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.

I’m a Big Fat Hypocrite

Breaking News, Calgary, AB: I am not the Pope.

I’m not even Catholic!

And as such, I – like every other blogger on the end of a keyboard – am just a person.  A normal, falliable human being who doesn’t always practice what she preaches. (When you were growing up, did you ever have that person who said “Do as I say, not as I do?”)  I don’t take everything too seriously, and sometimes I take things way too seriously.

Sometimes there are things written here on the Soapbox that I rant about as if they should be scripture or written into law – especially when it comes to dog-related issues. And the thing about writing hastily, angrily, absolutely, or passionately about something is that you can get caught in moments of your own hypocrisy.

Jen K: Guilty as charged.

All of us face cognitive dissonance – unless you don’t think you do, in which case, you should probably stop reading now because you’re running late for Unicorn Festivus with Ironman and Princess Peach (I hear Zack Attack is opening for Jesse & The Rippers, so it should be a good time!). Sometimes we remedy this dissonance, and other times we choose to ignore it, which then makes us self-contradictory hypocrites from time to time.

If I’m being honest, there are lots of things I’m a hypocrite about.

I will roll my eyes at someone’s poor taste in television and then go home and watch Survivor. I will have a salad for lunch in the guise of healthy eating and then have popcorn for dinner. As a pedestrian, I hate impatient drivers, but as a driver I’m annoyed by ambivalent pedestrians. I think it’s important to be politically correct, but I love stand-up comedy, which is typically anything but. I will counsel my friends on “cost per wear” when shopping even though my closet contains many items that violate that rule. I will pet Moses when he puts his head on my lap because I think it’s cute, even though I know it’s reinforcing a behaviour many would consider demanding, and would even advise others against similar things.

In fact, there are lots of times I haven’t exactly ‘walked the walk’ in my everyday life based on things I’ve written right here on the Soapbox.

Pull up a chair, because it’s Bad Pet Owner Confession Time. (I know, I know, I said I wasn’t Catholic.)

Emma

Emma

I got Emma from Kijiji. From a backyard breeder.

Yep, you read that right. Many years ago, before I knew any better, I decided we should get a kitten. I impulsively looked on Kijiji, found an ad with adorable pictures, and went right out to pick her up. I didn’t even wait for the Husband to co-sign the decision. It was the exact series of mistakes I’ve written about several times here and caution others against. Aside from being certain in retrospect that Emma was taken away before she was fully weaned, and reinforcing the backyard breeding of the people I brought her from, I’m still happy we have Emma. She’s cute, she gets along with Isaac and the dogs, and we’re happy to have her. Should I have gone to a rescue and adopted one of the multitude of cats looking for homes? Absolutely. And that’s exactly what I’ll do next time.

I’m a dedicated raw feeder… unless you’re talking about snack time.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that we feed all of our pets raw food and that I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I’ve also mentioned several times that Moses’ favourite snack is bread. That dog loves his carbs. Not once has anyone paused for a well-deserved WTF. A focus on species-appropriate and grain-free, and the occassional treat is grain-abundant bread?!  Yep. It’s contradictory and I don’t even pretend to care.

Moses

Moses

I condemn breed-specific bias, while harbouring my own.

I’ve written lengthy diatribes on the injustice of breed-specific legislation and how dogs shouldn’t be assessed based on their breeds, but instead based on their individual behaviours, since judging a dog based on its appearance ignores the real, major factors in a dog’s behaviours.

Meanwhile, I harbour my own appearance-based judgments when it comes to dogs. I’ve written about it before (here) and I’m talking about my own sized-based discrimination. When I’m walking Moses and Alma in my neighbourhood and I see a little dog approaching, I wait expectantly for the little dog to start barking, growling, and pulling on the end of its leash. Sometimes my expectations are met, and sometimes they’re not, but they’re almost always there. I try to mitigate this with the rational acknowledgement that there are lots of well-behaved small dogs out there, but, in the moment, the bias surfaces. I am aware it’s unfair and merely anecdotal, but it still makes me a big hypocrite.

I am an unapologetic stickler for spelling and grammar and yet also a human being.

