July 31, 2015

Ruby Reviews: The Honest Kitchen Sparkle Shampoo Bar

This doesn't smell like something to eat...

It's no secret that we're huge fans of The Honest Kitchen here at Rubicon Days. The Ginger Sisters eat their human-grade, dehydrated food for breakfast every day, and I regularly give them Beams, Quickies, Nudges and Smooches as treats. They use simple, all-natural ingredients and I trust that the company cares about my animals. I was therefore very excited to learn that The Honest Kitchen was branching out into dog shampoo with their new Sparkle Shampoo Bars

I don't remember "shampoo tester" being part of my contract...

The Ginger Sisters love being product testers when it comes to treats, and while they were long overdue for baths anyway, they did not share in my enthusiasm about trying the Sparkle Bar. I chose the apple cider vinegar bar for its simplicity. It has the fewest ingredients (Apple Cider Vinegar, Goat’s Milk, Saponified Oils of: Coconut, Karanja; Castor oil), and even though neither Ruby or Boca have especially sensitive skin, I know that vinegar is a natural deodorizer. I liked the fact that there were no superfluous fragrances. 

Good girl, Ruby!

The apple cider vinegar Sparkle Bar is definitely no-frills. It is a naturally colored soap-like bar that fits in the palm of your hand. It did not smell bad, but it isn't something you would sniff at repeatedly on purpose. This bar is all practicality, and I liked that about it. I coaxed the Ginger Sisters into the bathroom for their baths (Ruby was not falling for the cheese bribery and I ended up having to put her leash on and leading her in) and gave the Sparkle Bar a test lather. 

I was told there would be cheese.

I was very pleased with how many suds the Sparkle Bar produced, and also how easy it was to lather up the dogs' coats wherever I wanted, including their chests and bellies. It's awkward sometimes to try and juggle holding the dog and getting the right amount of shampoo out of the bottle. I again appreciated the lack of added fragrance, because I think the dogs can find them off-putting. Their idea of good-smelling is, after all, much different from ours, judging by the disgusting things they would like to anoint themselves with, such as Eau de Worm Mort. 

Silly little monkey. 

I can tell that the bar will last a long time (according to the product information, about 18 baths for a 30 pound dog) so I think it's a good value. I am interested in trying the two other varieties as well. The Ginger Sisters were happy to have their baths behind them for another couple of months. Ruby adores the drying-off part and wiggles around under the towel being goofy. Then came the best part of all: post-bath zoomies

The girls' coats have stayed clean, shiny and soft all week following their baths. The bar left virtually no scent behind - nothing fake, flowery or doggy. Ruby's fur just has that subtle, warm fur scent and Boca has been shedding significantly less, a difference that my dad even remarked upon. I let the bar dry out in a soap dish and then put it back in the box until the next use. I had a dog shampoo that I really liked previously but I think The Honest Kitchen Sparkle Bar is my new favorite. 

Disclaimer: I was provided a Sparkle Shampoo Bar from The Honest Kitchen in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and I only publish reviews for products I feel comfortable using in the day to day life of my pets.

July 29, 2015

Sisters On a Summer Evening

two dogs in a doorway
Watching Ruby and Boca interact is one of my favorite parts of life with dogs.

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July 26, 2015

Dog By Dog: Puppy Mills and The Blackfish Effect

Christopher Grimes Dog by Dog Puppy Mills Mayan Theater
With Christopher E. Grimes, the director of Dog by Dog at the Mayan Theater in Denver, CO 

On Thursday night I attended the premiere of Dog by Dog, a documentary that seeks to reach the general public with information about the reality of puppy mills and the politics and pocketbooks that continue to support them. It was incredibly uplifting to see the support the documentary received in the local animal welfare community. Hosted by Colorado Citizens for Canine Welfare and attended by famous football players and state representatives, the turnout in my favorite historic theater in Denver warmed this advocate's heart.

While it had extremely emotional moments (and in fact I saw most men in the theater wiping their eyes at the end), this is not a film filled with graphic footage of abuse. The shots of the empty cages and the tough guy cradling a filthy rescued puppy against his chest are enough. The real impact of the documentary lies in its informed interviews and shocking statistics, as well as exposure of the ways in which corporate agribusiness and the AKC fight against legislation meant to improve conditions for commercially bred dogs. The film was well-researched and effectively delivered, including interviews with rescue volunteers, politicians and heads of animal welfare organizations.

I already knew much of the information presented, but what I was most surprised by was the widespread lack of knowledge. One of the women interviewed sincerely believed that the puppy she bought online was coming from a loving family home where the dogs were frolicking in fields of flowers. This could not be further from the truth - internet retailers with payment plans and immediate shipment are more than likely puppy mills. According to the film, between two and four million puppies are born in puppy mills every year, to parents who will never know grass beneath their paws, a kind hand on their head or even shelter from the elements.

For my own reasons, I will probably always adopt from rescue. I love potcakes and podencos, and don't have any purpose for my dogs outside of companionship; however, I understand the purpose-bred dog and the love of purebreds, and the movie does, too - it does not vilify all breeders. During the panel discussion after the film, one of the audience members asked why the director and filmmakers didn't take a stand against all dog breeding and the answer was that this was simply not realistic, too polarizing, and essentially shooting themselves in the foot when rescue groups and reputable breeders can and should be a united front against large, profit-driven commercial puppy mills.

