Dog Days of Summer

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Dali makes a friend

My Chihuahua is enjoying the summer, now that it isn’t the heat wave we had in July, and all the rain and flooding.

Flooded creek in my area - seen form my balcony

Flooded creek in my area – seen from my balcony

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Dali under her blanket

Dali has been making friends.  As you can see she isn’t the most energetic of dogs.  I find that to get her to run, I must run as well.  She enjoyed meeting this cute dog. The other dog that was there was too hyper for Dali’s taste.   Someone said that my dog is very serious. It is difficult  to capture her silly side in a photo though.

Today my son took this photo of her – lounging on the reading chair, under her blanket.  It was a present from one of my students and Dali will follow it anywhere.  Right now she is under it snoring.  Chihuahua’s love to burrow.

Presently we’re off to the weekly farmer’s market together.  It is nice to shop with your dog.  I enjoy the walk there and back.  I am looking forward to the fresh local peaches.  The last batch was so sweet and juicy.

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Corn on the Cob & a Chihuahua’s Attitude

2013 - 6 Dali-cob 017RszdWe had to listen to some crying at the dining room table today.  1st corn of the year – US product.  Very sweet and juicy.  She must use a place-mat or she can’t have it.  That goes for any food that can’t be cut and placed in her bowl.

We will be working on the crying part asap.

This is the look we get when she really wants us to do something – just before she goes into her bullying mode.

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Lamb Bone = Dog Bliss

Usually I won’t even think to give my dog a cooked bone.  We had a nice Lamb roast during the holidays and as usual I had a garbage thief.  The same thing happened when Dali discovered corn on the cob.  We see a very determined chihuahua racing for a hiding spot, with a large object clenched in her jaws.   I monitored the lamb bone.  After each sitting I put it into a sandwich bag and over the next 5 days she has had a wonderful time wearing it down and getting the marrow out.  I also gave her strips of dried sweet potato [purchased that way] and this seems to have kept her digestion just fine.  Unfortunately kibble isn’t the favourite for this diva these days.  We play dog bowl curling between the two of us – she kicks it to me and I kick it back, only to take it away for another time.

Lamb Bone

Lamb Bone

Lamb Bone Started

Lamb Bone Started

Note the place-mat – as the bone was greasy and odouriferous  I made her use it even when she wanted to chew while on the sofa.  After each one hour chew fest, I had to wash her face and paws, as she smelled strongly of roast lamb.

Holiday Visits

I was up at the farm on Christmas Eve to celebrate with my mother and brother, along with my husband and son.  My other brother and his family [4 of his kids and their families = a lot of people] were visiting the next day – and due to multiple flu victims, they didn’t drop by to say hello to us.  So it was a quiet and fun evening , just the 5 of us.  Then you have to consider the pets.  Adam, my mother’s collie was very happy to see us and get started on the duck dinner.  My chihuahua, Dali, was in great form as well.  I had her traveling case beside me to discourage her from climbing the furniture.  Adam kept her company, under my mother’s wheel chair.  He has used this space since he was a pup.

Adam in his special spot

Adam in his special spot

Running – don’t stop

     Running is all about the experience.  Walking is more meditative.  When I walk I tend to think about things in a dream-like way.  Sometimes I forget about my posture which leads to some pain or twinge.  Walking allows me to reflect on my surroundings and all I see, hear and breath.  Running is very different for me – although the pauses and the blood pumping do heighten the visual.  When I’m running I am very focused on my form.  I have weak ankles and must stay focused so as to stay upright.  I also suck in my gut and hold my spine up to protect it from my not so elegant running.  I hate running like a girl.  I work on that too – trying to power up my stride and form.  The results are all good.  I am finally rediscovering my waist and a firm musculature to my legs and but.

I haven’t run in years – many years.  I remember running as a youth – just for the fun of it.  Surprisingly it wasn’t  very fun in gym class.  I can only say that gym made it a chore and I hate chores.   I would run down the gravel road or the dirt lane-ways with abandon. When I lived north of San Francisco I got into running – ran for 10 then 15 minutes at a time until I built up to a 1/2  hour.  I never got higher than that as it was a good amount to stick to.   My son was another motivator when he was quite young – we’d run a lot.  Two years ago I got  a dog to get me out of the house and to be a companion.  When I’m alone I tend to read or paint – neither exercises anything but my eyes and hands.  It is working.  Dali and I go out every day – multiple times.

I live in an urban area that can get boring after a year of walking in the same parks or streets.  I have used the baseball field for running as it is kept really smooth and has a stone-chip outer edge to the field, like a lane-way. After 2 years, even the dog is not too motivated some days.  Out of desperation one day I took to running in the soccer field.  For some reason it is more fun – perhaps because it is full of surprises [holes] and it is something new.

