Category Archives: St. Thomas Dog Blog

St. Thomas Dog Blog, 2010 to 2014, by Dorothy Stewart.  Originally part of the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association (stdoa.ca) website. Dogs and dog welfare, in general and in St. Thomas ON. Also cats, horses and chickens. Book and movie reviews and news about local animal-related events.

Cat Show

Tomorrow, Oct. 22, is the London Cat Show at Western Fairgrounds (Canada Building 9-4:30). I went to it in 2011 and wrote the following in my St. Thomas Dog Blog.

close up of cat being judged at western fairgroundsThe good news for me with last Sunday’s STDOA meeting being cancelled was I got to go to the PAWSitive PAWS Cat Show at London’s Western Fairgrounds.

Many years ago, I went to a cat show.  I found it very funny, mainly because no one else – exhibitors, judges or cats – did.  Long slinky Siamese held, stretched out like a skein of yarn, glowering at the crowd like a supermodel.  No one noticing the face of disdain, just the markings and body shape.

At Sunday’s show, cats were held up, stretched full length.  They also were played with, ears ruffled, and talked to by the judges.  A long feather teaser acted as an intelligence test, and sure enough while most cats saw it flick behind the judge’s shoulders, some looked around like “where’d it go?”  It was funny, and fun.judge holding up Cornish Rex

Nice things that I don’t remember from the show years ago (but might have been there) are the competition category for household pets and the presence of cat rescue groups.

Categories of competition

There are four categories of competition and four “best of” winners.  Cat breeders compete in the Championship Class for unneutered pedigreed adult cats.  The Premiership Class is for neutered and spayed (“altered”) pedigreed cats.  Obviously, wins by these cats will not increase the monetary value of their progeny, but the prestige is Bengal cat nappingstill there.  There’s the Kitten Class for registered breeds 4 to 8 months.  And there’s the Household Pet Class.  Your old moggie can compete with the best of them, mixed breed and purebred, here.

What’s nice about the Household Pet Class, I think, is that cats must be neutered or spayed and must have their claws.  The cats I saw competing ranged from a very pretty little silver and white “girly” cat to a big old cat with lopsided black and white markings and wonderful tomcat head.  There was a grey tabby who looked just like my Yeti.  But while I was thinking maybe I should enter her, the judge Cornish Rex on lapexplained that part of what he’s looking for is temperament – “it’s not good if they try to bite me.”  Rules out Yeti, I thought.

Exhibitors lined half the Special Events Building, with nylon mesh carriers housing their cats between appearances in one of the five rings. They were happy to let visitors look, even pet their cats.  But it’s serious business, so you have to make sure you’re not in the way or bothering an animal gearing up for the show ring.

Cat Rescue and Cat Merch

On the other side of the hall were booths with pet food, grooming supplies, cat toys, cat beds and litter boxes.  Scattered among them were cat rescue groups.  Our local Animal Aide was there, along with Animalert and Cats R Us from London.  The rescue groups can’t bring cats with them, but they had poster boards with photos of their cats.

Somali kittenA rescue woman said it was odd being there with cat breeders.  Kind of cross-purposes, she said.  Yes and no, I thought.  Good cat breeders love cats, and a particular breed is their hobby or life’s work.  But they want their – and all – cats treated properly.  And that’s the same objective as rescue groups.

It was a good chance to learn a lot about breeds of cats.  It was informative and informal and fun.

Redemption: Shelter Plan B

Nathan Winograd with cat Shelter Plan BMy impression after reading about Nathan Winograd is that it’s animal shelters that need redemption. He is Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center in the US and is giving a lecture and workshop at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Apr. 14th [2012] . I don’t get star-struck that often, but this sounds like one very impressive man.

In 1993-94, he turned the San Francisco SPCA from a kill processing plant to a shelter where animals got homes. Killing healthy animals “declined 100 percent” and for sick or injured animals “it declined by about 50 percent” (Redemption). He did the same at the Tompkins County SPCA in upstate New York.

