Monday, March 5, 2018

Life is Delicious!

Every now and then I see folks asking for ideas for stuffing Kongs. I first started thinking about this when I noticed that stuffed Kongs offered by a local boarding facility were large Kongs filled completely with peanut butter or spray cheese. Nicki's fairly small - and that's a lot of sugar, salt, & fat! So I started thinking about what else I could use. Frozen Kongs not only provide fun and entertainment for our pups, they can actually be used as meals to slow down pups that wolf their food! Over the years I came up with a number of variations, all of which are much healthier. Admittedly, these require more effort than pumping spray cheese, but Nicki thinks it's worth it!

A few suggestions: a small piece of waxed paper, folded in half to strengthen it, then curled into a funnel can make filling Kongs easier. Consider using 2 small sized Kongs instead of one large one. That way your pup can stretch out the enjoyment. (Of course, that means you don't hand 'em all over at once.) Puppy sized Kongs hold about 1/4 cup of small-sized kibble, plus a few tablespoons of "base". Medium sized Kongs hold more than 1/2 cup of kibble + stuff. Large? Don't know! Never had a large enough dog! Keep those measurements in mind to help you avoid over-feeding.

The Bases (use these to bind other ingredients together for freezing):

Any yogurt that doesn't use artificial sweeteners
pumpkin purée
unsweetened apple sauce
mashed or puréed bananas
wet food (use the amount you'd ordinarily feed) 

Yes, soft cheese and peanut butter work - just don't use them for the entire thing. Maybe a bit at the base of the Kong as a big reward. Like the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie pop! Flavored yogurt, even though it contains sugar, is ok, because you're only using a few tablespoons.

The Mix-Ins (all should be plain, unflavored, no sauces, etc):

diced butternut squash
diced sweet potatoes
diced carrots
chopped green and yellow beans
chopped pineapple (just a bit as an accent)
chopped peaches (just a bit as an accent)
raspberries (less than a cup per day)

The basic formula: if you're using actual dog food for a meal, measure out your pup's usual serving, and proceed from there. If you're feeding wet food, add in low-cal but rewarding taste treats like peas, squash, berries, then fill the Kong and freeze. If you're feeding kibble, pick one of the bases to hold it all together. Feel free to add in other goodies from the fruit and veggie list. Just making a treat? Combine a base with a mix-in or two (or three!) and fill 'er up!

I use frozen fruits and veggies for this because they're high-quality, cheaper, and easier to handle and keep on hand. There are other fruits and veggies that are safe for dogs, but they're not listed here simply because they don't freeze as well. According to an online calculator I found (I can't math) there are 8008 possible combinations here to keep your pups happy & fed!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What does happily ever after look like? Well, we know how it SOUNDS!

Has it really been so long since we added a post?? Yes, it has. Because we're now pretty settled into our lives together. We pretty much have our happily ever after. Nicki still growls at her Dad when he tries to kiss her Mom, but they're still working on that, too. 

To show you how at home Nicki has become, let's tell a recent story. Nicki's Dad snores. A lot. LOUDLY. He always has. The other morning, very very early, Dad was snoring away. Full on lumber mill mode. Nicki was laying between Mom & Dad, on her back, doing some snoring of her own. Dad's snoring got louder. Nicki began to groan. It startled Mom, who checked to be sure Nicki was ok. Nicki seemed to be sound asleep. Dad started another snore. Nicki started another groan. Dad's snore ended. Nicki's groan ended. Another snore. Another groan. Another snore, Another groan, the duration of which matched the duration of the snore! 

She's complaining about Dad's snoring.

Yeah, she's Home!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Twilight Promenade

I'm finally feeling physically up to a decent length of dog walk! It's been a physically challenging (and expensive!) year for me. Nicki has not been getting the exercise she deserves or needs. Her Dad isn't one for dog walking. There's nobody else available. I haven't been physically up to it. So Nicki has been a little furry couch potato. The most amazing thing is that this has not resulted in any negative behaviors! What she has wanted more than anything was to simply hang with me in whatever convalescing location the moment presented, and nap. Or cuddle. No cushion chewing, no indoor waste management .... just hangin' with Mom.

