Wednesday, 17 December 2014

dogs to protect bandicoots

The Age newspaper recently had an article about a program hoping to train Maremmas to keep predators away from eastern barred bandicoots. These bandicoots are extinct in the wild, and previous release programs have been disappointing, because foxes and cats had killed many of the native animals when they were restored to their natural habitats after being bred in zoos.

Apparently the maremma pups will initially sleep with bandicoot bedding. The photo accompanying the article shows a dog with a toy bandicoot. Cute!

An interesting aspect of the program is that the dogs need to learn which animals are 'friends' - e.g. kangaroos - as well as which ones are a danger to their proteges.

Sounds like a great idea. Donations can be made here, if you wish to help out.

I've blogged in the past about dogs helping to conserve the spotted quoll and hunting enemies of penguins.

Aren't dogs wonderful?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

dogs and sticks

We went for a walk early in the day yesterday, to get away from the hubbub of renovations at home, and to get some exercise before the day's heat built up.

Penny had a swim to collect a stick we had thrown into the Yarra, and subsequently proudly carried her trophy as she walked. I'd have preferred if she had carried it in a safer manner, not sticking out of her mouth like a cigar.

We thought it was a rather nice stick, but when we saw this dog, we realised Penny is just an amateur in the stick-carrying stakes. (In this photo he has put it down to re-arrange it in his mouth, but I can assure you that he was really carrying it along the path.)

Monday, 15 December 2014

Penny and the renovations

Life has been out of kilter  for Penny lately, because we're renovating our laundry and bathrooms. With stuff piled up in boxes all around the house, it's hard to get through a normal day, but as much as possible we have maintained Penny's daily schedule. Fortunately, we never did have a strict routine, so Penny has adapted well to irregular meals and to having doors shut so that she can't access one wing of the house.

A dog wandered into our front yard the other day and the builders collected him before he could roam further. The dog had got out of his own home because that family, also, was renovating, and their builders had left a gate open. This has made us even more careful to check where Penny is at all times. Fortunately, we have dog-aware men working for us, and we also have the advantage that our home is L-shaped and we can close off one end of the house.

Penny is feeling the heat as summer closes in, so we've had her clipped. I think she looks lovely. I'm hoping that she might like to sleep on the cool tiles of the new bathroom floors, but so far she refuses to set foot on the tiles. We'll see how she goes when the work is completed and it's clean and quiet in there.

I think we'd have to be careful of her sleeping on those tiles, though, because she is somewhat arthritic. On the other hand, on warm nights she sleeps on the parquetry floors with no cushions under her.

Friday, 12 December 2014

do dogs go to heaven?

No one who lives with a dog could doubt dogs have feelings, but some doubt they have a soul.

So I was interested to read this report in the New York Times about what Pope Francis said recently to a grieving little boy whose dog had died. Reportedly the Pope said, 'Paradise is open to all of God's creatures.'

The implications if we believe this are huge, in terms of how we deal with other species. I guess it doesn't automatically suggest we should be vegans - though I know some would think so - but at the very least it directs us to deal ethically with animals under our control.

I hate the exporting of live sheep from Australia to other countries.

I hate the torturing of chickens in cages.

I hate the evil treatment of sows in sow pens

I hate...

Oh, there are so many practices that I could now regard as not only disturbing, but as a sin against God's creatures.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

pumpkin for dogs

We often feed Penny cooked pumpkin, so I was interested to read this article today.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Today: high bushfire danger. The temperature reached 31°C. Tomorrow's predicted weather: top of 22°C.

I think Dr Tim Entwistle is right. It's time we realised the 'seasons' we've inherited from Europe don't apply to Australian conditions. Today was summer and tomorrow is predicted to be spring. I'll start adding Dr Entwistle's Sprinter and Sprummer to my vocabulary. Or, perhaps I could investigate the traditional seven seasons of the earliest inhabitants of this area, the Wurundjeri people.
The Wurundjeri clan that inhabited the Melbourne area would often spend the summer months upon the banks of the Yarra and its tributaries. In winter, they would often head to the Dandenong Ranges (known as Banyenong) to make use of its timber for firewood and shelter. Wurundjeri divided their year into seven seasons rather than the familiar four. The arrival of a new season was based on the onset of a natural event such as the blooming of wattle or the first appearance of the blue wren.

