Saturday, 27 April 2013

weird portraits of dogs doing The Portland Shake

Marymac has sent me this link to a fascinating collection of photos of dogs in mid-shake. The heading of the article about the soon-to-be published book of photos is 'The Portland Shake'. I love that name.

I love watching Penny shake, but I don't have the patience or the camera to catch the movement in such detail. I've tried often, but usually I get just before the shake, or just after:

I think this is my best one so far:

Thursday, 25 April 2013

pain medication for dogs

Recently Hsin-Yi, in a post about health issues for older dogs, reported that Honey, her great dane, had a trial of pain medications for a week to see whether Honey's behaviour changed while on pain relief. Since Honey didn't show any difference in her level of activity and enjoyment of life, the vet and Hsin-Yi concluded that even though Honey is a senior dog and has some mild spondylosis, she is not in pain.

Hsin-Yi, writing as Honey, said:
It's not giving me any pain - my humans were worried about that so they asked the vet and they tested giving me painkillers for 1 week, to see if I suddenly changed my behaviour...but I didn't show any change at all. The vet said this shows that I'm not actually in any pain - which is very common in mild spondylosis - you just get stiff but no pain.

I hadn't heard of this type of test and I'm interested, given that Penny is now eight and has had surgery for a partial cruciate tear, at which time we were told she would most likely get arthritis later. She has been on a supplement called Glyde all her life, since the vet found a click in one of her elbows when she was just a puppy.

Yesterday Dr St Clair, whom I've posted about previously, has written an article about using medications to ensure our dogs are not in pain. 

One thing that jumped out at me in his article is the explanation of why dogs don't show pain  when they are at the vet. He says it's because their adrenaline level is up when they walk into the vet surgery. I've certainly been one of the many people who look in amazement at their dog and say, 'But she was limping at home!'

He also points out that dogs don't show pain as we do, so it's difficult to know whether they are suffering.

 I'm going to keep his advice in the back of my mind, and if I suspect Penny is hurting in her joints, I might do the pain-relief trial that he recommends  - and that Honey did.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

what is 'dog food'?

When Penny was recovering from her cruciate operation, I downloaded the incredibly helpful and FREE booklet from Dr James St Clair about post-operative care. (I'm not sure it's still free, but I hope it is.)
I have the greatest respect for him as a vet, even though I've never met him. (I live on the other side of the planet from him.) So when I read a post by him about the pet food industry, I expected  it to be good.

And it is.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

dogs are hurt when we laugh at them

I have just read a great extract on The Pet Museum blog from a book published in 1871 by Caroline Bray:
* * *
The dog is of too fine a nature to be content with being fed and sheltered and combed and brushed. He must be made happy in his mind. For there is no doubt the dog has in some degree a mind and a conscience, as well as a loving disposition. He knows when he has done wrong, and slinks away with his tail between his legs, from shame, and not always from only the fear of a beating; and when he has done right he wags his tail and comes boldly capering up for the reward of only a caress or look of approval. He sees by his master's eye in a moment if he is pleased or angry with him, and cannot bear even to be laughed at. And even if he has been unjustly punished he bears no malice, but licks the hand that cruelly struck him, and is grateful for being again taken into favour.We ought to be very careful, therefore, not to be unjust to a dog. While we make him feel that he has a master and that he must obey, we must take great care not to be harsh with our dog when he is not conscious of having done wrong, but has perhaps only been following some of his natural instincts.We have often too much reason to blush before the honest creature who looks up in our face with such trust and reverence, as if we were something to be worshipped. We may well ask ourselves, Do we merit his worship? is our nature so true and guileless as his? are we so ready to forgive injuries, or so faithful in doing our duty?
 - Our Duty to Animals, Caroline Bray (London: S.W. Partridge & Co., 1871), pp. 109-10.  Caroline Bray, also known as Cara, was a close friend of George Eliot's.

One of the things in this piece that struck me was that dogs can't bear to be laughed at.

We do sometimes laugh at Penny, but I hope it's friendly, inclusive laughter, rather than mocking. I learned many years ago that dogs are hurt if we laugh unkindly at them. It was a real surprise to me, because at that stage I had not lived with a dog.

I was at a writing workshop in a friend's lounge room and five visitors - members of the group - had arrived and the six of us were busily discussing each other's pieces of text, with the resident black labrador lying under the table. When a latecomer bustled in, the dog leaped to his feet in surprise and barked loudly to alert us to the new arrival.

The whole group burst into loud laughter, because we thought it funny that he hadn't done anything to respond to the other five arrivals.

He was  hurt. His tail drooped between his legs and he slunk off to a corner of the room to recover.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

kitchen training for dogs

It's been a while since Penny and I have played games in the kitchen, so I thought I'd post this 'warts and all' series of clips from yesterday.

I placed two familiar toys in the doorway of the kitchen...

