And We’re Back!

Howdy Peeps!

It’s been a while. Been working like a dog…certainly not like my dogs. These guys eat and nap their day away. But I have been working quite a bit for the past 5 months and some things had to be put in the back burner…ok, maybe completely off the stove. By that I mean the blog, not my dogs. Chris and the dogs take front and center. I’m not a person who does well on a routine, much less a routine that requires me to do more than is required for the proper running of our lives. But it doesn’t matter how busy and tired I am, I think writing a couple times a week is like exercising, you just have to do it for the sake of structure, health and sanity. So here I am, and if there is anyone out there who actually likes reading what I put out, then to you I say; I’m back baby!

What are we waiting for?

What are we waiting for?

 Doggy Daycare

Like I said, it’s been a busy five months and there hasn’t been a shortage of adventures with these two mutts and I plan to tell you all about it. So I missed this little nook of cyberspace and the dogs missed having me around pretty much all the time. We’ve all suffered a little, I know. So the first thing Chris and I did was to pay a visit to our local Eco Dog Daycare to talk to them about their day care packages. Argos had been here plenty of times but our concern was Ellie. She is not the quickest to warm up to stranger dogs or humans. We talked to the owner, told her my concerns and she promised Ellie would be safe and that they would keep an eye on her. So once a week when possible, Ellie and Argos spend a day at Eco Dog Daycare to give them that opportunity for an interaction with other dogs and people. I get a report on Ellie every time there is anything to report. I’m told she is slowly warming up to other dogs. All the neighborhood dogs come to Eco Dog so its always fun to see them there. Actually, its always fun to see most of them there. There is a dog named Biscuit whom the dogs and I are not very fond. He goes there too but he is kept in check by the staff at Eco Dog, so I rest easy.

So then, what do I do with the rest of my minutes, hours, days and weeks? It goes something like this.

Routines Routines Routines…blegh!

wake up, brew coffee/ eat breakfast, go on a 30-40 min walk (the walk is only 1 mile but this is how long it takes my dogs to sniff out the previous day’s events), feed dogs, get lunches ready, get in at least one chore. Fast forward to after work: come home, relieve dogs, feed dogs, exercise, get in the shower ,put dinner on the table, eat dinner, clean up, get another chore done, spend time with the dogs, call it a day. Ok fine, getting that second chore done at the end of the day is more wishful thinking than anything else. I’ve said it before; I don’t know how parents do it. I don’t have kids and I can barely get through my day.

This I have to say. Two dogs will teach you discipline! And here I thought I was training them…So while time is in short supply in this house, I’ve decided My Mutt Friends will take more priority. The goal has always been to share the adventures of a person who doesn’t know what she is doing half the time and the two companions who willingly submit themselves to the experimentation.

This took you an hour?

This took you an hour?

Upcoming Projects

So the question is, am I making too much of this? I ask friends and family how they cope with having to cater to those who depend on them like children, husbands, pets etc. and I always get different answers. A lot of people don’t cook, at least not every day. Others are more than willing to pay for services like dog grooming, walkers and home cleaning services. I’m trying to lead a frugal but fulfilling life here…sheez! Does that mean frugality costs? Frugal or not, there is a cost to everything whether it be time or money and I’m learning that first hand.  So I’ve set a list of projects for myself to be completed before the end of Summer. One of them is to find space in my 720 sq. ft. apartment  (yeah, you read that right) to fit a small freezer for the storing of homemade pre-prepared foods. This is in an attempt to spend less time in the kitchen during the weeknights. What does this have to do with the dogs? Well, less time in the kitchen, more time goofing around chasing toys and giving out treats.

Ear Cleaner: FURminator

No one ever told me I had to regularly clean my Cockapoo’s ears to keep ear infections at bay. My Veterinarian certainly didn’t, he just handed me antibiotic and ear cleaner after the second infection and gave me two weeks worth of instructions. So after two weeks, Ellie’s ears were infected again. I did some research and found out what I needed to know about the subject. After I ran out of the 4 oz bottle of Melon Scented ear cleaner from the Veterinarian, I called to see how much they would charge me for another 4 oz bottle of this beautifully scented stuff and as soon as they said $23 dollars, I said thank you and promptly hung up. Are you frigging kidding me? $23 dollars for 4 Oz?!

