Winter bird watching

Winter bird watching is an activity that the whole family can enjoy. No matter how cold or snowy it is, birds will come to your bird feeder. It is a great activity to teach children to identify birds. Accompanied with a child’s version of a bird book, they can learn about the birds that they see. If you live in an area that is not cold and snowy, you will have the opportunity to see the birds that migrate south for the winter. This is often the only time you will be able to see some species of birds.

To be able to take great photos from indoors, simply hang your bird feeder close to a window. As I write this, birds are perching on my feeders about 18″ from my window. If you clean your windows carefully, you can take a photo without seeing the glass.

Researchers have found that bird watching is a calming pass time. For those who are inclined, you can photograph birds as they come to your feeders or perch nearby. The bottom photo is an Indigo Bunting that was eating the seeds that I spread under my Brome feeder. I took this photo through a window.

One of the problems that people have is that other animals, such as deer, squirrels, raccoons and even bears will rob a bird feeder. If you live in bear country it is important to bring your feeders in at night. If you have deer in your area you only need to hang your feeder high enough so that they cannot reach it. I have never had a problem with raccoons being able to rob my Brome feeders. I have lost one or two to black bears.

Fortunately Brome feeders are 100% squirrel proof. I have tried many brands of feeders and found this is the only one that is 100% squirrel proof. The benefit of having a squirrel proof feeder is that the money you save in bird seed will pay for the feeder in no time. Do check out their line of feeders and enjoy birdwatching. Brome also offers a free informative video every two weeks.

Ghosts of the High Uintas by Joe Jennings

If you like stories that include treasure maps, Native American lore, canine search and rescue, Marine Corps ingenuity, and firefighting skills, this is the book for you. Joe Jennings has crafted book five in his Sam and Gunny K9 Adventure Series and it is as great as the previous books.

When two people go missing, the team has to search the high mountains to find them. They are faced with a fanatical religious cult, the weather, and a brush fire purposely set to kill them, but they are helped by a medicine man, Edward See’s Wolf, a Northern Arapaho, his spirit wolf hooxei and his pack.

The events in this book take place in real locations, such as The Buffalo Wheel which is in the Wyoming Bighorn Mountains. A topographical map at the beginning of the book shows the locations in the story. Because Joe Jennings is a real K9 SAR handler and has been on many searches, the story is technically accurate. I can vouch for that as a retired K9 SAR handler and trainer with years of experience.

The book is well written and the mystery makes it a page turner. The action moves at a good pace. I highly recommend this book as well as the previous books in the series.  

Grooming products for dogs and cats

H.I.C.C. Pet has some very nice grooming products for dogs and cats. We all know how difficult it is to bathe most cats but now there is an alternate way to keep a cat’s coat clean. H.I.C.C. Pets has Cat Glove Wipes specifically made for cats that are double sided. One side is used for cleaning and the other for massaging. The formula on the glove is antimicrobial and deodorizing, is safe if the cat licks it and dries quickly. For dogs or cats that have hot spots or have wounds that are healing, H.I.C.C. offers a pet skin care spray that is also safe to use. They also offer a pet grooming glove that can be used on either dogs or cats. Check out their products. https://www.facebook.com/Hiccpetsupplies Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/groompetsbyhicc/

Always Something To Be Thankful For – No Bones About It by guest blogger, Vi Shaffer

Yes, times are tough right now. But there is always something to be thankful for.
So, on this Thanksgiving, why not give thanks for everything you have – regardless
of how little – instead of dwelling on what you don’t have? If you are missing
someone or something, be thankful they, or it, are or have been a part of your
life. Among the things to be thankful for, many people include their dogs or other
pets. Nevertheless, some people don’t like dogs for whatever reason(s) they may
have. But an individual doesn’t have to be a “dog person” to be kind to them and
recognize and appreciate all the ways they contribute to human welfare. Just
think of the service animals, detection dogs, patrol dogs, cattle and sheep dogs,
search dogs, and those dogs who give comfort or alleviate the loneliness of
others.

Yes, dogs come with needs, as does every living thing. Along with food, shelter,
and affection, caring for your dog includes protecting them from harmful things.
That brings up the double usage of “no bones about it” in my column heading.
Not all bones, whether cooked or uncooked, are good for dogs – especially bones
from turkey, chicken, and other fowl. Those types can cause choking, indigestion,
or obstructions in their digestive system, or worse – splinter and perforate the
dog’s organs.

