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Giving my dogs a Christmas gift really want

December 10, 2013 17 comments

Daisy and her Woobie

Daisy and her Woobie

If you celebrate Christmas then I am guessing many of  you will be buying a gift or two for your dogs in the coming weeks. I’ve been debating whether or not I will be doing the same.

Two years ago I chose not to buy my dogs any gifts because they already had SO many toys in their toy basket. Then last year, I broke down and purchased a new Woobie for Daisy (that Jasper destroyed fairly quickly), some stuff-less squeaky toys for Cupcake (that she still has and loves) and new Kong Squeaky balls for Jasper (one of which still survives) for Christmas.

This year I am leaning towards not buying them any more toys. Don’t get me wrong, my dogs would be happy to have a new toy to play with, but they also wouldn’t mind not getting toys either. The things that make my dogs most happy are not “things.” They love what cannot be bought. So this year I am thinking I will give them more of what they really want:

  1. Longer walks in the park.
  2. Longer walks in new parks.
  3. More time learning new tricks and commands.
  4. More time playing outside in the snow.
  5. More time cuddling and playing inside (when it’s cold).

What are you getting your dogs (and cats) this year?

 

There may not be any of this going on this year, but maybe that’s okay.

A Pet Sitter’s Review: Dynamo Dog Treats

November 5, 2013 11 comments

IMG_9468Back when I was a pet sitter, I was known for carrying a treat pouch with me everywhere I went. The dogs knew it, their humans knew it, even the neighborhood dogs knew it.

There were several reason I did this:

  1. To mark a desired behavior (like loose-leash walking) in one of my doggie clients while out on our walks.
  2. To train new dog tricks to some of my doggie clients (like the adorable Teddy) as a way to add a little variety to our walks.
  3. To toss to an oncoming dog who may be a threat to my client. (I even threw the whole pouch at a dog just to slow her down!)

I always felt like I was prepared when I had my treat pouch with me.

One of the treats I used to use most often (and still use) was Cloud Star Soft and Chewy Buddy Biscuits. I originally hose them because they are a high quality treat that is made in the U.S.A. by a family owned business and because they are grain-free (no corn!) and do not include artificial preservatives, but I soon realized that they were also a high-value treat for almost all my doggie clients. Dogs love them, including my own dogs.Dynamo dog hip and joint

So when I was asked if I would be interested in reviewing the latest Cloud Star dog treats, I (of course) said yes.  I don’t often do product reviews, but this one I was happy to do because they are a company I trust and one I have purchased from many times before.

Our dog park friend. He loved them so much he tried to get some from me a week later.

Our dog park friend. He loved them so much he tried to get some from me a week later.

Our box of treats arrived on the same day I purchased a new bag of Soft and Chewy Buddy Biscuits at the pet food store. It made me laugh. What are the chances?

I opened the box to see a new line Cloud Star dog treats called Dynamo Dog. All the bags were clearly labeled and indicated they were grain free on the package. They also clearly identified a specific dog need they were designed to meet. The four bags in the box were:

  • Hip and Jointmade with Bacon and Cheese, contains Glucosamine HCL and Chondroitin Sulfate.
  • Hip and Jointmade with Chicken, contains Glucosamine HCL and Chondroitin Sulfate.
  • Tummy treats, made with Pumpkin and Ginger (both of which are great for dogs), contain several types of probiotics to help create good bacteria in a dog’s tummy.
  • Skin and Coatmade with Salmon, contains Vitamin E to help with the skin and coat.

I started my dogs off with the Tummy treats the first night. They were an absolute hit!  I laughed as my dogs offered me all sorts of behaviors (downs, sit, watch me, turn, etc.) just so they could get a treat. They loved them.

Dynamo Dog Body and coatWe tried them again at the dog park the next day. They were a hit there as well. I was starting to feel like the Pied Piper after a while because I had so many dogs coming back to me for more! One dog actually came back to me today (several times) looking for more treats! Clearly, the dogs loved them.

