I’ll take my miracles in Orcas

 

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My dear friends.  I have been working on quite a lot for you all in the past few months, and I’m afraid this background production has resulted in a few less blog posts than I would like!

But do I ever have a good one for you today!

I am nearing the end of a three week break from my hospital job.  It’s been a wonderful – and busy – summer, and like all busy times I needed a vacation.  Moreover, Sweetie and I needed a honeymoon!

We decided to take a “mini-moon” to Victoria this past week, just to spend some time away together, visit friends and play tourist.  We each had some “must-do” wishes for this trip – for Sweetie, it was a day at the spa, and for me it was a day on the ocean.  We each enjoyed both!

When I first proposed a whale-watching trip on our honeymoon, Sweetie rightly pointed out, “We can see whales here!”  And that’s true.  But I swiftly and correctly rebutted, “But in Victoria there are DIFFERENT whales!”

Specifically, if we took a boat from Victoria, we stood a good chance of seeing the Southern Resident Orcas, the pod which made headlines recently after a grieving orca mother in the J pod carried her newborn baby for 17 days after the poor baby died, in what became known worldwide as her “tour of grief”.

Many believe this mother was holding her baby up for the world to see, imploring humans to behold her dead child, demanding we bear witness to the consequences of our industrial presence in her ancestral home.

I did not want to attempt to communicate with this pod through distance, I wanted to wait until some time had passed, and until I could visit them in person, rather than work off of a photo that millions had already seen and to which they had attached their emotions and ideas.

If I was very lucky, I was hoping I would lay eyes on this particular pod, but if I could be in their territory, I knew I’d be able to get a unique connection, and maybe bring something new to the conversation still echoing around the world.

So I started my calling.

A calling, for me, is more of an ask.  I have no physical need to call prey as our ancestral hunters once did.  I am calling from a genuine admiration, with deep-seated respect for their autonomy.  I did not want to divert them from their own necessary activities, instead, I asked if they had energy, I would love to see them in person, and speak to them.

My big question for them was this:  why do they not try to eat something else?

I’ll back up.

Orcas, killer whales, as a species, are prolific.  They exist and thrive in nearly all the world’s oceans as the dominant apex predator.  There are many sub-species, divided into the general concept of whether the orcas stay in one place, year round, or whether they migrate, nomad-like, the whole ocean their home.

The transients, the nomads, are larger, and fierce.  Their lifestyle requires them to be one of the fastest adapting predators in our world.  Transient orcas can prey upon pretty much anything, but particular families, pods, have their own hunting traditions, and tend to prefer a particular type of prey – gray whales, seals, sea lions – there is even a specialized pod of orcas in Monterey Bay, California, who have learned to hunt great white sharks!

So why, when their transient brethren are so adaptable, and the Pacific Ocean so prolific with life, do the Southern Resident Orcas not reach back through their ancestry and, driven by starvation, attempt to hunt other things?

See, the Southern Residents are endangered, and their population has been declining since the 1970s, all because the humans have done a very poor job managing the salmon population.

We have three delicious species of salmon out here.  In my humble opinion, the Chinook salmon make the Atlantic Sockeye look like cat food.  The king salmon are massive, sweet, oily and, at one point, they were everywhere, sustaining hundreds of thousands of humans and wildlife alike.

But industrial development have caused a salmon collapse, and the orcas are starving.  They struggle to even come into cycle, and when they do have babies, the Southern Residents struggle to feed them.

Starvation is a powerful motivator.  The salmon has been declining for decades.  Why has hunger not motivated the orcas to try to get a seal, or a sea lion?  Our mammal brains are quite similar, and starvation makes almost anything look edible.  Why do the Southern Residents refuse to adapt?

This was my big question.  I know that marine biologists have been following these whales all their lives, and they have their own ideas about why the southern residents are not adapting, but I wanted to ask, from an animal communication perspective, meaning from the orca’s perspective, why were they starving, rather than trying any other food source?

I had my little agenda, and I know well through experience, that animals, and spirits, do not necessarily conform to our personal timeline, so I released attachment without releasing hope.

I went on two whale watching trips this month, and I REALLY hoped I would see orcas on one of these trips.  I had a feeling it would likely be in Victoria, but I went on a trip out of Tofino to cover my bases.

If any of you comes up to Tofino to visit, please drop me a line.  I do love to show off this beautiful corner of the world, and if possible, I like to go with people out to the Hot Springs or to Mears Island.

