Friday, February 13, 2015

Reminiscing for a Valentine's Day Post

I remember when we first got Barry. That very first day. I had no idea of the impact he would make on us. Having a dog, Barry, has been transformative.

Driving him down the interstate to his new home. To our new life. For him, away from chaos and sickness. Away from confusion and despair. Away from possible death. A place to lie down and rest. A home that he would quickly learn to love. Somewhere he was safe and healthy. A family that would love him and one that he would love in return. It really did seem so simple. Taking a dog in to rescue. Feeding him. Petting him. It became all those things and it became more.

Looking in the rearview mirror at this sweet-new stranger was overwhelming and exciting. He belonged to us now. No turning back. Driving him away from the things he knew, the things he'd gotten used to and to a new place that would be overwhelming and exciting to him. We all felt it. That feeling of not knowing what was to come but willing to take it all on just for a chance at peace and continuity. For just a glimpse at love.

He was lying on the seats folded down with the crate on top (which he would later destroy) and a blanket on top of that. He clung to the blanket as I drove us down the interstate. His eyes were wide. He was silent and ready for whatever was next. He still has that attitude about all things. Ready to take on whatever comes his way. He's an adventurer, Barry. Even then, in our back seat, he was ready for adventure. Ready for whatever. He was also aware that he was going somewhere strange and new. I don't know if he knew how much he'd be treasured and loved. I sure hope he knows now.

I am not the type of gal that's huge on Valentine's Day. I am sentimental and I do love love. I love being in-love. I love loving. Valentine's Day, though, is a good reminder of what's important to you in your life if nothing else. Your family, your passions, your children, your job, your hobbies, your spouse, your pets. Whatever it is you love, love it with gusto! Love it without shame. Just love it and let that love take you wherever it needs to take you.

While today isn't exactly Valentine's Day (we'll ignore the fact that it's actually Friday the 13th!) it's close enough. I wanted to wish everyone a great day and weekend with their loves (whatever their love IS) and get all gushy over Barry.

**On a totally separate topic; I do apologize for not posting for a few months. If you'll remember (if not I'm about to tell you) I had just started a new job where I had plenty of free time to blog and write. Now that I've been on for just over a year I'm busier and have more responsibility than before. I don't have a lot of time left to blog or write regularly, sadly. When I get home I have the home to take care of, my husband to spend time with, and of course Barry requires tons of love and attention. We are all happy and healthy. Nothing to worry about. I just can't take the time to have a regular post for the time being. Cheers, everyone!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Best Helper

Barry is always very helpful. He is right on it when it comes to any task. He's willing to undertake anything.

When we pull the trash out from under the sink his bionic ears hear this and he runs to our aid every time. 

He watches with tail waggling as we tie up the top. 

He walks with us down the hall to the trash shoot sniffing around to make sure nothing unexpected comes up and to make sure there isn't any food or snacks lying around. We don't want to waste.

When we need to get anything from storage Barry is at the ready to walk down the hall with us, basically doing the same thing he does for the trash mission. It's very helpful, so why change a good thing?

When we are making dinner Barry is there, to the rescue of any dropped munchies, keeping our floors spotless. It's the pit bull standard (which, if you don't know, is very high for cleanliness).

He is never in the way. Who needs access to the fridge when making dinner anyway?

When I'm chilly he's there to warm me.

When Husband loses something (because I rarely lose anything), Barry is there to help him search out the item.

When we get a package in the mail Barry is first in line to help open it up. He's excellent at it.

And at the end of the day when we're all ready for bed, after all the help Barry has given us throughout the day, he needs our help to boost him into bed (but not really because he can jump into our bed by himself, he just likes us to lift him in at night). It's the least we can do to repay the favor.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Protector

About a monthish or two ago Husband went out of town for the weekend. It was just me and Barry. It was awesome. I ate all the stuff I wanted (well, I suppose I pretty much eat whatever I want regardless of if Husband's here or not), and I watched all the shows I wanted to watch. In all honesty I missed him being home but I did love quinoa, avocado, and egg dinners with Netflix constantly running in the background.

I took Barry by myself Friday night, both Saturday and Sunday all four walks, and Monday morning. All in all taking Barry by myself isn't a big deal. The only thing I found I was slightly more hesitant about was our evening walks. Barry has to go to the bathroom so it's not like I could just skip that one. I attempted to take the most well lit, and people-dense routes. In our neighborhood of Chicago it's not super busy. In fact, it's pretty quiet. It's an industrial (warehouses, blue collar, union workers) area with some condos, nice parks, a couple of schools, a 7-11, and some restaurants scattered in. We are just outside of the lively areas. 1 1/2 miles North of us is a lot busier. Just East of us is the financial district, the sky scrapers and white collar workers, that after 7 PM is mostly dead because it's all banks, stock market exchange, offices, etc. So now that you know about our neighborhood, you may understand that there aren't a lot of people dense areas. Especially at night. The people dense areas are North and East of us.

