BARKS AND RECREATION – DO’S AND DON’TS FOR ENJOYING NATURE

“Wanna go to the park?”  Tommy Holedigger was trembling with excitement when he heard that question – “I can’t believe it!  It’s “Parks and Recreation Month” again – or as I like to call it, “Barks and Recreation Month” – my favourite month of the year!  This is the month that all pet owners are reminded to take us out to play outdoors with them.  Hurrah!  Let’s go… c’mon…now!” 

Tommy is a very busy Border Collie and he likes nothing more than to get to an off-leash park and run, run, run… and then when that is done, to run some more!  Of course, he does have a few “issues” and has been known to get into a bit of trouble sometimes as he is not always polite with others – and he does not always come right back when called.  His buddy, Indiana Bones, a busy beagle pup, has learned a few things at his Socialization classes and decided to share with Tommy. 

Indiana was excited too but he knew that he had to follow a few rules.  His tail was wagging as fast as it could go and he ran around in circles as he reminded Tommy of a few things… 

Tommy, get a grip.  I just came from my obedience class and Dr. Callen was there and she said we have to remember a few things – here is what I learned:

  1. Leash: What park are you going to?  Do you need your leash or not? Check first or you might get in trouble with “the law”.  Remember, Tommy – we are not allowed to run loose anywhere except in special “off-leash parks”.  As much as we like to take off and run, we have to be “under control” all the time… I hate that too, but it is for our safety.  We are well behaved (most of the time) but there are other dogs or safety issues that we might not know about and so we need to be on our leash to be safe.  My owner is really good about that and says that she wants to be a “responsible pet owner”.  Hurrah for her!
  2. Aggressive dogs: Have you ever been to the park with that big mutt, Bony Soprano?  That guy is mean – he pretends to be friendly and then “Wham!”, he lunges.  We have to be careful about guys like him, and his cousins – those guys just should not go to off leash parks at all.  Don’t their owners know that?  It’s because of thugs like them that being on a leash is good as it makes it easier to break up fights. 
  3. Training: I am so glad I have been going to obedience classes.  It is sooo hard to come back when I am called when I am off exploring or chasing squirrels but now I know how to do it – every time.  My humans will let me go off leash now.  Tommy, if you would learn to do that, you might get to go free more often!  Even busy Border Collies like you can learn to do that.
  4. Licenses:  I just got a new tag – and it looks pretty sharp!  My human said I need it on my collar so that the City knows about me and can help if I get lost.  Pretty cool, eh?  Make sure you get your license renewed too. 
  5. Microchip: Hey, Tommy… do you have one of those cool microchips?  I do, and it kind of makes me feel like a space dog.  I went to see my vet at PetFocus and she put this little thing, about the size of a rice grain, under my skin.  It didn’t hurt a bit.  It’s very high tech – if I ever got lost, a vet could wave this magic wand over my back and the information about my owners would pop up.  How awesome is that?  I think all the guys should get one.
  6. Poop:  Well, we know all about that, right?  When you gotta go… anyway, our owners have to remember to “scoop the poop.”  I hope they know that this is the law too… back to that responsible pet owner thing again.  I love sniffing poop but apparently there can be dangerous stuff in it – like buggy things and diseases.  Ick.  As much as I love checking it out, I wouldn’t want to carry bad stuff back to my owner’s house.   My owner is really careful about that – she just took a sample of my poop to PetFocus to be tested – she said we will do that every year.  She’s the best.
  7. Parasites: I hate ticks and fleas!  Those things make me itchy and give me a rash.  Fortunately, I get some stuff every month to keep those pests away from me…  The problem is, not all the guys get that stuff and so some of the dogs I like to play with at the park are carrying around pests, and they are in the grass too.  Make sure your owner is giving you the monthly dose of treatment.  My owner also checks me over (I love that part – it’s like a free massage!) for ticks every time we come in – and we don’t go back to the places where I find ticks.
  8. Vaccines:  I was at PetFocus last week – my owner took me in because we are going camping and she was afraid we might run into some deer or raccoons.  You know I just can’t help sniffing around where those guys have peed!  Anyway, it seems I needed some vaccine to help protect me from some of the awful stuff those wild beasts might carry.  Tommy, you should check that out too as I know you like to drink from puddles and ditches – you don’t know who peed there, buddy!  Get vaccinated to protect yourself and your humans. 

So anyway, Tommy, I am ready to roam.  Let’s go celebrate “Barks and Recreation” month and enjoy the great outdoors.  Be safe and responsible. 

