Sunday, 25 August 2013

walking in Yarra Flats park

After our recent two- and three- hour walks along the Ninety Mile Beach when we holidayed at Best Friend Retreat, it seemed boring to do our usual walks near home, so yesterday I drove up to Yarra Flats park with Penny. After we set off, I had the bright idea of calling home and asking Human Number Two to pick us up at the other end of the walk, so we could explore and see where the path eventually ended.

She agreed. So Penny and I set off along the river. (I've just realised, in researching for this post, that dogs should be on lead in the park. I'm sort of glad we didn't know that. Next time I guess we'll have to abide by the law. Maybe we won't go there. It's boring having Penny on lead.)

Well, it was a rather long walk. Only an hour, but slippery, and steep in some places. Trees were down across the path in many places, which wasn't a problem for a dog, but was harder for a not-so-young human.

I guess the trees fell in the big storm while we were away on holiday, last week. Someone had made little tracks around the fallen trees, which was handy, but I wasn't too happy when I realised Penny and I were walking on flattened wandering trad (sometimes known as wandering jew). 

What a shocking weed! I've always disliked coming across it on our outings, because so many dogs are allergic to it,  but I hadn't realised why it is such a hated week in Australia, until I saw how it had smothered all the other plants. Kilometres of this plant, with only trees hardy enough to struggle up through it!

We enjoyed our walk, but I made sure to bath Penny as soon as we arrived home, to get any allergens from the wandering trad off her skin.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

A winter holiday for dogs

Penny's blog has been quiet the last week or so, because we've been away at a dog holiday resort, at Tarra Valley. We've been there before - Best Friend Holiday Retreat. One of the relaxing things about the Retreat is that there is no mobile phone or internet coverage at the cabins. It forces you to take a break from the human world and concentrate on enjoying the company of your dog. Dogs must be with their humans at all times.

Walking in the local area in winter is wonderful, because it is unlikely we would encounter any snakes, so we can head along narrow paths we would normally avoid in summer, and we don't have to worry if the dogs veer off the main path, as Penny is doing in this shot.

It was windy and cold, but that was invigorating, if we didn't mind slopping through water. The humans tried to stick to the edges of the paths, but the dogs loved wading through. It's strange that at home Penny won't even walk on damp grass if she needs to go outside to wee, but on walks she loves to get her feet wet.

The wintry beaches were usually deserted.

Seeing she lives in a one-dog household, it's good for Penny to be part of a canine pack and mill around with her friends back at the cabin.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Polish pottery and dog walking

You might be seeing more posts in the future saying we walked at Willsmere.

Why, you might ask. (Or you might not.)

It's because a new shop has opened in the vicinity of the park, just at the right distance for the humans to have some afternoon tea or a light meal before or after our walk. How convenient!

It's The Cup and Mug, selling gorgeous pottery from Poland, including the lovely dinner dish Penny eats from every day.

We have bowls too. Here's one of them.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

learning about 'qi kai cai' when walking with my dog

I love words, as you might know if you've ever popped over to my other blog.

I also love gardening, and particularly enjoy finding out about edible weeds. And I love walking with Penny.

How fortunate, then, that all these interests came together as Penny, her Other Human and I headed back from our walk at Willsmere on Sunday. We spotted a sign saying 'Hays Paddock' and saw people walking towards it with dogs on lead. Of course we had to suss it out.

Once we arrived, we realised it was the site of the famous playground designed for children with disabilities to have fun alongside children with no disabilities, and we thought perhaps it might not be the best place to take a dog, so we prepared to head off home. (However, a look at the City of Boroondara website shows that dogs can exercise there off-lead, which, when you think about it, is logical, because children with disabilities are quite likely to have a family dog.)

'Stop!' I cried as we drove past a woman crouched on the grass, digging up weeds. A chance to learn about edible weeds from a woman who seemed to be Chinese! Well, actually that was poetic licence on my part - seeing I was the driver, I didn't have to shout 'stop'.

Parking the car a short distance away, I hurried over and found she was happy to share her knowledge. She was digging up little flat plants, and gave me a couple to take home. I've put them in seed-raising mix to see how they grow.

After a look through some of my books about weeds, I concluded the plants are shepherds purse. I think we have them growing in our back lawn, but I'll have to wait until these ones flower to be sure, because the ones in the lawn have seed heads on them.

A couple of sites on the internet have interesting information about the use of this plant in Chinese cooking.  Here's one about the use of qi cai in wontons. And here's an extract from a book with a short piece about them.

I have many new experiences when I go out walking with Penny. Thanks, Penny!

answers to some questions about dog walking at Yarra Bend Park

On 17 April I  blogged about the strange 'crop circle' at Yarra Bend. (Not really a crop circle, of course. Just preparation for indigenous planting.)

It was great, therefore, to see how the planting is progressing.

In another section of the park, at the place we are sad to be banned from, there is also planting.

