Wednesday, 25 December 2013

the tennis ball tree is in fruit again

How glad I am that Penny doesn't chew the tennis balls she finds. Otherwise, when December comes and the 'tennis ball' tree - aka in human terms as the plum tree - comes into fruit, Penny might chew her way through to the dangerous pip in the middle of the plum.

I hadn't realised the plums were ripening, until I glanced at Penny relaxing near her mat...

with the ball she stole from her friend Jabari last week...
and a new ball.

Hmm... what new ball is this?

It sure looks like a plum.

But, to misquote Shakespeare, what's in a name? That which we call a plum by any other name would smell as sweet. Or taste as good, if it hadn't been first chewed by a bird and then carried in Penny's mouth.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

sunset and fruit bats

Two days ago, Penny and I strolled down the road to enjoy the beautiful summer sunset. Well, I enjoyed the sky and Penny enjoyed the smells on the ground.

Tonight, we set off with Penny's Other Human for a Christmas Eve walk, and I predicted that the sky wouldn't be interesting, because there weren't any clouds.

Was I ever wrong! The sky was filled with thousands (dare I say perhaps hundreds of thousands?) of fruit bats gliding past in surprising silence, headed who-knows-where? Pity the poor fruit farmer if his orchard was their destination!

It was the most amazing experience to see so many of these little mammals streaming across the sky for such a long time. We watched for about twenty minutes and they were still soaring across the night sky. I was interested, but as you can see, Penny thought it was totally uninteresting.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

enjoying a little park with the dog

As I've said before, living with a dog makes me more aware of local places to enjoy nature. I was driving through Heidelberg recently and noticed a teensy little park and stored the information away in my 'can't-be-bothered-going-for-a-proper-walk' mental filing cabinet.

Today was one of those days, so we drove to the minuscule park and Penny showed me that you don't have to cover a lot of ground to have fun.

You can chase tennis balls and then lie on them.

You can mooch around smelling the smells.

There's always the pleasure of surveying the local scenery.

And, of course, you can just enjoy the ownership of a really, really grotty old tennis ball.

Monday, 9 December 2013

the solar powered butterfly

We have a new garden toy - a solar powered cabbage white butterfly that is supposed to scare off intruding butterflies.

Penny hasn't shown any interest in it, which is great. But of course we humans can't leave well enough alone, so I threw a treat into the garden to lure her in there and see what she would do.

The butterfly fluttered right in her face and she ignored it. Hooray!

And I think it's doing its job. If you look carefully at the last part of the clip, you'll see a cabbage white fly to the tomato plants and go away when it sees the artificial butterfly moving around. The idea is that these butterflies are territorial and a female won't lay eggs on plants if she thinks another butterfly has already laid eggs there.

Look how delicately Penny backs out without damaging the baby tomatoes and basil. What a clever dog!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

dog given life-saving treatment by firefighters

It was wonderful to read that firefighters would spend 45 minutes resuscitating a whippet who had nearly died in a house fire in Melbourne recently.

Here's the link to the article about this report that will make you feel good.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Penny's reaction to Advantix

On 6th November, about 11 am, in preparation for our holiday at Best Friend Retreat, I put Advantix parasiticide on Penny's back, to protect her from possible paralysis ticks.  I'd done the same thing last time we went there, because by all reports, paralysis ticks are a problem not too far away from where we were to stay.

Penny seemed agitated by the middle of the afternoon. She would hurry from place to place, paws clicking on the parquetry,  and plonk down in a curled-up huddle. We thought she seemed more settled later, but by midnight she was scratching herself.

The next day she was licking her usual itchy places, around her vulva and anus.

On the 8th, she was still agitated and trying to scratch the place between her shoulder blades where we had used the spot-on Advantix. So I rang Bayer.

I was pleased with the response from the vet consultant who spoke to me. She queried me closely about Penny's behaviour, and said eventually that Penny was having a reaction - called paresthesia  - to the permethrin in the product. I should use soapy water to wash the medication off Penny. She particularly said to use cool water, as we didn't want to make Penny more uncomfortable. She offered to take back the two unused Advantix doses from the packet, and send me a flea collar in return, plus Advantage For Dogs.

Since then, I have read that the underlying reason for washing off the medication in cool water is that if I had used warm water, it would have opened up Penny's pores and made the poisoning worse. (I call it poisoning, not just 'reaction'.)

