Friday, 28 March 2008

shopping for dog products

Johann mentioned a site where you can buy interesting products, so I went to have a look. I liked the hemp collars for dogs. I try to wear natural fabrics myself, as I can sometimes be allergic to synthetics, so I think hemp might also be better than nylon for Penny.

A gadget that grabbed my attention is a ball-thrower that folds down to fit in your pocket or the glove-box of the car. All too often I can't be bothered walking along the street to the park swinging the great big ball-thrower. I'd love to have a small one like this. It seems pretty expensive, compared to the simple ones you can get for $2, and which work perfectly well - but who knows, maybe for the dog who has everything...

And who wouldn't want a gadget that shoots disco-treats up to twelve feet away? I can just imagine the fun as Penny leaps around the garden or the park looking for them. Hmmm... maybe a bit tricky to find the treats?

The Chase-It looks fun. I've seen my friends' cats playing with those little toys that dance around on an elastic string but never would have thought of one for dogs. It's described as an ergonomic handle molded onto a 48" or 40" nylon braided rod with a 48" nylon rope. Attached is an thick plush squirrel with two squeakers and a bungee body. I'll have to make sure that Rusty hears about it, seeing his main hobby is chasing squirrels. He could get in some practice while the squirrels have a rest. They also advertise it as a lure for agility - I'm not experienced enough to know whether that would work or whether it would be allowable.

Anyway, I had fun browsing their site.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

In memory of Lacylulu

I'm sad to hear that Lacylulu has died. She needed important surgery and didn't make it through. My thoughts go to her human family and also her companion, Bear. This photo of her was taken only last Monday.

dog trick turn away and back through legs

Still inspired by Johann, Penny and I are into tricks again. We've started working on a move that Cindy, at K9Kompany, showed us a while ago. We couldn't get it at the time but now it's starting to shape up. We already knew how to do 'spin', with me giving the hand-signal clockwise with my right hand for a spin out to the right and counter-clockwise with my left hand for a spin out to the left. Penny could also back through my legs if I went around behind her. (Apologies about the weird clattering noise in the clips - I don't know how to get rid of it or why it happened.)

Then our next step was to learn to turn the other way - a right-hand signal, with the back of my hand leading, and going counter-clockwise. The command is 'turn' and when we add in backing through my legs I say "back". I think we should fade out the word "back" - I'll ask Cindy about that next week. As you'll see, Penny is wonderful but I'm not too clever!! Cindy told me to give the reward behind, so Penny doesn't stop between my legs looking for it. But, of course, I forgot that.

Then, finally, it started to go more smoothly and Penny earned lots of treats. They were new to me, made by Kramar - dried bits of chicken breast and chicken liver. From the blurb on the packets they look good, with only meat in them, no preservatives or flavours or colours. I guess I could cook up my own dried chicken breast, if it comes to that, and then I would know they are from free-range chooks. But I'm not energetic enough to do that at the moment. Maybe when the weather's cooler.

I think the next step will be to make the hand-signal less obvious. If anyone has any clips of a dog doing this little routine, I'd love to hear about it, so I can go and have a look.

Friday, 21 March 2008

agility equipment that needn't cost the earth

Penny and I are inspired to get enthusiastic about tricks and agility again after I saw the two video clips posted by Johann lately. (It's been stiflingly hot here for weeks so we were a bit slack about everything, and Penny's been taking it easy so her stitches would heal well - which they did).

I was browsing local sites to see whether I could buy some proper agility poles cheaply and up popped a link to an old posting of my own on free agility equipment made from bits and pieces. I've been frustrated about that post, which was fun to write, because the photos keep disappearing. So I've had a third try at fixing them up. Let's hope they stay there this time!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

idea for building a doggy waste compost

It always seems a pity to put Penny's dog poo in the ordinary rubbish bin, as it should be useful compost. I've just read a blog with instructions on how to build my own compost pit, so I think I'll give it a go. It's basically a rubbish bin with holes in it, buried in the ground, with rocks in the bottom for drainage. You need to buy septic starter, which I haven't heard of. I'm not sure we have that system in Australia. But it seems worth investigating.

