Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scooby Snacks

Since I've been trying to eat healthier, I'm constantly searching for ways to satisfy my sweet tooth, while still not eating too much fat and too many calories. My new favorite snack, which is actually not strictly diet food... is Scooby Doo baked Graham Cracker Sticks. I had to double check the package-- in the people food aisle--to be sure it wasn't a misplaced box of dog treats. But to be sure, Scooby snacks are delicious. They taste like those Bit-O-Honey candies. And it's great if you're in need of something crunchy after eating all that yogurt and salads.

At first I thought I was eating something fairly healthy. Baked...good. Graham crackers are generally low in fat... good. The front of the box says "good source of calcium." Since I drink much more Diet Coke than milk, I could use calcium. But in checking the side panel, I see that a serving contains 10% of your daily needs of calcium. Is that "good"? Then, as I read on, I notice first on the list of ingredients is "enriched wheat flour" which sounds good (enriched...must be better, right?) but I've learned that enriched actually means they've taken out all the good stuff and added in artificial vitamins and minerals. That's a disappointment.

Overall, one serving (9 crackers) is 130 calories (about as much as a bowl of cereal) and 4g fat. If I stopped at 9 crackers, I suppose that wouldn't be bad. But who can stop, when mindlessly munching a bite-sized tasty dog bone shaped treat? Throw me another Scooby Snack, Shaggy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dogs in the News-- PetsCell

I can't live without my cell phone--seriously, I tote it around with me everywhere, even in the house. And I'll even admit to leaving a message for Kelly once or twice on the home answering machine--to be clear, I don't call specifically for her. Yet, the thought has never, ever crossed my mind to pay Verizon to get Kelly her own cell phone. But that's exactly what some people are doing now, as PetsCells bring new meaning to the phrase "calling your dog."

PetsCell, produced by Petsmobility, measures 5 inches by 3 inches, and is shaped like a bone. It's designed to be attached to the dog's collar. The owner dials the dog's phone number (I'm serious!) and the phone automatically connects. A small speaker in the device allows the dog to hear his owner's voice. Some owners feel that this may help reduce anxiety for their pets when they are away. Perhaps, however, this would confuse the dog and send them on a frenzied romp throughout the house, searching for Mom or Dad.

If so inclined and the dog barks back a message, the owner will hear that too on their own phone. I can only imagine the curious looks of co-workers as Mom sneaks a personal phone call home to Buster from her cubicle at work.

PetsCell inventor Cameron Robb says he imagines applications for the doggy-phone in search-and-rescue, military, guide dog or even potentially patient and elderly care, to name a few. Current PetsCell come with a GPS for tracking lost pets.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ultimate Dog Lover

I just learned that one of my stories was accepted in The Ultimate Dog Lover book, published by HCI, and will appear on the bookstore shelves this November. I'm thrilled to be in a book among other amazing dog lovers!

Book description:

"Are You Crazy About Your Dog?

From their life's work as a veterinarian, a pet-care columnist, and an animal rescue volunteer respectively, Marty Becker, D.V.M., Gina Spadafori, and Carol Kline have been privy to some incredible stories about dogs and their humans—psychic dogs, heroic dogs, and therapy dogs who have healed their owners physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They've also fielded just about every question under the sun pertaining to our furry friends' health, wellness, training, and behavior: 'Why doesn't my dog come when I call him?', 'Why is she being aggressive at the dog park?', 'Will my house ever be free of tumbleweed hairballs?'

These esteemed experts have compiled a winning mix of heart-tugging, tail-wagging stories about some of the world's most endearing and amazing dogs with essential expert information in the areas of behavior and training, sports and leisure activities, and preventative care and health issues. With comprehensive facts, stunning four-color photography, and awe-inspiring true stories, this is the 'ultimate' book for ultimate dog lovers."

My story is not about Kelly (sorry Kelly!) but about my childhood companion, Happy. Our neighbors had found Happy, skinny and mud-covered, abandoned in the woods. My mom describes him as the homeliest, scroungy bag of bones she ever saw but I took one look at him, threw my arms around his neck and said "He's beautiful!"

We were unseparable from when I was in kindergarten all the way through high school. The story, Happy Together, tells of a time when my mother, borthers and I were staying at a summer camp, and my father wanted to take Happy back home with him for protection. I won't give away the ending, but it seems the bond between girl and dog just couldn't be broken.

