Thursday, 30 January 2014

dogs can help our native birds

There's a great article in The Age newspaper today, about a small wetland in a densely urbanised area, where native silver gulls were driving away most other species of birds.

In an effort to get rid of the gulls without harming them, a variety of strategies were implemented. The one that interested me was the decision to allow dogs to visit the wetlands off-lead.

The article says: The species of birds and frogs that frequent the site have doubled to more than 51. Of the 48 bird species that visit, 42 are native. Six of those, including the dusky moorhen, Pacific black duck and Australian grebe, have started breeding at the site.                                                                                                                                             So far, three species of frog have been recorded at the wetland: the common froglet, spotted marsh frog and striped marsh frog.                                                              Melbourne Water senior biodiversity scientist Will Steele said he wouldn't be surprised if turtles started arriving too...                                                                                               Dr Steele said the native birds...seemed willing to put up with dogs if they kept a safe distance.

I hope the dog owners who visit the wetlands will realise they have a responsibility to make sure their pets do keep a safe distance. I guess there would be signs telling them the dogs can't swim there. That's how it often is in wetlands.

Penny rarely takes notice of birds. I'm not sure whether it's because she frequently swims in creeks and rivers amongst water birds and walks past land birds...

or whether it's due to all the training in her early years, being rewarded for ignoring birds.

However, we would never assume that she's not going to attack a bird. There's a first time for everything, so we remain vigilant.

If you click the the link in the first line, above, I think you'll enjoy the whole article, and especially the video clip of the wetlands, where you can see an off-lead dog walking past.

watch out for falling branches, Penny!

Yesterday was lovely and cool, but we went back to Willsmere Park where Penny gets lots of exercise swimming and running around - because we felt so stonkered by the recent heat that we didn't want to walk far.

As Penny was racing after her toy, having had a cooling swim first, we were a bit apprehensive when she ran near this tree. (Silly me for throwing the toy near a dangerous tree.)

But it wasn't a super hot day, so we thought no more limbs would fall from the tree.

It must have been scary when this branch snapped in the recent heat wave!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

a dog ignores plague soldier beetles

Yesterday, as Penny swam at Willsmere, I was entranced by the clouds of golden beetles hovering in the sunshine beside the river. They were all around Penny as she was guarding her toys from the other dogs, but she didn't take any notice of them.

Today, a cooler day, they were there again, this time clustering on grasses and on the trunk of a tree.

I found out their name by asking a man who was spraying weeds in the park. (How much work goes into maintaining these parks that Penny enjoys!) I thought the name sounded scary, but he said they're harmless.

And he was correct. Here's an article about these beautiful but strangely-named creatures. They are nectar drinkers.

This one had the nerve to land on Penny's toy!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

having heaps of fun on a hot morning

So, it's still hot in Melbourne. But that doesn't mean Penny can't have fun, as long as we go out early.
The shadows are long and the grass is burnt brown, but there are still patches of green to investigate. I wonder why this nice-smelling spot is green?

We hurry along to the swimming spot and Penny fetches her Whirl Wheels. The river's brown, but here's hoping it's not polluted. (The Yarra is always brown; that's why some people call it the upside-down river.)

But wait! Someone's coming. Penny is aware of the newcomers before her human notices.

So now she's not going to swim. She will sit at the top of the embankment and guard her toys.

But that doesn't mean the others can't have fun.

 We went for a walk and Penny raced around on the grass chasing her toys - who'd have thought, all those years ago when she had her cruciate repaired, that one day she'd be running free once again?

Then we headed back for a last swim. A lovely morning that her human would have spent lazing in bed if she didn't have a dog to get her out on a hot summer's morning.

Thank Dog for dogs!

Monday, 27 January 2014

a kangaroo in our city park

So, we're out early in the morning in Yarra Bend Park, the shadows are long and lovely and Penny's off lead.

Penny freezes. She sees something. What could it be?

Our first reaction is delight. A kangaroo here, right in the suburbs.

Penny begins to run. Towards the kangaroo! Oh no, this is a disaster - either Penny or the kangaroo is going to suffer. Thank Dog for all those sessions rewarding her for a good 'come!' We shout. She heads back for her treat. (We always reward a 'come' in some way, usually with food.)

