Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Brothas Do Ledges

I've been meaning to get "back to nature" for months, but work and weather have gotten in the way. That all changed last Sunday, when I had the opportunity to visit Ledges State Park with my friend Aryn and her Doberman, Rocket. Rocket and Jayne are half-brothers, sharing the same sire.

With the threat of afternoon rain, we got an early start to the day. After a quick trip to Target for snacks, water and bug spray, we headed out to the park. We arrived by 9am and started our descent. Ledges has a long history of flooding, but in 2008 the park was severely crippled by the "500 Year Flood." Automobiles are barred from the Canyon Road, so hikers must start at the very top of the park and walk down into the lower areas. The Canyon Road is unique in that was designed to dip in and out of the creek that flows through the park. The downside to its design is that the road floods easily, and is extremely vulnerable to flood damage. The damaged bridges are safe for hikers and horses, but would collapse under the weight of a car. While I'm sure some folks miss the accessibility of the park, we enjoy the peace and quiet that the "vehicle ban" provides.

The first descent was fairly tame - we stayed on the Canyon Road for the most part. Our first adventure came when we reached the first water crossing, as Jayne had apparently never experienced natural water and was very skeptical of what we were asking of him. Instead of sloshing through the stream, Jayne decided to theatrically jump from rock to rock until he reached the other side. Aryn was able to capture the hilarity:

After Jayne got over his water-drama, we continued on. The road at the far end of the park was completely washed away and the river had taken its place, so we turned back and let Rocket steer the direction of the hike. Aryn expressed interest in exploring the steep trails that led to Table Rock and the Council Ring, so we started to look for the closest entry point to the steep trails. We found one, and Aryn instantly noticed its resemblance to the stairway to Mordor. We made tons of Lord of the Rings jokes after that, and made the boys pose next to the stone stairs.

"If one is a Doberman, one does simply walk into Mordor!"

Rocket was delighted with the steep trail. When given the option, he'd always choose the most treacherous and vertical route. In fact, he took us all the way back up to the park entrance! We hadn't expected to get back to the car so early, so we decided to do a second descent back into the belly of the park. This time we decided to walk in the creek, which was a lot of fun but definitely a recipe for waterlogged shoes! I had water shoes, so I didn't have much trouble. The dogs really enjoyed the creek walk, especially when they got the opportunity to chase the little fish in the shallows.

Several large pieces of limestone sit in the shallow, sandy creek-bed. We used these chunks of limestone for some posed portraits of the boys.

Finally satisfied with the hike, we headed back up the Canyon Road to the car. We'd been in the park for hours, having a whale of a time, and in those last few minutes of our visit we heard the only comments from other park visitors that irked us. As we were walking uphill, a large group of people were walking downhill. Our dogs were on their best behavior, walking at our sides and ignoring the loud, chaotic group of people.

A child asked his father, "Aren't those dogs mean?" ... the dad didn't say no.

A man said to another, "I hate it when they have their ears cropped."

A third man said, "I had two dogs like that once, but I got rid of them."

A girl asked her father if they were Rottweilers, to which he replied, "No, those are Dobermans. Rottweilers are nice dogs!" (as if Dobermans are not nice dogs. Huh. Interesting.)

Seriously folks, were you raised by Neanderthals? If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all - or at least wait until the people (and dogs) you're criticizing aren't within earshot! What a great example you set for your kids, too - nothing like learning from an early age that you can criticize strangers to their face.

Thoroughly disgusted, we decided that if it happened again that we'd make comments back.

"Wow, that is one ugly kid. Omigosh, I can't believe they kept it!"

"Can you imagine hiking out here wearing those shoes? I'd just die of embarrassment!"

"Aren't kids that age stinky?"

No, no, we wouldn't actually say those things out loud. We're more polite than that. But that's probably because we were raised by good parents that didn't make rude comments about people as we encountered them in public places. I guess parenting styles have changed in the past 20 years!