It causes me physical pain when I (or readers) discover a mistake on the Soapbox after I’ve hit publish. They’re bound to happen, since once you read something a few times, your brain just fills in the gaps for you. I’m famous for missing words outright or leaving incorrect conjugations when I reword a sentence. Once found, I’ll fix them and then wallow in shame for half a day, yet I remain quick to notice and judge others for their mistakes. This makes me both a hypocrite and a jerk.

Alma and Moses at the library

Alma and Moses at the library in downtown Calgary

I break the rules – sometimes even knowingly.

This whole thing was inspired because a someone in the comments – quite rightfully – called me out on my own hypocrisy in yesterday’s Monday Mischief post.

I’ve written before about on-leash by-laws, and I will continue to write that people should obey leash laws, but I regularly post picture of my dogs off-leash in on-leash areas.

Provincial Legislature - Victoria, BC

Provincial Legislature – Victoria, BC

I was called out for doing this at a provincial park, but in reality, all of Calgary, and most of the paved, urbanized world, is on-leash unless specifically otherwise designated. So my bad behaviour actually kind of happens a lot in this respect; I probably should’ve been called out a long time ago.

Go back and look at many of the photos I post here. If you look closely, you may notice leashes tucked behind Moses and Alma in many photos, but you will also definitely notice that I’m not holding them, and that I’m usually way more than 6 feet away from them to get the shot.

And in addition to the photo ops, we break the rules when we’re training – especially when we’re practicing skills like sit-stays, down-stays, heeling while dragging the leash, and long-distance recall. I have gone to off-leash parks to practice this, though very rarely because I usually end up spending most of my time there explaining to other owners that we’re training and I’m not actually some mean ogre who “won’t let” her dogs play.

Instead I’ll practice these skills right in my neighbourhood, in green spaces, or just down the street. Because you can’t have a well-trained dog who can respond in any situation at any distance without practicing that very thing.

But you know what – it’s a matter of accepted risk. And that was what my main point in last year’s off-leash/on-leash rant. I am aware that having the dogs sit in the middle of downtown Calgary – and then backing away – has risks. It is significantly riskier than if they were next to me on a 6 foot leash. And I am absolutely ready to take ownership of any consequences.

Would I practice these skills or give my dogs off-leash privileges if they ran amok, harrassed others, chased wildlife, and didn’t stay close or check in with us? Nope. I also carefully pick and choose the time and place for said rule-breaking, and leash back up when circumstances change.

Sure, this means I break the rules while still writing about how others ought to follow them. That’s not likely to change since I have no interest in assuming liability for the poor judgment of others (my own is enough, thank you).

Does this make me one of those dog owners who breaks the rules and ruins privileges for everyone? Yeah, I guess so. I will reason that Moses and Alma are well-trained and actually good ambassadors for dog behaviour, but most people who break the rules probably think their dogs are just fine, too (I’d like to see their pictures to prove it). Hello, cognitive dissonance.

Like I said, I’m a big fat hypocrite.

Moses, Crosby and Alma off-leash in the heart of downtown

Moses, Crosby and Alma off-leash in the heart of downtown Calgary

Free cats!

I don’t mean “free THE cats” – this isn’t a Braveheart situation.

Not this.

No.

And I’m not about to go on some barely intelligible rant about the enslavement of companion animals because that would be ridiculous and highly contradictory being a happy pet owner myself of two dogs and two cats.

Instead I am talking about free cats – cats given away for free.  And dogs.  Rabbits.  Guinea Pigs.  Any pet, really.  But I’ll refer primarily to cats because free cats are what we see more frequently.

Some Background

My office has an internal message board system for employees.  People can post ads for anything, from when they’re looking for plumber recommendations or their kid is fundraising for school, to selling cars/furniture/time shares.  It is a great tool for sourcing Girl Guide cookies.

During the extreme flooding Calgary had last month, it was inspiring and endearing to see the message boards fill with offers of help in the form of donations, supplies, labour, vacuum truck services, free generators – you name it.  If you lived in this city, you knew many people affected by flooding even if you weren’t yourself, and it was awesome to see so many maybe-humanity-doesn’t-suck-so-much-after-all moments.  Also, our Mayor is the best.

An arial flood photo from the National Post.

An arial flood photo from the National Post.

But I digress.

Amid these ads came another one.

A coworker from another department and another floor posted an ad for a free cat.  She was moving and urgently trying to give him away “to a good home”.  The cat was fixed and declawed (a post for another time).  It was an adult cat – about 7 years old, if I remember correctly.