Our evening walks were especially quiet. Once or twice we'd see someone or a group of people but it wasn't a big deal at all. The area we live in isn't dangerous or sketchy or anything like that. It is still Chicago though, and stuff happens in even the very nicest neighborhoods. Just like anywhere you go.

Anyhow, one evening as we were walking back towards home, a guy sitting outside of a bar we were walking by, stopped me to talk about Barry. I was, at first, a little alarmed. It was about 1 AM. Yes, I was up late eating whatever and watching whatever on Netflix. He was very nice. He wasn't rude. I was still very aware of everything just in case. He was very laid back and totally into Barry. He was not a threat at all and I realized this quickly. He was at ease. Unlike another such person walking by who quickly edged himself toward the curb.

Why is he scared of me?
I talked to this nice guy for a few minutes and Barry LOVED him! Barry was all over him and this guy just gushed over Barry. I felt so much better. I realized that even though Barry will pretty much just love on anyone willing to look at him, Barry's looks make those that are maybe not-so-nice perhaps stay away. Barry, to me, is totally the sweetest, and most easily approachable dog ever. But I just wonder if there was someone with ill intentions that they might think twice if they see Barry walking with me. Barry most likely appears to be a very well trained and well behaved pit bull type dog. Could he possibly look like a dog that would attack! if I told him to? Maybe. I don't really know. I don't think he does. Though, I don't know what goes through other people's minds. Someone with any ill intention is probably looking for an easy target. A girl with my stature by herself at 1 AM would be an easy target. Add in Barry walking by my side and that changes the scene a bit and perhaps deters any possible meanies.

I consider myself Barry's protector. But in other ways, without Barry even knowing it, he is my protector. His looks give him a certain stigma. That is just the way it is. I've accepted it. I do what I can to dispel that myth but as an individual I can't do more than what I already do. If you are scared of this guy then edge your way to the curb while we walk on by and enjoy our walk. If you think he's cute and want to pet him then do approach because he welcomes all attention and I love to talk about Barry (I mean, I have a blog all about him, obviously).

Monday, October 6, 2014

The 'Ol Switcheroo *Again*

I'm relieved to say that we've returned to The Honest Kitchen food for Barry. I say relieved because this food (for Barry) is like a miracle drug. I was quite worried when we were still giving Barry bland food (a mixture of rice, pumpkin, and very lean beef) and his poo was still mucousy. I thought this was a sign of something else wrong. Why was the bland food not working as it should? Perhaps he was missing nutrients that made him mucousy? I don't know. We got in the new food and 24 hours later he had a totally normal real poo. It had been a couple of weeks since I'd seen a good one. When we went to the vet after his worst ever episode he was on medicine and everything seemed normal. A couple of days after the medicine was gone we were back to the sticky stuff.

Right now we are using Kindly from The Honest Kitchen. It's a base food, not complete. It has everything except the protein. This has been perfect for us. The price is much better than the complete food (it will take us twice as long to use the base and cost half the price). So far it's amazing. Just like it was before.

We'll have to monitor his weight once again to make sure he isn't losing weight or gaining weight (though a couple extra pounds wouldn't hurt the string bean) but I have a good feeling on this. I'm making one day's worth of food at a time now. Split it in two and follow the guidelines for his activity level and weight. We'll adjust as needed.

I'm hoping that this is it for the dinner time and bathroom time with Barry stories.

As for the Merrick we didn't quite use up, we are donating it to the shelter where we adopted Barry from. The food is excellent and the dogs there deserve some good food.

Happy tummy.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Recipe: Easy, Healthy, Homemade Dog Treats

I smell those treats baking...
The last bag of treats (I won't name the brand but they are pricey and popular) I bought for Barry turned out to be not as healthy as I thought. I always read the ingredients just to make sure. Unfortunately these particular treats had some hidden ingredients. I can be in a little rush when picking things up and maybe not really think too much about a particular ingredient. Like soy, nitrates, and natural flavors. I know nitrates are no friend of anyone. I just didn't see it in the ingredients until later. Also, if you aren't aware, the FDA has not regulated the word natural in foods we eat. The ingredient natural flavors can really mean just about anything. It's usually a proprietary blend of things with one or more of those things being something the FDA would consider natural. Many times it can contain MSG, colorings, aspartame, just to name a few. It's best not to trust anyone but yourself when feeding yourself and your loved ones. Including your pets. If the package says Natural it means nothing. Read the ingredients. If you see an ingredient called natural flavors you might want to think twice. This is just my experience. If your dog does well on any food or treats then continue doing what you're doing. Sadly, Barry doesn't do well on just anything. We can't afford too many more visits to the vet.

