Dogsledding in Yellowknife

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I spent last week driving from Vancouver BC to Yellowknife NT with my boyfriend who is taking a journalism post up there.

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Yellowknife is COLD. Like -40 degrees cold. That didn’t stop us from fulfilling a longtime dream of mine by doing some authentic dogsledding.

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We went to Beck’s Kennels for our ride and had a fantastic time. There must have been about a hundred dogs there, all alaskan huskies which are purported to be a mix of husky, greyhound and some pointer. I was surprised that these slight-framed canines could survive outside in such extreme temperatures with only an insulated kennel lined with straw and a high calorie diet.

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We were some of the only white people there, with the majority of sledders being Japanese tourists. Apparently the Japanese are big fans of the northern lights.

Here’s a fantastic video my boyfriend made of the ride back from the remote cabin on the lake. Take note of the huge cracks in the ice at one point and the dogs taking gulps of snow as they run:

Back home I use my dogs to pull my bike and they know all their mushing commands, but up here the dogs know the way and you just hold on tight. My boyfriend and I kept commenting on how happy my wolf-mix would be as a sled dog. He loves the snow, pulls tirelessly and is numb to all pain. Almost makes me wish our winters here were snowier so I could put him in front of a real sled or some skis and watch him go.

 

How I save over 90% on Topical Flea Control for my Multiple Cat Household

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Jeffie in the garden, one of the rescued kittens

I don’t like using topical flea meds, but when you have two dogs and ten cats sometimes diatomaceous earth just isn’t enough. When I took in an abandoned cat and her litter a few months ago, they came with fleas. Despite my best efforts dusting with DE, washing bedding and vacuuming; after a couple months everyone had fleas.

Since I was rehoming Mama and most of the kittens once they were ready, I had to make sure they didn’t bring an infestation to their new homes. The only problem: A six dose package of Advantage for cats under nine pounds from my local vet costs $82.94 plus tax. This works out to about $14.50 per cat. A single dose works for about four weeks if you’re lucky. So, for ten cats, I was looking at $145 a month for flea control. NO WAY.

I decided to do a little bit of research. It turns out that the Advantage cat and dog formulation is the exact same thing. The active ingredient in both is imidacloprid 9.1%.

In other words, buy the package for small cats and get a total of 2.4ml of medication, good for 6 cat treatments. Buy the package for extra large dogs and get ten times that amount, a whopping 24ml of the exact same medication, enough for 60 small cat treatments!

The kicker is that the package for extra large dogs costs only a little bit more than the one for cats. At my vet, it’s about $100, dropping our cost per cat dose down to $1.60. That’s much better!

However, you really don’t have to pay $100 either. Since I’m in Canada, I discovered I can take “advantage” of the low price of Advantage in Australia by ordering online. (This particular product is not available to the USA). A bit more research later and I had found by recommendation what looked like a nice little online shop: Pets Megastore. A 6 pack of Advantage for extra large dogs there is $55.91 CAD and shipping is about $6.  I placed my order and they shipped that same day. My order arrived in good shape with no duty owing about two weeks later.

DSC_0013So now I have managed to drop the price per small cat dose down to $1.03. That’s a savings of almost 93 percent!

All you need to do is get a small glass vial and a syringe with no needle designed to squirt medicine into your cat’s mouth. (Note, you WILL NOT be squirting Advantage into anyone’s mouth! It is applied externally between the shoulder blades directly onto the fur.) Simply empty your extra large dog dose into your glass vial, and use the syringe to get the correct dosage out for your cat (or smaller dog). Here is a handy weight to dosage chart that applies to both cats and dogs:

0-10 lbs = 0.4ml
11-20 lbs = 0.8ml
21-30 lbs = 1.2ml
31-40 lbs = 1.6ml
41-50 lbs = 2.0ml
51-60 lbs = 2.4ml
61-70 lbs = 2.8ml
71-80 lbs = 3.2ml
81-90 lbs = 3.6ml
91-100 lbs = 4.0ml

An added benefit here is that you can tailor your dosages more precisely to your pet’s actual weight. This can save you even more money and is healthier for your pet. Keep your unused medicine well-marked and tightly sealed in a safe place that is also cool, dark and dry. Shake it up well before using again as the active ingredients may settle. It won’t lose potency until the expiration date, so mark this down as well. Be careful not to get this medicine on your skin, or wear latex gloves if you’re worried. Wash your syringe out very well with soapy water before storing. Do not use on kittens or puppies under 8 weeks of age.

If you have a multi-cat household, this tip has the potential to save you a lot of money which you can then spend on your lovely, flea-free friends. Consider a home with three small cats who get treated every month. The yearly cost of buying the small cat sized vials from the vet would add up to $522. The cost of ordering the extra large dog vials online would be $37.08. Throw in the cost of the syringe and vial and let’s say $40. You’ve just saved $482. That’s enough to feed those three cats a high quality grain-free canned food (let’s say $3 per can, one can a day) for over 5 whole months.

(I’d like to add that I haven’t been paid or reimbursed by any of the companies mentioned above. Just had a good experience shopping online and wanted to share. Also note, this information applies to Advantage and Advantage II products only. Do not use the newer, K-9 Advantix or Advantage Multi for Dogs products on cats.)

The Myth of the Routine in Dogs

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Enjoying the water? Not the routine!

When most people research dogs, they read that dogs love routine. While this is certainly true, it doesn’t mean you have to become a slave to your dog. You need to make your dog’s love for routine work for you, like any good employer!

