Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays


We've got 2 new fosters just in time for Christmas!  These sweeties (Gena & Josephine) are 8 week old labs.  Two puppies = much more cleaning up after messes.  But they keep each company, during playtime and overnight.  No sleeping on the couch for me!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Dog Food Dilemma

I have spent a lot of time researching dog foods lately.  Loads.  The information search began in order to educate myself on the specialized foods I would need to carry in my store.  It didn't take long for my grocery store brand (and Iams is one of the best that can be found in grocery stores) to be permanently banned from my house and the search for a high quality diet for my precious pups began.

I have always thought that perhaps food was an issue.  Maggie has mild allergies and scratches herself more than the average dog.  It's a behavior related to both health and stress but started out fairly mild and seems to be getting slightly worse as she ages.  It's now at the point where I feel that it's time to take action before it gets any worse - and by action I do NOT mean giving her a benadryl every day!  Our vet told us that it was likely seasonal allergies but it seems to transcend the seasons nowadays.  My vet also told me last visit that "some dogs just do better on lower quality foods".    Um...no, dogs do not "do better" on lower quality foods.  Different dogs react differently to proteins, grains, fat content, carbohydrate content, etc.  Some foods may have ingredients or a combination of ingredients that cause either temporary or lengthy digestive issues and may not be appropriate for that specific dog.  But they are NOT healthier animals on low quality diets.  Don't get me wrong - I love our vet.  But that has got to be one of the dumbest things she's ever said. 

I am on a quest to find the right combination of foods for my girls.  I used to subscribe to the one food for life idea.  But as I started doing some research, it got me thinking.  In what logical world does it make sense that an animal can have a healthy, balanced diet that provides them with all the nutrients they need if they eat the same exact thing every meal, every day of their lives.  I wholeheartedly believe that the food I eat impacts my long-term health.  Why would it be any different for my dogs?  And when I started reading statistics like 25% of dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime, which increases to 50% after the age of 10, I knew that food had to be a major part of the cause for that alarming statistic.

So I have started exploring the food options out there.  Continue with kibble, raw diets, homemade?  For now, raw diets are out primarily due to the high cost and also because I'm still slightly squeamish about raw.  I know that dogs are not as susceptible to salmonella-type bacteria as we are.  I know that there are many processes that the food is treated with to eliminate those types of bacteria.  But I also worry that an all-protein diet may not provide them with the full scope of nutrients that they need.  And I find it hilarious that supporters of the raw food diet have come up with the moniker BARF.  While it stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods, well....BARF seems to be appropriate to me for other reasons!

I have eliminated moving to a home-made diet, which I simply won't always have time for.  I am and will continue to supplement their diets with a little leftover meat and veggies from our table (never given to them as we eat but for breakfast the next day - don't want to encourage any begging!).  I usually prepare their meat separately from ours if I'm cooking it in a sauce or with butter.  My little Sadie-kins is about five pounds overweight.  A friend referred to her as a sausage recently.  I couldn't argue.

I've narrowed my dog food philosophy down to the following:

-There is nothing wrong with changing up the brand and/or protein source occasionally.  I intend to settle on 3-4 different kinds of food that we rotate between.  Unless either of them show a sensitivity to a particular ingredient, I will make sure they get chicken, lamb, beef and/or fish.  These will be paired with rice, barley and oats mostly as the main ingredients.

-I will research brands online, read ingredient labels and ensure that I pay special attention to the first five ingredients.  There should be several whole food ingredients and preferably two protein sources.  Chicken is a whole food ingredient.  Chicken meal is not.  I will make sure that the protein content is around 20% and that the fat content is no more than 12%. 

-It's completely OK to supplement with "people" food so long as it's healthy, does not encourage begging and is mindful of the foods that cause health issues (stay away from those onions!). 

