obsessed with dogs

10 cat things (or, maybe these are Newt things?)

  1. I am totally accustomed to the dogs begging for whatever I’m eating. I can tune them out completely or send them to their beds. Newt, on the other hand, jumps up and sticks her paw in my food before I even see her coming. (It reminds me a bit of this commercial.)
  2. She has figured out the exact movement of the sun and tracks the bright spots around the house all day long. And it makes her look fierce:
    Newt in the sun
  3. Her new favorite maneuver is to jump onto the towel bar in the bathroom. She usually does this while you’re in the shower, which is disconcerting enough, but yesterday I could see her debating: jump from the towel bar to the top of the shower or not? Thankfully she decided not… but it makes me nervous. I can just imagine her missing or it’s slick and she slides right into the shower. I imagine I’ll be sliced to death if that happens.
  4. She tore a hole in our boxspring. She climbs in there and scurries all around. It makes the dogs – and me – insane.
  5. The elusive “head boop” has only happened one time. She booped Emmett. I melted.
  6. Newt’s favorite spot to sleep during the day is in a dog bed. Any dog bed. Preferably ones she boots Lucas from.
    Newt in Lukey's bed
  7. She has lost interest in Teddy. He just sits there, forlorn. Unmoved. Un-talked-to. It’s like he doesn’t exist.
  8. I’ve heard about cats drinking from or knocking over cups and glasses. Newt doesn’t do that. She finds mine and licks all the chapstick or lipstick off the side. It’s the same effect – I need a new glass of water – but less mess to clean up! So, that’s nice.
  9. At noon every day, Newt sits in front of the pantry. As soon as you look her way, she starts meowing and pacing. An afternoon puzzle filled with kibble started as a way to keep her occupied when we were still fostering Molly and had to separate them. Now, it’s a daily routine, and if I don’t deliver? She throws a FIT!
  10. After quite a while of not trusting/liking me much, we’ve made some big strides in our friendship. In fact, most nights, Newt has chosen MY lap to cuddle in. She lets me pet her (once or twice a day and only for a few seconds), and she has purred at me a handful of times. I totally get why people are so dedicated to cats. It takes so. much. WORK. to earn their affection. But once you have it? Even if it’s just for a few seconds a day, it makes you feel pretty darn good!
    Newt on my lap!

Keep your dog’s teeth clean for a healthy life! #ChewsWisely #MilkBone #SayItWithMilkBone #ad

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Lunchbox. All opinions are my own.

If you’re being completely honest, how many times this past week did you brush your dog’s teeth? Or how many times this past year even?

I’ll be completely honest: I pretty much never brush their teeth. And when I think about it and imagine never, ever having my teeth brushed? *Shudder* The reality, though, is that it’s a huge struggle. Emmett clamps his jaws down on the toothbrush, licks the toothpaste off, and that’s that. Lucas tucks his tail and flees. Cooper is allergic to additives in dog toothpaste.

So, I’ve been striving to give them dental chews to help keep their teeth clean instead! (Except Cooper. Cooper’s allergic.)

Enter Milk Bone Brushing Chews!

Milk Bone Brushing Chews

Just like in people, clean teeth play an important role in overall health for our dogs. It’s not just about shiny, pearly whites, but rather staving off infection and disease. Dental exams at the vet, while necessary, are super expensive, and I’m always nervous about the anesthesia, so preventative care – like an effective chew – makes perfect sense to me.

The Milk-Bone Brushing Chews have nubs around the outside, and it has a twisty shape so that your dog has to manipulate it in his mouth – scraping off plaque and buildup in the process! Plus, they taste good, so finicky eaters will still be enticed to clean their teeth! Check out this video, which explains some of the benefits to the chews.

And! You have a chance to win a Milk Bone Brushing Chews gift basket and $250 gift card. Woop! Keep reading for the details…
Image 2

All you have to do is visit here (or click the image above) and answer a quiz question about your pet’s oral healthcare. I clicked through all the questions even though you only have to answer one. I got them all right. NBD. :)

There’s also a downloadable, printable coupon if you want to give the chews a whirl while you wait to see if you win the prize!

