Madison our wonderful red Kelpie dog is unfortunately getting older

Seeing the grey appear around Madison’s jowls is a clear sign that the sprightly young girl she was once is now getting older. Maddie is now fourteen and a half years old and being a Kelpie she is just hitting the higher ends of middle age. Kelpies are renowned for reaching ripe old ages of seventeen to twenty years old. Especially the urban luxury Kelpies such as Maddie. I can’t say the same for the hard working farming Kelpies; however, they can still reach a longer lifespan than many other dogs.

It’s hard watching Madison slow down. Her eyesight is not what it used to be and all those years of chewing on tennis balls has grinded down her teeth. She does not look like an old dog. Give her a ball in the park she returns to her youthful self but becomes less interested in play sooner – unlike when she was young and would play for hours and hours on end.

The old dog now has to have hormones to help her with a leaky bladder and she often looks horrified when she wakes up from a deep sleep with a little puddle under her. It’s only has to have a hormone tablet now and again but it’s yet another sign that she is getting older.

Madison is also quieter now and will sleep all day if she isn’t disturbed by Leroy wanting to play with her. She needs more warmth than before and her recent move back to Melbourne has resulted in a padded new coat and comfy warm bed.

Getting into the car is not so easy either. The effortless jump she used to make into the back of the four wheel drive is now more of a well considered step up into the sedan with a hand from me at times. If she had to get in the back of four wheel drive she’d just look at me and then precede to walk around the car to the passengers door. She may be weaker, and sleepier but she hasn’t lost her Kelpie witt at all.

It’s not easy seeing her slow down and watching old age creep in. It’s an unstoppable part of life and a sad part of dog ownership. I wish she would live forever but there will come a time where old age will take over but until then she will be loved and cuddled just like all old dogs should be.

House sitting dogs is a big responsibility

I wanted to share with you my pet sitting nightmare. A friend had asked me to look after their family farm for a week while they all went skiing. The farm consisted of five horses, two cats, three dogs and a hundred acres of land.
A few days into the stay I took all the dogs for a big doggy day out. We went to a few parks and all had a lovely drive together and a great dog day was had by all including myself. I returned home and fed all the dogs and noticed one of the dogs, the Rottweiler seemed to cough a little after he ate his meal. His cough rapidly turned into gasping and within seconds the dog had dropped dead before my eyes. I tried to do what I could but nothing changed the fact that the dog who was alive and happy only moments before and was now dead.

There are no words to describe what I was feeling in that moment but I’ll try. I felt devastated, shocked, panicked, mortified and horrified. I was alone, help was not on hand and I was responsible for the welfare of all the animals placed in my care for that week.
I rang the vet immediately and tried to form my words through giant sobs. They said they would be out as soon as they could to take the dog away and also do an autopsy.
The next phone call was the hardest call to make. I had to inform the owner their dog had passed away. Again through giant sobs and stuttering words I told him what had happened. He was the brother of my friend and it was his dog I was looking after. I did not know the brother too well but his instant response was to get very, very angry with me and slam the phone down. Instantly the phone rang again and the owner hurled more abuse at me and said he would be back the following day.               I had never been in this situation before and I had no idea how to deal with the huge amount of emotions I was feeling.

Thoughts raced through my head, had the dog eaten something poisonous, did it choke on the meat, did I not cut the meat up enough, did the meat have a bone in it, had it been bitten by a snake in the long grass at the park, was it me, did I do it somehow, what went wrong?
Awful horrible thoughts and none had an answer, each question lead to more questions and each did not resolve the fact the beautiful creature was gone.
Eventually the vet arrived and it was finally good to have another person there to talk and cry with. He happened to be the most kindest and lovely vet I had ever met.
After many cups of tea he took the dog away and I was left only with my emotions and the dread of the owner returning the following day.
My heart was absolutely pounding in my chest when I saw the car entering the drive way, my friend and his brother had returned. No words were spoken when the brother laid his eyes on me he simply grabbed me, pulled me into a hug and we sobbed together for what seemed like hours.
Eventually we spoke about what had happened and how devastated we both felt.
A few days later the vet contacted me and advised me the dog had had a massive heart attack and there was nothing I could have done to save him.

