Sunday, July 31, 2011

52 Weeks of Dogs: 27/52, Dog Days

"Wild Green Yonder"

This week's challenge was announced a week late, so I'm using a photo from awhile ago. The subject matter was supposed to show what the dogs have been doing all summer, and the only activity we've been doing with any regularity is hiking. Recently it's been too hot to do anything other than snooze in front of the air conditioning vent, but that would make for a really boring photograph.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Raw-fed Meows

By necessity, our cats eat a raw diet. If they even eat one meal of kibble, they leave piles of bright orange cat-diarrhea all over. When comparing the ickiness of raw meat to the ickiness of Montezuma's Cat's Revenge, I'd much rather deal with the meat.

Amazingly, this diet has proven to be a perfect way to raise healthy, vibrant cats. These are the first cats I've ever owned that have somehow held onto their fit, lithe figures. Their teeth are white and plaque-free, their coats are thick and shiny, and the litterbox doesn't smell.

Why do cats thrive on raw? Because cats are obligate carnivores. This basically means that they need to get their nutrients from meat, organs and bones - non-meat fillers and grains do absolutely nothing for them.

Cats' digestive and immune systems are crafted by nature to be able to handle raw meat and bones. My cats love crunching on the bones in their chicken meals, and eat all the bones in their mice and rats.

We feed five basic types of raw to our cats:

1. Pre-Packaged Raw: This is the first type of raw meat my cats were fed. Nature's Variety, Primal and Bravo are a few examples of companies that make pre-made raw. This is usually a ground product, pressed into easy-to-feed portions and frozen. It can be quite expensive, but a good choice if you want that level of "corporate accountability." We rarely feed this type anymore.

2. Ground Raw: It's exactly what it sounds like - raw meat put through a grinder. This makes a nice mushy, moldable glop that we usually only use when someone else is going to be feeding the cats. I don't like to feed it much, only because their teeth don't get cleaned without gnawing on those whole bones.

3. Chunks 'o' Meat: Again, self-explanatory. Usually chicken drumsticks, chunks of chicken quarters, etc. This is our primary mode of feeding, since it's easy to obtain and the cats love the bones in the meat. Some meat, like the occasional meal of fish, doesn't always have bones.

4. Prey Model Raw: This can be a bit gruesome to watch if you're not used to seeing animals eat their natural diet. Our cats get whole fish, whole mice and on occasion, whole rats (small ones.) We're looking into finding a source of quail as well. We feed PMR to ensure the cats get a sufficient amount of organ meat in their diets, since pure organ meat has proven to be too rich for our cats. Kindneys went over especially bad - not good, not good!

5. Non-Meat: Also known as eggs! The cats get eggs about once a week. I given them each an extra-large whole egg, and they'll carry it off and eat the entire thing - shell and all!

If you're interested in switching your cat to raw, this website is a great place to start.

Oh, and the cost? Well... let's just say it's cheaper than any premium commercial diet available - canned or kibble - no matter what part of the country you're in. Last night our local grocery store chain had chicken quarters on sale, 10lbs for $3.49. It was an insanely good deal for raw meat in Iowa, so my husband and I bought four bags. Hypothetically, each bag feeds the cats for three weeks, if that's all they would eat for a week. Yes, that's right - it'll cost us roughly $1.23 per week to feed our cats.

YOM YOM! Jacques says he looooves the taste of his raw chicken!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

And then there were Three.

I'm sure most of you have noticed that the group photo is missing a dog. The truth is, Ada has gone to live with my husband's parents... permanently.

Ada has always been the 'odd duck out' here. Most of the time that was okay - we dealt with her idiosyncrasies, and kept her out of the way of the other dogs for the most part.

But recently her aggression issues - both with the other dogs and with humans - had escalated. She attacked Revy while she was asleep on the sofa, she'd try to start scuffles with Jayne, and Kaylee was her Undesirable Number One. After a few pretty serious altercations, including the attack on Revy, several attempts to bite me, and a Kaylee/Ada fight that left my husband with several wounds of his own, we decided to send Ada to the in-laws to have a "time out" for awhile.

Ada adores them. She grew up in their house, under their care. She doesn't have issues at their house, it's like she's a different dog when she's there. After a few days, they asked if they could keep her.

