Thursday, 29 September 2011

Martin McKenna and dogs

Here's a link to the most interesting interview I have ever heard with an animal behaviourist.

Martin McKenna, interviewed by Margaret Throsby, had me in tears as he recounted details of his unusual, harsh upbringing and explained why he is so attuned to the thinking of canines.

The interview is long - an hour - and has interludes of music chosen by Martin. Quite a bit of time is taken up in discussing his own life, also.

But I believe he has a lot to tell us about our dogs. For one thing, now I understand why Penny sits down facing away from us each evening after she has eaten!

At Dogz Online there's a short discussion of dog owners' reaction to reading his book. The general consensus seems to be that he has valuable insights but some of us aren't in a position to apply all his theories.

If you do a search of the Net, there's a lot of information about him, the most reported fact being that he lived with a pack of dogs for some time.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

one year after cruciate surgery

One year ago we were celebrating the fact that Penny had recovered enough from cruciate surgery to walk down a small ramp to the street and sniff around.

How long the recovery seemed to take!

But here we are, twelve months later, having fun once again. For all those people out there whose dogs need surgery, I say, 'There will be light at the end of the tunnel. The time will pass.'

Here's a short clip of Penny running a small agility course yesterday. (And that was after an hour's walk in the country!)

I wouldn't want to see her doing too much of the agility, though. We were told after the surgery she will always have to be careful. Yesterday was the first time she has jumped as high as she does through the tyre. We'll watch her carefully this week to see that she is not limping. And we still do exercises most days to strengthen the muscle in the repaired leg.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

the story of Oscar

With all the publicity lately about the push to bring in a law to protect dogs from cruel treatment in puppy farms - Oscar's Law - I looked around to find why the law is named after Oscar.

Warning - I cried when I read it. But Oscar WAS rescued.

In the report on Oscar, Debra Tranter, his saviour, says that she now realises that many of us can't cope with confronting images of suffering dogs and that we need to have hope that change can happen:
Tranter had been running Prisoners for Profit, an anti-puppy factory campaign that “bombarded people with horrific images”, which she now believes were too confronting.

“With Oscar’s Law, I feel I need to reach ordinary people with dogs, not necessarily dog people. I want it to be positive and empowering,” she says.

“Oscar’s Law aims to abolish puppy factory-farming and the selling of dogs in pet shops, but it’s not about showing negative images all the time and making it seem hopeless,” she explains. Tranter believes success will come from enabling consumers to make informed choices, so people know that if they buy from a pet shop, their money will keep dogs in those sheds.
I don't know Penny's breeder and can only hope we have not supported a puppy farmer. But as far as we know, she came from a suburban home in Melbourne, from a breeder known to our vet. (We bought her from the vet.)

dogs as commodities

I was speaking yesterday to another dog owner about the horrors of puppy farming. He seemed a little defensive, replying that his dog was a wonderful companion, with a great temperament, even though the dog had come from a pet shop. (For brevity's sake let's call his dog Ben.)

A surprising reaction at first, but on second thoughts I understood where he was coming from. The anti-dog-farming movement needs to get the message out that it's not only the puppies we are concerned about. I said to him, 'Yes, but Ben's mother is possibly suffering agonies as we speak. Ben is sitting here on his comfortable armchair while his mother perhaps lies cold and lonely in a concrete pen, thrown enough food each day to keep her alive, possibly ill but well enough to live until her next litter is delivered.'

I hope I made a difference to his thinking. I didn't realise until I went to the rally last Sunday that there is an issue with legal puppy farms, because of the lack of regulation to protect the 'livestock'. I had thought it was only the illegal puppy farms that were problematic.

In view of the problems here in Victoria, I thought it was timely to get an email from the new vet who is blogging at Fully Vetted (taking over from Dr Patty Khuly). She wrote about the fact that Pet Sellers in Michigan in the US may have to guarantee the health of animals they sell. In her discussion she quoted an article from dvm360
Pet owners in Michigan may soon have the opportunity to “return” sick or diseased animals to their place of purchase if proposed legislation passes.

Senate Bill 547, introduced Aug. 24 and immediately referred to the committee on regulatory reform, would apply only to dogs and cats sold from pet shops, breeders or other places where pets are sold for profit.

According to legislation, pet owners may return an animal for full price, exchange the animal for one of equal value, or be reimbursed for any veterinary expenses as long as they don’t exceed the original purchase price of the animal. If the animal dies, the owner is entitled to a replacement plus reimbursement of veterinary fees, as long as they don’t exceed the original purchase price, or a full refund, according to legislation.

