Classic: Brody The Mouse-Barker

Some of you might remember Brody, our dearly departed Great Pyrenees, patroller of the yard and guardian of all the things. These classic posts took place ten years ago at our house in Minnesota.

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Rodent Rescue Part One:

I’m not at my most mentally acute at 5:25 a.m. Or at 6:25. Or, truthfully, 7:25. This morning at 5:25 I was in the shower when I heard Brody barking outside. Admittedly, Brody does bark outside a lot. Every day. Until I go outside and chase his fluffy Pyr-butt into the house before the neighbors call Animal Control.

But this was not his usual guardian-type “Brrrrrrrr-ROO-ROO-ROO!” It was a constant series of short, staccato, emphatic yips, and he sounded a bit agitated. The last I’d seen him, he was near the pool, an area in which he doesn’t tend to spend a lot of time due to the risk of accidentally dampening his paws. Brody isn’t a fan of anything moist, unless it is frozen and piled in drifts in the yard.

I told myself I’d just quickly finish my shower, and then go see what his problem was. Then I got thinking, “What if the big idiot fell in the pool?” He’s never been in there, so he isn’t aware of the stairs at the shallow end as a means of exiting the dreaded aquatic death trap. I began picturing a 100-pound, soaking wet, massively furry, coat-blowing, freaked-out, pissed-off Great Pyrenees who would take until September to dry and decided I’d better get out of the shower and see what was going on.

I wrapped a towel around myself and ventured out to the sliding glass doors, where I observed Brody lying by the pool, front paws draped over the edge, staring intently at something in the water, and barking like a broken record. Clearly, further investigation was in order. I hopped back in the shower to rinse off, then threw on some clothes and headed outside.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what was inspiring Brody’s bark-fest. There was a mouse (or possibly a vole; I don’t really know the difference) swimming in the pool. Actually, he was drowning in the pool. He’d paddle frantically for a few seconds, slip beneath the surface, then fight his way back up. I had to help him!

I’m an animal-lover, obviously. I go out of my way not to kill things, at least as long as they stay in the Great Outdoors where they belong. If this mouse (or possibly vole) were pooping in my silverware drawer, I would immediately set a death-inducing trap to put an end to his intrusion once and for all.

I looked around for the pool net and didn’t see it. I did see the pole on which the net belongs, but the net was nowhere to be found. I stuck the pole in the water, and Mr. Mouse tried to climb up on it, but it was too narrow and slippery, and he kept falling off.

Next, I grabbed a beach towel that was lying near one of the Adirondack chairs, and tossed that onto the surface of the water, thinking he could scurry up onto that and I could pull him out, without having to risk actual hand-to-mouse contact. He did not see the carefully thought-out logic and refused to approach the floating towel.

Finally, I picked up a stainless steel bowl, waited for drowny-mouse to get close to the side, and scooped him to safety. I deposited him in the mulch near the fence, hoping Brody didn’t pounce and eat him. That would have been bitterly ironic after my heroic efforts to keep the little rodent alive. Brody continued to monitor the pool for wildlife, and I watched the mouse (or vole) huddle by the fence and begin to groom himself back into composure.

This was a lot for me to accomplish by just after 5:30 in the morning! Plus, it totally blew my morning routine, and we all know how I thrive on routine, especially in the early morning hours when independent thought is far more difficult than it is later in the day.

I hope Mr. Mouse (or Vole) returns my good deed by staying out of my pantry and silverware drawer. If he is foolish enough to pack up his entire rodent family and move in, I will have no qualms about smushing all their little heads in my decidedly not humane mousetraps. I have rules. Just stay out of my house, and we’ll get along fine.

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Rodent Rescue Repeat:

Something suspicious is going on in the rodent world. Once again, before 5:30 a.m., Brody discovered a mouse swimming in the pool. I’m pretty sure it’s a mouse now, because I think voles have shorter tails. I probably need to research that. But if these guys would just stay the hell out of my pool, I’d be spared the necessity of answering this crucial question, which would be fantastic because I really don’t have the time.

