Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday Wrap Up

Did everyone have a nice Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus Holiday this year?  Ours was terrific.  The Hubster's mom was in town and if you noticed the lack of Holiday Cooking posts, it was because I was strictly forbidden to make a big dinner.  Instead we had the most delicious lobster dinner on Christmas Eve followed by Christmas dinner at a friend's.  Here's a bit of our holiday in pictures:

Yes, we put the lobsters on the floor to see what the dogs would do.  Yes, Hurley chomped down on one.  
Yes, the lobster was as delicious as it looks. 
Dogs Gift #1 was this ginormous bed.  Maggie approved!  Mom loves its waterproof liner to protect against her occasional accidents.

Then it was time for the toys!  Hurley & Maggie showed off their mad sharing skillz.
Even Sadie helped dismember the Moose.
Christmas Day was finished off by Christmas Kongs - stuffed with pumpkin puree, sweet potato puree and topped off with Freeze-Dried Duck Treats.

I hope your holiday was filled with as much warmth and love as ours.  Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Indoor Camping

From the moment I entered blogville, I have had one envy above all other envies.  Mr B (from Two Pitties fame) and his TeePee.  It is seriously the coolest crate/dog bed alternative I have ever seen and I soooo wanted one for our house.  Or two.  Or three.

But as I drooled more and more over his fantastic TeePee, I realized that we had our own version sitting in our shed, yet to be used.  As a wedding present, we were given a dog tent.  With just the two, they always slept in our tent with us so, while we had the best of intentions to put it to use, it never made the cut as we packed up the car for our camping trips.

Ideas were starting to formulate.  A tent in the house perhaps?  A place to corral the myriad of dog blankets that end up strewn all over the den floor?  Do we have the space for it?  Would it look stupid or cool?  Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and just put the dang thing up.  And I love it! 

It fits perfectly in a corner of our den.  And most importantly, Princess Sadie approves of indoor camping.  Now only to do something 'bout that horrible mess of electronics wiring...


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Award Season

Wow!  I received 4 awards this past week.  I'm so tickled to receive them and from some pretty great blogs.  I received the Liebster Award from Identify V + E & The (Mis)Adventures of Sage (both fellow Portland bloggers) as well as from Life with Desmond.  Thanks guys!

The Liebster award is one of my favorite awards.  The requirements for accepting and passing on are pretty easy peasy and it's geared towards shining a spotlight on the smaller blogs around.  Me likey.  I basically pass this on to 5 blogs who likely have 200 or less followers. 

And on top of the Liebster Award, Of Pitbulls and Patience also gave me the Kreativ Blogger award.  Holy moly, I'm swimming in awards around here!  The Kreativ Blogger award requires you to share 10 things about you (or in this case, about the pooches).  And then it gets passed on to 6 other bloggers.  But I'm kinda cheating on this one, folks, 'cause I'm passing on both the Liebster AND Kreative Blogger awards to the 5 blogs listed below.  2 birds, 1 stone and all. :)  But first, here are 10 things you've been dying to know about Maggie, Sadie & Hurley:

1.  I figured out that Sadie did not lick the fur off of Hurley's face because she loves to groom him; rather, she loves eye boogers and his are apparently super duper delicious.  All together now....GROSS!

2.  Sadie eats poop.  She is teaching Hurley the joys of eating poop.  He prefers cat poop himself.  Maggie has tried poop but she's not a connoisseur.  MORE GROSS!

3.  We got Sadie because we wanted a big sister for Maggie so she would not try to go home with all the other dogs at the dog park.

4.  The Hubster has found/picked out/adopted all 3 of our dogs.  I had final say on Sadie but he surprised me with both Maggie and Hurley as puppies.  I think he's addicted to surprising me with puppies.  Not a bad addiction at all, if I do say so myself. 

5.  Maggie once caught a fish, for realz.  This was one of the many awesome things she has done in the Hubster's presence only.  I think she thought it was a shiny rock. 

6.  Sadie is a mouser.  She goes crazy when she smells rodent anywhere on our property and, at our last house, was known to disappear in the basement and emerge hours later with her catch. 

7.  Maggie has had a vagino-plasty, or as I like to call it, hoo-ha surgery.  This greatly helped with her chronic UTI's but did not cure the incontinence, which we will deal with her entire life. 

