Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Eat, Sleep, and Be Thankful

The 18th was a big day at our house. Not only did we get Rye, the Paw5 Wooly Snuffle Mat we won from our friends at ZoePhee, and a Chewy.com delivery, we also got our November Pet Treater box! The theme for this box was Eat, Sleep, and Be Thankful. 

Rye and I opened the box right away--and she had so much fun with the contents that it took me over a week to be able to sit down to write our review! Rye is a very toy-motivated puppy. She likes food, but if she spots one of her toys in the middle of eating a meal, she will walk away from her dish to get the toy instead (I quickly learned that I can't put her toys back in the bin while she eats if I want to her to finish her food!). 

The first thing Rye and I discovered was a Kikkerland Elephant Dog Toy. The elephant is made out of cotton rope and is designed to promote healthy teeth and gums while pups chew on it.


Rye had no idea how to pose for a picture with the elephant (so many things for her big sister to teach her!), so I only got one picture of the elephant being cute and Rye being distracted before Rye pounced on him. She knew exactly what this toy was for!


Unfortunately, the poor elephant isn't looking so cute these days. His ears are completely unraveled and I keep finding bits of blue on the carpet. I'm not used to a dog that doesn't treat her toys gently! But Rye loves this guy--cute or not--and she gets very excited when I let her play with it when I can closely supervise her to make sure she's not having a mid-day elephant snack!

Barley also found a toy that was perfect for her! Barley loves treat dispensing toys and we got a PetZip Goody Ball. This one is a little different than the other treat balls we have--it's all one piece with a slit all the way around the middle to stuff treats in. The treats don't fall out as easily as they do with some of our others when it's just being rolled and Barley hasn't quite figured out that squeezing it helps them come out more quickly, so it's been the perfect entertainment when Barley's had to go in our room so Rye can get some love.


In addition to fun new toys, there were some edible goodies inside, too! The food item we're most excited about is Puppy Scoops Maple Bacon Ice Cream. Barley loves ice cream. With this container, you just add warm water to the mix, stir, and then freeze for at least 5 hours before serving. I had every intention of mixing this up while my nephew pup was here so the three dogs could eat ice cream while my sister and I devoured two different types of pie, but it didn't happen, so we're going to save it for a celebratory snack if we all survive our first training session this weekend.


There was also a turkey cookie from Emmy's Gourmet Canine Creations and I'm a sucker for cute seasonal snacks, so this was a big hit. Barley was bummed that I didn't let her swallow the whole cookie in one bite and broke it up so she could share with her baby sister. 


We also got a bag of Dingo Market Cuts Chicken and Sweet Potato Treats. They look awesome, but I'm still going to share these with the dogs at the shelter instead of using them here at home. We're going to be using so many soft training treats over the upcoming weeks as Rye is integrated into the family that nobody's going to have room in their diets for big treats like this.


The pups weren't the only ones who got fun things! I got a bar of sea salt and caramel milk chocolate (and I appreciate the "for your human" sticker on the front!), a I Love My Dog wall hook, and a picture frame for a photo of the pups! Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the frame yet because the glass inside was broken when it arrived and I had to quickly shove it in a closet where inquiry puppy mouths wouldn't find it until a time when I can safely discard the glass. Thankfully, Pet Treater wants all of their customers to be happy and in their FAQ they tell you how to contact them if an item arrives damaged. They might not be able to send you the exact same item since they have limited numbers of items, but they'll replace the item with a comparable product. 


Once again, Pet Treater impressed us with their variety and the quality of the items inside the box! There was something for everyone (kitty brother Soth says the peace and quiet the elephant provided when Rye quit chasing him was present enough for him!) and they were perfect products for my little family. 


If you're still looking for the perfect Christmas present for the dogs in your life, now is a great time to order a Pet Treater box. There are several codes available right now. With a 3, 6, or 12-month subscription, you can get a free dog bed with the code FREE-PTBED or the code LOVE-PT5 will take $5 off any subscription. Until Dec. 1, you can get a free treat launcher with PT-LAUNCH. You can only use one code, but no matter which one you choose, you can't go wrong!