Are these places with less of an ‘animal problem’? Not likely. If you can do that in San Francisco, heart of ‘disposable land’, or upstate NY amid wilderness that people would see as perfect for dumping Fluffy, you can do it anywhere! Here is how Mr. Winograd looks at shelter management, from a 2007 article by Christie Keith.

“If … motherless kittens are killed because the shelter doesn’t have a comprehensive foster care program, that’s not pet overpopulation. That’s the lack of a foster care program.

Amazon link for Redemption
Amazon link

“If adoptions are low because people are getting those dogs and cats from other places because the shelter isn’t doing outside adoptions (adoptions done off the shelter premises), that’s a failure to do outside adoptions, not pet overpopulation.

“…If animals are killed because working with rescue groups is discouraged, again, that’s not pet overpopulation. If dogs are going cage-crazy because volunteers and staff aren’t allowed to socialize them, and then those dogs are killed because they’re quote-unquote “cage crazy,” because the shelter doesn’t have a behavior rehabilitation program in place, once again, that’s not pet overpopulation; that’s the lack of programs and services that save lives.”

Animal Shelter Plan B

Commonsense, when you approach it from the shelter side of the equation. “If a community is still killing the majority of shelter animals, it is because the local SPCA, humane society, or animal control shelter has fundamentally failed in its mission… And this failure is nothing more than a failure of leadership. The buck stops with the shelter’s director.”

Lab looking out from shelter pen, Wikimedia Commons, NhandlerHe describes his second day at the Tompkins Co. SPCA. “’My staff informed me that our dog kennels were full and since a litter of six puppies had come in, I needed to decide who was going to be killed in order to make space. I asked for ‘Plan B’; there was none. I asked for suggestions; there were none.’

“He spoke directly to his staff, saying, ‘Volunteers who work with animals do so out of sheer love. They don’t bring home a paycheck. So if a volunteer says, ‘I can’t do it,’ I can accept that from her. But staff members are paid to save lives. If a paid member of staff throws up her hands and says, ‘There’s nothing that can be done,’ I may as well eliminate her position and use the money that goes for her salary in a more constructive manner. So what are we going to do with the puppies that doesn’t involve killing?’”  Wow.

Nathan Winograd’s publications:

Welcome Home: An animal rights perspective on living with dogs & cats

Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America

Irreconcilable Differences: The battle for the heart and soul of America’s animal shelters

All American Vegan: Veganism for the Rest of Us

Friendly Fire

Reforming Animal Control/Building a No Kill Community Resource CD.

1 day body count of dog and cat corpses in 50 gal drums at pound
1 day body count at pound – click image to go to Imagine blog

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 5, 2012. See comments below.

Diseases of Friend and Foe

(From Aug. 5, 2011 on my St. Thomas Dog Blog)

When Waterworks Wally got his shots last week, his vet tested him for diseases I’d rarely heard of in cats. He was tested for FIV (cat HIV) and feline leukemia (FeLV).

The doctor said FIV is “a disease of foes,” transmitted by Cats lying on settee, peacefully - no diseasesblood exchange usually through fighting. Leukemia (FELV) is “a disease of friends,” transmitted by saliva shared by grooming another cat or eating from the same bowl.

Without knowing Wally’s history, the chance that he might have either disease was too great. If positive, special care would have to be taken if he were around other cats and the vaccines he would be given would be “dead” instead of “live.” That’s if it was so far progressed that euthanasia was the only humane option. Both diseases are incurable.

Two cats tested for diseases

FIV and FeLV were on our minds right then. Earlier in the day, my husband took a feral cat to the vet to be fixed and vaccinated. There are many dumped and wild cats living around his shop. This year a male and female have been living in the yard.  Kittens too, we suspect, half-grown by now.  They evaded the live trap for a long time, but the male finally was caught.

Feral cat in VirginiaA dumped house cat becomes wild fast enough if he or she is to survive, and, if not fixed, produces kittens born feral. Within a year, those kittens are producing another generation of feral cats and on it goes. TNR, “trap, neuter and return,” is a humane way of controlling the wild cat population by stopping that cycle.

