Santa, I want a Puppy for Christmas!

Dogs and cats conveniently have a second litter of the year during the winter months which correspond with our gift giving holidays.  However, giving one as a pet is frequently a very bad idea, for many reasons.  Still, there are many creative ways of making arrangements to give a new pet to a friend or family member without the pitfalls of actually having a furry bundle of joy underfoot. If your tradition is in the habit of unwrapping presents, many gift-giving opportunities can present themselves here.  One can wrap collars, leashes, harnesses and bedding up in fancy boxes or gift bags.  Breed books, or books or general care, training and behavior can all be procured.  A framed picture of the new pet can be something that your child can go to bed with – as good as any sugar plums dancing in the head.  The brochure of a veterinarian is a nice addition to a gift card or holiday card.  And all pets need toys!  I guess wrapping up some canned or dry food is the equivalent of getting a Christmas sweater, but it is something else to unwrap, and will eventually be a necessary item to the household. A disappointed child might not understand why a new puppy or kitten is not a good idea on The Big Day.  Gently explaining to them that tinsel and festive light cords pose choking and electrical hazards, and that swift moving, playful fur balls frequently do not mix well with Grandma and Grandpa’s slower foot falls.  Or mine, for that matter – I just recovered from a fourth hip surgery, this one a total hip replacement , an injury begun, ironically, by a fall walking my dog on Christmas Eve two years ago.  I don’t dodge as well as I used to, either! Front doors left open while people linger on their goodbyes are ripe opportunities for a little one to dart out in the dark, making for hair raising rescues, and should any trip to an emergency veterinarian be needed, it could be hard to find one on a holiday.  As an aside, you should have an emergency veterinarian’s name, number, and driving instructions on your refrigerator and in your glove box for any sudden need where you would need to be restraining your pet and have to have a friend help you drive.  Those are not times of clear thought and having preparations written down and rehearsed ahead of time could mean life or death in timing for your pet. One last thing to consider, if you are the gift giver (especially in today’s difficult Pandemic) is this:  well-intentioned though your thoughts may be, does the recipient really want or need a pet?  Initially, our shelters emptied at the start of the Covid-19 virus as newly home-bound people sought company, but they have re-filled as people, now unemployed, struggle to care for the basic needs of their pets.  It has become a crisis that I will write about later.

Carsickness in cats (and dogs), and what to do about it

I have clients who found a kitten at the husband’s family farm over the summer, and brought him home.  They already have two, ten year old cats.  B’Orange is a huge female who can handle Pepper, the errant kitten, just fine.  But Bud is constantly tormented by Pepper.  Poor Bud suffers from a multitude of health problems, including a mouth full of no teeth, and he just lays on his side making pathetic noises while Pepper tips him over and chews on him. So I offered to take Pepper home with me for the day to give the two seniors a break.  I have two parrots and a Border Collie and a house full of fish, but thought to myself, “Hey, if I am going to do Kitten Kindergarten, then I oughta get a cat!”

So I loaded Pepper up in the car and made the treck to St. Charles Animal Control, where I am friends with the shelter director.  Together, we combed the kennels, hauling out cat after cat, until I chose my new little “Cat-ten”, who I named Murmer, because she walks around the house all day long making that little sound to herself and anyone else who is listening.  I have not had kittens since 1987, and she fills my house all day long with hysterical laughter at her antics.  I’ll write more about her later. Fortunately, Pepper does not get car sick on his way back and forth to my house, but I get calls from clients who do have this problem.  Just a few days ago, I had to take my 33 year old Eclectus, Clare, to the vet, and there was a person next to me who had a cat who was sick and also suffered car sickness on the way into the vet. When my Scottish Deerhound, Gulliver, was a puppy, he rode in the back seat with a bag of grass seed and snacked, unbeknownst to me, all the way to the park, where he threw up.  I did not do a great job cleaning it up, and did not drive my car for a few days afterward.  When I got back out to take it out, there was a veritable garden of green lawn growing on my back seat!

