Thursday, October 27, 2016

Soth Reviews Solid Gold Purrfect Pairings

It's no secret that Soth is my problem child. He's the hangriest little critter I've ever met (and being someone who gets hangry easily myself, that's saying a lot), but he's also picky. For the longest time, he refused to eat pate style food, preferring only foods in gravy--and really, he just wanted the gravy and not the food. Then he quit eating the foods in gravy and now prefers to eat pate style foods. Sometimes he likes turkey, other times he won't touch it. The same goes for chicken. Even though I do most of my pet shopping at Chewy.com, I rarely purchase Soth's food from there because it's highly unlikely that he'll go for 24 cans of the same flavor and I'd have to purchase at least three different packages to have enough variety for his highness. I try to keep 3-5 different flavors on hand at all times so that he gets a different flavor each time we open a can.

When our friends at Chewy.com asked us if Soth wanted to review some food, I thought it was a great chance to try out something new to see if we could add a new flavor to our rotation. After looking at our different options, we chose Solid Gold Purrfect Pairings Savory Mousse with Chicken and Goat Milk. The description said that picky kitties loved the mousse texture, so I thought there was a chance Soth might enjoy this one.


When I first opened the box, I was concerned. On the Chewy site, it said that the food was made in the United States, which is something I'm pretty particular about; however, the packaging said Made in Thailand. I'd done a little research before when I'd purchased him Weruva and then noticed the made in Thailand stamp, but I wasn't sure that I trusted all brands made in Thailand. I did a good search and found a few articles like this one that pointed out many high quality brands source tuna from Thailand, but I couldn't find anything specifically about Solid Gold. Part of me felt like no news is good news--at least there weren't articles connecting the brand to illness or death--but I was still a little wary of feeding it to Soth without more information.

So, I contacted Solid Gold directly to ask them if they could provide more information on how the ingredients were sourced and about the measures they take to ensure the safety of the food.

Within 12 hours, they'd responded with a very detailed explanation of the product. Some of the highlights include: "Unfortunately there are no more large scale commercial tuna canneries in the United States. There may be a few small ones here and there but not any available to us. Our product specialist who works directly with our manufacturing facilities has lived in San Diego her entire life. She has told me that 60 years ago San Diego was the tuna capital of the world. Chicken of the Sea still has their corporate office there, but the last large tuna canning operation, in Los Angeles, was closed down in the mid 2000s. We actually made our canned foods in an LA area cannery owned by Chicken of the Sea when she started at Solid Gold in 2002 but had to find another cannery when they shut down. We source our tuna blend canned cat foods from Thailand because there just is not a source in the US." The customer service rep went on to explain that the facility they use now is under FDA regulations because the parent company that owns Chicken of the Sea and Bumblebee tuna owns the cannery that is used in Thailand and the rep also explained the different testing processes that they do regularly to make sure that the food is safe to send out to customers. The majority of ingredients are sourced in the United States and nothing comes from China. Even though this was a chicken formula, there was still tuna in the ingredient list, so it wasn't sourced and manufactured 100% in the United States.

I haven't been able to try this yet, so maybe it's a toy instead of food.

After reading such an in-depth response, I felt more comfortable letting Soth try this food. He'd been pawing at the box for days while I researched and then cleaned off a spot where pictures could be taken without an interfering Barley.

If he's not willing to eat it, I will.

The food was very similar to Soth's normal pate style food in looks, but instead of being heavy and dense, it was light and fluffy--like a dessert mousse.



After waiting so long to try Purrfect Pairings, Soth was ready to dig in. I split wet food up into several little meals throughout the day since he usually doesn't eat much at one time and Soth gobbled down the bit I put in his bowl for his first try. 

After that, though, he wasn't really interested in eating more. If I put some in his bowl and then left the house, he'd eat it, but if I gave him some and stuck around the house, he'd fuss and knock things around until I put something else in his bowl. 


