Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Wish for Fish

We've been a fan of The Honest Kitchen products for a long time. They use high quality ingredients that dogs love and their Wishes Filets are no different. We were excited to get a package of these from our friends at Chewy.com through the Chewy Influencer program.

These snacks are 100% dehydrated white fish and that's 100% obvious from the moment that you open the bag. Before I even got the bag all the way open, I was hit with the an overwhelming fishy smell. The dogs were, too, because they started schootching off their mat to get closer to me and the snacks.

The bag comes with strips of fish about two inches wide and twice as long. The bag says that these are "light, crispy and perfectly snapable so you can use tiny morsels for smaller mouths." They are breakable, but I couldn't say that they were easy to break up into smaller pieces. They required a little effort and it was hard to break them up into "tiny morsels"--I had to just take what I got for the most part and that was often long skinny pieces or strangely shaped chunks. Since I don't have smaller mouths to fill, that wasn't really a problem for us, except that it made our treat art a little more difficult to execute.

This was not quite what I envisioned our fish looking like.

My only real complaint about these is the smell. There's no way I'm sticking these stinky things in my pocket before going for a walk. These treats are incredibly high value, especially because they're so stinky, and Rye's working through some reactivity on leash, so high value treats are a necessity, but I would go through the rest of the day smelling like fish if I brought these with us on a walk. I have a hard enough time finding jeans that fit well that I am not going to have a dedicated pair of fish pants to wear just to take these on walks.

The girls think these are really yummy, though, so they will be good for indoor training. I'm thinking they'll be especially helpful at calling Rye back inside when she's on her self-appointed squirrel patrol in the yard.

Another bonus with these is that The Honest Kitchen notes on the packaging that they source the fish in a sustainable way to make sure that they help maintain a healthy ocean ecosystem. It's nice to know that we're feeding high quality ingredients without sacrificing the health of the environment.

My favorite part about these snacks, though, is the little details on the packaging--especially a hidden message on the bottom of the bag that made me chuckle.

When I saw it says, "Are you looking at our bottom?" I let out a little chuckle.

The girls think these are great snacks and they're appropriate for kitties, too. Soth wanted to try them out with his sisters, but because of his bladder issues, fish has been banned from his diet. If he could eat fish, though, I'd feel perfectly comfortable giving all three of the pets these snacks. Unless you can't handle strong fishy smells, these Wishes Filets are the perfect treats to make all of your pet's snack time wishes come true.

Disclaimer: We were provided one bag of The Honest Kitchen Wishes Filets from Chewy.com as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program in exchange for our honest review.

Monday, February 26, 2018

4 Months Post Cystotomy

It's hard to believe that four months have already gone by since Soth underwent his cystotomy to remove an ammonium urate stone from his bladder. Three weeks after his stone was sent off for analysis, we met with the vet to come up with a plan for caring for Soth going forward.

For the last three months, Soth's been on a prescription diet specifically for cats with kidney disease. He doesn't have kidney disease, but he needs a low purine diet and kidney disease diets provide that. The diet is supposed to help keep his urine pH at a lower acidity to create an environment where the ammonium urate stones won't form. After Soth had a chance to adjust to the diet, we needed to perform a urinalysis to see if his pH levels were where they were supposed to be.

We had that appointment last week. There is good news. For the first time ever, we got a successful urine sample from him. The vet techs took him back to the lab to draw the sample and a minute later the vet came rushing out to the lobby where I was waiting. I was worried at first until her face broke into a smile as she said, "I just had to show you this!" She was holding an full syringe of urine--and it was normal and yellow without any signs of blood! We laughed for a minute about appreciating the little things and then she took the sample back to start the testing.

It's a rough day when you get pulled out of the dog bed and put in your carrier.

