A little reality check

A few years ago, I stopped feeding the birds in my yard.   Why on earth did I do that?   Did I lose the lifelong love of birds that my parents had instilled in me?   Of course not!   The short version is that after a few years of faithfully filling my feeders, I was horrified to discover that I had inadvertently created a chicken hawk feeding station.

Because I love the little birds, I took my feeders down and packed them away.   It was a sad day because I had been feeding the birds for years.   Imagine my surprise when I realized that the birds still seemed to be thriving.

As it turned out, all those years of organic gardening had an unanticipated fringe benefit.   My yard had become a living bird feeder, eh?

Admittedly, I am never going to be a fan of chicken hawks.   But here in the real world, they are not the only predators that endanger the birds.    Believe it or not, bullfrogs can catch little hummers and even sparrows.    Of course, anyone with a pond knows that bullfrogs often fall prey to the lovely blue herons that stop by for a snack.

When I first moved out here, I could count the number of mailboxes on our road without running out of fingers.    Now there is a big fancy subdivision up the hill behind me and we have several site boxes instead of mailboxes.

Each and every time a lot is cleared for building, bird habitat is destroyed.   The protective cover that can shelter smaller species from predators is gone, eh?

Each and every time that a pristine green lawn takes the place of a natural meadow, more wildlife habitat is destroyed.    The birds that naturally nest low to the ground have no place to live, eh?

Each and every time that more homes are built out here, there is at least one more gas burning vehicle … usually at least an SUV if not a big truck… that is running the roads.

And each and every time that new homes with south facing windows are built, birds are killed.   It does not matter what size or species or age or sex.   Conservative estimates place the annual number of window kills in Canada between 16 million and 42 million annually.   The problem is compounded for any of our beloved migrating birds who fly south each winter.    Conservative estimates for annual window kills in the US start at 98 million, eh?

And then of course this year, bird lovers in Nova Scotia were asked to put their feeders away to help stave off the spread of a deadly virus that was decimating the bird population.

In other words, it is the height of high drama to suggest that cats are the only predators stalking our birds.   Nor has it ever been scientifically supported in any accurate way.

Do my cats go outside?    Not anymore.   Not for years actually.    Why?   Well ….  as our local wildlife habitats have been converted to human housing, there is much more wildlife in my own yard.   With three ponds and organic gardens, this has become a popular spot, eh?

So the short answer is that there are really too many predators out there for my cats to be safe outside.    Many of those, like the lovely owls and eagles and hawks,  I might add are actually birds themselves.

Sadly this is not a new discussion.    Cat advocates have been talking about this for years. 

Nor is there any conceivable end in sight it would seem.   The Ecology action center .. who really ought to know better than most what effect humans have had on habitat and climate change for birds … have been stirring the pot by hosting this seminar 

What time is it?     It is way past time to stop blaming the cats and start accepting the role we humans have played in decimating wildlife populations.

On Keeping the Darkness at Bay

One of the best bits about growing a garden is being able to preserve the bounty for the winter ahead.    What a secure feeling to know that the chow chow simmering so delightfully on the stove this morning will be on tap when it is needed.

It took a long time to get the hang of preserving the harvest.  The technical end of the stick was always easy for a cook.   The challenge lay in learning how much could realistically be used before passing the best ‘sell’ date.

I am always in awe of those who commit to running accountable animal rescues.     Behind every Happy Tail there is an unbelievable amount of work that goes unseen by the general public.   Not to be mean, but the adoption fees rarely if ever come close to covering the actual costs incurred by a well run rescue.

As a matter of fact, if I could pick our next Finance Minister, he or she would have experience running a reputable rescue.   Forget Bay Street … these are the people who really know how to make every penny count!

But the really accountable rescues also understand that sometimes the cheapest route is not always the best one.  Or the safest.     It is just a fact of life that every week that a dog is in care costs the rescue two ways.   First of course there are the actual costs of caring for the dog.    And then of course there is the heartache of never being able to catch up with the waiting list for intake.