I'm really hoping those are for me.
As most of my followers know by know, Barry is so very very sensitive. I don't want to take anymore chances. I want him to be his healthiest and I want him to live his years in the best shape he can be.

I'm going to start making homemade treats for him. I'll know exactly what I'm putting in it. If Barry has a reaction to anything I'll be able to pin point the issue since I'm using only a few ingredients. Unlike most store bought treats which can have dozens and dozens of ingredients.

I perused the internet for some ideas and what I made is a take on this original recipe (you can find tons of 2 ingredient dog treat recipes and they are all basically the same). It's supposed to just be a 2 ingredient recipe but Barry, being the picky little bugger he is, I figured I'd do a few extra add ins so that he loves it. He seems to totally love it.

I started with 2 cups of a gluten free flax and whole grain flour blend. You could easily use a grain free flour for you pooch. Grains don't seem to bother Barry, thankfully. I picked a simple two ingredient apple sauce about 4 oz. The ingredients are apple and cinnamon (I used this). Then I smashed a very ripe banana, one organic egg (because why not?) and a couple of scoops of organic peanut butter (I use this kind). The only ingredient in the peanut butter is peanuts. Instead of flouring the surface where I rolled the dough I poured some oats down. It works just as well.

You can see chunks of peanut in the dough.
I don't have a dog bone shaped cookie cutter (or any cookie cutter for that matter) so I used a pizza cutter to slice the dough into rectangles. At the end there was some dough left over and I made those into hearts with my artistic abilities. I plan on getting a cool cookie cutter for next time because these just look sort of sad.

I decided to not spray or grease the baking sheet but instead lined it with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. They turn out slightly soft but still have a bit of a crunch which Barry loves. 

The nice thing about this recipe is that it is so customizable and really hard to mess up. Next time I might add turkey puree (baby food) and whatever else. Definitely an easy recipe to start with. They are best stored in a paper bag so they stay crunchy. If your dog likes chewy or soft then store in a sealed container or ziplock type bag. Barry likes them and to me that is the most important outcome.

This was take two. The first picture I attempted turned into Barry jumping up and eating the
whole heart shaped cookie in one swoop. Luckily the first attempt was with the smaller
heart cookie. I think he likes them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Muscle for Brains & Mush for Poo

I love Barry's big head. I love the dip that starts at the front of his cranium and goes along the top. On each side it's soft and warm. I'm not exactly sure that this is muscle but I'm sure it serves some purpose, maybe keeping his brain warm?

His big head goes through a lot. When he play with a dog it gets all slobbery from play biting. Sometimes he gets scratches, again from playing. His head has been kicked at least once by me. Not on purpose, though. I'd never kick him intentionally. We were walking and he smelled something that was right in the path of my foot, his nose went into that path to sniff whatever it was and I kicked him mid stride. His head bled. I mean, I kicked him hard. He has always had this small bump at the top of his head that gets some abuse when he plays. It occasionally opens up and bleeds because it's exposed and raised. Our veterinarian looked at it and said it appears to just be a bump and nothing more. She's not concerned but did say to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't change shape or size. It hasn't so far. Anyhow, he smacks his head against things every now and then. It doesn't seem to phase him whatsoever. At night if he's laying at the foot of the bed he curls close to either me or Husband and that head slams down on our legs. Our legs must be like pillows to him. I have bruises on my shins from his big head.

The top of his head is soft and mushy and velvety. It's so sweet. I love to kiss it. I think his head is adorable.