The most inspiring part of Dog by Dog - much needed after the discouraging illustration of just how deeply embedded the politics and bureaucracy surrounding legislation of puppy mills are - was the story of Mindi Callison Long, founder of Bailing Out Benji. Since 2011, Mindi has been educating and organizing peaceful pet store protests in her hometown, rain or shine. For a while now I have been considering joining a local protest group, and I think this was exactly the push I needed to get my hands on a sign and my feet on the pavement. If any one of us can get just one person to turn around at the door of a pet store and head to their local shelter instead, or to sign up on the waiting list of a reputable breeder instead of clicking "Buy Now" on that cute picture at the commercial breeder website, then we are making a difference, person by person, dog by dog.

The goal of this documentary is to reach beyond those of us who already know about the horrors of puppy mills. The Mayan Theater was filled with people who were already deeply aware and passionately supportive of this cause. While in this early stage of screenings around the country, the ultimate hope is for Dog by Dog to have the same powerful impression as Blackfish did, for the general public's eyes to be opened to the injustice of keeping loving, intelligent dogs in wire cages for their entire lives, churning out puppies to be sold behind facades of storefronts and webpages, dressed in ribbons and lies. If one by one, our family members and co-workers - potential puppy-buyers whose lives don't revolve around dogs as ours do - abandon pet stores and wholesaler websites the way families and sponsors and stockholders have been abandoning Sea World, then we will see the world start to change the way it should. Please spread the word about this important film - follow Dog By Dog on Facebook, share the trailer, and watch for it in a theater near you.

July 22, 2015

Best Ginger Sisters Forever

dogs holding hands paws bff
I asked Ruby to sit next to Boca for a picture and this happened.

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July 21, 2015

Frozen Pumpkin Treats with Goat Milk and Turmeric

frozen dog treats pumpkin goat milk turmeric

I decided to make The Ginger Sisters some frozen treats this weekend, and I wanted them to be healthy. I chose a base of pumpkin and goat milk - two things I almost always have on hand - and wanted to add one more beneficial ingredient. I have read about the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and detoxifying qualities of turmeric and happened to have a jar of it, so I was ready to whip up my creation!

turmeric pumpkin goat milk dog treat

I already know that Ruby and Boca like goat milk - we've used both the dehydrated powder from The Honest Kitchen, and more recently tried the raw goat milk with honey and cinnamon from Answers Pet Food. When using canned pumpkin, always make sure it is 100% pumpkin with no additives or spices. There are several things to know about turmeric. First, it acts as a blood thinner, so you should not give it to a dog leading up to a surgery or on any medications with blood thinning properties. Second, there are various schools of thought on increasing its potency which are addressed in recipes for golden paste. I did not make the paste for these treats, but I did add a small amount of black pepper, which is said to aid its absorption.

goat milk pumpkin turmeric

Knowing that when I use my Freezy Pups tray to make 14 bone-shaped treats, I need approximately one cup of liquid, I formulated the following recipe accordingly. I also wanted each treat to contain no more than the recommended dosage of turmeric for each dog (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day) and erred on the conservative side so please adjust accordingly if you make a different number of treats.
frozen dog treat recipe pumpkin goat milk turmeric

I used my immersion blender to combine the ingredients in a measuring cup. Being familiar with the bright yellow stain that turmeric can leave, I coated my ice-bone tray with coconut oil - another healthy addition - and it did work to repel the staining for the most part. I let the tray sit out on the counter for a few minutes before removing the frozen treats. I have heard that silicon mold trays also work well.

dog with frozen treats

Ruby and Boca were more than ready to taste their home-made healthy treats. Ruby is happy with plain old ice cubes and comes running if she hears one fall on the floor, so take their review with a grain of salt, but both dogs enjoyed the frozen creations, finishing them just as quickly as their other "pupsicles" that I've made. Since we're going through this summer without air conditioning, I like to have refreshing treats on hand for my sweet girls. This is something I will probably make regularly! 

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist, I'm simply sharing things I've picked up along the path of determining what works for my dogs. Please do your own research before adding supplements to your dog's diet. 

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July 20, 2015

Ruby Reads: Stable Relation by Anna Blake

dogs horses memoir
The dog that should be in this picture is laying underneath my lounge chair.

Yes, this is a dog blog. Yes, that's a horse on the cover. Yes, it's partly about horses. It's also about dogs, ducks, donkeys, cats, goats, llamas, letting go of the past and making your own way. This memoir was written by a dear friend of mine, and ever since I started reading it in rough draft form last spring, she's been encouraging me to be honest, insisting that she can take it. I have no doubt this strong, independent woman can handle my critical Capricorn book snobbery, but the truth is...I just love this book. I loved its earliest incarnation, shipped to me as loose letter-sized pages in a box and read in a single day, partly over pizza and a beer on Old South Pearl Street in Denver where I later learned Anna just happened to have had her jewelry gallery many years before she left city life in the dust of the open eastern Colorado prairie, partly at home with Ruby nestled in the crook of my knees on the sofa.

