Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!

Halloween has come and gone in our neighborhood--our city does trick or treating the Saturday before Halloween, so today there won't be any kids knocking on our door requesting candy. We're perfectly okay with that, especially since Soth will hopefully be home and recovering from his surgery by the time kids would normally come.

The girls didn't want to miss out on Halloween fun and I'd ordered some fun new toys from BarkShop that were just the thing we needed.

Barley is the most patient dog in the world when it comes to me doing things to her. 

She was especially patient by the time we got to the picture above because we'd already done several pictures with the hat on--and then I realized that our cauldron was upside down and we had to start all over! 

Oops--the flames don't belong at the top of the cauldron!

Rye was not thrilled about the idea of wearing a hat, but she loves her special Halloween bandana from her grandma. 

I did manage to get one quick picture on another evening when she was worn out and Barley was passed out behind her. 

Rye much preferred to embrace her inner vampire. 

On trick-or-treat day, it rained all day, so our only chance for a walk was when the neighborhood was overrun with trick-or-treaters. Who knew our neighborhood was the one people drive to for trick-or-treating?! The girls handled the distractions well--until someone started shooting off fireworks and then I had to just hold on for dear life until we made it home. We did get one hysterical moment as we walked down the street. A little boy--probably kindergarten age--looked at us, stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, and said, "Wait. Are those real dogs or are those costumes?" Before I could say anything, his dad said, "They're costumes" and ushered him further down the sidewalk. I chuckled to myself the rest of the way down the street. 

The girls have also gotten plenty of fun fall treats this month, including these cute pumpkin cookies a friend brought for them! They smelled delicious and I was tempted to take a little nibble myself! (If you look closely at Rye's cookie, you can see where she took a little nibble before I could get a picture and scraped off part of the frosting!)

We hope all of our friends have a wonderful Halloween full of lots of treats and only fun tricks! Happy Halloween! 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Diving Into Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Salmon & Sweet Potato Dog Food

Long time readers know that we're big fans of Rachael Ray Nutrish dog food products. We've been using Nutrish treats and food for years now. Earlier this year, we did a 30-day challenge from Chewy.com with Nutrish's new food formula Peak and had great results. Before trying Peak, though, we'd been using the Zero Grain formula and we alternate between Peak and Zero Grain now. This month, Chewy gave us the chance to try the Zero Grain Salmon & Sweet Potato food through the #ChewyInfluencer program. 

We use a lot of salmon treats, but we hadn't tried the salmon dog food yet. Barley had eaten mostly turkey flavored food for a long time, but Rye doesn't really like that flavor, so we'd been sticking to beef. I was interested in trying the salmon flavor so that we had another option. 

When the bag arrived, I put it in the spare bedroom where I keep the girls' food in a plastic bin. We already had one bag in there, so I set this bag on top of the plastic bin and shut the door. The door doesn't latch, but the dogs usually don't bother with that room. Until this bag was in there. Then Barley started shoving open the door. One day, I went in to find a corner of the bag had been nibbled.  

There have been times when I've left unopened bags of other flavors out in the living room when I've been too lazy to carry them down the hall. They've sat there for days without either dog trying to open the bag. This bag was immediately put away behind a shut door, and Barley just couldn't resist. 

As we've mentioned before, Nutrish products use ingredients that I feel comfortable feeding the dogs.  From this particular experience, it seems like the Salmon recipe is full of ingredients that Barley is happy with, too. While there isn't a strong fishy smell, I imagine there must be a bit of a fishy smell because even Soth wandered over while we were taking pictures, but I was happy that I didn't get an overwhelming smell of salmon every time I opened the container to scoop some out. 

The girls have no problems maintaining weight on this food. Their coats are always soft, shiny, and dandruff free--our vet always compliments their coats and it's one of the most frequent comments we get when people stop to pet them on the trails, too. 

This flavor didn't disappoint. Like all of the other Nutrish products we've used, the girls looked and felt great after eating them. Even Rye, my picky pup, dove into her bowl each time I poured some in. With some flavors, she eats very slowly and will walk away from her bowl to look for something else. That isn't the case with the Zero Grain Salmon & Sweet Potato.

I think it's safe to say all three of us would recommend this food! In fact, I'd say it's the girls favorite formula yet!

