Which pet is best for me?

So you have taken the decision to welcome a pet into your family for the first time, so what pet is best for you?  Little four-year-old Peter is desperate for that beautiful fluffy bunny he fell in love with in the pet store window, while five year old Mandy has been pleading for a little kitten just like her friend Abigail’s.  Decisions, decisions, what do you do?

Pet ownership is extremely rewarding and I have long been of the opinion, that animal welfare should be part of the school curriculum, but back to the question in hand.

Please do NOT buy or adopt on impulse and do your research before welcoming any animal into your home.

At Nina’s Nannies for Pets, we are keen advocates of #adoptdontshop and would always suggest visiting your local animal shelter.  Pet stores are biased to selling their animals and in my opinion, are not best placed to offer the advice required, such as dietary requirements, socialisation and the correct feeding.  In my capacity as a pet sitter, I have seen countless Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and small furries (with the exception of Syrian Hamsters), being sold separately. This is heartbreaking given that those mentioned are community animals and should never live alone.

Over the eighteen years I have been in business, I have shuddered at the inappropriate housing of some animals in our charge, such as tiny Rabbit hutches with little space for them to maneuver, Chickens kept in tiny pods which are completely inadequate, even for the pets for which they were intended and Ducks with just a bowl of water in a small garden.

Impulse buying

When buying or adopting any pet, this should be a thought out, will prepared process.  If in doubt ask a pet professional such as a vet, or visit the Blue Cross/RSPCA website, which are awash with information about all manner of pets.

Consider your home circumstances.

  • What size is your garden?
  • Do you work all day?
  • Finances-can you afford the expense of owning a pet?

Which pet

In order to decide the above, you should consider your reasons for wanting a pet.  If it is primarily for your children, I would look to the small furies such as rabbits, guinea pigs or another hutch/cage dwelling creature.  My particular favorite are fancy rats.  Of all the little furries, fancy rats are by far the most intelligent.  They are extremely affectionate little creatures and far happier if kept in pairs.

As with all pets, please consider adopting, but if you really want a pair of young rats ensure that you go to a reputable breeder.

If you are looking for a more energetic companion, then of course a dog would be ideal.  However, if you work all day and require a more independent addition to your household a cat would be a purrfect fit.  Again, there are dogs and cats of all ages and sizes in rescue centers up and down the country, but if it is a pure bred that you desire, PLEASE, ensure that you chose a reputable breeder and remember to:

  1. Never buy from a pet store or answer an advert in the local paper. These are often the window for puppy mills and should be avoided at all cost.
  2. Remember that the Kennel Club provides details of accredited breeders with registered puppies for sale and look on their website for contact details.
  3. A good breeder with be happy to welcome you to their home, where you can see mum interacting with their puppies.
  4. Ask the breeder for the KC registration certificate and worming information. A good breeder will ask their own questions and their premises will be clean and the dogs happy.

A good breeder will always do the following:

  • Health test their breeding stock
  • Take excellent care of their dogs
  • Provide information and follow up care for those people buying their puppies
  • Offer a lifetime of support to those who buy their puppies
  • A good and considerate breeder, will have no more than three litter from a female in her lifetime and steer clear of any breeder who has different breeds of dog.

If you are still unsure, contact The Kennel Club who will be only too pleased to help.

I would strongly advise that your children are totally committed to caring for pet, since forcing a child into pet ownership will not teach them responsibility and you should be prepared to do all the caring yourselves.

Cost

Animals should be for life and not just an impulse buy.

Apart from the initial cost of buying your pet, be it from a store, breeder or shelter, pets are a huge financial commitment.

They have dietary requirements, suitable housing, grooming, holiday care and most importantly, health care.

Insurance is vital to the well-being of your pet and some can live for many years.  The average lifespan of a cat is around 12 – 14 years and we have cared for some who have reached 20 and above!

Small furies

Rabbits, mice, gerbils and rabbits make wonderful pets, but they need to be handled regularly.  Rats especially, make wonderful companions for small children, since if socialized they are extremely interactive and affectionate, in fact  I liken them to little canines in a rodent form.

All furies require regular cleaning and for some children this can be monotonous once the novelty of pet ownership has worn off.  In this case, parents must be prepared to carry out these duties and where possible encourage children to continue with their routines.

