Archive for the ‘winter’ Category

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08 Jan 11

By Nancy E. Hassel,

There is a magical place on Long Island if you like nature, birds, and seeing wild animals up close and personal, and no it’s not the zoo, game park or sanctuary.  A nature preserve on the north shore of the South Fork is one of best places on Long Island to observe nature and have wild birds actually land in your hand.  The Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge is a treasure that many Long Islanders have either never heard of or have yet to visit.  It’s beautiful in every season, but something magical happens when there is a fresh fallen snow.  Maybe it’s the fact that there are less people there and more wildlife walking around.  The birds are always very active, but in the winter they are amazing.  You will never see so many bright red cardinals in one place at one time, and for some Long Islander’s you will see birds you have never seen before at your back yard feeder.

If you are looking for something to do outside with your now cabin fevered up kids, or maybe your kids have never been this close to nature, Morton’s is definitely worth the trip whether you live 5 minutes away or an hour away.  There is no other place that I know of like it.  On any given day your can see families of deer walking around, wild turkeys who are not the least bit scared of you, bunnies, squirrels, red tailed hawks, and of course the birds: chickadees, nut hatches, blue jays, tons of cardinals, sparrows and many other species, who will literally greet you at the entrance. It’s quite a spectacle.


The first time I ever went, I was with family members and it was a freezing cold day in February of 2006, we had no idea what the place was or that we would be bombarded by birds, and followed through the trails by them.  It was really funny.  At one point we turned around and there had to be at least 30 red (male) cardinals in on tree.

Pair of Cardinals

There is a trail that leads down to the bay beach, (maybe a mile long), and there is a look out deck equipped with binoculars and the view is spectacular.  Another part of the trail loops around through the woods and you pass and pond with a deck for observing wildlife, and you will also cross over a few short wooden foot bridges.  The variety of the landscape at Morton’s is quite interesting too, from wooded trails, tall pine trees, to a swampy feel near the pond to a magnificent bay beach – there is something to see around every turn.

Snow covered trail

View from lookout deck

If you have never been, or have only visited in the summer, you may just want to pack up the kids in their winter gear and head out for a day trip.  This place will not disappoint – and wouldn’t it be nice to get those kids off of the video games for a day?

This is a nature preserve so there are rules, like no pets allowed, not even your little cute dog – leave him home.  No bicycles, and please don’t liter or take things out of the park.

Directions and all info can be found here.  More photo’s below.

Hungry little Tufted Titmouse

White Breasted Nuthatch

Black-capped Chickadee deciding which sunflower seed to go for!

Another Chickadee

Slide show here:

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27 Dec 10

Is your dog BORED? ...

by Nancy E. Hassel,

Is your dog BORED?

Long Island is now covered with a lot of snow and while most of our dogs love it – they all can’t stay out too long in it.  The weather and shorter days changes all of our routines, and often our dogs don’t get the long walks they need to drain that mental and physical energy.  So if you think your dog is bored or getting a serious case of cabin fever, here are a few fun tips that can’t help break up the monotony of the long cold winter.

• Dogs love to play “hide-n-go seek.” Now I know what you’re thinking, it seems silly, but they love it. Also it helps with training dogs to “sit and stay.” (And if you have kids, they love it too!) Here is how you do it: Teach your dog to sit and stay, and go hide in a somewhat obvious spot so the dog can find you. Call the dog, and when he finds you, make a big fuss, “Good boy, great job!” Do this a few times in easy spots for the dog to find you, so he gets the hang of the game. Then make him sit and stay, and go hide in a different spot (a little more difficult for him to find you this time) and call him. This fun exercise will help the dog in training, it will challenge him mentally, and most of all add exercise and fun to his day, and yours.

• Another fun game is the “find it” game. This can be done a few different ways, but the easiest is to take a few treats, break them into smaller treats (or use a handful of kibble) and have your dog sit and stay. Put a couple treats about 6-feet in front of him, but in plain site and say, “Buddy, find it,” and point to the treats. When he trots over to eat them, tell him, “Good job, good find it!” Then continue to do this making the treats further away, and not so obvious. Dogs get the hang of this pretty quickly, and love this game too. You can make it harder by having the dog sit and stay in another room, and hide the treats throughout the house. Just be sure to deduct the kibble or treats from what you normally feed the dog. You don’t want to make the dog overweight!