Another concern I had was storing the leftovers. Purrfect Pairings comes in a 2.75-oz. cups with a lid you peel off (like a yogurt cup for people). Since we split cans up throughout the day, we needed to be able to cover it back up and put it in the fridge. We have three different styles of can lids and it was immediately clear that two of them didn't work. I was afraid we'd have to tear off a little bit of foil, which always seems wasteful to me. Luckily, with a little effort, I got our silicone lids to fit.

I don't think I'll be purchasing this product for Soth in the future. It has good ingredients--after water for processing, the first ingredient is chicken (always a plus in our world) and it's grain free (which Soth's regular food is not). After the reassurance about the safety of the product, it's definitely a food I'd be comfortable feeding him. But Soth wasn't crazy about it, and he has the final say on food purchases around here.

Solid Gold Purrfect Pairings comes in several other flavors including tuna and goat milk, shrimp and goat milk, whitefish and goat milk, and chicken liver and goat milk. They come in a case of six 2.75-oz. cups, so it's a great way to add some variety to a picky kitty's diet without committing to a lot of cans of food. Chewy.com makes it so easy to order food with their 24/7 help and fantastic customer service reps, so if you have a picky kitty, it's worth a try!

DisclaimerWe were provided with a 6-cup case of Solid Gold Purrfect Pairings from Chewy.com in exchange for our honest review, but all opinions are my own and we only share information we think is relevant and valuable to our readers. Chewy.com is not responsible for the content of this post. Always consult with your vet before starting your pet on a new diet.
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Friday, October 21, 2016

Barley Reviews Pet Treater

October has been a long month for us. Between weird weather and endless paper grading, the pets have been feeling a little neglected. It was a pleasant surprise for them when Barley and I went to leave for a walk and there was a huge package just for them on the font step.


We'd been sent our first Pet Treater box to review. Barley seems to know when the mail is for her and it took some convincing to get her to go on the walk with me before we dove into the box.


I'm a sucker for themed pet products and this month's Pet Treater box was the perfect theme for us! It was a Barktoberfest theme--and if you've been with us a while, you know that Barley got her name because I love craft beer. The box came with an envelope addressed to Barley and Sal, but we had to take turns looking at the items since Barley gets too excited about new things to be loose with Sal for that kind of thing.

The first thing we pulled out of the box were two packages of Petsafe Indigo Smokehouse Strips in bacon and chicken flavors. This was the item Barley was most excited about, so we opened them up immediately. 

Barley was very patient and let me take a couple of pictures before we tore into them, but once the package was open, she was not happy about being taunted with them while I took a picture of the actual treats.

These were great treats--we've only tried the bacon flavor so far, but as soon as I opened the package, the room filled with the scent of bacon. I almost wanted to try them myself, but I have learned that dog treats never taste as good as they smell, so I let Barley be the official taste tester.

The strips break into small pieces very easily, so they make great training treats. That's a big plus since we we go through a lot of treats a day, so treats that can be torn up and make Barley think she's getting more snacks are always great.

Sal thought these snacks were great, too. He could smell them in my pocket when I went to take him outside and was so excited that he didn't even want to sit still long enough to get his leash on until he'd gotten to try one. He had much more pep in his step when I took him out and was excited to come back inside to try a couple more.

My two favorite items in the box were a Drinking Buddy bandana and a bottle of Bowser Beer Porky Pug Porter. We haven't tried the porter before, but we've tried one of the other styles of Bowser Beer in the past. I'm saving her porter for a nice, crisp fall night when I pour a Great Lakes Brewing Company porter for myself--maybe on Tuesday when we're cheering the Indians on in Game 1 of the World Series. The bandana just makes me smile--it probably won't be one she's wearing outside of the house (unless she goes on another brewery visit), but we'll definitely have fun taking pictures in it around the house.

There were also two cute toys in our box. The first one was a stuffed bone with a breast cancer ribbon on it from Bow-Wow Pet. There wasn't a squeaker inside, so it's not a toy Barley would be interested in. Luckily, there's another pup in the house who just likes toys that he can chase whether or not they have squeakers. Sal loved the bone and couldn't understand why I would take time out from throwing it to take his picture.