Rabbits in particular can fall prey to the dreaded fly strike, a truly gruesome condition which occurs when flies lay their eggs on the rabbits rear ends.  It is therefore imperative that their living quarters are kept clean and they are checked daily, especially during the summer months.

Dogs/Cats

The above are the most popular choice of pets, with thousands of families welcoming them into our homes.

The majority of dogs are both loyal and affectionate, forming close bonds with their owners.

When choosing a dog, you should insure that he/she is the right breed, type for your family, which is why it is so important that you research your breed before making your decision.

Puppies and kittens need a lot of training and socialisation and may not be appropriate for young children.  Adopting a calm friendly adult dog/cat however, who has been temperament assessed, may be a far better companion for your family.  

As with all pet/child introductions, it is so important that you help your child to see the world through their eyes.  Children would react if they were poked or prodded unexpectedly, so you should explain that animals must be treated with respect and kindness.

So have you done your research?  If so, which pet did you get and did you adopt?

 

 

 

Best dog treats!

When I was training my German Shepherd Dog Luika, these biscuits were recommended to me by my trainer.  Being a vegetarian, they were not the easiest biscuits I had ever made, but trust me, your dog will love them and they make training a whole lot easier! I wore kitchen gloves and vegetarians, you may want a peg handy since they smell awful, although my dog slavered the whole time they were cooking, but I found that these were by far, the best dog treats for training.

Liver cakes 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450g) lamb or pig’s liver
  • 1 lb (450g) whole wheat flour (gluten free for dogs with allergies)
  • 2 – 3 organic eggs
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • water

Method

  1. Crack the eggs into a measuring jug.
  2. Add an equal volume of water to the measuring jug and whisk.
  3. Blend the liver and garlic in a food processor.
  4. Add the egg mixture and blend to a cake-like consistency.
  5. Empty contents into a lined baking tray.
  6. Bake at Gas Mark 6 or 180 degrees for approximately 45 – 60 minutes (when cooked the cake should bounce back when pressed).
  7. Remove from the oven and peel off the lining paper
  8. Allow to cool.
  9. Divide into cubes and freeze.

German Shepherd Dogs have extremely thick coats and during the summer months he absolutely adores activities involving water and in order to cool him further I decided to look for some nice ice lolly treats.

You can use the normal ice-lolly moulds or yogurt pots, but do NOT use lolly sticks since your dog could easily choke on them. Please remember to use only natural ingredients in small amounts, avoiding anything toxic

Yogurt Ice treats

ingredients

  • 1 Cup of natural yogurt
  • 1 Cup of peanut butter

Method

  1. Mix the peanut butter and yogurt together.
  2. Place the mixture in a freeze proof container and place it in the freezer.
  3. After a couple of hours, you have some delicious ice treats for your dog!

Please remember to wait 10 – 15 minutes before giving them to your dog in order to avoid freezer burn on their tongues.

Ice lollies

If you want to make ice lollies, chose something that your dog particularly loves such as chopped carrot, cooked meat, banana etc. just pour water into your container of choice (remember to use a container unique to your dog) and add your ingredients.

Please remember that some fruits are toxic to dogs such as grapes and raisins, so PLEASE do your homework before selecting your ingredients.

Being the owner of three extremely spoilt cats, I thought I would include a recipe for your feline family and tuna toast is a real hit with mine.

Tuna toast

  • Lightly toast a slice of bread
  • Cut the toast into cubes
  • Brush the toast with a little fresh fish oil
  • Sprinkle the toast with some tuna flakes
  • Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until golden brown

Leave to bool before serving Your cats will find this absolutely PURRfect 😊

Please note: Some animals have allergic reactions to foods just like us, so PLEASE do your research and beware of inadvertently feeding your pet toxins.

When feeding treats be mindful that they have different calorie values and adjust their regular food accordingly.

 

Alabama Rot – Stop Alabama Rot

 

 

Our pet sitters were warned to be vigilant about this awful disease when first reported in 2012.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Alabama Rot are skin lesions, ulcers and or sores, which can appear on a dog’s legs, body, mouth or tongue and within days this can lead to acute kidney failure.