In truth, I don’t think I’ll ever improve at brushing the boys’ teeth, so I’m pretty content to give them a dental chew that they think is a treat (bonus: we practice an “on your bed” stay with these so we get a quick training out of it, too).

So, tell me: Are you good about brushing your dog’s teeth? Are you one who does it daily? Weekly? Or do you rely on products like chews to keep your dog’s teeth clean?

My dog’s stomach is holding me hostage

There’s nothing like stepping in a pile of dog poop. In your living room.

I woke up Monday morning. Put on my glasses. Walked toward the hallway to take the herd out and feed them. I flipped on the light and spotted it: a massive pile of Cooper poop just inside my office door. He had gotten up at some point in the night, and Cooper – unlike his brothers – does not strive to wake me up for an emergency. Instead, he sneaks off, goes, then climbs back in bed.

Coop in bed.

“Sorry, lady.”

We’re still testing ingredients, and the cottage cheese was totally my fault. I should’ve known. But, alas, I figured it was finally out of his system.

Then, Monday night while I was at class, this happened, and I suspect that Cooper ate the cat food.

Scratch that. I know Cooper ate the cat food.

Tuesday morning I awoke just after 5 to Cooper barfing on the rug in my bedroom. Cleaned it up, walked downstairs to find… another massive pile of Cooper poop, this time in the living room. Actually two piles, but I didn’t see the second pile until I had stepped in it while cleaning up the first. Damn dark carpets and bad eyesight.

So, I put them in the yard, cleaned it up, fed everyone (Cooper is on BLAND), then started the coffee. I walked up to my office, powered on my computer, and glanced at my email. I went downstairs to pour my first cup… and there was another pile of poop that was brand new. In the exact spot I had just cleaned. Of the three, that was the only one that made me mad because I was RIGHT THERE. He could’ve gone to the door. I would’ve heard him. But nooooo.

All day Tuesday was Poop Watch 2014. I had a huge stack of papers to grade, and it was impossible to concentrate. I kept him in my line of sight at all times. I took him out almost hourly. I needed to go to the post office and the grocery store, and all day long I kept telling myself: As soon as he poops, I’ll run those errands as fast as possible. Heck, I needed to shower, but after three inside poops, I wasn’t letting my guard down for a second. Not. One. Second.

By the time 11:45 pm rolled around and he still hadn’t pooped, I wanted to cry. I threw in the towel. I decided to gate him in my bedroom with me. Never has he had an accident in the bedroom (a den thing, maybe?) so I figured it was my best bet.

Wednesday woke up to him barfing.

But no poop!

{{Aside, we recently switched Newt’s food. Wednesday morning she decided to barf it all up. I guess she was showing solidarity for Cooper. But she kindly did it all over the bathroom floor, which is tile. For that, I am grateful.}}

He went outside before breakfast and again late afternoon. I had class – last one of the semester!!! – last night, and I was convinced I’d come home to poop. I gated them all in the living room and crossed my fingers. No poop! Yippee!

So, last night, I gated him in with me again.

I woke up to him running in frantic circles at 2 am. Rushed him out and he went. Back to bed. Same thing at 6:45. We had to get up anyway, but sheesh.

John’s been out of town since last Friday. He’s on his way back now. I think his punishment for abandoning me should be renting a steam cleaner and cleaning the rugs this weekend, don’t you?

I seriously feel like I can’t leave the house, but I still have to go to the post office and grocery store! The next time he poops outside…



This rambling post brought to you by Finals Week! And Emmett stress! And Cooper stress! And too much coffee! Way, way, way too much coffeeee!

I teach two writing classes each semester at the local community college. This week is the last week of the semester, which means frantic grading of all the work they “forgot” to turn in earlier in the semester, plus final projects in one class (2000 words times 15 students…) and administering the final exam in the other class tonight. And grading it all tomorrow.

