Tag Archives: St. Thomas/Elgin

Roxie Spencer

Roxie Spencer FB Linda Spencer 2019Without Roxie, the city of St. Thomas likely wouldn’t have a dog park. At least not in 2010 when the first one was built. Because, a couple of years earlier, Joe and Linda Spencer wouldn’t have been looking for somewhere their young dog Roxie could run and play with other dogs. They wouldn’t have found a spot in town where lots of people and dogs came every day.

So they wouldn’t have met Luanne Demers, who also came with her dogs. Standing around while dogs played, a lot of us talked about how nice it would be to have a fenced area where we could legally let our dogs run. Lots of people had tried over the years to get a dog park. But no one got very far.

Joe and Luanne, though, had steely determination in their eyes when they talked about it. This time we’ll get it, I remember them both saying. And they did.

There now are two dog parks in St. Thomas, the first Lions Club Dog Park in the west end of downtown and a second at Dan Patterson’s Conservation Area on Highbury Ave north. Plans are being finalized for a third in the south end of town.

Foster mom

Joe and Linda also met Lois Jackson, an animal welfare advocate in St. Thomas. She is a founder of All Breed Canine Rescue (ABCR) that takes in dogs and places them in foster homes while seeking permanent adopters. We could do that, Joe and Linda thought. So they began fostering dogs. Roxie, until then an only dog, loved having canine company.

four Spencer dogs in St ThomasSome fosters were short term, some longer term. One, Forte, became a permanent member of the household. He and Roxie took it upon themselves to look after the other ones and teach them proper manners. Especially puppies! For over a decade, many litters of puppies have come to the Spencer home. Roxie was their foster mom. She loved her job.

Sadly, Roxie passed away a few days ago. She was nearly 12 years old. She will be missed by her canine, feline and human family and friends.

Linda Spencer wrote Roxie’s obituary:

Roxie Spencer, October 2007-September 19, 2019

With great sadness we have lost our best friend. Roxie was only 3 weeks old when we found her in the gully by our house. Not knowing what to do we went to our local vet, and mentioned we would like to foster more dogs. Lois from ABCR was there to guide us.

Roxie with foster pup RileyThere embarked a 12 year long foster home that Roxie was proud to help out with. With over 100 fosters passing through the door, she was a mother, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a companion, a leader, and that one dog that could set anyone straight.

We remember the good times, the car rides, the ones she helped, the raccoons and skunks she kept away – we wouldn’t change a thing. You could be sure to get a smile, wagging tail, a big sloppy tongue kiss and you were never to forget – a belly to rub as you came through the door!

She became the expert at training all the dogs to be good citizens, and not afraid to put the run on them if they dared test her. So many good times, good friends, and the perfect companion.

She will be dearly missed by her family. We ask you, in her memory, to share a local rescue’s post looking for fosters or ask about fostering, and enjoy a car ride with your pup. She loved that!

Half a ton of pet food

Day 27 of the US government shutdown. Food banks are helping feed furloughed federal employees. Animal shelters are helping feed their pets. This is short-term desperate need. These are people with jobs. Many are still working, but not getting pay cheques. So volunteer and community groups are trying to minimize the damage. Here’s my St. Thomas Dog Blog post from March 13, 2011 on ten weeks into operating a pet food bank. A bit of inspiration, I hope.

dog and cat kibble bags, with cat

Ten Weeks = 1,071 pounds of kibble

Ten weeks, nine donation boxes and a town of 35,000 people equals over 1,000 pounds of dog and cat kibble. That’s what’s been donated to the Caring Pet Cupboard so far, plus cans and treats. I am absolutely astounded – and delighted and proud.

In 2½ months – from the end of December to March 12 – we have received 1,071 lbs of dog and cat kibble for the Caring Pet Cupboard. There’s also been 97 cans of dog and cat food, packages of treats, a box of litter, and some dog toys. Plus there’s more that has been taken directly to the St. Thomas Food Bank. And food has been taken to Tabby’s Treasures where Pat distributes it.