This mouse was in much better shape than the one yesterday (if, in fact, it is a different mouse at all), apparently having gone into the drink not too long before he was discovered. Tom had returned the pool net to the patio area, since yesterday it had been downstairs somewhere so he could repair some tears in it.

I scooped mousey-boy into the net and began raising him out of the water. You’d think he’d be grateful, but was he? No, he leaped out of the net and back into the water (which made Brody eight different kinds of crazy) several times before I basically dipped and flung him in the general direction of the fence, where he rustled through the grape vines.

Now I have serious questions. What is going on with these mice? I haven’t fished a mouse out of the pool all summer, and now I’ve done so two days in a row. I have several theories.

  1. This was the same mouse, and he either has suicidal tendencies or was brain damaged in his near-drowning yesterday and returned to the pool as the result of a post-traumatic episode.
  2. These mice were contestants in some kind of rodent reality show, the object of which is to last the longest in the giant, chlorinated ocean. 5:00-5:30 a.m. is prime time for mouse television viewing.
  3. These are teenage male mice, and this is their version of Jackass.

Butch: Hey, Ralphie, bet you can’t swim across that pool, bite the dog on the nose, and then swim back.

Ralphie: Sure I can, Butch, just watch me!

(Splash, paddle-paddle-paddle, gasp, sputter, glug)

Ralphie: Hey, Butch, little help here?

Butch: (Coming from the bushes) Snicker, snort. What a moron.

  1. For some reason, Brody has become the nemesis of all the neighborhood mice, and this is an assassination attempt. They are trying to lure him to a watery death, and the Suicide Swimmer is bait.
  2. They are not mice at all. They are lemmings.

I suppose it could also be a well-planned diversionary tactic, keeping me focused on the back yard while hordes of mice are moving into our laundry room. I hope that’s not it, because I really don’t enjoy tracking mouse-trap casualties on the whiteboard in the kitchen (much). At one point a few years ago it read: “Lori, 11: Mice, 0.”

Ultimately, I just hope Brody’s bladder doesn’t explode. He’s so focused on patrolling the pool for mice that I think he’s forgetting to go out in the yard to take care of necessities. Which, of course, could also be part of the mice’s global dog-destruction plan.

I would feel a lot better if I could decide if these mice are really smart or really dumb. That would help me narrow down the possibilities.

 

 

 

 

Direwolf Grooming Day

Oliver is a standard poodle, which means a trip to the groomer every 6-8 weeks. Mozzie is a golden retriever, which would usually mean grooming also, because I’m old and brittle and out of shape and lazy and happily pay someone to blow out all that dense golden undercoat, but Mozzie has a very light coat for a golden. I take him for a nail trim and bathe and brush him at home. Which is good, because he’s an anxious, twitchy dog, and being left for 5-6 hours in a busy pet resort would freak him out.

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Not Mozzie, obviously, because my bathroom is purple, not pink, and my tub is much bigger. Also, Mozzie would probably be afraid of the rubber ducky.

All I want is to get Nutball 1 and Nutball 2 into the car and to Jill’s Pet Resort with a minimum of chaos, but it never works out that way. The moment I begin laying out my clothes, they know. Bra, jeans, shoes. All things they never see unless there’s an outing in my immediate future.

I get the leashes out while they’re outside, but they still know. I get my purse out of the kitchen drawer…dead giveaway. Putting a harness and leash on two panting, whirling, over-excited, highly suspicious 60ish-pound puppies is challenging, to say the least.

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A couple of groomings ago, I didn’t realize I’d hooked Oliver’s leash through his tag ring instead of the leash ring on his collar. Trying to get two insane dogs from the car to the groomer resulted in ring-failure. I had to grab his collar, while Mozzie was in full fight-or-flight mode, trying to slip his collar and depart for the nearest horizon at speed. Luckily, the staff at Jill’s saw what was happening and came to our rescue.