Now I’m not going to go into the reasons people end up having to (or thinking they have to) rehome their pets.  I can’t even comprehend the decision making process someone goes through to decide to depart with a beloved pet they’ve had for that long.  I also acknowledge this city is notoriously difficult for finding pet-friendly rentals, and it goes without saying that adult pets are more difficult to rehome than young puppies and kittens.

The ad was short and sweet – like many of 92 ads that currently show up on Kijiji if you search for “free cat” in Calgary – a brief description and a cute photo.

I stewed over the ad for a few hours after first reading it and eventually resolved that I couldn’t keep my mouth shut (shocking).   I fired off an email to a coworker I’d never even seen before, poking my nose where many would probably say it doesn’t belong.

As diplomatically as possible, I outlined a couple reasons why giving away pets for free – and trying to rehome them yourself – isn’t necessarily the best idea.  Here is a long-winded version of what I sent her.

1.  Offering a pet for free risks enforcing the notion that there is no value to the pet. 

I’m not kidding about this. 65% of cat owners got their cat for free.  It’s no secret there’s a heirarchy the way people view different kinds of animals, and for many people cats do not get the same status as dogs, for example. The facts prove this.

Half as many pet owners get pet insurance for cats as compared to dog owners.  Not as many cat owners license their cats (about 50% compliance in Calgary) compared to dog owners who license their dogs (90% compliance in Calgary).  According to the CFHS, more than twice as many cats than dogs are admitted to Canadian shelters in a year, and 46% of them are euthanized, compared to 14% admitted dogs euthanized, and 33% other species.  The only place where cat owners excel is in spay/neuter, with 79%, compared to 69% of dogs (step it up, dog owners!).

If people are continually “giving away” cats, there can be a subliminal message that the pet has no value and is easily replaceable.  I’m not saying that someone whose cat has an “oopsie” litter should try to capitalize off the kittens and sell them for thousands of dollars (that’s how backyard breeders are born), but I am saying that rarely can you – or should you – procure an animal of any kind for free.

Our cat Isaac is a direct contradiction to this. He was "free" in the sense that he was a stray in our neighbourhood for a long time until we finally just took him in one particularly cold December day.  Of course, he wasn't actually free in the sense that our first order of business was to get him checked out, neutered, and tattooed.

Our cat Isaac is a direct contradiction to this. He was “free” in that he was a stray in our neighbourhood for a long time until we finally just took him in one particularly cold December day. Of course, he wasn’t actually free in the sense that our first order of business was to get him checked out, neutered, and tattooed.

Rescues, for example, often have a nominal adoption fee – usually between $50-$150 for a cat and between $150-$250 for a dog.  Of course, this helps the rescue recover the costs of feeding, sheltering, spaying/neutering, vaccinating and other possible medical expenses.  But it also ensures that adopters understand there are costs associated with having a pet.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to tack on a nominal fee – it’s not like $100 would garner a profit of any kind for “selling” a cat that’s been taken care of for 7 years, but it tells those looking at the ad “hey, I think this cat is awesome and has value”.

2.  Owners looking for only free pets also worry me. 

Firstly, free pets can encourage impulsive decisions.

But even more concerning, if you’re not willing to pay even a little bit to get the right pet for your family, then what about paying for proper medical care and a healthy diet?  Even a cat obtained for free somewhere isn’t “free” when you include the cost of food, litter, toys, vet visits, etcetera.

Of course, there are also those truly terrible people who take pets from free online ads only to re-sell them for a profit, or get those free pets only to do something truly horrible like use them as live food for their snakes or other reptiles (it happens, particularly with kittens and bunnies).  Free dogs, of course, can risk being adopted into dog fighting, and any unfixed pet can be adopted for breeding purposes and wind up in a puppy mill or kitten factory.

As the average person trying to rehome a pet, you also don’t necessarily have the experience necessary to vet potential adopters, no matter how bold, underlined, and italicized your “to a good home” requirement is.  And I’d hope the last thing you’d want to see is your cat end up back on Kijiji when it doesn’t work out with the new family.