There was also a bat toy from Grriggles that Barley laid claim to--although Sal was pretty sure he should have that one, too. Barley was too busy sniffing and nibbling on the bat to pose nicely for a picture, so I think it must be a good one! 


There were even some goodies in the box for me. There was an over the door pet organizer. It's a really great organizer with quality materials that would really hold up well to holding lots of toys, snacks, and a leash. There's even a little picture frame at the top to put a picture of your dog.  

I really like this organizer. It's much higher quality than most over the door organizers I've seen--for people or pet products. I haven't decided if I'm going to use it or donate it to the shelter to use in a basket for their charity auction. I want to keep it, but all of my closet doors are sliding doors, so it won't work with them and in Barley's crate room, there's a mirror attached to the back of the door. It could work on the door to the laundry room where Barley's shower is, so I might use it for her shampoos and to pick up toys that make their way down to the laundry room with us. 
There was also a little pumpkin silicone muffin tray with a spatula. I never have enough spatulas, so that was great! I'll definitely be using that year round. I don't bake very often, but the tray is really cute and if I can remember I have it next time I bake, I know I'll love having cute fall-shaped goodies! 


There was really only one product in the box that we won't use. It was a beef knuckle, which is not something that I let Barley have. She would love it, but hard chews like that make her gums bleed almost immediately. Sal's bad teeth would keep him from chewing on this, so next time we take donations to the shelter, this will be going to them. 


There was something for everyone in this box--even Soth. Pet Treater has a code to get a free dog bed with your first box of a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription plan, so they included a bed for us to try out, too.



The bed we were sent is also from Bow-Wow pets and matches Sal's bone. Soth didn't waste any time claiming this for himself.


We were sent a medium bed--it's a round bed that's size 23" x 6"--and it's a little small for Barley who is at the top of the medium dog range on Pet Treater's size chart, but it would be perfect for Sal if he wasn't a sprawler. Barley loves curling up in small beds, though, and has been known to take over cat beds, so she's still enjoying this little bed when her brother isn't occupying it. 


The free pet bed code only works on your first 3, 6, or 12 month subscription plan, but if you want to try a month-to-month subscription, you can use the code LOVE-PT5 to get $5 off your first box. If you don't want your pets to feel left out while you're chowing down on Thanksgiving goodies, November would be a great time to get a Pet Treater box!

If you choose a month-to-month subscription, it's only $24.99 a month and the price per box goes down if you choose a 3, 6, or 12 month option instead. You can also try a one time box without a subscription for $34.99. Also, for each box Pet Treater sends, they provide a dog or cat in a local shelter with a new treat, toy, or blanket, so you can feel even better about spoiling your own pet!

We've tried other subscription boxes and Pet Treater had many more items inside and they were all high quality products. We'd highly recommend Pet Treater to anyone who wants to make sure their pups get something fun in the mail every now and then! 

DisclaimerWe were provided with a Pet Treater box in exchange for our honest review, but all opinions are my own and we only share information we think is relevant and valuable to our readers. Pet Treater is not responsible for the content of this post. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Barley is the New Poetry (Part 2)

Those of you who have been with us for a long time may remember that time I told a long sad story about how I used to write poetry but that life with a reactive dog had drained my poetic energy. That was a year and a half ago--and I tried to write after that post.

I started being inspired by a lot of things: the Orioles playing baseball in an empty stadium, the way Barley's pawprints looked in the sand, the wiggle of Soth's nose when he watches chipmunks. I took pages and pages of notes. But I didn't write a single poem.

Then on July 23-24, the Litsy app hosted a 24in48 readathon where participants read for 24 hours in the 48 hour time period. Obviously, reading for 24 hours in a two day time period is not something Barley would ever tolerate, but Litsy had lots of different photo contests to participate in throughout the weekend.


One of the contests was Spine Poetry where you pull books off your shelves and stack them on top of each other in a way that makes a poem. I had been snuggling in bed with Bar and a book when I saw the challenge, so I turned to my shelves in the bedroom: the dog books and the poetry books. I pulled out some of my favorites, played around with them a bit, and fell in love. I submitted it and didn't win, but I'd used Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones in the poem and she liked the poem when I tweeted it and started following me, so that's even better than winning in my book.

