Category Archives: Pets

Hidden gems in Downtown New West

I like to support businesses in my neighbourhood of Downtown New Westminster. Many places make this easy for me to do: River Market, Zoom Hair Salon and Columbia Integrated Health Centre, for example, are active on social media and in the community and have curb appeal to spare. They are all fabulous and I can’t recommend any of them enough.

But then there are businesses that I walk past every day and never enter. They aren’t out there promoting themselves and they just don’t look like they have a lot to offer. But then, one day, I go in and realize how badly I’ve misjudged them.

These hidden gems that have been quietly providing a high standard of service to the community, at reasonable prices, without a lot of fanfare, and it’s about time they get some love. Here are three of my favorites:

Agnes Barber & Stylist is the best place to bring a squirmy toddler for a haircut!

Agnes Barber & Stylist is the best place to bring a squirmy toddler for a haircut! Photo: Linda M. Tobias

Agnes Barber & Stylist
607 Agnes Street 778.397.0460

Agnes Barber might look like any other barbershop in the neighbourhood (which rival wedding boutiques in number) but it’s hands-down the best place to bring your squirmy toddler boy for a haircut.

I used to take my kids to a fancy-pants kids’ hair salon at the mall. They would get a 10-minute haircut and a balloon, and I’d pay $60 for the two of them, after taxes and tip. Ouch! So when I spotted the motorcycle chair through the window at Agnes Barber, I took a chance.

Our barber, Kal, was one of the most patient and pleasant people I’ve ever met. Despite having people waiting, he took his time introducing my four-year-old to the “scary” electric shaver and stayed upbeat and cheerful while my little guy squirmed and fidgeted. My two-year-old, meanwhile, HATES getting his haircut and was in full meltdown mode. Kal dismissed my apologies and wasn’t fazed at all. His skilled hands worked very quickly to get the job done while he remained calm and soothing.

Both kids got great haircuts! Despite their best efforts to walk out with bald patches, their hair looked flawless. They got to sit on a motorcycle, wore a Disney cape and each walked out with a lollypop. They also enjoyed counting the birds the huge birdcage by the window. And to top it off, kids’ cuts cost only $10! You won’t be seeing me at the mall salon again.

Agnes Barber & Stylist is open Mon-Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 10am-5pm


Columbia Square Law Office has very reasonable Notary rates, and great customer service. Photo: Linda M. Tobias

Columbia Square Law Office has very reasonable Notary rates, and great customer service. Photo: Linda M. Tobias

Columbia Square Law Office

833 Carnarvon Street

I needed some notary services recently. My husband called around for rates and, to our surprise, discovered that the most reasonable rates (for a variety of legal services, not just notary) were right in our own neighbourhood at Columbia Square Law Office.

I went down to the office with trepidation. The exterior really does leave something to be desired. The bars on the windows, the drawn shades… it was all kind of off-putting. My opinion quickly changed when I walked through the door. The receptionist, Barbara, was instantly welcoming and made me feel like my time was valuable and that I was respected.

My personal experience with lawyers has shown me that being listened to and treated with respect is the best indication of how happy I’m going to be with the outcome of my legal representation. In this case, my interaction with Mike Jukic, one of the firm’s two lawyers was brief, but my gut told me that if I were in need of legal representation again, I could count on him to come through for me.

For any future legal services, I’m heading straight to Columbia Square Law Office.

Columbia Law Office is open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm, and Sat 10am-4pm

Columbia Square Animal Hospital

Unit 109-1015 Columbia Street (Columbia Square Plaza)

Dr Brar. Photo: Columbia Square Animal Hospital

Dr Brar. Photo: Columbia Square Animal Hospital

Columbia Square Animal Hospital is tucked away in the northeast corner of Columbia Square Plaza, by the Rona. Open the door and you’ll see a desk covered in brochures and samples, there are hard-backed chairs and stacks of pet food for sale. Nothing about the place seems particularly warm or inviting.

And then you meet Dr. Brar.

Dr. Brar is an amazing vet. He handles my kitty with gentle, but expert hands. He asks lots of questions and takes the time to address any concerns. And, unlike, other vets I’ve encountered in the past, I never get the feeling that he’s trying to upsell me on products or services. In fact, Columbia Square Animal Hospital’s prices are very fair (about half of what my last vet charged!) When I’m there, I feel like the focus is on providing the best possible care for my kitty and not on making a profit.

Columbia Square Animal Hospital is open daily, 8am-10pm

What New West businesses do you feel are overlooked? Sound off in the comments!


13th Annual Doggy Fun Days Coming Up!

The 13th annual DOGGY FUN DAY is coming up on Sunday, August 26 in Queens Park from noon to 3 pm in the south field above the off-leash dog park—fun and games for dogs and their people. The event goes on rain or shine. Who doesn’t just love a wet dog! (Fortunately there has been only one rainy day in the history of the event.)

A howling good time at Doggy Fun Days

Doggy Fun Day features doggy–human interactive games, such as a 7-legged race (or however many legs are involved with two people and their dog) and the egg and spoon race (which features one person, one spoon, an egg, and as many dogs as you can handle dragging you across the field). And of course what event would be complete without a doggy look-alike contest—dress up yourself and your dog and see if you win a prize.

Of course, the ever-popular (four paws up) “Bobbing for Wieners” contest is a perennial favourite. Come and see if your dog can unseat the current champ. (And yes, there is both a large dog and a small dog contest, so the Beverly Hills Chihuahua doesn’t have to compete against a Hooch-like mastiff.)

It's my turn! No, it's my turn!

