Sunday, July 20, 2014 is at it again: Nature's Recipe Oven Baked Biscuits

This month, our gift as a dedicated blogger was a bag of Nature's Recipe Lamb Flavor Oven Baked Biscuits.
We had requested the chewy treats, as my dogs can be picky eaters and not always as appreciative as they might be about dry biscuits. Especially as Lamar is not feeling 100%, he's gotten more picky about eating only the tastiest things.

Would a crunchy dry biscuit meet the cutoff for my dogs' discriminating palettes?

The short answer is yes. Even with his increased pickiness, Lamar really went for these high-quality crunchy snacks.

Fozzie, who even in his robust state of health can also be a bit selective about his food and sometimes turns down crunchy snacks, ate these biscuits readily.

It feels good to have really tasty treats for these dogs to enjoy, especially ones that I know are filling and wholesome. You may choose to save your freeze-dried, chewy, highly savory snacks for challenging situations like reactive dog training or desensitization around loud noises or nail clippers, for example, but these oven-baked biscuits are a fine treat for when the kids just need a between-meals snack. 

Or when you need a little something to supplement the chicken, rice, hot dogs, and/or filet mignon that is their regular fare. 

How do YOUR dogs like dry biscuits? 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lamar Latrell

My old man Lamar Latrell has a tumor on his spleen that's been growing for a while. Probably sometime recently, it ruptured and has been bleeding. 

He's been stumbling more and more, losing strength in his back legs, constipated, refusing food more. I thought it was just his arthritis, and the constipation was nervousness--it got better once Lars was adopted.

But when his gums became pale and he could barely walk outside to pee, I knew there was something else going on. I called our vet, who knew what it was just from me telling him those symptoms. I had to carry him to the car, and then from the car into the vet clinic, where an x ray showed his enormous spleen and a whole lot of fluid--blood--in his abdomen.

The vet at the clinic said he probably wasn't in much pain, and that it was totally appropriate to bring him home. She recommended a Chinese herb, Yunnan Baiyao, to stop bleeding and ease pain. So I've been giving him that, and feeding him when he wants to eat, sometimes helping him go outside, though since we started the herbs he's been able to go outside by himself. 

After a few days on Yunnan Baiyao, we were able to walk all the way down a long hill to the creek near my house, where the dogs love to just stand in the water and cool down. And then he was able to walk all the way back up! A huge change from just a few days before. According to the vet, things wax and wane with this condition as the bleeding stops, and then starts again--plus the herbs are clearly making a big difference. 

And Lamar still wags his tail and seems happy to be alive. 

We're going to keep him at home and feed him his favorite foods, scratch his favorite places, bring him outside when he needs to go outside, give him his herbs and try to make him happy until he's not able to enjoy those simple pleasures anymore. 

We are going to Switzerland in two weeks, and I'm not sure what we'll do. My housesitter and friend Francine says she'll take care of him. I hope Lamar keeps rallying a while longer, and I trust that the universe will take care of him, and of us, as it has for 14 years. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Florian and I are always on the lookout for places to take the dogs that are close to home, but still beautiful and remote-feeling. When we have a day on which neither of us is working or spending time with my dad--or the family plans are not til later in the day, so we have a few hours for ourselves and the dogs--it is great to be able to take just a short drive and end up in a place that's green, peaceful, silent, and dog-friendly, despite its proximity to DC.

One such place we visited perhaps in our first year of dating, but not since, is Kenilworth Park Aquatic Gardens.

This is a sanctuary built around the wetlands of the Anacostia River. 

The Anacostia runs through Northeast DC and has not always been well cared for, and it still has its desolate, polluted stretches.  

But this part has been transformed into an oasis for a poor section of DC, with trails through the woods, ponds with abundant wildlife, and raised boardwalks through wetlands filled with blooming water lilies. 

First we took a trail through the trees, where we saw almost no one. 

Just a green trail in the steamy silence, past ponds with turtles and fishies and lots of frogs. I could have walked on that trail all day, as Fozzie was happily sniffing along and there were no other dogs, and if you're going to live in a place where every moment of the summer feels like you are living in a swamp, you might as well actually be in a swamp where you can enjoy the wildlife and the flowers.

Although when we encountered an enormous black snake in the middle of the trail, that was enough wildlife for Florian who promptly turned around and ran in the direction from whence we'd come.

