An Eco Friendly Sweater

By Neeto da Silva
As I was running around in the rain the other day, connecting hoses to sub-pumps in an attempt to prevent our basement from flooding, I was struck by an idea. I wondered how wonderful it would be to grow a fine fur coat like my dog. With such a fine fur coat, I could stay warm in the rain and simply shake the water off once I was back inside. Unfortunately, genetics are not so kind. I have to strip down to my skivvies in the kitchen and then dance in front of the stove to warm up.
Later the next morning, once the rain had stopped and we had stemmed the flow of water, I finally had an opportunity to put down the shop-vac and get some sleep. I dragged myself as far as the living room couch where I fell in an exhausted heap, grabbing the dog’s blanket from the floor to keep me warm.
When I at last woke to the smell of bacon and pancakes, I crawled off the couch and found myself (perhaps not surprisingly) cover from head to toe in dog hair. Hearing my dismay, my Mum came into the living room and handed me a cup of tea and a lint brush. A half hour later, I was seated at the kitchen table, eating pancakes with one hand and staring at the collection of dog fur in my other.
It wasn’t long before my mind turned back to my desire for a fur covering. I knew you can spin sheep’s wool into yarn, but can you spin dog fur? Before I went and sheared my poor dog to make myself a sweater, I figured it best to one; learn how to spin, and two; find out if it is possible spin other fibres beyond the traditional sheep, llama and alpaca.
By Neeto da Silva
As luck would have it, I have a friend who knows how to spin wool. After a quick call and a promise of an appearance in my article, I was soon seated beside Ashley Kowalchuk, local “spinster” as she jokingly calls herself.
She took great pains to explain to me the various pieces of a spinning wheel, and the process of taking wool from the back of a sheep to the yarn in a finely knit sweater. Not only did I learn how to spin wool, but that you can spin flax. Flax, however, requires a slightly different spinning wheel, a larger one that has a spindle with great big spikes to grab the flax (by the by, it’s on a flax spindle that Sleeping Beauty pricked herself in case you were wondering).
As I watched Ashley work effortlessly at the spinning wheel, keeping her foot in rhythm and feeding carded wool into the spindle, I asked the question pressing at the back of my mind: is it possible to spin dog fur? She took a second before admitting that she had heard of people spinning dog fur before, but couldn’t say for certain if it could be done. She went on to explain that sheep’s wool is barbed and grabs at itself, which is what makes it so great for spinning into yarn. Dog fur, on the other hand, isn’t barbed and probably wouldn’t be the easiest to spin. She did concede that you could probably make a blend of sheep and dog fur, and then spin that with fairly good results.
With my ego still bruised from my last run in at the library, I decided it was best to do a little more research from the safety of home. So away I clicked, the findings very much supportive of the statement, “Yes, you can spin dog fur!” The trick is in having fur that is longer than two inches, otherwise it has to be blended with wool or another similar fibre. It’s also important to note that dog fur is non-elastic, unlike wool, and garments should be measured as though you are using a cotton thread or yarn. Like other yarns, dog yarn can be plied to give you a thicker thread. Plying takes two strands of yarn and winds them together.
Some of the best results for dog yarn come from dogs with a nice undercoat. When grooming your dog, simply keep the shedding furs from the brush. Separate the undercoat from the coarser guard hairs. Wash and clean the undercoat, card, spin, then knit! Soon you’ll have your very own humane and eco-friendly fur knit sweater! Or, if you’re like me and enjoy a little irony, you could sheer your dog and then knit them a sweater to keep them warm! Providing you can handle a pair of knitting needles, of course.
 By Kevin Mogk

Veggie Pets: The Debate

By Mike Golec

If you were perusing British newspaper headlines in 2002, you may have come across the story of Bramble the dog. Bramble, who had recently celebrated her 27th birthday, was then considered to be the oldest living canine in the world. While any dog living to be 189 dog-years-old is remarkable, what had many pet owners talking was the fact that Bramble, a border collie, had been fed a strict vegetarian diet since the age of two.
Be it for improved health, environmental reasons, or ethical beliefs, more and more Canadians are choosing a vegetarian diet. Dietitians of Canada estimate that four per cent of Canadian adults currently eat meat-free, and this number is increasing steadily.
Many vegetarians are looking beyond their own diets, however, and asking whether it is safe and healthy for their pets to go meatless as well. But according to Ellen Munro, a veterinarian technician at the West Carleton Animal Hospital, it is not just vegetarian pet owners who choose a vegetarian diet for their dogs.

