Ick, ticks!

Ah spring is finally upon us!  The temperatures are warming up, grass and trees are getting green, and the birds and bugs are out.  And that includes ticks.

Ticks have become a bigger concern more recently than they ever were in previous years.  Besides the fact that they are gross and bite you and bury their head under your skin to suck your blood (ew!) certain types of ticks called deer ticks carry Lyme disease.  Ticks can attach to you or your pets so you need to take precautions to prevent getting bitten.  Ticks have specific climate needs (humidity and temperature) which sees them most in the Spring and Fall seasons.  Specific information about ticks in Ontario

For your pets you can consult with your veterinarian about using a preventative medication to protect your pets from tick bites.  Another good idea is to always check your pets (and yourself) after any walk or hike that might take you close to an area with ticks.  Here is a link to help identify areas on your pet that you might find ticks

After a short hike with two of my own dogs last weekend on part of the Bruce Trail in Caledon East I unknowingly brought home a hitchhiker 😦  I was working in the afternoon and felt an itch on my outer thigh that wouldn’t go away.  A short while later I checked the site where the itch was and much to my surprise (and dismay!) I found a tick had bitten me and was stuck in my leg!  It must have attached to me earlier in the day on my hike and had been making its way up my leg inside my pants all day – how gross is that!?!?  I have removed ticks from my pets in the past so knew I had to get the whole thing out including the head and I have sent it to Public Health to be tested.

The hitchhiker I brought home…

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Let’s let dogs be dogs

I recently took a vacation and visited a place I have always wanted to go…Costa Rica.  I rarely take my own dog-free vacations because, well, I enjoy the company of my dogs and if they can go with me I take them.  But this was not a trip for them, this one was about me.  Luckily, I had family and friends willing and able to care for my dogs while I was away.

As is normal, even when travelling without my dogs, I am drawn to, curious about and seem to attract dogs and cats to me.  I found the dog culture in Costa Rica very interesting.  Much to my delight, there were dogs everywhere we went!  I first noticed them wandering at the side of the road while driving from the airport to the hotel the first night.  They kept their distance from the cars and roadways.  Even though they were clearly strays they seemed to have a group hanging out together under the trees at the side of the roads.  I don’t know how these dogs survive on the streets but they have obviously figured out a way to find food and don’t have to worry about freezing cold weather.

There were dogs in restaurants and although it was never clear to me if they belonged to the owner, a staff member or a patron but they were all well-behaved, not begging or  mooching, simply taking a wander every now and then under the tables at your feet licking up anything that might have been dropped.  I did notice dogs that had owners, for the most part, were wearing a collar and even saw some dogs tied up outside houses or businesses; one was a very beautiful female pit bull who was pregnant and I assume she was tied up to ensure the delivery of her puppies went well when it was time.  Dogs were allowed on the beach.  Some of the dogs got together briefly and had a little game of chase with some play-bowing back and forth.  Then they carried on their merry ways back to their owners who did not have to call them or leash them to break up the play party.  The dogs were just content with a quick play or sniff and then moved on.  I didn’t see any dogs fighting, pulling at the end of leashes, lifting their legs and marking anyone’s belongings lying on the beach, and only once I saw dog waste.

Unfortunately, I was not able to visit Territorio de Zaguatas, also known as Land of the Strays, as I had hoped.  They have a visiting schedule that just did not jive with my travel plans.  I had really hoped to learn about the system of catching and adopting out the dogs at their sanctuary as well as see their facility and learn more about their fundraising and donation process.  I guess I will just have to go back to Costa Rica in the near future 🙂

Is it because they live in paradise that these dogs seem so happy and carefree and their owners trust them to make good decisions like not peeing on someone’s beach towel?  Do we put too many expectations on our pets that makes them act out, needing all kinds of training devices, doggie Prozac and behaviour consults?  Or are we the ones who are just not happy with our dogs being dogs that we project all these issues on them such as needing to have friends and learn how to socialize by forcing them to meet every dog in the neighbourhood, wear harnesses and head collars so they don’t pull us down the street and so on.  We do have a tendency to put human emotions on our pets but I really don’t believe dogs or cats feel guilt, spite or jealousy.  They are very smart animals but quite simple at the same time.