So that was the end of our awesome Ledges hike. I'd like to say that both boys were exhausted and slept the rest of the day, but that would be a lie. They were both bursting with energy once we got home.

Although... Jayne did finally succumb to fatigue, and spent about an hour snoozing with Kaylee. What a guy!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

JayneSounds v.1.0

To put it nicely.... Jayne is vocal. Extremely vocal. He cries. He yodels. He sings.

Until now, you all have had to take my word on this. Tonight I discovered that my computer could record sound (WOW, I know... amazing, right?) so I decided to flip on the microphone during one of Jayne's serenades.

Behold the insanity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

World War Flea

My pets never get fleas.

I've boasted of this luck for years now, gleefully proclaiming "we never worry about those little bloodsuckers!" whenever someone brings up the topic of flea control. But recently I learned my lesson. Never, ever, ever boast about never needing to worry about fleas. NEVER. The flea gods will smite you down.

I don't know where the fleas came from. Did they hitch a ride with the new foster dog? Did they come from the neighbor dog? Did they sneak in through some crack or crevice in the basement? Where they came from is irrelevant - they came, they saw and they royally kicked our asses - at least for awhile.

First, I did what I always do when I see a single flea - I bathed the dogs, put some rose geranium oil on their collars, did a bit of light vacuuming and washed the dog blankets. Problem solved... yeah right. It became apparent that these fleas were no sissies. These fleas were on a mission.

I resorted to slightly more drastic measures. I rubbed diatomaceous earth into the carpet and sprayed a natural flea repellent on the yard. 'That'll kill 'em!,' I thought. Oh, how wrong I was. How very, very wrong.

After a week or so, I realized what I was up against. It was Fleapocalypse. Never before had I seen this many fleas! So I formulated my battle plan and put it into motion:

1. Operation Chemical X: Prescription Flea Products
The personal dogs got Vectra 3D (except for Revy, who got Frontline), the cats got Advantage, Katie got Advantage. I hate using chemicals like these to kill fleas, but in this case I had no choice.

2. Operation Rub A Dub: Bathtime
I ordered my trusty natural flea shampoo (Pure O Flee), but before it arrived I did an initial bath of 7th Generation dishsoap. The dishsoap suds were left on for 10 minutes. A quick rinse, then I sponged a 50/50 mixture of Bragg's apple cider vinegar (ACV) and water onto each dog. Let that sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I thoroughly cleaned out their ears with a eucalyptus-based ear cleaner. Rinsed off the ACV, then spritzed the same ACV mixture onto their coats and worked it in with my fingers.

3. Operation Vey Nice: Borax
I sprinkled Borax into the sofa, the mattress, the rugs and the carpet. I worked it in with a broom, then let it sit for 24 hours before I vacuumed it up. I also dusted Borax under the washer and dryer, under the dog crates, into the cat tower and around every window and door. (Don't worry, I kept the animals away from the Boraxed areas at all times!)

4. Operation Suck On This: Vacuuming
Everything was vacuumed, every day. The sofa, the mattress, the hardwood floors, the rugs, underneath bookshelves and furniture. The basement, the basement steps. The foyer. The bathroom. Every square inch of my house was vacuumed every day.

5. Operation Salad Dressing: Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV played a huge part in my war against the fleas. The dogs got spritzed with my 50/50 mixture three times a day, as well as had it added directly to their food. The corgis got 3-4 mL with each meal, and the Dobermans got 7-8 mL with each meal. The pit bull got 5-6 mL. The cats posed a problem - they eat raw so I couldn't put it on their food - so a few times a day I liberally sprayed the 50/50 mixture directly onto their coat, focusing on their front legs so they'd lick enough of the ACV off while grooming to be effective. Apple cider vinegar is one of the few substances safe for cats! I also mopped the bathroom daily with ACV, and sprayed the dogs' feet and legs before they went out in the yard to potty. (A pleasant side effect to the ACV regimen - everyone has beautiful coats and healthy skin now!)

