Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dangerous Dog Balls found in Mt. Pleasant

Doctor Lyla Yip forwarded me an email about a kind of rubber ball that is soft-skinned, bumpy, and has only one hole in it. There were some gruesome pictures of a dog that lost its tongue because the suction created by this type of ball sucked its tongue into the hole, and the tongue swelled. Apparently there are a lot of cases of this kind of disaster.

Suzette and I found one of these balls on the ground while we were walking the dogs. It's true, it does create a powerful suction through the one hole. However, I did an experiment and my hypothesis was correct: The thing to do if you find one of these is to poke another hole in the ball - preferably before your dog's tongue gets caught. I used a screwdriver to poke a hole in the other side of the ball we found, and it now no longer creates suction. It also doesn't hold its shape so rigidly if squeezed, but, hey, you can't have everything. Physics rules.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

City Thinking about Snow Now

I was pleased to see one of the older garbage trucks come down our street this morning, with one guy driving and one behind putting the cans onto the truck attachment for dumping and then putting them back on the side of the road. They were working both sides of the street at the same time. That's the technology that was abandoned for the fancy new automatic can-dumpers that can be driven by one person with nobody working the back of them, but apparently the older trucks are still around for emergencies. A few days ago, a workman told me that garbage trucks were out trying to pick up but got stuck in snow.

Lifting the cans is hard work, and the guy handling them looked tired, but I cheered him as they took our trash. It's been a long time. Now, if the recycling truck would just come by....

Meanwhile, City Hall is waking up to the fact that this sort of thing can happen and looking at making some plans. Cope Councillor Ellen Woodsworth called for some creative solutions, which would not be amiss.

It would have been helpful if we'd had some coordination. By the time we got out looking for snow shovels, salt and sand, none was to be had in our local neighbourhood stores. People like me shoveling snow with garden spades would have been happy for a place to borrow a proper snow shovel and maybe someone with a snow blower would rent it out if we knew how to get in touch. It's true our neighbours across the street were generous with their snow shovel, but they were often using it themselves.

In a related story, I heard that the Bus Riders Union is pointing out that there are Translink buses trying to drive in the snow with bald summer tires and drivers are frightened about it. Supposedly nobody makes proper winter tires for the buses?

Here's that release - any aunties or uncles with ideas for the next storm should contact Ellen Woodsworth's office, I guess:

Immediate Release: January 6, 2009

Councilor Woodsworth calls for creative solutions to Vancouver snow

Councilor Woodsworth met with city staff today to explore ways that the city can better deal with snow on Vancouver sidewalks.

According to Woodsworth, "we need to do more to alleviate the hardships faced by seniors, people with disabilities, working people who can't get to work because sidewalks are blocked by snow and ice, transit users, homeless, and all the others who have suffered during the harsh weather. Many have even been housebound."

While this year's winter has been an anomaly - and she acknowledges the work of city staff and residents - Woodsworth believes it's important for Vancouver to have more plans in place.

At the next council meeting, she will ask staff to explore the possibility of working with community centres and/or local non-profit agencies about the possibility of partnering on programs that would allow them to coordinate the dispersal of shovels, salt, etc. to central locations, and mobilize volunteers, or hire staff to clear sidewalks for those with limited mobility during snow emergencies. This could be accomplished by establishing and publicizing a "snow helpline " coordinated through a non-profit or community centre.

She will also be calling for the city to distribute a pamphlet to all residents - in multiple languages - acknowledging what they have endured, explaining existing by-laws and legal liability, the responsibilities of business and residential property owners, and encouraging residents to be good neighbours and remove snow and ice from the sidewalks adjacent to their property in future snow or ice events.

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Media Contact
Rachel Marcuse
COPE Executive Director

Rachel Marcuse
Executive Director
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE)
604-255-0400 (office)
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Help create a Vancouver for everyone.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hideous Garbage Disaster and Dogs

I saw a private garbage truck today - one of those big ones that lifts up the dumpster and mechanically dumps it into a truck. And I thought, "I wonder if there is anybody on that truck who will get out and pick up all the boxes and bags and debris from broken bags and nasty items that have been piled up for more than two weeks all around those dumpsters."

Well, as it turned out the garbage truck was just turning around in the laneway. They never even went in and dumped the dumpster. All the dumpsters are from different companies anyway, and most of them don't have their trucks out at all.

Neither does the city. We have not had garbage or recycling pickup on our street since before the first big snow fall. Our cans are full, and our houses and porches are now also filling up with bags and boxes of garbage and recycling both.

You might think we'd be glad that the snow and ice keep the garbage from smelling. But that isn't really the case. We humans may not be able to smell it, but other animals can. Tonight I saw raccoon tracks in a shallow patch of snow around one overflowing dumpster. I've also seen dogs stick their heads down under the snow to sniff, and then wrestle to the surface and wolf down frozen whole slices of white bread some kind-hearted people thought they were leaving for the birds.

Under ordinary conditions, we'd just walk the dogs on leashes past the temptations, or go a different direction where we don't get close to the mess they love. But on slippery snow and ice, a dog on a leash can easily pull a person down - it's not safe.

When the snow was new, there were no cars moving, and we turned the dogs loose and walked with them through beautifuly white yards, lanes, and parks. It was lovely, and all the dogs and their people were out being amiable. But now, cars are driving through the ruts in the side-street slush; the snow over walking places is terribly uneven, ranging from crunchy to hard to slurpy to slick. The all-but-invisible "black ice" is slicker than greased glass. I walk baby steps while the dogs have the stability of four legs. I call them to come, but KFC leavings are stronger than their master's voice. When I catch up, we have contests of wills among the garbage heaps and have to go home early, with me hoarse from yelling, them reluctant to leave their plunder, and all of us in a bad mood.

One man we met suggested hitching the dogs to a sled. If we ever get the car dug out, I'll shop for one. A sled ride from the house to the dumpster might be fun.