Wednesday, 21 December 2011

For The Love Of Dogs

Genevieve completely exhausted after vacation at Patti's
I have to tell you about the amazing in-home boarder we use for our dogs when we're away on vacation.  We stumbled upon this business accidentally while we were fretting about who would look after the pups last summer when we went to Watkins Glen.  My husband was actually at work and Patti, the owner of For The Love Of Dogs In Home Boarding came in to do some printing.  He got talking to her and immediately called me to check out her website.

I have to tell you I had looked around everywhere for the right people to look after our two spunky Golden Retrievers.  It would be our first time leaving them for more than a night or two (in which case we had family stay with them) and the thought of them being thrown in a barn with 20 or so other dogs or being stuck in a kennel all day broke my heart.  I wanted somewhere that I wouldn't have to worry about how they were being treated, or how much love they were getting or how much exercise they were being given.  I wanted to know that they were having a fun vacation just like we were!

Well I checked out the website and was so excited we began e-mailing back and forth right away.  Patti is very thorough, making sure all dogs are up to date with vaccines and flea programs.  She even requires a puppy play date in advance at her house to make sure the dogs are suitable to being in a group setting, get along well with her young Golden Retriever, Jack and so that we can tour her setup.

It was so hard leaving them for our first vacation that summer.  I had no doubt in my mind they would have a great time but it was our first time leaving them, and with people we didn't know!  Well Patti took care of that!  She updates her website daily with a quick blog on what dogs have come and gone, what's happening and even adds photos so you can see just how great of a time your dog's having too!  That first trip we were on her website every morning to make sure Genevieve and Murray were being treated well and you know what?  They were having the time of their life!

Murray slept for 3 days after he got home!
For our second trip, Genevieve and Murray were there for just over a week and I didn't worry about them once.  Sure it was hard to leave them (especially when Genevieve started whining at the gate) but the daily updates showed us just how much fun they were having without us which meant I could have fun without them!

The best part was how tired they were from a week's worth of playing and running around!  We were exhausted when we came home but didn't have to worry about them, they were asleep in the back of the truck before we even hit the highway!

So if you're in the Durham or Kawartha area in Ontario and your dogs are an important part of the family there isn't any boarding establishment I'd rather recommend than Patti at For The Love Of Dogs In Home Boarding.  Her and her husband are truly amazing people and are running the business for the right reason: because they love dogs!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Bunny Beds

Last week I picked up some adorable pet beds for the bunnies.  I wrapped them in fuzzy blankets to discourage nibbling and put them in a corner of each of the rabbit cages.

Honey and Rocky couldn't care less (boo!) but Ollie and Willow have loved having something snuggly to cozy up in!

Ollie having a snuggle in his new cushy bed!

Willow curled right up in her new pink blankie!

And later that day she was fully buried except her cute little bunny behind!

And a week later.....still hanging out in the bed!
I think it's safe to say the beds are a hit with two out of four bunnies!  Willow loves spending hours 'making' her bed by rearranging her blankie just so before snuggling in.  Ollie just loves having somewhere to relax.  Either way, whenever I go in their bunny room to check on them, they're always lounging in their snuggly beds!  It is just so cute!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Home Cooking Dog Food

First of all, let me start by saying making your own dog food is a lot of work.  I dread dog food days, I even find myself counting down the days until the next day I have to make it again because that's how much I hate doing it.  So why do I continue?  Because the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Genevieve and Murray have always had sensitive stomachs.  It took us about 6 months to find a food that both of their tummies could agree on when they were younger.  They seemed fine on this for just over a year but it was costly.  We were spending $80 every 3 weeks!  And Murray had hives off and on and they both had regular ear infections.  Since they're Retrievers I didn't think the infections were because of their diet but because of their floppy ears.

Then last Fall, Genevieve started throwing up and having diarrhea off and on.  At first we thought maybe she had just eaten something she shouldn't have on a walk because other than that she was acting completely normal.  After about 2 weeks though she couldn't keep anything down.  After about 3 or 4 visits to the vets, tests and meds our vet came up with nothing more than an allergy to her food.  Genevieve also had a parasite in her intestines for the first 8 months of her life which he said could have done some permanent damage.

