Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tuesday Reviewsday: Dr. Harvey's Oracle Tripe

A few weeks ago Dr Harveys contacted me to see if I'd be interested in trying out their newest Oracle complete meal mix - tripe!  Here... their photo is way cooler than mine.

Ah screw it, my photo is cool too.

First, let's talk about green tripe.  Dog food aficionados know what it is, but I'm pretty sure no one else does.  Simply put, tripe is the stomach from ruminant animals - such as cows.  Sounds disgusting, but it's basically a superfood for our dogs.  Now, the tripe you'll find for human consumption has been washed, boiled, and bleached.  Green tripe, on the other hand, hasn't had its wonderful nutrients and enzymes removed, making it one of the healthiest things you can feed your dog.

Here is what Dr. Harveys has to say about their new tripe complete meal, and really tripe in general:
Dr. Harvey’s, manufacturer of fine all-natural health foods, treats, herbal supplements and herbal grooming essentials for companion animals, has added the truly irresistible Oracle Tripe to the existing line of highly nutritious, freeze-dried foods for dogs and cats. Raw green tripe is a very high quality protein with an abundance of amino acids, omega 3’s, omega 6’s, enzymes and vitamins essential for every dog’s diet. 
Tripe is known to be one of the best sources of meat protein available for dogs. Using tripe as a main protein source can help dogs with a myriad of health problems, including, skin problems, digestive issues, allergies and kidney problems. 
“Feeding a protein source such as tripe that is highly digestible is likely more beneficial to dogs with kidney problems than low protein, hard to digest prescription diets that so many dogs are given,” commented Wendy Shankin-Cohen, President of Dr. Harvey’s. “Dogs really don’t enjoy these prescription diets and they really love tripe. Because of the appealing flavor of freeze-dried Tripe, even the pickiest dogs will be eager for mealtime.” 
“Raw green tripe is truly a perfect food for dogs suffering from kidney problems due to its low phosphorus levels and palatability,” says Dr. Harvey Cohen, founder of Dr. Harvey’s. “Tripe can be a miracle for many dogs with kidney problems or chronic renal failure who have been put on low or no protein diets and have, as a result, lost all interest in their food. Tripe is also very helpful for dogs with allergies and digestive problems and is a great food for keeping all dogs at the peak of health.”

The main complaint I hear from dog owners about tripe is that it smells horrendous.  It really does. Raw green tripe (and most of the canned versions available) smells like "barnyard" if we're going to be polite about it, but I prefer to be honest:  Green tripe smells like rancid cow manure.  Knowing this, I was curious to see how smelly Dr. Harvey's new tripe-based Oracle would be.

Pictured above is what the mix looks like in its dry state.  The tripe balls are cute.  They make me want to get meatballs at Ikea.  Also, the dry mix does NOT smell like rancid cow leavings!  Excellent!

Before I get too carried away, here are the ingredients:
Tripe, whole egg, rolled oats, sweet potatoes, carrots, flax seed meal, calcium citrate, barley, spelt, green beans, zucchini, broccoli, peas, beets, parsley, dried yeast, lecithin, alfalfa, dried kelp, dried ground fenugreek, dried ground fennel, dried ground ginger, dried ground peppermint, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, vitamin E supplement, manganese proteinate, vitamin A acetate, d-calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, rosemary extract, and mixed tocopherols.  

And the guaranteed analysis:
Min Crude protein 22%, Min crude fat 14%, max crude fiber 4%, max moisture 10%

I added 3/4 C of hot water and let it sit for 12 minutes.  

Perhaps 3/4 C was too much water, but I'd rather add too much than too little.  Looks pretty appetizing!  (And yes, at this point I really wanted Ikea meatballs!)  ... and still NO hint of that trademark "cow manure on a hot day" tripe smell! Instead, it has the same "medicinal and slightly metallic" odor that I noticed with the other Oracle varieties.  It's not a bad smell at all.

Taste test: Success! (Though the veggies always seem to confuse my dogs.)

In short, I feel the new Oracle Tripe is on par with the other Oracle varieties, and infinitely more fun due to the adorable little tripe balls.  What I like about Dr. Harvey's Oracle formulas is that they're chunkier than other just-add-water mixes on the market.  Instead of turning into a paste like other brands, they turn into more of a chunky stew.

