Friday, September 30, 2011

Tidbits

Got a lot of half posts baking in my lil ol brain today so I thought, why not combine them all into an actual regular sized post?  Here we go!

This week began with a low speed doggie chase here in Portland.  I have seen a few dog on highway videos and they are usually pretty harrowing.  Cars speeding by with dog dodging around them.  What I love about this is how Portland's motorists, during a busy Monday rush hour, stopped all traffic, got out of their cars, and opened their car doors in hopes this little pooch would jump in and out of harm's way.  That's just how we do here in Portland!



video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Next up?  Fleas.  Yup.  I haven't had the dogs on flea preventative for a couple years.  I started with stopping during the winter, then forgot to resume treatment in the spring.  When I confessed these deadly sins to my vet, she shrugged and said she only gave flea medication to her own dogs when she found a flea and then treated for a month or two and stopped again so I felt vindicated that we live somewhere where fleas aren't a huge problem.  But now we have a flea.  Drat!  I've treated dogs & house with Diatamaceous Earth and will continue to treat dogs weekly for the next three weeks or so.  I'm crossing my fingers that we can conquer these fleas naturally and without resorting to topical medications.  I'll write a more lengthy post when we are successful at routing out these pesky parasites with this all-natural solution 'cause if it's natural and it works, I need to share it, yo!  Plus DE is waaaayyyyyyyy more cost effective than the good quality flea medications, which are the only ones I would consider putting on my dogs.   Keeping our fingers crossed! 

I have to share this article on NoPo Pawsbeportland.com did a great job in highlighting why I opened up my store and why I love it so darn much.  

Lastly for today, if you aren't a follower of Our Waldo Bungie, check out the sweater sale that is going on.  Not only are these adorable sweaters hand-crafted; for a limited time the proceeds all benefit Waldo Bungie's adorable foster, Ginger.  Ginger is an elderbull with a few minor medical issues that need to be taken care of so that she has the best chance of finding her forever home.  Sadie is definitely getting one; I just need to pick some colors!  And if you aren't in the market for a sweater, you can also help Ginger out by donating to her ChipIn

That's all that's a -cooking in my half-baked brain this morning.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Catchin' Treats

So the Hubster and I have commented several times about how Hurley will never be the treat catcher his big sister Maggie is.  Today, while we were practicing Look and Heel, I noticed how really awful Hurley was at trying to catch treats, often snapping at the air before the treat's even left my hand.  So I decided to make a video about Hurley's subpar treat chomping reflexes.  It's not a bad thing to have a good laugh at your puppy's expense every day now and then.

This is the first take, first try.  What does the little booger do?



Yup, he catches the treat.  On the very first try with the camera on.  Natural performer or just dumb luck?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Importance of a Good Toy Collection



So a couple weeks ago, the Hubster and I were lamenting Hurley's love of shoes. And socks.  And undies.  And anything else small enough for him to grab and do the Contraband Dash back to a kennel.  As we were wondering how we could solve this without just being the most immaculate housekeepers in the entire world and always leaving doors closed, I looked around.  Hmmm...somehow along the way, all of Hurley's puppy toys had found their way to the trash bin.  While we had plenty of kongs of various sorts and tennis balls, our toy selection was rather sparse.  And the size of a puppy's toy collection is directly proportionate to how much trouble they get in.  More toys = less trouble.  It's kind of sad that a dog store owner like myself, who prides herself on carrying the best selection of toys around, allowed her own puppy's toys to be whittled down to nothing.  What kind of momma am I??



The next day I headed home with a new assortment of toys and a cute little basket for them to go in.

Overnight the shoe stealing stopped.  Completely stopped.  Before, he stole our shoes on a daily basis.  I have caught him with all of two shoes in the last couple weeks.



The first few days we had the new toy basket, he was slightly confused by the basket itself.  Not understanding that all of this treasure was really his, he would grab one and do the Contraband Dash back to a kennel.  After a few days, he settled into the realization that it really truly was all his and now he and Maggie have the best of times playing bitey mouth over their abundance of toys. 