The poem stuck with me and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I was also taking a 4-week poetry class through Coursera.org and around that same time we had to submit a form poem. I'm 100% a free verse kind of girl, so I was dreading the assignment. However, one of the options was a Japanese tanka, a form similar to haiku but with 5 lines following the syllable count of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. I started playing around with my spine poetry and rearranged some words, added some words, deleted some words, added some line breaks and pretty soon I had two stanzas that almost fit into the tanka form (one line has an extra syllable).

Still, the poem stuck with me. For most literary journals, it's common practice to submit 3-5 poems for consideration for publication. At that point, I just didn't have them unless I went back to my really old stuff that just wasn't speaking to me. I started searching for different dog publications to see if maybe there was some place the poem could find a home. I came across The Bark magazine. They had a statement that specifically said: "We do accept poetry, but do not have space for all of the poems that we would like to publish. But the shorter the poem, the more likely we might be to find space for it." 

I prepared myself for rejection and sent in my poem anyway. Twelve hours later, I got an email saying they would love to publish the poem and would be in touch when they knew which issue they'd be able to make room in for it.


When I shared the news with one of my poet friends, he mentioned that he'd been in a writing slump, too, so we decided to keep my momentum going and try to get him out of his slump by doing a month-long writing challenge together. For the month of September, we sent each other a couple poems each week, critiqued them, and went back to writing.

I'm happy to say that thanks to Litsy, Coursera, my friend Casey, and Barley, I'm out of my slump. I've been taking advantage of the voice-to-text feature in my phone to jot down ideas while Barley and I walk (or to Barley's chagrin, making her stop in parks and sit on a bench while I type one out). Right now, they're all either about dog walking or have a dog somewhere in them, so I like to think of them as the lovechild of Ted Kooser's Winter Morning Walks and Mary Oliver's Dog Songs.

My editor thinks there should be more cat poems.

The only downside to this is that we haven't been able to find a copy of the fall issue of The Bark in stores--I was sent a copy, so I have my poem in a magazine, but I haven't been able to see it on a shelf! If you happen to be in PetSmart, Barnes and Noble, or other stores where they sell magazines and you see The Bark on the shelf, send us a picture!

P.s. There are some other great articles in the magazine (my personal favorite is a decorating piece from Trading Spaces designer Vern Yip), so it's worth picking up even if you don't love poetry.

Monday, October 10, 2016

That's Why You Always Ask

On Friday, Barley and I went to the arboretum for my annual "birthday party" where we go look at the Scarecrow Row and other displays being set up for the Goblins in the Garden event. 

Usually, there aren't many people there, but with the new canopy walk, I guess we just have to get used to higher traffic on any nice fall day. 

For some reason, there were a lot of school groups, which is one of our worst nightmares. They are loud. They are unruly. They're never well supervised. 

As we made our way back towards the car, we stopped to take a picture of a cute pumpkin patch. I was getting ready to back away from Bar to get the photo when a couple moms started unclipping their toddlers from strollers and saying, "Let's take your picture here!" 

I decided to give up and leave, but as we made our way back to the trail, a large school group was heading our way. We pulled back off the trail and sat to wait for them to go by. Barley sat nicely and was taking treats and staying focused on me while the kids trickled by on the trail. Of course, one of the teachers or chaperones noticed the pumpkin patch near us and said, "Oh, well we obviously have to take a picture with this!" and started herding the kids right towards us. The toddlers and strollers were still to one side of us and there were shrubs behind us, so we were stuck. I had to step in front of Barley and say, "She doesn't like kids." The woman looked annoyed, but she changed their path slightly and Barley and I were able to sidestep over onto the trail.

We also passed a family with an energetic girl, probably about 4, walking in front of her dad. I switched the side Barley was on and got a handful of treats ready and we kept walking. As we got closer the dad stopped and said, "Excuse me, but can we pet your dog?" I told them that she was scared of kids but thanked them for asking. As we walked away, the little girl's mom said, "See, Mere, that's why you always ask before running up to a dog."

