Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dusty: Rising Agility Star

Tonight Dusty had his first outdoor agility lesson, and it was great! He still barked a lot and wanted to go, go, go nonstop, but having a larger course to run and more space seemed to make him focus a little better on the task at hand while he was running.

Unlike Hogan, Dusty is very ball-motivated, so instead of treats at the end of his run, his reward is having the ball thrown.


Really, the only thing slowing Dusty down is me, so I’ve got to improve my cardio so I can run faster. I also need to develop a different style with Dusty than I have when running Hogan. Whereas Hogan won’t go into a tunnel unless I’m right beside him, Dusty can be sent into the tunnel or over a jump from a few feet away. I just keep forgetting that.

Here’s video of his biggest run today:

We’re still several lessons away from competing, but we may yet see Dusty at an agility trial before the summer’s out. Hope Hogan won’t mind having a fellow champ in the family!



How We Protect against Heartworm


With mosquito season upon us, our dogs are now sporting all-natural dog spray to protect them. They don’t like being sprayed, but it does seem to be working!

I just got the call from Thickson Road Pet Hospital letting me know that our dogs are heartworm- and tickborne disease–free. Yay!

When we first adopted Cora and Dusty, we learned of the risks of heartworm prevention medication from The Animal Guardian Society (TAGS). Although we had put Roxie, our previous dog, on Revolution every year, the information TAGS provided us with about the risks of giving our dogs these medications gave us pause. And after doing independent research online, we decided not to put our three on “heartworm prevention” (it’s not really prevention—it’s treatment just in case of infection). For the past two years, we have instead taken the following nonmedicinal (nontoxic) precautions:

  • Feeding a high-quality food and supplementing with fruits and vegetables
  • Using Natural Defense spray (or a homemade spray) to repel mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks
  • Giving them garlic and brewer’s yeast tablets daily
  • Putting black walnut drops into their food three times a week, as recommended by Dr. Marty Goldstein in his book The Nature of Animal Healing (some sources claim black walnuts are dangerous for dogs, but Dr. Goldstein claims it’s all about quantity)
  • Buying a Mosquito Magnet for the backyard to keep the population down
  • Avoiding buggy trails and woods, particularly in the early morning and at dusk

Last year, a colleague of mine who had given her two beautiful English bulldogs their Revolution doses faithfully every month the previous summer learned that one of her dogs had contracted heartworm regardless of the preventative medication. Her experience of a positive heartworm test has reinforced for me that we are doing the right thing by not using Revolution since even the “prevention” isn’t foolproof.

Nevertheless, I admit, I will be on pins and needles once again next year as I await the results of my dogs’ heartworm tests. Until then, we’ll keep on doing what’s worked so far: focusing on nutrition and homeopathic options.

Have any of you had experiences—good or bad—with heartworm preventatives or homeopathic options? If so, please share in the comments. I’m always looking for more “real world” information to help me maintain my dogs’ good health!

Happy Gotcha Day, Cora and Dusty

Two years ago, today—also a rainy, miserable day—we picked Cora and Dusty up from TAGS for their extended visit, knowing that in a week, we would officially adopt them. So today’s the anniversary of our welcoming them into our home for the rest of their lives. Happy gotcha day, Cora and Dusty!

They look much happier without their birthday hats on. :)

They look much happier without their birthday hats on. :)

The Unplanned Dog

2010 June 7_Roxie sitting prettyWhen we started looking for a new dog, we had no intention of adopting a senior. Only 10 months before, but feeling way more recent, we’d experienced the tail end of years of watching our senior dog, Roxie, decline, until we ultimately had to make that tough decision all pet owners dread.

So when we were ready to bring another dog into our house, we bypassed all the listings for older dogs and set the maximum age of our next dog at two years—old enough to be housebroken and beyond the destructive puppy stage yet young enough to spend many, many years with us. We searched, finding many possibilities but settling on a year-old Basenji mix named Amy who was available through The Animal Guardian Society. We wanted to meet her right away, so I called the TAGS phone number to see if it could be arranged. Fortunately for us, Amy was being shown at PetSmart that day. We had less than an hour, though, before TAGS would be packing up.

We left the house right away and raced from north Ajax to south Whitby to meet our next baby. Amy was a beautiful girl, to be sure, but once we were there, it was the sweet-looking, shivering beagle in the next crate who tugged at our heartstrings.

Frightened Cora in the pound in Kentucky

Frightened Cora in the pound in Kentucky

“How old is she?” we asked the volunteer.