...after throwing an assortment of toys around the floor. (I have no idea why I did that, seeing it had nothing to do with the training except to add some confusion, but I enjoyed tossing them out of the toy box and seeing Penny dash joyfully around.)

The idea was for me to show a toy to Penny and she would go to find the matching toy.

She was pretty good at it, seeing we haven't played this game for nearly a year. I didn't react to the wrong toy being fetched, except to continue to ask for the correct one. It was funny to see her tail drooping as she realised she wasn't going to be praised for the wrong one.

However, it was lovely to see the wagging tail the rest of the time.

No one watching her could doubt there was some problem-solving going on. Have a look!

Friday, 19 April 2013

should dogs stay away from alien crop circles?

When I posted recently about the strange circular marks on the grass at Yarra Bend park, Lassie and Benji commented that perhaps aliens made the marks.

And here was I thinking it was just park rangers preparing for new plantings of indigenous vegetation!

Today when we walked at Willsmere Park, there were more strange circles. Maybe crop circles?

Or just patterns from the ride-on mowers...

Thursday, 18 April 2013

reverse sneezing in dogs

VetMD has a short article on reverse sneezing today. And there's a link to a clip of a dog doing it. I've been scared nearly out of my skin when Penny had episodes of reverse sneezing, but it has always stopped fairly quickly. Once I couldn't figure out whether she was reverse sneezing or had kennel cough. 

It's reassuring to read that it's a normal part of doggy life.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

mysterious white marks on the grass at Yarra Bend

For years, as we've walked with Penny at Yarra Bend Park (a wonderful dog-friendly place), we have noticed strange white lines on the grass. Usually they are long curved or straight lines. But recently we see arrows also.

Very mysterious. (Well, not all that mysterious if you know the park is right next to NMIT. We assume students are practising some sort of esoteric skill, like the time we saw groups with chain saws up the trees, looking like a flock of huge birds.)

At last, the mystery has been solved. They must be marks to show the horticulture students, or the park rangers, where to spray, so that indigenous plants can be put in.

I dislike the use of herbicides, especially Roundup, but I do realise it's an effective way to restore indigenous plantings.

Once we knew what to look for, it was clear that the grass was indeed dying. (We made sure Penny didn't walk on any place we knew had been sprayed.)

It will be interesting over the next few months to see the new plants grow.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Penny and the overly big stick

I like to see Penny solving problems for herself, when possible, because I think it's good for her to stretch her mental capabilities.

Yesterday she arrived at the door of the car - after a delightfully muddy swim - with a big stick in her mouth. It wouldn't fit through the door as she was carrying it. I hoped she might figure out to turn it sideways, as she has done in the past, but more often than not she can't be bothered with all the mental exertion of problem-solving.

In this case she waited for me to solve the problem for her.

I found it interesting to watch her body language as she coped with the stick that wouldn't fit. Here are some of the things I noticed:

She slowed down as she approached the car and realised there was a problem;
her tail drooped;
she licked her lips;
she looked away from the problematic door and stick;
her ears flattened;
she scratched her chin;
she looked at me for help.

Many of these are classic signs of stress, but I think it was good for her to face the situation and try to work it out. I think she was experiencing eustress rather than distress.

Here's the whole incident, if you feel like looking at it:

Saturday, 6 April 2013

a dog enjoys the lovely autumn weather

With the mild weather we're having at the moment, Penny took the opportunity yesterday to relax on the swing on the back patio. It's lovely that her limp is gone. Perhaps the four injections of Cartrophen did the trick. Who knows?

We do still put a little table in front of the swing so Penny won't jar her joints jumping from that height, but otherwise she seems to be enjoying life.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

What about the dog?

Two recent stories in The Age newspaper have left me wondering what became of the dogs involved in the events.

The first is the story of a man who lost his shih-tzu. He is reportedly the serjeant-at-arms of the Hells Angels bikie gang. A local woman found his lost dog and put up posters, but when he rang her he seems to have lost his temper and  abused her verbally, which perhaps made her wonder if he was the real owner. (We've all heard the stories about dogs being falsely claimed so they can be used as fodder for dog fights.) 

He then came to her house and is alleged to have punched her. After this, the woman and her husband say they suffered  three months of intimidation and threats.

The dog owner has been remanded in custody. Which begs the question: where is the dog now? The Age report says:
Fairfax Media has been unable to ascertain the present location of Skitzo's shih-tzu.
The second report was in the paper this morning. It's a confronting but interesting story about an 83-year-old woman, Beverley Broadbent, in reasonable health, not depressed, who decided to end her own life on the night of 11 February.

She's shown speaking to a reporter about her decision, and on her lap, comfortable and relaxed, is her dog, Lucy. On the night in question, Ms Broadbent had Lucy to stay with a friend who had previously said she would keep Lucy if needed. I presume the friend did not know what was to happen that night, because she was to bring Lucy back the next day.

I felt sad for Lucy when I read this, but I hope she has a good life with that friend, and copes without Beverley.