June 29, 2009

A Collie Named Max

Jane: My colleague and fellow blogger, accomplished writer and author Cindy Crosby, recently posted this story on the Walk With Me blog about what she learned as a foster "parent" to a collie named Max. It moved me so much, I wanted to share it with our WoofGang readers. I hope you'll be similarly moved and provoked to think about the nature of forgiveness. Enjoy!

Seventy Time Seven: A Collie Named Max
He was a tri-color, collie-shepherd mix whose whole world was a cardboard refrigerator box with a short kennel run, tucked behind a seedy motel. A Rottweiler shared the same space. As the bitter months of winter bore down on Illinois, the two huddled together for warmth. But a cardboard box isn’t much protection against the cold.

Someone alerted animal control, which came out and saw the two dogs braving the increasingly raw weather with so little shelter. The owner was warned that unless the dogs were given a better refuge, they’d be seized. The warnings were ignored. More . . .

June 25, 2009

Great Cotton Balls of Fire!

Jane: I'm embarrassed to write this post. But I have something to confess: Boomer no longer sleeps on our bed.

I know, I know, I chatted up the virtues of nocturnal canine companionship in a previous post, “Love Wrapped in Fur." After sleeping on it, I still believe there's nothing as comforting as the sweet warmth and rhythmic breathing of a dog on your bed, lying next to you when you're headachy or mopey or totally stressed by life.

But notice I didn't include the word insomnia in that list. And recently The WoofGang has been dealing with some serious sleep deprivation. We've been edgy. We've been grumpy. We've even been nodding off during the daytime. So a few weeks ago I decided to seek a “sleep solution” that involved relocating Boomer, since Daisy hasn't learned to jump up on the bed yet.

Boomer's just like a classic first-born child: He's eager to please and usually compliant. But he's also, uh, quirky. For instance, Boomer loathes getting his ears cleaned; at the slightest glimpse of a cotton ball or the faintest whiff of ear-cleaning solution, he slinks to the farthest corner of the uppermost room in our home, hoping that once he's out of sight, the ear-cleaning procedure is out of mind. His behavior is predictable and therefore can be used against him.

I decided to play this predictability to our advantage. So one evening, as Boomer eyed our bed longingly, I suddenly pulled out a bag of cotton balls I'd hidden behind my pillow and waved it in front of him, taunting, “Watch it, Mister! See what I have? I have cotton balls!”

Boomer must have been shocked (or was it awed?) by this blatant show of fluffy-white force. He stopped in his tracks, turned around, and fled the room. Great! I thought. My experiment is working! As added insurance, I laid the plastic bag across the foot of the bed to keep our 80-pound dog from pouncing on it during the night.

My approach worked like a charm. Ah, the bliss of an entire night of uninterrupted sleep!

But the next morning, where was Boomer? Not only hadn't he jumped onto our bed, but he hadn't even re-entered our bedroom! My conscience began to bother me. I worried, Have I messed with Boomer's mind too much? After about Night Two of Boomer going AWOL, we began sweetly entreating him to cross the threshold--only to watch him turn right around and head downstairs for the night.

Bribing Boomer with treats failed--a serious sign if there ever was one. I suppose Boomer was certain those cotton balls lurked somewhere within ear-cleaning distance and he didn't want to risk it. Finally, around Night Four of this strange stand-off, Rich leashed Boomer and gently yet insistently led him upstairs into our bedroom and closed the door. Boomer went nowhere near our bed. He slept safely out of our reach on the cool comfort of our master bathroom's tiles.

It took Boomer several more nights to get over this dust-up (or should I say "fluff-up"?). Eventually The Quirkster decided that cotton balls no longer menaced him from the bed, and that we really weren't plotting to clean his ears while he slept. He relaxed--enough to sleep on the floor next to Rich's side of the bed every night since.

Call us quirky, but now that we know Boomer's no longer traumatized, we're enjoying this new status quo. And we've decided we'd like to maintain it: Dogs off the bed, people on the bed, both species sleeping peacefully. What a novel idea! I just hope I never have to bring out the big guns--the cotton balls--ever again.

June 22, 2009

Bone Apetit: Starting the BARF Diet

Last in a four-part series on the BARF diet
Rich: I will never forget the first time I fed Boomer a raw chicken wing, bones and all. Boomer always approaches new things cautiously and there I was, taking on faith information from the Internet saying that it was perfectly safe for dogs to eat raw chicken bones. This went against everything I'd ever heard about feeding dogs chicken bones. (Caution: it is perfectly dangerous for dogs to eat cooked chicken bones.) I wondered what I would say to Jane if our precious five-month-old puppy choked before my eyes.

