First things first: Happy Easter! Easter is one of my favorite holidays because it's one of the first big celebrations of Spring, and because it holds extreme religious significance for me and my family.
Whew. So far I've made it through A-G in the A to Z challenge, and I've posted everyday (except one over-sleeping mishap) since April began to fulfill my Ultimate Blog Challenge. You can check out my post thus far in the A-Z Series by reading:
Needless to say, I'm a little tired, and was glad to have a nice, relaxing lazy day. I had planned to drive back to SC, but ended up spending Easter in Atlanta.
Today I started a new initiative with Arie--trying to exhaust my dog on a daily basis. I've noticed that on days when I really give Arie a true workout, she's much more laid back--helping with the issues we've had in the past with other dogs. Instead of her usual walks and potty breaks during the day, I'm going to add in running/walking the trail near our apartment with her twice a day to really get her tuckered out. Perhaps with a little bit more regular exercise, she'll be a much more enjoyable companion for my neighbors, so that they can see the true sweetheart that I know and love inside and outside of the apartment.
One thing I hate about long walks: Trying to carry everything I need. I need 1) my cell phone in case of emergencies, 2) treats for Arie, 3) My keys, 4) my gate card for my apartment community, 5) Arie. This means that, in my hands and pockets, I have several items that require my attention and space. The ladies out there know how problematic this can be, as the pockets in women's pants were apparently made for either women with no thigh definition at all or were not made to hold much of anything. Out of personal frustration and a hatred of fanny packs or most products of the sort, I made my own impromptu treat/keys bag, my second dog-centric sewing project:
I had a spare patch of wonky shaped fabric in this cute red and white polka dot pattern, so i trimmed it into a some-what decent rectangle. I then folded about a quarter of an inch over and each end and sewed them to form a smooth edge to avoid fraying. Then, I folded the fabric in half, inside out, and sewed the seams to make my little square.
Now, I needed it to be able to adhere to my belt loop on my jeans. I took the remaining strip of fabric and sewed a little strip of fabric--I sewed one end to the backside of the pouch, leaving space between the seams for a little loop of my own. To hook it my belt loop, I just loop the remaining part of the strip through my belt loop, then through the loop on the pouch, and tie a little knot or bow. Now, to add the treats.
These treats contain salmon which is great for Arie's coat, and they're also small enough for great training treats. We can do consistent training throughout her walk without me having to break the treats.
I didn't want the moisture of the treats to get all over my keys or to absorb into my newly made treat bag, so I put these tiny morsels into a plastic treat back that I received in a gift pack at an event---the treat that had been inside was laden with food coloring, and so not something I would give Arie, so I tossed that cookie away, trimmed the bag down, and used it as moisture defense.
With the treats, keys, gate card, phone, etc. stashed in my new handy bag or a pocket and Arie safely on her leash, we were on our way. We took a long walk around the trail several times. Throughout the walk, we practiced the "Look at me" command; this command requires that Arie stop whatever she's doing and look me in the eye. If she masters this command, it will be much easier to distract her from enticing situations with other dogs, squirrels, etc, and will have her looking to me for direction. We also spontaneously practiced her usual commands, like "sit" and "lay down" to test her recall. We definitely have some room to improve on recall in a stimulus rich environment, so we'll keep practicing. After we got home, Arie drank a little water and then settled into her favorite post-walk spot, the tiles by the front door. There's nothing like cold tiles on the belly after a summer walk.
Perhaps after we get over the hump of her training challenges now we'll be able to move into agility training. What do you do to exhaust your dog?
scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch. scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch. SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH.
This used to the be sound that you could hear all over my apartment, coming from, you guessed it, Arie. Certain dog breeds are prone to allergies, including German Shepherd Dogs, and dogs with lighter coat coloration seem to be more susceptible to allergies as well, giving Arie a double dose of bad news when it comes to allergic reactions. Arie was scratching her skin constantly, and rubbing her face into the carpet, leaving the sides of her mouth red and irritated; even the skin under her fur started to darken in color from irritation.
When I went to the vet, I expected to hear that Arie's allergies were from the environment around her, like a persons' allergies to dust, grass, etc. Instead, I found out that her reactions could be due to a protein in her food.
"Food allergies are the over-response of your dog’s immune system to an invading protein. In the case of a food allergy, this protein is contained in your dog’s food. Proteins are present in most of the foods your dog eats. While most people recognize that meats are a source of proteins, there are also proteins present in grains and vegetables. Any one of these proteins has the potential to cause a food allergy." - Modern Dog Magazine, "Food Allergies 101".