As Penny and I drove home from another delightful Bowen session at Yarra Glen with Deb, we stopped at Warrandyte - lunch for me and a swim in the Yarra for Penny, seeing today was a foretaste of summer. We met some girls who'd seen a snake swimming in the river yesterday and I asked them whether the snake swam with its head up out of the water. They said it was flat on the surface of the water. It bothers me that if Penny saw a snake in the water she might think it was a stick and swim towards it.

But it wasn't likely there'd be any snakes around where we swam today, at a delightful little sandy beach, because of the...


Penny didn't even see them the first time she dashed into the water to collect the stick I threw.

It was only when she was shaking out her wet fur that she decided it might be a good idea to stay well back from these enormous dogs. (She hasn't been near horses before.)

Once I threw her stick back into the water she was off again, not in the least bothered by the horses.

Or the inquisitive ducks...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

little miss hug and Penny the dog

There's a new kids' book in Roger Hargreaves' 'Little Miss' series.

I love the innocence of Hargreaves' books, and during my teaching years, enjoyed many of his stories with children.

The new book's called Little Miss Hug and Penny the Dog, but of course it's not written by Hargreaves, who died in 1988. What a fabulous name for a dog, lol.

The profits from this book go to the RSPCA.

I came across the reference to the book in a sad way, because I visited the RSPCA site in order to get information for my letter to the Minister of Agriculture protesting about the abominable cruelty of selling live sheep to countries where they die in horrifying ways. Australia needs to stop sending live animals overseas!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Bowen therapy again at Yarra Glen

Penny dashed inside when we arrived at the little cottage in the hills, ready for another session of Bowen therapy. It was fascinating to see her shift around during the session, presenting different parts of her body to Deb, as if saying, 'Here. Just here,' like Han Solo said, touching his face right near his mouth, when he wanted Princess Leia to kiss it better.

I've searched the Net, but I can't find the clip of that bit. What a pity. But maybe it gives me an excuse to look at the original Star Wars trilogy   yet again.

Deb doesn't kiss it better. She 'bowens' it better. And she provides great room service, lol.

Here she is bringing fresh water for Penny. (It's important for the dogs to drink when they're having Bowen treatment.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

lipoma in Penny's neck

We're keeping an eye on Penny's lipoma. The vet was unable to remove it, because it's so close to important parts of her throat, so we have to check it each month. He told us not to feel it too frequently, because we might become accustomed to it and not notice it changing in size.

It's hard to resist checking it all the time, but so far we've been strong with ourselves and only felt it yesterday, because we've decided the first day of the month might be an auspicious day to do this monthly task. It's about as big as a marble.

We have to look out for a swelling on Penny's neck, which might mean the lipoma is blocking a gland. Or if we notice she cannot turn her head comfortably, that would be a signal to do something about it. Or if we notice her coughing a lot.

All this is a worry, of course, but the vet is advising a wait-and-see plan.

Because I like to be prepared, I've been reading up on lipomas, and discovered they are very common in older dogs, especially females. On most of the sites I visited, vets said they would not remove a lipoma for cosmetic reasons. They are only removed if they are causing problems for the dog. Here's an article that I thought was good.

So, if we have to do something, I've looked at a few suggestions:
1. Help her lose weight, because lipomas are made of fat.

2. Liposuction might work, and I've seen a few technical articles about this, but I think they're mainly dealing with huge lipomas on accessible places. And I don't see references to many in Australia using this technique.