Rescues and shelters excel at this; they never want to see their pets end up back in the system and will do their best to match them with a truly forever home.  They may not be thrilled to see you surrender your pet, but they will do the best for it once its in their care.  I do recommend canvassing local rescues to see who has capacity and ask for help with the rehoming process.  Even if they dissuade you from directly surrendering it, they can offer advice and resources.  You may even end up fostering your own pet while they find a new family for it, but then you have their resources to ensure a good home is found.  To ease your guilty conscience, I’d also recommend making a donation to the rescue when you surrender your pet to cover the costs they will incur on your behalf.

Working with a shelter also has the benefit of promoting the shelter system and pet adoption.  It’s one less pet ad on the internet, and you can still tell people about your cat who needs a good home, referring them to the shelter for adoption information.

Sure, maybe if you had a close friend or family member willing to take your pet, these concerns are moot.  You wouldn’t necessarily want to charge them money and you probably wouldn’t make them go through a rescue for the adoption.  But once you’re at the point of posting to coworkers, acquantainces, and strangers on online forums, I think some greater oversight is required.

I got Emma from a backyard breeder who advertised on Kijiji before I knew any better (we all make mistakes).  I think I paid $60 for her (her costs in shredded

I got Emma from a backyard breeder who advertised on Kijiji before I knew any better (we all make mistakes). I think I paid $60 for her and she did not come vaccinated or spayed (her costs in shredded toilet paper are still accumulating).  She fits our family well and I’m glad we have her, but I will be going through rescues for any future cats/kittens.  I know I picked her out due to a cute photo, but I also remember passing over free cat ads, seeing them as untrustworthy.

3.  Some Potential Owners Might Not Want a Free Pet

A kitten posted for free in an online forum likely hasn’t seen a vet or been spayed/neutered.   If it has, I would expect the owner to charge even a little bit for them to recover some of these costs, and I wouldn’t really fault them for this.

There are so many campaigns out there to educate people about responsible pet procurement that ads for free pets may turn away – and rightfully so – some really good potential adopters.

Maybe they don’t want to encourage backyard breeding.  Maybe they are concerned about the health and want to find a kitten that’s been spayed and vaccinated.  Maybe they do think free pets have lesser value – there could be the perception that there’s something wrong if it’s just being given away – and would instead opt to pay a little for a pet that may even just appear to be a little bit better.

I understand the sentiment that rehoming a beloved pet isn’t about the money, and that isn’t the message you want to send by tacking a price tag to your animal, but the associations with free pets outweighs this in my opinion.

Don’t forget, there is still a strong perception – whether conscious or subconscious – that pets are a commodity, or have an element of commercialism.  Many people are working against this, including Actions Speak Louder (Calgary), but it remains a reality that has to be acknowledged.

It would be nice if campaigns like this weren't necessary.

It would be nice if campaigns like this weren’t necessary.

People turn into backyard breeders realizing they can profit from their unfixed pets.  Pets are sold in stores like commodities – they’re advertised, they go on sale, some places even let you finance your purchase.  Store sales are analyzed to determine what breeds, ages, and colours of pets sell fastest and for the highest prices.  Sometimes they come with warrantees or guarantees.  By Canadian law, they’re property.  You may not like it (I don’t), and these pets really do become members of the family (arguments about not giving away those members at all notwithstanding), but the procurement of pets in the first place is still pretty commercial for a lot of people.  Putting a price on a pet you’re rehoming at least uses this perception to the advantage of the pet, acknowledging this construct and using it to show value.

These days more than ever, people are being educated about backyard breeding, pet stores, and puppy mills, and are seeking their pets from reputable breeders or rescues – neither of which provide pets for free.  By even asking for a symbolic financial commitment from your pet’s new home at least you are asking for some kind of commitment at all, beyond promises that only time can prove.

The Outcome

I sent a very abbreviated version of this information in an email to my coworker who posted the ad and though I waited anxiously the rest of the day, I never did get a reply of any sort.

However, the ad was taken down the next morning.  Was this because she heeded my advice, didn’t want anymore unrequested advice, or found a home from the cat?  I’ll probably never know.

Couldn't put a price on these two.

Couldn’t put a price on these two.

Monday Mischief 12: Dogs of Costa Rica

We’ve been assured that there wasn’t too much mischief had by Alma and Moses while we were on holidays, but here is what some of the dogs in Costa Rica were up to last week.

