June 30, 2014

Why My Dogs Eat Better Than I Do

As soon as my paycheck hit my bank this week I placed orders to Sit Stay and The Honest Kitchen and made a quick trip to my local Kriser's. Then I went grocery shopping for myself. That's how it goes at my house, where the dogs rule. If I get into a pinch, their diet doesn't change, but mine might. I'm happy to bargain shop and eat economically while my dogs remain on their high-quality, extremely varied rotation diet. They get raw dehydrated for breakfast, kibble and canned food for dinner, supplemented with camelina, salmon or coconut oil, green tripe and Organic Pet Superfood along with extras like fresh fruit and vegetables. 

I try to eat healthy, too - I am predominantly vegetarian and I buy local and organic as much as possible. I love visiting the farmers markets in the summertime. I also don't mind compromising if I have to in order for my dogs to have the best. I carefully research all of my dog food choices and think it's important that they enjoy their meals.

I have seen first-hand the results that a quality diet can have on a dog's health: when Boca arrived from The Bahamas, she had some skin issues which have entirely disappeared - no more dry patches, hot spots or dull hair. Her coat is splendidly shiny and her itchiness has subsided. It is so rewarding to see my feeding efforts make a difference.

It is said that their shorter lifespans are dogs' only fault, and if I can extend that with better nutrition, I absolutely will. I shop less for myself these days, but take great joy in stocking the dog pantry and picking out new flavors or varieties of food for them, usually adding treats or a toy to the order for some extra fun. I love the daily ritual of meal preparation with them watching bright-eyed as I mix up their breakfast and dinner. Ruby and Boca are my family, and the kitchen is a wonderful place to show my love.

June 27, 2014

Five Durable Dog Toys

We are pretty serious about toy safety around here, ever since an obstruction scare when Ruby ate part of a plush toy. Ruby and Boca love to play, love to chew, and Ruby delights in playing keep-away and down-the-hatch with any small morsel she manages to detach. This has resulted in a lot of toy-testing at my house, and at this point I have a fairly good idea of what works for us. I thought I would share my top five favorite tough toys:

Kyjen Hide-A-Squirrel XTreme

This is the most beloved toy and has been for quite a while. My very first blog post was a detailed review of it. Both dogs love to stick their heads in the Kyjen tree stump and fish out the squeaky squirrel. We are currently without a Hide-A-Squirrel because I will pitch toys with tears or pieces missing, but I think based on the amount of "love" this toy gets, two in ten months is not so bad.

West Paw Designs Zogoflex

We have two Hurleys and a Bumi from this West Paw Designs line, and I'm tempted to say they are indestructible as far as my dogs are concerned. They don't have a mark on them, they are made of non-toxic material. The girls play with the Hurleys, which are a nice size and shape for fetching, daily, and they play tug together with the Bumi.

Planet Dog Snowball

Planet Dog makes a great many fun toys, including balls shaped like vegetables, lumps of coal and this snowball. They all have a minty flavor and a soft texture, as well as a "treat spot" for turning them into treat-dispensing toys. This white ball is on Ruby's frequent fetcher list, and has almost no signs of wear except for the faded lettering.

Cycle Dog 3-Play Dino

Cycle Dog toys are made from recycled materials, and they are a fairly new, earth-friendly company. The dino toy is in high demand at my house, with Ruby and Boca vying for it regularly. It has a funny and unusual squeak, and is another toy that can double as a treat-dispenser since its belly is hollow. They have managed to amputate all of the dino's limbs, so it is not entirely chew-proof, but I think some of the other creatures with less pronounced appendages would hold up better.

Kong Genius Mike

Kong is well known for its heavy duty interactive toys, and the Mike is one of the few toys I trust to be down when I'm not home. Its shape makes it an interesting fetch toy as well as a challenging puzzle when filled with treats.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for this review and purchased all of these toys myself. Dogs should always be supervised when introducing new toys and toys should be replaced when damaged. Cycle Dog, Planet Dog, Kong and West Paw Designs toys are made in the U.S.A.

