Tongue Out Tuesday

After yesterday’s post where I shared the sweet potato chew recipe, I was asked by a number of you whether or not the dogs liked them. Can I just say they were quite keen on them? However, had I know that a certain little Ninja would have happily noshed away at the raw version after she broke into the panty and snagged a raw one, I might have avoided a certain injury.

Oh that dog!

Ok, I’ll admit her tongue is only partially out. I’ve heard of going ‘raw’ but seriously? Come on, Elsa!!

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

Monday Mo(a)nings

Photo courtesy of Dog Treat Kitchen

I had been meaning to make these treats for the fur-kids fur-ever… so over the weekend I finally got my rear in gear and made sweet potato chews.

Talk about easy-peasy! Just wash and thinly slice yams or sweet potatoes and let a dehydrator do it’s thing. It’s not even necessary to de-skin them. A few hours later (depending on the thickness of your slices) and Voila! ~ sweet potato chews.

Dehydrated chews ready for noshing

Don’t have a dehydrator? No sweat. Bake them in in a 250° F oven on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 3 hours, turning half-way through. They should come out soft but chewy. If you want something a bit crisper, add 30 minutes to the baking. Cool and store in an airtight container in the frig for up to 3 weeks (or freeze them for up to 4 months). I used a mandolin to slice mine because it’s quicker (or so I thought) but be careful, those amazing slicers suckers can slice through anything…including your hand. It took longer to treat my wound than it did the actual slicing and placing on the racks. Apologies for the image exposures for these last two images. I felt lucky to be able to take a photo with my left hand.

So I learned two things this past weekend…(1) how to make a tasty, easy-to-make and healthful treat that my dogs loved and (2) be careful with trying to force something through the slicer as you are likely to slip especially if you thought you could do ‘one last swipe’ without the benefit of the food guard which should be used without exception. For anyone with an IKEA nearby, I suggest buying their fabulous Band-Aids, those things are truly AMAZING and super inexpensive.

So did you do anything productive over the weekend? Hopefully it was something safe. Happy Mo(a)nday.

Live, love, bark!

It’s baaaack

It’s that time of year again where we arbitrarily move toward insanity spring forward. Yup, time for a Ranch PSA to let you know that Daylight Savings Time arrives this weekend for the majority of the US this Sunday. Regardless of the pending calamity adjustment, we hope your weekend arrives with the promise of fun and some rejuvenation. Enjoy your weekend and for those of you lucky enough to not have to yet start this bi-annual catastrophe, we at the Ranch are quite jealous. Happy weekend!

Any big plans on tap beyond dreading the change?

Live, love, bark!

A Visit to West Pines

We did our hospital visits this week including hospice and the hospital. What was different was we got the opportunity to visit with residents of the West Pines Behavioral Health facility located on the hospital campus.

But before sharing our experiences, a little background on West Pines. With a long legacy in treating addiction/substance abuse for adults up to age 60, this facility provides short-term psychiatric care. Short-term care (generally defined as 30 days or less) is provided as well as “an eight-week group therapy program that focuses on improving daily coping skills, establishing safety, and enhancing individual self-respect.” This program is designed for those “who may experience behavioral or emotional difficulties, but do not require (or no longer require) the intense level of psychiatric care provided in an inpatient or partial hospitalization program with treatments for depression, bi-polar disorder and anxiety disorders. Given this background and not knowing exactly what to expect, I was somewhat anxious but simultaneously looking forward to this cool opportunity.

The director of out-patient services greeted us and showed us around the facility. Phil Stone has been with the facility for 12 years. The staff were equally welcoming and professional. Upon introduction, he immediately hugged me when I offered my handshake. I liked the warm welcome. Sam’s tail didn’t stop wagging during the intros and as Phi was providing background info, Sam leaned against him indicating he was more than content. It may have been the first lean of the day but it certainly wasn’t the last. The only challenge for Sam was deciding whether to leave Phil’s most welcomed ear scratches and start greeting others in the reception area. I think the numbers ‘persuaded’ Sam to make the rounds of everyone in the room (guess his mama didn’t raise an ordinary shameless, attention-seeking fool). All the aw’s and ooh’s from everyone just egged Sam and his wagging tail on and he then spent time with each and every person we encountered.

