Sunday, December 21, 2014

Safe Toys and Gifts for Pets

There are still a few more Christmas shopping days to get that perfect gift for your furry family members.  There is such a big selection, I know it's hard to choose.  You want to get your dog or cat - or other pet - a toy they will love.  But you also want to be sure that what you get them is safe.

Not all toys and treats are created equal.  Some are healthier than others.  Some are downright dangerous!  So to help you choose the right gift for your pet, here is a list of healthy and safe toys and treats for dogs and cats.

Treats make excellent gifts!  None of us hear at Oak Valley will turn down a treat.  Mom makes most of ours.  I shared some of our favorite recipes in an earlier post (Recipe Greetings For Christmas  But if your Mom or Dad doesn't have time to make them, there this wonderful thing in the store called "Greenies"!  Greenies are delicious!  And they help keep our teeth clean.  They have Greenies chews for me and the other dogs.  And they have Greenies cat treats too!  The cats love these almost as much as Mom's tuna balls.  And they are easy to find.  Mom just buys them at the grocery store or sometimes she will get them at the pet store.

If Greenies don't appeal to you or your cats, then make sure the treats are healthy and safe.  Make sure they are sourced and made in the U.S.  Remember the jerky-treat scare a few years ago?  Lots of dogs died.  Well that jerky was definitely NOT made in the U.S! 

Make sure they are high quality treats.  High quality treats will not contain grains or unnecessary fillers, rendered animal by products, added sugar (sometimes hidden in ingredients like molasses and honey), chemicals, artificial preservatives, or ingredients known to be highly allergenic to pets.  Unfortunately, this means most of the treats on the market.  Which is why we get Greenies! 

Toys are always fun.  We like toys that are interactive and make us move.  They also need to be durable.  Nothing that we can chew up and swallow pieces of.  Think Kong - for both cats and dogs.  My favorite is the  Extreme Treat-Dispensing Dog Toy!  It gives treats when you play with it!  And they make a toy that cats love called a Kickaroo.  It has catnip in it which makes our cats wild.  They will try to sneak up on it and attack it like it is alive.  Maybe they think it is since it does have a sort of tail.  They sure are fun to watch!

Be careful of plush squeaky toys.  I can disembowel one of those in no time!  But we certainly don't want me to eat any of that stuff.  And the squeeker-thing inside can get caught in my throat and choke me.  Mom does let me have my plush weenie-dog, but only when she is able to keep an eye on me.  And when the cats have their catnip mice, she watches to make sure I don't try to eat any of them either.

Whatever you decide to get your pets for Christmas, take the time to be sure it is safe and healthy.  For more suggestions for gifts for your cat or dog - and even your bird or rodent, check out the list of Holiday Gift Ideas for your Pets from College Manor Veterinary Hospital.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Recipe Greetings For Christmas

It's that time of year!  The time of year that Bob loved so much.  The time of year that I wait for patiently - okay, not so patiently.  It's CHRISTMAS GOODIES TIME!!  Every year Mom spends a day or two (sometimes even three!) making holiday good stuff for everyone.  There's chocolate covered pretzels for Dad, an assortment of cookies for grandkids and friends, things in jars (she calls them mixes) for friends farther away.  And yes - there are homemade treats for us! 

Mom says that most of her recipes are family secrets and she doesn't share them with too many people.  But the homemade Austin and Bob treats are different.  She said they were shared with her and so I can share them with others.  So here are some recipes for our favorite Christmas goodies.  Why not make a batch for your favorite furry family member?

Bob's Favorite Christmas Cake

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup water
1 cup chopped apple

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan or spray with cooking spray.  Beat together molasses, oil, and eggs until well blended.  Add vanilla and water and mix well.  Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth.  Fold in chopped apple.  Pour into pan.  Bake approx. 35 minutes or until done.  Cool completely before serving.

Austin's Favorite Homemade Dog Biscuits
Mom said she got this recipe from someone named Martha Stewart.  Martha, I love you!!

 1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup brewer's yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup low-sodium canned chicken stock, plus more for brushing

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, yeast, and salt; set aside
2. Place oil in a large bowl. Add stock and flour mixture in three alternating batches, beginning and ending with stock. Mix well.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to about 3/8-inch thick. Shape biscuits using a dog-bone-shaped cookie cutter or by cutting around a store-bought dog bone with a butter knife.(Make biscuits that are appropriate for your dog's size.)
4. If desired, you can spell out your dog's name or a holiday message in the dough with a toothpick (wet the toothpick first so it won't stick).
5. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.
6. Bake biscuits 10 minutes. Brush with stock; rotate baking sheets, and bake 10 minutes more. Turn off oven, leaving door closed. Let dog biscuits stand in oven to dry completely, about 1 1/2 hours. Wrap as a gift, or store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Tuna Balls
Yes, even the cats get a treat

1 can chunk light tuna, drained
1/2 cup chopped turkey or chicken
2/3 cup dry cat food

Mix all ingredients until well-blended.  Roll into small balls.  Chill in refrigerator for approx. 1 hour.  Roll in bread crumbs.  Serve.