June 25, 2014

WW 6.25.14: Cat Aglow

In celebration of Adopt A Cat Month I thought I would introduce my own!  I adopted Nina from the Larimer Humane Society on the Friday the 13th before Valentine's Day in 1998 and named her for my favorite band at the time, Nine Inch Nails. She is around 17 years old now and the best little kitty that ever was.

Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list...

June 24, 2014

Meant To Be

I was always envious of people who had animals that snuggled and cuddled with one another. Freya and Lasya merely tolerated each other's presence and the few fights they had over the years made me seriously question whether or not I'd have two dogs - especially two females - again. Pamela's lovely post at Something Wagging This Way Comes yesterday reminded me that while generalizations can be backed up by examples, so can exceptions. 

It's no secret that I hand-picked Boca out of a dozen other dogs that were ear-marked by Ruby's rescue group for hopeful air-lift to Colorado, but had fully intended to foster her and adopt her out.  She caught my attention because of her coloration, smaller size than the typical potcake, and her irresistible smile. None of those things had any bearing or any prediction of how she and Ruby would get along, matching coats or not. I have heard that choosing a second dog that is smaller, younger, and the opposite sex of your existing dog puts the odds in favor of harmony, and Boca was bigger, older and same sex. I believe that due to their individual natures, Ruby's willingness and enthusiasm for sharing her home, beds and toys and Boca's endless patience and easygoing gentleness, it was a match made in heaven. 

Boca is a great role model, and Ruby tends to follow her lead for their daily routines. A little sleepy wrestling before breakfast, sunbathing for most of the late morning and afternoon, a wild rumpus before their evening walk, chewing time before bed. Ruby's life is so much richer with Boca in the picture, and I find myself wondering what we ever did without her. Their interactions are endearing and adorable, and Boca's big sister attitude and firm but fair corrections when Ruby crosses the line are teaching me even more about dog behavior.

It's just incredible to me that these two gingery dogs from different countries - one who found herself on death row in an overcrowded shelter in the southern United States when she was less than a year old, and one who spent her early life sick and starving on the street and the past year in a tropical shelter that resembles a dog park - could adjust so easily to life in a home, coexist so perfectly and have so much love to give every day. These girls are such a gift: to each other, and most of all to me.

June 23, 2014

My Bahamian Dog Has A Florida Spot

Florida spot, tropical keratopathy
The camera did not pick up the entire spot, but you can see the cloudy star-shaped area under her pupil. 

I took the ginger sisters to the vet on Saturday for wellness exams and their DHPP (distemper-parvo) vaccines. Boca also got an oral bordetella vaccine since it is a requirement for the obedience class we have registered for in July. Next week they will get their rabies vaccines, and Boca will have her dental work (cleaning and a bad tooth extracted). I prefer to split the vaccines up if possible, and after this year they will be on a staggered 3-year schedule for DHPP and rabies. 

After I had scheduled the wellness appointment a few weeks ago, I noticed a spot of opacity in Boca's right eye, like a smudge on a window. I Googled a few things and tried not to worry about it until I could point it out to our vet, since it didn't seem to be changing or causing her any discomfort or vision impairment. 

The vet had a look and determined that it is most likely a "Florida spot" or tropical keratopathy, something seen only in dogs from the southeastern U.S. and tropical and sub-tropical climates. Since Boca came from The Bahamas, this diagnosis makes sense. There are no other symptoms and the condition does not respond to treatment, so the vet said at this point the condition is just cosmetic, which was great news. 

There is not much information to be found online about Florida spots, and what I did find was in line with what the vet said: no other complications, no treatment. There is one published research paper from a study done on dogs and cats in Sao Paolo, Brazil supposing that it is caused by a mycobacterial infection. The Wikipedia article suggests that fire ant stings are a possible cause. True to her carefree and optimistic nature, Boca seems untroubled by the smudge on her eye, and continues to view life through her rose-colored doggie goggles.

Update: As of Boca's eye issues in 2015, the veterinary ophthalmologists do not believe Boca has Florida Spots.

