Monday, 31 May 2010

dogs and revegetation in Darebin Parklands

Recently I posted about the use of weed killers in our local park and my concerns about the use of glyphosate.

Further to that post on glyphosate, I received the newsletter of Organic Gardener Magazine and it mentioned
the recently-released, astonishing report from the US President's Cancer Panel which noted that only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have had safety tests, and that pesticide exposed farmers, crop duster pilots and even manufacturers have been found to have elevated rates of prostate cancer melanoma and other skin cancers. The report also recommended that people consume food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilisers and growth hormones. It's not astonishing for its findings, which OG has been highlighting for years, but because such a high level panel has finally come out and said these things in black and white. This is, I believe, the first of many reports and research that is going to completely turn the tables on the acceptance of chemical use on food.
And no doubt we will have to look at our use of weedkillers

How will we revegetate our indigenous plantings without using herbicides? They do a wonderful job of giving the 'good plants' a chance to survive.

Here's a photo I posted a couple of weeks ago of weedy growth sprayed with herbicide.

And here's a photo of the same spot today:

Saturday, 29 May 2010

walking - and falling - at Warrandyte

Cindy, Penny's trainer, organised a get-together of all her groups at Warrandyte today.

We walked along an off-lead path that skirts the river, with lots of opportunities to swim and paddle.

And, as this all-too-short video clip, shows, plenty of opportunities for humans to slide down the bank on their bottoms.

Amazingly, I got up in one piece. (Thank god for those exercise classes where the teacher makes us do so many balancing activities!) But I had my badge of honor on my buttocks.

Penny was very interested when the humans stopped for morning tea at a cafe, but she didn't get any of their food.

However, she did get a home-baked dog-treat from Cindy.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Penny kills a rat

Warning - photos of rat killed by Penny - might be disturbing to some.

We have rats in our garden and I hope they don't come inside as the weather gets colder. One of them, at least, won't be venturing into the house, because Penny killed it today. I'm feeling quite conflicted about this, because I deliberately sicced her onto the rat.

A few times previously we've come across rats in the daytime and I've called Penny out to scare them off, not wanting her to actually kill them. But today, the poor little rat got trapped by her and I had a choice - would I stand by and see her kill another creature, or would I call her away? While I was wrestling with this ethical problem (and shouting through the open front door for someone to bring a camera), Penny preempted my decision and grabbed the rat. There was one heart-rending squeal and there it lay at our feet. Hopefully instantly dead - but I couldn't in all honesty say painlessly, which disturbs me.

I know we don't want rats around, but they are also living creatures who feel pain and fear, and I hated to see this one die.

It was quite disturbing to see how efficiently and quickly Penny dispatched it.

And then she was left with the problem of what to do with it. She sniffed. She looked around. She sniffed. She looked around. I wondered if she was asking herself why this toy wasn't entertaining any more. Who knows what a dog thinks?

So we called her in and I took the even more disturbing step of chopping it with a shovel to make sure it wasn't still alive and suffering. It will take me a while to foget the horrible feel of the shovel chopping into that furry little body.

Would I do it again? I'm not sure. Maybe. In one way, I think it's better than condemning the rat to dying of thirst, which rat bait does, or possibly injuring it in a rat trap but not killing it outright.

And I also wonder if rats perhaps get bad press, and whether we can just live and let live as we do with other creatures.

Eating marrow bones

Stanislaw posted a picture recently of him eating a marrow bone and I asked about it. The reply was so interesting that I'm copying it here from the comments section of my blog, where he explained about his human's feeding of these bones. You might like to pop over to his post to see the pictures. Here's what he told me:
My marrow bone was a 2.5-inch tube (about) filled with marrow and with meat attached. Mom picks bones that are too large for us to swallow, too thick for us to break bits from, small enough for us to paw and play with, and bones that have a moderate amount of marrow inside (some of HUGE amounts).

We've never seen bones sliced lengthwise. I'd imagine that would make it too easy to eat the marrow and would take away the challenge. Marrow is so rich that too much too fast, and too much in general, can really upset your tummy. Normally we get a marrow bone and are allowed 1/2 of it. Then it goes into a baggy in the fridge and is saved for the next day.

Yes, we're wearing our snoods to keep our ears out of our food. Our ears are so long with such thick, curly fur that they can get really gross really fast when we're eating our meals!

