Friday, 23 December 2011

more about Christmas gifts for dog lovers

I've just seen a great Christmas gift idea for dog-owning friends. It's on a Kodak site. You print out a book of vouchers offering to do things for them. The example on the page is a voucher for five dog walks. A great idea if you have to come up with something in a hurry and don't want to face the madness in the shops - and, if you're in Melbourne, the uncomfortable summer heat.

The printables are free.

I reckon it could include things like a dog wash, or an offer to walk along with the human and pick up dog poo - or maybe even a play date with your own dog.

Oh, I just thought of another one...
If you are a competent photographer, you could offer to go on a walk with your friend and take a photo of them with the dog, and they could choose the best one to be framed.

There are endless possibilities.

a Christmas gift for Penny the dog

Just yesterday I was boasting that I had never bought a Christmas present for Penny. 'She's a dog!' I said to a friend on the phone. 'She doesn't even know it's Christmas.'

I will admit I have sometimes bought gifts for other people's dogs. But we all know they are really gifts for the humans, so they can have the joy of sharing them with their beloved companion.

But pride comes before a fall...

I've succumbed. I just bought Penny a gift.

A friend has set up a new business importing Polish tableware to Australia and I've come home with a pottery bowl for Penny.

Here's the story:

Hmmm...what's this in my eating spot? Is it edible?

No, it seems to be something shiny and hard. Not food.

Beats me what it is.

Nope, still no clue. Seems to be shaped like my old food bowls, but no food smell here.

Oh, well. At least this paper looks quite interesting.

Note from parlance - the tableware is gorgeous. When my friend gets her website organised, I'll post a link to it for any Australians who would like to check it out. (I don't ever do advertising, but when a close friend has made the brave move to set up an import company, I just have to give her all the support I can! It's all hand-painted pottery from a small family business in Poland.)

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

a gift for Penny

Penny received a gift in the mail recently, from Snooza. We bought a great flea-free raised bed from them some months ago and I must have given them Penny's (estimated) date of birth, because the recent letter said it was a birthday present for her. Such a nice surprise.

Penny spends a lot of time on her raised bed each day, and the first part of the night. Some time in the wee hours she usually moves to her Snooza Orthobed, which is at the other end of the house, near the humans' bedrooms. We bought that bed about eighteen months ago, after her cruciate surgery. She loves sleeping there, but I've noticed it's quite flattened, so I'll have to see whether I can get a new foam insert for it. I think I need convoluted foam, but I'll have to do some research on it. WiseGeek says:
Another common use of this material is in the manufacturing of bed pillows and mattress toppers. For one thing, the unique pattern provides more cushion than flat foam since the coned peaks absorb physical stress and provide for better weight distribution. The material also permits more air circulation, and many hospitals use medical grade convoluted foam as bedding material to reduce the risk of decubitus ulcers, or bedsores.
I don't recall getting a gift from Snooza last year, so perhaps I didn't give her birthdate at that time.

Anyway, back to the gift...

It's like a Ropee, but the fabric cover the whole circle. Penny loves it, and I love it because I can throw it low and flat and thus Penny won't be in danger of jumping to catch it and re-injure her cruciate ligament. Of course, we only do short throws for her these days. Gone are the days of racing around parks chasing thrown balls. But it's great that she's well enough to run around at all!

where did domestic dogs originate?

There's an interesting article at about a genetic study suggesting our dog breeds originated from South East Asia rather than from Europe or the Middle East.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Penny and the sticks

Penny loves swimming to fetch sticks and toys.

Early in February, 2010 she made a major breakthrough in her fetching technique and brought back two Whirl Wheels, but has never been able to replicate this feat.

Until recently.

Just the other day, faced with a friendly rival swimming in the Darebin Creek, Penny did it again - this time with sticks.

And here's the proof.

You have to look carefully, but there she is, clearly, holding two sticks.

She made sure she kept her paw on the sticks so no-one could steal them.

(Yes,I can see there's an extra stick in the photo. I don't know where that one came from!)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

dogs make us get out of bed at dawn

Now the hot weather has arrived, it's time to get up early and walk at dawn. Yawn...

We went to lovely Yarra Bend park this morning and this is how it went:

You swim out...