Barley and I are very thankful for parents like this little girl's who are teaching her to interact with dogs responsibly. Maybe when she gets to school she can help teach her classmates those lessons, too. 

Even if we didn't get a pumpkin patch picture, we still got some fun pictures.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Barley Reviews Grow Young with Your Dog

When Barley and I were asked to review Mary Debono's book Grow Young with Your Dog, we were intrigued. Exercising is something I prefer to do with Barley, but we haven't had much luck with different exercise programs that incorporate work for dogs and humans. We can't go to boot camp classes because Barley's too reactive for me to be able to break focus on her. When I downloaded a Doga book, Barley looked at me like I was crazy when I started trying some of the moves. I have some stretching DVDs and yoga programs, but even though they help with my creaky joints, it's hard to find time for them when I'm trying to keep Barley active.

Grow Young with Your Dog seemed like it might be just the book for us. In her introduction, Mary Debono talks about how she had suffered aches and pains in her 20s and felt like she had to just accept those pains as part of the aging process. Then she began to learn more about moving and aging and realized that there are ways people can begin to feel younger by making changes to their habits and types of movements. As a dog lover, naturally Mary wanted to help dogs feel younger, too, and Debono Moves was born.


Mary explains that her approach "combines the science of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to overcome injury or disease by forming new neural pathways, with the healing power of love." Some of the goals of her program are to reduce stress and anxiety, minimize the risk of injury, and lessen the effects of arthritis, hip dysplasia, and aging. While Barley hasn't suffered from injuries or arthritis yet, I want to make sure that she doesn't have those problems anytime soon, so we were more than willing to review this book.

The Good
Grow Young with Your Dog has lots of stories about dogs who have been helped by the different movements in this book. Mary knew how much I love border collies and agility, so she made sure to point out that Chapter Six focuses on a border collie, Emma, who suffered from hip dysplasia. Her humans, Akiko and Michael, were sure her future in agility was over before it even started. Akiko asked Mary for help. Mary helped Emma to change the way she used her paws, which changed the ways her hips were affected when she moved. Mary paid close attention to all of Emma's body to make sure that additional strain was relived. Combined with holistic veterinary care and proper nutrition, Emma's hips eventually earned a good rating and she was able to begin agility training.  Each chapter has different stories like this one and then Mary includes human exercises and dog exercises in each chapter. In this particular chapter, she provides human exercises that help loosen tight hips. I gave these a try and I definitely felt relief as I stretched out my joints and muscles following Mary's instructions.

The companion website provides videos and audio that help walk you through the steps. It can be hard to hold open a book to look at pictures or read directions when you're trying to keep a dog still and relaxed on the floor in front of you, so I really appreciate the fact that the book comes with a code that allows you to access those resources. Even without the additional resources, Grow Young with Your Dog is filled with pictures that illustrate different exercises and let you see the progress the dogs who have used the Debono Moves method have made.

Throughout the book and the companion website, Mary's passion for helping people and their dogs shines through. Her patience and willingness to help a dog relax and make adjustments to her methods to help anxious dogs is evident throughout the book. Mary tells the story of a lab named Blossom who was so anxious around strangers that she wouldn't stay still if Mary looked at her--Mary ended up starting their session with her back towards Blossom and went at Blossom's pace to gradually work up to being able to face her. As the owner of a reactive dog, I love hearing about people who are willing to meet dogs in their comfort zones and then help them break out of those zones.


The Truth
As of right now, we haven't had much luck performing the dog exercises. This isn't the fault of the book or the Debono Moves program, though. Barley just thinks it's weird when I try these different exercises on her--and anyone who knows Barley knows that it takes her a while to adjust to new things. If I sit on the floor for some of them, she thinks she is supposed to crawl into my lap and smother me with kisses. We'll keep trying, but so far Barley hasn't really figured out what she's supposed to do--and when Barley doesn't understand what I'm asking, she makes up her own rules.