June 19, 2014

Creative Dog Toy Storage

Although Ruby is only allowed plush and rope toys under strict supervision, between subscription boxes and giveaways, we've still amassed quite a collection. They are still nice to have now that Boca has joined the family, because when I play tug with Ruby I toss a plush over the dog gate for Boca to play with. So far she has not demonstrated the appetite for stuffing that Ruby has. These tugs and stuffies used to reside in "toy jail," - Ruby's seldom-used crate - but I decided that was a waste of a perfectly good dog kennel, and that I'd like to make it available for use if I needed to separate the dogs or work with them one on one. 

I already had this vinyl shoe holder behind the door of my downstairs coat closet, and have been using it for hats, gloves and scarves. I consolidated the winter items and made room for the dog toys in the bottom two rows. I love how accessible and organized they are now! I'm waiting for Ruby to make the connection and start pawing at the door when she wants to play tug. 

Since I'm on the topic of toys and games, I want to share how proud I am of Little Rubes that her bravery for catching the ball mid-air has increased immensely thanks to the red Sprong ball visible in the upper right hand pocket. We received this ball in one of the subscription boxes, and while it is quite delicate and would not hold up to the slightest amount of chewing, it is soft and lightweight making it perfect for catch! Ruby has gotten so much better about releasing the ball to my hand, too. 

Where do you keep your dog toys?

June 18, 2014

WW 6.18.14: Pretty Happy

Ruby sitting pretty on the patio

Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list...

June 17, 2014

A Naked Dog and Lessons Learned

This lovely sun-dappled shot was taken after a short morning hike that turned briefly into an educational and hair-raising adventure. Spoiler alert: everyone was okay! I spent the weekend with my aunt and grandmother and attended a benefit for Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue. On my way home I stopped off at an open space area that I discovered when I took Ruby hiking for her birthday in October. I call it "Hidden Gem" because we are almost guaranteed to have the place to ourselves, and it's such a lovely dose of nature not far from the main road. A path traverses through a meadow, down a marshy ravine and up onto a piney hillside. The wildflowers were in bloom due to an unusually rainy spell, and the ginger sisters were happy to follow their noses through the yucca. Ruby stopped to do some terrier excavation while Boca supervised.

 As we made our way through the tall grass, I would intermittently say "Go Run!" and dash after the girls as they raced down the trail. We did this several times without incident. The next time, Ruby tore ahead and Boca lagged behind and crossed in front of me. I knew that I was going down before I hit the ground, catapulting (dogapulting?) over Boca and landing on my hands and knees. I either recovered Ruby's leash automatically or kept hold of it, but when I looked behind me to make sure Boca was okay since I'd practically fallen on top of her, I saw her leash attached to...an empty harness. Naked Boca grinned up at me and gamboled off into the grass.

"Don't panic..." I told myself as I brushed off my skinned knee. Remember that Boca has only been with me for about a month and a half, and that I've focused mainly on letting her settle in with not a lot of training. I called her and she came near me, but realizing the fun of being free, leapt away and continued bouncing around the meadow. I unclipped her leash from her harness and slipped the end through the handle, making a loop. I didn't want to chase or grab her, especially because she seemed a little wary of me after being such a klutz, so I tried sitting down on the ground and ignoring her. She stayed close, but was still enjoying her great escape. I got up and kept moving, running and calling her every now and then to make it into a game. She would follow and then wander off to smell something. While Boca was engaged in sniffing the ground I was able to slip it over her head and take perhaps my first deep breath of the last few moments! 

I got Boca back in her gear and we continued our walk with no more surprises, but the event has definitely prompted me to make some changes. First, work on the dogs' recall. I know it is the single most important thing to teach your dog and yet I don't practice it nearly enough. Although she's been with me for less time, I am still thankful that it was Boca that escaped and not Ruby. Boca is calmer and less apt to take off after something, and Ruby thinks that "Catch Me If You Can" is the best game ever. From now on the girls will be wearing collars as well as harnesses. Boca's harness did not come unclipped and I'm still not sure how it came off  - I think that I pulled it over her head as I was falling. I had no idea that the step-in style was so escapable. While both dogs are micro-chipped, let's face it - not everyone knows to get a lost dog scanned, and that entails a trip to a vet's office or an animal shelter instead of just a simple phone call. I've gotten out of the habit of carrying treats with me and that is something I want to change as well. You just never know when a quick walk could go awry. I'm so happy that this story turned into nothing more than some new goals and habit changes and a post for Ruby Tuesday about that time my new rescue dog got loose.

