Tuesday, 31 March 2009

plants that are dangerous to dogs

Penny usually stays in the house unless we are outside in the garden and I'm thinking that might not be such a bad thing, after reading an article in the latest edition of the Australian magazine, Dogs Life.

'A backyard fit for a dog', it was called. In a sidebar there was a list of 'problem plants' that shouldn't be in the garden. Rather than worrying about which dangerous plant I have, I should worry about which one I DON'T have - I might as well have every dangerous plant in the world, instead of only most of them.

One that I particularly noticed was apricot, which I've read about before. I usually spend hours picking up the stones from the apricots and nectarines each year. If only those pesky birds that steal our fruit could learn to put the stones in the rubbish bins!

The ASPCA says the stems, leaves and seeds of peaches and apricots contain cyanide, and that the leaves are particularly toxic when they are wilting. Symptoms would be brick red mucous membranes, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, panting, shock.

I take particular care to remove all apricot branches after pruning. In general I would leave prunings to wilt in the garden and add their leaves to the mulch. But definitely not apricots. Not peaches. And not nectarines, seeing they are a type of peach.

However, although I'm not going to remove these trees, or the plum tree, or the daisy bushes, or the geraniums, hydrangea, azaleas and rhododendrons - to name a few! - I think I will move the pot with the aloe vera, because I can imagine a scenario where she might break a piece off as she leaps into that part of the garden chasing a tennis ball. I had actually wondered whether aloe vera would be a useful doggy medication if Penny had skin problems. I guess not, though the fact that it's poisonous doesn't necessarily mean it would be bad rubbed onto the skin.

The ASPCA has this plant listed as toxic to dogs and there's a photo of the plant.

I have a book on my shelf (I know, old technology, but what can replace the feel of a book in your hand?) called Plant Alert; A Garden Guide for Parents. It says about aloe vera:
Severe diarrhoea and stomach pains can result if the juice, which is a violent purgative, is ingested. In large doses it can cause dehydration and weight loss due to excessive loss of fluid from diarrhoea.

dog bloggers can now analyse themselves

If you copy your blog address into typealyzer, you might gain a little self-knowledge. I found a reference to this fun page on robyn E's blog, Writing Up a Storm. I discovered I am an ESFP - A Performer. Here it is:

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.
Well... Penny could tell you the first part is totally off. I'm friendly but no entertainer. I live in a clutter of unfinished projects, tbr books (to-be-read), bills clamoring for attention and clothes thrown off in a hurry. If that's an environment filled with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells, then the first part of the analysis is spot-on.

As for not planning ahead, I think not! I'm a champion worrier who likes to have it all mapped out in advance.

The last part - yes! I don't like conflict. That's why I'm a dog blogger, because this little world of animal lovers is full of supportive and friendly people.

Monday, 30 March 2009

find out the genetic heritage of your bitser dog

Penny is definitely a bitser.
If you don't know this word, have a look at this Australian English dictionary - just scroll down till you find it. It does use the synonym 'mongrel', but no way is Penny a mongrel!! She's too much of a lady to go by that name.

Well, usually...

Anyway, I heard on the radio yesterday that genetic testing to determine heritage is now available in Australia at a reasonable cost. It seems I would take a cheek swab from Penny and then receive an analysis of her parentage for a few generations back, plus information about typical health issues for those breeds and suggestions for activities suitable for those breeds.

But what if she's got many breeds in her parentage? Will I have to worry about every known medical problem? (Champion worrier speaking here!) Perhaps it's best not to know, not to feel constrained by others' expectations of her.

I did post about this topic in October 2007 and decided not to do it, but this time it is the highly reputable Lort Smith Animal Hospital promoting the test. They will receive 20% of the AU$ 125 it costs.

Hmmm... interesting.

However, I did once post about a highly critical article discussing the dangers of possible misuse of this technology.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

a dog sees the moon turn red during the Victorian bushfires

On Friday 13 February, about midnight, Penny and I went outside for the usual 'pitstop' before retiring to bed. I hasten to add that it was Penny who needed to use the 'outside facilities'. I'm sophisticated enough to use the inside toilet.

We were astonished, and saddened, to see the moon was red. Red from the bushfire smoke that was smothering Victoria that week. I took a photo, which unfortunately was blurry, but here it is:

Yesterday when I was listening to the radio I discovered I wasn't the only one who had seen this strange bloody moon as a symbol of the bushfires. Bobby Valentine Bobby Valentine, a local singer, was inspired to write a song about it. He is donating all proceeds to the brave men and women of the CFA (Country Fire Authority) who fought the fires.

You can listen to the song here. If you click on 'Bushfire Moon' it starts to play, so you can listen and decide whether you want to download it.

