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August 31, 2010

Whose Walk Is It? Mine or the Dog's?

Quite often, when I’m out walking the boys, I see numerous other guardians with their happy poooches too. It is so great to see how many other folks believe in daily walks for their dogs as well.

Mrs. Big Nate and I walk our two mutts twice a day. I take them for a quick jaunt around the block first thing in the morning. This way they get to burn a little energy off from their sleep and I feel better knowing that they are going to be alone for the next 9 hours while we are at work. And then we both take them for a longer jaunt again in the evening.

I walk them so regularly; sometimes I forget what a walk is all about for my dogs. For them, a walk is about sights, sounds, experiences. It’s about checking “p-mail,” sniffing hydrants and trees to find out where the neighbor’s dog or cat last peed. It’s about shoving their faces down the hole of a gopher and sniffing until they finally pull their faces out, dirty, blissful, nostrils full of the smell of wild animals. It’s about munching a particularly tender blade of grass, saying “hello” to a friendly stranger they’d like to greet, lifting a leg on every fire hydrant, sign, or tree you pass, splashing in a puddle or creek, or chewing a stick for a brief moment.

This is what walks mean to dogs. It’s a chance to investigate and interact with their environment. It’s mental and physical stimulation.

I forget this and tend to approach a walk with the mentality that, “We’re going to walk x route in y amount of minutes whatever that takes. It will be your exercise for the day and you’d better well like it.” Some days it’s a “let’s just get this over with” mentality.

Let’s face facts. For many, many dogs, a half hour leash walk every day barely scratches the surface of their true exercise needs. Mojo, our Bichon Spaniel mix, is a very active dog and he could go for an hour at least, if I’m able to throw a ball even better! A 30-minute walk is a drop in the bucket for him. If I want to really tire him out, we need to go a dog park or on a long hike. For Oscar, he’s smaller and slightly overweight so he doesn’t need much to tire him out.
When we as pet guardians go on a walk, we need to remember we are walking for our dogs. It’s their chance to just get out there and be dogs, to sniff and explore. If Mrs. Nate I want to go on a brisk, no-nonsense, let’s-not-stop-for-anything-power walk, we should go without the dogs.

We shouldn’t insist on perfect obedience either. Sometimes they pull on the leash to meet a stranger or another dog. Sometimes they stop for extended periods of time to sniff something interesting. We have to remember they move faster than we do and think poop is more interesting than we do. I’m not saying I let my dogs pull me around, but sometimes the leash does go tight. So what? Just stop, wait for the tension to come off the leash, and then start walking again.

When it comes down to it, I don’t want robots, I want canines. I want them to have plenty of opportunities to just do the things that they like to do, even if means that they’re sniffing for 30 minutes our of a 45 minute walk and we only make it around four or five blocks instead of walking a few kilometres. Sometimes, I even let the dogs pick the route we take. Something smells good on the right! Let’s go that way instead of going left.

Next time you leash your dog up for a walk; ask yourself, “Whose walk is it anyway?”

August 27, 2010

True Passion for Animal Welfare

Today I dedicate and write this blog about a very special person who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for close to 10 years now. If you follow the Poooh Busters Facebook fan page and read it every now and then, I’m sure you will have seen the name Melaina Slater. She is a loyal follower and supporter of all things Poooh Busters. She even helped us hand out flyers at our booth the very first time we attended the Calgary Pet Expo in 2006.

I met Melaina a long time ago through Mrs. Big Nate. They used to work together in the insurance industry and we have been lucky enough to stay friends with Melaina and her very, very understanding fiancée’, Patrick. I say understanding for a very good reason which you will see. Pat loves animals too but he certainly must love Melaina even more to support her in her passion for helping animals.