June 13, 2014

Ruby Reviews: The Pet's Tech LED Collar and Leash

The Pet's Tech sent us an LED lighted collar and leash for review. Boca got to take her turn as official product reviewer this time around since the small collar was still a bit big for Ruby. In the wintertime, my weekday dog walks are mostly in the dark, so a product like this will be very useful to increase our visibility on the dark streets and sidewalks. 

The Pet's Tech offers the leashes and collars in a variety of fun colors that are even flashier once they are lit up. They have a 150 hour rechargeable battery life. My one issue with the collar is that the adjustable side is not back-stitched (the end can come through the buckle) which is not secure enough for me to consider using alone. Since I walk my dogs with harnesses, the collar can simply be used as a safety accessory, but I would not clip a leash directly to it. These leashes and collars are economically priced and the materials are in line with the price point. 

These photos are not the best since they were taken in low light, but you can see just how bright the collar is. It is easy to turn on and off and has three illumination options, changed with the little button on the battery pack: steady, slow flash and fast flash. The flashing is definitely attention-getting but for my own eyes' sake I prefer the steady glow. 

I recommend The Pet's Tech LED lighted collar to anyone looking for an affordable way to keep their dog safe for nighttime walking (or attending any doggie dance parties). 

DISCLAIMER: I was provided an LED leash and collar from The Pet's Tech in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and I will not publish reviews for a product I will not use myself in the day to day life of my pets. 

June 10, 2014

How Many Nicknames Does Your Dog Have?

I love animal names. I love thinking them up, offering ideas to others, and hearing the stories behind them. If I could make a career out of being a professional animal namer, I would. I like names that nod to an animal's breed or origin (place names are a particular favorite) and those from mythology and literature (like Abby's Pyrrha and Jessica's Silas!). I have a special fondness for unusual names, so I find it funny that Ruby comes in at number 24 in the top 100 female dog names. One of my very favorite things about animal titles is how they evolve over time into a variety of nicknames.  My mother had a horse named Taffy who we called "Wiggins." My elkhound Freya was more often known as "Rella" or "Kiddo."


Having been with me for almost a year now, Ruby has quite a collection of monikers, not the least of which inspired this blog's title.  Boca's name itself was quite a dilemma - I had a whole list and discarded many because I liked them too much and thought it might make it harder to adopt her out. Well...we all know how effective that was! My grandmother, who insisted that Boca stay in the family, can't remember her name and calls her alternatively Omar (I have no idea) and Mocha. I must say, though, that I'm tickled by her first official nickname, which came about because of the twin red marks on her neck that remind this recovering Goth of a vampire bite. The Chupacabra ("goat sucker") is a sort of Latin American vampire, and was referenced in an episode of one of my favorite television shows of all time, The X-Files. I'm sure Boca will pick up even more sobriquets along the way!

What are some of your dog's nicknames and how did they come about?

June 9, 2014

All Ginger Dogs All the Time

Are you following Ruby and Boca on Instagram? Do you want to?

They can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

June 6, 2014

Five Things I Love About Having Two Dogs

They entertain each other.
This is probably the greatest benefit to becoming a two-dog household again, especially for a high-energy dog like Ruby. The ginger sisters lay in the morning sun together while I'm fixing their breakfast and wrestle on the bed while I'm getting ready for work. I am able to be more productive in the evenings during the week, since the dogs play together for much of the night. 

Learning more about dog behavior by watching them interact. 
It's incredible to see the relationship develop between Ruby and Boca, particularly the way that Ruby defers to her. Boca is exceedingly gentle and patient, perhaps due to her experience as a young mother. Ruby is so obviously happier overall and enjoys having a big sister to look up to and emulate and I adore seeing more of Boca's personality emerge every day.

