For my first BlogJune post, I thought I’d write about our current dog-chaos. Last week we finally took MissMolly to be sterilised. It had to be done… she’s almost two, after all, and puppies are not part of the game plan. But we felt a keen – and disproportionate – sense of guilt nevertheless.

She left here her usual bouncy-crazy self  on Monday morning, happy to be off on an adventure. When we picked her up several hours later she was subdued, confused, unhappy and shaking. She was wearing a  cone of shame and her one eye keep drooping shut. All the guilt.

Keep her calm and quiet, the vet said. No jumping or excessive activity for 6 – 10 days, she said. Oh, and no licking of the wound – she needs to wear the cone of shame until her stitches come out… in 14 days.


Then the vet looked at MissM and grinned. Perhaps, in her case, a gentle walk around the block from day two might be a good idea to get rid of some of her energy, she added, but keep her as quiet as possible…

So how does one keep a hyper-active Doberman quiet, calm and not jumpy – particularly around a four month old puppy who just wants to play? The very concept pushes the bounds of belief to the limits. In Molly’s case, it’s like saying flip the on/off switch – and she’s very resistant to the ‘off’ position.

In the end we’ve spent several stressful days keeping her on lead at almost all times. This is our way of trying to limit her bursts of crazy-wildness to some extent and separate the two dogs when necessary. It’s more-or-less working – although it feels like mostly less at times and involves an awful lot of dog – 26kg of dog – trying to cuddle up in my lap. All day.

Only 5 days to go…


It was dark and rainy when I left the house this morning. As mentioned previously, this is a regular event for one or the other of us every six weeks or so. It starts with a silly o’clock scramble out of bed on Saturday morning, followed by some bumbling around to find a random assortment of (preferably our own) clothing, whilst trying not to disturb the rest of the household. I usually manage to sneak in a rushed cup of tea before the next step, which is loading a trolley into the car and heading off on a foray to the local meat markets.

Whilst this may seem like a daft thing to choose to do on a weekend, having two dogs on a protein rich diet makes it well worth the effort – particularly since I have an antipathy to commercial dog food. Firstly, it smells dreadful (both going into and coming out of the dogs). Secondly, the sulphur dioxide, sodium and potassium sulphite preservatives in ‘fresh pet meat’ can cause health issues. Thirdly, after having had a few dogs with gut problems in the past, it’s now my policy to feed my dogs human-grade meat products wherever possible – and to have as much input into it’s production as I can.

Yes it is time consuming, but it’s also well worth the effort. With Cassie growing in leaps and bounds and Molly still heading towards her full size, meat consumption is at an all time high. This means that our food production regime has had to be bumped up a notch to keep pace; today I bought 10kg beef mince and 8 ox hearts (no liver this time).

When I got home, I trimmed the fat off the hearts and cut them up into chunks that could be fed through the mincer attachment on our Kenwood. Once this was all done we added the packs of regular mince and 2kg of tinned sardines-in-oil, then mixed it all up together. This is a rather messy process and rather fraught with danger, since the dogs both reckon that the best place to be at food processing time is as close as possible, i.e. under foot. Clearly what they’re aiming for is to nab any morsels that might fall on the floor; what they achieve is to ramp up the general chaos factor several notches. Sigh. #lifewithpuppies!

So the next step is generally to take a break and feed the dogs their breakfast. This settles them down for a while and allows us to package the meat and clean up the mess. We measure the mix out into (a lot of) appropriate plastic containers, pop them in the freezer, then stack the dishwasher – before finally sitting down for a well-earned cup of coffee and (this time) a banana-pecan muffin.

In total we processed 2.16kg of meat/fish this morning. Combined with an appropriate amount of kibble with each meal and occasional added vegies, this’ll feed the dogs for the next 48 days. Total cost for the meat (excluding time) was $84 (meat $72, fish $12). We’re pretty happy with that, the dogs love it – and we’re off the hook for another six weeks!