When the tests were done, we sat down with the vet and talked about the results. We're trying to get his pH levels close to 7--at least above 6.6. They weren't there. There were some other levels that were a little bit off as well. We want his urine specific gravity to be 1.030 or lower and Soth's was 1.050--or something close to that, I didn't quite catch the last number (I'm not going to pretend like I really know what this means--according to Wikipedia, specific gravity measures kidney function and when the numbers are higher, that's a sign of dehydration). He's eating, playing, and urinating regularly (and in his box!), so right now he's happy and healthy. But we also want to make sure that he doesn't have to go through this again.

We're going to try a new medication, potassium citrate, to help with decreasing the acidity of his urine. I just went to the pharmacy to pick that up--and now the fun of giving a cat a pill will begin. It's been years since we've tried, but last time, he'd eat the pill pockets off from around the pill or refuse to eat wet food that had a pill crushed up in it. Since the pills and his wet food are both expensive, I'm hoping that we have an easier time of getting him medicated this time around. He's had one dose so far and the pills were big, so I had to cut them into 4 smaller pieces that I wrapped in parts of a pill pocket and he gobbled them all up. Fingers crossed he continues to do that!

Our vet visit also revealed that my chunky monkey has gained 2 pounds since his surgery (I told you he was eating well!) and weighed in at 13.8 pounds! I'm going to be cutting back on his food a bit to see if we can get him closer to the 11.5-12-pound range. He loves his crunchy food, but since the wet food is more important, I'll be cutting back on the kibble and maintaining the amount of wet food he's getting.

At least he still has crinkly bacon in his life.

He's tolerating the new diet really well. The only rough moment has been when I made a turkey sandwich and he rushed over to get a nibble--and he couldn't have any. That broke both our hearts a little bit. He hasn't been vomiting, though (except for the occasional hairball), and before the surgery he was vomiting several times a week for months, so this food is definitely a good thing!

We're also going to be trying a fountain again--the last time we tried the fountain, he started peeing in it. But since he has been using his litter boxes exclusively for 3+ months, we're trying again. Somehow, the pump got lost in our move a couple years ago, so I ordered a new one and some filters and I just got that set up this weekend, so now we can see if he'll increase his water intake a bit. The more often he empties his bladder, the less chance particles can start sticking together and forming larger stones, so drinking lots of water is key. The more he hydrates, the better chance we have of getting the urine specific gravity to the level we want it to be, too.

It's been quite a journey with this little munchkin, but he's feeling better than he's felt in almost 7 years. It was hard to know if performing a major surgery was the right move or not, but I am so glad that I made that decision for him. He's handled these last several months so well, and I'm determined to do everything I can to make sure he never has to go through this again. We'll be doing another urinalysis in 3 months to see if these changes have helped, so until then, we just wait. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

What a Difference 7 Years Makes

In January, Barley and I celebrated 7 years together. When I wrote her adoption day letter, it felt like I'd already said everything I could possibly say to her about what she means to me.  Then my Facebook memories reminded me that this week is the 7 year anniversary of Barley's xylitol poisoning. I'd had Barley for a month and a half when she took sugar-free gum out of my purse and I had to rush her to the vet.

Barley's very first picture.

When I think about what my life was like on that day, it's almost unrecognizable.

Seven years ago, I had never visited any of the parks near us. I'd never been to the Geneva State Park. I'd never been to the Holden Arboretum. I'd never walked on a single Ohio trail.

I had no idea how beautiful the area I'd been living in for 8 months was. I had no idea that there were rivers, waterfalls, and forests all within a thirty minute drive. I'd only really driven by the lake or visited restaurants overlooking it. 

Seven years ago, the only time I ever spent in the snow was cleaning off my car so I could drive to work. I'd never taken a walk in the snow. I'd never played in the snow. If there was snow, I was inside and that was it.

Seven years ago, we'd never met with a dog trainer. I didn't think average family dogs went to trainers. That was something for show dogs or police dogs. I never even considered doing agility--in fact, I don't think I even realized it was something just anyone could do, especially someone with a shelter dog.

I'd definitely never thought of noseworks. 

Seven years ago, she couldn't do this.