Trying out my training skills with a new dog. 
Ruby's brilliance has made some aspects of training a piece of cake, namely teaching new behaviors. It's been really fun for me to see how what I've learned with Ruby translates to Boca. She has been a fairly quick study so far, and I'm excited to think up some two-dog tricks to work on. I also look forward to doing some things with Boca that aren't possible with Ruby due to her reactivity, such as trips to the farmers' market or dog-friendly businesses.

Mealtime is easier.
Ruby has been a historically picky eater, but now that Boca has been integrated into our feeding routines, the dog food juggle has gone more smoothly. The dogs eat on either side of my attached kitchen island, and their bowls are licked clean every time. I'm thrilled that this has enabled me to make the switch entirely to dehydrated mixes for breakfasts, as previously Ruby had been hit or miss with The Honest Kitchen. 

Double the snuggles. 
Just look at them - need I say more? 


June 4, 2014

Art Dog

My aunt has an impressive collections of paintings in her home, making for the perfect potcake portrait backdrop.

This is a Blog Hop Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list...

June 3, 2014

Two's Company

I couldn't miss another Ruby Tuesday, and hope to be posting regularly again. I've had a hard few weeks, and I can't help but think that Boca came to us from the islands just in time. She's been with me for just a little over a month and has fit into life so seamlessly that I can't believe I considered adopting her out for even one moment. She is the perfect big sister, the most mellow companion, and doubles the joy that is added to daily routines. Walks are more fun, playtime is a riot, and I spend serene evenings on the loveseat book-ended by warm ginger and white bodies. We've had several weekend trips to my aunt's and friend's house in the Colorado Springs area, and Boca integrates into both groups of dogs with a calm and playful confidence. At home she is happiest napping in the sun, even as our temperatures climb into the upper 80s she chooses to sprawl out on the patio concrete in the direct radiance, a true tropical girl. 

I have been working on a few commands with Boca - she has picked up "sit," "paw" and "down," and it's adorable to have the dogs running through them in tandem. Like the big sister she is, if she wants the toy that Ruby has, she bounds up to her and takes it, and Ruby always defers. They sometimes sleep with their heads nestled together and their paws intertwined, or both crushed together in one bolster bed. Boca is pure sweetness: every morning she belly-crawls over the bed with her mouth open blissfully as if she can hardly believe she woke up in this wonderful place called home again. It reminds me to be grateful for the little things. We should all be filled with such regular delight!


Boca arrived with severe infections in both ears, but with the careful attention of the fantastic vet associated with the rescue group (who I am switching over to because she is just that great) and two rounds of medication, they have cleared up miraculously. It is recommended that I proactively clean her ears thoroughly at least once a week in case it is a chronic condition. She also has a tooth that will probably need to be pulled and I have an appointment for vaccinations for both girls later in the month. Boca will have her pre-dental bloodwork at that time and the cleaning/extraction scheduled soon after. I've also noticed a tiny opacity in her right eye - I'm somewhat concerned but will see what the vet has to say and take each thing in stride. Her skin and coat have improved tenfold, which I owe at least in part to a quality diet and supplementation with coconut oil and Organic Pet Superfood

Mealtimes are easy: I know from past experience that some picky eaters are cured by the presence of another dog and Ruby is no exception. For the most part they are getting Honest Kitchen Love with added green beef tripe for breakfast, and Fromm kibble with an Addiction canned topper for dinner. Boca is not so far a fan of fruits and vegetables like Ruby is, but loves any sort of biscuit or training treat. Elder kitty has not suffered with this addition: although Ruby can still be obnoxious with her, Boca treats her very politely. This week I've been transitioning to leaving the girls in the kitchen area for the afternoons while I'm at work. I was able to do some shorter trials while on vacation last week, and it went well. Boca will spend the mornings in her crate and the second half of the day in the kitchen with Ruby. All in all I simply adore having two dogs again. The house feels more full, Ruby is happier and more enriched, and Boca is so clearly exactly where she belongs.