With a pair of toddlers (otherwise known as puppies, 18 months and 3 months old respectively) at home, I’ve been thrown back into the deep-end of stay-at-home-mum life. The gaps between feeding them, playing with them, walking them, cleaning up behind them, making sure they don’t chew anything important or squish each other (one weighs 25kg, the other 5kg!) are few and far between.

Puppies are fun, no doubt about it, but this stage does remind me of when my human children were small. When they finally conk out for a nap it comes as a welcome break, but it’s also quite regularly when my brain starts reminding me about the restless nights monitoring said children/pups. Sleeeep, it says, sleeeeep nowwwwww

With the children, well meaning friends and relatives – even strangers – would tell me, ‘Nap when the babies nap. Make the most of your time.’ After a while I started to wonder whether they all had home help. Or perhaps they had a secret supply of magical wee folk lurking in the background, ready to do all the nasty accumulated chores in exchange for small gifts of food…

In the absence of magical or other help, and with catch-up-sleep the stuff of daydreams, I nevertheless learned that it was possible to chunk away at various tasks while the babies napped – sometimes even while they entertained themselves for brief periods.

Similarly, the first few weeks with the two dogs together have been pretty full on. House-training a new pup takes determination and vigilance, also a goodly supply of paper towel and a bottle of clean-up spray. We’re getting there and, in some ways, it’s no worse than potty training. If anything, it’s easier as it’s taking far less time. Nunzio/Cassie’s conquered the doggy door and now usually makes it to the lawn in time (and there was great rejoicing!).

As with any toddlers, playtime can be a tad fraught – although Molly has been surprisingly patient and it’s suddenly clear just how much she’s matured over the past few months. However, the puppy has an endless supply of nippy little teeth and a good deal of persistence, and patience definitely has its limits. The trick is to leave them to it and to intervene/distract just before drama happens. That way some learning happens, but she doesn’t get chased and stomped on too badly. This too shall pass – Molly’s coping and her Nunzio’s getting bigger and less squishable each week.


Meantime, I fit writing in where I can, conquer the household chores where possible and – today, after a certain amount of procrastination, have finally started my chicken-piñata. This has already entailed a certain amount excitement. The first balloon I inflated exploded – making both dogs duck for cover and me dive for the remains before either of them could decide they were edible! Later, the second balloon – now part-covered with strips of soggy papier mâché – got knocked off it’s stand and fell on Molly’s head, pretty much confirming her notion that balloons are très dangereux 🙂

Piñatas take about 50 hours to create, from start to finish, depending on how large and how complicated you decide to make them. The process is done in stages to allow the layers of papier mâché to dry, which is just as well since nap times are fairly brief. I’m 3 hours in, having made the glue, torn up some newspaper and started to apply the first layer. With luck, by the time I have this piñata completed we should be through the worst of the toddler stage…

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that parenting – whether of human children or of furbabies – doesn’t get easier with time, it just changes. Even so, each new parenting drama rolls over us like a ton of bricks, leaving us sleep deprived and stressed.

Yesterday, furbaby#1 ran off with something naughty. I could tell it was something naughty from the way she paused outside the laundry door, looked at me (through the kitchen window), dropped her precious-something on the ground in front of her, looked at me again, retrieved it and retreated a few steps.

Her body language said, Look, I’ve got a thing – it’s naughty – it’s mine and you won’t want me to eat it… but I will! Go on, I dare you to try stopping me.

When I went out the door – slowly, calmly, and armed with a treat-bribe – she retreated a few more steps, dropped her precious between her feet again, looked at me, then snatched it off the ground and gulped it down!

Aargh! Pounce, muzzle open, fingers down throat – but it was gone. Completely. And she was as pleased as punch – she’d eaten her precious treasure and received attention. So much win.