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. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving preparations are extra easy this year. For Thanksgiving, it's just me and my sister--she doesn't really like turkey, so we're having chicken pot pie instead and the recipe I use is the best when it's frozen first, so I made the mini pot pies a few weeks ago and just have to pop them in the oven. We have a tradition of crockpot meals for Thanksgiving, so I'm trying a new crockpot mac and cheese recipe that requires minimal effort. All that leaves for me to do tomorrow is some easy bacon asparagus wraps.

I got turkey toys for Barley, Rye, and their cousin Maddux and we thought we were all set. Then our friends at Chewy.com sent us a package of Merrick's Thanksgiving Day Dinner! Now that Foster Pup Sal is in his forever home, wet food is just a special treat here--and I can't think of a better occasion for a special treat than Thanksgiving. 


Rye isn't a picky eater, but she's a distracted eater, so I let her be our official taste tester for these cans ahead of time. Rye likes her food, but if Soth walks by the room or a car starts outside or I open a door or she catches sight of a toy, she'll wander away from her bowl mid-meal to play instead. 


Merrick is a brand we really love at our house and we use a lot of their treats and some of their seasonal recipes for fun meals. It seemed like the perfect topper to give Rye to get her a little more excited about meal time.


Thanksgiving Day Dinner has great ingredients like Deboned Turkey, Turkey Broth, Chicken, Sweet Potato, Carrots, Green Beans, Apples, and Peas to name a few--lots of great fall ingredients (and a little overlap to what my sister and I will be eating in pot pie!).


Rye was happy to dig in when I offered her a spoonful, so I think she's going to be thrilled when she sees some on top of her breakfast tomorrow morning. Barley and Maddux live to eat, so I know they'll be happy with a little something special later in the day, too.

We hope that all of you have a day filled with family and good food! Happy Thanksgiving!

DisclaimerWe were provided with a case of Merrick Thanksgiving Day Dinner  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. 




Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I'm Not Sharing

On the same day that Barley's new sister Rye arrived, we got our item for our monthly Chewy.com review. Barley hasn't met Rye yet, but I don't think it's much of a mystery of which arrival Barley likes better.

This month, we're testing out ACANA Duck and Pear Singles treats. ACANA isn't a brand that we've tried before, so I did a little research before we tested them out. ACANA's a company that is focused on providing food and treats that are limited ingredient and biologically appropriate. According to their website: "Our mission represents a new standard in pet food, designed to nourish your dog and cat in two ways. First, according to its natural evolution to a meat and protein-rich diet. Second, using meats, poultry, eggs and fish that are sustainably ranched, farmed or fished by local suppliers and delivered to our kitchens fresh each day."


The ingredients in these treats are duck, pear, duck liver, sarsaparilla root, and mixed tocopherols (preservatives). It's always nice to be able to count the ingredients in treats on one hand. The package (and ACANA website) point out that the duck is raised free-run a farm in Kentucky and the pear and sarsaparilla root are also locally grown. 

Barley was very excited to get to dig into the treats, but she humored me and took a few pictures first.



We also did a little bit of self-control practice. Freeze-dried treats with few ingredients are high value treats around here, so it takes a lot of focus for Barley to wait until she's told to eat them. Working on self-control is also an important step to preparing Barley for meeting her sister when Rye's quarantine is up, so these treats gave us a great opportunity to practice.


The treats are small enough that they'd be a good reward as is, but they're also soft enough that they can be broken up into smaller bits, too. They get a little crumbly (as most freeze-dried treats do) when you break them up, so we won't be taking them to agility or on walks, but they are perfect for some in door training. 

When Barley was told she could have the treats, she dove in and inhaled them faster than my camera could snap a picture, so I think that means they are a hit. She thinks they're too good to share with her little sister, so we're keeping them hidden upstairs and using them for special Barley training sessions.

We highly recommend these treats! Chewy.com also has them in lamb and apple, mackerel and greens, and pork and squash--so if your dog has a sensitivity to one type of protein, there are other great options.

DisclaimerWe were provided with a bag of ACANA Singles 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. 






Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Special Delivery

Friday was a big day with new things crossing our threshold. We got a Chewy.com package and a Pet Treater box for our upcoming reviews. We got a Snuffle Mat we won from our friends ZoePhee (it's a hit!).