P.S.  For those unfamiliar with puppy antics, the Contraband Dash goes something like this:  Puppy gets something he thinks or knows he should not have.  He tucks his tail, lowers his butt and does a mad dash towards his "safe zone".  This can be a bed, blanket, kennel or even the back yard.  Somewhere where he *mistakenly* believes he may enjoy his stolen contraband in private, at least at first.  See, the thing with puppies is that as soon as they realize they are always going to get caught, then enjoying the stolen contraband no longer is the point of the mad dash.  Getting chased now becomes the game.  And then the end of every Contraband Dash concludes with the puppy standing triumphantly over his stolen goods, waiting for you, his trained beast, to come a-running.  That, my friends, is the Contraband Dash.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hurley Speaks: Setting the Record Straight

Hurley here.  Word on the street is that Mom's been talkin' bout some "issues" I've been having.  First, what issues?  I mean, I know she says "No", "Off" and "Leave It" a whole bunch.  That always means fun time is over.  But let's be real.  I don't have issues.  I have FUN!  Please allow me to set the record straight on these so-called issues.

I can do no bad.  For realz!


#1.  Counters.  I'll give it to you straight up.  I have no interest in counters.  However, the parental units insist upon putting such yummy treats like chicken and bacon grease up on the counters instead of on the floor.  If they would only start putting those yummy treats, on the floor where they belong, then I would leave the counters alone.  Duh!  I can't believe Mom hasn't thought of this.  I am obviously much smarter than she is.

See?  I'm being good!


#2.  When Mom first brought me to heaven, aka her store or whatever she calls it, we had a heart-to-heart.  I totally get that I'm to show off all my sits, downs, shakes, and high fives for her friends who come in.  However, I will not work for nothing.  I am not a slave nor will I put up with this sweat-shop labor.  One treat and then I'm supposed to stay there and wait for the next treat, which might not come for like 5 whole minutes!  This cannot stand and so I let Mom know in my loudest voice that I will not stand for these injustices!  I am very glad that she has started listening and is paying me in advance.  When one of her friends comes in, I get paid before I even do anything.  All I have to do is go to my spot and I get not just one treat, but a whole toy full of my food.  It's a good thing I was so adamant about letting her know what was fair.  I'm just glad she finally listened!

That dead seagull smelled soooo good!  I can't believe Dad didn't let me get a little taste.


#3.  When I insisted upon writing this post to clear my poor name, Mom told me that she has a rule about the blog.  We always have to write about the good and the bad.  And I don't want you to think anything bad about Mom.  She's not perfect but I'm doing my best to teach her.  Do you wanna know one really cool thing she's taught me?  Mom showed me how awesome hugs, kisses and cuddling were.  I thought I hated all of those things when Mom & Dad first brought me home but now I know better.  They mean that no matter how many times she ruins my fun, she still loves me.  I can dig that!

Cheers,
Hurley

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Good and The Bad

The good comes with the bad, right?

Good news first.  Hurley has been thriving with stuffed Kongs and Wobblers at the store.  His "Go Lay Down" improved 500% overnight.  OK.  Maybe that is a slight exaggeration.  But he does go into his kennel or offer a down on his blanket in the shop with excitement and anticipation and finally pays attention to which area I am asking him to go lay down to.  He is just so tickled with himself and looking forward to his reward. The downside is that he figured out the Kong Wobbler in no time at all so I'll need to invest in a more complicated puzzle toy soon.  While the Wobbler does slowly dispense his kibble and keeps him occupied, I don't think it's that challenging to his superior intelligence.  He empties that sucker out in about 5 minutes.  Sadie & Maggie just licked it and then stared at it for 5 minutes.  I knew he was smarter than them but dang, they didn't even try to get kibble out of it!

The bad news is that Maggie does have a urinary tract infection like I thought.  And it's pretty severe according to the vet.  Last time she had a UTI, we fought it for 9+ months.  Back then, she had some anatomical issues with her lady parts that have since been surgically corrected so I don't anticipate her being on 9 months of antibiotics.  But since she does have a history of taking some time to fight them off, I'm taking the pro-active route and have her on an additional cranberry supplement this time.  Hopefully, that will give her system the extra boost it needs, along with the antibiotics, to kick this thing to the curb in no time.  The upside is that at the vet this morning, she did not react to 4 different dogs.  Not even a raised hair.  No pulling.  No excitability.  We even worked on some Sits, Downs and Leave Its in the waiting room of the vet with another dog, who was whining at her, 10 feet away.  Hooray for Maggie!  I am so, so, so proud of her progress. I once had a Maggie who loved all the dogs she came across and today, she is one giant step closer to being back to that Maggie.

