Friday, May 30, 2014

Pet Naturals Review: Beorn and Eamon check out the Hip+Joint for Cats product

Beorn the cat tries to climb over a fence
"Getting over this fence is a total pain!"
A cat tries to climb a fence
"But I will make it happen!"
Beorn does this big leap over my front gate dozens of times each and every day, and it's hard for him, as his back isn't quite the same after his nasty run-in with the car. Sometimes he gets too creaky to get over the fence, and he just sits and cries until I get up and let him either out or in.

So when PetNaturals of Vermont asked me if I'd like to review their Hip+Joint Product for Cats, I got pretty excited. I thought I had a pretty good test case, especially as I have another well-documented back-pain cat in the house (and frankly, I loved the idea of getting free samples). So, of course, I agreed.

It's been about a week, and while these guys are notoriously reluctant to provide any kind of feedback (cats can be weirdly quiet about pain), I do have several good things to say about this particular product.

First off, these guys love the way the chews taste. Both cats have snapped at my fingers, trying to get the treats out of my hands, and they come running when they hear the bag crinkle. I haven't had to bury the treats in food, shove the treats down their throats or do anything else that's extreme. I hold out the treat and get out of the way, and off they go to gobbling. I like that.

I've also noticed a dip in the number of times Beorn has asked me to open the gate. He still has to perch on the top as a resting place, but he is much more willing to make that jump. That seems like a good sign to me, and it seems to suggest that he needs to stay on these things.

Eamon hasn't had such a dramatic reaction, but he has been a little more affectionate, and he did get into a pretty spirited game of chase-the-tail this week, which I haven't seen him do in a year or longer. It could be that he was just in the mood for a little spree, of course, but I'm not discounting the idea that the treats are helping.

Each treat contains both glucosamine and condroitin, along with MDM and DMG. The manufacturer also reports that the ingredients are all natural.

If you'd like to give them a try, the manufacturer is also offering a pretty nifty giveaway. Simply go to this link and fill out the form. The first 100 people who do that will get a free bag of treats (score!) while anyone who comes a little late to the party will get a coupon for treats (still a score, in my book). It's a great way to do your own little test to see if these products will be right for your cats. (Update: Sorry, this promotion is over!)

Disclaimer: I was sent these samples as compensation for an honest review. I alone am responsible for this content, and no money changed hands. 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, May 23, 2014

Have active dogs? Yearly checkups are a must

Sinead the boston terrier tries to get me to throw a ball

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier are active little dogs that like to play, play, PLAY from sunup to sundown. They're happy enough to hang out with me, as long as I'm throwing the ball, but if I'm not feeling particularly zesty, they're more than happy to throw down some moves on one another. Here's a vid of that action from a little earlier this week, when our BarkBox came.

Active pets like this seem healthy, and on the surface, it might seem like a waste of time to take them to the vet. After all, they're healthy as anything. What would I have to talk about in a visit?

Plenty. And that's why we go every year.

In a standard preventive visit, I have the chance to really talk about how the critters are doing. Vaccines are part of the protocol on some years, but sometimes, I ask questions about weight or supplements or nail length. In last year's Liam visit, I got some good tips about ear cleaning, and that's meant fewer health troubles for him this year. Previously, I learned a little more about proper dosing of Benadryl, so I could handle his allergic reactions at home, rather than going to the ER. In the end, that saved me a lot of money.

I know that we're all busy and that there are plenty of things we'd all rather do than worry about preventive care. But, it really can make a big difference, and it's something we should all provide for our pets at least yearly.

Now, if you'll forgive me, I have a little dog that wants me to throw the ball.
Liam the pug looks worried

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pug Crawl 2014: Rain, rain, go away!

I had high hopes for this year's Pug Crawl, as I had two great costumes and two very willing dogs. I felt pretty certain we could compete in the parade of pugs and do quite well.

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier dressed up for the pug crawl

But we were totally unprepared for the rain, hail and thunder that hit us about halfway through the day. We didn't make it to the parade, and the poor kids hid under my coat for a lot of the crawl. So, these are truncated photos. Darn Oregon!

But here goes.

Pug dressed like a ninja turtle
Ninja turtle pug.
Pug dressed like the incredible hulk
The Hulk!
Dogs dressed like Superman and Wonder Woman
Superman and Wonder Woman.
Dogs dressed like Ghostbusters
Pug dressed like a ninja turtle
Another ninja turtle (with a weapon!).
Rain in huge puddles
Look at this rain!
Liam the pug is very wet
"Even my wrinkles are wet!"
Wet Boston terrier
Sinead hopes for a dryer 2015.

Friday, May 16, 2014

We're ready for the 2014 Pug Crawl! Are you?

Pug and Boston terrier in costumes
This weekend is the annual Pug Crawl in Portland, and when I found out that the theme involved Comic Con, I knew Star Trek would play a role. Here's what I came up with.

