Friday, February 21, 2014

February's BarkBox: Toys Worth Wrestling Over


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Liam and Sinead simply love to wrestle. In fact, they devote a significant amount of time to wrestling each and every day. But I find that they're more inclined to wrestle if there's a high-value toy in the mix. That's why I was thrilled to get this month's BarkBox. In addition to all of the yummy treats they normally get, this month's box also included a few choice toys that I know these guys will love.

I'll start off with the treats, though, just to build suspense.

This month, we got some very strange looking cookies from Max and Ruffy's. These little black disks are made of coconut, molasses and flax, and while the human taste tester (my husband) thought that the flavor was pretty mild, the dogs have gone wild for these things. I'm pleased, too, as they're completely grain-free.

We also got some "Cheese Please" treats from Complete Natural Nutrition that look tempting. They have a popcorn-like crunch to them, and since my dogs love cheese, I'm sure they'll be a hit. I haven't opened them quite yet, however, as I'm still working through the flax bits.

The last treat is from Etta Says, and while I usually love these snacks, this one has me troubled as it's made of rabbit. I once had a rabbit as a pet, and he was a wonderful and smart companion. I am not quite sure I can feed my dogs something that's made out of an animal that I love. This one might go to the neighbors.

Now, onto the toys.

Sushi Pups makes the most adorable toys that look like tiny bits of very delicious food. We got a tuna roll, and it's perfect for long games of tug-of-war, along with solo chewing. The toy is basically impossible to photograph at the moment, as it's covered in bits of slimy drool, but it looks like a keeper as it hasn't fallen apart yet.

The big hit here is the cigar toy made by Loopies. It appeals to me, as it looks just like a cigar, so I can get plenty of funny shots like this one.

Liam the pug chews on a toy from Loopies

But, it's also remarkably durable, as it's capable of withstanding a significant amount of solo chewing, along with some very strenuous tug-of-war games.

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They have managed to tear the little fabric covering off of this cigar, but the rest of it remains intact.

It's a great month!

If you want to try your own BarkBox, use my code for a discount. And leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here!

Disclosure: Some product links in this post are “affiliate links.” If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Day treat: Corn dogs just for dogs!

Sinead the Boston terrier doing a head tip

While out on a walk the other morning, Liam stumbled across a barely eaten corn dog. He was in heaven, of course, and it took a lot of effort for me to wrest that thing away from him. But as I was brushing the crumbs off my fingertips, I started to wonder why he couldn't have a corn dog. After all, it's just breaded meat, right? So I decided to enlist hubby to help me make some modified corn dogs for these two dogs. Here's how it went down.

We used a basic corn muffin recipe like this one as the base. There's nothing too fancy about it at all, and we had most of the ingredients in the pantry.

Corn muffin ingredients

Once we had everything mixed up and ready to go, we cut a few hot dogs into small disks. My dogs like to gobble food in one big bite (Liam doesn't even chew), so I thought that making the meat smaller would be a little safer, rather than giving them a whole rod of hot dog to swallow at once.

Sinead the Boston terrier looks at the hot dogs

We used a mini-muffin tin for this project, so the results would be bite-sized (and stickless). We placed a tablespoon or so of batter in the bottom of each tin, pressed a hot dog slice on that little bed and then filled each well to the top with batter.

Corn muffins made for dogs

Supervision was a key part of our success.

Sinead the Boston terrier watching the cooking

And we had a lot of supervisors.

Two dogs and a cat watching closely

But the results were spectacular.

Liam the pug waiting for a corn dog

When we were done, Liam got a corn dog he could eat, and I wasn't even tempted to snatch it out of his mouth. And I had a snack of my own as a bonus.

Corn dogs for humans on a plate

I have a feeling we'll be doing this again quite soon!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Canada Geese: Protected migrating bird or free dog toy?

A flock of Canada geese in a suburban park

I live next to a big athletic field that works as a seasonal resting place for a pretty big flock of Canada geese. In the early days of November, when the skies grow dark before I've shut down my computer for the day, a big group of these majestic birds descends on the grass, and they stay in a huddled mass until mid-morning, when they shoot up into the sky in one large cloud that blots out the sun. It's an impressive sight, and it's one of the things I love most about my new home in Oregon.

