Saturday, 26 July 2008

knackeries and dog food

Penny generally eats a diet of raw food, but sometimes we supplement it with packaged 'pet food'.

My attention was caught by a piece in today's career section of The Age newspaper - an interview with a knacker. I'll quote a bit of what he said because I can't find a link to that section of the paper.

The worker, George Marsh, said, "We only do animals for pet food. The good meat goes into pet food and the rest of it is boiled down.' He had previously explained that they slaughter animals like goats, sheep, cattle or horses, basically animals that are suffering with things like broken legs. He said sheep and goats don't have much meat on them.

Here's the bit I found interesting. "Anything that's adulterated - like with cancer or something - can't go to an abattoir...we do things that aren't fit for human consumption." Further on he said, "But now the Government want our places looking like (an) abattoir - like the food's for human consumption - that makes it hard."

To me it's a case of "good news and bad news", the positive side being that not all of the diseased or cancerous material goes into the pet food and the fact that the government is trying to regulate this industry.

The negative? Well, the implication is that even the so-called "good meat" isn't too good.

And don't ask me to write about the indescribably sad accompanying photo of horses waiting to be killed.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

the arte y pico award for Penny's dog blog

Penny seems to be completely unaware that her blog has received an award - I think she's more interested in those paws of hers. (Maybe we'd better find out why she keeps licking them.)

Anyway, back to the award. We received it from Cooper and Levi and their mother at the Levi and Cooper Chronicles. I've been following Cooper's adventures for quite some time and felt very very sad when he left this life. For a little while before it happened it had become obvious that a big change was in the wind and I felt for his human family. Therefore it was a wonderful surprise to realise that he had contined to blog from dog heaven (the Rainbow Bridge). He's been reporting on the adventures of the new puppy in his household. The great thing is that he often slips in anecdotes about his own time on Earth and thus keeps his memory absolutely fresh in our minds.

Because I love Cooper's blog so much I'm especially pleased to receive the award. It's called the Arte y Pico Award.

As far as I can discover, building on what Levi and Cooper's mum said, it was created by Esey, in Uruguay. I didn't understand the original site because it's in Spanish but there was a section in English that said:
What is the meaning of the expression: And basically, ironically, it translates into a wonderful phrase in Mexico, “lo maximo.” LOL! It will never find its counterpart in English, but if it HAD to, it would be something like, Wow. The Best Art. Over the top
The idea is to pass this award on to a blog that inspires others in some way.

So, I'll choose five from the many blogs that I love to visit.
1. Wayfarer Scientista because her blog shows her love of all the aspects of nature that surround us.

2. A Yankee in Belgrade because it gives me an insight into life in Serbia that goes beyond the newspaper headlines. And because I love the photos.

3. Chasing Squirrels with Rusty partly because Rusty is so incredibly cute-looking, but also because I enjoy reading his adventures.

4. Sparky, Little Dog with big Dreams, once again because he is so cute looking! But I guess I should have a more 'serious' reason - and that's because he makes me smile. I love his latest video clip of drying himself off after a bath.

5. And now, when I get to number five, I'm in trouble, because there are so many others that I love. In fact, it's so hard to decide that I'm not going to reveal which one would have been my fifth...

I'll go on over to those blogs to tell them about the award. Here are the rules for passing on the award:

1) Pick five blogs that you consider deserve this award for creativity, design, and interesting material and also contribute to the blogger community regardless of language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited.

3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given him/her the award itself.

4) Award winners and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of the Arte-y-Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of the award.

5) In compliance with said rules, the award winner must show these rules.

Friday, 18 July 2008

medications to change dog behaviours

As I was reading an article on "Pill-Popping Pets" in the New York Times, I could hear Penny making a quiet repetitive noise; she was licking her paw. The report I was reading was by James Vlahos and I'd found it by following a link from Bark Blog. I settled down to read the story and Penny settled down to turn her paws a reddish-brown colour.

The article discusses the modern trend towards medicating pets with pills originally designed to alter human emotional states.

For many years scientists have argued that animals do not have minds similar to our own. Charles Darwin believed animal minds differ from human ones in the degree of thought or emotion, not in whether they are capable of such characteristics, but his view has not been as influential as Descartes' teaching that animals are soulless machines. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy gives an overview of such views:
The early history of western philosophy reflects a tendency to see animals as lacking rationality. Aristotle defined “human” as “the rational animal”, thus rejecting the possibility that any other species is rational (Aristotle Metaphysics). Aquinas believed that animals are irrational because they are not free (Aquinas Summa Theologica). Centuries later Descartes defended a distinction between humans and animals based on the belief that language is a necessary condition for mind; on his view animals are soulless machines (Descartes Discourse on the Method). Locke agreed that animals cannot think, because words are necessary for comprehending universals (Locke Essay Concerning Human Understanding). Following in this tradition, Kant concludes that since they cannot think about themselves, animals are not rational agents and hence have only instrumental value (Kant Lectures on Ethics)
However, modern pharmaceutical companies have discovered a huge potential market for their products - pets and domesticated animals. Pragmatism may lead to a different popular belief system about animal cognition. This change runs alongside a scientific community that is more willing to investigate the possibility that we have misinterpreted or underestimated the possibilities inherent in the animals that co-exist with us on this planet. For instance, Vlahos interviewed a behavioural pharmacologist, Dr Nicholas Dodma, a pioneer in this field who founded the Tufts University Animal Behavior Clinic.Dodman gives the example of 'a pacing, hyperventilating dog.' Sceptics would question whether the animal was actually feeling anxious. Dodman said, “We’ll give him an antianxiety drug and see what happens.”

