Thursday, 28 August 2008

trivia night and Huntington's disease

Penny had a quiet night at home alone last Saturday while her humans went to a trivia night. We didn't bring home any prizes; we obviously didn't know enough about sport or about the pop music of the seventies and eighties. That's weird - we were there, after all. Hmmm - must have had the radio turned off for twenty years.

However, we had a great night and also had the pleasure of knowing we were supporting a wonderful cause. Sean, the nephew of a good friend, is going to ride a bicycle across Australia, to raise funds for research into the terrible disease called Huntington's.

Three years ago Sean's father died of this disease and Sean, who had been diagnosed in 2002 as also carrying the Huntington's gene, decided he wanted to do something to honour his father's courageous life.

I'll quote a little from Sean's blog:
In May of 2005 John Egan died of Huntington’s Disease (HD). HD is an inherited neurological condition which slowly destroys the brain cells that affect the way people think, feel and move. There is no treatment. No cure. The disease is invariably fatal. I am John’s son, Sean. I am gene positive for HD.

The day after his funeral I started training furiously for the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic; a professional, one day race of over 300km. Two weeks out from the race I purchased my new bike; a final gift from Dad.

On the day of the race I cried most of the way to the start; partly due to the daunting task that was ahead of me, and partly because I missed my dad. When I completed the race, I was immensely proud of my achievement, and realised that this was only the beginning.

I began planning a bike ride across Australia. I wanted to try to do something physically difficult to honour the courage and determination with which my father lived his life. I’m training for the ride by cycling 300 to 400 km each week (up to 600km during school holidays).

I want to show people that despite the setbacks life throws at us, we are all capable of achieving amazing things. When I think about what Dad went through, failing to complete the ride is not an option.

He's starting on Friday 12th September, from Perth and intends to be in Melbourne on Sunday 5th October. If you glance at the map you can see it's a huge challenge.

Monday, 25 August 2008

dog blogs and awards

Ten days ago Penny and I were excited to receive an award from Noah. I showed my excitement by rushing off to tell everyone in the family that my blog had received an award. Penny poured out her emotional excess with a yawn and a scratch of that hard-to-reach spot near her left rear leg. Just goes to show that different species can live together in harmony but see the world in different ways.

Here's the award.It looks fabulous!

It's great to hear that others out there in the blogosphere enjoy Penny's blog, because blogging is a solitary pursuit, after all, and when you write a blog post you can never be sure whether your words are finding a home.

After I had settled down, I began to wonder who I should pass it on to. I popped over to Noah's blog to let Noah know the award had been received. And then I thought again. And again. And again...

By this stage a week had passed and I still hadn't decided who to pass it on to. Should it be that great blog with the jokes? Should it be one of the many dog blogs that bring me such joy to read? Maybe I should give it to the site with the fascinating recipes, or the one with the masterly photographs?


I had a look around the Net. No, can't give it to that blog, because it already had the same award. Oh, I know... there's that interesting one about agility. Nope, she's already had it also.

So, to cut a long story short. I'm not going to pass it on. I apologise if that seems selfish. But it's just got too hard. I simply can't choose between the many blogs I love.

Okay, now that it's confession time, I'd better admit that the same thing happened when I received the lovely award from Rusty. I was thrilled to get it but I couldn't get my head around who to pass it on to.

Awards are exciting and make me feel good, but I find it just too hard to choose who to pass them on to. It's not that I don't appreciate the other blogs - my enormous list of blogs in my Google Reader is evidence to the contrary.

I don't like choosing one blog over another.
I love so many.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

parlance's ten rules for crossing the road with a dog

When Penny and I cross the road she always has to sit at the kerb and then we hurry straight across. Today I saw a woman standing on the centre line of a busy road with her dog beside her. I think that's dangerous. To a dog, the hurly-burly of vehicles racing past in front and behind must be quite scary.

In my opinion, when crossing road with a dog you need to allow for the worst-case scenario.
Be prepared for the possibility that the driver of every car passing by:

1. had a spider drop into their lap;
2. was told by their GPS to make a 180ยบ turn;
3.will sneeze a mighty sneeze as they pass you and your dog;
4. hates dogs;
5. hates dog owners;
6. got their licence two minutes ago;
7. is putting on makeup and talking on the phone, whilst reaching for a drink from the glovebox;
8. has suddenly gone blind;
9. is drunk or under the influence of an illicit substance;
10. all of the above.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

do the beeps on toll roads hurt dogs' ears?

Penny and I drove under the tolling gantry on the new Eastlink road today. She was snoozing on the seat beside me - she'd had an energetic time at K9 dog training.

I've bought an electronic tag because we'll be making the trip each Tuesday when we go to Lilydale for training. As the tag beeped, Penny whimpered and looked around. I remembered that she did the same thing last time we travelled on this road.
I'm glad we only go under one gantry, because I don't like the idea that the sound is bothering her. I was talking to someone recently who said she doesn't travel on the toll roads because the beeps upset her dog.