6. Operation Peppermint Paradise: Yard Spray
I sprayed a natural flea spray in the yard, focusing on the areas where the dogs spend the most time. This is not a spray that uses harsh chemicals - instead, it's a spray that relies on various oils (peppermint and clove) to naturally kill and repel pests.

7. Operation Buzz Cut: Lawn Mowing
Fleas love to live in long, damp grass. I mowed every 3 days or so, to keep the grass incredibly short and uninviting. I left my shoes outside, and the socks/pants I wore while mowing were immediately tossed in the laundry, which brings us to...

8. Operation Crisp Linen: Tons of Laundry
Everything washable was washed, some items multiple times. I used the hot water setting, bleached when I could and added 1/2 cup of Borax to every load. Blankets for the cats, crate blankets and the sheets covering the sofa were washed daily.

9. Operation Midnight Skinnydipping: Homemade Flea Traps
I made my own flea traps out of pie tins, small lamps and dishsoap. I filled shallow pie tins with hot water, added dishsoap and placed them under warm lamps each night. Fleas and other insects are attracted to the warmth and the light, but drown in the soapy water. Every morning I'd wake up to several pie tins with 8-12 fleas in their watery graves! I placed these in key points - under the elevated cat beds and next to the pit bull's crate.

10. Operation Dry Ice: Low Humidity, Low Temperatures
I cranked up the air conditioning and ran the dehumidifier 24/7. Flea eggs need 70-75% humidity to hatch, 50% humidity to survive and temperatures of 70-90%. I did not give them that environment. As an added bonus, it was so chilly in the house that the fleas rushed to the flea traps (mwahaha!) to get warm.

And that, my friends, is how I won the war against the fleas. It was hard, it was expensive at times and it was time consuming. But I won, and that's what matters!

Monday, June 13, 2011


I had to make an emergency trip to Walmart this evening. I wasn't in a huge hurry, but I sure didn't want to stand in a long line at the checkout. I found the shortest line (Aisle 18) and prepared myself for a long wait, and to pass the time looking at the weird As Seen on TV junk that Walmart loves to cram in their checkout lanes.

Out of the blue, the man in front of me turned around and said, "Miss, you can go in front of me, I have a ton of stuff and you just have that one item." I took a good look at the guy. There's no way for me to be politically correct about this, so I'll just come out and say it - he looked like a person of ill repute. And it was the most courteous interaction I'd had all day. I thanked him graciously, paid for my one item and left.

On my way home, I thought about what happened in the checkout line. That man didn't have to give up his spot for me. 99 times out of 100, the person with a bursting-at-the-seams shopping cart wouldn't have let me go ahead of them.

There are times when I'm probably more rude or uncaring than I should be. I've cut people off at the gas pump, I've talked on my cell phone in a restaurant, I've forgotten to send birthday cards. But I do try to be courteous, or at least pleasant. When a cashier asks me how my day is going, I ask them about their day. I hold the badge-activated exterior door open for co-workers in the morning. I help other people with their dogs at busy dog shows.

I don't really know where I'm going with this. I think what I'm trying to say is... give courtesy a try once in awhile. If you see an opportunity where you can do something small to make someone else's day a bit brighter, don't be lazy - do it! Smile at your waitress. Tip your garbage man. Give up your place in line at Walmart to some poor schmuck that only has one or two items to buy.

(This was my one item - a box of Advantage.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

52 Weeks of Dogs: 23/52, Bloopers

"Get out of Ada's portrait, Revy!"

This week's challenge wasn't a challenge at all. We had to find a photo that "just wasn't right." The original hues sucked in this one, so I played with it until I got it looking somewhat acceptable. Of course, the subject matter "wasn't quite right" either. It's a common blooper around here - Revy butting in, trying to steal the show.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

52 Weeks of Dogs: 22/52, Places a dog shouldn't be.

"How exactly do you cook those?"

From a technical standpoint, this is awful. From a comedic standpoint, it's great!