Which is why they now always wear their harnesses when we go out, and why I schedule grooming for Tom’s day off so he can assist with dog-wrangling. Even with his help today, though, while I was bent over putting on Oliver’s harness, Mozzie came cannonballing through the kitchen and head-butted me at full speed. I don’t know how neither of us is unconscious.

As you know if you’ve followed my dog posts, Oliver and Mozzie are great brothers. They get along better than any two dogs I’ve ever had, and have been raised together since they were four and six months old. They very rarely fight. With one exception. When Oliver comes home from grooming, he’s either over-stimulated or annoyed, and he immediately wants to fight. We’ve been working on sorting this out. Today, Oliver started growling the second he came in the door. They’ll keep their distance for a while, and I’m trying to keep things low-key.

Tom and I disagree about Oliver’s grooming. Neither of us wants a “fussy looking” poodle with poms and rosettes and topknots. But I still want him to clearly be a poodle. So he gets a moderate head-puff, short-trimmed feet and face, natural tail, and short clip on the body.

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This will never happen. EVER.

Tom sort of likes Oliver right before grooming, when he looks like a homeless Muppet. He’s cute, regardless, but eventually you have to clip them back into poodle-shape. Never fear, he’ll be Muppety again in no time.

But what you really want to see is before and after photos, right? Yeah, me too.

Okay, Oliver before. Still mind-bogglingly cute, but getting a bit disheveled-looking, and starting to want to tangle.

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And now after. I’m not totally nuts about the full-on, freshly-groomed poodle clip, but you have to reset the poodlemeter from time to time. I’ll like his look best in about two weeks. I’ll like that for a couple of weeks, then start whining that he needs to be groomed again.

Mozzie got a nail trim and a good brushing, which was all he needed. So no before…but when I was taking pictures of Oliver, he didn’t want to be left out. That golden smile!

Freshly groomed or shaggy and rumply, they’re adorable and totally our boys. Just don’t tell Oliver that Mozzie got to go for a walk in the park and play ball with Dad in the back yard while he was gone.

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Promise To My Dogs

I wrote this last year, when Mozzie was a puppy and just before we adopted Oliver. Now, Mozzie is 18 1/2 months old, and Oliver is 16 1/2 months, and these words are truer than ever.

First Friend Mozziver
I will teach you all you need to know to be able to enjoy the world around you but still allow you to be a dog. We will work on the specifics of obedience, but you will always have fun.
I will never touch you in anger. If I ever handle you harshly, it will only be to keep you from harm.
I will never allow anyone, human or animal, to cause you physical or emotional discomfort.
You will never be cold, hungry, or lonely a day in your life if it is within my power. I will always have time for you.
I will maintain your grooming so you are always comfortable and presentable.
I will make sure you have the veterinary care you need, but I will educate myself and not blindly follow protocols. I won’t over-vaccinate or over-medicate you, ever.
I will feed you natural, species-appropriate food in the appropriate amount, and safe, healthy treats.
You are my love, my life, my heart. You are not an accessory or a notion. You are a vital part of my family and my world, and I will make sure you know that every day of your life.

Dogs And Books And Yarn

I haven’t missed a day of posting since I started Furwood Forest a little over a month ago, but I was stumped what to write about today. I have over 500 posts archived from the old Fermented Fur blog, but nothing was catching my attention as something I wanted to post.

Mozzie and Oliver, AKA The Direwolves, weren’t cooperating, which was downright inconsiderate. They’re made of cuteness and shenanigans, and the least they can do is provide blog fodder. I’m their mama, nurse, activity director, chef, concierge, stylist, entertainment committee, teacher, referee, jungle gym, therapist, and maid. All I ask is for them to pull their weight.

Fine. I guess their snuggles are payment enough.

In desperation, I went outside and captured some video of them playing with their Romp-N-Roll Jolly Ball. Luckily for all of us, they’re adorable no matter what they’re doing.

