Tuesday, 29 June 2010

dogs are crepuscular

When Penny was at the vet's today to check up on a recent limp, I weighed her and was alarmed to see she has put on a kilo over the last two months. How could that be? Hmm...would it be the constant trickle of treats when she is doing training? Could it be the regular scraps of toast? (It's a strange feature or our household that there seems to always be someone toasting bread - very mysterious.) Or is it the snacks of carrot, ends of beans, offcuts of sweet potato - a favorite of hers?

I wondered whether we are not exercising her enough, because she seems to be lying around most of the day. Why isn't she racing around the backyard, getting fit? That's how I imagined it would be, before she came to live with us. But the problem is that dogs, being pack animals, will wait for the leader to signal that it's time to go out hunting, so having a large backyard doesn't get around the fact that most dogs won't exercise themselves.

And now I've found out that dogs are crepuscular. That's why they are happy to lie around most of the day, which is very handy for humans who go out to work between 9 and 5.

And if you don't already know the meaning of crepuscular, you might just go over to my other blog to check out the meaning, and thus give the site more than its usual average of two visitors a day.

It was in Stanley Coren's book How Dogs Think that I found out when dogs are most likely to be active.

Monday, 28 June 2010

a dog with a felted coat

My sister went to a felting workshop in the Victorian Alps recently, where she worked on a felted jacket, in a class taught by Raewyn Penrose from New Zealand.

But there is a breed of dog, the Bergamasco Sheep Dog, that doesn't need to buy a felted jacket, because their coat is naturally felted. After I saw the amazing picture of this dog in the new Australian magazine, Felt, I had to look around the internet to find out more about the breed.

I've seen dogs with coats that form mats, but never one that is meant to do so. According to the magazine, the Bergamasco has a fine undercoat, with a protective oily coating to water proof the dog, the middle coat is stronger, somewhat like the guard hairs on a goat, and the top coat, the one that naturally falls into felt, is softer and woolier. The top and middle coats weave together to form the felted 'flocks' which are wide and flat, like ... well.... like felt, actually.

Here are some photos.

am I becoming a cynic now that I live with a dog?

I've never thought of myself as cynical, but since I've been reading Stanley Coren's book, How Dogs Think, I might have to reassess myself, because I've found that the origin of the word might mean someone who lives in a straightforward way, as a dog does.

Since Penny joined our household, I've spent more time

stopping to smell the roses, when walking with her on-lead (waiting for her to finish sniffing around the base of every tree or pole);

plenty of time picking up (and, yes - examining - poo);

heaps of time sitting by the waterside while she swims;
a regular night-time session out in the backyard looking out at the universe while she has a wee,

and...oh, I could go on forever thinking about how she has changed my daily life.

So perhaps I've become more cynical - in the original sense of the word.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

a truly dog-friendly park

Yarra Bend Park is a great place to go with a dog. After community consultation last year, Parks Victoria has begun to add features that make it suitable for off-lead and on-lead recreation. When I read the plan last year I was excited, and now to see those ideas become reality is extremely satisfying.

Here are some of the features we saw today:

Shaded areas to relax:

Paths where we are allowed to have Penny offlead - long winding paths that go in a circle, so we don't have to retrace our steps:

Seating scattered around so dogs won't congregate around owners who are resting:

But, best of all, we feel welcome. We don't feel that having a dog with us makes us second-class citizens.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

dogs and the renewal of Marysville

Today Penny and I set off early to Marysville to meet Cindy's dog-walking group. "Where is?' on my computer showed me the way to navigate there, but was way off the mark in saying it would take one hour and twenty-two minutes, given that through the Black Spur, with its hairpin bends, the average speed was about 30 - 40 kilometres an hour.

I haven't previously visited any of the areas of the state so tragically burnt in the 2009 bushfires, so I found it very moving to approach this devastated town through the blackened, mist-shrouded forests of the Black Spur.

(I made sure to charge the battery for my camera last night. It's a pity I didn't put it back into the camera! I apologise for the low quality pictures - I took them with my mobile phone.)

The town of Marysville looked like a new housing estate, with lots of open ground waiting to be built on, and the frameworks of new buildings scattered around. As we headed up the track from town, we passed gardens and fences with no houses - and no inhabitants. A very sad start to our walk.

The walk itself was fascinating, with the blackened trunks of the towering trees clothed in soft green foliage.

The ground was a mass of young growth, the forest of the future. Mostly it seemed to be coming from seeds scattered by the trees after they burned, but in some cases it seemed the rootstock was regenerating.

There's a kind of beauty in the layers of charcoal bark on the trunks of the trees. It feels soft and crumbles in the hand, as if it's already returning to the soil to aid in the regeneration of the bush.

Signs along the way warned us to be careful.