Boomer took the wing from my hand, moved to a safe distance where he wouldn't be disturbed, and began his work. He methodically mashed the still-intact wing to break up the bones, then swallowed it all in one satisfying gulp. He licked his lips and strutted like a conquering king. I've never felt so relieved in all my life. He would live to eat again!

The WoofGang experience with raw food feeding over the past two years has been nothing but positive--and never again as nerve-wracking as that first adventure. Having approached the subject from several angles, I'll offer the following thoughts on how you might go about adopting this diet for your doggie kid(s):

The two chief options for feeding raw involve a trade-off between time, money, knowledge, and the hassle of handling raw meat. Let's look at each:

Frozen Raw Ready-made Preparations

For the past two years, the WoofGang preferred this raw food choice. Through the dog-park grapevine, I met other raw food feeders, one of whom recommended me to a local lady who operated a discount, high-end dog-food supply business from her home. I quickly became a regular monthly buyer of Bravo raw food and fed it with great success to Boomer.

You may have a similarly enterprising neighbor who sells from her home. Or you might simply visit your local natural pet market and peruse the food freezers. You will see a bewildering assortment of brands, presentations, and price points tailored to every imaginable dog owner's need. In our local pet store this past Saturday, I saw prices ranging from $2.99 per pound for chicken-based raw food to $6.75 per pound for goat meat.

These frozen preparations come in a variety of forms to make them easy to handle. There are frozen hamburger-like patties, cubes, and sausage-like rolls. The WoofGang's tried all these forms, all with equal feeding success. In the end, with two hungry Labs, we found the sausage-like 10-pound rolls to be the most economical (buying in bulk, we paid about $2 per pound). We buy the cubes when boarding for the dog keeper's convenience.

Advantages of pre-made preparations:
* No special knowledge of your dog's nutritional needs is required to feed a complete diet.
* Less handling of raw meat.
* Convenient for maintaining a raw diet while boarding.
* Choose from chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb and goat preparations.
* Many organic choices are available.

* Pricey.
* Not sold in local supermarkets.

Do-it-yourself BARF Feeding

Now with two hungry mouths to feed, the WoofGang is migrating toward making our own food choices. To feed a complete diet requires a bit more knowledge, so I recommend you do your research. Dr. Billinghurst's Give Your Dog a Bone is a terrific, entertaining, and complete instruction manual. And, of course, preparing your dog's meals this way involves some food handling, but really no more than for preparing your family meals. Here are a few key points:

Your dog's diet should consist of about 60-70 percent raw meaty bones. These meaty bones should come from chicken, beef, lamb, rabbit, pork, goat, buffalo, and deer. Chicken (wings, necks, thighs,and backs) is an ideal food. Bones are extremely important and satisfying for your dog, so do not feed just muscle meat every day.

Other animal products to feed include organ meats (liver, kidney, heart, and brains), eggs (the WoofGang even eats the shells), cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir, milk, and butter. Fatty fish seafood is also great.

Vegetable and plant products to feed can be any leafy green vegetable, cauliflower, broccoli (don't over do it to avoid stomach distress at first), brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, carrots (baby carrots are a WoofGang favorite treat), fresh fruit, beans (don't experiment when having company over!) and whole grains.

Lastly, you should include a variety of oils such as cod liver, soybean, wheat germ, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil.

Many of my raw-feeding friends also add a vitamin supplement, brewers yeast, or kelp powder to round out the diet.

I am an occasional juicer, so many times I will feed the dogs the pulp from the carrot-celery-ginger-kale-swiss chard-or-whatever cocktail I make for myself. I pour some of the juice back on top of it to moisten it and Boomer and Daisy gobble it down!

Feed your dog about 2-3 percent of its weight in food per day. Boomer is full-grown at about 80 pounds, so he eats about two pounds of food per day. Daisy, at around 50 pounds, eats around 1.5 pounds per day.

On the raw diet, your dog probably won't drink as much water as before. This is normal for a raw-fed dog. His raw diet supplies much of what Fido needs.

Please do your own research if you decide to feed a strict vegetarian diet to your dog. I know of no one feeding this diet and cannot comment on its efficacy from any of my research.

As with any diet change, you should make the transition to raw food over a week to ten days. Once you understand and get comfortable with it, you may find--as we did--that it's a great way to go. We'd love to hear your success stories with raw food feeding.

Now, hand me that package of raw chicken wings. It's mealtime.

June 18, 2009

The BARF Bennies

Part three in a series on the BARF diet
Let your food be medicine and your medicine be food. - Hippocrates

Rich: So, let's get right to it. What are the health benefits of feeding your dog the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) way? First, I'll list the most commonly cited benefits, then share some observations from actual WoofGang experience.