Note; I've put in a link to Bobby Valentine's MySpace instead of his home site because the first link doesn't seem to work properly.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

weird shapes on a dog walk

Yesterday Penny was astonished to see a huge octopus in Darebin Parklands.

Okay, that's just an attention-getting opening line. But look at this. Doesn't it seem to have the shape of an octopus?

I reckon Penny thought so.

And further along, in the Hidden Valley, we found a monster.

But Penny wasn't scared.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

dog-walking after the welcome rain in Darebin Parklands

Penny and her human family had a refreshing walk in the newly green Darebin Parklands today. Melbourne has had gentle rain over the last few days - not as much as we need, but enough to raise our spirits after the sudden tragedy of bushfires and the slow attrition of drought.

New plants are spreading their leaves in the dampness.

And it's a pleasure to wander along the beautiful track in the Hidden Valley.

It's wonderful to think this beautiful bushland is available right in the middle of densely-settled suburbia!

Monday, 23 March 2009

dogs and buried bones

I walked into the lounge room this morning and noticed the smell and thought, "Oh, poor Penny. She must have been sick in here. Or have diarrhoea. Poor thing."

But she looked fine, lying on the carpet eating her bone.

Wait a minute, what bone? She hadn't had any lately, only that one she buried in the garden days ago... At my not-so-quiet exclamation she took off guiltily through the doggie door. (Maybe dogs don't feel guilt, but that's what it sure looked like!)

Who'd have thought such a little bit of dirt would smell so bad?

After about half an hour she took a rest from chewing and came inside, so I popped outside to take a photo of the bone for this post. But I'd have needed Olympic speed to make it to the bone ahead of her. She grabbed it and raced off to bury it.

It seems as if the doggy logic failed at this stage, as she didn't mind my photographing the work.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

interesting new blog by a veterinarian

Penny has generally been trained by rewards for good behaviour. ( I won't claim never to have been annoyed enough to tell her off!) I love reading about research that backs up my belief that our dogs are NOT wolves and don't need to be trained by methods that involve dominating them.

So I'm very happy to have come across the new blog of Dr Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist in San Francisco. I think it is a great find. She has a site that offers lots of articles, podcasts and also the blog.

I found this new site by following a link from one of the most interesting veterinary sites on the Net, Dr. Patricia Khuly's Dolittler I was reading her discussion of the latest scientific evidence that reward-based training produces dogs that are less aggressive than those trained through harsher methods.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

fun for dogs young and old after soaking rain

Look at this!

Yep! It's puddles. Rain has blessed us at last.

And here's Bonnie, Penny's old friend, trying to get us into trouble by wandering off-lead into the Forbidden Area! I think, despite the fact she's deaf and partly blind, she was tempted by the smell of wet ground. I had to keep racing over and (gently) scooping her up and taking her back in the Allowed Area for Off-lead Dogs.

It's been a long time since old Bonnie came with us to our lovely walking spot, Darebin Parklands. Penny loves Bonnie and still respects her - I was delighted with the way Penny held herself back to a dead-slow pace as we walked to the park. Even though I mostly carried Bonnie, it seemed kindest to let her stroll part of the way and smell the smells.

Once in the park, Penny raced around enjoying the strange green stuff sprouting so quickly from the previously parched ground.

Bonnie enjoyed the green stuff too, but more sedately.

And then it was time for an old, old lady to sleep away the afternoon and build up her strength.

Friday, 13 March 2009

are we supersizing our dogs?

Penny probably hasn't heard of the film by Morgan Spurlock called 'Supersize Me.' And she doesn't need to watch it, because she has no choice except to trust us to feed her in a way that won't make her obese.

When we read the labels on commercial dog foods, we usually cut the recommended amount, because we think companies encourage us to overfeed her. But it's temptation to look at the food in her bowl and think, 'That doesn't look enough.'

I suspect this happens because we have become accustomed to larger portions in fast food outlets, restaurants and cafes, and, unfortunately, at home. We're being sublty indoctrinated into 'supersizing' in our own home!

I've been thinking about 'supersizing' because I read an excerpt from The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. (pp. 105-106). He explains how a guy called Wallerstein wanted to convince Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's, that people would buy big portions of food even though they wouldn't buy two of anything.
As the story is told in John Love's official history of McDonald's, Wallerstein tried ...two-for-one deals, matinee specials--but found he simply could not induce customers to buy more than one soda and one bag of popcorn. He thought he knew why: Going for seconds makes people feel piggish.
Wallerstein...began staking out McDonald's outlets in and around Chicago, observing how people ate. He saw customers noisily draining their sodas, and digging infinitesimal bits of salt and burnt spud out of their little bags of French fries. After Wallerstein presented his findings, Kroc relented and approved supersized portions, and the dramatic spike in sales confirmed the marketer's hunch. Deep cultural taboos against gluttony--one of the seven deadly sins, after all--had been holding us back. Wallerstein's dubious achievement was to devise the dietary equivalent of a papal dispensation: Supersize it! He had discovered the secret to expanding the (supposedly) fixed human stomach.
I received this little snippet of information about McDonald's in my daily email from Delancyplace.com. They say this about themselves:
Delanceyplace is very simply a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came
We try to resist the impulse to put more in Penny's bowl, because we don't want her to become overweight. I've read many recommendations about how to tell if a dog is overweight, and this one from Canada seems simple:
The easiest way to tell whether or not your dog is obese is to examine his body. Try the following:

Have him stand up, then stand above him. Does his body slope inward at the waist?