If passed, the law would apply when a veterinarian states in writing that the animal displayed symptoms of a contagious or infectious disease 30 days from purchase and that the disease or illness existed at the time of sale or when a veterinarian states in writing that the dog or cat has died or is sick from a hereditary or congenital defect.

I have mixed feelings about this legislation. Dogs aren't commodities. But perhaps this kind of legislation might bring puppy farmers out from the shadows into the light.

On the news the other night a puppy farmer was interviewed and her attitude to the dogs in her 'care' was horrifying. She does appear for a moment in this Sunrise News clip. (I can't see any way to avoid the advertisement before the clip - sorry.)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

more about the Oscar's Law rally

At the rally on the steps of State Parliament today we listened to a variety of inspiring and interesting speakers, about the horrors of puppy farming.

Then we set off along the street to Treasury Gardens. I think it's important to take to the streets when holding a rally, because in stopping the traffic, or diverting it, we show that as a society we are willing to take time out from normal life to think about an important issue - in this case, the fact that Australia is disgraced every time a dog suffers in the hell of a puppy factory.

When we reached the gardens, there were lots of marquees representing the organisations devoted to the welfare of animals. Great to see so many exist!

I've brought home the hand sign we held at the rally and put it on my letter box. Maybe people passing by our house will wonder what 'Oscar's Law' is. This is what the Oscar's Law petition asks of our political leaders:
To the Legislative assembly of Victoria The petition of the residents of Victoria brings to the attention of the House the hidden industry behind the pet shop window. Puppy factories farm puppies and sell them to pet shops and trade them online. The dogs are often kept in cramped filthy conditions for their entire lives and their behavioural needs are never met. The dogs not only suffer physically but are psychologically traumatised due to confinement and constant breeding, when they are no longer able to breed they are killed and replaced.
The petitioners therefore request that the Legislative Assembly of Victoria support Oscar's Law and abolish puppy factories and ban the sale of factory farmed companion animals from pet shops and online.

On the Dogs Life site I read an overview of the debate about the sale of puppies in pet shops and thought it covered the subject well.

Oscar's Law - ban puppy farms

When I went to the City today to join in the rally against puppy farms, I left Penny at home. But plenty of others took their dogs.

Sitting in the sunshine, I chatted to the lady next to me about the fact that it's hard to see images of suffering dogs.

But we agreed -and one of the speakers emphasised - that we have to face the awful truth that terrible things happen to dogs so that we can buy cute puppies in pet shops. The rally was urged to make a resolution never to buy a dog from a pet shop.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

olympus camera pics of dogs

My new Olympus camera has an amusing feature. There's a certain setting that automatically takes a photo if it detects a dog's face. It's strange to hold the camera and hear the click as it automatically fires off.

It doesn't seem to be quite sure what exactly constitutes a dog face, though. Some were fine:

But some were not!

We figured the felted object might look a bit dog-like. But wine bottles and doorways?

However...I think the feature might be useful. I just have to figure out how.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

to penelopise - or penelopize - with Penny

I've acquired a new word in my vocabulary.

The Australian spelling is penelopise and the American spelling is penelopize.

It relates to having a way of gaining time when you're putting off something you don't want to do. In the original case, Penelope, the wife of Ulysses, wanted to stave off agreeing to marry any of her pressing suitors, because she hoped her missing husband would come home. (He did.) She said she'd choose someone when she'd finished a tapestry she was working on. Each morning she would pull out the work she'd done the night before.

So, each time life is getting me down with too many stresses, I can penelopise, by simply walking out the door with Penny and setting off to enjoy the neighborhood. We all know that as soon as you come indoors from walking the dog, she's ready for the next one, so it's just like Penelope's tapestry.

Penny's not actually named after Penelope. She's named after the penny coin, because she was such a lovely copper color as a puppy.

If you'd like to read more about this word, I've blogged about it over on my Word Blog.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

walking at Yarra Bend on a lovely Spring day

When I arrived home this afternoon I was told that Penny had gone to Yarra Bend Park with one of her humans, so I jumped in my car to join them.
I parked partway along the path I thought they would take, and had the pleasure of seeing Penny realise I had arrived. Watching her race towards me was pure joy!

After walking on the flat for a while, we headed up a hill, which is good exercise for Penny to strengthen her left rear leg, the one that was operated on for a cruciate tear, almost exactly a year ago.

There were birds perched on a rock half-way up the hill, but they didn't seem to mind us walking towards them, until we got too close.