BARF Bennies

Reduced body odor
No bad breath
Clean, white teeth - no tartar
Clean ears
Shiny, glossy coat
Lower incidence of obesity
Healthier digestion
Improved immune support
Reduced shedding
Reduction or elimination of hot spots
Resistance to flea infestations
Fewer allergies, especially skin allergies
Reduced teeth and gum problems
Slower growth - allows joints to fully develop before bearing adult weight
Happy dogs, happy owners (I just made this one up)

The WoofGang Experience

We can't testify to all the listed benefits but we can speak to these:

Better digestion. Boomer is the WoofGang's first dog to partake of raw food. When we picked him up as a ten week old, he'd survived parvovirus (a dangerous puppy killer that attacks the digestive system) in the litter, but was undersized for his age with a sensitive digestive system. It was touch and go on commercial kibble for a few months. Once on a raw diet, his stomach settled; today he's full sized, healthy and strong.

Cleaner ears. Saturday is grooming day at the WoofGang house: nail clipping, furminating (aka brushing with a Furminator), and ear cleaning. Prior to the raw food diet, Boomer's ears yielded gobs of ear junk requiring two or three cotton swabs per ear to extract. On raw food, however, ear cleaning is now optional. It is rare to get any ear junk whatsoever. This alone indicates to me improved response to his diet.

Clean white teeth. They say that good health begins in the mouth. The way Boomer and Daisy rip, tear and chew their food helps keep their teeth and gums healthy. How great to see their beautiful smiles.

Shiny, glossy coat. Boomer, our black Lab, absolutely gleams in sunlight. We add a fish oil capsule to his daily diet (more on that in the next post) to keep it shining. Daisy's yellow fur doesn't have the same shine, but at six months of age, it retains the luxurious sensual feel of her early puppy coat.

No bad body odors. 'Nuff said.

No flea problems. Most of the credit goes to the monthly flea and tick topical applications we use.

No illnesses. Knock on wood, to date neither Daisy nor Boomer has needed to visit the vet for any illnesses. We'll continue to monitor this as they have a combined age of only three years.

Happy dogs, happy owners. This diet delights the dogs and us. In fact, watching Boomer and Daisy enjoy their meals and knowing they're eating fresh, real food may be the greatest reward.

In my next post, I'll discuss the basics on what and how to feed your dog(s) a raw diet.

June 15, 2009

The BARF Diet's Natural Origins

Part two in a series on the BARF diet

Rich: The first time I saw Buddy, our previous black Lab, eat a live bunny whole was the last time I mistakenly believed that dogs are little more than furry, four-legged humans who bark. Buddy demonstrated wild-dog instincts that years of breeding and domesticating hadn't yet destroyed. He instinctively toyed with the bunny, eventually tiring it, then swallowed it--fur and all--in one satisfying gulp.

That experience was behind me when I first learned of the raw food diet for dogs. Without it, who knows? The idea of a raw food diet for my domestic companions might have taken a lot longer for me to accept.

The wild ancestor of the modern-day dog, the wolf, is a magnificent creation. In addition to being an exceptional predator, he's a dietary opportunist and scavenger, often consuming the leftover bones and scraps of dead animals of any sort. Fresh kill provides an excellent source of protein and nutrients, while rotten kill serves as a vital bacterial source.

The wolf is an omnivore. While it's common knowledge a wolf devours its prey's muscle meat and bones, it's less known that a wolf consumes vegetables, too. The prey's partially digested stomach and intestinal contents provide the primary source of vegetable matter and is often the first eaten and most highly prized.

The domestic dog, selectively bred by man from its wolf origin, maintains this dietary heritage. So should its diet. A manufactured (i.e., kibble) diet attempts to emulate the nutritional content and variety of the wolf diet. However, that the processed food, supported as it is by changing scientific nutritional research, actually adequately supports a dog's nutritional needs is a matter of some debate.

Into the debate steps the BARF or raw food diet. Think of BARF as the domesticated version of a wild dog's diet. Its sufficiency as a dog diet is demonstrated every day by the wolf and lately by a small but growing number of domesticated animals.

In our next post I'll touch on the health benefits for your dog of this natural-emulating diet.

Previous post: An Introduction to the BARF Diet

June 11, 2009

An Introduction to the BARF Diet

First in a four-part series

Rich: Mealtime around The WoofGang household is always exciting. There is dancing, prancing, twirling, and drooling preceding every feeding. And then there are the dogs!

Breakfast, especially, brings an overwhelming outpouring of enthusiasm. Daisy literally pirouettes on her hind feet as I carry her dish from the kitchen to the feeding area. Boomer is more stoic, but his eyes never veer from the hands preparing his meal. No food can long survive these two discriminating omnivores.

