Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Feeding the Hungry Hounds

Everyday, my husband has the same question for me... "What's for dinner?" It doesn't matter if it's 8 o'clock in the morning, his mind is on what he most anticipates, "dinner!" This is reasonable since he works hard... he has an appetite and looks forward to the comforts of home. Funny too that our doggies function in the same way. The dawn of a new day brings breakfast, which Oliver is especially thrilled about (sending him into jumping and spinning fits, it's very cute,) and then after a long day of running romping and chasing... dinner awaits them too. Meal time around here is special. We love to gather in the kitchen, cooking together, (Wayne chops or grills, Jacob loves to make the salad, I cook stuff and the dogs Hoover up the droppings,) and spending time together eating. So, what IS for dinner? Well for us, and the hounds, it depends on what the meal plan has in store for the week.
See, I am a big believer in eating well! I value (especially true the older I get) quality food and healthy ingredients. With such high incidences of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and food allergies in our country... I have to believe there is a link to the food we are fueling our bodies with. Further, with these rates of disease also increasing in our pets... there must be a link to the foods they eat as well.
When Jacob (now 11 yrs old) was two, he was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. For those who don't know, Celiac Disease is a condition in which the protein in wheat, barley and rye is seen as a pathogen by the body and the body... in kind... attacks. So, basically Jacob has to avoid these products in all forms. I was so sad when I found out and I went through a grieving process for all the things he would miss out on. How can a kid live without mac-n-cheese, pizza and cookies, right? Well as it turned out there were many other people living with this condition throughout the world. Because of this... the need for "gluten free" products was quickly met on the market and Jacob had his own mac-n-cheese, pizza and cookies that didn't make him sick. One of my thoughts about his future also included our dogs. Will he ever be able to feed them without washing his hands? Will he ever decide that keeping a dog is too much hassle and never learn the love of owning a dog? Well, just as the market caught up to our needs... so too did the dog food industry. What I have since learned is that the MOST common food allergen for dogs is... WHEAT! Eventually companies like Science Diet began introducing allergen free foods, geared towards dogs with allergies. Since my dogs had no known allergies however, I couldn't justify the expense of that food. But, a few years ago a company called "Blue" began selling "gluten free" dog food. It was available at Petsmart, and because one had just opened sort of near our home, I was able to purchase my first bag! It was sort of expensive, but the ingredients were so healthful and my son could feed the dogs without worry! Blue also includes a cute dog trading card in every pack... I love that! As time has progressed, other companies have started offering gluten free dog food options to their most popular lines. Currently we are feeding Iams Naturals, with the same ingredients as Blue but with 1/4 less cost.
But aside from food allergies, our family has to consider so many other related diseases when thinking of our collective health. Cancer, diabetes and heart disease are all a part of our collective family health history. So, we try to eat a lot of fiber and anti-oxidant rich foods around here. Some of the best sources are foods such as nuts, fruits and veggies. As we eat, so do the dogs! Some of our favorite dog treats are bananas, watermelon, cucumber,apples, broccoli, almonds and cashews. The dogs love them and they offer the same cancer fighting properties for them that they do for us. Every dish of dog food is given with a heaping scoop of plain non-fat yogurt for digestion and healthy tummys. (I was surprised when I first started doing this, how even the "overall" stinkiness of the Springer went away... it's good for ears and skin too.) Ruby, who is extremely energetic gets a raw egg, (organic and fresh to reduce bacteria risk,) and the occasional scoop of natural peanut butter. Generally what is good for them is also good for us. I will say to be mindful however of the allergies that dogs have and we don't such as, raisins, chocolate, macadamia nuts, onions and grapes. And as always, you can find a list of common toxins and poisons (such as some houseplants,) at:
www. hsus.org/pets/pet_care
So, what's for dinner tonight? I still don't know... but I better figure it out soon... the hounds are hungry!

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Awful Dilemma

Today I have to report that I spent the weekend doing what I said I would never do. My husband and I installed... an underground fence. But I suppose a little back story is required here, so here it goes...

