Introducing Alma!

This weekend, the Husband, Moses and I gathered up our passports (rabies vaccination certificate, in Moses’ case) and went on a little international road trip.

As you know, we have been contemplating, discussing, and researching a second dog for several months now.

We had decided we wanted to try for a purebred rescue, rather than put our name on a list with a breeder.  That’s not to say our experience with getting Moses from a breeder was anything less than perfect – we just wanted to keep our eyes open for the opportunity to give an adoptable dog a home.

Then, on one of my near-daily browses a couple of weeks ago, I came across this ad:

"Winnie is a sweet 20 month old Newfoundland who has spent her time "UNWANTED" for the last year and a half."

I showed the Husband the ad and we both instantly agreed we should get in contact with The Montana Companion Animal Network.  It was late on a Sunday evening and I immediately fired off a brief introductory email expressing our interest.

The next morning, Winnie’s foster mom gave me a call to ask some questions and answer ours.  And we her story.


‘Winnie’ was originally purchased as a puppy from a breeder in Montana.  The family had a couple of other dogs, and when it came to Winnie, there was either a sense that she should figure things our herself or be trained by the family’s existing dogs.  This, obviously, was hardly the case, and by the time she was 5 months old – large, untrained, and still a puppy – they had simply decided they didn’t want her anymore.

But instead of contacting the breeder, or surrendering her to the rescue then, what I assume was some sort of guilt or shame prevented them from giving her up.  Instead, they kept her out in a pen in the back yard – hardly interacted with.  She did not live in the house with everyone else. She did not get walked.  She was not even fed regularly.  For a year and a half.  Reports are that they would tell other people that they “hate that dog”.

For that year and a half, the foster mom – who knew these people – tried to get them to surrender Winnie to the rescue so they could re-home her.  The foster mom been fostering dogs for the MTCAN for several years, saw the problem, and wanted to help.

Finally, the family got fed up came to their senses and the foster mom arrived home to find a scrawny, stinky Winnie dropped off in her back yard; the search for a new home began.

Which is where we come in.

Two weeks, several emails, and lots of Google-mapping the state of Montana later, and we have arrived home with our much-awaited new dog!

Meet Alma!

Sticking with the historical-names theme in our household, we have changed her name to Alma, which is a short form for Amelia – as in Earhart.

And I must say, it hasn’t even been two days and she is settling in very well; we could not be happier that we’d chosen the adoption route and found her!  She is awesome – and super cute – and it is extremely sad and angering to think she was “unwanted” – or even hated – by someone else.

Will her past experiences effect certain behaviours she’s learned or developed?  Sure.  But we’ll all work together to discover them and work through them.

Can we expect her to be just like Moses? Nope.  But who knows – maybe we’ve got another Olympic Champ in training!

Alma & Moses in Montana: they make a great pair!

And Moses seems pretty stoked to have a little buddy, too!

A Case of Unusual Pet Behaviour

Exhibit A

A puzzle was solved in our house this week.

It’s not a particular serious or life-changing puzzle.  It’s just one those ‘I wonder’-type things, to which there is now no more wondering.

You see, Moses has two water bowls in the kitchen (Exhibit A).

Both are always filled with water because we have a separate bowl for his food.

The mystery?  For some weird reason Moses only drinks out of bowl on the right side.  With very few exceptions.

In fact, he could be out of water on the right-hand side, and unless he is very hot, he will patiently wait until your refill it instead of drinking from the left.

It’s peculiar.  At most.

Not exactly a Nancy Drew-league mystery, but I’ve always been curious why.

Then yesterday I walked into the kitchen and the reason why was there, right in front of me.

Isaac; aka Black Cat; aka Mean Cat


Moses prefers to leave the left side alone because that is the Black Cat’s water and it is not to be trifled with.

Suffice it to say, Moses and the Black Cat do not have a relationship of what I would call mutual enjoyment and respect.  They co-exist peacefully enough – kind of like a demilitarized zone.

Sometimes if the Black Cat is tired enough, or we have food to distract him, he might let Moses get in a sniff.  Maybe.  But that’s really the extent of it.  And Moses is quite happy to just let the Black Cat be; the Kitten is friendly, and she’s his buddy.