When the vet saw our wild cat’s battle scars, he tested for FIV and FeLV. Very positive for FIV. He didn’t have long to live but he’d pass the disease on in a feral cat colony. So wild cat went to kitty heaven, balls intact.

Wally was negative, thank goodness. Maybe, as someone told me, I am being “holier than thou” in assuming he was dumped. If thinking that abandoning a creature is a despicable and cowardly act, then I guess I am. If Wally is just lost and not found yet, I only want to reunite him with his person and commiserate on the panic you feel when your pet is missing.

So many cats

But I see that feral cat who had to die due to a preventable disease. I see a pound full of unclaimed cats. A small town with two large cat shelters  – overflowing with cats. I see dog rescue people exhausted by trying to look after dogs people leave tied to doorways, or to wander in the woods or be hit by cars. Volunteers Kitten climbing bars of cage in shelterstretched to their physical and emotional limits tending animals and raising money for kibble and vet bills.

Trying to keep up with the mess left by people who let their cats have litter after litter because “the kids like kittens.” The people who think it’s unmanly for a dog to be neutered. The ones who figure selling pups on Kijiji is fast, easy money.

I had told the vet tech that Wally couldn’t have been wandering long because he had no fleas. She said, “That feral tom Jim brought in this morning? He didn’t have fleas either.” He was only about a year old, they thought. Scars of many fights and a fatal disease. Probably never knew the shelter of a building. But he didn’t have fleas. Poor kitty.

See comments below. Wally never was claimed so he’s still with us.

Wilma the Cat

In honour of Wilma, cat colony princess, who died yesterday in St. Thomas ON. Reposted from St. Thomas Dog Blog, March 29, 2012.Wilma and other cats 2016

Wilma was a homeless cat who was instrumental in the creation of the Charity Cat Project. That initiative has provided food, shelter and neutering to innumerable feral and stray St. Thomas cats. Charity Cat and other rescue groups worked with St. Thomas City Council in establishing animal welfare programmes. Among these are low-cost pet neutering and maintenance of feral cat colonies. So, Wilma, thank you.

Wilma's broken front toothWilma had surgery to remove her damaged teeth and a hernia in her abdomen. She’s recovering nicely. She has domesticated herself and it seems she would love to live indoors. But in her present home, there are dogs who really wouldn’t do well with her presence inside. So a foster or, ideally, a permanent home for her would be wonderful. Contact ABCR or me if you have a place in your home or barn for a lovely cat.*

Turns out she was already spayed, so she had been lost or abandoned. I don’t know which, but there are a lot of Wilmas in our city. They need help. There are also a lot of truly feral cats who Wilma 2012 likely will never allow themselves to be tamed. They too need help.

It’s not just helping the cats. It’s helping people. Having feral cats around their houses distresses cat lovers. Cat haters certainly don’t like cats hanging around. And unneutered cats produce kittens, usually twice a year. So that one cat who’s taken up residence in your back yard is going to produce more, and those kittens will also reproduce. You start out with one stray moggie and, before you know it, you’re in Cat City.

TNR for feral cats

Trapping wild cats and having them fixed is a time-consuming and Drowsy Wilma sitting in suncostly business. I know, I’ve done it. And if you do remove those cats, in all likelihood, more will simply come and occupy the territory. That will happen whether you feed them or not. Homeless cats need somewhere to settle and your backyard might seem as good as anywhere to them. So better to keep those you know, and are neutered, than constantly have new ones moving in and establishing their claim.

St. Thomas needs a TNR programme – trap, neuter, return – for wild cats. Other cities have such programmes or services in place and we have just as many feral cats as anywhere else. Wilma’s person Wilma eating on porchcounted the cats in the gully near their house a month ago: 103 that she saw. That’s before this spring’s litters of kittens are born.

St. Thomas also needs a programme to subsidize spay and neuter costs for dogs and cats of people who cannot afford the full price. Again, many other cities have such subsidy programmes or low-cost clinics offered so many times a year.

It seems cheaper to just have the kittens or puppies than to have your pet neutered. It’s not; it just spreads the costs over a longer period of time – once or twice a year for as long as the animal lives. Neutering is cheaper for all of us just in costs to municipalities of caring for, or killing, unwanted pets.