Really, though, he doesn't have muscle for brains. He's a clever guy. He knows how to work me, that's for sure. I see him working Husband too. That top part at the top of his head is just there for cuteness, and probably protection and warmth as well.
We've had a bit of a hick up with his digestive issues once again. He's off the Merrick right now (we haven't fully decided that it is the Merrick) and eating rice and lean beef with pumpkin and Kefir. I got him some store bought treats that may have been too rich as well. I'm not saying it was either of those things but I have to wonder. He has been kind of funny since the full switch to Merrick. Plus the vet trip with explosive liquid diarrhea has happened in the time we've switched him. Merrick is a great company and the ingredients are wonderful. It's made in the US, the price is right, and dogs LOVE it. So, IF the Merrick is making him have diarrhea it's not because Merrick is a bad food. It's because Barry has got to be the most sensitive dog that is alive today. I'm not sure he can handle dog kibble at this point. Or meaty store bought treats. Poor guy. I feel bad cause he LOVES the food. Also, so many dogs do well on it, do not judge the food we have taken Barry off of by our circumstance. Barry is unique in how sensitive he is.

I'm also worried that this means we'll have to be paying a higher price for his food. I know many people that make their own dog food at home but I'm already stretched with time. I make homemade KONG treats for Barry every night, I pre mix his food and soak it (for easier digestion), I make dinner for Husband and I. I make fresh juice in the evening (for the morning). Etc. Etc. My time Monday through Thursday after I get home from work is limited. Also, making his food fresh scares me a little. What do I put in it? What is a good ratio of protein, fat, carbs, etc? What nutrients does he need? I know I can google it all (which I have) but it's so daunting. There is so much info out there!

We may put him back on the Merrick for a couple of days after this week and see how he does. If it's a no go we may go back to The Honest Kitchen. He did fabulously on that. However, we'd buy the Base pre-mix where you add in your own protein and instructions are well laid out. It's cheaper for us to just do the pre mix. Plus I could add in whatever protein, extra rice, etc. I imagine it will still be slightly more expensive to go that route but if Barry does best on that sort of food then I suppose it's worth it. There are many other brands that have the pre-mixes as well for a similar price. The 7-8 lb bags make 40-45 lbs of food. Then you factor in the protein (we will likely use lean beef) so a box would last about 40 days. That's better than the 20 days the full meal lasted which was a lot more expensive. Then I'll factor in the cost of meat for him. I feel like it's something we can definitely do. Even though the freeze dried/dehydrated route is more time consuming, it's not as time consuming as making his food from scratch. Plus, Barry responded so well to it that I just don't see any other negative other than cost. I think we may spend about an extra $20 month vs the Merrick when you factor in the cost of the lean beef.

I'm worf it.
I've also been searching the internet for some good homemade dog treats. I don't mind making him a batch of treats once per week. That's doable. I just need some good recipes and a cut bone shaped cookie cutter and I'll be in business. Any good ideas for treats?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Date Nights

Please come back home. Also, I'll have that KONG.
Husband and I enjoy getting out and doing things on our own, without Barry, sometimes. We like going out with friends when we can. Mostly, we enjoy time at home with each other and Barry. We cannot always just stay at home, though. We also can't always bring Barry with us when we go out. We love to incorporate him but it's not always possible.

I like it when I get to join you when you go out.
Our evenings out are easier than they used to be. As long as we have a tasty KONG for Barry he's fine with us leaving. That doesn't mean he wants us to leave. He's okay with it, though. We also keep the T.V. on for him and a few lights around the home.

I think the first couple of times we left him alone for a few hours in the evening I had Barry on my mind most of the night. Thinking of him and if he was upset or sad. I enjoyed myself but not as much as I can now. It's gotten easier.

Yeah, go enjoy yourself. I'll lay here with my fake fox and half chew bone. But enjoy your
friends and your mouthwatering steak. I'll just be here...
I still have that pang of guilt, though. I don't know if that will ever go away. And why should it? We have brought Barry into our home and we are responsible for him 100%. If he's unhappy or upset we are responsible. When we leave him at home to get out and have fun Barry doesn't get to also get out and have fun with his buddies. He's stuck at home. I don't want anyone to say to me, "Well, he's just a dog!" I can't even get on that level of thinking. Yes, he's a dog. He does have different needs than I do. He is still a clever, living being, a social and active creature, with feelings, preferences, and a brain that learns and remembers things. So my guilt is justified. Don't tell me not to feel bad, because I think I always will just a little. I am a grown woman and if I feel guilty or bad for something it's because of a good reason. Now respect my guilt and move on. There. I'm done.

I'll just watch some television while you guys are out enjoying life. Once again, nothing's
on, but at least I know you'll come back home.
This is why I'm so glad there's daycare for him. Husband and I may want to do something during the weekend. Leaving Barry always feels a little wrong when we know he can use more activity and daycare can provide us with guilt-free alone time while it gives Barry what he craves most; social activity with other dogs. No sad dog, and no guilty people.

Yep, thank goodness for daycare! I'm going for my masters in recess right now.