Pet Puppy

Vodka Saves Pup from Anti-Freeze

Sydney: An Australian vet saved a puppy that was dying after drinking anti-freeze – by giving her vodka. The puppy, an American Staffordshire named Cleo, licked radiator fluid off spare car parts in a garage in Truganina. Within 30 minutes, she was swaying on her feet, rejecting food and at risk of kidney failure, according to the website

Owner Stacey Zammit, 27, rushed Cleo to the vet, who said the puppy was hours away from renal failure. “It was only a 6.6lb (3kg) dog, so it doesn’t take much of the anti-freeze for it to become poisoned”, said vet Scott Hall.

Alcohol stops a chemical reaction in the liver that causes kidney failure. The vest used a bottle of vodka that a nurse had in her car. – orange news

Orange News


Ways of supporting your child when you lose a pet

  • Make sure that the child doesn’t hear about the pet’s death from someone else
  • Always be honest about death. Don’t pretend the pet has gone missing if it has died
  • It is a good idea to encourage the child to express their emotions. If they are old enough, ask them to draw a picture or write a story about their pet.
  • Sometimes children don’t express their feelings because they don’t know how to. Don’t underestimate the feelings that they might be experiencing.
  • Never minimize a child’s grief. Try to understand the impact the loss of the pet has on the child
  • Use language that the child will understand. Use everyday words such as “dead” or “died” rather than phrases such as “gone to heaven” or “put to sleep” which might cause confusion or anxiety for younger children
  • If asked, discuss how the animal died – obviously leaving out any distressing details
  • If your child is very upset, discretely tell their teacher
  • Let your child know your own feelings of sadness and loss
Dogs Pet

Animal Assisted Therapy in Namibia

Kirsten Drews, one of the attendees at the recent clicker workshops held in Windhoek, Namibia, pictured here with her “gang”. Apart from taking time to learn about dog training techniques, Kirsten also runs a boarding facility for dogs. These pictures were taken with her and some of her “lodgers” during and after having gone for a long walk around Avis Dam. Kirsten has no kennels – all the dogs are kept together in a pack or group. She can take up to 13 dogs i.e. 10 guest dogs plus her three own dogs.

Kirsten is also a qualified animal assisted therapist, a qualification that she attained in Germany. (Please note that the following therapy images are copyrighted to Kirsten Drews).

In her own words: “Because Munich is so far I had a special agreement with the dog school in Munich to teach my dog all practical things for AAT by clicker training in Namibia; and I did learn the theoretical stuff here, too. So I went to Germany for three weeks, to be tested by my teacher during therapy lessons, school visits and therapies and visits in old age homes. Later I had to write an exam, attend a practical exam as therapy team and Monty was tested separately. Tough but wonderful”.

Kirsten lives in Windhoek, Namibia and can be contacted either by her cell phone (+264 81 377 3324) or by e-mail (

Clicker training dog training Pet

Clicker Workshop Module 2 : 7 July 2011

Attendees and their dogs demonstration “101 things to do with a Box” – each handler was tasked to get 10 or more behaviours within 5 minutes. Sharon and Ashley (a dog she rescued and had only had for 4 months) demonstrate how easy this is.

Here the dogs had to perform a behavioural chain – in this case they needed to weave through the poles, go around the bucket and then return straight to the handler. The handler was not allowed to move forward. They had 10 minutes to get this behaviour on cue. Here Charles shows how he and Gaudy mastered it.

Some dogs were nervous of the equipment. Here Mariano rewards Ashley for moving towards the scary bucket. This is not his dog, and it was the first time dog and handler had met and worked together.

Clicker training dog training Dogs Pet

Clicker Workshops

Clicker workshops are designed to be interactive and fun for both you and your pet. Animals such as dogs, cat, horse, meerkat, parrot, rat, chicken etc. have participated in these workshops, so that attendees can see for themselves how this training method works for all animals.