Quoting from the article mentioned above:
Liposuction, the same procedure that vacuums fat out of humans in cosmetic surgery, is in many cases less invasive, less painful, and faster healing than surgical removal.
In 2006, a 12-year-old Kelpie-cross named Patch made headlines in Sydney, Australia, for being the first Australian dog to undergo liposuction. Patch had several lipomas, one of which, on his hind leg, threatened to cripple him within months. Remembering a European veterinarian who performed liposuction on a dog using the suction tool normally used to clean up fluids during surgery, an Australian vet suggested trying this approach on Patch. The hour-long procedure removed six fatty tumors weighing two kilograms (4.4 pounds, or 10 percent of Patch’s body weight). He was soon happy and playful again.
In January 2007, the Journal of Small Animal Practice reported the liposuction removal of three giant lipomas from a dog in Leipzig, Germany. The extremely obese patient suffered from arthritis and hind-leg lameness, plus irritation caused by an armpit lipoma. Previous treatment involving dietary weight loss and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs had failed. Liposuction of the three lipomas resulted in a three-kilogram weight loss (6.6 pounds, or 10 percent of the dog’s body weight).
In a retrospective study published in July 2011, the Journal of Small Animal Practice reviewed the use of liposection on multiple lipomas from 20 dogs. The treatment successfully removed 73 of 76 lipomas (96 percent). Simple, encapsulated lipomas measuring less than 6 inches in diameter were the easiest to remove and resulted in minimal risk of complication. Giant lipomas contained fibrous material that interfered with the removal of fat and had a high risk of bruising, hematoma, and seroma (fluid-filled swelling), especially in the groin area. Regrowth occurred nine months to three years later in 28 percent of the lipomas. Liposuction is not recommended for infiltrative lipomas.

I was interested to come across the abstract of the above-menioned veterinary article on liposuction in dogs:
To review the success rates for liposuction of lipomas in dogs, report early complications and medium-term outcomes and formulate recommendations on the most appropriate candidates for liposuction.
Retrospective study of 20 dogs with 76 lipomas diagnosed by cytology, in which dry liposuction was attempted. Case records were reviewed for number and size of the lipomas, efficacy of liposuction, frequency and types of complication and likelihood of recurrence.
Liposuction was successful in removing 73 of 76 lipomas (96%). Simple, encapsulated lipomas less than 15 cm in diameter were most easily removed, with minimal risk of complication. Giant lipomas contained fibrous trabeculae that hindered liposuction and resulted in poor fat retrieval. Giant lipomas were also associated with a high risk of bruising, haematoma and seroma, especially when inguinal in location. Regrowth was noted at follow-up between 9 and 36 months in 28% of lipomas.
CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Liposuction may be less invasive and more attractive to owners than conventional surgery for lipomas up to 15 cm in diameter. Liposuction is not recommended for infiltrative or giant inguinal lipomas. Regrowth can be expected in a high proportion of lipomas, which should be considered when choosing liposuction over conventional excision.

3. Another technique is:
The newest lipoma treatment for dogs and humans is the injection of collagenase, an enzyme that breaks the peptide bonds in collagen, the fibrous protein that connects body tissues. Developed by BioSpecifics Technologies Corporation and marketed as XIAFLEX® in the U.S. and XIAPEX® in Europe and Eurasia, collagenase is being tested in clinical trials.
One preliminary trial tested three healthy dogs with multiple subcutaneous lipomas that were benign, superficial, and easily measurable. One lipoma on each dog was injected with collagenase and another was left untreated for use as a control. Ninety days after injection, a CT scan showed that the treated lipomas on two of the dogs had disappeared completely and the third dog’s treated lipoma was only 7 percent of its original size. By contrast, the control lipomas had grown. Altogether, the treated lipomas showed a 97-percent reduction in size while the untreated controls increased by 23 percent.
BioSpecifics has initiated a placebo-controlled, single-injection randomized Phase II clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of XIAFLEX for treatment of benign subcutaneous lipomas in 32 canines in a study to be completed in 2013. This will be followed by a Phase III clinical trial before the product becomes commercially available. 

However,  the warnings about side-effects seem scary. There's a forum for discussion of its potential use in dogs on their website, but only two people have entered comments.

There are different types of lipomas (quoting from the same article I found helpful):
Most lipomas are subcutaneous (occurring just beneath the skin's surface) and are moveable, not attached to skin or underlying muscle or tissue. They are usually small and either round or oval, the size of a marble or marshmallow, and soft or rubbery to the touch. A few feel more solid due to fibrous tissue or inflammation. Some grow to golf-ball size, and very large lipomas can resemble baseballs. A few grow long and wide.

Occasionally lipomas invade connective tissue between muscles, tendons, bones, nerves, or joint capsules. Called infiltrative lipomas, these usually occur in the legs but can affect the chest, head, abdominal body wall, or perianal region. Infiltrative lipomas can cause pain, muscle atrophy, and lameness by interfering with movement. Unlike normal lipomas, infiltrative lipomas can be difficult to remove completely and often regrow.  