In my research, I found that it's not exactly uncommon for dogs to have a bad reaction to proteins in chicken, which was the main source of protein in Arie's food. To help with this issue, I switched Arie to Nutro Natural Choice, a premium dog food made 100% in the US (very important to me considering all of the pet food and snack dangers that seem to be stemming from products made in China right now) that has a wide range of products with various protein sources. We started her out on the Nutro Natural Choice Venison and Brown Rice formula.
For a while, and I mean about a year, she was doing much better, but then her symptoms started to come back. After discussing the issue with 1) my vet, and 2) professionals Edna and Renee from Nutro, who can tweet with at @reneeatnutro and @ednaatnutro, I decided to switch out Arie's food with one of the new grain free formulas from Nutro, as grains are a very common cause of allergies in dogs.
Now, Arie is eating the Grain Free Lamb and Potato formula or the Grain Free Venison and Potato formula. We vary the two throughout the year (mixing the bags, of course) so that her body doesn't start to develop a resistance to either venison or lamb. The scratching is gone and she no longer tries to rub her face into the carpet. We've also introduced salmon treats from Blue Buffalo and from Zeke's, as fish and the healthy fats found in fish can be great for dogs with allergies. All of these changes and now paying more attention to Arie's diet has helped me to make Arie's life more enjoyable and itch-free.
Just as an FYI for this post, Nutro does not pay me in free product or monetarily to tell you how awesome their food has been. I do that all on my own.
Do your pets have allergies? How do you cope with them? Have you tried a Grain Free diet? Weigh in with your thoughts!
Who really hasn't cracked a smile at the sight of a happy puppy face in the backseat of a car? Those lolling tongues and happy faces are irresistible. They're also appreciated by the dogs---It always makes me think of the Disney movie, Bolt, and this scene:
***Note, I do not claim to own any of the content in this video. Video via YouTube
Maybe it's because many claim Bolt is designed to look like a White German Shepherd, but honestly, that's freaking adorable. moving on to the facts of the discussion:
Arie loves car rides. I now live in Atlanta, but my hometown is in the upstate area of South Carolina, a good 2-3 hour drive. Arie goes home with me often; I even had to choose a larger vehicle when I got a new car last year to ensure that she and her crate, as well as the cats in their carrier, could fit comfortably for a road trip every few months. Arie usually stretches out across the back seat, with the cats in their crate in the very back of the car. After a few quick break-slamming incidents thanks to Atlanta drivers on a handful of these road trips, I came to the conclusion that started this discussion: Arie needs a seat belt.
My dad laughed at me when I mentioned pet seat belts. No joke. Still, such safety precautions are becoming ever more popular, present on the market, and encouraged for pet owners. My father grew up on my grandparent's dairy farm (Remember Arie showing off next the tractor?), and they took a very casual approach to pets. Pets were to stay outside---dogs didn't sleep at the foot of your bet, let alone in it, and their food sure didn't cost what Arie's does. With changing times, however, our approach to our pets is adapting. My parents even have a little dachshund now, who wears a sweater in the winter to deal with cold. Dad has come a long way.
People have done a great job of branching out into items for their pets, from fun and colorful toys and puzzles to designer pet beds and clothing, but our eye for design and our eye for health and safety seem to following slightly behind our more frivolous pursuits. I'm trying to play the catch up game now, adding grain-free, all natural kibble, vitamins, and more to ensure that my big girl has healthy hips and joints and lives a long and healthy life. Protecting her in the car is the next step, and pet safety belts are paramount for your pet's safety in accident.
FACT: " A 25-pound, unrestrained dog can become a deadly, 1000-pound projectile in the event of a 40 mph crash." - Pet Travel Center
You only need to picture your shih-tzu bouncing around between the seats during a bump up or a golden retriever thrown into the back of your seat to understand the need. While that picturesque puppy face lolling out the window is adorable, having them smile safely from their belted seat in the center of the car is still cute and much safer, for them and you.
The New Problem
Now that I know that I want to get Arie a safety belt, I have to find one that I like and that works for her. Some of these items are more complicated than a brand new car seat, and if you've ever had to hook one of those into a car (years of babysitting taught me better than a sensei ever could) you know that is no easy feat. Others only come in tiny, petite, small, medium, normal, and large sizes, leaving out the "holy-crap-is-that-a-miniature-pony?!" size harness that Arie will need. I'm still on the search, scouring various stores and websites and reading tons of reviews.
