Thursday, April 8, 2010


The Toronto Humane Society on River Street is back, under a court approved agreement.

They will be opening their doors in June, after taking a hiatus to clean and upgrade the place.

Four senior staff members and two other staff, including president Tim Trow and head veterinarian Dr. Steve Sheridan (wonder where he'll be practising in the future), blackened the name of the shelter and now face multiple charges including animal cruelty (much better suited to work for the government).

These sick individuals will be replaced ... and hopefully they will suffer. I know they will never suffer the way the animals in their care did--but I can dream!

The investigation was started due to an animal care worker who was fired from the shelter back in 2006. Marcie Laking started a protest group and was successful in drawing attention to the conditions at the shelter when the group held two demonstrations in 2008, in front of the shelter on River Street, Toronto.

Kudos to you Marcie and let it never be said one person can't make a difference!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


When Journey and I arrived at the beach this morning, we were greeted by a clear blue sky, the water dancing in the sunlight and the sad realization there would be no more joy in our daily visits to the boardwalk.

You see, after April 1st, dogs are forbidden on the sand and beach, on leash or off, anywhere except the off-leash areas in The Beaches.

This all started when our City Council decided to apply to get a couple of the beaches in Toronto designated as Blue Flag Beaches.

Dogs are allowed on the sand and beach from November 1st to March 31, when no one else is using it; when it's windy and cold and snowy and blowy . . . and then only behind the snow fencing that is put up during those months (of course, keep in mind the City of Toronto exercises their police horses on the sand throughout the year without worrying about cleaning up after their companions!).

From today until November, our dogs will have to remain on leash, unless they are in one of two off-leash areas.

The off-leash area down at the eastern end of the boardwalk doesn't have any fencing at all to keep the dogs in the designated space and the other off-leash south of Lee Ave. has gates that don't close securely.

Neither of these areas are totally fenced-in, the dogs can get out of both of them. But if they do--there is a sizable fine waiting if an animal control officer is in the area.

The off-leash areas have a posted code of behavior:

Comply with all signs and boundaries and carry a leash at all times.
All dogs must have a municipal dog license.
Dogs must remain in off-leash area so as not to trample or endanger plant material and other park resources.
Dogs excluded from use of off-leash areas: dogs identified under the Dog Owners Liability Act:
1. Pit bulls;
2. Female dogs in heat;
3. Uncastrated male dogs;
4. Any dog that has been issued a muzzle order by the Medical Officer of Health.
Discourage your dog(s) from chasing wildlife.
Pick up after the dog(s) and carry the dog(s) waste home to the Green Bin or use the receptacle provided.
Dog(s) must be under voice or signal control and in sight at all times. If your dog does not respond immediately, retrieve your dog and leash it.
Leash your dog(s) immediately, if aggressive behaviour is demonstrated.
Respect other park users.
Dogs that dig holes must have their owners fill them in immediately. Holes create safety hazards for other users especially after dark.
Always carry a bag, a spare and one to share.
Municipal Codes Chapter 349 & 608
Violation of bylaws are punishable by fines.

I wonder how many people who use the off-leash areas have actually taken the time to familiarize themselves with the posted code because there sure is evidence to the contrary.

Dog walkers who have five or six dogs in the area just stand and yap with other dog walkers who also have five or six dogs, while many times their charges wreak havoc on individual dogs and their owners using the space.

Owners who are oblivious to their dog's whereabouts or their dog's behavior, instead enjoying a phone conversation or a social hour with other dog owners. Nothing wrong with that--if their eyes and ears are on their dog!

If one happens to remind the owner of an unruly dog about the code of behavior, a verbal fur-flying will undoubtedly ensue.

I can't count the times I've witnessed dog fights in the off-leash areas. I'm not referring to the momentary scuffle when dogs have a disagreement or the 'it's my ball--didn't you see my human throw it for me?"

I'm referring to a dog on the prowl desiring to exert it's dominance on any dog it's size or larger. (the drunken-bully-in-the-bar syndrome!) I know of people who've politely asked another dog owner to please leash their dog if they feel it's getting too aggressive with their own dog and we know where that leads--the echoing, "this is an off-leash area", as if anything is permissible.

It seems any dog behavior is acceptable in the off-leash areas. As well as any human behavior.

Perhaps it would just be more realistic to post an "ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK."

Exactly whose responsibility is it to let children who join parents on visits to the off-leash areas know they are not in their own backyard? Their dog may be used to the kid racing around, yelling, dodging in and out of the bushes acting like a young, aggressive maniac. But I tell you, if my one-hundred-and-fifty-pound dog comes barreling around a bush at full speed and knocks a child down, the broken bones involved will not be fixed by a veterinarian!