There has been very little advertising of the project. We had an article in the St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News (thank you very much). It’s been written about here, on the main STDOA site and the St. Thomas Blog and that’s pretty much it. No significant Facebook presence, no tweets, not even much in the way of flyers.

cat trying to raid pet food bagIt’s just people buying a bit extra when they’re in a pet store or vet clinic. Pet food suppliers have also contributed food that hasn’t been purchased rather than throwing it out. People have donated partial bags that their dog or cat wouldn’t eat. There’s nothing wrong with it, just little Miss Finicky doesn’t like it, so why throw it out?

Expansion plans

If the success of this project continues, we are looking to expand our collection and distribution to nearby towns and organizations.

bagging up food bank cat food, with cat helpIn a time of economic downturn, with layoffs and people having a hard time of it, it’s wonderful to see people helping other people and their animals. So if you happen to hear “oh, people in St. Thomas are so…” just think of this and finish the sentence with “kind-hearted,” “willing to help”. Over half a ton of food in 10 weeks. Not bad, St. Thomas!

At this point. our pet food bank was a two-person operation (plus 3 cat and 2 dog “helpers”). Pick up from donation bins, rebagging in smaller portions, then delivery to the food bank and other distribution points. So it can be done quickly. You need collection bins and bags and labels for rebagging. After this government shutdown is over, there will still be a need for pet food banks. So if you can get one up and running, why not keep doing it?

Maybe a good time to mention Freekibble also – your click gives kibble and litter to shelters. Almost 4 billion pieces of kibble in 10 years – that’s a lot of cat and dog meals!

Pet Food Bank

Eight years ago today, the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association started a pet food bank. Here is my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Dec. 31, 2010 post about it. I’ve removed business names etc. because, like our cat and poodle in the pics, sadly some are no longer with us.

The cupboard is open!

dog beside and cat in pet food bank binAs of today, there are seven local pet stores and services that are accepting donations of pet food for The Caring Pet Cupboard. BFI Canada donated bins to us, we put signs on them and they’re in place. Yippee!

We’re working with the Caring Cupboard Food Bank (at 803 Talbot Street). We’ll pick up the food from the bins and take it to the Caring Cupboard. Then they will distribute it to those who need it for their pets.

Look for our logo and buy an extra can or bag of food, or take in any you’ve got at home and don’t use. You can also put (unopened) pet food donations in the regular Caring Cupboard donation boxes found in grocery stores and other businesses around town.

The reason for us doing this is dogs being dumped by their owners because they can’t afford to feed them any more. That’s heartbreaking. Wouldn’t it be better if dogs – and cats and other pets – could stay with the people they love and who love them?

There is certainly a need for basic economic help for people. Food bank usage is up across Ontario and in St. Thomas. The closing of factories in St. Thomas has been hard on the town, and in 2011 there’s going to be another one – a big one. When Ford closes, we’re all going to feel it. Pets, unfortunately, are kind of like the canary in the coal mine – they are first to suffer from economic trouble.

Food bank for people and pets

Caring Pet Cupboard donation bin, with cat in itIf there’s need of food banks for people who can’t afford food for themselves and their families, why shouldn’t there be food banks for the animals who are part of those families? It was that simple question that led to the Caring Pet Cupboard.

Brian Burley, manager of the Caring Cupboard, told me that they can give pet food to those who need it. And people don’t have to go through the client registration process for it. Also they can accept donations of pet food.

The only thing the food bank cannot do is use cash donations they receive to purchase pet food. But the STDOA can! Your cash donations will be used to buy good quality dog and cat food for the Caring Cupboard shelves. We’ll buy (and accept donations of) hamster, bird and snake food too if there’s a need for it.

Charlie looking pathetic beside donation binLet’s start the new year with a resolution to stop the abandoning and surrendering of pets because of a simple lack of food – one bag or can of food at a time. It’s not a big thing to do, but it could make a huge difference to a lot of families and their pets. Please help.

