Monthly Archives: November 2012

Cora: Dimwit…or Genius?

“Who? Me?”

We dog people often claim that having dogs is a lot like raising children. The headline of this post should alert you to a significant difference between these two types of dependants. I would never allude to a child being dimwitted, but I can safely suggest Cora may be because she can’t—and never will be able to—read. This inability alone, though, isn’t what makes our household believe Cora is the lowest on the intellect ladder. (Yes, we can tell Dusty and Hogan believe this of her, too.)

Here are the top five reasons we think Cora is not exactly the fizziest cola in the pop machine:

  1. When we took Cora to obedience training, we struggled to get her to learn anything. She’d just look at us with those big, fearful eyes, and we’d accept her efforts and give her a treat.
  2. When getting ready for a walk, which Cora really loves to be a part of, we have to call her numerous times before she comes to the door to get her harness on.
  3. While on a walk, Cora will often plant herself pretending she just has to sniff that particular blade of grass, but as soon as she sees a hand reach for the treat pouch, the scent is forgotten, and her snout is focused on the treat.
  4. When I bathe Cora, she absolutely refuses to shake before getting out of the shower, despite my standing in there for long minutes back-brushing her hair (it works for the boys) and demonstrating “the shake” (this is not attractive).
  5. When Cora gets in Hogan’s face and he growls at her, she merrily wags her tail, ignoring his warnings.


  1. Sweet-tempered dimwit or cunning genius?

    In Cora’s obedience class, she got treats often without having to master a command….

  2. When we’re getting ready for walks, Dusty, Hogan, Wes and I will all be bundled in our coats by the time Cora finally decides to join us, so she’s the only one not waiting….
  3. On walks, because she is so timid and we’ve worked so hard to get her to trust us (in part by pretty much never yelling at her), Cora often gets her way, sniffing when she wants to sniff, getting a treat when she wants a treat….
  4. “I’m not sitting, but look at my eyes!”

    In the shower, she’s the only dog of the three who’s figured out how to open the shower door (it swings easily in both directions). And by saving her shakes for outside the shower, she makes a mess for me to clean up, meaning I’ll want to bathe her less often….

  5. And when Cora provokes Hogan to growl, who do you think gets admonished? Not sweet, shy Cora….

Hmm. So, I think our dimwit may actually be the genius in the family. What do you think?

The Many Sleeping Positions of Dusty

Sometimes Dusty likes to cuddle with his brother or sister.

I’ve heard that the basset hound is the clown of the dog world. It is this statement more than Dusty’s long body and turned-out front legs that convinces me Dusty has basset in him. He is certainly our clown. In true Dusty fashion, he manages to make us laugh even when he’s sleeping, so this week I thought I’d share some of his silly sleeping positions.

We call this one “the crash.”

Sometimes Dusty likes to have one or two body parts in or on a bed.

On occasion, he’ll curl up in the crate. I don’t know how this was comfortable for his nose, though!

Another version of “the crash.”

Pet First-Aid Course

Last weekend, Dusty and I attended a pet first-aid course hosted by TAGS and taught by veterinarian Tanya Varley from Morningside Pet Hospital. About 18 pet-loving people and 14 tail-wagging dogs attended the all-day event at the Quality Suites at Bloor and Grandview.

Settling in for the day

Through the course of the day, we learned and practised such important skills as taking a pet’s vital signs (heart rate, respiration rate, temperature), bandaging a wound and performing CPR. Did you know that a dog’s normal body temperature is a little higher than a human’s and a temperature below 37°C or above 39°C is potential cause for concern? A temperature that’s too high or too low needs to be regulated slowly so that the organs, not just the outer body, can acclimatize. A hypo- or hyperthermic dog should immediately be removed from an environment that is too hot or too cold, and drastic measures (e.g., giving an overheated dog ice cubes) should be avoided.

Merlin’s mom checking his gums (gums tell us a lot!).

While the discussion of vital signs was relatively tame, some of the scenarios Dr. Varley presented us with, such as prolapsed eyeballs (not uncommon in pugs, Boston terriers and bulldogs) and impalements, were difficult for the faint of heart, like me, to hear about and see pictures of. But we students all shared a common goal: wanting to do everything in our power to care for and potentially save the lives of our pets in an emergency. And that was enough to quell the squeamishness—well, for the most part.

Dusty looking for sympathy after I bandaged his leg.




Many important topics were addressed: preventing and treating bloat, managing allergic reactions, inducing vomiting (and when not to), recognizing and dealing with seizures, and—so important for every pet parent to know—determining which symptoms can be dealt with at home and which require an emergency trip to the vet.

Poor Oscar Peterson has sore front paws for real (hence the cone).


The learning experience was great, but spending time with fellow dog people and their dogs is always a major highlight of TAGS events. Most of the dogs greeted each other and their human counterparts with enthusiastic tails. Occasional barking sounded throughout the conference room, but for the most part, the dogs were all well behaved, allowing the course to run relatively smoothly. Many of the dogs, including Dusty, my youngster, needed frequent breaks,  not so much because they had “business” to do but because they were excited and energetic. By 2:45, though, dog after dog lay flaked out on the fur-filled rug, and then around 4:10, all of a sudden, six or so woke with a start and barked up a storm, probably in response to a noise only canine ears could detect. They were easily calmed (Dusty miraculously wasn’t one of the barkers!), and class resumed.

Letting sleeping dogs lie.

That quiet hour and a half before the choral yapping was likely our best opportunity for learning, but it’s also when many of us, I suspect, felt tugs of distraction. There’s just something about a roomful of sleeping dogs that rouses a sense of wonder and love that can sidetrack even the most attentive of us.