Yes, of course, in North America our way of life is very different and it would not be safe for dogs to roam freely and very few of them would be savvy enough to avoid a mishap with a vehicle.  But what about just trusting them a little and letting them be dogs and figure things out…for example the tour guides on my trip had a newly adopted puppy they had brought back to Costa Rica from another country nearby.  She was so happy with all the different people in our group and joined us on our 28 km hike up a mountain.  Yes, I said it, she was with us every step of the way – off leash, running ahead with the group up front then darting back to check on the stragglers in the back.  When we stopped to rest, take a drink and have a snack she immediately hunkered down, curled up in a ball and literally POWER napped.  As soon as we were ready to go she jumped right up and off we went.  Her owners never taught her but she figured out that a certain type of plant called a Bromeliad held water at its base, between the leaves and she would stick her head in there to get a  drink – amazing that she figured that out on her own!

As for cats, I only saw 3 on the whole trip.  Two were at restaurants maybe hanging around for a meal or as pest control for rodents?  The other cat was at the office of one of the tour operators.  Again, they were not a nuisance or a problem.  I have heard that near some resorts stray cats and dogs are poisoned as a way of controlling nuisance strays.

I will admit I’m completely guilty of having high expectations of my dogs without giving them much freedom.  I don’t leave them out in the yard alone unsupervised, if they wander out of sight I immediately call them and am always thinking for them “it’s too cold outside I should take them in” or “this walk is far enough, I didn’t bring enough water, I should take them back” without consulting them or allowing them to let me know when they’ve had enough.  I do suppose in North America if we had a more lenient attitude and outlook when it comes to our pets as I witnessed in Costa Rica, I would probably not be working as a dog walker/pet sitter 🙂

 

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The guy in the water was having a blast throwing a stick for his dogs
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Paxi, little mountain climbing machine
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dogs allowed on the beach
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a shaggy dog after my own heart
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snoozing in his dinner bowl
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play bow!
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this darling we named Romeo, he was in love with Paxi and followed us/her to the lodge – what a doll he was!
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of course I found puppies on day 1 of the trip!
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meeting of the minds…at the school no less

Fairwell Friend

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love animals, especially dogs.  There is just something so special about a creature who pretty much spends their life wanting to please you, wanting your love and attention and in return giving unconditional love.  There is nothing the same as the greeting you get from a dog when you get home, even if you were only gone for five minutes.  In the event of a natural disaster I would definitely be that person standing on the roof of my house with all my pets refusing to leave them behind.

Saying goodbye to our pets is never easy.  In my own life I’ve had to say goodbye to two family dogs, two family cats and one dog of my own.  All were a different yet difficult experience.  The passing of my own dog was the complete opposite of how I imagined it would go and it was devastating.  I was recently invited to be present with someone who was saying goodbye to his dog.  I knew the dog well and loved him like my own.  I was honoured to be asked to be there with him and his owner.  He was a good dog and he lived a good, long, happy life.  His owner made the excruciatingly difficult decision to help his dog in his time of need.  A medical issue he had all his life, that had been well-managed and taken care of, had surfaced again.  Combined with his age and other medical issues the owner considered the dog’s quality of life as the most important thing and made the most compassionate decision we have to make as pet owners.  For years the owner knew he would have to make this decision as he never wanted to see his dog suffer.  He also knew how he wanted the entire situation to go – at home, peacefully in his own comfy dog bed.  And that is how it went.  And it was so peaceful.  It was a very different experience for me, yet again, and I only hope I can make that decision for my remaining and future pets.  I am very fortunate and grateful for the experience and to be included.  Thank you.

I know many people who have loved and lost pets and never wanted to experience that feeling of loss again and therefore refused to get another pet.  As much as the loss hurts, the love our pets give far outweighs the loss in my eyes and my heart and I cannot imagine my life without any pets in it.  When the hurt is lessened by time and healed a little by the good and even the bad memories, hopefully another dog will be able to share a good, long, happy life with you.  Now I’m going to find some kleenex and my dogs to snuggle.

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Winter and Holiday Hazards

Well the holiday season is well under way and as we prepare our homes for family and other guests we must remember to keep things safe for our furry residents as well.  The holidays are an exciting time with celebrations galore, breaks from school and work, decorating and gift-giving.  Our pets feel that excitement and energy from us, they notice the smells of baked goods, the giant tree (what? there’s a tree in the house!?), the decorations on the tree and the packages under the tree!  The excitement can make them curious, make them want to investigate these new things and new smells some of which could be dangerous for them.  Here are a few things to keep in mind over the holidays to keep our pets safe in our homes:

  • holiday ornaments, gift wrapping and tinsel can look like bright, shiny toys to our pets so ensure they are unreachable and up high on the tree or the tree somehow blocked with a baby gate when you can’t supervise your pets near the tree
  • holiday plants such as lilies, holly, mistletoe and pointsettias can be toxic to pets
  • alcohol should be supervised and kept away from pets as well as any baked goods containing alcohol
  • holiday foods such as chocolate, baked goods and fruitcakes with grapes and raisins, sugarless gums and candies containing xylitol can all be toxic to pets
  • leftovers and table scraps can be fatty and cause pancreatitis as well as the risk of cooked bones can splinter and cause intestinal damage

It is a good idea to know when your regular veterinarian is open over the holidays and to have a back up plan for when they are closed.  It wouldn’t hurt to find out where your nearest Emergency Vet is and what their hours are, even if you don’t need them for your own pet a family member or guest visiting with their pet might!  Another good resource is the Pet Poison Hotline.  They can advise you in advance based on what you are able to report to them if your pet should be rushed to an Emergency Vet in the case of an incident.  That number is 855-764-7661.  There is a fee and you will be given a case reference # to take to the vet if they feel your pet needs immediate veterinary care.

Even once the holidays are over there are a few extra things we need to be careful around with our pets over the remainder of the winter.  Some things to remember for winter:  keep antifreeze up high and away from where pets can get it, beware of what ice melters/salt you are using, checking vehicles for cats sleeping in the engine space or wheel wells to keep warm, get your dog a coat and/or boots for extreme cold days.  Our pets still need to get out and get exercise but in the cases of extreme cold I’m sure they’d be quite happy to potty in the yard and spend some time with you indoors.

The better prepared you are the easier the holidays will be for all!  Merry Christmas from me and my fur family to you and yours!

Do you ResQwalk?

Back in July I was introduced to an app called ResQwalk which I have been using on a daily basis while walking my own dogs as well as all my client’s dogs.

It’s a pretty neat idea that benefits animal rescues and registered animal welfare organizations based on how many kilometers you walk (run or bike, any activity that can be tracked by a GPS).  You get to choose the rescue you would like to walk for and can change that as often as you like.  I chose to walk for a rescue called Ruff Start New Beginnings which is where I got my dog Widget from.

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The way it works is donations from corporate sponsors are given to the ResQwalk group who proportionately distribute those donations each month based on the mileage walked for each rescue.  You can set weekly goals and additional prizes and special offers may be given for meeting your goal!  It’s like a Fitbit with a purpose!  You can follow other walkers, they can follow you, you can post photos and ‘like’ other walkers’ posts and photos.

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If you run a rescue you can contact them to have your rescue added.  At first I was skeptical but was informed by someone who runs a rescue that is on the app as well as someone who works in a veterinary clinic and has knowledge that some of the corporate sponsors providing the donations are pharmaceutical companies, that the app is legitimate.

So while out walking your dog everyday, or running or cycling, you can be raising funds for your favourite rescue!  Not only are my dogs helping me raise funds but yours are too when they are out on walks with Wags & Wiggles!  It’s a free download on iOS or Android and the GPS does not use any of your data so you have nothing to lose and the rescues have everything to win from it!

Freaky Stuff

Recently I witnessed a scary situation with a young pup I was asked to feed and walk.  It was something that can happen to anyone.  Luckily it happened while I was there.  When I took him out of his crate he was already wearing a collar, so I attached his leash and off we went for a walk, he did all his business and ate his lunch so it was time to go back in his crate.  I opened the crate door and tossed in a treat for him to get.   As he entered the crate his collar caught the latch of the door and pulled the door closed behind him, collar still snagged on the latch.  He started to panic, pulling against the door.  Then he started to alligator roll, his collar getting tighter right in front of me.  I tried to reach through the crate to undo the collar since I couldn’t get the door open as he is a large dog pulling in the opposite direction.  That didn’t work so I braced myself with my foot against the bottom of the crate and  yanked it open bending it in the process but I was able to reach in and release his collar.  He came out of the crate and dropped into my lap trying to catch his breath.  He was fine and just needed some soothing and calming down.  I couldn’t believe how bent and distorted the crate door and latch were (I wish I had have taken a photo).  Imagine if that collar got caught after I had left and he panicked and rolled, tightening his collar….Needless to say, I put him back in his crate WITHOUT his collar on his neck.