Abcess on Wilma's gumsPeople have contributed to Wilma’s medical costs, but her rescuers are still footing over half the bill themselves. If you can help, please contact ABCR or me. And let’s start helping all the Wilmas by setting up a spay/neuter subsidy fund. We’ve seen over the past year, with STDOA’s Caring Pet Cupboard, that our community will help people feed their pets.  Now let’s move on to the big task: preventing unwanted puppies and kittens.

*Wilma stayed where she was, for which everyone she knew is thankful. She will be greatly missed by her people and her cats. You can see her legacy on the Charity Cat Facebook page. (See 10 comments on original post below.)

Homeless Companions

From St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 4, 2013. Reposted in honour of US Memorial Day and Harold Palmquist, a US veteran who is biking across the country with his dog to raise money for homeless vets and their pets.

homeless man and dog in phone booth RO_B_new_Bucharest_apartment-photo-Miehs-wikicommonsPlease God, I have never had to beg on the street and I’ve never been homeless.  I don’t know how I’d look after myself, let alone a dog or cat. But people do; they survive on the streets of even the coldest cities, and many do so with a pet.

I have had to carefully parcel out funds so that rent was paid and my cat and I had something to eat. A student promotion credit card was our lifesaver, if a month’s supply of money ran out before the days did. The cat and I ate some odd meals – whatever I could find in the limited food section of Woolworth’s. Grocery stores did not accept credit cards then. Fortunately for us, those times were not frequent.

Amazon link for A Street Cat Named Bob
Click to see on Amazon

For some people and their animals, it’s a more regular occurrence. Today, on CBC Radio’s The Current (sorry, story no longer available), the stories of some people perhaps marginalized by society but not by their companion animals. James Bowen, whose cat helped him out as a busker and now as an author. As he said, thanks to Bob the cat, he now pays income tax. A woman whose cat keeps her off crack. A woman in Edmonton who started a pet food bank, with donation bins in pet stores and a system for getting the food to those who need it. And a University of Colorado sociologist who has talked to homeless pet owners and written a book called My Dog Always Eats First.

Amazon link for My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless people and their animals
Click to see on Amazon

That book’s author, Dr. Leslie Irvine, talks about homelessness being a “master status” in our society. That means that it overrides all other statuses that a person holds. Those may be “ascribed” such as gender or ethnicity or “achieved” such as profession or educational level. Whether a holder of an advanced degree or a high school dropout, a person sleeping in a doorway is seen only as ‘homeless person’. And you’re not likely to even think to ask what else a panhandler is as you drop your change in his or her cup.

But there is another master status, I think, that people ascribe to themselves:  that of “pet owner”. As one, I will go over and talk to a “homeless person” if he or she is accompanied by pet. I see the animal and want to make contact with him or her, and therefore the person as well. This is not to suggest that homeless people should get pets in order to improve their chances on the street.

Accommodating people and their service or pet animals has caused real problems for many shelters trying to be inclusive. Dog fights, fleas, provision for people with allergies and abandonment of animals in the shelter are some that I remember from a radio documentary I heard a few years ago (sorry, can’t find a link).

Dog in animal shelter in Washington, Iowa, Nhandler WikicommonsBut for many of us, homeless and homed, our pets are solace and friendship, providing someone else for us to think about and care for. And every dog, cat or guinea pig living happily with their person on the street is one less unwanted animal needing rescue or dying from neglect.

Training at the Dog Park

This week in May 2010, we in the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association were doing a final spit and polish on our new Lions Club Dog Park.

The Lions Club Dog Park had its grand opening on the May 24th weekend – one day of rain, one day of beautiful sunshine. A pretty good time though, I thought.

Recall Training

I picked up some pointers on dog training from Anne MacDonald of K-9 Concepts Saturday afternoon. She gave a workshop on recall training, one of the hardest and most important things to teach.recall training by Anne MacDonald St. Thomas dog park

My two are pretty good about coming when called, if they feel like it. And that, of course, is the problem. If they don’t feel like coming when called, it’s because they’re doing something way more interesting like chasing a rabbit or, in Leo’s case, eating poop – things I don’t want them doing. So your objective is to make coming to you a better option for them, and make them believe you have the power to make them come even if they don’t to.