I read that first draft around the same time I read Wild, about Cheryl Strayed's one thousand mile tribute to her mother and search for her self worth. As I read Stable Relation for the third time, in its perfectly polished, striking-covered state, and again followed Anna's now comfortingly familiar but no less dramatic trail to the barn, I realized that the two books had similarly given me a kind of permission to go my own way. To surround myself with what speaks to me, whether in words or tail wags. Just like the book, my relationship with Anna is rooted in horses - she began as my riding instructor - but we discovered more in common as we discussed dogs, family, love, loss...the universal themes of life. She was a great support to me in the difficult decision to sell my young horse, the early challenges of adopting Ruby and a subtle cheerleader for failing Boca's fostering. We had many wonderful conversations over tea, muck buckets and slobbery dogs. She has hauled my horses - something that makes me almost sick with worry - from barn to barn over the past few years and last year Coro spent his summer with her, the perfect excuse for more visiting. So, you could say that I'm biased, but remember that I'm also a self-proclaimed book snob. I read around fifty books a year, mainly contemporary literary fiction, travel, memoir and informative nonfiction. Every room of my house is filled with books and I obsessively categorize my Goodreads shelves. I'm stingy with my star-ratings, but Stable Relation earns every last one of the five stars. 

From the dedication to the final sentence, I was captivated and inspired. In "Full Moon Over Broken Glass," I feel as if I'm right there on the porch, exhausted from the first day of work much harder than imagined in that first place of your very own. In "Dogs to the Rescue" we are introduced to a timid rescued doberman and a cattle dog who lives up to his lofty name of Hero. Anna's insight into animal personalities (animalities?) is incredible. I really feel like I've met all these characters. "Die Hard on the Prairie" is a rhythmically paced account of a terrifying blizzard in which I shivered along with the horses in their snow-bound stalls. "Wild Texas Wind" describes the grace and sacrifice of an equine mother and the moonlit gift she gave. "Visitors by Bus" is possibly my favorite chapter - one animal after another astonishes with its intuitive compassion for members of an unlikely audience. Anna's dressage partner, Spirit, is the shining white thread that weaves the story together, and you will thrill to their victories and admire their deep relationship of mutual devotion and respect. In the book's final third, we follow Anna with a sense of dread and foreboding into a dark past that shattered her sense of self and belonging, and back into the healing pastures of her herd. 

The very best books are those with pages and passages we can hang on to like our own. For a memoir to succeed, it needs to be relatable, and in this way Anna draws us in. Even when our experiences differ, Anna taps in to the universal bond between the human who is open to listening, and the animal who has wisdom to share. There is something for every animal lover, introvert, and independent mind here. Stable Relation is just the right length - the tidy chapters leave you hungry for more like the very best small-course meal, and by the end you realize the book contains so much more than could really fit between those covers. There is no sentimentality here - Anna describes with gutsy honesty the truth of living on a farm, both as a child and as an adult. You form a relationship with loss almost as if it were an animal of its own - a sneaky beast that finds us in snowstorms, quiet evenings or broad daylight. She manages to perfectly balance gravity with humor, the mood changing moment to moment with the immediacy of a horse's presence. 

I laughed at the antics of goats, ducks and donkeys. I cried at the profound and intimate impact that animals had on Anna's life, just as they have had on anyone who has allowed themselves to love in that wild and wordless way: while they are here, while they are leaving us, and long after they are gone. If you have ever saved your own life, if an animal was ever the one to save you, if you have a complicated family, if you have ever illustrated your own family album with faces you weren't related to by blood, but whose eyes and hearts mirrored your own, if you have ever been lifted by a horse or swept off your feet by a dog...you want to read this book. Anna has been teaching people how to connect with horses for years, and this book is a beautiful story of finding and connecting with your true self.

Follow Anna on Facebook, at her training and writing blogs and at Horse Advocates of Colorado. Stable Relation can be purchased on Amazon, where you can read many more rave reviews, and I am giving away a signed copy to one lucky winner. The winner will be selected randomly on July 27th and will have 48 hours to claim their prize - U.S. residents only, please. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment telling me about an animal that changed the direction of your life or rescued you in some way.

Edited to add:  Thanks to everyone who commented with their wonderful stories of beloved animal family members. The winner of the giveaway is Katie Habgood!

July 17, 2015

Five Things I Learned at Ruby's Annual Wellness Check

cute red and white dog waiting at the vet's office

Ruby did great at her annual wellness check last week. We were able to snag the last appointment of the day and so there were no other dogs coming or going from the office. She took her first ride in her new travel crate and was fairly calm upon arrival instead of all fired up from seeing dogs, cyclists and pedestrians from the car window on the way over. She met the new office cat, Whisper, and greeted her with interest but politely. Whisper even tried to help me hold Ruby's leash while I paid the bill. Here are some results of Little Sister's most recent check-up:

Ruby weighs 18.2 pounds.
It is very important to me to keep my dogs at ideal weights. I was happy to see that Ruby received a body condition score of 5/9, which is perfect...not to brag or anything. People that haven't met Ruby in person are surprised by how small she is - I guess it's true that the camera adds ten pounds! She and Boca often end up looking the same size in pictures, even though Boca is almost twice as big. Ruby is the smallest dog I've ever had but I really love being able to pick her up easily, and she's cute and cuddly without being teeny-tiny.