This is definitely something I'd keep on hand and feed in my raw rotation.  While it's not "raw" in the way I usually feed raw, it's definitely not kibble!  I'd also 10000% recommend it to people who vomit at the smell of traditional raw green tripe.  Tripe is really important, and Dr. Harvey's Oracle Tripe is a great way to feed such an important and beneficial superfood without the nasty tripe smell.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Abel and Tab vs. The Possibly Rabid Opossum

I like to take the puppy boys for a nighttime walk to burn off a fraction of their energy before bedtime.  About three blocks into our walk, this happened.

Tab:  "What's that?  There, about a block ahead?"
Abel:  "A friend!  Everybody's a friend!"
Tab: "I don't know... it's walking funny and has a bald tail.  I don't trust it."
Abel: "What's not to trust?  HI FRIEND!"
Tab:  "SHHH!  Don't alert it to our whereabouts, you moron!"
*Possibly Rabid Opossum changes direction and begins waddling towards us*
Abel:  "See?  It's a friend!"
Tab:  "No it's not!"
Abel: "HI FRIEND!"
Me:  "Okay boys, let's slowly but surely take a shortcut down this alley to escape the opossum."
Abel:  "Awwww but I wanna meet it!  It can be my friend! It looks friendly!"
*Possibly Rabid Opossum keeps advancing*
Me:  "OKAY, I am freaked out by this creature, we are GOING AWAY!"
Abel:  "Okay!  Walking is fun!  Maybe I will find another friend before we go home!"
Abel: "Sigh, why doesn't Tab want to make more friends?  I am sad."
*Possibly Rabid Opossum gives up and waddles up on someone's porch*
Tab:  "Grrr, if I see that thing again, I will rip it to shreds."
Abel: "See, this is why you don't get invited to any slumber parties, Tab."

I'm pretty sure this illustrates the difference between Doberman Pinscher temperament and Bernese Mountain Dog temperament.  While terrifying, it was also hilarious.

The Worst Time of Year

Dogs and cats are turned over to rescue every day.  It sucks.  It sucks even more when it's done in the holiday season.

I get it.  (Actually I don't, but whatever.) Let's examine the mindset of the kind of person who would turn a pet over to rescue.  The holidays are a busy and stressful time of year. If you have a pet that isn't fitting your lifestyle, that lack of a bond sticks out like a sore thumb.  The pet is a minor annoyance on May 20th, but on December 13th the pet is about as unwelcome as the Grinch is on Christmas.  The oft-taken course for these people is to drop off the pet with rescue on the way out to buy Christmas gifts for Billy and Sally and Uncle Chet.  Christmas will be so much more relaxing without Sparky around!

But what these people don't realize is that giving up a pet during the holiday season is perhaps the worst time to do it.

Since so many people dump their pets during the holiday season, there is very little space in shelters and rescues.  Some rescues halt intake, while others (especially shelters, it seems) must consider euthanizing animals to make room.  Other rescues relax their adoption guidelines in an effort to move more animals, which ultimately leads to a higher percentage of poor placements.  In short, Sparky runs the risk of being killed or sent home with someone who shouldn't have been able to adopt him in the first place... if Sparky can even find a rescue to even take him.

Many rescues use boarding facilities to house their adoptables, but those facilities need rescues to move their animals out so there's room for the regular holiday boarders.  That leads to a mad scramble to find temporary foster homes for the animals, at a time of year when foster moms and dads are less likely to be in a position to take on extra dogs and/or cats.  Fosters and rescue volunteers are just like everyone else - we have vacations, family dinners, and holiday commitments as well.

My advice to those who may be looking to surrender an animal to rescue during this time of year is... don't.  Wait until after the holidays are over.  (Keeping your pet is better still, but if you must surrender, do it at a slightly better time than right now.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Happy Birthday Poison!

Happy 1st birthday, Pwaz!  Get ready to rock, because now you're old enough to really start having fun!

MBPIS Bruda Pure Poison

Sunday, December 8, 2013


This weekend we headed out to visit the in-laws.  Talla and Jayne came with us.

We learned that Talla is not a good traveler.  She only peed once a day, and refused to poop altogether.  Heck, she refused to even move!  She also stopped eating, and spent most of the weekend whining in a crate. Jayne was marginally better, but he still refused to poop until he had what Steve described as "constiparrhea" at 3am on Sunday.  By the end of the weekend, he was a bit twitchy.