“The most common reason for dogs being fed vegetarian diets is allergies, often skin sensitivities to the protein source,” she says.
Donna Rafalski, manager of the Natural Pet Foods in Ottawa, has seen a rise in vegetarian dogs in recent years. She notes that owners are turning to vegetarian diets for health reasons more so than ethical ones. Like Munro, she sees a few dogs that are vegetarian because their owners are vegan, but they make up a very small percentage of her vegetarian customers.
“Dogs often have reactions to the animal byproduct protein, so owners need to find other protein sources, such as vegetarian diets,” says Munro.
While there is some anecdotal evidence, like Bramble’s story, that suggests pets can thrive on plant-based meals, feeding your pet a veggie diet can be very tricky and requires careful planning and monitoring by you and your vet.
By Mike Golec
 Plant-Loving Pups
Dogs, like humans, are omnivorous and thus have an easier time becoming vegetarians than cats do. Their nutritional needs are less strict and many of the nutrients they get from meat can be found in plant foods or supplemented.
That being said, some veterinarians suggest waiting until after puppyhood to make your dog’s diet meatless. Getting the nutrient balance just right during the development and growth stage is a tricky business, and getting it wrong can seriously jeopardize your pup’s health. A plant-based diet may not be a great choice for a pregnant pooch either.
As a further challenge, many plants and veggies are unpalatable to dogs. If a dog has been raised thus far on a meat diet, the change to veggie meals will have to be a gradual one.
According to PETA, the critical nutrients to monitor for a dog are protein, calcium, and Vitamin D, along with the amino acids L-carnitine and taurine. Deficiencies in these nutrients can result in a life-threatening heart condition.

Finicky Felines
Cats are a very different matter altogether. Felines are considered ‘obligate carnivores,’ meaning that the nutrients they glean from meat are absolutely critical to their health. Especially crucial nutrients are vitamin A and taurine, which are involved in hearing and sight respectively, and are extremely difficult for cats to synthesize from plant sources.
At the West Carleton Animal Hospital, Munro has not encountered vegetarian cats. “We also don’t seem to see many food allergies in cats. It’s primarily an issue with dogs,” Munro states.
Mindy Bough, senior director for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told ABC that she has heard of healthy vegetarian cats, but that she suspects that many felines who are being fed vegetarian diets are in fact supplementing these by hunting on their own meat.
While nutrient supplements are available for vegetarian cat diets, a 2001 study on pet diets found that even cats who had received taurine supplements were still dangerously deficient in this amino acid. Rafalski echoes this study’s findings. “Dogs can be vegetarians. Cats cannot,” she asserts.
Whatever your reasons to convert your pet to a plant-based diet, it is crucial to do your research and consult your vet extensively. Be prepared that a veggie diet may not be a feasible option for a pet with special conditions. Once you get the okay from your vet, you can set your sights on beating Bramble’s record.

By Claire Rowsell & Jessica Livingston

Bits About Kibble

Puppies and kittens: scientifically proven to be the cutest bundles of energy in the world! But while they’re running all over the house, bouncing on the furniture, and climbing up your leg, you might wonder where exactly they get all that energy. Well, the answer is simple — food!

Providing a lifetime’s worth of wholesome nutritional choices for your pets, however, is no longer as easy as it sounds. In light of the recent (and very extensive) pet food recalls, many concerned owners are making the switch to all-natural foods for their fuzzy friends. Puppies and kittens are often special cases, requiring far more protein and nutrients than their aged counterparts, so choosing the right kibble for your young pet can be a bit tricky at the best of times, let alone when changing to an all-natural brand. Luckily, there are natural food options in the world designed with your young pet’s growth specifically in mind.
Petcurean Pet Nutrition, based in British Colombia, is an environmentally conscious pet food company that strives to deliver unprocessed natural ingredients, while supporting local farmers and the environment. Both of Petcurean’s product lines, Go! and Now!, are all-natural and completely grain free – perfect for any pet that suffers from grain allergies. Petcurean provides a wide range of different foods for both grown cats and dogs, as well as for puppies and kittens, using hormone-free meats and absolutely zero rendered oils. Petcurean operates with the guiding philosophy of ‘minimizing processing [and] maximizing nutrition.’
Orijen, an Alberta-based company, prides itself on only purchasing its ingredients from the immediate surrounding farmlands. Distributing to Canada and the States, Orijen’s motto is that your cat or dog, despite its domestication, is still biologically built as the hunter it was a thousand years ago. As such, Orijen produces a dry food that mimics the nutritional content your pet would find if it were out in the wild. Such ingredients include free-range chicken, turkey, and duck, as well as eggs and wild fish from nearby lakes. It has no plant oils, no grains, and no other overly processed ingredients that have been pressed through a machine, ensuring your pet receives only the best.
By Tyler Pollard
Holistic Blend, a smaller company based out of Ontario, makes a name for itself by having its pet food meet and exceed not only pet-food standards, but human standards as well! Drawing their ingredients from Canada, the States, and New Zealand, Holistic Blend ensures that there are neither animal by-products, harmful heavy metals, nor any form of pesticides in the dog or cat food it produces. Their dedication to ensuring the quality of the ingredients means that your pet gets only the finest kibble possible (and perhaps you discover your new favourite snack food too?)
Natural K9 Supplies, and on-line distributor in Florida, offers a wide selection of both dry and canned foods for dogs of all sizes. Natural K9 follows all of the high standards associated with all-natural pet foods, while boasting an impressive line-up of products. Along with standard wet and dry foods, there are also freeze-dried, baked, and dehydrated options offered; not even mentioning the grab-bag of assorted doggie treats. If variety is the spice of life, Natural K9 is one hot tamale!
Canidae and Felidae food lines offer a range of different organic foods for both dogs and cats. From simple all-stage-of-life dry foods to premium diet and senior pet foods, Canidae and Felidae offer everything your pet could need from their offices in California. Along with their food products,they also produce nutritious gourmet pet treats so that you can spoil your canine or feline with some holistic goodies.
A puppy or kitten can bring fluffy joy to anyone. Their scampering (and now well-fed) antics bring smiles to everyone in the immediate vicinity as they grow and explore the world around them. Now that your young friend is properly nourished with wholesome bits of kibble, you can spend some real worry-free quality time with them — that is assuming you can catch the little balls of energy!
By Alexander Bentley