As difficult as it is for some to ignore those sweet pleading eyes of a pooch while a
Thanksgiving meal is being prepared or served – don’t give in to them. Giving in to
their wants of nibbles may be unhealthy, and counter-surfers can be sneaky and
grab things they shouldn’t have. So be wary. However, you can include your dog
in the festivities with a Thanksgiving dinner – only not one the same as yours.
Instead, give them a plate with small amounts of boneless white turkey meat,
unseasoned potatoes, and vegetables – but no onions or stuffing/dressing. For
those dog lovers who want to give them dessert too – a small amount of
unseasoned pumpkin is good for them – but not that spiced pie filling, and do not
give them chocolate, things that have a lot of sugar – or anything that contains the
artificial sweetener Xylitol. Xylitol can be deadly for your dog!
Afterward, it might be tempting to scrape the scraps off all the plates into your
dog’s food dish – don’t. That also pertains to adding dark meat, the skin of the

turkey or chicken, or rich gravy to their kibble. Although your dog will gobble it up
and enjoy every bite – too much fat can cause stomach pain and digestive issues –
possibly serious pancreatitis.

Remember to emphasize to your family members and guests, including children,
the dangers of giving your dog unsafe food.
It’s easy to be distracted by everything going on in your household, so if children
are present, for safety, it is wise to ask a specific person to keep an eye on them –
especially since kids tend to run in and out of the house playing. You don’t want
to spend your afternoon worried, walking or driving around looking for your pet
that escaped because someone left the door open – or got out of the yard
because it was frightened by all the commotion. It is also important that guests
who bring their dog make sure it is wearing a collar with contact information. If
possible, have them include your contact number if they are from out of town.
Too many dogs manage to get out and become lost when visiting at this time of
year.

In addition, children playing with your dog need watching so they don’t do
anything that will possibly hurt the dog or make the dog snap at them or worse.
And speaking of snapping – arguments have erupted between family members
and friends because of so many opinions in one place. From family matters to
football to politics – raised voices may put your dog in a protective mode,
believing you are being threatened. If that occurs, it’s wise to put your dog in
another room or his kennel where he is away from the ruckus and will feel safe.
That way, you can partake in the “discussions” or scream and cheer without
worry, and your dog will be relieved from the noise. Happy Thanksgiving.

Separation anxiety in dogs

Researchers have recently determined that separation anxiety is a symptom of various frustrations rather than a diagnosis. The key symptoms of separation anxiety are: destruction of household items, urinating or defecating indoors and excessive barking.

The team of scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK found that there are four main forms of distress when dogs are separated from their owners. These include when the dog wants to get away from something in the house, or they want to get to something outside. It can also be a reaction to external noises or events as well as simple boredom.   

A combination of factors such as the dog’s temperament and the type of relationship it has with the owner will determine whether or not a dog will develop separation anxiety.

Sue’s Note: Dog owners often create separation anxiety in dogs by making dramatic arrivals and departures from their home. It helps to prevent this problem by making arrivals and departures as calm and non-specific as possible. If a dog owner notices any of the behaviors listed above, do not wait to engage the help of a certified canine behavior consultant. The longer the behavior is allowed to continue the harder it will be to cure. Cats can also suffer from separation anxiety. To find a qualified behavior consultant go to iaabc.org

Because of the unique combination of issues that contribute or cause separation anxiety, diagnosing the problem is difficult therefore a dog owner should not try to solve the problem themselves or go to a dog trainer since this is not a training issue.

Indoor/outdoor cats and wildlife

Researchers studied 935 indoor/outdoor cats to determine how their hunting habits impacted local wildlife. They found that the cat’s hunting range was small, but the impact on the wildlife in their range was two to ten time more than wild predators. This is because their hunting was limited to their own property or into neighbor’s yards. It was also interesting to note that cats do more damage to wildlife in areas that have been disturbed by housing developments.

Sue’s Note: Many people think that cats need to roam outside. This is not true. Cats can be 100% happy and satisfied as a house cat if their needs are met. Different breeds of cats have different activity levels. Since many domestic short and long-haired cats have questionable parentage, their needs may have to be determined by how the cat acts. If a cat owner feels that their cat needs to go outside, there are products on the market that can confine a cat safely outdoors or in a cat designed window box. Keep in mind a cat that is allowed to roam outside freely becomes prey for other animals such as foxes, coyotes, wolves and free roaming dogs as well as other cats. If the cat is small enough, it may be snatched by birds of prey as well. Cats that eat or come in contact with wildlife are exposed to various parasites as well. For the benefit of local wildlife and for your cat’s well-being, it is better to keep them indoors or have safe access to the outdoors. Google outdoor cat enclosures to see the many products available.

A Dog’s Devotion: True Adventures of a K9 SAR Team

A Dog’s Devotion: True Adventures of a K9 Search and Rescue Team by Suzanne Elshult and James Guy Mansfield, 286 pgs., ISBN: 978-1-4930-6871-5, Published by Lyons Press, $28.95.

