Monday Mischief 20: Up – and Down – One Canine

The past few days, we saw both a loss, and a gain, in canine.

The loss, was Moses’ canine. The x-ray showed the tooth should be removed. And removal then confirmed it – the tooh wasn’t super healthy, so extraction was definitely in Moses’ best interests.

(Gross photo warning in 3… 2… )

Added a comparison quarter for readers below the border.

The removed tooth. (Added a comparison quarter for readers below the border.)

Moses was allowed back on regular exercise the next day, and has been recovering well. He gets pain killers once a day and antibiotics twice a day, and is otherwise doing well. Soft food is a must, but on a raw diet, we just need to make sure it’s fully thawed.

Post-op Moses. A little swelling

Post-op Moses. A little swelling – but it’s going down.

BUT, we also gained a canine!

After nearly a month away, Alma and the Husband are home for some well-deserved time off.

Alma

Alma’s home!

Who knows – maybe Alma can help keep Mo’s mind off his sore face while he heals up.

Moses and Alma at the park

Moses and Alma at the park

And we even went to Nose Hill Park, and it was completely enjoyable and uneventful.

So, not much mischief to speak of, but that’s intentional this weekend.

Moses

Moses

This post is part of the Mischief Monday blog hop – to see what everyone else has been up to, click herehere, or here.

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What To Do If You’re Scared of Dogs

I don’t know about you, but it’s fairly common for me to come across someone who’s not exactly a huge fan of dogs while I’m on a walk with Moses and Alma.

Moses & Alma intimidating? Is it the drool?

Moses & Alma intimidating? Is it the drool?

The sentiment ranges from dislike to fear, and comes in variances from cautious, to anxious, to outright frantic.

I’ve actually been crossing a pedestrian bridge with Moses – a fairly wide one, and he was heeling on my right-hand side, away from on-coming traffic – when an approaching woman saw him, immediately went into hysterics, clutched the other side of the bridge, and froze. Well, was frozen except for her voice box. It was quite the scene, despite Moses not so much as looking at her, and her always being a few feet safely away from him. We just shuffled by quickly to put an end to her terror.

But even if there isn’t a dramatic freak-out, some people will cross the street, some will squeal in surprise, others will stare wide-eyed, and others will show cautious curiosity – maybe interested to see and talk about the Newfs, but not interact with them.

It’s kind of like how I am around babies.

And I get it. They’re big dogs and not everyone’s a fan. Even some small dog owners see them and think “well, that’s a little excessive.”

Okay, so maybe I don’t actually GET it. But I try to be understanding.

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

But the frustrating part is that most people who are afraid of dogs, upon seeing one, proceed to behave exactly in a way that would be interesting or exciting to a dog. It doesn’t help anyone; it doesn’t help them keep dogs away and it doesn’t help dogs learn to ignore some people.

So I have an easy way for people to determine what to do if they encounter a dog they don’t want to interact with: pretend you’re on public transit.

That’s all.

Pretend the dog is some scary or strange or smelly person on the bus or train. Applying transit etiquette will solve all of your problems.

Alma riding the ctrain

Alma riding the ctrain

Allow me to elaborate:

1. Avoid eye contact. This is public transit rule #1. People have books and headphones to avoid unwanted socialization, but even those without follow this rule. Transit is the social experiment of cramming as many people into one tight space as possible, yet not one person is looking at anyone else. It’s basically art. To make eye contact is to invite interaction. It’s welcoming and friendly. Therefore, you don’t do it.

Such is the case with animals. People scared of Moses or Alma have the tendency to stare them down, but the dogs interpret this eye contact as an invitation to say hello. “Oh, that person is interested in me –okay!” Or worse, being animals, some dogs could interpret eye contact as a challenge – which it often is for people and in the animal kingdom. Ever read a Dealing with Bears pamphlet? Don’t stare!

2. Move away from them calmly. That person next to you on the train has terrible noise pollution coming from their headphones? Insufferable body odour? Muttering to themselves about the End of Days? Standard practice is to turn or move away. But you don’t run – no need to create a scene or attract attention. Besides, the rush hour train is too full for running. But you sure can move yourself away inconspicuously without flailing about. Besides, you don’t want to catch the crazy person’s attention and have them strike up a conversation.

The same goes for dogs you don’t want to greet, or who you have greeted, but now you want them to leave you alone. Just turn around and walk away – they can take the hint, especially if you combine it with point #1. Don’t run, though. Running might be too tempting for herding breeds and other dogs might just think you’re trying to play a game of chase.

3. Don’t reach towards or touch them or fail around in a panic. OBVIOUSLY you don’t touch strangers on public transit. And unless you’re doing some drastic reinforcement of your personal space, you’re probably keeping your hands to yourself. Doing otherwise kind of makes you the crazy person everyone avoids.

For dogs, if you fall into the cautiously-curious category, just keep your hands to yourself. Touching a dog will just illicit more attention from them. For example, you safely pet Moses’ shoulder and he’ll turn around to look at you and sniff you – as you would expect. Or if you put your hand out to pet but are painfully slow and awkward, he’ll sniff your hand. If this scares you because his nose is right above his giant mouth (with teeth AND drool in it), maybe keep your hands in your pockets.

4. Don’t hover over them. Super rude transit behaviour. The worst is when the douchebag standing next to your seat turns around so his backpack hits you in the face every time the train starts and stops. Just aim for a little bit of personal space and common courtesy, people. Geez.

Dogs, on the other hand, find posture of bent over or crouched down people inviting. Many people practice greetings with their dogs by having people kneel or squat down so they’re less intimidating. If you don’t want to encourage a greeting, do the opposite. Stay standing up and invoke the other points made here.