The Module 1 workshop includes the following:
What makes a good trainer
What is clicker training?
How it all began
What is the difference between a primary and secondary reinforcer?
Conditioning your animal to the clicker
Timing skills

If you’re interested in participating in one of these workshops, e-mail me on , and I will notify you of forthcoming events.
Some photos taken at recent Module 1 Clicker Workshops:

Maretha teaching her Pug to jump on cue

Birman Blues

I once got called in to help a lady with her Birman cat. This was a magnificent neutered male cat of almost 8 years old, called Blu. She had had the cat since it was 10 weeks old, and had had it neutered when he was about 5 months. When Blu joined the family, they already had another cat of unknown ancestry. This queen was getting on for 10 years, and had been spayed as a kitten. The family had also rescued a kitten that had been badly treated, which was about 5 years old when I was called in to help.

The problem as it was told to me, was that about a year ago Blu started spraying in the house. This sounded very strange, as the cat had lived a perfect life for 7 years prior to this. I asked the owners to keep a log book for a week, in which they would note when and where the cat sprayed. I was hoping that a pattern would emerge from this that would make diagnosis of the problem easy. No such luck!!

I went around to visit Claire and her cats, managing to take only one wrong turn on the way, thereby arriving a half-hour early for my appointment. Claire was very sweet and obliging, and didn’t make me sit in the car until the correct appointment time.

The first thing we did was go through the log they had kept for the past week. There was no pattern here at all – Blu had sprayed on the piano, on the guitar case in her sons’ bedroom, on the computer tower and on the curtains. He had sprayed in the lounge on the chair and in the master bedroom on the curtains. These markings occurred both north and south of the house, so it wasn’t a problem that was isolated to one area.

Claire very kindly took me through the house and showed me the spots. Literally!! There were lovely pile carpets, which were spotted with urine stains, which stubbornly refused to come out. She also showed me the litter tray, which was kept in the kitchen. The cats had free access to a large and rather lovely garden, which they generally preferred to use. The tray had been placed in a cardboard box with quite high sides to prevent the cats from scratching the litter all over the floor. I asked whether Blu used the tray. Yes, he did, but he would balance all four feet in one corner, and then scratch the cardboard when he was finished. This didn’t surprise me, as Blu is a good sized cat and the litter tray was more suitable for the smaller queens.

Only one of the queens used the litter tray and she was unwell. I asked to see her and was rather appalled at her condition.

Buffy was skin and bone, and her fur was dull and lifeless. This was the abused kitten that they had rescued, now about 5 years old. She had mouth ulcers and could only eat soft food. She had stopped grooming herself, but from time to time would pull her fur out in chunks. I actually saw her doing this – it was almost as if she wanted to rid herself of this unsightly mess covering her meagre frame.

We then went in to the garden so I could see if anything out there could be a contributor to Blu’s spraying in the house. It appeared that a number of neighbourhood cats visited the garden periodically. This generally was not a problem, but there was one cat that had moved in to the area about a year ago (!) that Claire’s cats did not like. They would growl and fluff up their hair on occasion, and Claire would have a look out of the window and see the interloper in the garden. She would chase it off, and her cats would calm down. This visiting cat would always jump on the wall alongside the driveway gate in order to gain access to the property.

So as I saw it, there were a number of possible reasons for Blu’s inappropriate spraying:

  • The litter tray was too small for him to use comfortably. I suggested that Claire buy a bigger tray, and fill it with garden sand from a spot where Blu usually chose to eliminate. She should place this tray beneath the window where he usually jumped outside to do his business.
  • I was sure that Buffy’s illness was worrying the other cats. Claire had taken this cat repeatedly to her veterinarian, who put it on antibiotics. This suppressed the mouth ulcers so that the cat could eat without pain, but didn’t seem to improve the general condition of the animal. I suggested that she see another veterinarian who has a reputation for being particularly good with felines.
  • The unwanted visitor was a major concern. Many neutered cats will suddenly start spraying if they are stressed by having a visiting male enter their territory and start challenging them. I suggested that Claire move some of her potted plants on top of the wall that the vagrant was jumping on to, and that she place tin foil over the area where this wasn’t possible. Both of these articles would hopefully deter the interloper from trying to enter the garden, and get it to move off to somewhere easier to infiltrate.