 

While many of you are enjoying something I’m told is called a “weekend,” Tom is at work, and I am about to do the same. If you weren’t aware, I’m the managing editor for Limitless Publishing–and our new imprint, Crave–so I work at home with my Direwolf assistants.

I’ve already conquered Mount Email, and will continue to do so, but aside from managing the editing and proofreading staff, working with designers to assign our book covers, overseeing the creation of cover blurbs, overseeing all stages of production of our horror and romance anthologies, and a bunch of other publishing-related chainsaw juggling, I also edit, both for Limitless and select independent (indie) authors, and that’s what’s on the agenda today. I need to finish a first round of an edit and get it to the author for revisions.

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True story.

Once I achieve the day’s work goals, it’s on to the reward portion of the day, doing what I want. Currently, this means watching Doctor Who–which I’ve never watched before–and working on my knitting.

I’ve crocheted since I was a kid, but knitting is a new challenge. I’ve only been at it about two weeks, and have only worked on swatches of different stitch combinations so far. This is the most recent swatch, a “seersucker” diamond pattern, which came out fairly well.

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I still have a hell of a time casting off at the end of a piece, which makes no sense, because it’s insanely easy. Do two stitches, pull the first loop over the second and off the needle. Yet I can’t get that first loop off in one piece without losing the second one. I resorted to just sliding both stitches off the needle and using a crochet hook to pull the second stitch through the first, then putting it back on the needle. I’ve concluded I knit too tightly, and am trying to adjust my technique.

Last night, I started what might be my first “real” project, though it’s still just practice of basic skills before I move on to more complex stitches. Technically, it will be a dishcloth with a dog on it, though I am still befuddled why anyone would spend time making something pretty and then use it to scrub barbecue sauce off a plate. I have no idea what I’ll do with it, but washing dishes isn’t on the list of options.

It should look something like this:

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And this is what I have so far:

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See? The bottoms of the little puppy paws are beginning to appear.

Thrilling day? Maybe not, but I like quiet and peaceful creativity. Yes, I have some household chores to do, and puppy interaction, dinner to make, and tonight I’ll have my customary bedtime adult beverages because the brain-train has to be derailed at least a little or I’ll never get to sleep.

Some people pack their (for me, theoretical) weekends with activities, but that’s not my life. I like it calm and tranquil and quietly satisfying.

Having said that, The Direwolves will probably stage an insurrection this afternoon or commit some other act of chaos. But until then, I have a steamy mafia princess story to edit.

And probably a snack.

Don’t Call Me Scarecrow

The people who surrendered Oliver to the humane society a year ago called him Scarecrow because they claimed he was afraid of everything.

He was 3 1/2 months old and in his third home, after the people who were supposed to buy him failed to pick him up from his breeder. The breeder gave him to a friend, whose resident dog didn’t like him, so he was passed on to a relative. That person also declined to keep him and contacted Colonial Capital Humane Society to find him a home.

Which turned out to be with us.

There are a couple of things wrong with calling him Scarecrow, the first being it was derogatory, implying it was his fault he was frightened.

Second, scarecrows aren’t afraid of things; they scare things away.

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Let me tell you, after the first fifteen minutes trembling on our kitchen floor the evening we brought him home, Oliver hasn’t been afraid of a single thing for one second.

Mozzie, our golden, is the timid one, like the Cowardly Lion. That, along with his perpetual puppy energy, was why we wanted him to have a canine companion, so Oliver joined us when Mozzie was six months old.

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Is that scary plastic bag gone?

Not only was the Scarecrow not the ‘fraidy-cat in The Wizard of Oz, he turned out to be the brains of the bunch, and that’s how it’s been with Oliver. He is a standard poodle, which rank second only to border collies on the breed intelligence charts, and one step above golden retrievers.

Seriously, with both a poodle and a golden, I’m outmatched in the intelligence department. If they ever decide to stage a coup, I’m in deep trouble.