Where You Come Into Play
During #Petchat this past Monday (Twitter chat, Monday nights 8 PM EST for pet lovers) we discussed pet products we love and hate. Upon learning that I blog about my life with my pets, a fellow chatter asked me if there were any go-to blogs I like to read for product reviews. Well my lovelies, that really includes all of you. Whether your new to this blog and wondering why this lady cares so much about a freaking dog seat belt or a long time reader that totally gets it, having your opinions on this is much appreciated. Do you have a safety belt for your pet in the car? Why or why not? If you do, what brand/style would you recommend? So far I've heard a lot about Kurgo, but I'd like to learn about other brands as well.
Having a large dog is fun. Arie is the same size as some human beings, so she's an expert cuddler. She can keep up on walks and runs. She can actually jump up and look you in the eye. I just love having a large breed dog, especially a White German Shepherd. :) That being said, there is one thing that I miss about tiny dogs--Large dogs are harder to accessorize. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a person who puts my dogs in clothing or gets them a little bling. I do however, like to give them pretty collars, especially when your dog is always assumed to be male instead of the sweet girl that she is.
I have a crafty streak, though I haven't yet found the project style that really fits me. My friend Tori makes amazing jewelry that you can find on Etsy through her store, V. Carol Creations (you can also read her blog, Home Sweet Washington, to get to know the person behind the great earring options.) I cannot make jewelry. My friend Carolyn is an amazing artist, and her husband Daniel is a silversmith (how cool is that?!). You can see Carolyn's work at Carolyn Horne Illustration. I cannot paint or make silver into pretty things.
I am, however, learning to sew, and I love it. Kelly from Sew Alluring and I are learning together, and it's been great fun. For my first project, I picked something very unconventional. I decided to make dog collars! I found these adorable prints in the super cheap fat quarters section at Jo-Ann's. They were just long enough to make Shady (my roommate's dog) a few collars. One was a really cute shamrock print:
I loved the print, and decided that I would try to make Shady a collar by St. Patrick's Day. I haven't had much time to sew, and I'm terrible about reading directions, so on a handful of occasions I was able to sit down and practice making dog collars off the cuff. My attempts weren't always fruitful:
For the hardware, I used some very strong plastic fasteners that I also found at Jo-Ann's, and a metal d-ring I bought there as well. The D-ring did not hold up to Shady's walk, and pulled lose. Ugly first sewing attempt I can deal with---Impractical and unsafe breaking collars? That's not acceptable. For my second attempt, I got the hardware off of an old collar we had hidden away in the closet. It had a different form of buckle, so I had to learn to work with that as well:
This time, I was little more proud of my collar. I'm making them out of recycled materials by lining them with strong denim harvested by old pairs of jeans instead of they typical nylon. I made this collar thicker to be stronger, and also used the stronger hardware from Shady's old collar. This time, I tried a new kind of stitch around the D-Ring and fastener to make it stronger. The end could not be made attractive because I didn't have enough fabric, but I'm working on it for next time. Flaws and all, Shady is set to be styling St. Patrick's Day style as we celebrate all that is Irish.
Are you craft-tastic? Have you tried making anything for your pets? I'm going to continue to try to perfect my collars, and then move on to a nice, big dog bed. I'll keep you posted on my projects--If you have any suggestions for future projects or sewing tips, please let me know!
I'm off to enjoy a few ciders (a great alternative to beer that I learned to love while in Ireland) and the holiday. Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!
So I know that this image is probably one of the worst quality I've posted, but I couldn't resist sharing this with you. Most of the pictures I post of Arie are of her snoozing or posing, but this one is definitely one we see a lot in our apartment. She cracks me up with the awkward way she bends her body, and that goofy smile. In case you were wondering, this is the moose from her birthday!
Do you have pictures of your pets fun poses when they want to play? Please share them on our Facebook wall!
You might have noticed in our recent posts that we've discussing more of the act of blogging and a little less of Arie's life; I'm promise we're getting back to the doggie goodness, but as bloggers, we're sure you understand the need to discuss the more logistical aspects as well. Just to give you your "awwwwww!!!" for the day, here's a photo of Arie sleeping on the couch next to me. Home girl flipped the pillow over on her own for a face-shelf.