5. Don’t talk to them. Like eye contact, talking is rare during the morning commute. Perhaps it’s the early hours and lack of caffeine, but unless people are already acquainted, they’re not going to strike up a conversation on the train. It’s for the best. Small talk is the worst. I prefer to ignore and be ignored.

Tempted to squeal or screech when you see a terrifying dog approach? Suppress that reflex! Noisy things are interesting to dogs! Why do you think we buy them toys that squeak? You really want to imitate their toys? No, not if you want them to leave you alone. Even talking to them should be avoided if you don’t want them to approach you – especially considering you’re probably talking to them and looking at them at the same time.

Moses

Moses

Really, the whole approach – both for trains and dogs – can be summed up in two words: calmly ignore.

Sure, some dogs may be interested in every passerby, but if you do your part, the responsible owners will do theirs and keep their dogs close and those leashes to a reasonable length.

You get a near-unheard-of three (3!) posts this week because I wanted to participate in the inaugural Thursday Barks & Bytes Blog Hop, hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog. Go pay a visit to the hosts and check out other hop participants.

Barks&Bytes

Moses & the Fractured Tooth

Lorde cuts her teeth on wedding rings in the movies; Moses cuts his on icy stairways and sidewalks. Unfortunately, for Moses it isn’t a metaphor or turn of phrase.

Moses dismayed at the state of neighbourhood sidewalks

Moses dismayed at the state of neighbourhood sidewalks (apologies for the bad phone photo).

It was 3:30am on Wednesday morning last week, when I shot out of bed to an unfamiliar animal sound. You know – the way you’re suddenly wide awake because you think one of the pets is getting ready to barf on the carpet? That kind of awake.

The source of the noise was Moses. He was loudly grinding his teeth and licking his lips and, just like any unusual behaviour would indicate, I knew something must be wrong.

Oh, did I wake you?

Oh, did I wake you?

After ensuring he hadn’t swallowed something he wasn’t supposed to, I sat on the kitchen floor with him and gave him a tail-to-head examination, making sure there were no bumps or cuts or foreign objects. I had a pretty good idea the problem was in the face somewhere, so I left it to last.

My examination eventually revealed he’d somehow chipped off a large part of one of his canines. Poor guy! No wonder his mouth was bugging him.

There was no blood or anything, but he was clearly not exactly comfortable.

Whole tooth vs. fractured tooth

Whole tooth vs. fractured tooth (and a large display of jowl)

So the next order of business was to determine exactly how uncomfortable he was. Was he 24 hour vet uncomfortable? Or did I have some time to figure it out and make him a regular appointment (noting our usual vet finally made good on his threat to retire, so I’d need to get in somewhere new)?

So I re-filled his water dish, which he appreciated and made use of immediately, likely because he was drooling a bit more than usual. Can still drink water without hesitation – check.

Then I wondered if he’d eat, or if he would consider himself in too much pain for that. Got out some treats and no issues there; eating normally – check.

4:00am food test; definitely not a problem

4:00am food test; definitely not a problem

Next I let him outside and he went down in the yard to sniff around and do some business as usual – also check.

Phew! He’d make it through a couple of hours and I could call for a vet appointment during regular business hours.

I began wracking my brain for when Moses would’ve chipped his tooth and why I didn’t notice it before I went to bed. The sidewalks in our neighbourhood are incredibly icy and treacherous these days, and neither Moses nor I are strangers to wiping out this winter. When Moses slips, he’s usually able to catch himself, but there has definitely been at least one face-meets-pavement fall for the big guy.

Still perplexed, I call Moses back inside and he just looks at me from the bottom of the stairs, wagging his tail.

I call him again, and he puts his front feet on the first step, pauses, and then backs off. He does this a couple of times and I begin to contemplate if my slippers are suitable backyard footwear if I have to go get him.

Eventually, he musters up some resolve, decides he can do it after all, and hurries up to the door.

Like the sidewalks, the stairs had some ice on them, so this is my official guess as to where Moses fractured his tooth. He’s not usually insecure about, well, anything really, but I could see him being hesitant if he’d hurt himself on the stairs just a few hours prior – likely during the last bathroom break before bed.

Hard to tell if the nerve is exposed or not - only the x-ray will tell for sure

Hard to tell if the nerve is exposed or not – only the x-ray will tell for sure

By the time my layperson diagnosis was complete, it was just about 4:30am, so I hit the hay for another 30 minutes until the alarm went off.

As far as fractured teeth go, I of course did my share of reading, and found this website to be a good resource on the issue. Basically, if they’re fairly seriously fractured, an x-ray is required to determine if the nerve has been exposed and the tooth needs to come out. To leave a tooth in and hope it just gets better is not a good idea, because you can open your dog up to all sorts of potentially worse issues. And yes, our pampered pets are perfectly fine sans one, or two, or even all of their canine teeth.

If the nerve is exposed, another option is – as ridiculous as it sounds – to send your dog in for a root canal. I chuckled when the vet mentioned this; there is a dog/root canal mental leap I just cannot make (it’s also way more expensive). “What’s next – braces for dogs?!” I joked, and she looked and me, “Actually….”

Moses goes in for his x-rays on Friday, and if they see that the tooth needs to come out, it’ll be removed while he’s under. We’ll probably also throw in a dental cleaning while he’s there.

Until then, it’s no bones for Moses, and he’s on some antibiotics to prevent any potential infection while he waits for his appointment.

How to trick your dog into taking his antibiotics. Yes, those are Kraft cheese slices; works like a charm.