For the most obvious of reasons, I am no fan of the "electrified fence." I love my dogs like children for heaven's sake! Why on Earth would I want to send an electric shock coursing through their little bodies? It seems so sadistic and unkind! After all... I live on thousands, nae millions of acres, where my dogs should be able to run free... right? I remember when I was a kid, growing up on a farm in North Georgia, we had electric fence to keep in the cows. I remember being horrified at the thought of that... not understanding the destruction a cow could do to ones valuables not to mention the harm it could do to itself... and I would often think of how terrible it would be if said cow, stupid as they can be, got stuck in the fencing! I remember envisioning some scene out of "Frankenstein" with a mutant, block-headed cow roaming the pasture... frightening the other livestock. Again I digress... why do I do that? So, even though it's not quite the same as electric fencing... it still serves the same purpose, to create a barrier for the animal. Didn't I move here for my dogs to live the country life? Didn't I dream of the day they could run free

Well, the problem is Ruby..........

Ruby was bred to RUN! She is faster than fast (bred to run down a deer,) and very well camouflaged in the woods. And, part of that instinct to run down said prey means that Ruby wants to chase! So, here enters the problem! I am fighting nature and admiring it at the same time. Isn't her graceful leap and run behavior one of the reasons I fell in love with her kind to begin with? Of course it is.... but, she has started giving chase to cars! So here is the thorn in my side...

We have about 300 feet of frontage on a gravel road that dead ends in the National Forest boundary. Seems harmless enough right? I mean you can barely even see the road and when the trees leaf out it's almost impossible! But, Ruby is a dog... not a little person in a fur coat... thanks Cesar!http://http//www.cesarmillaninc.com/tips/ And, I can't reason with her. From time to time we do get the occasional car that drives down our road... maybe looking for access to the forest or UPS delivering goodies... and it is these rare occasions that present grave danger to a dog like Ruby. My UPS guy reports that Ruby is the fastest and "scariest" dog he has ever seen. He knows what a sweetie she is now but, he got the scare of his life, the first time she jumped out of the woods into plain sight and gave chase down the road. Of course I fear that she will trip and end up under the tires of the truck... that's why we are doing this. But, I also have to fear those who don't know her. See, Weimaraners were bred to protect their people. They look fierce and can be fierce if they think their people are in danger. Many a delivery guy and handyman have seen this first hand. So, I worry that if someone is walking down the road, looking for the George Washington... I mean "Ruby's" National Forest... that they may be seen as a threat to Ms. Ruby.Believe me she is so sweet... and I don't think she would ever hurt a soul... but this is a liability that we all carry as dog owners, and we better take our responsibility seriously!

So, we are installing the fence. So, far... the Springer brothers don't stray too far and are not a concern, so they won't need to wear the receiver collar. And, Ruby will not be restricted on the whole property... she is only being denied access to the road... the rest is still open to her. And I will have to come to terms that sometimes we must do the difficult thing to produce something good. If she becomes a "Frankendog" in the process... I'll be sure to blog and let ya'll know.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poll Results are IN!

Okay, the results are in from my previous poll, "Tell the Truth... Who Sleeps With Dogs?" And... it's pretty evenly split. This lends credence to my earlier comment that you're either "all or nothin'." Of course I believe that some of you who denied ever sleeping with dogs are... let's just say... Fibbing Fibbers Who Fib! Thanks for playing.

Ahhh... Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.

Okay, I have several ideas for posts in mind but this could wait no longer and must be said. Today it is raining in the beautiful mountains of Virginia. Not that I don't appreciate the bounty that a good rain brings but... my dumb dogs won't go outside! Now for a somewhat rhetorical question.... why do dogs bred to hunt in rainy, cold and wet conditions, refuse to go out in the rain? Okay to be fair, "the Springer brothers," don't so much refuse as greatly hesitate. However the Weimi, bred from the lineage of hearty German stock... the one who could take down an elk if need be... the one who regularly frolics in any available body of water... refuses to go pee-pee in the rain! Instead, Ms. Ruby will cower in the doorway and run straight back to the sofa with a look that says, " if you have to pee... you go outside... I'm stayin put!" I have photographic evidence that proves my dogs are not sissies when it comes to water, like this...

Okay, I can't find a picture of Ruby in the water... but that's because the "Grey Ghost" is always flying through the woods and I usually only get a sighting from behind anyway.