8. All of my dogs jump up on the counter at the vet to get a treat.  This is the only counter Maggie & Sadie have ever jumped on and the only counter they are all allowed to jump up on. 

9.  Maggie hates the vacuum and has a love/hate relationship with the broom.  It scares her yet it always magically makes the lost tennis balls reappear.  Sadie doesn't care about either and I have to physically move her lazy butt out of the way when I'm cleaning.

10.    Both Maggie & Hurley can catch treats; Sadie can't even try. They just hit her in the face.  If she is able to pull herself together enough to react at all while something is flying at her face, it is to flinch away, not to catch it. 

And here are the 5 blogs that I am passing these great awards on to.  They are a delight to read!  If you do not follow them already, you should! 

Pauley James Former Foster Baby

Jodi Stone

Our Waldo Bungie

Oh Corbin

Peaceful Dog

Happy Award Season, everybody!

Fetching the Pug

So remember my small dog aggressive gal Maggie?  Her rehabilitation to accept small dogs has reached a new level even I could never have imagined nor made up.  (As an aside, I believe she deliberately does THE. MOST. AWESOME. THINGS. EVER. when the Hubster has her out and about and I am not there.  She obviously loves him best and robs me of the chance to personally experience the awesomeness that is Maggie.  But that's OK because whether I experience it firsthand or not, I still relish in relating the stories).

This morning, the Hubster took Maggie & Hurley to the dog park.  There he saw a canine family consisting of a humongous Mastiff and a Pug.  Hurley loves the Mastiff.  Maggie is indifferent to both, preferring to focus on her beloved ball.

On this chilly morning several days before Christmas, the Hubster tosses the ball to Maggie and low and behold, the Pug picks it up.  This is EXACTLY the situation that makes the Hubster and I hold our breath and prepare for the worst.  What will Maggie do?  Will she attack the Pug for stealing her precious ball?  Will she ignore it?  Will she attempt to play with it?  Will she distract it to get her ball back? 

Nope.  None of the above.  Maggie decided that no little Pug was going to interrupt her game of fetch so she. fetched. the. Pug.  Grabbed it by the sweater, picked it up in her mouth (with said ball still in the Pug's mouth) and deposited both Pug and ball at the Hubster's feet. 

I seriously cannot make this stuff up. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Hurley's gone and done it big time and I'm majorly disappointed folks!

We went to the vet's office for quick weigh in yesterday and he is only 63 lbs.  I was thinking he must be 70.  I mean, in order to grow into my gentle giant of 100+ lbs, he had to be 70 by 9 months.  At this rate, we'll be lucky if he makes it to a measly 85 lbs.  You really blew it, dude.  The St Bernard in you should be ashamed! It's a good thing that your only fault is not growing big enough for your ginormous-dog-obsessed Mama. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Comes Early

Christmas came early in our house and I got the best present ever:  Hurley has stopped barking at and reacting to dogs who come in the shop! Thanks, Santa!!  Once again, you knew exactly what I wanted.

It happened one fateful day otherwise known as last Tuesday.  Hurley is usually tethered behind the counter with me and normally when a dog comes in, I untether him so that I have more control over him and can work on his barking behavior.  But on this magical day, I decided to leave him tethered and position myself, water bottle in hand, between him and the entering dog.  I was in position, ready to douse him once the barking commenced.  But. It. Never. Did.

For some unfathomable reason, being tethered behind the counter virtually eliminated the barking.  It goes against every experience and instinct I have.  Tethering would only increase the reactivity of my other two in the same type of situation.  With Hurley, tethering has had the exact opposite effect.  He now calmly greets canine visitors and the barking that has happened has definitely been excitable "Let's play" style o' barking and not "Hey, you're on my turf now" type of barking.

I'm sure it's not just magic.  Our training class has helped Hurley learn how to be calm and non-vocal around other dogs.  It has helped him pay attention to us in the presence of distractions.  While I had my doubts about Leader of the Pack style training, the sparse use of treats and the focus in the class on using affection as a reinforcer in lieu of treats has helped me learn how to better phase out treats.  I've limited use of treats in the shop, which has helped to make it a less valuable resource for Hurley (I think).