Playing in the waves at Playa del Coco

Playing in the waves at Playa del Coco

Rehydrating

Rehydrating after playing

People watching on a patio

People watching on a patio

Hoping tourists will share their sushi dinner

Hoping tourists will share their sushi dinner

Taking a stroll on the beach

Taking a solo stroll on the beach

Going for a lovely on-leash walk

Taking owners for a walk

Going for a bike ride

Going for a bike ride

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

My Audacity

Last week, Something Wagging This Way Comes wrote these two posts that really got me thinking:  Why I Don’t Train My Dog Better and 5 Reasons Why I Train My Dog.

Several months ago – maybe even years – the Husband and I found ourselves in a room with a bunch of other dog people and we were posed the question “Who is perfectly, 100% happy with their dog’s behaviour? Whose training goals are complete? Be honest.”

We kind of looked at each other, shrugged in agreement, and hesitantly raised our hands.

We were the only ones.

You could feel all eyes turn in our direction.

There are many possibilities for what the others there were thinking: (a) “what a couple of egotistical douchebags”; (b) “well they’re delusional”; (c) “liars!” or (d) “Moses isn’t that great.”  Or perhaps even (e) “these jerks just ruined a great teaching moment.”

Moses

Moses

But you know what?  Screw those guys.

(Something Wagging also has a great recent post on judging others’ and their relationships with their dogs.)

Moses is perfect.  At least he is to me.

Are there things I wish I could change about Moses?  Sure. His health history comes to mind first.  And his uncanny ability to fling drool onto your face or hair isn’t exactly endearing to everyone, either.

But I don’t really care about that.  Those are not considerations that would’ve kept my hand down.

Even if there is a little room for improvement or there are dozens more skills we could teach him, I’m not particularly preoccupied with that.  And maybe there was a time I wouldn’t have raised my hand, but that was long ago.

I like Moses for who he is and the history we’ve had with him has just made me increasingly grateful for the time we get to hang out with him, which is so much better when you’re not stressing about areas for improvement.  The focus is on what we have – not what we don’t have.  So when I raised my hand, I was being completely honest.

And that brings me to Alma.

It took us a couple of months to really get to know Alma and let her full personality come out after adopting her.  And if I was focusing on the negative, I’d mention something like her separation anxiety that she doesn’t exactly channel into the most desirable behaviours, for instance.

But that just stresses me out and I used to be very guilty of dwelling on what needed to be improved.

I took it seriously.  I took it personally.  And it took all the fun out of our relationship.

Alma

Alma

And it’s taken me a while to figure this out, but here it is:  if Moses is awesome because he’s perfect, Alma is awesome because she’s NOT.

Alma is mischievous.  Energetic (for a Newf).  Goofy.  Stubborn.  Her unfettered joy in nearly any situation is a trait anyone should admire; she makes no apologies for being herself.

There’s no point in letting myself get anxious about it or fixate on what passersby may be thinking, because her exuberance is really a key part of what makes Alma Alma.

It’s not an easy lesson to internalize, and even if you know it, it’s a whole other thing to put it into practice and let go of any spawning frustration or embarrassment in the moment.  When you spend a lot of time talking about struggles and goals, you can easily forget to talk about growth and success.  At least I did.  And that’s not fair for anyone.

No, this doesn’t mean that training stops here, but it does mean that I won’t let perceived imperfections hold us back and I won’t think about being scrutinized by other dog owners if things aren’t going perfectly.

Instead, I’m practising optimism and contentment with what we have, where we are, where we’re going, and all that both Alma and Moses have taught me.

If you were to ask me today if I was 100% happy with my dogs and their behaviour, I would definitely have the audacity to respond again – and to raise both of my hands: one for Moses, and one for Alma.

And I dare anyone to challenge me on that.

A pair of perfect dogs

A pair of perfect dogs

Monday Mischief 9: Calgary’s Public Art

This is Crosby

This is Crosby

Crosby is our houseguest for a little bit.

Crosby is our houseguest for a little while.

She's such a good guest, even the cats don't mind her.

She’s such a good guest, even the cats don’t mind her.

Alma and Crosby are BFFs

Alma and Crosby are BFFs

We decided to check out Calgary's latest public art instalment - very cool!

We decided to check out Calgary’s latest public art instalment – very cool!

It's called Wonderland, by renowned artist Juame Plensa.