Or just come and hang out and visit the vendor displays to see what is new and happening in all things dog, while the dogs do their own version of “meet and greet” (and we all know how that goes).

Teaching Your Person to Give You A Treat

Contact for more information on the event.

Doggy Fun Day is a fundraiser for VEATA, the Volunteer Education and Assistance Team for Animals, a New Westminster-based registered charity dedicated to bettering the lives of animals through educating people on proper pet care, providing financial and fostering assistance, and raising awareness on animal-related issues. Email:


Dog Licensing

Mooki takes City Hall

While my list of pie-in-the-sky wishes for our city includes a complete overhaul of our city’s animal services*, the reality is any city’s animal services department is going to be low on the priority list if the powers that be don’t get told it should be a priority.

Do you know how municipalities determine how important animal services are? In part, they use the data collected by the number of licenses purchased to tell them what kinds of dogs are living in the city and where those dogs are. (I’m saying dogs because in New Westminster, cats do not really factor into the bylaws other than a brief mention of maximum allowable numbers – my opinion is that all pets should be accounted for in the bylaws). This helps City decision makers allocate where to build services like dog parks, water fountains that are dog accessible, cycling or jogging routes that consider users may bring their pets by placing waste receptacles along the way, etc. The data collected from licensing also helps municipalities determine staffing and resources such as shelters and fleet vehicles. I have had direct experience with the animal control officers in our city, and for the most part, they are caring, sensible people, who are working as best they can within the parameters of what they are allocated.

New Westminster has a high number of dog parks relative to the size and population of our city. Some of them come with a bit of controversy. The one downtown, for example, is on the Chinese Benevolent Society’s former land, and was built primarily to reduce the visibility of an empty crime-inviting lot right beside the Skytrain station long before the Plaza 88 development was underway, and there is a chance that dog park will be removed when the Reconciliation Process currently underway is complete. As well, when the province rebuilt the portion of road that connects the Queensborough Bridge to the mainland, and allowed for the through road to Marine Way in Burnaby, the once magnificent dog park on the hill below 22nd Street Skytrain Station was removed and the replacement is, to put it mildly, disappointing – I have yet to see anyone actually using it.  But have you been to Hume Park dog park? Or Queens Park? They are well maintained, large, and have developed a strong sense of community with the dog owners who frequent them.

License renewal forms are rolling out today and tomorrow from the City.  New licenses are available at the City or by mail – a form is online. It is critical that if you have a dog you purchase one. They are inexpensive – a first time license for a spayed or neutered dog is $20 if its purchased before March 1st. An extremely discounted rate is also available if you move into the community and want to transfer your license from another municipality. Back when I lived in Vancouver for a year, the cost to transfer Mooki’s license back to New Westminster was a measly $1.

Many people don’t see the value in a dog license. Here’s what you get: a small tag (that you can get engraved with your pet’s name on the reverse – how convenient!) and the ability to get your lost dog back should animal control pick it up. Doesn’t seem like much right? But what you also get by choosing to buy a license is to be included in the data the city uses to make choices that will have a direct impact on you as a resident. The more dogs a city’s decision makers are aware of, the more importance they can place on offering services for our beloved pets. This is not about “the man” knowing too much about you, this is about you being able to offer your beloved pet a chance to count in the city, too. And you want your pet to count, right?


* The short(er) version of my overhaul pie in the sky wish list: Animal Services needs to be made its own department, not fall under Engineering Operations and share resources with the people who tow vehicles and issue parking tickets. The animal control officers need to be empowered and encouraged to be proactive instead of responding to complaints only and need to increase their visibility to deal with nuisance pet owners. I think New Westminster needs to get rid of BSL, adopt a licensing system for cats (as in Calgary’s much lauded animal welfare system that pays for itself), revamp their chicken bylaws (which currently falls under health bylaws, and not animal control), to make it simpler to keep chickens on city lots for those who wish to do so, reevaluate their bylaws that deal with exotic pets and the sales of pets, plan for a new shelter in the near future, and implement bite education in our local schools. Phew. Not much, eh? 



The Hungry Hound appeals to Sapperton pet lovers

Inside the Hungry Hound

Inside the Hungry Hound

Everyone has their shopping weakness, and mine is a well stocked pet boutique. Not the kind selling doggie strollers and puppy sweaters – although my pit bull does look cute in pink – but a place with knowledgeable staff, natural foods, and well-made equipment and toys.

I meant to pop into Sapperton’s The Hungry Hound and simply take a look around, but I walked out with armfuls of stuff, a three-figure receipt, and absolutely no buyer’s remorse.

The Hungry Hound is a small store, managed by knowledgeable staff who have backgrounds in grooming, training and handling. They clearly love animals and are invested in their products. Every customer gets personalized attention and service, along with cookies and cuddles for any furry counterparts.

The store stocks only high-quality items for dogs, cats, birds and bunnies. The store is limited by its size so selection is not overwhelming but everything in stock is clearly chosen with care. The toys are reputable, durable brands like Tuffy’s, Chuckit!, West Paw and Kong. Food and treats include corn-free, wheat-free, whole food and single-protein options – just the thing for scrupulous pet owners or dogs with special dietary needs.

I spotted several local companies and specialty items, including supplements, training gear and medical equipment. Again, it’s a small store so it can’t be everything for everyone, but the selection covers the basics and the staff will work with you to find the right product, whether that means bringing your dog into the store for a fitting, returning a used item, or placing a special order.