We'd better ring the wildlife protection people, because on the other side of that chain link fence is a busy freeway, and perhaps the kangaroo could leap that fence. We head off to find one of the many signs in the park with a phone number on it.

And then a black dog races past, intent on catching the kangaroo. The kangaroo and the dog disappear up a hill leading to the busy traffic, and I run off in pursuit while Human Number Two puts Penny on lead. I can't see where the dog and the kangaroo have gone.

By the time we walk down to where the kangaroo has disappeared, the owner of the black dog has run past us and found his dog. We never did find out whether he realised why his dog had taken off like a rocket. He puts the dog on lead and walks away.

Human Number Two is on hold for what seems an inordinate length of time, but learns from the recorded message what she should do if we find an echidna, a flying fox, a wombat, lorikeets, parakeets, wallabies, and, yes, a kangaroo. Finally she passes the message on to a human and we head off, hoping all will be well.

And we tell all the dog-owners we meet to take care. Dogs and kangaroos don't mix. Sometimes the dog suffers, sometimes the kangaroo. The funny thing is that we spend quite a lot of time in the mountains with Penny, but the only time we see kangaroos is in the city. She's never been close to one and for both their sakes, I hope she never is. Here's an old post about dogs and kangaroos.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Penny might be limping

Once again, we're wondering whether Penny is limping.

Because of the hot weather, we have taken shorter walks lately, which could be a good chance for Penny to rest a sore limb.

When I went out with her yesterday, I think I finally established that she is nodding her head as she steps on her left front leg, which would mean the pain is in the right front leg, according to this site.

Usually a dog will come down heavier on his healthy limb and avoid putting substantial weight on the limb that is bothering him. You can identify this by observing your dog's head when he walks. The comfortable limb will be placed on the ground and his head will go down at the same time. His head will tend to come up when the uncomfortable limb is on the ground.

She'll go to one of our favourite swimming spots, today, because in the water she can exercise without stressing a sore limb.  

When she comes home, we'll examine her nails and see if they are longer on one leg, because on this site I read:

Pets with rear leg pain often cary those legs father forward than normal and their hip on the affected side a bit higher. Pets with front led pain are often reluctant to move. When pets favor a leg over time, the toenails on that limb tend to be longer than on the others. That may be enough to identify the limb that is causing its abnormal walk.

Penny is still keen to go for walks and hurries in and out to the backyard when we go outside. She's been chasing toys in the park eagerly for the last few months, a practice we cut back after her surgery for a cruciate tear four years ago. (We throw the toy only a short distance, and along the ground, so that she runs straight with no swerving or sudden stops.)

She's been taking daily doses of Glyde joint supplement for eight years, so here's hoping the limp is only a temporary problem. A friend suggested that sometimes it's a good idea to give a dog a course of pain relief for a week and see if her behaviour changes. If the limp doesn't go away, we'll go to the vet and discuss options.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

trees keep pets and humans alive in the heat

On Thursday evening, after a day of extreme heat, Penny had not been out, so two of us humans had the bright idea of walking together to the nearby supermarket. I would wait outside with her while her other human  shopped.

Well, after waiting about five minutes, I was worried because Penny was panting. We were sitting under a concrete overhang at the side of a carpark. It was stifling. And Penny was getting hotter. I moved her out into the carpark and lifted her onto a planter, hoping a breeze might come by and that being a metre above the tarmac and beside plants might be cooler.

She started panting faster and we abandoned human number two and headed home, where I threw water on Penny and tossed treats into her water bowl to make her drink.

How could she have become so overheated at 10:30 pm?

An article in Friday's copy of The Age might explain our bad experience. There's a thermal image of a Melbourne city street corner at 3-4 pm on December 8, 2011, when the day's top temperature was recorded at 32.4° C (90° F).

Below a large plane tree on an inner-city corner, the temperature was 38.3° and nearby hard city surfaces were - get ready for this - 80.7°C ! I've checked the article a couple of times and that's what it said. 80.7°C is 177°F.

Apparently our built-up cities suffer from the heat-island effect.

I noticed yesterday that the back steps of our house, made of concrete, were too hot to stand on in bare feet, after sunset, so how hot must it have been for Penny, walking to the supermarket that evening, even if the ambient air was a bit cooler?

We dog owners need to be more careful when we take our  pets out, even if it is only for a brief outing.