Sinead is (obviously) Mr. Spock. Her ears and overall serious expression make this a pretty perfect fit, and this snappy shirt from Amazon fits her nicely. It even has an emblem on the back!

Two costumed dogs sharing a kiss

Liam's costume was a little more difficult, but in the end, I modified an old dragon costume and transformed him into a Gorn from Season 1. Not up on your Trekkie stuff? This might help:

Liam doesn't hiss and he's not quite the right color, but I think it's close enough!
Liam the pug and Sinead the boston terrier are ready for pug crawl

So we're ready for Sunday! And next week, I'll have tons of photos to share. In the interim, check out my coverage of past crawls here and here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fix a Feral: Salem's attempt to break the cat breeding cycle

Two cats sleeping in beds outside

Chances are, most people who have outdoor cats take care of them. They feed these little guys, provide them with water and give them safe spaces for sleeping at night. That's what I do for my outdoor cats, and I'd like to think that I'm not very unique.

However, there are people who can't really take care of the cats that live on their property. Maybe they have cats that were dumped, and who can't be captured and brought to the vet, because these cats aren't tame. Maybe they don't know who these cats even belong to, and they only feed these cats sporadically.

Sadly, it's likely that a lot of these cats are going to become kitty parents this spring. Feral cats breed like crazy (which I've written about before), and they're responsible for the huge crush of kittens animal shelters deal with each and every spring.

The animal shelter in Salem is taking a new approach to this problem. The "Fix a Feral" program allows anyone living in Marion and Polk counties to bring a feral cat in a trap to the shelter, and that cat will be neutered and tagged at no cost. When the surgery is complete, the cat will go right back into that trap, so it can be returned to the community.

Two cats sleeping on the hot tub

I'm really impressed with this program. I think many people want to do something about the wild cats that live in their communities, but they don't know what to do about the issue, and they don't want to spend a lot of money on a solution. This program allows anyone with a little time and gumption to do something that could result in a reduction of hundreds of feral cats, and it doesn't cost anything. The society will even supply the traps!

You can read more about the program here. Share that link, won't you?

And be prepared for many more articles about the Willamette Humane Society on this blog in upcoming weeks. I'm going to start volunteering in the cat rooms very soon, and I'm sure I'll have great stories to share.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Taking a great pet photo (It's hard!)

Liam the pug posing for a photo
Pet blogs like this one work best when there are bright, eye-catching photos involved. People who read these things do so to glean tips, of course, but they also like to look at the furry animals. Getting good photos is the best way to keep readers coming back for more.

I'm pretty lucky to have Liam, as he's a very willing photography subject. But, I also have some challenges with him, and Sinead hates to be photographed. So, I thought I'd share a few tricks and tips, as well as a few misfires. If you're thinking about starting a pet blog, maybe this will help!

Finding the right lighting 

Pets are a challenge to photograph, as they tend to blend into the background of photos taken in dark rooms. Light-colored pets like Liam also tend to get a little bright and blown out when they're in direct sunlight, too, so they simply must have rooms that are bright without being overpowering.

I try to photograph my dogs in the afternoon. The sunlight is strong, but there are shadowy corners the dogs can sit in. Photos like this have the right amount of light, but there are no problems with blowout.
Sinead the Boston terrier posing for a photo

Skip the flash 

A bright camera flash often produces photographs of alien-looking dogs with blue eyes. I've taken a lot of shots that look like this, and it's sad, because I just can't use them.

Liam the pug with blue eyes from a flash

His expression is great, but the blue throws the whole thing off.

I turn the flash off (most of the time) and try to capture the shot with available light. I don't get any blue, and I don't have to worry so much about hurting the dogs with a big flash.

Make pet photography fun

Liam will pose for hours, simply because our shots are at least somewhat fun. I have treats, I make all kinds of weird noises and I smother him with smootches between shots. That's how I can convince him to sit so nicely when I am exploring new settings on my camera (like these!).

Liam the pug with a photo filter on

Liam the pug with a photo filter

I never make him "sit" during a shot, and I don't take photos when something unpleasant is happening. For example, it might be wonderfully fun to take photos of Sinead when we're heading out for a walk because she often tries to pretend that she's asleep, so she won't have to go. That would make a blog post really pop, if I was talking about coaxing. But, pairing photography with something unhappy would almost guarantee that she wouldn't play along the next time the camera came out. I can't risk it.

Cut back the noise 

Many cameras come with all sorts of bells and whistles, including high-pitched beeps that let you know that the flash is ready or the memory is low. These things can be helpful, but the dogs find them really distracting, and dogs like Sinead look miserable when there's beeping involved.

Here's a good shot of her taken with my beeping camera. Notice how she won't look at me.

Sinead the Boston terrier will not look at the camera

And here's one taken with the iPad, which makes no noise at all. She's really checking the camera out here.
Sinead the Boston terrier in black and white

For me, this has been the secret ingredient in getting good shots of this Boston. But if I come up with others in the next few months or so, I'll share those, too!