The Hunters

Our cats are extremely valuable members of the family. They spend most of their time in the basement, eating bugs and keeping the dogs in line. Their most valuable skill, however, is something we'd never expected from them.

My husband has always had a bad habit of removing the dogs' collars and leaving them in random places around the house. Around this time last year, Revy was wearing a twilight-blue White Pine collar - slender, very dark in color and extremely smooth. I had been on my way down to take a shower when I saw what I thought was the collar, carelessly dropped just inside the back door. Without thinking, I reached down and grabbed it, only to discover that it was not Revy's collar.

It was a dead snake.

Don't get me wrong - I actually like snakes. Our pet python is more than four feet long and as thick as a Twinkie... but wild snakes are not welcome in my house! Luckily, Jacques and Pierre had done a very good job of dispatching the little bugger.

Thus began the cats' calling in life.

The 'snake season' has started here in central Iowa, and the cats have killed two snakes in the last week. They kill them with fierce precision, then leave them on the basement stoop so I'll see (or step) on them first thing in the morning. I don't know how they're getting in, but I can rest easy knowing Jacques and Pierre are on Snake Patrol.

(Jacques above, Pierre below)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shameless Plug Sunday: Schreiner's Herbal Solution

Years ago an old dog show person clued me in on Schreiner's Herbal Solution. She used it on her diluted Dobermans to keep their skin and coat healthy for the show ring. She gave me a sample bottle, and soon I was placing my order on a big bottle of my own!

That bottle lasted for years. In fact, I'd still have it if it hadn't been ruined in the 2010 Iowa floods. Fast forward to a few weeks ago- Jayne developed a pesky case of hives that I couldn't manage to cure using conventional methods. I tried several different types of shampoos and topical sprays, including a few prescription products I had lying around. Nothing worked. Jayne still looked like crap.

As a last resort, I ordered a new bottle of Schreiner's. It shipped quickly, and within 48 hours the hives were completely gone. The special blend of aloe vera, comfrey, myrhh, cayenne and elder has a pleasant medicinal smell - though it's guaranteed to make you sneeze when it's first applied! In fact, my husband calls it "Sneeze Juice" for that very reason.

Godspeed, Ronin.

This morning I woke up early to take Cape and Katie to the adoptathon in Illinois. I let Ronin, Kaylee, Revy and Ada out to potty... and only the girls came back in.

He'd been in heart failure for the past week - atrial fibrillation without heart disease. We knew he wasn't going to get any better, we knew he didn't have much time left and we knew he could die at any time... but it was still a shock to find him lifeless in the yard.

I'm shocked, saddened, upset... but the most potent emotion I feel is relief. Bear with me, I know it sounds horrible, but keep reading. No, I didn't want my dog to die. None of us want that. What I wanted was for him to not suffer anymore - this past week had been hell for him, and there wasn't a "magic pill" we could give him to make him feel any better. He lost his appetite, he was in constant pain and all he wanted to do was sleep in the bedroom alone. He was suffering, and he wanted to go. And I didn't want to be the one holding him back.

We'd actually made an appointment for Wednesday to put him to sleep, but I was dreading it. My vet is great, but even the best vet is an intrusion on a very personal and private moment. I hate breaking down in front of other people, and that's inevitable when putting a pet to sleep in a vet's office.

My husband couldn't bring himself to come with us, so my friend Sam and I drove Ronin down to LovingRest to be cremated. It was a nice morning - not too hot, the sun was shining and it was a pretty, peaceful drive. LovingRest is located in one of the prettiest parts of the countryside out near Indianola, Iowa. We'll pick him up on Monday or Tuesday, and then we just have to wait for the custom wooden box that my dad is making for his ashes. We're going to put Ronin and Ilsa's ashes in the same box, since they were best friends in life and would want to be together.

So Godspeed, kiddo. Ilsa is probably ecstatic to have her best friend back. Lord knows we're going to miss you.