Interestingly, our local council has just begun selling a similar system that is buried in the ground - for normal composting. It's called The Green Cone. I think it might be possible to put doggy waste in it - I'll check it out, I think.

I think the idea for the dog waste compost may have come originally from a site in British Columbia called City Farmer, which is reported at There's some additional information, which answers my concern about dog poo in the garden - you don't actually dig out the doggy composter. The faeces just seep into the subsoil as you add material. You don't put it in the garden at any stage. I think that's the principle behind the Green Cone, too - very timely in southern Australia where the level of moisture in the subsoil is now so low because of the dry conditions.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

saying thank you for a dog in your life

Penny was resting at home while I was waiting... waiting... waiting... for my appointment at the optician. I quite like waiting rooms - how aptly named - because you never know what you'll find in the old magazines lying around.

On this occasion I came across an article in Reader's Digest that looked at the power of gratitude. It started with a look at the health benefits of thinking about the good things in life and then the author, Deborah Norville, suggested that we take time just before bedtime to jot down three things from the day for which we are grateful.

Immediately I thought of the hour I'd spent walking with Penny to the shops in the next suburb. It was her first major outing since she had surgery two weeks ago, so we took it easy and actually didn't reach our goal. However, she got to romp with an energy-machine that was a nine-month-old chihuaha X Jack Russell and I had time to enjoy the first cool day in ages.

The little dog's 'mum' told me that he is a handful - she's finding him more work than her eighteen-month old toddler. He certainly raced around at top speed the whole time we were there, occasionally stopping to drink from Penny's portable drink bag, which was nearly as big as he was. (He looks bigger than he actually is, in the photo with Penny, because he was closer to the camera.)

Deborah Norville says that after we write down three good things from the day, we should ask ourselves why they were good for us and who, if anyone, played a role in the the event. Over time, she says, we should look for a pattern that will underscore the importance of people in our lives. I'll include animals in that one, because I'm sure if I follow this technique, Penny will feature prominently.

She uses the term 'eudemonia' and defines it as the happiness or fulfilment that comes from the action itself, not the result. That makes me feel better about lugging a pile of shopping bags with me on our abortive trip to the shops - it was annoying not to reach our destination, but I knew I was getting tired and I thought Penny might be also, seeing she hasn't been out much for two weeks.

I could write something about Penny in my 'thank-you' list every night, I'm sure. Thanks for a lick on the wrist when I was feeling tired. Thanks for being at the front door when I arrive home. Thanks for rolling on your tummy so I can rub it. Thanks for glancing meaningfully at your leash and reminding me there's a world outside the house. Thanks for covering the kitchen floor in dried grass and giving me the chance to have fun sweeping it up...

Oh, the list could go on forever. I'll have to limit myself each night to only one thank-you for Penny in my life, otherwise I'll forget to be grateful for all the other good things.

Monday, 17 March 2008

the law and dogs

As a dog owner I hope Penny and I never fall foul of the law, but I know it's a good idea to keep abreast of what is happening around the world. I've noticed already that trends in other countries, especially the US, seem to loom on the horizon here a short while later - for instance, the publicity about dangerous breed legislation. So I was interested to come across a site called Animal Law Blog.The blog owner says the site
features one practitioner's observations and analysis of animal law litigation in her state of Illinois and around the country, criminal cases as time permits, as well as links to legislation and other animal law resources.
There's a link to a report about a man who fought for eight months to prove his dog was not a pit bull. He eventually did so through a dna test.

I also followed a link from Animal Law to Voiceless - the Fund for Animals where it's reported that the Australian Law Reform Commission has devoted the current edition of its twice yearly publication, Reform, to the subject of Animal Law.