Time to check out the water gardens.

A more well-traveled part of the park, but still no other dogs so we were at leisure to check out the lilies

and other aquatic flora. 

So pretty!

A restful walk and a good workout for Fozzie, and still plenty of time for the humans to get in some Fozzie-free recreation. 

Off to my aunt's, where Charlie is getting a bit less nervous and seems happy in his new home


That's the spirit Charlie, I'd bark at that guy in the multiple plastic floatie rings too. 

Maybe you can get him to behave himself; the rest of us have certainly had no luck. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Time and Change

Last week, Florian and I took my dad up to my parents old house in the Adirondacks to get some of my parents' belongings, do some cleaning, and meet with a realtor. 

I'd been dreading this trip for a while. The memories, the sense of absence, most of all the necessity of letting go. This was where my parents took me every summer until I moved out, the site of many a family hike to a swimming hole, many a summer trip into town to do laundry, many an afternoon playing with salamanders and frogs or building a little house out of tongue depressors with Uncle Johnny. 

How exactly does one let go of all that?

I am not sure. I do know that most adults who outlive their parents have to do it, and that it's a struggle for many. 

Memories are so alive in a place.  Being there, in the hot, sunny air, the silence, the stillness, it could have been 33 years ago and my mom could have been up in her garden on the hill, puttering, planting, harvesting lettuce and zucchini like she did every morning.  

There's a feeling of timelessness, of dropping into an immediate and preverbal place of connection. 

Like time, encompassing the safety and satiety of childhood as well as all the intervening years of leaving home, finding my way through boyfriends, jobs, mortgages, heartache and success, is a seamless fabric that still includes all those things.

That I can wrap around myself and touch each moment.

And there really is no separation between now, when I have my own house and family and responsibilities, which include taking care of my own "kids" and my Dad, 

and back then, when everything was taken care of. 

The flowers my mom planted are still blooming and happy, 

and the brook is rushing, clean, and the water surprisingly warm as it always was in a rainy year in the summer. 

Uncle Johnny's log cabin down the road, that he built with his own two hands when I was growing up, 

then sold when he realized he was a city boy and could never live in the remoteness of the Bleecker Road, looks well-cared for and happily lived in. 

The "chicken coop" that my teenage brothers tried to sleep in one night, but came running back to their bunk beds in the main house as soon as the owls started hooting and the bats started flitting about, collapsed years ago.

The ruins remain, and the Keep Out sign I got for my Dad when he was using the coop as a writers retreat one summer, keeps its ironic vigil. 

The house, with its wood paneling installed when my parents had the incompetent but honest, and somewhat endearing, George Battiste build the upstairs addition when I was about 12, 

still has that pleasant, comforting smell, woodsy with a touch of mildew. 

The couch that Lamar always loved is still there, and he still loves it. 

There was pain in remembering, and in feeling the absence of my mom, but I guess I hadn't realized that there would also be joy. In going through my mom's things, cleaning, organizing like she would have wanted me to. Loving the place and honoring my mom's love for it. 

Major mood boosters were of course Fozzie, who though tuned in to his humans' emotions was even more tuned in to the opportunity presented by a frisbee and a large open space, 

And Florian, who took time out from helping go through things to practice some ballet

but found that an Arabesque is much harder to execute flawlessly when Fozzie is humping your leg. 

Our last night, there was a thunderstorm like my Mom always loved. A Bleecker Whirlagig, where the storm circles around and keeps coming back. 

As Fozzie panted and drooled, I couldn't help but feel even more connected to her

and feel happy, as she would have been, that all her plants were getting watered and that the froggies would have lots of places to swim. 

Yesterday it was exactly a year since the last day I saw my mom, leaning in the hallway of the sweltering city apartment as Florian and I left, wearing a blue and white shirt that brought out the blue in her eyes.

Feeling pulled to stay with her but hearing her reassure me that she'd be fine, and anyway she'd be joining us in Maryland in less than two weeks. 

I return from our trip now feeling more at peace than maybe any time since then, knowing that I took care of the house she loved, and in so doing took care of her as she always took care of me.   

Monday, June 30, 2014

Perks of being a Dog Professional

There are so many things I love about being a dog groomer. 