Seven years ago, I'd given my whole heart to a dog that I'd only known for a few weeks and I thought I was going to lose her. Thanks to Good Morning America providing me the knowledge that eating sugar-free gum was a veterinary emergency and our vet's quick action, Barley was back at home the same day and back to her normal wild self in no time with only a few follow-up tests. 

Every day since then, she has made my world a better place and she's made me a better person. She's taught me how to love the world I live in. She's given me the confidence to explore new places. She's introduced me to the wonderful world of dog training and all of the amazing people that come with it.  

Seven years ago, one moment could have ended our story before it even really started. This dog has given me so much and every day I'm grateful for that. I love you more than zombies love brains, baby girl. Here's to many more years of growing together.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Going Wild for Wild Bones

This time of year, we sometimes struggle to get outdoors and tap into our "wild" sides (except for today when it's almost 70 degrees!). There are days when the closest we get to the wilderness is snuggling up on our cozy fox blanket in the library.

On days when we spend more time inside, the dogs often get a little antsy and I need something to help occupy them while I grade papers. After Barley's dental issues last year, I'm extra picky about what I let the girls chew on. We need something that helps keep their teeth clean without breaking them--and ideally, something that will keep them busy gnawing for a while. This month, Chewy.com gave us the chance to try Blue Wilderness Wild Bones and I was excited to see if they'd meet our requirements. 

We chose the large version of these bones, which are meant for dogs 50 pounds and over. Barleys' right at the 50-pound mark and sometimes if we go to the medium size of a chew, she doesn't chew them up as well and ends up barfing chunks of them up in the middle of the night. Rye, who's only 29 pounds, thought the best part of these was that she got something bigger than other dogs her size.

These bones are supposed to be designed to be like the bones wolves would gnaw on in the wild--but I'm not sure that they really resemble actual bones. I have trouble imagining what kind of animal would have a bone this size and shape. The large ones are about the length of my hand and pretty skinny. 

Both dogs were eager to try these dental chews out. The chews are chicken-free and grain-free, so they're good for dogs with allergies. 

But would they help me occupy the dogs long enough to read a couple chapters or grade a few papers? There was only one way to find out. Rye grabbed her bone and ran out into the hall to devour it. Barley wasted no time getting to work on hers, either. In fact, it only took her about a minute and a half to polish if off. Rye finished right about the same time, too.

The bones weren't any hardy than other common dental chews, so I didn't worry about Barley hurting her teeth on these. There were a few times when bigger chunks broke of, but Barley seemed to chew them up better than she usually does. As soon as she finished, she glanced over her shoulder to check out the bag with the remaining chews inside--so I think she gladly would have gobbled up another one.

These might not have helped my dogs tap into their "inner wolf" and they definitely didn't occupy the girls for long. But Barley and Rye both thought they were drool-worthy and couldn't wait for me to offer then a second chew later in the week.

Disclaimer: We were given one bag of Blue Wilderness Wild Bones dental chews in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program from Chewy.com. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

2018 Training Goals

The beginning of the year is always so hectic with returning from holiday travels, getting the dogs back into their classes after a month off, and preparing to go back to my own classes after a month off. Even though January is the time of resolutions and goal setting, I often feel like the beginning of the year is too chaotic to really start committing to goals and actually stick with them. I'm loving the idea of waiting until February to really focus on our training goals for the year.

Over the last month, it's become apparent that we have quite a bit to work on this year. Most of my goals are for Rye and for me because we need the most work.

What do you mean we have things to work on?

Our biggest goal for training is to compete in an agility trial before the year is over. Rye really loves agility and she has come so far in the 8 months or so that we've been training. I had planned to compete last fall, but then Rye got a little wild. Over the summer, we'd been doing 2 classes a week plus working in the backyard almost every day, and she was really focused. Then I went back to work and we went down to one class a week and she lost a bit of that focus. Last week, we identified some clear goals to work on and once we're a little more solid with those skills, we'll find a trial to enter.

