Archive for April, 2008

Cookie sheets — a counter offensive

We adopted a new dog, Renzo, in January. One afternoon, while I was at a neighbor’s house, he filched some avocado peels and a pit off a cutting board. (This reveals something about my housekeeping that I’m hoping we can just skim over.) Our other dog, Lulu, has never scavenged in this way. So I was shocked. Unable to locate the pit, I raced my furry bandit down to the veterinarian, who gave Renzo a shot to induce vomiting. In the waiting area, a vet tech read the scary details of toxic avocado pits to me and kept saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

When no avocado evidence surfaced, I called my husband at home and asked him to scour the house for the missing pit — which he found buried in a green-slimed couch cushion.

So now I’m a member of a new fraternity of people living with kitchen-counter thieves, and I regret not including in my book a strategy I’d heard for this particular problem. It’s simple: Leave cookie sheets on the counter hanging slightly over the edge. When a dog on kitchen recon tips the sheet, the crash is said to go a long way to breaking the habit.

I’ve also heard of hiding mouse traps under pie tins on countertops or in other no-go zones — which, when distrubed triggers nerve-jangling noise. But I think I’d be too afraid of paws getting snipped to try that one.

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Dog park dog do’s

Hot off the presses: Getting real at the dog park. This month, Seattle Magazine tackles a few off-leash area etiquette challenges (humping and dumping among them) with common-sense strategies direct from Dog Park Wisdom tipsters.

Greening the grass roots

I love the paws-on initiative behind Pets for the Environment, a Web-based awareness campaign spearheaded by a shaggy dog named Eddie. Galvanized by the death of Feathers (the family parrot inhaled lethal chemicals from a non-stick cooking pan), Eddie is on a mission to clean up the world he shares with a cat and his people. His practical suggestions for reducing your pets’ exposure to nasty chemicals offer simple ways to become engaged this Earth Day. From taking a pass on stain-proof treatments for couches, carpets and car upholstery (loaded with toxic PFCs) to avoiding strip-mined kitty litter for cats, making environmental and healthy choices for our animals is sure to generate triple-up benefits. Happy Earth Day.

Simple, dog-smart design

I bought my dog a stuffed, organic, plush rabbit by Simply Fido the other day. Banana-yellow with big floppy ears and a price tag to match — it was an impulse buy. So cute, I don’t really want to hand it over to the Grim Gnawer.

And here’s one thing I really fell for: In the bunny’s back is a Velcro opening from which you can remove the squeaker. There are many reasons to remove a squeaker. Your dog might swallow it. It drives you crazy. The opening also provides an easy way to replace stuffing. The Velcro hatch is a simple extra that makes me think actual dog-people were involved in the design.

D-I-Y dog blanket-coat

When I was working on my book, I wondered why dog people were so willing to be generous with their time, energy and dollars, especially for anything related to dogs. Are they nicer than, say, cat people? Or people without pets? Obviously, I don’t know. But there are a lot of dog-loving humans out there with great ideas and a desire to share them.

Take Chris C., who lives with a five-year-old German Shepherd named Abby K-9 in Virginia. When she’s not clicker-training, hiking or adventuring with Abby, Chris channels her ample supply of good sense and enthusiasm into a blog loaded with smart, free advice about life with her dog. (Abby, by the way, gives Rin Tin Tin a run for the money: A former shelter dog, she’s earned her CGC and HIT titles, and served as an Army recruiting mascot and a therapy dog.) Chris’s recent detailed post on dog backpacks answers many of the questions new hikers have about hitting the trail with a canine sidekick. But one of my favorite posts is her pattern/instructions for creating a dog coat from a blanket. (The photo above is from Abby K-9’s blog and shows the finished product.) Chris is also committed to the cause of responsible breeding and created this video about the plight of German Shepherds — and, by extensions, all dogs — in shelters (tissues required).

Create your own Goodwill games

Jamie Pflughoeft, a dog photographer and digital portrait artist in Seattle, likes to indulge her Rhodesian Ridgeback-mix, Fergie, without breaking the bank. Her challenge? One of Fergie’s great joys is the rapid annihilation of stuffed toys. Store-bought “victims” can be pretty spendy; Jamie estimates the cost of these adventures at $1.50 per minute. I can Skype Beijing for less than that. Her solution: Re-purposing (i.e., sending to their doom) stuffed toys from Goodwill. Jamie even suggests transferring old squeakers to squeakerless toys and saving discarded stuffing (no bean-bag filled toys) for other uses such as creating a dog bed. Just be sure you know your dog’s toy-ravaging techniques so that he or she won’t swallow something that will lands you both at the emergency vet. Read Jamie’s complete suggestion.

Cool tool for dog walks

I love people who don’t just talk about problems but figure out solutions — especially to little, nagging everyday challenges, such as where to carry dog waste during a walk. Well, last year, Lynn Kern of Edmonds, Washington, came up with two simple, elegant solutions. The first was to clothes-pin a bag (filled with her Cockapoo’s poo) to the leash. I love that. But Lynn wasn’t satisfied. She eventually sewed a strip of Velcro to a leash to anchor plastic bags (as demonstrated in the photo). She calls them Kakaduty Leashes. Unfortunately, since finding a solution, Lynn says her dog Maggie seems to be withholding her “gifts.” I guess that’s a third, unintended fix.

Available only from Kakaduty online, the leashes cost $13.50, with 50 cents from the purchase of each donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.