We also got a new member of the family.


I grew up with two dogs and pretty much from the day I got Barley, I've dreamed about getting a second dog. When we lived in an apartment, that wasn't an option--there wasn't room and the lease didn't allow it. Ever since I bought my house, I've been thinking about it more seriously. One of the requirements when I was house-hunting was that there was room for two big crates.

Part of me hoped that foster pup Sal would become part of the family--I even picked out a new name for him--but it was immediately clear that he wasn't my dog. After Sal found his home, I was pretty sure that we would stay a single-dog home for a while--at least until summer vacation.

But then the shelter posted some Shar-Pei mix puppies on their Facebook page and I thought long and hard about going to meet them. They looked so much like one of my childhood dogs that I was pretty sure I needed one. Eventually, I decided none of those puppies would be quite the puppy I was looking for and I decided not to meet them.

The next week, though, they posted coonhound puppies and I love hound dogs. They wouldn't be available for a few days, so I had time to think about it. My mom said I was crazy. My friends said they loved puppies and wanted to have one to play with without having their own. My sister said they were cute and gave an enthusiastic yay when I told her I was going to meet them.

I went to the shelter and got there early, but there were already 9 other people in line ahead of me and only 4 puppies. I secured my spot in line and waited until the shelter opened. They let the first four approved applications in to meet the puppies, but said we could wait in case things didn't work out and then they'd move down the list. I decided that it wasn't meant to be and almost left, but I'd been talking to a woman outside who was looking for a cat and she encouraged me to come in and see which cat she ended up with. As we waited in the lobby, I saw a little dog in one of the crates.


The foster coordinator was reviewing applications at the front desk, so I asked her about the pup. She was an 8-month old puppy they had listed as a Border Collie Australian Shepherd mix. She'd been surrendered to the dog warden because her previous family couldn't take care of her any longer (they couldn't remember if it was because of an illness or financial issues), but they'd loved her and wanted the best for her.

I pet her through the cage. She licked me. I told the foster coordinator I wanted to change my application from the puppies to this little dog. Once they finished finalizing the puppy adoptions, it was my turn.

After writing a check and signing some papers, I had a puppy.

She doesn't quite have modeling down.

Like Sal, she has kennel cough, so she's in quarantine and hasn't met her big sister yet. We've already lined up training with her and Barley as soon as the quarantine period is over. I want to make sure that we do things right from the very beginning. Until then, we're back to splitting my time between the pets (it seems to be going more quickly this time--maybe I'm used to it) and spraying Lysol all over the place.


I struggled at coming up with a name for her--there were a couple varieties of hops I was considering and a literary name, but nothing felt right. My sister, her Aunt L (whose birthday is today!), came up with the name Rye. I thought about it for a few hours and the more I thought about it, the more right it was. 


She's also affectionally called my tiny terror--she's like a little tornado. Rye hops from one spot to the next, picking things up and dropping them off in new places just to start all over again somewhere new. 

She's never still. She's incredibly smart. She's terrible on leash. She's very small--only 27 pounds! The smallest dog I've ever had. The vet doesn't think she'll get much bigger than 30 pounds. 



We've started the relaxation protocol Barley and I did years ago and Rye's catching on quick. She's also easily distracted, so we've made no progress on loose leash walking because every time I get her attention a leaf blows by before the treat makes it to her mouth. We'll be starting some indoor work on that soon, but if anyone has harness recommendations, I'm considering that option for while we work on this and would love to know what's worked for you!

In about a week and a half, we'll start our training sessions with both dogs. Keep your fingers crossed that Barley loves her little sister half as much as I do. Our focus will probably be back to reactive dog training for the foreseeable future, so bear with us as we start this journey!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Backyard Fall Fun

Last week, I mentioned that both of the pets had gained a little weight during our fostering experience. Everyone's been on a diet and we're making great progress. Mother Nature's also been helping us get back to normal. Most of the days have been sunny and in the 50s or low 60s. 

I know that snow is coming--in fact, they're predicting lake effect snow for Sunday--so we've been taking advantage of the nice weather as much as possible.