Emma; aka The Kitten - she has no interest in what I assume she considers is awful "floor water"

Isaac, on the other hand, has very strict guidelines about his personal space, and is always very quick to communicate that to dogs.  The Black Cat’s dog training methods are definitely exclusively P+/P- (negative reinforcement), but they work extremely well: quickly and permanently.  And I can say most dogs make it through the lessons without a scratch (one exception to date, and he had it coming).

So it was very unsurprising to see Moses respecting what he figures is Isaac’s water bowl – Moses is pretty laid back and happy to share space, water, food, toys… you name it.

Sharing a bone with Kimbo

Do I think maybe Moses is being overly cautious with the water?


But there has been the rare occasion on a hot day that he’s dipped into the left bowl, so at least we know he draws the line somewhere.

Status Quo

Shark Fin Free

Toronto is really two for two when it comes to the municipal bans these days.

First, Toronto City Council unanimously bans the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.

And now, by a vote of 38-4, they have made Toronto the latest shark fin free city in Canada (well, as of September 1, 2012, when the ban takes effect).

“A group gathers outside Toronto City Hall on Tuesday ahead of a council vote on a proposed ban on the trade of shark fins.” (Anu Singh/CBC)

Sure, this topic may seem a little out of place at the Soapbox.  But just watch; we’ll come full circle.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the documentary Sharkwater (and if you haven’t, drop everything and get to it), but the whole reason a shark fin ban is a good idea is because upwards of 70 million sharks are estimated to be killed annually for their fins.  And it’s not pretty – the fins are often removed and the sharks are returned to the water alive, finless.  Not to mention the countless other sea creatures that fall victim to the longlines in the process.  It’s a senseless practice, all in the name of shark fin soup.

And how is this cruel form of over-fishing accepted?

Because sharks are basically the aquatic version of the bully breed.  Who cares what harm may be done to these man-eating monsters?

Rob Stewart free diving with Caribbean reef sharks. Freeport Bahamas. Photo: Veruschka Matchett (

The film Sharkwater is an excellent counter to the blood-thirsty shark stereotype, and very akin to the way pitbull advocates combat their own misconceptions and BSL issues, Canadian Rob Stewart is trying to bring a little reality and perspective to popular opinion of sharks.

I mean, did you know you are more likely to get struck by lightning or killed in a sand hole collapse than killed by a shark?  264 million people enter the water in the United States each year – and only 23 people had unfavourable shark encounters in 2000 (and they all survived to tell the tale).

And I’d also like to say that personally, as a diver, the prospect of seeing a shark on a dive is awesome and exciting.  And I’d like them to have all of their fins, thank you.

Yours truly.

Here’s hoping more Canadian cities follow Toronto’s lead when it comes to both recent bans.

Though, I suppose there’s a little irony in that several cities – in the one province in Canada with a pitbull ban – have the backs (dorsals?) of another misunderstood creature.  BSL repeal, please.

In the meantime, be careful not to patronize any restaurants serving shark fin soup, and check for a shark fin free campaign in your area.

Information on Shark Fin Free Calgary can be found here – be sure to sign the petition!

Wordless Wednesday 10: Yawn

Yawning is one of the most common calming signals dogs display.

And by calming signals, I am referring to behavioural communications used by dogs to prevent things from happening such as avoiding threats from people and dogs, calming down nervousness, fear, noise and other unpleasant things. Dogs also use them for calming themselves when they feel stressed or to make others around them (both dog and human) feel calmer or more relaxed.

Yawning is just one of several calming signals, including sniffing, looking away, excessive blinking, lip-licking, among many others, and to read more about about them and how they can enhance your own understanding of your dog’s behaviour, I recommend you look up the expert on this subject, Turid Rugaas.

Mid-yawn at Frank Slide, AB last fall.

But I’m not here to write about calming signals this Wednesday, but to demonstrate Moses’ most common one: yawning.

Moses yawns during the photo shoot for the blog about his new ramp before the surgery.

I often inadvertently snap photos of Moses mid-yawn.

I could try my hardest and never purposely get this photo again.