At first my running was pretty sad.  One trip from goal post to goal post just about killed me.    Now in the soccer field I feel elation. I can run up and down and across many times just trying to keep my legs pumping and staying upright.   A few days ago I thought I instantaneously sprained both feet when I was in a real sprint.  Humbled I limped along until I could try again.  There is a sort of stiffness that has settled in to my tendons as I have aged – probably due to a more sedentary lifestyle.

Naturally my dog loves the running.  I trick her when she’s sniffing at something and not paying attention – I sneak away as fast as I can.  Naturally she’s at my side in no time.  It is fun to look around and see her ‘flying’ across the field.  She loves the challenge of not losing me.  Running with her off leash is best for us both.  With the leash she seems to think she has to win the race so it may look pretty funny with me running behind a Chihuahua in full-out running mode.  It is even better to run around in the country.  My parent’s collie thinks so too.

I turned 60 recently.  It has really made me think about aging and taking your body for granted.  I love going to the soccer field and  running around like a nut while the local kids are playing nearby.  They don’t seem to take any notice of me but they love the dog.  As I look around I can see that I am the only adult having fun.  Perhaps I am a less mature individual – I’ve always been a bit different.   It shocks me that as we age we think we can’t be exuberant.  Is there a rule?

All the dog-walkers in my area stand or stroll – no power walks or running.  Their dogs must be very upset.  Their inactivity makes me want to scream. Any adults I’ve asked have declined the idea of running with their dogs – they say, ‘they can’t run any more’.   Of course you see runners in the park – if they have dogs they seem very happy.

Toys that Challenge & are Fun.

Toys as  Mental Stimulation

How it started:  My husband had a plastic blow-up base-ball at work, that she grabbed when we picked him up one day.  Dali would wrestle it – hugging, rolling, pinning it down and then carry it around triumphantly, when half deflated.  It had to be repaired a lot.  Then Dali found a plastic bag that had held bedding – that one came from the closet.   It was bigger than she is and because it has to be supervised so she wouldn’t eat the plastic,  it is now history – it was fun while it lasted.  Then of course on laundry day she loves to wrestle the bags I use, once they are empty.  This is how we started the ‘Naughty’ game.  Whenever she finds something that’s OK but wasn’t given to her – we ask her, “Are you being naughty?”.  This will get her very excited and off she runs with her prize, expecting to be ‘chased’.   It is a great game.  When she finds something ‘bad’ it is serious and after she drops it I thank her and off we go to the garbage.

The newest find:  I use a lot of rags for my art clean-up and they come from old T-shirts and Hoodies.  They are kept on my art shelf.  Recently my Chihuahua found them.  She is always checking out my art bag and my art supplies – so training is in progress.  Getting back to this new toy idea, I see that a rag about 12″x18″ is perfect wrestling  material for my pup.  This is a T-shirt with the sleeves and neck removed.  When you cut down the sides  you can make it into 2 rectangles.  I think that one of the reasons this is so interesting is that the T-shirts are from our old ones and they still must smell of us, although they have been laundered.

The Games:  Dali brings me the rag and I loosely knot it and throw it as far as I can.  Off she goes to retrieve it and worry it into submission [or whatever is going on in her imagination].   She even brings it to her bed to wrestle.  After it is open again she brings it back to be rebuilt.  Once tired of the loose knot I add the ball.  The ball is rolled inside the fabric – leave it possible for the ball to come out.  Dali loves to hunt for her ball – any ball.  The knot throws better too and bounces a bit, adding to the excitement.  When she gets the ball out she nudges it in my direction so I know she wants me to try again.  This is a good opportunity to offer praise and join her in her happiness.

Mental, creative and physical play all in one.  I really like this toy – it is simple and at the same time the dog gets to use its brain to figure it out.  I believe it encourages fantasy play as well.  Besides the ball I have added her chew antlers, the toilet rolls and scrap paper she loves. Now I have to stop her from searching for more ‘rags’ to wrestle.

Dog Toys and Certain Games We Play

My husband has remarked that our living room looks like it did when our son was 3.  We have a spoiled Chihuahua, I think.  In fact the whole place has toys everywhere.  I find myself picking them up and putting them back in her toy box.  By the late evening the sofa is covered in chew toys and the hall rug is all twisted up from some manic ruffian behavior.

From the moment she saw it, this blow-up ball has been a favourite.  I can’t leave it around or it would be in pieces.  She waits patiently for me to blow it up after I put another electrical tape patch on a new hole.

She has many balls: Chuck-it floaters, whistlers and crazy-bouncers as well as a lovely quiet waffle ball, and a large soft fabric soccer ball.  She has a Jane Goodall pull toy and rabbit and weasel stuff-less squeaker toys appropriately named Rabbit and Weasel.  She will bring them to me if I ask for them by name – at least sometimes.  I’ve made a hand puppet for her to wrestle with. We call that one Squirrel and it saves your hands and allows Dali to get into the fantasy.