Whether it has been fighting fleas or working on Hurley's rotten social skills at the store, I feel that the over-riding theme of this Fall with my dogs is this:  Never Give Up.  There were many times that I didn't think we'd make it over this hurdle.  Many times where I started to resign myself that he wasn't suitable to be a shop dog.  I got angry.  I was frustrated.  I even cried.  But I didn't give up and Hurley responded to our continued efforts sprinkled with a little magic.  I may never understand why being tethered creates calm and relaxed canine greetings in my puppy and I'm not too concerned with figuring it out.  I'm just glad that we made it here, a place where I don't even think twice about loading him up in the car and coming to work with me. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

How I Conquered Fleas

Before I get started sharing what seemed to actually work with ridding fleas naturally, can you please stop reading and find some wood to knock on?  K thanks.  I'm a little worried that just blogging about the fleas being gone will cause them to come back and worse than before.  That's usually how it works, right?

It's been a week since my last flea post and things are going well.  I didn't think they would be going so well, in all honesty.  The day after I posted about everything we were doing to get rid of them, I found no less than a dozen fleas on Hurley.  This after a flea shampoo bath, apple cider vinegar rinse and cleaning the house from top to bottom.  I admit - I was ready to throw in the towel and pick up some Advantage or Frontline.  I couldn't believe after all that effort that he could still have so many fleas.

So I diligently combed through every last hair on his body.  When I saw a flea, I drenched the area in the flea spray I've been using, which killed/immobilized the flea so I could then pick it off and flush it down the toilet.  It was the most thorough exam I had given him to date and removing all those fleas manually seemed to do the trick.  Since then, not a single flea on him.  The Hubster has found one on Maggie and Sadie had a few that same day I de-flea'd Hurley but none since. 

I tried a lot of things - like almost every natural remedy where I could find any anecdotal accounts of it working.  If someone had success with it, I was probably trying it.  You can view the complete list of what I tried here.

Not everything worked.  Here's what I found most useful:

Daily Inspections:  I used a regular people comb to go through the dog's hair every single day.  I sprayed any fleas I found with Ark Natural's Flea Flicker Spray.  A direct shot was enough to kill the fleas most of the time but I flushed them anyway for good measure.  I also looked for signs that they had been bitten or scratching and treated those areas with PalDog's Boo Boo Gel.  After that fateful dozen flea day, I found less and less evidence of new flea bites on the girls.  On Hurley, I never found any bites so I just imagine he doesn't react as strongly to the bites as the girls did.  I have to say - everyone should spend this kind of time inspecting their dogs.  Hurley now lets me move him around, comb him, mess with his paws, flip him over, etc with hardly a protest.  I also know where every mark is on their bodies, every scar, every splotch of dark skin and I'm sure that familiarity will help with identifying problems in the future. 

Apple Cider Vinegar:  I started with putting a tablespoon in the water bowl but found the dogs were drinking less so I switched to a spoonful in their food each time they are fed.  I believe this to be the #1 reason why I am not finding fleas on their coats.  I've seen evidence of a few bites but no actual fleas on them, which means that my attempts to make the dogs inhospitable flea hosts is working.  I am going to do a couple more ACV rinses over the next few weeks and continue with the spoonful in their food through the end of the month.

Frequent Vacuuming:  Since the dogs are no longer themselves places where the fleas want to hang out, vacuuming the carpet in our den daily was key to getting rid of fleas and their eggs.  Apparently there has been a scientific study that determined this is a highly effective way to actually kill fleas. It's not just about getting them out of your carpet - the vacuum itself will kill most fleas.

Those are the solutions I found most effective - which is not to say that the other things I tried didn't have any efficacy.  Rather, I think my all-hands-on-deck approach to solving our flea problem was a big part of the reason why it eventually worked.  I will continue to use the flea shampoo (when I find a flea), flea spray (as a preventative, will apply before trips to the dog park, hikes, camping trips and weekly during the worst part of flea season) and Diatamaceous Earth (to de-pest our house from all sorts of critters, fleas included).

I'm so thankful that we seem to be coming out of the worst of it and we'll soon be back to normal in our neck of the woods.  I can see that Sadie and Maggie are already more comfortable and I'm so thankful for that.  I hate seeing them itchy and miserable. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Today was my official getting into the Holiday Spirit day.  I started the Christmas baking and up went the tree.  The dogs were instrumental in distracting me helping!  :)

First, I got everything out for baking.  I mean everything.  And I arranged it all nicely for a blog picture - and then proceeded to move it all out of the way so I could get started!