Going from building to building (West Pines is a 76-bed facility), there were a couple of encounters that were most touching. First, was a young man who clearly had been crying in the common area. He was wrapped up in a blanket and trying to gain control over his emotions. Sam eagle-eye spotted him immediately, walked right over and began wagging his tail until the young man started petting Sam. He glanced away from my smile but his face lit up slightly as Sam got as close as he could. This encounter was incredibly touching for me. Sam knew this young man needed him and Sam made sure to let him know he was safe and wanted in return. Clearly the power of animals with those struggling with mental health issues was on full view and practice.

Our second memorable scene involved a young woman who was so taken with Sam she asked me if I knew where she could do something like what we were doing as she hugged and petted him. I asked if she had a dog and she smiled and then blithely responded, “oh shoot, I can barely take care of myself, let alone a dog.” It was a sad comment for me initially, then I thought how unencumbered she was to blurt it out and took comfort in her completely unfiltered observation, much like a small child. This woman knew her limitations yet she didn’t retreat from the fact.

And finally there was another young man, who was very shy and who stuttered. His dark features masked his face and yet when I asked him if he wanted to pet Sam, he embarrassingly smiled and ran his fingers through Sam’s fur. His voice was barely audible but he clearly was mesmerized by Sam. After a couple of minutes, he picked up his cell phone and I thought perhaps he was utilizing some deflecting kind of behavior to avoid contact with a stranger (me). Instead, he pulled up a photo of his own dog, a Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix. Cute little fluff ball, too. I commented on what a terrific photo it was and asked if it was taken by a professional photographer it was so well composed and the dog perfectly posed. He smiled, and said no, it was one he had taken and he had used software to provide the nautical-themed background. “Incredible,” I noted. “You must be very good with software and computers.” Again he smiled and whispered he was. About this time, his group was ready to resume their discussion and we left but not before he followed us to the door. I think (at least I hope) we made a difference in his day.

Our visit was so touching to my heart and so profound that I vowed to request the assignment again. It was a remarkable day even if a somewhat shortened time that we were able to spend with people (our visits are chaperoned by the director while on campus and I wondered if Phil got any work done on Wednesday’s ‘dog-visit-day’). I left with a couple of observations of our visit. First, there seem to be more men at this facility than women and it made me wonder if substance abuse is more prevalent in younger men. From my experience visiting the senior behavioral floor at the hospital (see previous posts here, here and here in case you missed them), more women than men seem to have mental health issues as they get older, perhaps because they generally live longer than men. But certainly having a warm, engaging environment with committed staff makes all the difference in the world. I can’t imagine a staff more focused and dedicated to their patients with a successful history of treatment.

We saw so many people in the past couple of days and my little boy was completely wiped out. But I’m sure he’ll definitely be ready to visit again soon with a ready tail wag and a lean against a willing leg.

Live, love, bark!

Wordy Wednesday

Spring is just around the corner and since snow has passed the Ranch by [again] we thought we might as well jump on the bandwagon and embrace what’s coming. I found this image that made me smile about spring’s pending arrival. Someone, who has too much time on their hands, took topiary to the dogs.

Sam and I will be working at a new facility over at the hospital today, a treatment center for substance abuse. We’ve never visited there before and are not sure what to expect but are excited and looking forward to another day of sharing smiles and tail wags with patients. Hopefully we’ll have good stories to share later. Happy mid-week.

Live, love, bark!

Dog DIY Care

We all know owning a dog can be expensive but did you know the cost of owning a dog averages approximately $3100 for the first year? Broken down by size the cost for smaller dogs runs around $2675; for medium dogs it averages about $2890; larger dogs average around $3230 and giant breeds have an annual price tag of about $3535. The average first year cost for all sizes comes to $3085 (all figures were rounded off). So what does that cover, you ask?

According to the American Kennel Club’s website, “supplies were estimated at $432 per year, Food was $435 per year, and Preventative Medications were estimated at $389 per year. Veterinary costs were $650 per year and included all lab work plus are for one serious illness per year was added into the figures.” Training costs are not included.

Often proactive veterinary care is the last thing people think of beyond vaccinations especially when we can pretty much do the same kind of treatments for our furry friends that we can for the two-legged members of our families.

“Dogtor” Sam

All of these expenses can make routine veterinary care one of the first things that gets postponed. Many people think, if it ain’t broken, it probably doesn’t need to be fixed. But there are some do-it-yourself tips that require no money, have the potential to build trust, can increase the bond between you and your canine as well as alert you to conditions that require professional help. The first reason for Dog DIY is the more familiar you are with your pup, the better you’ll know when something isn’t right and when to seek professional care. Getting your dog familiar with these health exams at home will make trips to the ‘dogtor’ a more pleasant experience. In order to know when things are off, you need to know what’s normal for your dog. The following checkup list can aid in evaluating your dog’s day-to-day health.

