Ballarat's dogs and their humans are continuing to celebrate the recent opening of the first of several off leash, fully fenced dog parks to open in Ballarat.
The Dog Park, located in Dowling Street Wendouree, on the site of the former Wendouree Swimming Pool, is proving a haven, for well socialised dogs under the full voice control of their owners, and an opportunity for generally pleasant interactions between their humans.
Most regular users of the highly popular Dog Park ensure protocols of picking up their dog's excrement and that their dogs have a proven track record of good behaviour towards fellow canines and are reliable under voice control.
Sadly though some recalcitrant humans fail both their own dogs and responsible dog owners badly, allowing their animals to defaccate, without taking responsibility for cleaning up after their dog, with some even allowing their dog, or sometimes dogs, to play roughly and bite or injure other dogs, who are there, enjoying some fun and exercise with other members of their species.
This has occured at the expense of some lovely gentle, well socialised dogs and their owners, who were previously park regulars to stop their visits, in fear of serious injury or even the death of their dogs.
Should you be there when dangerous dog behaviour occurs and dog owners do not instantly remove their dog from the site, do not hesitate to take the car number plate of dog owners as they leave the park and report innapropriate and dangerous behaviour or the failure to pick up dog waste to The City of Ballarat, by telephoning 5320 5500, or following the link to their web page.
For the most part however, a wonderful sense of community of responsible dog owners and their animals is building as a result of this long anticipated and much appreciated initiative. Local dogs and those from further afield can be viewed from dawn until well past dusk, indulging in the fun of a free run and romp with their friends.
On warm days, late afternoons and closer to lunchtime on weekends, up to 40 dogs of all shapes and sizes can be seen using the park harmoniously and responsibly together.
It is a joy to behold and delightful doggie greetings are ensured to both the doggie and human users!
Two double gates, with a small release area in between make for easy unleashing upon arrival, leashing upon departure and poo bags and a bin are conveniently located at the Park's entrance. The City of Ballarat has even delivered a load of road metal to cover the slippery mud just beyond the gates, resulting from recent heavy rains.
One thing is sure; regular users believe we are so lucky to have this fantastic facility.
Now all we want is a set of human conveniences on site, along with an enterprising individual to set up a coffee, ice cream and dog treat trailer in the car park!
So you've made the decision and commitment to welcome a new kitten into your family and home?
Here's my recent experience on preparing for just such an event, as I welcomed my new little Moggie into my life, including introducing her to Whippet Boy!
Provide a home for a kitten that may otherwise end up being euthanised, unless you have your heart set on an exotic breed.
My new Moggie Girl was the result of an unwanted pregnancy, when her mother was "knocked up" by a local Tom. Three kiitens were the result of this mating and the cat parents were concerned each found a forever, loving home. Any unhomed kittens would have ended up at the local animal shelter for rehoming, but fortunately, excellent homes were found for each of the kittens.
Colour wasn't a priority, but good general health was, shown by lovely bright eyes and lots of energy, I wanted a domestic short haired cat, as I am a pretty allergic person, as well as not wanting to put in the necessry time and energy to maintain a domestic long haired cat's coat.
I also wanted a kitten that had began its life within a loving home, with a mother cat to teach her and provide nutritious natural milk, littermates to play with and humans of various ages to handle and nurture her through her early life.
Kittens are ready to leave their mothers and litter mates at 8 weeks of age, but Moggie Girl had an extra week for an even better start in life. She was already eating solid food.
Preparing for your new kitten:
Kitty's introduction to your home.
Remember your new kitten will be frightened until it relaxes and learns it will be safe and comfortable in your home and care. This will take several days. Take bonding slowly and gently. Set up your cat tray and eating areas in advance. Make sure children know not to disturb a sleeping kitten and how to safely handle this young and vulnerable animal. Make time to play and cuddle your new kitten and ensure it is being fed "little and often". It is not advisable to let a new cat, or kitten, outdoors for at least a fortnight after moving in to any new home or area. Give them time to bond with their new surroundings first!
Introducing kitty to other pets:
Approach this slowly as your kitten gains confidence within its new surroundings. By the third day in her new home, Moggie Girl was clearly ready to join Whippet Boy in the sunroom for short stints. However, this introduction was made with Whippet Boy on leash. Gradually I am extending their together time until I am confident both are respecting the other, thus safe within the home. So far Whippet Boy has been a true gentleman and very gentle with Moggie Girl, despite her best firebrand efforts with him. Luckily, Whippet Boy was raised, as a pup, with cats and also was friends with my late Moggie Boy. However, if your dog, or other cat has been a sole animal, make especially sure the animals have learned mutual respect, if not outright friendship, before you leave them unsupervised. Most importantly, keep your existing pets to their regular routines and ensure they get as much attention as ever. Resentment and jealousy will build if they believe their place at your side or within the family heirachy has been usurped.
Demands and Annoyances:
Kitten claws are sharp. My legs and hands are covered in evidence of this. A visit to the vets enabled a claw trim, minimising further injuries and risk of infection to myself and other family members. A simple claw trim is very different to the irreversible declawing surgery, popular in the USA and an unnatural and irreversible cruel proceedure, thankfully illegal, across Australia!
Moggy girl loves wreaking havoc on my indoor plants and new voile curtains. I also need to watch for claw sharpening behavior to redirect her to her own scratching post.
Your new kitten will likely jump on benches if there are no doors into your kitchen, be fascinated with running taps, toilet flushes and the flame on the gas stove. These habits are not only annoying but unhygenic and dangerous. You can purchase a squirter bottle for under $3.00 at most super markets. This provides a form of reprimand. along with unceremonious sweeping off the no go zone, when sprayed at your kitten. I use the three squirts and its time for the sinbin, or exclusion time. involving half an hour, spent in isolation in the bathroom. However, you will need to be persistent and consistent with these training techniques.
Your new kitten will also let you know when she is ready for a meal. Listen to her meows and watch her body language. Remember your new kitten is wholly dependant on you for meeting all of its needs. She will need quiet time, free of disturbance to sleep, in an area she feels safe.
Kittens grow up quickly. Take the time to indulge them in chasey games with toys that you can drag around and throw into the air, mimicking kitten play hunting techniques. Encourage handling, including opening their little mouths, (yes a time will come to give your cat a tablet), inspect teeth and getting them to stretch out their claws for easy grooming routines throughout their lives.
My house feels like a home again, now that young Moggy Girl is filling the gapping cat sized hole left by my darling Moggy Boy. Whippet Boy too is happy with his new feline sister, greeting her with gentle kisses, allowing her to share his food bowl and looking strict and grumpy by my side when she makes her often funny kitten mistakes of conduct around the house. Moggy Girl has been a model of behaviour when it comes to the use of her cat tray, but, those little sharp claws and teeth are a constat reminder of the power and majesty of the animal she will rapidly become, as an adult cat!
As for those rumbling purrs, that consume her being, when she is being cuddled, feeling full and safe, Whippet Boy and I are tuning right in to them and enjoying every contented vibration!
Fiona Ludbrook is the Client Services Director of Pets and Plants Ballarat. Now, entrepreneur and blogger, she was born and bred in Ballarat, but spent many years as a teacher in Melbourne’s