We said yes.

I'm sure some people would disagree with our decision. But it's important to remember that not all dogs work in all situations, and sometimes doing best by a dog means placing them in a different environment. We didn't dump Ada in a shelter, we didn't turn her into rescue - she's still in the family, and we will be able to visit her often. She's happy, and she's where she's supposed to be. And that's good news.

So here's the pack now - two dobes and a corgi. Will we add a fourth? Maybe. If we add a fourth, we're going to be extremely selective. As it stands, our Three Musketeers are happier than they've been in months, and we've got a very harmonious pack dynamic now.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Technology vs. Brain

My otherwise delightful Chevrolet HHR has a problem. Something is wrong with its tire pressure sensors. The cheery dashboard display says the left-front tire is 27psi... when really, it's 38psi. It says the left-rear tire is 41psi... when actually, it's 36psi.

According to the mechanic, the sensors either need to be reprogrammed ($20) or replaced ($150 per sensor.) If all it takes is a simple reprogramming, then I'll have them do it. But if they expect me to pay $150 for each broken sensor, I will refuse. I will refuse with gusto.

I don't need to pay $150-$600 for my car to tell me information that I can gather - by myself - for free. I will do what my dad taught me to do when I was five years old. I will unscrew the valve cap, pull out my $7.50 tire gauge and check the tire pressure myself. That costs nothing.

Come on, folks - do we really need to be loading down our vehicles with useless (and expensive) pieces of technology? Do we really want to put ourselves on the road to becoming helpless flubber-people like in the movie Wall-E?

*fist pump*

Monday, July 11, 2011

52 Weeks of Dogs: 26/52, From the Hip

"Woodland Hipster"

This week's challenge was to "shoot from the hip," which basically means to hold your camera as waist level and take a photograph without looking through the viewfinder. Unless of course, you have eyes in your hips. Which I hope you don't.

I went on a five-mile hike with Aryn, Rocket and Kaylee on Sunday. It seemed as good a time as any to get my weekly challenge photo taken. Not really a surprise - most of my hip shots were blurry and poorly framed, but hey - I'd never shot from the hip before!

After reviewing the day's shots, I finally settled on this one. Not exactly sharp, not exactly original, but something about this photograph just sucks me in.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Product Review: Ruffwear Singletrak

Today I'm going to share my initial product review of the Singletrak Pack.

Made by:
Price: $89.95 (though I did find mine for $65 through and
Available Colors: Orange & Grey, Light Brown
Available Sizes: Small (23-28 girth), Medium (28-34 girth), Large (34-45 girth)
Description: A small, lightweight pack that has enough room for two platypus water bladders... and not much else. Perfect for day trips where your dog doesn't have to carry much. Two large compartments for the water bladders, two smaller compartments for miscellaneous items.

Initial Impressions:
Lightweight but solidly made, strong stitching, highly customizable fit. Lots of "open space," which leads me to believe it won't overheat the dog. The straps have elastic keepers, and padding to prevent chafing. The harness portion is very similar to the popular (and rightly so!) Ruffwear Webmaster harness.

The platypus water bladders seem cheaper than I'd expected, but they're still functional. (Field edit: They were a lot more appealing in the tallgrass than they were in my living room! The water tasted clean and pure, no hint of "plasticy" aftertaste!)

On the Dog:
I bought a Medium for Kaylee and a Large for Jayne - both in the dusty tan, "Dry River Brown" color. I have always loved the way Ruffwear products fit, mostly because they're made for muscular, fit dogs. There are five separate adjustment points that allow a very precise fit. The first thing I noticed about the Singletrak is how well it "hugged" the dog. The pack fits high on the torso, with the weight centered on the shoulders and anterior ribcage. I love this, because this is where the weight should be. So many other brands have their weight centered mid-back, which is not the strongest or most comfortable place for your dog to carry a load.

My only complaint is for the strap that runs down from the chest plate and down between the front legs. Since my dogs' rib cages taper a bit, the strap seemed to slide around a bit and move slightly toward the armpit area. I would have preferred a thicker, padded strap here.