So from a purely dollars and cents point of view, it could be possible for a rescue to choose a supposedly quicker (ergo cheaper) training method for dogs with undesirable (ergo less adoptable) behaviors.    EXCEPT for one teeny little detail.

It has been my experience that most people rescue because they love animals.    What is not to love?   Like us, animals are living, breathing sentient beings.   What does that mean in realspeak?   Simply that pets are as capable of feeling pain and mental distress as we are.

There once was a time when electric shock therapy was commonly used to treat mental illness in humans.  Now of course it is regarded as a barbaric practice that is right up there with chaining patients in padded rooms and performing lobotomies on non conformists.

Of course there also was a time when it was accepted practice for parents to beat unruly children into submission.   When it was commonly believed that women who were ‘better wives’ would not be subjected to spousal abuse.    When finding one’s partner with another lover was acceptable legal grounds for murder.

But I am wandering afield as I am wont to do in my meandering way.   The point that I am trying to make is that I have always been baffled by rescuers who are willing to use electric shock therapy on those they are supposedly rescuing.   And before the keyboards catch on fire,  it does not matter what fancy soothing names shock collar peddlers / proponents want to call it.

At the end of the day, let us just agree to call a spade a spade.  But of course it would be tougher to sell to adopters than coy little phrases like balanced training.    Even worse, rescuers will often claim that these negative training methods are saving lives.    (The sticky subject of how risky it is to send these ‘ticking time bombs’ out into an unsuspecting world is a testy topic that is best left to the professional positive trainers who explain it much more clearly than an amateur like myself ever could.

It is my great hope that my granddaughter’s generation will commonly view negative training practices with abhorrence.   That in time society as a whole will view physically and emotionally painful training methods as animal cruelty instead of as a quick fix.

We certainly are not there yet.   The good news is that we are headed in the right direction.    My dear friend Joan Sinden has a new website to help raise public consiousness about shock collars, which is aptly titled “You Would be Shocked”

There is also a  new group on Facebook “The Nova Scotia Shock Free Rescue Coaltion”     Are you looking for a Positive Trainer?   They have a list there!   For a rescue that that uses only humane positive training on their adoptables?    They have a list for that too!

Never underestimate the power of grassroots advocacy.    We have better animal welfare regulations now because People for Dogs elevated the consciousness of our provincial politicians by pointing out how many voters cared about the issue.

Woodrow Wilson once said that if you want to make enemies, try to change something.    Right now, those who have vested financial interest in portraying the use of electric shock therapy as a sensible way to save lives are vehemently very vocal in opposition to the growing anti shock collar movement in this province.   Years from now, I expect that history will vilify shock therapy proponents  in much the same manner

What time is it?   It is always, always time to be kind to animals.      Anyone who cannot manage that has no business claiming to be an animal rescuer.

I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay … small acts of kindness and love

– Gandalf    (The Hobbit)

A little chat about alternative facts

I have always enjoyed the precision of carpentry.    How many other things in life are so simple?    Success is a surefire thing if one measures carefully, cuts the correct angles, and uses the right fasteners while keeping everything plumb and square along the way.

Real life of course is much more complicated..   Take animal welfare for instance.    On the surface it should be so simple.   People with kind hearts want to save lives.   What could be easier than that?

Of course , here in the real world the waters are often muddied by misconceptions that gain legs and gallop around Facebook.    At best they cause hard feelings.   At worst, they polarize the very people who should be working together if we are ever to get to No Kill Nova Scotia.

Fallacy #1 –  All branches of the Nova Scotia SPCA are open admission.   And before the keyboards catch on fire, yes I know they are ever so much better than they were nine years ago.   But they are not Open Admission anywhere … yet.     How did the idea that they are all open admission take root?    The short version is that in March of this year, the Dartmouth shelter did an open admission trial run.