Prepping Your Pup For Success

By Urban Bent Studio
 Sit. Stay. Stay! Good reader! It can be hard enough to get people to listen to you, let alone your dog. So what chance does that little puppy have of understanding what you mean when you say ‘sit’?
“Just think, you go to a foreign country and you don’t understand some sport at all, you’ve never seen it played, you have no idea and someone’s trying to show you how to do it.” That is how Sarah Wilson, Master Dog Trainer and author of numerous books including My Smart Puppy (Grand Central Publishing, 2006), describes what it’s like for dogs during training. Your job is to eliminate confusion for your puppy so they can learn to the best of their abilities.

There are so many training methods available, it’s often difficult to figure out which one is best for your pup. With over 25 years of dog training experience, during which her methods have been written about or quoted in various national media, including O Magazine, Pet Health, The Chicago Tribune and Dogs in Canada to name a few there can be no doubt that Wilson truly understands this particular breed of work. There is, however, no one best way to train, but once you choose a technique, consistency is key. “Dogs learn with all sorts of different methods and approaches and it is the consistent use of any one thing that will get the message across to your dog,” Wilson explains. “I personally like methods that are what I call ‘positively focused,’ which makes the owner an active participant in creating the behaviours they want and then rewarding those behaviours.”
Another crucial element is clarity. Sending mixed signals is never good, so the clearer you can be, the easier your puppy can learn. According to Wilson, it’s all comes down to “thinking about what you want and then helping your puppy get that right and letting them know.” A pup should be encouraged when doing well and gently discouraged when getting off track. “I also call that ‘red light, green light,’” reveals Wilson. “A really calm, clear, unemotional negative and a big, happy, emotional positive, and the puppies figure it out.”
You may think that training sounds too hard, that you don’t have the time, that you don’t know what you’re doing, or that you won’t do it right, but you would be wrong on all counts. “I’m really on my own little revolution to teach people that [training] can be a blast. You can do it for a minute here, a minute there and make big changes,” Wilson promotes. “If people understood that it was fun, that it was quick and it was effective and it was gentle, people would do it.”
By Urban Bent Studio
You can see the fun aspect in Wilson’s books, as many of her training exercises are games. These games are divided into categories according to the acronym START: Space, Touch, Attention, Requirement and Trust. “The games were created to make better pets and for people to have more fun with their pets … I want the people to be more connected with their animals,” Wilson endorses. Furthermore, Wilson says that the benefits of training are astounding. “It gives them more freedom, it gives you more fun. It just enriches both of your worlds.”
An example of a touch game from My Smart Puppy is the placement sit. It’s a step towards a full sit and will get the puppy sitting in response to light pressure. Have the puppy’s collar in one hand and with the other make a U-shape with thumb and another finger. Apply light pressure just in front of the puppy’s hip bones, not too roughly, about the pressure you would use to pick up a tender fruit. The dog won’t like this and will start to sit to get away from it. When they do, throw a praise party for them! After some practice, they’ll sit at the slightest of pressure.
Training can also keep your puppy safe. “One of the first things that I teach every puppy is something that I call ‘mine,’” says Wilson. “It means if I step in front of you and block your path, I want you to stop and sit and look at me.” This allows you to protect your puppy from dangerous situations and doesn’t rely on a verbal order, which is vital. Wilson expands: “I don’t use a verbal command there because I want anybody who steps in front of your puppy to be able to stop your puppy. It’s a universal thing we do.”
After the basics are covered, teaching pups tricks really isn’t that tricky. “It’s all just behaviours for them,” says Wilson. “Anything that makes you laugh you should teach your dog because dogs love when their people laugh.”
So what tricks can Wilson’s puppy do? “I love to tell people that my dog knows how to count which is a really easy one. I just teach them to speak when I put my finger in the air and then when I praise them, they stop. And so if I say ‘what’s two plus two?’ and I put my finger in the air like I’m pointing at them, they go ‘woof, woof, woof, woof.’ ‘Good dog!’ As long as you can do the math, your dog can do the math.”
If you’re like me, you’ve gotten caught up in all the training fun but don’t actually have a puppy. But you may have a cat. “I just use little treats and the same movements of luring the dog into a sit will lure your cat into a sit,” says Wilson. “They’ll love it because it’s fun.”
Here kitty, kitty! Time to play a game!
 By Allison Vorstenbosch