Cats are very sensitive and interesting creatures, and they often try and tell us when they are distressed or unhappy with their environment. For instance, a cat with cystitis (a bladder condition that causing a burning sensation when passing urine) will often urinate in the bath or on the stove instead of in its litter box. This in the hope that the owner will notice the presence of blood (much more visible on the white surface that in the litter tray) and take the cat for treatment.

I left Claire to implement my suggestions as best she could.

A couple of weeks later, I spoke to Claire, and learnt that Blu’s spraying had decreased significantly, as he was choosing to use the larger litter box which had been placed underneath the window where he usually moved in and out of the house. The sick old queen, had been taken to the feline veterinarian, who had diagnosed kidney failure along with a bacterial infection. Although still battling to eat, the cat was visibly better after just 10 days. Claire was due to take her back for a check up to see what else could be done to make her life more fulfilling.

Seeing the improvement in the cats’ well-being and behaviour, Claire decided to take the big step of trying to trap the stray cat that had been terrorising her pets. Often this is a humane option, as the stray can then be put up for adoption (once sterilized), and be placed in a caring, loving home.

Not only were all the cats happy after these simple changes, but Clair’s family were able to focus on enjoying their pets instead of worrying about them.


Pet friendly gardens

Students often ask me how they can help make their garden more stimulating and user friendly for their pet. Irrespective of the size of your garden, or the species of pet you prefer, you can design elements in your garden to accommodate and stimulate your pet. You can even make separate areas within your garden so that there is an area for adults, an area for children as well as an area for your pet.

For example, all animals can benefit from shade plants. Dogs and cats enjoy shade in summer. It also provides protection from predators. If you have both a cat and a dog, the cat can move into the tree if it has had enough of the dogs’ attentions. (this providing you don’t have a terrier that can scurry up a tree just as fast as the cat!) Birds also enjoy a tree with good foliage, not just for sanctuary, but also for roosting. Insects and reptiles such as lizards and chameleons are attracted by certain types of trees, so if you’re fond of reptiles, select a suitable indigenous plant.

Many trees also provide a necessary food source of animals. Parrots love the foliage from rhus trees, cats greatly enjoy a good roll in catnip, and willow trees provide a natural source of paracetamol. My willow tree has been almost ring-barked by the dogs. Presumably they were suffering from a bad headache at the time. On observation, it appeared that two of the dogs were chewing at a specific part of the trunk. They ate away at it for about two months, and none of the dogs have ever paid any interest to it since.

Scented plants also provide wonderful environmental enrichment for pets. Plants such as Rosemary, Lavender and Rue can give your pet endless pleasure. I’ve watched dogs pushing themselves through salvia plants over and over again. Initially I thought they were scratching their backs, but on closer observation, I believe they were also trying to impregnate their fur with the smell of the plant. Maybe this helped warding off flies and other pesky insects? Whatever, it was obviously an enjoyable pastime for the dog.

The various sounds made by plants are also stimulating. Some grasses make a wonderful rustling sound (cats seem to particularly enjoy this). Most animals enjoy the feeling of pushing through a shrub or long grass. If you keep and area for just indigenous grass, you’ll be amazed at the amount of wildlife that makes use of it. Little shrews will have tunnels running through it, wild birds will flock down to feed off the seeds. Small insects such as ladybirds will start to appear.

There are also plants for playing with. Cats enjoy grasses such as the fishermans’ grass, which they can pat with their paws. A couple of old logs strategically placed can afford rewarding scratching posts for cats, or a pleasant looking natural jump for dogs. Drooping foliage will be appreciated by e.g. chickens and guinea pigs.

There are some other general things to note irrespective of what pet you have. Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t necessarily need a lot of space to exercise in. As long as they are adequately stimulated by their surroundings, and taken off the property for ever-rewarding sniffs, you can keep an active dog in a relatively small area.

It is often a good idea to divide the garden up into separate distinct areas, this so that everyone gets a place to play in. Children could have a jungle gym, adults a braai area, and animals a shallow splash pool or sand pit. Sand pits can be a great source of entertainment for dogs, especially those that like digging. Get a small plastic shell (kiddies stores sell them – they often look like a scallop sea shell), fill the shell with sand and bury some interesting articles – a ball, cow heel, rawhide chew, etc. The dogs learn that it is acceptable and rewarding to dig in that area, and will tend to leave the rest of the garden unexcavated.