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Meet your future Canine Overlords

Goldens are brilliant and can cheerfully learn to do anything you care to teach them. So can poodles, but they’re going to think it over for a while first, deciding if they agree with your strategy and technique, before complying. And if they’ve devised a better way, be prepared, because that’s what they’ll do.

When you talk to a golden, you can see the bright spark of understanding in their eyes, along with plenty of joyful adoration. When you talk to a standard poodle, you see that understanding and intelligence, but you can also see intense concentration, as he analyzes your words, inflection, body language, and intention. Poodles are always watching and evaluating, weighing and measuring, processing everything they see.

Poodles are always watching.

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One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty–Oliver isn’t afraid of a single thing.

And he’s with us now, so he’ll never have to be.

The Unlikely Predator

Mozzie got a bird. Or maybe he found a bird…hard to say, since I didn’t witness the event. I let the Direwolves out for morning potty and settled in the chair on the deck. A moment later, they were in the side yard, where the fence is only about ten feet out from the house, and I noticed they were both standing over something on the ground, examining it very closely.

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Move along. Nothing to see here…

Damn. I’ve been through this before, primarily with Ozark, as I mentioned in this recent post about his fondness for capturing bunnies, which it turns out are not very durable.

Mozzie also found some baby bunnies last spring. He couldn’t get to the ones under the enclosed deck, where the nest turned out to be,  but a couple were just big enough to venture out, and it didn’t go well for them. I eventually rescued and relocated the remaining little hoppers to prevent further unpleasantness.

The boys also surprised a possum one night, but I don’t think it was dead. It was likely just doing its “I’m dead, please don’t kill me deader” bit, and I used the pooper-scooper to put it in the woods outside the fence.

I don’t think Mozzie caught this bird “on the fly,” unless he flushed it and it bonked into the fence and stunned itself. Or it might’ve already been injured when he found it.

When I saw them, Oliver (being a poodle) lost interest in about three seconds and trotted off. I’m pretty sure the bird was still moving then. Mozzie, however, picked it up and tried to make off with it, so I had to corner him. He dropped it, and by now it was dead, so I put it outside the fence.

I have a bird hospital box (an Amazon box with some hand towels in it, very high-tech) for when birds bash into the sliding door, but thus far haven’t needed to use it, because it turns out birds are about as durable as bunnies, which is not very. Once again, I didn’t need to use it today.

For a twitchy, nervous little dog who is afraid of things like the sound freezer drawer opening, ice rattling, rustling of a plastic bag, or dishes rattling when I get a pan out of the cupboard, it’s odd he has this much prey drive. Though now that I think about it, his fears are mostly sound-related. Since baby bunnies and injured birds don’t sound at all like me getting the mixer out, I guess that explains it.

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It’s like if you found out the shy kid who always sits by himself on the bus is secretly a ninja.

I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s a golden retriever, a sporting breed. But he dislikes unexpected things, and it seems like if he encounters a surprise bunny in the yard, he should slink rapidly in the opposite direction.

Now spring is upon us, and I just hope Mama Bunny has decided to find another spot to raise this year’s babies. While the enclosed deck is definitely secure, at least now that Oliver can no longer squeeze under it, it is still in a fenced yard inhabited by two canines, and the rabbits have to come out sometime.

How do your dogs deal with wildlife in their yard? What’s the most disturbing or surprising thing they’ve caught?

Classic: Bunnies Should Be More Durable

Flashback to 2010 and recall the lovely, gentle, wonderful, gentle-giant, puppy-and-kitty-loving Ozark, a Great Pyrenees/Lab mix, and his unfortunate interactions with bunnies. In his defense, he probably just wanted to play. But since this was not the first time such a thing occurred, maybe he should’ve figured it out by now.

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Seriously, does this look like a bunny-mauler to you? Either of them, but particularly the one on the right.


Maybe my days off aren’t quite as boring as I think. You can decide.