Mom serves our treats with a special Christmas drink.  She gets eggnog.  We get a Bow-Wow Martini.  It was created just for us by Bob's friend The Martini Diva.  It's yummy!  It's called a BOW-WOW Martini which means it's just for us dogs.  But I have caught a cat stealing a sip!  Maybe she needs to make a special Kitty Christmas drink.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Operation Santa Paws

Your help is needed.  During the holiday season, extra help is needed for the thousands of abandoned and abused animals in local animal shelters and rescues all over the world.  One grassroots organization from Long Beach, California, "Operation Santa Paws," is helping by spearheading a canine/feline toy/treat drive to benefit less-fortunate pets this season.

Operation Santa Paws was established in 2001 by Justin Rudd.  From there it has quickly spread to communities across the country.  Animal lovers are encouraged to purchase a new dog or cat toy, treat or supply to drop-off/donate at their local  animal shelter or rescue in time for Christmas.

Operation Santa Paws seeks donated pet toys for shelters and rescues to improve the health and demeanor of those pets while reducing their stress to increase the animals' chances of being adopted. The simplest toys can make the animals much more comfortable. Cats enjoy rolling toys, such as small plastic balls or other "batting" toys that can be hung from cage doors, while dogs tend to prefer items like the heavy-duty Kong rubber chew toy.

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia currently host an Operation Santa Paws toy/treat drive.  If your community doesn't participate, 2014 is a great year to start!  It's really easy.  Simply place collection boxes in key locations.  Encourage all animal lovers to donate a toy by dropping it in one of the collection boxes.  At the end of the drive, deliver the toys/treats to your local shelter or rescue.  You can even get help from the original Operation Santa Paws organization.  They will supply you with downloadable posters, "wish lists," and will list information about your drive on their website. 

I'm lucky. I have a wonderful Mom and Dad.  I have other dogs to play with.  I even have a cat of my very own.  We all get good food and care and lots of love.  Once we come to our new home, we get to stay until we are old and cross over the Rainbow Bridge like Bob.  And on holidays, we get special treats and toys.  But not all animals are as lucky at I am.  They don't know love or security.  And toys or treats are a rarity.  Will you collect toys, treats, food and supplies for local shelter dogs and cats?  Let's give every shelter dog and cat a special day this holiday season.  Wouldn't it be great if there was a drive in your home town?  Let's make it happen!  Merry Christmas! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Christmas Shopping Reminder

Hello!  My name is Austin!  I am a 6-year old Yorkshire Terrier.  I live with my Mom and Dad in a big house in the country.  You probably know my Mom and Dad because they were also Bob's Mom and Dad.

Bob crossed the Rainbow Bridge several weeks ago.  We all miss him a lot.  He was my friend.  We slept together in the sun in the summer and shared a soft warm bed in the winter.  Some nights he would let me share Mom's lap with him.  Mostly he would snap at me until I got down.  Bob didn't like to share Mom much.

Mom has said that I can take over Bob's old blog.  I know I can never be as good as Bob.  Bob was one of a kind.  But I will try to honor his memory while telling my own stories here.  I don't think I will travel as much as Bob did.  But you never know.  Mom and Dad are looking at RVs so there may be some travel in my future!  Meanwhile I will spend some time doing what Bob loved best - working to be sure every dog, cat, rabbit, bird, guinea pig, horse, or other pet has the best life possible.  Which is why I'm writing this story today!

It's only a month before Christmas!  I know many of you have gotten much of your Christmas shopping done.  And those of you that haven't have a list ready for something that Mom calls "Black" Friday.  I'm not sure exactly what that is.  I know that Mom hates it!  She says there are too many people all acting crazy!  But Dad says he always finds good prices at the stores and I know that is important when shopping. 

Since there are such great prices on this black day, I want to give everyone a shopping reminder.  When you are out getting presents for you Moms and Dads, your children, your aunts and uncles - don't forget your pets.  We are family too!  And if you could - maybe get an extra gift or two for a shelter pet.  They would like to know that someone cares about them too, especially at Christmas.