I started trying to figure out what she could possibly have nabbed from the kitchen area. It had to be something she knew she shouldn’t have and – no matter how careful we try to be – it could plausibly be something that could cause her harm. I’d been making tea. Could I have dropped a teabag? She’d tried (unsuccessfully) to run off with one of those before, so it wasn’t implausible.

Rather panicked Internet research ensued, the spectre of caffeine poisoning looming large. But everything I read on animal poison sites indicated that a single teabag was highly unlikely to cause a problem for a 25kg dog. Unless, of course, the tag was stapled onto the teabag. Aargh. Teabag research in kitchen proved that although the bags do have labels this time around, they’re glued. Whew.

Standard protocol indicated that monitoring the dog for the side effects of caffeine poisoning over the next couple of hours was the next step. The symptoms include severe hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, elevated heart rate – and a range of more complex issues from there on. I watched. I monitored. I lurked and stressed and waited. Nothing. She seemed perfectly fine. She shared the puppy’s lunch. We played fetch. They had a nap together.

Then, six hours after the great-gulping-event, I heard the sounds of retching and rushed outside in time to see her vomit on the doorstep. Not a teabag though; what she brought up was a sachet of desiccant. I assume it must’ve fallen out of the open box of mochi in the fridge when I put the milk away. I didn’t see it fall – but she obviously did and swooped to retrieve it as soon as I moved away from the fridge.

mochi and o-buster

After cleaning up the mess and putting the remains of the now perforated packet of desiccant into a container for reference, I headed back to the computer and the dog poison sites. Unfortunately, what she’d eaten wasn’t something simple and relatively harmless, like silica gel. It was a sachet of O-Buster, a desiccant that is 50-70% total iron and potentially highly toxic. No good, so the next step was to hightail it off to the vet, armed with both the dog and the remains of the packet of O-Buster.

Although  the desiccant packaging was perforated – and some of the contents will certainly have gone into her system, most of the packet appeared to have been regurgitated. That, the vet said, is a plus. The fact that she’s a big dog and the risk level is at the 20-60mg/kg level is another plus. With the packet largely intact, the vet considered it unlikely that she’d ingested much. On examination, Molly’s vitals were all fine, temperature normal, etc. The vet took some blood to send off for iron analysis overnight. The results will clarify as to whether chelation therapy – the administration of deferoxamine intravenously – wouldbe required.  Yikes – especially since the therapy itself has a number of questionable outcomes.

The vet told us to take her home and – yes – monitor her. She’d phone us as soon as the test results came in, hopefully first thing in the morning. Later that evening, just to add a little more fun to the evening, she phoned to tell us she’d spoken to a poisons expert about Molly. They’d agreed that it would be good idea admisiter 5-10ml of Milk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide) as a prophylactic measure as it might help to reduce the amount of iron her body would absorb.

Ah yes, Milk of Magnesia. I remembered it with some distaste from my childhood; it’s a particularly nasty-tasting white goop that was occasionally administered by my mother for ailments such as constipation (internally) and sunburn (externally). It used to be a bog-standard, over-the-counter medication that was found in most households when I was a kid.

However, several late night pharmacy and supermarket visits, followed by yet more Internet research, showed that MoM is no longer available as a commercial product in Australia and that there is no direct equivalent. As it was now after hours at our local vet, a phone call to the emergency vet ensued. She was aware of the situtation – was possibly even the person our vet had spoken to – and said that the MoM would be unlikely to make a difference anyway, so it would be best to – yup – continue to monitor her overnight.

Despite a restless night none of the symptoms (bloody stools, vomiting, depressed behaviour, abdominal pain) showed up, which was a relief. The vet rang at 4pm today (after several calls from me to check on progress) to let us know that the results were finally in and that Molly’s iron levels are 36 (on a magical scale of 15 – 41.7), so she should be fine.

The girls are outside having fun together and our stress levels slowly ebbing. Was it just yesterday – shortly before all this happened – that I was researching pet insurance just in case something untoward happened? Thank you, Murphy.


