Dogs of our Lives

Posts filed under Dogs of our Lives

The saliva test

Filed in Dogs of our LivesTags: , ,

Last year when melamine-spiked wheat gluten killed thousands of pets in the U.S.A., a list of pet food manufacturers was released by the F.D.A. What was interesting about that list was the fact that one or two manufacturers were producing multiple brands of pet food. Producing two or even three brands could be explained by a manufacturer wanting to produce an expensive specialty brand for vets to sell, a brand which in all likelihood contains little of the unhealthy content found in their other retail brands. But there can only be one reason for a manufacturer to sell more than two or three brands, and that is to dilute the brand awareness of competing manufacturers. (download the list and count the number of brands that Menu Foods manufactures)

I noticed that the brands we were giving our kids to eat were made by one of these multi-brand manufacturers, and I immediately began looking for smaller and hopefully more trust-worthy pet food manufacturers. I found a few. Unfortunately, they were all located in the U.S.A. without suppliers in Hong Kong.

Last week while we were in Vancouver (before the big snow hit), we had two days free to roam around. Between the snow and my wife's disinterest in heights and sports, there wasn't much to do except shop and drink coffee, which fortunately is what I had hoped to do anyway. The night before our second free day, I surfed the web and searched for coffee roasters in Vancouver. I found and was impressed by 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters on 4th Avenue.

The next day on our way to 49th Parallel, I spotted a Three Dog Bakery store. It must have been serendipity, because Three Dog Bakery is one of the manufacturers I was interested in last year. We went into the store and talked to the franchisee Corby who was extremely helpful and eager to help other Three Dog Bakery franchisees. Imagine our surprise when he told us that there was now a Three Dog Bakery in Hong Kong!!! We bought a small bag of Three Dog Bakery Chicken dog food, a packet of "oreo" biscuits and continued on to the 49th Parallel coffee shop (whose Epic Espresso coffee is great by the way).

Back home in Hong Kong, I found the Three Dog Bakery stores. I'm now feeding our kids both the normal Chicken pet food and the Reduced Calorie pet food (because three of our kids have unlimited appetites and need to lose weight).

With the brands we'd tried previously, one or two of the kids refused to eat except when they were starving. Another three of the kids waited a long time before beginning to eat. With the Three Dog Bakery pet food though, all of the kids like it. The biggest clue that this is good pet food though is the saliva left in the dishes; there's lots of it!

Dogs can smell so well that they can even detect flakes of skin hence their tracking abilities. It should come as no surprise that they can identify most of the ingredients that make up their food, and if that food is made up of slaughterhouse remains, sawdust, road-kill, and euthanised pets, then it should not surprise us if they balk at eating the food we give them. According to Corby and the Three Dog Bakery web site, the Three Dog Bakery pet food is completely healthy. Even the preservative is natural; it's rosemary.

There are currently two Three Dog Bakery stores in Hong Kong; one in EMAX in Kowloon Bay, and one in Happy Valley at the tram terminal stop. If your pets are not interested in their food, or if they're getting old and need food that doesn't tax their kidneys and livers, then give Three Dog Bakery a try.

The Cost of Companionship

Filed in Dogs of our LivesTags: , ,

People sometimes ask me if looking after 11 dogs is expensive. Well, it is and it isn't. On average, we go through one 15kg bag of dog food each week which isn't too bad. The food cost doesn't scare us. The potential medical cost does.

Over the last month, all of our kids have had all of their shots including one for Heart Worm, a combo 5-in-1 shot, and yesterday the mandatory Rabies shot. Because we have 11 kids, we don't go to the vet. The vet comes to us. The home visit costs extra but everything gets done quickly and smoothly. Fortunately, the vet (and other vets in the past) is good to us; we don't usually have to pay full fee because they're aware that our kids are rescues, and that we have 11 of them.