How did that work out?   Very well as a matter of fact … so much so that “The director said this approach to intake could expand to other times of the year depending on the demands of breeding season and to their other shelters as well.”      Personally, I think that is a wonderful step forward in the right direction.

But I am wandering afield as I am wont to do in my meandering way.   This little “alternative fact” is often used to justify importing homeless dogs into this province.   Not to be mean, but as of this writing, any group using that to justify bringing dogs in from away is living in a dream world.

Fallacy #2.    Nova Scotia is already at No Kill.    And before the keyboards catch on fire, yes Virginia I know that we have No Kill rescue organizations here in Nova Scotia.    But here is the thing.   This is Canada and we have a completely different system of doing things than the States.

What does that mean in realspeak?    Simply that rescue and shelter statistics only paint a small part of the picture.     Why would I say that?     Because there are not enough rescue slots for all of the pets in need in this province.  

So there is no possible way to determine how many treatable and adoptable pets are killed in this province.    Why?   For starters, no animal clinic in this province is ever going publicly publish the number of treatable and adoptable pets that get the short end of the long needle.   Nor can anyone track how many abandoned pets become road kill or part of the food chain.   Saddest of all of course is that there is no registry for the unwanted ones that are drowned or shot 🙁

What does this mean in realspeak?    Simply that this is just another ‘alternative fact’ that is used to justify importing homeless dogs into this province.    At best, rescues spreading this misinformation have not done their due diligence.   At worst, those importing dogs have simply placed the lives of homeless Nova Scotia dogs at the bottom of their priority list.

Fallacy #3.   It is commonly believed that all pets imported into Canada meet the same health standards required of  locally adopted or sold pets in Nova Scotia.      Actually, the only thing that imported pets require is proof of a rabies vaccine.   Any other possible inspections are usually sidestepped by claiming the dogs are personal pets.

The whole problem is summed up very nicely in this report by a working group of Canadian Veterinarians.

Does this mean that kind hearts who are moved by the plight of southern dogs in high kill shelters cannot do anything to help?   Of course not.   Even though Canadians cannot claim donations to American rescues on their taxes, cash donations to supporting rescues there would always be helpful.

There is of course the dodgy issue that there is no way to determine how helpful importing dogs actually is.    Lets face it .. there is a fine line between helping and enabling, eh?   Without meaningful measures such as low cost spay neuter at the source, pulling dogs out of high kill shelters simply creates a vacuum that will quickly be filled.

What is the bottom line?   As far as I am concerned, it is really quite simple.  It is not my job to think for everybody else.   Who am I to scold a rescue for the choices they make?

That being said, any group that takes donations from the public has an obligation to be transparent with donors and supporters.

Of course, it would be slim pickings for any group with enough balls to admit that the lives of homeless dogs here in Nova Scotia don’t really matter to them.   Or that they were not experienced enough to understand the implications of importing more homeless dogs into a little province like this.     Very slim pickings indeed.

According to the Canadian Animal Health Institute, there were an estimated 7.6 million dog owners in Canada in 2016.    Wow!    Seven point six million tax paying voters who care about the health and well being of their companions.    7.6 million people who are going to pretty darned upset if they wind up paying big vet bills for diseases that were actually imported into this country by starry eyed, well meaning rescuers.

What time is it?    Instead of advocating for regulations for rescue, perhaps it is time to focus on the need for stricter Federal rules for importing all dogs, including owned personal pets.    It would be a simple step that would protect the health and well being .. and financial security of 7.6 million dog owners.   What better win/ win for our Federal MP’s could there be than that?

A little drizzly day musing


I love a good rainy day at this time of year.     Dreary days like this are wonderful for kickstarting all the perennials and spring flowering bulbs.    My may flowering tulips are bursting into bloom and my elusive Canada 150 tulips have finally begun to peek out.