So while this week started out with its share of frustrations, we are back on track and doing well.  Our health concerns and training challenges are being conquered.  Thanks to everyone for your supportive comments and suggestions - they really helped in turning our week around!
 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Taking a Deep Breath

We all reach our limits sometimes.  In patience.  In knowledge.  In instinct.  I reach mine and Hurley reaches his.  And some days all of that collides into the perfect storm.  Hurley and I ended our bad day yesterday with some good cuddling time and a doggie massage.   It was a great way to make amends.

I've got a new plan.  First, he is going to be fed most of his meals in the store, earning his kibble (thanks for the great suggestion, Of Pitbulls & Patience!).  This is such a great idea and I can see how I can use that when I'm cooking or any other time I need him to settle down at home too.  Don't you just want to smack your forehead sometimes?  It seems so simple - why didn't I think of that?  It's not always going to be simple though, that I know.  Hurley and I will still have our frustrations with each other but we'll both get better at communicating with each other too.  And I'll get better at finding ways to encourage the behavior I want to see.

In the midst of bad days, we often forget any bright spots.  We have been working on Go Lay Down to his blanket under the counter.  For the first time, he did go to his spot when I was checking out a customer without being asked.  I should've remembered that!

And the clicker has been great at adding space between the behavior I want and the treat.  He has gotten better at obeying without a treat in hand and we've made considerable progress on taking a treat gently. 

In one way, Hurley is exactly like Maggie & Sadie - he is making me learn and grow to help him become the best dog he can be.  That means growing pains for all of us.  Today, I take a deep breath and a step back from the frustrations of the other day.  I reset and move forward.  This barky, whiny, never-behaving phase?  It too will pass and it's my job to make sure he's got the tools to be a great dog when it does.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Frustration Station

It happened.  Last night I hit my "I can't deal with this anymore" moment.  Hurley, as is usually the case these days, was a complete jerk at the shop for most of the day.  As he gets older, he is sleeping less.  This means more time during the day when he is completely and utterly bored at behaving in the store and decides to bark at me.  All. The. Time.  As you can imagine, this is not a behavior that is either appealing to my customers nor one that I can ignore when I have a customer in the store.  I attempt to shush the first two barks; by the third he's delegated to the slammer (aka, the store kennel).  I know. It's all sorts of bad to punish your dog by putting him in a kennel but I am out of options.  Other than a new rule.  Coming to the store is a privilege, not a puppy right.  We are going to scale down his presence in the store until his attention barking is a thing of the past and he gets 2 days at the shop per week instead of 4.  And the first bark, not the 3rd, prompts a timeout.

But Hurley wasn't the only straw to break my back.  I got home to sofa pillows on the floor and an accident on the couch (thanks, Maggie) and puke in one of the kennels (we're going to assume this is Sadie just to spread the blame around).  These two things normally wouldn't frustrate me in and of themselves - it's not Maggie's fault she has accidents nor is it Sadie's fault that dogs occasionally puke.

But then I get to cooking some fabulous Bacon Mac n Cheese for dinner and ALL THREE dogs decide that this is the perfect time to disregard staying out of the kitchen when Mom's cooking and do their best to lick the floor of any errant bacon grease, trip me, demand attention while I'm attempting to do a bazillion things at once cooking-wise, get in the trash (OK only Hurley), get in the recycling (again only Hurley) and I LOST IT.  I yelled.  Loudly. And for once, it wasn't just at Hurley.  It was at all 3 of them.  Repeatedly.  I don't yell that much and extremely rarely at the girls.  But I had had enough - enough not listening to me, enough of Hurley being a complete and utter dick, enough of cleaning up doggie accidents, enough of not being able to cook in my own kitchen in peace.  And I let them know it.

By the time the Hubster got home, all 3 were pretty cowed by Mom's rant and were doing their best to avoid me by hanging out in their kennels.  So cowed that they were barely excited to see Dad (I felt pretty bad about that).