So, a handful of updates:

  1. The update about Emmett is… there’s no update. The oncology resident called on Friday to say that, turns out, the sample size wasn’t big enough. He’s going to call our local vet to discuss. Two possible courses of action: wait and see (which I HATE) or surgically remove it (which I also HATE). I’ll keep ya posted, but in the meantime, thank you all for the wishes and positivity!
  2. We’re still testing different ingredients for Cooper, but I can say – most assuredly – that dairy is NOT an option. I tried cottage cheese. Let’s just say… actually, no… let’s not say. I need to put that one behind me. Shudder.
  3. On another Cooper note, and unrelated to the cottage cheese incident because it happened the day before, he is no longer tremor-free. After months of no tremors, he had a prolonged one super early in the morning. Which got me thinking that maybe he hasn’t actually been tremor-free after all. Now that it’s cold, he’s been waiting until 3 or 4 am to climb into bed with me. He’s all knees and elbows, so it wakes me up every night. This particular morning was closer to 5 am, and he draped himself across my legs. I thought he was licking his feet, so I sat up to say something like, “OK. If you wake me up every dang night, the least you can do is not lick yourself on top of me!” But, instead, I saw the shaking. So, now I’m wondering if he hasn’t been not tremoring after all, but rather tremoring overnight/early morning when I wouldn’t notice? And since he had literally just woken me up, I was more cognizant? Hm.
  4. A few of the gift guide prizes were inadvertently shipped to me instead of the winners. Sigh. I’ve been getting everything organized to ship out, and I tossed this box on my desk. Newt moved in. She seriously hasn’t left it today. I think she lives there now.
    Newt lives here now.
    It’s kind of nice knowing exactly where she is versus when I was wrapping Christmas gifts over the weekend and kept shutting her in the storage closet. Oops.
  5. Finally, I spent a big chunk of the weekend cooking and baking, and I whipped up a Christmas cookie recipe for the boys for my next guest post on Positively! I’ll share it when it’s live, but here’s a sneak peek at my “helpers” helping me clean peanut butter off a spatula!

Hope you had a lovely weekend and that your week is off to a great start!

Now, to go make another pot of coffee….

Friday Follies: Fa-la-la-la-la!

While we’re still waiting for Emmett’s results, we’re trying to do fun things to distract ourselves (check out today’s photo contest on Facebook).

But, yesterday, I posted this video:


Then, our friend Erin inquired about Lucas’ mixes to determine where the howling comes from… he’s half GSD (one side all GSDs, all the way back), and the other side was a boxer/St. Bernard cross.

Which got me YouTubeing…

First, there was this:


And, finally, I think this one shows where Lucas got his musical abilities…

If you recall, Lucas loves to SING (example 1 and example 2).

Who knew St. Bernards are musical? :)

Still waiting…

Yesterday, Emmett had his round of tests at Purdue’s small animal hospital. He was due for a battery: blood work, x-rays, ultrasounds, and aspirations of three new lumps.

These Purdue days are very long days, and yesterday was compounded by John being out of town. It’s about 2.5 hours each way. I left the house extra early – at 7 – to drop Lucas and Cooper off at doggy daycare. Then, Emmett and I drove up to Purdue for his 10 am appointment.

Emmett's December Purdue appointment

Relaxing in the lobby…


The way it works there is that you get checked in, then at his scheduled appointment time, you meet with an oncology technician. She went through his chart and paperwork. We discussed the medications he’s on and any side effects (none, thankfully), appetite, energy level, all that good stuff. Because he had a few new lumps, she went over those next and mapped them for the oncologist to check out.

Then the stressful part starts.

They basically execute each test and procedure as the equipment and staff are available, which means they take him back around 10… and he finishes up sometime after 3. For me, sitting in the lobby and worrying makes the whole experience far more stressful. I think the techs understand that, and they offer to take your cell phone number and call with updates throughout the day. So, I left my number and went to the nearby mall to do some Christmas shopping. I spotted the Pinups for Pitbulls book at the West Lafayette Barnes and Noble!