We don’t generally get a lot of politicians out here.   Are they worried that our dreadful old road will be too hard on their cars?    This time around, I expect that Leo Glavine will not be particularly interested in trying to explain why “putting patients first” still seems to be on the back burner.    And of course there is always the cold hard reality that many consider it an inefficient use of time to campaign on a road with sixteen houses at best.

Although, to be fair, Chris Palmer did show up here when he ran in 2009 and that same year it is entirely possible that I may have scared Leo Glavine away for good by asking uncomfortable questions about animal welfare.

But this is a new year and a new election.   On the off chance that anyone does stop by, I have a little list of questions ready.

#1. Will you / your party write a new regulation for the Animal Protection Act to ban Declawing? If not, why?

#2 Will you / your party amend the Municipal Act to prohibit breed bans. If not, why?

#3 Will you / your party amend the Municipal Act to obligate all Municipal Animal Departments, and by extension their contractors, to publicly advertise all impounded animals. To list all impounded strays on the Nova Scotia Lost Dog Network? To allow the impounded animals to be transferred to rescue when the impound period is up? And last but not least, to require all Municipalities and their contractors to post Animal Control Statistics on their Municipal Websites.  If not, why?

#4 Will your party liaise with SPCANS to include humane education in the Nova Scotia Elementary School curriculum?

#5 Will you / your party support legislation to ban the use of electric shock collars, prong collars and electronic fences?   If not, why?

#6 And last but not least, will you / your party write a new regulation for the Animal Protection Act to require all rescue animals imported from outside Nova Scotia to have a certificate of health from a Nova Scotia veterinarian?   If not, why?

Oh … and PS … can you please fix our darned road ?


Sheesh …. it is entirely possible that I did scare Leo away with a similar list before!

But here is the thing … we DO live in democracy and we ARE allowed to express our opinions on issues that matter to us to our politicians.    There simply is no better time to communicate these concerns than during an election.

What time is it?   At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it is always time to remember that the way ahead for the animals will only ever be paved by strong voter feedback.   If you are wondering who is running in your riding, PLEASE CLICK HERE

The best thing about this group of candidates is that only one of them can win.      Will Rogers

A little drizzly day chat


I love going through my mother’s old photo albums.   What is not to love?    It is such a sentimental journey to revisit our family history.    Even better, the albums that were so carefully saved from her mother’s and grandmother’s day provide a real life window of those times.   Best of all of course is that those precious older pictures allow me to put faces to all those names on our family tree.

Really it is just frosting on the cake that there are pictures in there from the early nineties when I moved my mini home out here.    What a difference all those years of planting have made!

It has been nine years since the disgraceful AGM followed in the wake of the infamous Celtic Pets seizure.     There is no question that Celtic Pets was the catalyst that brought all the issues with the society bubbling up to the surface.    Yet in spite of a new board and the very best good intentions, it seemed that very little had changed.

Cruelty complaints were still being ignored.   Those who complained about the inaction were blackballed and discredited.   And of course, in spite of paying lip service to No Kill, one branch was still hauling dead animals out by the truck load.

It is a different world now to be sure.     Cruelty complaints are being investigated.   Charges are actually being laid.   And convictions are now regularly popping up in the news.

There are low cost spay neuter clinics.   TNR is actually supported in a practical way with a Mobile Spay Neuter Van!     And it is nice to see that after so much secrecy in recent years,  that the society is once again publishing the minutes of its Board meetings and its statistics online!

Really, it would just be nitpicking to complain about the fact that the society only has nine of their adoptable dogs and sixty-five of their adoptable cats province wide listed on their site.

No question about it, the society has done a pretty good job of rebranding itself since the new regulations to The Animal Protection Act came into force.   According to the ‘vision’ of their current Strategic Plan, The Nova Scotia SPCA is recognized as the leader in the areas of companion animal advocacy and protection. The Nova Scotia SPCA operates with a philosophy of zero tolerance for animal cruelty and sets the standard of animal care for the province of Nova Scotia.