Hope that answers your questions! Let me know if you ever get to enjoy a juicy marrow bone!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

bitser dogs acknowledged in the American Kennel Club

I'm pleased to read in the Denver Post that the American Kennel Club allows mixed-breed dogs to compete in skill-based contests this year.

If some people want to focus their attention on breeding lines of dogs for specific talents, fine. But I believe it's a form of eugenics or racism to regard mixed -breed dogs as lesser creatures.

Accompanying the Denver Post article there was a photo of a dog who was 'the result of an illicit tryst between a purebred Husky and a rakish Lab/Chow neighbor dog'. I smiled when I read those words, because Penny is supposedly the result of a pure-bred princess meeting a lowly stranger in the McDonalds carpark somewhere on the other side of Melbourne.

She's a bitser (or bitzer) and as good as any aristocrat!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

is roundup - glyphosate - safe to use around dogs?

A recent article in Organic Gardener magazine, about glyphosate (Roundup), has me wondering about this herbicide in terms of its danger to dogs.

I have two concerns (apart from my general concern about the environment). First, I believe this is the herbicide that is used in Darebin Parklands, where we walk frequently.

Secondly, we have a back lane behind our house, one that is great for a short off-lead walk and also provides a private place to chase tennis balls. I asked our local council why a spray is used there and was told it's too expensive to mow it more than four times each year, so herbicides are used to keep the weeds down.

I've noticed that some weeds spring up immediately after the spraying in the lane and asked whether they might be Roundup-resistant, but the council official was non-committal about that.

However... now that I've read this article in Organic Gardener I see that there are now 16 weeds with confirmed resistance to this herbicide.

By the way, to clear up any confusion about what herbicide I'm talking about, here's a quote from the article:
Glyphosate is sometimes referred to by the original trade name Roundup, which was first marketed by Monsanto in 1974, and the two names are often used interchangeably.
I don't like to use this product in my own garden, so it bothers me that Penny is likely to be exposed to it when we're out walking. There's a lot of work being done to regenerate indigenous plants in Darebin Parklands, and glyphosate is considered to be an essential tool in fighting introduced weeds.

The article says,
While bush regenerators maintain they couldn't do their work without it, emerging research may yet see glyphosate join the long list of pesticides that were once thought to be safe, but turn out to be harmful.
The author says we tend to trust the story that glyphosate is relatively safe, but last year France's Supreme Court ruled that Monsanto had not told the truth about the safety of Roundup, and many Canadian municipalities restrict the use of any [pesticides] herbicides for cosmetic purposes such as lawns and driveways, because of health concerns.

Humans can wear gloves and face masks when they use it, and cover all exposed skin. But if my dog walks through a recently sprayed area, she will place her bare paws on it, she will roll in it, she might chew a few blades of grass, she might drink from a puddle that is polluted with runoff.

And not just recently sprayed areas, either - here are a couple more quotes:
While regulators agree glyphosate has a relatively low acute (short-term) toxicity compared with other herbicides, recent research indicating possible long-term health effect is causing controversy...

Glyphosate is relatively persistent in soil, especially in cold climates, where residues have been found up to three years after use. In warmer climates it stays in the soil for between four and 180 days.

Penny likes to dig, sometimes.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

when dogs seem to be sick but we're not sure

Penny was lying on her mat asleep this afternoon when suddenly she seemed to be unable to catch her breath. Because she had been sneezing yesterday, I decided to go to a vet and check whether the kennel cough was back. The vet, who seemed to be aged about twelve - I'm definitely getting old - checked her thoroughly and said she seemed fine. I particularly wanted to be sure her lungs sounded good, and they did.

The vet suggested I might have seen Penny reverse sneezing, or that perhaps her sneezing relates to allergies, both of which suggestions sound sensible to me.

I have seen Penny reverse sneeze, and PetPlace has a couple of video clips of dogs reverse sneezing. I'll keep an eye on her and check whether that is the issue. If it is, I won'tworry, as reverse sneezing doesn't seem to be a big problem.

One symptom was that when she barked, she would start sneezing and coughing, but seeing she's at the front door right now, barking up a storm to tell us there are cats in the front yard, I guess that's not a problem now.