So now I'm supposed to keep my dog from racing around in the off-leash to ensure the kids in there don't get knocked down???

Don't think so!

Then there are the tourists who come down to the beach for the day, saunter into an off-leash area and proceed to set out their blanket on which to enjoy a picnic lunch.

When dogs start circling the picnickers fried chicken and they are trying to shoo them away, I enjoy asking them if they realize they are eating their lunch in the biggest kitty-litter box in Toronto.

Once again, it becomes my responsibility to keep my dog away from these fools??

I think not!

It's only fair that one of the most dog-dense communities in Canada has space for tax-payers to exercise their dogs--this goes without saying. Just as the children in our community need their safe play spaces.

Access to safe, clean off leash spaces shouldn't be something we have to grovel and or do penance for.

Since dogs are allowed in the city, we must ensure they have proper space to get the exercise they need to develop into social, well-balanced companions.

I don't see a problem with designating times dogs can have free-run of the beach all year round. Perhaps 6:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m. and again from 8 p.m. -10:00 p.m.

Now that's something to chew on!!

Friday, March 26, 2010


"The phone rings as I'm preparing dinner."Hello."

"Hi, do you have Great Danes?"

"Um...yes, I do." I reply, silently calculating if this conversation will be over before my sauce is done. "My name is Deborah."

"Do you have puppies? I want a fawn colour," I hear.

"Who is this I'm speaking to?"


"Have you owned a Great Dane before, Damian?" I question.

"Yes, I did." Nothing more offered.

"May I ask who you bought your Dane from and how long you had it?"

"It wasn't here in Canada--I just moved here."

About now, I know this person would have to do a whole heck of a lot more talking if he wanted to be considered seriously as a prospective puppy owner--at least one of my puppy owners.

"Oh, where did you move from?"

"From Illinois."

"Oh yes, and who was it you got your Dane from in Illinois?" Another three or four minutes and my sauce would be of perfect consistency.

"It wasn't really someone who had Great Danes or anything like that."

"I see," peering into my pan on the stove, making a statement more about my sauce than his response to my question.

"How much are your dogs?" Damian enquires.

"I sell my puppies for $1500."

"How old are they when you sell them?"

About now, I am wishing I had a free hand to disconnect the call but both hands are busy as I add a tich more thyme to the delicate sauce simmering in the pan.

"Eight weeks old at least," I offer.

"How much would you sell one for younger?"

My lip curls slowly as I realize not only is my sauce done . . . but the conversation is over-done.

"How much would you sell one for if I got it at two weeks old?"

"I don't sell puppies at two weeks old. I don't know of anyone who does--not even those disgusting puppy mills," hoping he can hear the offense in my tone.

I put my spoon down on the counter and grab the phone from where it's been nestled between my shoulder and my ear.

"Why not?" he persists.

"I'm afraid I can't be of any further help to you, Damian.

He's done--like dinner.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I don't remember ever having a crate for any of the dogs our family shared our home with while I was growing up.

We brought the new puppy home and house-trained it.

I'm not just referring to making sure we weren't slipping on a soggy floor or experiencing that squish between our toes as our feet hit the floor upon awakening (am I the only one who's experienced this one??).

This is breaking the dog of the habit of urinating and defecating in the house. House-breaking.

The house-breaking was the easy part--took all of a week due to our vigilance and dedication, no matter what breed we were dealing with (although males always did seem to be a bit more trying).

The house-training took a bit longer. Teaching our puppies what was ours as opposed to what was theirs. Respect for their surroundings, their den--and for their humans.

Teaching dogs to respect the boundaries we gave them, which obviously included redirecting them from a shoe to one of their toys, redirecting their attacks on a potted plant or cautioning them to leave anything on the coffee table alone (every living room had a coffee table back then, right?) was all in a day with a new puppy.

Sure there were accidents, as there are with babies when they're just beginning to crawl and are overcome with wanting to experience their tactile sense but we were ever more watchful--there was, after all, a four-footed baby in the house.

I'm not sure when the whole crate craze started escalating out of control. I believe it was about fifteen to twenty years ago.

No longer any need for breeders to pass up a sale to the people who desired a puppy, even if they had full time jobs and were out of their den between fifty to sixty hours a week.

No bother for newly-married couples who desired the status of instant 'family' to concern themselves with their daily out-of-den commitments.

One of the many reasons given for introducing the crate to a pup at an early age is the 'what if' scenario. What if your dog has to have an emergency stay overnight at a veterinary hospital?