And I hate to say it but Hurley being cowed/remorseful is progress.  This is the puppy who just doesn't give a sh**.  He will jump on the counter in front of me, get in the garbage in front of me, steal food from my plate while I am holding it.  And whether we redirect or reprimand, he is never ever dissuaded from attempting the same thing 5 seconds later.  I hate to yell at him but whatever tone I had in my voice last night finally prompted him to show a little hesitancy about being bad.

And while I felt OK about Hurley and I coming to some sort of an understanding, I feel awful about yelling at the girls.  After we ate and settled down in front of the TV, I discovered some discharge from Maggie's woman parts (read:  Urinary Tract Infection) and a hot spot on Sadie's belly.  Poor girls.  They weren't feeling well and I took out what was mostly frustration at Hurley on them. 

Raising a puppy is hard work.  I'm glad this blog will be here next time we think about getting a new dog.  Future Sarah: Adopt an Elderdog!

Wordless Wednesday: Art Car


Only in Portland!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Fun Day: Mirror Lake

Today found Maggie and I heading up a trail to Mirror Lake for Monday Fun Day.  Fall has come here to Oregon and though it did clear up and turn out to be a bright and sunny day, the morning was full of mist and fog. 



We were the first at the trailhead, about an hour from Portland.  Mirror Lake is a popular destination: close to Portland, easy 3-mile loop, trailhead right off the highway.  We hadn't been there before, probably because most descriptions include "great family spot", "crowded on weekends" and "favorite swimming spot", all of which indicates this place draws a pretty big crowd in the summer.  But since the kiddos are back in school and it was a cool Monday morning, I figured the trail would be pretty empty.  We didn't see a single person until we were halfway back down.



We crossed some rocks.



And some bridges.



Maggie did great checking back in with me.



We got pretty soggy walking around the marsh surrounding one side of the lake.



And Maggie got to swim and fetch.  She says this was the best part.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

The Hubster had quite the awesome Sunday morning with lil man Hurley.  So awesome in fact, I made him write a guest post, knowing I could never fully capture the awesomeness myself.

Our beloved sixth month old puppy was super excited to get the day started this morning.  He didn't seem to care that it was raining, that it was Sunday, or that it was 5:00 a.m.  No, he was ready to go, and was hell bent on getting us (me) up before sunrise.  Being the fantastic hubby that I am, decided to get up to appease the whining giant.  You can try to ignore his cries, but he usually wins, quickly.  Even if I do let him cry it out, it is never worth it because now I have a cranky wifey on my hands.  Lose-lose situation.

So I got up, muttered some incoherent complaints, and got to work.  In no time Hurley was fed, let out, had a wrestle with the girls, got muddy, got towled off, and given a pat or two .  Mission begrudgingly accomplished.   I promptly went back to sleep on the couch fully ready to seize the day by napping and watching some football (Go Patriots!).

I was awoken from my slumber an hour or two later by Sarah's famous Eggy Cheesy Goodness.  All was forgiven.  How can a man stay mad when there is bacon involved?  Sarah left for work just before ten.  (Have I mentioned how much I love being on the West Coast for football season?  Football starting at 10?  Yes please)  I thought it would be a good idea to walk Hurley before I settled in to "tire him out".  Maggie seemed like she really wanted to go too, so I got them both saddled up in their harnesses.  BTW, I still have no idea how to correctly put these things on, it takes me forever and the dogs look like they are part of some weird S&M experiment when I'm done.

We got out the door without anyone pulling me down the steps.  Yay!  This might be an successful walk.  We made it several blocks with no one pulling, barking, or chewing anything they shouldn't be.  Success!  I took the pups up to the school by our house and let them run for a bit in the soccer field.  They ran around for awhile and when it was time to go Maggie came right back when I called. Sweet.  Hurley was tricked into coming back by chasing Maggie's leash which was still attached.  I'll take it.

There were still a few minutes left before second half, time to head home.  We got all the way back to our street, everyone on a loose leash.  I AM the dog whisperer I thought to myself.  Home stretch.  That's when we round the corner by the house with the chickens.  I was ready this time.  We picked up the pace and I tried to make sure all attention was on me. I called Maggie's name and she looked right at me, "good girl!".  Hurley was lagging a little behind but his attention was on Maggie.  I looked around and there were no chickens to be seen.  Relax, almost home.  Hurley was still not caught up, so I moved him to my right hand side and Maggie to my left.  Maggie still had her eyes focused on me.  "Good girl!"