It’s called Wonderland, by renowned artist Juame Plensa.

Such a great addition to the city.

Such a great addition to the city.

Then took a stroll down Stephen Ave for an old favourite.

Then took a stroll down Stephen Ave for an old favourite.

Joined a herd of buffalo.

Joined a herd of buffalo.

Found more public art.

Found more public art.

Looked for perspective.

And looked for a little perspective.

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

Monday Mischief

Harlem Shake (Dog Edition)

Breaking my unexpected, unannounced, indeterminate blogging hiatus to bring you something pretty great.

Don't worry, all is well - just busy

Don’t worry, all is well – just busy (Photo from December 2012)

Have you been following the Harlem Shake YouTube trend?

If not, watch this video to catch up (it’s short and worth it):

 

Well, it’s the moment you’ve all be waiting for.

The Harlem Shake: Dog Edition!

Check it out:

(See if you can spot Moses – it’s not hard.)

 

This is part of the Saturday Pet Blogger Blog Hop. Check out what others are up to this weekend by visiting the list here.

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Did You Know: Calgary Has Leash Laws

Yesterday the hot topic in local news and social media was the story of a person walking his/her dogs off-leash in an on-leash area at Nose Hill Park: one of the dogs got caught in a toothless trap designed to catch coyotes for a University of Calgary research study, performed in conjunction with the City of Calgary.

Those are the facts and you can check out the hyperlinks for more details.

Outrage ensued, Twitter and Facebook fired up, and complaints were made to the City, the University, and the Humane Society, such that the study was put on pause less than 24 hours after the incident.

If you ask me, this seems like blaming a car for hitting you when you purposefully walk into oncoming traffic.

The dog was off-leash… in an on-leash area.  The traps were specifically put in densely wooded on-leash areas (and are only active between sunset and sunrise) to prevent this very thing.  And to suggest a child could get caught in them as well (as I’ve seen some do) is just hyperbole.

One affronted person tweeted an Alderman to ask what bylaws apply to this situation.

Let me tell you: Bylaw Number 23M2006, section 12, which states owners of dogs shall ensure they are not running at large, meaning off-leash, not under control, and can still include on-leash dogs if they cause harm or distress to others.

Alma and Moses in Nose Hill Park. Note the leashes, the close proximity to me as I take photos, and the controlled sit-stay. 

This dogs-at-large rule applies to both on-leash and off-leash areas.  So yes, that even means if you can’t control your dog at the dog park – have them come in when you call, for example – that is still considered “at large” even if it’s a designated off-leash area.

Outside of designated off-leash areas, dogs are to be on leashes no more than 2 metres long (that means, yes, flexi-leashes are against bylaw!).  While on city pathways, dogs are to walk on your right-hand side away from oncoming pedestrians, bikes, and other dogs, and are not to interfere with others.   It’s all in the bylaw; did I just blow your mind?

As for the case at hand, the University research team posted signs in the parks at least 50 metres from the traps.  This means as the owner was reading the sign, the dogs was out of sight and 50 metres away – not under control or on-leash, and therefore definitely at large.

Nose Hill Park frequently has signs posted warning of studies, surveys, animal warnings, and pesticide sprays.

Now I know most signage gets ignored – Caution, Hot!  Wet Paint.  Please Use Other Door.  Cash Only.  Out of Order. Slippery Floors – but as a responsible dog owner using a large park that is famous for coyotes (obviously, hence the study), deer, and porcupines, caution and awareness should be your priority.

Rather than throwing the hammer down on the City and the University for undertaking a study that undoubtedly will have interesting results that are beneficial to dog owners (lots of little dogs lose their lives to coyotes in that very park every year), I’d prefer to see this situation touted as an educational opportunity to better inform the public about leash laws, training, and responsible pet ownership.

Because the bottom line is that if the dog was on-leash as it should have been, this never would have happened.

Geez, pair this with the Nose Hill Gentlemen incident and perhaps it’s better to avoid that park altogether.  (I jest.)

As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to look out for your dog’s safety and wellbeing at all times.  That means staying on-leash in on-leash areas, observing pet bylaws, undergoing training, and being realistic about the control and supervision you have in off-leash situations.  If you can’t guarantee their safety, don’t take the risk.