Disclaimer: We were given a bag of Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain in Salmon and Sweet Potato in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fall Adventures with Barley and Rye

Last week was a rough week. On Tuesday, Soth's health issues reared their ugly head again and we were at the vet for x-rays, which ended up showing a mass in his bladder and we had to wait for radiologists to review the x-rays to make a better decision on what to do. 

That evening while we were walking off the stress, a neighbor's toddler opened their front door and dog that we've had issues before darted out, charged into the street, grabbed Barley by the neck and pinned her to the street. The neighbors and I got the dogs separated with no physical injuries to them or to us. 

On Friday, I let the girls out in the backyard while I was getting the rake and leaf bags out of the shed and all of the sudden, they were chasing something--a cat. A cat had somehow gotten in our fence and was hanging out in our yard. The cat ran towards our gate, but since our fence is 6-foot vinyl fencing, it kept sliding back down and landing on top of the dogs. By the time I got over there, Barley had learned the tough lesson that not all kitties are as patient as Soth and came away with a bloody nose. The cat got over the one side we share with neighbors that's a 5-foot wooden fence and then scurried up their tree. 

I'd spent the week teaching Emerson and Thoreau in my U.S. Literature class, so as soon as I finished raking the front yard, I put the girls Halloween bandanas on them and we took of for the woods at the Holden Arboretum. 

Fall has been exceptionally warm--about 70 degrees and sunny that day--so our leaves haven't become as vibrant as they've been in the past years, but the woods were peaceful and there were still some beautiful colors to enjoy. On the way home, we swung by Starbucks and the girls got to split a puppuccino. 

We've been altering our neighborhood walks to avoid going by the neighbors' dog, so by the end of the weekend, we were tired of neighborhood walks and we ran away to the state park for another quick adventure.

There was a large group of retired people at the park, so I assume the lodge was hosting some sort of event because we usually don't see so many people there after Labor Day. The girls were a huge hit in their bandanas, though. Every few feet we were stopping so they could be pet by someone new. They were complimented on their good behavior as they stopped and sat on the side of the trail any time we had to share a skinny part of the trail with someone coming from the opposite direction. They were complimented on their coats and their smiles. Rye made people laugh as she tried to jump up and stick her nose in the treat pouch. The girls were in Heaven. 

After a couple fall adventures last weekend, we started this week in much better spirits. Barley's nose has healed and she doesn't seem to have any lasting psychological issues from the incident with the dog. Soth's mass is a mineral mass and he's scheduled for surgery next week, so the girls and I will probably be adventuring again soon since the more we're moving, the less I'm thinking about that!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Pet Treater Pick Me Up

Last week was a bad week. First, Soth had another bad episode of his FLUTD problems (more on that another day). Then Barley got attacked by a neighbor's dog (another story for another day) and a cat that got into our yard (so many stories, so little time). Thankfully, one evening, we opened our door and our Pet Treater box was sitting on the front porch.

Barley couldn't wait to tear into the box and see what was inside. 

Rye looks horrified by Barley's persistence, but if you look at her corner, it's chewed, too.

Pet Treater never disappoints and our box was filled with all kinds of good loot.

We got three different packages of treats: Loving Pets beef bars, Exclusively Dog Carob Flavor Sandwich Cremes, and Shore Tails Fish Skins. As always, we got some Emmy's Treats--including one shaped like a pumpkin, so Barley was very happy to see those! The beef bars are nice and soft, so they will be a perfect new snack to take to class this week to keep the girls focused on me. The sandwich cremes are like oreos for dogs--and I also just bought myself some limited addition Cookie Butter Oreos, so we'll see whose cookies last longest (my bet is on the dogs, since they have done a lot more self-control work than I have). The treats we're most excited about, though, are the fish skins. We've had them from other brands and the girls love them--these particular fish skins are rolled up, so they take a little bit longer for the dogs to eat. To make things even better, the package contained an even number of snacks, so I won't have to try to give one pup a fish skin in secret when there's only one left!

For my own special treat, I got a cute drawstring backpack that says Home is Wherever my Dog Is. I don't normally use that kind of backpack since we carry so much stuff everywhere we go and need a little more structure, but it will be a great addition to a raffle basket for the APL's next fundraiser. 