The ‘carrot’ part of this is lots of good treats. Don’t be stingy, Anne said. Give them lots of the really yummy treats for a good recall. Many people, she said, give just the same amount of treat for a sit, a shake paw or a recall. With the recall, because it’s so important, give more and make a huge fuss over them for doing it well. I make a big fuss, but I just give the same small amount of treat that I do for anything else.

I worry about them gaining weight from too much “junk food” so only give them a teensy bit of dried liver or whatever as a treat. But I hadn’t thought about it from their perspective – why should I interrupt this interesting thing I’m doing for the sliver of treat she’s got. So now, lots of treats, different kinds of treats, lots of hugs and fuss. We’ll see how it works.

Be a slot machine

Anne MacDonald at Lions Club Dog Park“Be a slot machine, not a vending machine,” Anne said about training. Sometimes they get a lot, sometimes they get a little, sometimes they get nothing – they never know for sure. So like people sitting for hours feeding coins into a slot machine, hoping against hope that it will give the big payoff, a dog will be more inclined to keep coming back in hopes of hitting a mother lode of treats.*

But don’t do it every time. If the dog knows you’re going to give a treat every time, after the first time you don’t, the dog might treat you like a broken vending machine. If it doesn’t produce, you don’t go back to it. When Leo knows I’ve run out of treats (which he seems to have a sixth sense about), he thinks about whether he’s going to come back or not. If he feels like it, he might but not with as much alacrity as when he knows there’s a treat waiting. If he doesn’t feel like it, well, he doesn’t until he’s ready.

The long leash

When they don’t feel like coming back, that’s when you need the “I am all-powerful” tool. Anne uses a long lead, a soft rope much longer than a regular leash. Just let the dog drag it (obviously not in brush areas where the dog can get caught up). Give the recall command, if dog doesn’t react, say it again and step on the leash. Don’t go to the dog, pull the leash back to you.

Keep the treats in your pocket, not your hand. But act fast when the dog comes back. “Good dog”, pats and hugs and quickquick into your pocket and treat to dog. That reinforces the connection between the dog’s action and the reward, but lessens the chance of the treat being a bribe instead of a reward. That’s where my training with Leo fell down. He saw the treat in my hand often enough that he started looking for it before he’d decide whether or not to do what I asked. With him, it’s not even a case of bribery, it’s more like negotiation. With Charlie too, it’s negotiation. If he knows I’ve got treats he really likes, he’s more likely to do what I ask. If he doesn’t like them, he just sniffs the treat and walks on past. So for recall especially, have ones they like a lot.

Competitiveness

Sometimes they get into competition to see who can get to me faster. Anne says you can use that competitiveness in training, and reward only the winner. The dog who does it right gets the treats and the big fuss. The other gets nothing. I have a hard time doing that, the other one looks so pitiful that I end up giving him a treat Charlie doing recalland pat too. She says be tough so they see that if they don’t do the work, they don’t get the prize.

So I learned a lot, mainly how much I’ve let “pretty good” be good enough for me. As a result of my back-sliding, my very willing-to-learn poodle is only about halfway to well-trained and my smart but obstinate terrier pays attention and then does what he wants. Both of them like playing “the training game” as they see it. And both have learned a lot since we’ve had them. Now I’m going to do my part to help them learn more. Thank you, Anne, for some helpful tips and reminders.

First posted May 25, 2010 on the St. Thomas Dog Blog.

* On CBC’s The Current, Mon. May 15/17, Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked, said about social media likes: “This idea that a reward is just within reach but it’s never guaranteed. Paradoxically when you guarantee someone a reward, they get bored and they stop doing something quite quickly, whereas when you build in just a small dose of uncertainty… is very hard for humans to resist.”

