Safety first (and always)

Over the years that I’ve owned and taken of care of other people’s pets I’ve learned a lot of things about safety measures we can take to keep them safe.  Some things are quite obvious but to a first time pet owner removing your dog’s collar when in a crate may not seem so obvious, for example.

Pet stores offer a wide variety of products that serve many purposes safety-wise such as reflective leashes and collars, warm coats and boots to keep them safe from the weather and elements including road salt, light up collars and collar tags, muzzles – yes these can be used for their safety and ours, and so on.

they may look like aliens but these are light-up dog collars

Unfortunately I know of someone who was struck by a vehicle while walking on a rural road on a dark night.  While I do most of my dog-walking during the daytime hours I found the need to make myself feel safer and more visible while walking some dogs on a rural road.  On a foggy day or other weather that has poor visibility I noticed cars passing by didn’t seem to see me as well until the last minute.  The dogs have bright-coloured harnesses and leashes so I invested in a reflective and light-up vest that I can wear over any coat or other outerwear.  I walk against the traffic so I can make eye contact with the drivers and am able to see if they are paying attention and notice me.  If I think a driver has not seen me I can move the dogs and myself further away from the road, which unfortunately means into the ditch, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.  I will always smile or wave thanks to any car that notices and gives me a bit of a berth if they can.  It is just common courtesy I think but am surprised how many cars do not move over even an inch.  The same courtesy should be given to anyone walking/running/pulled over or even putting out their garbage!!


Putting a collar and identification tag on  your pet can help them safely find their way home if ever lost.  Microchipping is also a good option, however, if your pet is found wandering the chances of a person having a microchip scanner in their back pocket are pretty slim so I.D. tags work instantly if you have the correct & updated contact information on them.   There are also GPS tracking collar tags available now.  I don’t know much about these so you should do your research, however, it is a great use of modern technology that can help keep your pets safe!

Our pets are our family so we want to keep them safe and away from any harm.  Consider which concerns are most likely to affect your pets’ safety and invest in the tools to keep them safe.   For example if you have a dog who tends to run off and wander spending some money on a GPS collar tag might be a great idea to help get them back.  If you walk your dog at night any light up or reflective items will make you both more visible.  I hate to hear stories of accidents or tragedies concerning pets especially when it could have been preventable.  Let’s keep ourselves and our pets safe!


Teaching adaptability

While your pets are young and growing, or if they are grown but newly introduced to your home it is important to stick to a routine to make them comfortable, teach them that you are their family and provider and help them learn what your expectations of them are.

Once your pets are in a routine I think it’s important to switch it up sometimes.  What I mean by that is not always feeding them at the exact same time everyday, not walking them the exact same route everyday, and so on.  If your pets learn to be adaptable it will make it easier for you if you need to travel and take your pets with you.  It will also make it easier if you travel and have to leave your pets at home in the care of someone else.  A friend, family member or pet sitter may not be able to feed your pet at the exact time that you do due to scheduling so getting your pets used to being fed within a time frame rather than an exact time will help.  If you walk your dogs for an hour everyday but your care provider can only do a half hour walk then the route they walk will need to be different so getting your dog used to different routes will help.

If I’m unable to provide exactly what you’re asking for with regards to your pets’ care I will always try to offer an alternative solution whether it be a shorter walk or a different time frame for their visits and if your pet is taught to be adaptable it will be easier for you to accept what I can offer and know that your pet will be just fine.

What exactly does “vacation care” mean?

I’ve had a few calls recently requesting ‘boarding’ services which is something I do not offer.  I don’t have a facility, therefore, have no where to house any guest dogs.  I have my home where my own dogs reside with me.  What I offer is called “vacation care” which essentially means your dog(s) stay in your home and I visit them in the comfort of their own home.  We will work out a schedule that works for your dog depending on the time of your departure as well as your arrival back home.  I will visit 3 or 4 times a day so that visits are spaced out every 6-8 hours depending on your dogs’ needs, for 30 minutes per visit.  In the visit time I will walk, play with them, feed and refresh water for your dog – whatever their normal routine is I will try as much as possible to stick to.

