Category Archives: dogs

Peaceful Days

We have settled into our Florida home. Life has been gentle and sweet. Long days of lazy beach walking, and collecting natures treasures. We were walking the beach and found endless sea pansy soft coral so we carried handfuls back to the marine lab where they will be put to good use instead of dying. Another day we watched our favourite dolphin pod driving mullet into the shore in high surf and we were overjoyed to see they have a new baby. I shouted my congratulations and was treated to a waving tail display and a happy jump and a rolling wave of one flipper in the air. Dolphins call dogs. Jack’s Lily swims out and then swims with them when they call. The dolphins like Lily, especially the younger ones and they greet her and try to get her to play but she isn’t a very good swimmer. When they get bored with her simply one dimensional stroke they swim off and she returns to shore, exhausted but full of doggy joy.

On the walk pictured below, in a heavy fog, we disturbed a large osprey who had just caught a fish. The bird flew off with the squirming fish tight in its grip. Yet another day we found a pile of slag from the clearing of a canal and it was packed full of fossils. We carried home chunks of ancient sea bed turned to rock with shells and worm tracks that day. We saw my favourite bird of all birds, the impossible, ridiculous, roseate spoonbill which is much more respectable looking in its native habitat doing its natural thing than when seen in any zoo. The winter birds who headed south before us, but whom we left in Georgia, have finally arrived and the trees are full of cardinals, robins, oriels,  blue jays, hundreds of starlings in stunning murmurations, golden and brown finches and yellow warblers and all those nondescript little brown ones I can never distinguish. They are far quieter and far more social in winter than when they are combating for mates and nesting places back in Alonsa so one can see entire folks living in peaceful close proximity.

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The dogs love the beach. Each morning a large group of dog owners meets early and walks the beach with dogs off leash. The dogs run and play and do the dog thing with abandon while we walk and chat about grandchildren, vehicles, our aches and pains, and where good sales are. The dogs roll in the stinky gunk, swim in the water and dig, endlessly dig in the sand. We moan about how they will need a bath again but none of us makes a move to interfere with their dog play. Some dogs try fishing. The fish are too smart. The crabs fight back and win. Yelp and a quick walk back and the dropped crab moves off. Some dogs, like my Trusty, prefer to just lie there and enjoy the sun and the heat in quiet dignity. Trusty watches the others with disdain and she never needs a bath. The only time I have ever seen Trusty get excited and take to the surf was when the dolphins called her, presumably to show off their new baby. She’s not as good at swimming as Lily and she gave up when the waves hit her chest. She ran up and down the beach crying, unable to fully answer their song. I wish I could hear it.

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Most people like the beach when its sunny and hot. I prefer to go to the beach when it’s cloudy and cool and a stiff breeze makes for rolling surf. On such days it’s often just us with our dogs and we can walk for kilometres without meeting another human being. These are also the days one is most likely to see the dolphins.

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There is something healing about the beach. The voice of Ulmo (if you are a Tolkien’s Silmarillion fan you will recognize that) is soothing.

As a child I had favourite song. I learned it in school. Our school day began with the Lord’s Prayer and two hymns from an English child’s hymnal.

I often hum it quietly to myself as I walk the beach listening to the waves.

“This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.”

“This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.”

“This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.
I open my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, The Holy One,
Came—a pledge of deathless love.”

“This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The Lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth we trod.
No place but is holy ground.”

“This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.”

There should be something about dolphins in there. Perhaps I will have to add a verse.

Meaner than a Junkyard Dog.

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We stopped in Thunder Bay to visit our friends Bryan and Patricia. We had dinner with them and then we left to boondock at the Flying J. We had an incident in Thunder Bay. Our friends live downtown and the neighbourhood is a bit too close to some, shall we say, rougher areas of town. We left the dogs in the trailer and the alarm on while we visited. Part way through our very lovely evening I heard the alarm in the trailer go off. I ran outside in time to see someone moving off very rapidly in the opposite direction and I could hear Fred, in the trailer. doing his savage, junk yard dog impression.