While that's a minor miracle, and very helpful from a convalescent standpoint, it's not fair to Nicki. So now that I can walk for longer, we've resumed our neighborhood patrols. The squirrels are no longer safe! Chipmunks doubly so!

It has, however, been beastly hot during the day. Stay-inside-and-in-front-of-the-fan hot. If it's too hot for me to exercise, it's too hot for my girl with the luscious fur coat! If we wait until evening, it's much, MUCH better on all of us. But we have to be careful. The waning sunlight means less visibility on the roads, and we need to be smart about safety. Last year, Nicki won an awesome leash in a contest. It's made by Mountain Dog and we love it!

We got this model in the bright neon yellow!

The thing that I initially loved about this leash was its strength. Although Nicki is small, she is mighty! When she first came to us, she was something of an escape artist. On her freedom ride, she had tried to chew through a leash during a potty stop! When she got here, she would vigorously "buck" on the end of the leash. On two occasions, she was able to slip out of, first, a collar, then a harness! She would also buck on the leash when she saw a squirrel. It was scary! This leash gave me faith that I could protect her until she learned she no longer needed to get away. What I noticed yesterday evening, though, was the colour! It's so bright it almost glowed in the dark! That was exactly why I used it for this twilight walk: visibility in the dusk. You may not have seen me or Nicki, but you'd definitely see that leash!

So we wait for twilight. The world cools down. The light softens. The roar of traffic lulls. Kitchen windows glow. The grass is cool. In that gorgeous, soft evening, we walk. The scents are still there, and some are even fresher as other dogs walk their owners in the dusk. The squirrels have wisely gone to bed, so it's a little more calm, too. Our pace is quick, but not hurried. And by the time we get home, we both have slowed down. We've had our workout, but we're also in no hurry for the evening walk to end. At this time of year, and this time of day, our walks tend to stretch themselves out a little. As the days grow shorter, our walks grow longer. Soon walks will require coats and boots and strategy. But for now - there are fireflies!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Toy Story

 Happy Independence Day!!
We're spending the day distracting ourselves with toys and cuddles. Booms can be so unnerving! "Toys?!" you say? Yup - toys!

By now you've probably seen the video of Nicki finally playing with a toy. If not, here's where you can find it. If you love rescued animals - it'll make your day.

I was initially still hesitant to think that this new joy would carry over to other toys. I had shown Nicki squeaky toys before while shopping at pet supply stores. Her reaction was odd. She seemed almost afraid of the squeakers. She would look at me uncertainly while sort of ducking her head and turning away. Because of that, I figured she didn't care for that type of toy. When my daughter broke down that wall with a squeaky Easter Bunny, I dared to hope that her love of play might just have been temporarily thwarted by the abuse and neglect she had endured. I started buying toys. Lots of toys. I soon learned that her preference is squeaky toys that are furry but don't have tons of robust stuffing. She wants to get that squeaker quickly. This has resulted in the untimely demise of a good number of fuzzy squeaky toys.

Recently, my friend Holly suggested an outing to Runnings with Nicki, me, and her rescued Border Collie, Rue. Rue was one of the Sprakers Border Collies. Google that if you can stand some heartbreak. She was virtually feral when Holly got her. Rue has made so much progress it's just heartwarming! Holly's great with her dogs. All ten of 'em! She's also our groomer and pet sitter! And general guardian angel. She thought (and I agreed) that taking Nicki and Rue into a pet-friendly store during less-busy hours would help both dogs with socialization and being at ease with unfamiliar surroundings. Nicki's mastered this already. Stores mean treats, so she loves everyone in stores! If not treats, stores at least mean lots of people who love dogs. Zero down side here! Hopefully, Nicki's example helped Rue to see that the unfamiliar was no longer something she need fear. It's not a done deal. But Rue was much more comfortable with the idea as the adventure progressed.

