Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hotel for Dogs Movie Review

Over the past year canines have dominated the cinematic scene – Marley and Me, Bolt, Up, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and Hotel for Dogs all were heavily advertised on television.

I do a lot of babysitting, and some of the families I sit for encourage movie watching as a special treat. I know the children I babysit very well, and always like to screen movies before we watch them, as some of the kiddos get scared very easily even with a G or PG rating. With this in mind, I recently added Hotel for Dogs to my Netflix cue, and here is my review.

The producers really pushed hard with their ad campaign on this one, and with the main characters being played by tween sensations Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin, this Nickelodeon-produced flick is sure to have children begging to see it or rent it – smaller parts are played by stars like Don Cheadle, Kevin Dillon and Lisa Kudrow.

This is certainly not an amazing cinematic production, but if you have some chores you need to do around the house, put this in the DVD player and you’ll have an 1.5 hours of uninterrupted time on your hands as your kids get carried through the fur of one slap stick routine after another. I’d say it is age appropriate for 6+ year olds (younger with adult supervision and discussion).

The film relies on exceptionally well trained dogs performing adorable tricks and antics to keep the viewer interested, though I found the dogs performance tended to outweigh the human acting. I would say this is a very child/family friendly movie, but parents should know the main characters are an orphaned brother and sister living in foster care, skirting around the law, and there are some references to dead parents – though not overly emotional.

The premise of the movie siblings Andi and Bruce (played by Roberts and Austin) have spent years as orphans bounce from foster parent to foster parent as they fend for themselves in the child welfare program. Somehow managing to keep their family dog hidden from each foster family since their parents’ death, the kids continuously get in trouble with the law. In a what is portrayed as an unsympathetic foster system, a kindhearted case worker named Bernie (Don Cheadle), helps the kids stay together, but with each law broken by the siblings, and each failed foster family, their odds of staying together much longer are dwindling.

Wanting nothing more than to escape from their current foster parents (played by Kudrow and Dillon) Andi and Bruce turn to the streets, where they come up with illegal and immoral ways of making money for dog chow. One night, while running from the police (surprisingly for a crime they did not commit), the duo hide in an abandoned hotel (clearly a very high end one), where two stray dogs happen to be living. After seeing their own dog is happy with these strays, Andi and Bruce decide this would be a great place to temporarily hide their own dog from their foster parents.

One thing leads to another and the siblings enlist their motley crew of friends to collect a variety of dogs off the streets to prevent them from being euthanized by the evil animal control. The Hotel for Dogs is created as a sort of orphanage for the unwanted strays find refuge. Andi, as the motherly sister and Bruce, as the geeky boy with a talent for building gadgets, are a duo capable of cheerfully caring (a term I use loosely) for what seems to be hundreds of dogs. With the Hotel for Dogs up and running, the kids and their friends care for the dogs by using all sorts of gimmicky contraptions – old seats and doors from cars allow dogs to sit with their heads out the window while large fans blow in their faces, automated feeding systems ensure meals while the kids are at school, and a dog bathroom bags the poop and dispenses it into a dumpster all make for not so funny slap-stick comedy that elementary aged kids will lap up. Behind all the dog fur and crazy gadgets, the kids know at any moment, one misstep could mean their separation in the foster system, and all of the dogs sent to the merciless pound.

Andi and Bruce’s story is sweet and heartfelt, and it should be the center of the movie, but their struggle to care for each other and remain a family is all but ignored as the weak adaptation of a Lois Duncan novel does little more than make you laugh at the dogs. The canines really steal the show, and the plot of the movie is brushed over from start to finish. The director, Thor Freudenthal, took an enjoyable break from the computer generated stunts so many animal films rely on, and used real dogs in every scene. There is something to be said for the large cast of canines (over 40 dogs were used in the film) and their amazingly complex stunts. However, all of that training, and those incredible dogs and great camera work were lost with a brushed over plot, and a film that will most likely bore any adult.

While the canine cast is sure to impress, the human cast severely lacks in talent. Clearly cast only for their immense Nickelodeon child fan base, Roberts and Austin were less than stellar, and easily upstaged by the dogs. I’m not sure how Cheadle, Dillon, and Kudrow were convinced to sign on to this film, but the acting talent across the board was lacking and character development was almost non-existent.

