Thursday, 28 January 2010

more about the flyball competition on Australia Day

When Penny and I competed in the Australia Day flyball competition last Tuesday, some other members of the club took photos, and they've been kind enough to let me post them here.

Here we are waiting with our team.

Well, I was ready and raring to go, but Penny decided to have a sit down and a rest.

She obligingly set off over the jumps when I pointed out there was a tennis ball at the other end. But once she got down there she visited a few people in the crowd to see whether they had something for her in the way of pats or treats. After a while she noticed I was at the other end screaming and going red in the face, so she wandered back the long way, around the jumps.

I guess we're never going to be flyball champions. Luckily, we joined a club whose motto is, 'We run for fun'.

But later she did amble over the jumps and saunter back over them with the ball. At least it was a clean run, as they say, even if not fast.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Penny the media star

It was very exciting that Penny was involved in a photoshoot for a local newspaper last weekend. Here's a clipping from the paper, the HeraldSun, with Penny's picture at the bottom of the page. I wish they had put the photo online, so I could link to it, but the photo was only in the hardcopy edition. Isn't the photo at the top spectacular? It's one of her teammates in our flyball club.

The photo was part of an article describing the Australia Day celebrations in Melbourne, part of which was a flyball race.

Penny took part today and I think she had fun. But after a couple of races she decided it would be more enjoyable to wander around and say hello to some of the thousands of spectators.

Here's a photo of two teams lined up, to give an idea of the temptation that would face a friendly dog who loves meeting new people. Thousands to choose from!

There's an important line marked down the centre of the arena and the rule is - don't cross that line or you will get a yellow card and your team will lose the heat. Penny, running in the right-hand lane, crossed, presumably because the most interesting people were down there in the left hand corner.

And she crossed again! TWO yellow cards. And everyone who knew more that I did about the sport was telling me the horrible consequences of a third cross. Not to mention letting the team down!

So it was back to rest in her crate, under the tents that were set up in the shade of the trees.

We were in the 'sin bin' for three heats, and then the pressure was on me to encourage her to go over the four jumps, collect the ball - and come back. Well, she went for a little stroll at the end where the ball was, but thankfully didn't cross the important middle line and we were allowed to try again.

After that all her heats were okay, but slow.

A tiring but fun day!

Friday, 22 January 2010

racing the humans in the sea

It's a new experience for Penny to see humans in the water. Strangely, there have never been people swimming when we've been to rivers, creeks and the beach. But lately we've been jumping in with her. The first time I did it, she was so shocked she just stood on the beach whining in dismay. But now she's learned that if the toy is thrown in the water, she'd better shoot off quickly or one of the humans might just get there first.

Penny learns a new command - 'dig'

When we used to go to K9 Kompany - I won't lament again the demise of that wonderful venue - Cindy was teaching Penny the command 'dig'. We would do it by hiding a treat under a towel and when Penny started to use her paws to move the towel aside to get at the treat, I'd say 'dig'.

What is the point of the 'dig' command, you might ask. Well, if I remember correctly, it's intended for film work. The dog learns to lie down and then do the 'dig' movement, and it looks as if the dog is dying. I wouldn't want to see any films where dogs die, so I guess I'll never find out whether I've remembered this correctly. But I seem to recall some movies where horses got shot and lay there moving their legs like that. (Not that I want to see dying horses in movies either, by the way!)

Our attempt at the trick wasn't all that successful, to be honest, maybe because, when we first got her and I read all the dog books, they recommended discouraging digging. So she now has to unlearn the fact that digging is not desirable.

However, when Penny went to stay with Cindy for five fun-filled days, Cindy sent us some pictures of Penny digging in a sand pit up there in Healesville, so I thought we could try the command again at the beach this morning.

And yes, she's learned to dig on command. Or has she learned to dig whenever she wants to? I guess time will tell on that one.

Here she is digging on command:

It's a rather energetic activity, as you can see from this photo:

Penny's human has returned from four weeks in the supermarket

As I mentioned recently, Penny seemed to think her second human was in the supermarket. While her human was actually in New York, Penny would try to go in through the supermarket automatic doors each time we passed. (You can read about the second human's New York adventures here.)

Eventually it was the day of the traveller's return. I fetched her from the airport and after telling her to sit in the car in the driveway, I raced inside to tell Penny her human was home. Excitedly we rushed out, Penny's tail wagging happily. She took one look, sniffed to make sure it was the right person, then ambled inside to lie on her mat.

