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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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 !!!