The reality is when pet sitting bad things can happen. I now know the magnitude of helping out a friend with their pets and no longer take pet sitting as lightly as I did. There needs to be a discussion about the “what ifs” should something happen, what if they get lost, hit by a car, stolen or sick.
Simply leaving a vets number is not enough.

It’s important to have other information:

– If something unfortunate happens to their pet are they prepared for you to make the decision to operate or euthanize, if they are un-contactable.
– Do you have family member contact numbers to help you if the dog/animal goes missing.
– Do you have local council phone numbers
– If there pet passes away do they want to cremate or bury their per. (If they want to bury their pet it will mean finding suitable storage of the animal until they return. Best to contact the vet for advice)

-If they want the pet cremated do they want it in a pet cemetery or would they like to keep the ashes.

– For un-desexed dogs, what happens if they fall pregnant in your care. Will you be held responsible for the vet bills. (neighbourhood dogs will jump six metre fences to get to a bitch on heat)
– If the dog goes missing will you be responsible to pay the claim fee from the council should the dog be found by them.
– Do they have areas in their yard where their dog could escape that you need to look out for.

Often the pet sitter is given a flurry of commands by the pet owner while they race out the door to their holiday or given a hand written sheet and have to decipher the instructions.
I recommend meeting the owner of the pet you will be looking after approximately a week before you start pet sitting. Ask the owner about the fine details such as the animals routine, where they are fed, how much they are fed, what they are fed, where they sleep, where the local parks are, walk times, where’s the dog leads, and dog collars (etc).
It’s at this meeting you need to ask the hard questions and don’t be afraid to ask.
Having clarity about what to do should the unfortunate happen, you will be prepared, know what to do and what you will be responsible for.

Good communication is they key to successful pet sitting.

Dogs help breakdown human barriers

Dog Interactions helping us to breakdown those shy human barriers.

In the distance I could see the most beautiful rich black and fluffy Newfoundland, so fluffy I couldn’t see his dog collar even though he was wearing one. I went straight up to it resisting my desire to throw my arms around it and get a big *Newfi hug.
I would like to think I politely interrupted the table of eight to ask if I could pat the dog but I am sure I was more like a storm trouper and demanded instant attention.

While patting the Newfoundland I became aware of the whole table looking and smiling at me. In that moment we were all connected in admiration of such a beautiful and regal dog. I had totally interrupted their morning coffee but in that moment it was OK and a conversation started between us all. A short conversation about dogs, coffee and friends, it lasted for no more than a few minutes. I had one more pat and cheekily snuck in a “Newfi” hug, wished them a lovely day and off I went.

While walking away I thought about the interaction and how amazing it is that dogs have the ability to unite us. They do so in such an subliminal way that its easy to overlook the beauty of such interaction’s they create between us humans.
If a dog had not been at the table I definitely would not have approached them, why would I?

Dogs manage to drop the barrier between the awkwardness of the first introduction in human interaction. How often can you walk up to someone and have something instantly and obviously in common. A direct introductory topic is already there, smiling, panting at you both encouraging you to connect.
Dogs do it so simply, a happy run up to you in the dog park, inciting a look to the owner and instantly a human connection is made but not only that a connection is made to a creature who makes no judgement but offers something to you, some kindness that is hard to find but somehow it fills up the emptiness and makes us feel good.

Dogs unit us and dogs are able to remind us to interact with others. Its a good thing as life seems to be getting more isolating but the dogs are there reminding us that we are social creatures and we strive on social interactions. You’ve got to love that about dogs, I certainly do.

*Newfi Hug – Is one of the best dog hugs you can ever get. Newfoundlands are the dog versions of a bear minus the teeth and claws. Very gentle, loving dogs and hard to resist asking for a pat and hug when you see one. I wander what sort of dog collar design we could do especially for a Newfoundland. Or maybe a special dog lead that suits your tall stance.

Dogs Fear of Lightening Storms and Fireworks

Many dogs do not like the sound of lightning or fireworks. Madison does not like either but to her there is no difference between the two. Both make her feel anxious, nervous and uncomfortable. When there is either lightning or fireworks she tends to find a quiet spot which is usually under a table or in a secluded corner of the house. She will shake and pant a little until the noise has stopped or the storm has passed.