I have always said that the society would be best served by fulfilling its mandate to prevent cruelty instead of trying to pretend it was a rescue.

The society is looking for five rescues to partner with them .. which I think is a fabulous idea.   (  Ever so much better than memorandums cautioning branches to be wary about transferring animals to a rescue, eh? )

In theory it is a wonderful idea.   I do have to wonder whether it is is a sneak preview or simply wishful thinking that qualified applicants must ” Have all appropriate licenses and registrations required by the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”

Does that mean that the rescue regulations have already been written?   Should we be expecting a press release any day?   Perhaps not.    If one goes further and looks at the agreement, it is clear that rescue partners must be willing to have an inspection of all housing facilities by the SPCA.

Not to be mean, but it is hard enough to find fosters on a good day.    But of course, the society is only looking for five partners so perhaps that won’t have too big an impact on the rest of the rescue world.

Here’s the thing.    Anyone who has been rescuing in the past decade can well remember numerous instances where some society branches were providing shoddy, substandard care.

So this is what I think:

  • Of course the SPCA is well within their rights now to ask that their partners be willing and able to provide the proper standards of care, evaluation, treatment and placement for pets transferred into their care.
  •  And yes, the Society is definitely within their rights to insist on proof of spay or neuter for any intact animals that they transfer to a rescue partner

But …..

  • in a province where there is so much need …. particularly in light of the starry eyed souls who persist in dragging dogs up from the States as if this was some sort of magical fairy tale No Kill land with plenty of homes to spare,
  • and in a world where many cat rescuers are long on heart and so short on admin skills that some of the best ones never get around to applying for CRA charitable status,
  • and when finding fosters is a universal challenge for rescues,
  • and of course when accountable rescues both screen and monitor their own fosters

So ….

… the society is limiting its options by only asking for five applicants.   Even worse ….in the absence of any rescue regulations .. such partnerships will not address the difficulties caused by irresponsible rescuers.     Saddest of all of course is that this represents a missed opportunity for the type of bridge building that would restore confidence and provide a road map for the way forward.

What time is it?   It is always, always time to remember that trust is a two way street.

Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.    Samuel Johnson

There is no age limit on love

We met the world’s most brilliant bunny in the woods this morning.   Or perhaps I should say that I saw her.   She was standing stock still so that she would not attract the dogs’ attention as they sniffed their way along the path.    Not to be mean … but she was easily within range of their long lines.

Now in the dogs’ defense, there is enough wildlife foot traffic in our woods to keep their noses busy along the way.    To be fair, Henry is now completely blind as a side effect of the caninsulin for his diabetes.    And of course, now that they are both eleven, there is just much more moseying along and much less full speed ahead 🙂

It is no secret that I love, love, love senior pets.   They bring a special sweetness to the table that is particularly appealing.   Even better, most senior pets are already experienced at love and are ready to be great companions right now.   Best of all of course is that there is simply no substitute for the Zen they bring to any space they inhabit.

As a sidebar note to that, bonded pairs of senior pets have an additional advantage when they are adopted together.   Their new home will not seem so strange when they bring their buddy with them 🙂

Right now there are two beautiful bonded poodles available for adoption at the Lillian Albon Shelter in Amherst.     At nine years of age, Willy and Daisy are actually quite ‘young’ seniors.   These lovely toy poodles have been together for their whole lives and the shelter is looking for a home with enough heart to adopt them both.

Why would such great little dogs need a new home?    These beautiful little dogs came into care when their owner passed away.     They have years of experience at being great buddies and are already house trained!

To be perfectly honest, I really envy the kind heart who winds up adopting these two    ( For more information about adopting them, PLEASE CLICK HERE )

What time is it?   It is always time to remember that pets are never, ever too old to be loved.