Not to mention, it’s irresponsible or unaware owners who ruin it for the rest of us by creating valid complaints about this city’s dog owners and their perceived lack of care and attention to park and pathway etiquette and bylaws.

These are the very bylaws that earn Calgary international praise for our Responsible Pet Ownership mandate and help keep unfortunate dog incidents out of the news, but that doesn’t mean very much if no one knows about them or abides by them.

The good news is that the dog in question walked away from the incident free of harm, but unfortunately, in my opinion, the media and commentary surrounding the story has missed the lesson entirely.

The Husband, myself, and Moses at Nose Hill Park

No Respect

It’s been a weird summer for animal encounters.

The approaching coyote was one thing, and even that has been followed with a couple less-interesting sightings and passings-by.

But then I started noticing other weird wildlife anomalies on our dog walks.

I mean, just the other night, Moses, Alma and I are walking along and right next to us in the green space are two little bunnies are frolicking around, playing chase with one another.   In the wide open.  Just a few metres away.

They were pretty cute. [photo: dreamstime.com]

I wasn’t too worried – I figured they’d take off as we got closer.

But I figured wrong.

They carried on their merry way, pausing only to briefly look at us.  Moses looked up at me, either to ask if he could play too or wondering wtf was up with them – I couldn’t tell which.

I considered this was perhaps a crop of highly evolved urban bunnies, recognizing on-leash domestic dogs as non-threatening.  Either that or they’re the not-so-smart bunnies and natural selection will do them in eventually.

However, on subsequent walks I noticed an emerging trend – the rabbits don’t scatter like they used to.  They may perk up and meander out of the way to clear the side walk, but there is no hurried evacuation of days past.

Alma – camouflaged

Then tonight we passed a random neighbourhood cat on the road.

And instead of deferring to the dogs-chase-cats default response, said cat sat down, maintained his ground, and looked on with tired indifference as we passed.

Add this to the magpies that torment Moses and Alma in the back yard, and I would like to know: wtf is up, Mother Nature?!

Seriously.

There is a hierarchy. A food chain. And it ought to be respected.

Moses and Alma are canines.  Big canines.  Like 180lbs, in Mo’s case.

They are carnivorous predators.

Eaters of raw flesh and bone.

Moses – he’s vicious

Those lower on the food chain – those scavengers and animals of prey – should be trembling in fear as Moses and Alma approach, scrambling for safety and cover.

Or… at least can’t they pretend?  I mean c’mon.  For the sake of decorum?  And tradition?

No respect, I tell ya.

Mo & Al

Perhaps this guy said it best:

Coyote Encounter: A True Story

It was Sunday evening.  The clock read 8:00.  Just as good a time as any to walk the dogs, I figured.

And then I looked over at Moses.   He sure was rocking the scruffy, homeless look.  Kind of like a canine hipster.  I debated adorning him with a keffiyeh from some place like American Apparel to finish off the look, but with a name like Moses, I doubted he’d appreciate it.

So instead I grabbed the grooming tools, cued up my backlog of The Colbert Report, and set to work.

When I finally determined I’d done enough to make him look respectable once again (or when I ran out of Colbert – the two occurrences were not unrelated), it was past 10:00.

We better hit the road; after all, it was a work night.

When Moses, Alma, and I left for our walk, it was still daylight, and the neighbourhood was busy.  But as over an hour passed and we neared the end of our loop through the neighbourhood, it was dark.

We were in the final leg of our walk, about five minutes from our front door in NW Calgary suburbs, when a coyote crossed the street ahead of us, onto our side of the road.

The stage for the encounter: we were on the right-hand side, near the houses, heading up the hill to where the photo was taken from. The coyote came from the untamed wilderness on the left.

This kind of sighting was not uncommon in our neighbourhood, and over the years I’ve frequently crossed paths with lone coyotes while I’m walking the dogs – especially so when walking at night.  In the normal course, they keep their distance and scurry off quickly.  There’s nothing remarkable about it.

Besides, when I’m accompanied by two Newfs, I’m never worried.  180 pounds of Moses vs. a 45 pound coyote?  Not likely to happen.

A local urban  coyote (Photo from The Calgary Herald)

Or is it?

Instead of ducking into suburbia to hunt rabbits, this particular coyote did not scurry away quickly at all.

In fact, he got closer.