You get the point. Still it is a frustration and I guess they know that. Weird as it may sound, I know that my dogs are always in tune with my emotions. When I am frustrated they sense it and that's when the brakes REALLY get applied. Still, I count my blessings that there are no neurosis amongst them, when it comes to extreme weather such as thunderstorms. I have mentioned my Dalmatian Maggie in a previous post. Maggie was my dear sweet friend who passed away a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of 14. She was the best friend a girl could have and the sweetest dog you would ever want to meet but, as my Mother says, "she had little dark corners." This was especially true of her reaction to thunderstorms. Her reaction was so severe that she would shake, drool, hide and pee at even the most distant booms. Every 4th of July she would require sedation (which I always felt guilty about doing, but we did it to keep her from hurting herself.) We lived in Arkansas for a while and that was VERY difficult for her, as one might imagine. For those who don't know, Arkansas is a constant torrent of tornadoes, hail and thunder... all of which drove Maggie mad! Once a tornado forced our family into the bathtub for shelter and Maggie dove in too. From then on, even if the thunder boom was as distant a sound as perceptible to human hearing, Maggie would immediately retreat to the tub for safety. If we were gone during a storm, and couldn't find her when we returned, we knew to look in the tub... her harbor from the storm.

So having said that, I guess I am lucky that my pack doesn't get nutty over the rain. They just don't like it and who can blame them? I would rather be wallowing in the sunshine today too. And, who amongst us relishes the thought of cleaning up muddy paw prints off the floor? So instead I will cuddle up on the couch, draped in puppies, with coffee and a good book (maybe Marley and Me,) and wait for the rain to pass. See you at the dog park when it's over!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Retro Doggie Love

Okay, I have a secret to confide that is not so secret. I am a sucker for everything vintage and doggie! I have just about everything one could imagine that bares the image of dog. Plates, pillows, clothes, photos, fabrics, napkin holders and figurines. And, because I am a huge auction/yard sale/estate sale forager... my collection of everything doggie, has no end in site. My favorite collectibles are predictably from one of my favorite eras in history... the 1940's. My favorite doggie subject... the Scotty! Lucky that FDR made the Scotty a national sensation! Otherwise my house may have been void of all my kitschy nic-nacs!

Okay so you know by now that I am the proud Mama of two Springers and a Weimaraner. And, truth be told, I would probably have one of every breed in God's creation if that was possible. (My husband balances me and my Creator tempers me.) But, one would naturally wonder if I am so ate-up with "Scotty" love... why don't I have Scotties instead of my current pack? Well, because I am limited in the number of dogs I can have I am forced to narrow my choices. Like so many of you, I had to choose the type of dog I would share my life with very carefully. My dogs were picked for their traits, abilities and character so that they would fit "best" into my family situation and surroundings. Since so many dogs end up in shelters, because of hasty and careless decisions, I really took the time to research the breeds that I have. That is not to say that a rescued dog, (even one of questionable heritage :), ) couldn't be the perfect pet, but for our family our doggies were the perfect choice. I am and have always been committed to making my pets, my pets for life! Through spaying and neutering and some self control, I have now seen one dog through her entire life and will hopefully have many more years with the pack I have now. And who knows, maybe someday I can give a precious Scottish Terrier a forever home too!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

Yesterday was a beautiful, clear Spring day in the mountains of Virginia. And because of that, we seized the opportunity and took the doggies for a long walk in the woods. We are very fortunate to have a comfortable chunk of land with no neighbors in sight but what's better... we live on the border of the George Washington National Forest! A lovely mountain stream runs out of the forest and meanders through our property. All and all this place is dog heaven! Wide open spaces to run, plenty of sticks to fetch and tote and an ample creek to wallow in... what more could a dog want? And, did I mention wildlife? Well, we try to encourage admiring the wildlife from a distance but with three dogs bred to pursue and retrieve this is sometimes easier said than done. Of course, where there is wildlife there is also scat... and... well... let's just say... we don't delight in that the way the dogs do! ICK! Still, I can honestly say that our greatest consideration in buying this home was the vast spaces for my son and the dogs, to run, romp and play. So, our wild and wonderful surroundings are perfect for us. Our pack wishes many of these same perfect days for you and your pack!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Alternate Ego!

This is a photo of my rarely spotted other self.

(photo from National Air and Space Museum archive "Marion Florsheim")

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Just some of the cutest pups around!

Friday, March 20, 2009

There are dog people and then... there are DOGGIE people.