You get the stick and bring it back...

You juggle it and jiggle it to get it past the rocks...

and stay out of the way of the people in the boats.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

laboratory beagles set foot on grass for the first time

I've just wept all the way through a video clip of beagles taking their first ever step on fresh green grass after a lifetime in a research facility.

I saw it at Wizewomon's blog.

I won't post it here. Just follow the link if you want to see this heartrending but beautiful film.

I am further determined to make sure everything I buy is NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS.

Monday, 28 November 2011

further adventures at Best Friend Retreat at Yarram

When Penny and I spent a week at Best Friend Retreat, I thought the most enjoyable place was the Ninety Mile Beach, but I suspect Penny preferred the other swimming places, because she didn't seem to like the waves at the surf beach.

One great place was right next to the resort. It had a lovely deep pool on the Tarra River for dogs to swim, and a rocky waterfall where humans could sit with their feet in the water. However, one kilometre down the road was a spot I liked even better, and Penny adored - also on the Tarra.

We also drove about thirty kilometres to Port Albert, where there is a calm bay (no waves at all on the two occasions Penny swam there) and a lovely walk along the shore. The dogs jumped into the water beside the path at one stage and cooled off among the mangroves, but in general we just walked along the path.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

holidaying at Best Friend dog resort near Yarram

Penny has been away from home for a week, enjoying the magnificently dog-friendly resort at Best Friend Retreat at Tarra Valley, near Yarram.

Many places will accept dogs accompanying their humans, but at Best Friend the dogs are the guests and their humans the companions! Dogs must never be left alone. So humans take the dogs everywhere with them - unless they want their dog to spend the day in the reportedly luxurious kennels. (We didn't use them, so I can't describe them.)

Our trip was organised by Cindy, who had a birthday while we were there, so of course we had a party. The barbecue area is great for parties, because the dogs can come in with the humans, but we thought they should stay out in the little fenced yards until we had cooked the meat - for obvious reasons.

Tarra Valley is not far from the pristine Ninety Mile Beach, where dogs are allowed off-lead, so each morning we set off for long, long walks.

Ninety Miles of doggy bliss!

(More about Penny's holiday in the next post...)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

a dog and some sticks in the muddy Yarra River

As I said in my previous post, Penny had a swim in the Yarra the other day. The river was running fast, so I threw her sticks quite close to the bank.

But all of a sudden a really interesting, delightfully large stick came speeding along on the current and Penny wanted it.

She followed it along the high bank, looking down and wondering if she could jump that far. And I followed her, hoping she wouldn't do so, but interested to see what she would do about the problem.

But then the stick upped the ante by drifting into a dangerous clump of branches sticking out of the water and Penny began to gather her legs under her, preparing to leap.

It was time for intervention. So I hurried back to a safer entry spot and threw another stick in (a little one was all I could find) and - thank Dog - Penny ran towards me and jumped in to get it.

It must have been a good one, because she carried it all the way back to the car.

a dog swims in the upside-down Yarra river

Last weekend Penny and I went to Yarra Bend park for a walk. At one end of the trail a sign welcomed us on behalf of the traditional owners of this land and I was reminded that Australia has a wealth of indigenous languages.

The Yarra, often referred to as 'the upside down river', was even more muddy brown than usual. However, this didn't mean it was dirty, so I let Penny swim.
The discovery of fresh water in the Yarra was crucial to the development of Melbourne. The river’s pristine upper reaches feed the city’s nine major reservoirs which supply most of Melbourne’s drinking water.

Further downstream however, the Yarra has long been dubbed "the river that runs upside down" because of its muddy colour. The water was clear at the time of European settlement but significant land clearing and development since the mid-1800s has resulted in suspended silt (or tiny clay particles) being carried downstream.

The muddy appearance does not mean that the Yarra is unclean. In fact, it is probably one of the cleanest capital city rivers in the world. Since the major clean-up campaigns of the late 1970s and 1980s, the river has again become home to platypus and a range of migratory native fish species. Platypus have been sighted in the Yarra River at Kew, less than 10 km from the city centre.

Penny stayed quite near the bank, which was good, because the river was running fast after the lovely rain we've had lately. I wouldn't have wanted her to be run over by the kayakers who were also enjoying the river.