The dogs were off-lead most of the way, as it's State Forest, so they had a wonderful time.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

free shaping for independent thinking in dogs

I'm posting a clip here that's rather long. And the film technique is terrible, for which I apologise in advance - Penny's not even in the picture some of the time.

It's six minutes of Penny offering different behaviors in an attempt to earn treats. I put a chair in the middle of the room (and set up the camera pointing at it) and waited to see what she would do. She knows that if I'm holding a clicker, treats will appear if she eithe does what I direct her to do or if she can do something original.

It's probably not the way free-shaping is supposed to be done, because I didn't offer her any encouragement along the way, but it was interesting for me to see her working on it, and I think she enjoyed it.

Monday, 21 June 2010

nightime adventures and the delicious smell of rotting rabbit meat

Why wasn't I suspicious when Penny came inside before I did, tonight?

We'd gone out to enjoy the chilly night air while she 'relieved' herself and I took my camera and tripod to see if I could get a picture of the possum that was in the tree last night.

While I was fiddling around, getting a stiff neck and trying to do long exposures on the camera in the dark, she went inside. How sweet, I thought, she's turning into a softie and can't take the cold. I finally gave up on clever exposures and took a couple of flash photos, thinking of Penny snug inside the house.

And then I returned to the kitchen...

And then I smelled a smell...

And then I recalled that Penny had been sniffing around the edge of the nasturtiums while I was playing wildlife photographer...

And finally I recalled that she had buried part of her meal of raw rabbit carcass - last Saturday.

The rabbit was in her stomach by the time I came inside, but the aroma was still available for anyone with a working nose.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Richard Curtis in Australia and dancing with dogs

Our enjoyable session of Dancing With Dogs this afternoon motivated me to go to the website of our canine freestyle teacher, Sue at Melbourne Canine Freestyle and I found some great video clips there of Richard Curtis's seminar last April.

dancing with dogs in Australia

When Penny was swimming at Kepala, she probably thought she was there to have fun. (After all, what else is a pet dog's life about?). However, I was intent on helping her to get fit so she could go to the first-ever session of the newly-formed Dancing With Dogs Club of Victoria.

Well, we made it. Today Penny and I joined a class at Foundation level. It was great fun and we'll be practising what we were told. (Thank goodness for pen and paper, otherwise I would most likely forget everything as I walked out the door.) Later, at home, we've practised 'heel' - yep, after all these years we've never quite got a handle on that basic move. (Red face)

We tried 'on your mark', with Penny putting her front feet on a thick book and circling around the book in position, facing me as I also circled the book. No problems.

Next we tried this activity with a long ruler laid on the ground, touching the big book. The idea is to get Penny more aware of what her back feet are doing. As you'll see in the video clip to come, she could sort of do this. The final step was to raise the ruler so it was a couple of centimetres off the ground, one end lying on the book.

That she can't do, yet. She definitely knows her back legs are nearing the ruler, so I don't think it will be long before she gets it.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

swimming as a means of relieving a limp

Penny's been having a quieter time than usual lately, because she developed a nasty limp last weekend. It was a long weekend, so we couldn't go to our own vet, which made us decide to let her rest and see if it improved. (She didn't seem to be in pain if she was resting.)

It has in fact improved a lot, so I decided to try her out on a swim at Kepala Canine County Club, in their warm indoor pool. We've been to the canine resort previously with Cindy's dog-walking group and, long ago, with the Kintala Club, but had never gone alone, so it was a bit of a discovery adventure.

I was late, because I overlooked the fact that our city's population is growing at the rate of about 100,000 a year, with the result that traffic is SLOWER than last time I travelled to Diggers' Rest!

But when we arrived, it was great fun and well worth the longish trip. Seeing I'd had a swimming lesson with Penny at Kepala in the past, I was allowed to supervise her myself, but when she was a bit nervous about walking down the ramp, I thought for a moment I'd have to abandon our session and come back another time for a proper lesson.

Feeling a bit tentative, I decided to attach her lead and walk beside her, but soon realised I was pulling her slightly off-balance and making her nervous. So I took the lead off.

Once I threw her treasured Whirlwheels in, close to the point where the ramp led into the water, she was off and swimming freely.

We had a half-hour booking, and I wondered whether she would swim that long, but not only did she swim happily for thirty minutes in the warm pool, but right when I was reluctantly thinking about leaving she climbed out for the final time and went to the gate to show me it was time to stop throwing her toy. She must be a mind-reader!

Next I got her to walk up the convenient steps to the hydrobath.

I washed her with the nice new cake of soap my sister bought from Warbotanicals a little soap shop in Warburton, and tried unsuccessfully to understand how to make the hairdryers work. No idea. Maybe next time we will have a proper drying session. Fortunately the car heater has a strong warm current, so she dried off on the slo-o-o-w drive home.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

bats and dogs

Penny has just been outside for her last 'toilet stop' of the day, at 11:30 pm. It beats me how we came to train her to wait for a human to accompany her outside, no matter what the weather. (It's co-o-ld out there!)