• Take him or her to a training class or agility class. Some training centers have indoor facilities like, Doggie U K9 Academy in Bay Shore, or the new Fido Fitness Club in Woodmere.  You can also set up an indoor play date with your dog’s best pal in your home, just make sure it’s doggy proofed and safe for them to play.

• There are now also board games you can play with your family and your dog. DARF Inc. offers various different games to keep your family and the dog entertained and interactive.

• Watching too much TV while snowed in?  Use the commercial breaks to do short and fun training sessions with your dog. 

• And of course one of our favorites are Kong toys, which can keep a dog entertained for quite a while. Your dog should be supervised with any toy, same goes for the Kong. Try stuffing it with a few pieces of kibble that fall out easily and one larger biscuit that will take longer for Fido to get to. Kongs come in all shapes and sizes, and different levels of toughness from: Puppy, Classic, Senior and Extreme. Be sure to get the right size and level for your chewer, and always supervise.

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21 Dec 10

Winter Safety for Pets ...

When we think of Morton’s salt we usually think of seasoning our food with it.  But this year they have a new product just for pets Morton’s Safe-T-Pet™ which is a safe non-toxic ice melt to de-ice the winter wonderland outside your door.  Morton Salt, the brand consumers have trusted and welcomed into their homes for more than 100 years, has developed a full line of specialty ice melt blends and salt-free ice melt products to help make your winter season more manageable and less stressful for you and your pets.  See below for some excellent tips for keeping your pets safe through the winter and be on the lookout for our upcoming photo contest where you can win an 8lb container, (and lots of other prizes), of Morton’s pet and people friendly ice melt.

Keeping Pets Safe This Winter

Walking in a winter wonderland can be hazardous for our four-legged friends. “The winter months can be a very dangerous and uncomfortable period for pets,” says Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, a veterinarian and board-certified toxicologist.  With the help of Dr. Gwaltney-Brant, Morton Salt, Inc. provides a few tips for keeping your pets safe this snowy season:

  •  Remember Their Tags – Dogs may love to frolic in the snow, but they can easily lose their scent and become lost in all that white. More dogs go missing in the winter than any other season, so keep them on a leash and ensure they are always wearing an ID tag.
  • Protect Those Paws – The salted sidewalks and streets are very hard on pets’ paws – but there is a solution.  Morton® Safe-T-Pet™, developed with veterinarians, is a salt free and chloride free ice melter which melts below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  Its urea-based, organic formula is non-toxic and non-irritating to pet’s paws and stomachs. Some other ice melters on the market mislead consumers regarding how well the product melts and how safe the product is.  For example, when testing was conducted by Michigan Technological University Keweenah Snow Research Center, the Safe Paw™ ice melt product did not melt snow and ice at sub-zero temperatures as claimed.  Other brands claim to be pet-safe but actually contain chlorides which can be harmful to pets digestive systems if ingested and which can be painful or irritating to pets’ paws. So make sure you look for a chloride free melter from a company you can trust to validate claims and put safety first.
  •  Avoid Toxic Temptations The sweet taste of antifreeze solution is attractive to pets, but is highly toxic even in the smallest amounts. Be sure to keep all chemicals sealed on a high shelf, away from your furry friends, and clean up spills as soon as they happen.
  • Winter Weight, Be Gone Just like humans, animals are less active in the winter and don’t burn as many calories. Keep your pets healthy by reducing their diet to avoid winter weight gain. Speak with your veterinarian about proper diets during “hibernation” season.
  • Warm Home, Cold Floors It is important to remember that although your home may be warm, there may still be drafty areas. Make sure your pets have something soft to sleep on (away from drafts) to protect them from the cold floor.
  • Holiday Treats for Humans Only – When throwing those much anticipated holiday parties, be sure to keep all chocolate, macadamia nuts, alcohol and even mistletoe and holly berries out of reach. Although seemingly harmless –these can be dangerous if ingested by pets. 
  • Running Out, Be Back Soon Do not leave your dog in a car during the winter months. This enclosed space freezes fast, so if you are running errands be sure to leave your pet at home in the warmth of your home or keep them by your side when out and about.
  • Wipe Down To Stop Whining – In addition to selecting a pet-friendly ice melter, be sure to towel off your pet after time outside to remove salt and other irritants from their paws and skin.  At the same time, inspect the paw pads for any collection of snow or ice to ward off winter weather problems.