Pinups book

Anyway, by the time I finished up shopping, I still hadn’t heard from the techs. It’s excruciating to wait all day, that’s for sure. I ended up at Starbucks – I brought a pile of papers to grade, and ate scones and drank coffee. Just after 2, the oncology resident called and said that he wanted to meet with me around 3. I panicked. At his past appointments, the doctor came out to the lobby, said “all good news,” gave me his paperwork, and that was that.

So, I rushed over there and waited. And waited. And waited. Then waited some more.

Just before 4 the doctor called me into an exam room. By that time, I had burnt off all those scones calories from jiggling my legs and wiping sweat off my palms!

His blood work was good, though his liver enzymes were slightly elevated again, despite being on Denamarin, a liver drug. He said the elevation wasn’t enough for him to worry yet, but we’re going to repeat the blood work in four weeks. Two of the three lumps were just fat cells.

The third, though, they’re concerned about because it’s a different texture, much firmer, than the others, and he wasn’t able to get a good sample for his slides. He did send what he had to cytology, and I’m still waiting to hear back. They promised a call today, so I’m basically sitting here holding my phone.

On the drive home, I realized he didn’t mention the “gall sludge” that showed up on his last two ultrasounds, so when he calls I’m going to ask about that.

We made it to doggy daycare by about 6:20 – they close at 7, so I was nervous – then back home twelve hours later, just before 7 pm to decompress. (Wine.)

So, that’s where we are! Worrying about the results is definitely keeping me distracted, and today hasn’t been particularly productive! Thanks so much, everyone, for all the wishes and crossed fingers on Facebook yesterday. As soon as I know what’s what, I’ll leave a note in the comments below.

Waiting… waiting… waiting…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

I love the holidays!

I mean, not the people screaming at each other in the Target parking lot part of the holidays, but the twinkling lights and mistletoe and presents under the tree parts!

And, as you guys know, I just got to give away over $2000 worth in presents in my annual holiday gift guide. Woot! That’s certainly even more holiday cheer, of course, but we got to take it even further!

Here’s the gist of how the gift guide works and how we are able to use it to bring some Christmas to the community: Every year, I get gobs of product pitches from brands wanting me to consider their pet products for the gift guide. I absolutely won’t recommend something we haven’t used ourselves or had the opportunity to test thoroughly, so what happens is all these brands send us stuff to play with. Lots of times, companies send things unsolicited even though my policies say not to do that. And sometimes we get items from companies that we already have purchased for ourselves. What does all this mean? I end up with a MOUNTAIN of pet products, some of which I bought myself, some of which were sent without me knowing they were coming, and some of which were testers for the gift guide.

The best part of that excess: I get to donate it all to the local shelter and rescues!

As I was sorting that pile of products to donate, I got an email from Christmas Tree Market, an artificial tree retailer, asking if I’d like to participate in their 2014 Christmas in the Community campaign.

Christmas in the Community with Christmas Tree Market


Instead of just dropping toys off at the shelter or rescues, we could make the donation EVEN MORE FESTIVE!

So, Christmas Tree Market sent us a glitter-covered tree for the Monroe County Humane Association. John and I picked up a few boxes of LED string lights, bulbs, and a star topper, then we took the ornaments, three bags stuffed full of toys and treats, and the tree over to the MCHA to decorate.

Christmas in the community: the supplies

John set up the tree while I unpacked the bags. Because the tree was tall and skinny, some stuff was too big or heavy, so we piled those as presents under the tree with bright, festive bows. I think it ended up looking really cute!

Presents under the tree

Those PetSafe puzzles will keep a shelter dog very busy this year!

We ended up using two boxes of bulbs – blues and greens to reflect the MCHA’s colors – and most of the toys. Since it’s in the window, we made sure to evenly disperse all the goodies the whole way around. The tree got pretty full, so instead of hanging the bags of treats on the tree, we passed them along to the MCHA’s education director.