I took to Amazon to see about more affordable ear cleaners and at $6 I thought I would give FURminator a try. This stuff sucks, don’t use it. It smells unpleasant, its sticky, it doesn’t help with the bad ear smell and Ellie’s ears were still bothering her. You know how I know? She puts her ear down on the floor and than drags herself from one side of the room to the other with her ear firmly planted on the floor.

I couldn’t bare to see her suffer anymore so I called the Vet and it went something like this “Can you fix me the biggest bottle of your ear cleaner?” After being disappointed by FURminator and the bad experience with Natural Choice, it was time to spend the big bucks so my girl would be ok.

And because things rarely go the way I need them to, this ear cleaner from the Vet is not the melon scented one I was expecting. No. For $23 I got a 4 oz bottle of what smells like my grandpa’s Sunday cologne. You know, the real musky woodsy stuff. Chris picked it up from the Vet on his way home one day so of course I didn’t get a chance to smell the stuff before they charged it to my credit card. When I called the Vet’s office to see if they could give me the melon-scented ear cleaner, they told me they never carried such a thing. You know how I know it’s melon-scented? BECAUSE THEY TOLD ME WHEN I BOUGHT IT THE FIRST TIME. I didn’t argue. I said thanks and hung up. But you know what? Ellie’s Ears are nice and clean and that’s all that matters.

For the record, I’ve tried making my own based off of recipes from the world wide web and I just can’t stand the smell of vinegar. After a couple of uses, I chucked this homemade concoction.

So the point of this long-winded whine is, stay away from the FURminator Ear Cleaner for Dogs and Cats. Save yourself $6 bucks.

Bad Experiences

There was a rebate from Nutro for a free bag of Natural Choice dog food. So I got a bag of their puppy food for Ellie. I consulted Dog Food Advisor to determine the quality of the food and I didn’t think that a 3.5 star rating would be so bad. I have determined, and I have no way of scientifically proving this except for my own observations, this food made my Ellie sick.

She is fine now, I’ve switched her over to something else but while she was on Natural Choice for puppies, her stool was watery and she would constantly throw up. At first I thought that the runny stool was due to the new food but then up-chuck started. She would vomit about once a day. After a week of this type of behavior, I decided against running to the Vet to hear what he had to say and decided to stop feeding her kibble and observe her symptoms.

I cooked some brown rice and added chopped up pieces of chicken breasts to feed her at meal times. Her symptoms cleared fairly quickly and I put her back on the Nutro. Guess what happened next? She began vomiting again. All her treats remained the same, and they haven’t been anywhere else. I don’t know what else to think except that Nutro Natural Choice is not good for Ellie. If it’s not good for one of my dogs, it certainly isn’t good for the other.

I’ve explored different forums and it seems other people have experienced these reactions to this brand of dog food. So new users, as with anything, be careful. Since Ellie is a month away from her first birthday I decided to switch her to the same kibble Argos is eating. Earthborn Holistic is for all life stages so I figured it would be ok to switch her a month earlier than I planned.

Going back to work…

I started work again at the beginning of March and as much as I tried to prepare for my busier schedule, I’ve neglected my blog. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed blogging about the dogs and our adventures/misadventures.

I put together a chore schedule to help my day-to-day. I came up with a wonderfully thorough chore schedule with a four week cycle and I haven’t seen the print-out after the first week I used it. I even bought a paper planner to encourage me to track to-do lists. This is my question to parents with full time jobs; how do you do it? How do you take care of children, keep a home, put dinner on the table take care of your spouse, go to sleep and repeat that a good five times before you have a promise of a weekend? Because I will tell you this much, I don’t have a children, I have a teeny tiny apartment, 2 dogs and a boyfriend and I am exhausted.

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My schedule as well as Chris’s is a convenient one. I’m back home from work by 4:30 pm, so Ellie and Argos are left alone for about 6 hours. The first two weeks I started working they were both caged in the kitchen to keep them out of trouble. Once they proved themselves trustworthy they graduated to freely roam the apartment (with the exception of the bedroom and the bathroom). All was well, they seemed to be adjusting great, they were getting their proper exercise except for one thing; I stopped taking Ellie on jogs.