Fred is normally the sweetest, gentlest, most easy going dog you could ever meet. We followed the advice of a dog expert who advised us to have both dogs very well trained in obedience school and very well socialized. (Both dogs have their level 3 certificate, I am proud to say. We did the classes with Trusty and I as on team and Fred with Hubby Dearest the other team.) 24 Thursday evenings for one hour with a dig whisperer training us how to be dog people. The dogs already knew how to be dogs. According to this dog expert, a well trained dog is confident and reliable is also well aware of what is normal behaviour and what constitutes someone who is a threat. So you end up with a very well bonded dog who is normally sweet, gentle, and easy going and but knows when some human is up to no good and when to respond with the junkyard dog routine.

I went into the trailer and checked it all over and saw no reason for the alarm to go off. Fred was also very upset, not his “Why do you have to test that stupid alarm?” upset, but his “Danger! Danger! Bad Guys! Alert! Alert!” upset which I have only seen four times before during the ten years we have had him in our life. I shut the alarm off and reset it. I calmed Fred down.

Trusty was also agitated but she depends more on Fred in such situations, preferring to be his back up rather than the first responder. A soft word and a pat on the head and she went right back to sleep.Which is not to say Trusty does not have her moments. We once had a black bear decide to check out our barbecue and Fred did his alert thing and then ran and hid behind Hubby Dearest. Trusty on the other hand parked herself halfway between us and the bear and just dared him to try getting at that barbecue. The bear decided to get dinner elsewhere. So I suspect Fred is the brighter one of the pair but Trusty is more, well Trusty.

The cat was also agitated but it could have been from the dogs, the intruder or the alarm or just his usual general feline peevishness. So he got a head pat. Fred, however remained agitated. So We took our cue from Fred and the rather scuzzy types wandering about a block or two over and decided to move to a safer location for the night after our visit. Now to be fair, between Fred and the alarm we were probably quite safe. These passerby looked like are rubby dubs, drunks and druggies not savage sociopathic killers. We left anyway.

As we got ready for bed we did one final inspection of the trailer and we found the reason the alarm went off. One window was partly ajar. We got some amusement imagining some human tick thinking he had found an unguarded treasure to abscond and then abruptly finding himself facing a junkyard dog and a screeching alarm instead. Ha! Got you, creepy human parasite type.

It was very nice to be out of the city and into the countryside again, safely parked at a Flying J. Fred took a long time settling down that evening. We take about it before we fell asleep. Fred is getting old. I had been thinking once he was gone we should give up having dogs. They are a pain in a lot of ways. However we both agreed when Fred’s time comes, we will be getting another dog. This life on the road is mostly great but there are dangers and it is a good think to have a sweet, gentle, easy going Fred type around who knows when to act like a savage, man eating, junkyard dog.

Rant – The Whole Dogs Left in Cars Thing

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Fred and Trusty in the truck at Narcisse Manitoba May 2012

I have two dogs. Fred is a big blue merle Humane Society special weighing 72 pounds. Trusty is a small English Bull Terrier. When I bought my truck back in 2009 I made certain to pick one with a back seat. When I travel, the dogs travel with me. Having my dogs with me in the truck is pleasant and fun for both of us. Fred likes to stand up, lean his head on my shoulder and I will open the window so he can stick his head out and sniff the air. He kind of checks things and then usually goes back to sleep. He has a particular whine noise to let me know it’s time for a break. When he gives this signal I stop at the next likely spot and we take a break and the dogs get a walk. These walks have resulted in more than one wonderful nature encounter or fascinating stop I would otherwise never have enjoyed. The dogs love being with us in the truck. I say “Truck ride” and they have a happy doggy fit. And they have acted as a deterrent to crime. For example, I once had a man approach the truck on the passenger side door which was open, and Fred leaped over the seat to the front, put himself between the stranger at the door and me, and then he did his impression of a savage attack dog. The man changed whatever he had made his mind up to, did a quick 180 turn, and ran off. Who knows what could have happened if Fred had not responded the way he did.