Walking past one of the eucalypts, we had a lesson in why the Australian bush burns so well. Just look at all those strips of flammable bark hanging down. Eucalypts need to burn to regenerate, and the strips of bark have the effect of allowing a grass fire to run up them and set the foliage on fire. (I'm not quite clear about this process, but I do make a point of clearing away all the hanging bark at my place in the hills.)

By the time we arrived back at the cars, nature had turned on a gorgeous sunset to make our walk complete.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Red Dog

Penny stayed at home while I went to see the Australian movie 'Red Dog' today.

It was just as enjoyable as I expected. I felt involved in the story and found the setting - the Pilbara - fascinating. However, the extra ingredient was seeing how the dogs performed.

Yes, I said 'dogs'. The film-makers have promoted Koko as the star, but it seems likely there would have been more than one dog involved at some level. For one thing, the story covers more than ten years of Red Dog's life, so I presume they had an older dog in some scenes.Surely the producer wouldn't have had all his eggs in one basket by having only one dog starring in the show, when that dog might become ill or suffer some other misadventure.

On the other hand, this interview with Luke Hura, the trainer, suggests that indeed only one dog played the part.

I suspect the emphasis on this one charismatic dog is part of the marketing strategy, and a clever one at that. An Encore article casts a little light onto this strategy.
On marketing the film, Woss planned for television, press, outdoor and a more guerrilla approach. “Have you seen our screen test with Koko? We had two aims with that, to prove Kriv had a sense of humour and that we could get peerformance from the dog without CGI.” It’s had over 100,000 hits on YouTube – where it’s evident marketing began back on 28 July, 2009...

If “Australian cinema” has become a genre with a audience reach only so far, Woss knew his reach was further. “I always knew there would be a fanatical hardcore group of people who would watch Red Dog and they were called dog-lovers. If we made a good movie they’d come to support us. They may not be the kind of person to go to the movies regularly but they will go and see Red Dog, more than once.”
I think it's easier to market to dog lovers if we think of Koko as the star, rather than an anonymous group of dogs. Whatever the exact details, the dog or dogs make the film.

On the other hand, everyone seems quite comfortable with the idea that different dogs played Lassie.

I do intend to go and see the film again, because I want to try to distance myself a little from the engrossing story and look at the wonderfully detailed behaviors by Red Dog.

It's the best film I've ever seen for celebrating the way dogs freely choose to live with us. Red Dog never wears a collar, never walks on a leash, is never forced to do what humans demand. Oh, except for one funny scene at the vet, which I'd better not spoil for anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet.

He exemplifies the free spirit of the dog.

If you love dogs you must try to see this film.

And if you look at this trailer for the film, you'll notice just near the end that there is another star - Red Cat!

Oh, and here's the above-mentioned 'screen test', which I've posted previously, just in case you missed it. It's wonderful.

Monday, 5 September 2011

remembering those puppy days

When we go to the mountains for a break, Penny always makes a beeline for her old puppy mat. It's quite a trick to fit onto it.

Of course, once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away (or in our kitchen, to be precise), she used to fit easily.

She does have a big version of the mat, these days.

Friday, 2 September 2011

returning to training

At last, Cindy, our long time trainer, has restarted her regular sessions! And what have I discovered, after a year away from training? I've discovered that Penny is still clever and I'm still clumsy and uncoordinated. But Penny doesn't care and I sure don't.

Cindy lent me a book called 'The Other End of the Leash', after I told her how much I enjoy the author's blog. I haven't read far into the book yet, but in the early part the author, Patricia McConnell, looks at the ways we humans use our bodies when interacting with our dogs.

So today, on a lovely spring day, after a quiet time in the sun for Penny and hard work in the garden for me,

three of us set out for Yarra Bend Park.

We practised 'come', to get ourselves in the mood for some work, and tried out the idea of leaning slightly away from Penny to avoid crowding into her body space when she arrives. Did I say leaning SLIGHTLY away? I think my directions from behind the camera might have been unclear, lol.

On the other hand, Penny did beautiful 'comes', racing towards her human and sitting precisely in front.

Even though Penny's 'come' is usually good, we thought we'd try the idea of calling her and moving away as she arrived. Patricia McConnell explains the logic of it like this:
The best way to get a dog to come to you is to turn away from him and move in the opposite direction (which is actually "toward you" from the standpoint of the dog)...Dogs want to go the way that you're going, and to a dog that's the way that your face and feet are pointing.
In a way it was silly to be changing our established 'come' command, but it was fun to vary things and see what happened. After all, we're not practising for obedience competitions, we're simply out to have fun and communicate well with Penny. Here's a picture of her arriving in a rush as her human walks off in the opposite direction.