I’m not particularly surprised taking photos makes Mo exhibit a calming signal.  I mean, I usually have him sit or lay down somewhere I think is picturesque, then I move around – backing away, sitting on the ground, hover around him – stick a camera (or iPhone) in his face, and sometimes make noises to get him to perk up.

Grass in his jowls. Nice.

Yeah, suffice it to say, I might need some calming.

Moses yawns on a walk the other day.

Oh, and to anticipate a question: yes, Moses’ tongue is spotted; a common trait for the Newfoundland breed (but not exclusive or mandatory).

BtC4A: Not So Fast

On Friday, September 9, 2011, Petland Canada released to the media the announcement that they would begin phasing out the sales of dogs and cats in their stores.

This is a hot topic for this round of Blog the Change, where Mary wrote this great post about rallying bloggers around this cause this quarter, asking Petland USA to follow suit.

This cause is so very, very near and dear to my heart, and I am thrilled to see this great blogging community get behind the cause and put some pressure on Petland USA.

However, before we sing the praises of Petland Canada, I ask for a moment of pause.

Here, when the other national pet store chain, PJ’s Pets (together with Pets Unlimited), made their announcement that they would cease the sale of dogs in their stores, the situation was much different.

When PJ’s made their announcement in August, they did it in conjunction with the Every Pet Deserves a Home campaign, acknowledging that their new policy aims to help find homes for rescue dogs and that they “can provide a significantly positive effect on local pet communities by working with adoption agencies to help them find homes for their pets”.  It was an extremely positive release, touting the benefits of the switch, and set a firm deadline for the end of sales at September 1.

Quite starkly different was Petland Canada’s announcement.

When I heard that Petland made the announcement to stop the sale of dogs and cats, my response was something like “ohmygodthat’sawesomeareyouserioushooray!”

Then I read the details.

The decision was based on “business fundamentals” because of a “decrease in puppy sales”.  Not because they want to help home rescue pets or acknowledge a problem with retail pet sales or that they could have a more positive impact on the pet community.  Nope.  It was because retail pet sales are no longer as profitable.  In fact, one Petland spokesperson made sure to point out to the media that pressure from advocates to cease sales had “very little” to do with their decision – it’s all dollar signs for them.  And no timeline to said phase-out was given – just a statement that it would happen.

In fact, on the point of retail pet sales, the Petland Canada website still shows this (accessed this week):

Petland’s was a very different message than PJ’s, even though both chains made a similar move; and Petland is still defending old practices.

But you know what – at first I didn’t care.  Who cares why they’re doing it as long as they are doing it.  As we’ve been saying, actions speak louder.

Then reports started to roll in.  Reports that people were going into Petland locations around Alberta, still seeing dogs and cats for sale, and being told by staff that there were no immediate plans to begin their phase out.

I knew from a previous field trip that one Petland here in Calgary had transferred to the adoption-only model even before the press release came out.  But what about the others?  According to their website, there are 54 locations across Canada.  How are the rest of them measuring up to this promise?  I mean, to the press, the CEO said “all Petland stores will be required” to participate in the phase-out.

Even after Petland Canada's announcement, other stores such as Pisces Pet Emporium in Calgary, will continue to sell dogs/cats (photo from July 2011).

So I decided to check up on Petland Canada’s promise.  Was it being kept?

I started locally.  There are 8 Calgary Petland locations listed on their website.  I knew the Coventry Hills one had already made good on this policy, so I picked 3 others in the city.

I started with the Market Mall location, and simply asked the lady who answered if they still sold dogs/cats.  When she answered in the affirmative, I asked “but I thought Petland announced they would be phasing out the sales?”  I suspect they get these questions often and, at the risk of editorializing, I seemed to put her on edge.

She explained to me that they had commitments to breeders into next year and would not start the phase out any time soon.  After all, they wouldn’t want breeders to be stuck with puppies Petland was supposed to take  [now, knowing the average dog’s gestation period is 63 days, your breeders would be fine given 3 months notice, but hey, that’s just me].  She also informed me that, contrary to the CEO’s announcement, the phase-out really only applies to corporate-owned stores; franchises do not have to participate.

Next I called the Westhills location.  They informed me that they do still have dogs and cats for sale currently, but are to begin their phase out next week.  I was told they are a corporate-owned location, and that corporate Petland is phasing out one store at a time, so it will take a while before they all have done it.