If you don't know what to get us, I have a list!  Whether these gifts are for your own furry family members or for shelter pets, we would all love any of these!

1.  Durable toys.  Think Kong.  One of my favorites is the Extreme Treat-Dispensing Dog Toy!  It gives treats when you play with it!  And all of our cats love the furry mice Mom gets them every year.

2.  Speaking of treats - they make great gifts.  Milk Bones, jerky treats, beef sticks.  My favorite is Pup-a-roni.  And the cats like the little treats in the pouch that Mom gives them.  But mostly she makes us eat treats that are good for our teeth.  But that's okay because they still taste good!

3.  New food and water bowls.  Mom has a bunch of them in her store!

4.  Brushes and combs.  Nothing feels better than a good brushing!  I hate when my fur is all matted and tangled!

5.  Blankets or beds for us to sleep on.  We like to be warm and comfortable too!

6.  Exercise toys.  New leashes and collars.  I love going for walks with my Mom and a leash makes sure she doesn't get lost.  Balls for cats to chase.  Wheels for hamsters to run on.  Anything that gets us up and moving and keeps us engaged.

7.  Cat scratching posts.  Mom does not like them clawing on the furniture.  A scratching post is the perfect solution.

8.  Peanut butter!  I know I already listed treats but peanut butter is my favorite thing ever!  All of us have special treats we like.  The cats like cheese.  The fish like dried shrimp.  Our special treats make the perfect gift.

9.  ID tags.  Just in case Mom gets off the leash and gets lost, an ID tag will help me find her!  Or better yet - a microchip!

10.  Of course, the best present is spending time with us.  If you have pets, please remember we are members of the family.  If you don't have a pet yet, now would be the perfect time to give the best give ever to a shelter pet - a forever home!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Older Pets in Need of Forever Homes

It's been three weeks since Bob passed over the Rainbow Bridge.  I have missed him - especially in the evenings.  Evenings were our special time together.  And I have given much thought as to whether to continue his projects such as this blog.  At first, I just couldn't see what direction it could take without him.  I don't travel as much as I used to and when I do, Austin is not inclined to go with me.  But then I realized that Bob's story was about more than his adventures on the road.  It was about our love for all God's creatures.  Austin shares that love I think.  Watching him play with our foster dogs or the cats  and seeing his fascination with a little chipmunk that got in the house reminded me so much of Bob, I almost cried.  And so I think Austin and I will continue this blog but perhaps from a new perspective.

I was reminded yesterday that November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month.  Normally, Bob would post a story about the joy of owning a senior dog.  However, Austin is only 6 years old, which doesn't quite qualify for senior citizen status.  So, I have decided to repost one of Bob's earlier stories.  Enjoy - and then adopt a senior pet!

"I am a senior citizen. In dog years, I am older than my Baby Boomer Mom. I admit, that's a bit weird at times. But it's nice to know she's still young enough to take care of me!

Now that I am a bit older, I admit there are some things I cannot do as well as when I was a puppy. Mom needs to help me get up in my chair sometimes. And I sleep more now than I used to.  But there are some advantages to being older.  Mom seems to enjoy my company more now. She laughs at Austin's antics and likes to play with him outside and take him for walks. But in the evenings, she likes to sit in our chair and read or watch TV and I will curl up in her lap and just be with her. She will scratch my ears or sometimes give me a belly rub. It's pleasant to just spend quiet time together. Austin is constantly jumping up and down and Mom finally gets tired of it and tells him to stay down. But she seems to really enjoy having me laying quietly in her lap.

Now that it's getting colder at night, she often lets me sleep with her. We lay quietly next to each other snuggled under the quilt. Sometimes Dad's snoring wakes me up, but Mom will nudge him and he quiets right down. And sometimes Austin will try to squirm his way in. But he can't ever lay still long enough so Mom makes him sleep at the food of the bed or he would keep all of us (Mom, Dad, and me) awake all night.

I remember my puppy years. There was so much to learn. How to go outside so I didn't mess in the house. What toys I could chew on and some things (like shoes) are not chew toys. Mom was often stern with me while I struggled to learn the rules. Now I watch Austin going through the same thing and I am glad that I am old enough to know all the rules. I'm done teething so Mom and I don't have any differences of opinion over what makes an appropriate chew toy. And while Austin needs to run and play A LOT, I'm content to walk quietly with Mom or just sit in the sun on the porch with her or in our comfy chair. Being an older dog is much less stressful than being a puppy!