She is absolutely bored and full of energy. She chewed up one of my new running sneakers, its shoelace, and slippers. A few months ago her chewing preferences were limited to bathroom trash cans and other trash paraphernalia. They get a 30 minute walk and a 15 minute training session daily. As a training exercise, we are currently playing the “Watch the World” game by Paws Abilities to address Ellie’s fear and reactivity.  This, however, doesn’t seem to be enough for her because she’s back to her ol’ chewy self. I remember when I decided to begin jogging with Ellie, the decision came as a solution for this very same problem.

Dog - pulling person

Now that I am working and exercise seems like even more of a challenge, it is clear Ellie requires this outlet as well. The solution is simple, take her for a run as well. It’s going to be hard but I have to do it for her sake and my own. Recently, I was having a conversation with someone of no consequence and when I talked about Ellie’s chewy behavior she replied with “just give her away”. I proudly responded with “we all have issues”. I say ‘proudly’ because I find that every time I’m baffled by someone’s comment I seldom have the perfect retort. Giving her away because she’s a challenge will never be an option.

It has been wild a month of trial and error and adjustments. I have to come up with a chore schedule that actually works for us, Ellie needs to vent her energy and hopefully we’ll get somewhere with this reactivity training we are doing. I promise to come back and let you know how well that worked for us. Most important of all is to keep this blog consistent and filled with useful content. My goal has always been to help out newbie dog owners who need the extra help because it is always helpful to see how others do it. So I am here to show you how I do it, how I cope, my failures and my triumphs.

 

Pet Expenses February 2014

Now listen, I don’t know if this budget thing is for me. Clearly, I don’t understand it at its core. Like I mentioned before PetSmart had a $5 off $25 coupon good during the month of February and then imagine my wonderful surprise when the the cash register started spitting out $5 off purchase coupons and $3 survey coupons. I wonder if these are considered catalinas…

Yet again, I spent more than I should have. I spent a total of $203.99 and most of that went to PetSmart. Let me explain. In my previous article “Review: Castor & Pollux Canned Foods” I mentioned how I feed the dogs wet food with their kibble. PetSmart put Castor & Pollux’s Butcher & Bushel as well as Ultramix Indulgent Mix on sale for $2.00 a can. I paired the sale with a few $5 off $25 coupons and got a great deal on very high quality wet food. I have always fed Evangers Grain Free Game Meats but Castor & Pollux is just as good and it was an offer I could not resist. So I didn’t.

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Then, the dogs and I participated in the Paws Fur Pink 5k. The dogs run in harnesses because I cannot imagine running with a collar to be either safe or comfortable. I didn’t want the dogs to wear both a collar and harness for the sake of having identifiable tags on them so I went out and bought two tags to keep on their harnesses. They both had tags on their harnesses  before but both of them got scratch off when I, quite brilliantly, decided to attach the tags to the harness with tiny carabiners. The idea was to easily switch their dog license and ID tag from harness to collar, but it didn’t work.

I also threw in a bag of Dentley’s Rawhide Twists that were on sale for $5. They are cheaper bought in bulk on Amazon…I found out when I came home. And I threw in a pack of two Kong Aussie Sticks because, why not?

Dentleys Rawhide TwistsKong Aussie Sticks

Oh goodness! Items from the Martha Stewart Pet collection went on sale. When it was just Argos, it was easy to stuff all his doggy supplies in a box, in a corner of a closet but with two dogs, that’s not possible anymore. I knew I had to figure out a better way to organize all their doggy stuff. So, I got two Martha Stewart soft sided storage bins. And for the most frivolous purchase this month; the Martha Stewart Fashion Collar & Leash. It was so darn cute! And now I have a girl puppy so I can buy these very ridiculously frilly things that I could never get for Argos.

Martha Stewart Butterfly Leash

Martha Stewart Purple Floral Ruffle Leash

And as if it weren’t enough, I found the clearance bin at PetSmart. Guess what? Argos was in need of a new harness. That carabiner not only scratched the heck out of the dog tag but also frayed his harness. So I got the Top Paw Piper Paw Design Harness, Leash and Collar for $13.45. That, aside from the canned food, was my proudest purchase.