Friday, July 25, 2008

America's Next Top Model

Yesterday Kelly and I had our photo shoot for an article that will appear in Guideposts magazine in December. The photographer, Jennifer May, is quite accomplished in photography for magazines and book covers and she was fantastic at putting Kelly and I at ease. Posing can result in awkward, unnatural smiles, but Jennifer definitely made me (and Kelly) feel comfortable. Her work for my latest Guideposts article, Red Thumb (Guideposts August 2008) was fantastic, as you can see by the photograph she took of Mike and I at our dining table, surrounded by some of our tomato harvest.

Anyway, Guideposts wanted some outdoors shots and it rained nearly all day so we weren't sure that was going to happen, but right as the appointed time arose, the skies cleared and a bright sun came out. I had to work to keep Kelly out of the mud in the back yard, and keep her new haircut brushed and looking good.

Since the article is to appear in December, I was asked to wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt. So I pulled on some jeans and buttoned myself into a nice, toasty cardigan sweater and stepped out into the baking July sun for an hour or so of posing and running around with Kelly. By the end of it, her tongue was hanging down and she didn't want to move. She was supposed to be playful and energetic, and we could barely get her to feign interest in a tennis ball. Hopefully Jennifer got the shots she needed!

Then we came inside for some posed shots on the front porch. Kelly cooperated for a bit, then she decided she'd had enough. I kept arranging her into a standing position, and by the time I took my place she'd sunk down and was lying at my feet. An exhausting day being a doggy model!

I'll keep you posted when the article comes out. In the meantime, Kelly's glamor days are over and she's content rolling in the grass in the back yard again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dogs In the News--Kangaroo Chaser

This news comes from us downunder. A hero dog, name undisclosed, saved its owner from a kangaroo attack.

According to a report on BBC News, Rosemary Neal, 65, was accosted by a kangaroo while on her farm in New South Wales. Neal's son reports that the horse farm is overrun with wild kangaroos, however usually they just hop away. This time, a large male kangaroo suddenly jumped up in the air and lunged straight at Neal, dropping her to the ground and kicking her severely.

Neal's son's dog heard her screams and chased the kangaroo away. Neal was taken to the hospital with a concussion and multiple cuts and bruises on her face, hands and back. Thanks to the family dog, the wounds were not even more serious. Neal is home and recovering.

Kangaroos are not generally considered aggressive to humans.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hairy Dogs

Most dog people with longer-breed varieties have stories to tell about grooming! Thank you for sharing yours, and keep them coming!
I just came across this sad photo of a cocker spaniel whose owner had neglected its grooming.
(How did they know there was a cocker spaniel under there?) Fortunately the dog was rescued and given proper care. When I hear about incidents like this, I get so upset. Owning a dog comes with responsibilities, and neglecting their care is obviously cruel. I know grooming can be expensive, but we can all keep up between professional groomings by bathing, brushing, trimming the hair on their feet, keeping their nails clipped, etc. Anyone can learn to do this. (Although my husband does the nails, I'm too nervous!)

My hats off to all people who rescue dogs, groom dogs, treat our ill dogs and keep them healthy. Thank you all!

I've been looking at pictures of different breeds of dogs, interested in what breeds make up Kelly. Since she came from a cocker spaniel rescue, she certainly has a fair amount of cocker spaniel in her.

I can see her eyes, her expression, her coloring, her body shape in the first picture. I don't see a lot of Kelly in the second picture of the cocker.

This is a long haired dachshund. I definitely see Kelly's eyes here:
This is her face, her chest, her coloring:

Her coloring, she just has longer legs!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dogs in the News--Rocco

Natalie Villacis was only 5 years old when she noticed her beloved beagle, Rocco, was missing. Now 11 years old, she is finally reunited with her best friend.
One day in 2003 the little pup slipped under the fence of the family home in Queens, NY. Despite hanging posters all over the neighborhood, Natalie feared she'd never see Rocco again. She often looked through scrapbooks and photo albums, remembering the fun times they had together. She even refused to throw away Rocco's favorite toy, a red stuffed animal.
On July 5, Natalie's mother answered the phone to practically unbelievable news--Rocco had been found, 5 years later, and 850 miles away--in Georgia! Positive ID was made because of a microchip planted in the dog's shoulder--a common practice in pet identification.
Natalie's father and older brother flew down to Georgia to pick up the pooch. Natalie was overjoyed to be reunited. No one knows how Rocco got to Georgia, and who had been taking care of him. He looked well-nourished and in good condition. A very happy reunion in Queens!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grooming Success

Check out the before picture (left) and the After picture (below). Doesn't she look great?!