Lately we have been having a specific problem which is driving me nuts. We all know, or should know, that leaving your dogs in a hot car is a very bad idea. The car gets hot very fast and the dog can die. We are always very careful about this. If we leave the dogs, we only do so if weather conditions are right. Right means the outside temperature is low, there is a stiff breeze and the windows are open enough to carry off any accumulating heat. There is no direct sun beating on the windshield or on the dogs. If there is a situation where the heat might be a problem, one of us will stay in the car with the dogs.

Because of an extensive advertising campaign by the Humane Society and other groups, it has now become a sign of dog neglect in many peoples’ minds to leave your dog alone in the car for even a minute and even on days when it is cold and cloudy and the dog is more likely to suffer hypothermia than heat exhaustion. The advertisement campaign has resulted in what I can only think of as vigilantes who now feel they have the right to patrol parking lots and accost any dog owner who leaves a dog alone in any vehicle under any circumstances. For example, my husband and I stopped for something to eat at a Subway. It was 16C outside and cloudy. We parked the vehicle where I could see it. I left the windows open 4 inches on all sides. There was a stiff breeze. I also have a temperature sensor in my truck that registers the temperature. Anyway, I looked up from my sandwich and saw a man standing beside my truck talking on his cell phone. I went outside to investigate.

This man was on the telephone to 911 frantically demanding police be dispatched immediately to rescue my dogs! I checked the internal temperature sensor and it was 23C in the truck. A brief shouting match ensued including me telling the 911 operator to cancel sending the police because the temperature was 23C. I drove off with this self righteous vigilante calling me names. It was 16C outside and cloudy. It was 23C in the truck! The dogs were sleeping peacefully in the back. The dogs were in no danger whatsoever. This is very similar to a recent situation where a Jennifer Beals got attacked for her decision to leave her dog in the car. Her dog was also in no danger but she was subjected to a social media campaign of acute harassment by what I can only describe as screechy morons.

What has happened to common sense in our society? I know the answer I will get back from the car vigilantes. Even if I am responsible, others are not. Therefore, my dogs should never be left alone in a car for any length of time, for any reason, ever. I should just leave them at home. Well I live a 2 1/2 drive from the city. When I go into the city to shop, I am gone for 12-14 hours. My trips to the city are something my dogs enjoy a lot. They love seeing the grandkids. They love the stops at little parks for pee breaks. They love being with us. Why would anyone think they are better off alone at home for 12-14 hours? I know what is best for my dogs and traveling with me, even if they have to spend a little time sitting and waiting, is far better for them than staying at home alone. Should my dogs and I be punished just because of the small minority of dog owners out there who do the horrible thing of leaving their dogs in a closed up hot car?

Now don’t get me wrong. If I ever saw a dog in a hot car in distress I would break a window and call 911 myself. In fact, I even have a hammer designed for just that purpose in my truck. But in this latest incident, my dogs were in no danger whatsoever. I am very responsible about being certain they will not get overheated in the truck. The dogs were sleeping comfortably in the back. They woke up when I got back and they were acting bewildered by all fuss and yelling. Why did this person not use his brain and check to see if the dogs were actually overheated before going into self righteous overdrive?

I’m not sure why our society has become a collection of self appointed vigilantes lacking in even the most basic common sense. We certainly do social media shaming far too easily. We make assumptions about people that are not true and we leap to conclusions based on incorrect facts. We become a mob. I have also noticed an attitude on the left of the political spectrum that cars themselves are some kind of carbon dioxide spewing evil demons that must be fought and eventually be driven right out of our society. Part of this attack on dog owners with cars is probably because it is just one more excuse to deny selfish people the use of our evil cars. I was not surprised to note the vigilante’s T shirt had a “Change Politics, Save the Planet!” logo. He was also on a bike.