Monday, 14 November 2011

the dangers of dogs eating beans

Most evenings we eat vegetables and so does Penny. Her favorite place in the house is near the food preparation bench, where she sits patiently waiting for off-cuts of vegetables - carrots, particularly. One thing she loves also is the end of a bean. We've been giving her little bits of green beans for ages.

Lately I've been growing broad beans in the garden, mainly so I can dig them in and add to the nitrogen in the soil. But last night the pods of beans looked so enticing that we decided to cook some and eat them. (Okay, those who know we were supposed to eat the beans inside, and not the pods, are wincing, I guess.)

Human number two threw a couple of cut-off ends to Penny and decided to throw the rest in the compost, because of the funny whitish look of them.

Thank goodness she didn't give Penny the usual amount, because ten minutes later Penny was in the garden throwing up. And again, thirty minutes later, after she had her evening meal.

Of course, other than keeping an eye on her, it was immediately off to the internet to look for information.

First of all I came across this story, from bakers8:

I came home from work this week and thought that I would see if any of the broad beans were ready for eating. Upon viewing the vegetable garden I wondered at the fact that there were quite a few long stems of beans lying flat. It hadn’t been overly windy that day and it was dry. What had happened? Then I saw that there were no beans on any of the stems that were on the ground. No beans?

I puzzled for a while, picked some beans and went inside to prepare them for dinner. The chooks were happy to receive the empty pods and I thought no more about it – until M asked if I had fed Terry some broad beans. A lot of broad beans.

“No” I said, “I don’t think he likes them”.

“Well” said M, “there are a number of piles of dog vomit around the yard and it’s all broad beans!” (apologies to the faint and/or those with vivid imaginations).

Sure enough, there was the evidence that somebody had decided to have a little smorgasbord prior to my return. And he must be feeling rather poorly as he hadn’t performed the other disgusting dog habit of cleaning up after himself!

I also found this on GardenWeb:
Beans in the family Phaseolus Vulgaris contain a chemical called Phytohaemagglutinin. If you cook it, the chemical is released and poses no threat. Raw, it's pretty nasty. In humans, eating small amounts of it via raw beans isn't usually fatal (from what I know, so don't read this, eat some raw beans then sue me when you die or get deathly ill), but even eating a small dose can cause some serious sickness like vomiting and general malaise and all. It's not usually fatal in humans unless larger amounts are consumed, but it's still dangerous enough to where I wouldn't eat raw beans.
It's dangerous though to most animals, not just humans. So, a dog would be just as likely to get it, if not more likely, as a human.
After all this research, I began to wonder whether my plants were in fact the same broad beans that others were writing about. However, I felt sure I had identified my plants correctly when I looked at the photos on this site, and read:
In much of the Anglophone world, the name broad bean is used for the large-seeded cultivars grown for human food, while horse bean and field bean refer to cultivars with smaller, harder seeds (more like the wild species) used for animal feed, though their stronger flavour is preferred in some human food recipes, such as falafel.
The term fava bean (from the Italian fava, meaning "broad bean") is its most common name in the United States, with broad bean being the most common name in the UK.
By the way, Penny seems fine today. Also, quite separately from her reaction to the beans, we scraped our own cooked pods into the compost because they tasted so awful.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Penny has been clipped for the first time

In seven years of life, Penny has been groomed quite a few times, but we have never gathered the courage to allow the groomer to clip her. However, she is going for a holiday soon (more about that in a future post) and we think there might be paralysis ticks in the area, so we thought we should get her clipped to make it easier to check her each evening for ticks.

When I picked her up, I wondered who the beautiful stranger was. She looked gorgeous. Here she is at home, perhaps giving me 'the look' because she wasn't too pleased about having to visit the groomers. (Lovely ladies with a pleasingly professional attitude - I'm very happy that we've found this place. It's Hot Doggie in Warrandyte.)

First item on her agenda was to get herself nicely mussed up, so it was out to her favorite rubbing seat. (It used to be for humans to relax in the outdoors. When did it become Penny's seat?)

What a surprise! Penny is dark in some spots. Now that we can see her coloring more clearly, we are reminded that her brother was black.