Chica enjoys her new dinosaur toy from The Hungry Hound

Chica enjoys her new dinosaur toy from The Hungry Hound

When I learned about the buy-one-get-one and other sales for the holiday season, I abandoned my chitchat and started scooping up ChuckIts, bully sticks, and dehydrated sweet potatoes. At 50% off I even succumbed to a massive Tuffy dinosaur as an early Christmas present for my resident four-legger (you’re welcome, Chica).

Sapperton residents are faithful to The Hungry Hound, and it’s easy to see the appeal. It’s great for the pet guardian, especially one looking for good deals this time of year. It would also be an excellent resource if you’re shopping for a pet fanatic but not sure where to start. Either way, the folks at The Hungry Hound will hook you up.

The Hungry Hound
102 – 455 East Columbia
New Westminster, BC


Dogs deserve better than breed-specific bans

April Fahr with her dog Chica

April Fahr with her dog Chica

With its fenced dog parks, beautiful green spaces, and riverside trails, New Westminster is a pretty good place to be a dog. That is, unless you have the misfortunate to be born with a big head, stocky body and short coat. If you resemble one of the “pit bull” or mastiff breeds targeted under the city’s animal control bylaw, you face a very different kind of lifestyle.

New Westminster is one of a handful of Lower Mainland municipalities that enforces breed-specific legislation (BSL). The bylaw lists three “pit bull” and five mastiff breeds that are considered “vicious dogs” and must be muzzled outside of their homes. Owners are required to take extra containment precautions on their property, and face increased fines if their dogs are impounded.

If you go by newspaper headlines, this might not seem outrageous – aren’t pit bulls inherently more dangerous? In a word, no. Despite the sensationalism, statistics simply don’t support the notion that any one breed is more aggressive, and BSL has never been shown to be successful.

99% of pit bulls are family pets
While dog fighting gets a lot of the press, pit bulls were family pets, farm dogs, and companions for the vast majority of their history. Their breed standards note their affectionate nature towards humans, and in the American Temperament Test, pit bull breeds have a pass rate higher than many common breeds like border collies, retrievers and boxers.

There are many poor owners out there, and some of them are drawn to “tough looking” dogs and a bad reputation. But they do not represent the majority of us. For the most part, we are normal people drawn to the breed for other reasons – their inquisitive and intelligent nature, their wash-and-wear coat, their cuddliness, and the fact that they are the most abused and surrendered breed in the shelter system, yet remain the most likely to rub up against the kennel bars, wildly licking your face.

Spotting a “pit bull”
“Pit bull” is not a breed, but a loose description of three breeds: the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier. And breed identifications are notoriously subjective – studies show that even trained shelter workers are wrong up to 87% of the time when they guess at a dog’s breed. Try for yourself at

Even DNA tests are still in their infancy – there simply isn’t that much genetic variation between breeds. So consider the logistics of trying to enforce a law based entirely on visual clues. (And then what do we do about mixes?)

Inefficient use of tax dollars
In Delta, one factor in overturning BSL was the amount of time spent investigating “pit bull” complaints that were no actual threat to community safety. New West has one of the best animal control teams in the region, and fairer bylaws would serve them better by freeing up their time to investigate actual aggression incidences and nuisance behaviours, addressing problems before they start.

Proven alternatives
There is no city with breed restrictions that can show a substantial drop in bite rates. But the City of Calgary can. Their approach looks at proven risk factors for aggression like spay/neuter, early socialization and training, past behavior and – most importantly – ownership. With many pit bulls in their midst, they currently have the lowest bite rate and highest licensing compliance rate on the continent.

The New Westminster bylaws already address a number of risk factors by charging higher licensing rates for intact dogs, and applying a “vicious dog” declaration for unprovoked aggressive behavior to other animals or humans. I encourage our city leaders to build on these evidence-based approaches to community safety, and take breed out of the equation. It’s an outdated and knee-jerk reaction to animal control. Our community, our animal control officers, and our dogs deserve better.

Please talk to city council candidates about breed specific legislation and better animal welfare laws in our city, and vote with this in mind on November 19. Then join me in the New Year as I hope to start a conversation with City Council and encourage them to take a leadership role alongside Delta, Vancouver, Port Moody, Surrey, Port Coquitlam and many other cities that have opted for more progressive dog legislation.

Further reading


2nd Annual Petrifying Pooch Parade

All photos courtesy Donald McKillican

The Second Annual Petrifying Pooch Parade is scheduled to take place October 29th from 12-2 at the Queens Park dog park. Last year I had the honour to be a judge in the first ever Parade, a pet costume contest. It was a total hoot, and it was really nice seeing pet owners get all excited about their pets in a contest, and even more fun to see the pets excited about wearing something. My dog would have killed me if I had done that to her. Some dogs just dig it though, and that much was obvious with all the wiggling dog butts.

The free community event, hosted by local business Calli Co. Pet Services, will feature a pet parade, where pet owners parade their pooch in front of judges for a chance to win one of three special prizes for Best Overall Costume, Most Original Costume, and Funniest Costume. Judging will take place at 1pm.

In addition to the pet parade, there will be Halloween doggy bags for all pet participants and hot chocolate and treats for the human companions. The prizes, treats, and refreshments are donated by various New Westminster companies.

“The turnout last year was great, but we’d like to see even more pet owners and their pooches attend this year. It’s a great opportunity for the community’s dog owners to gather together, practice doggy socialization skills, and have some fun in the process,” said Brigette Mayer, owner of Calli Co. Pet Services in a press release about the event.

More information on the Petrifying Pooch Parade can be found at theCalli Co. Pet Services website.