The Chitter-Chatter of Little Pigs

By Remy Alexandre
 Growing up, my good friend had a guinea pig named Dudley. Whenever I called my friend, I would hear a constant squeaking in the background. I naturally assumed that Dudley was either competing for my friend’s attention or that he was a friendly fellow, trying to say hello. Either way, he caused quite a ruckus.
Guinea pigs may not oink like their namesakes, but that’s because they’re not pigs at all. They’re classified as rodents and, like many other animals, they can be quite vocal about what they are feeling. While to me it seemed like Dudley made only one sound – a constant squeak – guinea pigs can actually express themselves in a variety of ways. Here are the meanings behind some common guinea pig sounds.

Wheeking. This is the sound most people associate with the little piggies. It’s a loud, high-pitched squeak and it usually means that they are excited or are trying to get some attention. There may be some sort of danger approaching, but it’s more likely that they can hear you getting their food ready.
Shrieking. Both higher and louder than wheeking, this sound signals that a guinea pig is scared or in pain. Shrieking can also be a call for help or a warning that danger is near.
Teeth Chattering. If there is ever a time to avoid snuggling your furry friend, it’s when he’s chattering his teeth. This means that he is upset or angry, and he will usually also raise his neck fur (to appear as large as possible) and start rocking back and forth. That is one angry little piggy.
Whining. If you wanted to be left alone – or were just generally annoyed – you’d probably start whining too. Guinea pigs will whine when another pig is harassing them or if a human is petting them in a way that they don’t like. Yes, apparently even guinea pigs aren’t above whining.
Muttering. Sometimes when they run along the floor, guinea pigs sound almost like they are muttering to themselves. This just means that they are happy, and are enjoying doing their own thing.
Purring. As you would expect, purring means that a guinea pig is content. He may purr when he is enjoying your affection, or even just when grooming himself.
Rumbling. This is a deeper sort of purr and means that your guinea pig has one thing on his mind. That’s right, he’s in heat! To impress another pig, they will also sway their hips and walk around the object of their affection. Ooh-la-la! Watch out if they learn to bat their eyelashes!
Chirping. This may be the most mysterious of all guinea pig sounds. Some owners will never hear chirping, and some guinea pigs will never chirp. As the name implies, it sounds just like a bird’s chirping. While chirping, a guinea pig will appear to be almost in a trance. All of the other piggies will stop to listen, but once the song ends, they will all return to their activities as if nothing happened. No one knows for sure why guinea pigs chirp, but some owners believe they do it just for fun!
Of course, body language also plays a big role in guinea pig communication. When guinea pigs are stretched out on the floor or cage bottom, they are completely relaxed, much like us on the couch. They will touch noses to greet each other, or if the meeting isn’t as friendly, they will try to demonstrate dominance by stiffening their legs.
If you are petting your rodent chum and he isn’t enjoying it, he will throw his head back, as if throwing your hand away. A final amusing behaviour, and my personal favorite, is ‘popcorning’, when a guinea pig is just so happy that he jumps straight up in the air, like a kernel of corn in a hot pan. It’s like he just can’t contain all the happiness he is feeling!
Much like any other relationship, if you pay attention to what your guinea pig is telling you, it will improve both of your lives. Had I paid more attention to dear Dudley back in the day, maybe, just maybe, I would’ve heard the elusive chirping of the guinea pig. Now that would’ve been something.
By Allison Vorstenbosch