Very proud of herself, she wagged her tail, looked at me, and promptly walked straight into a shrub.  I heard some rustling in the leaves under the shrub and thought nothing of it.  Hurley did not like this noise one bit and let out his best big boy bark.  This scared the living sh*t out of a squirrel who leaped in the air and landed straight on my chest.  I am pretty sure I screamed like a seven year old girl and batted this evil rodent to the ground.  Let's just say the last half block back to the house was not my most successful dog walk ever.  I got the harnesses off, let everyone out for a pottie break, and plopped back down on the couch. I am so ready for some football. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I can't make this stuff up


Yes, that is a screenshot of my Blogger stats search terms page.  Yes, twice someone on interwebs found my blog by searching for "smelly farts of feijoada in your face".  

I'm not sure what to think or say about that. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Foto Free Friday: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

What was Photoless Tuesday has now become Foto Free Friday.  Why?  'Cause alliteration rocks!

I am the one in the house that always breaks the no dogs on the furniture rule.  Really, it's less of a rule these days than a guideline.  Or maybe it's more of a no dogs on the furniture when the Hubster is around rule.  I am constantly inviting the dogs up for a cuddle when I'm watching a movie, playing around on the interwebs or writing a blog post.  The girls are so used to this that they automatically jump off the bed when they hear the Hubster approaching.  Sadie in particular gets this adorable "I'm so sorry Daddy for breaking the rules" guilty look on her face and slinks off the bed in shame.  One might say that I'm making things confusing for them (though I stick to it being the Hubster who is confusing things) but the girls seem to understand that Mom cuddles in bed and Dad doesn't.  I do wholeheartedly agree that no dogs sleeping with us is a good rule to have in a 3 dog household.

So imagine my surprise last night, when I enter the bedroom to see Hurley stretched out beside the sleeping Hubster.  In the spirit of breaking rules, I decided to let him sleep with us for the night (really, it was the Hubster who made that decision; I just didn't un-make it).  And as much as I wanted photographic evidence of this phenomena, even more important than letting sleeping dogs lie is letting sleeping husbands sleep.

All my attempts to get Hurley to give up his spot next to Dad and settle at the end of the bed where met with outright, dead-weight refusal.  That not-so-little-anymore puppy refused to give up his spot.  I cajoled, I tugged sheets and blankets, no dice.  Finally I gave up, retrieved a blanket from the sofa and settled in to a tiny corner of the bed with Hurley snuggled between us.  My defeat was my victory.  As soon as I was settled, Hurley scootched to the end of the bed and proceeded to drape himself over the Hubster's sleeping legs.

And this morning, for the first time in almost 5 months, it was the alarm clock that woke us up, not Hurley.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Phasing Out the Treats

All of my dogs are pretty treat-motivated, which makes training super duper easy for me.  With Maggie & Sadie, weening them off being treated for every sit was pretty easy; it just happened.  With Mr. Hurley, it has proven to be more difficult.  9 times out of 10, if I don't have a treat in my hand, he doesn't sit (or lay down or shake, etc).  He just looks at me.  He usually barks at me - "Hey, Mom, go get a treat and then we can do business!"

I was getting frustrated.  He's had sit and down for months, yet I can rarely get him to obey unless there's a treat in my hand, if he will sit at all.  When we are doing training "sessions", I don't treat for a sit as the focus now is on other commands - like stay, leave it or high five.  He gets an occasional treat for sit in these sessions but only when his butt hits the ground in a nano-second and there is no shifting, backing up or barking at me going on.  However, I need him to just sit sometimes - like at curbs or when a customer is checking out at the store.  These are the situations where if there's no treat, I get no sit.

I had an A-Ha moment last week and remembered the clicker.  I've been terrible about incorporating the clicker into training; the fault lies with my inconsistency - the Hurley-man did take to the clicker splendidly when I introduced it a couple months ago.  My goal is to create alternative rewards to food - clicker and praise being those alternative rewards. 