We continue to liaise closely with vets in all areas of the country where our dog sitting team work and receive regular updates as and when new cases are reported.

Origins

This potentially deadly disease was first identified in the USA in the 80’s in Greyhounds and has been reported in at least 27 counties in England and Wales, while some cases in Scotland and Northern Ireland are yet to be confirmed.

It is a growing worry for both dog owners and professional pet and dog sitters. Since the health and well-being of our client’s dogs are paramount, we remain alert at all times.

Areas of confirmed cases

From the information we have received, it appears that Alabama Rot is understood to be more prevalent in wet weather, especially in muddy woodland and particularly following heavy rainfall.  There have been confirmed cases as far North as Scotland, The New Forest in Southern England and more recently Devon.  In fact, we understand that one New Forest veterinary practise reported in March 15, that there had been over 102 suspected new cases in the UK, including 51 deaths, which were confirmed by postmortems.

Stopping the rot

Our dog sitting team are keen to identify any reported cases, or areas affected by Alabama Rot,  so knowing the warning signs are vital. If Alabama rot is caught early enough, your vet can evaluate if he/she has contracted the dreaded disease.

It is advised that you keep dogs under close supervision when walking in muddy woodland, cleaning them thoroughly following their exercise.

Can my other pets contract Alabama rot?

To date it is not thought to affect other animals and we must keep this outbreak in context.

There are approximately 8.5 million dogs in the U.K, with only a small proportion having been affected by this disease.  However, vets are now asking us to take extra precautions when walking our dogs,  in order to help combat the disease and to contact your practise immediately, if you suspect that your dog may be affected.

 

 

The best that you can be!

Last night I received an email from a client with a little blind Poodle. It wasn’t a long email and I have included it for your perusal, but it meant so much to both me and the sitter who cared for him that it prompted me to include it in my blog.

When Nina’s Nannies for Pets was formed, it was done through love – a love of animals that I believe was inherent from birth.  I have always found it easy to connect with animals, who were my constant companions as a child. Being an animal lover inevitably drew me to the veterinary profession which soon became a long held dream.  I was going to save every poorly pet on my planet and help rescue and re-home every orphan!

I felt sure that all I required to become a successful Veterinarian was love, but  I was soon to discover that I could not actually handle the not so pretty side of this profession, which was euthanasia and not forgetting that I was never really academically minded, or able to achieve the required qualifications.

When I left school at the age of fifteen, I decided to follow in my beloved dad’s footsteps and join the family painting and decorating business.  For a young female donning a pair of white overalls and venturing up a ladder to paint the outside of a house, was still a source of amusement in a largely male dominated world and yes I did look for the left handed screw driver and the tub of elbow grease, much to my workmates amusement.  I did not however, fall for my boss’s insistence that the woodchip wallpaper I had just spent an afternoon hanging, was upside down!

When I left the building trade, I spent several years doing secretarial work and a further six manning a switchboard, before my life was to change dramatically.  My husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when he was just forty two years old, but his determination and zest for life was unwavering and undoubtedly helped my recovery when fate was to strike once again six months later when I suffered a brain hemorrhage.

Without going into detail, it made me even more determined to attain my dream of working with animals.  Being away from the office made me realize how stressful and unhealthy it was and just how much I hated the work and so my venture into the world of pet sitting began.

After thoroughly researching the American pet care industry (it was largely unknown in the UK at that time), I decided that this would finally realize my dream of working with animals.

Meanwhile the phone is left unanswered since I am spending a considerable amount of time trying to help re-home a client’s dog whose owner is emigrating to Australia! When I have finally secured a place with a local rescue centre, it is time to address Mrs Smith’s SOS.  Her niece can no longer care for her hamster, three chickens, and her three legged pooch and she is flying out to Italy the following day!  I explain that a preliminary visit must be undertaken before an assignment is accepted, but she insists that she is so desperate she will accept anyone!  After almost half an hour of explaining our procedure and the benefits of meeting your prospective sitter, she agrees and I replace the receiver only for it to ring again.  This call is from a client desperate to excel the virtues of their regular pet sitter and why they must be available for a short notice wedding that is taking place that weekend!  My colleague had spoken to her earlier in the day, to explain that her regular sitter has already been booked, but she is insisting that little Bertie will only accept Susan and after all, she has used our services for over eight years!