They say that the University of New South Wales and Griffith University have pioneered animal law courses in recent years, while the University of Sydney, The University of Wollongong and Bond University have recently incorporated animal law into their curriculum. All this is in comparison the the USA, where animal law has been taught for 20 years and is now available at over 90 universities including Ivy League Institutions such as Harvard, Columbia and Cornell Law Schools.

I don't believe you could live with a dog for any length of time without realising the depth of their intelligence and their ability to experience emotions, even if not in the way we humans do. It's great to think that we might be able to move on from regarding them as 'property' and seeing them as living creatures that have rights that need to be protected.To read more about this you might like to visit Voiceless and read two speeches written by J. M. Coetzee (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature). I found them challenging and moving.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

pet dogs in India

I've learned many things about how to look after Penny in my virtual travels around the Blogosphere. I enjoy hearing how people live with their pets around other parts of Australia and in other countries, but until today I hadn't thought about doggy life in India.

Today, in the local paper, The Age, there was a piece about the fact that dog ownership has become a status symbol in some parts of India. I guess if I have any impression of dogs in India it would be of ownerless dogs roaming city streets. I apologise to any Indian readers if this is a stereotyped idea but I haven't visited India and that's the picture that comes to mind.

So I was quite interested to read that the fad for owning 'trophy dogs' is growing amongst the middle class in India. The article in the paper is accompanied by a picture of actress June Malia with her pug. It is eerily reminiscent of Paris Hilton clutching any one of her bevy of pups as she poses for the cameras. I guess some things are a world-wide phenomenon.

I surfed the Net and found an article in The Times of India about dog ownership in Calcutta (Kolkata). I think it was written in 2004, but it relates to the same discussion about people buying breeds that are currently popular and looks at what people had been choosing over recent years. However, the following excerpt struck me:
But is keeping a pet all about making a style-statement? Actress Nelajana doesn't think so." Going by our climatic conditions, a pariah or a street dog is the most suitable pet breed here. Instead of taking a dog as pet for the sake of status symbol or a fashion statement, I feel compassion should be the sole reason for doing so," says she.

That reminded me of a mention recently on Bark Blog of a report that officials in Srinagar City, in Bangalore plan to poison 100,000 dogs and this cruel plan is opposed by local animal welfare groups, who say the plan should be to sterilise the dogs instead. But these groups admit they have only been able to sterilise 400 dogs in the last two years.

What a terrible situation - all those dogs roaming the streets, apparently spreading rabies, and with no-one to care for them. In a related article a journalist points out that these are the indigenous dogs of India. There's also an fascinating page about the Indian Pariah Dog Club - the blog owner defines the pariah dog as:
A free-roaming, indigenous and ancient race of dogs who evolved a distinct appearance and character without human intervention. Named after the Pariah tribe of Tamil Nadu which was considered outcast. While the original usage of the term is derogatory, it has been commonly used by cynologists for many years and has no negative connotation in the canine context. Pariah dogs across continents have the same basic physical characteristics. In biological terms, the pariah dogs of Asia and Africa are of the highest value for study of genetics and origin of the dog

Thursday, 13 March 2008

when dogs have lumps that scare us

Penny has had a quiet week and so have I. Wednesday of last week she had a lump removed from her chest and the vet said he thought it should be sent for pathology. He was quite reassuring that he was only being extra careful and I tried not to worry, but the terror was lying beneath the surface.

I couldn't bring myself to post a blog about it and I think that was because, deep down, there is a superstition in me that if I put my worst fears into print they might come true. So I just spent time with Penny and hoped... and hoped...

Well, I'm thrilled to say that today the vet rang and said it was just inflamed tissue, probably caused by a foreign object sticking into her at some stage - the thickened tissue had a hole through it but no actual object was in the centre.