As I sat on the small covered boat on our way out to Hot Springs Cove, earlier this month, I let my consciousness reach out, and called to the orca again.  I reached out to ALL orca, not just the southern residents, because I dearly love the orca as a species, and even if I didn’t get to see the southern residents, I would absolutely love to see any orcas at all.  I haven’t seen orcas since my amazing encounter five years ago.

I reached out and heard in my mind, and felt the excitement in my body, of a happy orca family, chattering and squeaking to each other.  As I reached out with the feeling “I love you! Come see me!”  They responded “We love you!  HAVE FUN!  We are too far away to see you today!  We are busy hunting!”

I responded, “There are SO MANY SEALS here!  Will you hunt seals here?  I love you!  Come show me how amazing you are!”

More chattering, more excitement.  “Maybe!  We will try!”  Squeaking, joyful energy, and then a feeling of distance.

I know how quickly orcas can travel, and in 2013, I had seen them hunting off of Tree Island, with their NEWBORN BABY just outside of the inlet to Tofino, on our way back from Hot Spring Cove.  This time though, I didn’t see them on my Hot Springs trip, so I held out hope for Victoria.  I thought, perhaps, if we’re very lucky, I’ll see the Southern Residents!

You don’t want to be picky with callings.  You want to be open, admiring, and genuinely excited to see whatever and whoever is able to show up for you.  If I didn’t see orcas at all this year, I was really hoping to see humpbacks – a larger species than our gray whales which we commonly see here in Tofino, and a species I have never gotten a close look at… So I sent out a gentle calling for humpbacks too.

This brings us to our Victoria Mini-Moon!

We had a fabulous time, and I’ll write about our visit to the “haunted” Butchart Gardens in another post.  For this entry, I’ll skip ahead to the whale watch!

We did see orcas – but NOT the southern residents!

On the way back, I reached out to the Southern Residents.  The guides were surprised we didn’t get to see them (we did see some humpbacks too, I’ll do another post on them later.)  I sat inside the boat and reached out to the water, and asked my question of the southern residents.

“I know you’re so hungry.  I know the salmon are disappearing.  I saw your cousins eat a seal.  Why won’t you eat seal?”

The answer came back, immediately, from one of the younger females who was available to communicate.

We hunt as a family.  Hunts are organized by the Mother (matriarch.)  She tells us what and when to hunt.  If we move to hunt seal, we cannot succeed alone.  She tells us to stop, when we chase seal.  She doesn’t know how to catch them, she doesn’t know how to help us.  If we catch a sick one, or a dead one, she tells us not to eat it.  We can’t eat it.  It doesn’t taste good.  (Taste of rancid, sickly meat.  Starving is better.) 

We cannot change our hunting ways until our Mother dies, and another one comes.  Another one must tell us what to eat, and what to do.  If that happens, our family may break up.  Some may go off on their own to die alone.  Some of us may die before we learn a new way to hunt.  We may not understand, we may make too many mistakes.  It is better to stay here. To stay together.  Those (travellers, the orcas we saw hunting) are large, experienced.  They will take kills from us.  They will out-hunt us.  They can out-swim us.  We have lived here (on the inside, near land, near salmon.)  We will live here until we die. 

Maybe one day, a new male will arrive, and show us a new way to hunt.  Maybe young females will go with him and learn to hunt seal, and forget the taste of fish.  This has been the way.  Out Mother will not change, and we love her.  We will stay with her to the end.

And that was it from the Southern Residents.  They love each other, their diet is more than what they eat, it’s who they are.  It’s their entire tradition.  Their food has created their culture, their unique ways which differentiate them from other orcas in the area.  Their behaviour, their language, their day-to-day pattern of life has been formed around their ways of hunting fish.  Their family members have been captured for aquariums and taken to far-away aquariums on land.  Their salmon has been depleted.  Their home is getting more crowded with industrial shipping, and with noise.

There are ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the salmon waterways, and to support the Southern Residents.  It is not likely these unique orcas will cross-breed with the transients and learn how to hunt seals – the two ecotypes of orcas generally avoid each other – the transients moving in for a hunt while the residents are away.  Once, a pod of transients were even seen being attacked by a pod of residents near Gabriola Island.  Inter-breeding doesn’t seem likely, so we can only hope the humans get their act together to rescue the crashing salmon population before the resident orcas diminish further.

Back to our whale trip!

We quickly found a small male humpback called “Gerkin” who has been feeding near the Victoria harbour for quite some time.  As we were watching him I heard the radio crackle and heard “Black and white” come through over the static.

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And I knew what that meant!

BAM!

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Orcas!  YAY!  ORCAS!  (In the background is a lighthouse on “Racer Rock”, so named for the powerful currents that race between the fingers of the underground mountains.  This current forces nutrients up into the top layers of the water, and the rocks, combined with the fish attracted to the nutrients, make an idea hangout for seals and sea lions… and make ideal hunting grounds for the orcas!