Over the next six months or so, I will be trying out different types of foods with my girls and seeing how they do on each kind.   They will only get leftover people food a few times per month so as not to interfere with my unscientific dog food study.  I have a monthly budget of $60 (one 30 lb bag of food lasts my two girls about a month).  I'll be paying attention to the quality of their poo, bad breath, stinky farts, quality and shine of their coat, whether they enjoy the taste, and if it helps Maggie's itchiness while not causing my little Sausage Sadie to gain more weight.

In case you don't believe Sadie is a sausage, here's a picture of her guarding her bag of food (she does this every time we buy new food).  In fact, I have purposefully left the unopened bag in the mudroom for several days to test how long she will sit there.  Verdict:  hours.  Once the food is put away in its storage container, her obsession disappears.  Back to normal doggy.  Weird. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Licorice

She sat apart from her littermates at OFOSA.  Always calm and sitting patiently.  I spent that entire day walking past her periodically.  I think I might take that fluffy one home.   The other volunteer showing me the ropes kept commenting on how sweet she seemed to be.  Yeah, I think I'm going to take her home with me.  She's adorable, well-behaved and sure to be adopted quickly - the perfect first foster.  And so she went home.

I both did not know what to expect and had some firm expectations.  I expected Maggie to lose patience with a puppy.  I expected Sadie to mother her from the get-go.  I expected both of them to show some jealousy - Sadie because of attention, Maggie due to toys.  I had no idea how I would give her up to her new family.  I had also forgotten how much work puppies were.

Maggie showed an amazing amount of patience, even letting the puppy steal her ball.  Let me repeat...my ball-obsessed girl let a 20 lb puppy steal her ball....over and over again.   Both of them gave up their bones....over and over again.  Have I mentioned what amazingly awesome dogs I have?  They exceeded my wildest expectations.   It's one thing for TJ to consciously consider and consent to becoming a foster family; it was another thing altogether for my girls, who have no idea what is going on, to accept and adapt so quickly and effortlessly.  I know it will not always be like this.  Mostly because I won't always pick the easiest dog there ever was to foster.  But my girls shined.  I expect to love each and every one of my fosters.  I had never considered how this experience deepens my love for my own girls.  A truly unexpected benefit!

So Sadie doesn't have many mothering instincts.  I totally had that one wrong.  Or maybe it was because the puppy took to Maggie like a shadow.  When she wasn't trying to steal shoes.

I apologize for a lack of pictures.  I will someday master the art of perfectly timing photography of these wiggly perpetual motion machines while not allowing them to destroy my house.  Maybe.  I had forgotten how puppies get into everything...chew everything....get into places you forgot small puppies could get into...cry....whine....nibble...bite.  I hadn't forgotten how sweet puppy kisses are though.  There's definitely a reason for that.

She woke me up at 3:30am this morning.  Was curled up on my chest by 4am giving me gentle kisses and then thankfully napping for several more hours.  By noon, I was watching her cuddle up to her new family.

It was a bit easier giving her up than I had thought.  Part of it was because it was a short four days.   But also because I knew she was never really mine.  Someone asked me this week how I could ever give her away.  I told her it was because I was just borrowing her.  OK...mostly it was easier because it was so short.  I know this is going to get harder with longer term fosters.  We were just getting into our groove-thang.

She now has a little girl and boy to love her to death.  And I have an empty space in my house - one that belongs to my next foster.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Our First Foster Pup

I went into OFOSA's clinic (Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals) this morning for day one as a volunteer.  Learn the ropes, undoubtedly clean up some dog poo, you know, good times.  I came home with this bundle of joy.  Her name is Licorice and she's a 2 month old Australian Shepherd.  Our first foster pup. 
The ladies of the house were extremely confused.  They will likely be even more confused come Saturday when we head out to Petco for adoption day and, cross my fingers, come back home without her.  But I think they've decided this new pup is quite all right.  Maggie came running to get me when...there is no way to shorten Licorice into an adorable puppy name - Lic? Or?  Rice?...when the puppy started whining in her kennel.  She was very concerned.  As I type, Sadie is forgoing both dog beds to nap right next to the kennel.  I don't think they mind at all.