We have since tried the Hip and Joint and the Skin and Coat. All have been popular with my dogs and the dogs at the dog park. I even used them in the dog’s chess game to see if they could find them quicker. They did.

We’ll be buying these treats again.

Update: I came home yesterday to torn up packages of Dynamo Dog Treats. The bags were already empty, but clearly the dogs love them. :)

IMG_9469

The demise of Daylight Saving Time and the Dawn of Dog Game Nights

October 28, 2013 14 comments

IMG_8929It’s getting to be that time of year again. The time when darkness pervades our mornings and our nights and Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends. it’s my least favorite time of year because it means the dogs and I will be relegated to walking in the dark or just on weekends.

Cupcake is a pro at Chess

Cupcake is a pro at Chess

If I lived in Arizona or Hawaii or Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, I wouldn’t have to set my clock back at all and the dogs and I could walk in the morning. But since we live in Minnesota, and no one has seen fit to get rid of this archaic and outdated policy, we will be making the best of it by playing dog puzzles and other silly games.

Truthfully, the dogs actually love our dog game nights. They look forward to taking their turn at finding treats in the dog chess game or digging a Kong out of a box and taking it out of a sock. It’s a challenge and something different and interesting for them to do.

Cupcake has gotten especially good at playing dog chess, so I am thinking it may be time to try some new games. Here are just a few I am looking at. Have any of you tried these? I would love your opinion on which ones might be a challenge for my little dog prodigy.

Nina Ottosson Brick Game

Nina Ottosson Brick Interactive Toy

Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado  Interactive Toy

Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Interactive Toy

Nina Ottosson Dog Turbo Interactive Toy

Nina Ottosson Dog Turbo Interactive Toy

Hagen Dogit Mind Games

Hagen Dogit Mind Games 3-in-1 Interactive Smart Toy for Dogs

Operation Thundershirt gets underway

July 1, 2013 35 comments

IMG_4514Operation Thundershirt has officially begun at Casa del Mel. On Saturday evening the first real barrage of fireworks mayhem began. Unlike many of the ones I usually hear at this time of year, these were pretty mild, but it didn’t matter because Daisy was already in full fear overload. It was time to bring out the Thundershirt.

This time of year can be very frustrating for me and very stressful for Daisy. As a fourth of July baby, you would think I would be a lover of all things fireworks. Um no. Not so much really.Even as a baby my mother said I would cry when fireworks began. Like Daisy, the noise hurt my ears.

I am not opposed to people having fun with fireworks, but the constant barrage over the days and weeks before and after the 4th of July can be a bit much. On top of that is the randomness in which they occur. Day or night, I never know when someone will set off the odd bottle rocket or the humongously loud firework that booms with such intensity one has to wonder if they wouldn’t be better suited for a city’s firework’s display than a small cozy little neighborhood.

I feel fortunate that I only have one dog who is inconsolable this time of year (instead of three), but it doesn’t lessen the stress we all feel as Daisy deals with her fears. The Thundershirt helps, but  it isn’t a cure-all. Unlike thunderstorms, where the Thundershirt will calm Daisy so much she will go back to her kennel and fall asleep, fireworks are much more nerve-wracking for her. At best, I can hope it will take the edge off and make her less jumpy and less unsettled. Often, I just have to settle for cuddling with her and soothing her with my touch or voice. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Last night was one of little success. Even with her Thundershirt on, Daisy was displaying all of the signs of a dog with a sound phobia:

  • Excessively panting
  • Pacing
  • Shaking
  • Curling up into a tiny little ball
  • Getting as close to me as possible and hiding her head in my lap
  • Refusing to go outside as soon as the sun started to go down
  • Unable to leave my side when she does get outside
  • Jumped at the slightest noise or movement (often unrelated to fireworks)
  • Inability to sleep or relax

It was only when the noises stopped that she fell asleep. Thank goodness they stopped fairly early. I cannot not hope that this will be the case as we get closer to the 4th.

Operation Thundershirt is underway, but Operation Melatonin may have to be implemented as a supplementary action. How are you and your dogs faring out there? Are you having much success calming your dogs this time of year?