I was overjoyed!  Orcas!  But wait!  The orcas were up to something.

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That tail up, the flurry of activity – it reminded me of the activity of the orca pod I had seen off of Tree Island years ago!  Could it happen again???  Could we have been lucky enough to witness orcas HUNTING!?  AGAIN!?

Seeing orcas hunt in the wild is an great privlege and a rare event for the tourist whale watcher!  It’s something so special I didn’t dare to hope for it, nor did I ever expect to see something so incredible again in my lifetime!

But here it was!  Quickly, the gulls started to swoop and our guides confirmed, the orcas had a kill!

This is how we immediately knew these girls were not our expected southern residents, but one of the far-ranging transients!  Excited and celebrating their kill, I called out to them with my joy and admiration!

The matriarch rose with a large portion of their kill in her jaws.  See what a powerful hunter I am!  See how magnificent we are!  See my family, see my joy, witness our triumph!

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The matriarch of these transient groups organizes the hunt, teaches the pod members, usually her children, what hunting strategy to use, and when successful, it is the matriarch who divides the kill up and ensures each family member eats before she takes her share.

This pod used a not-uncommon strategy to charge at seals who are safe on the rocks, and cause them to panic and instinctively dive into the water for safety!  Seals have a hardwired survival mechanism when their adrenaline kicks in, they immediately want to get into the water – they’re more mobile in the water, and they’re trapped and practically immobile on land!  Do you remember how you feel when you’ve had a scare?  Most of us at least get up and walk around for a minute, our own flight instincts are so strong.

Well seals can’t even walk around – they HAVE TO swim when they are frightened.  So the orcas make it their mission to TERRIFY the seals into flight – into the ocean – and into their jaws!

The behaviour of these orcas was reminding me so much of the pod I saw off of Tofino, they were so joyful and full of themselves after their successful hunt, they started mugging for their audience on the boats!  They started spy-hopping to check us out, and as I called out in my mind, “Come here, gorgeous, come show me how beautiful you are,” two females approached our boat, coming within 20 feet!

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This is the closest I have seen an orca in the wild.  Once as a child, I saw orcas in captivity in Marine Land, but seeing captive animals who have no choice but to show themselves is far from the same experience.

These orcas were wild.  They were doing what they were born to do – hunt, travel thousands of miles, perpetuate their family, their hunting style, and their unique pod language (orca pods can be identified by their unique dialect, as well as their physical markings.)

It was a privilege, a rare and amazing thing to even SEE these animals in the wild, let alone witness them hunt!  TWICE!

As the approaching large female turned to flank our drifting boat, a much smaller dorsal fin surfaced beside her.

See my baby!  See how fast and strong he is!  

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Again, I was reminded of the orcas we saw in 2013.  They were also a pod of only females, with a small male and a newborn (at the time) male.  No mature male with his six foot tall dorsal fin towering over the females, just the maternal family pod, feasting, thriving.

As though in response to our gasps and thrilled exclamations, the big female took one more spyhop, getting a good look at us admiring her family.

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Just like that, they were finished.  The matriarch gathered her family, and they left.  The whole incredible event took less than 15 minutes!

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On our return to the Victoria Harbour, the guides made a positive ID of the pod we had just witnessed hunting.  They were the T109’s – a family centered around the so-named matriarch, born around 1975, and documented here:

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She could be positively identified by the guides by the unique pattern of scratches across her back, the notches taken out of her dorsal fin (both inflicted by prey animals fighting for their lives) and her unique white saddle patch.

A bell rang in my mind.  T109.  That was familiar.

I asked the guide, “Could these orcas have been up in Tofino?”

“Yes!  They have been sighted up there!  Did you see them?”

The bell turned into a triumphant gong!  “I saw a pod right after they made a kill on the day they had their baby!  Does this pod have a baby known as “Baby Tree”?  He was born outside of Tree Island in Tofino, and was named for the island there!  I saw him right after he was born!”

The guide checked with the more experienced guide who was driving the boat – and soon the answer came back – “Yes!  Yes that’s THEM!  The same male is still with them!”

“YOU’RE KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!”  I was jumping up and down in my seat, smacking my hands into the table in front of me!  “YOU ARE KIDDING ME!  THOSE ARE THE SAME ONES!!!????”

“Yes!  You saw them a while ago, right?”

I confirmed, it was five or six years ago since I had seen the baby, and the young one they’d seen that day would be the right size – and they guessed this was Baby Tree!

