Wednesday, 30 November 2016

cockatoo nest in dead branch

Yesterday we walked in a nearby park, and I was excited see a cockatoo nesting in a dead branch of a eucalypt.

Penny didn't notice because she was, as usual, looking around on the  ground for anything edible.

But I noticed and thought it was a beautiful sight.

That's why it's important to leave dead branches on gum trees.

Friday, 18 November 2016

dogs and bug poisons

It mystifies me why anyone would want to kill the bugs that share this planet with us, but I guess we are all different. Our garden is run on organic principles and we aim to have a variety of plants that will attract birds and bugs to keep the 'bad' bugs under control.

Imagine my dismay, therefore, when I saw a guy getting ready to spray bifenthrin all around a home near us. When I confronted him - politely, I hope - he said the homeowner needs to get rid of the ants and spiders on her property.

Get rid of all ants and spiders? Wow! Armageddon for insects and arachnids.

And, in the long run, death for every fish in the local waters, danger for local cats, and - sadly - eventual death for birds, as they gorge on the dying insects.

In the long run, of course. All these effects won't be immediate. And as long as it's rare for anyone to create a kill-zone in their garden, I guess the results will be minor and will be dealt with by Mother Earth.

But what about Penny? She's been locked inside the house all day, with all windows closed, and she's desperate to go out to relieve herself, so as soon as I finish typing we'll hop into the care and walk somewhere distant from our now poisoned street.

Here's an interesting and informative site that discusses bug sprays from a vet's perspective.

And here's a toxipedia article that I found helpful.

You know what? That house nearby will soon have lots of new spiders and ants as the local survivors move in to their garden.

By the way, it's deadly for bees.

And bad for cats.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Grasses as allergens for dogs

When I was at the Diggers Botanic and Rare Plant Fair today (in the freezing rain and wind), I bought a gift for Penny.

It was labelled as Pet Grass. I know Penny likes to eat grass, so I thought it was a good purchase. Here's the label:

(If the label's too hard to read in this photo, you can click on the photo and it will open in another window where it's easier to see.) 

The name is: dactylis glomerata.  

Always keen to collect information about plants, I Googled the name. And found, to my surprise, that the grass is an allergen for many dogs (and humans).

Nelco-Vet, in a brochure called Allergens and Your Pets, under the heading Orchard/Cocksfoot Grass, says: 
the flowering heads are clustered in irregular, rounded shapes, coarse in texture, and resemble a thumb sticking out of the side of someone's hand. Widespread throughout the world, Orchard produces pollen that is well known for its hay fever causing properties in Europe and North America. It starts out in early spring and has tenacious re-growth after being grazed upon. 

Well, that was a waste of four dollars. I thought of tossing it in the green bin for garden waste, but on second thoughts, I'll let it grow in a pot and cut the seedheads off. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

the big storm

Yesterday Penny went for one of her favourite walks, along the Yarra River at Warburton.

But what was this? A big mess at the entrance!

But no worries. Someone had been very busy clearing up the fallen trees after the big storm last weekend, so we could get through easily.

Many of the fallen trees were enormous. They must have been many decades old.

'Come away from this one,' I said to her, because it looked ready to fall the next time the wind blows.

Every fallen tree we saw was a eucalypt. Here's Penny examining the roots of one of them. This one had fallen across the river.

But here's something interesting... That tree was right beside a stand of Californian redwoods planted early last century. Not a one of them had fallen. (Can you see the fallen eucalypt across the path in the distance?)

I searched for references to this little glade of redwoods in Warburton township, but most sites direct to the bigger forest of redwoods in East Warburton,

Yarra Views Blog is the only site I could find that has information about the trees beside the Yarra River in Warburton itself. The writer says these trees were planted by a group of American Seventh Day Adventists. I recall from a previous blog post of my own that they were planted about 1922, which makes them older than the ones at East Warburton, I think. (I'm not sure about that.)

I think this site, about the forests ofWarburton, is fascinating.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Getting ready for summer

Penny is rarely clipped, but we knew we'd better bite the bullet and do it, if we want to check for ticks, now that they are in Melbourne.

So, this is Penny a few weeks ago...

And now...

Waste not, want not - we put her fur in the compost.

All of my composting books agree that pet hair is a great source of nitrogen.

The 'Bible' of composting, The Rodale Book of Composting, says: Between 6 and 7 pounds of hair contain as much nitrogen as 100 to 200 pounds of manure. Like feathers, hair will decompose rapidly in a compost pile but only if well moistened and thoroughly mixed with an aerating material. Hair tends to pack down and shed water, so chopping or turning the pile regularly will hasten decay.