My Summer Book Pick – A Stolen Dog (A True Story)

June 17, 2013 9 comments

51NtI68FMELShortly after Cupcake returned home from her 12 day hiatus a friend suggested that maybe I should write a book about our experience. I took it as a very kind suggestion, but shrugged it off. I didn’t think I could ever encompass our experience in mere words. To some degree, I still don’t. It truly was one of the most emotionally charged, inspiring, scary, disturbing and frustrating experience of my life. You just can’t know what a dog owner goes through when they lose their dog unless you have been through it yourself.

That’s why I was surprised when Tricia O’Malley contacted me to offer me the chance to read and review her book The Stolen Dog. Why? Because it was a true story. HER true story about how her Boston Terrier, Briggs, was stolen and how she got him back.

How was she able to write about something that must have been so difficult to go through?

I sat down to read it on Sunday afternoon and didn’t put it down until I was finished. It reads like a suspense novel. When Briggs first goes missing, Tricia and her husband are at a loss of what to do. They run through the streets calling Brigg’s name – thinking maybe he just got out of their yard somehow. But when a neighbor informs them that a man took their dog right off their deck, they are forced to face the new reality – their dog was stolen and he could be anywhere AND he could be in serious danger.

Tricia and her husband comb their city, Milwaukee, looking for Briggs. At every turn in their story, you wonder if the next person is the dognapper or if they will be harmed as they navigate through some of the darkest and most dangerous neighborhoods of Milwaukee. It’s intense and scary. It also captures every emotion, every experience, every frustration and every bit of hope I felt when Cupcake was missing.

I laughed. I cried. I expressed outrage on her behalf. But mostly, I nodded my head as she shared stories about all of the kind people who entered her life to help her find Briggs. Complete strangers. People just motivated to help because they too, loved dogs. Sometimes from the most unexpected corners too.

I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out if Briggs was found. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it was well worth waiting for.

If you are looking for a good summer read while on the beach this summer, I highly recommend Tricia’s book. Trust me. You won’t be able to put it down either. Plus, she shares a lot of great info along the way on how they got Briggs back. There’s also a little surprise that happens along the way. Let’s just say that if he had a long tail he would be wagging it wildly. :)

I’m going to be reading it again. Slowly. It is worthy of a second go-around.

I’ll leave you with Tricia’s own words from the last page of her book…

“What I do know is that from now on, I’ll pay more attention to people who ask for help. Why? Because I know what it’s like to feel helpless. Because ultimately, that is what saved Briggs, a community of people who decided to care about a small dog, stolen from a porch, on a sunny day in May.”

I can completely relate.

Extolling the Virtues of a Martingale Collar

March 28, 2013 47 comments
Martingale collar from Pink Puppy Designs

Martingale collar from Pink Puppy Designs

The first time I ever saw a Martingale collar was at the dog park. It was worn by a Greyhound that was new to the park.

I probably never even would have noticed the mechanics of the collar if I hadn’t noticed the beautiful coloring of it first. The collar was made of a bright and colorful fabric mixed with a swirl of blues and green and purple. It stood out.

I remember asking the dog’s mom where she had gotten it and her telling me all about the collar, where she had purchased it and why she had it. I was fascinated. Having a dog who regularly slipped her collar (Daisy), I loved the idea that I could purchase a collar that she couldn’t slip out of.

If you have never seen one before, a Martingale collar has two loops instead of one. Most dog collars you see these days are the simple ones that go around the dog’s neck (and hopefully, stay on them) and clip into a buckle. The Martingale collar is different. It is designed to prevent dogs from easily slipping out of their collars.  The beauty of the design is that it does this without cutting off dog’s airflow, as those old choker chains did when I was a kid.

The Martingale is often seen on Greyhounds because a regular collar does not work on them. Why? Because, like Shelties, a Greyhound’s head is smaller than their neck, which means a regular collar can easily slip off their neck, over their head, and they can be off and running before you can catch them. A Martingale allows the collar to tighten around the dogs’ neck without hurting them. The idea here is to keep your dog safe and in your control.