Then I called the South Trail location that has no more dogs for sale, but does have a few cats remaining.  The gentleman on the phone said they were looking forward to organizing weekend adopt-a-thons with local rescues in the future, but have not been able to set those up yet.

With the exception of my first call, my otherwise positive results prompted me to make some calls to locations outside of Calgary.

Lethbridge, Alberta was first, during which call I was sternly advised that they are an independently-owned franchise location that will not be following what corporate Petland is doing and has no plans to phase out dog/cat sales.


[Update 10/15: Calls to the Kamloops, BC Petland location also confirm that they are a franchise location and will not be participating in the phase-out to adoption only.]

But my other calls to Grand Prairie, AB, Red Deer, AB, St. Catharines, ONT, and Vernon, BC all yielded positive results, with each location either well into the process or having already completely phased out sales and moved to the adoption model.

My favourite conversation was with the Red Deer location, who was extremely positive and enthusiastic about their adoption-only model and their relationship with Riverside Kennels.

Before I made my telephone calls, and based on what I’d been hearing about Petland’s following through – or not – on their recent promise, I had planned to title this BtC4Animals entry “Put Up or Shut Up”.  However, it looks like, for the most part, they are putting up.

But not entirely.

Hence: Not So Fast.

Before we go on to praise Petland Canada’s landmark decision (made reluctantly for “business” reasons only), I say we wait until they have fulfilled the claims made in September and continue to pressure the franchise locations that refuse to make the change (as well as Petland US and any American franchises).

For example, if you (like me), don’t like the Market Mall location’s feet dragging on this issue, take a page from this recent announcement of Macerich Shopping Malls, who have recently decided to ban the sale of live animals in their 70+ shopping centres throughout the United States (said ban to take effect in 30 days).  Write to Market Mall management company, Cadillac Fairview, and ask them to follow in Macerich’s path and also ban the sale of live animals in their facilities.

At the end of the day, it’s not what they say about ending – or continuing – pet sales; it’s what they do about it.

The campaign isn't called "actions speak louder" for nothing.

To read what the other fantastic bloggers participating in Blog the Change are writing about, check out the list here.

A Second Dog? Revisited

Back in June I mentioned that The Husband and I were in the process of determining what kind of dog we would like to add to the household next.  That process is still under way.

In fact, nearly 6 months later, we have explored a lot of options, researched some breeders and even more breed-specific rescues, but are still a single-canine family (for now).

Our “short list” for breeds is pretty much the same – and not at all narrowed down.  Newfoundland.  Saint Bernard.  Tibetan Mastiff.  Great Pyrenees.  All favourites.

So in our commitment vacuum, I decided to turn to the one place that could give me concrete answers and unveil some insights from my inner most psyche.

You guessed it: the interweb.  The land of online quizzes.


I'm most like: Lisa Turtle! (Photo:

And there are no shortage of online quizzes that attempt to match you with your perfect dog breed.  I found 11, to be exact.  And I took them all.

Now, I might argue that Newfoundland – Moses, in particular – is the ideal breed for our household and lifestyle, but I’m curious to see what the “experts” say.

So let’s look at some results!

(Photos are of adoptable dogs available on

Quiz #1:  Dog Breed Selector,

By grading qualities by importance on scales of one to ten, the best breed for me is:

St. Bernard (Elly, Mikey's Chance Canine Rescue, PFId#19414949)

Not bad!  Though, not sure what bumps Newfoundland to #19 on the results list.

Quiz #2: Dog Breed Selector,  

And my ideal dog breed is…

Newfoundland! (Geyser, Heart of America Newfoundland Rescue, PFId#20863395)

St. Bernard was #2.

So these results seem to be right up my alley.  But does that just mean it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy?  I mean, I am filling out the quizzes to indicate large breed, lower-energy dogs that do well in a cold climate.  Let’s see what else comes up.

Quiz #3:  Dog Breed Selector Quiz,

(Terrible website URL, by the way.  Sounds like a puppy mill broker or something.)

And the jury’s back with…

Curly Coated Retriever!... ? (Abby, Pick Me! Pet Rescue, PFId#21105232)

Interesting.  Newfoundland was #2 on this list.