We did one training session with the clicker last Friday and while I still treated after each click, I noticed a couple things.  We were working on a new command (touch) and he got it super duper fast.  The clicker marked the exact behavior and within one training session, I was able to move from touching my hand with his mouth open to just touching with his nose.  Second, he is rough with taking treats and the clicker helped put space between when he knows he did the right thing and my hand getting mauled - the end result being that I interjected "easy" between the click and treat and he really seemed to make some serious advancement in not trying to bite off my fingers. 

As we move forward with clicker training, my intent is to click at each individual behavior but reward with a treat randomly.  For instance, when I ask him to sit behind the counter at the store he get a click for sit.  Then I ask him to stay and he gets a click and treat for staying for a minute.  Sometimes he'll get the treat at the sit and sometimes at the stay.  But he'll always get the click.  I need to work with the clicker consistently for the next week (and treat with each click) before I start the randomizing of the treats. 

I see a Hurley showing off clicker training video in our future! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Fun Day: Forest Park

For this week's Monday Fun Day, Sadie and I hiked through Forest Park here in Portland.  The country's largest urban forest reserve is about 5100 acres and contains over 70 miles of hiking trails (thanks wikipedia!).  And it's 5 minutes from our front door. 

In the beginning, Sadie wasn't too jazzed about stopping to take pictures.  But I made her go my pace!


We did about a four mile loop, starting at the Ridge tail right across from the St Johns Bridge.

The St Johns Bridge connects NW Portland (where Forest Park is) to North Portland (where I live). 
 We got an early start and were on the trail by 8:30, prime time to enjoy the trail by ourselves.  My goal today, besides just having an awesome time being a girl with her dog in the woods, was to work on Sadie's leash skills in a setting where she's usually off-leash and can be Excita-bull (aka Crazy Sadie).  I thought this would be a good lead up to working on her water crazies.



She was pretty perfect the entire hike.  I used a front clip harness, which I swear is the best anti-pulling harness hands-down.  She is just calmer and more connected to me (attention-wise) than with the leash clipped to her collar.



The Ridge trail is a somewhat moderate climb.  We did about a mile on it before turning on the Wildwood Trail.  I was huffing & puffing a bit by the time we got to the second trail, which is an easier stroll through the forest (at least the section we hiked; Wildwood is 30 miles long).  It was another mile through slug-infested trail (I hurried) until we hit some maintenance roads.

Gross!  And they littered the trail.  Seriously gross!
Might the slugs have fallen from the trees?

I dropped her leash when we got to the maintenance roads and let her run a little ahead of me - she deserved it for being so great on the trail!

I love her ears in this shot!


It was back down the Ridge Trail and another shot of the St Johns Bridge through the foot-bridge railing.




The entire 2 hour hike we encountered only one group of people.  Unfortunately, they did have 3 small dogs and one of them didn't really like the head-on trail greeting with Sadie.  Big dog, little dog, mine on-leash, theirs off, narrow trail, etc.  We moved on quickly and it didn't really impact our hike.  I remember the days where an encounter like that might bring out Excita-bull for the rest of our hike but she chilled out pretty quickly. 

While I say Mission Accomplished, I also think we need to have a couple more of these chillaxed hikes under our belt before working our way up to a hike along a beach or lake.  She might be OK crossing a small stream - maybe next time!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Photoless Tuesday: Generous Thievery

Hurley developed a fun new game this past weekend.  And because he's such a magnanimous little guy, he generously shares his bounty with the girls.  I could get photos of this for the blog but I refuse to encourage him being a little shit this kind of bad puppy behavior.  Especially since it involves my poor garden.

The game goes like this:

Hurley hurdles/plows over the fence surrounding my garden and makes a beeline for the tomato plants, one of which he has completely decimated.  With a green tomato safely in his jowls, he hurdles/plows back over the fence.  Chomp, chomp.  Hey Sadie & Maggie, you want some of this?  He graciously hands over the unripened green tomato to one of the girls.

So is he being a generous thief?  Or has he wizened up and realized that others can share in getting in trouble?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday Funday: Cooking with Sarah - Tuscan Sausage Ragu

For this Monday Funday, I'm bringing you something completely different - Cooking with Sarah!  And because I enjoy cooking almost as much as I enjoy my dogs, it's still fun for me. :)

I rarely make a recipe exactly to specifications.  I like to, you know, mix things up a bit.  I altered this recipe to fit both what I had on hand from my garden plus a few alterations to fit how I like these things seasoned.  I found the original recipe at allrecipes.com; my changes are in orange below. Why? Cause orange is my favorite color.