We try to redirect her attention by giving her a ball or chew to distract her from the noise. We avoid giving her “pity” attention, even though she is pulling at our heart strings and all we really want to do is cuddle and sooth her. Using distration methods assists to snap her out of ‘obsessing on the sound’ rather than hugging her, which is often percieved as a reward by dogs.

Luckily Madison is not a ‘runner’ as many dogs are during lightning storms and fireworks. I once rescued a very exhausted German Shepherd dog running in the street a day after a lightning storm. I took him home gave him a drink, rang his owner who was delighted that he had been found. Their German Shepherd had managed to escape out of their gate and during the night had run over twenty kilometers to where I had found him. I was over joyed at being able to return him to his owners and thankful that he had legible tags on his dog collar.

I have seen many dogs roaming lost on the streets after lightning storms or fireworks. I have managed to rescue many of them and return them to their owners or get the local council to return the dog to its owner.

Over Christmas and New Year we need to be very aware of making sure our homes are escape proof for our dogs. Check your fences for holes and gaps in fence panelling. A frightened dog can manage to get out of areas where it would normally not be able to get out of. Try to get down at dog height and look at your fence from your dog’s point of view.

A good tip is to add some wire to the top of your gate or fence and make the wire slightly concave in towards where the dog would look up at it. The reason for this is when the dog looks up it will be hard for them to fathom how to get over the fence or gate with the wire overhang. To a dog’s eye it will mean they need to hang upside down to get over the fence, dogs don’t tend to like having to scale a fence upside down.

If you have a dog who is noise sensitive perhaps consider making a note in your calendar of when the season’s fireworks will be so that you could arrange to be home on those days or find a family member or a sitter to stay with the dogs on those nights.

If your dog is familiar and comfortable with a crate then you can always place the dog in there while the fireworks are lighting up the sky.

Another good idea is to run or walk your dog in the early afternoon of the day the fireworks are sheduled. A good exercise session will help to make your dog feel relaxed and tired and if you are lucky they maybe so tired for a big run or walk that they sleep right through all the firework explosions.

There are many techniques to help you desensitise your dog to lightening and fireworks. Some people record the noise of lightening and play it back at a low level during the day for several days to allow the dog/dogs to get used to the sound. I
f you do this make sure your dog is doing happy activities while listening to the sounds. The dog needs to affiliate the sounds with happy experiences in it’s life.
This all takes time but if you have the time and commitment it is a good redirection for noise sensitive dogs.

Just remember to be prepared, make sure your house and back yard area is dog escape proof. Note down when the season fireworks are and be thoughtful of where you will be on those nights, if your home make sure your dog is safe and if you are out organise either a sitter or take your best furry friend to your best friends for the night. They are too precious to loose and with a bit of an effort on our part we can help them be safe this festive season.

Creative Director – Catherine Dorrestyn

The Dog Next Door Story

There is a lovely chocolate brown Labrador who lives next door to me. I see him very infrequently either walking with his owner or in the back of the owners car. When I say infrequently I mean perhaps once a month. I don’t think the dog next door goes for many walks.

Leroy and Madison have walks, drives, bike rides and many exciting happenings in their daily existence. They also come to work with me in the studio, so they are rarely alone in the back yard. Compared to my lonely dog neighbour they both lead very exciting lives.

For some dog owners just a pat on the head, a food bowl and the odd walk is enough for their dog. For me I like to include the dogs as much as I can in my life. I believe a stimulated and well exercised dog is a happy dog and as result I am a happy dog owner. There have been times in my life where I have come down with the flu and not been able to walk the dogs for a few days. During these times I have noticed how stir crazy the dogs get and also how their behaviour changes. They get a little naughty and they also create their own games but it only seems to result in some sort of destruction of either a pillow or soft toy.

In our busy and time poor lives it can be difficult to find the time in a day to walk the dog. I don’t believe walking is the only exercise we can do with our dogs. Dogs like to use their brain too. Dogs thinking is often overlooked and many consider just a walk in the park is enough to stimulate a dogs mind. There are many other activities you can do with your dog if you can’t get to the park, however I do believe dogs need to be walked regularly but a day here and there is almost unavoidable in our busy world.