The real excitement was the drive home.  Part of the trip is usually a straight shot, as shown below:

Unfortunately, due to the first snowstorm of the year, a tanker truck crashed outside Williamsburg and I-80 was closed.  We had to take a detour - in the dark - on country roads that hadn't been plowed yet.  It was soooo much fun.  (sarcasm.)  It added an additional thirty miles to the trip, which turned into an extra hour since the roads sucked.

PS.... we also have this adorable not-so-little dude for the next month.  He's a baby Bernese Mountain Dog named Abel, and he's here for training while his owners are on vacation.  He's basically the cutest creature in Iowa right now.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Poison's Treasures: Part 1

Poison has always been a thief.  She will steal an item and then happily trot around with it until she's caught.  It almost seems like part of the "game" is being discovered with her pilfered treasure.  One of her first recorded thefts was of a bra in April 2013.  She was four months old.

Fast forward a few months, and I caught her with a catnip-filled mouse.

Yesterday, she was caught with a single packing peanut.

Today, I caught her with a discarded ear post (eww!) ...

... and a kitty wand.  As she ran around with the wand, Dart chased her.

From now on, I will photograph Poison's treasures before I take them away from her.  Once I have a decent amount, I will make another blog post like this one.  I hope she never stops, because it's adorable.

PS - after publishing this, I caught her with one of Tab's puppy teeth.  Too small to take a picture.

Ear-Posting for the Latex Allergy Puppy

Newsflash:  Most ear posting methods use products that contain latex.  This can turn the reasonably simple experiences of cropped-ear puppyhood into a frustrating nightmare.  My current puppy has a latex allergy, and I've learned a few things while posting his ears.  I figured I'd share, so others with latex-allergy puppies don't have to go through the frustrating trial and error that I did.

1. Make your ear posts out of blue paper shop towels!
I know foam backer rod is easy and cheap, but it's terrible for puppies with sensitive skin and/or allergies. It's not absorbent, so any oil/wax/moisture doesn't get wicked away and will fester.  Shop towels are lightweight, clean, and absorbent.  In my experience, you can use regular tape to make the posts.  My "regular tape" is Kendall Covidien 2531C.  It does contain latex, but the layers of tape you use in making the posts will not actually touch the ear.

Take a shop towel and fold it in half.  For show crops, you may need to take two paper towels and trim the excess once the post is rolled.  Tightly roll it so it forms a tight cylinder.  Wrap regular tape diagonally (like stripes on a candy cane) up the length of the rolled towel, back and forth, about two and a half times.  This takes practice, so don't fee bad if the first few posts you make look like they were made by a drunk monkey.  This is what they should look like:

Next, using strong scissors, diagonally cut one end of each post.  This creates a wedged end that will end up going in the ear.  The "blue side" will be facing your dog's skull when you insert the post.  See photo below for a guide for where to cut.

2. Prepare the posts using latex-free tape.  ******UPDATE******  Buy Johnson & Johnson Zonas athletic tape.  It's latex free.  To create a sticky surface, start the tape at the top and then reverse its direction so the sticky side is showing.  Tightly "back-tape" so the entire post is covered in the sticky side of the latex free tape.

3. Insert the posts.
Your post should be as long as the ear. Make sure it fits before you start taping!  Work the post gently into the ear, as deep as you can.  This will not hurt your puppy - but you need to make sure the post is as deep as possible to prevent it popping out of the ear.

Insert the post by "rolling" it around and downward, while gently pulling up on the ear itself.  See photo below.  Remember, the "blue side" of the wedge should face inward toward the puppy's skull.  

4. Time to start taping!
Take a roughly 14" piece of the latex-free tape and cut a small slit in one end, so you can rip it into 1" tape.  The tape comes in 1.25" width only, so you need to get crafty!  You wrap from the back of the ear to the front, so the flap at the front of the ear is preserved.  This flap must remain folded over if you want the ears to stand.  Notice that you should bring the tape down to surround the bell, then up again. While you are taping the base, you still need to be stretching the ear upward while the post is gently being pushed downward.  Again, this takes practice. 


The tape should be somewhat loose.  Too tight, and you'll cut off circulation and kill the ear.  One the tape is completely wrapped around the base of the ear, squeeze the ear to tighten the tape to the ear.  This "squeeze method" gives the tape some room to shift and loosen if needed. 