Hmm... after reading that, I realise I'd better get out there tomorrow and break up the clumps of hair.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

the eastern paralysis tick

Up until now we haven't worried about ticks attacking Penny, because they had not been reported in Melbourne. However, when we holidayed at Best Friend Retreat we put tick prevention on Penny, because we had heard the creatures were gradually encroaching into Victoria along the coast from the east. Penny had a bad reaction to Advantix, so I won't be using it again.

Which leaves us with a dilemma, because by all accounts the eastern paralysis tick has made it to Melbourne now. I guess we'll have to have her coat clipped shorter this year, and we'll have to check her regularly in the tick season.

We do have a tick removal tool, which a family traveller brought back from NewYork. We thought it was just a novelty until now, and when we looked at it, we'd feel so smug that we don't have to worry about ticks. What a pity we've now joined the majority of dog owners in having another thing to watch out for!

I've read that dog owners should keep the vegetation clipped in their yard. Not a hope of that here, because our garden is based on the 'food forest' concept.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

a dog as music connoisseur

Penny's recovering well from her strange limping problem, we hope. It's good to get her up and about as much as possible, with gentle exercise.


Am I hurt about what she does when I play the piano? Get up from her mat and take herself out of the house?

No, not at all...

Worst of all, she comes back in when I stop playing.

Monday, 8 August 2016

a new place to swim

Today Penny swam six laps at a new pool. It's at Greencross Vet Hospital at Narre Warren. For us it's quite a drive, about 50 Km each way, but well worth it if it enables Penny to stay in good health.

I think she could have swum more, but I thought we'd see how she pulls up after the exercise. It's evening now and so far so good.

The pool's not as fancy as the lovely one at Kepala, but the guy there said this new pool uses very little in the way of chemicals in the water, so that's a plus. I was also impressed that the use of a dryer was included in the price.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Penny the super duper vet client

Penny needed x-rays to figure out what is going on with her awful limping. It felt bad last Friday to give her no breakfast, but of course, if she was going to be sedated for the x-rays, we had to do it.

But what do you know? When we picked her up the vet told us she was such an amazing client that he didn't even need to sedate her, because she lay so super still in each position.

What a champion.

Well, the results were inconclusive. No obvious spinal problems. Maybe some disk change.

It's all a worry, but at the moment she's walking well and seems happy. We're just going on short strolls rather than our usual walks, but that's okay, as long as she's getting better.

I'm going to check out another swimming place, because our usual one is closed for pool cleaning in August.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Penny and the swimming and Bowen therapy

With Penny getting older now, I'm super glad she learned early to enjoy swimming, because taking her for a swim in the lovely warm pool at Kepala Resort is a good way to help her deal with what we think is increasing arthritis.

We are also taking Penny for more frequent Bowen therapy at Bow Rei Me. 

And she's having a series of Cartrophen injections.

Here's hoping she improves. Maybe when warmer weather comes she will improve even more.

PS: While I was checking out the link to Bow Rei Me I saw a post about canine massage. I think I'll read it carefully and go and do some massage for Penny.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Penny's sore elbow

Curator called by today to ask how Penny's been going since she caught her paw in her collar recently.

It's kind of complicated...

She does have a very sore elbow, and we're wondering whether it's a long-term injury from that incident. On the other hand, last weekend she visited a house in the country where she climbed up some steep slippery stairs, because she insisted on sleeping upstairs with her humans.

So, not liking seeing her in discomfort, we arranged to visit the vet on Wednesday. (She's been so sore she won't put her front foot on the ground at all. Very worrying.)

And then, the night before the vet appointment, she threw up - twice. First time sort of okay, and she was still hungry, so we thought it was normal. (I'm sure I don't have to tell you how we knew she was hungry... But we managed to hurry her away before she ate the thrown-up meal once again.)

The second time, the 'product' looked really horrible. Human Number Two even reckoned it looked like dirt. I said, 'No, it can't be. Why would she be eating dirt?' We looked around the garden to check whether she'd dug up that nice old brisket bone she had buried a few days ago, and thought maybe that was it, but no bone fragments in the pile of you-know-what.


When I went to the vet, he agreed that vomiting can produce something that might look like dirt. But since she seemed fine as far as her digestion goes, we decided to just concentrate on getting the sore elbow fixed up. (Back to the vet tomorrow to see whether the anti-inflammatories are doing the job.)