But medical costs include more than just the shots. One of our kids, Batty, has a back problem that nobody has been able to diagnose despite expensive examinations, x-rays and MRIs. In the early stages of the problem, he would go for a run and be in pain the next day. For a while, we thought it might be something called 'Tying Ups' but that proved to be wrong. He was also tested for hip dysplasia because he's part German Shepherd but that too was incorrect. We have had muscle biopsies sent to the U.S., and they've shown that he has muscle atrophy so it's quite possibly a spinal nerve problem. All of these examinations cost money, and since there's only one company in Hong Kong that provides MRI services, they can charge a lot for it.

Unfortunately, Batty's condition is worsening. He was doing ok until a couple of weeks ago, two of the other kids on two separate occasions accidentally landed on his back in their excitement at seeing us return home. Since then, Batty has been in more pain and is very uncomfortable even while taking daily pain killers.

We're reaching for straws now. I've ordered copies of the MRIs and x-rays. Our vet yesterday said that he has a few friends who can read the MRIs. I'll give the copies to him and see if they can recognise anything. If nothing comes of that, I'll send the copies over to L.A. to a renowned chiropractic vet there recommended by a nice couple I met while staying in Studio City. And if all that fails, I'll arrange to take Batty to a 'Chirovetpractic' in Florida who claims that Batty is a typical mis-aligned sacrum patient, and that he can fix Batty with a simple examination and realignment of his spine and sacrum. To most vets, he sounds like a snake-oil salesman, a seller of hopes, a 'cowboy' as one of my friends calls them, but it might be worth a try anyway, especially since the fees for his services are not unreasonable. It's the air travel to and fro that will cost big pennies!

Occasionally, the kids get into a scrap and they'll get a hole or a rip. Most of these simply need antiseptic cream and time to heal. Beethoven once had a severe rip in his ear, so severe that you could see the soft bone (軟骨 Chinese terminology ;-) within, but even that healed up on its own. In fact, after a week or two, we were advised to stop applying antiseptic cream to the wound because it was interfering with the healing process!

Most of our kids are between eight and nine years old now. As they get older, there will no doubt be more sickness and illnesses to deal with. That's a little scary, but they're truly wonderful companions, and keeping them well is worth every cent!

Living in an Old People’s Home

Filed in Dogs of our LivesTags: ,

I feel like I'm living in an old people's home.


Beethoven is kid #3. He chose us rather than us choosing him.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Four of our kids are on medication twice a day. We wrap the medication up in small strips of cheese so that we don't need to shove the medication down their throats and nobody gets defensive although the healthy guys do tend to look on despondently; "where's my treat?".

Him Him has mild arthritis in one of her front knees and gets anti-inflammatories twice a day.

Charlie has a skin ailment on his front left leg which he incessantly licks hence a secondary bacterial infection. He's now on antibiotics and something else (a blue tablet) twice a day to fight the infection from inside, in addition to cleaning with hibiscrub and the application of a cream to fight the infection from the outside.

Beethoven has a slight skin infection so he's on antibiotics twice a day and getting a medicated bath twice a week. In addition, he sprained a joint during a scuffle on the weekend and is on anti-inflammatories for a few days to keep the swelling and pain down.

And then there's Batty. A few weeks ago, we thought he had hip-dysplasia but the xrays didn't show it. We were referred to another vet on Peace Avenue who suspected Cauda Equina. The subsequent MRI seemed to show narrowing of the spinal tunnel but the analysis of the MRI by an overseas professional, and a further hands-on investigation of Batty's joints and muscles seemed to contradict this. We are once again left with the suspicion that he has Tying Up. To put our suspicions to rest once and for all, Batty was put under full anesthesia and samples were taken from several of his hind section muscles to be sent to a lab in Canada. He is now recovering from that ordeal, and getting pain relief tablets, anti-inflammatories and something else.