See Half a ton of pet food for how our first few months went. In case the title isn’t spoiler enough, they went great!

St. Thomas Happy Endings

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Dec. 11, 2010

It’s been a good week in St. Thomas for happy endings to harrowing animal tales.  First was a stranded Canada Goose in a city park.

Kathi Baslaugh fed the apparently injured goose she named Sweetie for several weeks.  When I first read about it in the Times-Journal (no longer online), I realized I had seen her and Sweetie when at Waterworks Park with the dogs one day.  I had wondered why a goose was just sitting there, not moving.  But I was concerned with keeping the dogs from investigating the matter for themselves.  I saw a woman head to the goose with a container of food.

The cold weather make Kathi realize something had to be done or Sweetie was a goner.  So she put out an appeal for help and many people responded.  They rounded up the goose and took him to Beaver Creek Animal Hospital where it was discovered he had arthritis in one wing.  Who knew geese got arthritis!  From there, he went to the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary in Kingsville Ontario where he’ll live safely with lots of bird friends.

happy endings Yarmouth Crane operator lifting cat over top of hydro poleThen appeared in the paper a photograph of an orange and white cat atop a hydro pole.  He couldn’t get down and had been up there for four days.  A neighbour named Bob Walker, a Korean War veteran, took on the mission – Saving Private Kitty.  He paid over $400 to the power company to shut off the lines and booked a crane and operator. He would have paid for that too, but the people at Yarmouth Crane declined to accept payment for their services.

The cat, newly named Sky or perhaps Bob’s Pest, also went to Beaver Creek Animal Hospital where he’s recovering just fine from his ordeal.  Other people in town and elsewhere have been calling for contributions to offset the Walkers’ expenditure.  But Mr. and Mrs. Walker say they’ve got it covered and if anyone wants to donate, give it to the Salvation Army for the good work that group does at Christmas and year around.

It’s so nice to hear about individuals like these who saw a problem and decided to solve it, as well as all the others who rallied to help them.  Included in those others are the staff of the Times-Journal who decided that stories about a cat up a pole and a wild goose were worth reporting and following up on in subsequent days.  Thanks to all.  Indeed it warms the cockles.

Dog Park Groupies

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 24, 2010

three dogs by tree in dog parkThe St. Thomas Dog Owners Association is having its first annual general meeting in November.  All members are welcome – indeed urged to attend and become involved.  The Lions Club Dog Park needs ongoing involvement and commitment not just from the dogs who use it, but from their people too.

When I began going to the Hamilton Road dog park in London several years ago, I never thought about how it came to be.  It was just there, placed for my convenience and my dog’s entertainment.  I saw, and read, the rules.  But even the sign didn’t really make me think about who devised the rules, who put up the fencing, who kept the park clean.  Like the natural world, the dog park was just there.

Eventually I realized there was a London Dog Owners Association involved with the dog parks.  Even then, I didn’t put that fact together with the existence of the parks and their maintenance.  Not being a group person myself, I just thought some people just have to have something to join don’t they?

A St. Thomas Dog Park?

Now, at the same time as I started going to London’s dog park, I’d been thinking about how nice it would be if we had one in St. Thomas.  Indeed, a friend and I talked to City officials about it.  We were told it was possible if we raised money to contribute to the cost.  We also were told many other people had approached the City before for a dog park. So we got names of some of them. Then we thought about fund- and interest-raising efforts.  We printed flyers and collected names of interested people.   The names and dollars we raised became our small investment in a future dog park.

Then priorities changed for both my friend and me.  Our dogs got sick in the same year.  They were about the same age.  Wendy’s Doberman succumbed to a congenital heart problem.  My German Shepherd died a couple months later.  So during that year, a dog park was the last thing in our minds.

Lions Club St. Thomas Dog Park With her new Dobie pup, my friend met a group of people in town whose dogs liked to play together.  We also all had seen a petition around shops and on-line asking for a dog park.  When I again had dogs, I met all these people – those of the petition and those who met up.  Then I learned why there was a London Dog Owners Association.  Someone has to lobby and get approval for dog parks and get them constructed.