But sometimes, random neighbors seem to view these birds as little more than free toys for their dogs. On more than one occasion, I've seen people walk their dogs down to this field, unclip their leashes and let the mutts fly in pursuit of these birds.

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier with geese in the background

When asked, most of these people suggest that the activity is harmless. They may tell me that their dogs could never actually catch a goose, and as a result, the chasing they do doesn't harm the birds at all. Others suggest that the gees are pests that poop all over the sidewalk, raise a huge racket early in the morning and otherwise make living near this field a miserable experience.

On the one hand, I get it. Clearly, there are hundreds of thousands of these birds alive in the world, and since hunters are allowed to shoot them out of the sky, they're not considered either protected or endangered. If people can hunt them, why shouldn't dogs be able to run at them?

Similarly, I understand that some dogs have been bred, for generations and generations, to hunt and chase birds. They like to flush these things out, and letting them do what they're bred to do just seems to make them happy. These breeds also tend to use a "soft mouth" when they do encounter a bird, so they probably wouldn't even harm the animal if they could catch it.


Liam the pug in the middle of a field

But it's important to remember that these animals are migrating great distances. They are only transient visitors to our neighborhoods, and they're often pretty tired when they get here. Letting a dog chase one of these birds seems unnecessarily cruel. They need to rest, to fatten up, to prepare for the next leg of the journey. A few choice chases could leave these birds too exhausted to make the trip.

Plus, I would argue that there are other ways to entertain a dog. Throw a ball, a disk or a stuffie. Play tag. Go for a jog. Wrestle. Visit the off-leash dog park and let the canines chase one another. Hike through the falling leaves.

But seriously.

Leave the damn birds alone, okay?


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Creating a bird-friendly garden

Bird bath in a front yard
In the bleak and grey months of winter, the garden can be a cold and depressing place. There's nothing living out there, it seems, and when the view out my back window is dominated by my neighbor's punching bag.... Well, it's just not that inspiring.

I've seen a few little birdies out and about, and I started trying to lure them to the yard in October. It was pretty slow going at first, especially since the outdoor cats seemed intent on snacking on those little birds, but I have a hopping yard now that's free of cat predation. In fact, I've had such success in tempting birds to come to this yard that I thought I'd share a few tips I've learned along the way.

Birdseed options

When I set up my feeders, I picked a seed that worked well for me. It was cheap, and it had no seeds, so no residue would be left behind. Unfortunately, this seed worked only for me, as the birds just hated it. I switched to a sunflower seed, but that type of seed worked well for only one type of bird that came into the yard. Now, I have sunflower seed as well as a general finch seed mixture. In other words, I have something for everyone.

Multiple bird feeders in great places

Most birds, it seems, like to grab a snack and then fly away with it. When I had feeders set up in open spaces, the birds were a little too afraid to use them, as they didn't think they could make a quick getaway. Similarly, some birds seem to prefer platform-type feeders they can hang out in, while others like to cling to the side of something while they grab a bite. Right now, I have four different types of feeders, and they all attract different types of birds. Mixing it up seems like a great idea.

Bird inside of a bird feeder

Landscaping for the birds

In addition to bird feeders and seed, these guys seem to need water. They like to bathe, of course, but they also need to take little sips throughout the day in order to stay hydrated. Adding a few birdbaths in the yard seems to attract a huge amount of birds, including those birds that don't eat at the feeders. I have robins galore in my front bird bath, for example, and they never eat from the feeders. The baths have been so successful that I've asked my husband to add another in back. This is a work-in-progress shot, and when it's done, roses will go in the mounds of dirt.

Bird bath and dirt

It's also helpful to have a few natural food sources in the yard. The gigantic holly tree in the corner of my yard works great, for example, as the berries draw a pretty big crowd, and they tend to stop by the feeders for an appetizer.

Good luck and happy gardening!