Life is not perfect, Life is a series of tradeoffs. Life is about balancing risks. Leaving a dog alone in a car has a very small risk when done responsibly. The risk is not zero but, it is close to zero. I should have a right to make that kind of assessment of risk for myself and my dogs. I should not be required to leave my dog at home because of the actions of a tiny minority of irresponsible dog owners. I suppose the next step in the car/dog vigilantism is that we dog owners will all be forbidden to ever have our dogs in a car with us anywhere at anytime because it is always possible to have a car accident where the dog might be hurt. We will also be forbidden to walk them on public streets because of the risk of an evil car leaping off the road and striking a hapless dog on the sidewalk. Crossing streets with a dog on a leash will also be forbidden since a careless driver might go through the cross walk and injure the dog. Dogs will have to carefully wrapped in cotton batting and stored in kennels 24/7 just to make sure they are completely safe.

So yes, do educate the public about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car. Do be prepared to break a window to save a dog in distress. Do carry a window hammer to do the breaking and do call 911. But if the dog is in no distress, don’t go into a blind panic and call 911. Engage brain and common sense before swinging that hammer.

End of rant.

My Bissel Zing and National Dog Day

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We are kind of short this month with a bunch of expenses but I saw this little Bissel Zing on sale for a mere $44 at Walmart and I just couldn’t resist. (If you are one of those who hates Walmart, it is also on sale with free shipping from Amazon for the same price.) It’s a dandy little gadget with washable reusable filters, a power retractable cord and it’s easy clean. It is small, so I end up cleaning it after each use on our little house. While it does have a brush I suspect it wouldn’t work so well on carpet but with my allergies I don’t tolerate carpets. Normally I also find vacuuming a pain but thus far the filter is good enough that even after a week of use I am not having reactions to floating recycled dust.

Most amazing, the Zing handles Fred’s long hair easily. Fred is the kind of dog who sheds his own weight in fur each day and his loose fur has utterly defeated more than one vacuum. The Zing balls the fur up under the filter so it’s so easy to clean. I also learned something new about Fred. He LOVES being vacuumed! I can put the brush out and vacuum him and he is delighted. The brush pulls out the loose hair and the suction pulls it up. I have not had to pick up a furball or dust bunny in the entire week that I have had the Zing.

I am declaring my Zing a present for National Dog Day!

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Disclaimer: No one paid me anything for praising the Bissel Zing.

The Country Vet Visit – Warning RANT.

Sky rocketing veterinarian fees are a personal bugaboo of mine. When I first got my dog Trusty ten years ago we had a long time vet of many years who would do a checkup give shots and send us home with heart worm medication for about $120. When he retired a bright eyed new graduate came in and bought up his practice. I was given no warning or “heads up” about the new guy. He just walked in, announced the older guy had retired and he started examining my dog. This kind of bugged me but what can you do in such a situation? The new guy then announced we had to do a blood test to ensure that the heart worm medication had worked because if we gave heart worm medication to an infected animal it could be dangerous. He also wanted to test for lyme disease and some other stuff. He also ordered a fecal smear to check for worms. He then checked the dog’s teeth and told me she had tarter and he gave me a tube of fancy toothpaste and a brush and told me about his special food for dogs that was so much better than anything else out there.

We left and I went to pay. Imagine my stunned surprise to discover that the bill was over $400! $14 for the lyme disease blood test, $17 for the heart worm test, plus a $25 technician fee for each test and a fee for the blood draw. The tooth paste was $16 and the brush $6. The fecal smear $29 and so  it went, one charge after another. Not only that, but the charge for the rabies vaccine was more than double what the previous vet charged last year! I protested.