We got two different toys: a stretchy puppy with two tug rings and a squeaker ring that's made up entirely of squeakers. Barley claimed the puppy right away--even though she's not into tugging--and Rye was more than happy with the squeaker ring. 

Then we got two mystery items. Y'all I don't know what these things are. They're made out of similar material to the bandanas we've gotten in past boxes, but they're full squares instead of the usual triangles and the one with the big logo can't be ties in a way that the image shows. 

I folded the one in half and put it on Rye as a bandana, but it's far too big for that. She looked adorable, but it was basically a dress on her! She didn't attempt to walk away during our photoshoot, but it was long enough I think it might have impeded her movement.

 I've wracked my brain and I just don't know what these things might be. Luckily for me, I was teaching Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" this week and decided to come to class in a black "veil" and folding the one so the ghosts didn't show made this the perfect face covering!

As usual, Pet Treater made us all very happy! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, so all of the seasonal goodies made this box extra fun to open and in true Halloween fashion, we even got a little bit of mystery (but seriously, if anyone knows what these things are supposed to be, let me know!). For a limited time, you can get 20% off your first box with code PT-20.

Disclaimer: We were given a Pet Treater box in exchange for our honest review.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Calming Down with Comfort Zone from Chewy.com

This month, our friends at Chewy.com gave us the chance to try out the Feliway diffuser from Comfort Zone as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program. We've actually used this diffuser years ago--way back at the beginning of Soth's struggles with Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. When we went to another vet's office for a second opinion, he had suggested trying the Feliway diffuser. 

A Feliway diffuser is basically like the plug-in air fresheners you can get, except instead of diffusing pleasant scents, it dispenses a vapor that is like cat facial pheromones. Cat facial pheromones are used by cats for calming. You might notice your cat rubbing his face on walls, on your hand, on furniture. When cats do that, they leave behind their pheromones and that reassures them and calms them when they're in that area. The Feliway diffuser mimics that and makes cats feel calmer in their surroundings. Feliway is recommended to help cats deal with stressful situations like moving to a new home or big changes in the home--like moving furniture or adding a new pet. Since Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease can be caused by stress, Feliway is one of the many things you can use to try to de-stress your cat. 

Even before I opened the packaging, Soth was interested in the diffuser. The packaging advertises that studies show the diffuser is 90% effective in reducing scratching and urine marking in 28 days with results in as few as 7 days. 

The diffuser comes in two parts: the diffuser and the bottle of liquid. The plug on the diffuser rotates so it can be plugged into vertical and horizontal outlets. 

Even before I'd taken the lid off the bottle, Soth was rubbing his face on it. 

Within seconds, he'd hopped up next to it and fallen asleep. 

The liquid has a lid and you just take that off, screw the bottle into the diffuser, plug it into the wall, and that's it. The diffuser heats up the liquid in the bottle and diffuses the vapor into the area. There's no scent at all, at least not one that human noses can detect, so once you've plugged it in, you really can just forget about it. One bottle lasts about a month and you can purchase individual refills instead of buying the entire diffuser kit each time although Comfort Zone does recommend replacing the entire diffuser every six months.

Like any other plug-in diffuser, the Feliway diffuser is a bit bulky. It sticks out of the wall a couple inches, so you need a nice wide open space to plug it in. Plus, the directions recommend not covering the diffuser or plugging it in under or behind furniture to avoid the risk of fire. 

When we tried the diffuser several years ago, it was never clear if it helped Soth or not. We were trying so many different things at the same time: a new diet, new towers to give him his own spaces, new medications, new types of litter. It was impossible to tell what was working and what wasn't. We kept using the diffuser for months, but eventually I just quit buying refills because there wasn't clear evidence that it was having any effect and Feliway isn't cheap.

With Soth's increased health struggles this year, I was excited to have another opportunity to see if it would help at all. Soth has been urinating outside of his box more often than he has been using his box and since his urine has been filled with blood, my carpets look like my house has been the scene of a murder. His favorite location has been my bedroom closet, so I decided to plug the diffuser into the outlet closest to my closet.

Did It Work?
The box says that you might see results in as little as 7 days, but the insert in the packaging says that you need to allow 4 weeks to see improved behavior and that you should use for 90 days "to fully imprint behavior changes." 

