Friday, October 7, 2011

Honestly – That’s doesn't take a Kitchen!

In the November issue of Snap Magazine, you’ll be able to read my article about traveling with your pets. I go through some advice on how to plan a trip with your dogs. Even though I’ve done it before, mistakes happen and I wanted to share how my recent trip turned a bad thing into a new discovery.

On my recent trip to Wisconsin, the hotel room bragged about a fridge in the room. So I planned to buy raw food and keep the dogs on raw the entire trip. Once at the hotel, I realized the “fridge” that they were so proud to offer was only a tad bit bigger than the microwave. I would not even be able to keep a days worth of raw food. The trip was going to be a busy one and full of events for me and the dogs from 8 am to well into the night. There was no way I would have time to make daily trips to the store for more raw food. It was a good thing I packed a box of Honest Kitchen. The dogs had previously only had a meal here or there of it, but never ten days straight. This was going to be interesting. I was also glad I travelled with a few cans of pumpkin.

I bought water from a store (often when you travel, it’s the water that can cause the biggest upset to your dog’s system) and kept it at the event. I also kept the box of Honest Kitchen there, too. It really is a great alternative to traveling with raw food. The dogs transitioned beautifully onto it. We kept their firm stools – oh, come on! You know that’s always a big concern! They loved each meal and even my picky eater, Diva, wolfed every meal down. It was simple, fast and as close to raw as I was going to get on that trip. I was really happy to have the option and to have thought to bring the box - and I never had to use the cans of pumpkin. I will be traveling with a box of Honest Kitchen from now on.

I should point out that because Honest Kitchen is manufactured in a human food manufacturing facility in the USA and is dehydrated at temperatures that do actually cook the food, it can cross the border when I travel – which is often what stops me from traveling with dehydrated raw foods. I am a happy camper!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bugging me!

Originally published in Snap Milton, July 2011. I thought it should be available to read all summer.

Out in the garden on a summer night, the sun just low enough to make it warm but not blazing. The day just wet enough to make the plants happy and those pesky mosquitoes even happier. If only I could get some weeding done, but the weeds get forgotten as I carefully plan my attack on the mosquito on my arm dining on my blood. Sojourner, one of our dogs, is lounging in the freshly turned soil periodically flapping his ears, wiping is nose with his paw or attacking an unseen horse-fly who is making it’s best stealth attempt at reaching skin through Sojourner’s black coat. Enough. I will not be eaten alive. With the same determination of a soldier cleaning out the barrel or a rifle, I march to the bathroom in search of our weapon. Poor Sojourner follows sporting a welt on his nose from where the horse fly managed to get its revenge. But like many families, we no longer reach for chemicals or pesticides to stop the attacks. We reach for nature’s help - natural essential oils and herbs.

On the outside, we protect our skin and fur with natural oils and essences. There are several oils that are used when repelling biting insects and we find a combination often works best at addressing the majority of mosquitoes, horse-flies, deer-flies, black-flies, fleas and ticks, too. Nature provides us with natural repellants that do a wonderful job. There are a many oils that we think do a great job at repelling and smell wonderful, too. The most common are Citronella, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Lemongrass, Lavender and Peppermint. Patchouli and Neem Oil also work very well, but have a very strong odors. If you don’t mind the smell, add both oils to any natural spray you buy (if they don’t already contain the oils), it will increase the potency. Patchouli has been shown to repel for up to 2 hours. Let’s face it, anything smells better than those deet bug sprays!

In your home, a basic Cedar spray can go a long way. Yes, your home will smell like Cedar wood, too. In our view this is an added bonus. Spray a diluted Cedar spray on the pet’s beds, on the couch and on the carpet in areas they like to sleep. This will repel bugs from bothering them while they sleep – and also repel fleas. Two other oils that can be used on bedding, but are not recommended for directly on the pet are PennyRoyal, which is in the mint family, and Lemon Oil, which is the oil from lemon skin.