Cedric and Jamie

Cedric and meThis day, in 1997, I laid my cat and dog in their final resting place. Cedric, the cat, had cancer of the jaw.  Jamie, the dog, had arthritis so bad he could barely walk. Cedric had been with me for fifteen years and Jamie for ten. There was nothing more that could be done for them. I knew I couldn’t go through it twice so decided they’d go together. My vet – and friend – came to my house and did it quickly. I felt like it was Dr. Mengele walking in the door when he arrived with his little bag of needles. It wasn’t painless for me. Afterwards, four of us carried them to their grave. The vet, me and two friends. Cedric was wrapped in a towel and Jamie was in his bed. Four of us cried, one gave a eulogy, then we filled in the grave.

Jamie12Apr97Next day, we made a perennial bed on the top of their grave. Tiger lilies for Cedric, a tortoiseshell, and orange and yellow dahlias for Jamie. The lilies were mottled in colour and sleek, like Cedric. The dahlias looked happy, like Jamie.

A foundling cat and a determined dog

Cedric came to me soon after my boyfriend dumped me. He hadn’t wanted a cat or dog. I had. So the first thing I did when I got my own place was put out the word that I was cat-hunting.

Friends had a very pregnant cat they had found in the woods. Their own cat terrorized her and they feared what would happen when the kittens were born. I took her. I feared she was going to give birth cedric mousepad photo d stewarton the drive home. But it was a week before the kittens came. I was much more nervous than she was, and she was pretty nervous. I had my landlady come help because she was a registered nurse.

Ceddie and I had a good life in many homes. Jamie joined us when he decided he preferred our house to his own. He lived nearby, at the end of a long country lane. A very social dog, he preferred life in the village.

Jamie was a self-sufficient dog. Didn’t have a lot of dog friends but a wide circle of people friends. He’d do his visiting rounds every few days. When he got older, if he was too tired to walk home, someone would drive him or phone me to come get him. He made friends with a couple neighbour dogs. They’d come visit him or he’d go to their place. He walked along beside you, but I don’t Jamie eating a chicken pot piethink anyone ever trained him. He’d run in the woods after rabbits. Never caught one, and never lost track of you.

Neither Cedric nor Jamie were ever my ‘fur-babies’. They were my friends and, especially Cedric, my advisors.

New pets move in

Less than a month after they died, a young stray tabby and white cat turned up at my house. I wasn’t ready for a new cat, but no one claimed her. Elsie moved in and is still with me. After a year, a German Shepherd pup needed a home. So Jack joined Elsie and me.

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on April 13, 2011. Now, twenty years later, Elsie and Jack are also gone.

Blue Blue Merle

Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication aka Vinnie Westminster 2012 Best CollieWhile watching the 2012 Westminster dog show, this dog was the one I wanted. What a beauty! Then a Collie-knowledgeable friend commented that he should never have won Best of Breed because of his merle-to-merle breeding. Huh?

I started googling. 2012 Best of Breed Collie GCH Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication, Vinnie for short, is son of Wyndlair Avalanche, aka Aiden, top breeding collie in the US. Aiden was the only pup born from a deliberate merle to merle breeding, and he is deaf and almost if not fully blind. Because of that, Aiden has never been shown. But being AKC registered, his pups from a registered female can be registered, shown and bred.

The patterns of white and colour called merle are produced by a congenital glitch that might be accompanied by blindness, or partial vision, and deafness. It’s like white blue-eyed cats being deaf. Lots of dogs, including non-merle looking ones, carry the gene for merle coats, so it may or may not come out in their pups. Mixed with non-merle genetic material, the chances of getting the physical problems of the merle gene are not significantly great.

Breeders take a dog’s full lineage into account in choosing parental pairs in order to minimize congenital problems. That’s why pedigree papers go back so many generations. You do not deliberately breed a pair likely to pass on major physical problems. Well, to produce Vinnie’s dad, his kennel did.

Double Merle Collie

Wyndlair Avalanche aka AidenIt seems I’m not the only one starstruck by a dog like Vinnie. The demand for merles has increased, but getting them is luck of the draw. It goes against all good breeding practices to breed two merles together in hopes of increasing the odds of getting a greater proportion of merle puppies. Wyndlair Avalanche, Aiden, is the product of such a breeding choice. The only pup of the litter, Aiden is vision- and hearing-impaired, but he has a magnificent merle coat.

ad for all merle litterMaybe from him would come the jackpot – an all merle litter, as was advertised  by another kennel about pups sired by Aiden.

