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.

Turkey helps out buddy (another turkey) with vision problems

Hello everybody, I hope that everyone had a nice holiday weekend with friends and family. Three years ago I added two, 12-hours-old turkey poults (baby turkey) to my established miniature chicken flock. One is named Cricket, she is a Royal Palm, and the other was Bleu Belle, who was a Spanish Black that sadly succumbed to an incurable paralysis brought about by egg laying when she was two. I belong to a Rare Heritage Turkey email list. My girls were/are both called “rare heritage”, meaning that their numbers are low and some even verge on extinction and hearken back to the primitive breeds that our fore founders brought with them and/or developed.

Please don’t abandon Easter ducklings, goslings, chicks

Hello everybody, and happy Easter. Recently I wrote about my Pekin duck, Peacy, and his adopted brother, Onyx, a Cayuga. Well, they were both “Easter Casualties” – ducklings bought on impulse at feed stores and later discarded in parks to fend for themselves, which is always – not sometimes – but ALWAYS deadly. I know Kim from the Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary, and her passion is her waterfowl rescue organization.  Her organization, like any non-profit animal rescue group, is constantly seeking donations for vet bills, feed, bedding, shelter costs, etc.  I am including her April Newsletter here because there is a fun contest that she has going on with duck or geese photos in different categories.  Winners get fun ribbons, and people like you and me can help sponsor not only the contest but also the rescue by donating towards the cost of the ribbons. By the way, Kim has written a one-of-a-kind book on owning and caring for pet ducks, and all their special needs.  I have done waterfowl rescue since 1989, and have have personally housed as many as 72 at one time in my suburban Creve Coeur house (how many ways can you spell labour of love???), but I currently have no waterfowl, just two Bantam chickens, and I miss those webby feetsies.  So if any of you have waterfowl, or even just an interest, I would highly recommend this book.

Socialize your birds, some tales: Dorene Olson

For the past 2 years I have taken ducks, geese, chickens, parrots (of course, also, my dogs and cats) and turkeys to education events, the largest being a yearly three-day event in a huge civic center where hundreds of people came through every day. 

At one event I had a booth next to the St. Louis County Police Department where they had two German Shepherds there and one was panting and pacing and crawling up its handler’s leg, the other one had diarrhea all over the booth (pewwww!) and had to be removed. I was there with several parrots, who were very used to public interactions, but I put them up every hour for 20 minutes or so and more when needed, parrots tend to love high intensity drama but turkeys do not. My two turkeys, who I got at right around 24 – 48 hours old, were instantly plunged into the public specter. Embarrassingly, like a fool, I could not WAIT to show them INSTANTLY to a friend of mine and ran into our neighbourhood American Legion Hall with them hidden under my shirt to show her, and she shoo-ed me out as quick as she  could as the health inspectors happened to be there right then. Oops. They were escape artists and frequently went on neighbourhood house calls, visiting people, they met the school bus regularly, I was constantly rescuing them from wandering where they should not be. I had a very long (nearly an acre) back yard and an older African American neighbour who was not really of a pet person culture. I saw him in his back yard, ran down my back yard, and wanted to let him know that I had the girls and make sure that he was OK with that and also assured that if they were ever a problem, to contact me instantly.

TV time for chickens

I used to have nine chickens, including a rooster, and two pet turkeys when I lived in the county, but I live in the city now and just have two chickens. 

They are not only indoor/outdoor house pets, but I used them in education events, schools and nursing homes. They are both rescues from a friend who lost his 47 acres to foreclosure in Georgia. Little Sumo-san is a white Silkie (ADORABLE!) and Cuckoo is a Silkie/Serama/Cochin cross.  Seramas are the smallest chicken that there is. They are very popular in their native Malaysia as apartment pets. I brought my two girls upstairs for some TV time two nights ago. Their personalities are so different, little Sumo-san preferring to sit and sing and purr in one spot on a little bed, and Cuckoo just TRUCKING around exploring EVERYTHING. She had to get into some boxes that are still left from unpacking, thought about getting on the kitchen counter, stood on a stack of books, got in the bathtub.  She just had a ball, and I kept them up past their bedtime just because she was having so much fun. If you have chickens, go give them some treats.  – Dorene –

TARA Training and Behavior, Teaching Animals with Respect and Affection