There is no drinking or smoking in the movie, consumerism really isn’t an issue (except for all food being Pedigree), and the language is very mild – “stupid” is probably the worst word used in the movie. Sex is a non-issue though there is some flirting and one couple kisses and another girl gives a boy a little peck. The movie relies on some mild slapstick violence and scariness with characters stepping in poop or falling down.

I took issue with a few of the references of foster care being “awful”. It bothers me that the children had no morals when it came to obeying laws. To raise money the siblings do some questionable things – at one point they pawn fake cell phones. The whole issue of being squatters in an abandoned building is brushed over and coated with slapstick comedy. Like many dog movies, this one portrays shelters and dog pounds as cruel, a place where animals go to die after receiving horrifying care, and animal control officers are portrayed as dog-hating Neanderthals.

The film not-so-subtly denounces euthanizing the ever growing stray dog population, but then tries to humor the audience with a pair of strays and their cute, but large litter of puppies. If euthanasia is not the answer, I’m not sure what this film is suggesting is, because they clearly aren’t considering spaying and neutering as a means to control stray animal populations. At one point, the kids break into the pound to “rescue” the dogs, and then later lure the dogs across county lines to “safety” with hot dogs dragging behind a truck. First, I’m pretty sure breaking into a city building and stealing dogs is considered a felony. Second, having 40+ dogs running through busy traffic chasing after some hot dogs is never smart – I don’t even want to know the leash laws that may have been broken. Third, I was bothered by the ease in which the movie portrayed caring for dogs. Not once was vet care mentioned, the children got dog food in questionable ways, stole from their foster parents, and broke numerous laws. The dogs, with their gadget bathroom, never were walked, and had little human interaction – I’m sorry but a catapult throwing tennis balls is no substitution for good care. Lastly, the children have no real repercussions for their actions.

With out spoiling it, the movie concludes with the public realizing how many homeless animals exist, and people rallying behind the children’s efforts to help the dogs. Overall, the movie does have a positive message that young people can make a difference in their communities, and I hope the humor of the dogs outweighs any inclination a child might have to try something similar on their own. If you want to pass the time, and keep your kids occupied, this is a good movie for children. I do suggest you talk to your kids after about the iffy decisions the characters make in this movie, and about over population of homeless animals. It is important to educate children about the responsibilities of pet ownership, which I believe should always be a lifelong commitment.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I have been dying to share the news, but am trying not to spoil the surprise! I am so bad at keeping secrets when presents are involved, and I simply cannot take this anymore! When I was at 73 followers I learned there will be a giveaway when I reach 100 followers. That felt like a lot of followers to gain, and so I never really thought about the upcoming giveaway, but today I noticed I now have 78 followers.

I'd like to thank the newcomers for finding my blog, and becoming a follower, because you are helping me get closer to being able to reveal this amazing giveaway - all I know at this point is the value will between $40 - 120!!! I'd also like to thank all of my followers. When I started this blog I never imagined so many people would read it! I am truly honored to know that 78 people follow me as I attempt to learn, try, and absorb everything dog!

So whether you are an old or new follower, I want to encourage you to tell a friend about The Wet Nose, as an incredible giveaway is in store when we reach 100 followers!

Now, go give your dog a belly rub, and hopefully you'll be able to spend some time at a dog park or yappy weekend come Saturday! :)

Journey to South Carolina and More...

I arrived in Arlington yesterday afternoon following a wonderful long weekend in Camden, South Carolina. Milly and I had a great time down there. Milly stalked my parents’ cats, but when she got close to them she didn’t know what to do, and got scared… so she ran and hid behind me, while peering out at the Munchkin Cats (a breed with regular cat bodies and short legs) from behind my legs. It was very funny to watch, and quite cute!

We spent two nights in Columbia, where Milly was able to enjoy a nice fenced in yard (1/2 an acre = land size that I can’t even fathom living in North Arlington!), and I attended a USC football game – those Gamecock fans sure do know how to party! They started tailgating at 2pm, and the game didn’t even start until 7pm!