Here are more pictures from last year’s event:

I'm a pretty butterfly!

Where's the fire?

The cheerleader was a winner! And very happy!

Buzz buzz!


Royal City Humane Society’s 6th Annual Variety Show September 24th

Saturday, September 24th The Royal City Humane Society is celebrating with their 6th annual Variety Show featuring great live entertainment and of course their fabulous and famous Silent Auction in Sapperton at the Pensioner’s Hall at 318 Keary Street.

Doors open at 6:30 PM and entertainment starts at 7:00 PM. Tickets are $20 each and available from Greens & Beans located at 143 East Columbia, Alpine Animal Hospital at 348 Sixth Street and VANPET at the Royal Square Shopping Mall at 800 McBride Boulevard. Tickets are also available by calling 604-524-6447 and at the door.

This year, entertainment will include The Duck Soldiers, the Westcoast Harmony Chorus and the Songbirds Singing Trio.

The Royal City Humane Society (RCHS) is a 100% volunteer run registered charity, founded by concerned New Westminster residents to deal with pet problems within our community. The RCHS maintains a shelter with approximately 30 cats and kittens, is involved in testing and treating animals for disease, vaccinating, tattooing and spaying/neutering animals, and placing homeless animals in homes through their shelter and within their foster care system. They have feeding stations for undomesticated (feral) cats that they trap, test for disease, vaccinate, tattoo, spay/neuter then release. Funding is obtained through fund raising activities, memberships and donations. Membership fees are just $20 per year. Adoptions are from their shelter are by appointment seven days a week and can be arranged by calling 604-524-6447.



Doggy Fun Days August 28th

Photo from Flickr user Jibba Jabba

Around this time last year I posted about the 11th Annual Doggy Fun Day so it should be no surprise that I’m posting again! The 12th Annual Doggy Fun Day is Sunday August 28th in Queens Park from noon till 3pm. Check out doggy-centric displays and enter the many raffles. Check out the Royal City Rockets Dog Agility Team as they perform at 12:30pm and 2:30pm. And don’t miss the best part – the doggy games! Egg & spoon races, 7 legged race, doggy look-a-like contest, special doggy tricks, and the infamous Bobbing for Wieners!

Well behaved owners are permitted and all leashed dogs welcome.

Doggy Fun Day is a FUNdraising event for Pacific Volunteer Education & Assistance Team for Animals (VEATA). For further information contact:



Chickens in New Westminster

Maybe you’re tired of paying $6 for free-range eggs (that might not be so free-range), or perhaps you want an unusual backyard inhabitant. Regardless, we seem to be in the age of the urban chicken, though to date it seems to be more talk than action; most backyards in New Westminster seem to be distressingly poultry free.

New Westminster, unlike Vancouver, has had a by-law on the books regulating the keeping of chickens   since the late 1960s (bylaw 4271, drafted in 1967 and passed in 1968).

The by-laws are a little restrictive – your lot has to be 6000 square feet in size, the poultry house must be 50 feet from the nearest inhabited building, and the chicken coop must be more than 2 or more feet from the property line.

Obviously this doesn’t fit well with most urban lots, and is not nearly as relaxed as the new by-laws passed recently in Vancouver.

I’d hummed and hawed about talking to the city about possibly relaxing their by-laws, but then I’d heard that the city officials weren’t enforcing the letter of the (by-)law unless a neighbour complained, so I stopped worrying about getting the rules changed, and instead, focused on getting chickens.

Step one – select a breed of chicken. Like most domesticated animals, there are many breeds of chickens, with pros and cons for each, so you need to pick the breed that exemplifies the qualities you desire. I wanted a large, dual purpose chicken (eggs and meat) that was a good egg producer and would be somewhat personable. The Australorp fit the bill, and seemed very chicken-ish in looks.

Step two – try to find a breeder. I discovered that small specialty breeders are actually quite hard to find; many don’t seem to know much about the internet. I started checking Craigslist – in my mind, a cost-effective way for the small breeder to advertise – but there were few listings, fewer for the breed I wanted, and I didn’t get a warm-fuzzy-feeling from any of them.

I moved to searching online, to see if I could get chicks sent by parcel post; believe it or not, mail-order chicks are very popular (at least south of the border), and apparently the chicks will do just fine in a box for a day or two.

I was slightly relieved to not find any companies that were close enough to mail the chicks; I was hesitant about sending infant chickens by mail, and had a vision of a box of dead, fluffy yellow chickens showing up on my door step. If the kids caught sight of that, the therapy would continue for years.

Then I came across The Fraser Valley Poultry Fancier Association (, and discovered that they had a winter show where breeders and chicken keepers would show their prize livestock. I convinced family and friends that were interested in chickens to make an outing of it. The show was very interesting, but the real find turned out to be the show’s program, which had a long and varied list of breeders in and around Greater Vancouver.

I ended up contacting several breeders. Most didn’t want to part with their young chickens, and some were a delightful combination of rude and strange. We finally found a breeder who was willing to part with three chickens “on the point of lay”, but there was a catch – it would be 6-8 months.

Here’s a quick lesson on chicken terminology (and biology) before proceeding: female adult chickens are hens, male adult chickens are roosters, juvenile female chickens are called pullets, and their male equivalents are called cockerels. A chicken typically is considered to be “on the point of lay” at about 6 months. A hen does not need a rooster to lay an egg, but a rooster has to be involved if you want the egg to hatch.

Step three – figure out where to keep your chickens. The most common choice seems to be the chicken ark – a portable coop that has an area enclosed by wire mesh, and a wooden hut for sleeping and laying. I found plans for one on the internet ( and spent a weekend (and a few evenings) gathering materials and building it.