Some lipomas grow so rapidly that they might be something else, such as a liposarcoma. This rare, malignant fatty tumor usually does not metastasize (spread to other parts of the body) although it can be aggressive and fast-growing. 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

cute KLM dog isn't for real

When we go out walking, we sometimes drop something when Penny's not looking, and then act as if we're distressed, saying, 'Where is it?', and Penny races back to show us where the 'lost' article is.

I thought of this trick as I watched the cute little KLM beagle racing around the airport to return lost items to passengers, and thought it was lovely.

After that, I had a look around the Net and discovered there's no such dog helping out in KLM's lost-and-found department. It's just a publicity stunt.

But I still loved the clip. I've watched it three times already.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

trapping earwigs and keeping dogs safe

Penny and I go out to the garden each night after dinner. I don't know when this routine started, but I do know she's got me well-trained. A few lengthy stares from her have me getting to my feet and unlocking the back door.

Penny inspects the garden and has a wee, and I look for slugs and snails and destroy them! We garden organically, so I use the collect-and-squash method. But what about those earwigs that are eating our baby plants? It's been quite a dilemma, because the little critters are too quick to be collected, and I'm too squeamish to stand on them, anyway.

Well, here's our new earwig trap, just set up today, as per the instructions on Deep Green Permaculture. 

Given that the ingredients are soy sauce, oil and water, with a drop of detergent to break the surface tension, I thought the instructions to cover the trap were timely. I've used a heavy bit of paver, hoping that Penny, who loves oily food, won't be inclined to push the paver aside and taste the bait in the trap.

The whole kit and caboodle is surrounded by the flimsy fence I put up when I buried lots of delicious rotten bokashi compost in this area, so I hope that will be an extra deterrent to Penny. She's good about respecting barriers. Well, usually...

Monday, 22 September 2014

Bowen therapy for skin conditions and for joint aches and pains

Another pleasant trip to Yarra Glen today for Penny's Bowen treatment and for Reiki. We go there regularly.

And I'd better confess up front that her human - me! - has a wonderful Bowen session too, and loves it. (After all, it's my duty to check out what Penny's experiencing, isn't it?)

Penny's featuring on the Facebook page for the therapy studio - Bow-Rei Me. Doesn't she look relaxed and happy?

I'm optimistic that the therapy is not only making a difference to her joint pains, but also helpful to her itchy skin.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

climate rally in Melbourne today

Police estimate there were around twenty thousand people at the huge rally in Melbourne today. We gathered to tell our government that we do care about the environment and that we - the voters - demand they take out insurance against disaster by supporting sustainable energy use.

The organisers said they believed there were thirty thousand at the rally.

Whichever number you believe, it was a lot of people standing up for the environment.

And there were dogs, too!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

camel meat treats for dogs

When I travelled to Central Australia recently, Penny, of course, stayed home.

The area around Uluru and Kata Tjuta is beautiful and is not a desert, as I had thought. It is a semi-arid landscape and has supported an ancient and living culture from time immemorial.

One of the most enjoyable activities I took part in was a dinner in the bush, called The Sounds of Silence. My friend and I arrived in a mundane way, on a tour bus, so we were thrilled to see another group arriving...

on camels!

The leaders of all the tours we did gave us lots of information about the camels who roam free in the centre of this continent. Basically, they don't belong there, but some farmers are now turning from running cattle to herding camels. Apparently the camels here are remarkably disease-free compared to camels in other parts of the world and many are exported to The Middle East.

We were told again and again that one way to control the overpopulation of camels might be to use them for meat, so I was interested to see this packet of dog treats for sale here in Melbourne, at Murphy Brothers.

Penny thought the treats smelled rather good, and when I gave her some, she gobbled them up!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

terrifying lumps and worrying times

I haven't had the heart to blog recently, because we've been frightfully worried about a lump in Penny's neck. But we've just had good news. Well, sort of good...

When we noticed the lump, we thought it might be yet another lipoma. (She has three or more, now, but we don't intend to put her through the trauma of surgery unless necessary, so we're simply observing them.) There are lots of sites on the internet with information about how common lipomas are in older dogs. This is one site, and it suggests that all lumps need to be investigated before deciding on a watch-and-wait approach.