So why am I extolling the virtues of a Martingale collar today? Because I want dog owners to be aware of what is available to them, especially if they have a fearful or skittish dog (or just a dog who regularly slips their collar). Is your dog frightened by loud noises and looks for a place to run and hide? Get a Martingale collar. Does your dog like to chase runners like Jasper does? Get a Martingale collar.

Over the past few months, I have seen WAY too many Lost Sheltie signs and I have seen WAY too many dogs lost because they slipped their collar or weren’t properly leashed. I know it’s selfish, but I am tired of crying over someone’s dog who died because they slipped their collar and got hit by a car. If you have a dog that slips their collar, please consider getting a Martingale (and a harness wouldn’t be a bad idea either). Let’s keep them safe and in our control. I don’t want to read about another dead dog. I’m sure you don’t either.

If you are looking for some great Martingale collars, check out Pink Puppy Designs. They are colorful and fun and safe.

Also check out Classic Hound! They have some really stylish and cool collars for your hound, like the one pictured below. Seriously cool stuff!

Martingale collar

Do you have one-on-one time with your dog?

February 20, 2013 21 comments
Daisy playing Chess

Daisy playing Chess

This past weekend my friend Emily posted a picture of her and her dog, Lilly, on a special outing together. It was their girls day out.

It brought back a lot of happy memories of my outings with Daisy. Back when I was a pet sitter, she used to ride with me on some of my pet visits. I would also take her on special outings to get some ice cream (that’s probably how she got to be 75 lbs back then!). I would buy one ice cream cone for me and one for her. Then, we would go sit in a park and watch the world go by as we enjoyed our cones and each others company.

Seeing Emily’s picture reminded me how long it has been since we’ve done something like that. Now that I have three dogs, it can be hard to get that one-on-one time with any one of them. But last night I had the opportunity to enjoy some one-on-one time with each of my dogs and it felt really good, especially with Daisy.

Since it was so cold out, I decided to switch things up a bit and bring out our doggie puzzle from Trixie and let each of the dogs have their own chance to play with it. The game is called Chess and it comes with 4 yellow cups and a board with sliding squares. Under the squares are little holes in which you can place treats. The squares also have holes in them so you can place treats in them and cover them with the cups. It requires a dog to really use their brain to figure out how to get to the treats.

I decided Daisy would be first. I set up a baby gate so Jasper and Cupcake were on one side and Daisy and I on the other. Then, I placed the game (loaded with tiny pieces of pork) on the floor. Daisy was very nervous at first, not having really played with the puzzle much before, but she was also very intrigued by the smells coming from it.  Since she was nervous about what to do, I sat down on the floor near her. I placed the game in front of her, but she still seemed unsure, so I showed her some of the hidden pieces of pork and then covered them up again.

She tentatively reached out with her nose to smell one yellow cup. Then she nudged it a little. The cup started to topple over. She jumped. She went back again and nudged the cup aside and grabbed the piece of meat. It took time, but eventually, with my encouragement and revealing the treats to her from time to time, she eventually started to figure it out. And with each successive find, she became more confident.

It was so rewarding to sit next to her and work the puzzle together. We worked as a team and had so much fun in doing so.

Cupcake is a pro at Chess

Cupcake is a pro at Chess

After each round, we would just sit there and hang out, I would give her belly rubs and kisses, and she would give me nose bumps and pleading looks for more of the same. It was a very special evening. I can’t remember how many times we did this, but I think it was at least five. I think she loved our time together as much as she loved getting the treats

Afterwards, Jasper and Cupcake got their special time alone with me and we did the same thing. They seemed to enjoy it just as much as Daisy.

Having this special time together with each of my dogs makes me think that I need to do this kind of thing more often. Maybe each dog should have their special day.

What do you think? Do you have special days with your dog? If you have more than one dog, do you take time out to spend it with just one dog at a time? I would love to hear what you have to say.

Jasper loves Chess

Jasper loves Chess

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