I'm a keen gardener. But I  wouldn't be so silly as to lay down a fine bed of delicious blood-and-bone and cover it with a delightful layer of highly enticing half-rotted compost, would I? Well, maybe, but I'd make super sure to do it in an inaccessible garden bed with a metre-high brick wall around it.

The latest theory about the sore elbow is that Someone has been digging in that bed. There are paw prints. Holes have appeared in the smooth layer of compost. Who could it be? If that Someone had managed to leap into the bed via a nearby upturned concrete pot, she might conceivably have injured her elbow as she leaped out.

Who knows?

But just in case, the garden bed now has a strategically placed garbage bin blocking access and it has a strong cover of wire mesh.

Now it just remains to get Penny well and active again. No walks allowed. No going down the back steps to the yard. Tedious trips down the sideway to reach the backyard without using the stairs.

It's a dog's life, that's for sure.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

take off the dog's collar when at home

Penny gave us an almightily fright this morning.

She had been doing her usual yoga routine - a few downward facing dog poses, the extended puppy pose, perhaps the sphinx pose and maybe even a cat pose. I walked past her and into the kitchen.

Next minute she hobbled past me with a seemingly broken leg. Totally broken, bent up near her ear. Even imperturbable Human Number Three agreed with my cry of 'Omigod, better rush her to the vet emergency hospital!'

How could such a terrible injury happen in one minute flat, in the lounge room of our home?

Well, I'll tell you how...

She had caught her toe in the metal ring on her collar. Can you visualise her, hopping along on three legs, with the right one bent above her head?

Poor Penny! It was quickly remedied, because the collar had a quick-release buckle and I don't think there is any lasting harm done. But she won't be wearing her collar in the house again. (We usually take it off when we arrive home from a walk.)

I do remember reading years ago about the danger of collars when dogs are at home, and just now I've visited another site with a horror story of a near-death experience that was worsened by the fact that the collar did not have a quick-release catch.

Monday, 6 June 2016

the new dog bed

You can lead a dog to a new bed, but you can't make her lie on it.

This will have to be my new saying, because I spent more money than I like on a fancy new bed for Penny today and she's NOT interested.

Here's the old one, which is looking pretty worn out.

And here's the new one, with Penny looking rather worried about it.

We have the new one sitting on the old one, in the hope that the 'nice' smell might rub off on the new one.

It's probably not going to happen, because the new one is really too small. And we can't return it because we let Penny play with it and toss it around the kitchen to help her see it as a fun place to be.

Oh, well. Better put it down to experience and scan the internet  for a bed that looks like the old one.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

An ordinary day

It's been so long since I posted here. Penny's life has been going along in a fairly calm way, thank goodness, with walks and food and pats. What else could a dog want?

It is the humans who've been suffering the ups and downs of life, with her number three person needing heart surgery and then lots of rehab. But life is returning to some sort of normality as Number Three Person regains good health.

Here are couple of shots from an ordinary day.

Visit the river to swim and fetch sticks.

Roll on your really good stick and then chew it to check it's definitely worth keeping.

Be amazed at the one large sweet potato that grew in the garden.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Penny and the avian visitor

I like to meditate for a while in the morning, when I can, and today it seemed possible. I settled, thought of my mantra, relaxed into the pleasure of the quiet moment...

then barking, barking, barking at the front door.

Ignore it...focus on the mantra...woof! woof!... okay, just a sound, hear it and let it go...

enormous barking...

What could it be? Penny's going ballistic.

So, quit the meditation, go to the front door.

Stand beside her and scan the street, the driveway, the carport where the cars are parked, the garden. Nothing. The humongous barking is rising in pitch...

Wait a minute. She's looking up, not outwards. I look up. What's that on the roof of the carport?

I peer at it. Surely not. A blue crane? Here, right in the middle of the suburbs.

Sure looks like it.

Eventually it decides to leave and Penny retires to her bed, satisfied that once again her barking has seen off an unwanted visitor.

On looking for a link to the bird for this post, I've discovered that it's really called a white-faced heron and that this type of bird has adapted well to city life. I've never seen one near our house before.

It's not a crane. Well, you learn something new every day.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

goodbye hot, dry summer and hello lovely autumn

Look how green the grass is already, after just two bouts of rain this autumn! The groundsmen must have done some great preparation during summer, so the soil could take up the rain when it eventually came.

But what are these strange long white poles leaning on the fence?

And what about these deep holes in the ground?

It must be time for the footy to start. Aussie Rules, of course. So they'll need four posts, two to mark goals and two to mark behinds.