Batty is kid #4, rescued as a pup the size of my palm from the R.S.P.C.A. (now the S.P.C.A.) who were going to put him to sleep because he was so young that he would need to be hand-fed. Lucky for both of us, I just happened to be there when the Caucasian lady who had discovered him brought him in.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

I insist on being with our kids whenever they need to go under full anesthesia. I want them to be as comfortable as possible. 45 minutes before they go under, they are given a relaxant. Yesterday after getting the relaxant injection, Batty and I walked around the block at a very casual pace. Ten minutes later, we were in the car and Batty was totally out of it. I carried him into the vet's surgical area at 2.30pm and watched as they gave him the full anesthesia injection.

I hate watching them go under because it so closely resembles dying. It reminds me that one day, they will leave us and that's not something I want to dwell on. Nonetheless, I insist on being there whenever they need to be sedated.

Upon returning home yesterday, Batty cried as I tried to lift him out of the car. He was in too much pain. I had to sit down beside him for a few seconds and then coach him out of the car. Once on the ground, he was able to walk for a little but the pain of the biopsy cuts and the drowsy effect of the anesthesia was too much for him. As he stood there unable to move, I bent down, picked him up in my arms and brought him home. He's feeling better now but is still in pain. It will probably be a few days before the pain subsides. If we can find the source of his problem, the pain and cost will be worth it.

Batty's muscle biopsy reports should be available in two weeks. Hopefully, they'll find something, and hopefully, it'll be something treatable. Today, the Typing Up problem evident in horses and dogs is not well understood and no one knows how to treat it, only how to lessen it's affects on the animal.

Batty loves to run. I hope his problem is treatable.

Throat cramps?

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, General, HealthTags: ,

Batty had x-rays a couple of weeks ago and hip dysplasia was not evident. He's on muscle relaxants until we can work out what his problem really is, but even with muscle relaxants, he still has difficulty sitting or lying down. When the vet comes back from holidays in his homeland Scotland, we'll look at other possibilities. Who knows? Maybe he really does have spline problems. We'll see.

My health is also being investigated. With my voice easily affected by two or three songs and feeling strained most of the day, I decided to get a professional opinion. When attending Kan's 莫鎮賢 official re-debut at Olympic City, I ran into Anders Nelsson (also a little interesting history about Anders here) and he recommended that I see an old school buddy of his; an ear, nose and throat specialist. At the doctor's clinic, I described the tightness around my throat, the raspiness after singing only two or three songs and the severe cramps I've experienced at the top of my throat over the last several months. He was surprised by the cramps and said that he'd never heard of these cramps in his thirty years of practice, and simply recommended that I find myself a good singing teacher. He was a very nice doctor but somehow I think his knowledge might be out of date. He did however say that my vocol chords were fine after looking at them through a mirror in my throat.

That evening, I related the doctor's findings and his surprise at my cramping experience to a good friend, a practising doctor who is a genius in so many ways. As soon as I described my cramps, he responded with one of the medical terms for the condition: Laryngeal Spasms. That night, I researched laryngeal spasms on the internet and came across a condition that nearly perfectly explains my symptons; Spasmodic Laryngeal Dystonia, also known as Spasmodic Dysphonia.

Armed with this revelation, I downloaded a list of Speech Pathologists in Hong Kong to get further help. The question was which one should I visit. Everything is a gamble. Will the doctor understand my condition? Spasmodic Dysphonia wasn't understood until only recently. For many years, people with severe Spasmodic Dysphonia were referred to psychiatrists instead of speech pathologists. From the list, I first chose only those doctors whose title explicitly included Speech Pathology. Then, being an Australian, I chose only those doctors who had studied in Australia. That narrowed the list down to just four or five. Choosing someone with a clinic convenient for me narrowed it down to just two. I chose one of those, someone who by chance has the same name as a famous actress from the early days of Hong Kong theatre.

My first examination appointment is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. With any luck, the doctor will understand the condition and be able to teach me the exercises and precautions necessary to recover fully. The tightness in my laryngeal muscles is affecting my singing, and it's generally uncomfortable for much of the day. It's also causing tension in my jaw and more than a little teeth grinding. Correcting the problem is very important to me, and now is the perfect time while I am relatively free of work obligations. It would also be an excellent opportunity to learn the correct way to speak. I generally begin to lose my voice after chatting for anything more than forty minutes or so.