The best part of this recipe is that it spends the day in the slow cooker so I was able to do all the cooking required in the AM, before temps reached 90 degrees and I had de-motivated myself from using the stove.   And Hurley was great while I cooked - he didn't once try to eat the cooking sausage from the stove and just hung out in the kitchen with me!  I guess he was making up for stealing (and eating) a package of rolls, the last bit of a loaf of bread, an apple and my salad from the kitchen counter this week.

Tuscan Sausage Ragu

What I did:

2 T Olive Oil
1 lb Hot Italian Sausage
1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage
2 Small Red Onions (from my garden - if it weren't for the Hubster's hatred of onions, I would have used the equivalent of 1 large red onion, which the original recipe calls for.  My small ones from the garden equaled about 1/3 of your normal large red onion)
3 cloves garlic, minced (from my garden)
1 large zucchini, diced (from my garden)
1/2 cup dry red wine
6 Roma Tomatoes, diced (from my garden)
1 14 oz can Organic Diced Tomatoes (I used one smaller can instead of the 28 oz can the recipe called for since I was adding fresh tomatoes of my own)
1 28 oz can Organic Tomato Sauce
A couple dashes red pepper flakes
3 t Oregano (or thereabouts)
3 t Basil (or thereabouts)
1 1/2 t Sea Salt
2-3 Bay Leaves 
1 cup cream



Heat olive oil in large skillet.  Crumble both sausages into skillet and continue to break down into smaller pieces throughout cooking.  About half-way through cooking, add red onion, garlic & red pepper flakes.  Total cooking time of sausage should be 8-10 minutes.  Don't worry about it being 100% cooked - the slow cooker will do the rest.  Spoon sausage into slow cooker, leaving the oil in the pan.




Add zucchini and tomatoes to the skillet.  Add about 1 1/2 t basil, 1 1/2 t oregano and 1 t salt (I didn't exactly measure this out; I made a small mound in my palm until it looked about the right amount).  Stir in red wine.  Simmer for about 5 minutes or until zucchini is starting to soften and tomatoes are starting to break down.  You don't want to over-cook the vegetables as the slow cooker will do the rest.  Empty skillet into the slow cooker.



Add canned tomatoes and tomato sauce to slow cooker and stir.  Add bay leaves and another 1 1/2 t oregano, 1 1/2 t basil, and 1/2 t salt.  My measurements are estimates of the small mounds I made in my palm - I eyeball it with spices.  I did not use Italian-style diced tomatoes like the recipe called for because our grocery store doesn't carry Organic Italian-style diced tomatoes so extra spicing was necessary.



Cook in the crockpot for 6 1/2 hours (I added more time than what the recipe called for since I was using some fresh tomatoes) on low.  Add cream and cook for one more hour.  Taste when cream is added to see if you need to adjust your spicing.  Or write instructions for the Hubster to get it started in a couple hours since you'll be gone for 8+ hours.


Serve over your choice of pasta and a side of garlic bread.  Goulash was a staple in my house growing up so I like to use macaroni or rotini and mix the sauce into the pasta.

This is where a picture
of the finished meal would have
been if I hadn't been so hungry,
that I forgot all about blogging. 

Now, this makes an unholy amount of sauce, especially for just 2 people.  So I froze about half of it for future meals.  The dogs thought this was unholy and would have much preferred us sharing some yummy sauce with them instead of freezing it for later.

What I Wish I Would Have Done:

This was a delicious sauce but I found that I shouldn't have added all the oil from the sausage & veggie sauteeing.  When I next make this, I'll be discarding half of the sausage grease before sauteeing the tomato & zucchini.  I also might add a bit of tomato paste to thicken the sauce up a bit.  Best added about the same time as the cream so you get a sense of how much the liquid has cooked down throughout the day.  A couple tablespoons ought to do it.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can totally use what you have on hand in terms of veggies.  Next time, I'm definitely adding a red pepper and mushrooms, while reducing the amount of zucchini.