How to trick your dog into taking his antibiotics. Yes, those are Kraft cheese slices; works like a charm.

You’d never know anything was wrong with him, though. Aside from the odd tooth-grind or head shake, the pain from the first day seems to have subsided, and he’s happy to go on walks and as excited as ever for dinner.

This will be the fifth time Moses goes under general anesthetic (bloat, neuter, CT scan, spinal surgery), but arguably the least serious. His blood work came back perfect and he’s otherwise healthy, so we have little to worry about.

In any case, I still feel bad for him – this is certainly one of those times I wish I could explain to him what was going on.

Poor Mo - the million dollar dog

Poor Mo – the million dollar dog

Also, I’d like to leave you with two words: pet insurance.

I know there are two camps on that subject, but we have it and have been thankful for it more than once with Moses. It’s very relieving to be able to make decisions in your pet’s best interests without worrying about the financial aspect.

Monday Mischief 19: Moses Meets a Porcupine

After recounting a traumatizing tale at Nose Hill Park for you last week, I thought maybe Moses and I should revisit the scene of the crime. It is a super huge, nice park with a great off-leash area and lots of trails to follow, after all.

A photo of Calgary Commander Hadfield took when in command of the International Space Station (ISS). So cool. That massive dark spot in the NW is Nose Hill Park.

A photo of Calgary Commander Hadfield took when in command of the International Space Station (ISS). So cool. That massive dark spot in the NW is Nose Hill Park.

So off we went.

Moses at Nose Hill

Moses at Nose Hill

I really do like Nose Hill Park. It’s multi-use, which can be a recipe for conflict when you have runners, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, cyclists, families, and dog owners all sharing the same space. But the off-leash areas are well-marked (both for when you’re entering and leaving them), and there are several paths that guarantee running into others is a rarity.

IMG_6924

The thing about having 11km² of parkland in the city (1129 hectares; 4.2 mi²) is that it’s also a great place for wildlife. We’ve seen lots of birds, deer, and heard coyotes howling, and have heard tonnes of stories of porcupine encounters at the park.

IMG_6904

Until recently, however, neither Moses nor Alma had met a porcupine.

Now, before I go any further, there’s an acknowledgement and disclosure I must make as a fallible dog owner: I did not re-leash Moses the second I knew there was a porcupine in the area. I most certainly should have, and had even had the opportunity to, but the fact that I did not, I suppose, shows that my natural cynicism does give way to optimism from time to time.

But I did not, and thus mischief ensued.

Just a crappy iPhone pano shot, but it really displays the Chinook arches we're so fond of seeing in Calgary during the winter.

Just a crappy iPhone pano shot, but it really displays the Chinook arches we’re so fond of seeing in Calgary during the winter.

We were starting to turn back towards the parking lot when Moses and I came across another dog walker and her two dogs on the path. One of her dogs had noticed a porcupine in a small tree nearby, but the dogs were all busy greeting one another and the porcupine remained still and out of reach. Moses was oblivious.

Oblivious… right up until he wasn’t.

Unbeknownst to me, while we were socializing, the porcupine decided to abandon his perch and sought a new, higher one in a thick clump of trees nearby.

I did not notice this development, but Moses did.

So Moses immediately galloped off to make a new friend.

To the porcupine’s credit, he was fast and did not let the interest of a giant canine in pursuit distress him. He had a destination, and he just kept on truckin’.

And to the porcupine’s good fortune, the snow was incredibly deep.

I know this because as soon as Moses took off, I shouted profanities took off after him, and soon found myself wading through snow higher than my knees. Luckily, having half as many legs to navigate through the snow as Mo does means I was able to gain on him, even despite stumbling; snow down the back of my jeans was the least of my worries.

The trees were very thick and the porcupine had some good cover as the frantic parade approached.

By the time I caught up, Moses was struggling in the trees and deep slow to greet the fleeing porcupine.  The chance of dozens of quills in Mo’s muzzle seemed a near guarantee. Where Moses ended and porcupine began, I couldn’t immediately determine.

I could see the porcupine had a deficit of quills in its tail and backside (the result of another curious canine, perhaps?), and I could hear Moses sniffing and see him straining to keep up the retreating animal, who just stayed his course, refusing to acknowledge the chaos behind him.

Moses was persistent, so in order to prevent any further escalation of the situation, I grabbed the best handle I could find: poor Mo’s tail. Moses yelp-barked (yarked?) in protest and looked back at me, giving me the opportunity to grab his collar and guide him back through the deep snow, leaving the porcupine in peace to find safety in a new tree.

The porcupine on his perch

The porcupine on his perch

I leashed Moses back up and rejoined the amused spectator on the path with her two dogs, where my examination of Moses confirmed the porcupine kept all his quills on his own body.

Our audience’s laughter was constant in the background during the whole ordeal, and rightfully so. I’m sure the whole thing looked ridiculous. I relayed the story to the Husband who said it was a shame there was no video of it – we could put it in black and white, speed it up, and put it to circus music,  à la Charlie Chaplin.

IMG_6940

I always had a dangerous curiosity about what Moses might do in a situation like that, so at least now that has been sated. As expected (remind me to tell you a mouse story in the future), Moses just wants to meet the other animal. Be friends. Even if the animal doesn’t want to be friends; Moses just has an inquisitive and harmless nature.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t actively prevent any future Moses/porcupine greetings in the future. I got lucky this time.

Moses, pretty content with himself and his mischief at the park

Moses, pretty content with himself and his mischief at the park

When it comes to dog/porcupine interactions, I’m generally going to be more concerned about the porcupine. A few quills may have resulted in discomfort for Mo and a veterinary bill for me, but the consequences for the porcupine are greater.

