Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: December BarkBox!

Penny has been a devoted BarkBox subscriber for the past 6 months now, and we have yet to be disappointed! Yes, I said "we". Human confession #1: I avoid all types of possible spoilers and look forward to Penny's BarkBox more than I look forward to any of my own subscriptions (which include Birchbox and Glossybox, things a gal should be pretty excited about).

First, let me tell you that every time a BarkBox arrives, Penny follows me around like a 70-pound heat seeking missile, her nose jammed up to any of the box's open crevices. She KNOWS that brown box is for her. Even if she is in her crate when I am holding the box, she will instantly perk up. If that doesn't tell you how awesomely curated this box is, I don't know what will!

1. Bocce's Bakery FEAST

We love Bocce's Bakery in our household. It's a small business run by fun people, and they have the most amazing flavors, ranging from Maine Lobster Roll to Truffle with Mac 'n Cheese. All of the ingredients they use are human grade, and the folks from Bocce's Bakery say that they often snack on the biscuits themselves! Feast is a special holiday concoction made with chicken, pumpkin, and cranberries. Penny really liked it (she has yet to turn her nose up at any Bocce's Bakery treat). She liked it so much, I hid it and now can't find it for a photo. Instead, enjoy a photo we took for the K9 Scrub Club Bocce's Bakery contest we won a while back:

2. Oatmeal Shampoo from Fresh Dog

What I love about BarkBox is that the items aren't just for your dogs to enjoy, they are also useful things for us humans to use in our every day "dog husbandry". Fresh Dog is a dog and cat shampoo company and smells absolutely yummy! We had the hardest time finding a good smelling oatmeal shampoo for Penny's itchy skin, and finally settled on TropiClean, which has served us well so far (Human confession #2: I actually had to steal Penny's TropiClean oatmeal shampoo once because I accidentally left my soap at a hotel while traveling, and have allergy-prone and dry skin that needs soap-less bathing supplies. It worked well and I smelled pretty good!). We'll be using the Fresh Dog Oatmeal Shampoo for Penny's next bath, just to see how it stacks up. In the meantime, I'm interested in the dry shampoo Fresh Dog offers, for those times when John and I don't have the time and/or energy to wrestle a soapy, wet dog in the bathtub.

Courtesy of

3. Puppy Cake Wheat-Free Cake Mix (Red Velvet)

I may have squee'd a little bit when I pulled this one out of the box! Penny's birthday is next month, so we're saving it for that occasion. This cute little red velvet cake mix can either be baked or microwaved, and comes with a packet of yogurt frosting. Their online shop is adorable, and they have other tasty cake mix flavors like Banana and Peanut Butter. I'm probably more excited about Penny's birthday because of this cake than she is (if she knew what birthdays were)!

Courtesy of

4. Holiday Moose with Movable Limbs from Simply Fido

Simply Fido is a New York based company that uses organic materials for their products. True story: I was looking at one of the labels on the toy and planning on giving it to Penny with her Christmas presents when she appeared out of nowhere and snatched the toy. This dog is not good at sneaking, but she still took me by surprise like a little canine Jaws. I wish I had some pictures of her playing with this poor little moose (he never had a chance), but it would have looked like a giant brown and white blur. I don't think I need to elaborate on how much Penny loved this toy. The arms and legs slide back and forth for great tug o' war action. The moose was adorable....while it lasted.

Courtesy of

If you have a dog and haven't subscribed to BarkBox yet, I highly recommend you try at least a month! Subscriptions are $29 if you pay month-by-month, but as low as $17.50 when you pay for six months at a time. The best part is that 10% of the proceeds go directly to local shelters and rescues. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

On food, fretulness, and fact-less-ness

From the day we brought Penny home, she was quite literally a chow hound. She had such a voracious appetite that I'm pretty sure we could have dropped her in a large bag of dog food and she would've just eaten her way out. At the insistence of two vets from two very different practices, we had Penny on Purina ProPlan Large Breed since the end of this past May.

Now, before I go on, I want to reassure everyone that we have been talking to Penny's vet and weigh her every other day to make sure she isn't losing weight. As soon as she does, we'll bring her in to check for underlying causes. We want to do that anyway, if this continues much longer.

Back to the matter at hand. We love the vet we eventually chose after her string of new-puppy-from-a-not-so-clean-background illnesses, and she's given us a lot of great advice. Truth be told, I was willing to blindly follow her advice to feed big brand name food without looking into it much as long as Penny kept eating it, even though the kind folks at Dog Forum have been warning against the supposed "quality".

Penny ate her ProPlan voraciously, to the point where we had to buy an interactive food bowl to slow her down (her doggie cousin's mom died from bloat, so we're extra careful about that over here).

Aikiou Interactive Pet Food Bowl

Suddenly, Penny just stopped eating. There was no gradual slowing down--she just stopped like she switched off a light. We tried adding wet food (also ProPlan) to every meal. Wet food used to be a once in a while treat. Where she once inhaled it, she begrudgingly ate what she needed and left it. Watching your puppy eat about a cup of food a day when she needs almost 4 is just  heartbreaking.

I once read an article written by a veterinarian that mentioned how brands like Eukanuba, Pedigree, Iams, Purina, and Science Diet give vet students free supplies for their pets, swag for humans, and sponsorships so the students become extremely loyal and trusting of the brand when they graduate and become full-fledged vets. This article kept nagging at me in the back of my mind, so I talked to a well-respected holistic vet in the area to see if it was true. She said that the article I had read was unfortunately true, and that we should probably start doing some deeper research into food matters.