At one point, we headed down the pet toy aisle. I saw a likely candidate for Nicki, based on the preferences she had recently shown. I picked out a toy and squeaked it for her, then dandled it above her head. No shirking away! She leapt for the toy! She grabbed it and began playing with it! Right there in the store! I was amazed again! She dropped it and turned away, so I picked it up and put it back on the hook, which was just above floor-level. Nicki saw me take away "her" toy, went over to the hook, grabbed the toy and gently pulled it down from the wall. She didn't disturb anything else, she simply went and got her toy. She then proceeded to carry it around the store!

Of course, I bought the toy and we brought it home. When she stayed with Aunt Holly recently, she came home with the same toy in a different colour scheme!! Aunt Holly loves to spoil this girl! She now has two favourites!! But I'll be ordering bags of replacement squeakers in bulk soon.....and I'll be overjoyed to do it!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The "Pig In A Poke" Factor

It's real. Even I avoided the idea of shelters and rescue when it came time to bring a fur friend into the family, ostensibly for my daughter. I had researched breeds, I knew our family. I believed I had a good fit in mind. I was right. We wanted a Border Collie.

What I didn't know was that there were breed-specific rescues in existence! Knowing what I know now, though, I realize that they would never have allowed me to adopt. Even an animal behaviorist from a local, well-respected and widely known shelter had been refused by Border Collie rescues. Of course they had their reasons, but I have to wonder; when you've rejected more potential adopters than you've accepted, who are you really helping? Especially when a number of those dogs remain unadopted for many months - even years. I know it happens that way. After we adopted Nicki from New Spirit for Aussie Rescue, I checked back at the Border Collie rescues where I had fallen in love with numerous dogs - all of whom were denied to me. I wanted those dogs to go to good homes, even if it couldn't be my home. But there they sat. It broke my heart.

But I digress.

The "pig-in-a-poke" factor kept me from looking at rescues and shelters for our first family dog. I wanted to be "sure" of "what we were getting" - not from a pedigree stance, but from a temperament, intelligence, friendliness, etc. stance. Then one day my young daughter asked me, while lovingly playing with her red BC puppy, "Momma, how do we know she'll be a nice, friendly dog?" And I answered her "Because we'll raise her that way." And I taught both of us a lesson in that moment. Our Daisy had the kindest, sweetest, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly temperament. She was super smart. She was obedient. She was amazingly loving. She was everything we wanted in a dog. Not because we bought her that way, but because we raised her that way. Or perhaps because the way in which we raised her allowed that beautiful, gentle nature to come through in full glory.

Adopting a rescue dog, unless you adopt a puppy - and you can adopt puppies (even pure breds) from rescue - is a different story. You're not raising a dog. One is coming to you with issues from their past. But just the way you overcome the issues of puppyhood, with patience, consistency, and love, you can also overcome a rescue pup's issues. Or at least make them manageable for all of you. Rex might always chew shoes, whether you raise him from a pup or adopt him as an old man. Sometimes Rex is just gonna chew that shoe.

My point being, this blog exists to try to help dispel that "pig-in-a-poke" factor. Dogs are like a box of chocolates .....  You really don't ever know what you're gonna get. It doesn't matter where they begin. What matters is how they end up. A good, loving home makes all the difference.
Don't be afraid to encourage a friend to at least consider rescue and adoption. Point them here if they want to know what they'll get when they take a rescue dog home - but tell them I also said that I realize we got lucky. Nicki clearly hasn't always lived as a refugee. She doesn't have as much damage as some rescue pups do, but hers does still show from time to time. Just the other day she veered wide away from a man out walking, although she'd walked close by his young daughter just one moment before. Nicki has man problems. (Don't we all?) The b@$ta@rd that left her tied to his fence and then moved away was the one she was saved from, but he didn't have her for her entire life. She's too much of a Southern Belle for that. A Southern Belle again, still amidst the magnolias.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Easter Miracle