This 14" piece of tape will only be enough to wrap the base of the ear. 

The rest of the ear can be taped with about a 12" strip of paper medical tape.  Any brand will work - paper tape is paper tape is paper tape.  I use the local grocery store brand because it's cheap and surprisingly sticky.  Paper tape is very thin, comes off easily, and is cheaper than the Zonas tape.  Wrap the ear in the same direction you wrapped with the Zonas tape, starting at the point where the Zonas tape ended.  Since latex-free tapes aren't as sticky, you need to wrap the entire ear, base to tip.  Otherwise, your posts will fall out within hours.

5. Reinforce the tape.  
This may or may not work with your puppy, depending on the severity of the latex allergy.  On my puppy, this works.  It may not work on yours, so keep a close eye on the post for any signs of an allergic reaction - swelling, wetness/sliminess, odor, etc.  Add one more later of regular tape at the base of the ear, overlapping the Zonas tape somewhat.  You want some of the regular tape to be in contact with your puppy's ear... preferably in the areas where there's hair for the tape to adhere - not skin.  Again - this may work, but it may not.  It works for my puppy, and keeps his posts in for several days as opposed to several hours.

6. OPTIONAL STEP: Reinforce the entire post.
After the base is reinforced, I generally cut a 5" strip of 4" wide vet wrap.  You can find this in the equine section of most farm stores, or online.  It goes by many names - Vet Wrap, Co Flex, Pet Flex, etc.  I wrap the ear semi-loosely in the same direction I wrapped the tape, then squeeze to tighten the vet wrap.  To secure the vet wrap even more, I run a single layer of regular tape on the top and bottom edges of the vet wrap.  

Here's a photo of the final product.  Note the zebra-stripe vet wrap, secured with regular tape.  The base is mostly Zonas, with a final layer of regular tape to keep it from coming apart too quickly.  (The posts do look a bit tight in this photo, but they're loose enough in "real life."  I feel around the posts frequently to make sure the ear can move around.  I usually don't bridge the ears unless there is a need for it, because I like my puppies to develop their muscles early on.  I woke Tab up for this photo, which is why he's holding his ears at a 10-and-2 position.  Normally his ears are straight up in posts.

This is by no means the only way to post ears on a puppy with a latex allergy.  This is simply the method that has worked for me after countless other methods have failed.  I will admit - even though I love posting ears, posting ears on a latex-allergic puppy is a pain in the tushie... and I can't wait until we're done.

If you ever need help with ears, feel free to contact me.  I generally need photos in order to identify problems, but I'll do my best to help!  

Tuesday Reviewday: Diva Dog Charms

I've never been a big fan of tags, but Diva Dog Charms has changed my mind to a certain extent.

Justine offers brass and aluminum tags, both at extremely reasonable prices.  Brass tags are $20, and aluminum tags are $15.  For the level of originality and quality of these tags, I feel the prices are absolutely perfect!

There are many different fonts and stamps from which to choose, and Justine is willing to special-order stamps if she doesn't have what you're looking for.  In fact, her cactus stamp was originally ordered for Talla's brass "Chupacabra Fruitbat" tag!

Yeah yeah, I blurred out my phone number.  I love my readers, but I don't need you guys calling me!

Talla and Poison wear brass Diva Dog Charm tags every day, and they still look as good as new.  Kaylee's aluminum tag is a bit scratched, but aluminum is a soft metal and some scratching is acceptable in my mind.  Since the brass tags are only $5 more, I think I will always prefer the brass over the aluminum.  You simply cannot beat the prices on these lovely tags!

Turnaround time is decent.  Justine does a great job getting tags out to her customers on a timely basis, but we all need to remember that she is the only person working on the tags and she keeps herself busy running her Sibes and Beauceron in Agility!

Tags aren't her only products, so be sure to check the Etsy site for bracelets, necklaces, and other items available.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Deep Clean: An Update

Last month, I may have mentioned that I was beginning an epic deep-clean of the house.  Tonight I made significant progress.

The Shower
A few months ago I used something that completely obliterated all soap scum and lime build-up.  I must have used it all, because everything I used this time didn't really help.  At least I still have all my skin, and I was not blinded by chemicals.  I think it'll pass muster.

