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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Thick Skin

When we first brought Barry home I had the hardest time understanding why some people would react in certain ways toward Barry (jump into the road away from us, turn the other direction, cross the street, eyes wide, etc.). It would make me so mad. I'd give those people the look. On the other hand I was also quite shocked at how many more people stopped us to pet Barry or to ask about him.

All of those things still happen. I just don't care anymore. I revel in the ones that want to pet Barry or comment about how pretty, or cute, or gorgeous, or awesome he is. The rest don't deserve to be in Barry's presence.

I also take it differently now when someone asks if he's friendly, or if he bites. I used to be offended by that thinking, Well, just LOOK at him! Of course he's friendly! Now, I get it. They mean no harm or offense. They are simply asking a basic question. Not all dogs should be approached. The ones that actually ask that question want to pet Barry but they are being polite, in a way, by asking before petting. Now, in Barry's case, anyone can come right up to him and start loving on him. He doesn't mind and he'll probably lick your face, and hands, and feet, and search your purse or bag for treats.

We still have the issue with Barry not understanding personal space. We are working with Barry to not jump up on us or others. He doesn't do it as much as he used to. He still does it, though. The absolute worst is when someone has their small dog tucked under their arm or the person walking their small dog quickly picks up their dog when we come near. Barry finds this irresistible! I'm not exactly sure what he's thinking but I'll bet he wants the dog to come down and play. He jumps up at the dog (and the person since the person is holding the dog) and oh boy. Typically the situation is easily controlled. The times that it's not are the worst. For example, Barry and I were coming back to our condo building from a walk. I like to go in through the back of the building out of convenience. As I was just about to open the back door I dropped my keys. I had to lean down to get the keys while holding Barry's leash. As I was grabbing my keys the door swung open (not hitting me or anything, it's a very heavy door) and a dog popped out. The small dog was on a flexi-leash and ran right up to Barry. I did not have Barry sitting in that moment because it all happened so fast. I was expecting to just walk right in with Barry. Barry sticks his huge head under the dog's belly for a meet and greet (the dog is only slightly bigger than Barry's head) and the guy still holding the door to let us in decides he needs to grab his dog since the leashes were about to get tangled. I grabbed the door to go in, tug on the leash at Barry a bit to move away and the guy picks his dog up. I had to maneuver around the guy with the dog and Barry immediately jumps up at the dog about two times. Ugh... I apologized to the guy but he was clearly not okay with Barry jumping at his dog, and I get it. The whole scene took place in a matter of 10-15 seconds.

I look back and I just don't think I could have done anything differently. The small confined space, the quick encounter. Shit just happens. That's right. I said it. It's the truth. Anyone who has been on this earth long enough knows it's true. The word perfection is meant for the description of food, art, a sunset, a movie ending, but not a dog. Barry will never be perfect. I don't care. I don't expect him to be perfect either. I've said it before; I'm not perfect myself so I cannot ask Barry to be perfect either. These instances that happen can be considered learning experiences, sure, but mostly it's just helping me to see that not everything is perfect. I have to move on from it and not let it get to me like it used to. I'm appreciating the thick skin that has come over these months. I imagine I'll need it when shit happens.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy-Go-Lucky Dog

So happy to lay in Grandma's fern garden!
Some days I feel self pity, or off for no real reason. Some days I get annoyed by small things like reading an email with spelling or grammatical errors (though, I realize I'm not perfect either). We all have those days. For no reason in particular, sometimes for a good reason, but usually it's just for no reason at all. The internal struggle. Some days, I'd like to have some of Barry's ever-happy, always jubilant attitude. In general I am positive and happy. I've often been told how nice I am to be around because of my temperament. I don't know many people that are naturally as happy and positive as I am. Except Barry. He is naturally happy and positive andthensome. He is exuberant, willing, curious, and trusting. He is the epitome of happy.

So happy with my big tongue out!
Barry can be sick but he'll always still be happy. He may rest some but if you encourage him he's up with tail wagging. Outside, he's on the go and ready to take on the world.

So happy being me!
We have gone to the vet a twice in the last two weeks. The first was because of this, and then we went on Tuesday because he was due for a Bordetella booster and distemper. We would have gotten that all out of the way the first time around but we didn't realize until Monday that he was due.

So happy to lay on the couch and show it all off!
Some dogs get scared going to the vet. They cower, hide, whine. Not Barry. He pulls us to the door and tail wagging he excitedly waits in anticipation of the needles and people who will be touching him and handling him. He loves it! The girls there all love him too. We were told he is so good and stands still during the poking and prodding. One girl even gave him a kiss right on his head saying how cute he was.
So happy being a goofball!
The day he came out of the vet's office with the water hunch back he was as happy as could be. Trotting around, water hunch back sloshing back and forth, with his big happy smile. It seems nothing can get him down.
So happy to have a water hunch back. Makes me feel good!!
The closest thing to him being upset or unhappy was Memorial Day weekend. Read about that if you haven't.

So happy taking selfies with Mom!
Barry is eager to go new places, meet new people (and dogs), and see new things (i.e. try new foods). I love that he is so happy and willing. It makes him a lot easier to be around than most people who could learn a thing or two from dogs.

Know what? I'm just happy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

All the Seasons

So, we've survived winter together, made it through spring, and have nearly completed summer. Technically we adopted Barry at the end of fall but it was December and I consider December winter. Period.

I have enjoyed bringing Barry through all these new seasons. It's so much fun! There are quite a lot of things that we thought we'd do or wanted to do but didn't, or things we wound up doing without planning it. I have loved doing things with Barry. The first week to monthish with Barry was a toss up of how much I loved having a dog but I loved Barry right away, always.