After two nights in Columbia, we headed down I-20 for some time in Camden. My parents are moving soon, and I had the difficult task of packing my childhood bedroom and locating all of my belongings in the attic. In packing, I realized just how obsessed with animals I am – almost all of my books are animal related, almost all of the art or photography I own is of animals (mostly of horses), I have three huge boxes full of riding tack and equipment, and my horse and dog grooming products rival a salon’s supply!

While I packed, Milly and Lucy (my dad’s dog that we adopted last Thanksgiving) enjoyed frolicking on 68 acres, most of which is wooded. They would romp through the fields and trees for hours! I will really miss being able to take Milly somewhere with so much space and land for her to roam and simply be a dog. She clearly is much happier in that environment than she is living in the suburbs, but, like most Golden Retrievers she is very adaptable.

Two of the problems with having so much land with wildlife roaming on the property are fleas and ticks. South Carolina’s tick season can be out of control, and in past years, I’ve pulled more than 20 ticks off of Milly in one evening! This tick season isn’t so bad, but the fleas are simply out-of-control! Milly is on Frontline, as is Lucy, and both dogs get Capstar when the fleas get really bad, but even with all of the preventatives and treatments, they both were scratching at fleas by Tuesday morning.

I am thinking about switching from Frontline to Comfortis (a once monthly pill with mixed reviews), but I’m hesitant, because the only time Milly has any flea problems is when she is in South Carolina. I actually don’t use the Frontline after the first frost and until the weather warms up in the spring, because I hate putting the unnecessary chemicals on her body. This method, combined with regular bathing, has worked for her, and I’ve never seen a tick or flea on her since moving to Arlington – maybe the fleas don’t like urban living either!

Before I left on my trip, I wrote about purchasing probiotics from Nature’s Farmacy, and I am thrilled with the results (after only 2 feedings)!!! First, the product was waiting for me when I returned from South Carolina yesterday, and I love fast shipping. Second, a two pound container was only $34.95, and I feed just over ½ teaspoon once daily, so it will last a long time. Third, the container is very sturdy, which I like for travel. Lastly, Milly loves the stuff! It is a powder that comes with a little scoop and you simply sprinkle the enzymes over your dog’s food. I mixed it in with her Fromm Surf & Turf kibble, Wysong Rabbit canned food, and water, and she licked her bowl for 10 minutes after the feeding! Normally, Milly just walks away from her bowl when she has finished a meal, but she seems to really like her new supplement.

On one final note, I recently joined the Junior League of Washington, DC. Before you think this is an organization full of "ladies who lunch" or ladies that play bridge all afternoon, know that the community service requirements for me as a first year member are insane! But, I'm very excited to really become involved in my community! Tonight, I will be heading into the District for volunteer training for the National Book Festival, and on Saturday I will be volunteering at the festival. As many of you know, I absolutely love reading, and was an English major with a concentration in creative writing. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I learned the Junior League of Washington’s main project is literacy! For a long time I have been very interested in two programs called Paws to Read and R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs), and I am hoping that in time I can encourage the League to become a part of this wonderful organization.

I also found this amazing photo of a Golden Retriever/Labrador cross dressed as Mother Goose. If only I could sew, I’d make this costume for Milly! How amazing would it be if I could work with children and inspire them to read with the help of Milly in a Mother Goose costume? I keep telling myself this really isn't out of reach, as the last time we went in public to work on our CGC test practice she was PERFECT (I even asked a stranger at the pet supply store to hold her while I walked outside for a few minutes!), and therapy work doesn't seem that far off!

I’m a dreamer… if you can’t already tell…

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Am/Ca CH Nitro's Boy Wonder Makes Golden Retriever History!

I am thrilled to announce that “Robin” (American/Canadian CH Nitro's Boy Wonder, BISS, BOSS, SDHF, CGC) has won the Law Enforcement category for the AKC's annual Award for Canine Excellence for 2009! I learned of this accomplishment through the Golden Retriever Forum.

The award will be presented to Robin on December 12th, 2009 at the Eukanuba National Championship dog show in Long Beach, California, and will air on National TV in February of 2010! So be sure to tune in!