The Stove
I don't really know what compelled me to clean the friggin' stove, but I did.  Between chemical sprays and the self-cleaning feature, I somehow came to the awful conclusion to use the self-clean.  Why oh why did I do that?  Dear lord, it smells like I'm burning down the house!  I opened as many windows as I could and set up box fans to help move the stink outside, but still.... Steve is going to get home and wonder if there was a cooking disaster.

The cardboard is almost gone, hooray!

The Basement in General
It's significantly better.  If I can work on it a bit every day, it'll be perfect by the end of the week.

I don't really know where I'm going with this.  I think I mostly just wanted to complain about the stove.  Here's a photo of Pierre as a kitten.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Dream Logic

I love dream logic.

Problem:  Your snake is getting trampled by your dogs because he was on the sofa while they were loose.
Logical solution: Don't have the snake out when the dogs are out in the first place.
Dream solution: Passively watch snake try to escape until he slithers under a cabinet, and then worry about how to get him out.

Problem: A friend forgets to bring money for a tip.
Logical solution: Spot friend some money.
Dream solution: Get into an argument with friend about the ethics of not tipping your waitress.

Problem: You are at a fundraising meeting for a dog club, and have $400 dollars to donate.
Logical solution: Donate the $400 to the dog club.
Dream solution: Donate the $400 to a public school in Florida, and drive the donation down to the school yourself.  During a hurricane.

Problem:  You find a shirt you really like, but it doesn't fit.
Logical solution: Leave the store without buying the shirt.
Dream Solution: Stay in the store until it closes, carrying the shirt around, trying to think of ways to make it fit. At closing time, you reluctantly put the shirt back on the rack and tell the owner that "you'll think of something, don't worry!"

Problem:  You have to go to work.
Logical Solution:  You go to work.
Dream Solution: You do laundry with a friend and explain insurance to your aunt.

Problem: You can't get home.
Logical Solution:  Call a friend, call a cab, flag down a bus.... lots of options!
Dream Solution: You call your dad, who drives through the Iowa State University campus at top speed... despite all the roads being closed for a parade.  You tell your dad to slow down and find another route, but he says he learned how to drive in Sweden and knows exactly what he's doing.

Problem: You need to fill a prescription at Hy Vee.
Logical solution: You go to Hy Vee and fill the prescription.
Dream Solution:  You lock your husband out of the car and go to Popeye's, then visit a waiting room in a hospital and color with crayons until your annoyed husband tracks you down.

That was my night, folks.  Aren't our brains wonderful?  Random note:  Here's a screenshot of hilarity that ensued after I posted a photo of a Hy-Vee typo on my Facebook page:

I hope I have sufficiently weirdified your day.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Prairie Dobe Thanksgiving

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving.  Steve always has to work holidays, so we schedule holiday celebrations for his days off.  This year, we had Thanksgiving on Monday.  Steve's caveman brain kicked in (GROG BRING HOME GIANT ASS TURKEY!  GROG'S WIFE WILL THINK GROG IS A MIGHT HUNTER!) and he bought an 18lb turkey.  He did this, knowing full well that there was no way we'd eat that entire turkey in one sitting, and that microwaved turkey tastes gross.  We also had mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and two cheesecakes.  Yes.  Two cheesecakes.  We still have mountains of leftovers.

So today is the "official" Thanksgiving.  I have no plans except to sit around in my pajamas, watch Harry Potter movies, and resist ordering anything from the Paco Collars sale.  (I might have failed at that last part.)

Earlier this morning I decided to take the Dobergirls to the dog ranch.  I dug a FidoFleece out of storage for Poison, and Kaylee got to try out her new Ruffwear Climate Changer jacket.

Kaylee was just a wee bit happy to be at the ranch...

Kaylee, stop modeling.  You're not in a Ruffwear advertisement.

Poison: "Stay?  Okay!  Look at me, I'm staying!"
Kaylee:  "Stay is for pussies."

Happy Turkey Day!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday Reviewsday: Paco Collars

Oh boy.  I've talked about Paco Collars before, but I find myself tooting their horn yet again.  Not only are their products amazing, but they have an amazing staff.  I had the pleasure of meeting many of them in person - once at a collar decoration class in Minnesota, and once when I was in California on vacation.

And it all started with this collar.