I don't think we'll ever be able to swim there again, because once dogs lose access to an area, they're unlikely to win it back again. But on the whole it's a fantastically dog-friendly park

Saturday, 10 August 2013

an alien visitor in the local park

We've just come home from a visit to Willsmere Park, and when I sat down to look at my photos, I clicked on a close-up of strange bumps on a tree.

But what was this? The computer's face recognition program thought there was a face peeping out of one of the bumps!

Da Dum (creepy music rising to a crescendo)... when I zoomed in on the little bump, it looked like...

an alien dog.

Do you see the ear hanging down at the right? The long line of the muzzle? 

I think it might be a visitor from Penny's planet of origin, perhaps the Canine Leader who sent her to explore Earth and see if it was fit for Doggy Colonisation.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

grooming your dog

I always get tense about taking Penny to grooming. I've tried a few places over her lifetime, and always felt uneasy that I couldn't stay and see what what happening. However, I realise the groomer can't work with the owner looming over her shoulder, so I knew I had to leave.

Well, my problem has been solved.

A friend told me he is happy with a groomer who works in a large pet store not ten minutes' walking distance from home. I called in and browsed the aquarium equipment for ten minutes, peeking over the top of a display of fish food into the grooming area. The groomer, unaware of anyone watching, was lovely with the dog she was working on, encouraging and soothing.

Later I called in with Penny after phoning ahead and met the groomer, and primed her with lots of nice treats for Penny. Who, by the way, took one look around, tucked her tail between her legs and tried to squeeze out under the door. (Well, not literally, but metaphorically.)

Today I took Penny down after a muddy romp in a local park.

We walked down and, sure enough, Penny didn't want to stay. But I left. Right next door is a great little cafe with cakes and hot chocolate, and I sat there for a while reading a book. How nice!

I couldn't resist having a look to see what was happening, and entered the store at the upper level and discovered to my delight that from up there I had a great view of Penny standing calmly to be clipped, and I was far enough away that Penny couldn't even catch my scent.

Reassured, I went for a walk around the streets to enjoy the lovely gardens, which are showing signs already of spring. After less than an hour Penny was finished and Gaby, the groomer called me to come and get her.

Penny was relaxed and confident when I picked her up and we walked home in the winter sunshine.

I think she looks great.

Penny insisted on showing off her neat belly hair.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

I've made a submission about puppy farms

Here's what I wrote to the Government of Victoria in response to the draft code about puppy and kitten breeding. It's not an exhaustive list of my concerns, but I've noted the things that concern me most.

I hope this letter might encourage others in Victoria to read the RSPCA site and look at the draft code and send in their own responses. ASAP!
 We only have until 9am on 14th August.

I began with my full name, address and email address. Then I wrote:
  • This is a submission in response to the Proposed Code and Regulatory Impact Statement regarding the Code of Practice for the Operation of Breeding and Rearing Businesses.
  •  My main concerns are:
  • Euthanasia – I believe the code needs to specifically define what ‘humane’ methods consist of.
  •  Pens should not have any part of their flooring made of wire. Based on my experience of my own dog’s reactions, walking or stepping onto wire is painful for small animals.
  •  I am disappointed that business hours have been reduced to eight hours a day. Leaving pregnant animals for sixteen hours a day under the supervision of minimal staffing numbers is not safe. I don’t see how a staff member manning a business overnight for sixteen hours would be available to make sure puppies in the specified categories are fed at least every 12 hours.
  •  Breeding between second-generation related animals is not acceptable.
  •  I believe you should set a maximum breeding age, so that animals are not condemned to spending their entire lives in these places.
  •  It would be better to set maximum litter numbers for both females and males.
  •  The feeding of raw offal needs to be specifically monitored to make sure animals do not become ill on this diet.
  •  We need stronger legislation about the standards and guidelines for retirement of animals.
  •  I don’t see provision for temperature regulation. Victoria is a very hot place in summer and cold in winter.
  •  I hope these suggestions will be helpful to you in the next redrafting of the code.

the government of Victoria has let dogs down

After all the promises and sweet talk, especially at the time of the rallies in protest at abominable puppy factory conditions, the government of our state has let us all down.

The suggested code for the running of breeding establishments is unsatisfactory.

 Here are a few of the problematic parts of the code, quoted from a RSPCA discussion:

  • ‘Any method’ of euthanasia as long as it is humane.  Humane is not defined and ‘any method’ could include shooting or blunt trauma, causing incredible suffering.
  • Breeding and rearing establishments are not required to have agreements with, and 24-hour access to, veterinary services.
  • Breeders will be able to declare an animal fit for sale – not vets.
  • Raised pens with wire floors are permitted for the housing of working dogs - wire is an unacceptable floor surface.