Ruby does better without me in the room. 
When I lifted Ruby up onto the exam table, she began to struggle and tried to climb up my neck. It was obvious that this wasn't going to work. The vet took her to the back for her parvo shot, heartworm test and physical exam and said she did great. My friend (a mother) said Ruby is like the toddler who throws a fit at daycare until its mother is out of sight. There's that pesky dog/kid comparison again...

The vet described Ruby's temperament as "friendly and outgoing but nervous." 
Ruby is too smart for her own good. When the vet tried to lure her over with treats, Ruby wanted the treats but knew it was a trap. Once her exam was over she was happy and effervescent, even showing off some of her tricks to the vet. I'm glad that even though she is nervous, she recovers quickly, and that even when she is scared she doesn't growl or snap.

Ruby has a tooth that I need to keep an eye on. 
When I pointed out the tooth I wanted the vet to take a look at, she said "I've never seen anything like that..." Leave it to me to have another medical mystery! One of Ruby's big back teeth has a horizontal band running through the middle where the enamel has worn away. It's been this way since I adopted her, noted as something to be addressed in the future on her post-adoption exam. My vet wasn't overly concerned, and since all the rest of her teeth look great it didn't make sense to anesthetize her for x-rays. It's something to watch, and she may need to have it pulled down the road. 

Ruby's microchip scanned correctly.
I was pleasantly surprised when the vet asked if Ruby was micro-chipped and if she could scan her. With all the stories of pets lost around the 4th of July and reunions with owners after being missing for years, this is something that I think should be part of every vet visit, to make sure the chip is functioning properly and the information is up to date. 

After all of the vet visits for Boca's eye this year, it was nice to have one that was straightforward and stress-free, especially with a reactive dog. I was really proud of Ruby's behavior at the vet's office and she definitely deserved the extra treats they gave her. As much as I love my vet, I hope we won't see them again until next summer!

July 15, 2015

Bringing the Spanish Galgo and Podenco Out of Darkness

Love Hope Believe Galgo Rescue
This beautiful galgo photo is available for purchase in LHBGA's online fundraising auction

Warning: This post contains disturbing information about the treatment of galgos and podencos, the hunting dogs of Spain. I understand the inclination to look away, but I am relaying the facts as described by two rescue organizations who have seen the horrors with their own eyes and braved the heartache in order to show kindness, love and compassion to these deserving dogs that have only known cruelty and abandonment. Please read on and be part of the light that reaches these forgotten dogs of the dark perreras. 

For twenty years, I have been enamored with Spain, its people, horses, music and culture. For as long, I dreamed of traveling there and felt some almost preternatural connection, like the ghost of a memory, that told me I belonged there. I could see it in the Baroque curves of the Andalusian horse, feel it in the passionate verse and forceful rhythm of flamenco music. I was lucky enough to turn this dream to reality in the summer of 2013, spending two weeks in Andalucia and experiencing the glorious Feria in Seville, the exquisite Alhambra in Granada, the breathtaking cliff-top town of Ronda. I still think I've never recovered from having to come back from there - it was everything I'd imagined in my most elaborate fantasy and more. I answer unhesitatingly whenever someone asks me where I want to vacation or even live, but I am sad to say that learning about the galgos and podencos has cast a shadow over my love for Spain.

dachshund in Seville
Far luckier than a podenco, a pet dachshund outside Seville's Alcazar, taken on my 2013 trip to Spain.

Since adopting Ruby and Boca, I've taken a special interest in street dogs and international rescue. I'm also admittedly drawn to ginger and white dogs with big, upright, triangular ears, and I've always thought that Ibizan Hounds were particularly stunning. I started following some rescue groups on Facebook that focused on rescuing galgos (Spanish greyhounds) and podencos (agile rabbit hunters). I think you can see why I've fallen for them, but what started as an aesthetic attraction turned into learning about the unspeakable treatment and disposal in shocking numbers by the very hunters they are loyally working for. Their plight has captured me with the piercing stare of those intelligent eyes, and I feel bound to return their gaze. I set up a small monthly donations to both rescue groups featured here, follow their monthly fundraising auctions, and one day hope to do more. I would love to travel to Spain and accompany dogs back on flights and ultimately adopt a podenco of my own. In the meantime, I reached out to rescue groups with some interview questions in order to spread the word about helping these extraordinary dogs. Following are the answers from Rain Jordan with Hound Sanctuary in California (RJ) and Amanda Patenaude (AP) from Love, Hope Believe Galgo Adoption in Illinois, both founded in 2013.

What are the breed characteristics of galgos and podencos?

RJ: A Galgo, aka the Galgo Espanol, which means Spanish Greyhound, looks a lot like a greyhound though it is not in fact a greyhound...there are differences. For example, whereas the greyhound, due largely to its being bred over time for racing, is a sprinter, the galgo is more of an endurance athlete. That is not to say that a galgo won't be a couch potato--who doesn't like a good couch, after all. While there are always exceptions based on the dog's previous life experiences, generally speaking, the galgo is a calm, gentle, relaxed creature. A Podenco Ibicenco, is essentially the Spanish version of an American bred Ibizan hound. Again there are some differences. For example, the Ibicenco is often somewhat smaller than the American Ibizan hound. It gets more complicated when you add the fact that there are many more subtypes of the Podenco Ibicenco, named after the region from which they originate. The podenco is a highly intelligent, sensitive, loving, and loyal creature. While s/he enjoys couch and cuddle time, many podencos can also be quite bouncy, energetic, and athletic.  