A MIRACLE!

The guide also informed me that the T109s while they are an active group, they are not seen very frequently – just sighting them was rare enough, and they would be reporting the sighting to the researchers who keep tabs on all the transient orcas to monitor their health.  The T109s hasn’t been seen in quite a while, and it was amazing for the GUIDES to see them – they were incredibly excited to have witnessed a hunt!

“What are the chances we would see the VERY SAME FAMILY we saw years ago in Tofino!?”

The guide shrugged and said, “They’re your spirit pod!  It happens!  Some of us guides see some groups more frequently and don’t get to see other groups at all!  They’re just your pod!”

They’re my pod.
And then I knew for sure, they were.  I was certain when I saw the T109s back in 2013 that my grandmother had helped to orchestrate such a spectacular and rare sighting – to see orcas hunt with a newborn baby – even professional researchers may not get to see such a thing during their entire career!

To see the same group TWICE, years and hundreds of miles apart – hunting AGAIN!  This wasn’t a random event.

This was a miracle.  I’ll take my miracles in orcas, thank you.

Many thanks to Orca Spirit Adventures for an incredible trip, and these fabulous photos!

 

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First of all, isn’t my graphic for this Pet Session Special just so cute?  I changed this one from the original to show some animals across the “rainbow bridge” and I wish I’d thought of that sooner!  I really do enjoy the creative marketing piece of my psychic business!

More importantly – the special on Pet Sessions is 2/3 sold already!

If you’re on the fence, I suggest you just go for it, as the demand for pet sessions never lets up enough for me to offer many sales, and the only reason I can do this now is that I’m taking time off my hospital job!  Yay!

You can book your session here:

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Talk to you soon!

To Shave or NOT to Shave? The Buzz from Pups about their Haircuts!

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This image has been circulating social media again.  Every summer there’s a similar debate – should I shave my dog, or is shaving doing more harm than good?

Cutting to the chase here – it really depends on the situation.  Your dog: what breed and coat type, what activities is she doing, does she prefer to keep her coat or have it shaved?  And your environment:  do you live in Texas or the Pacific Northwest, like me?  Do you get the occasional heatwave, or is it 35C and above for months at a time?

The easy answer is to just ask your dog, (perhaps by booking a session) how their body feels after they have a shave.  In many cases, the dog will go out of her way to show you how she feels about her haircut, and here are some of the behaviors you may see:

Wildly running about after grooming!  This is a celebration of freedom, getting groomed is a tiresome chore for most dogs, and the initial running around is usually a celebration that the grooming is over and she’s free to move around and do what she wants again!  This doesn’t necessarily mean she likes her haircut, only that she’s happy to be able to run around – don’t mind if I do!

The thing to pay attention to is:  does her activity increase in the days after the haircut?  Is she able to play longer?  Run further?  This is the cue that most tuned-in dog parents take to determine whether they *should* continue to shave their dog in the summer months.  Is my dog happier when shaved?

A good indication that your dog could benefit from a shave is when you notice their activity steadily decreasing as the weather gets hotter.  Contrary to what the image above indicates, a huge coat of fur does not magically cool your dog!  Of course the tips of the long hairs are a cooler temperature than the skin exposed by a shave – the skin UNDER the long fur is even HOTTER than the shaved portion!

The real trick with shaving isn’t whether or not to shave, but whether to consider it as a part of your overall grooming routine!  If all you do to groom your double-coated dog is shave her once a year after it has matted, well, that’s better than nothing, but you’re really not doing your dog any favors.  Even before it mats, dogs with heavy double coats get horribly itchy close to the skin during a shedding cycle.  In the wild, double-coated canines are running through a lot of undergrowth, getting groomed by their environment several times a day.

Our domestic dogs have possibly been bred to look fluffy, have more undercoat than they would strictly require in the wild, are never exposed to the environmental extremes of wild canines, and often live longer, healthier lives than wild animals (depending on the species and region.  So you can’t beg off of grooming your big fluffy dog by pretending she’s a wolf.

The point of grooming is really about how the dog FEELS.  Most double-coated dogs don’t need daily brushing (though some do enjoy it), but weekly brushing will go a long way to prevent the itchy skin and stinky “dog smell” of a big hairy dog.

I love big hairy dogs.  My friend Ellie has two great ones.

We’re not just talking about double-coated shedding dogs though, I will get to the non-shedding dogs in a minute.

This idea that double-coated dogs should NEVER be shaved because the fur regulates their body temperature and protects them from the sun is too simplistic.  Fur is insulation.  Insulation can keep cool things cool and hot things hot.  But a dog is a living being, and when a dog runs around, she is generating her internal heat.