I woke up at around 7:15 a.m. and wandered out to the kitchen for the customary and metabolically necessary first cup of coffee. The first thing I saw was a note by the coffee pot. Aw, how sweet! My honey-bunny left me a note! I wondered if it would be of the romantic or naughty variety. Or both.

None of the above. This is what it said:

“There is a wounded rabbit out there somewhere. After Ozark dropped it on the deck and I got him in, it was still there for a few minutes, then gone. But I think it was “damaged.” You probably want to go out with them and be prepared.”

See? Neither romantic nor naughty. Upsetting and anxiety-inducing. I had to ingest enough coffee to feel functional, then go search for a damaged-and-probably-dead bunny. Bunnies are not very durable.

Actually, dead is sad, but I was more worried about finding him not-quite-dead, because then I would have to figure out what to do about it. My options were:

a) rush to work and let them try to save it (which never works; see above mention regarding bunnies’ lack of durability)

b) let it suffer and hope it dies soon

c) whack it with a shovel

I do not like any of those options.

While I was in emergency caffeine consumption mode, Ozark came over for his morning stopsignskritch-fest. Lovely, except I quickly discovered his entire head was crawling with fleas.

Apparently, a whole bunny-load of fleas realized their meal ticket was about to be punched, and migrated onto the huge, fluffy, delicious (if spleenless) creature that was currently attached to the bunny. By his teeth.

I also must assume that if the other dogs aren’t infested yet, they will be within about 37 seconds. Awesome.

I found two doses of Frontline Plus for 45-88 pound dogs. I put 1.5 doses of it on Ozark, and put a few drops on the other two, hoping to stem the tide of infestation until I can get more Frontline at work tomorrow.

I also realized I can’t take Ozark to work tomorrow while he’s a walking flea-circus. The owner of Ozark’s puppy, Murphy, would go batshit insane. For a veterinarian, she’s unusually upset by fleas.


Scene we will not witness tomorrow. Sorry, boys!

I went outside and quickly discovered the deceased bunny between the deck and the steps. He was missing large portions of fur. And skin. His eyes looked sad. I watched to make sure there was no blinking.

There was not.

He’s not only merely dead, he’s really most sincerely dead. (Read that part using your Singing Munchkin voice.)

I got a shovel and transported Poor Dead Bunny, who was in full rigor mortis, to his not-quite-final resting place. I am glad tomorrow is trash day.

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Ozark, deceptively innocent-looking bunny-muncher

Ozark has spent an unusual (for him) amount of time out in the yard today, lying in wait. He is hopeful that a search party consisting of the Poor Dead Bunny’s friends and family will show up. He is anticipating another velveteen chew toy.

Given the flea situation, I’m content to let him stay out there a while.

 

Puppy Milestones

This isn’t a real post, exactly. But today mark my boys’ birth-month-dates, or something like that.

Oliver was born October 18, 2016, so today he is 16 months old…

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As a standard poodle, he’ll probably grow a bit more, until he’s about two years old. Right now, he’s 57 pounds of precious poodly fluff.

Mozzie was born August 18, 2016, so today he is 18 months old. A year and a half. And as you can see, if he gets any more adorable, his cuteness will take over the world.

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After having goldens who ranged from 75-120 pounds (the 120-pounder was a “singleton” puppy, a one-puppy litter, hence the enormousness), he seems tiny to me at 62 pounds, but he packs extra truckloads of charm into every pound. Also a good bit of neurosis.

These boys are the lights of my life, and I don’t know what I’d do without them! Happy anniversary-month-day-of-your-birth-thing, puppernutters!

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Lazy-Mom Dog Treats

I’m extremely picky about what I feed my dogs. I worked in vet clinics for many years, and managed a holistic practice the last five years of my career. One of my specialties was canine nutrition. I keep Mozzie and Oliver–and every other dog I’ve had for the past dozen-plus years–on a diet of half grain-free kibble and half raw food.