Once upon a time... a long, long time ago... I lived in Alaska! Alaska was gorgeous, natural and wild (some of the characteristics I wish to attribute to myself,) and it was just my cup of tea. I realize that Alaska is the one state that even "most" U.S. citizens can't say they have ever been. Granted, it is remote, cold and hard lived. Still, Alaska was all "love" for me. I reveled in the great, the good and the almost not great bits of Alaska. I soaked it in. Truth is... I loved Alaska with all my heart. Some people cannot relate to this... I know. In fact, what I have found is that if you don't love Alaska, you probably hate it or at least are greatly indifferent to it. I am pretty sure that those with hostilities towards the place, focus mainly on the difficulties that life there can bring. After all... what's so great about being mauled by a grizzly or freezing your extremities off? Maybe one would be indifferent because they have no personal experience with the state or maybe they think it is a barren wasteland of igloos and darkness? Why, you may be asking yourself, is she rambling on about Alaska? Well the answer is that I see my passion for Alaska as a metaphor (somewhat lengthy,) for the way man feels about dogs. Either you love 'em or you hate 'em. I tend to be more on the ga-ga side of love.

Okay, no, I am not one of those who believes in dressing my dogs or carrying them around in a sack, (although I did sneak my dog "Maggie" into my flight line job in the Air Force... in a picnic basket... because she was the tiniest cutest Dalmatian puppy anyone had ever seen.... and I couldn't bear to leave her alone all day... again that was a long time ago, don't judge... but I digress!) But I do see dogs as one of God's greatest creations! Just like Alaska, dogs are noble and majestic. If anyone has ever watched a bird dog lock into a point or seen a sheep dog herd or watched a hound dog track or even been comforted by their own beloved pet... it would be hard to argue against the nobility and majesty of the dog. I almost can't recall the site of Mt. McKinley without getting misty. So too, I can't recall the site of search and rescue dogs at the World Trade tower wreckage, on 9/12, and beyond, without tears pooling in my eyes. In Alaska, one looks forward to the predictability of "break-up," and the emergence of spring with joy and reassurance. Who, amongst the dog -loving hoards of the world, have not felt that same feeling in anticipating the greeting you receive when being greeted by your dog? And as predictable as Spring in Alaska, so too is your dog's exuberance about seeing you, (even if you just went to the bathroom and came right back.)

Not to belabor the point here but, either you love them or you don't. Now, it is possible that one's dog disdain is rooted in a bad experience or just simply seeing the drawbacks of having a dog. Dogs can bite when they feel scared or cornered. (So can I, by the way.) Dogs lick themselves, they can knock you over in their enthusiasm and they do... after all... eat poop. True, true and true. Just as true as there are bears and snow in Alaska. However, one can never deny the pleasure and delight they bring to so many. So for me, the benefits of loving a dog are so much greater than the drawbacks could ever be! The only drawback to having a dog, that I will even acknowledge, is that their lifespan is so much shorter than my own. You love dogs or you don't, you're all in or you're out. There is no middle ground. If you're Doggie, you're like me... Doggie for life!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Today is the Day!

Today is the day that I make it known... I sleep with dogs! That's right, I sleep with dogs. Three of them to be exact. I am the proud owner of three lovely, pedigreed pooches. My Springer Spaniels, Oliver and Bailey, love to sleep... so sleeping with them is easy. Bailey is the oldest in the pack and because of his advanced age and arthritis, can no longer sleep in the people bed. He is quite content however to sleep the night (and most of the day) away in the dog bed right next to me. Oliver is our little guy... still just a pup... and he sleeps at the foot of the bed, (or so I tell the most judgemental people who see sleeping with dogs as something only the most "hickish"/"crazy" individuals would do.) Truthfully, if he can sneak up to the pillow he will fully share it with me and wrap his paws around my neck in a warm embrace. Then there's our other bed buddy, Ruby the Weimaraner. You may be asking yourself, "how...why?" Well, the answer is, "VERY CAREFULLY!" Ruby demands, in true Weimaraner fashion, to be under the covers and spooning. Oh, this is hard to admit but I do spoon with my dog!!! Your next question will naturally be... "what about your husband?" Well that's complicated. Although for obvious reasons we sometime require that the dogs sleep elsewhere, my husband is fully complicit in enabling this bedtime bedlam. Wayne tells everyone that he wants the dog out of the bed for good (for obvious reasons... again... don't judge,) but he makes the same plea every night... "who wants to go to bed with Daddy?!" Further, in the puppy stages he has always made the argument that puppies sleep in their pack... a tightly wound wad of fur and puppy breath... and that you simply can't let them be separated from the warmth and heartbeats of the group. Well true that, I say! So, generosity turns to habit. And now... our queen sized bed with memory foam mattress, looks more like a homemade raft full of canine refugees. Still, this is our life and it is always best to own what is yours. We sleep with dogs.

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