I had researched paralysis ticks, because they frighten me. However, now that I knew we were going on holiday with no protection, my researching became more urgent. It seems strange that paralysis ticks kill dogs and cats, because it is never in the interest of a parasite to kill its host. I discovered that these native Australian ticks don't kill their traditional hosts, Australian animals. Unfortunately, they can be fatal for our non-native pets.

At Dogzonline I found people discussing the pros and cons of medications. They mentioned paresthesia. At Yahoo Answers I found a discussion of this reaction in dogs.

It all sounded rather scary, so I decided to look again at the prevalence of paralysis ticks in the area we were visiting. I called the resort and was told they had never had a case of paralysis ticks there. I rang the local vet who said they had only ever had one case, and that was a dog who picked up a tick elsewhere.

So, we went without tick prevention, although I did make sure to watch this video clip on how to remove a tick.

No way was I going to put a tick collar on Penny, given that she would be sleeping on my bed and staying in the room with me. The chemicals in a tick collar sounded almost as bad as the permethrin in Advantix.

I also checked the map showing the distribution of paralysis ticks in Australia.

Virbac has an interesting site where they map data about outbreaks.

PetMD, which I consider one of the best sources of balanced discussions of pet health issues, had an article about the hype that surrounds ticks and fleas. An interesting read!

And now that we've been back for more than a week, I think I can safely say Penny did not encounter a tick! Hooray!

Although I believe we need to be super careful in deciding whether to use these dangerous chemicals on our pets, I have no complaints about Bayer. The representative I spoke to was informative and helpful, and rang back a week later to see how Penny was. For your interest, here is the letter I received from the company:

Thank you for contacting us about your experience with Advantix. I'm sorry about the reaction your dog Penny had to this product. It does seem likely they have a sensitivity to the pyrethroid, Permethrin, used in Advantix.
As described on the phone, this reaction is called paresthesia, which is a sensation of tingling, itching or numbness of the skin following dermal exposure to pyrethroids. It occurs as a result of a direct effect of the pyrethroid on sensory nerve endings in the skin. This type of reaction is very rare and usually resolves spontaneously in 24-72 hours.
To warn pets owners of this possible reaction, the following information is included on the label insert:
"On rare occasions reactions on dogs may include skin sensitivity resulting in symptoms such as scratching, agitation or lethargy. These signs are normally transient."
As discussed, it is likely that your dog will continue to react in this way, so it is best to not use Advantix or any permethrin-containing products in the future. 

One other thing I might mention to anyone who reads this and wants to know more about permethrin: it's interesting to look up the difference between pyrethrum, a natural product, and pyrethroids. I've come to the conclusion that pyrethroids are very dangerous. We have an organic garden and try for a chemical-free household.

It's quite a dilemma what to do about protection for Penny from parasites. I do believe Australians probably over-medicate our dogs in comparison to the rest of the world.

Monday, 18 November 2013

where did dogs originate?

Slavenka has posted a link to a report on a study that looks at the possibility that dogs originated in Europe, not other parts of the world, as previously thought.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

keeping Penny away from buried bokashi compost

Once again I've buried some Bokashi compost in our back yard, which means it's in the part of the garden accessible to Penny.

So I've covered up the spots where the delicious-smelling muck is hidden.

I don't think Penny could get to this lot, under heavy pavers.

But I'm not so sure about this spot, where it's under a piece of timber. So I threw down a collection of sticks to make it harder for her.

Now, this one, under a flimsy piece of timber, looked a bit vulnerable…

so I added a couple of heavy pieces of brick and a big pot.

Here's hoping for the best. Luckily, we're off to Best Friend Retreat for a couple of days this week, so maybe the smell will have faded by the time we're back.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

a giant outline of a bird in the grass

Finally I've discovered which artist created the great outline on the hillside in Quarries Park in Clifton Hill. How could we have walked across this artwork for so many years and not have noticed this plaque in the grass?

Ivan Cindric. I haven't been able to find anything about him on the Net, except this letter about the sculpture.

In the letter there's mention of vandalism of the plaque and the intention to replace it, so perhaps it has just been placed where we came across it. I hope it's not vandalised again.

Here's Penny reading about the giant heron.

Well, it's actually Penny trying to snaffle the piece of dried chicken I tossed onto the gound near the plaque.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

a great dog book to buy

For many years I followed the beautifully written blog of Jean Riva, which focused on life with Cooper, a miniature poodle. Jean's husband, Don, was incapacitated by a stroke and through the story of Cooper I had an insight into what life was like for Don and Jean.