I have bought may chew bones – the deer antlers are our personal favourites.  For a small dog she can work a small one into stubble in 4 months.  I now buy the medium-sized bones and it is pretty sweet watching her walk around with one.  It looks like she has a cigar.   She ritually works her teeth after every meal.

I bought a large antler  for my mother’s Border Collie but my mother’s caregiver has allowed him to take it outside and it is lost.  At $15 a bone I am not impressed.  He really liked it too.  Some of the toys I’ve bought him turn up again.  I must have purchased over 10 Frisbee – all nice ones for his teeth and easy to see in the grass so the lawn mower or the hay cutter doesn’t end up with them in the blades.

City and Country Walks

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I love to walk.  That’s why I got a dog 2 years ago – for a walking companion.  It may sound kind of radical but she is a great motivator.  Yes I need motivation sometimes.

I live in the city, mostly.  Luckily we have many green spaces in my area and that is why I am still living in the same area for so long.  Unfortunately you can’t take a dog everywhere.  I can take her to the library, the pharmacy, the bank and to the park.  I wish I could take her shopping.  I bet Paris Hilton gets to take her Chihuahua anywhere she wants!

In the country, at my parent’s farm,  my dog is extra happy.  She has a friend there and she can go around ‘naked’.  I see some dogs that like to wear a collar, scarf or sweaters ~ not my dog.   We have laws in the city that require her to be on a leash at all times.  naturally I am a rebel and let her off the leash to race after her ball – usually at the baseball diamond as she loves the dusty red grit on the ground.  She loves to swim in the creek as well.

Dali with her pal Adam

Having a buddy at the farm is a plus for Dali.  In the city she has a few favourites in the dogs we meet.  Recently she has fallen in love with a beautiful big Alsatian type dog, named Rusty.  Rusty is very tall and is red all over except for his black muzzle.   Dali throws herself at him and wiggles and dances all around him.  He is very gentle and loves to play.  Unfortunately he is leashed.  Dali loves my mother’s collie as well and plays with him in the same manner.  Strangely she rarely likes other small dogs even if they too are Chihuahuas.

Meeting a friend in the park

Now that winter is long past, Dali and I are out every day.  We are both getting fit and trim.  I had to put her on a diet.  I’ve never had a small dog before and I just kept offering largish meals and she is happy to eat them.  Having her on a diet has made me cut back too.  I can’t be snacking around her and not feel guilty – she makes sure I am.

Birds as Pets: Budgerigars

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When I was a teen I really wanted a Myna or a Cockatiel.  My mother had finches or a canary in the kitchen and eventually a rescued Budgie.   They were housed in 2 small cages and the kitchen was a large and busy place.  Luckily there were few pet stores that offered birds and sadly next to no information on looking after them.  My father was against getting a parrot due to the disease factors.

Close to thirty-five years went by before the ‘get a bird’  bug hit me again.   This time around it was a specific type of bird – the parrot.  Thanks to the internet you can learn quite a bit about birds as pets.   There was this little Bourke’s Parakeet at the nursing home, where my mother was after her stroke.   It was so wonderful and so alone that I wanted to slip it into my pocket and take it home.  I didn’t know what type of bird it was at first.  It was so unusual to me.  I quickly found out that it was a male Bourke’s.   They are primarily an aviary bird but can be tamed.  A male Bourke's Parrot at the Flying High Bird...They are very gentle Grass Parakeets, from Australia.  When I found out about it I realised that it shouldn’t be alone in the sun room of a nursing home with no toys or in a smallish cage.  At least it wasn’t in the sun and the cage was clean with lots of wooden perches, food and water.

For six years I did a lot of research on parrots and I was happily reading books from the library,  asking questions on bird boards and thinking long and hard about my obsession.  I’ve been a member of at least 4 bird boards since before I got my 1st Budgie.  I felt that research was key.  When I married, my husband had an aquarium.  After quite a few disasters with this aquarium I did months of research and bought the proper things and set up a species tank that lasted 10 years.  It was a relief to see those healthy fish in their tiny environment, thrive for so many years.  It was a lot of work and we had a lot of fun with the cat TV.

Wanting a bird as a pet consumed me.  Try as I might I couldn’t step away from myself to look at my want and say to myself it was not necessary.  If I went to a pet store for my cat’s needs or for treats for my parents’ dogs and they had birds, I was overwhelmed with want.  I would spend hours going from cage to cage and holding them on my hand whenever possible.  I had to ban myself from going to pet stores with birds or pets of any kind.  It does prove that these stores make a pet purchase an easy and spontaneous thing when it shouldn’t be unless you are prepared with experience.