Sadie & Hurley supervised from the comfort of their beds while Maggie kept the kitchen floor spic & span!

And then we got sidetracked by a little photo shoot.


Isn't he just the cutest puppy in the whole wide world??  Of course, with all the picture-taking, I did not get all the baking done that I wanted but we had fun.  After starting cookie dough, I took a break and headed out with Hurley to pick out our Christmas tree.  Somehow, I came home with a gi-normous tree that barely fits in our living room.  I blame it on Hurley.  The big tree made him look like a little puppy and I couldn't resist.

Sadie was a big help while I was decorating!


Then I ran out of Christmas lights and we had to take a break to get back to baking. 

Hurley was so kind as to "help" me with the Peanut Butter cup cookies.  And by help, I mean he snatched a half dozen off the counter while I wasn't looking.  One panicked google search on chocolate poisoning in dogs later and sigh of relief when I found he hadn't gotten enough chocolate to be worried, he was banished from the kitchen entirely.

The Hubster arrived with more Christmas lights and saved the day.  I finished up the tree and these three were so kind as to pose nicely for me!  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fleas Schmeas

Who here hates fleas?  Memememememememe!  I swear the little buggers have far superior intelligences that enables them to know when you are taking flea-ridding measures and find new, better places to hide.  That or they lay something insane like 20,000 eggs in one month.  I actually read that somewhere but wikipedia is telling me it's only 500 over the course of one female flea's lifetime so I guess I have to correct myself.  I feel so much better about struggling to get rid of fleas when I read 20,000 though, don't you?

Our flea history up to this fall is exactly this - none.  We had Sadie & Maggie on Frontline or Advantage; it changed a couple times with vet recommendations.  Then I forgot to give it to them.  Then nothing happened.  No fleas, no problems.  We lived a happily flea-free existence for years.  Then came Hurley.  Combined with Hurley's apparent status as Most Hospitable Flea Host ever and a worse-than-usual flea season here in Portland, we are now in the midst of flea-mageddon.

Okay.  So slight exaggeration.  We do have fleas, but it's a mid-range infestation.  Not flea-mageddon.  And I am determined to conquer fleas naturally this time.   Yes, it would be more convenient to simply dab the back of their necks once a month but the convenient way is not always the best way.  I would prefer to use natural products I know won't harm my dogs in the long run than dose them with neurotoxins.  If it's not safe for children to handle, how can it be safe for my dogs?  That's my dilemma.

The reality of using safe, natural but not as conveniently effective products to fight fleas is that it takes much more effort, more time and when you think the fleas are gone, think again and continue with what you've been doing for several more weeks after you think they're gone.  Natural remedies can effectively rid your dog of fleas but they do not kill the eggs.  Eggs can take up to 20 days to hatch, which means getting rid of fleas naturally may take 4-6 weeks.  We are at week 3 here at our house and it's going meh.  I have not been as diligent as I should have and the next 3 weeks are all about stepping up my game.  Here's what I've been trying:

Diatamaceous Earth:  DE can be quite effective at killing fleas.  This powder is a sharp fossilized substance to small bugs and works by both drying out and piercing an insect's exo-skeleton.  In order for DE to be fully effective, it needs to remain in place for 72 hours at minimum.  I have found this solution not to be effective on the dog's coats themselves as it doesn't stay on their coats long enough.  I do believe this to be the most effective solution that I've tried in terms of treating carpeting and bedding.  There are a couple precautions one must take with DE:  be sure to purchase food-grade and not pool-grade DE and when applying, make sure not to create a cloud of DE dust as it can be harmful when breathed in.  I keep DE on my dog's bedding at all times, treat the carpet weekly and there is always a bit of DE in places like the laundry room and surrounding the dogs' kennels. 