I loved this blog!

Sadly, life changed for the household, and Levi, a miniature schnauzer, came to live with Jean.

I won't say much more. I'll leave it to you to have a look at the first fifteen pages of the book and decide whether to buy it.

I'm sure it will be a great read. Jean and Cooper - who writes from across The Rainbow Bridge - are terrific writers.

Friday, 1 November 2013

whatever happened to Lucky the famous seafaring dog?

It's almost exactly three years ago since I posted about the book Lucky Goes to Sea, by Frank Robson. I loved this book, because it was centred on the dog and the love his humans had for him.

I remember quoting a sentence near the end of the story:
He's our once-in-a-lifetime dog, and even if he lives to be twenty (not that unusual among small breeds) it won't be enough.

I'm sad to hear that Lucky did not live long after the book was written.

I've just read this news in a letter written by Frank Robson to the editor of The Big Issue. He says, in part,

Sadly, not long after the cruising adventure outlined in the book ended and we came ashore, Lucky - then about 13 - succumbed to cancer. We tried going for a few short sails without him, but it just wasn't the same…so we sold the old trimaran and settled (for the time being) in Brisbane…it is a wonderful thing to adopt a dog and show him or her a good time, especially when their happiness lights up your world as Lucky's did.

RIP Lucky.

The Big Issue is my favourite magazine.

I think Lucky looked a lot like Penny. I asked her to pose with the two books, Lucky for Me, and Lucky Goes to Sea, but Penny doesn't like the camera pointing at her (as you can see by her nervous lip licking).

Penny's not really into reading books...

Monday, 28 October 2013

a post not about dogs

This post is for Mitch and Molly. Their humans have black swans, way over on the other side of the world from Australia, and after I read their comment on my previous post, that their 'lady swan' is playing around at nesting, I thought I'd post these two photos of black swans nesting a few weeks ago right in the middle of the city of Melbourne, on the Yarra.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

grass parrots and a dog

We visited a new walking place today, at the end of Wills Street in Kew. I don't know what the little off-lead place is called, but it has terrific views over towards the city of Melbourne.

Penny wasn't too keen on saying hello to the other dogs. She is quite wary when we go to places where she doesn't usually walk (pretty often, actually). But she greeted them quietly and headed away from them.

The grass parrots, as usual, aren't worried when there are dogs around.

We headed out of the little off-lead area and found some nice paths to wander along. The highlight was seeing this pair of - presumably amorous - grass parrots seemingly checking out a nesting hollow in a dead tree.

Friday, 25 October 2013

hot chocolate art

Penny and I had a lovely day today at Heide Museum of Modern Art. First we strolled around the sculpture gardens; Penny examined the base of every tree in detail, and I looked at the plants and the art works.

Next we headed down to the little off-lead walk behind the gallery, and Penny even had a quick dip in the Yarra River at a spot I've never visited before.

After that, we sat a an outdoor table at Cafe Vue. It's a rather posh place, so I wasn't sure whether a shaggy dog and her shaggy old owner would be allowed to sit there. I popped inside to check and was told by the barista that it would be fine.

And this is what he sent out for me to drink!

I think he must have peeped outside and spotted Penny, because it's a terrific likeness. Don't you agree?

What a lovely way to make us feel welcome. And it tasted delicious.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

mooching around the local lanes with my dog

Penny did her 'puppy eyes' trick today, glancing at her lead as if to say, 'When are we going out?'

Of course, I couldn't resist. I love it when she communicates with me so clearly. But I wasn't in the mood for a full-on exercise-type walk, so we strolled around for half an hour just smelling the flowers.

I feel sure Penny was smelling things, because she had the tell-tale froth around her nostrils that says she's in full scenting mode.

But, strangely, all the flowers she examined were low to the ground. Could it be that she wasn't actually enjoying perfumed flowers, but was sniffing around for pee-mails?

I, on the other hand, WAS looking at plants for aesthetic reasons. Oh, wait, I guess canine aesthetics involves urine, so I shouldn't feel so superior.

I recently attended a workshop on edible weeds at Ceres, so I was looking out for them. Here are a couple I noticed:


plantain (I think)

I saw a lovely dandelion seedhead, and crouched down to get a photo of the ball of fluff. 

But Penny came to see what I was doing and wandered away with half the seeds stuck to her coat!