Enrich your pet’s daily life

Lately there has been a surge of interest in how our lives have changed during some of the forced home quarantine and now some of us being able to return to work. I have been seeing a lot of separation anxiety cases, but many of the journals and pod casts that I subscribe to are challenging us to re-examine a day in the life of your pet. When one leaves for a commute to an 8 hour day job and then runs errands on the way home, this could easily turn into up to 12 hours that your pets are left alone. I am home recuperating from a total hip replacement; I have the phone, friends, the internet, books, television, etc, but as the days and hours go by, even with this stimulation available to me I feel at times like climbing the walls. How must it feel for dogs in crates, birds in cages, and cats confined to just looking out the window.

Seeking balance and harmony between animals and people

Separation anxiety has long been an issue that I have worked with in dogs, but there is a new manifestation of it that has been high up on my client call list lately. And interestingly enough, it is not just dogs that are suffering with it now. I am seeing it an many different types of pets, even had it in my 2 Parrots after sharing a room with them for months recovering from hip surgery.  Pets have gotten used to us being sequestered due to the COVID-19 virus, but now many of us are returning back to office jobs and long hours away.  Fortunately, there are many ways that we can help alleviate our pets’ anxiousness.

Summer is Beginning to Wind Down – a Few Thoughts

Ahh, what a wonderful respite we have had this week of the hot and humid St. Louis summer.  As we have enjoyed the break, so have our animals, but the summer is bound to return so here are a few thoughts to continue to enjoy the rest of it before the back-to-school crazies and last minute summer vacation times swoop down upon us. My new working Border Collie, PennDragon, is in herding training to become a Canada goose management dog.  We went to learn on some interesting Turkish sheep and also out to Purina to work with some sheep out there.

The Dog Days of Summer

Or is that the ‘The Lazy Days of Summer’? I am not good at expressions, but as the owner of two working Border Collies, a breed known for their high levels of energy and intelligence, there is nothing lazy about my summer. And the same is true for many, many of my clients, no matter what their breeds or mixes. My dogs work with wild Canada geese and their management, and wild geese are seasonal animals, and this is their season for having and raising families. My dogs and I respect their privacy during this time, so I have to find other ways to spend their excess indoor energy and need for entertainment.

Summer care for chickens and waterfowl (and other feathered friends)

I got a call this morning from an old friend, who has done dog rescue for years and recently has branched into chickens and ducks.  She and her husband found one of their new ducks dead yesterday morning (sad) and she called to discuss possible causes and any precautions that might be necessary for the health of the rest of the flock. We ruled out several possibilities, and due to the lack of our typical horrid St. Louis summers, heat stroke was ruled out. But I hear that it is due to get pretty hot this coming week, so I thought a discussion of summer care for birds might be pertinent.

So You Thought It Was Over – Fireworks and Pet Fears

Hello! Some of you may remember me as far back as Patch and then more recently blogging for Doug Miner for 40 South News. I am back after being away for health and out of state family issues. All is well and I am happy to be back. And just in time.

Halloween Safety for Your Pets

Halloween is one of America’s favourite holidays, I know that it is one of mine, but there are some considerations to keep in mind as we play our Spooky Games. Many dogs get upset hearing the door bell.  Others want to help greet the visitors at the open door.  In order to prevent door darting past the scary Trick or Treat-ers into the dangerous street or upset from the door bell or visiting strangers, keep your pets, cats included, safely behind closed doors in another part of the house.  For dogs, provide something wonderful to chew for distraction and entertainment, such as a stuffed Kong Toy. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and all candy should be kept out of range of Fido. If burning candles in decorations around the house, such as Jack-o-Lanterns, keep in mind basic safety tips to prevent fires caused by interference by pets. If you have indoor/outdoor cats and especially if they are black, keep them indoors.  Black cats are especially prone to wicked deeds by those pretending to play the part of devils, and many black cats have been tortured or killed by such evil people.

