we have to take her the long way around the house. Sigh...)

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

cockatoo nest in dead branch

Yesterday we walked in a nearby park, and I was excited see a cockatoo nesting in a dead branch of a eucalypt.

Penny didn't notice because she was, as usual, looking around on the  ground for anything edible.

But I noticed and thought it was a beautiful sight.

That's why it's important to leave dead branches on gum trees.

Friday, 18 November 2016

dogs and bug poisons

It mystifies me why anyone would want to kill the bugs that share this planet with us, but I guess we are all different. Our garden is run on organic principles and we aim to have a variety of plants that will attract birds and bugs to keep the 'bad' bugs under control.

Imagine my dismay, therefore, when I saw a guy getting ready to spray bifenthrin all around a home near us. When I confronted him - politely, I hope - he said the homeowner needs to get rid of the ants and spiders on her property.

Get rid of all ants and spiders? Wow! Armageddon for insects and arachnids.

And, in the long run, death for every fish in the local waters, danger for local cats, and - sadly - eventual death for birds, as they gorge on the dying insects.

In the long run, of course. All these effects won't be immediate. And as long as it's rare for anyone to create a kill-zone in their garden, I guess the results will be minor and will be dealt with by Mother Earth.

But what about Penny? She's been locked inside the house all day, with all windows closed, and she's desperate to go out to relieve herself, so as soon as I finish typing we'll hop into the care and walk somewhere distant from our now poisoned street.

Here's an interesting and informative site that discusses bug sprays from a vet's perspective.

And here's a toxipedia article that I found helpful.

You know what? That house nearby will soon have lots of new spiders and ants as the local survivors move in to their garden.

By the way, it's deadly for bees.

And bad for cats.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Grasses as allergens for dogs

When I was at the Diggers Botanic and Rare Plant Fair today (in the freezing rain and wind), I bought a gift for Penny.

It was labelled as Pet Grass. I know Penny likes to eat grass, so I thought it was a good purchase. Here's the label:

(If the label's too hard to read in this photo, you can click on the photo and it will open in another window where it's easier to see.) 

The name is: dactylis glomerata.  

Always keen to collect information about plants, I Googled the name. And found, to my surprise, that the grass is an allergen for many dogs (and humans).

Nelco-Vet, in a brochure called Allergens and Your Pets, under the heading Orchard/Cocksfoot Grass, says: 
the flowering heads are clustered in irregular, rounded shapes, coarse in texture, and resemble a thumb sticking out of the side of someone's hand. Widespread throughout the world, Orchard produces pollen that is well known for its hay fever causing properties in Europe and North America. It starts out in early spring and has tenacious re-growth after being grazed upon. 

Well, that was a waste of four dollars. I thought of tossing it in the green bin for garden waste, but on second thoughts, I'll let it grow in a pot and cut the seedheads off. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

the big storm

Yesterday Penny went for one of her favourite walks, along the Yarra River at Warburton.

But what was this? A big mess at the entrance!

But no worries. Someone had been very busy clearing up the fallen trees after the big storm last weekend, so we could get through easily.

Many of the fallen trees were enormous. They must have been many decades old.

'Come away from this one,' I said to her, because it looked ready to fall the next time the wind blows.

Every fallen tree we saw was a eucalypt. Here's Penny examining the roots of one of them. This one had fallen across the river.

But here's something interesting... That tree was right beside a stand of Californian redwoods planted early last century. Not a one of them had fallen. (Can you see the fallen eucalypt across the path in the distance?)

I searched for references to this little glade of redwoods in Warburton township, but most sites direct to the bigger forest of redwoods in East Warburton,

Yarra Views Blog is the only site I could find that has information about the trees beside the Yarra River in Warburton itself. The writer says these trees were planted by a group of American Seventh Day Adventists. I recall from a previous blog post of my own that they were planted about 1922, which makes them older than the ones at East Warburton, I think. (I'm not sure about that.)

I think this site, about the forests ofWarburton, is fascinating.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Getting ready for summer

Penny is rarely clipped, but we knew we'd better bite the bullet and do it, if we want to check for ticks, now that they are in Melbourne.

So, this is Penny a few weeks ago...

And now...

Waste not, want not - we put her fur in the compost.

All of my composting books agree that pet hair is a great source of nitrogen.

The 'Bible' of composting, The Rodale Book of Composting, says: Between 6 and 7 pounds of hair contain as much nitrogen as 100 to 200 pounds of manure. Like feathers, hair will decompose rapidly in a compost pile but only if well moistened and thoroughly mixed with an aerating material. Hair tends to pack down and shed water, so chopping or turning the pile regularly will hasten decay.

Hmm... after reading that, I realise I'd better get out there tomorrow and break up the clumps of hair.