Why Wholeblog?

Lovin' the car!

Here it is!  Finally, after 8 years, I’m going public and hoping to incite some thought-provoking conversation about the ever more relevant human/animal relationship.  There will be updates and observations on my business, park issues, my opinions on many topics and advice for people caring for their animals.  If you live with animals or work with animals, feel free to follow or comment. Continue reading “Why Wholeblog?”

Who’s watching who?

I consider myself very lucky to be able to work in the setting I do every day. I manage 2 walks – the first in High Park and the second in various other parks in the west end as well as on city streets in our beautiful west end neighbourhoods. I frequent the Humber River, the Sunnyside boardwalk, East Humber park, James Gardens and more. I have been privileged to see many natural wonders and I’ll be blogging about new experiences.

Some of the remarkable memories have stuck with me through the years. Such as the bright spring day I had my pack of 6 attached to me hands-free, jaunting down spring road, when just in front of us, a mama fox appeared from one side of the forest with a kit in her mouth. I watched in awe as she skirted to the other side but none of the other 5 or so people around seemed to even register she was there! (It often happens that people are so busy jogging or texting to notice the wonders around them.) A few minutes later, she reappeared apparently going back to her den for her next kit. My dogs were, as usual, nonchalant to watch this – sat quietly while I focussed barely noticing her. I think they considered her as inconsequential as a squirrel (which they learn not to bother – Can you imagine if one of them decided to run after an animal attached to me and 5 other dogs! Yikes.)

Spring is, of course, magical, as each species goes through their own ritual. There are the few days when the inchworms mate and we do not venture into the forest. It is thick with hanging threads as the worms hope a gust of wind to collide with a mate. There are the few days when the Bluejays congregate – hundreds squawking and hopping and flitting from tree to tree. Ever seen the movie “the birds”? There are the blooming Japanese Cherries, as you all know but at the same time, a return of songbirds to the park. I usually see my first oriole in the Cherries in May every year. And I see my first Red-tailed Hawk youngling in June. I will look up to see him circling not too far above with Mom and Dad nearby teaching him to hunt. Or I will hear her (an unmistakable call for her parents) in a tree a bit unsure about flying yet. There are several pairs in High Park, despite being territorial. They will often hunt around us as the dogs kick up the mice underground. Our closest encounter was a fall day hiking through the forest when we heard the unmistakeable hawww of echolocation behind us and felt the breeze of hawk wings above us as he flew over our heads and picked up a squirrel not 10 feet from us, turning gracefully and flying back into the forest.

Some of the more unusual sightings were the coyotes – the one pair that made a den a few years ago have multiplied and now there are many though they manage to keep very hidden for the most part. The opossum, river rat, gopher, turtles and beaver! Yup, beaver. Mind you, he was dead. But in East Humber park, many of the shore trees were cut down by a beaver pair before the chicken wire went up to protect them and the pair was relocated. There is still a lodge in the stream there now occupied by a nesting pair of Canada Geese. And there are remnants of the beaver chewed stumps! Hard to believe what lives in the city. The most unusual resident of High Park is an albino squirrel that resides beside the greenhouse near Grenadier restaurant.

The birds are stunning. Here’s a list of Ontario birds by picture – see how many you know!  http://www.whatbird.com/browse/objs/All/birds_na_147/38/Location/6396/Ontario I’ve seen very rare birds like the Pileated Woodpecker that took up residence for a time in the park (the biggest woodpecker, it was the one Woody was based on:) There were a pair of Indigo Buntings, a bright, almost iridescent tropical-looking mating pair. There are several Great Blue Herons and Great Egret. In fact, I see a fantastic bird almost every day of the spring and summer.

Not to leave out the insects. I don’t know as much about them but one year, there was a scientist working to catch and identify all the different dragonflies in the park. He had 119 sub-species by the time I talked to him. Apparently, there are 172 in all. Who knew?!

More on plants another time. Hey, if you’ve had a special encounter (with nature!) in the park, we’d all love to hear about it 🙂

Your dog’s potential.

Ok, so in honour of Oprah’s farewell lecture, (Yes, I watched the whole 25 years! Even taped the show when I worked 9 to 5:) I will dedicate this blog to purpose. To esteem. To believing you are worthy. Of respect and affection and being taken care of and protected. No, I’m not talking about all of us that Oprah was talking about. I’m talking about the animals in our care.

Even “pets” (a controversial term which I will use for now), animals that have been domesticated, need to feel purpose. It helps them reach potential to be strong in their knowledge of something. Anything, but particularly, their breed’s acuity. So, a working dog needs to work. And dogs relate their mental ability to their physical ability – so most dogs need work that uses their body. Wild counterparts travel 50 or more miles in a 24 hour period over a territory of up to 1,000 square miles http://www.wolf.org.  So a backyard play or even 1 walk a day with no other stimulation can produce a nervous or even anxious dog. Continue reading “Your dog’s potential.”

About my packs – Yay.

Every walker I know thinks they have the best pack ever and I do too!  Packs are a family.  I often get the comment “you have a nice family there” when we are walking together.  I often get asked if the dogs are all mine (That would be illegal – we’re only allowed 3!) and I think that’s because we are so in sync, it looks like we “belong”.

I only take “full time” dogs.  This means they are with me (and the other dogs in their pack) every day.  This establishes relationships based on a hierarchy that I and the dogs work out for everyone.  The continuity allows the dogs to be secure to learn every day and build esteem as they earn more freedom  and trust and respect from their pack and me.  Dogs with esteem are confident to be intelligent beyond training.  They problem solve and even have senses of ethics and fairness. (more about that later). Continue reading “About my packs – Yay.”

What we do.

Ok, so, you wanna be a dog-walker?  A bit about my profession to start:

No, it doesn’t have to be a profession to some people who dog-walk for a living but my “veteran” colleagues do have added expertise and commitment that is the definition of professionalism.  Sure, there’s the odd person who has a rambunctious pack or lets the dogs roam a bit but we, daily, keep the 100 or so dogs in High Park at any given time well cared for.

Yes, exercise is a big part of the job description but there is more:  A stewardship of our park community, the landscape, the ecology, sociability among our packs and some degree of discipline ( some walkers keep a close and unified pack and some are more happy-go-lucky), a respect for their clients, their packs, other pack leaders and the people who are also enjoying the park.  Plus some degree of advice or training for clients with puppies or who just need extra help is a bonus.  We are all in it for the long haul and our reputation is important to all of us. Continue reading “What we do.”