When this photo was taken, it hadn't been worn for several years.  I never cleaned it after Ilsa died, and over the years her skin oils have turned white.  I can't bring myself to wipe it down.  It hangs by my front door, along with the Paco collars that belonged to Revy and Ronin.  As you can see, I place very high value on each dog's collar from Paco.  

I bartered for my first two collars.  I worked at a print shop, and Paco Collars needed letterhead and thank-you cards.  It was a great exchange, especially since there was no way I could have afforded Paco collars at the time.  Let me repeat that... Paco accepts barter.  

Here's my Paco Collar collection from a few years ago.

Paco collars are tough mothers.  I briefly mentioned the flood we experienced in 2010.  Our basement flooded at one point, and we had 20 inches of water down there for several days.  To my horror, I found most of my dog gear in the basement after the water had been pumped out.

Then there was this collar, which somehow had floated into the canning room and sat in a puddle of flood water - under a metal shelving unit - for three months.  This is what it looked like the day I pulled it out from that stagnant pool of water.

It was tarnished and smelly, but it was sound.  I wiped it off, cleaned it with saddle soap, and let it fully dry out.  Three years later, it's still beautiful.

Another beauty from Paco Collars...

I pulled Jayne's collar off and photographed it.  He's had it a few years, and he's rough on collars.  I didn't clean this collar beforehand.  I didn't even wipe it off.

I did the same with Kaylee's collar...

... and Talla's as well.

Here's another one of Jayne's collars.  The tan does darken over time, but I can't help but love it.  I find it to be much softer than the other colors from the very beginning.

Even my cats have Paco Collars!

I know I haven't really said anything new on this review, or explained from a technical perspective why Paco rocks, but I just had to write about the saints at Paco one more time.  They're remarkable people, and about as friendly and down-to-earth as you'll ever find in this world.  The owner in particular is one of the most welcoming people I have ever met, and I will forever consider her a very good friend.  

So thank you, Paco Collars, for being totally awesome.  Iowa will always be home to one of your biggest and most loyal customers.  Next time I'm in California, I'll stop by to say hello!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Is this Heaven?

One of my friends moved away from Iowa this summer.  Another one of my friends is considering moving to Iowa in the future.  Both of these events (and a bit of soul-searching) have had me thinking about what it means to be a happy Iowan.

Some people hate living in Iowa.  Others love it here.  I'm one of the latter.  Despite spending time in 18 states other than Iowa, I can't imagine living anywhere else. (Except maybe Wisconsin. I friggin' love Wisconsin!)  I'm going to approach this blog post in the same way that I approach my other passion - Dobermans.  When talking to prospective Doberman owners, I tell them all the reasons why not to get a dobe.  So today I'm going to tell you why not to move to Iowa.

If you crave big-city living, don't move to Iowa.  We have a few cities that are on the larger side (Des Moines: 207,000 people  /  Cedar Rapids: 128,000 people) but nothing that rivals Chicago or Los Angeles.  Small cities and small towns are the norm here.  Contrary to popular belief, small towns aren't always full of harpies that "know everyone's business."  My town has a population of about 1,500 people and we basically keep to ourselves.  The police officers and city council know me pretty well, but only because I'm the resident "dog expert" in town and sometimes they appreciate my help in dog-related matters.  It's not the end of the world if I forget to lock my car, and I almost never lock my front door when someone is home.  That is not to say that breaking into my home is a good idea though, which brings me to my next point...

If guns make you uncomfortable, don't move to Iowa.  Iowa is an open-carry state.  That means that residents with the proper permits can carry weapons in full view of the public.  In Iowa, it is extremely easy to get a permit to carry.  While we do not have an official castle doctrine (yet), we are granted civil immunity if we injure someone in self defense.  Furthermore, the law doesn't require Iowans to "run and hide" from intruders and/or attackers before reaching for our firearms.  Along the same line of discussion...

If hunting makes you uncomfortable, don't move to Iowa.  We have a strong hunting community here in Iowa.  Iowans love to hunt!  We're in the middle of deer season right now, but we also hunt turkey, duck, pheasant, goose, and small game.  Trapping is also common in Iowa.  If you're looking to hunt something a bit bigger, Minnesota and Wisconsin are just a few hours north!  (Side note:  Iowa has no large predators, aside from the occasional transient mountain lion.  Hunting in Iowa generally means you don't have to worry about something hunting you.)