A dog regulates her temperature not through her coat, but through panting, and my moderating her activity.  Hot dogs love mud and water because it breaks the insulation of their fut and draws the heat off their skin, rapidly through their fur!  Getting wet and muddy is the natural way for dogs with big coats to regulate their body temperature.

As a last resort, dogs will reduce their physical activity.  This doesn’t mean your dog is content.  Very often your dog is bored and miserable.  It is not kind to leave a big fluffy coat on your dog, and let them lay on the tile floor in the air conditioned house all day.  If she perks up when you shave her, and can spend more time doing the activities she loves, by all means SHAVE HER!

I’m going to address this info-graphic from the dog’s perspective:

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Shaving does not increase exposure for heat stroke if the owner is doing his job.  A newly shaved dog may feel so much lighter and happier after a haircut that they overdo it, and their body hasn’t adapted yet to regulating their temperature with an extremely short coat.  Solution?  Don’t shave them bald!  Leave two inches of fur.  In the case of a Newfoundlander, whose long guard hairs don’t grow back at the same rate as the undercoat, you have good reason to simply brush her daily, and provide a wading pool.

Risk for sunburn – yes, if you’ve shaved so much the skin is exposed.  With a Newfie, their skin is darkly pigmented, so it may not be obvious if the pup is trimmed too short.  Honestly, this particular breed has a softer, finer coat than a rough-coated dog, and it isn’t quite as hot as a husky, a collie, a shepherd.  Remember that dogs coats were originally designed to protect them from the elements while doing their job – in the Newfie’s case, doing heavy pack work in driving rain and snow.  These days, pet Newfoundlanders are not exposed to the harsh winter elements, their breeding has opted for a more aesthetically pleasing, shinier silkier coat, and the human should not be allowing a freshly shaved dog to play recklessly in the sun all day.  If the coat has been trimmed too short, throw a t-shirt on her until it grows out a bit.  Bonus points if it’s a wet t-shirt on a hot day.

Biting insects – really?  Well, maybe horseflies and mosquitoes will now have more access to your dog, but fleas and black flies will get through the fur no matter what kind of haircut the dog has.  Unless you live in the North, land of the killer mosquito, it’s unlikely biting insects are going to post more of a threat to your dog once she has a shave.

Alopecia – certain breeds of dogs should never be shaved.  Talk to your breeder, and talk to other people with breeds similar to your pup to find out whether shaving ruins their coat.  This is not true for many dogs.

Scratching – Dogs who scratch after a shave have not been properly groomed BEFORE the shave.  Dogs should always be bathed, thoroughly dried, de-shedded with a furminator or similar brush, and THEN shaved only if necessary. Shaving should never be a grooming short cut!

Just be sure not to shave her too short.  I do see a few dogs shaved far too short, and this is a very uncomfortable sensation.  You’re not shearing a sheep (and I wish they didn’t shear sheep as close as they do, but that’s another discussion.)  The goal is to make your dog more comfortable, so start by leaving two INCHES of fur all over.  Two inches is enough to protect the sensitive skin from cold floors, cool breezes, drops of water, the careless teeth of other playing dogs, and the pokes of plant life on walks.

If your dog’s coat is very dense, and the pup is clearly still very hot, then try a one inch shave.  You should NOT be able to see a dog’s pink skin through a shave.  If you can see the skin shining through, you’ve cut it too short.  Throw a white cotton t-shirt over her when you go outside to protect her from the sun until the coat grows back enough to cover the skin.

You should not have a mentality of shaving only once.  This is why some people shave far too short – they want the shave to “last”.  This is insane!  Do you shave your own head so your haircut will “last”?  I suggest that everyone shave their head at least once, buzz it down to a ¼ inch, and you’ll experience the sensations that an over-shaved dog experiences.  Sweetie and I used to shave our heads in the summer, and this resulted in us wearing beanie caps in the evenings… in AUGUST!

Don’t over-shave your dog.  But!  Don’t think you can only shave your dog once!

I suggest you consider shaving your dog once every two months in the hot season – and leave the coat at least two inches long at first.  You can always go shorter if the pup is obviously still hot.

Checklist:  Should I shave my double-coated dog?

  1. Is my dog uncomfortably hot?  Has her behavior changed in the hot weather?

A hot dog is a miserable dog.  Dogs who are too hot in the summer feel like they’re wasting their lives!  They can smell all the smells, hear all the sounds, they still WANT to play and explore, but if they’re too hot for most of the day, they can get frustrated, irritable, and can get destructive or vocal when things cool down at night.