However, we - and the vet - thought this lump felt strange, so even though a needle aspiration seemed to indicate it was a cyst with some infection in it, he suggested surgery to remove it. We agreed.

Penny started on antibiotics to settle the infection and duly had her surgery. On the day, we waited for the phone call to say she was fine. But when the phone call came, the vet nurse suggested we make an appointment to talk to the vet as we collected her. Little alarm bells went off, so both her humans went together, to give each other moral support.

The long and the short of it was that the vet had found the lump sitting around a major blood vessel, so he stopped the surgery, having taken a piece off the lump. It was sent off for a biopsy and we waited...

We kept Penny beside us every moment of the first couple of days, to check she didn't scratch at the stitches, which pretty much she didn't.

She even got to sleep beside one of her humans, which doesn't normally happen. Like the Princess and the Pea, she reclined on a tower of soft mats.

Today we've learned that the part biopsied is a lipoma, and, to use the vet's words in the reassuring phone message he left for us, basically 'harmless' and 'benign'.

But it's still beside that blood vessel - the jugular - and it showed two different results in testing, lipoma and cyst.

I called in to discuss it with the vet, and was impressed with the amount of time he spent explaining to me what the situation is. We'll be keeping an eye on it, checking it every month to see if it is growing. I asked if it might grow inside where we can't check it, but the vet said it will grow out, if at all. He said not to check it more frequently than once a month, because we might become too accustomed to it and not notice a change.

Here's hoping all will be well.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

arthritis, cartrophen and Bowen therapy

Penny travelled to Yarra Glen today to have another session of Bowen Therapy with Deb.

After we arrived, I went back to the car to get something, and when I returned I found Penny inside the lovely little therapy cottage, happily waiting for Deb. This is not Penny's usual behaviour with anyone else - normally she'd be at the door, looking out to see where I had gone.

Watching Penny in the session is a great way to see how she reacts to the therapy. I sit on a chair nearby and don't interact. In an hour of treatment, she barely glances at me, which is unusual in any other situation, because she's normally keeping an eye on me to see what I'm up to. However, she loves the therapy so much that she's focused on Deb.

After about ten minutes or so, Penny moved away, and Deb waited for her to come back. Soon, Penny stood up, and returned to ask for more. It was plain that she loves it. I find it interesting when Deb tells me the places where Penny is sore, because I can see, once it's pointed out to me, that Deb is correct, by Penny's reaction to therapy in those spots.

We're not depending only on natural therapies to deal with Penny's arthritis. We're also having another series of four cartrophen injections at our vet.

And I was intrigued to discover that one of the vets at our local practice does acupuncture. We'll enquire about that.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Am I mean-spirited to laugh at Fenton's antics?

When a friend showed me the famous Fenton deer-herding incident on her iPad, I hurried home to watch it full-screen on my desktop computer. I laughed. And laughed. And shared it with family.

But when I read this article, I wondered if I was mean-spirited to enjoy another dog-owner's humiliation.

So I had another look at the clip, and I still thought it was funny.

I asked myself why I didn't feel guilty about laughing.

I think it's because of the joy I see in Fenton the dog, doing what all our dogs wish they could. Running free, hunting, top predator. And I'm laughing with the owner, not at him, because I know how it is when a relaxed, home-loving canine suddenly shows us she's descended from wolves. I won't forget the moment when Penny, as a puppy, emerged from the bushes with a glorious, colourful bird limp in  her mouth. I managed to convince myself that she'd luckily stumbled across the warm, already-dead body of a rosella, but I made sure to never give her the chance again to 'play' with birds.

One of my favourite cartoons is pinned on the wall above my computer. It's a Non Sequitur cartoon, by Wiley Miller.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

a new place to rest when walking with Penny

There's a great new children's playground in Warringal Parklands, and we are careful to stay away from it, because it says, 'NO DOGS'. Fair enough. I agree that parents should have a place where their children can play, secure in the knowledge there won't be doggie poo on the ground or dogs running around, even on leash.