Of course, we've been walking our usual three miles or more a day, but at this time of year, the abominable snow pup is coming out of hibernation and that's not enough for her. When my parents visited, they brought our tunnel that was living at their house while we lived in an apartment, so we decided to bring out our two jumps and our weave poles and set up a mini course.


Barley has been struggling with lead outs lately--part of it is because we've gotten a few new classmates and she's still not completely used to their presence, so she's very distracted when I set her up at the first jump and walk away and sometimes decides she should get up and sniff around or follow me to avoid temptation of saying hi to her classmates. 


The other part of it is that we just haven't practiced it as much as we used to. In our old neighborhood, we'd go to the football field when it wasn't in use and I'd set her on one yard line and walk out to the next and we'd keep increasing distance. We don't have a place like that in our new neighborhood and in class we've been using more sling starts and starting together instead of leading out. Somehow, it always ends up being a surprise to me when something we were really good at gets a little rusty when we don't practice for a while--even though I've had plenty of evidence to prove that to me!


We also got to change the jumps around easily so we could practice wrapping the jumps, sending the back of jumps, 180s, and threadles. Barley handles all of those things well in class, but the backyard gave us a chance to practice them with more distractions. 


In class this week, Barley was much more solid with our lead out and she had no problem with some of the more difficult jump patterns we had. For a change, Barley actually curled up after it got dark and I settled in for grading and lesson planning for the night. Our agility trainer also commented on how great her weight is looking, too!

We hope everyone else has had delightful weather and a chance to play outside! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Discovering Indian Trails Park

One of my biggest hesitations when decided whether to buy our house or not was how far away from all of our favorite parks it was. Even though I was gaining a lot more Barley time with my shorter work commute, I was adding at least 15 minutes to our drive to most of the parks we love. During the work week, driving 45 minutes to get somewhere to adventure isn't always doable. Thankfully, our neighborhood is very walkable and we haven't gotten bored yet despite walking in our neighborhood twice a day most days for over 6 months. 

We've still missed walking in parks during the week, though. 

Last week, my parents were in town and while finding a church for my mom to attend on Sunday, I discovered that there's a park just a short drive from our house! I knew this park existed, but I didn't realize there was a trailhead so close to our house.


As we drove by, I noticed how pretty the leaves were over the river, so later in the week my parents, Barley, and I hopped in the car to explore a bit.

There wasn't much trail at the first trail head--only about 1/2 a mile of cleared trail that didn't require wading through the river (and it was cold, so I wasn't too excited about wet shoes)--but it was a lovely stroll through the woods and a nice place to get a mile when my senior nephew visits!

We were able to walk down to the site of the Ashtabula Train Disaster of 1876 and the leaves through the tunnel were gorgeous. If it would have been a spring day, we might have continued down along the river where there's supposedly a scenic waterfall, but I hate mud and wet shoes, so we passed on that adventure this time.


We were deep down in the gorge, so even though you could hear traffic from the nearby roads, it still felt isolated since you couldn't see the cars up above.


Since I was a wimp and didn't want to get my feet wet and we still needed to get a little more mileage for the day, we hopped back in the car and drove to the trailhead at the southernmost end of the park. 

This trailhead is right below the Smolen-Gulf covered bridge, which is the longest covered bridge in the country (have I mentioned my county has the longest covered bridge and the shortest covered bridge in the country?).

The Smolen-Gulf bridge with the pedestrian footbridge underneath.

In October, they finished and dedicated the 19th covered bridge in our county--the Riverview Bridge--and it's for pedestrians to cross the river in the park. They're hoping to add a few more foot bridges to the park to make it easier to get from the north trailhead we tried first to this one about 5 miles away without getting your feet wet.

Such a cute little covered bridge (but this isn't the shortest!).
Across the bridge, there was a nice paved trail through the woods. We had to cross under a major roadway, so it wasn't a quiet walk, but it was a nice change of pace from our neighborhood. We were able to get in another 1.5 miles on our out-and-back adventure along the Ashtabula River. We probably could have gotten a little more mileage, but like I said, I hate wet and mud, so we opted to head home and make dinner instead.