Additional information:

CPRA ACPL – Parks and Recreation Month www.cpra.ca

HRM Off Leash Parks Strategy – http://www.halifax.ca/realpropertyplanning/olps/index.html

By-Law A-300 Respecting Animals & Responsible Pet Ownership – http://www.halifax.ca/legislation/bylaws/hrm/index.html

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Getting Too Hot Under the (Dog) Collar

“Whew! Dahling – it’s like an oven in this car!  I can’t possibly wait for you here.”  Zsa Zsa Dogbor was indignant that her owner would even think about leaving her in the car while she went in for her hair appointment.  Summer is here and some owners forget that their pets need to stay cool!  Zsa Zsa was chatting later with her friend, Schnitzel, about this and he agreed that it is a scary time of year for dogs, especially.  “Ja, dis is da wurst time for dogs.  Sometimes, I feel like a ‘hot dog’ bratwurst in da bun”, said the little dachshund.  “Every year, dey hear da warnings, and every year, some dog owners let their pets suffer in the heat.  Why, why, why do dey do dat?” 

“Oh Dahling”, Zsa Zsa cooed, “some owners have memories that are shorter than your legs – we have to keep reminding them about the dangers of heat stress for us.  My cousin, Ilsa, almost died from being left in a car while her owner went for lunch.  Can you imagine?  She was stuck there, with no air conditioning, and no idea why she was left there or for how long.  She panicked and that made it even worse.  Here is what I learned from my PetFocus vet after they saved her…. 

“It’s Ok – I’ll only be gone five minutes.”  That’s what Ilsa’s owner said when she left her.  The human was going into Tim’s to pick up a coffee – but, she met a friend and decided to have lunch and forgot about Ilsa.  That happens so often.  Five minutes becomes twenty-five.  Honestly, I don’t know how any human could forget about me for a moment, but it happens!  The scary thing is that Ilsa started to be stressed in only 10 minutes.  Her human left all the windows open a crack and left her some water but it didn’t help.  She still suffered from heat stress. 

“How hot is too hot?”, asked Schnitzel.    

Well, even on a typical summer day at 21OC, temperatures inside a parked car can reach 38OC and on a really hot day of 32OC, they can hit a whopping 60OC!  Oh Dahling, we literally cook at those temperatures.  People don’t realize that inside temperatures can be 10–20OC higher than outdoors within minutes. Of course, Dahling, I don’t sweat!  Actually, no dogs and cats can sweat like humans and most of us have heavy fur coats. I don’t like to talk about it as it is not very ladylike, but we cool down mainly by panting and through sweat glands on our feet. The other problem, which Ilsa had, is that as it got hotter, she panicked which made things even worse.  Poor baby was barking and pacing and no one noticed.  

“Ach, nein!”  said Schnitzel.  “Dat is terrible.”  He wondered… 

How can you tell if a panting animal in a car needs immediate help?”  

Zsa Zsa explained – Oh, it is not at all ladylike – some signs of heat stroke are extreme panting, drooling, deep red or bluish tongue, trouble breathing… Ilsa threw up (how embarrassing), and she was stumbling and weak and her muscles had tremors.  When her owner finally came back, her eyes were glassy and she had a “far away” stare… it was awful, dahling.  The vet said that the next step would have been a seizure, collapse or loss of consciousness.  Even worse, after that, she might have gone into a coma or even died! 

“What if someone had seen her in the car?  What should they have done?”  asked Schnitzel.

This is a difficult question to answer – they could call 911 or the local animal control agency right away.  They should write down the license plate and a description of the car. They could also try to find the owner in nearby buildings – ask stores to page the car owner.  If they think that it is urgent, they could get another person to check too and then do whatever they can to get the poor baby out of the car.  They will need to go to the vet right away.  They should be moved to an air-conditioned car or building and they should be wetted down with “cool” (never cold or icy) water for a few minutes.  Give them some cool water to drink.  

Other things to think about in the heat are that pets can get sunburned too – Zsa Zsa said that she never sits in the sun as she is so concerned about her perfect skin but some dogs are taken places where there is no shade.  Cats, she said, are sometimes better at finding shady places and dogs need that too.  It is also important to make sure that pets don’t have to walk a long way on hot pavement – oh dahling, my poor feet. 

Don’t make excuses. Don’t take pets out for walks or runs during the hottest time of day.  Leave your pets at home if you know you will need to make any stops and NEVER leave them unattended in a parked car.  Paying attention to this may save their life.