And had things gone differently, I would’ve been making sure two animals got care: Moses to the vet, and the porcupine to the wildlife centre (related: see this quarter’s Blog the Change post on local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation).

So that’s what I’m going to leave you with: I know in the moment your own dog will be your concern, but don’t forget about the porcupine. They’re docile, adorable animals and it’s not their fault our dumb dogs are off-leash. If the porcupine is injured, keep an eye on it and call the local wildlife centre so they can get a volunteer out to help.

This post is part of the Mischief Monday blog hop – to see what everyone else has been up to, click herehere, or here.

monday-mischief

BtC4A: Local Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation

It’s that time again!

The first Blog the Change for Animals for 2014 is here, and you can visit the BTC website and read the other posts by other bloggers by clicking here.

BlogtheChange

All of my previous Blog the Change posts have been about companion animal rescue efforts or campaigns, which makes a lot of sense for a dog blogger. And, of course, these are always extremely worthy recipients of donations, awareness, and volunteer efforts.

For this instalment, however, I’d like to change the focus.

Say your cat gets a hold of a bird in the yard. Say your dog goes after a porcupine or rabbit or skunk at the off-leash park. What if, after investigating a loud thud against the window, you find a dazed bird? What happens if a fawn is orphaned by poachers or some young goslings are orphaned by traffic? What if a family of foxes decide under your deck is their new home?

AIWC mule deer fawn

A mule deer fawn rescued during Calgary’s June 2013 floods

You might know to take your pets to the vet after wildlife encounters or even know pet first aid, but what about the other party to those situations – the wildlife? Do you know what to do with them?

Chances are there’s a wildlife hospital operating in your area for these very reasons: to help sick and injured wildlife as a result of human interaction.

Just north of Calgary you will find the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (www.aiwc.ca).

AIWC patients: Great horned owls

AIWC patients (and our provincial bird): Great horned owls

AIWC was founded in 1993 and is an ABVMA-certified wildlife hospital and trauma centre. AIWC treats and rehabilitates native wildlife injured or orphaned as a result of interactions with people.

AIWC operates in conjunction with Alberta Fish & Wildlife, the City of Calgary, and several local veterinary clinics who take after-hours patients until they can make their way to the centre.

Porcupine

Adorable AIWC patient: porcupine

In addition to providing care and treatment, AIWC is also a resource for information – found a bird in your yard unable to fly and not sure whether it needs intervention or is just a baby fledgling bird? You can call them and they can help out over the phone or send a rescue driver your way.

And if you’d like them to attend your school, community group, or event and present and educate on local wildlife, they do that, too (and have education ambassadors to bring along with them!).

Nighthawk

AIWC patient: Nighthawk

AIWC also provides Wildlife Conflict Solutions, providing a humane, non-lethal, and permanent solution to resolve conflicts you may be experiencing with wildlife on your property.

AIWC bohemian waxwing

Bohemian waxwing

AIWC isn’t the only wildlife centre operating in the area, either.

In southern Alberta, there is also the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, the Cochrane Ecological Institute, and the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation, among others.

If you’re in Edmonton, there is the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton.

Vancouver? See the Wildlife Rescue Association in Burnaby.

Saskatoon? Check out the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan.

Manitoba? There’s the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

Toronto? Try the Toronto Wildlife Centre.

New Brunswick? Contact the Atlantic Wildlife Institute.

More AIWC patients: A broad-winged hawk; a saw-whet owl; and a red-tailed hawk

More AIWC patients: A broad-winged hawk, a saw-whet owl, and a red-tailed hawk

Those are just to name a few. There are centres like this operating all over the world to help local wildlife. Google [your location] + wildlife rescue and I’d be surprised if you didn’t get more than one nearby institution doing this important work.

Because it IS important.

The vast majority of patients at AIWC are birds. Here you have a magpie, an evening grosbeak, and a blue bird

The vast majority of patients at AIWC are birds. Here you have a magpie, an evening grosbeak, and a blue bird

These animals are often harmed or orphaned by no fault of their own or of natural circumstance, and the continual expansion of urban areas, agriculture development, and other industries make human-wildlife interactions inevitably more common.

Always Here

And it’s not just us; it’s our pets, too. Environment Canada reported in October 2013 that domestic cats are the number one killer of song birds – just another reason to keep those kitties indoors! (The Oatmeal also did this awesome infographic on just how much wildlife our cats kill.)

And we all know dogs with a keen interest in rabbits, porcupines, squirrels – you name it. Sometimes those dogs get lucky.

A young gosling, tundra swans, and a cormorant

A young gosling, tundra swans, and a cormorant

These wildlife centres run on donations and volunteer support to help mitigate some of that impact and give some of those animals a second chance.

Just like any other conservation effort, wildlife rehabilitation is good for everyone, maintaining as much of our natural ecosystems as possible.

Now for your mission:

Make note of the nearest wildlife rescue or hospital and their contact information. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but it might be useful one day.

Find them online and on social media. Like their pages and spread their information – if you don’t know much about them, chances are others don’t either.

And, if you’ve got time or resources to spare, see what they need and how you can give.

Like any charity or non-profit, wildlife institutes are sustained by funds, time and supplies graciously donated by their supporters. See what they’ve got for ongoing fundraising campaigns (animal adoptions make great gifts for those hard to buy for people in your life!) and supplies wish lists.