“Judging by her teeth, the vet estimated her to be five,” she said.

My husband and I looked at each other. Five. Possibly middle-aged already. Too old.

But after looking into her slightly cloudy eyes that she averted from us nervously, I just had to ask more about her. Her rescuer, we learned, had named her Cora. She was a death-row rescue from Kentucky, had been in the program for only two weeks and was a very timid dog who would need some time to adjust to new people. My heart ached for her.

But five!

Cora loves her walks and especially loves being by (or preferably in) the lake!

Cora loves her walks and especially loves being by (or preferably in) the lake!

It was hard leaving Cora that day even though we struggled to get her to interact with us—she was just so timid. But once we were in the car and on our way home, I asked my husband, “What do you think?” feeling certain he’d echo my fears of (1) her being too old and (2) her questionable ability to bond with us. But I so hoped he’d see, as I did, that we could do right by her—and that age really is irrelevant after all.

“I think she’s a lot older than five,” he said tentatively. Yes, she did look older than five.

“And so you think we shouldn’t consider her?” I tried to hide my disappointment.

He hesitated. “I think we could give her a great home,” he said. He added that he was worried about my concerns about her age but that he thought we should apply to adopt her. She’d gotten to him, too! I was thrilled!

Cora loves a Kong!

Cora loves a Kong!

We rushed home, filled out the application, followed up almost immediately with a phone call and had a home visit just two days after our first meeting. A week to the day after our seeing Cora at PetSmart, we picked her up (and her new stepbrother, Dusty, who TAGS recommended to be a good companion for her) for her extended visit, and she’s been with us ever since!

Once our vet met Cora, he confirmed our suspicions about her age. He felt that although her teeth did indeed suggest five, her body condition, cloudy eyes, energy level, and facial whiteness hinted at her being closer to ten. Even this soon after her adoption, we shrugged it off. The day we met her, we had learned a great lesson: Age really doesn’t matter when it comes to finding the dog of your heart. And in Cora, we certainly found that.

Some of the advantages we’ve since discovered of adopting an older dog are these:

Cora going through the agility tunnel!

Cora going through the agility tunnel!

  • Their energy comes in spurts, rather than being constant.
  • They have less interest in chewing slippers, remote controls, blankets, etc.
  • Often, their greatest joy is just spending couch time with you.
  • They often already have some training behind them, and even if they don’t, it’s true that you can teach an old dog new tricks. (We take Cora to agility lessons!)
  • It’s incredibly rewarding to give a senior (i.e., “less adoptable”) dog a loving home.

So if you’re looking for your next pet, don’t discount the older ones. They have so much love to give, and it just may be a senior dog who can wheedle his or her way into your heart, if just given a chance.

Now That Winter Is Behind Us (let’s hope!)…

This winter I knit a few sweaters for charities and as prizes in my Guess the Breed contests (here, here, and here), and I thought I’d share pictures of the adorable dogs in their new duds.

First up is Jersey, whose sweater was purchased at a charity auction for a Humane Society in the Waterloo area (raising $70 for the charity):

Jersey looking dapper!

Jersey looking dapper!

My mom bought a sweater for her dog, Misha, with the money going to The Animal Guardian Society.

Pretty Misha

Pretty Misha

Ty’s mom won the contest to guess Cora’s secondary breed, so Ty is now sporting this adorable sweater:

Cutie-pie Ty looks even cuter in kelly green!

Cutie-pie Ty looks even cuter in kelly green!

During the brief time we had foster dog Noelle stay with us, I saw how cold she got outside, so I knit her this sweater (one of my favourites!):

Noelle in stripes

Noelle in stripes

Chappie and Blossom’s mom saw my three dogs in their sweaters at the dog park and ordered two for her babies (proceeds to TAGS):

Chappie and Blossum in their sweaters

Chappie (front) and Blossum (rear) warm and cozy and cute!

And, finally, Hogan’s former foster mom, Julie, won the contest to guess his primary breed, and she chose as her prize a sweater knit for Rocky, an adorable pug puppy with no use of his front legs.

Rocky in his sweater

So cute! Rocky’s sweater had to be customized so it was easy to put on and take off around his front legs.

I knit two other sweaters for TAGS (one that I think is still available for sale and one for a very cold and tiny chihuahua foster dog). I have one more sweater to knit, which I donated to the Loyal Rescue auction (raising $40). And that will be it until next season!