More confused than ever, John and I headed over to one of our favorite pet supply stores in the area, Whole Pet Central. The owner was there that day and told us his sister had 15 Great Pyrenees, so he sent us home with a few food samples his sister's Pyrs did well with. We were amazed when we tried Canine Caviar Chicken an Pearl Millet--Penny loved it! The reviews for Canine Caviar were absolutely glowing, and what caught my eye was that many of the positive reviewers' dogs had sensitive stomachs or were very fussy eaters.

Of course she stopped eating it as soon as we invested in a larger bag!

Sadly, that love was short-lived. After two days on the diet, she grew tired of the food and stopped eating again. This occurred on the day we bought a 12-pound bag of the food, so we had to try to make it exciting. We tried wetting it (ew) with a tiny bit of success, and then adding chopped apples and other fruit to some more success. 

Right now, we're adding some of the Canine Caviar wet food to Penny's food and she's eating like she used to. She's been on it for four days now and shows no sign of slowing (the longest so far since this all began) so we're keeping our fingers crossed.

Has anyone experienced anything similar? Is anyone as confused by all the vet advice and conflicting literature out there? We're still not totally sold on one food regimen over another yet, but are hoping Penny will stick to her diet and we will see if we see any other improvements as well. The bonus is that a lot of people with itchy-skinned dogs seem to see big changes with Canine Caviar. Penny can get itchy, so I'm hoping it'll help that little problem out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Keeping an "emergency dog pack" in the car

So, here's a formula for you: new chewy treat from the vet + getting distracted while trying to do "doggie business" + small errand run = a pile of soft poop in mom and dad's Prius.

Penny has only had one accident of the solid (or semi-solid) kind once in our house, even though she had a raging giardia infection when we brought her home. She's always been good at telling us when she has to go to the bathroom, and was houstrained with astonishing speed. 

Imagine our surprise when, while barreling down the highway at 60 mph with Penny in the back seat, we smelled something that we dubbed a "giardia fart". Penny doesn't have giardia anymore, but the term "giardia fart" has come to describe any type of potent smelling flatulence our dog emits from time to time. We grew suspicious when the smell intensified instead of going away, so I looked back to see Penny sitting on the floor of the car, and a giant pile of hot dog poop right in the middle of the back seat. Thankfully, we have a seat cover. Not so thankfully, we've been feeding Penny Canidae Pure Sea mixed with her dry food for dinner, and trust me, they are true to their word when it comes to using salmon and other fish in their formula. I think you can understand what I'm getting at here.

It's easy to be ok with accidents when what you're cleaning up after is this cute.

The window rolling and reactions were the things great sitcoms are made of. We were close to our destination, so we continued driving and stopped off in the parking lot to assess and clean up the damage. Let me say, thank goodness we carry emergency dog supplies with us! We were able to get everything contained with the roll of poop bags we keep in our car, and the smell and other parts of the mess with the enzymatic pet cleaner. The seat liner was by no means clean--we keep upholstery and fabric cleaner in the car as well, but weren't sure about its toxicity levels and pets--so we put out a bunch of puppy pads Penny could sit on without getting anything we missed on herself.

Do you have an emergency dog kit, and what do you keep in it? We have:

  • Poop bags
  • Enzymatic cleaner
  • Puppy pads
  • Gulpy (water bottle for dogs you can fill up on the go)
  • to-go food bowl
  • Small bag of kibble
  • blanket
  • Towels

With winter travel season upon us, it's important to be prepared both for yourself and your pet. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dog Meets Web 2.0

Psssttt....Penny is on Facebook! We're not sure where this is going yet, but we'd love to make a few animal loving friends. :)

She's also on can click on the link next to her photo.

Product review: Būmi

A couple months ago John (the husband) and I were picking a few things up at Wylie Wagg when we decided to look at the toys. We were frustrated because Penny tends to be a chewer and professional de-stuffer, which means that everything we bring home for her to play with lasts about 20 minutes. A sales associate directed us to West Paw Design's Būmi, which is described as "the interactive toy that your dog won't want to put down! Būmi(tm) is the active dog's dream come true, charged with energetic fun! Būmi is so much more than a tug toy - pull, flex, throw, float, and repeat! Guaranteed to last, even against 'destructive dogs'!"

(Photo courtesy of

Skeptical, I brought it home for Penny since the manufacturer promises to replace the Būmi if it is destroyed. To tell you the truth, I wasn't even sure if Penny would be into playing with it because to my human eyes, it looks like a boring toy. What little I knew! As soon as I took the toy out of the bag, Penny abandoned whatever she was doing and practically tore it out of my hands. She chewed on it for a while before moving onto something else, and there were no dents or other damage left behind. Two months later, the Būmi is still living up to its indestructible claim, still quite intact and gnawed on endlessly by Penny. It's seriously one of her favorite toys.

It lives up to its other claims, too. It's a great toy to play fetch with, and even floated the one time we threw it into her puppy pool (Penny did not follow, but that is another story for another time). It's super easy to wash, and is good for tug o' war sessions. Overall, we can't recommend this silly little S toy enough!

We're looking into buying more toys from West Paw Designs like the Hurley and the Zisc. Once Penny grows into her joints more, we're looking forward to doing some frisbee training, and the Zisc looks like a great training tool.