Christmas in the community: MCHA's finished tree

What do you think?

It’s a tall, skinny tree, so it was hard to get the whole thing in one frame, but this was a way more fun way to donate all those toys and treats than simply dropping bags off! Plus, we hope it adds some festive cheer to their office – they are incredibly hardworking animal advocates. We were thrilled to have this opportunity to decorate and donate!

Disclaimer: Christmas Tree Market sent us the tree for free (and a wreath a few days later to thank us for our participation! fun!) and all the toys and treats pictured were either sent to me for free for consideration for the gift guide, were excess toys from other campaigns, or were directly purchased by me. I wasn’t compensated for this, but it sure was fun!

Oh, dear.

I’m fastidious about backing up my laptop on the first of every month. And, honestly, I felt like that was a huge achievement. What didn’t occur to me – duh – is what happens if it crashes, say, toward the end of the month. After weeks of work but before my monthly backup.

And whaddyaknow. That’s what happened. Twice.

So, I moved everything into Google Drive, which included gobs and gobs of pictures. Perfect for a little #tbt and a walk down memory lane!

Like this one:


And, holy moly, this one:

See him there? The little bean?

Oh, sheesh. Then there’s this:

I'm a big boy!

My heart, lounging on a chaise:


And… oh, my. Oh, dear.




Home cooking for our dog: What we’ve tried + resources

Yesterday I started out explaining why we’re home cooking for our dog. In short: his health was a mess. We’ve been at it for a while now, mostly experimenting, but we’ve seen incredible results already.

Home cooking for your dog: Ingredients and resources

The first thing we did was to throw out all our previous “insights” into what he could and couldn’t eat. We had been working on one thing, one issue, one symptom at a time for so long that we no longer felt confident that any of our notions were correct. I pulled a couple dog cookbooks off the shelf and flipped through. The pattern that emerged was, essentially, mixing a meat protein source, starchy stuff (like sweet potatoes), fruits and veggies, grains, and supplements. I found this article from Whole Dog Journal to be useful in weighing ingredient possibilities, especially this:

It’s important that the diet you feed your dog is “complete and balanced,” meaning it meets all of your dog’s nutritional needs. It is not important, however, that every meal be complete and balanced, unless you feed the same meal every day with little or no variation. Home-prepared diets that include a wide variety of foods fed at different meals rely on balance over time, not at every meal. Similar to the way humans eat, as long as your dog gets everything he needs spread out over each week or two, his diet will be complete and balanced.

Our next step was to start testing ingredients to see what he tolerated. We started with a base of quinoa and mixed vegetables, which we steamed, because we had fed those to him in the past with no reactions, then we futzed with the proteins. Keeping the base the same, we tested tuna, pork, and lamb. All those were good, so we added in some whole wheat pasta, then varied the vegetables. Who knew that Cooper loved Brussels sprouts so much! We then added steamed spinach to the base, which went well, then we tried steamed kale, which did NOT go well. In fact, the kale experiment was the first time in nearly three weeks that he had diarrhea. So, kale is off our list! He’s also good on sweet potatoes and white rice. Next up: brown rice and squash. We’re also going to try turkey and salmon in the next round of proteins. As for ingredient testing, this chart has been incredibly useful.

But here’s our key: We are only changing ONE ingredient at a time. We isolated a few things that we could count on and only make one change at a time. Yes, it’s making this process take forever (we need to cook a new batch of food nearly every day), but it’s helping us isolate what works and what doesn’t.

While we’ve been working through our ingredients list, I also downloaded this PDF guide from The National Academies that details the minimum daily requirements for vitamins and minerals. I know that ultimately he will get much of his requirements from his food, but while we’re testing and to be extra safe, I wanted to get him on supplements that would get him to his daily minimum. Using the guide, I downloaded the labels for a handful of supplements. I’d be happy to share my comparisons with you if you’re interested, but after a lot of number crunching, we decided on these vitamins with this calcium supplement. Combined, the two get him almost to the full daily requirements outlined in the guide. He also gets a scoop of pumpkin with breakfast and a scoop of coconut oil with dinner.