AP: We like to tell our adopters that Greyhounds are "book smart" and Galgos are "street smart"!  While a greyhound has lived a very structured life, a Galgo has had to fend for itself. They learn how to "survive" the best they can. Galgos are very clever and learn very quickly how to get what they want.  Their physical appearance differs in more subtle ways. Galgos are smaller in height and their frame is more narrow. they have longer muzzles. Their ears appear larger and set further back. their feet are a bit larger and flatter for better mobility.  Galgos come in different coat types: smooth, rough or wire, and a very few long, wire coat.  Galgos have a bit thicker skin than greyhounds.  
podenco rescue
Skyler, a podenco rescued by Hound Sanctuary, before & after 
Can you explain the specific plight of the galgos and podencos?

RJ: The galgos and podencos of Spain are bred and raised as tools for hunters. They generally live outdoors or in dark, tiny bunkers, in barricaded-in junk heaps, or worse, on a short chain that is anchored to a piece of cement or some other fixed object. Usually there are many of them living together in very close quarters, and sometimes they are also chained to one another as well as to a fixed object. They are provided very little space of their own, little if any food, and little to no human contact. The females are often kept like handmaids, for year after year as breeding machines, then dumped in the perrera ("killing stations"), on the side of the road or worse. It is not uncommon in Spain to find living dogs--adults as well as puppies--tied up and thrown in trash bins. Training methods for these dogs vary, but often include methods such as tying them to the backs of automobiles and forcing them to run behind as the vehicles drive down the roads. If the dogs cannot keep up, they simply fall and may be dragged while their training mates keep running. If a dog is no good at hunting, or so good that s/he takes the fun out of it for the hunters, or eats what s/he catches, that dog will be deemed a defective weapon. Disposal methods may include abandonment on a strange roadside somewhere far away enough from the dog's bunker that the dog cannot find its way back home (these dogs are very smart and very loyal, so will try to find their homes, however unkind their owners might have been). Sometimes in order to make sure that the dog does not find its way home, the abandoner will break the dog's legs, blind it, or enact other horrible physical measures upon the dog to make it impossible for the dog to maneuver.  

AP: Galgos are only a tool to be used and abused by the galgueros(hunters). They are not considered worthy of "family pet" status. If the galgo gets injured or doesn't perform the way they are expected, they are discarded. Many are hung in trees. If they are hung high in the tree, they were considered good hunters and this is a sign of respect. But many are hung by a method called "piano playing". These are the ones that disgraced their galgueros and are hung so their back feet can just touch the ground. Many galgos are set on fire, thrown in abandoned wells, or severely injured to prevent them from hunting on their own. Even more are hit by cars. They are persecuted simply because they are galgos. Thousands of years ago, galgos were only owned by royalty and it was punishable by death for killing a galgo. Now, 40,000 to 50,000 galgos are killed each year.

podencos for adoption
Lottie & Lettie, podencos available for adoption through Hound Sanctuary

Describe a day in the life of rescue: 

RJ: There really is no one sort of typical day here. Sometimes we have fosters in and during those times it's all about working with the dogs, teaching them what living indoors is all about, getting the dogs to feel comfortable if they are nervous or scared, letting the dogs learn what it is to be truly cared for, photographing the dogs, and showing the world why those particular dogs are so deserving of a new life full of safety and love. Other times we are planning for the next dogs to come in, and that is a lot of internet time and communication with our overseas contacts. Sometimes--a lot of the time, actually--we have to focus on raising funds to pay for our rescue missions, which also requires a lot of internet time. 

AP: The galgos of LHBGA are mainly fostered in our home (as we have very few foster homes in our area) where they are taught "House Rules". We work on basic obedience and house breaking. Many of the galgos we adopt out have been on the streets or in a shelter for a year or more. Many are fearful of humans and we work hard to socialize them an help them over come some of their fears. Galgos are very smart and it becomes a learning experience for them and us! They love to play and run around the yard. Galgos are very vocal and physical players. It is not unusual for them to sound like they are fighting, even if there is only one galgo out playing! They growl at and throw their toys, and run, and run, and run some more!! But they are absolutely BIG cuddle bugs!

What do you say to people who wonder why dogs should be brought here from another country when there are homeless dogs in the U.S.? 
RJ: I always appreciate that question because it is an important one to keep answering and letting more people understand.  But let me start by saying that we do also rescue dogs in here in the USA (in fact, we just rescued a little Chihuahua from an Orange County kill shelter), both locally and from other areas of the country.  We also work to help other USA rescues, and to do outreach to reduce the problem of homeless, abandoned, neglected, and abused dogs in the USA, and we will continue to do so as long as there is a need. The Spanish podenco and galgo plight was the catalyst for Hound Sanctuary's founding and will always be one of our projects.  It is, so to speak, my 'heart' project. It spoke to my heart and I had to help. It's that simple. But to answer the question more directly:  Rescuing needy podencos (Ibizan hounds) from Spain and bringing them here for adoption is actually helpful to the USA rescue community.  Hound Sanctuary makes it possible for those people who only want a specific breed [Ibizan Hound] to adopt a needy dog, and we make it possible for people who would love to have this breed, but who only want a rescue dog, to have the dog their heart longs for while still being a good animal-helping citizen by rescuing.  