All gardens should be checked for safety. A good security fence is essential, with electric strands being closer together should you wish to contain your cats. Perimeter fences should regularly be checked for holes or tunnels under them. Dogs (and some cats) love fence fighting with their neighbours – if your fence is not secure, you could land yourself with some hefty veterinary bills, not to mention an irate visit from your next door neighbour.

It is important that dogs are able to see out of their property, whether through the driveway gate, or a fence. If your property is surrounded by a solid brick or precast wall, it is often a good idea to make a small eye hole at the dogs’ eye height for him to look out. By allowing your pet to see what’s going on in the outside world, he should become more exposed to cars, pedestrians and other passers-by. This prevents fear on seeing a previously unknown subject for the first time. Imagine how frustrating it must be to be able to smell and hear the outside world, but to never be able to see it.

Ensure that pets do not have access to refuse bins and that the driveway is clear so that pets don’t get bumped or run in to when you leave home or arrive back. It is also a good idea to have a specific area for your cat or dog to use for soiling. It is much easier to clean up after your pet if it also defecates in the same area. Not a huge issue to teach, and a much more hygienic solution, especially if you have children.

Be aware that some plants are toxic to animals and pets, Oleander being a prime example. Thorny plants can tear the flesh of a running dog, or jab it in the eye. Thorns and burrs can get stuck or impale themselves between dogs toes or in their pads. Fruits like that avocado are toxic to parrots and dogs. Certain types of algae and fungi can also cause severe gastro-intestinal problems in animals, and sometimes lead to death.

Some folk are not able or not interested in owning a cat or a dog. If you have a small water feature, you can derive hours of pleasure watching fish swim around. I have a friend who has a pond just to observe the indigenous frogs that use it. The species seem to vary according to the seasons, but there is always some sort of frog or toad nearby the water. Another friend of mine rescued a border collie that was 8 years old. This poor girl must have led quite a stressful life, and spent a large portion of her day barking at all and sundry. On getting a small windfall, Laura decided to re-vamp her garden, and included in her plans a water feature, complete with fountain and fish. This proved to be an instant success with the dog, which now spends hours running from side to side of the pond trying to herd the fish from under the lily pads!! So intent is Pippa on getting the fish to “obey” her, that she completely forgets to bark. An all-round success story.

Fresh water should always be available. Sometimes it is better to elevate this so that your dog doesn’t use it to wash his feet in, or as a container for his dirty toys. Activity balls and items hung from trees also present problem solving puzzles for active dogs, cats and birds. I once had a problem with bored chickens that started to peck at each others’ eggs, depriving us of our breakfast. A simple solution was to hang some leafy branches across the entrance to their laying boxes, so that the birds had to push through a screen to get into the box. This was stimulating to them, and also prevented the chickens on the outside from seeing the eggs as easily. I also hung a rag on a string further down their enclosure, so that they could peck on that and (hopefully) alleviate the desire to destroy the newly laid eggs. It worked, and within days we were back to our full quota of eggs.

Remember to remove your dogs food about 10 minutes after offering it too them. Food left around all day encourages rats and other scavengers, which often carry disease which they could pass on to your pets. Of course food left exposed to the elements all day could also become rancid and give rise to digestive problems.

Allowing your dog to scavenge is also a good solution for bored pets. Dogs are natural scavengers, and generally enjoy using their noses. Perhaps you could toss their kibble on the grass occasionally and leave them to make use of their wonderful sense of smell to find their breakfast.

Bird feeders are also tremendously rewarding for both birds and cats. Hang them where the cats can’t get to them, and fill them with an assortment of seed and fruit. The birds will enjoy the free meal, and the cats will sit there for hours with their tails twitching, dreaming of a feathered feast.

Hopefully you will now have many new ideas on how to better enjoy your garden with your pet. Wishing you a peaceful yet stimulating time together.