As soon as we arrived at the vet's this afternoon, Penny looked the picture of health - as usual. I guess vets get used to owners saying, 'But she looked sick when we were at home!'

On the way home, we called in at Bundoora Park.

There's a little hill - called Mount Cooper, because our continent is so flat that we call every anthill a mountain - and we had a great view from there. It's an old volcanic vent, but seeing it hasn't erupted for 9.2 million years, I felt safe.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

dog training for fun and for dancing

At last, after three weeks at home because Penny had kennel cough, we were able to go to training with Cindy at Lilydale. We had a lovely evening last night, playing with the agility equipment and doing some obedience and some tricks.

I was proud to show Cindy that Penny can now do a 'spin' on a verbal command, with no hand movement. However, in the class we needed Penny to do a turn in the opposite direction (clockwise), so Cindy reminded me that the command we've used in the past is 'twist'.

We haven't tried 'twist' for ages, because I wanted to fix 'spin' quite firmly in Penny's mind. She's been trained with hand signals for nearly six years, but at the Richard Curtis seminar we learned that it's better to have verbal cues so the human part of a canine freestyle duo can be doing something with her own arms and hands rather than standing around like a statue making hand signals to the dog.

So, here's our start to introducing a clockwise turn with a verbal cue. At this stage there is still a hand signal but even in this session I was able to make it smaller.

Monday, 17 May 2010

dogs are challenged in Queensland sheepherding trials

In a sign of the times, the Queensland sheepdog trials this year couldn't find enough merino sheep for the dogs to herd, so dorper sheep were used. I heard about this when I was listening to ABC radio, and I guess I'm showing what a city slicker I am that I had never heard of dorpers. The speaker said they are meat sheep and presented the dogs with more of a challenge than merinos would have done.

I've heard that the Australian wool industry is shrinking, but hadn't realised it has happened to that degree.

While I was looking around the Net for information for this post, I came across a page telling the story of one working dog owned by Doris Ann Kalivoda, who moved to Australia from the US.

Her dog is obviously loved and cherished, but the story of how she obtained her puppy, bred from a working bitch living on what seems to be an outback property, presents a telling contrast to the life Penny lives, as a companion animal in suburban Melbourne. One detail that struck me was the fact that once Doris had decided she wanted a female puppy, the owner killed all the other pups (without telling Doris this would happen).

Friday, 14 May 2010

luxury houses for dogs

Stumbling around the Net, I came across these wonderful doghouses. Because I'm so into dollshouses and miniatures, I fell in love with them immediately, but I reckon Penny would hate them, because most of them involve living outside the main house (I think).

We do actually have a nice strong, weather-proof doghouse on our back patio, but have never once convinced Penny to set foot in it, except to sniff for rats. (They used to hide under the doghouse to eat the fruit they had snaffled from our trees, until Penny alerted us to their hiding place.)

There is one indoor house in the list of ten amazing residences, the TownHaus.

I once blogged about this house, way back in prehistory.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

exciting new way to have fun with your dog

Penny and I have always enjoyed working on tricks. But today my horizons have been extended. I've seen two links on Johan's blog - links to video clips where dogs 'act' out a whole story, by putting together lots of tricks. I think these two are wonderful!

In the first, Ymer, the Swedish Valhund goes on a mission to discover the butcher's secret recipe for sausages. (I love Valhunds! They are so intelligent and so cute.)

The second one involves a very clever Rhodesian Ridgeback.

All I have to do now is script a story - not too hard;
decide which tricks and short clips would suit it - not too hard;
review Penny's known tricks or teach some new ones - not too hard...

and learn how to use iMovie properly - VERY HARD!!

a dog who's in the thick of things in Athens

Slavenka posted a link to Izismile, where there is a post about a dog who apparently is seen often at political rallies in Greece.

I wonder if it's genuine, and, if so, whether the dog comes with one of the protesters.

The Dog Who Loves Riots (17 pics)

The Sick Dog Blog discusses the dog's history and theorises about whether the dog is owned. I agree with the post that it seems strange that a caring owner would take a dog into such a violent encounter.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

shoes for dogs that lick their feet

Penny's obviously feeling better now from her kennel cough, and we actually went for a thirty-minute walk today. Thank goodness for that, Penny says! We were very good about staying off the streets for more than ten days, to stop infecting other dogs, and we're going to stay away from organised activities for the full fourteen days, as advised. What a boring time for Penny! However, a good opportunity to practise canine freestyle and tricks, and to get some use out of our intelligence-enhancing games from Nina Ottosson.