Which brings me to the question - when should we leave well enough alone? If Penny were an outside dog, or if we didn't groom her so often, and thus check her, perhaps the swelling would have come and gone and we would not have known. She would not have had painful surgery and a long recovery from the effects of the anaesthetic.

But, the general advice is to check your dog regularly for lumps. It's a difficult juggling act, I guess. And I would do the same again, in the circumstances. Even the vet thought it looked suspicious.

Now we have to deal with a bored dog who is used to being active and isn't allowed to exercise for another week, until the stitches come out. I'll have to re-read some of my own old posts about keeping dogs busy, and visit some of my favorite blogs for advice. I did remember something I read about hunting for food, so I've been hiding chicken necks around the backyard for Penny to find, instead of just serving dinner up. Here she is, having found one in the weedy corner where I hid it:

Saturday, 8 March 2008

microchips in dogs and in humans

Maybe in future Penny can open the front door for me when I've got my arms full. A guy was interviewed in the radio today and he says he has a microchip in his forearm. He obtained it from a regular pet supply firm and somehow inserted it himself. I guess he injected it. He uses it to open his front door - there's a scanner that recognises him and opens an electronic lock. I wonder if this idea could have interesting implications for dog owners...

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

microchips that move around in dogs' bodies

Penny is going to visit the vet tomorrow so that he can check out a lump on her stomach. When he examined her last week I felt rather silly suggesting that maybe it was her microchip, which started out on her back between her shoulder blades. But he didn't laugh at me. He checked, and her chip was still in the original place.

Today, when we were at K9 Kompany for dog training I told Cindy, the teacher,about it and she didn't laugh either. She told me a story about a GSD that came into the shelter at Coldstream. (K9 Kompany is associated with the shelter.) The owners were adamant that their dog was microchipped but scanning the body showed nothing. However, as the worker turned to fill out the form to say the dog was not microchipped, the scanner chimed.

The chip was at the TIP of the dog's tail. Cindy reckons all that tail-wagging might have helped it on its journey to the end of the tail.

By the way, for any local readers, I've just seen on the Coldstream site that their wonderful Dog's Day Out at the Lilydale Showgrounds has had the date changed. It's on 6th April now. The details are on their site.

Monday, 3 March 2008

life is more fun with a dog

Today Penny and I went for a ride on a train. Normally I'm so bored on the train that I sleep, but it was quite a different experience with Penny along. She brought a whole new dimension to the trip, in her reaction to the rumbling and squeaking of the wheels, the tilting and swaying of the floor and the movements to and fro of the other passengers. She enjoyed looking down the corridor between the seats, checking out whether any of the passengers might be friendly. (They weren't.)

I originally set off to walk to the station with my sister, who was going to town, but then I thought Penny might as well experience train travel for the second time in her life. (Her first trip was when she was about nine weeks old.) So we went as far as Clifton Hill, half-way to the city, and then hurried under the subway to catch the homeward-bound train that was waiting at the opposite platform.

If only Penny hadn't stopped to sniff that pole... We missed the train by ten seconds.

However, there was an interesting-looking small park nearby, so we explored that. It was dog-friendly, and had a sign to let us know where Penny could be off-lead,and there was also a special dog-bowl under the drinking tap - very much appreciated, as the day had turned quite warm.

After a quiet walk we hurried back to the station, only to miss the next train by a few seconds. The station master, having seen us rush in twice, suggested that we not go too far away this time, so we waited in the cool tunnel of the subway.

On the return trip the train was less crowded and a couple of young students sat near us. One of them wiggled just one finger at Penny, which of course she took to be an enthusiastic invitation to go across to see him. He was surprised and shrank back from her - apparently not from a dog-owning family. But he seemed okay when I told him she is just friendly.

It was interesting to see that eventually she relaxed enough to lie down. Of course, we arrived at our station as soon as she did that - but I think she'll be more inclined to enjoy our next trip. I'm glad that in Melbourne dogs are allowed on trains. I've heard that they are banned in Sydney trains.