There are a lot of things in my time as a dog owner/trainer/pet sitter/dog walker that I may have seen or heard of, freak accidents likely, that others have not, simply because of the amount of exposure I have to many, many pets and their families.  I have seen lots of freaky or out of the ordinary things that might seem far-fetched or unlikely to happen to the average person but they do.  One of my own dogs got a grasshopper stuck up her nose! And of course the more I tried to grab it’s legs to pull it out, it made it’s way further up her nose.  The poor thing went into a sneezing fit which eventually got the grasshopper out but who would have ever thought that could happen!  Working in veterinary hospitals I have also seen things that you wouldn’t even imagine can happen, but they do.

Because of this knowledge there are things I do not allow for my own dogs.  For example, my dogs are not allowed to play with sticks because I’ve seen too many freak stick accidents – punctures in the roof of the mouth, wedged sideways across the roof of the mouth, punctures through other body parts, and so on.  One of my dogs cannot have stuffy toys unsupervised because he chews off and eats any part that sticks out – ears, tails, arms, legs and I’ve seen too many dogs requiring foreign body surgeries for things they have ingested.  Call me paranoid, that’s ok, but if I see something that I think could be a potential threat or cause problems for your pet I will report it to you and maybe make a suggestion to change something.  I will let you know if your dog pulled in the blanket you have covering his crate – not to tattle tale on your dog but if he decided to chew it, then swallow it you could be looking at a number of problems.  You can take my suggestions or reports as you wish and they may not always be bad, I love to give good reports too!  Your pets are important to me so please know that anything I see that could potentially be a hazard, I will point out to you out of care and concern for your pet.

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Sticks are a no, no for my all of my dogs

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Plush toys with ears, arms, legs, tails and so on are a no, no for Traffic.

No pets? No problem! Wags & Wiggles does house sitting also

As part of the services offered at Wags & Wiggles you can hire us to check on your home in your absence – whether it be an extended vacation, extended business trip, a second home or transition period between two homes – Wags & Wiggles can come in to check on things such as heating/cooling systems working, look for damage due to weather and/or burglary, bring in your mail/newspapers, alternate lights, water plants, etc.

Many people don’t realize if you are away from your home for any length of time it may be a requirement of your insurance company to have someone competent check on your home in order to maintain your policy.  Check with your individual policy to find out what the time frame is and what the requirements are.

Contact Wags & Wiggles to set up a meet and greet to go over things you want checked in your home.   A schedule of visits can be customized based on your absence and the requirements of your insurance company.

Sue can be reached by phone at 647-228-0273 or email at wagsnwiggles.sue@gmail.com

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Caledon Day 2016

On Saturday June 18th I, along with my dog Party, attended Caledon Day 2016 in Caledon East and set up a vendor booth for Wags & Wiggles Dog Walking and Pet Sitting.

This was my first ever showing at this type of event representing my own business.  I saw it as a fabulous opportunity to be available to meet and talk to new clients so they could put a face to the name and I could answer, in person, any questions they might have.  I also loved seeing existing clients as I often only meet them once when they book a meet & greet and after that most correspondence is through notes, texts or emails.  It was also great to see friends, co-workers, teammates and neighbours.   I have lived in Caledon for over 12 years and still love the sense of community and small town.  I met so many new people, some who came with their dogs, others did not, some came to visit with Party and chat with me about my services, and some were familiar faces who just wanted to say hello.  I feel a great amount of support for my business and I appreciate it!  It was a really nice day to be out in my community.

I was also lucky to share my booth with the company of  The Village Chandler who was selling her Bug Balm, an insect repellent salve to target the nasty biters that we knew would join the event after the sun went down.  Her products are all natural and made with edible ingredients so they are safe to use on dogs and children.  I can personally vouch for her Village Salve and Paw Balm as well as the Bug Balm.

I hope you enjoyed visiting my booth, meeting myself and Party and I look forward to helping with your pet care needs in the future!

Life long commitment

Sharing your life with a pet is a wonderful, rewarding thing.  No matter what type of pet.  Ever since I was a kid my family had a pet, sometimes even more than one.  The first pet I ever recall having was a goldfish, then a hamster, a cat and finally, we graduated to getting a dog!  We knew little about having a dog but what my family did know was that we loved him!  I remember one winter morning he got out the door and was missing but I was told I had to go to school and thought about him all day, out in the cold of the winter.  Luckily a neighbor had found him and taken him in for the day.  I remember being so happy and relieved to have him safely back home!  Having a pet is great for a number of reasons; they provide companionship, in the case of a dog they get you outdoors for exercise, and they can help teach kids about responsibility.  