But now we've got our eye on another little problem - she's starting to get a bald spot on top of her head. The vet says it's a subcutaneous bacterial infection and it's no use putting medication on from the outside, so I've reluctantly agreed to give her a course of tablets. I hate using medications, but I have to trust my vet.

He says it's most likely related to her ongoing problem of inflammation between her toes, so perhaps this medication will clear that up. However, he says the foot problem will most likely come back, because she's allergic to something in the environment. (We haven't been able to figure out what.)

But today, as I was in Murphy Brothers I saw the cutest little dog shoes. I bought a pair to see if I can stop Penny's licking of her paws. She was quite unconcerned when I put one on her right front paw, the main problem foot, and I must say it was rather funny to see her mooching around with one shoe off and one shoe on, as the old rhyme goes.

When she settled down, she transferred her licking to her left paw! So I put the other shoe on.

Now I'm going to wait and see whether she licks another foot. If so, I'm going to suspect it's habit rather than itchiness.

I won't leave the shoes on for too long at a time, because I'm not sure how annoying they are.

UPDATE... The shoes weren't on for very long at all. Two cats started a fight in the night somewhere nearby, Penny shot out the doggy door, I lumbered out slowly, after finding a torch, and there she was - shoeless. I suppose it was good exercise for me, bending down in the dark, searching under trees and plants till I found them.

the cost of a pet dog

There was an article in The Age newspaper this week about the cost of having a pet dog. Daniella Miletic reported
Research by BankWest has revealed that after an initial average purchase of $647, the cost of caring for a dog over an average 10-year lifespan - including food, veterinary bills, trainers and grooming - comes to about $24,000.
If the newspaper article is still online it's worth a read, as it looks at the details of what we typically spend.

The point that interests me is that there has been a letter to the Editor in response to that article, a letter that I completely agree with. I think the letter sums up what living with a dog is about.

I'm going to hope I don't get into trouble for quoting the letter, but I think it should be okay as it's a public letter. Here's what it said:
Cheap at that price

SO IT costs $24,000 to have a dog for 10 years (''Four-legged friends prove priceless'', The Age, 5/5)? This is cheap, when you consider the alternative.

Try hiring the following, for 10 years: 1) a personal trainer to get you out walking even if it's cold and/or wet; 2) a therapist, to listen to all your troubles without judgment or criticism; 3) a security guard, to protect your home; 4) a physician, to lower your blood pressure and reduce your likelihood of suffering depression; 5) a spiritual guide, to help you find joy in simple pleasures like tossing a ball; and 6) a best friend, who is always there for you, giving you love and affection.
The letter's by Mervyn Robbins of Coburg.

Here's a link to the BankWest report.

Friday, 7 May 2010

injuries from our dogs

An article in The Sunday Age, by John Elder and Maris Beck, recently reported the not-so-surprising fact that many people are injured as they interact with their pets. Apparently, more than 2000 people in Victoria alone end up in evergency departments each year because of injuries caused by animal companions. Given that the population is about five and a half million, that doesn't actually seem a huge number to me.

A paper called The Perils of Pet Ownership, published in 2005, looked at 16 cases where elderly owners received fractured bones while interacting with their pets.

Now, I do realise that breaking a bone is a serious matter and absolutely no laughing matter. But some of the scenarios set the imagination racing: Fell forwards while trying to prevent young puppy from diving into fish tank; fell sideways in garden while trying to stop cat catching a blue tongue lizard; and, most mind-boggling of all - fall while attempting to move quickly out back door as cat carried live snake in through side door.

To a certain extent, these anecdotes, and the others in the report, make me wonder whether it's not safer to have a big pet, so you can see it underfoot, but there's another one: Walking two greyhounds on leashes along street. Dogs pulled and patient slipped and fell against fence.

So it seems like size isn't the only factor.

For many years I taught kindergarten-aged children, and they are also an accident waiting to happen. I can remember stumbling over two little boys reading a book on the mat, throwing myself to one side to avoid landing on them and ending up flat on the floor. I think some of the reported accidents might come about because we know we are so heavy and we just can't afford to land on our beloved - small! - companions.