Four Legs Good

Voted Best Blog in the 2012 NetGuide awards, Four Legs Good is a place to talk about pets, and the frustrations and fun of owning them. Blogger Nick Barnett is joined by pet experts and pet lovers who write about the animals in their lives and pet issues of all kinds. And though 'Four Legs Good' is true, we’re just as fond of animals with two legs, many legs – or none.

Furry Friday: Why dogs make us smile

05:00am 03 Jul 2015

NICK BARNETT

Every day is different, with its ups and downs, yawns and heart-rushes. But one thing is certain about every single day: my dogs will make me smile.

The way they look, the way they move. The way they can't hide their feelings or pretend to be anything other than what they are. It all makes me smile. So today's collection is of dogs doing the things that make us smile.

There's also a giveaway! Leave a comment at the bottom of the blog, naming your favourite photos or telling us what it is about your dog that makes you smile. The winner, chosen next week at random, will be sent a dog collar of their choice from the range at Chief & Co Petwares.

What is it about dogs that makes us smile? Their mature intelligence. (Chief)

chief

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The super-secret life of pets

05:00am 02 Jul 2015

NICK BARNETT

Every year, there are several new big things in computer-animated movies. One of 2016's looks set to be The Secret Life of Pets, and going from the synopsis and the very funny trailer, I'd say millions of pet owners will be lining up to buy tickets.  

cat chickenIt's all about a terrier named Max whose owner comes home one day with a new dog, Duke. But the conflict between Max and Duke soon takes back seat to something grimmer - a war waged on pets and their owners by an army of abandoned pets, led by a rabbit named Snowball.

So there's darkness and probably sadness in the story, to go with the wit.    

It's an age-old storytelling standby: imagining animals to be like humans, and giving them human voices (such as those of Louis C.K. and Albert Brooks).

But this movie will work best if its creature characters are also recognisable as members of their animal species, and again the trailer looks promising. There's a cat that shuns its kibble in favour of classier grub such as roast chicken. There's a dog that sits on a cushion all day, barking at squirrels, then returning to its cushion. There's a black-and-tan dachshund that turns a food mixer into a massage tool, then lies under it with one hind leg quivering in ecstasy.

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Furry Friday: How to handle winter

05:00am 26 Jun 2015

NICK BARNETT

You may have noticed certain things happening outside lately. Your washing line staying in shadow all day. The sun setting at what feels like lunchtime. Temperatures falling to single, if not minus, digits.

Winter changes things for pets too. The outdoor world is not so much fun - or at least it's fun but only for shorter periods of time, such as seconds or minutes. Then, heaters, beds and laps call them back indoors.

Let's look at some photos of pets handling the winter, in the various creative ways at their disposal.

Mulisha, Kobi and Izzy find snow to be an excellent surface for play.

mulisha

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Tess takes a step after surgery

05:00am 25 Jun 2015

NICK BARNETT

Three weeks ago, searchers found Tess the dachshund lying helpless and cold among riverstones, her hind legs paralysed. Last Friday, Tess had surgery.

surgery 2
  A sling is used to help Tess in learning to walk again.
Yesterday, I saw Tess take steps - wobbly and wayward, but steps for sure. And now Tess is back home with her owner. The long road from paralysis to movement has started. 

The road started with the diagnosis of Tess's injury. What happened to her is a risk faced by dogs of her breed: a cushioning disc between two of her vertebrae had jolted from its proper position. Images from a CT scan showed the white mass of the disc pushing deeply into Tess's spinal cord, taking up 70 per cent of the cord's space. Little wonder her hind legs couldn't move.

A surgeon at Massey University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital cut into Tess's spine and trimmed away a section of bone. The operation, called a hemilaminectomy took the pressure off the spinal cord. Tess's wound was stitched up with blue surgical thread, and her recovery began.

I saw Tess last Friday in the Massey consulting room, where vets examined her before the surgery. At one point she was put on the blue polished floor, where she pulled herself around in typical doggy curiosity, scooting from object to object and person to person. Her hind legs trailed side saddle, with no apparent movement. While the surgeon sketched Tess's spine on a whiteboard and explained the planned surgery, Tess gazed at the door of the consulting room like a caged bird staring at a window. She wanted to get away from the weird place, to run and explore. But running, or walking, was impossible.

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Baby and dog, in the same home

05:00am 23 Jun 2015

NICK BARNETT

OPINION: We've had a new human guest in our house for the past few days. Her name is Ruby, and she's a gorgeous 12-week-old baby with blue eyes and bubble cheeks. Ruby has charmed me. She has also made quite an impact on my dogs.

ruby 1
ruby 2
  Now they're friends, Connor and Ruby can sit for a photo call.
Ruby is my newest niece, the daughter of my sister-in-law, who's also staying with us. When the guests arrived last week, the dogs made their usual excited fuss, recognising Ruby's mum from previous visits and welcoming her with their unique mix of leaps, barks and grovelling.

But then the dogs realised that Ruby, a separate being, was there too, bundled up in a carrying sling. There was new excitement. Connor, especially, barked his alarm.

The dogs backed off when told, but were still agog about Ruby. When she cried, it set off a new bout of barking from Connor, which got Phoebe going too.

We thought that if the dogs got to know Ruby a little better, there'd be less mystery and alarm for the dogs. And they were obviously keen to get close and see what this strange little creature was. So over the next couple of days, with a lot of care at what we thought were fitting moments and with complete control over the dogs, we brought both dogs close enough to see Ruby, then to smell her.

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