St. Thomas Dog Owners Association

In St. Thomas, our loose group of people who liked to hang out together with our dogs became the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association.  Lobbying, fund-raising, site selection, dog park needs – we learned a lot fast.  And we succeeded.  A year ago, City Council and dog owners approved a ravine site at the west end of St. Thomas as a fenced dog park.  But the construction of the dog park wasn’t the end of the need for a dog owners association.

There has to be monitoring of the park and its amenities, landscaping improvements, negotiation and resolution of disputes and improvement of facilities.  Money is always needed, for small things like poop bags and large things like lights.

Dog Park Community

What I learned from watching our dog park from its inception to operation is that a dog park is not just a fenced field where dogs run loose.  It’s a community.  And, like all communities, it works best with involvement and commitment to its well-being by all its members.  Some dogs become best friends, some don’t like each other, some are territorial about what they consider “their” park, others are happy to see newcomers so they can make new friends.  Pretty much the same can be said about the people.

I no longer am really a member of our dog park community.  My one dog eats poop, so taking him there is like letting a druggie loose in the pharmacy.  My other dog really just wants to run by himself in “his” field: he doesn’t play well with others.  So, other than through the STDOA, we have little involvement with the park.  It’s unfortunate, at least for me.  I enjoy the people, the dogs, the atmosphere.  It’s nice to see friends, both four- and two-legged.

field at bottom of hillIf you and your dog enjoy the dog park, please join the STDOA, stand for office, vote, volunteer to help out where and when you can.  As I found out, dog parks don’t run themselves.

The next regular meeting of the STDOA is Oct. 30, 2018. Go to stdoa.ca for details. Also see Luanne Demers, Founding President for my tribute to our group’s driving force.

Acts of kindness

Amazon link #BeccaToldMeTo
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From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Feb. 3, 2012. Reposted in honour of Rebecca Schofield of #BeccaToldMeTo acts of kindness renown.

Ms. Schofield, of Riverview NB, passed away Feb. 17, 2018. She wanted to make the world a better place, she said. Becca, you did. Visit BeccaToldMeTo and you too can see just how much she achieved.

This week, I stopped at Elgin Animal Hospital to check their Caring Pet Cupboard donation bin. There was a bag of cat kibble in it, high-quality food sold by the clinic. There’s usually a bag cat and kitten eating side by side - acts of kindnessor two of it in the bin and it’s never past its expiry date. It’s always that same kind. So it didn’t seem likely it was excess stock the clinic wanted to clear out. It is always unopened, so it didn’t come from someone whose cat didn’t like it or had passed away.  It being there with such regularity made me wonder who provided it. But I hadn’t asked.

This day, the receptionist looked at the bag in my hands and smiled, “Mrs. [–] was in.” She explained when she saw my puzzlement. “That food comes from her.” All the way home, I felt good knowing there’s a lady out there who makes a point of coming in and buying a bag, sometimes two, of this food for other people’s cats. She’s probably got cats of her own to feed. With rebagging one of her bags, she’s also feeding 8 other cats for a week.

A Day for Acts of Kindness

farm cats investigate dog and cat food deliveryLast Wednesday Feb. 1st was “Random Act of Kindness Day” here in St. Thomas/Elgin. It was designated in honour of the late Laurie Houston. Her family had suggested that everyone do what she had done throughout her life: something nice for someone – just because.

Caring Pet Cupboard

In the past year, with the Caring Pet Cupboard, we’ve been seeing a lot of those acts from kind people. The lady who buys the cat food for our bin at Elgin Animal Hospital is one. The lady who always buys a couple extra cans of cat food at Pet Valu “for the poor cats” is another. She buys in bulk, they told me, for her own cats and the neighbourhood strays and ferals. But she always puts a few cans in our bin as well. Two boys who buy a box of dog treats for our bin when they come with their mother to buy food for their own dog.

