I’m a burgeoning backyard vegetable farmer with a lot to learn, but a love for gardening and an appreciation for locally-grown, organic produce. I’m in awe of Zaro Bates, a farming pioneer who was recently featured in Modern Farmer. This amazing woman has converted the roof of a parking garage in Staten Island into a 4,500 square foot urban vegetable garden, which produces tons (literal tons) of vegetables each year. She also manages an apiary on the same roof! (Honey! Yum!) Creative, hyperlocal produce farming like this is the wave of the future, and the way we can ensure healthy, local, responsibly grown food for all.
Most of us dog owners shouldn’t be surprised to know that dogs understand the tone of voice we use. It’s very obvious that a dog understands tone; think about how Fido cocks his head when you ask “Do you want a treat?” or “Do you want to go for a walk?” Honestly, though, I never thought that dogs really understood much more than tone of voice when we speak to them. However, a team of scientists recently published a paper in the journal Science, in which they revealed that dogs understand both words and tone!
What’s amazing to me about this study is that the researchers were able to train dogs to lay perfectly still for hours, while undergoing fMRI‘s. The idea that any dog could be trained to be still for that long is astounding. It is interesting to note that the dog in the photo for the study is a Golden Retriever, a highly trainable breed that is very willing to please. I don’t think the researchers could have encouraged a wiggly fox terrier to lay quiet for hours!
We all have expectations of what our newly adopted puppies will be like: cuddly, cute, sweet, funny, and playful. What most of us don’t expect: a puppy piranha! So many clients show me their “war wounds” when bringing new puppies for wellness care to Newtown Square Veterinary Hospital. Puppy teeth are sharp teeth! They can slice and dice arms and hands easily.
There is a longstanding joke among veterinarians: “Dog parks keep us in business.” Why is that the case? Dog parks are rife with well-intentioned owners and misbehaved dogs, resulting in dog fights and dog bites. Dog parks may seem like a good idea: a way to exercise Fido, a way to socialize him, a way to meet fellow-dog lovers and fawn over cute puppies. If every dog was perfectly socialized, friendly, fearless, free of anxiety and not possessive, then yes, dog parks could be a utopia.
A marketing group in London has papered the city’s Underground stations with cats! Normally covered in ads of every sort, on September 13th the railway stations were instead decorated with cats of every size, shape and color. The ad takeover was intended to “encourage positive values in society” and also features homeless cats in need of adoption. I can’t imagine much better on my morning commute than a sea of friendly cats!
We may have domesticated cats in many ways, but we have not successfully domesticated their appetites. “Snarf and barf” is an all-too-common phenomenon, where pets inhale their food, and then regurgitate it moments later. Couple this problem with the fact that many indoor cats lack physical activity, and it’s understandable that there is a feline obesity epidemic in America!
We have also not domesticated the feline drive to hunt prey, as many owners who have indoor/outdoor kitties can attest. (Clients tell me all the time that their cats bring home “gifts” of birds, mice and even snakes!)
A local area veterinarian has created a product that may revolutionize how we feed our kitties, and provide them with some intellectual stimulation. Called the No Bowl Feeding System, this novel feeding system provides five “mice” that can be filled with cat kibble, and hidden around the home. This encourages Fluffy to hunt and seek out her meals, while limiting the quantity of food she can consume in any one sitting. Genius!
I saw this article on a few news outlets recently, and I think this is an inspired idea. A high school cross country team in California has begun running with shelter dogs in need of adoption. Shelter dogs, particularly those that are caged for long periods, can develop stress-related behaviors such as spinning, bar chewing and cage aggression. Regular opportunities for play and exercise can make all the difference for dogs housed at a shelter. And the cross country kids benefit from helping out some dogs in need.
The same is true for pet dogs that have already been adopted. Regular exercise can dramatically improve a dog’s quality of life, reduce anxiety and decrease the incidence of destructive behaviors in the home. I’ve said it before: tired dogs are well behaved dogs! (So are tired kids. Sometimes.) Hopefully other schools with cross country teams will be inspired to allow their student athletes run with the dogs!
My friends at the CATalyst Council have designated September as Happy Cat Month, and for good reason. Despite the fact that there are significantly more pet cats than dogs in America (75 million cats vs. 69 million dogs), dogs come to the vet more than twice as often as cats. Many cats go to the vet once as kittens, never to be examined again. Cats are often not brought in to the vet until they are seriously ill, when it’s more difficult to diagnose and treat them. Couple this lack of medical care with the fact that many cats are turned into shelters for preventable behavior problems (such as inappropriate urination), and it’s easy to understand why cats need a happy month all to their own!