I grew up climbing over dogs, playing with them, taking them for walks and to the vet for inoculations/check ups, attempting to train them (!), feeding them and cleaning up behind them. It wasn’t until we had been in Australia for 15 years that I discovered just how woefully under informed I’d been with regards to the multitude of risks dogs face in and around their homes.

It turns out that large, deep-chested dogs (such as German Shepherds and Dobermans) are prone to a condition called bloat (Gastric dilatation-volvulus).  Finding this out when we brought our 10 week old German Shepherd home was, quite simply, terrifying. The breeder put the fear-of-all-things-bloat-related into us, detailing the symptoms and the various and assorted steps we needed to take in order to minimise risks.

We’d had a German Shepherd in South Africa many years earlier, but had known none of this. Did he survive purely by chance, I wondered, or are some breed lines more predisposed towards getting bloat? Research provided me with more details on the condition and it became clear that it was probably a little of each, although this in no way lessened my paranoia with regards to the bloat issue.

The next eye-opener was plants. Suburban gardens don’t tend to be designed with pets in mind and often contain a number of potentially hazardous plants. Who’d have thought that tomato plants might be a problem? Or avocados, apricot kernels, azaleas, jasmine? Once again, it seems that my dogs have largely survived despite my ignorance on these matters.

With two young dogs in residence I’ve been doing some catch-up reading up on common household/garden risks. In the process, I came across a rather useful info graphic that outlines a wide range of the more obvious risks.

Pet Poisons Infographic.jpg

The more I read, the more I find – to the point where I’m starting to feel an overwhelming urge to do some serious garden revamping to deal with our more obvious risks (see highlighted plants, below). But I need a list to refer to, so I’ve compiled one based on information from sites such as Burke’s Backyard, Cornell University and a pet poisons helpline (recommended).

Whilst it’s not comprehensive or complete, it’s a good starting point.  The printout’s stuck up on the fridge as a reminder – both to us and to visitors. If you know of any more or can add any details, please add them in as comments.

aloe vera – the outer leaves
anemone or windflower – all parts of the plant
apple trees – stems, leaves, seeds
apricot kernels – contains amygdalin
avocados – (debatably)
azaleas – leaves, nectar, flowers
castor oil plant – seeds contain ricin
chalice vine – all parts of the plant
cherry tree – all parts of the plant
chocolate – contains methylxanthines
clematis (large flowered hybrids) – flowers
coffee – contains methylxanthines
cycads – seeds on female parts
daffodils – bulbs
dieffenbachia – plant contains insoluble calcium oxalate
elephant ear – plant contains insoluble calcium oxalate
ficus (all varieties) – milky sap in leaves and stems
foxglove – entire plant
garlic plants
golden robinia – bark, leaves, seed pods
grapes, sultanas, raisins
hellebore – the entire plant
hemlock – the entire plant
holly – berries
hyacinth – bulbs
hydrangea – flower buds
indoor plants: various
iris – foliage and bulbs
jasmine (not clear which ones)
jonquils – bulbs
lantana – foliage and berries
lilac – (possibly)
lillies – bulb, leaves, flowers
lily of the valley / mayflowers – plant, flowers
macadamia nuts
madagascar jasmine – seed pods
mountain laurel – leaves, nectar, flowers
mushrooms (not clear which ones)
narcissis – bulbs
nightshade – the entire plant
oaks – the acorns
oleanders – the entire plant
philodendron (many, it appears)
poinciana (the shrub, not the tree )
potato plants – the green parts
privet – needles and branches
pyracantha (not clear which one)
Rat baits
rhododendrons (including azaleas) – leaves, nectar, flowers
rhubarb – roots and uncooked leaves
Snail baits
stephanotis – fruit
sweet peas – seeds
tomato plants – the green parts
walnuts – mouldy nuts near the ground
wandering jew – foliage
wisteria – entire plant
Yesterday Today  & Tomorrow – plant, flowers