I’m featuring Melaina in this blog because she actually practices what all animals lovers believe, helping those pets less fortunate and in need of love and care. Many of us say how much we love dogs and cats and birds and rodents and reptiles. She truly shows it through her actions. Most of us have been to the Calgary Humane Society (CHS) and consider adopting a new pet. We look at the all poor animals waiting for homes and we can’t help feeling sad or angry. I know I sure do! We tend to say things like, “I would love to help these animals by volunteering but I just can’t do it! I can’t take the emotions I feel. I get too angry or I would spend the whole time crying for them”. That’s all well and good but it still doesn’t help these poor creatures! People like Melaina who love animals as much as any of us, overcomes these emotions and does what is right! Regardless of how angry or sad she gets, she faces it and puts all of herself into actually making a difference for many of Calgary’s most unfortunates.

Melaina’s interest in animal welfare began when she adopted her first rescue, a dog she and Patrick named Jerome (named after Jerome Iginla). This was back in 2005. She then saw an opportunity to help further by volunteering for the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) as an adoption screener. From there Melaina’s love for pets was so great she left her career in insurance and focused on the pet industry. She secured a job with Hill's Pet Nutrition where she would represent the company at various pet stores. Melaina felt this path just wasn’t fulfilling enough. Eventually she ended up at the Calgary Humane Society in 2006. It was here that she found her niche and felt like she was starting to make a difference. It was also where she started to rescue and foster many animals in need. This is part where she is glad her fiancée is such an understanding and loving person.

At CHS her official title is Operations Administrator but Melaina also did Emergency On-call for the Protection Department for about three years. It was here where Mrs. Nate and I would hear some very sad and also very maddening stories about what really happens to many pets in Calgary. We would get so angry hearing about some of the very nasty things that people do to such innocent and helpless creatures. To this day we still hear about all the bogus reasons why people surrender their animals to CHS. Sometimes, people even believe they are helping the CHS by giving them their pets! Can you believe that? They actually think that by giving up their dog or cat, they are providing a source of income to the shelter! Never mind the cost for housing, feeding, vet care and the cost of paying the employee to process each and every pet that comes and goes. Let’s not forget about what happens to most unfortunate ones that never get adopted… (starting to get angry again).

Since 2005 Melaina has adopted/rescued three dogs (Jerome, Taylor and Jasmine), two cats (Harley and Petra), and four birds (Chuck, Milo, Eddie and Joey). Her house is quite full and her life is full as well. She spends time cleaning cages, kitty litter boxes, scooping poop and tending to the welfare of her entire extended family of dogs, cats and birds. On top of all that she has even managed to foster five more birds and a puppy!

About a year ago Melaina became acquainted with Anna from Birdline Parrot Rescue where again she sacrifices much her very limited free time to volunteer for this organization. Poooh Busters recently sponsored a fundraising event for Birdline where they raised over $1600 in much needed funding. Congrats to Birdline on their success!

Melaina found that she has a special place in her heart for parrots. Recently she has been spending a lot of time and money at the vet getting her Goffin’s Cockatoo, Joey nursed back to health. Parrots are a funny creature who tend to self mutilate due to their lack of ability to adjust to being confined.

Of course Melaina isn’t the only person who gives and gives, there are many folks out there just like her who sacrifice so much to provide all creatures, great and small a fighting chance. I am always amazed at how many rescue foundations there are in Calgary and the surrounding areas. They all need our help. So if you can, pick even just one and help them out either financially or by sparing some of your precious time.

What more can I say about Ms. Slater? She is truly a saint to Calgary’s pet adoption and rescue effort. Her passion and giving nature is truly awe inspiring and if everyone was like Melaina, this world of pets would a much better place!

Melaina, please accept a small token of appreciation from the Poooh Busters team. We want to provide you and Patrick with 12 weeks of pooper scooper service at no charge. It isn’t much compared to what you do for the cause but we hope it helps even if just a little.

August 11, 2010

Poisonous Plants

It was brought to my attention this morning that a long time associate of Poooh Busters recently had an incident where they almost lost their dog to a poisonous plant called the Sago Palm.

Trish Way of Pooches in the Park Pet Care and her dog Gracie had a frightful time recovering from the effects of Gracie's affinity to eating this particular plant. The biggest worry of all is that this plant is available from your local Walmart or Home Depot and there is no warning about the dangers of this plant to pets and humans!