I had looked in to home cooking before but because of the work involved wasn't sure about it.  Now I felt I didn't have a choice.  So I looked at the back of some dog food packages to see what kind of fruits, veggies and other foods they put in it and made a list.  We also suspected that Murray was allergic to grains so I made sure to keep those out of the food.  Well within a day of making up a batch, Genevieve was back to normal.  Within a week Murray wasn't scratching and the hives we frequently found all over his body were gone.  And in over a year there has been the odd ear infection here and there, not monthly.  Both dogs have lost the extra weight they were holding (Murray was getting to be quite the heffer) and they're now more active and their coats are bright and shiny!  Our vet was amazed at how healthy they look and also the variety I put in to their food!

So what do I feed them?

  • 8 cups of rice
  • 2 2/3 cups of oatmeal
  • 1 zucchini
  • 3 carrots
  • 6 large potatoes
  • 2 yams
  • meat
  • 2 apples
  • 1/4 cabbage
  • 1/2 container of cottage cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 large can of each kidney beans, chickpeas and green peas
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • Any other fruits and veggies I have lying around except mushrooms, spinach and onions 
I cook up the rice in 8 cups of water and 4 cups of beef or chicken broth.  The oatmeal I cook in 6 cups of water.  A food processor becomes your best friend with all of the veggies.  I chop them up then throw them in 1 or 2 veggies at a time and pulse them enough to get them small enough.  If you add too many veggies at once by the time they're all chopped up you'll have made veggie stew.  The processor is also great for the meat.  If you don't have ground burger then cutting up a steak and throwing it in the food processor for a few minutes will mince it enough to make it easy to mix in to their food.  I heat up the beans, cook the eggs and stir fry the veggies in oil and garlic.

All of this food lasts my dogs 5-6 days so we usually spend an entire day making up 6 or 8 batches to get about 4-6 weeks worth.  Of course if you have a little itty bitty dog one batch may last you a few weeks or even a month.  Lucky you!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Bunny Love

Here is the story of how I came to live with four wonderful house bunnies.

Anyone who's ever had a rabbit knows how flippin' adorable they are!  Baby bunnies are probably one of the most cutest things....EVER!  And when they grow up they look like little plush toys!  Rabbits however are extremely fragile and if not spayed/neutered can turn a bit nasty so it's important to do your research first before bringing a bunny home.  They need lots of daily exercise, toys and love too!

I first fell in love with rabbits when I brought my first Bun home who we named Rocky.  I actually hated the name Rocky but Hubby came up with it and unfortunately my new bunny looked like a Rocky so the name stuck.  I had no idea what I was doing so I ordered a few books online and was astounded at how much information there was to know about rabbits!
Lucky for Rocky I've never believed anything should spend it's life in a cage, so we bunny proofed our workout room and he was free range most of the time from the beginning of his new life with us.  I wasn't sure what I was doing with a bunny but fell completely in love with him after a few days.  First of all, they're quirky! Rocky would grab cat toys and toss them in the air or push things with his nose.  When I would come in to the room he would start making little 'hmmmm-ing' noises and run to me excitedly.  Sometimes he would do little jumps like a leprechaun in the air and kick his back heels (I later found out this is called a binky).  Other times he'd just stretch himself out as far as he could after a good run.
I had Rocky about a year before deciding I wanted him to have a mate.  By this time we were busy raising two puppies and although Rocky still had full range of his room, I wasn't getting to spend as much time with him as I'd like and I knew he was lonely.  Hubby and I were very picky on the temperament of our new Bun.  I wanted a rabbit who would be calm and very friendly as Rocky could be fiesty but was very loving.  After looking at a few I finally settled on a little Holland Lop that was mostly white with grey ears and a bit of caramel colouring on his neck and down his back.  I was really excited to bring him home and introduce them to each other.