I think foster pup Sal could benefit from a lot of this, too. There are sections on flexibility and arthritis and I think his older joints would really benefit from that. But he's the opposite of Barley. We're still building up trust. He's just getting to the point where he lies on his side and exposes any of his belly to me. He gets scared if I pet his neck. The first time I tried to pick up a paw to wipe it off, he bolted away from me like I'd kicked him. We're not quite to the point yet where he'll completely relax and let me try most of these things, so we'll have to make adjustments and go at his pace--which I know is something Mary would support from the stories she told.

As a book for humans, though, I really like this book! The exercises are simple but effective and help stretch out muscles and joints--something that I can never get enough of. Mary presents ideas in easy-to-follow directions and pictures, which I appreciate. She also makes some really interesting observations about how our habits can contribute to feeling old--both for humans and dogs--and it's made me want to add more variety to my life and break up some routines a bit more to keep me feeling young.


If you want to learn more about Mary and Debono Moves or buy your own copy of Grow Young with Your Dog, you can visit Mary's website here.

Disclaimer: We were provided a copy of Grow Young with Your Dog by Mary Debono in exchange for our honest review, but all ideas and opinions are my own and we only share information relevant to our readers. Neither Mary Debono nor her publisher is responsible for the content of this review. Always be sure to consult with your vet before beginning new exercise programs with your dog.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Rediscovering Lake Erie Bluffs

Way back in 2012, Barley and I took my cousin to the Lake Metroparks Lake Erie Bluffs park. We hadn't had the blog long then and our visit wasn't even exciting enough to warrant a blog post. It was a beautiful place, but at that point, there was about a half mile of trail and it was far enough away that it didn't make sense to drive that far to walk so little.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to decide if we should walk after agility so we could get some more mileage towards our resolution goal. If we waited to walk in our neighborhood, it would be dark, so that meant we needed to go to a park. Our usual park with our deer friends was far enough away that we wouldn't get much of a walk there, but then I remembered that Lake Erie Bluffs was closer and on the way home so we could do a few loops and get at least half the mileage we hope for each day. 

We were surprised to see that there were now several miles of trail and a new observation tower. We weren't able to explore much because of the fast approaching sunset, but I decided we'd have to come back soon.

Last Friday seemed like the perfect time. I had a coupon for a free chicken biscuit at Chick-fil-a and Soth needed some more food, so I decided Barley and I should make a day of it.


Of course, as soon as we pulled into the parking lot at the park, it started raining, but it had been doing that off and on all morning, so we sat in the car for a few minutes and the rain was over in a few minutes.

I was trying to get a good Banned Books Week picture in my The Metamorphosis shirt--I look weird, but I love how Barley looks at me.

We were so impressed with how much the park has grown since we were last there. There were a couple miles of paved/gravel trails an then several grassy trails through the woods.


We didn't venture up the observation tower because there were small children listening to their voices echo as they shouted off the top and they made Barley nervous, so we just admired it from a far.


There were also a lot of wildflowers (weeds?) growing along the trail that made the grey day a little more colorful.




There weren't many people there, so we didn't have to worry about finding off-leash dogs on the beach (there's one tiny part of the beach that's an off-leash swim area, but we have seen off-leash dogs in other areas on our few evening visits). 


For some reason, every time we go on the beach, Barley loses her mind and has to fight with her leash. I don't know if there's something about having her feet in the sand that gets her amped up or what, but I always enjoy watching her tangle herself and then untangle herself and kick up lots of sand in the process. 




Grey days are always my favorite for visiting the beach because of the way the water looks against the sky.


But Barley was less enthusiastic about the bigger waves that grey days usually bring.


Leaves are starting to change colors, so we took some pictures with the lovely fall colors, too.


And we made a new friend.

In addition to the observation tower, they've added in a few overlook platforms and some nice spots with benches to stop and enjoy the views by the lake.

This will probably be stunning in a couple weeks.

We couldn't believe how much the park had changed since our first visit. It's a really lovely place to walk and we're looking forward to many more visits.


We ended up exploring most of the park and getting in our daily three miles. Barley and I highly recommend visiting Lake Erie Bluffs if you ever find yourself in our area!