And we need more trees in our suburb!

We need more trees in our cities, in our gardens, everywhere on our continent, and everywhere on our planet.

At my favourite garden centre, there's a sign that goes something like this:
The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.
The second best time is now.
Looking around on the internet, I found lots of references to this quote. It seems to be an old Chinese proverb. I'm very glad most of the trees in our garden were planted about forty years ago.

Here's a link to the article in The Age newspaper about the dangers of creating heat-islands in our cities.

Friday, 17 January 2014

mad dogs go out in the midday sun

Here are the first few lines of the old song, Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Noel Coward :

In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire,
to tear their clothes off and perspire.
It's one of those rules that the biggest fools obey,
Because the sun is much too sultry and one must avoid
its ultry-violet ray --
Papalaka-papalaka-papalaka-boo. (Repeat)
Digariga-digariga-digariga-doo. (Repeat)
The natives grieve when the white men leave their huts,
Because they're obviously, absolutely nuts --
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
The Japanese don't care to, the Chinese wouldn't dare to,
Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one,
But Englishmen detest a siesta,
In the Philippines there are lovely screens,
to protect you from the glare,
In the Malay states there are hats like plates,
which the Britishers won't wear,
At twelve noon the natives swoon, and
no further work is done -
But Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

And here is Penny, at twenty minutes past noon today. (40 degrees Celcius/ 104 Fahrenheit)

Has she gone mad? Probably not, but she's a glutton for fun with her Whirl Wheel.

I ordered her inside! (BTW, the plants are covered to try to stop them frizzling in the extended horrible heat.)

Now she's relaxing in front of the fan, and I'm hot and bothered in the next room because I'm too kind (or soft) to deprive her of the fan.

But this morning, early, we walked at Willsmere and she had a lovely swim with her toy. Two toys, actually.

It was cool in the shade of the trees. Thank God for old, established trees!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

it's very hot for dogs, humans and birds

It's hot. Hot all day and hot all night. Penny is feeling the heat.

We took the comfy pet futon off her bed and replaced it with a wet towel, but she's not convinced that's a good idea and has rejected it. I'll put the futon back on, tonight, because I see on the Snooza website they say it's cool in summer. Certainly Penny did sleep on it last night, and the temperature only dipped to about 28 degrees Celcius (83 Fahrenheit).

While she was flaked out in the best spot to receive the breeze from our evaporative cooling, I was out in the garden checking for fresh water in our array of bird bathing bowls.

As I was filling this final birdbath I heard a chattering...

...and saw two thirsty little birds sitting right beside me, not a metre away, with their beaks open, and realised they were my very favourite birds, pardalotes.

I knew pardolates pardalotes live around here, because I've heard their song from high up in the trees, but to see some down near the ground, right up close, was fantastic. I couldn't get a photo, because I didn't have a camera, and by the time I crept away and rushed into the house to get one, they were - of course - gone.

Here are some photos of these lovely birds.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

the lorikeets are eating the apples again

Penny was on duty today, guarding the house.

She was at the front door, ensuring no one passed by in the street unchallenged, no cats invaded our front yard, no strange people got in or out of cars, no dogs walked by.

But, out in the back yard, they were back. The apple thieves.

Where was Penny when she was needed for bird-barking duty?

I caught the thieves red-beaked, in the act of thievery.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

rainbow lorikeets, mulch, apples and a dog

Penny and I strolled around the garden the other day to admire the apples. They were nearly ripe.

Penny takes her duty seriously to pop outside each evening to deter the inhabitants of this nest...

...who emerge at dusk to steal our fruit. We sort of scared off FOUR in the apple tree last night. I say 'sort of', because they came right back each time Penny dutifully barked them into retreat, and eventually even a dog has to get some sleep.

But these don't look entirely like possum tooth marks. Who else is stealing our apples?

Aha! A culprit is waiting for us to go inside.

We see you, and Penny is barking at you! Do you care? No.

Okay, so I'll pick up some of these bits of bark on the little path and throw them at you!

Penny thinks this is a great game, and now she knows that bits of mulch are really important, because her human has been playing with them, so she should take some inside the house and taste it and keep it and enjoy it in every way.

So everyone's happy now, with something to eat. Dog, possums, ringtail possums. A happy ending.