Dorene Olson

Egg has Dorene’s number

I have two 8-year-old hens, a drop dead stunning Show Quality Silkie and a Silkie/Serama/Cochin cross. The latter went broody (odd, at eight years old for the first time) but my friend and I slipped six black Catalonian Penedesenca eggs under her, and they all hatched out. We left her one baby (“Xesca”, it means “girl” in Catalon) and they are very bonded, she is precious. She hatched in April, and I also adopted a cockeral a few weeks older than her to guard the flock from the feral
alley cat population problem that I have. The other day I was astounded to find a beautiful, dark brown egg at the
entrance to the dog carrier that is in their pen.

Why our dogs live shorter lives than we do

I recently wrote about the passing of my Pekin Duck Rescue friend, Helen. Just now, I was wrestling around on the floor with my Canada goose management Border Collie, Quill, and saw a magazine under my bed. It is an Irish Wolfhound Quarterly, dated 2006 (I am nostalgic and clearly must have been reminiscing old reading material). My Irish Wolfhound was a puppy mill rescue dog and a record setting champion, she was my heart and soul.  I named my company in honour of her — Tara.  I am TARA Training and Behavior, LLC, Teaching Animals with Respect and Affection – T-A-R-A – she taught me everything that I know. So anyway, I opened up this Irish Wolfhound Quarterly magazine and read an article about the passing of a 10 year old IWH (they have very short lifespans, 10 is actually pretty lucky to get one of those to).

Goodbye, My Friend

In 1991, at 1 a.m. while I was driving home from the vet clinic where I worked in Ellisville back into the city, I saw what I thought was an alley cat in an alley about to pounce on a pigeon. It was the Monday morning after Easter Sunday. Cursing pigeons, I flipped on my beams and dashed out of my car (in the rain, mind you) only to discover that it was a discarded and distressed Easter duckling, abandoned after the festivities (months later I found out his whole story, two decades later I am still too angry to describe the abuse). I had that duck for 17 years.  His name was Peacy, and I adopted a Cayuga duck which I named Onyx for his friend, who outlived him by one year. The night that I got him, I had no one to call – it was 1 in the morning.

Walter Crawford of the World Bird Sanctuary dies at 70 following surgical complications

Walter Crawford passed away Friday 17th during complications due to hip replacement surgery.  He began his career at the St. Louis Zoo under director Marlyn Perkins and left there with his blessing to work with the birds at the research and rehabilitation center in Tyson. 

His passion was education, he was going to be a presenter at our own Gateway Parrot Club’s education event an fair next month (more on that later).  He loved the raptors, especially, and his presence will be sorely missed. Here is the Fox 2 News segment on his work and his passing.

Dorene Olson

POP! BOOM! BANG-SPARKLE-FLASH! 4th of July and Our Pets

While us humans enjoy cookouts, friend and family get-togethers, and ultimately, when darkness falls, glorious fireworks, the celebration is not always shared with the same enthusiasm by our dogs and cats.  Our parrots are a mixed bag; many of them are excited by the noise and colour and drama, our back yard chickens are mostly on their perches and immune to the drama around them. So, how can we help soothe these fears?  I am including an excellent article from British dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell, for advice. To paraphrase, don’t do as I did. One year, I thought (how STOOOOPID could I have been?!?!) that it would be really fun for my very social dog to go with the family that I lived with then to Kirkwood Park to the 4th of July celebration, which included fireworks. She enjoyed the preshow (got her own hot dog – again, do as I say, not as I do …) but when the fireworks started, she was obviously and understandably alarmed.