Trials of many drugs used on humans have in fact had a similar effect on dogs, the article says. Well, I can't say that surprises me, given that we usually try out our new drugs on laboratory animals. Why would we trial drugs on animals if we don't think they are like us?

It was when I got to page 5 and the discussion of dogs that are literally bored out of their brains by the life we expect them to live in our homes that I began to feel the stirrings of guilt. What was I doing sitting there reading while Penny lay in the kitchen licking her paws? I leapt up and grabbed a pair of rubber balls and ostentatiously rattled the back door. Sure enough, there she was, wet paws and all, standing by my side. Out we went and threw the ball around for ten minutes. But human frailty crept in - after all, it was only 5° outside (Celcius) and the sun was setting.

Inside again, I started to read. The discussion dealt with the question of whether pharmaceuticals have a part to play. In general, they probably do, in extreme cases; but they'll only have maximum effect if the humans are willing to put in the 'hard yards' at working with their pets to change behaviours.

Uh, oh... guilt struck again. Was Penny lying there bored? Hmmm...maybe for dinner tonight I'd give her a Kong stuffed with soft food instead of her normal hunk of rabbit or piece of meaty chicken carcass.

It took her nearly an hour to lick out the two Kongs of food. Good. But wait a minute...aren't I committed to a raw meaty diet?

It sure is a complicated life living with a dog. I think I'll stop worrying about all this and accept that Penny has a rich life. I don't think we'll be taking mood-altering drugs in the near future.

Well, she won't. Don't know about me.

For an informed evaluation of the article you might like to read the post on it by a US vet who blogs as Dolittler.

Friday, 11 July 2008

dogs and spirituality in Darebin Parklands

Today Penny had to wait till the afternoon for her regular outing to Darebin Parklands, the beautiful urban wilderness at the bottom of our street, because we were busy welcoming a large group of overseas visitors to the park. Thirty-six young people from Korea and sixteen from France walked the Spiritual Healing Trail under the leadership of a local Aboriginal guide.

As part of the welcoming group we couldn't take Penny with us, so it felt strange to be there without her. However, as usual, there were plenty of people walking with their dogs and the young people seemed to enjoy meeting the local canines.

At one point on the trail we all sat down on small rocks and meditated, whilst our guide played the haunting tones of the didgeridoo. As the music echoed around the bushy hillside, soft rain beat a gentle rhythm on our umbrellas. The purpose of the meditation was to gather our thoughts and use the tranquil surroundings to reflect on the issues that are concerning us at present. I used the time to try to come to terms with the anger and frustration I feel that local authorities are determined to drastically reduce off-lead dog walking in this beautiful park that is so central to my life.

It was interesting to walk along the Banyule side of the creek. It's an area where dogs have to be on lead so we don't go there. Luckily the rain had stopped, so the creek wasn't up over the stepping stones and we could all make our way back to the Alphington side of the creek.

In the flat ground on the other side we took part in an Aboriginal smoking ceremony, in which we took turns to step into the smoke - our guide said this ceremony would bless the young people in their time in Australia.

A final part of the Healing Trail was at the arched bridge, where each of us dropped a leaf into the creek, thinking about those issues we have no control over. I found this more than a little ironic, seeing I am seething with frustration about the way my love of walking with Penny in this park has been dismissed as having no importance.

After this wonderfully inspiring morning we arrived home tired out. So what did we do? Yes, you're right! We set off back to the park, this time with Penny. If we can't manage to change the mind of the Powers That Be about forbidding off-lead walking, we need to build up as many happy memories as we can, to help us get through the loss and sadness when we can no longer enjoy the park.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

how to make your own agility equipment

Penny enjoys agility but I've found it rather expensive to buy much equipment for practice at home. So I was very intrigued to follow a link from Maholia to another site called Instant Agility that has heaps of instructions for making agility equipment from pvc pipes. It looks great!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

dogs have good memories

We're keeping Penny to short walks for a while, so she won't meet other dogs and maybe infect them with her (probably cured) kennel cough. And we couldn't go to training today, for the same reason. Not welcome...sigh...

So I thought we should do some 'kitchen training'. The first thing we did was play 'find the treat' around the house. Penny's brilliant at this. She does a 'stay' in the kitchen while I hide small treats way up the other end of the house, then at the signal dashes around following the trail of my footsteps. Great fun.

Then I thought of a game that we haven't played this year. We used to put out a selection of her toys and she would find the one called 'the red bone'. Well!! I put them all out and got prepared to re-teach the old game. As soon as I gave the instruction she raced over and grabbed the right toy and rushed back to me with it. Who says dogs can't remember things???

We took a video clip of her doing it a few more times. Here she is, showing how clever she is, lol.