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Walking dogs in the dark? Get a headlamp.

November 8, 2015 8 comments

CoastHL7After the big FALL BACK, I’ve been trying to find ways to keep walking the dogs (in the dark). It’s not easy walking three leashed dogs on a street without any sidewalks, especially when one has to deal with speeding cars. Add walking in the dark to the mix and… well, now you see why we walk at the dog park most nights.

Unfortunately, the great FALL BACK has also made the dog park too dark for walking dogs, unless of course, you have a head lamp.

I’ve tried head lamps before, but none of them seemed to offer much in the way of illumination. I am not keen on tripping over tree roots or twisting my ankle in a hole, so I often ended up supplementing my headlamp with my iPhone, or relying on my friend Sara’s light, to make up for from my measly one. (She got hers at Kohl’s just like I did, but for some reason, hers was ten times brighter than mine.)

This year I wanted a headlamp that would give me enough light on my own, whether Sara was with or not. So, I went looking online. (What did we ever do without Google?)

Fortunately, a great little website called Outdoor Gear Lab had already done some detailed research and testing on headlamps and had come up with the best and worst. They tested 28 headlamps in both the field and the lab. Each one was rated on such specifics as beam strength, length and endurance, and price and value. The side-by-side images comparing the beams of comparable headlamps was especially helpful in making my decision.

In the end, I decided to get the Coast HL7. It was the best value for the size and weight of the device, and the beam was especially good (196 lumens). An added bonus was that  I was able to find it at a store close by (Walmart).

I thought about going to REI to get the Black Diamond ReVolt (2nd best on Outdoor Gear Lab’s s list), but that would have required a separate side trip and I was impatient to get started walking. I also found the price a little more than I wanted to pay. The HL7 was only $34 at Walmart. I may still go get the Black Diamond ReVolt, but for now I’m going to give the HL7 a try.

HL7 compare

The HL7 has an adjusting lever on the battery pack that allows you to go from complete darkness to bright beam or something in-between.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that when I got to Walmart, the only one they had in stock was the Coast HL7 with 285 lumens. It is even brighter than the one in the review, but the downside is it lasts only 1 1/2 hours at full strength. I have yet to change the batteries, butI am not using it at full-strength most of the time, so we’ll see how long it really lasts. Who knows? Maybe that ReVolt may be in my future after all.

So do you have a favorite headlamp for walking in the dark? If not, what do you use to guide your way?

My new favorite product – The Tick Lasso

October 8, 2015 6 comments

The Tick LassoQuite a while ago, I saw a product I had never heard of before at my vet’s office. It is called the Trix TickLasso.

What??? A lasso for ticks? Yup. It’s a real thing. And, the veterinarian staff wholeheartedly endorsed it. When they showed me how it worked, I was sold. I purchased it immediately.The Lasso

Of course, since I regularly use Frontline on the dogs, I have never had the chance to use it. It sat in my junk drawer for months. I had completely forgotten I had it.

But recently, I was a little late in applying Frontline on the dogs and Daisy got a tick. (I hate those damn little buggers.)

I was upset that my lapse in memory had allowed one to attach to her. Damn ticks.

I was also really worried about removing it and not getting the head out. In the past, I have tried to remove a rock using a tweezers. Getting the head out was usually futile. But, this time I had the TickLasso! So, I thought I would give it a try.

It was money well spent.It was really easy to use, and unlike a pair tweezers, it removed the tick intact, head and all. What a great product.

So how does it work?

  1. Like a ballpoint pen, you push the button on top of the applicator and a small lasso appears at the other end.
  2. You loop the lasso over the tick (down where the head is attached).
  3. Release the button and the lasso tightens around the tick (just like lassoing a bull).
  4. Twist the applicator and pull.

That’s it! The whole tick comes out and you’re done.

The lassoed tickJust make sure to dispose of the tick. (If you use a lit match to kill the tick, like me, make sure you let the tick out of the lasso before burning him otherwise you will ruin your lasso.)

You can see a video of how it works below.

If you want to purchase one for yourself, they are pretty much everywhere, including Amazon.

Note: I purchased this product myself and used it. I was not approached by anyone to endorse this product.

Unsaid – A Book Review

April 6, 2015 5 comments

Reading a book on dogs.

I’m a little behind the curve when it comes to my book reading list. I didn’t read Gone Girl when everyone else did (I watched the movie instead). I missed the whole Divergent series when it originally came out. And, all the dog books everyone else has been raving about for months have been sitting on my night stand for months.

However, I did get around to reading one book that was making the rounds last year (at least I think it was last year). The book is “Unsaid,” written by Neil Abramson, and it has been occupying my mind for a while now.

Bare bones, the book is about a dead woman, Helena, and her relationship with those she loves. It’s also a story about coping with life after you lose the love of your life, friendship, and fighting for those who don’t have a voice in our legal system. Woven through the story (and various storylines), there are dogs, cats, horses, a pig, a chimp named Cindy, and a boy named Clifford.