In emergencies, my dogs (as adults) have on occasion had to spend time at the vet's. They have to be really ill, something life-threatening for me to agree to have them stay over-night at any veterinarian hospital usually because there's no staff on over-night--but that's a whole other post.

When they've had this unfortunate experience, they've been too ill to concern themselves with their accommodations. They've not fought the crate or shown great anxiety . . . they've been ill.

If you have ever seen those horrid images of dogs in puppy mills, you are aware that in fact a dog will soil in a confined space.

To confine a puppy to such a space when physiologically it hasn't even got full control of its bowel or bladder in order to teach it to relieve itself out-of-doors is ludicrous.

It is however . . . convenient. For the human--not for the puppy.

To crate a puppy to keep it from exploring its new den and possibly chewing on an exposed electrical wire or knocking over a plant or chewing up a tennis racket or the millions of other things puppies are drawn to, is simply being l-a-z-y and not stepping up to the responsibilities involved in molding a new puppy's teeny little brain.

Of course a pup will approach an object it's not familiar with-sniff it, if it still can't get a read on it, next best thing would be to whack it with a paw, see if it's going to move. If it still doesn't get any feedback from the object--the pup will probably try giving it a chew, see if it's edible.

At the point when the pup has sniffed whatever object has its attention and is zoning in for further exploration, the owner should step in and redirect--letting the pup know that the object is of no further concern to the pup.

It may take some repetition but it works! The pups' exploratory nature is satisfied and they're learning the boundaries at the same time...with the owner's involvement.

Basic and simple--and agreed, it's exhausting and time-consuming.

There are no instant results--unless of course, you just stick the pups into the 'safe place' (as pro-craters like to call a cage) and get on with your life.

To believe a pup needs a 'safe' place--a quiet place or a time-out place to go, other than a bed, sofa or blanket in a space on the floor is nothing more than great marketing. For puppies there's no safer place or any better feeling of security than to be beside their humans (preferably touching a body part).

My dog's 'safe place' is our home. It's her big, roomy den. She respects it and everything in it--because I've taken the time, put in the energy and raised her that way.

I just can't imagine how we or our dogs ever survived puppy-rearing before the use of crates!

***In this post, I'm not referring to breeders who have to deal with males and females and the challenge they are faced with when one (or more) of their females is in season. ***
I use a crate only at night but it is by the bed and that way I know when to get up before it is too late.
I agree some people use it as a place to stick a puppy/dog for hours on end.
Once they are potty trained it gets put down in the basement.
I have also found that it is a haven/safe place for puppies from older adults. I take the door off and it becomes their cave. I use the 900 Vari Kennels so lots of room.

Back in '92 , I had two brothers that loved their crates. I never put the doors on, they would kiss you good night and go to a crate. It didn't matter which one.
They then out grew the 900 crate and decided sleeping on a mat in the family room was OK.
I agree with you Deborah. The only time our dogs are ever crated is at ringside and those crates are big enough for 2 full grown Danes to stand and lie down fully stretched.
Why on earth have a dog and then isolate it from you in a crate!
I can not help but agree with you..
We do not crate either.
We never used “any sort of crating”. I hate it ! I’d never agree to do it. Why imprison a pet.
You named the only –if ever- acceptable reasonfor it: season of a bitch.
For one, a dog needs to become housebroken and trained by the owners. It needs education and if people won’t accept that I simply say “hands off”pets.
Crates have become a "must" now for the convenience of the owners, like so many things to-day, complete food, electric collars, halti's and lots of other short cuts that are purely for the convenience of the owners.
Nobody seems to just use things in moderation anymore -- its all or nothing.
I think crates used correctly can be a big help, at shows, when a dog has to be restricted for a health problem or lameness, bitches in season safely confined, also sometimes for a babies protection, BUT I have actually seen crates three high in RV's with all sorts of breeds in them--- what I did'nt see was those dogs going out for a good run and exercise before going in them. !!!!!
Crate With Caution!

Friday, March 12, 2010


Billed as the largest dog show in the world, Crufts, in Birmingham, England, is taking place from the 11th through the 14th of this month with 22,000+ dogs entered.

After last year's bad press, and the ensuing BBC investigative documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed the show this year promises "healthy and happy, fit for function" dogs.

Not just "show" (conformation) dogs but a variety of other dogs who work will be taking part in fly ball, agility, jumping competitions with presentations and demonstrations by Police Dogs, Friends For Life and various others.

This year, a warning went out to breed clubs that there will be extra checks to ensure dogs have not been cosmetically altered for the show ring.