It's obvious that the city is working to make the park even more accessible with new paved trails and trail markers. I don't expect it to be easy to walk from one end of the trail to the other (not that we'd probably ever tackle a 10-mile walk anyway) any time soon, but we're so excited to have a place we can walk outside of our neighborhood without having to spend at least 45 minutes in the car.

Monday, November 7, 2016

How Fostering a Shelter Dog Made my Pets Overweight

I'm one of those people who plans their day around meal time. When people come to visit, activities are planned around which restaurants we can try. My best friend and I built our friendship in college by eating every single meal together for the fist several weeks of school (and we missed very few meals together during the rest of our 4 years there). It was no surprise to me when I ended up with two extremely food-focused pets. Soth gets hangry and destroys things when his bowl gets empty. Barley will crawl through tiny cat doors, walk on tables, and climb on counters to get a crumb of food. 

So, when foster pup Sal arrived at our house and needed to gain weight, we were embarking on a whole new adventure. I've had to learn to measure Barley and Soth's food very carefully. I had to measure Sal's food, too, of course, but he got a lot more than Barley. When he first arrived, he was getting 4 small meals with wet food on top, plus snacks in the afternoon and before bed. 

There were also a lot of treats involved in cohabitation training.

When Sal was in quarantine, I had to do a lot of space swapping to give Barley attention and Sal attention. Barley doesn't do well when she's isolated--if I'm not home, she's content to be in her crate, but if she knows I'm home, she gets a little panicky if she has to be shut away somewhere. Unless she gets a snack. If I gave her a Kong or a chew of some sort, she'd snack and then take a nap until I came back to her.

Sal also got eggs as one of his snacks to help with his skin and coat. Barley loves eggs, so I always gave her a bite while I prepared Sal's afternoon snack.

If Barley doesn't eat out of her dish, she's convinced she never got fed, so using her meals in her Kong or a puzzle feeder wasn't a realistic option. She'd spend the rest of the evening running to her bowl. Occasionally, I'd put half of a meal in a puzzle feeder, but those take her about 1/2 a minute to figure out, so she'd usually finished it before I had even made it out of the room and back to Sal.

I didn't think too much of the extra calories because we were still getting in our 3 miles of walking most days and playing in the backyard more than usual. Then about a month into the fostering experience, Barley and I went on an adventure and when I looked at our pictures, I noticed she was a little chubby.

Usually in "paws up," she has a well defined waist line.

Keeping Barley at a healthy weight is so important. Every extra pound makes it harder on her joints when we do agility, so she needs to maintain a good weight to keep her from being injured. We started cutting back on her meals, I started putting carrots in the Kong and with her peanut butter and freezing it so it would take longer to eat, and she quit getting snacks when Sal got his eggs. Barley started returning to her usual weight.


Except she kept stealing cat food, so she was still a little on the chubby side. Since Barley was often shut in the kitchen behind the gate to give Sal a chance for more freedom in the house, she would sneak over to Soth's bowl and clean it out before I could even get out of my chair to intercept her. 

You'd think that Soth would have lost weight having to share his food with his sister, but the opposite happened. Weight has been something Soth's struggled with his whole life--thanks to a vet that prescribed a lot of steroids, he doubled in size the first three months I had him. We've struggled to keep that weight off ever since. When Soth's weight is lower, he has fewer problems with FLUTD. But when Soth's bowl is empty, he starts knocking things around (ex. there have been mornings I've woken up to have my glasses case, my contacts case, the soap dispenser, and my brush all in the bathroom sink). It's a fine line of keeping him feeling full and keeping him from having FLUTD outbreaks. 

Barley would dive into his wet food and even though I only give him tiny portions of a can at a time, we were still going through wet food really quickly. I either have to order large cases of one flavor (and his highness prefers variety) or I have to drive an hour to stores where I can buy Soth's brand of food. So, I started giving him a few extra kibbles when he'd get hungry. It was easy to dip into his dry food and give him a few kibbles here and there--he'd gobble them up and there wouldn't be much leftover for Barley to eat. 