However...we've made the astonishing discovery that dogs ARE allowed in one part of this area, and there is food to be had! Food for humans, that is. Penny can find food anywhere, of course - mouldy chips, old MacDonalds hamburgers, possum poo, discarded chop bones. For her, every walk is a delightful gourmet delight.

At Warringal, there is now human food. And dogs can go into the area with tables and chairs.

When we approached along the bicycle path, I was excited to see this sign:

And this menu:

The opening times are good:

And to top off the experience for the humans, there is a selection of training equipment for adults outside the fence that encloses the huge array of equipment for children from littlies to teenagers.

I had a try of this walking machine, but I wasn't too good at it. I'll be back to try it out again.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Penny and the bokashi compost

Winter, and time to enrich the soil in our garden...

I usually dig the bokashi compost into the front garden, where Penny does not go, but a couple of times I've put it in the ground out the back. I usually place heavy pavers over it, so Penny can't dig for the delicious rotted stuff, and sometimes I fence it off.

Penny thinks it tastes nice. But hopefully she's older and less energetic these days and won't try to push her way through the flimsy barrier.

I don't bury the bokashi deep, because I'm too lazy to dig down, and I'd prefer to let the worms and other 'garden helpers' carry the goodness into the earth without destroying the soil structure.

Here's hoping!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Penny on duty again as a therapy dog

Penny had been wondering where one of her humans has gone, but she was relieved to discover he'd gone to a lovely place where dogs are welcome. So she's been on duty once again a personal therapy dog.

Unfortunately, he had suffered a stroke. But the good news is that he has recovered very quickly and will be home soon.

Even one day after the stroke, he was up and taking photos to remember the horrible experience. Of course, Penny wasn't allowed into the hospital.

But once he moved to the fantastic rehab hospital at Royal Talbot, Penny was welcome, even in the room beside his bed. And the grounds are wonderful for walks with a dog. From Penny's point of view, the superb features include some delectable duck poo, good for either eating or rolling in.

Subsequent to the rolling, she had a lovely bath as soon as she got home.

Subsequent to the eating, she had a nice time throwing up on the back patio!

When her human came home for a day visit yesterday, Penny was ecstatic, and rushed to her toy box to get a toy so he could play with her. She's missing him again now, but we'll be visiting during the week and walking together once again.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Penny and our vegie garden

Penny likes some veggies in her dinner, and last night she had a little piece of cooked asparagus. I'm glad she doesn't realise that edible plants grow in our garden - because our asparagus bed is sprouting beautifully. That's very strange, actually, because it's the middle of winter.

Our very first shiitake mushrooms are emerging from the inoculated log, too. Very exciting! Penny wouldn't know anything about fungus being edible, because I've never given her any. I don't think it would be safe for her.

But something has been looking at the log, where it sits on a green plastic garden chair, because we noticed a fresh possum poo right beside it. Here's hoping that the poo fell from the tree above. I'd be disappointed if the possums pinched our mushrooms!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

clever dogs

On The Pet Museum I came across a link to a list of VID (Very Important Dogs). A couple of connections to Australia drew my attention. Firstly, the game little Yorkshire Terrier, Smoky, who assisted his soldier friends in The Philippines and New Guinea in World War Two


the talented black labrador who can sniff out American foulbrood, a deadly disease of honey bee hives. He doesn't look too comfortable in his protective suit, I must say, but he'd be in too much danger of being stung if he didn't wear it.

Thanks, Curator, I always find something of interest when I visit The Pet Museum.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Penny finds a mowed tennis ball

In our local park, Darebin Parklands, someone has been busy mowing, and they seem to have mowed over a tennis ball. What a find for Penny! Balls are good fun, but there's nothing more interesting than one that can be thrown and yet has a squishy, mouthable shape.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

in Australia dogs help conserve an endangered species

Great article today in The Age newspaper about  dogs in our national parks.

Usually we hear only complaints about dogs and native animals, and I do understand that we can't take dogs into areas where we need to protect native creatures.

But this is a video with a difference. An exciting discovery has been made, a camera shot of a spotted quoll in a place where they have not been seen in recent times.  So sniffer dogs have been brought in to try to locate scat (poo) of spotted tiger quolls.

I really enjoyed the film, but unfortunately, on this occasion the dogs did not find any quoll scat.