Rye's biggest strength is her contacts on the a-frame, teeter, and dog walk, so we try to incorporate a little bit of that into each session to make sure she's doing something that gives her a lot of confidence. She knows when she hits that dog walk or a-frame she's supposed to go all the way to the end, plant her front feet on the ground, keep her back feet on the equipment, and hold that pose until I release her--no matter what I'm doing. We don't have the room (or the money!) for our own a-frame or dog walk, but we do have a plank that's about as wide as the dog walk that we use to practice our contact behaviors. We work on different crosses at the end and different lengths of holding her stay, too, because those are always skills that can be reinforced. Rye also has really strong weaves and she loves them, so we try to work on different entrances and driving forward as she comes out of them. The basement isn't the ideal place for that since there's not a ton of room, but just having those moments where she's focused on reading me is important.

The thing we really need to work on, though, is tight turns over jumps. A big part of our issues are my fault. I've spent the last 6+ years training with a dog who jumps 20 inches. With Barley, I don't really have to think about how I'm moving. We are usually so connected that we just kind of move in sync. Rye, though, only jumps 16 inches, so all of my movements are way above her head and that usually means "hey, we're jumping big!" Combine that with Rye's independence and the fact that she finds agility highly rewarding and she makes up her own courses every time we need a tight turn. We've got a couple drills we can do in the basement with one jump to work on turns--I'm still struggling to get my hand lower so she can read the turns better before she takes off, but we'll get there. The best part is that all of these little drills are games that make the training extra fun for Rye.

My other big goal with Rye is to develop a solid leave it. This dog is a scavenger. She steals everything. If I accidentally shut the treat drawer with a tiny corner of treat bag sticking out of the drawer, she can open the drawer and then runs around the house shredding the bag (while Barley follows her eating the treats she doesn't realize she's dropping). She finds soggy hamburger and hot dog buns along the sidewalk every trash day and I have to stick my hand down her throat to fish them out.

Leave an empty plastic bottle on the coffee table and she steals it.

I know our struggles are as much me as they are her--we need more solo walks to work on this in the real world and we also need to practice in low distraction areas in the house with things that won't hurt her if she doesn't listen and gobbles them up. The challenges of having two dogs who have different training needs are really becoming apparent.

Barley's still her perfect self and we don't really have any new training goals for us. I just want to keep reinforcing all of her really good behaviors to make sure she doesn't decide that Rye has more fun that she does. I have noticed that her watch command isn't as strong as it used to be, so we've been working on that one (which is also something Rye needs more work on, too) when Barley and I have been taking solo walks lately. Barley used to get at least one solo walk a week after agility class, but then Rye joined the same class and there were fewer daylight hours in the week, so we're looking forward to longer spring days when it's easier to get both dogs out on their own.

Barley's had seven strong years of setting new training goals, so I'm excited for 2018 to be the year of Rye's goals and Barley's maintenance training. We're starting out with two good dogs already, so I'm excited to see where we end by December!

Our theme this month is training goals, but we welcome any positive training posts! Be sure to check out all of the other great blogs linking up with us, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Wag 'n Woof Pets for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop to see what other training goals are being set this year. I'm sure that I'll have a whole new set of goals by the time I'm done reading!

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Friday, February 2, 2018

Appreciate the Moments February Photo Challenge

February is always one of my favorite months to take pictures of Barley. She humors me while I test her patience by piling up dozens of heart-shaped toys around her. She smiles her biggest smile. I take dozens of pictures that are almost identical. Then I can't decide which one I love best and I flood my Facebook page with pictures that only have teeny tiny differences between them.

For the Appreciate the Moments Monthly Photo Challenge, February's theme is love. Our usual February pictures would be perfect--but I haven't made it to the store to add to our collection yet and half of those toys we usually use are looking a little sad after Rye met them on her first Valentine's Day last year. 

What I like most about the Appreciate the Moments challenge is the idea of capturing the unplanned moments--those little, everyday moments that make life great.

There are the endless moments of love between Rye and Soth that always make me melt.