As a K9 SAR person with over 20 years in the field, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. What I found refreshing was that Ms. Elshult and Mr. Mansfield included the struggles that they encountered which seem to permeate the SAR community, such as personality differences, leadership conflicts, and gaining acceptance by non-SAR agencies.

The authors share with us some of the search missions that were especially meaningful to them including those for human remains. Ms. Elshult’s dog Keb, a yellow Labrador Retriever was successfully cross trained in both live detection and human remains. Unfortunately, many SAR people feel that a cross trained dog cannot perform reliably. I personally successfully cross trained all of my search dogs so I understand the struggles that she had.

The book is written in a non-emotional, almost report like manner where we are told the facts. The authors reactions to the situations that they faced are covered but not dramatized. However, we are told of all of the hardships and challenges that they faced and how they worked through them. Even though some of the searches involve looking for human remains, the writing style makes it safe for even the squeamish to read and enjoy.

The beauty of this book is that it clearly gives the reader a factual picture of what search and rescue involves, how searches are managed and decisions are made. Ms. Elshult’s love and admiration for her dog Keb is evident throughout the book and Keb is a good representation of what many search dogs are capable of and do throughout the world. While the searches take place in the Pacific Northwest forests, the dynamics apply to all searches.

Hearing loss in dogs

People often think that if a dog is not born deaf, the dog will be OK. Certain breeds of dogs, those with the merle, piebald and harlequin coat colors, such as Dalmatians, Shetland Sheepdogs, Australian Cattle Dogs and Great Danes for example, have a high instance being born deaf. The Baer test on puppies born in these breeds can determine if a dog is deaf or not. However, dogs can suffer from hearing loss, much the same as people.

A dog can lose its hearing if the hair cells in the cochlea or if the eardrum and the small bones are damaged. Dr. Kari Foss, a veterinarian neurologist/professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studied a gun dog, sniffer dog and a police dog and found that they had a hearing loss.

My deaf collie and I many years ago

Hearing loss can result from being exposed to loud noises, illness and old age. In some cases, the hearing loss can be cured, such as those due to infections or illness.

Dr. Foss stresses that many people miss the signs that their dog is suffering from hearing loss. Dog owners should take note if their dog fails to respond when called, sleeping through sounds that they would normally respond to, being startled at loud noise that did not bother them before, barking excessively or making unusual vocal sounds. If a dog is deaf in one ear, they may have trouble locating the source of sounds.

If you suspect that your dog has a hearing loss, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your veterinarian. There is a chance that the problem can be corrected. However, if the loss is permanent, you can ensure that your dog stays safe by taking precautions. Dogs can live a safe and happy life even if they are deaf, or partially deaf.

Canine coat color, surprising genetics

If a purebred dog is born with a coat color that it is not supposed to have, it may be due to hidden genes. Kari Ekenstedt, DVM, Ph.D. who is the assistant professor of anatomy and genetics, along with Dayna Dreger, Ph.D., lead researchers in Ekenstedt’s canine genetics research laboratory studied 212 different dog breeds and found that gene variants caused breeds to have traits that the breed standard did not allow. These included coat color, and other traits. For example, they found that 48 different breeds had the tailless gene variant, such as the Dachshund. Although the variant was low, it is possible that a Dachshund could be born tailless.  

One of the “fault” alleles allows the brown color. This allele produces the chocolate Labrador Retriever, yet the researchers found the same allele in breeds that do not allow the brown color, such as the German Shepherd and Rottweiler.

The lesson learned from this study is that if a puppy is born that is not what the breed standard calls for, it is not necessarily due to “bad” breeding, but the expression of a trait that was hidden and has surfaced.

Hearing loss in dogs

A number of breeds of dogs, mostly those breeds that have the merle, piebald or white coats, are prone to deafness. However, dogs that are subjected to frequent loud noise can suffer from hearing loss the same as people. This is referred to as noise-induced hearing loss.

A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by Dr. Kari Foss, found that working dogs such as police, sniffer and gun dogs are a strong candidate to suffer from hearing loss. According to Foss,

“Most commonly, noise-induced hearing loss results from damage to the hair cells in the cochlea that vibrate in response to sound waves,” Foss said. “However, extreme noise may also damage the eardrum and the small bones within the inner ear, called the ossicles.”

         The most common signs that a dog is losing his ability to hear are when the dog fails to respond to commands, or they sleep through noise that would normally wake them up. They may bark excessively or make unusual sounds. Sometimes a dog may have a hearing loss in one ear only. If that is the situation, the dog may hear sounds but not be able to tell where it came from.  

         The researchers recommended that dogs who must work around loud noise wear hearing protection that is designed for dogs. It is also possible that dogs can lose hearing from ear infections and illnesses and as they age.

         If a potential dog owner is going to purchase a breed where deafness is a problem, they must be sure that the breeder has done a BAER test to determine if the puppy is deaf or not.