You might want to read more about the quoll conservation program in Cape Otway, which is where the highly trained sniffer dogs come from.

Reading about these dogs reminds me of the hunting dogs who were trained to kill rabbits but ignore grey-headed albatross.

Aren't dogs amazing?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

more about dogs eating grass

Penny's a grass eater from way back. But she doesn't always go about it the same way, and I've just read an article on PetMD that may explain some of her techniques.

It says that if the dog gobbles the grass in great hunks, the blades may cause vomiting:
A dog will seek out a natural remedy for a gassy or upset stomach, and grass, it seems, may do the trick. When ingested, the grass blade tickles the throat and stomach lining; this sensation, in turn, may cause the dog to vomit, especially if the grass is gulped down rather than chewed.

That's one of Penny's techniques.

But sometimes she grazes like a cow, and a couple of days later the grass will come out the other end, folded up neatly. If we come across the resulting 'thing' lying around in the backyard, it's almost impossible to tell which end it came from. On the other hand, the noise of  her vomiting a mass of folded grass will usually bring a family member running to see what the uproar is, so we usually know what has happened.

The article also says:
Whatever the reason may be, most experts see no danger in letting your dog eat grass. In fact, grass contains essential nutrients that a dog might crave, especially if they're on a commercial diet. If you notice that your dog has been munching away on grass or houseplants, then you may want to introduce natural herbs or cooked vegetables into their diet. Dogs aren't finicky like cats, but they're not too fond of raw veggies either. They're kind of like big furry kids that way. 

That's Penny too. She loves vegetables and fruits, cooked or raw. The only one she turned her nose up at is celery. Of course, we never give her grapes or onions. Too dangerous, by all accounts.

BTW, If you do follow the link to PetMD, the long list of comments are very interesting. Lots of people's experiences with their dogs eating grass, vegetables or fruit.

Friday, 9 May 2014

doggy dancing memories

When my sister forwarded me a link to a great canine freestyle routine at Crufts, I enjoyed it immensely, because it was fascinating to see one dog in a routine with two trainers.

And then I looked more closely and saw that one of the handlers was Richard Curtis.

He's the trainer who conducted the sessions here in Australia that Penny and I attended.

The other handler is Mary Ray.

After watching the video, I wondered whether  to push back the furniture here in the kitchen and have  some fun with Penny, as we did when Honey the Great Dane was still with us, and held her doggy dancing competition.

Friday, 18 April 2014

two lipomas on Penny's shoulders

Good Friday - just the day to spend sitting in the waiting room of the Animal Emergency Centre. We certainly weren't complaining that we had to wait, because when families rushed in with unconscious dogs, or dogs who couldn't stand, we knew they had to go first.

It all began yesterday evening, when we noticed not one, but two, lumps on Penny's shoulders. We reacted the usual way, first shock, then the worried internet search, and the reassuring decision that they were - probably - lipomas.

What a terrifying word that is...probably.

We decided we just couldn't wait for the end of the Easter holidays and the opportunity to see our own vet. We would go to the Emergency Hospital straight away.

I rang to see whether it would be appropriate to come in with this problem, because we wondered if on Good Friday (when nothing is open in Australia, generally speaking), they might only deal with life threatening emergencies. But we were reassured that we would be seen.

So off we went, and the vet examined Penny carefully and gave us the good news that she would do a needle biopsy immediately, because otherwise we'd have to wait four days until our own vet clinic was open.

She asked us whether we thought Penny could be distracted while she inserted the needles into the two lumps. Since I had a packet of the little dried fish that Penny has come to love, the answer was a resounding 'yes!' I think Penny didn't even realise she had the two little procedures.

The vet then gave us the even better news that, yes, they were lipomas. Whew!

I've read that most older dogs have at least one lipoma.

Next week we'll go to our own vet to follow up, because sometimes it's better to take lipomas out, in case they distress the dog as they get bigger, or in case they do change into something more dangerous.

Thank goodness for modern medical procedures and good vet hospitals!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Please don't spoil our walks at Chelsworth Park

When I was looking around the internet for information to include in my post about our walks at Chelsworth Park, I came across a scary news article saying there might be changes coming. I sure hope no one spoils this place, because it's one spot where walkers, sports clubs, joggers, dog walkers and nature lovers mix happily.