I'm not jumping on the PETA bandwagon here. I show my own dogs and breed them.
I am concerned with the ethics demonstrated by some of the breeders and exhibitors and with the kennel clubs turning a blind eye to their own rules and regulations governing the show ring.

"Although the rules do not specifically ban the use of cosmetics on dogs, they do forbid anything that alters an animal's appearance for the show ring."

Am I missing something here--?

BAN: to prohibit especially by legal means, also : to prohibit the use, ...

FORBID:: to proscribe from or as if from the position of one in authority : command against.

Anyone who is familiar with the conformation show ring knows the practice of 'tweaking' a dog's appearance has become far too acceptable at shows.
I can't ever remember hearing of a dog being disqualified for cosmetic alteration of its appearance.
If you have, please enlighten me.

From applying eyeliner to dye jobs to the more involving surgical procedures such as correcting a dog's tail carriage by nicking the tendons or the implantation of 'nuticles.'

While there are pet owners who want testicles in their dog's empty scrotum after the dog has been neutered, it's NOT acceptable in the conformation ring!

One of the big companies that offers a white chalk for dog's coats states right on their site the "Dry white chalk in block form may be used for the cleaning but must be removed from the coat before the dog enters the ring."
Take a look at the selection this company offers then consider who exactly would be using these products:

Winners Circle . . .hmm. Does the name imply something? Just when would a companion or pet dog have whitening powder applied to its coat?
Perhaps before meeting his doggy friends at the park for a play?
Would a conscientious owner stop to apply ear weight to hold their dog's ears down before heading out to the beach on a windy day?
(guess I should try that product on my girl on windy days!)

How the officials are planning to carry out these 'spot checks' is not made clear.
Will they be lurking in the grooming area? Will they go over each dog at ringside before it enters the ring to be judged?
Will the exhibitors who are found guilty be disciplined?
Will they be asked to leave with their cosmetically-enhanced dog?

I think not.

Unfortunately, I believe the threat of extra checks or any checks for that matter, will remain quietly on paper.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Some owners think dogs magically or instinctively know what we expect of them, like heel, stay and come, without the dog ever being conditioned to respond to these commands. This can only be accomplished through patience, spending time and energy and lots of repetition.

I was down on the beach yesterday with my girl enjoying the sunshine and warm sand. I was watching the antics of dozens of dogs as they played like puppies in the fresh spring air.

A young Weimaraner, no more than three or four months in this world, came bounding over to us, stopping every few steps on the way to scent our energy.

Wide-eyed and innocent, he bellied up to Journey the last two feet, bowing low to a dog of such stature.

I give the little guy an A+ for confidence and bravery.

When he felt assured he wasn't going to be gobbled up in one gulp or stomped into the sand by one giant paw his whole back-end started wagging exuberantly while his front-end was doing a frenzied introduction dance. He was both humbled and thrilled!

Journey studied him with disdain, weighing out in her mind just how much energy she would have to expend on humouring this slightly obnoxious, young upstart.

Just as I was settling in to enjoy the entertainment there was a shrill, "Peppy--come here," in the distance.

I saw a male figure strutting across the sand and once again the command, "Peppy, come!"

My girl switched her focus from the pup toward the approaching voice. The pup was totally oblivious to anything other than his desire to impress us, if not with his brains then with his self-importance and cuteness.
("Look at me, I'm a pup, I'm playing with you, I'm adorable, look at me! I'm a pup.")

Once more, from ten feet away, a thunderous, "Peppy, you come here--NOW!"

The pup now identifying his master's voice above the sounds of the wheels going around in his tiny brain, turned from us, ran enthusiastically over to Peppy Sr., twirlled around and darted right back to where his new-found friend was, paying Peppy Sr. no more attention.

Peppy Sr., without as much as a how-do-you-do, closed the gap between us, reached down, grabbed young Peppy roughly by the collar and proceeded to give him a tongue-lashing.

"I told you to come! You know better than that--you come when I call you."

All the while, Peppy could have cared less, trying his best to squirm away from Sr. in an attempt to get back over to us.
("Let go of me--can't you see I'm trying to show-off for this dog? I'm socializing!!")

I could have kept my mouth closed. I could have reached into my pocket for that duct tape more than one person has suggested I carry with me but I never seem to remember it. Besides my pockets are for dog treats and doggy bags.

"Peppy is wonderful. How old is he?"

"He's almost four months old--with a mind of his own," Sr. states grabbing onto Peppy's collar again.
(well, who else's mind could he have in there but his own??)

"You've taught him to come already?" . . . I'm impressed.

"He knows better than to take off like that when I call him," he states with exasperation.