I like playing the “where is it game”. I find an object that both the dogs like, either their ball or toy, and then I hide it. I make them sit and wait, (Madison is very sneaky at this game and will tiptoe behind me to watch where I hide it) then I give the command to them to find the object. Sometimes they find it instantly and other times it takes them a while. Both the dogs love this game and it will entertain them for hours. It seems to use up some of their energy and I love the way they have to use their brain to work out where the object is. I can also catch up on things around the house while they are busy looking and playing.

Sometimes I just the play in the backyard with the dogs and they seem to enjoy it when I spend time with them in their environment. The good old ‘throw the ball game’ is always the the best game in a frantic lifestyle. I will sometimes combine both the ‘ball throwing’ and ‘the where is it’ game, and this seems to burn off some excess energy – not as good as a walk but fun none the less.

These mentally involved games are great if you only have a little time to spare. I think the dogs feel more content after the games, human contact and attention. Ideally a walk and the games would be the best choice but sometimes just a few games and a few pats will be enough for a day but only for a day.

Dogs do need walks and they do need experience different environments. Even a quick car ride can seem like hours of activity for your dog so even if you are popping down to the shop take your dog with you. Of course on a hot day always remember to ensure they have fresh air and never leave a dog in a hot car.

Remember to make your dogs mental health and physical health a priority in you life. If you don’t have time to exercise your dog your self have a look at investing in a professional dog walker or take your dog to dog day care.
It’s unfair to leave your furry friend in a back yard for days on end. Give them some of your love and time and they will reward you twenty fold.

Creative Designer – Catherine Dorrestyn

Christmas Presents, Cake and Dog Well-Being

Recently Leroy managed to snaffle a Christmas cake out of the presents pile which was hidden in the bedroom. Little did I know he had snuck into the room, rummaged through the bag and found the handmade Christmas cake which was to be a present to my brother.
I found the remnants of the cake and plastic wrapping in the garden, I also found one fat happy and sugar high Leroy rolling around on the ground. I am sure he thought all his Christmas’s had come at once.

My mind went into overdrive a little, firstly I was mad at myself for not shutting the wardrobe door properly and then secondly my next concern was what was in that cake and would Leroy be ok with sultanas, raisins,cherries, sugar, nuts and all sorts of other products which I am sure are not so good for dogs.

I rang the vet and was told sternly that grapes, sultanas and raisins can shut down dogs kidneys and was asked if he was showing any signs of not eating, drinking or listless behaviour. I was told to observe Leroy closely over the next twelve hours and should there be any hint or signs of changes to his demeanour I was to bring him immediately to the vets. I was then reprimanded and
reminded by the vet to keep the dogs away from Christmas presents and specially those containing food. My face blushing a little red at this comment as I do consider myself very pet aware but even mishaps happen to the best of us.

Luckily due to Leroy’s size and the small size of the Christmas cake, he has not done any damage to his kidneys he has however had a stomach upset and has been letting off some fruity fermented smells and leaving little sloppy patches in the backyard. Sorry not a nice subject I know but it really needs to be highlighted how important it is at this time of year we keep our pets away from our tasty Christmas presents and special Christmas food.

This also goes for table scraps, be aware of what is not a good food item to give to your dog. Under no circumstances give chocolate, grapes, sultanas, raisins or onions. Make sure your guests are aware of this too.

Be aware of any changes to your dog. Below is a behaviour check listLeroy trying to find christmas treats
Signs of toxicity include vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal pain, decreased urine production, weakness and a drunken gait.
Onset of signs typically occurs within 24 hours (though they can start just a few hours after consumption)

It’s easy to get caught up in the mayhem which is Christmas but remember if it smells nice and is within easy reach of our four legged friends they may find it hard to resist.
Keep these items up high and remember when you put the presents under the tree you will need to be very aware of where your dogs are at all times as they are quick and they can do themselves a lot of damage if they get hold of something they shouldn’t and it would be a sad Christmas period for you and your four legged friends spending time at the vets this holiday season.

We wish you all a Merry and Safe Christmas for you and your furry friends.

Stephanie & Catherine