What is the benefit to leaving your dog at home and having me visit?  There are numerous benefits; the first would be the dog is in the comfort of their own home and do not need to stress about being in a kennel with other dogs barking or in unfamiliar surroundings.  In their eyes everything is normal except I’m visiting to feed and let them out instead of you doing it.  Your dog doesn’t need to be given any additional vaccinations to stay at home as they do when going to a boarding kennel.  If you have other pets at the home such as a cat or small caged animals they will also be cared for on my visits (usually at no extra charge but depends on the work involved).  Other small tasks will be done at your home for no extra charge such as mail/newspapers brought in, plants watered, lights alternated so that your home looks lived in while you’re away.

The vacation care I offer may not work for all dogs, however, a lot of dogs do better staying at home.  It is especially beneficial for owners who have more than one dog as they are company for each other and boarding multiple dogs can be costly – think boarding costs as well as vaccination costs.  Many mature, well-settled dogs do just fine staying at home alone.  Dogs it may not suit would be very young dogs who require more attention or dogs who are crated/kennelled in your absence.

I recently took an overnight away and had someone come in to check on my dogs, feed them and let them out – exactly as I would do for your dogs and they were so settled and quiet when I walked in the door two hours ago.  Of course they were happy to see me but now are all sleeping at my feet as I write this blog.  No anxiety, no stress AND I didn’t have to drive anywhere to pick them up!

Of course you would need to live within my service area for me to offer this type of service as I will be driving to and from your house 6-8 times in a day depending on if you book 3 or 4 visits.  Three visits a day would be just like you going to work for a day and then spending an evening out as well, maybe at a class or attending your child’s sporting event, shopping, whatever the case may be and you see your dog in the morning, for dinner and again before bedtime.


No judgement here

I’ve wanted to write about this for a while and keep forgetting until I come across another situation that reminds me of it.  I’ve had a few recently so here it is.

I don’t understand why people feel the need to judge others based on their pets’ appearance or behaviour.  I was recently walking a dog who was pulling and excited and starting barking at another dog.  The lady walking the other dog GLARED at me and made some comment under her breath to the effect of me having a bad dog.  While I agree he wasn’t acting like the most appropriate dog on the trail and it was not a display of behaviour that I would accept from my own dog, I don’t know why she felt the need to say anything.  She has no idea, first of all, that the dog isn’t even mine; why the dog was behaving that way; and whether or not his owner was doing anything to try to work on his issues.  I compare it to a kid acting out in a grocery store – maybe crying because the mom is not buying them candy – well it isn’t anyone else’s business how the mother handles the situation, even if you think the kid is being a brat saying so out loud with a disapproving glare is not going to change anything for the kid, the mother or you.  Unless of course the mom is beating the kid, then you should do something about it.

I often have clients apologizing for things like their house being messy, or dog not being groomed, etc.  Unless you are mistreating your pets or neglecting them completely, which you are obviously not if you’ve hired a service like myself to walk/feed them, I am not judging you, your pets or your home.  I know it’s a natural thing to do….I recently caught myself apologizing at a vet visit for my dog not being perfectly groomed….but I really don’t pay attention to how long your grass is, or how messy your kitchen table is or that you didn’t put toilet paper on the holder (yes, sometimes I need to use your facilities).  I will, however, let you know if something could be harmful or uncomfortable to your pet like long nails or matted fur – not to judge you but to be a voice for your pets 🙂

I go into a lot of homes and see a lot of different ways that people live but I am not there to judge you as I would not want you to judge me if you came into my home which of course can be messy, dirty, smelly and hairy at times….I have 3 dogs…of course it’s going to happen!!

I also have rules for my dogs that might seem strict – they are not allowed on the furniture, they must sit and wait for their meals, there will be no rushing out of open doors (they are released one at a time by name), no playing in the house, etc.  I have these rules because of the number of dogs I have  – it would just be too crowded on the bed or couch with 3 dogs, if they played & wrestled in the house my living room would constantly be a mess.  I do not judge others for the rules they have for their pets even if you are more lenient than me.  You do what works for you and I do what works for me just like we wouldn’t judge or criticize one another for the way we raise our children.  Everyone is different and there is no one way that is more right or wrong than another.



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…


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 🙂


The guy in the water was having a blast throwing a stick for his dogs
Paxi, little mountain climbing machine
dogs allowed on the beach
a shaggy dog after my own heart
snoozing in his dinner bowl
play bow!
this darling we named Romeo, he was in love with Paxi and followed us/her to the lodge – what a doll he was!
of course I found puppies on day 1 of the trip!
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.



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.


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.


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.


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


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