We have two very simple questions: Have you subscribed to our blog yet, and is it working for you? Don't worry--This isn't a witch hunt for who hasn't subscribed, though we would definitely love to see all of you click that little subscription button. It is, however, my attempt to get to the bottom of a few FeedBurner issues. Here's what we've noticed:
We want to be sure that those who want to have Life with Arie posts delivered to their inbox or reader are able to do so easily and efficiently, so let us know if things are working for you, or if you're having technical difficulties so we can get things fixed!
We mentioned a few posts ago that Arie's birthday had come and gone. Our little lady just celebrated turning 2! To celebrate, I got her a few toys and threw them in a bag (because the Martha Stewart section of my soul thinks that everyone deserves a pretty gift). Here's our photo collection from the celebration!
Each of these presents has a special significance for Arie. The Nylabone bone is to replace a bone she recently destroyed but loved--We hope this option will be more durable. The Moose tug toy feels durable and sturdy, and Arie ready, but here's a fun fact: I love moose. Oh, it's true. If Arie had been male, her name would have been Moose. The dental chew bones hope to keep Arie's teeth clean when brushing her teeth is a true chore (our experiences are much like those of our friends, Lauren and Claire, when it comes to the toothbrush).
After photographing the bag and the toys within, it was time to give big girl her present. Arie is pretty good about knowing what's intended for her and what's not, so she went straight for the toys.
As the toys came out of the bag, one by one, Arie wanted to experience everything all at once. Here's the progression from one toy, to two toys, to two toys and a treat:
Please forgive me for taking more photos than an unemployed pageant mom; it's not often you get her to hold still long enough for a decent photo!
I've mentioned before that Arie isn't crazy about other dogs, especially on her leash. She gets very territorial, very nervous, and somewhat aggressive. It's something we're working on, but it takes time and help from friends, so it's a slow going process. In just this week alone, we had two very interesting encounters with dogs from our neighborhood, one good, and one bad.
Let's go in sequence, and start with the bad.
When outside, Arie is always on a leash. This is for her safety and for other animal's safety, as Arie does not do well with other animals without an introduction. Her first instinct is to fight, and her second one is to cuddle. We're working on making the latter her first, second, and third instinct, but like I said, it takes time. My friend was vacuuming out their car, and while bringing in the vacuum, forgot to put Arie in her crate. She darted out the door and straight at a neighbor while the man was walking his dog. Thank goodness the owner was prepared and we were already running after her. We got Arie back in the house with the man and his dog all without injury, just a little angry, and understandably so. Luckily, the man was a dog person and understood what we were going through, so he didn't freak out too badly. Arie did scrape up her paw on the pavement though, so we did end up with a battle scar. (It's not too graphic, I hope).
It's days like that one that leave me discouraged. Sometimes I feel like we're making progress with her, and other times I question my own ability to work with her. The incident shook me up a great deal, and I felt terrible every time I thought of what could have happened. We are now even more watchful of Arie and the door, just to be on the safer side.
Little did I know, however, that just a day or two after this negative event, we would have a very positive one.
While walking my friend's dog last night, I noticed a little bitty something working its way up the sidewalk towards us in the pouring rain. I couldn't tell at first if it were a cat or a dog, but as it got closer, I realized it was a little dachshund mix, running all alone. I called him over and checked him out. The dog was wearing a collar, but without ID tags. I immediately put my friend's dog and Arie in their crates and brought the little guy inside to towel him off and to check him out. He was obviously someone's pet with a full belly and freshly groomed coat (besides being soaked by the rain). I called our community and left a message that if anyone were looking for a dog to call my cell.
Now, I had to figure out what to do with the little guy. It was unfair for me to leave Arie in her crate all night,but I couldn't risk her having issues with the tiny dog. We worked out a solution. The little guy went into a smaller dog crate I had, and I started working with Arie. We let Arie sniff the room, a towel with the dog's scent on it, and us from where we had been holding the dog to get her used to his scent. We then, with her on a leash, let her approach the crate. From a distance she growled and barked, but eventually calmed down. Over time, we let her get closer and closer to the little guy, who was at peace for the most part through the entire greeting period. Within about 15 minutes, Arie could lounge next to the crate containing the little dog without so much as blinking an eye.
Today, while on the way to the vet to check the little dog for microchips, I found a phone number scribbled in permanent marker on the underside of the collar (shame on me for not taking it off to check before hand). We called and got in touch with the family, and the little dog is safe and sound, back with his rightful home.