On Sunday night we had our first Chicago Bears football kickoff game with Barry! Barry was with us for last year's playoffs but if anyone follows football closely you know the Bears didn't make it to last  year's playoffs so we never had the opportunity to cheer for our team with Barry by our side. I know it sounds silly but I was so excited to have Barry there with us. Plus we finally had the perfect excuse to have Barry wear the Bears jersey my mom got for him. Barry will be wearing it weekly during football season.

Beyond that we have Halloween coming up. I want to get a costume for Barry. I don't know what he should be! I don't want it to be anything too ridiculous or heavy/restrictive for him but I want it to be fun! I'm not really huge on Halloween but now that we have Barry it might be something we can enjoy a little more. Though, I have a feeling Barry won't really get it.

Nope, he doesn't get it. He's in it for the treats.
Then of course is Thanksgiving! I'm very much looking forward to this year's Thanksgiving! The only concern I have right now is that Barry will be given treats or eat from the trash can where scraps are dumped, and he might get sick. I don't mind the occasional treat but most foods we eat at Thanksgiving time are salt bombs. Too much sodium is not okay for any dog. Or person really, but we can handle salt better than dogs can. Also, many people don't know what foods are poisonous for dogs. Some very basic foods that you wouldn't even know can make a dog very sick. I will have to monitor the hands that feed him but I plan on giving him treats too, so there's that.

Not feeling so well. Please take care of me.
 Another exciting thing is fall/winter sweaters! We went through quite a few last year. We got him some really cute ones but most of them were claimed by the burr patch in Grandma's yard. Barry really loves that burr patch. He loves getting his body inside of bushes, or down tree limbs as much as possible. This year I'll be sure to only send Barry outside wearing last year's sweater leftovers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Labor Day Weekend

When I got home on Friday Husband told me that he'd already taken Barry out to use the bathroom. He said that Barry was by the door and signaling that he needed to go out so out they went. Barry had diarrhea. It's been quite some time since he's had diarrhea. In fact, we have been pretty stoked about how well he's been doing. I think it's in part to a good diet and the probiotics from the kefir. So to hear that he'd had explosive diarrhea was quite upsetting. The only thing I could think of was that he'd eaten too many of the cookie dog treats we brought out on Thursday. Thursday and Friday he'd had quite a lot of these cookies where he wasn't used to eating so many in such a short period of time.

A couple hours later Barry ran full speed to the door, again, letting us know he needed to go. I took him out and he probably went about three times. What came from him was nearly clear, just mostly water. It got me worried that he'd become dehydrated. Before we went back in he attempted to go again. This time nothing was really coming out. He was straining quite a lot. Poor guy.

We got back in and I tried to make him drink a little water but he wasn't having it. He laid down and I prepared some food for him. I thought maybe getting him to eat a little something would make him feel better. He turned his nose away from the food. I figured it was for the best since he was probably not feeling too good. Then he threw up. Threw up all the food he'd eaten that morning.

Later that evening when we took him out again he started straining once again to go but couldn't. Instead I noticed that a red liquid was coming out. Bright red blood. Husband and I freaked out. It was late and the vet was closed so we decided to wait it out until the morning. I cleaned Barry up and he seemed fine other than not being able to go #2. We went to bed and at 5:30 AM Barry needed to go again. Out we went. Again, he strained and the only thing to come out was blood.

We took Barry to the vet thinking the absolute worst. Cancer, surgery, liver failure, etc. He was in rather good spirits, though. He was very excited to get to the vet. It's like he knew he was there to get better. We explained to the vet what the issue was and she told us what she thought then we sat and waited while she examined him. When she came out she gave us the news that it wasn't as bad as we thought. He had no fever and said not to be too concerned with the thin red blood (she let us know what to watch for, though) and that ultimately he was a little imbalanced in the gut, creating acidic stomach, which was why he had diarrhea and threw up in the first place and that caused him to become dehydrated. So she recommended some medication and filled him with fluid to rehydrate him. Now, the fluid thing was kind of interesting. She described it and said he'd look like he had a hunch back. When he came out he did have a hunch back. A squishy hunch back. The vet administered the fluid right into him, between his shoulder blades on his back. The fluid was to rehydrate him and would slowly absorb into him throughout the day.

Happy guy!
These two pictures are the best I could do to show his squishy humpback.
Can you see it? It's on his back just below the top of the harness.
There is a slight bulge. It was jiggling and moving as he walked.
He was as happy as could be! I went to the store to pick up rice, beef, and pumpkin. He was on the rice, beef, and pumpkin diet through Monday. On Sunday he had his first regular #2. It was slightly soft but so much better than before. We started to add in Kefir on Monday evening and tonight he'll be back to a normal diet.

Speaking of a normal diet... We have switched his food again. We did the slow transition again and he had no issues (except for Friday apparently). His new food is Merrick Texas Beef & Sweet Potato. It was recommended to us by a fellow dog blogger. Thanks DZ's Adventures! This stuff has a sort of liver-like smell right off. To me it's kind of gross but Barry LOVES it. He's never loved his food so much. He liked the Blue Buffalo quite a lot and the Honest Kitchen he could take or leave. This Merrick, though, it's his favorite. Not only that the ingredients are really good, this stuff is highly ranked, and the price is so affordable. One bag should last a little over a month.

May I please have some of that food? I promise my belly
won't hurt anymore...
I can't say for sure if the Merrick caused his acidic stomach. In time we may find out. It could be from almost anything. Maybe too much cheese one day, the cookies might have not digested properly causing the gut to become acidic, or it could be the new food.

All in all, our Labor Day weekend was nice. Visiting Grandma is always fun.