Fortunately, Dr. Varley provided one enlightening bit of information after another, so refocusing on the task at hand was relatively easy. By the end of the day, we attendees walked away with the invaluable feeling of being better equipped to protect our four-legged loved ones when they need us most.

If you’re a dog owner and haven’t yet taken a pet first-aid course, I strongly recommend taking one. Not only can it potentially save you money in vet bills; it just might help you save your pet’s life.


Guest Post: A Small Price to Pay


My friend Laura adopted beautiful Junebug from Toronto Animal Services last year despite feeling somewhat unprepared to bring another dog into her life after the loss of her beloved Bandit. Here she shares the story of Junebug, plus some thoughts on the upside of purchasing dog licences.

I’m not much for proselytizing, though many people seem to expect it from me. I eat healthful foods. I use reasonably good grammar and spelling. I’m not afraid of semicolons. I’m changing careers to work as an acupuncturist, so I have much knowledge of what’s called natural or complementary or alternative medicine. I’ve worked as an editor for years. I have opinions. People think this makes me judgmental, but I’m not much for correcting others outside the confines of my job/jobs. Live and let live. What works for me might not work for you. If someone wants to know what I think, and I believe that he or she really does want to know, then I’ll expend the energy to explain myself. That said, I have noticed that living (mostly) well can make other people’s consciences twitch a bit.

And that’s no different for me. I, too, have something in my past that shames me, and since they say confession is good for the soul, I thought I’d spill. I’ve had pets for pretty much my entire life and been fully responsible for two pets since 1988. In all that time, I’ve bought just two animal licences.

Why did I need a licence, I thought? I was very careful with my pets, and they didn’t roam. They were fixed. I further confess I spent time as one of those grumblers, counting, as they say, my troubles instead of my blessings. I actually uttered the phrase, “cash grab.”

Recently that changed. My beloved dog died in February 2011, and pretty much from that moment I knew I wanted another. Wanted? It truly felt more like I needed one. Bandit was a sheltie—and I like to say that once you’ve been owned by a sheltie, your life is never the same. He picked me to be his person. He was owned by my at-the-time boyfriend but before too long he let everyone know he belonged to me alone. When the relationship ended, there was little question the pup would come with me. He was with me through some low points and made my life infinitely better. After I lost him, coming home to an empty house was awful.

Junebug taking a break from playing with Dusty. (For video of them playing, click here.)

Even though my life is crazy busy (working 40 hours a week, in school three nights until 11 p.m. and all day Saturday, plus doing occasional freelance editing assignments), I knew it was only a matter of time before I got a dog. My current boyfriend is the ultimate enabler. After Bandit died, he immediately offered to buy me another dog. And almost every month since, he’s made the same offer again. During slow times at work, I’d sneak on the Internet and look for dogs. And then one day in September I saw her. She was thought to be a sheltie cross. She was rescued in Quebec, and her picture went up days after the bust of a huge puppy mill in the same province. Despite the bad timing, she seemed to be the one…and then she was adopted from Toronto Animal Services before I could get her. Wasn’t meant to be, I thought. There’d be another, I thought. Not a good time, I knew.

Until a week later, when her picture showed up in my inbox. (I’d signed up for a breed notification from TAS.) I excitedly called my enabler, and we made plans to see (get) her that night. I left work early because I had a dental appointment for a small filling. Because the gods seem to want to make my life even more complicated, that simple procedure turned into an hour in the chair. I had two shots of Novocaine and couldn’t even rinse the blood out of my mouth. But I raced to the Ex grounds, thinking the shelter closed at 8. It didn’t. I got there at 6:45; it closed at 6:30. I called my boyfriend—he and his son were inside. He came down to get me, and I finally had the chance to see her. She was a barker. She liked to attack feet. She was so soft. She had floppy ears and golden eyelashes. I was in love.

But the course of true love does not run smooth. The shelter staff wouldn’t start an adoption that late at night and insisted we bring my boyfriend’s dog, Cash—a large black Lab cross—for a meet-and-greet the next day. Cue mad dash down the next morning because TAS doesn’t reserve dogs. The meeting went well. Cash was more interested in just about everything else, but at least he wasn’t trying to eat the pup. As soon as that was determined, I looked for someone to give me the paperwork. A little over $200 later, I had a four-month-old spayed puppy with all her shots. Love and laughter in one soft, squirmy package—for much less than if I’d gone anywhere else. All thanks to TAS. All paid for by my contribution, tax dollars, and licensing fees. She’s incredibly healthy and happy. I don’t have to worry that my city is housing a horror like the one in Montreal—because of their incredibly poor decision to hire a for-profit company (Berger Blanc) for their animal services. So from this day forward, I’ll proudly send in my licence renewal fee, knowing that I’m helping make my city a better place to live for all its inhabitants—two-footed and four-footed. And if you ask, I’ll suggest you do the same.

Note: I wrote this almost one year ago—just after I adopted Junebug. I was in the middle of studying for final exams and didn’t get this to Cathy right away. Less than a month after that, my world turned upside down when my boyfriend died unexpectedly. Junebug has been my constant and my sanity over the past year. When the bill for her tag arrived recently, I thought this was a good time to resurrect this post. Twenty-five dollars is so little to pay for so much love.

Hand-Knit Dog Sweaters for Sale for Good Cause!

Pixie modelling her sweater last winter.

Last year, I knit several dog hoodies—three for my dogs and a few others, including the ones for adorable Pixie and Tessa (pictured). All of the money from the sale of these sweaters was donated to The Animal Guardian Society (TAGS), and this year I’m hoping to sell a few more for TAGS’s benefit. I don’t have a lot of time for knitting, but if you’re interested in purchasing a sweater, leave a message below or email me at!

Tessa looking super-cute in her hoodie!