Garlic:  Garlic can be a controversial food for dogs.  From the online research I've done, I've found the bottom line to be this:  garlic has the same substance as onions but in much smaller amounts that are not toxic to most dogs when given the correct dosage.  The correct dosage of garlic can be effective in fighting fleas and other parasites, is great for heart health and is an effective supplement in fighting cancer.  I gave the dogs 1/3 of a medium size garlic clove once a day for several days to kick off my war on the fleas.  I can't say for sure how effective it has been - I believe garlic to be more effective as a preventative than to actually rid your dog of fleas once they are there.  Please seek the advice of a veterinarian prior to starting any supplements.  I am sharing my experience with garlic but am not a licensed veterinarian qualified to give medical advice.  I would advise seeking the advice of a holistic veterinarian in regards to these types of supplements though as traditional veterinarians are generally less experienced on the safe use of garlic and other natural supplements.  The part of me who thinks I should have gone to law school made me write this italicized section.  :)

Frequent Vacuuming:  So simple.  So common sense.  And yet we did not do this weeks 1 - 3, which is probably why we are still seeing at least one flea per day on Hurley.  So we embark on daily vacuuming for the next week, then will treat carpeting with DE, let it sit for 3 days, then do every other day vacuuming for a week, treat with DE.  Rinse, repeat.  A critical aspect of this simple common sense solution is to ensure you replace your vacuum's bag or empty out the dirt canister in bagless vacuums.  Immediately remove from your house.  If fleas are in there and you only toss it in your garbage can, those fleas will get out and reinfest your carpet. 

Flea Sprays & Shampoos:  I used Ark Natural's Flea Flicker Tick Kicker Spray at first.  This spray works from geranium, clove & peppermint oil.  I sprayed about every other day and found that there was a real reduction in the fleas I found on Hurley but this alone didn't seem to be enough to get rid of them completely.  I also am using EcoPure Naturals Flea & Tick Shampoo, which works from an assortment of oils similar to Flea Flicker.  I didn't use a specific flea shampoo when I first bathed the dogs but have used it once and will use it for all future baths until the fleas are sayonara, which brings me to my next item:

Frequent & Thorough Bathing:  The dogs will be getting weekly baths for the next 3 weeks at least using the flea shampoo.  All 3 at the same time so that fleas cannot jump from one to the other.  And this is the tough part - they must stay in the bathtub with the shampoo penetrating their coat for at least 5 minutes.  Sadie was awesome at this; Maggie gave me dirty looks; Hurley whined and cried the entirety of his bath.  And after the 5 minutes of shampoo penetration, I follow it up with an apple cider vinegar rinse.  That stays on their coats for another 5 minutes before rinsing off.  Hurley wouldn't even look at me for the rest of the evening after his bath.  But we made up this morning so all is right in the world again.  The ACV also made their coats super soft - I love pleasant side effects!

Apple Cider Vinegar:  From all the research I've done, ACV seems to be one of those cure-all products.  Fleas are but one of many ailments it is said to help.  In addition to the ACV rinse as part of their weekly baths, we sprayed the baseboards, carpet, mattress & upholstery with an ACV/water mixture.  They are also getting a tablespoon of ACV in their water bowl each time we fill it.  I will be spraying them with an ACV/water mixture in lieu of the flea spray I've previously been using to see if it is any more effective. 

Treating Flea bites, scratches & hot spots:  In order to make the girls more comfortable as we are fighting fleas, I am applying Pal Dog's Boo Boo Gel to their flea bites, where they've scratched themselves raw and any hot spots that develop.  Sadie is starting to chew at her paws and make hot spots, pobrecita!  Hurley on the other hand occasionally scratches himself but otherwise does not seem bothered by the fleas.  Yet I have not found more than one flea on Sadie in 2 weeks while I find fleas on him almost daily.  Go figure.  The Boo Boo gel contains Aloe, St Johns wort and Calendula oil, which I have found to be effective in soothing the skin and healing boo boos.  This helps make them more comfortable and less likely to scratch themselves raw.  I apply daily as needed when I examine them.

Wow.  I am definitely throwing the book at our flea problem.  I still have a few more natural remedies to try if this laundry list of solutions doesn't cut it:  tea tree oil, lemon/water spray, cedar oil...the list goes on.  This is my war on fleas and I am determined to win.  These tiny little buggers will not get the best of me!

Please note that I did not receive free products to review or any compensation.  The specific products mentioned are ones that I carry in my store and recommend to customers who are fighting fleas naturally.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today's Fun Facts

Fun Fact #1:  Hurley is the cutest, smartest, just BEST dog in the whole wide world.

Fun Fact #2:  I love him with all of my heart.

Fun Fact #3:  I also think Maggie & Sadie are BEST-est dogs ever and equally adorable but they are not hanging out at the store with me today so please enjoy this Hurley blooper shot from our little photo shoot in the shop.