Sunday, 13 March 2016


Only one day after posting a photo of Penny in a 'pretend' puddle, I was able to get a shot of her in a real one! Hooray for rain. The resilient plants are already sending out new growth. (I don't have the heart to whisper to them that it's too late for summer growth and that winter might be around the corner. Let them enjoy growing for a little longer.)

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

hot summers and dry grass

It has continued hot here, unseasonably warm for the beginning of autumn, so we're still tending to go out walking early in the day. Penny feels the heat, so she was glad to find a big puddle on the grass at one of our regular parks this morning.

It was interesting to see that she put her belly into the water but didn't roll over. I think she cools herself through her belly and her paws.

The water sits on the top of the grass when the groundsmen water, and I think it's because the topsoil was removed when a water harvesting system was built under the ground in this area. 

We often see lines of disturbed soil across the playing fields, and one groundsman told us it's so that the water might penetrate to lower levels. You can see that the grass grows in lines around these spots.

Some areas have to get special attention.

Thank goodness for all the hard work the turf specialists put in. Otherwise the whole area would look like this part that isn't maintained.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

a whole month since I posted

Wow! I was amazed to see I haven't written anything about Penny's life for a whole month. I guess the hot summer weather has made us lazy. The last few weeks have consisted of lazing around most of the day, walking either super early (By my standards, anything before 10 am is super early, lol) or late in the cool of the evening.

Penny's lumps and itches are not bothering her at the moment, as far as I can tell. She's taking one and a half Cetirizine each day, with the aim of settling any allergies, and we put Apex lotion on her itchy areas a couple of times a day when needed.

So, not much to report... which is good, from my point of view.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

evening walk

It's pretty hot today, so we saved our walk for the evening and kept it short. Now, to a human, the sight of this messy lane way is rather unpleasant, but to a dog...

lovely smells all over the place - hamburger wrappers,  soft drink containers, cooked chicken scents, and who knows what else. Only Penny knows.

And there was something worth rolling in. Which is a bit of a pity since Penny was clipped and groomed yesterday, a rare occurrence.

We're off to the vet tomorrow, to check up on the many lumps and bumps Penny has, to measure and list them, so we can know if they grow large or change in any way. It seemed like a good time to have her clipped, so we can find them all.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

What to feed the dog

I used to feed Penny only raw food, but nowadays we tend to mix raw and cooked. However, since her time in hospital with a bad attack of what seemed to be gastritis, we are super careful that she not get anything that might set back her recovery.

So it was helpful to get an email from the RSPCA tonight with a suggested feeding guide.

We feed her sardines, and I notice the guide says not to feed fish too often, so I'll take notice of that.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Loving our new doggy pool

So far the new foldable pool ('buddy and belle' brand, made in China) is a great success. I had put it away, and it folded up really small, and fairly easily, though of course I couldn't' get it back into the original box. Who ever can?

It fitted comfortably into an ordinary cotton shopping bag, 42 cm square (about 17 inches).

Today it's hot and the house is full of workmen replacing a damaged ceiling, so there's no cooling possible. It seemed like a good time to try the pool once again.

Penny doesn't do much jumping these days, due to a past operation on her left knee and to a degree of arthritis, but she leapt in and out today, having fun. We'll hope she doesn't pay the price tomorrow.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Pretty dry and hot here these days

Penny has her walks at the crack of dawn these days. (Well, we try to get back home before 9 am, which is the time we have to slop some sun protection on the humans.)

Yesterday we went to Rosanna, and walked in the cool of the morning, but it was still nice to have a drink to rehydrate ourselves. I was struck by the difference between the 'landscape' around the tap, where dogs spill water (messy drinkers, all of them!) and the surrounds where the poor soil gets no water.

It's a great example of the difference sufficient water makes to the plants.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Penny camouflaged

Penny was almost invisible recently, after she frolicked in a mud puddle, enjoying the rare experience of rain, and then rolled in the dry dirt where there used to be grass.

And now she's at it again, blending in to the indigenous grasses of another park.

Isn't it lovely to see how the native grasses can cope with the current dry weather? Thank goodness for the people who work so hard to put in appropriate plants that can support wildlife. (Volunteers, for the most part.)

It's hard to keep non-native grassed areas alive now, with such a lack of moisture, and you can see in the next photo what a difference it makes if the area is watered. The more distant part has received water, in order that sporting events can go ahead.

I used to be critical of the use of water on sporting grounds, until I went to a talk recently about how decisions are made when allocating our precious water resources. The speaker told us that in the awful Millennium Drought, suicide rates soared in many towns when sports grounds were allowed to go to ruin, and when consequently sports events were discontinued. The psychological value of such community events is incalculable.

I sure hope we're not creeping into another drought...