A beaver, a red squirrel, and a red fox - all 2013 AIWC patients

A beaver, a red squirrel, and a red fox – all 2013 AIWC patients

And if you’d like to see more adorable patient photos from the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation like the ones I’ve shared here, go like their Facebook page here. The person behind the camera for many of the photos there and the ones you’ve seen here may already be familiar to you ;).

Once you’ve completed your mission, go visit the Blog the Change for Animals blog hop and check out what everyone else is writing about.

Treats at the Dog Park?

Last week I discussed whether or not bringing toys to the dog park was a good idea, given the chance of conflict (both human and canine).

In the comments, Jessica from You Did What With Your Wiener mentioned the related topic of bringing treats/food to the dog park, which shouldn’t be left out.

But before I dive into discussion, I’d like to start with a true story.

– * – * – * – * – * –

Until Moses was fixed, he was not at all food motivated.

There would be the odd time he’d show some interest, and pockets were certainly lined with cheese and dried liver when in the show ring (aka: How to Ruin a Pair of Pants in One Easy Step!), but if we could’ve somehow harnessed the scent of in-heat female dog, then maybe we’d have left with more than default participatory ribbons.

Once Big Mo’ went in for the ol’ snip-snip, however, the quickest way to his heart soon became food.

Fast-forward a few years to a sunny weekend when I decides to take Moses for a nice afternoon walk at Nose Hill Park, a large multi-use park here in Calgary that has a huge off-leash area.

Moses at Nose Hill Park

Moses at Nose Hill Park

We were walking in the off-leash area when three women approach, orbited by their off-leash dog.

Moses and the dog had a great greeting, but as a lab or lab-type, the play style was too quick for Moses and he declined the game of chase with the dog, instead lumbering over to greet the women who were oohhh-ing and ahh-ing over him.

“He’s so big!” “He looks like a bear!”

The usual conversation about Moses and his size ensued between me and the women, and the women pet and greeted Moses while their dog bounded around in the distance.

Then one of the women wanted the other dog’s attention and called his name and reached into her jacket pocket for some treats.

And Moses noticed.

He plunked himself right in front of her, gave her his best puppy eyes, and began to drool (as Moses does).

How can you say no?

Treat? For me? Please?

“These aren’t for you, buddy,” she replied, tucking the treats back in her pocket and petting him on the head.

So Moses craned his neck and sniffed at her pocket.

That’s when the tone of the interaction drastically and instantly changed.

“No!” She exclaimed. Then she grabbed Moses’ ear, pinched, and pushed downward.

Moses yelped, hit the deck, and looked at me like “Why did she do that?”. The yelping was out of surprise more than pain, I’m sure – both of us were extremely startled.

As someone who struggles with Resting Bitch Face on a regular day, I’m not sure if the look on my face communicated actual murder or just attempted, but she took notice and went on the (very weak) defensive.

Her friends were already extracting themselves from the situation, following after their dog down the path.

homebush

“I have to go out after this!” she tried to explain, following her friends. “I don’t want to get these pants dirty.”

I’d like to say I was the bigger person, taking the high road, offering forgiveness on behalf of Moses and I, and wishing her peace on the rest of her journey.

I’d like to say that, but I can’t, because that was not the case.

Instead I shouted after her as she retreated “Maybe you shouldn’t wear good clothes to the dog park! Maybe you shouldn’t pet dogs if you don’t want them to pay attention to you! Maybe if you wanted him away from you, you should’ve backed up or walked away or asked me – his owner – to do something! Maybe leave the treats in your pocket next time!”

Moses and I then headed in the opposite direction to continue our walk, during which I muttered to myself and thought of hundreds of more clever – and crude – things I could’ve said in the moment.

Moses – in the great way that dogs do – shrugged off the situation as quickly as it happened and had a wonderful time exploring the park and meeting other dogs.

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That’s my most memorial experience of treats at the dog park, so as you can image, I’m on the fence.

And as someone who probably doesn’t go to the off-leash more than once per month mostly because of potential interactions like this, I was soured by the experience for a couple of months.

I do understand that a lot of people use treats for training and can still be in the stage of relying on them for certain behaviours, so maybe keep them on hand just in case.

And unlike toys, treats don’t necessarily illicit the same resource-guarding concerns in dogs if doled out discretely and sparingly.

But problems can still arise when other dogs happen to notice the treats and want in on the action. Do you hold back the treats and deal with some canine persistence until something else catches their attention? Or do you share?

And if you’re tempted to share, then you open up several other concerns. Does the other dog’s owner even want you to share with them? Does the other dog have a food sensitivity or is on a special or restricted diet? Maybe the other owner doesn’t want you to reinforce their dog’s behaviour.

Coming back to the toy subject, I’ve seen owners with treats try to coerce dogs (theirs or not) to drop stolen toys in exchange for food. Frequently works – the dog will drop the toy, but will have gained a new focus.

Cute print from Etsy shop MarkJAsher.

Cute print from Etsy shop MarkJAsher.

I’m actually hearing that some dog parks have no-toy and no-treat rules, which is not something I’ve seen locally.

As with most dog laws (off-leash designation and leash lengths, for example) these regulations are only as good as compliance and enforcement, but I’d be curious to know statistically how well they do to achieve their intended results of fewer altercations.

As for me, I don’t bring treats to the park and it wasn’t anything I’ve ever truly considered, but I can see why some might. For the most part, it doesn’t bother me as long as those with the treats expect food flaunting to get some canine attention.

Then again, I also don’t dress in my expensive jeans to go to places where dogs of all kinds are free to run loose… but that’s just me.

I think Kristine from Rescued Insanity said it best: “This is a dog park. A dog park for dogs who do dog-like things.”

Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

So keeping with the introspective nature as of late, with Meet the Blogger day and all the talk of resolutions you hear this time of year, I’ve decided to take the Pet Blogger Challenge.

I started blogging in the fall of 2010 and first participated in the Pet Blogger Challenge just a few months later in 2011.

What was Moses up to in 2010? He was playing with his new friend, Juniper!

What was Moses up to in 2010? He was playing with his new friend, Juniper!

Actually, the first Challenge in 2011 was the only time I’ve participated.

In January 2012 I was on a no-computer-screens doctor’s order, due to surgery to repair a detached retina. I have no excuse for not participating in 2013; January just happened to fall during a long period of non-blogging that occurred for no good reason I can recall.

But I’ve been marginally more diligent since then, so why not accept the challenge once more?

It’s kind of hilarious to go back and read my first response to the challenge. So much naiveté and optimism. Though, truthfully I don’t expect a lot of difference in my responses as I go through questions.

We shall see.

1. How long have you been blogging? Please tell us why you started blogging, and, for anyone stopping by for the first time, give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

I’ve been blogging since September 2010, so for almost 3½ years.

The Soapbox is primarily about Moses and Alma, Newfoundland dogs living in Calgary, Canada with yours truly, the Husband, and a couple of cats. I take pictures of our local adventures, our travels, and write about the minutiae of life as a dog owner. Kind of like Seinfeld (I wish), with more drool and no studio audience.

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

Every once in a while I’ll take a break from the dog stuff and share some scuba diving photos, or write about local current events, politics, or other random things like different kinds of restaurant patrons and a list of annoying things about weddings.

2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.

I think I’ve finally grasped and acknowledged that 75% of the work of producing a blog is to follow, read, and comment on the blogs of others who you admire and enjoy. It definitely takes more time and a regular commitment to give back to those who read and comment here, but it’s important. And I’ve discovered lots of good blogs lately – both established and I’ve just been out of the loop, and new bloggers.

That doesn’t necessarily make me proud, but I think it’s a necessary and inevitable realization of most bloggers. A milestone, if you will.

Besides, there’s a whole community-wide conversation going on in the Blogville, and if you read regularly, you’ll never get writer’s block.

I don’t think I’ve answered the question.

I suppose I have managed to churn out some decent content and page views myself, which does make me proud. My post on being an introvert with very visible dogs seemed to speak to a lot of people, and my post on whether or not to shave your dog (including awesome decision tree!) got a lot of shares and hopefully spared some Newfs from the clippers!

This photo got shared by the online magazine She Knows, which also made me happy (even if the caption is a bit silly - I didn't write it).

This photo I took of Moses got shared by the online magazine SheKnows (link in right side-bar), which also made me happy… even if the caption is a bit silly – I didn’t write it.

3. When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s the 2011 Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?

The Soapbox started as a one-way dialogue. It was meant to be rant-filled and instructive (hence the title).

But, even though I still like my blog title, and it’s established if only in a very tiny way to my small population of regular readers, I acknowledge it doesn’t necessarily accurately reflect the content of the blog.

Oh well. It’s mine and I’m not changing it.

The Soapbox has become a much more personal chronicle where I write about things I didn’t necessarily think I would. It’s easy to write hastily and flippantly, but as an introvert, sometimes it’s difficult to be candid.

The Soapbox has definitely gone from a more sterile, careful voice to something more frank and conversational.

4(a) What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own sites?

I’m certainly not in a position to provide any valuable advice, but I always learn things from other bloggers – whether they’re the ‘big names’ with thousands of followers or bloggers newer than I.

I would recommend just reading as many other blogs as possible, as I mentioned above. And comment on them in thoughtful ways – which is good for both you and the writer.

ACTUALLY… on that note: I would recommond bloggers quickly re-evaluate your comment platform. This comes from a reader’s perspective, not another blogger’s. Elaborate CAPTCHA codes are a pain in the ass, and sometimes I’m sure my comment is discarded because I miss having to enter a code after typing my comment and hitting submit. This happens on some Blogger/Blogspot sites, but not all. Or those terrible Google-only comment forums. The. Worst.

The easy commenting and following functions of WordPress are a key feature that keeps me loyal to this site. I’m not saying everyone needs to switch to WordPress, but I bet there would be more comments if commenting was easier for non-bloggers and bloggers on other platforms.

That’s really the only general improvment recommendation I can give.

Alma

Alma

(b) If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

Not a challenge, but I do have a general question: I’d be curious to know when everyone (who has done so) decided to make the move to a privately-owned domain. I’ve been considering dropping the ‘wordpress’ from my URL for some time now, but remain undecided.

5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

If I obsessed over stats and page views, I probably would’ve stopped blogging a long time ago.

This post I wrote about Jake Gyllenhaal carrying his dog around way back in 2010 continues to be a top traffic-getter for me, so I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

And, obviously I’d get more hits if I wrote more and more regularly. I think Hyperbole and a Half is the only blog I know of that’s earned the credibility to post very infrequently and retain a huge reader base (and deservedly so).

6. How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog, and do you think you should spend more or less in the coming year?

I don’t spend much time publicizing at all. I’m very lazy. This is unlikely to change.

I may throw out the odd Tweet, but I don’t even share posts to my personal Facebook page. I am in a couple of Triberr groups, but I have mixed feelings about Triberr; I’m not sure it generates that much additional traffic and it does monopolize some Twitter feeds to the point they look robotic. Personally, I don’t like to approve Triberr posts if I haven’t read the blog entry myself. However, the benefit of Triberr has been discovering other new blogs written by tribe members.

Also, blog hops are always a fun way to generate traffic, expand visibility, participate in a common theme, and come across new and interesting blogs.