But Ollie had health problems.  Within the first week I noticed things were off with the poor little fella.  He was very sensitive - I had to try several different types of beddings and foods with him before his nose would stop running and when he would play sometimes he would stop and flop so suddenly it scared me.  His poop was frequently runny and we had to have baths to clean him up all the time.  Overall he liked to snuggle and cuddle more than playing too.  Although he was friendly and the snuggling was adorable, his mellowness freaked me out.  I knew rabbits could have different temperaments but I felt something wasn't right.  When we brought him to the vets for a checkup and to be neutered they found a very pronounced heart murmur that made it impossible for him to go under anesthesia.  It explained a lot of the behaviours I had noticed.  The vet said he seemed healthy and that the sensitivities were unrelated but definitely something I would have to be aware of all the time.  So now I had two wonderful bunnies that could never be friends.
Shortly after we got Ollie I was walking home from work when I noticed a crow picking at something in the bushes.  I shooed it away and found this teeny tiny baby bunny, huddled up scared with a bleeding paw.  Worst of all, it wasn't a wild rabbit.  I scooped it up in to my arms - I could tell it was scared but I think it knew I wasn't there to hurt it because it nestled in okay.  I went to the pet store first.  It was right across to street and I thought maybe it had escaped when it was delivered but they didn't have any rabbits like her and said they weren't missing any.  They gave me a box to put her in so I could safely carry her home across the busy intersection near my house.  I know most of the staff there pretty well as I'm often there buying toys etc. so they suggested using epsom salts and warm water to cleanse the wound and some ointment to help it heal.  I picked up some Dr. Maggie's ointment which is like a polysporin but safe for pets.  It also has a bitter taste to prevent them from licking it off.
When I got home I was a little panicked.  I didn't have a cage to keep her in and I felt in over my head.  I cleaned up the wound first and decided to let Rocky have free run of the room and the new bunny could have his cage until I got another one.  She looked like a girl to me (although I didn't know for sure) and so I decided to name her Willow (that was if my Husband let me keep her).  When he came home I explained the situation and he decided she could stay - after a lot of convincing.  A friend at work had a cage he wasn't using and brought it in for me and suddenly I had 3 beautiful bunnies!  Willow had a lot of problems with that paw, it healed up nicely but she couldn't walk on it for months.  Now she zooms around the house like a bat out of hell!
Finally there's Honey's story.  This all happened in the early Spring and by Christmastime I had become a rabbit fanatic and activist who wanted to save all the bunnies in the world.  Hubby knew this and said that he wanted one of my Christmas presents to be rescuing a rabbit.  This was so heartwarming to me, I couldn't wait to go to the shelter.  Then we met our little Honey bunny.  She was a tiny Holland Lop - a beautiful light brown colour and absolutely adorable!  She was calm and didn't seem miffed at all when we picked her up and cuddled her.  Duncan and I were instantly in love and brought her home.
Since she was just a wee baby I brought Rocky out and let her play together.  After about 15 minutes of some chasing and "dominating" they were snuggling and kissing.  It was true bunny love!  Since then they've pretty much been inseparable.  Rocky was already neutered so there was no chance of babies and when they were old enough we had Willow and Honey spayed.
The most wonderful thing though is that Ollie is such an incredible rabbit he and Willow are bonded as well!  Although we were told it could never be done because Ollie's hormones would control his nature, he is so in love with Willow and treats her like his little queen.  Sometimes he tries to get a little action but since he is the slowest and laziest bun and she is the quickest and feistiest she easily outruns him.  Most of the time they just cuddle and kiss one another.  So now we have four bunnies both paired, who are happy and love one another dearly. <3

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Parrot Play Gym

I’m very excited to share Ella’s new play gym with you!  A few years ago I wanted to make it exciting for our Parrotlet to play outside of her cage but be with us in a safe spot.  Naturally I went around to various pet stores looking for the perfect gym but was extremely disappointed at the cost, sizes available and lack of interest for the parrot that was offered.   

Recently, I ended up finding some really neat ones for sale made out of wood and tile on the web.  They were extremely expensive and would have to be shipped out of country (making them even more costly) but it gave me a great idea.  I drew a design that I wanted, showed it to my husband and we went to the hardware store to buy the supplies!  It’s made out of all natural wood and tiles with a 20”x20” base.  To build this 3 level gym it only cost about $25 in supplies!  I had my husband incorporate a wooden ‘tree’ I had bought a few years ago and I also made sure there were plenty of toys!  Ella loves to play so I wanted her to be kept busy!  Finally, it may seem like toy overload but she had lead poisoning a few months ago and although she has regained movement in her feet, she has trouble gripping on to smooth surfaces and balancing in general.  I wanted to make sure there were lots of things around her to grip, steady herself and allow her to easily move from one level to another.  

Tonight was test night.  She gets nervous in new environments so I wasn't sure how she would react.  After an hour or so though, she had toured the whole thing and was swinging off toys and chirping away!  I guess this means it's a hit!  Here's a video of her playing on her gym.