The opportunity to interact with breeds, sizes, shapes, and temperaments of dog that I would otherwise have little opportunity to experience.
The opportunity to spend literally hours stroking them, inhaling their hot breath, thoroughly massaging their paws and brushing their teeth and cleaning out their precious little velvety ears, and having those activities be not only socially accepted but encouraged, as they are part of my profession.

And then there are the enormous orders I feel totally justified in placing with


Of course I need an entire gallon of Espree Hypo-Allergenic Coconut Shampoo. 

And of course I didn't just get another gallon of Top Performance GloCoat Conditioning Shampoo only because it meant I got a free 17 ounce Top Performance Green Tea & Mint Shampoo, but because I genuinely needed that product in order to be successful in my career.

And you probably know this already about me, but I didn't just get 16 ounces of The Stuff Detangler and Conditioner, 

8 ounces of Top Performance Oatmeal 
Conditioning Spray, 

and 16 ounces of Fresh n Clean No Tangle Spray 

just because I have a weakness for canine health and beauty products that smell good.

No, that would be because I'm a professional.

Do YOU have a positive outlet for your dog-related and purchase compulsions? 

Or do you simply embrace who you are, and the crazy dog lady (or gent) obsessions that go with it?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting to Know a New Family Member

This past weekend, the weather was great and my aunt reminded us of our standing invitation to spend an afternoon at her pool.

It was an opportunity to spend a bit more time with my aunt's new dog, Charlie. 

Charlie is a sweet, shy rescued pup who lived with my cousin in Montana. 

When my cousin had to move into a smaller place in a bigger city for work, she called my aunt in distress about what to do with her two dogs. I wasn't there for the conversation, but knowing my aunt I'm guessing that it wasn't too long before they hit upon a solution. 

Charlie is so shy that he spends most of the time next to my aunt, and seems a bit overwhelmed by those of us who are a little too exuberant in our emotions when we are around dogs. 

Fortunately, he was spared the unique intensity of Florian's affection because Florian was performing, 

first as an anonymous patriotic dude 

and then as none other than Inspector Clouseau.

Charlie still had plenty of challenges to contend with, as Lamar was there to relax in the shade and give out the occasional gratuitous growl. 

And Genghis was there to cool down in the fountain. 

Aunt Nancy's is such a great place for the dogs. 

Everyone is so relaxed and happy there, Genghis was even content during his bath. 

I think even Charlie is starting to realize that this place he ended up is not half bad. 

We'll hold off for a while before we introduce him to Florian, or to Fozzie. 

Fozzie stayed home this time, and I didn't feel too bad leaving him as he's had lots of enjoyment this week. My old friend Tony from college, who was my buddy when we lived in the commune at Synergy House on the Stanford campus, has been staying with us. 

Fozzie is never happier than when we have a house guest. 

Fozzie, keep channeling that calm behavior. Maybe you'll get to meet Charlie soon.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Merrick Mini Brush Bones for a Fresh Mouth

This month, offered a truly delightful array of products for bloggers in the Blogger Club to review. 

We chose Merrick Mini Brush Bones, because I love having tasty dental chews around to help Lamar maintain his aging but still healthy smile. 

Mini Brush Bones are a Greenie-like dog snack advertised as being highly digestible and grain-and gluten-free. They are based mainly on potato starch, with intriguing ingredients like dried beet pulp, parsley, and chicken fat (mmmm....)

I've heard bad things about Greenies getting lodged in dogs' intestines and requiring surgery to remove, so "highly digestible" is a selling point for these mini brush bones. 

The other selling point is that Lamar really seems to love this genre of plastic-like, hard things advertised as "dental chews," so I jumped at the opportunity to get some in exchange for a review. 

These chews did not disappoint. One look at their green goodness got Lamar all excited

and once ingested they were gone in a flash. 

I was going to time how long it took for him to fully chew and swallow a dental chew, 

but there was no time to even get out the stopwatch. 

A testament to the deliciousness of these mini brush bones, although it does call into question whether there was time for a whole lot of dental cleaning to take place. 

For that, it may be time to break out the good ol' toothbrush and scrub.

Poor Fozzie, the old guys get all the good stuff. 

OK buddy, eat your dinner and you can have a Mini Brush Bone too. 

Thanks for the proof that oral hygiene can be fun!