Sure, page views are nice – I don’t completely ignore them – but it’s not what drives my interest in producing content.

7(a) How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience?

Definitely based on the comments. And not just the number – the quality. If someone takes some time to write a few sentences, share their own experience or perhaps a perspective I didn’t think of when writing, I consider it mission accomplished.

Tip: Puppy photos are ALWAYS appealing. This is Moses the day we picked him up from the breeder.

Tip: Puppy photos are ALWAYS appealing. This is Moses the day we picked him up from the breeder.

(b) How do you know when it’s time to let go of a feature or theme that you’ve been writing about for a while?

Hold on just a second – people write in themes or features? I definitely don’t do this – if I abandoned my general dog theme, there’d be nothing here.

8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?

If the post asks a question, I’m extremely tempted to answer it. (Light bulb moment: this probably means if I want more comments myself, I should ask more questions of my readers.)

Otherwise, if I’ve got a relevant story or experience to the post, I’ll share.

But, as I already complained about, I won’t comment at all if the commenting form is onerous.

9. Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways? If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all? If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?

I don’t do either. I’m not certain I’d be interested in giveaways – seems like a big time investment. And I’m sure being Canadian takes me out of the running for some of these opportunities.

When I answered back in 2011 about sponsorship, I mentioned I was concerned that would come with censorship. That’s still a fair comment, I think. But I might be able to be coerced into product reviews in exchange for free stuff. Who doesn’t like free stuff?!

Alma will gladly destroy any toys you want to send her.

Alma will gladly destroy any toys you want to send her.

10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?

I was going to say “I’m notorious…”, but technically I think you have to be well-known to be considered notorious. In any case, I frequently take a step back from the Soapbox when I’m busy with the “real” world, when I don’t want to write anything, or if I don’t perceive myself as having anything to say.

I’ll be inspired again usually by something that happened in real life that I think would lead to a good post. Although, sometimes just one of the regular blog hops like Mischief Monday or Wordless Wednesday is a great prompt to get back at it.

And, as I already mentioned, I think being well-read is a good cure for writer’s block.

Walking Mo. As you'd expect, a lot of my posts are initall on dog walks.

Walking Mo. As you’d expect, a lot of my posts are spurned by or during dog walks.

11(a) Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?

You bet – several over the years. They’re generally unplanned and one lasted as long as 3 months, but it’s fine. This is just a hobby for me, and I worry to take it too seriously would kill some of the enjoyment.

Besides, the hardest part is catching up on your blog reading, not your blog writing! (Because when I step away from the blog, I tend to step away from WordPress altogether.)

(b) Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?

Nope. The thought never occurred to me. Despite taking the odd break, I do always assume I’ll get back to it eventually. I don’t expect to maintain the Soapbox forever, but I have no plans or inclination when it might end. And rather than a defined ending or up and quitting, a slow, painful, unplanned death is far more likely, anyway.

12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I think it’s silly to have to make changes just because December is over, and even sillier yet to hold off on changes you want to make until January 1st. I continually update the Soapbox as I see fit, and as a purely recreational pursuit, I have no specific goals for readship or income generation.

This hesitation to set specifics also comes from unknowing – I wouldn’t know where to begin, not being sure of what’s reasonable or possible.

A good goal, however, would probably be to try to post every month of 2014, but I’m hesitant to put even that in writing lest I fail. Maybe I’ll just try to keep up the momentum of the last few months. If I don’t, I’ll just have to answer to myself the next time I respond to this challenge (which, at this rate, won’t be until 2016 anyway!).

Actually, here’s a goal I can divulge: I want to continue to work on my photography skills. That’s more of a personal goal than a blog goal, but the blog serves as a good excuse to work on it. The Husband got me Lightroom for Christmas, so I definitely would like to master photo-editing with it. You all get to bear with me as I stumble through it.

Moses and Alma at a famous, fictional Canadian landmark

Moses and Alma at a famous, fictional Canadian landmark

Click here or here to visit everyone else who rose to the Pet Blogger Challenge this year.

Bringing Toys to the Dog Park – A Good or Bad Idea?

I used to think that taking toys to the dog park was just a recipe for trouble.

I am no longer quite so definitive or absolute on that idea.

I mean, sure, you may run into that super-possessive or obsessed dog that could start a fight if it doesn’t know how to share toys, but I’d say that realistically that’s a small minority of dogs, and I’d like to hope owners of those dogs would have enough foresight to avoid the park in the first place. (Rational self reminder: you know what they say about common sense.…)

But recent trips to the dog park over the holidays have really made me wonder if that no-toy policy is maybe a bit too rigid?

There were tonnes of people playing fetch with their dogs and I saw no such melee.

In fact, maybe toys can be a good thing.

Toys sure are a great distraction – a good way to get a dog into a socializing environment where other dogs aren’t the only things to focus on.

Playing fetch also keeps dogs moving – quickly and at great distances. This way, large, tight groups of dogs and people don’t congregate in one specific spot in the park; those always make me nervous.

And it’s a great way to provide exercise and play, with a little bit of structure, rather than just letting dogs run amok at the park and not interact with them.

IMG_3546

Way, way back: Practicing fetch with puppy Moses. (Forgive the ridiculous outfit – all fashion rules are forgotten during dry suit diving surface intervals.)

Granted, this won’t change whether or not I bring toys to the park.

I will continue not to.

Neither Moses nor Alma is a reliable enough retriever for my frugal self to put dog toy investments at risk.

