See no evil

April 10, 2009


Dog doing fine after eye removal surgery and wandering away from home late last year

NOEL – It’s been a few months since Maggie the blind dog wandered away from her home at Foggy Hollow Farm in Noel, Nova Scotia.
The 14-year-old Boston Bull Terrier returned after 11 days, weighing five kilograms underweight. Maggie was treated at the Truro Veterinary Hospital by Dr. Gwen Mowbray-Cashen.
‘The Grand Old Lady of Foggy Hollow’, as owner Marjorie Densmore affectionately nicknamed her, still resides at her owners’ commercial flower farm.
Maggie rules the roost at Foggy Hollow but had both eyes removed because of an ulcer on one and the risk of ulcer to the other.
“She is now sightless,” Densmore said. “There was no sight before – they were just there.”
Densmore, a continuing care assistant at the Mira Nursing Home in Truro, still doesn’t know where Maggie wandered off to that day.
“Can you ask a dog?” she said with a laugh. “I know she was on the farm because the farm is 240 acres.”
While missing, Maggie bumped her head and damaged one of her eyes, causing a painful ulcer. She bumped it again after her return.
“She cried and cried,” Densmore said. “It was horrible.”
However, despite being blind and 14 (98 in dog years), Maggie is still a lady with a mind of her own.
“If she doesn’t want to do anything, she certainly won’t do it,” Densmore said with a snicker. “That part of her hasn’t changed.”
The only difference Densmore sees is Maggie’s unwillingness to lead with a leash. She plans to take her to a dog trainer and see if this problem can be fixed.
“If she won’t lead, that’s fine. She’s still the Grand Old Lady,” she added. “She can sit up on the couch and look pretty.”
Maggie’s determination, headstrong attitude and zest for life seems to be what’s keeping the old blind dog going.
“You make the decision – do you put her down or do you keep her?” Densmore commented. “And after her coming through so much, you don’t put her down. You do (your) best.”
Densmore has put a lot of money into Maggie’s health but knows she made the right decision.
“Would I do it again? Yes,” Densmore said firmly. “As far as the amount of money… If you sat back and thought how much in your head is she worth to you? Not in your pocketbook.”

(This story was written for the Truro Daily News but never made it to print.)

I did a story a couple days ago on a CEC teacher who is traveling to Macedonia this summer to build homes for Habitat For Humanity and a local Chinese restaurant helped her out with the fund-raising. She sent me a thank-you note today: Thank you for doing the Habitat for Humanity article. The fundraiser at the King Lam was a huge success. I’ll have to give you an update on how the build went when I get back in August. -Suzanne

That made me feel pretty good. Made me feel like something I wrote was actually helping someone. And that’s a special feeling. 🙂

I will be taking over Volunteer of the Week for the Truro Daily News for the next 3 weeks. Here was this week’s.

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The joy of working with animals

Animals big, animals small. Whitney McDonald loves them all. McDonald, a 20-year-old Brookfield resident, has been spending her extra time taking care of pets at the Colchester SPCA in Truro since January.
“I just enjoy being around pets,” said the pre-vet student at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Bible Hill.
“So this gives me experience with small animals.”
McDonald has wanted to be a vet since she was about seven years old.
“I’ve always been more interested in animals than humans.”
She loves all types of animals but she is especially fond of horses. “I just think they’re gorgeous and fun to ride,” she explained.
McDonald’s volunteering resumé isn’t limited to just working with animals. “A few years ago, I helped out with dinners and stuff at the legion in Truro,” she said.
The former South Colchester Academy student also served on student police, dance committee and Safe Grad in high school.
Some of McDonald’s friends help out with animals in their free time, too. “They do at different places,” she said. “One of my friends volunteers at the NSAC barns.”
However, she said she wishes more young people would volunteer, particularly with animals in need. “They need to understand that animals go through hardships.”
After graduation, McDonald would like to set up a vet practice in Colchester County.

Dead zones in the ocean will have a major impact on the fisheries industry, says an aquaculture student.

Trisha Lewis, 20, is a student at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro and the daughter of a Five Islands fisherman.

Oceanic dead zones are caused by human-made chemicals, like certain fertilizers, entering the water systems. These particular ocean areas are low in oxygen and have become inhabitable by many species of fish.

All living species need oxygen to live, said Lewis.

“When there is a lack of oxygen, living species may no longer be supported. In areas where there is a decreased oxygen, many fish may be faced with hypoxia.”

Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen in the fish’s tissues. This can be lethal if the species doesn’t find a way to get the oxygen it needs, she said.

“Hypoxia can lead to death very quickly and it is very stressful for the fish, which means the immune system will also become weak and the fish will be more susceptible to disease.”

The oceans are affected by a decrease in fish and also an increase in organic matter settling on the bottom of the areas with decreased oxygen.

“If dead zones are created, many aquatic species will no longer be able to live in those areas and be forced to go to other areas of the ocean which do have an adequate supply of oxygen,” Lewis said.

These dead zones can have a huge impact on the fishing industry if something isn’t done soon, she said.

“Since these dead zones are usually along coastal areas, fish will begin to move into deeper waters.”

Many people fish for recreation along the coast and many fish for a living, she said.

“If the fish are forced to move, the fishermen may see a decrease in their catch which directly affects their pocket book as well as the supply of fish for people to eat.”

Central Northumberland Strait Fisherman’s Association president Mike McGeoghegan is troubled by the issue.

“It is a concern,” he said.

McGeoghegan, a commercial lobster and crab fisherman, said it doesn’t take much to upset the environmental balance.

“The ecosystem is very fragile.”

However, he’s skeptical about these types of reports and the science community.

“Our voices are not heard very well,” he said.

These dead zones – and other oceanic anomalies – could be better understood by the scientific community by working closer with people who are impacted by them most, he said.

“When you’ve been out on the water, you learn a few things.”

(Published in the March 12, 2009 issue of The Surveyor.)


The economic crisis isn’t affecting P.E.I. pet owners – yet – says an Island animal shelter employee.

P.E.I. Humane Society development coordinator Kelly Mullaly said there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of dogs left at the shelter compared to this time last year.

“We’re not 100 per cent sure why and we’re not sure if that would go necessarily back to people having some economic problems now. It’s possible, since it is more expensive to take care of a dog than to take care of a cat.”

But the number of pets being dropped off at the shelter has increased by a huge percentage in the past few months, she said.

“We’re kind of taking a watch and wait position right now. It hasn’t been very dramatic for us but we don’t know what this year is going to hold and the next year after that. It almost feels like the worst is still to come.”

Over the past couple of years, people have left their pets because the owners are leaving the Island to work in more prosperous provinces, particularly Alberta, Mullaly said.

“That has slowed down, obviously, because not so many people are going out west.”

The shelter has received more calls recently about litters of puppies or kittens and owners not being able to afford to feed them, Mullaly said.

“So, we have felt it a little bit. But maybe not as dramatically as some of the other parts of Canada have.”

People may have to start making some decisions about their priorities on where they are spending their money, she added.

“They may be changing the food or the cost of the food they buy for their pet. The extras, like toys and treats may have fallen off the list. Hard to say for sure.”

But the actual animals weren’t the only thing that Humane Society staff have to worry about in these uncertain times. Fundraising is also a major issue.

“We were very concerned that that was probably going to take a big dip because peoples’ priorities have to change a little bit. But thank goodness, we’ve been holding steady in that regard, too.”

Volunteers haven’t been in short suppy at the shelter recently either, Mullaly said.

“Maybe because some folks are having trouble finding work or as much work as they want to and they want to keep their résumé well-rounded by doing that kind of work with us.”

The Tack Store in Charlottetown sells gear for horseback riding. Employee Jenifer Dyment said horses are a bit different than other pets in concerns of economic issues, as they are usually non-negotiable.

An owner might move their horse to a cheaper location, but for most horse owners, they are pets, like your cat or dog. When cash gets tight, you don’t sell. You adapt.

Nova Scotia Agricultural College student and animal lover Nicole Hawkes worked at a veterinary clinic in Sackville, N.B. during the summer of 2008.

She said grooming prices have gone up and vet charges have generally stayed the same, but the economic crisis definitely is taking a toll on pets.

There are lots of people who need to give there pets up because they can’t afford it.”

Animal control officers often times have to collect pets from homes when families can’t afford to care of them, Hawkes said.

“This one lady told us all about how people can’t afford to look after them or that people just don’t admit it and have there pets taken away from them.”

According to the British Columbia SPCA, the economy is affecting the health of animals.

Because of financial troubles, many families are not able to fulfill the needs of their pets. People are buying lower quality pet food and taking their pet to the veterinarian less often.

Some cities have set up pet food banks in order to help struggling pet owners in their, and their furry companion’s, time of need.

(Published in the March 6 2009 edition of The Surveyor.)