Watch Out …. there’s a snake in the grass

Freddie takes a leisurely stroll through the meadow unaware of the dangers around him !!!!

Freddie takes a leisurely stroll through the meadow unaware of the dangers around him !!!!

One of the DD family saw that poor Hoss’s leg had been shaved in a picture yesterday and asked if he was sick…well, the answer is, no he’s fine, but he and his pals Freddie and Zoe, got bit by a copperhead snake three days ago and so they had to spend the day at Dr Bettekers on IV fluids, and have an antibiotic shot, a benadryl shot and be under observation as precautionary measures.
This year, because of the weather, snakes have been far more prevalent than ever before, with copperhead sightings in subdivisions in Suwanee, Dacula, Chateau Elan, Sterling on the Lake to name but a few, and these are just what I hear from my clients. One poor child got bitten last month when a copperhead was coiled around the handle bar of his motorcycle in the garage. Its just too frightening!
On the whole, most local snakes (with the exception of cottonmouths who are just thugs) just want to be left alone to kill mice and rats, eat them, digest them and sleep in cool places. In humid cooler morning weather, they will bask in temperatures of around 68-70 degrees which is most likely what the little horror that bit my three babies was doing when they all decided to terrorise it.
Freddie clearly spied the snake a while ago as has been going nuts at the woodpile over the last week; Hoss, now firmly back at the Ranch and back in full time hunting mode, thinks it’s his duty in life to assist Freddie in whatever killing spree Freddie indulges in; Zoe is in love with the both of them so wants to be a part of whatever they are doing…….. So the three of them no doubt upset a poor snake who just wanted a bit of peace and quiet to enjoy his morning bask and wouldn’t leave him alone, so he did what dogs do when they too are pissed…he bit them.
Does it upset me? Yes that they got bitten, but not that they did so doing what they were programmed to do. All three of them, with thanks to the wonderful staff at Chateau Animal Hospital who, as usual, got us in to see Dr B pronto and ensured that the three amigos were taken care of beautifully, are doing well, albeit with some ‘Nutty Professor’ type features around their muzzles!
Of course, we don’t want our dogs to get hurt, but the whole point of DD is to give dogs a ‘taste of the wild’ so to speak, where they can run free, breathe, hunt, play, roll, dig…do all the things they want to do, completely unfettered. The very environment that provides a plethora of chipmunks, gophers and rabbits to chase and kill will always be a habitat to more darker forces, its just the way Nature is, and I love and understand that about this golden land we live in…..
DD by design is the antithesis of the ‘tame’ rubber floored indoor play area that has become so prevalent over the last decade in America, where the dogs are treated like children and actually have kids play equipment to play on. I have nothing against such establishments and feel very strongly that in the absence of enough outdoor off leash play areas for dogs, there is a need for any environment where dogs can mingle freely with other dogs.
It’s just that, it’s not what WE are about.
So, Pete and I were faced with a dilemma this weekend. Do we rip down the woodpiles that the dogs love so much because of course that is where the snakes like to hang out? Do we stop using the meadows completely until October? Do we put repellent down? That is…if such a thing really is effective against snakes?
Actually, we took advice from snake experts and decided that we were never going to rid our land of snakes, no one can completely do so on any piece of land, which is why the little buggers are all over subdivisions, parks, farms…. you name it, they are there.
But what we can do is make sure the dogs don’t disturb the snakes and piss them off to the point that they feel inclined to bite them.
So, we are going to fence off the woodpiles and give the snakes some breathing space and the ground cover they so desire, and ensure the dogs cannot get to their habitat and disrupt them. Meanwhile, we will set traps in the fenced areas so that we can catch and remove the snakes as we are able.
We firmly believe in live and let live and everything by Gods design.
In His infinite wisdom, he decreed that there would be snakes to kill rodents and keep insects in check.
In His infinite wisdom he decreed that they would inhabit our environment and keep it clean for us.
I’m not going to argue with the Big Guy, but I don’t want any more bitten dogs thankyou very much, so, just for the summer, the woodpiles have to go and we won’t be using them to do outdoor nose work. Don’t worry, we have more than enough activities and places to sniff to keep our beloved rascals (sorry, guests!!) happy here at the Ranch.
Of course if any of you just happens to know a snake wrangler or one of those guys that comes along with a flute and a basket and gets the snakes to follow him all the way to pastures new, I’m all ears!
Stay cool out there, folks and God bless.
x

 

Phew …… it’s hot !!!