Here's a video clip from YouTube asking that the park not be spoiled for those who love it.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Penny doesn't see the eclipse of the moon

I took Penny down to a nearby street corner to watch the moonrise tonight, because the moon was to come up totally in eclipse.

Penny didn't seem to understand the idea of setting off for a walk and then standing around for ages. In her opinion, that's a waste of time, so she tried mightily to convince me we should dash up and down the footpath, here and there, anywhere. But since it was rush hour on the road beside us, I decided to take her home and go back to watch the eclipse with other humans, who understand that we need to take time to see how the universe around us works.

 Penny looks rather sad in this photo, but she was actually quite happy to stay home, because I had scattered little fish treats around the floor.

The eclipse wasn't very exciting, to be honest. Just an orangey blur barely visible through the mucky pollution on the horizon. But it was great fun to meet other locals and watch the shadow of our planet move across the surface of our nearest neighbour in space.

It's amazing to think that we were seeing the curve of planet Earth across the Moon, just as the ancients did.

A neighbour mentioned to me that it was this phenomenon that first led ancient Greek philosophers to realise Earth is a sphere.

In following up on her remark, I came across this great clip from Carl Sagan's show Cosmos, in which he explains how Eratosthenes worked out the circumference of the earth, so many thousands of years ago. He realised that Earth could not be a flat surface. It must be curved. Just in case you don't want to click across to YouTube, here it is:

Green and lovely looking but deceptive

A visit to Chelsworth Park yesterday made Penny and me feel happy. I was happy because the greenness raises my spirits and Penny was happy because she could roll around on the soft new grass.

A wonderful new project harvests storm water here. More than 30 Olympic swimming pools worth of storm water will be harvested each year. The park and the adjoining golf course should now be green all year. I'll look forward to that next summer!

If you look at these photos, you'll see a lovely-looking expanse of greenery in Chelsworth Park. But don't be fooled!

It's not grass.

It's a wetland, covered in what I think is probably duckweed. I suspect it's not a good thing environmentally, but I can assure you the frogs seemed to be happy, because they were singing loudly as we walked past. (On lead -  we're always careful to obey the restrictions about not disturbing native wildlife.)

Monday, 14 April 2014

regrowth in Darebin Parklands after the dry spell

Yesterday Penny and I ventured back to our favourite old walking spot, Darebin Parklands. It's been so hot and dry over the summer that we have walked in other places where there's more shade, but seeing it has cooled down - at last! - we decided to return to the park.

As you can see from this photo, the thirsty ground had become quite barren in the heat.

But it's great to see that with the recent rain the networks of cracks in the dry soil are starting to close.

And lots of tiny plants are germinating, so I expect that soon the hills and dales of the park will be lushly green.

finding new dog walking places along the Yarra River

How could I not have known about this great off-lead walking place so close to where we usually walk?

We regularly go to Willsmere Park, since the day I surreptitiously followed a car with a dog to see where they were going, because the windmilling tail of the dog in the back seat signalled that it must be a good destination.

But I didn't know there's another huge area adjacent to Willsmere, reachable by a ten to fifteen minute brisk on-lead walk along a bike path.. We've walked along this path before, but never gone far enough to find the new area.

I went further with Penny this time because she's having some problems with her joints and the vet reckons walking on lead is the best exercise. He says an older dog (or one with joint issues) is prone to injury if she races off from a standing start to full speed - which she did a couple of weeks ago when we were walking at night. She, with her super doggy senses, knew there was a cat hiding under a nearby car, shot off, came back when called, and - to our dismay - she was limping on the leg that so long ago had the cruciate operation.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, that's why we walked further than usual on lead. And this is what we found...

We are so lucky here in Melbourne to have all these lovely off-lead walks along the Yarra River.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

dogs at Melbourne rally support a fair deal for refugees

When I walked in today's huge rally asking our government to treat refugees fairly and humanely, I left Penny at home.

She's not good in crowds, so I thought she could best support the cause by resting on her comfy mat.

I did, however, see this dog passing by with his human.

I thought they weren't part of the crowd, but this dog definitely was.

I checked out the dog's eye view Penny would have had if she had come.

To me this sign sums up the issue...