What a let-down for the excited humans!

But I guess Penny's relaxed attitude since then shows she's happy the pack is together.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

a new breed of dog rescue organisations

In our local newspaper, The Age, there was an article on Monday about a new event to occur monthly at the Commerical Hotel In Yarraville - The Big Dog Day Out. It looked as if the dogs were enjoying themselves, so I might plan on taking Penny there one day.

The events will raise money for dogs. The money collected on this occasion went to Halfway Home Animal Rescue. On the Commercial Hotel's site I read that this is a regular summer event, and the Halfway Home group is 'an organisation that saves animals in remote rural pounds on death row and places them into foster care in the Melbourne area, where they can then be adopted into loving homes'.

I'd like to support them, because they are an organisation that gives stray dogs a second chance when they are about to be put down. In The Age article, the founder, Jenaya Du Toit said they have become disenchanted with animal "shelters" that put down about 250,000 dogs and cats each year.

What a terrible number!

I've recently heard of another organisation called Rescued With Love, one that aims to keep dogs out of shelters altogether and also processes them through voluntary foster carers.

I donate to the big dog rescue organisations here, as much as I can, and now I'm wondering whether my money would be better going to these "direct rescue" groups. It's quite a dilemma, because, despite criticism of the big shelters, they do rescue lots of dogs. And they are easily contacted if a dog is lost. But it scares me to think how many animals pass through their doors and what a short time a dog is given before its fate is decided.

I can't afford to donate to all of them, unfortunately.

Monday, 11 January 2010

hot days and play in the brown River Yarra

Today we headed off to the muddy Yarra early, because it was predicted to be more than 103 43 Celcius (that's about 110 Fahrenheit!). (Thanks, Mary, for pointing out that 103 Celcius would be rather hot.)

There I made an interesting discovery about the whirlwheel toy. You can pick it up with a stick if your dog won't bring it back on land. Penny always waits just in the water, ready for the second toy to be thrown. She won't put down the first until she is quite sure there's another one in flight.

Here's my patented method for picking up this toy:

And here's Penny hanging on to the first one, watching, watching, watching for the throw of the second toy:

Friday, 8 January 2010

the tennis ball trees are in fruit once more

Last January Penny discovered that the trees in our yard grow tennis balls. She would pick up plums dropped by the birds and carry them around. As far as we could figure it, she didn't try to eat them, but we picked the whole crop early just to be safe. Apparently the big seed in a stone fruit is dangerous for dogs.

Well, the tennis balls have appeared once more.

I'm trying to be more relaxed about it this year, as Penny doesn't tend to chew on toys. Here she is minding her much-loved whirlwheel. She's just keeping an eye on it rather than chewing on it, but I must admit that after I took this photo I put the whirlwheel away till next time we go out for a swim.

But soon she was walking around with a plum. I let her have it on her mat for a while and then in a matter-of-fact way put it up on the shelf with the other balls and toys. (Hmm... how much would a plum have to be washed after being in a dog's mouth if it were to be used for human consumption? Not sure about that. But, on the other hand, the rest of the crop has been nibbled or sat on by possums and birds.)

She hasn't touched the nectarines so far, but maybe that's because none have landed on the ground. And the apples are too small to be interesting. I hope.

But now she's discovered the pecked apricots!

It's an interesting time. Luckily, Penny rarely goes outside if we're not out there with her.

a wonderful movie for dog lovers

I saw a video of the movie 'Dean Spanley' the other night because a friend assured me that, as a dog lover, I would enjoy it.

Well, I did. I watched it again the next night, before I returned it to the shop.

I can't say too much about it, but if you like clever English comedy, turn of the twentieth-century costume drama, and think Peter O'Toole has the most gorgeous voice, you will find it entertaining. It has a fabulous cast: Art Malik, Bryan Brown, Jeremy Northam, Judy Parfitt, Peter O'Toole, Ramon Tikaram and Sam Neill

I was surprised to see it was based on a story written as long ago as 1936, published as a 14-chapter novella by Lord Dunsany. The novella was called My Talks with Dean Spanley. Given the fantasy elements, I would have thought it was quite modern, but apparently Lord Dunsany had an interest in the occult.

It's about a dog. That's all I can say without spoiling it. There's a review of it here, but if you read the review it might give away too much about the plot, in my opinion.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

doggie logic

Penny thinks one of our family members is at the supermarket. Rather sensible, as we often meet that family member at the supermarket when she is coming home from work; the supermarket is near the train station and she picks up a few items for the family as she passes.

