Today I woke up to the best text message anyone who hates their job can receive, “No need to come in today”.  One peek outside revealed a world that looked like thisDSC_4916this DSC_4912and thisDSC_4915 I love a good snow day.  Slow lazy mornings, drinking sweet milky tea in my pajamas, with my two best pups curled as close to me as they can possibly get.  We thought about heading outdoors…DSC_4749We bundled up, and tested out the waters,016

But playing inside seemed like a much better idea 😉DSC_4838DSC_4856This damn frog has been around since Elsa was about 4 months old.  It was a gift from our old Landlords.  It’s the rattiest, stinkiest toy in the house so naturally it is a favorite of them both. DSC_4832DSC_4854And of course, we did lots of laying around.  DSC_4772 DSC_4823 How did you all enjoy your snow day?

I have a confession to make.  I used to be one of those people to say, “I’m not that big a fan of small dogs”.  Pretty unfair of me considering most of the dogs I knew and loved growing up were small dogs.  That’s probably where my issue stemmed from though.  Lap dogs were great for petting and picking up, but I often felt like I was missing out on some great adventure reserved for those who shared their lives with big, sporty dogs.  I was so envious of the neighborhood kids I would romp through the woods with, their trusty black Lab always in tow, the families who took their dog camping, the man who walked his Shepherd on the beach every morning of every Summer.  Wasn’t that the joy of  dogs?   To run and swim and hike and play?

I brought my childhood dog, Pookie, a Yorkie-Poo to the beach once and the poor thing got so scared when I put her  down that she just ran as fast as she could down the shoreline, heading nowhere.  Of course, on her stubby little legs she was easy to overtake and shaking like a leaf when I scooped her up.  I held her close to me, while we waited on the street for my mom to pick us up.  Her heart rate slowed down to a normal pace and she settled against my chest in a warm gratitude for saving her from the fear to which I myself exposed her.  I loved that little dog so much and it took until that moment to realize that the joy of her wasn’t in what she did or didn’t do.  It was just in knowing her and loving her and having her as a part of my life.  I wasn’t sad because she didn’t like hiking and swimming, I was sad because I had to do those things without her.  Because I liked her company, and I wished she could always be present.  You see, the thing about small dogs, the really incredible thing, whether they’re athletes or not (and God knows they can be- I’m looking at you, Elsa) is that they really know what they’re doing in the lap dog department.  They were literally bred to be pets.  Do you understand what that means?  It means that their job is to love you and be loved and cuddled and doted upon.  It didn’t matter that Pookie never joined us on any outdoor excursions because she was there every evening when I returned home, ready to rain kisses and settle into the crooks of my legs.

To this day, if I’m sick or sad, Elsa goes into overdrive.  Ever see a dog on point?  Ever watch a Border Collie herd?  That’s the sort of intensity with which she takes her comfort dog duties.  Like something is vibrating in her core, saying this is your moment, Elsa.  You’ve got this.   Then she wedges herself between my neck and shoulder, so close she’s practically under my skin, and lets out a little snerffle like she’s just fixed everything in the world.  And as far as I’m concerned, she has.

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Dear BarkBox,

Thank you so much for the R2P you included in this month’s BarkBox.  You know, the big red toy that looks like a cross between a fire hydrant and a football?  Bardia just loved it! Man, you guys must really know dogs over there.  I’m not so sure you’ve ever met a human though.  In fact, I’m not convinced you are humans yourselves, because surely no human, having heard the noise this toy makes, would inflict it upon another human.  You see, the R2P hasn’t even been in our house for 24 hours and it’s already driving me quite batty.  Please, allow me to elaborate.  I arrived home around 8pm last night to our BarkBox sitting at the front door.  I promptly gave Bardia his new toy which he played with ferociously for a whole 5 minutes before I had to take it away, not being able to withstand the caterwauling it produced after a long hard day at work.  I put it on top of the refrigerator where the dog couldn’t reach it.  That sure as hell doesn’t mean he didn’t try though, reaching upward, knocking down all of the pictures and magnets.  Now, normally that would have been enough for him.  He would have sneaked off stealthily with a magnet in his mouth or shred up a beloved family photo on the spot.  Not this time though. Not with the magic red toy just a little higher up.

Of course this tugged at my weak human heartstrings so I offered him another five minutes with it before I would put it away for good.  Luckily he can’t read a clock because 5 minutes was probably more along the lines of 97 seconds.  I moved it to the laundry basket behind the closed door of the linen closet.  Sure he cried and scratched at the door for a minute or two but quickly forgot about it.  I was not so lucky.  Just the knowledge that the toy was still in the house was enough to reproduce the noise in my mind all throughout the night.  Of course, it didn’t take long the next morning before one of us made the dire mistake of throwing new clothes into the hamper.  Bardia must have remembered where we put it (or perhaps he too heard the tell tale football) because  like a bat out of hell he was racing through the house with the toy in his mouth.  We heard the squawking before we even knew what happened.

You know something though, BarkBox, I think my dog may be even more human than you, because before I accidentally smothered myself by piling one too many pillows over my head to shield my senses, he destroyed the R2P himself.  That’s right, tore it to shreds.  Thanks anyway, it was a valiant effort on your behalf…or a diabolical plan, in which case I salute you, evil genius Overlords, and I’ll obey you ’til the end 😉  Can’t wait for next month’s box.