So yes, I feel that I have realised my dream.  I am also extremely thankful that despite my setbacks, I have been able to help educate pet owners, but I will always feel that I could do more!

Serious illness does have a massive impact on your life, but for us it has been in a positive way.  Last night, when I received that email, I knew that you should never stop trying,  to be the best that we can be!

 

 

 

Fireworks have no place in the modern world!

 

With Christmas and New Year fast approaching, it is time for pet owners to focus their attention to the safety and well-being of their pets over the New Year celebrations.

We continue to be appalled by the bombing atrocities caused by terrorism and yet every year at the end of November, the UK happily celebrates a failed bomb attempt to blow up the houses of Parliament! The connotations of which I find simply astounding.  What other country would pay homage to a historical terrorist!

I continue therefore, to be astonished that fireworks are legally sold to the general public.  They are explosives and by their very definition, can be lethal in the wrong hands.  They wreak havoc with our countryside, causing stress to our wildlife and livestock and should only be used in the hands of trained Pyrotechnicians.

Pet owners are constantly warned to keep their pets indoors during the Bonfire and New Year celebrations, but what of our livestock and wildlife!  We cannot bring our  horses into the safely of our living rooms and even the calmest can be spooked during this time.

Horses

It is heartbreaking to recall incidences of horse fatalities.  More recently Nelly Shell, who was left heartbroken when her beloved horse suffered  severe injuries having become terrified and ran into barbed wire surrounding his paddock.  His injuries were so severe that she had to make the heart wrenching decision to have him put to sleep.

Karen Mills is also calling for a ban on the sale of fireworks to the general public, following the tragic death of her beloved horse, Shiloh.  He was found dead in his field, tangled in wire fencing.  His owner believes he was spooked by fireworks which led to the accident.  She also stated that there were nearby displays taking place!

Environment

What of the dangers to our environment.  November 5th is  the most polluted day in the UK calendar.  Rockets contain residues of unburnt propellants and colourants and some of this finds its way into our lakes and riviers.  Researches have collected airborne particles which were found to deplete lung defences which exceeded those from traffic sources which suggests a far greater toxicity.

It is common knowledge that the basic ingredient of fireworks is gunpower, however, it is the cocktail of chemicals and heavy metal that pose the most concern.  Barium  is the ingredient used to produce the vivid green colour, which is both poisonous and radioactive.  Rubidium, cadmium and other toxic components are used which can cause respiratory and other health issues.

In short, fireworks can unleash a shower of toxins into our atmosphere, soil and water.  Yet another good excuse to ban them completely.

Domestic pets

The worse fear case I have seen during my years as a pet sitter, was a beautiful young Staffie whom we walked on an ad hoc basis.  He was a big lad, with a soft heart and a tail that wagged for England.  Imagine my shock to hear from his owner that on the lead up to bonfire night, he suffered a heart attack following what she described as supersonic booms and died shortly after.  Despite her best efforts at calming him, he failed to respond and I doubt she will ever fully recover from his loss.

Instances of animal cruelty also soar in the run up to Bonfire night and one cat was forced to have his leg amputated following what was described as a twisted attack.

Should we really be investing in products such as thunder shirts, and drugs to make fireworks more tolerable to our domestic pets?  My answer to that is no, since this is easily avoidable by restricting them to organise displays and minimising the noise that they generate.

Let us also look at the example set by country who are now insisting that fireworks are restricted to one day celebrations and are therefore using ‘silent’ ones. The Italian town of Callechhio, who employs a ban on loud pyrotechnics.  This was following a bid to ease sufferers of post traumatic stress, pets, livestock, children, wildlife and those of a nervous disposition).  Edinburghs famous New Year celebrations could also see a switch to a silent fireworks, an example that I hope will see many cities following.

Chinese Lanterns.

I would also like to add the dangers of Chinese Lanterns, which have proved extremely harmful to our wildlife.

Lanterns are long been a symbol of beauty as they light up our night skys but they pose a significant threat and can cause fires.