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14 Dec 10

by Nancy E. Hassel,

Dog training for Winter safety

Here on Long Island we are so lucky to be surrounded by water, have many lakes, ponds streams and natural areas to enjoy with our pets. Recently after reading a story in Newsday about a Shirley man who’s 2 off leash Husky’s ran after some geese over the thin ice of a pond and fell through. In an effort to save his dogs the owner also fell through into the cold water. The owner admitted it wasn’t too smart, not thinking the ice was too thin or the cold water too deep and found himself in, well, deep water. Thankfully this story has a happy ending where a neighbor happened to hear the man yelling for help and the man and his dogs were all rescued and are all okay. But it made me think, how many people teach their dogs not to go on the ice? It’s not something you think about every day, especially if you get adopt a puppy or dog in the spring, summer or fall. It made me think back to how I taught my first dog, and dog I currently own to be safe near ice.

When I got my first dog as an adult, a young female puppy Doberman in the late summer of 1995, I did a lot of training with her in many different places. One place more than others, happened to be a park with wooded trails, streams and a lake. That first winter, the then 8-month old puppy was very curious about the strange frozen occurrence that the lake had become. While wanting to show her the ice, I also didn’t want her to think it was safe to walk out onto. So without taking a dog training course on winter safety and going on my instincts, I let her sniff the ice, put a front paw or two on it, but never ever let her walk out onto the ice. Using various commands, “off” if she ventured more than one paw onto the ice, or “stay” to keep her by me, or using “eh ah” if she tried to step on it. Of course this was all done while she was on a leash and giving her verbal praise as a reward. I also let her step on a frozen part right near the edge that I knew would break apart, you know those couple inches of water at the edge that freeze but can still be cracked pretty easily – showing her that it would break. Doing this repeatedly throughout the winter months, trained her not to ever step out onto the ice. Each winter after that I would do a refresher near the first frozen body of water we came upon. I was lucky to have one ridiculously smart dog, who learned quickly and seemed to understand the danger. She was also trained to heel, so when in the presence of ducks, geese or any other wildlife she would not chase an animal. Of course a dog being a dog, she still had instincts to want to chase but having her trained on a verbal recall, helped in having to worry if she did get off leash near ice. I did all these same winter training rituals with my current dog, and he too learned quickly, and it didn’t hurt that he was scared of the ice to begin with. (He also learned by watching her not go on the ice.)

You also have to keep in mind what breed of dog you have too. If your dog was specifically bred for hunting, chasing out birds or is a water dog, you still want to teach your dog winter safety training. Just because your have a Chesapeake Bay Retriever doesn’t mean it can get out of a dangerous situation like falling through ice in a middle of a lake.

Winter can be a lot of fun for us and our dogs, but teaching a dog to stay, come on command and never letting your dog off leash near thin or thick ice, are vital to keeping our dogs safe – and ourselves for that matter. Now that the weather is getting cold enough for ice to begin to form across many of our lakes, ponds, and bays – think about training your dog with winter safety in mind. If you are not sure how to do this properly, consult a dog trainer and ask them for a winter safety training session or two.

Another thing a pet owner should know, whether your pet is a dog or a cat is pet first aid and CPR – especially if your pet falls through ice. We are fortunate to have a local certified Pet Tech, Robyn Elman that teaches a class in pet first aid and CPR, including what to do if your pet gets frostbite and hypothermia. The vital information taught in the class has already saved the lives of a few pets of past class participants. These pet owners who knew what to do in an emergency situation, all thanks to the information they learned in Robyn’s class. To find out more information on the upcoming January 22, 2011 class click here.  Interested parties should sign up soon, as this course fills up fast and is offered about every six weeks.

This dog should be leashed!