Monday, 14 October 2013

a new fish ladder on the Yarra

When I read Slavenka's post today about salmon leaping up the River Tyne, I remembered how Penny and I have seen lots of work going on - for years! - at Yarra Bend, one of our favorite spots.

We also blogged some time ago about our usual swimming spot now being out of bounds for dogs.

It seems that it's all connected. Here's a video clip about the new Fish Ladder near Yarra Bend, at Dight's Falls.

I now understand why the little area has been fenced off - it's all part of the exciting news that native species are swimming back up the river, some of them for the first time in over a hundred years! As well as rebuilding the weir and putting in a fish ladder, the workers are regenerating sections of the banks.

Just the other day we wandered down that way to see the finished project, but we won't go there very often, because Penny has to be on lead. Also, I don't think she'll like walking over the fish ladder section, because it is a grill. She wouldn't like walking on the mesh. But I'm going down one of these days to try to see fish swimming up the river.

My all-time favourite native fish are using the ladder - galaxias. Here's a fantastic underwater video by  Greg Wallis of spotted galaxias swimming in the wild. (They're small fish, by the way, which is not obvious from the video.)

Thursday, 10 October 2013

are our dogs companions or property?

Further to my post yesterday about how we think about our dogs, today I received an email from PetMD with a discussion of words we use to refer to our pets.

Is Penny 'it'? Or is the correct pronoun 'she'? (I think 'she'. She's as much a female animal as I am.)

Is she my 'pet'? My 'companion'? My property?

At the bottom of the PetMD article there are many interesting comments. Some hate the idea of pets as property, but one person says that the concept of 'owning' a dog gives him rights and means no one can harm his dog. On the other hand, to me the danger might be that it means only that if someone harms his dog they have to pay him recompense.

No money could make up to me the distress if someone harmed Penny.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

are dogs our property or are they our responsibility?

Slavenka has posted a link to a most interesting article. Research scientists have trained dogs to stand motionless in a brain imaging scanner, the first time canine volunteer subjects have been used in this way. (The dogs are free to walk away from the scanner if they wish.)

And the results will be no surprise to dog owners. Dogs' brain activity shows they have many of the same reactions and emotions as we do.

The article raises the question of what this means for ethical treatment of our dogs. They are considered 'property' in most countries. (In fact I don't know any places where this is not the case.)

But if they feel and think in a similar way to a young human, don't they deserve the protection we extend to our own species?

It's a good read and I recommend it to all.

Friday, 4 October 2013

enjoying the ordinary with a dog

Walking Penny is a duty, in one way. We aim to go out for at least forty minutes every day. (We don't achieve that goal all the time, of course.)

But in another way it's an absolute pleasure, because even an ordinary place is made interesting by Penny's company. Who'd have thought, for instance, that a concrete yard could hold so many smells to investigate?

And you certainly never know what you'll find in a grassy back lane...

I found lovely sunny vistas.

Penny found bread rolls! (Oh, how I wish our neighbors wouldn't throw bread into the back lane.)

Every walk is an adventure, if Penny is with me.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

a giant pear tree

When Penny and I walked in Banksia Park yesterday, we admired the old cherry orchard and then headed off along the walking trail. I stopped to read this sign...

(Click on the photo and the sign will 'biggify' so you can read it.)

What old pear tree, I wondered. I looked around. No pear tree here. Only this giant tree I'm standing under...

I looked up. Oh, wow!

Omigod! Is that how big my little backyard pear tree will grow? We don't generally see big deciduous fruit trees in Melbourne, because European settlement only dates from about the 1840s in this area. This would have to be the oldest pear trees I have ever seen in Melbourne.

I had to convince myself it was indeed a pear tree. I still couldn't believe they get so big. So to Penny's mystification I climbed onto the nearby seat to examine the blossom. (She looked away from the horrible sight of me peering down at her.)

Yes! Pear blossom!

Penny and I will be back early next year to see if there's fruit for the picking.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Cherries and a dog park

While most of the family were at the MCG watching Hawthorn Football Club become the AFL 2013 Premiers, Penny and I walked at Banksia Park.

For me it's the park of last resort, because to walk around it briskly takes only three minutes. Three minutes! I guess it's somewhere different to go, with new smells, and when you're not feeling very energetic you can stroll around a couple of times and at least know you've taken the dog for a walk.

However, when I looked up info about the park, just now, I realised it's a park aimed at older dog owners, or ones with a disability, so I can see that it's a good resource for the area, because it's well fenced and has open areas for dogs to chase balls - a handy place for humans who can't walk well.