German Shepherd waiting to eat his dinnerThe people who think of our bins or the animal shelter when their pet passes away. Partial bags of special diet food along with cat toys never played with, geriatric care dog food. Sometimes you can piece the story together just from the kind of food. I want to give those people my condolences on their loss, but I don’t know who they are. Still I thank them. Another cat or dog with kidney problems or diabetes is going to have the special food they need because of the thoughtfulness of those bereaved people.

The stores who give us their unsold or extra food and supplies. “It’s better than throwing it out,” they say. The pet food companies that take their corporate citizen role seriously and make donations of food to us and to animal shelters. Also department stores that donate pet food directly to the food banks.

dogs watching cat eat - are you done yet?From the small bag of kibble you hoped would tempt finicky Fluffy but didn’t, the extra can you bought for the donation bin, all the way to skids of food straight from the manufacturer – it’s added up. In this past year over 5 tons of kibble, nearly 600 cans and lots of treats have gone to people who need help providing food for their pets and to rescue groups. Random or not, all these are acts of kindness. Thank you.

So this is Christmas

From the St. Thomas Dog Blog, December 2011, this is my summary of STDOA events and animals of the year.

dog looking through decorated gate into yard D StewartChristmas – and what have you done. Looking back at 2011, I am proud of what STDOA has done. It has been a hard year in St. Thomas, with plant closures and the world economic debacle. A deluge of abandoned pets in the city reflects that.

It was last Christmas Eve that I put the first Caring Pet Cupboard blue donation bins in local businesses. In one year, we have collected 5,439 lbs of kibble in 11 bins and another 4,355 pounds from Darford Pet Foods and Royal Canin. We have distributed all of it, plus hundreds of cans and treats, to people who need help feeding their pets.

But the pound and rescue groups are overwhelmed with unwanted dog wearing reindeer antlers D Stewart STDOAanimals. The need to pool resources to deal with the staggering numbers of animals led to the formation of the Animal Coalition, of which STDOA is a member. The Rogers telethon we all hosted raised nearly $6,000. Our thanks to all who contributed.

City Council struck a committee this year to deal with animal welfare. City staff and volunteer rescue groups sit on it. Joe Spencer represents STDOA. The pound has extended its hours and redesigned its website. So getting pets home should be easier. Treatment of incoming animals, particularly emergency vet care for sick or injured animals, has been discussed and steps taken to have basic care done. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s an improvement.

The creation of the City’s Animal Welfare Committee and the Caring Pet Cupboard are due, in large part, to two dogs. In the fall of 2010, Bear was abandoned at Dalewood Conservation Area and Bosco was left tied to the St. Thomas pound fence. Their plight struck a chord for all of us. They have happy endings to their stories, both now with new homes.

the late dog, Myles, euthanizedOther dogs haven’t been so lucky. Myles, a dog at the pound (photo at right),  needed help to trust people. But he was euthanized. A sick small dog just two nights ago died from unknown causes: unknown because vet care was not authorized. I hope their deaths serve as a reminder that care is owed to all creatures.

STDOA + Cats

Through our new “subsidiary” Charity Cat, STDOA is now involved with homeless cats. When our Caring Pet Cupboard has excess food, cat with Santa hat D Stewartwe take it to rescue groups and cat caretakers. In getting to know those dedicated people, we found out their other needs. For feral cats, it’s money for spaying/neutering and vaccinations. While raising money for that, one member inadvertently became a cat caretaker. Someone left a box of cats, literally, on her doorstep. So she’s looking after them and seeking new homes for lovely cats and kittens. Solved the problem of unwanted cats for some people and gave her the problem instead.

STDOA had the sorrow of the deaths this year of our first president, Luanne Demers, and our friend and supporter, Gord Burt. We miss them dearly.

Happy Holidays to all. Enjoy Xip and John Lennon.

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 tooth - formerly feral catsWilma 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 porch - cats dining areacounted 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.

Spay/Neuter – please!

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. So 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.

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 then quick-quick 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.

Leo 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. 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.”

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.