Thursday, May 15, 2008

Don't forget--Cleanup Day is THIS SATURDAY (and while you're here, a bit of news).

From 10am to 2pm. The wood chips have been delivered (unfortunately, not dumped in quite the place we wanted them, but close enough). On the day, we shall be more than amply outfitted with the needed shovels and rakes and implements of destruction, as Arlo Guthrie might put it (no red VW microbus, though). And there'll be refreshments, provided by our intrepid run manager Bailea, who will be there to pitch in, field questions, hear suggestions, and continue her quest for a worthy successor who actually still lives in Washington Heights.

I've actually got a question or two for Bailea myself--I just heard some troubling news. You know this blog is pretty much entirely about the Rocky Run and Fort Washington Park offleash hours. Well, this news potentially impacts both, and I'll be blogging about it once I feel sufficiently up to speed.

Something else I've been meaning to mention, that is highly relevant to clean-up day--two dogs who come to the Rocky Run have been diagnosed with whipworm in the last few weeks.

Both dogs are recent rescues, and were clearly very badly treated before coming to good homes. One dog was actually a stray found wandering outside the run, who only started coming inside to play a week or so ago--unlikely he got the worms in the run itself. More about that story in the near future (and it's quite a story).

The other dog (Paris) was found tied to the outside of an apartment building, with a chain around her neck--pretty good indicator that her former owners weren't much concerned with her health. Paris, now happily rehomed, has been a run regular for some months now, and she certainly could have gotten whipworm inside the run. However, the dog she lives with (Tula), who has been coming to the run far longer, is currently worm-free. And so far, I haven't heard of any other cases. So it's nothing to panic about, but certainly something to think about.

Whipworm is basically everywhere--dogs are constantly exposed to it, particularly if they are inclined to eat dirt, and most particularly if they eat the feces of other dogs (and some of the very best dogs do the latter with gusto, including my late beloved Peggy, who didn't even like other dogs). A healthy dog can usually avoid becoming infested--Peggy never got worms once she reached adulthood, in spite of her questionable dietary habits. It's probably no coincidence that the two dogs who came down with whipworm were both severely neglected, before coming to good homes. Though both are young and resilient, the effects of such treatment do not go away overnight.

Aside from good health, the same medications used to prevent heartworm (Heartgard, Interceptor, etc) also help protect dogs against worms. When most of the dogs coming to a run are healthy and parasite-free, and their feces are picked up immediately, the risk is extremely minimal--but never entirely absent. If your dog spends much time around other dogs, he or she can pick up diseases and parasites from those dogs. And many people will never bring their dogs to a run for precisely this reason. It's for every dog owner to weigh the risks and benefits, as always. Two cases of whipworm in almost two years do not constitute an epidemic, particularly when there's no proof either case is directly related to the run. But if there's no problem now, that doesn't mean there couldn't be one in future.

So this is one very important reason why we have to clean the run twice a year, and get fresh wood chips down. We should try especially hard to put a thick layer of chips over that area towards the north end that tends to become muddy in wet weather.

One of these days, I am going to get around to blogging about the pros and cons of the many possible surfaces dog runs can employ. Wood chips certainly have plenty of cons. But they have their virtues, chief among which is the fact that they are both biodegradable and cheap--free actually, as long as we get them from the Parks Department. Which will someday drop them in the exact spot we want them. Sure they will. See you Saturday.

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