Chicken Arc

The last thing you need to do before getting your chickens is to gather the supplies you’ll need. There isn’t much – food, grit, a feeder, and a water container. The food part is obvious, and Otter Co-Op (Aldergrove) sells an organic “laying feed” (designed to meet the nutritional requirements of a laying bird) – $15 for a 45lb bag, and that bag has feed our chickens for 3 months. You can also make your own – there is lots of information on the internet, but it can be complicated sourcing things. Grit is small, rough stones the birds keep in their gullets to help grind up their food (they are essentially a chicken’s teeth).  A feeder is just a food holder – it’s less wasteful (and less likely to attract rodents) than scattering it on the ground, and a water container should be self explanatory.

Chickens also make quick work of some kitchen scraps – peelings from carrots, apples, pineapple, bananas and other fruit, especially berries (we feed them the leftovers, the brown bits that the kids won’t eat, etc). It’s fun to roll the berries around, and have the chickens chase them.

They also like pasta, crackers, and other grain products (but can get gummed up if they eat too much). We also add flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and finely crushed egg shell to their feed from time to time. Because there are free-range in the back yard, they also eat grass, seeds, worms and other bugs, and all the leaves off my wife’s prized beet crop.

The day we got the chickens, we immediately liberated them into the back yard. Unfortunately, when it came for them to roost at nightfall, they had no idea that their ark was their accommodations. We spent some time in the dark, chasing chickens, and pulling them out of rhododendron trees. It took two nights of us placing them in their ark at night before they figured it out, and they learned to put themselves to bed. I would recommend keeping them penned up under their ark for a couple of days to save yourself the joy of the chicken round-up.

Chickens being chickens

If you are going to let your chickens free-range, you have to consider the risks from other animals. A full grown chicken can take on a cat, but don’t stand a chance against a dog. Raccoons are very real threat as well, and are the reason we secure the chickens every night. Our dog has a high prey-drive, so it took a few weeks to teach her that the chickens (like the cat) were off limits. She’s pretty good now.

Ruby thinking about a chicken buffet

And now to the reason (presumably) you want chickens – the eggs. The Australorp was a famed egg producer prior to the industrial-farming movement. The average Australorp will produce 250-300 eggs, and one Australorp set a world record, laying 364 eggs in 365 days. The production of eggs is linked to the amount of light the chicken gets over the day (modern egg producers cheat with artificial light), and the colour of the egg is determined by the colour of the chickens ear lobes

A chicken will lay heavily for about 2 years, and then the production of eggs will start to decline. A domestic chicken can live for 17 years, however. You need to decide what you will do with your chickens when they hit menopause (or as I like to think of it, egg-o-pause). If they are pets, then eggs are a side benefit. But if food is the idea, then you’ll have a hard decision to make a few years down the road.

A piece of advice – don’t run around promising your neighbours the excess from your anticipated glut of eggs – it takes a while to for them to get up to speed. So far, of our three chickens, one is laying, and in the last 3 months, we’ve gotten 2 dozen eggs. We should get 2-3 eggs a day in the spring and summer, but you never know.

When I get asked the inevitable, four-times-a-week, question of when they will lay, or why they aren’t laying more, I grumpily answer, “I’m not sure – perhaps you should go ask them.” The point of all this is, it’s unlikely that you will be awash in eggs when you first get your chickens, even if your chickens are at the so-called “point-of-lay.”

Should you decide to get chickens, you’ll be inevitably be asked these questions:

  • Will they get avian flu? It’s unlikely in a small, isolated flock, not nearly as likely as in industrial setting with thousands of birds crammed into cages.
  • Will they attract rats? If you leave the food out, you get pests, just like if you left the remains of a picnic outside.
  • Don’t they smell? Not really. You do need to clean out their ark once a week. We lay newspaper, and put it straight in the compost.
  • Are they noisy? Chickens are pretty quiet, certainly quieter than a barking dog, or fighting cat. Just don’t get a rooster (it’s against the by-laws).
  • What do you do with them in the winter? Chickens can handle subzero temperatures– they puff up their feathers, and huddle together. We are looking at getting a small light bulb in a can to provide some supplementary heat if it gets really cold.

There are a few down-sides that we’ve noticed,

  • They will eat unprotected fruit; we have 3 blueberry plants, and half-a-dozen strawberry plants. By the time we got the chickens, the fruit season was mostly over, but I would sometimes find a chicken standing on top of a strawberry plant, eating the berries (apples seem to be safe, but I wonder what happens when our grape vine produces). A solution would be to keep them enclosed in a pen on the grass
  • They make a lot of poop. Some of the morning “deposits” are as large as our dogs. Fortunately, it’s excellent for the compost – it doesn’t have the same dangerous pathogens as cat and dog poop. It’s still not fun to step in, however, and they seem to like to poop on the sidewalks.  Again, an enclosure on the grass would fix the issue. The poop is great for the lawn.
  • When going on vacation, you need someone to chicken-sit; this means someone to let them out in the morning, put out food, and then secure them at night and put away the food. Simpler than a dog, but still a complication.
  • You have to be careful with food; one of the kids was feeding large handfuls of wheat berries to the chickens, which constipated one of the chickens. It was an experience, giving the chicken an enema.

If you are thinking about chickens, here’s what I’ve experienced so far: you won’t be struggling under a glut of eggs, they are easier to easy to look after than expected (but difficult to acquire), and they’re fun to watch parade around the lawn, pecking at anything that catches their fancy.