Eventually I convinced my husband that it would be Ok to check out a Budgie.  His main objection was that they were caged.  He wanted a flighted bird.  They are suitable for an apartment and it would be a rescue.  When I saw Laker on Petfinder I was so excited.  He was lovely.  Laker was a Yellow faced, Cobalt, White Wing.  He was a foundling and had been adopter once but returned – age unknown but mature.  I drove  over an hour to the town where he was.  He cost $10 and the cage was thrown in for another $10.  Of course I spent about $70 at the pet store immediately.  I rushed to the store and  he sat in the cage on the front seat, watching the world go by, singing sweetly.  Later’s sweet songs and whistles were a pleasure to hear every night as he sang himself to sleep.

Laker in his cage

Laker tried so hard to fit into our life.  He was always singing and chirping, especially when you came home or we were all together.  He would shake the bars by the door of his cage and flap his wings like a helicopter.  It became apparent that I couldn’t leave him in the cage and so I began to train him to step-up and to come to me.  It was very easy.  He wanted to be with us no mater the cost to him.  He even loved our cat but that was closely supervised and his cage was placed up high when we were out.

After about six months I began to see that one Budgie wasn’t enough nor was it good for Laker.  Birds do not do well without a flock and when we are out the radio isn’t enough either.  So I looked around and got a bird from a family who had an aviary.

Rio - Summer 2008

Rio is a Dilute Blue Opaline. Rio was like night and day to Laker.  Laker was happy and so was Rio.  Rio was a bit wild and we let him be so mostly until it was bedtime and he had to go into his cage.  Laker hated to share his cage so we had another one for Rio.  Laker would hop into Rios cage to lure him in and then hop out so I could close the door.  I began to give Rio bedtime treats of grass or millet.

Sadly when Rio was about six moths old, Lake died.  It was terrible.  I took him to the Vet but he  passed away that night.  Rio was desperate.  He started hanging out with me and eventually we formed a strong bond.  Rio will even come to me if I call him.

Once more we needed to get another Budgie.  Rio was going to go nuts or I was.  I found a breeder in another part of town.  Bow was the only chick of an old pair of Budgies and the only one that wasn’t all blue.

Bow - adult plumage Bow is a Dutch Pied, Double Yellow, Sky Blue Budgie, just like his Dad.

Bow was hand raised and is so happy to be with humans he can be quite a pest.  He likes Rio but they aren’t the pals Laker and Rio were.

With a new Budgie came a new cage and a much bigger one.  In fact it is sold for cockatiels normally.  I am very happy with it and so are they.  They often hang out inside or on top.  They have their own places to hang throughout the back of the apartment and I have a curtain to stop them from coming to the kitchen and living room.  I set that up after Bow demonstrated that he could fly in the dark if he had to.

Now we are a family with 2 Budgies and 1 Chihuahua.  They are all a lot of work to keep happy and healthy.  Would I recommend a Budgie or any bird to anyone? No.   Budgies are destructive as are most parrots.  They are messy and they are loud.  They are also delightful and loving.  Birds are lovely – they need lots of attention and they need some freedom to fly.  To be a bird is to fly and I could not clip their wings or keep them in cages and feel good about it.

Squash – Yummy for your dog

Butternut Squash Prep

I haven’t had a dog for a long time.  I remember our dog Pete would eat anything scrapped into his bowl – he had to share that bowl one summer with a Mallard.  That duck was fearless and loved dog food.  They go for protein every time.  My Dob Sarah would even try to eat grapes if you were.   She stole a whole block of Cheddar cheese off the table once.  Dogs are clean-up pets.

When I got my chihuahua I read everything I could about diet and joined a few Chi boards too.  Raw diets are very popular.  I’ve always offered fresh raw meat to my pets.  But I haven’t moved to this diet primarily because I’m lazy and I also take my chihuahua almost everywhere.  I have a small bag of kibble and dry meat in my purse!  At the Vets  I was told she is fat – had no waist.  So over the past few weeks she had been given less human treats and more of these natural treats.  Dali is looking much trimmer.

Dali enjoying some cooked Acorn squash seeds

In the fall especially I get into squash.  I mainly stick to Butternut or Acorn squash as they are what I grew up with and I have a real craving for them.  I read that you can give the seeds to your dog as a treat.  I love the roasted seeds as well so my dog and I often snuggle and munch together or snack on them when I’m cooking.

I have a love-hate relationship with Butternut squash as it stains my hands.  Normally I skin it, gut it and chop it into a steamer.  Rinsing your hands often can help with the bright orange and tight skin on your hands.

Seeding the Butternut Squash

Today I halved it like I do the Acorn squash and am roasting it in a bowl of water.

I cooked the seeds in a cast iron pan on low with a hint of olive oil.  Dali my chi is in heaven. I almost forgot to mention that she loves the flesh as well.  I mix it with other veggies, rice or meat so she can get at it.  When I’m cooking I sometimes offer small pieces straight from the pan or fridge.

Tonight she got banana.  Definitely a sweet tooth.