Bonus puppy Moses photo from the archives - same day as the above, curled up with our scuba gear

Bonus puppy Moses photo from the archives – same day as the above, curled up with our scuba gear

Moses won’t fetch anything that is thrown particularly far away. He won’t even budge. He’ll just look at you, his expression saying “that was silly – you had it right here and now it’s WAY over there – what are you planning to do about that?”

A rare Moses retrieve

A rare Moses retrieve with Alma bouncing in the background

And if you lob it short enough that Moses is motivated to fetch, it’s just once and then he wants to find some snow (winter) or shade (summer) and gnaw on whatever it is that you threw. Or he’s happy to play tug with you. But fetch is not his game.

Moses, frisbee-gnawing

Moses, frisbee-gnawing

Alma is similarly unreliable. She likes to run and will occasionally fetch, but her philosophy is very grass-is-greener.

If another dog is there providing competition for ball or frisbee, she’ll fetch with approximately 90% consistency. The other 10% of the time she’ll fetch and then drop the object far away from where she got it, but also far away from the other dogs and whoever discharged it.

If she’s alone (or with Moses), there’s no real competition for her, and after a handful of throws she’s done with retrieving. She may still run to the frisbee, but then sniff it and walk away nonchalantly. Then, when you go pick it up, she feigns interest again just up until you throw it again. I think this is her way of getting us to fetch.

Alma returning a big stick - both Newfs' successful fetching rates increase drastically if water is involved

Alma returning a big stick – both Newfs’ successful fetching rates increase drastically if water is involved

Needless to say, I won’t bother carting toys – toys that I’m likely to end up fetching myself – to the dog park.

If on the move, Moses likes to carry the frisbee

Besides, I see the dog park as valuable socialization time and training time – the dogs get to meet and play with other dogs and we all get to work on our obedience skills in a high-distraction environment.

But there are still lots of people who bring toys to the park, and that’s maybe perfectly okay if the dog – and the dog’s human – is good about it.

I say human because I’ve come to realize that maybe dogs aren’t the real issue I should be concerned about when it comes to toys and parks.

Maybe it’s the people.

This became vastly evident when we were looking after Crosby and I took her to the park.

Crosby LOVES fetch!

She will happily fetch each and every time you throw something. She brings the ball right back and patiently waits for you to throw it again. And if another dog beats her to it, she hurries back to politely wait for the next throw.

"Throw it again!" - Crosby

“Throw it again!” – Crosby

The thing with Crosby is… very infrequently do dogs beat her to it.

That canine is quick!

She can overtake labs and collies from behind to make first contact. For a Newf owner, this speed is bewildering and impressive.

Crosby beats the competition

Crosby beats the competition

So this means that when another owner throws something for their dog, even if Crosby is late on the draw, she can get that ball first and very likely will.

Of course, not being familiar with the other owner who threw it, she takes the toy and runs – towards a familiar human – to have it tossed again. In other words – she is a perceived Ball Thief.

This can make some people irrational. “Your dog stole my ball!” “ Your dog retrieved our ball!”

Like some malicious intent is read into a dog’s natural inclination to chase and capture a fast-moving object.

It’s bizarre. And wildly off-base.

Even if the protesting isn’t verbal, you can see the frustration in the furrowed brow of the toy-owner as you sheepishly return their stuff.

Like it’s a pain-in-the-ass interruption that ruined their dog park groove.

To that I say two things:

1. Don’t bring toys to the park if you’re unwilling to lose them.

If you bring expensive balls to the park, you need to be prepared to leave without them. Fetch-induced losses happen all the time – balls are often lost in perfectly innocent, non-theft incidents. It’s dog park force majeure – outside of anyone’s control. Besides, I hear from other toy-bringers that there’s a sort of dog-park toy karma: one day you may lose one, the next day you may find two. Like looking for lost balls on the golf course. Someone should track this phenomenon – I’d like to see some statistics.

2. Don’t be an idiot.

Dogs are dogs. Like a squirrel, an in-flight frisbee is irresistible. Even Moses will be interested in an ariel object if it’s headed in his general direction/aimed right at his face (and if you think for a second about giving me the stink-eye because Moses got your toy slobbery, I highly recommend you reconsider that thought or keep it to yourself).

There is no nefarious intent when a dog retrieves a toy that wasn’t thrown “for” them; they have no concept of property ownership. Relax. The other owner will do his/her best to return your item. Just keep in mind a dog with a newly retrieved toy is certainly more likely to play keep-away if all of a sudden there is an unusual increased interest (by both their owner and this new stranger) in them and their loot.

Crosby fetches, with Alma in hot pursuit

Crosby fetches, with Alma in hot pursuit

Perhaps this is the real reason I don’t actually go to the dog park that often – sometimes other dog owners are just nuts.

Now I wonder if this sociological observation is just my own experience.

What’s your policy on bringing toys to the park? Have you lost or gained in personal toy count as a result? Have you seen toy-related tension between dogs and/or humans at the park? Are you a crazy person who gets all bent out of shape because some other dog retrieved the ball intended for your dog?

Wordless Wednesday 25: The First of 2014

Happy 2014!

To end 2013 and ring in the New Year, we did something very unusual – we went to the off-leash park two days in a row!

So, without further verbiage, here are photos of Moses, Crosby, and friends at River Park.

Moses, Crosby, and friend Douglas, the yellow lab (and his ball)

The last day of 2013: Moses, Crosby, and friend Douglas, the yellow lab (and his ball)

The first day of 2014

The first day of 2014

Moses & Crosby

Moses & Crosby

Moses

Moses

Douglas, Crosby and Moses making a new friend

Douglas, Crosby and Moses making a new friend

To see the rest of Wordless Wednesday, click here.