We are always the same age inside.      Gertrude Stein

On swimming upstream


Forty-three years ago today,  my father put on his best bib and tucker and we drove down to the Legion in Chatham so that I could be sworn into the military.     It is hard to imagine now that I would be swimming upstream simply following the family tradition of military service.

That was  a big year of change for the Canadian military.    Prior to that time, there was a very short list of “ladylike’ trades that were open for women recruits.    Women did a more genteel … and much shorter …. version  of basic training.     Nor had it been all that long since women even had their own .. more modest .. pay scale!

Even that was a tremendous improvement from the vestal virgin days in my mother’s time.   All those idiots babbling on about how they support equal rights but really don’t call themselves feminists should hop in a time machine back to 1952 … when my mother’s wedding day did double duty as her compulsory  release date from the RCAF.     Or to the swinging sixties, when married women were automatically released when they became pregnant.

Let me be perfectly clear .. thirty-nine years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter, the ink was still wet on the human rights legislation that made it illegal for any employer to terminate a woman’s employment for pregnancy.   Thirty-nine years … not centuries and centuries!

Of course, swimming upstream stood me in much better stead in my sixties than the many, many women who filled the more traditional roles so widely expected of a wife and mother.   As a sidebar note to that .. how on earth is ramping up CPP deductions going to protect the many women who still choose to be stay at home moms?     A contemporary of mine who went down that road now gets a whopping thirty-five dollars a month from CPP.   Thirty-five fawking dollars!

Not to be mean, but as these conventional stay at home mothers and wives age, they are more likely to be living under the poverty line that they would need a slingshot to reach the most modest standard of living.   Clearly the concern that our current government carries for the middle class does not extend itself to the elderly women who followed the traditional path that was expected of them.

But I am wandering afield as I am often wont to do in my meandering way.     Such stark realities are already  better served on blogs with a different focus than mine.

It is no secret that pets are good for our health and well being at any age.  Scientists are only beginning to find out what pet owners have known all along, eh?

It is also a fact of life that it can be very difficult for seniors to manage even the basic costs of pet care.   Now before the keyboards catch on fire, I am not suggesting that it is possible to fix every health issue by throwing a cat or dog at it.    But … in a world where people are living longer lives … investing modest amounts to help seniors keep their pets just makes sound fiscal sense.

Why am I thinking about that?    Well … as well as being a sentimental day on my calendar, today was also Miss Ruby’s annual checkup.       So while I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination, this was one of those days that I am very grateful that  I did swim upstream.   That I have an income of my own and can afford to take care of my pets properly.

But what about all those seniors who can’t?    Should they have to forgo the comfort of a pet?    Would it not be a good investment in health care to provide low cost / no cost spay neuter and emergency care for low income seniors?      And before the keyboards catch on fire .. yes i know that there are some fabulous things being done right now in the city by Spay Day and at the SPCA Hospitals in Dartmouth and Sydney.   And yes .. there are lovely little pockets around the province where some spay neuter help is available.

But the problem as I see it is twofold.    First and foremost is of course that help is not consistently available throughout the province.   Secondly .. and in my not so humble opinion … more importantly … when help is available, it is not widely advertised.    As difficult as it may be for anyone who is knee deep in the rescue world to imagine, there is a whole world out there that is still pretty oblivious to any and all existing rescue options and help.

Here in King’s County, we get an annual newsletter with our tax bills.    How difficult would it be to include a rescue contact list in such a widely read bit?     Even better, it would be such a useful ounce for prevention for municipalities to pony up a bit of spay neuter money.    Best of all of course would be for the provincial Department of Seniors to find room in that Action Plan for an Aging Population to support low income seniors’ spay neuter and emergency care.

And before the keyboards catch on fire .. here in the real world people lead with their hearts not their heads when they get a pet.     To say that people shouldn’t get pets they cannot afford is akin to believing that poor people could pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they only wanted to.

What time is it?   If we already recognize how good pets are for our health, then it is time to put our money where our mouth is.