From the inside out, you can also repel many biting insects. Remember how garlic can scare vampires away. Well there is some truth to that part of the Dracula story, as garlic can also repel biting insects from sucking you and your dog’s blood. For your pet, you would use it dried and we sprinkle it on our dog’s food. Much has been made about the relation of garlic to onions and that if onions are unsafe, garlic must be too. However, garlic does not contain thiosulphate in the same concentrations as onion and it is safe for your dog in any reasonable amount (but should not be used for cats). We also use Brewer’s Yeast to repel bugs from the inside out and Brewer’s Yeast is safe for your feline companions, too.

Sojourner gets sprayed down with our Herbal Bug Repellant and I get the same treatment. I always say if it’s not safe to be on my skin, then it’s not safe for my dogs. So I am happy we can both avoid being the garden buffet using the same product. Sojourner and I march back outside smelling like a herb garden and I enjoy the satisfaction of removing those pesky weeds that I’d left behind, while Sojourner enjoys the smells of the garden, dines on a buffet of fresh grass and squishes some Junebugs, much to my delight. Now that’s a dog’s life!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kong's NEW Wobbler Vs. Nina Ottosson's Pyramid

When I saw Kong came out with a toy that seemed like a rip-off of the Pyramid (by Nina Ottosson), I have to admit that I was a little up in arms. It seems, lately, Kong is copying every good idea and really has a monopoly. I do love my Kongs though, so maybe they have a right to a monopoly when they invented a great toy to start their company with. Then when I saw they had made an improvement on the Nina design, I had to try it. The improvement: the bottom screws off, so you can fill the toy easier and clean it. So I added a Wobbler to my repertoire of games that I leave for the dogs when we are out.

The Pyramid has a serious design fault. It has a seam right before the weight at the bottom that after extended use can crack. Once it is broken, it is broken. I have duct taped one together, but it’s not the safest way to deal with the issue when it’s a toy you plan to leave alone with your dog. I have attempted to crazy glue one, too, but the glue broke with one slam by our toy tester, Kiah. This design fault, however, is not the only challenge to the Pyramid – it only has the dispensing hole to fill the toy with. When you want to put breakfast in it or any quantity of treats or kibble, it can be frustrating and time consuming.

The Wobbler fixed these two faults in one go. Kong got rid of the seam by making the Wobbler screw together in that spot. This means two things – no breaking and very simple filling and cleaning. However the Wobbler is not free of design faults either. For starters, I find the whole thing rather heavy and bulky compared to the Pyramid. More importantly, the hole is only about half way up the toy. Meaning two things: You can’t fill it as much. Only about a cup and a half of kibble will fit in the toy before it reaches the hole. For us, who use it as a way to keep the dogs occupied when we go out, that’s not such a big deal, but if I were wanting to feed a great dane dinner in the Wobbler to avoid eating to fast, you would have to do it in two Wobblers or two stages. Second the hole being lower makes the toy easier to figure out. I guess if I didn’t have Aussies this would not be as big of an issue. I have come home to a Pyramid with treats still in it. The Wobbler was empty on the first try. Also the Wobbler’s hole is considerably bigger – which allows you to put bigger treats in, but it also allows smaller treats to fall out faster. I guess they are designed to fit the Kong Stuff’n Treats, but with wheat as the #2 ingredient in all their biscuits that won’t be happening at our house.

So overall, I find the Pyramid to be more of a challenge for the dogs, more light weight and probably safer for that reason. Sometimes the Pyramid is a challenge for the people too, as filling it can be frustrating when you are in a hurry. The breakage is the biggest problem, however, we have probably not had our Wobbler long enough to see if it has any similar faults. Our Pyramids typically last for months and probably the fact that the dogs take them out into the cold doesn’t help the plastic’s strength. One has been with us for close to eight months now. The duct tape solution works with older dogs who get the game and don’t try to take apart the duct tape, but unless you know your dog won’t, it’s not a safe solution. We will continue to use the Pyramid, as we love Nina’s toys. However, we have added two Wobblers to the gang of toys and we think they will make welcome additions to the games. If we had a say in Kong’s manufacturing, we would ask them to put the hole higher to make the game harder and make there more room for filling it, then we may admit that the Wobbler is an improvement on the Pyramid.