At the beginning of the book we learn that Helena, a veterinarian, has died from cancer. She lingers on in the lives of her husband and beloved animals, unable to move on and unable to help them in their grief. She feels for her animals, for whom she was the prime caregiver, and her husband who is trying to care for them while still dealing with his debilitating grief at losing her.

Reading her words and her feelings in this early part of the book was difficult. I imagined myself in her position and having to watch my own animals struggling to deal losing me. It was painful. I couldn’t help but wonder how they would cope with the loss and with being split up. How scary would it be for them to suddenly be living in a new home or in a rescue? How confused would they be? Would they thrive? Would they struggle? Yeah. Not pleasant thoughts to be thinking.

But soon, the book has you heading in different directions and off on a journey that explores the relationship between her husband, a veterinarian friend, a woman and her son and the pets she leaves behind. Each person is someone you come to care about. Each is struggling with loss and trust and change. Even Helena’s animals become personalities that you root for or worry about.

When Helena’s husband (a lawyer), takes on a case involving a chimpanzee, named Cindy, and the woman who has raised and studied her, the story takes turn. At the center of the court battle is the argument that Cindy, a chimp who communicates using sign language and has been shown to have the capacity to think like a child, should be saved from experimental testing because she is a sentient being. The battle takes many twists and turns but in the end leaves one thinking about the value of an animal life and the value each animal brings to our own lives.

As Helena says near the end of the book:

“I’ve been so foolish, running through the forest searching for some profound and eclipsing life meaning when it is the trees themselves that were bejeweled the whole time: Skippy, Brutus, Arthur, Alice, Chip, Bernie, Smokey, Prince, Collette, Charlie, Cindy, hundreds of cats, dogs and other creatures whom I treated, made better, eased into death, or simply had the privilege to know. Each was worthy in his or her own right for being valued, each was instrumental in connecting us and then moving us onward in our own lives, and each gave more than he or she got in return.”

This is a book worth reading. It leaves you thinking and it makes you appreciate the time you have with the animals in your life. I think I only had two disappointments in reading this book: 1) that I never got to experience Helena being reunited with any of her animals, and 2) that it ended way before I was ready for it to do so.

Dog games to buy for your dog this Christmas

December 7, 2014 18 comments

A few people have sent me notes and private messages inquiring about the games I play with my dogs. They wanted to know what game or games would for their dog(s). I know Christmas is coming up, so I thought I would at least share my own experience with some of the games I have and tell you which ones I want to get next.

Trixie Chess Game

UntitledThe Chess Game by Trixie was the first game I ever purchased for my dogs. I thought it would be a difficult one  for them to figure out (it was labeled Level 3), and it was, but only for a short time. Cupcake was the first to figure out that there were treats under those golden cups, but it wasn’t long before Jasper and Daisy did too.

It was also Cupcake (Master Puzzle-solver) who first figured out that the red blocks slid sideways, and that they hid even more treats. She loves this puzzle, but mostly because it is so easy for her now.

I love this toy because it got my dogs started on puzzles. I also love it because it helped Daisy to gain confidence. When I first tried this puzzle with Daisy she was skittish and jumpy and nervous. She needed a lot of encouragement to keep trying, but she never stopped trying. Now she is a quick as Cupcake at solving it and she loves it just as much as Cupcake does.

My opinion? A great puzzle to start out on. If your dogs are a little more shy or tentative, this is a great one to start on. It’s also a great game for beginner dog gamers.

 

He is not going to let the game beat him. 😄Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado 

The next game I purchased for the dogs was the Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Interactive Dog Toy. I was lucky this time because I was able to let my dogs try it out before I purchased it. The toy has 3 levels, with each containing 4 spots in which to place a treat. Each level spins around to reveal the treat. Dogs can nudge or paw each level to get it to move. The game also has 4 bone-shaped cups that can cover any one of the treat spots and prevent them from moving on to the next level until the cups are removed.

I love this toy because it allows me to increase or decrease the complexity of the puzzle based on which dog is doing it. For Maggie, I can leave it at its easiest level (no cups) and help encourage her to solve it on her own. For Daisy Game night!and Cupcake, I increase the difficulty by placing the bone cups on the higher levels so they can get them out. Jasper seems to have become more of a pro at this one, so I put the cups in the middle level and on the bottom so he really has to work to remove them and get to the treats.

There is only one thing I don’t like about this toy and that is the bone cups themselves. They are smooth and difficult to get out (especially for Cupcake with her limited teeth) because they slip out of their mouths so easily. If they had groves in them it would be easier but I still love this game a lot. I just put them upside down for Cupcake, so they are not a deterrent to the fun.

My opinion? A great game for beginners and intermediate dog gamers. The ability to make it easy or more difficult is fun for me and my dogs. They love this game.