I've looked around on the Net but I can't find any specific information on this topic. However, Joyce D Kesling, at Responsible Dog and Cat Training, has a report on canine hearing that seems to explain what might be happening. Dogs hear high-pitched sounds more clearly that we do. Quoting from Stanley Coren's 2004 book,How Dogs Think: Understanding the Canine Mind, she says that dogs evolved to hear these high frequencies because they needed to hear the high-pitched squeaks and rustlings of small prey.

Addendum, 29th pril 2014. A comment today about this old post has made me realise I should update it. I still don't know whether the beeper was bothering Penny at the time, but she doesn't react to it these days. 
After I had those problems with Penny refusing to get into the car at all, I discovered I had a petrol leak in the car, at dangerous levels of fumes in the cabin of the vehicle. I got rid of the car, after having the leak dealt with, because I never again felt safe in it. (I made sure to let the prospective buyers know I had had this problem.)

I subsequently blogged about the Great Petrol Leak Saga here and here.

Friday, 15 August 2008

feeding a dog a raw diet that includes fish

Penny found something weird in her food bowl this evening. While her humans were eating their fish dinners, Penny was busy at her bowl long enough for them to think she was enjoying her meal of rice, beef leftovers and sardines. But she wasn't, because there was a strange creature staring at her.

It smelled good, though. So she decided to get it out of the bowl and roll on it. Her humans all leapt up from the table, yelling, 'No!'

Hmm... What to do with it?

She carried it over to her eating mat to think about it, but one of the humans' hands came sneaking over her shoulder to steal it away (and put it in the rubbish bin), so she had to crouch really, really low to guard it.

Even though she studied it carefully from different angles, it still didn't look like something a respectable dog would eat.

In the end, she decided it wasn't worth the trouble and the humans stole it away. The house rule is, 'Eat it if it's in your bowl, because you won't get anything else.' So all she got tonight was some left-over rice and a teensy piece of old cooked beef.

The bad news is, another piece of fish is going to appear in her bowl tomorrow.
The good news is, there'll be nice things mixed in with it, to make it less obvious.
The even better news is that the next bit won't have eyes.

If only she could be like Noah and family, and enjoy a fish meal properly! I belong to the Yahoo rawfeeding group and I'm convinced Penny will benefit from more oily fish in her diet.

There's an interesting discussion about fish in a dog's diet at Dogster.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

strolling with a dog in the lusciously wet Darebin Parklands

Penny and I wandered around Darebin Parklands today to admire the green, green plants. On the way I heard a couple of locals chatting to each other across a street. (I couldn't help but overhear, seeing they were calling across the road.) One said she was tired of this wintry weather. They laughed that we'll soon be complaining about the hot, dry drought taking over again.

I wasn't laughing. I hate the drought. I hate the hot weather. I hate the fact that I have to watch out for snakes, even in my own backyard. Note, I don't say I hate the snakes themselves. They have a right to live. I just wish they weren't capable of killing me or Penny.

I love this rain we're getting. For the first time in ages, we are half way through a month and we've received HALF OF THE AVERAGE RAINFALL. Hooray!

As we walked past an area of lush grass, I realised it must be the result of a planting day last year, or maybe it was the year before... I'm so used to seeing brown, dried-up, struggling clumps of grass that at first I didn't recognise what I was seeing.

I began to doubt. Maybe it wasn't planted native grass I was seeing... But... the mowing seemed to delineate that section. It sure looked like native grass. And then I saw the outline of small mulch mat hidden in the foliage. I sure hope the plants we put in a couple of weeks ago will look as good as this next year.

Penny, as usual, checked out the puddles. The lovely puddles. The delightful, life-giving rainy puddles.

Penny says thanks for the award.

Penny and I are pleased to have received an award from Rusty. Well, to be quite honest, Penny's asleep on the couch and hasn't shown any interest in my blogging so far, but I'm super pleased to have received it. Here's a picture of it.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

dogs and planting in Darebin Parklands

Today Penny and I went to have a look at how the baby grasses are growing in Darebin Parklands.

It was the first time Penny had seen them, because she stayed home while her humans were planting poa grasses along the edge of the creek last Sunday.

It was enormously satisfying to work with others to plant hundreds of native plants and know that they will add to the variety of flora in this beautiful spot. Many of the people who worked that day walk with their dogs in the park, so they will enjoy seeing the plants grow. (Let's hope that the hot summer weather doesn't begin too early this year, so the plants can get a good start.)

Each little plant had a handful of water crystals beneath it, which should keep them going for a couple of months.

After they went into the lovely sandy soil, we mulched around them.

For some of the volunteer 'gardeners', it was their first experience of planting in this wonderful park. I hope it will be the beginning of a long-term involvement. I've just been looking at a fascinating presentation about the history of the Darebin Parklands Association and I can only say how I admire the work that has been done so far.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

dogs and tracking

On Sunday morning Penny and I took part in our first tracking lesson, with Jenny and Gill from A Perfect Spot Dog Training. It was a crisp Sunday morning at 9 am. Pretty early for me, but Jenny made it seem like the middle of the day when she told us tracking is sometimes done at ... get ready for it... FIVE IN THE MORNING IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER!! She said that the scent is clearer for the dogs at that time. (Or at least that's what I think she said. I was reeling in horror at the thought of getting up before dawn.)