Dogs live to work. Whether it’s guarding your home, playing with your kids or making you laugh.

I’m an entrepreneur so I have a very variable work week. I could be up until 7am or up until 10pm. I don’t have a typical schedule at all compared to someone who works a consistent 9 to 5. I also have two large dogs and three cats (well currently nine). I used to worry about my pets adjusting to my ever changing schedule, but I soon realized that if I could adjust, then they could too. And it’s a lot less painful that you may think.

What people don’t realize that is that your dog loves any routine you can offer them, and everyone has a routine.

Even the most erratic schedule can become the “routine” for a dog. A dog does not need a routine schedule in the formal sense at all, and I even think it can be beneficial to avoid a set schedule with certain activities like feeding. If you feed your dog every day at the same time, you know what happens. Your dog knows exactly what time it is, they begin to salivate and remind you that mealtime is approaching… I find this annoying. I never really deal with this anymore after implementing my “chaos” training but I know what it’s like. Dogs can become very demanding in situations like these because they know they will be fed no matter what. Because it’s the schedule.

Try feeding your dog on a wholly erratic basis. Some days you should not feed your dog at all. This has the added benefit of not having your dog freak out and have a heart attack if they have to miss a meal for some reason. I often feed my large wolf mix a whole chicken carcass, feathers and everything. I will then usually not feed him the next day. As long as you monitor your dog’s weight closely, you should really only feed when your instincts and your dog tell you the dog looks thin and the dog seems hungry. Dogs and cats (like humans) do not benefit at all from being overfed.

So relax about worrying your new dog will not fit into your routine. It’s possible they truly may not, but if you do your due diligence as a responsible pet owner, it’s more likely your furry friend will adapt to your schedule like a furry chameleon.

Teaching Reluctant Dogs to Love Swimming (or Anything, Really)

IMG_4800Neither of my dogs loved water at first. In fact they both hated it. My Taiwanese street dog wouldn’t even step onto the darker patch of concrete on the sidewalk when I first picked her up from the YVR airport, its obvious dampness was not going to press against her immaculate paws.

My low-content wolf mutt puppy would wade into puddles and shallows half-heartedly, but would refuse to take the plunge in a deeper situation when the bottom disappeared. He was the pup sitting in a puddle crying his heart out because you were swimming ten feet away.

You might think it would be impossible to get two dogs such as these happily into the water, I sure thought it would be. It’s taken almost 6 years to get my Formosan Mountain Dog street mutt to the point where she will casually swim across a fast moving river just to check out possible bunny or chipmunk infestations on the other side.

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Two watery pooches

I realize now I had the wrong attitude towards teaching my dogs to accept the water without fear.

Cooing and baby talk wasn’t effective and even turned them further off of it. Suspicious dogs will never fall for these kinds of tactics. The trick: wait until a really hot day, walk that dog like crazy, then take them to a location with no distractions and a shallow, safe, comforting, secluded, warm water feature. Then ignore your dog and enjoy the water. Odds are your dog will turn up beside you before long!

This summer we also converted the wolf mutt. We basically just threw him right into the situation by going on half-day long, leisurely kayaking trips along the ocean shoreline for almost a week straight. The dogs followed along on the shore and also felt compelled to swim to be closer to us in some cases, even though it was not entirely necessary except for a couple of very brief spurts.

We took them kayaking intensively all week while we rockhounded and then had them swim/ride out to a nearby ocean island with us. A major accomplishment. Subsequently we had them swim around the island and back. Sure we had a little bit of whining and some pseudo-terrified looks, but we made sure they were safe and had lots of water and rests. Did I mention swimming is a really great way to exercise your dog?

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Low-content wolf dog in the river

End result: now any normal swimming trip is considered laughably unimpressive to my dogs compared to swimming through a 400 foot deep ocean thoroughway for approximately a kilometer.

My two dogs now finally have what they were lacking in the water… Confidence. And it came about because I stopped coddling them and coaxing them and just got into my kayak and set off paddling away in the opposite direction of land on the hottest week of summer.

All this is a great reminder of how easily dogs can adjust to any lifestyle. I don’t approve of changing your life all around because of your dog. Dogs were bred as working animals, whether they were used for actual physical work or for being awesome companion animals, which is also work. I feel dogs with defined jobs are truly satisfied dogs. If I want their work to be to enjoy themselves in the water, then that is what they should learn. Dogs are very inspiring when it comes to rising to the occasion. Babying only leads to spoiled/neurotic dogs and degraded owners.

IMG_4781Young, healthy dogs can be prompted to experience any number of new situations they would normally shun, if you just get on with it and give the dog the impression he has little choice but to follow. This is, after all, how a mother dog would operate. It also gives a dog the respect they deserve to make their own decisions in a situation instead of making too many human assumptions about what the dog “wants” or does not “want”.

I guarantee this experiment, though it may sound harsh to some, will teach you a lot about yourself and your dog. I should stress that you should always observe your dog closely in new situations and don’t force them to overexert themselves. Not too much anyway…

Listen. Your dog doesn’t know that you don’t have a very-important-job-kayaking-along-the-ocean-shoreline-in-order-to-keep-the-earth’s-axis-from-spinning-out-of alignment and that he needs to keep up with you… He’ll just keep up with you because he’s your dog and he loves working for you and traveling beside you. When he confronts his fears and survives unscathed, he will gain true confidence. You can treat anything you want your dog to learn like your job and you might be surprised how well they rise to the challenge.

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Sopping wet, time to go home