In the Field:
The Singletrak shifts a bit to each side, but all dog packs seem to do this so it's not a huge concern of mine. It was sturdy enough for us to tether Rocket to Kaylee, and stayed secure even when the tether was taut. Despite the scattered showers we encountered, everything in the pack was kept dry. Since it fits so well, it was quiet and didn't have that "loose-pack-shuffling-sound" I've heard so many times from other packs. Kaylee seemed to be very comfortable all day, despite the high humidity and temperatures.

This is hands-down the best dog pack I've ever seen. It's perfect for a day trip, especially if you want your dog to be able to run around with ease. It doesn't carry much, but rarely do my dogs ever carry much to begin with. It fits like a glove, and the cargo pouches are perfectly aligned with the strongest and most stable part of the dogs' anatomy. If you can find it on sale, you'd be ill-advised not to buy one. The only improvement points I see are to widen the lower chest strap and to be offered in more colors!

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Dyson Sucks.

Nearly two years ago, I bought myself a Dyson to celebrate the move to a new house. It was so pretty, so shiny... so expensive. I vowed that it would be the last vacuum I'd ever buy, and that it would transform my new house into something my mother would be proud of.

Oh, how wrong I was.

From day one, the darn thing has proven to be "temperamental." The suction is amazing, but it makes an awful noise and has to be shut off if I so much as bump a piece of furniture or reach the end of a rug. And by 'awful noise,' I mean really, really, truly awful. It sounds like a herd of baby goats being tossed into a running wood chipper, in front of a gigantic megaphone.

I have called Dyson customer support about it several times, and each time I've been treated as if I'm some sort of moron that doesn't know how to operate a vacuum cleaner. 'Scuse me, but I have been vacuuming for several years now, and not once has one of my vacuums made such a godawful ruckus. Every time I called, I was told by a monotone, disinterested tech to unscrew the bottom of the vacuum, fiddle around with some things, then reattach the vacuum's bottom and "everything would work perfectly." It never worked for more than five minutes. Finally a customer service representative decided that my vacuum must be defective, and asked me to send it in for repairs.

Dyson had my evil vacuum for close to three weeks. When it was finally returned, I gleefully pulled it out of the packaging and took it on a test-drive. All was going well until....

(That's the sound of cute little baby goats slowly being hacked to death in a wood chipper.)

No. NO. No no no no no! They said it was fixed! It's not supposed to sound like that! Make it stop, make it stop!

Dyson had failed us. They refused to replace the damn thing, and refused to give us a refund. We stopped calling tech support, since they never seemed to have any new ideas and kept insinuating we were making the whole thing up. After all, Dysons are "perfect."

We have reluctantly accepted our vacuum's demons. My husband did end up kicking it down the basement stairs once out of anger and frustration, and I have a very colorful nickname for it that is a bit too unsavory to share on a blog that my parents (and in-laws) read on a regular basis.

Lately I have begun coming up with ways to humiliate my Dyson. It all started when I had to use it to vacuum up some dirty cat litter. Here was this fancy, expensive, artsy fartsy vacuum cleaner... sucking up cat poo. How demeaning, how embarrassing! Why, that's Shop Vac work! If only the other Dysons could witness the humiliation!

My husband and I have decided to take a series of embarrassing photographs of our Dyson. I will be sharing the photos with you all, in an effort to make the vacuum realize what a failure it has been, and to shame it into behaving properly.

"Dyson is using the toilet, and someone walks in. Dyson is embarrassed."

More to come, more to come. I see this becoming a weekly routine.

(And please, don't tell me I need to go out and buy the new XYZ Dyson model because it's "sooo much better" than our current model. If a product is crappy, you don't go out and buy another one for three times the cost of the original crappy product. That's just dumb.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

52 Weeks of Dogs: 25/52, Dog on Something.

"Prairie School Pembroke"

I'm catching up on my weekly photos! Alas, another Revy photograph. She can't help that she's the most cooperative dog in the house right now!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

52 Weeks of Dogs: 24/52, Reflections

"But... where has all the rum gone?"

Better late than never. This was a tough one - I couldn't get the dogs to cooperate with mirrors or water, so I had to resort to tricking them into inspecting a metal bowl. Success!