This is breeding to supply market demand. That is what puppy mills do.  A movie makes every kid want a Dalmatian? Let’s get the assembly line moving and fill that demand! Labradoodles become the new fad? Crank ‘em out! The exotic look of merle Collies becomes the new must-have? A reputable breeder takes chances with the physical soundness of their pups and the future of the breed? Apparently so. Aiden’s pups sell like hotcakes.

With his son Vinnie winning Best of Breed at Westminster, dad and son’s stud fees just went way up. Vinnie produces beautiful puppies, I’m sure, and with him Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication, Vinnie, Westminster Best of Breed Collie 2012not being a double merle, they might be physically sound. But they carry in their genetic structure the ticking timebomb of deafness, blindness and other congenital problems. That will affect the health and wellbeing of Collies for many years to come.

I had been hoping Vinnie would win the Herding Group so that he could vie for Best in Show. I am very glad now that he didn’t. Sorry, Vinnie.

darlene austin and magic sept 2010 st thomas fire musterFrom my St. Thomas Dog Blog Feb. 23, 2012, reposted with fond memories of Darlene Austin, my “Collie-knowledgeable friend”, and her beautiful Magic.

The 2017 Westminster Dog Show was held Feb 13th and 14th. Congratulations to  Rumor, the German Shepherd, and all the dogs.

(see comments below)

Pet Heirs

Preparing a will isn’t what most people consider a fun thing to do. And even for those who do, it still takes a lot of time and thought to Dad with my animalsget it right. You don’t know when your will is going to take effect or what the circumstances around it will be so you have to balance specificity and generality so it can be satisfactorily fulfilled.

If you have pets you need to think about them. Just leaving it to hope, or even a promise, that a family member or friend will look after Fluffy, isn’t enough. The belief that everyone loves Fluffy as much as you do may be only in your own head. And a promise might be meant sincerely when it’s given, but you want to get it in writing – literally. Circumstances change and, after you’re dead, there’s nothing you can do if promises aren’t kept. So think about it very carefully and talk to a lawyer about it.

I initially thought of setting aside an amount of money for each animal based on health, age, size etc. The animals would bring their legacies to their new carer. My lawyer said no right off the bat. “Next day, they say ‘too bad, cat got hit, thanks for the money’.” So we came up with a plan where the executor would hold the pets’ money in trust and dole it out accordingly. More cumbersome, but better assurance that the animals will be cared for and their new people properly recompensed.

But my kids love Skippy!

When volunteering at a St. Thomas shelter, I answered the phone once right at closing. A guy said “My dad’s gone in a home and I’ve got his dog. Either you people take it or I have it put down.”  Yes, I asked enough questions to learn the father had dementia and neither knew nor approved of his son’s actions. The shelter had no space, but I was new there and hadn’t yet had hundreds of such calls. I couldn’t let this dog’s blood be on Maggie July 2000 pets in willmy hands, even if a so-called caretaker could. So I told him to bring the dog by. He seemed like a perfectly nice guy. He didn’t hang around long, which was fine by me.

I took Maggie home. She was a sweet elderly Miniature Poodle. She found a home with another couple and their teenage daughter. All three seemed as smitten with Maggie as she was with them.

Maggie’s person hadn’t died, and already the son was getting rid of her. This brings up another important point: your power of attorney, generally prepared with your will. If you are incapacitated mentally or physically, you need someone you trust to act for you. The person, legally, becomes you. If you still have your mental faculties and realize that person is not acting in your best interests or doing what you wish, you have the right to give your power of attorney to someone else. If you are mentally incapacitated, however, you can’t.  As well as control over your banking, home, personal care and medical decisions, that person also has control over your possessions and assets, including your pets. So choose carefully, based on a person’s integrity rather than sentiment.