11th Annual Doggy Fun Day

Weave Poles, Photo Courtesy Nina Hobbis

Hey fellow #NewWest dog people! Did you know there is a whole day dedicated to dogs having fun and playing silly games in our fair city? That’s right! the 11th Annual Doggy Fun Day is coming up on Sunday August 29th at the playing field just above the dog off-leash area in Queens Park. The action happens from noon to 3PM.

Photo Courtesy Nina Hobbis

Events include the Royal City Rockets Dog Agility Team putting on a show at 12:30pm and 2:30pm, displays and prize draws, and long time favourite doggy games: egg and spoon race, 3 legged race, the Howl-A-Long, Best Doggy Tricks, the Look-a-Like contest and the 4 paws up famous BOBBING FOR WIENERS.  No kidding. I don’t make this stuff up.

Photo Courtesy Nina Hobbis

Doggy Fun Day is sponsored by The Pacific Volunteer Education and Assistance Team for Animals and you can get a hold of the organizers at


7 Things To Look For When Hiring a Pet Sitter

Regular reader Brigette Mayer is the owner and operator of Calli Co. Pet Services, a pet sitting service based in New Westminster. Since it’s vacation season for so many people, we asked Brigette to give us some tips on how to hire a professional pet sitter.

Barkley and Koshi, Photo by Eric Jung, used with permission

Your pets are your fur babies, an important part of your family. Are you going to trust their care to any old hack that posts an ad for cheap pet care on Craigslist? Here are seven crucial things to look for when hiring a professional pet sitter.

  1. Is the pet sitter insured and bonded? A professional pet sitter carries a minimum of $1 million general liability insurance, including an additional rider for care, custody and control of your pets. The insurance may also cover lost key coverage - in the event your pet sitter misplaces your house key, this coverage pays for your locks to be re-keyed. For bonding, a minimum $10,000 dishonesty bond is standard.
  2. Can the pet sitter provide references? You should ask for both written testimonials, if they are not already posted on the pet sitter’s web site, and references from current or past clients that you can call and speak to directly.
  3. Does the pet sitter provide a free, no-obligation initial consultation? You are trusting this individual with a key to your home and your pets. You need to have a chance to meet with him or her to decide for yourself if this person is the right fit for you and your family. An initial consultation should last around 45 to 60 minutes.
  4. Does the pet sitter provide you with a written contract, including details of services to be provided, rates and terms and conditions? If not, run far, far away! Your relationship with a pet sitter is legally binding and you should ensure that you and your pets are protected.
  5. Does the pet sitter know pet first aid? While not strictly necessary, it certainly provides an additional level of comfort to know that your pet sitter is knowledgeable enough to provide emergent care to your pet if something unexpected were to happen.
  6. Does the pet sitter check in to ensure that you’ve made it home at the end of your trip? A conscientious professional will want to know if your travel plans have been delayed for any reason, so that (s)he can continue to care for your pets until you return home safely.
  7. Does your pet sitter give you the warm fuzzies? Remember, as much as pet sitters have to enjoy working with animals, you are the one doing the hiring. If the pet sitter doesn’t make you feel safe, comfortable and happy with their services and level of experience, then find one that will!

Cycling with the dog

Riding with a dog can be fun and easy, providing you are confident with your riding skills, but there are unique challenges. For instance, how do you keep an excitable 60lb American Staffordshire Terrier from pulling you a) into traffic b) off your bike c) into a lamp post, or d) with him after the nearest squirrel? These are good questions, and what follows should provide some useful tips, or a forum for you to share your own bike-with-dog experiences.

Cycling with the dog

Cycling with the dog. Photo: Travis Fehr

First, any dog/human activity depends on the type of training or guidance you practice. The methods I use are based on working with my dog to build a relationship based on trust, not obedience or dominance. I recommend visiting the Custom Canine site for further information on this type dog guidance. The specific recommendations below are the result of my own experience riding with my dog.

  1. Start slow. Find a place to practice that is flat, with no or very little traffic. An empty parking lot or ball park works well.
  2. Choose the right bike. Without control of your bike, you cannot protect the safety of yourself, your dog, or anyone else. Mountain bikes are designed for control in technical terrain, and may be the best option.
  3. Choose the right harness or collar. A face collar, or Halti, provides the most dog control in any situation, which is a safety necessity if your dog’s self control is temporarily absent.
  4. Choose the right leash. The leash should be short enough so that you can reel your dog in beside you at a moment’s notice, but not so short that it interferes with your steering or pedaling.
  5. Fasten the leash around your waist. With a Halti, the dog cannot use his full strength to pull. Even a strong puller like my Amstaff causes no more interference with my steering than a mild gust of wind, when the leash is attached to my waist.
  6. Stop. When things seem out of control, too fast, or at all sketchy, brake.
  7. Be visible. The usual visibility rules apply: reflective strips, vests, headlights, and taillights. Adding reflective material is just as effective with your dog.
  8. Call out turns and stops. I let my dog know that I plan to turn by saying “left turn”, “right turn”. I use “whoa” for stops. He can tell when I’m slowing down or when the front wheel starts to veer around a bend, but the oral cues give him some advance warning. His understanding of the cues develops with repetition.
  9. Anticipate problems. If your dog has a tendency to lunge, keep a lookout for the usual targets, i.e.; other dogs, cats, etc. At these times I wrap the leash around my forearm to shorten it and bring the dog close alongside the bike, while firming my hold of the grips with two fingers on each brake, staying focused on steering.