But finding good grain-free treats is tough. They’re also very expensive. Dog-parents have to balance budget versus the time it takes to make your own treats, and recipes are also an issue. Most have whole wheat flour or other grains in them, and others might be grain-free but are messy, smelly, and a huge hassle.

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Did you say TREATS?

I try to be a conscientious dog-mom, but I’m also extraordinarily lazy. If it involves a lot of ingredients and prep and clean-up, forget it. But I’ve found the perfect solution. Two ingredients, and totally healthy!

Here you go…

  • One pound RAW ground turkey
  • One RAW sweet potato

That’s it.

Chop the sweet potato into chunks. Toss it in the food processor and chop it to smithereens while the twitchy Mozzie flees the room. Add the ground turkey and process until combined. If you need Mozzie, he’s hiding in the back hall.

Make into patties an inch or two in diameter in the dehydrator, ignoring the poodle at your feet hoping you forget he’s there, trip over him, and drop the raw treat mixture. I dehydrate on 145 degrees for 5-6 hours until they’re crispy and break easily, with maybe a bit of chewiness in the middle.

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Turkey and sweet potato treats

I store in the fridge and keep a few on the counter and break a bit off to give the boys when they come in from outside.

You can switch it up a little also. I tried ground beef, but it dries too oily, so I stick with turkey, but today I made a batch with green beans and blueberries instead of sweet potato. It was a lot more moist and squishy than the sweet potato, but they came out well. They took a half hour or so longer in the dehydrator.

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Turkey, green bean, and blueberry treats

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you could also do in the oven, on the lowest setting. I’ve never done this, but you probably better keep an eye on them and check them. Maybe turn them after a couple of hours.

And that’s all there is to it! A whole bag of treats lasts me 7-10 days and costs only a few dollars, as opposed to a small bag from the store costing $8-12, depending on brand and size.

You can also simply cut chicken breast or tenderloins into strips and dry them, or beef liver. These make great training treats.

Do you have favorite, easy, low-hassle dog treat recipes? Please share!

The Dog’s Dinner

The most important decision we make for our pets’ health is what we feed them. If you watch the news or frequent social media, it seems every week there is a new pet food recall. No brand is exempt. Even top-quality foods can receive a tainted ingredient from a supplier, or there could be an error in processing, or something can happen while a shipment is being transported or stored which allows heat or moisture to cause food to spoil.

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The latest story involves several brands of foods manufactured by companies owned by Smucker’s, including Ol’ Roy, Kibbes & Bits, and Gravy Train. Testing has found pentobarbital in the products…the drug used to euthanize animals. While the levels aren’t high enough to be lethal, it’s not permitted in any amount, for obvious reasons.

There are cries of “how is this getting into our pets’ food in the first place?” If you feed these brands, and if you’ve ever looked at the labels, you shouldn’t be surprised. This is less about “OMG, there’s a toxic chemical in Fluffy’s num-nums” and more about “I bought the cheapest food on the market which is made of crap ingredients.”

Manufacturers will screech with indignation if you suggest they use protein sources contaminated with high levels of antibiotics, steroids, or delicious, delicious pentobarbital. Sure, technically, they don’t knowingly buy euthanized kittens in a back alley and toss them in the processing vats. “No, we absolutely do not use euthanized animals in our food. That would be very, very wrong. Must be the supplier. We had no idea.” (Yes, they did.) This is plausible deniability.

So, how does it get in there? I remember years ago, a local rendering plant had a broken boiler. It took a long time to repair, and bodies of animals awaiting processing were piling up outside the building. Photos clearly showed livestock and roadkill–and even the carcasses of domestic animals.

High quality foods use proteins from facilities designed to process animals in clean, safe conditions, and in some cases, even meeting human-grade food processing standards. An ingredient list would show beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, or other named, single-source items on the label, and if you ask, they should be able to tell you the specific source.

Let’s look at the ingredients in Ol’ Roy dog food.