  1. Have I recently bathed and brushed out my dog?

If not, do this first.  I suggest you bathe on a Saturday, let the coat dry completely overnight, and go at the coat with a furminator on Sunday… outside… wearing an outfit you can immediately throw into the wash!

3.  Does my dog have access to cooling areas?

A kiddy pool?  Frozen Kong treats?  Ice cubes to play with?  A cool tile floor?  A patch of dirt in the shade?  If not, create a cooling area, and if so, does she spend more time in the cooling area than moving around enjoying herself?

4.  Does my dog tolerate shaving? Does she feel better or worse after a shave?

You can book a session with me to help answer this question if you’re not sure.  (Use the coupon code ILoveMyPet).

If she hangs her head and hides after a shave, then never shave her.  Provide a kiddy pool, wet cool towels, an ice pack collar or vest – there are many different things you can do to help your fluffy dog stay cool without stressing her out.  NEVER laugh at or point at a shaved dog!

Always admire her, tell her what a good girl she was, have everyone in the house say how beautiful she looks, and give her a special treat to celebrate her haircut!  Even if your dog doesn’t understand the words you say (many of them do!) she will definitely understand your intention and the energy behind your words.

  1. Evaluate: has my dog’s behavior changed for the better, after being shaved?

If she is doing well after a two inch shave, fantastic!  It is much more comfortable for a dog to be shaved to a reasonable coat length so they can self-regulate more easily!  Your dog will still run around to warm up when she’s too cool, and she’ll still reduce her activity when she’s too warm, but for the summer months, she shouldn’t be getting too cold, and if you left her enough fur, she won’t be sunburned or overheat as long as she has access to water and shade.

Again, I strongly encourage you to opt for a longer shave, and shave twice as often to keep the coat at an optimally cool length for the summer months!

My dogs.

Back in the days when I had dogs, my big dog Mocha, and my little dog Happy, our summer grooming routine for each of them was unique.

Mocha was a cattle dog shepherd mix.

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She had a double-coat, and she was a wash-n-wear dog, requiring very little grooming.  She was not a fluffy dog like a husky or a collie, but she did have a thick undercoat that protected her 20C below freezing and she did just fine up to 30C in the heat… as long as I took care of her coat.

Mocha, being a cattle dog, tended to “blow” her coat twice a year, with the big blow being in the spring.  The only time I ever bathed her was when she rolled in something too offensive to wipe off, or twice a year when she blew her coat.  When I was washing her in preparation to brush her the next day, I always used lots of shampoo, because the shampoo would strip away all the oil in her coat.  That oil is important for weather-resistance, but the oil also prevents the shed fur from falling out, by clumping it next to it’s neighbors.  If I put off grooming her in the spring, her hind end pantaloons would begin to mat, would smell, and would get itchy.

So just twice a year I’d give her a good shampoo.  The next day, I’d go at her coat with a Furminator.  Furminator brushes are excellent for double-coated dogs, but it really works best on a freshly bathed and thoroughly dried dog, so the hair does not get caught in the tool, and the threads of the Furminator does not get clogged with oil and begin to pull painfully on the coat.  Only use the furminator on the back, tail and pantaloons (top thighs) of your dog, not her head, belly or legs.

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The furminator works by sliding over the fur that’s still attached to your dog, while grabbing on to the fur that’s loose and pulling it through.  If the tool becomes clogged with hair and oil, the tool will start to drag on *all* the fur, and the dog will find the process irritating and potentially painful.

Speaking of painful, reconsider your wire slicker brush, if you have one.

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Now that we have the furminator, we need to consider whether this tool is still the right one for the job.  Mocha found slicker brushes to be painful and scratchy – and this is the most common complaint from dogs about grooming, aside from shampoo stinging their eyes or water getting into their ears or nose.  Those corners are sharp, the ends of the bristles are sharp, and too much pressure  – or the bristles being too long – are a common reason for dogs and cats to learn to hate this tool.

If you do use a slicker brush, be mindful of how you use it.  Be certain you’re not pressing it right down on to the dog’s skin, and take care not to bang those corners into her face or limps.  Brush only her back, chest and tail with it – never her ears, head, belly or legs.

Whether you use a Furminator or a slicker, or some other de-shedding tool, never use it on the sensitive areas and limps.  Instead, use a soft brush for those, or a plastic comb.  (Metal combs popular with groomers and in shows are quite pokey, and there’s no reason for us regular pet people to use them.  Most cats and dogs prefer plastic combs to metal ones.)

I would consider de-shedding to be phase one of every double-coated dog’s summer grooming routine – even if you still plan on shaving her.