Run your hands over his sides from front to back legs. Can you feel his ribs fairly easily?

Feel the base of his tail. Are the bones easily detectable?

Look at him from the side. Does his tummy slope upward as it gets closer to his tail
With a long-bodied and long-furred dog like Penny it's hard to see any of this, but we try to check. I th-i-n-k there's a waist there somewhere.

But I can't feel anything except fat in her tail. Here's hoping I was doing it the wrong way!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

dancing dog Mutley on Australia's Got Talent

Penny and I have just voted for Mutley and Maree to go through to the Grand Final of Australia's Got Talent. We enjoyed their routine so much that we'd like to see them perform again. I can't find a clip of tonight's performance, and I guess that's expecting a bit much, but here's the previous round.

I've always loved canine freestyle (or, doggy dancing, as I guess I shouldn't call it) and at last Penny and I have found a class. It's at Dandenong, at Melbourne Canine Freestyle. So now we aren't limited to practising in our kitchen, copying the routines we find on the Internet!

Given that I've got two left feet, no sense of rhythm and a memory that's shot to pieces, I wonder why I'm doing it. But actually I know - it's because Penny enjoys it and I'm a believer in the 'use it or lose it' school of education for humans and canines. If you want an intelligent and alert dog, you have to give her mental and physical stimulation.

Our homework is to find a piece of music about thirty seconds long so we can develop a routine. As far as I'm concerned, the last person to write popular music was Mozart, so I'm going to have to ask around for something a bit more modern.

I sometimes feel a little old to be taking up these new-fangled ideas, but now that I've seen Trish on her walking frame dancing with Snowy, I know there is not limit to who can enjoy this sport.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Penny romps in a hopefully not-vanishing biome

Penny doesn't care what kind of little plants she's running across, as long as her feet don't get caught in the cracks in the dry ground. (Yes, that blur in the distance is her.)

I have to admit I'm posting today only so I can show off the new word I just learned.

I was reading that the Sydney Botanic Gardens Trust has released a report saying we may have to live in a world of weeds in the future, because weeds will be the most successful at adapting to changing environments, in the face of climate change. The article said:
The study found many species would have difficulty adapting as their natural habitats shrank due to climate change, and biodiversity would be lost.
'We were struck by the conservatism of plants, basically how rarely they were able to adapt and flourish outside of their ancestral environments,' Dr Weston said in a statement.
'Conservationists can't expect plants to dramatically change their ecological preferences and evolve to fit new habitats as the boundaries of these biomes change in response to climate change."
I was reading along quite happily until I came to that word biomes. And that stopped me. Wow! I love new words, as I sometimes post about on my other blog, Words All Around.

As far as I can work out, it means pretty much the same as environments.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

lovely cool weather makes a dog walk enjoyable

We walked in Darebin Parklands today and it was COOL! and WET!

Soft rain has been drifting down today. Not a lot, and it won't wet the ground more than a millimetre deep, most likely. But it's most welcome, as a change from the frightening windy and hot weather of yesterday. For the first time in weeks, our state can relax its vigilance for a moment. I hope those wonderful CFA firefighters can have a well-earned rest for a few hours.

The hillsides in the park still show the effects of the horrible dry weather, though.

Penny, and all the dogs we met, seemed to be full of beans - I guess it was because it's the first time in weeks that it has been cool. But as she raced around we tried to avoid the areas where the ground has cracked open in the dry, because we don't want her to catch her foot in the cracks.

a dog helps with bushfire prevention

Penny went with us to Warburton last weekend, to help us clean up around the house, because Warburton has been on high alert for weeks - the still-burning fires have been all too close.

We worked harder than we've done for a long time, removing the endless array of dead leaves the eucalypts toss down all day. Eucalypts have evolved to burn, of course, so they also throw down twigs and small branches. That's where Penny got into the job, determinedly chewing branches into mulch.

It's been a worrying time in many areas and Warburton has been threatened by the fires in the nearby hills. As we worked we could feel soft ash drifting down around us, and the sight of the occasional burnt leaf lying amongst the dry vegetation was quite scary in its implications.