In 2011 a roof fire was caused as a result of one falling onto a family home.  The fire spread to within feet of sleeping children, who were thankfully evacuated when a neighbour was alerted by the flames and called the emergency services.

These lanterns can carry for miles before they land and when ingested animals can suffer internal bleeding, leading to a slow and painful death.   Birds can become entangled in fallen frames, suffering stress and injury in their attempt to get free.  This can lead to starvation and marine life can be endangered by the debris falling into the sea.

Landowners are now calling for a complete ban following cases of injured livestock and fire authorities have united in their support.

The U.K is known to the rest of the world as being a nation of animal lovers, so please think twice before using fireworks and Chinese lanterns to celebrate the New Year.  If you simply must use fireworks, please consider the silent ones.

Keeping Pets Safe In The Winter Months

We all know that dogs and cats are happiest and healthiest kept indoors, but even cats who have access to outside require protection from extreme weather conditions such as cold, wind and extreme heat.  With the temperatures set to plummet this week, it is time to spare a thought for all those animals who are kept outdoors.

Although snow may be a great source of fun for the family, you should always be prepared for the hazards it may bring, especially for our outdoor pets, so here are a few  tips for keeping them safe during the cold winter weather.

Doggie do’s and don’ts during the winter months.

  • Short haired dogs such as Greyhounds and Chihuahuas can be really sensitive to cold weather and benefit greatly from wearing coats during exercise.
  • Pavements are usually salted during snow fall, so remember to wash pads and feet  since it can be an irritant.
  • NEVER exercise off lead near rivers or lakes. They can become frozen and although the majority of dogs are strong swimmers, prevention is better than cure!
  • Be mindful of slippery conditions. The elderly should refrain from putting themselves and their dog at risk.  You can always entertain them inside until conditions improve.
  • Wearing bright or reflective clothing is advisable for both dog and owner to be seen by motorists, during dark winter evenings.
  • If your dog is under active during the winter months do not forget to cut back on his calories. Extra weight can cause health problems so please do not kill with kindness!
  • Dogs should NEVER be left outside in freezing conditions.

Cat’s survival guide

  • The majority of cats like to remain inside during the cold winter months, but if your cat does enjoy snowy conditions ensure that they have access to indoors. If there is no cat flap, keep them inside as cats can suffer from hypothermia and develop frostbite.
  • If you are keeping your cats inside, a litter tray should be provided.
  • Cat flaps can become blocked in heavy snowfall, so if your cat does venture outside,  ensure they are checked and cleared regularly.
  • Cats adore warm places and often gravitate to the warmth of a car engine to keep warm. This can cause them to be trapped without food and water so check before making your journey.

Hutches

  • If you really cannot bring your little furies indoors during the cold winter months, hutches should be positioned so that extreme snow/rain cannot get in and covered with an old blanket or sacking. Many of our clients use an old tarpaulin under a hutch to provide extra warmth, but remember when covering with any material, to leave the front clear in order that your pets can still enjoy daylight.
  • If a garage is to be their winter home, ensure that they have good ventilation (by a window) and an area that is damp and draft free. Fumes from your car can be fatal so do not use a garage that is used by a car.  Out of sight should not mean out of mind, so do not forget them.
  • Pets enjoy a thicker coat during the winter months, which can moult with constantly changes in temperature. Please therefore do not bring them inside at night to be put out again during the day.  This could also cause stress and further vulnerability to the cold.
  • Remember to add extra bedding and change it regularly.
  • Water bottles can often freeze over when left outside, so these should also be checked on a regular basis to ensure that your pet(s), can still drink.  Insulation sleeves can be purchased from good pet stores and if the water does freeze change for another as defrosted water can cause tummy upsets.
  • For those people who think ‘well wild rabbits live outside’, should be mindful that they have underground burrows which are dry and draught free and are able to snuggle up to other bunnies!
  • You can line the floor of your hutch with a layer of newspaper and extra hay/straw and you can now purchase a heat pad, but please remember to read and follow the instructions fully before use.
  • Hutches should be kept clean throughout the year whatever the weather.

It is worth remembering that rabbits are communal animals and should never be kept alone. Kept in pairs they will be able to enjoy the warmth and comfort of each other, but check the sex of each one before pairing to ensure that you are not over run with their offspring.