Update (December 1, 2007)

I didn't have Spasmodic Dysphonia, just severe strain. I'm feeling much much better now. More water, more sleep, less coke, less coffee and some steam. What a difference! Now it's time to begin vocal training again, pretty much from scratch. My chords will require time to build up their strength again.

Thank you all for caring ;-)

A Prisoner in My Own Home

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, Events, They’re Playing Our Song (2007), WorkTags:

The benefits of this play are many.

After completing part two of an interview with 大公報 at lunch time, and filming 奸人堅 today at TVB in the afternoon, and having 'dinner' at Starbucks this evening, I returned home with a goal in mind, one which I wasn't really sure I would actually complete. I often have goals in mind, and more often than not, they evaporate. This one actually happened: weight-lifting!

It has been years since I weight-lifted, but my dance routines in the play will look better if my tummy is flatter and stronger, and certain steps involving lifting Sompor 蘇芯寶 will be better performed if my muscles are tuned. I don't need nor desire big muscles. I simply need muscles adapted to and ready for rapid and strong movement.

If you've ever seen movies or television series involving prisons, then you've probably seen scenes involving the prisoners working out with weights in a gym. I felt a little like them tonight. While I was only lifting the lightest weights I have as opposed to the big heavy superhuman weights the prisoners are usually lifting, I was in fact in a virtual prison.

Here at home, we have three sets of foldable fences used to keep one or more of our kids separated from the others during meal times. Without the separation, the kids tend to noisily guard their food or try to steal food from others. The other guy's dog food always tastes better, or as they say in Chinese, 隔離飯香, so the fences are invaluable during breakfast and dinner time, and serve to keep the troops at peace.

Our kids love me, big time, and they'll lie, sit or stand by me and paw me or snuggle up against me or rub their heads against me or perform some other affectionate motion any chance they get. Some of my favourite memories involve lying on the tiled floor just outside our flat in the warm afternoon sun with seven or more of the kids lying down next to and around me. It's a wonderful feeling. When I'm weight-lifting though, I can't afford to let the kids near me. They'll either obstruct the weights and disrupt my motions, or they'll get hurt by the weights, so… I erected a fence around the weight-training equipment and worked out 'in prison'. A couple of the kids still attempted to get in or reach over the fence to me but they eventually gave up and resignedly lied down outside the fence, waiting for me to finish and release myself from the prison gym.

High-repetition, light weights. Two to three sets of 30 to 40 repetitions per set. That's a lot of repetitions but it will tune my muscles relatively quickly and help me to burn off more of the fat that I hope to lose in time for the public performance. I'll be sore tomorrow but that's an insignificant price to pay for the eventual improvement.

Those of you coming to see the play will probably get to see me in the fittest condition I've been in for years. From physiological depression in 2001 to this: what a comeback!!!   ;-)

1202. For those who care.

Filed in Current Affairs, Dogs of our Lives, General, Hong Kong

In my home, we have a table, a chair, a bed, a sofa, a refrigerator, a television and many other household articles. If I hit them, they don't feel pain. If I drop them, they may break but they will not be aware of it. They are simply material objects.

In my home, there are five people. We eat. We live. We cry. We laugh. If someone hits us, we feel pain. If someone betrays us, we hurt. If we are injured in any way, we know. We are aware.

In my home, there are eleven dogs and one rabbit. They feel joy when we return home from a day's work. They feel hunger before a meal. They feel lonely when the people are not home. They feel apprehension when they have done something wrong and see me approaching. They envy those who sit close to us. They speak. They cry. They even shed tears.

There is very little difference between people and animals, yet there are many people who treat animals as objects, as tables that can be bought and sold, born and killed, and all without any feeling or sensibility whatsoever.