Of course we are all responsible for making sure our pets don't eat things that can harm them but a warning or something might have made the difference here. To be safe, just don't allow your pets to any household plants.

Some general info on the Sago Palm:
Cycad Sago Palm is extremely poisonous to both humans and ani
mals if ingested. Pets are at particular risk since they seem to find the plant very palatable.
  • Clinical symptoms of ingestion will develop within 12 hours and may include vomiting, diarrhoea,weakness, seizures, liver failure, or hepatotoxicity characterized by icterus, cirrhosis, and ascites. The pet may appear bruised, have nose bleeds (epistaxis), melena (blood in the stool), hematochezia (bloody straining), and hemarthrosis (blood in the joints).
  • The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center estimates a fatality rate of 50 to 75 percent when ingestion of the Sago Palm is involved. The incidence of Sago Palm ingestion by pets has risen by over 200% in the last five years.
  • If any quantity of the plant is ingested, a poison control center or doctor should be contacted immediately. Effects of ingestion can include permanent internal damage and death. All parts of the plant are toxic; however, the seeds contain the highest level of the toxin cycasin. Cycasin causes gastrointestinal irritation, and in high enough doses, leads to liver failure.
  • Other toxins include Beta-methylamino L-alanine, a neurotoxic amino acid, and an unidentified toxin which has been observed to cause hindlimb paralysis in cattle.
At present Gracie is at home and resting. She is still wretching every now and then. The vet has put her on some drugs and she is quite "out of it". Tomorrow she will go back to see the clinic and they will monitor her all day to se if she requires more IV fluids. She just has to make it through the next 48 hours and then she should be in the clear and will pull through without too much permanent damage.

Our thoughts are with you Trish in this difficult and trying time. We wish Gracie all the best and a very speedy recovery!

August 7, 2010

Traveling With Pets

Holy she's freaking HOT out there today. You wouldn't think so by looking out the window but Mojo, Oscar and I just got back from a walk around the neighbourhood. It was cut short by the afternoon heat.

As we were walking I saw several RVs and Trailers coming and going. Some had dogs hanging out the window, others didn't. This got me to thinking about a road trip with my animals. They've never travelled that far or for very long. How would handle a two day trip to visit my sister in Fort St. John, BC? I started looking for advice on traveling with pets.
I found a great article by Jennifer L. Scott, D.V.M. She is a vet for the Sundance Animal Hospital here in Calgary. Great, helpful tips that I'd like t pass along. Here's some information in point form:

  • To start, try a few short trips in the car to see how they handle the experience
  • It may be helpful to put the dog or cat in a solid-sided crate to prevent motion sickness
  • Solid-sided crates can be hot, so keep them well ventilated and out of direct sun
  • Freeze water in a plastic container, slip these around the crate to create a cooler atmosphere
  • The frozen water also melts and creates cold drinking water for your pet
  • Offer food and water often but don't let them eat or drink too much, upsets there tummy
  • Sedative are always an option (not something I would use personally), use caution
  • Traveling to the US will require proof of up-to-date vaccinations (rabies in particular)
  • Make sure your pet wears ID at all times, microchipping should also be used
Just some interesting information in case you're thinking of traveling anywhere before our summer comes to an end!

Here's hoping the heat sticks around for more than a couple of days!

August 6, 2010

Mrs. Big Nate and The CHS Dog Jog

It's already over two months since the Calgary Humane Society (CHS) held their 10th Annual Dog Jog. For the second year in a row, my wife, Mrs. Big Nate registered as a supporter for this worthy cause.

The CHS reports that this year's event held on June 5th at Fish Creek Park, had over 600 participants and raised a whopping $130,093! Not bad for being such a miserable day for weather to boot.

The first time Mrs. Nate registered was at last year's event where she raised a cool $600 as a fundraising individual. After the jog was over, they announced who the top fundraisers were. Third prize went to a person who raised $700. We weren't even expecting to come close to third but were very surprised to learn that Mrs. Big Nate was only $100+ off from making third place. Either way, it was fun and it was worth the time and effort to help Calgary's top pet rescue.