Pets rely on us for their well being and safety, especially during harsh weather conditions, but if in any doubt, please contact your veterinary practice who will happily offer advise without charge.

 

Christmas Dangers for Pets

We may still only be in November, but already Christmas trees and decorations are being hauled from the loft and with them come potential dangers to our pets.

Last Christmas, within 24 hours of publishing my vlog about the dangers of chocolate, I found myself and German Shepherd Dog Luika, in the vets at Leighton Buzzard, having his stomach pumped!

Such an embarrassment and a fine example of how quickly and easily dogs can capitalise on our mistakes.

Being a pet sitter, we have frequent visits from happy clients brandishing bottles of wine and boxes of chocolates.  All of which we donate to the staff of  local rescue centres as a thank you for their hard work throughout the year.  Sadly they are all to often forgotten and without their dedication and hard work, pets would never find suitable homes.

On this particular day, my husband had answered the door, to discover a beautifully wrapped parcel on our doorstep.  He was late for an appointment and left it on kitchen workshop at the same time as I had answered the phone.

I turned my back for no more than five minutes to discover on my return, a demolished parcel, an empty box of Baileys finest liqueurs and a rather sorry and furtive looking German Shepherd Dog!

I immediately reached for the phone to put our vets on alert, grabbed his lead and made a dash to the car.  Luckily it was only a few minutes drive, who immediately administered an injection to induce vomiting.

For those of you who’s dog has never required a vomit inducing drug, I can assure you it is not a pretty sight.  The next half an hour was spent watching my poor pouch, throwing up vast quantities of chocolate until the vet was satisfied that his system was completely clear.

With over eighteen years working within the pet care industry and a lifetime of owning pets and offering advice on my blog, I was aghast that this could happen to MY dog!  It takes but a few minutes for your pet to find danger and Christmas is a time full of them for our pets.

Every string of tinsel, each Poinsettia and even a Christmas dinner, can hold dangers for our pets.  Cats in particular, simply adore the allure of the Christmas tree decorations, so should never be left alone with its temptations and our pet sitters have lost count of the Poinsettia’s that have been relegated to a locked cupboard. Only last year, a client recalled how her prize Pug guzzled the contents of an unattended glass of sherry, which saw him spending Christmas night at the veterinary surgery, followed by a rather hefty vet bill!

The majority of Christmas dangers can be avoided however, so have a wonderful Christmas and remember to keep your pets safe.

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The Cruelty Behind The Traps

There is a hidden side to greyhound racing which race goers will never see. This includes painful injuries; kennels not fit for purpose, lack of socialisation and wanton neglect to name but a few!

This money driven industry, with its poorly maintained tracks, cause frequent injuries to these beautiful dogs and thousands will die or vanish each year that are deemed ‘surplus to requirements’. Their bodies have been found dumped in mass graves, often with their ears cut off to avoid identification.

In 2010 Government regulations were introduced to address these problems, but The League Against Cruel Sports states that they are woefully inadequate.

As a result of over breeding and the demand for better performances, dogs that do not make the grade are cruelly disposed of, with their ears sliced off and often shot with a bolt gun,  while some are sold for experimental purposes.  Such a cruel and bloody end for dogs whose only crime is being ‘unfit for purpose’!

Greyhound racing remains big business, where profit is put above animal welfare and of course while the Government continues to rake in taxes, there is little hope of a change.  There is an old saying within the racing fraternity, ‘You bet, they die’, which is sadly true of such a barbaric sport.

People who patronise these races, are quick to point out how Greyhounds love to race, but there is no freedom of choice on the racetrack.  These dogs can reach speeds of up to 40mph and if they collide at full sprint they can receive such horrific injuries that they have to be destroyed.

Sadly, an early death is the fate of most dogs born into the racing industry and due to the vast number bred each year it is impossible to re home them all.  So until people wake up to the reality behind the traps, they will continue to suffer!

The biggest welfare challenge for the lucky dogs that survive the track,  is what to do when they do retire.  The normal age for retirement is 4 – 5 years of age and that does not account for the puppies who do not make the grade.