There are lots of senior pets in shelters all over the country that would welcome the chance to share their golden years with a special Mom and Dad. And there are lots of advantages to owning a senior dog. We are already grown so you know exactly how big we are going to be. We are done teething so you don't have to worry about us chewing up your favorite slippers - or the rockers on your antique rocking chair (sorry Mom!). Most of us have been housebroken already so once we know where we are supposed to go, there aren't the usual puppy messes to clean up. Some of us have even been trained to do other things. When Ginger came to live with us, she soon showed us that she had been trained to herd. She used that training to round up everything from grandkids to cats for Mom. Our older cats have years of experience hunting. So while neighbors complain of mice coming in their houses for the winter or finding snakes in their yard, Mom relaxes knowing that her four-legged mouse traps and snake deterrents are on the job. (I don't have any special tricks or skills. I guess it's a good thing I'm so cute!)

At shelters, older dogs are often the last to be adopted and the first to be put to sleep. When you save the life of one of us senior dogs, you will be rewarded with unconditional love and devotion every day. If you don't believe we can know and express gratitude, just talk to someone who has adopted a senior pet.

Ready for some good senior pet companionship? Check out these programs that specialize in senior pet adoption.

Berkeley East Bay Humane Society
H.A.R.T. (Humane Animal Rescue Team),
Peace of Mind Dog Rescue
Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends (AARF)
The Hinsdale Humane Society
St. Louis Senior Dogs Project
Senior Dogs 4 Seniors
Posh Pets Rescue
North Shore Animal League
Warwick Valley Humane Society
The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs (SSD)
Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon

Mom has said I can do something to help these adoption programs for senior pets!  How exciting!  We have a design in my CafePress shop celebrating senior pet adoption.  And for every item purchased we will make a donation to one of the shelters listed above.  Check out our Senior Pet Adoption design and let the world know that you can teach an old dog new tricks!"

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Memories of Bob

It has been a couple of days now since Bob crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.  I still miss his greeting me when I come home.  It feels strange to sit in "our" chair and not feel him in my lap.  And it is very hard to sleep at night without him curled up in the middle of the bed.

It has been almost a year since we wrote about our last adventure.  Bob was getting older and it was becoming more difficult for him to travel.  He was almost 20 years old when he passed!  That's an old pup!  We have spent the time since then sitting in the sun on the porch, working to help other shelter dogs find homes, serving as fosters for a steady stream of dogs and cats that were waiting to find their forever homes.  He kept me company when my husband was away.  He offered comfort when I was sick.  He was a warm, loving presence when my husband was in the hospital.  He chased cats off our chair and birds out of the cat's bowls.  And he was always quick to announce when something strange was going on outside - strange cars, strange kids, strange animals, even the occasional strange leaf skittering across the porch.

Bob made lots of friends during our adventures.  Pixel and Aspen were his favorites.  But he had many others.  Many of them are featured in stories right here on this blog.  And he did finally grow to appreciate "the rat", Austin.  And he was a friend to other animals too - cats, rabbits, horses, guinea pigs.  Bob loved them all.  We championed many of their causes right here on this blog.

Although we cared him and spoiled him rotten, nothing lives forever and old age finally did catch up to my boy.  A nasty tumor in his jaw and an enlarged heart combined to finally end his time here.  He passed peacefully with his family and his favorite vet, Dr. Karen, around him.  I know many of you will not understand how we grieve for a little ball of fur with a sometimes snappy temper.  To you he is just a dog.  To me, he was a friend, a traveling companion, a comforter, a playmate, and yes - even a business partner.  (His CafePress shop does very well, thank you!).  He was unconditional love with four legs and a tail.  I will miss him.

And so we come to a close.  From the little bit of a mutt we brought home twenty years ago.  To the night at a jvAlert event that this blog was started (thanks to some inspiration from Ronda Del Boccio).  The first t-shirt in our store (who knew a bug on a leash could launch a business?).  The many trips we took, the friends we met, the fun we had. 

I do not know where we will go from here.  The travels stopped as Bob got older.  Austin was willing to go but somehow it wasn't the same.  I still do not know whether my heart is in continuing this without my boy.  The CafePress shop will remain since most of the proceeds go to help animal shelters and rescues.  He would want that, I think.  As for the launch of "It Should Be A Dog's World" - I am still unsure of that as well.  That was our project.  I love Austin dearly.  But Bob was special.  I will see where my heart takes me.

Many of you have sent messages of condolence at Bob's passing.  My thanks to all of you.  Now go do something in his honor.  Go adopt a little fur ball of your own.  Bob would like that.