Looking over the fence, I noticed an old orchard of cherry trees, so I had to go and investigate, seeing I'm keen on edible gardening. I read on this site that the orchard is called The Japanese Cherry Orchard, because it was planted when the Japanese Prime Minister visited. I'm keen to find out moreabout this visit and about the age of the cherry trees, but will have to research it off the Net, because I can't find any information online.

Because the place was deserted - everyone else watching the big footy finals, I suppose - I thought it would be okay to break the rules for once and investigate the orchard with Penny off-lead. (The grass was too long for me to cope with her on lead.)

While I admired the blossom...

Penny ate some delicious grass.

Monday, 23 September 2013

little children can confuse dogs

Our little visitor has become more relaxed with Penny around, and now likes Penny to be in the room with her.

Which is great. We believe it's good for children to be calm around dogs. But we're also aware that a two-year-old doesn't understand that even the most placid dog needs guidance at times as to how to behave.

If you look at this photo of Penny, I think you'll agree that she's looking a bit worried. Her tail is tucked under and her ears are flat.

In the second photo, she has moved to the other side of the little visitor, possibly getting away from the child's attention, and isn't sure whether it's okay to play with her toys. Her head is tilted and she's looking at me to check what's going on.

In the final photo she has relaxed. 

It's wonderful to have our delightful little visitor, and I'm glad she and Penny are getting along so well. But we won't be taking our eyes off Penny for even a moment while there's a toddler in the room with her.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

fun game for learning about animal health

Human Number Two is out walking with Penny and I'm lazing around at home playing a game on the computer, a game I saw on PetMD.

It's fun. The game is released by the American Veterinary Medical Association. You are training to be a vet and working in a vet hospital. I'm just at the beginner level, and already I'm not keeping up with the influx of clients. I'll have to stop blogging and get right back to it...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

dogs and toddlers

For some weeks now our staid old home has been energised by a visiting two-year-old on Wednesday evenings.

We've been very careful to separate Penny from the little one, because our visitor isn't used to dogs. Penny isn't too willing to be penned behind a doggy gate, but can usually be manoeuvred into the room with a treat. She can see the visitor through the gate.

Week by week, the little visitor has become more accustomed to Penny's presence, sometimes wanting to pat her; but in general quite wary.

Tonight, Penny waited behind the doggy gate for her visitor.

After a while, the little one wanted to come into Penny's room and meet her, and we let the visitor give a few 'sit' commands and drop treats for Penny. Eventually Penny was allowed out of the separate room and resumed her usual quiet evening doze in the family room with everyone else, even sitting on the couch next to our little visitor.

It was great to see the two of them comfortable together, but we didn't take our eyes off them for a moment, because it's so important there be no misunderstanding.

Finally Penny took herself off to another room to have a rest. But our visitor thought Penny needed some entertainment, so she rushed around fetching toys for her. (I love the way the camera gives an impression of her activity level!)

Penny was somewhat bemused by all the activity, but took it calmly.

What a lovely visit!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

walking in Yarra Flats park

After our recent two- and three- hour walks along the Ninety Mile Beach when we holidayed at Best Friend Retreat, it seemed boring to do our usual walks near home, so yesterday I drove up to Yarra Flats park with Penny. After we set off, I had the bright idea of calling home and asking Human Number Two to pick us up at the other end of the walk, so we could explore and see where the path eventually ended.

She agreed. So Penny and I set off along the river. (I've just realised, in researching for this post, that dogs should be on lead in the park. I'm sort of glad we didn't know that. Next time I guess we'll have to abide by the law. Maybe we won't go there. It's boring having Penny on lead.)

Well, it was a rather long walk. Only an hour, but slippery, and steep in some places. Trees were down across the path in many places, which wasn't a problem for a dog, but was harder for a not-so-young human.

I guess the trees fell in the big storm while we were away on holiday, last week. Someone had made little tracks around the fallen trees, which was handy, but I wasn't too happy when I realised Penny and I were walking on flattened wandering trad (sometimes known as wandering jew). 

What a shocking weed! I've always disliked coming across it on our outings, because so many dogs are allergic to it,  but I hadn't realised why it is such a hated week in Australia, until I saw how it had smothered all the other plants. Kilometres of this plant, with only trees hardy enough to struggle up through it!

We enjoyed our walk, but I made sure to bath Penny as soon as we arrived home, to get any allergens from the wandering trad off her skin.