In Beijing, the authorities in a bid to control an outbreak of rabies are killing all dogs with a shoulder height taller than 50cm. The fear is that these dogs may catch rabies and become a mortal threat to the humans around them. But it is senseless killing, and devoid of the only thing that makes people special: humanitarianism.

Rather than require that all dog owners arrange rabies shots for their pets, and rather than test for the presence of rabies in the dogs before killing them, the Beijing authorities have chosen the simplest method. Their people are simply catching every dog they see and killing it on the spot. It does not matter if the dog's owner has a license for the dog. It does not matter if the dog is healthy. It does not matter that the dog is an animal, with feelings almost identical to humans. It does not matter. The authorities are even encouraging residents to report relatives, neighbours and friends who may own a dog. It's early communism all over again.

It wouldn't even be proper to use the phrases "put them down" or "put them to sleep" because the government people are striking the animals to death with long rods, in the streets, in plain sight of everyone around.

China is rapidly becoming a modern country. Unfortunately, modern does not equate to civil. While technology can be learnt very easily, humanitarianism; the understanding and caring of life in general; takes a very long time to learn and appreciate.

China is not the only criminal though. Back in January of 2006 in a bid to prove to the people of Hong Kong that they were actually working hard to prevent a bird flu epidemic, the Hong Kong government sought out and killed every domestic chicken owned and cared for by common people all over the territory. There was no testing, no proof of theory, and no mercy. Commercial people; i.e., people with money; were not sought after, only the common people. The unfortunate reality though was that chickens growing up in the back yards of common people were far healthier and far less likely to get bird flu than chickens in the commercial people's overcrowded factories. But the Hong Kong government did not care. Their only concern was that the Hong Kong people felt that they were doing something. Politicians are so superficial.

From what I've heard, the Hong Kong government's theory at the time was that migratory birds carrying the bird flu virus may fly over the common people's homes, depositing contaminated bird droppings into their yards. The chickens in those yards would then walk on the droppings and consequently become infected. Possible but extremely unlikely. This theory was truly a load of crap.

Today though in Beijing, dogs are being senselessly slaughtered and their owners are suffering. To show our support for dogs and their owners in Beijing and to be an example for other Chinese people in China, people here in Hong Kong who care for animals will be holding a vigil on Saturday, December 2 at 6.30pm outside the government building in Chater Gardens in Central. If you share our care for animals, please make an effort to come.

One day, it will be proven that those who have money and power will never be as strong as those who have heart.

More about the vigil:


鑑於近日中國各地所發生的大規模殘殺狗隻情況,以及其所採用的不人道虐殺手法,本小組聯同將於二零零六年十二月二日晚上六時半,在中環遮打花園舉行名為「1202 關注中國犬隻哀悼晚會」活動,為近期在中國死去的犬隻舉行集體悼念儀式,藉此宣揚愛護動物的正面訊息。

由於 閣下一直 對推動愛護動物的事宜不遺餘力。現本小組誠意邀請閣下出席是次活動,一起為動物盡點綿力,令是次在中國發生的不人道對待狗隻事件能夠被廣泛關注,並籍此提高公眾對動物生命的尊重及愛惜。




日期︰ 12月2日 (星期六)
時間︰ 晚上 6時半 至 9時正
地點︰ 中環遮打花園




小白 Siu Bak

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, Photo of the Day

I like this photo so much that I had to share it with everyone. This is 小白 ('little white'), our second dog.

Siu Bak

Her expression is so human, it's amazing.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

And then there were eight.

Filed in Dogs of our Lives

Last week, we had an appointment with friends for dinner in Sai Kung. We left home early expecting to arrive in Sai Kung with plenty of time to look for a metered parking space (very hard to come by in Hong Kong) only to find ourselves at the end of a queue of slow moving cars waiting their turn for the round-about. We were almost to the round-about when we noticed something unusual in the driveway to the left of us; a small white rabbit.