AP:  I love when people ask this question because it opens the door for a discussion about their plight.  Yes, the US has a very large number of dogs in shelters and I am all for finding the right breed to fit your family and lifestyle. For some people, it is a Galgo. The US has laws against animal abuse that are truly enforced. In Spain, the majority of the ones that are there to enforce the laws are the very people hunting with galgos and podencos. Many times, the authorities turn a blind eye to what they see other hunters do in fear that they will make known the negative side of hunting with galgos. A Galgos life expectancy in Spain is 2-3 years old. If they have a female that is a relatively good hunter they may keep her for breeding. Galgueros will typically keep one male and 4 females through of off season in the hopes of one really good coursing dog. There are at least a hundred thousand registered hunters in Spain. Each hunter with at least 5 galgos. Now each of those galgos is pregnant and may have, let’s say 5 puppies. Can you see the numbers adding up? More than half of these galgos won’t live more than a year or two. There are no true numbers of how many galgos are actually killed each year. It is estimated to be 40 to 50 thousand. However, there are many galgos that just disappear and no one ever knew they existed. Their bones may be found in an abandoned well or wrapped in a bag in a garbage dump. In more rural areas they may be found hanging from trees. So, yes I do agree that there are a lot of dogs in need here in the US, but this particular breed are abused or killed on a daily basis. The Galgos that LHBGA brings to the US hardly makes a dent in the numbers in Spain. Our goal is to raise awareness and help make space for the next galgo to be rescued. Saving one Galgo may not change the world, but for that one Galgo, the world has changed forever!

adoptable galgo
Khaleesi, available for adoption through Love, Hope, Believe Galgo Rescue

What is the process for adopting a galgo or podenco from Spain for someone in the U.S.?

RJ: We recommend that potential adopters first complete the online application on our website. Once their application is approved, we can explore what sort of dog (personality, gender, breed, etc) the adopter is seeking.  Because there are so many podencos and galgos in need of homes, we can usually find what the adopter needs, within reason. The process is application, home check, personal interview/s, and reference checks, then execution of a strict contract that contains safety and care rules, and repossession and liquidated damages clauses for breaches of contract. The minimum adoption donation currently is $500 plus travel kennel cost. This amount comes nowhere close to covering what it costs us to bring one of these sweethearts to its forever home. 

APWhen someone is interested in adopting a galgo, we first have them fill out an application. After reviewing the application we contact references and their veterinarian. We then contact the applicant and discuss the galgos (personalities, requirements of a six foot fence or leash walking, type of galgo they are looking for,etc…). Then we will have an LHBGA representative do a home check. We encourage them to come and meet the galgos if they haven’t already. If they have a specific galgo in mind, we set up a meeting with the whole family, including pets. If we don’t have a galgo that fits with the family’s expectations, we will work with them and the groups in Spain to find the right fit. Our adoption fees are about half the cost of the transport, so $550.00. 

What can one ordinary person do to help the dogs of Spain? 

RJ: Well, it depends on that person's resources! If you are retired, you can contact us about volunteering to be a flight escort to bring dogs home to us from Spain, or you can volunteer to make, or collect items for our fundraising auctions. If you are a good networker, you could help a ton by spreading the word about us and asking all of your contacts to donate to Hound Sanctuary. If you travel a lot, you could donate your saved up air miles to us that we would then use to help pay for a needy dog's trip out of Spain and into safety here with us. If you have a particular skill or product, you can donate that--for example, we always need legal services, tax services, art/design, grant writers, fundraising professionals, marketing/PR professionals, media experts, force free trainers, T shirt printers/providers or other merchandise. Each one of you reading this has at least one special thing about you.  Ask yourself what that one thing is that could help, and how you can make that happen.  You are doing it not for me, nor for the sanctuary, but for each and every dog that comes through.  

AP: Many people ask how they can get involved and help the Galgos. Our first answer is to help spread awareness for the plight of the Galgos in Spain. The more people know, the more people protesting and shining the light on the issue, the pressure on Spain to correct the issue will increase. Many people that adopt a Galgo, suddenly become a member of a community of Galgo/Greyhound lovers!  If you can’t adopt, there are always ways you can help! We are looking for foster homes. We have foster applications on our website. Like our Facebook page and share posts of adoptable galgos. We collect donated items for the galgos of LHBGA and for the galgos in Spain (coats, martingale collars, leashes, first aid supplies, flea and tick preventative, heartworm preventative, as well as monetary donations). We always need sponsors to help cover transport costs and medical care for the galgos of LHBGA. If you have special skills such as sewing, graphic design, writing, marketing, accounting, these are great ways to help out.

Do you have a favorite rescue story?