Dorene Olson

Bedding for baby chicks and adult birds

Bedding is an essential component to chicken husbandry and there are several viable options and reasons for choice. For baby chicks, flooring is a critical issue as, if the flooring is slick, they can develop an issue called “splay leg”, which causes their legs to grow askew from the center of their body and crippled them for life.  An adult bird can live with mild forms of this, less successfully if it has occurred in both legs, but it is an uncomfortable condition and preventable so their is no need to subject them to this chance.  As a result, newspaper is not recommended.  Shavings can be used, however, the chicks can ingest the shavings which can cause impaction of their crop, which can be fatal.  Some breeders that I know use old t-shirts, which can be easily laundered, others I know use paper towels. For adult birds, during the day being on pasture or in their run is the norm, which are obviously either grass or dirt, although for those of you who have chickens realize, grass quickly goes by the wayside after the chickens are done with it. Bedding in the coop usually consists of shavings, although some people use straw. Sand is also a good alternative.

Dorene Olson

Training family pets the right way

For most people, professional animal training is not necessarily a top priority of their time.  As long as the cat uses the litter box and the dog does not knock people over, manners and advanced skills are at a minimum. In my job, however, I get called in when there are severe pet/people altercations, and people are at their wits’ ends, and the animals are in danger of loosing their home. In my field, there is a growing number of people who claim to be “certified” consultants (no such thing exists) and sadly, Missouri still is a largely backward state using very out-dated, old fashioned punitive training techniques. Sadly, they do work, and even more sadly,  a popular TV personality who promotes such techniques is largely followed and copied. The techniques “work” because they implode behaviour, but take away the punitive tools and techniques and you are left with nothing.  Don’t !!!

Bedding material for animals: chickens and others

Bedding material comes in many options, and there are pros and cons to each one. Depending on the animal and its life stage, bedding varies by species and age.  Obviously, livestock and hoof stock, like cows, sheep, horses, alpacas and llamas, work well on beddings of straw (not hay, that is what they eat) although some people use shavings, such as pine shavings. With domestically kept chickens, ducks and turkeys (and other related poultry animals) straw shavings can be dangerous, as they are slippery and unstable, and can cause a condition called “splay leg”, where the legs go uselessly out to each side and the animal can neither stand up nor walk, and can result in permanent paralysis and subsequent death. I worked for 11 years at an avian and exotic veterinarian clinic, and saw many cases of splay legged birds. Our treatment options wavered from surgery, hobbling and such treatments as putting (smaller birds) in Dixie cups with their legs tethered together with cotton or gauze wadding between their legs to keep them in the proper position.

Dorene, on naming Border Collies

I have a “thing” about naming things, for some reason, it is really important to me.  For instance, with my four Border Collies, Piper came named “Blackie”, which not only offended my creative sensibilities but was socially awkward. One of the first jobs I did with him was rescue four Pekin ducks off Jefferson Lake in Forest Park during the middle of the day and I was running around as the sole white woman yelling her head off to “Blackie way to me!  And Blackie come bye, and Blackie LIE DOWN!” … it was beyond awkward. So after many weeks of pondering, I named him WyndSong’s Pied Piper, as he leads his charges to the water but they can swim and do not die.

A Truly Inspiring Tale of Love

Hi There, Dorene here, I haven’t posted in a while, hope everyone is enjoying this pretty spring. I want to share a tale of wonder that is such a gift in my life. It is truly inspirational. I recently now live alone and am pretty lousy about asking for help. For the last two weeks,  I had felt like death warmed over and was in bed for a few days, only getting up to care for the animals.

Parrots call “Fire!” Dorene Olson is skeptical

This is a raging story on two Amazon parrots who apparently called 911 and said:  “Help!   Fire!” and were subsequently rescued from a burning house. I have worked with parrots since 1991 when I worked for 11 years at an avian and exotic vet clinic as a vet tech and animal behaviourist. I started from scratch – had NO experience with birds what-so-ever, my mother had a “thing” about animals in cages and I was never exposed to them. When I started at the clinic, I developed a first-time, massive allergic reaction to them, headaches, breaking out in hives, face, neck and hands burning and turning red, but eventually I overcame that, for some strange reason.