Sadly there is still public perception that Greyhounds do not make good pets and that they require to much exercise when in fact the opposite is true.

They are still misunderstood and make wonderful, placid pets and contrary to public belief, do not need that much exercising. In fact the majority of retired Greyhounds that have been through our hands as pet sitters, only required a twenty to thirty minute walk, twice a day.  In the course of our dog walking duties, we would often enter the clients home, to find them feet up, sound asleep in a comfy bed and those dogs from the racing industry, often retire early, so have many years ahead of them.

Greyhounds make lovely pets

One word of caution however, a Greyhounds instinct is to chase, so they may require training in order that that can live happily with small pets, but we have cared for quite a few of these lovely dogs, who happily live with cats.

I cannot praise these dogs highly enough. They have been a joy to walk (although vigilance is required when spotting a squirrel or passing little furry), docile, biddable and an all round lovely companion, so next time you are looking to re-home a low maintenance dog, why not contact The Retired Greyhound Trust, who will be more than happy to match you with an appropriate dog.

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Say NO to puppy farms

In my eighteen years working in the pet care industry, I have seen a massive increase in the puppy farming industry.  As demand for cheaper, pure bred and designer puppies increases, this despicable trade booms and the last year we have cared for numerous puppies who were purchased cheaply over the internet, from newspaper adverts and in some cases pet shops.  All with fake documentation. The majority required immediate veterinary treatment, while others died from preventable diseases such as parvovirus, indicative of the puppy mill industry.

By purchasing these pups, you might be removing them from a squalid life, but no thought is given to the mothers of these sick puppies who languish in cramped spaces, never seeing the light of day or feeling the comforting touch of a human hand.  They are breeding machines, with little or no recovery between litters and when they can no longer reproduce, are often killed.

I remember Lily, a Cocker Spaniel who was purchased from an online advertisement.  Our client had suspected that she was a breeding bitch since she was not house trained and was petrified of open spaces.  When I first met Lily she was unresponsive and had very little interest accept for her owner, whom she followed everywhere.  It was heartbreaking and took many visits before she would even acknowledge me, but the breakthrough, when it came, was almost euphoric.  I entered the property as normal and called Lily’s name.  Usually it took a few renditions of Hello by Lional Ritchie, before she would lift her head from a sleeping position, but that day, there was a slight wag of her tail and a little light in those dark brown eyes that made me believe that she was slowly emerging from her shell.

In the three years of walking Lily, she would never show the exuberance of a ‘normal’ dog, but slowly, over time, a bond was formed.  Lily was shy with strangers throughout the remainder of her life, but she became the most loving of dogs and completely devoted to those within her family unit.  Sadly the family moved out of our area, but kept in touch until we were informed  that she died a couple of years later.   Lily was one of the lucky ones.  She made it out of her prison and was given a chance.  She absolutely adored her saviors and her loyalty knew no bounds.

puppyfarms

Puppy farm dogs

So how can we put an end to puppy mills?  NEVER buy a puppy/dog from an online or newspaper or advertisement.  Do NOT buy from a pet store and if you suspect that a neighbour, or someone you know is involved in the puppy mill trade, report them immediately to the RSPCA.

The only real way to shut down puppy mills is to stop the demand.  Did you know that virtually every breed has a rescue, so if you really must have a pure bred puppy or dog, contact the Kennel Club, who will direct you to the right organisation.  These societies are completely dedicated to re-homing pedigree dogs and by adopting this way, you are quite literally saving lives.  For every empty kennel in rescue, or with a foster carer, there is another dog waiting to be re-homed.

I also find it extremely frustrating that some people see adoption centres as full of problematic dogs.  Pets in rescue should never be tainted, as those with behavioral problems!  Let me assure you that this is largely untrue!

Nearly 45% of our clients have pets adopted from shelters and not one has proved problematic to our pet sitters.  In fact, they are loving, faithful and devoted to their owners and form close bonds with their sitters.

We have also helped to re-home clients pets, who have been the result of a marriage breakup, where clients have moved out of the country and been unable to take their pets with them, or a change in circumstances which has seen them unable to continue care for their animals, so please do not attach a stigma to pets that end up in rescue.