A good de-shedding can make all the difference, and you may even find you don’t need to shave her until it gets REALLY hot!  Without all that excess undercoat, the air can move freely between the dog’s top coat and her skin, she will dry faster when she gets wet, dirt will fall off of her more easily, and sun will be able to penetrate much of the coat, preventing bacteria and moisture from building up next to the skin, causing hot spots and encouraging ring worm.

All my Mocha dog every needed was a good de-shedding twice a year, and a wipe with a damp cloth after a muddy walk.  She wasn’t thrilled with her grooming days, but she was so much more comfortable afterwards.  In Mocha’s case, it would have been detrimental to shave her coat.  Her top coat did not grow as quickly as her undercoat, and her top coat is what protected her from the elements.  Mocha would have been made very uncomfortable if I had shaved her just because it was faster than de-shedding her.

Shaving Mocha would not have helped her skin – the unshed undercoat would still have been next to her skin, being smelly and itchier than ever.  Without the guard hairs, the undercoat would fall out in some places and mat in other places.  She would have been itchy, too hot, and too cold most days.

So you can see how understanding your dog and her coat is what really determines her grooming needs.

If you’re not sure, take the checklist in stages.

This brings me to non-shedding dogs, whose grooming needs are completely different than double-coated dogs.

The easy answer for non-shedding dogs is take them to a professional groomer four times per year.  Be sure your dog is happy to see her groomer, and remind the groomer not to cut her too short.  Many groomers opt for a closer shave because they believe the owners will be happier with a cut that “lasts longer”.  Assure them you want the experience to be positive for the dog, and you want her feeling lighter, fresher and happier, not exposed after her grooming.  If your dog is used to feeling everything from the chill of the seat belt buckle to the heat of your hand a second before you touch her because her coat is too short after the groomer, she’ll come to hate going to the groomer!  So make it a positive experience, and always be sure she feels great about herself and in her own skin every time she visits the groomer.

Again though, you need to consider the coat of your dog.  With my little dog Happy, I had a couple of challenges.  He didn’t tolerate being handled by strangers without a muzzle, he didn’t enjoy car rides, and we didn’t have a groomer within 2 hours of our home.  For a few years there, we didn’t even have a car!

So I groomed Happy all on my own.  I even wrote a post about it.  

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Happy needed grooming every six weeks because his coat was incredibly fine as well as fast growing, and partially non-shedding.

What?  Partially non-shedding?  Yep, that’s a thing.  It happens with designer cross-breeds like Happy, who was a papillion crossed with a toy poodle.  Happy enjoyed none of the weather-resistance of the papillion’s undercoat, but none of the skin-protection of the curry poodle coat.  His non-shedding fur was long and silky, and his shedding fur was short, curly-ish and prone to matting in his armpits and crotch.  Oh, and his belly fur grew long very quickly, and if it grew too long, he would pee on it.  I discovered this the second day I had him, when I realized he smelled like pee and that his first Mom must have just bathed him right before handing him over to me.  Oh Happy, this little dog taught me so much, including how to groom a cantankerous little fear-biter!

I had to desensitize Happy to grooming, by working on it with him every day for the first six months I had him.  It literally started with me showing him the scissors and then giving him a treat.  Then placing the scissors next to him, and giving him a treat.  I did have to muzzle him and restrain him once to cut his belly fur that he was peeing on, for hygiene’s sake, but that was only necessary once.   By the time I needed to trim his fur the next time, he tolerated my ministrations with grudging acceptance, and no longer bothered to growl or snap.

Happy would *never* tolerate a shave.  It terrified him.  I don’t know who groomed him before I got him, or how they did it, but the sound of a shaver sent him into a blind panic.  So Happy got scissors.

The other reason I only ever scissor-cut Happy was that he was an *extemely sensitive* dog who needed at least three inches of fur on his back to feel safe.  His coat was very fine, even with the undercoat, and he needed the extra inch of protection from the wind, the sand, and just his general environment.  He was the kind of dog your could pet with a couple of fingers, not your whole hand, because he was so sensitive to touch pressure.

I would keep him trimmed quite short on his legs, as he didn’t really feel cold on his legs as much, as long as his body was warm, and his leg fur loved to pick up every leaf, stick, and clump of dirt he encountered.  Happy’s haircut was determined mainly by hygiene and his sensory needs.

If you have a dog that really hates grooming, I *strongly* encourage you to book a session with me to get to the bottom of it.  Maybe your dog is sensitive like Happy and just needs a scissor grooming, maybe a part of it is hurting her, or maybe there is something simple you can do to make things better for her!