It took me a second to realise it, but instead of crossing the road in front of us, he was actually doing circles around us, getting closer and closer each time.

I figured it out about the same time as Moses and Alma did.  And they took great exception to his presence.  Moses dashed to the end of available leash length, which I gripped for dear life, and directed a couple of his deep, looming barks at our visitor.  Alma more silently, but similarly, responded, pulling on her leash in the excitement of the escalating situation.

Yet, amid the commotion and clear contention to his presence, the coyote not only continued to circle, but tightened his circumference.

He stayed low to the ground and made direct eye contact the entire time, and as I reined in the dogs as close to me as I could, he continued to close in, approaching as close as just a few feet.

It was unlike anything we’d ever encountered in our neighbourhood; usually the local canine aggressors are barking maltese-crosses, straining in their harnesses on the end of a retractible leash.

Obviously the coyote’s brazen occupation of our route home continued to hold the attention of Moses and Alma.  I did what I could to move our travelling circus slowly up the sidewalk, but those efforts were largely futile, as most of my energy was concentrated on not letting go of the leashes.

Moses was held close, attached to a regular 6 foot leash, and Alma was connected to me on a hands-free leah, though I still kept a grip on her extension to maintain my own balance, lest we create a real emergency.  The last thing I wanted was to let go and watch Moses to chase the coyote across the street into the dark field, where another was waiting.

Coyote target?

The coyote continued to gain ground, orbiting our little pack; steps towards him and a couple of weak shouts of “Hey! Get out of here!” from me produced no results, other than to add volume to the chaos.

At one point, a car passed by on the road, which caused our antagonist to briefly retreat.  I was relieved and hoped to flag down the car to honk and perhaps scare him off more, but my efforts failed, and as soon as the car disappeared around a corner, he was back and just as brazen as before.

After what was likely just a couple of minutes – but felt much longer to all involved – I turned around to see a barefooted man wielding a golf club and coming to our rescue.

Our shoe-less friend had been relaxing at home and heard the furor; once he spotted the source of my struggles, he dashed into action.

The Good Samaritan hollered and swung the club, startling the canine provoker and causing him to retreat.

Or a certain extent, at least.  The coyote continued to follow and observe at an increased distance while our rescuer and his impromptu battle-ax escorted us towards home.

After lamenting over the bizarre and somewhat frightening encounter we just experienced, I then emphatically thanked our liberator and Alma, Moses, and I jogged the last block home, not looking back until the front door was bolted behind us.

* * * * *

Personality assessments suggest I am high in compliance, so my natural next course of action was to proceed with reporting the dangerous wildlife to the proper authority.  I mean, what kind of ballsy coyote approaches a human and nearly 300lbs of dog?!

Not to mention, just an hour prior on that very same walk and only a couple of blocks away, I’d passed two separate other people out walking dogs – but theirs were small and on long, loathsome, flexi-leashes.  How differently would an encounter like that go for them?

Our city’s 3-1-1 service game me the number to Fish & Wildlife and I made my report.

Coyote pups – awwww. (Photo from ecobirder.blogspot.ca)

The next morning, the officer in charge of my region followed up for a conversation and to provide advice.

In June, coyotes have pups in the den that are becoming more active, so when dogs the size of mine go by, they are not prey like a small dog, cat, or rabbit would be; they are a threat.  And this coyote was doing his duty of protecting his family.  It’s all very Hatfields and McCoys.

The officer explained that the coyotes’s behaviour was entirely directed at Alma and Moses, and was his way of telling them to get out of the area or there would be trouble.  His female mate was waiting in the wings to add her support in protecting the litter should things escalate.

Of course, little did this coyote know that the chaos that ensued was actually the least effective way to get us on the road in a timely fashion, but I now see where the communication breakdown happened.

The officer’s parting words of advice were to carry a walking stick (a golf club also works), a noise maker (like an air horn), or bear spray if walking in that area at night again (if you can find any of these items in ACME brand, even better).  Most important is to ensure any attempted approach of people or pets by a coyote ends with them being scared off, so repeat offences are not encouraged.

And to that, of course, I add always ensure your cats are kept inside this time of year, and your dogs are on short leashes, giving you the best chance to keep them safe if something weird happens.

Trust me.  Weird stuff can happen.

Learning from our experiences and walking in the daylight.