My ultimate goal is to nail down a few proteins, a variety of fruits and vegetables, some of the carbs, and a couple grains… then go to Sam’s Club and buy them in bulk. Ideally, I’d like a freezer stocked with daily portions so that we aren’t cooking every day, but I’m not willing to do that until we have a solid rotation of possibilities. On Facebook, Lisa suggested preparing batches in the Crock Pot (genius!!) and on yesterday’s post, Pamela recommended Dr. Pitcairn’s book (which I actually have), so I’ll be doing a bit more tweaking before that stage.

I read tons more, in addition to talking to our vet, but the resources I’ve linked here are the ones I found most useful.

Preliminary results: His stomach is the best it’s ever been. Ever. In four years. His coat is shiny, and his eyes look clearer. I think he seems happier, too, but John says we can’t quantify that. (But, trust me. He seems happier. ;) )

So, there you have it! I’ll let you know how everything progresses, but thank you to everyone who shared your experiences yesterday. So helpful! If you have any more questions or comments or have a favorite recipe, please do share in the comments!

Our next adventure: Home cooking for Cooper

Let me start by saying: I am not a vet. I am not a nutritionist. My background qualifies me to correct grammar. That’s about it.

I am, however, an obsessive researcher, and I’m neurotic about solving problems. I’ve gotten many messages about home cooking for Cooper since I mentioned it a few weeks ago. I’ll try to address them the best I can, but if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments!

If you’re interested in home cooking for your dog, I’m going to share our journey over a few posts. Today is all about how we got started.

Home cooking for your dog

Cooper suffers from a range of allergies and intolerances. His fur has fallen out. He’s broken out into pimples, and he’s developed hives. He’s had head tremors. And he’s had constant diarrhea (like, five or six days a week) that had recently become bloody. Over four years, we spoke with several vets and strove to manage or treat each symptom as it arose. We put him on limited ingredient and prescription diets, which didn’t work. We did an elimination diet, which showed us that he couldn’t have chicken (the main ingredient in those prescription diets…) or beef. After we eliminated those proteins, we settled on fish as his main protein and chalked up the rest of his symptoms to seasonal allergies.

I do think the drastic change in climate – from Indiana to Louisiana to Indiana again – messed with his system, too, because the bloody stools started only after we got back. So, we talked to our vet, and she suggested that he had maybe developed an intolerance to fish. We switched him to lamb. He did okay for a couple days, then back to an upset stomach. Then pork. Same thing. Meanwhile, we had been noticing that his training treats weren’t working for his stomach either. Cooper goes to doggy daycare on Mondays, and one Monday a few weeks ago, they had a note for us at pickup: Cooper has bloody stool.

That was the last straw for us.

We looked at his ream of vet records tracking four years of symptoms. We looked at all the foods he could no longer eat, including treats. Looking at all the data at once, I started to suspect that it isn’t one particular thing that upsets his system, but rather processed food in general or some sort of additive that’s aggravating his system. This is sort of happening in human health right now with all the developing digestive disorders that might be linked to GMOs and processed food. It seemed likely that could be the case for Coop, too.

Once we came to that realization/decision, we immediately stopped feeding him kibble and started cooking his meals. (There are a range of reasons we’re not considering raw an option, so this has been the perfect solution for us so far!)

For the first couple days, we were winging it, then I dove into the research, and we took him in to chat with his vet. We have a rough outline of a plan that we’re refining. This is getting pretty long already – thanks for sticking with me this far! – so tomorrow I’ll share what we’re feeding, including treats and supplements, plus some helpful resources!

Have you tried home cooking for your dog? Any favorite resources or recipes? I’ll have more to share in the coming days, but I’d love to hear your experiences or your questions in the comments!