RJ: Honestly, each rescue is its own beautiful story.  How can I pick a favorite?  There was Ibis, the giant Podenco Canario puppy (31 inches to the shoulder, barely a year old) who learned to use our refrigerator icemaker on day one. His forever mom calls him her PermaPuppy. There was Hero, the Podenco Ibicenco who was found in Spain with a broken leg; the kennel people warned us repeatedly that he was not going to be easy to deal with because he was so nervous and would not allow anyone to touch him--many times I was told I should take a different dog that was more friendly. He came in our very first group and I found him to be so sweet and deserving, definitely not the lost cause people had painted him to be.  And he let me touch him just fine.  There's Chai, a local Saluki surrendered to me by his owner because of seizures, he might even have been put to sleep had there not already been a signed surrender agreement in hand; a year later, he is so happy with his new family, and loved madly. Cloudy, the Podenco Pup of Many Surgeries and Flying Nun Ears, was found with broken legs and endured several surgeries in Spain, came to us with a plate in his leg; our vet advised he would need more surgery, yet his fosters loved him and adopted him anyway; he just had the plate removed and will be all better soon. 

AP:  I can’t really say I have a favorite rescue story, because they all hold a special place in my heart.  I can tell you that starting Love Hope Believe Galgo Adoption has changed my life! These dogs are my life and I love each and every one of them! We get stories from our adopters about the silly antics of their galgos. Whitaker, aka Damaris, came from Foundation Benjamin Mehnert in Sevilla, Spain. She was found tied to a tree with another galgo, left there to starve. She came to us and was adopted by a woman that is a lead investigator for animal cruelty.  Now, Whitaker is a certified therapy dog and goes to schools and acts as an ambassador for animal cruelty. Her silliness and confidence at home has helped her galga sister overcome her fears. She likes to gather all the dog bowls and put them on her mom’s bed. She also drags her own bed up onto her mom’s bed so she can be sure to sleep in ultimate comfort! She has learned to open the screen door to let herself and all the other dogs back into the house. Pipo, aka “The International Galgo of Mystery”, is a very active boy and too smart for his own good! Pipo learned a puzzle to in less than 5 minutes and continues to find new ways to challenge his parents. They also adopted a galgo named Janis and their dad “is just happy to no longer be the chew toy!” Then there is Rosendo aka “the wooly mammoth”. He is the rock star of LHBGA with his hair extensions and highlights, as we call them! Gemma is our most recent addition to the Patenaude gaggle of hounds. We adopted her from Baas Galgo. We met her during our last trip to Spain. She had only been there for 3 days and all she wanted was to be pet, she wagged her tail the whole time!  I could go on and on about these dogs, but until you experience them for yourself, you won’t get the full understanding of their love.

Sklyer, Hound Sanctuary alumni, in her forever home

I am so grateful for the tireless efforts of those involved in the rescue community in general, the compassionate souls who stand at the mouth of darkness and extend a gentle hand. They have witnessed what is painfully difficult to read. Without them, I would not have my perfect family of my brilliant Ruby and my breezy Boca. I am similarly grateful
to those who champion the cause of the hunting dogs of Spain, through networking, transport, rehabilitation and homing. Without them, many more galgos and podencos would perish without knowing love. Without them, forgotten dogs would be bereft of hope. While they are considered trash in Spain, many who have seen the fear fade and trust illuminate their eyes through rescue, fostering and adoption know that they are treasures.

What can you do to help galgos and podencos?

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July 13, 2015

Boca Rocks a Thundershirt and Ruby Rolls in Her Travel Crate

dog wearing pink thundershirt
Ready to rock thunderstorms and silly human holidays.

The Fourth of July was rough for us. I live just five minutes from the light rail station, and its large, empty parking lot is the ideal place for people to set off (illegal) fireworks. When we walk over there, the asphalt is littered with the remnants of things that go bang in the night. This has been going on since about the first of July, and even last night we heard some more pops and crackles. It's getting old. Ruby isn't as bothered by them, and in fact her thunderstorm phobia has been improving as well, but Boca is terrified of fireworks. I'm not sure if she has bad memories of them from her life on the street (I recently watched a video in which a camera is attached to a street dog in Mumbai, and children chase the dog with firecrackers) or just thinks the end of the world is coming, but she has grown increasingly worse and developed some unfortunate associations. Since some of the loudest explosions happened just after we went to bed several nights in a row, even after trying to stay up late watching loud TV, Boca is now afraid to sleep on the bed when the window is open (which is a necessity when you don't have AC on a 90 degree day).

Now that the fireworks should be winding down (except for a local display scheduled for the 25th celebrating the city's anniversary when we plan to skip town), I decided to purchase a Thundershirt for Boca, and I sure wish I had done so sooner. We were able to try it out on Thursday night when I arrived home from dinner with a friend in an impressive lightening storm, complete with sub-woofer thunder. There was a noticeable change in Boca as soon as she was swaddled in her pink polo. Rather than quaking and panting, she simply curled up in the bathroom with the fan running and seemed almost comfortable. She was able to fall asleep next to the bedroom door within minutes of going upstairs to bed. Last night I put it on again after we heard those firecrackers, and she curled up next to me on the sofa instead of hiding in corners. She even seemed to recognize that it helped her, because as soon as she saw me unfold it and say "Do you want your shirt?" she came over to be wrapped up. Ruby has a Thundershirt, too, but the difference it makes for Boca is much more dramatic. I am so glad to have it on hand now.

dog in a travel crate
Ready to roll in calm, quiet style.

