Monday, April 29, 2013

Finding the right Boston terrier for my multi-pet household

Sinead the Boston terrier as a puppy
Meet Sinead!
I'm absolutely wild about Boston terriers. I love their big, bold ears. I love their quizzical head tilts. I love their snappy coloring. I love their bossy personalities. Put plainly: I'm smitten. I also had a long-lasting love affair with a Boston terrier, who left the world much too soon. (Read more about that here.)

I've been wishing for another Boston ever since my first little one died, but I had a significant amount of trouble finding the right dog for my little family. I wanted to make sure I found the right fit, both for me and for the little creatures who already live her, and that means my search took ages.

For starters, I wanted a female. Liam is male, and he can be a little rambunctious with male dogs we meet at the dog park. He loves them, but he also seems to move right into rough-play mode with males, where he tends to remain a gentleman for a little longer with females.

Secondly, I wanted either a young pup or an adult dog that gets along with cats. Young dogs I thought I could train, or the damage they might inflict on a cat might be relatively small. Older, cat-friendly Bostons would have been perfect, but they were hard to find, as many Bostons seem to like to chase cats.

Finally, I wanted a dog that would come with a health contract. After losing my other Boston at an early age, I wanted to make sure my next try with the breed would be more successful. Allergies, heart troubles, stomach upset, heart worm histories.... all of these things would be disqualifications for this pup. I wanted health, and I was willing to wait until I found it. 

After a full year of searching, my hard work paid off with little Sinead. She's four months old, and about 4 pounds total, and she's an absolute joy. She's well socialized with dogs, and while cats remain a mystery, she seems to be catching on quickly (more about this later, if I can get good photos). She also has glorious markings and a full health contract standing behind her.

Perhaps good things really do come to those who wait.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Keeping your dog safe in an unpredictable world

Liam the pug in his bed
Liam would rather not think about all of this.
Earlier this month, Spot Magazine tweeted about suspected rat poison found inside Irving Park in Portland. I waited to write about it, as I thought perhaps a news organization would pick up on the story and supply nervous dog owners with a little more information. That's exactly what happened in 2003, after all, when some sicko left poisoned sausage in Laurelhurst Park. That attack killed eight dogs, but the coverage was so rampant, it's likely that dog owners took steps to keep their little ones protected when they knew the dangers were there.

Unfortunately, no media story seems to be forthcoming, and I'm not sure the danger has passed. After all, just a few months ago, someone left antifreeze in a dog park in Tigard. Here, experts suggest that the person was also trying to kill dogs, although no one has taken responsibility for that act.

Call me paranoid, but I think someone is up to no good in our area, and we should all be a little more careful as a result. I'll go ahead and sound the alarm right now, and outline what I'm doing as a result.

I keep Liam on a leash 90 percent of the time, and when he's off the leash, it's only in an area I can see and investigate on my own. Hiking trails, bike paths, mountainous dog parks, these places are all off-limits to off-leash work for Liam as I can't see what dangers might be around the corner. Flat, grassy spots, on the other hand, seem safer.

As an added precaution, I've been beefing up Liam's "leave it" command. I've asked him to drop potato chips, bread and even cookies when we've been on our walks, and I kick the debris I find into the gutter so it can be washed away in the rain. Normally, I would let him snack on little bits that sloppy snackers leave behind, but now that just doesn't seem like a good idea.

Finally, I'm monitoring Liam pretty closely when we are out and about, just so I can ensure that he's not doing anything he shouldn't. I've never been cavalier about what he does, of course, but I like him to stay close when we're moving around, just so I can make sure he stays safe.

I hate the fact that we all have to be so careful with our animals, and I really have no idea why someone would choose to poison or attack animals. In general, I hate the fact that recent events have made all Americans just a little more paranoid about spending time together and sharing large public spaces with one another. I'd rather we all discussed our problems, rather than attacking one another and engaging in random terrorism. But rather than singing Kumbaya while other people do as they please, I suppose I'll become one of the watchful, weary, worried masses, just hoping that things will change soon. At least my dog and I will be safe.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ant-proof hummingbird feeders: It's really possible!

Humming bird feeder by a big tree
That little green addition makes all the difference.
I'm a big believer in hummingbird feeders. These we little guys need to nearly double their body weight before they migrate, and as we continue to build up concrete structures and tear down fields of green, there are fewer and fewer natural sources of nectar available for these hungry birds.

I had a great spot for a feeder in my Portland house, and I spent most of last summer watching the little guys swarm around the nectar day after day after day. When I moved to Salem, I thought I had a perfect spot all picked out, as it's high up off the ground, near blooming flowers (lavender) and close to no structure a cat could get to. In short, I thought I had this whole thing all worked out.

I didn't count on the sugar ants.

The very first day I had the feeder out, a small line of ants crawled up from the ground into that feeder, and the water turned cloudy as their little bodies disintegrated. Really, really disgusting stuff.

I had read about using an ant moat filled with water (see a how-to right here), and I considered giving that a try, but the feeder is in a very windy location and I was a little worried that the cup would just blow right over before it killed any ants at all. In the end, I bought a Perky Pet ant trap. I was skeptical at first, but within one day, all of the ants on the feeder were gone and I've never seen another one come back. The birds, on the other hand, don't seem disturbed by the disk at all and they've been quite active in the early morning hours.

If you'd like to do your own feeder (you should!), check out this link.