After I returned the tooth brush and tooth paste and protested the tech fees (come on, I did this kind of test myself as a biochemist and it’s a kit a kid in grade school could do and certainly not worth $25 of tech time) I got the bill down to $295 and that with a lot of grumbling and complaining from the new guy about the cost of veterinarian school and maintaining a practice. I left feeling like I had been cheated and I did not go back.

I wish I could say I found a great vet. I didn’t. For the next few years I had a different vet each check up and every single one of them would give me one price on the telephone call to check and then hit me with multiple additional fees for additional tests that were in my opinion of questionable value. I even walked out of one office after the guy told me the heart worm blood test (at $49) had to be done or he would not prescribe me any more heart worm meds even though I had specifically asked about skipping the test and the fee before walking in. He threatened to charge me the no show fee for walking out and called me a “bad doggie Mom”. Screw him!

I hate the term “Doggie Mom.” They are dogs, not my babies. I keep dogs for their company and for the job I require of them which is barking a warning and protecting me from strangers. I expect and demand a certain minimum level of good behaviour and I enforce that expectation. They get dog obedience training, puppy classes for socialization. They get decent food, not the corn crap from the cheap shelf, my affection and good health care at need but they are not my children! They rank somewhere below children and above my truck in my life. I simply don’t care to be a “doggie Mom” for good or bad. I absolutely detest a vet visit that feels like I’m taking my child to the paediatrician. In a world where children starve to death and die for lack of clean water, there is something positively grotesque about such a vet visit. I agree with the Pope that we spend too much on our pets.

The whole teeth cleaning thing is another huge money maker for the city vet. I foolishly agreed to let my cat have his teeth cleaned. Sure $200 for the teeth cleaning that this vet quoted me was reasonable. Imagine my surprise to find there was the $110 fee for an IV in case Klinger had complications, $130 fee for blood work up to make sure his kidneys and liver could handle the anesthetic (you’ve got to be kidding me!) and the warning that if the job turned out to be more than a simple cleaning there “might” (translate to will absolutely certainly) be additional charges. I absolutely insisted we skip the IV and blood work. I got the bad cat mommy lecture but they did go ahead anyway.

I arrived to find they had extracted a tooth (another $110) and they sent me home telling me he would be fine without extra pain meds (which I would have happily paid for). The poor cat was in agony by midnight and everything was closed except for the downtown emergency clinic. I called them but they would not let me drive over and just purchase some pain meds. They insisted Klinger had to be brought in and given a full check up ($80 for the late night visit fee, $40 for the emergency clinic charge, $40 for the vet check) and then and only then could he get pain meds. What a racket! I decided another drive and vet visit would likely be more traumatic than the pain Klinger was already in. Don’t tell me these vets care about animals before money because they certainly don’t. No pain relief for the cat unless Cat Mommy first pays hundreds of dollars extra up front.

The same vet that treated Klinger also told me Trusty, my English Bull Terrier, needed her teeth cleaned as well. I bought a tarter cleaning device and did it myself with a follow up of some big bones and some chewie things. This is why you need to train your dogs, so you can get the dog to stand still for a tooth cleaning and you don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars to rip off artists to get rid of tarter. I have paid less to get a dentist to take care of my own teeth!

A rural vet came to Alonsa last Saturday to do a rabies vaccine/parking lot visit. Oh, what a refreshing change that was! He pulled up in his car and about 100 people showed up with cats and dogs for rabies shots. His assistant asked a few questions. “Any health concerns? What shots does the animal need? How much does the animal weigh? How old is the animal? Do you want deworming? The vet had an assembly line going. Quick check of the dog, prepare the needles, stick stick, assistant passed out medication, next pet. Now THIS felt like a proper vet visit. Mostly he was pressured for time because he had to stop in to check a horse he had treated the night before and he’d had an emergency surgery in the morning and it kind of set his schedule off.