Having a pet is a big responsibility that you need to consider before getting one.  Are you prepared to care for them for the full length of their life, whatever that number may be?  If the kids who wanted the pet start slacking on their responsibilities of caring for the pet, are you prepared to take over and/or reinforce the responsibilities to the kids so the pet doesn’t suffer?  Are you prepared to give them the time required to train, groom, exercise and take them to the vet?  Are you prepared financially for all of those things as well as the unexpected, such as a serious illness or accident?  Pets should be vaccinated and visit a veterinarian on a regular basis to ensure they are healthy as they have limited ways of communicating to us if they feel unwell.  Regular grooming for certain pets is a requirement as well, especially long-haired dogs or cats.  All dogs and cats will need their nails trimmed, floppy-eared dogs may need regular ear cleanings.   Exercise is essential even for indoor cats, they should have a way to learn, play, explore and move.  Even more so for puppies and dogs, especially any high-energy breeds!  Bored, unexercised pets can become destructive as they will find ways to entertain themselves such as digging holes in your yard, chewing, scratching and destroying items/furniture in your house, demand barking or meowing incessantly.  Even if your pet is somehow limited physically, by an injury for example, there are things you can do to exercise their brains which can be just as exhausting and make for a tired but happy pet.  Teaching your pet basic tricks (yes, cats can learn tricks too!) can build a bond between you and your pet.  You can teach tricks that might be useful on a vet or groomer visit such as give a paw, lie down on your side, or stand still.  DSC_0378

Many people think the responsibility ends after the first couple of years or months and the pet has been vaccinated, has been to one series of basic dog training classes and gets out for a daily walk.   But the responsibility is for a lifetime, you made the choice to bring them into your life so it is up to you to make adjustments for them as they get older or slower, maybe need more attention, need a special diet or a slower, shorter walk.  If circumstances are so bad that you just cannot keep the pet for some reason and there is no other solution, it is your biggest responsibility to find them a sound and suitable home where they will be happy and healthy for the remainder of their life.  

Our pets are only with us for a very short time frame so we need to enjoy them while they’re here with us and keep that promise to provide for them for the entirety of their lives.  

Why Hire a Dog Walker or Pet Sitter??

Why would a person hire a dog walker or pet sitter when they have family, friends or neighbours they could ask to help them out? Well if you travel a lot or work everyday and need help with Fido or Fluffy, it can be a lot to ask of someone as a favour.

As a pet sitter my goal is to keep your pets as comfortable as possible in your own home by maintaining as regular of a routine as possible.   I will come into your home on regularly scheduled visits to feed, water and walk/exercise your pets while you are away.  Other tasks are also offered as part of the service such as medicating the pets, alternating lights in the home, bringing in mail and newspapers and watering plants.  Some other benefits for your pet are they are familiar with their surroundings and not stressing in a kennel listening to other dogs whine and bark.   Cats generally do not travel well so this is the ideal way to have your cat cared for.  Also you do not need to administer any additional vaccines in order to leave your pet at home and you don’t need to worry about pick up and drop off times scheduled at a kennel.  My visits will be scheduled based on your travel times so Fido and Fluffy are home and happy to greet you when you arrive.

Some tips for leaving your pets at home:

  • inform your veterinarian you are away and let them know who is taking care of your pets in your absence; provide your veterinarian’s contact info to your care provider
  • inform your family/neighbours you are away and that you have someone coming in to look after them; provide your pet sitter with emergency contact numbers in case there is an emergency with your house (broken window, fallen tree)
  • have a plan for things such as power failures, snow clearing, broken furnace or air conditioning, etc
  • if you are uncertain about leaving your pets with a pet sitter do a ‘trial run’ and go out for one night to see how they do

Daily dog walking services are ideal for anyone who has a long day at school or work or needs to run errands after school or work and want their dog to get out for some fresh air, to stretch their legs and, of course, to relieve themselves during the day.  I offer a variety of services ranging from potty breaks for puppies and senior dogs, thirty minute walks or sixty minute hikes – all of which can be tailored to your dogs’ needs.  Your dog can be walked individually or with other dogs – you make the decision.

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When searching for a dog walker or pet sitter some things to consider in your decision would be their experience and love of animals – ask them about themselves and how they came to be a dog walker/pet sitter.  Ask for references – you would do the same for anyone else you hire.   Ask about their training and practices – are they trained in pet first aid? how many dogs do they take out together?  what do they do if your pet gets injured? is their business insured?  When you hire someone to care for your four-legged family members you should feel good about leaving your pets in their care and confident that your pets will be loved and cared for appropriately.