If you've been following Nicki's story, you know a sad truth about chained dogs: they often don't play. Nicki had been chained to a fence for who knows how long, and nobody knows what age that began. When she came to live with us, it became apparent very quickly that she didn't know how to play. Even if I made play bows, she didn't seem to have any idea. Toys were a mystery to her. Her rescuers had told me the same thing. She just didn't play. Having loved every Frisbee and ball-throwing minute of my Border Collie's long life, suddenly having a buddy who didn't get it was deeply disappointing. I tried to teach Nicki to catch a soft ball. She didn't see the point. I tossed Frisbees around the house. She sat by and watched. I played "chase" with soft toys, scooting them over her paws with my hand, trying to awaken her prey drive and channel it into some fun. Nope.

Nicki (and I) are blessed to have some really awesome people in our lives. One of them is Nicki's favourite person in the world. No - it's not me. I've learned to accept that. Nicki loves me, but she loves her big sister (my daughter) more. Nicki's big Sis doesn't even live with us, but the bond between them has always been very strong. Big Sis, in turn, loves Nicki, too. So much so that she made an Easter basket for Nicki! There were lots of little treats and goodies - and a toy. Nicki was having so much fun enjoying big Sister's visit that it didn't occur to me to take the toy out of the basket.

Once everyone went home and the house was quiet again, I noticed the "chocolate" bunny and took it out of the wrapper. Nicki paid attention to it immediately! She didn't take her eyes off of it. Then I tossed it to her - and was completely amazed. She grabbed it, chomped onto it a bit, shook it a bit, got it to squeak, dropped it and took a step back in surprise - then pounced on it!! She picked it up and shook it! She tossed it into the air, then pounced on it again! She was playing!!! We had never seen that before! Her Dad was so excited that he ran to grab the camera, and we did what all proud parents do: we took a video. Here it is. This is our Nicki, finally actually playing. Happy Easter!!

There's a really happy update to this story!! You can read it here!!

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Princess Diaries

We've been pretty much house-bound for the past few months. Between deep snows, bitter cold and some health issues for me, a good walk outside has not been an option.

But Nicki is unfazed.

She seems perfectly happy to be a fluffy couch potato, endlessly soaking up petties and affection. A little TOO happy maybe! I can't feel her ribs - so that probably means all these treats and inactivity are taking their toll on her girlish figure! Well, the weather seems to be breaking somewhat, and I've been able to get out for a short walk several times this week. Nicki is so happy!!! OUTSIDE! It's the best!

A friend came to visit last week. She did some reflexology on me to help me heal. It was wonderful! But apparently, it was stressful for Nicki. My friend, who is a lovely human being but not a pet person, was completely taken aback by Nicki's foot-chewing. Like many dogs, Nicki cleans her paws by licking them and nibbling between her pads. Like many herding dogs, she can be a bit over zealous about it. And like many rescued dogs, she can sometimes use this behavior as a stress reducer.

I didn't want to get into a big explanation about it, so I just explained to my friend that it was like people who bite their nails; a nervous habit. Actually, it's exactly like that, and I know first hand. You can usually tell how stressed I've been by the condition of my cuticles. Apparently, my friend's placement on a foot stool before me, my refusal to allow Nicki into my lap during this, and the friend actually touching me for a prolonged time made Nicki very uneasy. She may have felt that her place with me was threatened. She may have simply been confused. After all, people don't drop by to massage my feet very often! For whatever reason, though, this visit and act of kindness were stressful for Nicki.

That's why it's good to be Princess. When you're Princess, nobody just leaves you to your own devices, then yells at you for getting it wrong. When you're the Princess, people react to you in predictable ways. They reassure you and comfort you if something is upsetting. Or they mark the borders of the situation for you so you know what to do. When you're Princess, dinner time is guaranteed and so is that very comfy bed.

Nicki is a Princess. She has to be. I'm pretty sure she's also a large part of the reason for the improvement in my cuticles........