I asked about heart worm medication since I do think that is important, especially since we travel in the south in regions where heart worm is endemic. Oh wonderful news! He gives the six month shot. The six month shot is something I heard about in the USA where our friends rave about it. So cheap and easy compared to the once a month chew tab we were using. (The last city vet said that six month shot wasn’t as good protection and so he insisted on the more expensive monthly chewie treat.) The rural vet asked the weight of the dogs. I told him. He quoted me two prices for the heart worm six month shot. I told him the cat needed rabies and the other shots because even though he is in indoor cat, we travel and I need it at the border. (They have asked on three crossings.) No problem. He quoted me the price too, GST and PST included. The dogs were good for their shots.

I have insisted that a previous city vet give me a vet certificate that is good for more than one year since the rabies shot he gave my dogs was good for THREE years. (I’ll bet that city vet doesn’t leave the box out where people like me can actually read the fine print when he turns his back ever again. That cost him two years of unnecessary vaccinations and since it was right there on the box he couldn’t argue his way out of a three year date on the certificate.) There is simply no need to vaccinate every single year except to fill city vet coffers and pay for vet school and pay rent on the fancy clinic with fine upholstery and gorgeous wall paintings and little paw prints on the linoleum and the “play area” for the waiting doggie parents and their doggie children, and the coffee machine, and the memento photo of Doggy Mommy and Doggy child with the vet’s logo on the whole wall behind you to put in your Doggie Mommy scrap book. I declined to get my “free” photo. Honestly, I have better things to do. (I wish I was kidding. I’m not. The only good thing about that stupid picture was it was “free”, though of course the colour printer was paid for by all the other stuff done to my dog and my pocket book that didn’t need doing.) The real vet, the country vet, overworked and struggling to keep up a schedule, just couldn’t be bothered with all that crap and I admire him for it.

The best part of this parking lot clinic, was once he was done, the amount I wrote on my cheque was EXACTLY, I mean to the penny, the same as the amount he first quoted me. For the first time in eight years I did not get have a vet hit me with any hidden additional charges. The total cost $180 for preventative health care for two dogs and one cat. I might even let this guy call me “Doggy Mommy” except I suspect it wouldn’t even occur to him to say that. We were done in ten minutes and he was on to the next dog. I did not get a huge curly-cued wall certificate of vaccination printed on a background that showed the vet’s office on creamy parchment (suitable for framing) to present to the border guard. I got a little hand written note on a half size page of stationary with date, time and signature, under a plain letterhead with his name and address. This country vet doesn’t even have a logo! Since he processed about 120 dogs and cats in that parking lot I suspect he actually made more money than the doggy paediatrician, sneaky extra fees for doggy mommy not withstanding.

I wondered if maybe I was being a grumpy and cheap old woman. Then CBC did a marketplace special on veterinarian rip offs in small animal practice in the cities and confirmed all my suspicions.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/many-veterinary-bills-include-inappropriate-costs-1.1876019

Recently, one of these crooked city vets made a mistake of ripping off a member of the provincial legislature and now the government of Manitoba is introducing legislation to make it illegal for them to slap people with those heavily padded “surprise”, “surprise” bills that a used car salesman would be ashamed of.

http://globalnews.ca/news/2007592/manitoba-government-plans-to-legislation-to-govern-veterinarian-fees/

Now somewhere out there is a really smart new grad from medical school. He (or she) will open a “no frills” clinic in the city where doggy moms and doggy dads need not apply. He (or she) can tell people what will be charged when they make an appointment and add not one extra test or fee. People will pay only what they expect to pay. He (or she) will not have ten staff (including two to prepare the heavily padded bill), “free” wall logos with pictures, paw print linoleum, coffee, doggy play area, and attendant in the cute little nurse’s scrubs with the puppies and kitties print to escort the proud parents from the beautifully decorated waiting room into the “treatment centre”. I predict the no frills city vet will make a fortune with bulk processing from those us who are decidedly NOT pet parents.