They're happy to be fed, no doubt about it. What Lab isn't ready to eat at any time of day? But, even more, they're thrilled with the special cuisine.

Three months ago when we brought Daisy home as a new puppy to join The WoofGang, she was a roly-poly 8-week-old eating, sleeping, peeing, and pooping artisan. At 21 pounds, she'd already received her M.A. in consumption, digestion, and elimination. She'd been weaned, of course, and was eating puppy food. Per the breeders' instructions, we kept her on a particular brand of puppy chow for the next couple of months till she'd finished her second 30-pound bag.

Then we switched to her current diet of a BARF feeding in the morning and kibble in the afternoon. She follows the trail blazed by a healthy, strong, handsome Boomer, a seasoned veteran of BARF.

If you're not familiar with the BARF diet, please don't speculate on what it might entail. Its name is a tad misleading. The BARF acronym, popularized by Australian veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst, refers to the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet. Also known as the Bones and Raw Food diet, it was introduced to America through Billinghurst's writings that include book titles such as Give Your Dog a Bone. We bought our copy here.

Over the next few posts, I'll go into detail on why we decided to feed Boomer and now Daisy this diet, its benefits, and tips on how to get started. If our experience is any guide, your dog will noticeably love the food, and you'll enjoy feeding this diet more than any other you've ever tried.

Before you ask, this discussion of the BARF diet is based on my research and authentic WoofGang experience. It is not intended to replace the recommendations of your veterinarian.

June 9, 2009

WoofGang Welcomes

Meet a new WoofGang friend, Nikki. She loves to go camping with her owners!

June 8, 2009

Bye, Bye Stitches!

Jane: Just a quick update. Daisy is now stitches free and out chasing Boomer with the pent-up ferocity of a she devil unleashed. You go, girl!

June 4, 2009

Licking the E-Collar

Jane: Last week we took my girl to be spayed. We agonized over this decision because we'd seriously entertained the thought of breeding Daisy. But in the end, we felt it was healthier for Daisy and better for our WoofGang lifestyle of daily off-leash dog-park visits to get the sorry deed done.

During surgery, the vet's office called to tell us Daisy also needed some repair work on her "outie" belly button (which turned out to be an umbilical hernia, something not uncommon but in need of correction). So she ended up with not one but two incision sites.

Daisy sailed through surgery. However, she did NOT take to her post-surgery "e-collar," as expressed by major thrashing and bashing and pawing. So to keep our Daisy looking chic while protecting her incisions, Rich took a well-worn Kuya Fusion Rum: React to the Beat T-shirt, cut off its sleeves, pulled it gently over Daisy's head, then tied it with a sassy knot, covering her little shaved belly's zipperlike row of stitches.

Did discerning Daisy opt for style over function? Paws down, Daisy preferred her funky fashion statement over the cheap plastic and unflattering fit of the commonplace e-collar (The WoofGang thinks we're onto something in haute canine couture; could a launch of protective postsurgical garb for doggie fashionistas be far behind?).

In the meantime, we're happy to report that Daisy's doing great. The stitches come out next Monday, so soon we'll be back to the wild and woolly world of canine-centric adventures. But we suspect it may be hard to get Diva Daisy to give up couture. We might have to bribe her with meaty bones to relinquish her trendy tee. After all, she's been spending a lot of time admiring herself in front of a mirror, reacting to the beat.

June 3, 2009

Disobedience Classes

The WoofGang's most recent unscientific poll, Has Your Dog Attended Obedience Classes? exposed the DIY bent of our blog visitors' responses. Forty-six percent would rather train their own dog or let Victoria Stillwell's TV program do the trick. Twenty-six percent claimed to have doggie valedictorians who graduated Magna "Come" Laude (the WoofGang can not relate). And the rest of you? We're just not saying.

A hardy Woof-woof and two tails up to all who took the time to answer our poll!

June 1, 2009

Finding Keepers

Rich: Photographers call them captures or images, photographs that convey the essence of an experience or personality or moment in time in a way that requires no explanation, that speak to the viewer in a silent universal language. In my own humble way, I'm looking for captures or images that are "keepers"--ones that capture an experience or a moment or a memory in way that speaks to me. It doesn't have to be an Ansel Adams to anyone else but me.

With Jane away the last several days, I'm taking a liberty. Instead of exercising my acerbic wit by writing another stirring blog entry tonight, I'll let these keepers--these slices of life taken over the past couple of weeks--say all that needs to be said.

Boomer in shade.

Daisy and Boomer, synchronized waders.

A tepee at the dog park?

Daisy savors the wet look.

The search for more keepers goes on.


"Daisy, are they clean yet?"

Happiness Is . . .

Happiness Is . . .
a warm puppy named Daisy!