  • Temperature. This critical health indicator should be between 100 and 102.5 degrees F for dogs (whenever Elsa has a seizure, her temperature goes up, by a lot. I cover her with ice packs to minimize potential damage during a seizure and to minimize dehydration. That alone could make all the difference between a costly vet trip or a simple at-home administering of Valium and in our case, has the potential to save a couple Ben Franklin’s). It’s easy to take a dog’s temperature. Lubricate the end (coconut oil works great) and gently insert about 1 inch into the anus of a small dog, 2 inches for a larger dog. Don’t force it. Results take about 60 seconds.
  • Pulse. For the most reliable indicator, locate the femoral artery on the inside of the thigh. Gently feeling for the ‘artery roll,’ you can feel the pulse. As with us uprights, count the beats over 15 seconds and multiply by 4 for a per minute result. Normal heart rates for dogs are between 80-120 beats per minute. Larger, working or athletic dogs will have slower pulses than puppies or smaller dogs. You can also get a pulse by placing your hands low on your dog’s chest near the elbow joint, and feel the heart beats.
  • Check the nose. It should be smooth and soft to touch. It doesn’t necessarily have to be cool or moist, healthy dogs can have dry, warm noses.
  • Eyes. They should be clear, bright, moist with little or no discharge. Pupils should be uniform in size, the whites actually white with just a few visible blood vessels.
  • Ears should be clean, dry and odorless.
  • Gums on a healthy dog are pink and moist without lesions or swelling, and the mouth free of bad breath. Teeth should be without tartar (remember Canine Dental Awareness last month so hopefully you scheduled that teeth cleaning then). Tongue should be clear with no debris in the roof of the mouth.
  • Watch your dog breathe. The chest should move in and out effortlessly and be rhythmic. Unless your dog is panting or is a flat-faced breed, the breath should be inaudible. Normal resting rate is 15-30 breaths per minute. If excited or anxious, it will be toward the upper end while the sleeping rate will be closer to 15. At rest, small dogs breathe faster than larger breeds.
  • Skin. Should be soft, smooth with no lesions. No redness or rough spots and little odor. The coat should be soft, shiny and smooth unless your dog is a wire-haired breed.
  • Hydration. Healthy dogs are well hydrated and that’s easy to check. Lift the skin of the neck or back and ‘tent’ it, then release. It should spring back quickly. If not, more water or moisture in diet is needed. For us, this is a critical component when treating Elsa’s seizures.
  • Move your hands all over the dog’s body to check for lumps or masses. If you notice a bump or wart that doesn’t need immediate attention, take notes, draw a sketch and keep an eye on it. If it changes over the course of a couple of days, it’s time to call the vet for further evaluation and treatment.
  • Assess muscle tone and weight. Does your dog have a ‘waistline’ and can you feel ribs easily? If not, remember the same holds true for dogs as it does for their owners, eat less, move more.
  • Check the range of motion on joints. They should move freely without resistance or difficulty. Note any signs of pain, they can indicate an injury that may need professional care.
  • Toes, nails, pads. Make sure they are free of sores or cuts, keep the nails at a comfortable length trimming just the tip ends to avoid cutting the nail quick. Keep debris out of between toes. Keep hair trimmed as necessary. Some breeds require regular trimming (having owned poodles and OESs I’m all too familiar with the importance of keeping pad hair trimmed up).

Performing these easy to DIY checkups can provide you with a valuable record of your dog’s health, can alert you to potential issues before they become critical and will make you a partner with your vet as you care for your pup. Are you ready to perform a few exams to be a partner with your vet in evaluating your dog’s health?

Live, love, bark!

Monday Musings

Hello everyone, it’s me Elsa…fabulous Ninja sister to Sam. I stole the blog from my naive brother by flipping a coin for it. Unfortunately he lost. I won (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah). Anyway, even though I won the coin flip gotta love those two sided coins, I promised it would only be a short post.

My mom complains says I’m too hard to photograph because I’m a black dog. Even in a well lite location my gorgeous facial features disappear especially if my fur is a little long. So after she whined about not being able to see my face yet again when I was chillin’ yesterday, I told her I would fix it. Well, what do you think?

The cross black dogs must bear

The cross black dogs must bear

As you can tell we had a nice relaxing weekend, how about you? Do anything exciting?

Live, love, bark!