Soth's always looked chunky--even when he was underweight at the shelter--his little sides poked out and he looked like a pregnant goat. It can be hard to notice when he starts gaining weight because he's just oddly shaped.

Look at that kitty tummy!
One day recently, I was walking beside Soth and looked down and he looked like a box on legs. His swisher was swaying from side to side as he trotted down the stairs. I knew he had gained a lot of weight from the way I'd been feeding him without exact measurements.

Thankfully, my parents visited recently and my mom had built him a dining table so that I could keep his food off the ground--making it harder (but not impossible) for Barley to get to it. Since Sal is gone, now we can use the gate the way it was intended and shut Barley out of the kitchen and the food is off the ground for when she is in there with me.


For about a week, Soth has been back on his exact measurements of wet and dry food every day. I can already see a difference in the size of his swisher--but he still has a little ways to go to get closer to his ideal weight of 11-12 pounds.

Fostering Sal was a good reminder of how easy it is for animals to become overweight in a short amount of time. Both Barley and Soth are back on track now and I'll be able to carry this lesson with me any time we have another canine guest in our house! 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Happy Trails to You

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind. Two weekends ago, I was supposed to take Sal to the shelter to meet a potential adopter. We'd scheduled a time and he and I took a final selfie after playing a game of fetch in the yard. Then I got a call from the foster coordinator saying that they were sending a volunteer to pick him up to meet the adopter and that he'd be going home with that person immediately. 


I was confused as to why I wasn't supposed to take him, but I also needed to paint the room he'd been sleeping in before my parents brought up some furniture from their basement, so I said my goodbyes and then got to work painting. Honestly, even though I was confused, mostly, I felt relief. Barley and Sal had not made any more progress in co-existing, so everyone was separated into different zones and I was rotating between the animals to give everyone attention. It was exhausting. 

A couple days later, I noticed he was still on the shelter website and listed as available. To make a long story short, there was miscommunication between shelter workers and they thought I was unavailable to bring him to the shelter, but actually the potential adopter was unavailable. This was the second or third time she'd rescheduled, so the shelter decided to move on to another adopter. 

They called me, explained the miscommunication, and asked if I could pick up Sal and hold onto him a little longer.

He didn't care that the walls were a different color as long as his ball was still there.

Luckily, there was another adopter who was approved--and she happened to be a member of my extended family (you know, one of those relatives that nobody knows the labels for, but you see them at family reunions)! I'd shared his pictures on Facebook and fun little stories about our days together and she'd fallen in love with him. For about a month, she thought about him and we messaged back and forth about him. By the time she decided to submit the application, the other adopter had already been approved and we were both sad Sal was going to miss out on a life with her. I'd hated that Sal was going to be spending life with someone I'd never met, so when I found out that my relative was approved to adopt him when that didn't work out, I was ecstatic! She had a 10+ hour drive to get Sal, so I held onto him for a few more days, but she was willing to drop everything and come get him the same week I picked him up from the shelter.

My relative arrived late Thursday night and spent the night with us. Sal was a little nervous at first, but she was patient with him and after a few treats, he was snuggling up against her. She moved his bed across the hall into the guest room and he spent the night alternating between sleeping on his bed and walking over to nudge her hand for a few more pets.

As soon as the shelter opened, we headed there to sign the final paperwork and pay the adoption fee and then I put Sal in her car and they headed off to his new life.

Sal wasn't sure why we were getting back in the car, but I was happy this would be his last ride to the shelter!

I've gotten a few updates. He was the perfect road trip companion and did beautifully in their stay at a Red Roof Inn on the way home (thank you Red Roof Inn for making this adoption easier and having pet friendly rooms!). He's embraced his fancy new dog bed, but has also shown that despite having some old creaky joints he can hop up onto the couch. He couldn't have found a better home.

Barley and I celebrated returning to our own routines with a nice fall walk followed by a mini pumpkin blizzard from Dairy Queen (Barley thought getting to lick out the cup was the best part of the whole fostering experience).


We haven't ruled out fostering again in the future, but it won't be something we start during the school year again. It's definitely a better summer activity when the pets can have all of my time and I don't have to compartmentalize my days so much. 

We're wishing Sal many happy years in his new home. He's one lucky pup!