 

The best way to solve a puzzle is to chew it up until the chicken falls out. 😄 #doggamesNina Ottosson Dog Twister

The most recent game I purchased for Jasper, Daisy and Cupcake is the Nina Ottosson Dog Twister Interactive game. By far, this is the hardest dog game we have in the house. I know for sure this is true because more than once Daisy has given up and tried to chew it apart just so she can get to the treats!

The Dog Twister is made up of ten sliding pie pieces within a circle frame. Each pie piece hides a spot in which to hide treats. A dog must slide each pie piece in order to reveal the treat hidden underneath.Can you help me mom? This one is hard! #doggames

Sounds easy right? Not quite. The game also comes with twelve bone inserts that can be used to prevent a dog from moving the pie pieces. The only way to move a pie piece after that is to remove the bone(s).  As the game master, you can put in one to two bones or all twelve and increase the difficulty of the game.

My dog love this one, but are also easily frustrated by it, so I help them out on this one quite a bit. So far, the only one to figure out that the bone pieces need to be removed is Daisy, and even she is hit or miss on this. I started all four dogs out with no bone pieces and have now worked up to two, with help from mom.

My opinion? This game might be a better choice for a more experienced dog gamer. If you want a game that your dog can grow into over time, this might be the game for you, but I think I would start with an easier one for dogs who are new to dog games.

Future game purchases

There are quite a few other dog games out there ranging from easy to more difficult. Amazon has quite a few of them. I already have my eye on a few more that I want to try out with my dogs.

Trixie Mad Scientist

Tribe Mad Scientist for Dogs

Number one on my list is the Trixie Mad Scientist for Dogs. This one requires that treats are placed in the beaker-shaped modules suspended above the game’s base. In order for a dog to get the treats out, he must spin the bottles with his nose. I think Jasper would really love this one. They say it is a Level Two game, but I have a feeling it will be more difficult for all my dogs.

Trixie Gambling TowerThe other game I am looking to buy is the Trixie Gambling Tower. This one requires a dog to pull pieces out with their teeth and to remove cups to get to the treats. This game is labeled Level 1 (Easy), but I still think it would be a fun one to do with my dogs. This is a great one for beginning dog gamers too.

Whatever toy you decide to get your pet, make sure it is fun for them and you. Give your dog time to figure it out on her own, but if you see her becoming frustrated, help her out.  I promise you, you won’t be giving her the solution to the whole puzzle. I have shown my dogs how to do something on each of their puzzles and they rarely take that information and use it again the next time.

I hope you all have a great time! Let me know how it goes!

(Side note: I was in Petco this weekend to get new leashes and they had a whole wall dedicated to dog toys! You don’t have to wait for it to be delivered. You can go get one now. )

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

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.

Twin City Dog: Where Rescue and Art Come Together

May 8, 2013 9 comments

Maybe this is the case everywhere, but I am often amazed at how wonderful the animal rescue community is in my great state of Minnesota. I have met some amazing people over the past few years, many of them people who have (and continue to) go above and beyond what is expected, just to save an animal in need. But, every once in a while I meet someone who just stands out in the rescue community.

That is exactly how I would describe Chuck Heubach, a man with a very big heart and a desire to help animals in need.

Chuck is the owner and creator  of TwinCityDog.com, an artistic online studio specializing in the creation of animal friendly children’s books emphasizing the humane treatment of dogs.

Franco

Franco

I came across Chuck’s work after a friend (in rescue) shared one of his images on her Facebook page. It was a picture of Franco, a dog that had recently appeared on our local news station after he was abused by some kids in Blaine, MN. It was beautiful work and I was intrigued. I immediately went to investigate who had done it and where I could possibly get some images done of my own dogs. Following the Facebook page, I found many other images and a webpage.  And that’s when I met Chuck, the owner of Twin City Dog.

After conversing over email, I found out that Chuck is not only active in several out-of-state Collie rescues, but he is also connected to people I know in Sheltie rescue. In addition, he volunteers his time (and his images) to help dogs who need a little extra help getting adopted. He offers his pictures for free to rescues and shelters with hard to place dogs. .

You will find his images to be unlike anything you have ever seen before. I have shared a few of my favorites below, but I encourage you to take a stroll through his gallery to get a real sense of his talent.

If you are interested in having Chuck do a print of your own pet, just send him an email at Twin City Dog. You can also upload a photo on his website here. There are two pricing options – $50 per image or $30 plus $10 to your favorite shelter in the name of Twin City Dog. Prints are not included, but you do receive a high quality pdf file that you can get printed.

I wrote this post because I love Chuck’s work and because I wanted to recognize him for all the great work he does for dogs.

If you have a moment, please leave a comment and tell him how much you love his work. Thanks!

Waiting-for-the-Mail

Waiting for the Mail

Couch Potato

Couch Potato

Daisy

Daisy

A Therapy Dog at Work

A Therapy Dog at Work

Here is one he did of Jasper. Isn’t it incredible?

921547_456410167777307_203001957_o

All images are the property of Twin City Dog and used in compliance with Twin City Dog sharing guidelines.

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