Friday, 28 October 2011

swimming outdoors at Kepala

Having enjoyed watching Penny swim at the indoor pool at Kepala the other day, I thought we'd head off there again today, and seeing it was a warm sunny day I booked the outdoor pool. I think it's a very good bargain to be able to have the whole pool for thirty minutes and only pay $8.

Here's a dog's eye view of the water. Inviting!

I slapped on plenty of sunblock, because this is the time of the year when we get burned, after a winter of not having to take note of the UV levels. However, when I got there I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Penny was happy to swim around fetching her toys and all I had to do was sit in the shade and watch, occasionally tossing her toys in to the water. As long as the toys were floating she was determined to fetch them all back to dry land.

Here she is, working hard to collect them all. It's rather tricky, because as soon as she gets one to the shore and heads out for the next one, the wash from her passing sweeps it back out into the water. But she did it eventually.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

dogs and fitness

We believe it's important to keep up Penny's level of fitness, especially as she had her knee operated on last year. She had the traditional repair of her cruciate ligament, and for about seven months she swam regularly, often twice a week.

Now that we have more confidence that she is recovering well, we've returned to some of our previous activities. The long-awaited return to Cindy's Allsports class has been the highlight of our week. So it was disappointing the see that she had a slight limp after last weekend's class.

It was a hard decision to stop going to the Allsports class, but we will rest from it for a while to make sure she's okay.

So, back to the swimming...

I decided to take her to Kepala Canine Resort, because it's a bit closer than the other pool we've attended for about a year. Also, Penny can play in the water rather than just do therapeutic laps.

One of the things I love about Kepala's indoor pool is the mural. It makes me feel relaxed just to lean back on the fence and look at it.

I also like the fact that the pool is raised above the level of the floor, so I can walk around with Penny and encourage her to swim by racing her for her floating toys. She gets up a real speed when I'm hurrying around the edge to grab the toy. The entry is easy for her, too. There's a raised platform for entry:

She's supposed to enter by the ramp to the right of this photo - although there's a gentle slope, dogs need to be confident enough to push off into deep water when they reach the bottom of the slope. Definitely not a problem for water-loving Penny.

She thinks that's a pretty good place to come out of the water, actually. (But about half the time she did come out at the other end, the correct place for emerging. It depended on which ramp was closer when she reached the toy.)

It's entertaining to throw more than one toy in the pool and watch her organising the retrieval. Eventually she came up with the idea of swimming for one, depositing it on the side, and going back for the next.

She always collected her favorite first, of course - the beloved Whirlwheel.

It was great to discover that her AussieDog Slapathong floats, too!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Local walks

Having a dog makes you get out of the house. Sometimes it feels like a bother to have to go, but once you're on the way, it becomes a pleasure.

Today was one of those days when it's an absolute pleasure to even think of setting out. The sun was shining, not too hot, and the local gardens beckoned us to come and see.

After all the years of drought, I still can't get used to the lush growth all around.

It's the best year I can remember for irises.

It was quite hot, so Penny seemed happy to come back home after a short amble around the streets, to sit at the front window and watch the world go by.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Japanese discount store treasures for dogs

A new Japanese discount store called Tokuya has opened near us, and it's quite an adventure to shop there, because all the packaging is in Japanese. A friend and I came away with a collection of 'treasures' this afternoon - some of my items were dog-related, of course, or I wouldn't be writing about them here, lol. Their website is also a treasure trove - of hilarious English. But who am I to laugh, when I can't speak more than one word of Japanese? Well, maybe two, with awful pronunciation...

Anyway, back to the dog-related goods.

The first one is what I guessed to be plastic spikes to place around seedlings so Penny won't walk on them. Wonderful!

Great packaging - the message is clear. (I think...)
Here they are in position.

Next was the cutest little freezer-pack, just right for keeping Penny's treats cool in summer when I'm using the great little Black Dog treat pouch.

The third is an expanding pole. I guess it's for hanging things in a small space. But it will make a good target stick.

We tried it out in the backyard. The sticks come in lots of lengths. This was the smallest, I think. (Please excuse the terrible dog-handling technique. I can see I'm out of practice. We'd better start doing some targeting once more.)