These practices work for my rides with my dog, allowing us to exercise together regularly. They are not meant to be a complete guide to cycling with a dog, but if you want to give it a try, they should at least give you the chance to determine whether it is right for you and your canine companion.

Travis Fehr works at New West Cycle, New West’s newest bike shop. New West Cycle is a community-oriented co-op specializing in reviving neglected and vintage bicycles.


10th Annual Doggy Fun Day

The 10th Annual Doggy Fun Day is set to happen Sunday, August 30th from 12:00pm to 3:00pm. It takes place, as in previous years, on the playing field above the dog park in Queens Park. Billed as “fun and games for dogs and their people”, this year’s DFD is being put together by the Pacific Volunteer Education and Assistance Team for Animals (VEATA, for short), which is a relatively new group helmed by long time well known animal volunteer, Cheryl Rogers (who some of you may simply know as “the lady who doesn’t wear shoes”).

DFD will feature performances by the Royal City Rockets agility team at 12:30pm and 2:30pm; dog-themed displays, booths, and prize draws; doggy games – egg & spoon racing, 3 legged races, howl-a-long, special dog tricks, doggy look-a-like contest, and the now famous (infamous?) Bobbing for Wieners contest.

Doggy Fun Day is a great way to connect with your canine and other dog owners in the city. For more information, you can email



Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Urban Wildlife Series: Feral Cats

The Urban Wildlife Series takes a look at wildlife we share our city with. This is the third in a series. You can view the others, as they are added, by clicking here.

Street cats are a part of our urban landscape, and it’s a rare alley/empty lot/junk-filled yard that doesn’t house at least one feral cat, if not an entire colony of cats. I think of these cats as ninjas – silent and fast but sneaking about and watching your every move. Many people have success “befriending” cats like this and will often leave out food or scraps for the cats. In my neighbourhood, I’ve spied at least one feeding station and there are probably more. Ferals come to rely on these feeding stations and unless the cats are altered, pretty soon you have large colonies of cats living near the food. That’s when they become pests and that’s generally when people start complaining.  


A true feral cat was born in the wild and does not trust humans. Ferals can also be house cats that have reverted if they were abandoned or lost. Unaltered male feral cats can be nasty critters if cornered – because it’s about survival for them. They will fight, yowl, mate, and generally make themselves nuisances. Females usually become timid kitten factories – pumping out litter after litter of unwanted cats. 


Here in New Westminster, the Royal City Humane Society operates a TNVR program and there are a few active groups throughout the Lower Mainland that deal with feral cats, notably Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue and Maverick Cat Coalition. The BC SPCA has its hands tied for the most part – feral adult cats are difficult to house and are generally unadoptable. You can socialize a very young feral cat  - but it takes tonnes of time and dedication and the right cat to start with in the first place.And chances are that cat is actually a reverted, abandoned street cat. It’s been my experience that adult ferals brought to SPCA shelters, if accepted at all, don’t stand a good chance. Kittens can be tamed if caught early enough, but adult feral cats are between a rock and a hard place. Wildlife rescue won’t take them, and the SPCA isn’t set up to deal with them. 


The best and most humane way to deal with feral cats is a protocol called Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return, or TNVR. The basics of TNVR are trapping the cat humanely using a live trap, neutering it to prevent more litters, vaccinating the cat to prevent diseases, and then returning it to its colony to live out its days in whatever format that takes. There are a few caveats, however. Someone also needs to care for altered cats for a day or two while their alteration incisions heal. Returned cats need a dedicated feeder – someone to put down kibble and clean water as required. The cats are usually given tests for diseases that are easily transferred around a colony. And lastly, someone has to pay for it all – the altering, the vaccinations, the testing for diseases, the care they require while being vetted and healing, and then the food they eat after they are returned. 


The BC SPCA has an annual Feral Cat Spay Day  which is a great way to help, but it’s once a year. The SCPA Clinic in Vancouver aims to offer free alterations for ferals all year round, depending on appointment availability. As well, some vet offices are also supportive of feral cat work, and will give deals and financial breaks where they can. But street cats breed and fight all year long and it’s seemingly endless work and not everyone can get to the SPCA Clinic in Vancouver with a trapped feral cat for an appointment. The don’t exactly go into the traps on a schedule. The largest impediment to helping out ferals, however, is that street cats are low on the beloved animal totem pole: cute puppies come first, followed by dogs, then kittens, then cats, then small amusing critters like hedgehogs, then small furry critters like rats and mice, then reptiles, and then ferals. When the animal loving world only has so much time and so many dollars to spread around, quiet ninjas who offer no love, no cute factor, and only make themselves known when they are annoying? Well, they are understandably at the bottom of the heap.

But street cats are contributing in their own way and provide a offer a service you might appreciate. They are excellent hunters and will keep the vermin population low in their territory. They don’t require much in the way of pay – some regular kibble and clean water – especially in winter – and perhaps a soft cubbie somewhere in a garage or barn to hide in would be nice. Those that do like the company of humans might even allow the odd pet or scritch from a trusted “regular” and street cats can be rather amusing to watch as they entertain themselves. The few cats who do become tame and end up as properly socialized housecats are generally incredibly loving – advocates say these are the cats who are so grateful for a warm, safe, soft space that they will be the most demonstrative pets. Advocates also say that feral cats are a human-created problem in the first place as most ferals are abandoned cats or cats who have become lost and have no permanent identification like a microchip or tattoo.  

So next time you are out walking in an alley or along a quiet road, or at the barn or the unused garage at the back of your house, and you get that feeling that SOMETHING is watching you, consider that it’s a street cat, doing what it does best and impersonating a ninja. 