Really?? Hmm . . .

"No he doesn't-not at this age," I venture. "Actually, this is the age they learn there's no umbilical cord attaching them to their human, that they actually have a choice as to whether or not they do what you ask."

"He'll want to please you by doing what you expect of him once he understands what that is," I rant on. "That can only come by conditioning, spending time teaching him the expected response to a command."

"For a high-energy dog like this," I add, " I think you should consider using a ball--make the teaching fun so he doesn't realize he's learning."

Holding his pup by the collar, front feet now off the sand as Peppy struggles, still trying in vain to escape, I hear, "Now that is a beautiful dog you've got."

"Wish my guy would hurry up and settle down."
(Hurry up and settle down?!?! Boy, has he got a lot to learn about his chosen breed!)

I realize my advice has fallen on ears as deaf as Peppy's were when Sr. had yelled at him to come.

"He's not really a settle-down kinda breed," I reply as light-heartedly as I can. "He's got alot of energy and joy to spread. He's going to need tons of exercise and challenges to keep him focused."

"His parents are both smart dogs--they're champions," he offers, as he leads a thrashing Peppy away by the collar.

As I watch them wander off, I know Peppy will only be as 'smart' as his owner teaches him to be.
With Sr.'s comment about a four-month-old Weim settling down, I can't help wonder if this is another pup who was purchased without thought to the genes behind that adorable face.
Is Peppy destined to join the thousands of others of his breed in rescue organizations due to lack of education on both the breeder and the purchaser's parts?
Guess that will all depend on how smart Sr.'s parents are!

Monday, March 1, 2010


License: A permission granted by competent authority to engage in a business or occupation or in an activity otherwise unlawful b) : a document, plate, or tag evidencing a license granted.

We need a license to drive a car, a license to own a firearm, a license to operate a business, to sell real estate, to run a daycare, to fish in fresh water.

All dogs within the city of Toronto require a license, under Chapter 349 of the Municipal code. Renewable every year.

Failure to do so may result in a $240. fine.

The city doesn't care if your dog is healthy, if it has up-to-date shots, if you are a responsible or abusive owner--in other words, it's a money grab. Every year!

In theory, the reasoning behind the license is if your dog gets loose and lost, the tag number on its collar will enable Animal Control to check the records and be able to return your dog to you.

In the UK, the government now wants people to be 'competence tested' before they are able to own a dog.

A good idea? You bet!

Why NOT license the owner . . . ??

We have classes for expectant mothers before they welcome their new baby into their home.

We study the driver's handbook ( or should!) before we get behind the wheel.

We are required to pass a course before we are able to be licensed to own a firearm.

Why, with dogs, can we bring one into our home and lives with nothing more than the asking price necessary?

There are just too many breeds owned by far too many people who don't realize what they have at the end of the leash.
A dog is an investment. In money, time, energy, emotion and hopefully your heart.

Obedience schools are cleaning up on wrong choices made. Rescue organizations of all breeds are full with people's bad decisions.

The warnings in the various dog breed standards letting people know what kind of temperament their adorable puppy has coursing through its genes are there for a reason:

*NOT recommended for the faint of heart or those used to handling a poodle; nor would they suit a first time dog owner who has no experience handling dogs.

*Self-confident and fearless, requiring a dominant owner, able to keep his alpha position within the pack.

*This natural guard dog is protective, courageous and fearless. They need an owner to know how to display leadership at all times. Aggression and attacks on people are due to poor handling and training. For the most part, they are generally good with other dogs.

*They will be aggressive with strangers unless they are trained and socialized from a young age. Proper training must be stressed for them. They never fall back from a fight.

*Suspicious of strangers. A watchdog that cannot be bribed.

It's just too easy to purchase a dog online with a credit card number and Paypal.
Some of these interesting breeds whose temperaments I've cited above, can be purchased online on Kijiji, GetAPuppy,TerrificPets or a thousand other similiar sites.

Unfortunately even some breeders are guilty by omission by not mentioning their breed's less desirable traits--just to make a sale.

I would like to see anyone interested in owning a dog taking a course first, pass the course and then proceed on to selecting one of three or four breeds suggested by the instructor of the course, as a good match for their personalities and lifestyles.

Too many people fall in love with 'the look' of a particular breed as a six-week old pup, never taking the time to research the breed history and function.

"It's so cute--I want one!" Many times an impulse purchase.

Taking a course and receiving a license to own, would do away with impulse shopping. It would give aspiring puppy owners a glimpse into the responsibility and nurturing it takes to end up with a well-balanced companion.

A darned good idea!!