After several bad experiences with grooming, we finally found the perfect groomer who was sympathetic, gentle and professional! We're so happy with the results.
In earlier posts, I wrote about grooming experiences at big-name pet store that resulted in my dog so stressed she needed emergency veterinary care. One of the reasons for Kelly's anxiety was being separated from me and left in unfamiliar surroundings. I called several groomers, none were willing to let me remain while they were grooming. I finally hit upon the idea of mobile groomers, who come to your house and groom the dog in their van...but none of them allowed the owner in the van, either. That is, until I found Melissa of TransFURmations. She was concerned and experienced about handling stressful pets, and had no problem at all with me staying in the van while she groomed.
She arrived last night, took the time to get to know Kelly, and we proceeded into her grooming mobile. Kelly did NOT even want to get in, but when I got in first, she jumped up. She then jumped back out again and I had to carry her back in, but I can only imagine how upset she would have been if I'd not been allowed to stay. Kelly did not like the bath at all. Melissa has a very calm and friendly demeanor and did not get flustered at Kelly's barking and repeated attempts to escape. She didn't even flinch as Kelly nipped at the water coming out of the hose.
Next, she lifted the sopping Kelly to the grooming table and turned on the blow dryer. Of course, Kelly liked this even less. Melissa kept the dryer at the lowest setting, which took a lot longer to dry but I"m sure was a help to Kelly's nerves. Kelly nipped at the air coming out of the hose and Melissa explained that was a common reaction. She put the grooming leash (I hate the term noose!) under one of Kelly's legs so that it wouldn't be so tight around Kelly's neck as she pulled and tried to jump off the table. I must say Kelly didn't stop tugging and trying to escape for at least an hour, even with me there. But she wasn't stressed to the point of bursting her blood vessels again either. She just didn't want to be there.
After the drying, Kelly calmed down a lot. Melissa was very quick with the clippers, and was careful to give me exactly the type of cut I wanted. I wanted to retain Kelly's longer coat on top, because it is so soft and never matted. Melissa snipped toenails like a pro, something that usually takes my husband an hour of struggling with a wiggly, whiny dog took her only seconds...snip snip snip!
She did an incredible job on Kelly's legs, which were four thick, hairy, curly messes. I could tell by the way she worked the scissors she was a real pro.
She ended with a bandana (or bows if you prefer), a squirt of doggy perfume, and Kelly got to select a toy from the toy basket! In the end, Kelly bounded out of the van happy to be free, but not stressed out in the least.
The entire job took about 2 hours and 20 minutes. I felt her fee for a full groom for a dog Kelly's size, was extremely reasonable considering how much of her time it took, and that she traveled about 40 minutes to get to my house.
Thank you Melissa so much for a wonderful job, Kelly looks awesome. I want to recommend Melissa to everyone reading this.
As the sign on her grooming mobile says..."'s better than a belly rub."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Greatest American Dog

Okay, last night Andy and I watched a new TV reality show, The Greatest American Dog (on CBS, Thursdays at 8pm.) I feel about this show kind of like I feel about zoos; with zoos, there are some issues of concern, but I am always thrilled at the opportunity to see exotic animals up close and personal that I'd never otherwise have a chance to see. This reality show was pretty much absurd, some of the contestants seemed fanatical and the challenges and rewards contrived. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I'm actually a fan of some reality shows. But not this one. The dogs all arrived dressed in clothes...aside from an occasional bandanna, I don't know why anyone would dress their dogs in polo shirts and frilly skirts. These dogs came in down vests, neckties and sneakers. Then they were asked to compete in challenges. The first challenge was like musical chairs. When the music stopped, the owners had to instruct their dog to get up on the "chair" and sit. It was actually kind of cute to see the dogs of all breeds and sizes doing their things. Later, we got a chance to see some special skills. (Andy continuously commented that Kelly would not fare so well in this competition.) The bulldog that skateboarded particularly caught our attention.
This dog was not just set on a skateboard and given a push. Tillman actually got on the board, pushed with his left legs, got on the board with all four legs, then pumped with the right legs, etc. He could even shift his body weight to steer. It was quite obvious that this was not a "trick" but real fun for the dog. And for that reason, I laughed and smiled, and will probably watch the show again when I get the chance. No matter what, face it, I just like watching dogs. If only this was just a showcase to see some pretty cool dogs--from the jack russell to the brittany spaniel to the border collie, these dogs were all cute, clever and lovable. The show iteslf; not so much.
List of contestants:
Ron and Tillman, an English Bull Dog who loves to skateboard
Travis and Presley, a Boxer loves to play
Laura and Preston, a Pomeranian that can strike a pose
Michael and Ezzie, a Boston Terrier who enjoys watching television
David and Elvis, a Parson Russell Terrier that enjoys long walks through Central Park
Elan and Kenji, a Giant Schnauzer known to stop traffic and draw crowds
Laurie and Andrew, a Maltese who loves his squeaky ball
JD and Galaxy, a Pointer/Collie mix does a fantastic back balance
Beth Joy and Belle Starlet, Mutt (Chihuahua/Pomeranian/Retreiver) is Bi-Lingual
Brandy and Beacon, a Miniature Schnauzer loves her stuffed animal that looks like her
Teresa and Leroy, a Border Collie who has done a couple commercials
Bill and Star, a Brittany that is trained in field trials