Maybe we won't be going into this sport in a big way...

Penny loved the session, because it built on one of her special skills, ie pulling her human towards something interesting on the ground.

We've been training her not to pull on the lead and have had heaps of success. In fact, today we walked from Heidelberg to Ivanhoe along the back paths (about an hour) and she was almost perfect all the time she was on lead.

Anyway, back to the tracking...
Jenny said to attach the lead to Penny's harness at the start of the track and reattach it to her neck collar at the end, to distinguish between lead walking and tracking. I practised out in our back laneway today and that seemed to work well.

Generally, it's Penny's idea of heaven, to be asked to sniff around for food treats.

I thought as well as practising, I would have a look around the Net for more information. I found a site about general Schutzhund training, and it had lots of pages on tracking.

The first article was about initial tracking experiences. It said your bond with the dog will help you to notice the subtle signals she gives out when tracking, letting you know how well she understands the task.

A second page discusses the importance of being able to remember the track you have set out. Jenny is teaching us to set out little flags so we know the course, but this article warns that we need to be careful not to reward finding the flags rather than the articles. (We used socks that we had been carrying against our skin.)

So far Penny has ignored the markers, diving on the socks to search for the piece of food hidden under them. When I practised in the laneway behind our house, I didn’t have little flags, so I used bits of stick I found lying around in the lane.

Jenny has given us some scent discrimination games to play during the week. We're still working on the one where I hide a treat in one hand an Penny has to indicate which one has the treat. We'll go out to the park and try out another one where I unobtrusively drop an article as we walk along, and ask Penny to help me go back and find it.

There are more scent discrimination games at Dog Scout. I like the one called The Scent Articles Game. I've tried this one before, without much luck, but the explanation on this site is so clear I'm inspired to try again.

There is a local tracking club, Tracking Club of Victoria. I thought the Golden Retriever Club of Victoria had an especially clear overview of local tracking. They say trials are usually held between May and September, when it's not too hot and snakes are not so active. (Though I've seen snakes in our local city park in both September and May recently.) Because tracking takes up a big area, the events are in rural areas, such as Gippsland, Ballarat, Inverleigh, Broadford and the Mornington Peninsula.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

dog with implanted prosthetic leg

Came across an interesting piece on Dog Blog about an unusual surgery on a dog that had lost a rear foot. Sally, a saluki,had some of the bone in her leg removed and a titanium implant was attached to the bone. As in a human hip surgery, the idea is that the bone tissue will grow over the implanted metal, leading to a permanent solution to the problem of her missing foot.

The original article about Sally is at The Tribune. It discusses the possibility that this surgery might have implications for improved surgery for humans, but I'm just glad that Sally has benefited from such good care. I hope the long-term results will be good. Generally amputation is the first solution for problems like this one, because dogs can cope well with having only three legs.

When I worked for a year in a local vet hospital a dog came in that had been left to cope with a massive injury to a back leg. Someone rescued her from the abusive owner and the vet operated gratis, removing her rear leg, and found her a loving home. Unfortunately she injured the front leg on the same side and needed an operation. One of the most amazing sights I have ever seen was her walking on two legs across the waiting room when she came for a check-up. If I hadn't seen it myself I wouldn't have believed it.

By the way, she recovered well and gets around on three legs now.

Here's a link to a Youtube clip of another dog that is missing two legs on the same side. It's an upbeat clip of a happy dog, as far as I can see.

There are other clips of dogs with two legs but they made me feel sad.

Friday, 1 August 2008

lure coursing is lots of fun for dogs

Penny loves lure coursing. I've just received a notification from the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Victoria that their next lure coursing day will be at KCC park in Skye (Melways 128 J 12, for Victorian readers), on the 10th of August from 12 noon - 4 pm.

I'll rephrase that first sentence. Penny ADORES lure coursing. The problem is to hold her back as we wait our turn. One time she managed to tear her way through the plastic fencing around the course, but we hauled her back. She hasn't come to terms with the concept of waiting your turn, such an important part of the Australian psyche.)

The photos here are not of lure coursing at KCC Park, but of the same sport at Lilydale. It was organised by Animal Aid. That's the place where Penny goes to training each week.

I enjoyed looking at a video clip of a dog in the US running a course. I found it at Spot On K9s, after following a link from Bark Blog. At Lure Coursing Fanatics there's a good explanation of this sport and its history. I like the fact that they emphasise the safety aspect.

I've been happy that the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club and Animal Aid both maintain good safety. Every time we've participated they have made sure only one dog is in the field unless owners wanted to run two compatible dogs, and they manpulated the plastic-bag lure to suit the ability of the dogs.