With one good experience and one very bad one, I have hope for Arie's progress as we work on her issues with other dogs. With continued training, I know she'll be the sweet, sociable dog we know and love within our apartment, but everywhere.
Have you ever had a dog with aggression issues? What are your suggestions? Have you rescued a stray before? If so, share your story!
Saturday. It's like an oasis in the week, especially during this short month. February has been a very, very busy month for us. This is the first month I've spent writing for Examiner (loving it!). It's a leap year, so an odd month on it's own. It's the month for my birthday (I can't believe i'm almost 25; 24 definitely puts the pressure on to accomplish more goals in a year), Arie's birthday (Feb. 17! Baby girl is 2! Birthday post on it's way), as well as my niece and my father's birthdays. Needless to say, the Moore family is all about packing as many birthday celebrations into the shortest month of the year as possible.
I feel like I blinked and February 5 became February 18, but that's just the way it goes sometimes. It's been go-go-go for us lately. Arie has been meeting new people as new friends are stopping by now that we live closer, and she's learning to adjust to people and new animals better than in the past (training is working, yay!) I've been crazy with work, getting the apartment just-so now that everything is unpacked, and working on projects with my new sewing machine (but more on that later). This Saturday morning, we both got what we needed. A laid back Saturday.
After a morning walk, breakfast, and a little play time, Arie settled in for a nap while I finished up a few housekeeping details (until the vacuum came one, and I got this face. "Really mom, really?!") It's refreshing when she lounges, because she's usually hyped up with the typical energy level of a White German Shepherd. After that, we settled in for a movie and a half (Shrek and Harry Potter; gotta love those kid/adult movies). A lazy Saturday was just what we needed to recharge.
You may be wondering, "Why would I want to hear about you sitting on the couch with your dog? Snooze-fest!"
Have you ever had someone assume you were a stay at home mom or a housewife, or that you had no social life, just because you were a pet blogger? I think sometimes it's important to remind the world what kind of schedules we're working with--It makes the time we take to blog so much sweeter. I blog about my down time sometimes because it's something special to me--just like this blog. With a full time job, volunteer work, freelance work, sewing projects, and a social calendar, sometimes a movie on the couch is a blessed thing.
Now, it's time to get back to a few work blogs and to head over to a friends after, but I hope some of you had a nice lazy Saturday morning as well. What did you do today?
White German Shepherds are great for active, playful people. They love a great game of fetch, to run, and to play games.
They are also very expensive playmates. Why? Their teeth and chew power. German Shepherds have some powerful jaws. In a study conducted by National Geographic's Dr. Brady Barr, the bite force of a German Shepherd, a Rottweiler, and a Pit Bull were all put to the test. For the Pit Lovers out there (including myself) you can tell people who constantly say that pits are dangerous because of their bite to shame--They didn't have the strongest bite force! The three dogs averaged at a bite force of 320 lbs, and the German Shepherd and Rotty passed up the Pit in the power department.
These bite facts aren't to scare you, or to reinforce the stereotype that these sweet babies are aggressive. It's to let you know how much we have to spend on chew toys.
Arie can chew through toys in a heartbeat--So called "durable" chews have been destroyed in a matter of minutes. Over time, we've found a few tried and true toys to stand up to her play time, and have established the 3 day test: If a toy can make it through 3 days, it's a fairly stable toy. If it makes it through longer, It's a winner and a staple in our home.
So far, the stuffing-less animal toys, the traditional Kong, and the Holey Roller have made it into our hearts. Now, we're adding the Kong Tug Dog Toy.
We discovered this lovely treasure in an order from PetFlow, a great online website that allows you to get your pets toys, food, and treats delivered right to your door. (Shameless and honest plug: If you start using PetFlow, use this link to sign up! I can earn perks if you do!)
Arie immediately fell in love with the Kong Tug Dog Toy. She carried it around with her everywhere, and if you sat down, it was immediately in your lap for a game of tug o' war. I wasn't able to get a picture, but she even cuddled with it to take naps the first few days we had it.
As you can see, this toy is both mom and Arie approved for fun and durability. What are your dogs favorite toys? Any suggestions for powerful chewers?
**WOW! Arie's love for durable toys caught the eye of Kong on Pinterest! Check out their recent repin of Arie going to town on her toy, and follow our dog-centric pin boards for the latest images of doggy goodness.