We've been using the diffuser for 11 days right now. We've seen some improvement. Before plugging in the diffuser, I was cleaning 15 different spots in my closet with our SpotBot every. single. night. Since plugging in the diffuser, Soth has not urinated in the closet. He has, however, urinated directly under the diffuser and he has started urinating in the hallway right outside of the bedroom instead. So, the diffuser has not stopped the inappropriate urination, but it has changed the locations of the urination. Maybe with multiple diffusers around the house, we'd see better results. 

The insert in the packaging says the diffuser treats 500-650 sq. ft., which is about half of my house, but I don't know how walls and doorways affect that. I assume that the areas outside of the bedroom would need their own diffuser even if they are on the same level of the house. 

Soth has been camping out in front of the diffuser on a regular basis, so I think he does like the diffuser and it does seem to provide him some comfort even if it hasn't solved our problems.

Would I recommend it?
I don't know. I wouldn't not recommend it. It can't hurt to try the diffuser. It might work for some cats who really are just urinating or scratching for behavioral reasons, but I feel like urinating outside of the litter box is often a sign of bigger health issues, so I wouldn't use a Feliway diffuser in place of going to the vet. If your cat is urinating outside of his litter box on a regular basis, your cat needs to go to the vet. While it might just be a sign of stress or behavioral issues, urinating outside of the litter box can be a sign of pain or of illness. Two days ago, Soth was just diagnosed with a large mineral mass in his bladder, which Feliway isn't going to fix. It might help him feel more comfortable and relaxed while he's in pain, but medical intervention is the only thing that's going to solve the problem. 

Using Feliway won't hurt anything (except maybe your wallet), but it's not a miracle cure. Soth is having surgery in a little over a week and he'll be confined to one room while he recovers. I'll definitely be relocating our current diffuser to that room while he's recovering and I am considering buying a second diffuser kit so we can have one on each level of the house to try to keep his stress levels from escalating. We haven't had evidence that Feliway doesn't work, but I think it's something that should probably be used alongside other treatments recommended by your vet. 

Disclaimer: We were given one Comfort Zone with Feliway diffuser kit in exchange for our honest review as part of the Chewy.com #ChewyInfluencer program. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

We are the Champions

Last weekend, Barley and I competed in our second C-WAGS scent trial. In June, she'd earned the first two legs towards her level one title. We'd thought about traveling a little farther from home to work on the last two legs, but summer got away from us before that happened.

Then we heard that the location we'd competed in before was hosting another trial. I sent in our registration form as soon as the registration opened and had grand plans to spend time training even more than we had before.

Before we knew it, though, it was the week before the trial and I couldn't remember the last time we'd trained. Over the summer, I'd left our boxes set up in the library so we could go in and train easily any time we had a few minutes. But that door doesn't latch, so Soth can open it on his own and with his recent health issues, he's been peeing on any box that's sitting on the floor. While training Barley to detect the scent of cat urine would be very helpful in cleaning my carpets, it isn't very productive for competing in a scent trial. Every time we trained, we'd have to pick up the boxes and put them somewhere Soth-proof, which meant training wasn't the quick activity it had been.

We did manage to do a lot of this. 

The week before the trial, we got in several training sessions and Barley was finding the scents in just under a minute. In C-WAGS Level 1, you have two minutes to correctly identify the scent, so that was encouraging.

On the morning of the trial, we got up early, ate breakfast, and left the house by 7:00 a.m. When I turned on the car, my tire pressure light was on and I was sure the day was going to be a disaster. We detoured to the gas station to refill my tire and then got on the road about 15 minutes later than planned.

Luckily, we still got there with over 30 minutes to spare before the briefing from the judges and we were one of the first teams to arrive. Since we'd done this before, I was less anxious and had our game plan for setting up. Bar stayed in the car while I went in to check in and set up our crate. Sine I knew the set up of lining up for our turn, I got a prime spot near the back door so we could sneak out the back, walk around the building for a pre-sniffing potty break, and then pop in the front door right next to the entrance to the course. We had plenty of space from all of the other dogs, so we stayed nice and relaxed the whole morning.

Last time, it took about 45 minutes before our turn came up and it took about an hour to get through all of the teams in the first round. This time, our turn was up in about 20 minutes and the whole round was done in about 35 minutes. The dogs were flying through the course!