Boca wasn't the only one to try out something new this weekend. For a while now I've been looking at travel crates for Ruby. Her reactivity in the car is stressful for everyone, and not exactly safe if she sees a bike, motorcycle or dog before I can steel myself for her shrill and frantic barking. Counter-conditioning while driving isn't an option. Early on, I did transport Ruby in her crate, but she would get carsick and throw up every time. I related this to riding in a crate, but I now think that it was carsickness in general which she has outgrown. With an upcoming trip to the vet during rush hour for her annual wellness check, I decided it was time to implement a more peaceful commute. I ended up choosing this crate because it was inexpensive, I liked the size options and it had good reviews. It's lightweight, a cinch to assemble, and has adorable bone-shaped mesh windows. It has zip doors on the top and the front. I would not consider this crate for daily, unsupervised use, but for car travel I think it's perfect.

After setting it up with a comfy crate mat, I coaxed Ruby in with yellow cheese and set it up in the car. I can't tell you how wonderful it was not to hold my breath whenever I saw something Ruby would react to, or dread hitting a red light at an intersection where cyclists waited at the crosswalk. Ruby was a little nervous in the crate, but nothing like the overstimulated state she is in if we have the misfortune of being passed by a Harley tour or a dog barking in the back of a truck. Talk about a game-changer! I'll be much more apt to take Ruby more places now that the getting there isn't such an ordeal. It was poor planning to make her first trip in her travel den one to the vet, but she did great at her appointment and even did some of her tricks for the vet. Yesterday I improved the association by taking The Ginger Sisters to my barn for a hike on the property, and by the time I snapped the above photo she was loading up happily on her own. Another win for management of the reactive dog!

Have you ever had a dog product change your life?

July 10, 2015

Five Things I've Learned About Oil Supplements For Dogs

dogs fish oil coconut oil camelina oil

I've been giving The Ginger Sisters a rotation of supplemental oils for quite a while now. They get coconut oil with their breakfast and camelina oil or fish oil with their dinner. Only recently did I delve into researching the different oils more thoroughly, and I learned some surprising things...

Coconut oil is really versatile.
I found out that Ruby loves the taste of coconut oil, so it has helped with her picky eating as well as having other benefits. I've even used it topically for minor skin irritation/dry paw pads with good results, and I love the fact that it's safe if they lick it off. It's also great if you cook for your dog - I like to scramble eggs with coconut oil as a special treat on birthdays and gotcha days.

Coconut oil and fish oil are not interchangeable!
If you are feeding supplemental oil mainly for skin and coat benefits, either one is a good bet; however, it's important to know that coconut oil is a saturated fat containing medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are known to have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. Coconut oil may also benefit the thyroid and digestive system and help to maintain a healthy weight. Coconut oil does not contain the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in fish oil.

Omega-3 oils found in fish oil are probably the most important.
Most experts agree that if you are going to give your dog any one supplement, it should be fish oil or krill oil. Omega-3 fatty acids have many proven benefits but are also very delicate and don't usually hold up when added to dog food or treats. I have read that animal sources are more available than plant sources to dogs, so I am switching The Ginger Sisters to sardine oil as soon as we finish our current bottle of camelina oil.

If you feed fish oil, you may need to supplement with vitamin E. 
Did you know that the omega oils found in fish oil deplete vitamin E reserves and can create a deficiency? I didn't either, and I kind of freaked out when I learned about it. We hear all the good things about fish oil and think we're doing the right thing by feeding it willy-nilly. Most dogs fed a commercial diet are getting added vitamin E already, but to be on the safe side, I give my dogs extra vitamin E along with their fish oil. This article explains why it's important and dosage guidelines.

Camelina oil can be an alternative to fish oil.
Although there is less information available about camelina oil and animal sources are probably best, like fish oil and unlike coconut oil, camelina oil does contain valuable omega-3 fatty acids. If your dog has a sensitivity to fish oil or simply won't eat it, camelina oil might be the answer. My dogs love it - it has an unusual, herbal smell. The brand I buy also contains vitamin E, though not as much as recommended above.

I hope this helped to clarify a few things about oil supplements for dogs. There is so much to learn about nutrition and feeding our dogs the very best. I am an information-seeker by nature and feel much better about the choices I make for The Ginger Sisters when I have it all in front of me. What about you? Do you give any oil supplements to your dogs? 

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist, I'm simply sharing things I've picked up along the path of determining what works for my dogs. Please do your own research before adding supplements to your dog's diet. 

July 6, 2015

Why I'm a Bad Dog Trainer

cute dog on an orange quilt
What are you waiting for? Let me show you all the stuff I know!

This month for the Positive Pet Training Week Blog Hop we are talking about training failures and mistakes. I am fairly new to dog training, with most of my animal training experience relating to horses. There are more parallels than not, to be honest, especially when dealing with fearful dogs who act more like spooky prey animals than fierce predators; however, I think that I expect more from horses than from dogs, leading me to my biggest failure as a dog trainer.