For more information about feral cats, check out Alley Cat Allies. They are a US based group and their website is loaded with great information.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Urban Wildlife Series: Skunks

The Urban Wildlife Series will take a look at wildlife we share our city with. This is the first in a series. You can view the others, as they are added, by clicking here

 I have a skunk who lives in my neighbour’s yard, under an old garden shed. I’m told by another neighbour that “Suzy”and her family have lived in the area for almost ten years. Whether it’s the original Suzy or not, I doubt – their lifespan is about 6 years.  But a skunk makes her way around our neighbourhood at night with regularity. So regularly, in fact, that I’ve taken to saying “Hello Skunk” when I walk at night rather than recoil in horror. 

To be honest, I have a hate/hate relationship with skunks, despite their cute factor. Because seriously? They are really, really cute.

Exhibit A: 

Exhibit B:

Amazingly, there are people who actually BREED skunks on purpose and sell them as pets. Seriously, what are people thinking? This is wildlife. Wildlife that comes with its own smelly weapon. 

Once, many moons ago, I was sprayed by a skunk when I left my apartment for a walk with my dog. Despite a liberal application of Skunk Wash, and multiple baths, for three years afterwards, every time it would rain, Mooki reeked. I had to throw out all my clothes I was wearing that day and have my car professionally cleaned. In case you ever get skunked, here is the recipe the Emergency Vet Clinic (yes, I called) will recommend:

1 litre-ish 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
1/4 cup Baking Soda
2 tbsp Dish Detergent (Dawn is the best, but any kind will do)

It’s going to boil up like a grade 5 volcano science project, so make sure you use a big enough container. Also, don’t seal it up afterwards or it will blow up because the recipe creates oxygen. It’s that oxygen that gets the smell, an oil based chemical, off of you or your dog. While it’s foamy, apply it liberally (and I mean liberally) to your pet. Avoid the eyes. You might need to do this a few times, so buy in bulk. And because I know,  Shoppers Drug Mart on Kingsway near Willingdon is the closest 24 hour pharmacy to New Westminster. Until then, I never had a reason to keep a LITRE of hydrogen peroxide. Oh, and your pet’s fur may get bleached a bit from the hydrogen peroxide. 

Skunks are nocturnal critters, and live in dens. They don’t hibernate, like I thought. Instead, several females will get together and chill out for weeks at a time in the winter, only leaving the den for food. They are omnivores, eating mainly insects, plants and small mammals. Right now, with spring quickly approaching, you’re likely to see more of them as the frequency with which they explore the world increases. They’re also preparing for mating season and in May, their young will be born.

Apparently Suzy really likes grubs, especially ones in my lawn. She has spent the past two nights digging it up. 

Skunky Evidence

Skunky Evidence

The best way to deal with a skunk encounter is to back away as calmly as possible. Skunks spray only as a last resort and only if they have no other way to defend themselves. They prefer to flee rather than fight, and will stamp their feet to try and get you to back off. If you are by yourself, you will likely have better luck, because if you have your pet with you, chances are that pet thinks this skunk is worth investigating. And a dog investigating a skunk is certain to end only in a bad smell. If you have a skunk living in your yard that must be moved, call a professional such as AAA Wildlife Control. I’ve used them before and they were excellent.



One of the more fun events to come across my inbox these days is the 7th Annual Ratstravaganza

You can’t make this stuff up. Seriously. 

My friend Simone heads a group called Little Mischief Rescue, an animal rescue and advocacy group dedicated to pet rats and ferrets in need. LMR doesn’t have a shelter -they have a province-wide small network of dedicated volunteers and foster homes. I’ve done a bit of help for Simone here and there – transporting ratties and what not – but Simone’s commitment to championing the rat as a great pet is, well, diehard. She actually makes me kinda want one of the little furballs with her great blog posts and pictures. Except, see also: shiba who thinks rats are best served on toast with a side of cheese.

In any event, I am planning to “get my rat on” next weekend because not only is the 7th Annual Ratstravaganza happening, but it’s happening here in our fair city at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Hall at 514 Carnarvon Street, on Saturday February 21st. Doors open at 11:00am and the show starts at 12:00pm. Admission is a lowly $3 for adults, $1 for kids over 3, and kids under 3 are free. 

From the RatsPacNW website:

Ratstravaganza is a domestic rat show, and educational event sponsored by RatsPacNW, a pet rat club that encompasses British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. RatsPacNW seeks to promote rats as pets, through shows and educational events such as this one. This annual show is open to the general public, for rat lovers and curious novices alike. Rat breeders, rescuers, and fanciers with years of experience will be on hand with displays and presentations on a variety of rat related topics such as general rat care, rat illnesses and first aid, inexpensive and creative toys and games for rats, rat genetics and breed standards, and much more. There will also be rat arts and crafts on display, as well as various types of rat merchandise available for purchase. The newest edition of Debbie Ducommun’s Rat Health Care booklet will be available for purchase at cost. For those wishing to adopt a highly socialized, adorable pet, breeders will have litters available for adoption, and Little Mischief Rescue will also be on hand with pet rats, and possibly other small animals, desperately in need of a second chance at a happy home. In addition to a standards show, the pet classes will include categories such as “most talented,” “most unusual”, “longest tail” and “best costume”, as well as the ever popular “rat races!” There is always a special category for the rescue rat with the most amazing story, told in 3 minutes or less. There will also be a raffle with some fantastic prizes. The deadline to enter rats for this show is midnight January 31st. No rats will be admitted unless registered on or before that time.