In Barley's first round, she earned her third leg towards her title with a time of 0:23:19. We had one fault (and you get one) because I alerted too soon. Barley wasn't showing much interest in most of the boxes we went by, so when she actually sniffed one for more than millisecond, I jumped the gun and alerted even though she looked at me and she doesn't look at me when she knows she's got it. We were close to the box that did have the scent, though, so it didn't take long after our false alert before we found the scent. (And they had someone who was on the course just to take video for us if we wanted, so of course, I handed over my phone and got some videos!)

In the second round, we took a little longer. I tried not to get overly excited when Barley showed interest in something. She sniffed the first couple boxes, but she wasn't letting me know she was certain, so we walked around more of the course and she showed no interest in any of those boxes. Barley is excellent  at identifying the general area of a scent, so I knew we needed to go back to the area we'd started in. She was more interested in one of the boxes, so I alerted again--and it was another false alert, but we got it on our next try and earned our final leg of our title in 0:57:09.

During the awards ceremony, we got a ribbon for each of our qualifying rounds and we got a fancy ribbon for our Level 1 Title. We weren't the fastest teams--one team in round two found the scent in under 6 seconds!!! But Barley had more fun this time and was so much more focused. Last time, she was distracted and a little anxious. Even though we had two qualifying rounds in June, we weren't as connected and we were given the 30-second warning in round 1 and were just a few seconds away from it in round 2.

Going into this trial, I had almost made up my mind that we were going to do this trial and then end our competition days. Barley hadn't really seemed like she had fun in June. She'd worked for me, she'd been successful, but she didn't seem like she really wanted to be doing this. This time, though, Barley loved it. She was so excited when we pulled into the parking lot (and she's only been to this location once--for the first trial). When we walked around the parking lot before getting in the crate, she pranced. After her first round, she grabbed her leash and gave it a playful shake as soon as we got outside. She was calm in her crate and sat nicely beside me while we talked to other competitors outside.

We got to see a couple teams we'd seen in June and we celebrated their successes this time! It was such a friendly, encouraging environment and I never worried about Barley reacting because everyone was so good at keeping their distance from other dogs. We'll probably stick to this venue, but I think we will move on to Level 2 and see what happens when the course gets a little more difficult.

We celebrated our success with a hike at a park we don't get to often enough and Barley was just beaming the whole walk.

We're looking forward to upping the challenge in our training to meet the level 2 requirements. We aren't sure when there will be another trial near us, but we're going to be ready for it when it comes!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Like Cats and Dogs

This week, my Facebook memories reminded me that two years ago I'd shared a video about a cheetah who'd been hand raised after it wasn't thriving with its mother in the zoo and the caretakers got it a lab puppy to be a friend and help it be confident. The two little critters romped and played and snuggled together. Little did I know that a little over a year after sharing that video, I'd have a similar friendship in my own house.

When I decided to get Rye, I didn't worry too much about Soth. Soth has made it clear that he rules the house. He's not afraid of Barley. He's not afraid of my parents' dog, my sister's dog, or my brother's dog and doesn't hesitate to put them in their places if they upset him. Foster Pup Sal was terrified of Soth--sometimes even refusing to come back inside if Soth was sitting in the doorway. 

There was a cat in the kennel right next to Rye with only a few inches between them at the shelter and Rye paid no attention to him, so I wasn't worried about her being aggressive towards Soth. I just didn't think about Soth much at all in the decision. Most of my thoughts were on Barley and whether she'd let me keep Rye. That journey was stressful and fantastic and heartwarming.

What's happened with Rye and Soth, though, has been beautiful.

Almost every night, they go up to bed before I am ready to go up and they wait at the top of the stairs for me. Usually, as I climb the stairs, Soth rubs against Rye or sniffs her toes. Then I get out the camera because they're so ridiculously cute that I can hardly stand it.

Eventually, they both flop down and give me that "I can't believe you're taking pictures" look until I decide I've gotten enough and we all go up to bed.

Soth was Rye's first friend since she wasn't loose with Barley for almost two months when I brought her home. They have played together--chasing each other up and down the stairs, play swatting each other, stealing each other's toys--since day one. They watch squirrels and birds together from the back storm door. But my very favorite moments are these peaceful ones at the end of the day when I can see just how comfortable they really are with each other.