Argos's New Collar.

Argos’s New Collar

Oh, I didn’t stop there. I decided to give Greenie’s Pill Pockets a try. Last week I doggy sat for one of Chris’s co-workers and she uses these pill pockets to administer medication. The dogs seemed to be quite excited about taking their medication which is something I’ve never experienced with my dogs, specially Ellie. Every time I have to drive Ellie somewhere she gets car sick and I have to administer Benadryl and it’s never an easy task. She spits it out 10 times before she’ll swallow it whole. If I break it apart and put in peanut butter, she’ll keep a constant 5 feet distance between herself and that peanut butter. So I want to give these pill pockets a go. They are duck and pea pill pockets…I foresee success an extra thirty minutes of spare time in the future :D.

Duck & Pea Pill Pockets

Duck & Pea Pill Pockets

So that was my PetSmart shopping spree. I realize that the only time to shop at PetSmart is when they have awesome coupons and sales to pair those with. Aside from that, they are terribly overpriced. You can find almost everything cheaper somewhere else. So this is my PetSmart advice to you, if you can avoid them, do so. Take advantage of their coupons when they have them, check out the clearance bins and also check-out their clearance dog food stash. I discovered that last one just the other day and what I found on clearance left my mouth open. They had 5.5 lb bags of Castor & Pollux’s Natural Ultramix Grain Free Poultry Free Adult Dog Food for $11.97! That’s a 5 star kibble on Dog Food Advisor.

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Last but not least, I had to replace one of the dog beds. I keep two around, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. I bought Argos a dog bed when he graduated from the puppy crate about four years ago. That bed survived a good four years with Argos and only 7 months with Ellie. She ripped it open with her vicious little sharp teeth and claws. I searched high and low for a good offer on a dog bed but I really didn’t find anything, except for those tiny dog cuddlers. I stepped into Ross to check out their nicely discounted beds and found one that would suit them. I don’t know how long its going to last so it gives me some satisfaction to know I didn’t spend more than $20.

That was it! I learned a few things from spending quite a bit of time at PetSmart and now I just need to learn to exercise some self control. That’s gonna be toughie.

 

 

Homemade Salmon Treats

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Brown rice flour, wild pink salmon and sweet potato

 I decided to try making my own dog biscuits to see how convenient and/or cheap it is compared to store bought. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a bag of dog biscuits or cookies before. I generally buy freeze dried liver treats, training treats, Greenies and raw hides. Any who, I was very concerned that I’d be wasitng both my money and my efforts in making biscuits like these and I was afraid Argos would spit them out the way he spits out a treat when I grab the car keys and not his leash.

I came across this dog treat recipe on Pinterest from DesignSponge and I decided to try this particular one because it called for salmon and buckwheat flour. I knew right away Argos wouldn’t be able to resist the salmon…unless I grabbed the car keys and not his leash (he spits out whatever treat I give him if I am leaving without him). The original recipe from DesignSponge calls for parsley and buckwheat flour and I didn’t have either so I made due with what I did have.

Boy! I almost did not go through with this. I opened the can of salmon and the smell just took over the whole apartment. I hate that fishy smell. While I cringed away from the can, the smell of the salmon was like a siren call to Ellie and Argos. Immediately they were at my feet sniffing at the air.

I put the salmon, potato and eggs in the blender and blended away. I decided to put the flour in a mixing bowl and pour the blended salmon mixture over it. I worked the flour into the salmon mixture until it resembled dough. I made these on Valentine’s Day and I really wished I had some festive cookie cutters but alas! This is not a cookie cutter type of home. I made due with the 1 oz side of a jigger.

Salmon & Sweet Potato Dog Treats According to DesignSponge

  • 3 cups Brown Rice flour (or Buckwheat flour or any flour you’d like to use), plus extra for flouring the counter and rolling out
  • 1 14-ounce can wild-caught salmon drained
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until fully combined.

2. Transfer the mixture to a lidded container. Refrigerate for one hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line several cookie sheets with either a silicone mat (such as a Silpat) or parchment paper. Set aside.

4. Transfer the mixture to a floured surface. Lightly press a bit of flour into the mixture and onto your hands to prevent sticking.