Phew its hot out there

Phew its hot out there

I love living in Georgia…for about nine months of the year.
The other three months are too hot for a British chick of the larger variety, especially as my job involves being outside all day working in the hot sun, walking, swimming and ugh…picking up dog poop!
But it could be worse…I could be a dog.
Last week I got a phone call from a new client whose dog had been visiting one of those doggy daycares where the dogs run around a former car park as their outdoor ‘funtime’. It was 90 degrees in the shade, and the dog had badly burned his paws on the asphalt, leading her to have to make an expensive trip to the vets for salve and the poor dog had to have his feet bound for a week.
The staff were inexperienced and hadn’t noticed that the dogs were uncomfortable and were actively seeking shade, of which there was little. There was no other surface for the dogs to play on and so the dogs were all suffering dreadfully….how painful and how needless!
Be mindful of this when you walk your dog in your subdivision, even up until 8 o clock at night I have experienced boiling hot sidewalks. In this heat, morning walks are better, as concrete retains heat for hours after the sun goes down (just so you know, that is why so many animals get killed on the road, they’re not always looking to cross the road in the middle of the night, sometimes they just want to feel the heat that the road retains…)  so evening walks are best later at night when the sidewalks finally cool.
However, this is only one possible injury to the dog during this hot weather…..
Everybody knows not to leave their dogs in hot cars, but you would never believe how many people leave their dogs in their garage while they go to work all day, with the window open maybe just a crack for fresh air.
Garages are not the safest place to leave a dog at the best of times as too often they contain chemicals or cleaning fluids that are hazardous in extreme temperatures, but with little or no air flow, they just become a hot box. If theres nowhere else to leave your dog, and I would really urge you to seek out every other possibility, consider a huge indoor cage (they come as big as 10×10) so that Fido can be safe from harm, remove all combustibles and hazardous items from the garage, and then install a huge fan in front of a wide open window and maybe even leave the garage door open a little too, so that air can circulate freely. Always leave masses of fresh water for your dog, but consider freezing some of his water in the bottom of the bowl overnight so that it will remain cooler for longer when he has it with him during the day.
Many people dont believe that the dog should have water in a crate; Uh No!
All dogs, without exception, must have access to fresh water at all times by law, just as it is their basic right to have adequate shelter.
Never leave your dog crated all day without giving him a really good run first so that he is good and tired, and make sure he is well fed, plus leave a few treats for him and some toys filled with treats. Nothing worse than being hot, lonely, bored and hungry!
Black dogs suffer more in the heat than lighter coloured ones, as black absorbs heat. However, don’t think that this means your light skinned dog gets off lightly…pale dogs with pink skin can also succumb to the sun and get terrible sunburn.
Sunblock on a pale skinned or thinly covered dog with sparse hair can be a great idea if you have to have your dog out in the sun, and a wet childs white t shirt can really be useful to put on your dog if you have to go out in the sun with your black dog. Of course, the best idea is to minimise the dog’s exposure to the sun and ensure there is plenty of shade available; these are merely  possible solutions if your dog has to be out in the sun.
Here at the DD Ranch, we are lucky to have all grass, and a mixture of meadows and woods for the dogs to play in, so we use the areas wisely. First thing in the morning, we use the open grass areas more for the dogs to really run and frolic to their hearts content. At lunchtime when the sun is hot, we tend to use the swimming pool more to cool the dogs down, then in the later afternoon, we tend to use the woodpiles and the wooded areas, which are shaded, to do nosework and hunt for meatballs and sausage under the shade of the trees.
There is another reason we tend to use the meadow more than the woods in the morning; snakes are more likely to be out basking in the cooler morning air (snakes like temperatures of around 68 degrees to lie out in, they mostly prefer to disappear into a hole when temperatures soar). While no land in Georgia is impervious to snakes, minimizing the risks of meeting one just makes sense.
When walking with your dog, stomp the ground when you venture near an area where there may be snakes, such as flower beds or under bushes. If you see a snake, avoid it…they don’t really want to bite under normal circumstances, mostly they want to be left alone and only bite if they feel threatened.
If you have a long haired dog like a retriever or a husky, consider shaving him for the hot weather…….
Now, many groomers will be wanting to shake me for suggesting such a thing as it is commonly held that the long hair keeps the dog cool. This is true, but only when the owner takes the time to make sure there are no matts in the hair with daily brushing. I have few clients who have the time or inclination for that. If the underhair is matted, there is no air circulation under the top hair and so the skin cannot breathe properly.  Shaving your dog down is basically removing the fur coat he has to lug around all his life…not a bad idea when the temperatures soar into the nineties, is it?
One last point on this, if your long haired dog loves to swim, be sure to dry him off completely right down to the skin. Wet hair lingering around on his skin for too long provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria in this heat, leading to fast growing hot spots that can be quite frightening. If you don’t want to shave him down, then be sure to settle him down after his swim in front of a fan that will dry him off completely and get to all the bits you missed…..
The heat can play havoc with the dogs’ digestive system and his appetite….what he likes to eat and can tolerate in the winter might not be okay for him in the summer. Here at the Ranch, we tend to include a small amount of rice in the food in the summer for dogs that can tolerate it; rice soaks up a lot of water during the cooking, which translates to more water entering your dogs’ body via an easily digestible food. We use lighter proteins in the summer, like chicken and turkey and white fish. We still use beef and lamb on occasion, but just like you prefer to eat different foods in the summer, so will your dog. If she’s off her food, think about what you can give her that will suit how she feels in the heat.
Some people will advise you to leave the AC on in your car if you take your dog out and have to leave it alone in the car….
My advice to you?………Unless its absolutely necessary, don’t leave your dog alone in the car at all….plan all of your outings that involve your dog in advance and go from point A to point B without stopping. Car engines can cut out leaving the dog in a car with no windows open and no AC;  Dogs can poke at knobs and buttons inadvertently rendering the car boiling hot within seconds…it’s just not worth it.
Lastly, in all things, try to see life from your dogs point of view….he may hate to swim, but he might just enjoy lying in a wading pool. He may not want a drink, but he may enjoy sucking on ice cubes. He may not want to walk on the sidewalk, but he might enjoy a nightime game of ball or some nosework hunting for hidden treats out in the backyard. He may not fancy his regular snack, but, just like you, he might enjoy some doggy ice cream. His harness may chafe him in the heat, so he might enjoy a nice cold cloth fresh from the fridge placed under it before he goes for a walk, or a cold bandanna under his collar…think about the things that will make you feel better in this heat and try and apply them to your dog where appropriate. He’ll thank you for it!