Grooming is such an important piece of a dog’s quality of life – and whether you have a pup who needs grooming every six weeks, or only twice per year, it’s so important for your dog’s comfort and enjoyment to get it right!

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And hey, if you’re interested in learning how to communicate with animals yourself, you can join my growing class! 

I already have a few one-to-one mentoring sessions booked for September and I’m *so* looking forward to hearing how my friends in learning are progressing!

If you have any questions about shaving your pup in summer, please post a comment!

Happy summer to you and your animal friends!

The Session Shuffle

Dear Friends & Clients!

If you are waiting on me to get back to you about a special appointment time for your pet, and you do not have an email from me in your inbox right now, please email me again.  I am 90% sure I’ve gotten back to everyone, but I want to make 100%, so I’m posting this just in case.

I have a list of friends who have had to say goodbye to their animal friend recently, or who are helping their dogs through the last weeks of their life.  This is quite an unusual coincidence of events, as I’ve never before had so many requests for some end of life communication in such a short space of time.

I wonder what’s going on, on a grand scale, that there seems to be a sudden shift in pets and people who seemed stable for months, and are now getting ready to leave their bodies.

If you are experiencing this, please know you’re not alone.  Of the people who have requested sessions, this is just a small percentage of people who are going through it right now.

A tip for those who may be thinking about booking and haven’t yet: Please go ahead and book for the next available session time, and email me if you have a pet who is at the end of their life and I will do my best to fit you in on my days off.

I have been there, my friends are there right now, and I want to do what I can to help.  It is easier to organize who gets what spot if you book the first available session, and then I can shuffle you forward as my schedule allows.

Remember to be kind to yourself and others; smile at strangers, you never know what that person may be coping with.

Pet Reading Discount for Blog Members!

Woo Hoo!  It’s time for another DISCOUNT FOR PET READINGS!

Pet Reading Discount!

Pet readings are one of my favourite things to do – that’s why I like to discount them once in a while, just so I get to talk to your loveable and loving, observant and opinionated, funny and enthusiastic animal friends!

If you like to check in with your animal friends on how they’re feeling, why they do that strange thing, whether they have any wishes or wants, what their history is, or even what they think of other people in your life, now is the time!

If you’re a Blog Member, you have already been emailed your discount code to get $25 off a Pet Session with me!

CLICK HERE TO REDEEM YOUR COUPON!  

(Click on “Redeem Coupon and enter your code!)

If you’re not already a member, you can sign up in the right hand menu, at the top.  My friendly scheduling robot will send you your Pet Session Discount coupon to your email (along with two more members-only coupons!)

This coupon will be valid for a limited time, book your spot now!

Thank you everyone!  We’ll talk soon!

Ep.33 Pet Reincarnation!

33 pet reincarnation

Here we go again!

We’re talking about Pet and Animal Reincarnation – dogs reincarnating along genetic lines or within human families!  Cats alternating “human companion” lives with feral lives!  Do souls stick to reincarnating within the same species?

Your pets’ past lives, their purpose and plans!  AND:

Listen for a special discount on your next Animal Communication session, launching July 7th!

Ep. 32 – Talk to your pets!

32 talk to your pets!

This episode I recorded nearly two weeks ago, but thanks to my own silliness in fiddling with the wireless modem, I managed to screw up my internet connection.

I blame Mercury.

Anyway, it’s all uploaded and ready for a listen!  I’ve answered a few questions I received over the past few months on facebook about talking with your pets and how to know when you’re succeeding.  How can you tell if your pet “gets” the message?

I hope you enjoy it!

Day1 of Sunshine’s medicine

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Sunshine got her first dose of her thyroid supplement last night, and this photo basically explains our night!

She felt *wired* all night ! I reminded me of when the dog picked coffee grounds out of the garbage and stood stock still and staring, and said “I have shakes!” (The caffeine tremors)

Sunshine was also very clingy needing reassurance last night, so there was not a lot of sleep for me.

We’ll see how it goes! Keep your paws crossed for us!

Ep. 30 Sunshine Talks about the Vet

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We’re back!  Another episode of the Joyful Telepathy Podcast!!

Sunshine and I have a little conversation about her experience at the vet yesterday.  I talk about my impression of the vet, how we caught Sunshine’s hyperthyroidism relatively early, and we have some questions for YOU GUYS on what you think about mental illness?  Does mental illness have spiritual implications, or is it purely a physical ailment?  Do you have experiences you’d like to share?

Email your thoughts / story to:  feedback@joyfultelepathy.com

We’ll discuss this in a future episode of the Joyful Telepathy Podcast!