Like the time I put my book down for the night and Rye wasn't in bed with me and Barley and I found her down the hall curled up with Soth.

Then there are the moments when I find all three of my lovies hanging out together--and that fills my heart with so much love that it almost hurts.

I'm pretty sure they were plotting something when I walked in.

My choice for the February Appreciate the Moments challenge, though, is a photo that could just make me cry. It's been a full year since Rye was fully integrated into the family, but when I see moments like this one happening, I can still hardly believe they're real. 

It still seems impossible to me that Barley will let Rye snuggle up on her, especially to the point where Barley becomes a puppy chin rest. The fact that Soth was part of this cuddle puddle, too, makes me so happy. When I first got Barley, she wasn't allowed on the bed until Soth gave her permission to get up there. Then when I got Rye, she wasn't allowed on the bed until Barley said it was okay. Having all three pets be comfortable relaxing together is more than I ever dreamed of when I brought Rye home. Another thing I love about this is if you look closely under Barley's orca belly, you'll see that she's lounging on top of her Kong--the thing she loves most. This is the type of moment that I always take time to appreciate and that I will never stop appreciating when I look back on these photos.

Thanks to our hosts, The Everyday Dog Mom and Dog Mom Days, for hosting this monthly photo challenge! We'll be joining up again next month with a picture related to the theme lucky.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Cool Dog, School Dog College Edition

As you might have guessed from our recent silence, school is back in session. Papers are coming in. Lessons need to planned. My inbox is never empty. No matter how short our break is, I always seem to forget how exhausting teaching is and all I want to do for the first two weeks is nap.

The beginning of the semester had a little extra excitement this time because I got to kick off a new program on campus by bringing Barley with me! I work with our student government group and their main goal on campus is to build relationships between students, faculty, and administration. This semester, we started inviting faculty to give informal talks about their hobbies, interests, and research by the fireplace in our lounge area. As an advisor for student government, I got drafted to do the first chat and the dean gave me permission to bring Barley along to talk about life lessons we've learned from training and then to do a little noseworks demonstration. 

We walk on campus fairly regularly when the weather is nice, so Barley was familiar with the location, but when we got to the doors to go in the building, she could hardly believe that she was actually going inside. She's used to walking over to the library and putting books in the book drop, but that's as close to getting into a building as she's gotten.

We went to my office so she'd have a chance to relax a little bit before her big moment. A couple people were on my hall, so they stopped to chat and pet her. She also got very excited about exploring my tiny office--especially when she realized that every available surface was covered in pictures of her. (Don't tell Rye that there aren't pictures of her in my office yet--I've printed some, but I have to get some frames still!)

We did a little bit of focus work and a little recall work in my office before making our way down to the lounge to spread out her mat and put down some boxes for our demonstration. 

The students were so excited to see her--and Barley was equally excited to soak up all of the attention. Everyone wanted to pet her and she was more than willing to oblige. We spent about 25 minutes talking about the lessons we've learned that students might apply to their own lives: break tasks down into smaller pieces, reward yourself and celebrate small successes, don't compare yourself to anyone else, failure is ok. Then it was time to show how all of our training added up to success--and Barley decided it might be more fun to demonstrate that failure is ok!

We had three boxes set up with Birch scent in one of them and Barley was not interested in sniffing the boxes at all. She was a little warm from the fireplace being on, she was excited about the new location and all of the attention, and the cafeteria wasn't too far away and the scent of French Fries was wafting through the air. The boxes were the last thing she wanted to explore. We also had a little tin with Clove in it that I set on one of the tables near the students and she did cooperate with sniffing for that one and gave me a chance to talk about how scent travels since she sniffed a few different parts of the table before locking onto the tin. 

She had a chance to get a little more love from students before we went back to my office and got ready to head home. While I set a few emails, she flopped down by my desk and fell asleep. The rest of the day she was more than happy to nap. I think she appreciates just how tiring going to work. Now if she could just pass on the message that going to school is exhausting to Rye . . .