But she's been in the supermarket for nearly three weeks now.

I wonder what Penny thinks she's doing in there all this time.

(Actually she's in the US.)

I need to go to the post office often, as I work from home and send frequent mail, and Penny generally goes with me. The post office is next to the supermarket and it's getting a bit tedious having to convince Penny not to go in through the automatic doors to check out the missing persons desk in there.

It'll be good when the pack is back together, in a couple of weeks.

Monday, 4 January 2010

camel meat as dog treats

In responding to Maggie and Mitch's comment on my post about the dog birthday party Penny attended on Sunday, I remembered that our hostess had gone to the trouble of preparing a special doggy-bag of treats for dogs with sensitive skins.

Penny hasn't eaten any yet, but I'm keen to see whether she likes the camel meat treats that were included. Our hostess gets them from a canine skin specialist, so I'm confident they won't cause Penny any allergies.

It's a strange thing that Australia has huge herds of camels roaming the interior. They are the one-humped camel, dromedaries. As I was looking around to try to find information about dog treats (I didn't find any), I came across an article about the attempt to start up an export market for camel meat and another Lonely Planet piece about what a pity it will be if the meat of camels is wasted when they are culled. (Apparently they are breeding up to plague proportions.)

I sure hope that if such an industry is started, the camels are treated humanely. We humans don't have a good record of treating our fellow animals well.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

dog birthday party - or just an excuse for humans to have a feast?

Today Penny and I went to a birthday party for a dog from our walking group. Her name is Bella, and she lives up to that name, I must say.

She had a horrific start in life but has now been rescued into a wonderful home, living with two humans who understand that Bella will need lots of care and training to become the dog she can be.

I didn't know what to expect from a doggie party and had visions of having to watch Penny every moment to make sure she was mingling well. I don't generally stand around in parks with groups of dogs, as I like Penny to keep moving and stay out of any potential for conflict.

Well, to my surprise, all the dogs had a calm but fun couple of hours, all mixing well and trotting busily around the yard together.

I guess it's a tribute to the choice of dogs invited to the party - the dogs know each other from our regular walks and spent time together at our recent Christmas party at Kepala Dog Country Club.

There was a lovely barbecue - but the dogs only got to stand around and hope in vain that a bit of meat would fall their way.

There was delicious party food

- but the dogs only got to gather under the table and hope in vain that someone would slip them a crumb.

I wonder whether the dogs knew it was a party for them. Or did they suspect that, once again, it was all about us humans having fun?

Friday, 1 January 2010

our replacement floating whirl wheel

Last week our multi-tasking whirlwheel floated off down the river.

It's a great toy, because it's tough, squeaks and can be used in water or on land. My only problem with using it on water has been that the squeaker came free once or twice and fell into the interior, leaving a hole that could fill with water and cause it to sink. Luckily that only happened on a couple of occasions, near the shore, so I could pick it up from the bed of the creek or river. (Things that sink are lost to Penny, as she can't smell them.)

I would not let Penny be alone with this toy, however, due to this problem with the squeaker. I wouldn't want her to swallow the little part.

Because it's an important part of our swimming fun, I went looking for another toy, and found only a green one. The shop, Murphy Brothers in Hawthorn, is one of the best pet suppliers in Melbourne, in my opinion, but they said they don't get a choice of colors when they import these toys.

Well, green wouldn't be my first choice of color. It's too hard to see on the grass!

But Murphys are ordering new stock, so I'll get over there and buy a more visible color.

I was told recently that we need to choose toys in colors that are easily distinguished by dogs. But since I've forgotten what the three suggested colors were, I guess I'll just have to leave it to the manufacturers. I did come across an article on the Net discussing scientific studies of dogs' color vision and acuity and it said, in part
Through these studies it has been suggested that an average dog sees similar to a human deuteranope, a person that is red-green colorblind. Consequently, the dog's world consists of yellows, blues, and grays. When a human perceives a red object it appears as yellow to the dog, while a green object appears as white, a shade of gray. This white region, also called the neutral point, occurs around 480 nm in visual spectrum. According to the electromagnetic spectrum, 480 nm would appear as a greenish-blue hue. All wavelengths longer than the neutral point are indistinguishable from one another to the dog and would all appear as yellow.