5. Using a rolling pin, roll the mixture until about 1/8-inch thick. You may need to turn the dough over several times and add flour to the counter to keep the dough from sticking. Be prepared for messy hands!

6. Cut out shapes in the dough using a cutter in whatever motif you prefer. I used circles and stars here. Dog bone cutters would be cute, as would seasonally themed shapes, such as pumpkins for Halloween or trees for the holiday season. This is a nice touch if you intend to gift the treats to another dog-loving friend.

7. Place on the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 30 minutes, until the dog treats are hard like a gingersnap. It’s imperative that the treats are completely dry before storage; otherwise, they could go bad.

8. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container. Use within several weeks.

 Cost

  1. 1 Sweet Potato:  .69 cents
  2. 1 Wild Alaskan Salmon 14.75 oz can: $3.29
  3. 2 eggs: .38 cents
  4. 3 cups Brown Rice Flour: $4.26

For amount of treats you can get out of this mixture, they are some cheap treats. I, as usually, didn’t follow directions and had to throw most of them away. It’s both my fault and whoever thought of this recipe. Even after refrigerating the mixture like the instructions called for, the mixture was too moist to be rolled out with a pin and neatly cut out with a cookie cutter.

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Top treats by Chris, bottom treats by me.

Chris gave the cookie cutting part a try first. He had to add about 1 more cup of flour in order to be able to cut something out. The top crackers are the treats he made. He soon gave up and I took over. I decided I was not gonna add anymore flour so I made small little patties. The little, perfectly round cookie-looking treats were my doing. There was only one problem with my patties; darn things didn’t cook through right. They were in the oven for an hour and when I pulled them out, they were still soft in the middle.

I gave up. Not sure if the treats were safe for consumption, I threw them out and kept Chris’s deformed crackers in a hermetic jar. The dogs love them. The ingredients in the recipe made for a tasty dog treat but the instructions and quantity of the ingredients didn’t work. Until I can figure out the true proportions, this recipe gets no paws of approval.

Salmon crackers in the dogs' treat hermetic jar. The jar keeps moist things moist and crunchy things crunchy.

Salmon crackers in the dogs’ hermetic treat jar. The jar keeps moist things moist and crunchy things crunchy.

Dog-sitting Lola & Ben

Over the weekend I did a little bit of doggy sitting for one of Chris’s co-workers. World, meet Lola and Ben!

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Ben’s thorough inspection.

It’s always fun to experience another dog’s idiosyncrasies. Ben is the gentlest, most calm dog I’ve ever met. Lola on the other hand is a spunky little chihuahua. She’s the boss and she let’s you know right away. So Ben let’s his little sister keep guardianship of their home. They were both adopted in adulthood from a shelter and they are so well socialized, people and their dogs stop to say hi to them on the street. It’s almost as if Lola & Ben went around introducing me on our walks “Don’t mind her, she’s a stand in for our usual human”.

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Ben sniffs out my dog walking bag. I’m sure he can smell the training treats I carry for Ellie and Argos.

 

 

Lola built herself a fortress of her momma’s pillows on the bed and Ben used the couch cushions as his own personal perch to look out the window to wait for her.

The both vetted me with a good sniffing session before we want out for our evening walk.

 

 

It’s not the first time I care for them while their owner is away so we got re-acquainted fairly quickly and got down to business. I’ve found that Ben, Lola, Ellie and Argos enjoy it when I sit with them while they eat. I’d venture to say they find it comforting. When I first brought Argos home with me, he wouldn’t eat. I’d sit next to his bowl and encourage him and it worked. He would eat slowly, sit on my lap, go back for some more kibble etc. To comfort Lola and Ben, I sat with them while they nibbled on their food. After a while Ben had enough and was happy to just lay on the floor next to me and together we watched Lola finish dinner.

 

Dinner time, sleepy time.

Dinner time, sleepy time.

Dinner time, quality time.

Dinner time, quality time.

It’s interesting to see how dogs miss their owners and how they exhibit this emotion. Lola, after she does her business, wants to come right back home to wait for her owner and Ben will hasten his pace when we turn the corner on our way home from a walk. All in all, they are happy and healthy dogs and love their human with the fervor only a dog can express. A more loving and caring home they could not have found.