And out there I discovered that it isn't a powerful owl in our garden, as I so optimistically thought. It's at least one very big flying fox. One took off from the tree just now, and obligingly circled the garden right above our heads, its big black wings beating the air with a whooshing sound. (I should have known our visitor wasn't an owl, because they fly silently, but I really wanted it to be an owl!)

Of course, being a champion worrier, I then remembered that these creatures carry a the deadly hendra virus. As far as I know, so far it has mainly caused horse deaths, though it can infect humans through horses, having caused some human deaths already.

I don't like reading that many new diseases these days are crossing species, possibly because we are crowding into the natural environments of wildlife.

I've read that
The disease appears to spread from flying foxes (fruit bats) to horses, especially during the fruit bat breeding season (spring to early summer). The flying fox is the natural host, that is it remains unaffected by the virus. It is suspected that horses may become infected by eating food contaminated with bat urine or birthing products.

Transmission from horse to horse does sometimes occur, probably through direct contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected animal.
If it can cross to a horse, who's to say it can't affect a dog? Penny loves to dash out to that part of the garden in the morning to eat possum poo, which I've never thought would be bad for her, seeing possums are vegetarians.

But now I'll try to stop her doing that, I think, just in case it's bat poo and not possum poo. (Maybe I need to do some research about what bat poo looks like. I wonder if bats don't produce poo - most of the sites I looked at only mention urine.)

I think fruit bats are gorgeous-looking and I've never objected to their being moved to our area to roost. But it's funny - now that I see them in our tree, just above our heads, each night, I don't feel so positive about their presence. We've known they visit our garden, because they eat the skins off our lemons on occasion, leaving the poor naked fruit hanging there all bare to the elements. And they squeal and argue with each other in our giant lemon-scented gum when it's in flower. But seeing bats eighty feet up in the air isn't the same thing as having them ten feet up.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

bandanas and dogs

Mary saw my Rorschach dog! Hooray! She must be obsessed with dogs too.

In her comment on the post she said, 'I think I saw it! It has a band across its eyes and is sniffing a leaf or butterfly.' If it has a band across its eyes, perhaps it is taking part in The Portuguese Water Blog's red bandana day.

Monday, 7 June 2010

if your dog is vomiting

PetPlace has an article on what to do if your dog is vomiting. I thought it sounded quite helpful.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

rorschach dog

Have I perhaps crossed some invisible line between enjoying blogging and becoming compulsive about it? This morning, in the shower, I looked down at the washcloth daubed with a patch of liquid soap and had to leap out, grab a camera and take a photo for this blog.

Why? Because of the dog-related blot of soap on the cloth. Like a very clean Rorschach test item.

Here it is:

Obviously a West Highland white Terrier, as this almost identically matching photo shows:

(Photo sourced from soylentgreen 23's flickr page, where there are more lovely dog photos.)

Saturday, 5 June 2010

dogs as receptacles for excess consumables

I see Sheila over at Cartoons by Sheila is beavering away at her resolution to post 365 cartoons this year - each one about a pet hate and featuring animals (well, pets, of course). She's up to number 156 today.

Here's a dog-related one:

Penny's not actually a beggar. She's more of a fixed-starer. Or, as in the truly terrifying 'Blink' episode of Dr Who, a Weeping Angel. Take your eyes off her for an instant, as you butter your toast, and she's there, staring, staring, closer each time you glance up.

Note: Sheila's cartoons are copyright, but I have permission to use them.

something big in Penny's garden

Penny won't usually go out to the back garden after dark unless we go with her - or unless she hears something strange that requires investigation, such as noisy possums, careless rats, or cats traveling up the back lane.

On the last few nights, as I've waited out in the chilly winter's cold for her to do her business, I've seen a large flying creature take off from our beautiful fifty-year-old willow myrtle. I think it might be a powerful owl, which would be wonderful, not only because it's a privilege to have such a magnificent bird in our garden, but also because, with a bit of luck, it will solve our rat problem.

I'm optimistic that it's an owl because there have been definite sightings of this bird in the nearby Darebin Parklands, and our garden has a population of possums (and rats, of course), together with closely planted trees. Whatever the creature is, it is large, and makes a wonderful whooshing sound as it flies from the tree. It's always in the same spot each night.

On the other hand, it might be a flying fox, because they abound around here. But I think these gorgeous flying mammals are gregarious, so I wouldn't expect to see a single one each night. And the other thing is, flying foxes are noisy, chattering and chirping, and this creature is silent until we walk right up to the tree where it is sitting. It gave me quite a fright the first time it dived upwards from the tree just above my head.

Interestingly, Penny takes no notice of it, although a possum sitting in the same spot would evoke a storm of barking.