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dogs in the News--A Good Read

Today's entry is not so much about a specific dog, but a fascinating new dog book. As a writer, I'm always on the lookout for a new dog book. My favorites are still the classic James Herriot books. I just finished Three Dog Life. And now, in the fiction genre, there's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski. Edgar's family breeds unique mixed breed dogs with the desirable traits of intelligence and sense of humor. Edgar is a mute boy who uses a self-taught form of sign language. Edgar's amazing ability to communicate with the dogs is part of what makes this book sing.

A review by Stephen King reads "I flat-out loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. In the end, this isn't a novel about dogs or heartland America, it's a novel about the human heart and the mysteries that live there, understood but impossible to articulate..."

Check it out and take this book along on your vacation this summer. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Chasing Ducks

How obedient is your dog? This weekend I found out the answer, for Kelly, is "not very."
We had her up at her favorite spot, my in-law's camp on a lake. She loves the smells and sights there, and I love watching her come alive. Maybe a bit too alive this time. The camp is too close to the road to allow her to run free there, but we usually have her on a really long rope that allows her to explore all over. I got overconfident for a minute and allowed her off the rope. She seized the opportunity and ran around, nose to the ground, following a zig zag trail of some critter. Then she spotted the ducks and skedaddled after them and plunged into the lake. Kelly likes to swim, but I could see she was fast getting too far out and knew she'd soon tire. I ran to the water's edge and called and called to her--she was immediately out way over my head--and she didn't even look my way. Just swam steadily toward the ducks, which kept swimming out deeper and deeper. I must have sounded like a lunatic calling and screaming to no avail. Mike and Andy grabbed the rowboat and paddled after her. By the time they got out a little bit, I think Kelly realized she was in trouble, perhaps feeling exhausted and worried she couldn't keep up any more. She was gasping and panting, and had that frightened look in her eyes. "She can't make it!" I called. As the rowboat neared, she tried to swim away from it, probably afraid it would hit her. Finally Mike pulled up beside her, Andy grabbed her collar and guided her toward the dock. There is no beach there, only mucky mud, so I leaned over the edge of the dock and dragged her up onto the wood platform beside me. She was very tired and didn't struggle as we walked back up the hill to the camp. I know it was only her instinct to chase the ducks, but it was scary nonetheless. For the rest of the day she slept soundly, barely moving. I guessed she was probably dreaming of her big adventure.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dogs in the News--Hercules

Can you believe this? Scary! Here's Hercules, an English Mastiff. He's captured the title of "Largest Dog in the World." Hercules weighs 282 pounds. His neck is bigger around than most people's waist--38 inches! The Boston Herald reports that his paws are "the size of softballs." English Mastiffs normally weigh about 200 lbs. Hercules "just grew" reports his owner, John Flynn of Peabody, Massachusetts.
from: Dogs in the News

Here's another picture of the big guy. I'm sure experts would agree that Hercules could drop a few. I'm writing a book about overweight dogs so I fully understand what a challenge this can be. Kelly is about 10 lbs overweight, and even cutting back on her food and making sure she gets more exercise, the weight is coming off slow.

There is actually a BBC television program called Help! My Dog's as Fat as Me! Also in England, two brothers were found guilty of allowing their dog to become obese. Their Labrador grew to about 154 lbs. Fortunately, as a result of the guilty verdict, the owners took action and Rusty has begun to lose weight and get healthy.

According to Snopes, the picture of the man walking a giant dog next to a horse often seen circulating on the web, bears no connection to the real Hercules, above.