When Mrs. Nate got the email this year telling us about the 2010 Dog Jog, she was immediately on a mission! She was not only going to register again but was going to go for the #1 spot as Top Fundraising Individual too. This person is the one who raises the most money in donations as a single participant. She was not registered as a business or as a team. She started her campaign right away and began hitting up friends, family and co-workers for anything they would be willing to give.

CHS offered participant donation pages on their website. Participants would have their own donation page with pictures and a story. I immediately created this for her and every now and then, she would share this link on her Facebook updates. It was incredible to witness how giving our friends and family really are! Of course Poooh Busters was the biggest donor for her campaign, we donated $250 on behalf Mrs. Big Nate. Thank you Roland and Erin for that! Also Mrs. Nate would like to thank everyone who made a donation, it was really a heartwarming experience to see such generosity.

So how much did she raise? It's actually hard to determine an accurate number. There were so many things that happened causing the numbers to be mangled. All the cash donations were entered twice, once by me and once by the Dog Jog donation committee. Also there were two or three donations made on her page that never got added to her total. Either way, Mrs. Big Nate raised approx. $1700 for this year's Dog Jog! That's more than $500 above last year's top fundraiser!

So the pets and people that benefit from these donations must be thanking Mrs. Nate for her hard work and effort. I know I'm thankful for her each and every day.

August 4, 2010

It's Not Just About The Dogs!

I know we spend a lot of time talking about dogs. We take pictures of dogs, we write about dogs, we shop for our dogs, we walk them and play with them. In fact as a society, in general we are crazy about dogs! We'll even pay someone to come to our yards on a weekly basis, pick up the doggy doo and take it away. Thank goodness!

Anyway, my point is that dogs aren't the only pets out there. People love all kinds of animals and want to take care of them in their homes and as a part of their families. Cats, fish, rodents, reptiles, and even miniature, Pot Bellied Pigs!

But I'm here to talk about Birds. Yes, Birds!

Hands up. How many of you have ever had a bird as a pet? Come on, let's see those hands. Personally, I used to own several White Doves. Long ago, I was a children's magician and performed my shows using live doves and a rabbit.

As a former guardian of birds, I know what is it like to care for birds and how much work it can really be. I truly believe you have to be a special person to care for a bird and keep it as a member of your family. Dogs and cats need lots of work too, don't get me wrong but birds need a different type of energy than other pets.

A great friend and supporter of Poooh Busters approached me about having us sponsor a fundraiser event for an organization called Birdline Parrot Rescue. My first thought was probably the same as yours now...but Poooh Busters is a dog service, we have nothing to do with birds! But you know what? We love all pets and we care that all animals in the world get a good and loving home. So with the Team's agreement we decided to do our part for the parrots out there. Poooh Busters is sponsoring the 1st Annual Birdline Canada Ltd. BBQ Fundraiser! Please check it out on their Facebook events page. It's a real easy and an inexpensive way to help a worthy cause. Just show up to the Whitehorn Community Centre in NE Calgary on August 21, 2010 and drop off a bag of bottles, in return you'll get a burger, chips and a pop! Or if you have no bottles to donate, just purchase the ole' burger combo for a mere $5.00. That's it! What could be cheaper or easier?

I've never really paid much attention to the "bird side" of the pet industry but it's astounding how much is really going on out there when you start looking! First I checked the Birdline Parrot Rescue website for some quick info, they have an extensive site with tons of articles, info on adoption, rescue, health and nutrition and more. This site lead me to the Avian Welfare Resource Centre, these folks talk about conservation and legislation among many, many other things. From there I did some Googling and the results were just crazy! Just type in "Bird Rescue Canada" and you'll see the resources for Canada alone is astounding!

So we decided, birds (Parrots especially) need to be recognized too. After all, Poooh Busters is not just part of the dog industry, we are a part of the pet industry.

Maybe together, we can help make this world a better place for all pets, no matter what their species!