The dogs seem to be enjoying their ‘Life on the Road’ adventure. And why wouldn’t they – with lots of different places to explore, new lakes and rivers to swim in and being with us 24/7.

Travelling with dogs during the summer months did call for some adjustments. No longer can they be kept in a vehicle while we pop somewhere for a few minutes. Temperatures in cars reach dangerous levels within moments and we weren’t willing to risk it.

It was an easy challenge to get around; if we needed to call into a shop, one of us would wait in the car with the windows down and a door or two open. And in really hot weather we avoided travelling during the heat of the day.

Paddy in clean water, this is how New Zealand waterways should be

It also meant having to search for rivers for them to cool off in. And that exercise opened our eyes to the state of the rivers, particularly those in the Canterbury region.

We had read about toxic algae polluting waterways and the sad condition many rivers are in, but it wasn’t until we actually saw things for ourselves that it truly registered just how dire the situation has become.

What a great way to spend an afternoon

Gone are the days when you can turn up at a river on a hot, summer’s day and, without a thought, take a swim to cool off. You now have to check first whether they’re actually safe enough to swim in. And by ‘safe’ I don’t mean whether or not they’re flooded or have submerged objects that could be dangerous. I mean the possible toxicity of the water – is it at a safe level for humans and dogs to swim in?

Some rivers we’ve seen in Canterbury have been appalling; not only was there little water flowing: there was algae smothering the riverbeds. Even more alarming were the signs indicating whether it was safe to swim. One sign we saw (beside Lake Forsyth) advised not to enter the water at all, and if contact with the water occurred, it was important to see the doctor if sickness resulted – or in your pet’s case, call a vet.

The grass that isn’t as innocent as it looks

How is it possible for New Zealand to maintain its clean, green image when rivers are in such an atrocious state?

The further south we travelled, the cleaner the rivers and lakes appeared. Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo were crystal clean, a further bonus being the incredible scenery surrounding them.

But although the rivers became safer as we travelled south, we encountered another dilemma that affected our dogs. Grass seeds! These sneaky, feathery, brown seeds lodge themselves in or on dogs’ paws, ears, armpits, and eyes – actually, they can penetrate into any area of your pet’s anatomy. And the scary part is that these seeds can move. Once in the body they travel, causing pain and infection so it is important to contact a vet as soon as possible

Contentment is an afternoon at the beach

Unfortunately one of our dogs, Boo, experienced several encounters with grass seed! One pierced her armpit and another in her ear. The vet also removed two from her belly. We had heard that these pesky seeds can travel once they’ve embedded into the skin.

While staying in Mosgiel, Boo (our smallest dog) started to squeal when we touched her ear. It was Saturday afternoon so finding a vet that was open was a challenge. Fortunately we found one in Dunedin. After Boo was examined the vet decided she would need to be sedated to examine her inner ear. Being the weekend there weren’t enough staff present so we were told to make an appointment for first thing Monday morning. We took Boo home after she was given an antibiotic injection and an injection for pain.

Monday morning arrived and we were at the vet at opening time. Another vet was working, and when he examined Boo again she wasn’t displaying any sign of pain and her ears looked clear. There was no need for sedation and we returned home feeling relieved.

Later that evening as Bernie was trimming Boo’s fur he noticed a scab on her tummy and a lump just above it. We were worried it could be grass seed, so first thing next morning we were back at the vet – this time the vet just around the corner from where we were staying. We’d been told about this particular vet – he had a fantastic reputation and people travelled to have their dogs seen by him.

Boo not feeling well with grass seed in her belly

The clinic had barely opened its doors and already it was busy. The waiting room was full of owners and their dogs. It seemed we would be in good hands, judging by the number of pet owners waiting for this reputable vet to see their pooches.

We were lucky, or rather Boo was lucky. The vet found and removed two grass seeds without having to sedate her. She had an antibiotic injection and we were able to take her home.

The grass seed removed from Boo’s belly

If you walk your pooch in areas of tall grass or grass that’s obviously seeding, it’s important to check your dog often for these seeds. Check between toes, in ears, armpits and the groin areas.

It’s best for a vet to remove them and ensure the entire seed has gone, rather than attempt it yourself (unless they’re close to the surface and easily accessible).

Grass seed won’t show up in an X-ray because they’re made from vegetable matter. If a dog is hard to keep still or the seed has tracked further into the tissue, then a general anaesthetic maybe needed to surgically explore the area and find the seed.

Waiting to see where the next adventure will be

Other than the polluted rivers and the grass seed dilemma, life on the road with three dogs continues to be fabulous. I’m sure they enjoy the thrill of discovering new areas as much as we do.