Quiz #4: SelectAPet,

This website picked four breeds “most suitable” for my lifestyle, so I decided a screen shot of the results would speak for themselves.

This website has the caveat that results are based on "Australian lifestyles". Not sure what that implies.

Is it just me, or are they a bit all over the place?

Quiz #5:  Breed Match, 

First, props go to Eukanuba for having the nicest quiz so far!

My ideal breed is:

Bull Terrier! (Kenzie, Yakima Valley Pet Rescue, PFId#20868959)

Unexpected!  But how can you not fall in love with Kenzie?! Though I’m not sure she’d appreciate the long, cold Calgary winters.

Rounding out the top 5 were Newfoundland, Rottweiler, Bernese Mountain Dog, and Great Pyrenees.

Quiz #6:  Dogfinder Matchup,

My favourite quiz thus far.  Doesn’t look like a website that will give you spyware, and the questions are different that the others – more insightful.  Despite the results, I think I’d actually recommend this quiz to people initially considering getting a dog, based on the way it highlights time, exercise, and training commitments.

And after that glowing review, my Matchup results:

Akita! With a 96% match! (Ginger, Washington Akita Group Inc., PFId#20084568)

Not a bad option, if not a bit on the small side 🙂

Also recommended for me: Alaskan Malamute, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, and Black Russian Terrier.

Quiz #7:  Purina Dog Breed Selector

This quiz slowly eliminates breeds as you answer the questions.

Interesting concept, but once I was finished, zero breeds matched my criteria.  That’s a little depressing.

With a little revamping of my answers, my sole ideal match is:

Great Pyrenees! (Aspen, Friends of Animals Utah, PFId#19332264)

Looking at that photo, I’m not sure what’s stopping me from dropping everything, driving to Utah, and adopting Aspen!

Quiz #8:  Which Dog Is Right for You?

Not being Good Housekeeping’s target demographic, this should be interesting.

And the votes are in…

Bichon Frise?! (Benny, For Pets Sake Inc., PFId#21102764)

I’m sure Benny is adorable, but I’m going to have to say Good Housekeeping is just a little out to lunch on this one.

Quiz #9:  Dog Breed Selector,

The breed that “best satisfies my requirements”:

Beauceron. (Zoey, Wags, PFId#15685531)

Very interesting!  Had to Wikipedia the breed, since I’d hardly heard of them and judging by the low PetFinder results (only 10), I’d say it’s a pretty rare breed.

Extremely varied results in my top 25 from this site, though, with lots of spaniels, hounds and terriers, so I will be putting even less stock in these results.

Quiz #10:  Dog Breed Selector, Animal Planet

On question 3 I’ve already decided I’m not a fan of some of the messages behind this quiz: the maximum daily exercise option is only 45 minutes?

As I moved through the questions, it seemed like someone who’d never actually owned a dog wrote this one.  Heaven forbid someone actually take this one looking for advice.  For shame, Animal Planet.  Let Ms. Stilwell at it, will you?

Nevertheless, my result is:

Another Akita! (Inu, TikiHut Akita Rescue Association (TARA), PFId#20517268)

Quiz #11:  Dog Breed Selector Quiz:

(The last one!)

And with a 100% match, my ideal breed is:

Mixed Breed! (Buster, Edmonton Humane Society - no "mixed" search options on PetFinder)

Ha!  Well I can definitely see the underlying message from these results, and I must say: I approve!

The results go on to say that Leonberger and Newfoundland are both the next-best results, with a 72% match to my responses.

Phew!  And that’s it for the online dog quizzes.

Call me a sap, but Moses is the only 100% match for us I can be sure of.

After all that I can say with confidence that I have learned… nothing.  And gained no new insights.

But I suppose that shouldn’t be too surprising.

The search continues.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In our long weekend travels, we came upon the perfect fall photo location and I couldn’t help myself.

So Happy Thanksgiving!

Or, to any Americans, Happy Columbus Day!

Having given Moses canned pumpkin on occasion, we thought he'd be more familiar with actual pumpkins.

But he wasn't quite sure what to make of the giant fruit at first.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you enjoy the long weekend!