Will Planning for Pets

will planning for pets book by Barry Seltzer Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

There’s a book that can help with planning for your pets’ life after you are gone. Co-authored by Toronto lawyer Barry Seltzer, Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs can help you plan for your pets. There’s also an article here about the topic.

The top photo is of my Dad, my dog Jack and cat Elsie. All are now loved in my memory. The other photo is Maggie. This post was originally published on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on Nov. 23, 2012.

Happy Meals

Grayneck with sister hens in garden summer 2016In Memoriam: In honour of our Phoenix hen Grayneck. On Dec. 23, 2016, Grayneck died of natural causes, aged 4 1/2 years. She is survived by her four sisters.

The girls are the first hens I have had since the ones I write about here. This was first posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on June 13, 2010.

Hens and Roosters

I used to keep chickens. Mainly bantams who produce lovely little eggs. They also are very broody, meaning they will easily sit on eggs in order to hatch them. When you have chicks, it’s 50/50 whether Favourite of all roosters Baby Rooster D Stewart photosyou get hens or roosters. Any chicken coop can only handle so many roosters, I found. They get along with each other if they’ve been raised together, so fighting isn’t the problem. Hens and roosters both sort out their place in their pecking order.

Aside from fertilizing eggs and guarding the hens, the roosters don’t do anything productive and they eat just as much as do the hens who lay eggs for their keep. Roosters crow at all hours of the day and most of the night, and they don’t leave the hens alone. They all want to be the “egg-daddy” it seems. So every so often, some roosters have to go.*

One way they can be useful is in the stewpot. I never did the killing. I was the hanging judge. I decided who was going to die.  My then-partner did the actual dispatching, while I went in the house and washed dishes and cried. My tears didn’t make the chosen rooster any happier about his fate but, up to that moment his life had been very good. They had a nice spacious coop, an outdoor run and often they had days out loose in the yard, eating berries and pecking for bugs.

“Ugly Duckling” Chicks

Bantam/Leghorn cross with chicks photo Dorothy AngerWe also raised turkeys, putting fertilized eggs under broody bantams. The hens looked after their “ugly duckling” chicks as well as if they’d been regular bantam chicks. And the great big chicks followed their mothers and slept under their mothers’ wings even when they no longer really fit.

With the turkeys, in the fall we’d feed them lots of berries and nice vegetable scraps. The birds loved them, and it actually made the meat taste sweeter when we ate them at Thanksgiving or Christmas. So we all got a treat.

I think it’s important that the animals I eat have had good lives. I look after my pets’ health and make sure they have fun and exercise and good food because I know it’s important to their well-being. So why should it be any different for farm animals that lay down their lives in order to provide me with a meal? And, beyond the ethical issues of humane treatment of living creatures, you know there are no chemicals, hormone additives or dubious food going into naturally-raised animals. Also the end product simply tastes better.

One of my egg customers, when I had my chickens, paid me double my asking price. He said my little, fresh bantam eggs were so flavourful that he wanted to give me what he’d pay for large supermarket eggs.

Elgin County Farms

We’re lucky in Elgin County to still have a lot of small farms that grow vegetables and rear animals in the traditional way. And, as interest in organic and local foods increases, the number of those farms is also growing.

At the St. Thomas Library, I picked up two pamphlets. One is “Fresh from the Farms in Elgin County”, published by the Elgin Business Resource Centre, and the other is “Local Organic! Farms” by London Area Organic Growers. Both pamphlets list producers and sellers of vegetables and berries, meat, wine and honey in Elgin and London areas. They have the addresses, phone numbers, seasonal hours and what they sell as well as maps showing where each is located. The London one also includes area restaurants that use organic foods. When I started trying to find local sources for good (in all senses of the word) meats, I made up my own list of “happy” animal farms and organic vegetable growers. But these brochures have a lot of places I didn’t know about. Good resources to have!

me with Baby Rooster D Stewart photos* My husband said, after reading this description of roosters, that I’d just summed up at least half  of the North American male culture.

Babyrooster and Babyhen, pictured here, were my first chicks and my pets. Despite his very small size, Babyrooster was vigilant in looking after his hens. After a good long life, he died defending the hens against an attack by dogs.