And in more detail, here:

Business hours and animal: staff ratios

  • Under the revisions, staffed ‘business hours’ for breeding and rearing establishments have reduced from 12 to eight hours a day. This means that animals – often in vulnerable stages of pregnancy or birth - are left for 16 hours overnight (when they are most likely to give birth) with minimal staff present. During business hours, the ratio of staff to animals is 1:25, but outside of these hours, the ratio of carers to animals is proposed as 1:100 (formerly 1:50).
  • The revised code also deems a mother with her litter, and litters under four months as equivalent to one animal over four months old. That could mean a breeder could have 80 mothers with litters under four months, another 10 breeding mothers without litters and 10 adult males and provide only one staff member for almost 500 animals, during non-business hours.

Veterinary care

  • The requirement for vet checks at various stages of an animal’s life has reduced and vet checks to ensure animals are fit for breeding are no longer required before animals are bred from.
  • Under the proposed revisions, breeders will be able to declare an animal fit for sale – rather than vets. Not only may breeders lack the appropriate qualifications to do this, but it may also mean that the animal and purchaser are not protected from post-sale welfare or return issues.
  • Under the recommendations, a purchaser will not be able to return an animal for behavioural reasons more than three days after purchase – unscrupulous breeders and rearers will have little incentive to ensure their animals are behaviourally sound, before selling them.


  • The recommendations allow for ‘any method’ of euthanasia as long as it is humane. Humane is not defined and ‘any method’ could, in theory, include shooting or blunt trauma, causing incredible suffering.
  • Euthanasia via barbiturate overdose carried out by a vet is only ‘preferred’, not required.
  • The proposed legislation does not adequately ensure that breeding and rearing establishments have sufficient agreements with, and 24-hour access to, veterinary services, to be able to provide animals with prompt veterinary care, if required.


  • Breeding between second-generation related animals would be acceptable.
  • There would be no maximum breeding age or period that an animal could be bred from, meaning these animals can potentially spend their entire lifetime confined to breeding establishments.
  • Maximums litters numbers for females would be increased while males would have no maximum number.
  • An individual animal with a heritable defect can continue to be bred from.

Husbandry standards

  • Under the recommendations, some categories of puppies must not be left without food for more than 12 hours. But compliance with this recommendation will be extremely difficult during the 16 overnight hours, with staff ratios at 1:100, given all their other responsibilities as well.
  • The feeding of raw offal is now permitted in conjunction with a complete worming program. While this recommendation might be more financially appealing to many breeders, it does not take into account the welfare issues associated with this diet.
  • Standards and guidelines for retirement of animals have been weakened.
  • Tethering is permitted (except for some categories of breeding females). RSPCA Victoria does not support tethering and advises against it.
  • Provision for temperature regulation has been removed.
  • Cats need only be fed once daily. We recommend that cats should be fed twice daily.

Working and guardian dogs (‘working dogs’)

  • Working dog breeders have their own section and are exempt from many of the minimum standards and guidelines for non-working dogs in the current version.
  • Raised pens with wire floors are permitted for the housing of working dogs. Wire is an unacceptable floor surface and there are poor welfare outcomes associated with it. The required dimensions of these pens are also too small.
  • If working dogs are regarded as different to other animals under this code, the government needs to ensure that working dog codes of practice are developed which have these animals’ welfare as the key priority.
Please, if you are reading this in Australia, submit a written response to 

You can read the draft legislation here:

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Texture walk

For a bit of a change, I thought I'd ask marymac, one of Penny's Other Humans, to do a guest blog:

I took Penny for a walk at one of our usual venues this week, twice.

I had an ulterior motive, not just to walk but to get some images for my textile work.  I have a fascination for trees and bark and am currently working on an idea related to fungus growing on fallen branches.

So Penny happily trotted off with me to Rosanna. She enjoyed the outing but was a bit mystified by the fact that it was the human who kept disappearing into the bushes for little periods of time.
That was me, taking pictures of interesting fungi and fallen branches.

We also saw some native birds.


Come on, what's the hold-up?

I found a good stick, isn't that enough for you?? Let's go!


Friday, 2 August 2013

dogs, storms and rainbows

If I didn't have a dog I wouldn't have been sheltering under a tree at Warringal Parklands in the cold, lashing rain this afternoon.

And I wouldn't have turned around and seen this glorious double rainbow.

I'm glad I have a dog.

Perhaps there was a treasure at the end of the rainbow, but I had my treasure walking beside me.

Once the sun came out, Penny I and I headed off, glad to see the stormy sky blowing away to the west.

But what was this coming in from the east?

We hurried back to the car, invigorated and happy to have been out of the house. Yes, I'm glad to have Penny living with us and making me get out for a walk no matter the weather. 

Penny the dog works on the basket trick

Mitch and Molly said, on my post about kitchen training of the basket trick, that their mum is thinking of teaching them to 'hold'.

I was really glad to get that comment, because I'd been scratching my head about where to go next with the trick. (We got the idea from Ludo.)

So I'm reminding Penny of the 'hold' behaviour, which she hasn't done for months. She used to know how to hold a toy, but has never done it with a basket, so I didn't expect too much of her. She only had to mouth the handle of the basket at this stage. (Apologies for my loud voice. I do get a bit excited when Penny shows me how smart she is!)