So...if you know anyone who's thinking about a puppy for Christmas...all the deets are on her petfinder page

It took no time at all for her personality to start showing through.  She romped around the living room with Sadie, sneaking her quick kisses while they were playing.  Tackled the stairs once the big girls showed her how to do it and got a hold of some socks and one of TJ's shoes.  Right, I had forgotten puppies did that! 
Back at the clinic, she had been the shyer of the bunch but I'm pretty sure she's going to be running circles around my girls for the next few days.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Misadventures with a Sewing Machine

I've been thinking about making some crafty dog stuff lately so when I saw this great idea for making dog beds on apartmenttherapy.com, I thought it was perfect.  I can totally make a dog bed from up-cycled wool sweaters...in fact, I can probably make a whole load of them...piece of cake.  My mom made all of my clothes when I was growing up...sewing skills are genetic right?  Probably as genetic as the construction skills inherited from my father.  I can put together a decent plan and measure the hell out of crap, mostly...but putting it together?  Let's just say I'm not known for being straight or level or staying intact.  Nevertheless, I jumped into this project confident that it would be different this time.  Spending a month as Suzy Homemaker should definitely have brought forth my mad crafty skills and so I ran out to Goodwill to get me some sweaters, Joanns for the yarn, thread and eco-friendly fiber stuffing and grabbed some old pillow cases from the closet. 

Me, being me, isn't the sort to start a project without a plan.  So I created a pattern.  Yes, it was labeled and everything.  Yes, I wrote down the wrong dimension for a couple squares and forgot to add extra inches for the overlay on the back to insert a pillow.  Which I didn't realize until I had cut all the pieces.  No problem.  Pattern-making mistakes were easily corrected with the addition of a few more patches.


Nice work!  It was time to break out the sewing machine.  Except that I have not touched my sewing machine in two years.   Last project was the cornhole bags I made for our wedding tournament of lawn sports that fell apart halfway through our reception.  But I had totally learned the importance of double-stitching, y'all.  This was going to be a piece of cake.  Thank god, the instructions told me not to worry about a "little bit of wonkiness" - I kept repeating that....A LOT.

I laid it all out, pinned the pieces together, navigated sewing machine setup and was off!  I had never before filled a bobbin and threaded the machine...correctly...on the first try.  This was totally going to be easy!

Two strips of dog bed in and it happened.  My finger slipped or I wasn't paying attention or something and disaster!  Yup, I sewed my fingernail.  A big puncture in the center and split to the top.  And I was doing so well (sort of, for me and my mad inherited sewing skillz).

After running around the house searching for appropriate bandaging...or just a band-aid...seriously why don't we have any freakin' band-aids! and attending to my injury, I got back on the horse.  No silly split fingernail that will likely turn some nasty shade of black and fall off was going to stop my sewing project!  It took one more super-wonky seam before I decided I was done for the day.

I spent the rest of the evening getting as many sympathy points as I could possibly collect from my husband, who had been napping through the whole ordeal.

Day two consisted of sewing patches with the seam-side on the wrong side.  Twice.  And lots and lots of cursing at the sewing machine, who was trying its damnedest not to cooperate.  After 2 hours struggling through assembling only about half the back side, I gave up.   I guess this is going to be a 3-day project?

Quitters never win.  And besides, the instructions TOLD me to expect a bit of wonkiness so I trimmed as I went and paid close attention to the placement of my extremities.  Surprisingly, day 3 was a piece of cake!  I breezed through the rest of it, hardly fought with the sewing machine at all and only caught a few strange looks from TJ and one "are you done yet?".





Success!  It only took me the better part of three days. 

The girls approve.  And it's completely green.  A few wonky seams aside, I think it turned out pretty well.  On to Bed #2 and hoping this time it won't take me 3 days.