If hearty eating offends you, don't move to Iowa.  Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of healthy options available here, but most of us aren't afraid of occasionally stuffing ourselves to the brim with fried cheese curds, mashed potatoes, corn smothered in butter and salt, and huge slabs of meat.  We like our hearty meals.  Also, the Iowa State Fair will give you Type II diabetes, and we are 100% okay with that.

If you hate the idea of needing a motor vehicle, don't move to Iowa.  This sort of ties in with the first point in this blog post.  Iowa is largely rural.  Certain cities have great public transportation, but unless you plan to never go anywhere in the winter and/or never leave Ames, ever.... you're going to need some vroom-vroom.  In Iowa, distance is measured in hours instead of miles.  I live two hours from my hometown.  I live about an hour (if you include rush hour traffic) from the office.  I live about an hour away from most of my friends.  I live about half an hour from any decent restaurants and my obedience club.  But it's okay, really, because driving is all I've ever known.  Also, Iowa receives fuel subsidies so our gas is cheaper than in other states.  Remember that if you ever need to drive through Iowa to Minnesota or Illinois... tank up in Iowa!

If you constantly need the "best" of everything in order to feel fulfilled, don't move to Iowa.  I'm going to be honest... we don't have the "best" sushi or the "best" burgers.  We don't have the "best" state parks or the "best" shopping.  We don't have the "best" wineries or the "best" entertainment.  But we don't need the best in order to be happy.  We're content with what we've got, which still happens to be pretty damn good.  If you know where to look, you can find great food, great entertainment, and great hiking spots.  We do, however, have some of the best meat and regional produce you'll ever find!

If extreme winters scare you, don't move to Iowa.  We get snow.  Not Alaska-level snow, but still a decent amount. In addition to snow, we get a huge amount of ice.  Blizzards are becoming more common, and driving in a blizzard is life threatening... and trippy as hell. And the wind!  Oh god, the wind!  It starts up about mid-November and doesn't let up until mid-March.  With wind chill, the temperatures in Iowa can plummet to -20 or more below zero.  On those rare winter days when the sun makes an appearance, you'll find yourself risking frostbite just to soak in that glorious natural light.

If extreme summers scare you, don't move to Iowa.  Summers here are hot and sticky.  On some days the air is so thick with humidity that you can practically cut it with a knife.  Temperatures over 100 degrees are not uncommon... often with 80% (or higher) humidity.  We don't run our dogs when the sun is at its highest because it's downright unsafe.  I wait until nearly midnight to go running because any earlier and I'd probably risk heatstroke.  Luckily, there's this fantastic invention called air-conditioning.  Mmmmm, air conditioning.  Also, cherry limeade.

A few words about "Iowa Nice"... You may have heard that Iowans are ridiculously nice people.  I can't say for sure if we are or not.  I think as a rule, Iowans are politely pleasant.  We're not overly aggressive drivers, and we're courteous to strangers we encounter in public. We avoid confrontation, and stay out of other people's business.  If we see someone who needs help, we help them. If you run out of milk, a quick trip to your neighbor will yield a smile and enough cow-juice to finish whatever you're cooking.  If that's Iowa Nice, then sure... we're nice.  That's not to say we don't judge people, but we generally don't make our opinions known.  (Everyone is judgmental to some degree, and radically judgmental people are everywhere.  Don't even try to say that's not true.)

So, all you prospective Iowans... still with me?  Have I scared you off?  No?  Great!  If everything I've said up to this point hasn't made you swear off Iowa, then you're probably someone who would be quite content in this state.

The weather is challenging, but surviving it earns us a figurative badge of honor.  I think deep down, we Iowans are proud that we're tough enough to thrive in this climate.  (Somehow, hitting a deer with your car is also considered a badge of honor, or more accurately a rite of passage. I know, it's weird, just roll with it.)

We may not have mountains or oceans, but we can appreciate Iowa's own brand of beauty.  We get to enjoy endless prairie, thick forests, rolling hills, and secluded rivers.  Farmland itself has a classic beauty that you can't find anywhere else.

Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.  Iowa's cost of living and taxes are both fairly low.  Even without a college degree, it's not impossible to find a job that pays enough for you to own a car and rent a nice apartment... or even own a small house.  We have great public schools. We have great teachers.  We have great neighborhoods, and I've heard it's a great place to raise kids. (I wouldn't know... except that I was raised here and I think I turned out okay!)