Ol Roy Ingredients

There are so many barf-worthy ingredients, I barely know where to begin, but let’s look at the proteins first.

Meat and bone meal is the second ingredient. Okay, Roy, define “meat.” Any time you see this, or the fifth ingredient here, “animal fat,” or “animal by-product meal,” that’s a huge red flag. Those non-specific proteins are exactly the sort that come from these rendering and processing plants, where animals of all sorts are tossed in the vat and boiled, extruded, dried, and shipped off to substandard food manufacturers.

Think about what kinds of animals would end up in those facilities. Quality food producers, whether for humans or pets, harvest healthy animals and process them in sanitary conditions. In a rendering plant, producing these generic protein sources, you’ll find what’s known as the 4 Ds–Dead, Dying, Diseased, or Disabled. Awesome, right?

You don’t euthanize healthy animals. For pentobarbital to be in pet food, you don’t have to think very hard to realize a dying or diseased animal, which needed to be “put out of its misery,” is in that bag or can. Is that what you want to feed your animal companion?

“Natural flavor” is usually some sort of blood slurry, from any and every animal being processed. Yummy!

This food also contains BHA as a preservative. The primary use for this chemical is as a preservative in makeup and moisturizers, as well as in low-quality food. It is a suspected endocrine disruptor and possible carcinogen.

Ground yellow corn is the first ingredient. Hey, it’s cheap, so they can make a low-cost food. There’s also corn gluten meal (when you need even more corn and only have odds and ends left) and brewer’s rice. Brewer’s rice sounds good, right? Nope. It’s the tiny milled fragments left over when whole grain rice is processed. Basically, it’s the sweepings off the floor.

I’m not anti-kibble. It’s an economical, convenient option for most pet-owners. I feed my dogs half grain-free kibble and half raw food, and have for years.

Why grain-free? Dogs and cats are not built to digest or metabolize grain-based carbohydrates. Rather than being utilized to build a healthy body, most of it ends up on the other end of the pooper-scooper. If a wild canine gets grain, it’s typically from the digestive tract of a prey animal, and already partially digested. If a coyote invades your farm, it’s going to eat your chickens or goats, not graze in your corn or wheat field.

Grains are also a key source of allergens in pets. If Snoopy has chronic itchy skin, hot spots, anal gland problems, or ear infections, it very well might be a food allergy, and the source is much more likely to be a grain than a protein. So I don’t feed my dogs any grains, ever, not even in treats.

Ol’ Roy also has chemical color additives, added salt, soy (another allergy trigger for many dogs) and so many things I can’t pronounce that it boggles the mind. If you’re feeding this, your dog is better off if you simply feed him your leftovers, excluding things that are harmful to dogs, such as onions.

I get it. Quality pet food is expensive. Not everyone can afford $70 a bag. I’ve found Earthborn Holistic is an economical, good-quality, grain-free brand, and there are many more from which to choose these days. It’s an investment in your pet’s health. Spending a little more for food will save you a lot more in veterinary expenses down the road.

Sadly, in most cases, you have to do the homework. Veterinarians are given very little education on pet nutrition in school, and what they do receive is sponsored by large pet food manufacturers. Unless your vet has taken the initiative to educate themselves, they don’t know much more than the average pet owner about pet food.

We all have specific needs, a budget, and time constraints. But don’t look at the bouncy puppies on the pet food commercials, or look at the AAFCO certification on the bag (which means absolutely nothing beyond your dog won’t starve to death), or blindly accept what your vet tells you to feed. Learn to read labels. Learn what the ingredients mean. Subscribe to Whole Dog Journal.

It’s unfortunate, but the burden of deciding what to feed your pets rests solely on your shoulders. You (probably) wouldn’t feed your child a diet of nothing but generic mac and cheese and bologna, because while they wouldn’t starve to death, they certainly wouldn’t be very healthy, so don’t feed the animal equivalent to your pet.