It was clearly out of place and confused, skipping up and down the driveway, absolutely unsure of where to go. I immediately steered the car into the driveway and got out of the car wondering how I was going to catch the rabbit. As I approached the rabbit, guards in charge of protecting this very expensive home were wondering why an unauthorised car had parked in their driveway. As one of the guards opened the gate to request ("command" might be a better word) that I leave, I pointed to the rabbit upon which he closed the gate and left us alone.

Our new rabbit friend

She's definitely cute; white all over with black bands around her eyes and two black spots on her back.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

The rabbit was injured looking as if it had been hit by a car. Catching it and picking it up was not a problem at all. I later realised that the rabbit was probably in shock at the time making it easier to catch. I placed him on newspapers behind the front passenger seat of our car and drove off to Sai Kung for dinner. That night after dinner, we took him home with us and placed him in a spare cage.

The next day, we fed and looked after him. His injuries were more obvious in the daylight. He had cuts, scratches and grazes down one side of his body, and an injured eye that was completely white and didn't look too healthy. One side of his head appeared swollen and slightly lop-sided as well. He obviously needed treatment and we didn't want to keep him unless we had to so we dropped him off at the SPCA. I made it a point to inform them at the SPCA that we'd look after the rabbit if nobody else adopted him.

After the SPCA's doctor had examined the rabbit, they called to tell me that he was going to be ok and didn't need any treatment although he might eventually need to have his eye removed. Where I had surmised that the rabbit's injuries had been caused by a car, the doctor thought he had probably been attacked by dogs. Unfortunately, the SPCA didn't think he was suitable for adoption because of the bad eye and the unattractive injuries so he'd be put down if we didn't take him back.

Rabbit injuries

Probably attacked by dogs, she had cuts, scratches and grazes down one side of her body, and an almost completely white injured eye. Today, one week after this photo was taken, most of the hair has grown back and the white is going out of her eye. However, we still can't be sure if she'll be able to keep the eye.

And the doctor told us one more thing. The rabbit was a girl! (Apparently, it's very difficult to differentiate girl rabbits from boy rabbits and usually requires close experienced examination.)

So we now have a girl rabbit staying with us. She might belong to someone in the neighbourhood where we found her so we're putting up advertisements in the local ParknShop but I think she'll probably be here for the long haul. One good thing about keeping her is that we now have sexual balance in our home. With four women, one man, seven male dogs and three female dogs, the males outnumbered the females. With the rabbit, males and females are now equally matched. That has to be a good thing right?

Today, one week after finding her, the rabbit's doing really well. The doctor had told me that she might not regrow hair in the injured area down the side of her body but in less than one week, she has already grown most of it back and she's quite pretty. Her pink nose is really cute and almost never stops moving. She's especially cute when she's washing her ears and face. It's the first time I've ever been this close to a rabbit and I'm enjoying the experience.

Our dogs are absolutely captivated by her. Unfortunately, it's more than curiosity. If she ever escaped from the cage, she'd almost certainly be killed by our dogs. I remember watching Beethoven sitting in front of the cage and watching her on the first day she stayed with us. Beethoven; normally very quiet and gentle; was shaking all over with the excitement and anticipation of being able to catch and kill the rabbit. It wasn't a pretty sight but there's very little you can do without time and training. Killing cute furry animals is part of their nature. Beethoven is getting used to the rabbit and behaving much better now but there's no way I'm letting the rabbit out of the cage any time soon. For extra safety, I'm the only one here allowed to open the cage.

Rabbit curiosity

All of our dogs were extremely captivated by the rabbit and very very curious. The dog in this picture is David, the oldest of four brothers and sisters found as pups in a bush near our home. He's very gentle, playful and loving, spending a large part of his free time lying on the floor next to my feet while I sit at the computer.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

I'm hoping that her eye will heal but there's still a very good chance that it's permanently damaged and will have to be removed. Even so, she's very cute.

We haven't named her yet. Any ideas?