It's easy to own animals here.  Even as a middle class woman in my late twenties, I own enough land to be able to own several large dogs.  I own my home, so I have room for the freezer needed to feed them a raw diet.  There is no way I would be able to live my current "dog enthusiast lifestyle" in a big city.

In short, Iowa rocks if this is the type of living you enjoy.  To made a broader statement... happiness that correlates to any place you call home is relative. No one state or way of life will make everyone happy, and it's pointless to assume otherwise.  In the same vein, it's ignorant to assume that someone who lives a lifestyle or in a state different than yours is in any way less of an awesome person for doing so.  I love Iowa.  My friends in the Twin Cities love Minnesota.  My friends in Boston love Massachussetts.  My friends in the Bay Area love California.

Live in the place that makes you happy, but don't let your happiness be slave to where live.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Reviewsday: Masters Pride

Yeehaw, it's finally time to share with you all the best kept secret in the leather leash & collar business!  Yep, that's right - Master's Pride!

I've been a Master's Pride customer for years. The actual experience of buying from Rick is refreshing; he mails your order and includes an invoice.  That's rare in this day and age, and I think it show how much Rick's customers love his work that he can trust us to pay for our orders after we receive them.  (I don't know why this part of the ordering process makes me feel good, but it just does.  I think it reinforces my belief that there are still honest, trusting people left in this world!)

I asked Rick to tell me a bit about his company.  Despite me being a happy customer for years, I'd never known the "story" behind Master's Pride.  Here's the story!

Master's Pride was started in April 1996.  Rick has always loved and enjoyed dogs. Actually, Rick was terribly afraid of dogs after being bit by a dog on his right hand when he was a child; he still has the scar.  His friendship with dogs started when he was asked to dog-sit two golden retrievers back in the 70s.  He fell in love with both of them.  Then his cousin bought a golden retriever puppy, Duster, and a great friendship was started.  Rick and Darleen adopted Duster, and Darleen had the wonderful experience of having such a great friend. What makes Master's Pride unique is that all the leather work is done by Rick, and he gives attention to the many small details that go into making a quality product.  He is truly a custom leather worker whose work is done by hand, primarily using traditional hand tools.  This level of attention is hard to achieve in even a slightly industrialized setting. The real trick is talking with the customer and coming to terms with what they want, what can be done, and what Rick's experience tells him is best.  In the end, he wants the customer to be pleased with their product, even if he needs to modify some of their ideas. Many of the customers Master's Pride has enjoyed over the years have been there since the beginning and have been responsible for much of the growth of the business over the years.  This word-of-mouth advertisement by satisfied customers has been the primary reason for the inspiration to continue making the customers as happy as possible. In addition to the customer service, Master's Pride seeks to buy only the finest leather and hardware available.  The leathers include latigo, bridle, harness, and natural veg tanned.  The hardware is primarily solid brass, chrome brass, and stainless steel.

What I like about Rick is that he's not afraid to tell me if one of my ideas isn't what I really need.  He's passionate about suggesting the right hardware and leather, and it very focused on making sure he makes the perfect product for his customers.  

As I mentioned in the Hill Top Leather review, there's a style of leatherworking that I can best describe as "equine."  The leather is super smooth, shiny, and buffed to perfection.  Master's Pride leather goes into my category of "equine" leather.  The hardware he uses is lovely, and not overly bulky.  There is a sense of refinement to Rick's work, which I believe shows a real mastery of his craft.

Pictured below is Jayne's training leash.  It's a work of art - strong but elegant.  It's pliable and soft, and there isn't a rough edge anywhere.  

Occasionally Rick throws $10 sales.  This is a collar I picked up during one of those sales.  Hand stamped perfection!

I think this collar really shows the beauty of Rick's work.  I love how even the base parts of the collar- the buckle and the leash ring area - are beautifully crafted.

Here's what it looks like on Talla!

Here's one of my first Master's Pride purchases.  It was one of the few leather collars that made it through the flood of 2008 without being ruined.

In my opinion, Rick is one of the top names in the business of leather collars and leads.  You can't go wrong with any of his products.  I will always be a huge supporter of Master's Pride, and hope Rick keeps providing us all with beautiful leatherwork for many years to come!