Far from being unadoptable, they make the most wonderful pets  and a good rescue organisation will temperament test and offer training were necessary.  They will also be fully assessed, health checked, micro chipped and spayed or castrated before going out into their new home, so please give them a chance

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Wolf Study at Whipsnade

Introduction

I wanted to find out why the mythical image of Canis Lupus is still haunting and why, even in modern times, he still holds the capability to evoke such passion. He has lived amongst us for thousands of years, and yet still he remains the most feared and persecuted of all wild mammals.

Research

wolf

Most of the research on wolf ecology and behaviour, involves field studies, radio tracking and aerial surveys, and through the pioneering efforts of Dr David L Mech and other leading biologists, we now have a far greater understanding of this shy and illusive creature.

However, being a complete novice and armed only with a camcorder, a pair of rickety binoculars and a notepad and pen, I set off on a cold and damp February morning to Whipsnade Wild Animal Park for my first encounter with the Whipsnade wolves.

I arrived just after 8am in the morning. The park boasts some 600 acres, laid out in natural surroundings and luckily for me, Wolf Wood was only a few hundreds yards away from the main entrance.

I was thankful that I had remembered my binoculars, for they are an essential item to any field study and enabled me to identify individuals and observe behaviour at close quarters.

At Whipsnade, there are obvious differences with pack behaviour. Their food is provided and territory limited, but the social hierarchy remains the same. The pack consists of a mated alpha pair and their offspring. Only one cub had been produced that year, which contradicts the usual litter of up to six in the wild.

Diet

Diet consists of meat obtained from a local butcher, which is thrown into the enclosure at random, usually early morning between 8.30am and 9.30am before the gates open to the public.

On the fourth week of my visit, the keeper had wheeled round a feast of fallow deer. It was a park animal which had died the day before and following a post mortem to ensure that the carcass was free from disease, it was cut up to serve as a meal that the wolves may hunt naturally in the wild.

Two of the sixteen wolves had been injured. One a male, had been quite severely bitten and the wound was still bloody. It appeared that they were both higher ranking individuals and had attempted to mate when the alpha pair intervened.

The female had suffered similar injury through her exile had only been temporary, whereas the male, despite constant attempts to rejoin the group (this was done by intermittent circling around the pack), was persistently pushed back to the far end of the enclosure by the alpha male.

Hierarchy

Throughout my time at the park, the outsider continued his advance in passive submission, yet the alpha’s reaction remained threatening. This wolf had obviously lost his status for good. As in the wild, the alpha male continued to assert his authority. He is most self assured and the only one to be seen lifting his leg whilst urinating. He often approached the public with a far bolder stance than his pack mates, with his tail held high.

There appeared to be rank relationships during feeding, they threatened and directed intimidation behaviour toward each other, and at times there were biting frays, but real confrontation was not observed at that time.

Body language is like a communicative signal which depends on the behaviour of his pact mates. Undisturbed, the body is relaxed whilst his ears seem to follow the direction of sound like finely tuned radar signals.

Although I had witnessed noisy confrontations during feeding, on no occasion did it lead to serious fighting, but I was intrigued to observe a lower ranking wolf defending a piece of meat. I thought it rather comical at the time, for facially he appeared threatening with ears forward, yet his hind legs were bent and his tail was tucked firmly between them.

During late morning, early afternoon, the pack went to ground which I found rather frustrating, so I turned my attention to the great British public milling around the enclosure. It was interesting to note the varied remarks from parents as they spied a wolf or two lazing in the undergrowth.

Bad reputation

All too often I would hear songs such as “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf”, but on the whole, comments were favourable and I was often approached for information by curious people as I took notes and filmed my subjects.

My study took most of that year, and was a unique opportunity for me to observe wolves in a much greater freedom than the confines of a zoo.

For conservation to be successful we need knowledge and understanding. My study was only possible with the help of Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, where they continue to enjoy the protection of captivity.

In an ideal world, the wolf should be left where he belongs, in freedom, but it is extremely difficult to change the opinion that this earth is for humans and all else should be subordinate. Whatever their outcome, one slow floating howl through a midnight sky still holds the ability to set even the faintest heart aflutter.

Written by Nina Cole www.ninasnanniesforpets.co.uk