Best,

Tina

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Almost a year ago I reviewed a few products by the honest kitchen and raved about how my dogs thrived on their food. For most of Elsa’s life and the early part of Bardia’s I fed them Preference with boiled chicken breast. However, as Bardia got bigger, it got more tedious and more expensive buying and preparing both the chicken and vegetable mix. I ended up switching them over to a high quality, grain free kibble. Convenient and super affordable! Almost immediately, though, I began to see changes in them. They both put on weight, which is good news for Bardia who is a spindle but bad news for Elsa, especially considering how little her serving size was. I feed them twice a day so for her recommended quarter to 1/3 cup, I was giving her literally a few tablespoons per meal, poor thing. In addition to the weight gain, her coat grew dryer and less easy to manage until she ultimately developed a hot spot. I tried to remedy this with adding yogurt, sometimes eggs, and eventually fishoil to her food. No go.

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As for Bardia, while the weight gain was welcome and his coat didn’t change much, he developed excessive discharge from his eyes. Something in the recipes ( I use plural because we tried numerous “regions” and protein sources ) also did not agree with his notoriously sensitive stomach because it took a whole lot of pumpkin to get that guy to have a solid stool. While I was glad he bulked up a little bit, the rate at which he did so alarmed me. Since both of my dogs are avid runners and hikers, I prefer to keep any excess weight off in order to reduce the strain on their bones and tendons.DSC_4106DSC_3967

I reached a point where it was too difficult to remedy all of the issues that kept arising. Honestly, I don’t even feel like I can’t fault the kibble too much. It’s tremendously hard to find a food that agrees with my two dogs who are so vastly different in size, coat and sensitivities. The executive decision in our household was to return to The Honest Kitchen. Instead of going back on Preference we put the dogs on Embark, the formula for active adult dogs and puppies of all breeds and sizes. Almost instantaneously everything went back to normal. The eyes, the coats, the bowel movements (I swear THK doesn’t pay me)! I couldn’t believe the stress I had put on myself and the dogs for months trying to get another food to work, just to save some money. Well let’s be honest here, a lot of money. In fact the only drawback is that I now have about a $400 dog food bill every month. Now of course it would be less if you have a smaller dog but all together, my guys don’t weigh more than 75 lbs and we go through one ten-lb box a week. I can understand how it wouldn’t be feasible for someone with a large dog over 100lbs, but if you can make the room in your budget , I would recommend The Honest Kitchen a hundred times over- you can can’t put a price on happy, shining, energetic dogs.

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*photos from our recent visit to Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve

This year with Bardia has been one of the happiest, hardest, most stressful and beautiful years of my life.  This boy has more love in his nubbin of a tail than most people have in their entire bodies and he has shown me more friendship and loyalty than any human could.  Not a day during his time with us has gone by that he hasn’t made me laugh out loud.  He has completed our little family.  And today he turns one year old.

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We have a term for Autumn here on the NJ Coast-Local Summer.  Come Labor Day most tourists have headed home and kids returned to school.  While the air may cool a little it’s still mild enough for us to head out without the noise and crowds of July and August.  While I enjoy Fall foliage as much as the next person, there’s something about the beach in October that really livens me….and the dogs.

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It was too chilly for us to go into the ocean but the dogs didn’t give it a second thought.DSC_2883 DSC_2938

My heart

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When I look at Bardia in these pictures I can’t believe it’s the same dog who 6 months ago would run from any body of water.  There are few things more wonderful to witness than a puppy finding joy in something new.  (Yes Bardia is still a puppy to me.  He always will be.)

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Bardia will be one year old next month and, so long as the vet says he’s in tip top shape, I plan on beginning a biking regimen with him.  Of course I can’t be expected to leave my best girl at home though so I’ve been researching ways to bring her along.  You see, Cavaliers are kind of in a weird weight range, being essentially, large-small dogs.  Even Elsa, who is small for a Cavalier, being between 11 and 12 lbs tops out the weight limit (10lbs) for most carriers and baskets.  That being said, she’s much too small to run alongside a bike, though she does jog with Bardia and myself and we usually tire long before her- all those hours of fetch have made her a running fool.  Another options is a trailer but I feel that will be too cumbersome and also a little lonely being so far back from the action… so back to the basket.

A few options that I’ve found for dogs over 10lbs include

The DoggyRide Cocoon Basket  http://www.doggyride.com/us/en/ECommerce/US/Cocoon-bike-basket-P.215.aspx

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This seems like the best option, but to be entirely honest, I purchased their trailer earlier this year for both dogs and have yet been able to fully assemble or attach it to my bike.  The directions are unclear and every time I get close, I find I need to order a new part.  The thing has cost me a fortune and it’s just sitting in my closet.  While the Cocoon looks much easier to handle, the experience has turned me off of this company a bit.

The Basil Pasja rear mount basket. http://olivegreendog.com/biking-outdoors/basil-pasja-pet-bicycle-basket-2/

Aesthetically beautiful and comes in a medium and large size.  However, the reviews on Amazon make me worry as to the safety.

And finally the Buddy Rider  http://www.buddyrider.ca/  I really love the idea of having Elsa right up front with me, so I can see her and she can feel the wind in her ears.  I wish there were more reviews online though and I worry about the lack of protective covering.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, guys!  Have you ever taken your small dog biking?  Have you tried any of these products?