This is the first time in the history of the Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) Awards, that a Golden Retriever has ever won the ACE Law Enforcement category! No small task in that "pointy-eared" world dominated by amazing and talented German Shepherds, but a milestone for Golden Retriever enthusiast worldwide!

Robin was nominated by his friends at the Kennel Club of Buffalo, and his owners and breeders are extremely grateful for all their support over the years. Robin is also forever indebted to many members of the Golden Retriever community across the country that came together and donated to purchase his bullet proof vest a few years ago, and to keep this amazing show ring champion safe as he works as a police dog!

This is one amazing dog, and if you haven’t already heard of him, I encourage you check out his breeder’s website and read his amazing story. Also take a look at Robin’s pedigree on K9data, and be sure to tune in as Robin receives his award and makes Golden Retriever history on national television in February!!!

Probiotic Supplements

A few months ago I decided I wanted to start using a probiotic/prebiotic supplement for Milly. There are many, many, many reasons for this, the most important being that most commercial diets are cooked at such a high temperature that the healthy digestive enzymes are cooked out of the food. Probiotics can help with overall digestive health.

Milly, while having a strong stomach, does have some digestive issues, the most noticeable being fairly frequent impacted anal glands (about once a month). Having your dog on probiotics also can “strengthen their stomachs” and prevent an upset tummy should your dog ever need to be treated with antibiotics. The last thing I would want, especially with a senior dog, would be for her to ever need to be treated with a course of antibiotics and not be able to keep the medication down, or weaken herself by vomiting or having diarrhea because her digestive tract was not ready for such harsh medicines.

Once I decided I would start feeding probiotics as part of her daily diet I began researching various companies, and trying to weed through all of the options on the market. Going through all of them was enough to make my head spin, and at times I even wondered, is this worth it? But, I do see the value in feeding them, and know adding them to her diet will enhance her overall health, and will even be noticeable in her coat, which has been rather lackluster these days. After lots of research and speaking with an animal nutritionist, numerous breeders of top AKC show champions, and my vet I settled on Nature’s Farmacy DOGZYMES Digestive Enhancer. The product has received rave reviews, and it seems very cost effective at about 5 cents a day for a 50 pound dog.

I ordered it this week, and hopefully it will be waiting on the doorstep when Milly and I return from our long weekend in the Midlands of South Carolina – we leave tomorrow at 4:00am and we’ll be there until Tuesday. I will let you know how she likes them, and what health changes I see after feeding them for six weeks! If you own a dog that is on a kibble and not a raw meat diet, you might want to talk to your vet or an animal nutritionist about adding probiotics to their diet too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Twist 'n Treat

It amazes me how far the pet industry has come in such a small amount of time. Do you remember the options for dog toys 10, 15, or 20 years ago? I remember my childhood dogs practically grew up on rawhide chews (the kind with the knots on both ends) that I would never feed a dog now. Toys were tennis balls, rope, or squeaky toys, and if you wanted to play fetch with your dog you had to be good at throwing a ball… these were the days before the Chuck-It. Back then, if you wanted to leave the house for hours and keep your dog occupied you’d probably leave him with his tennis ball and a rawhide, because you didn’t have a Kong or a bully stick to provide him with. We fed kibble once a day (at 5pm) - canned food was only in the house after Sweetie was hit by a car and had her jaw wired shut for a few months – the dogs spent the day outside - romping around the farm, doing whatever it is that farm dogs do – the ones that did play fetch did so with sticks that I threw. They were all wonderful dogs that were happy, fit, and healthy, but they lacked all of the toys, treats, supplements and advanced holistic diets that Milly has today. Perhaps their massive yard (68 acres) filled the void for them, or perhaps I simply have fallen victim to the pet industry and become a materialistic dog owner.

Have we really gotten so far away from nature that you can now buy FetchStix?!?!

This is one product I will not be purchasing, I'll just pull them off of a low hanging branch as needed.

I’m not going to lie, I sincerely enjoy buying things for Milly, and testing them out. I am intrigued by the variety of products available for pet owners, and I am usually an easy target for a sales person. I even sometimes let Milly go shopping with me and pick out her next toy. But, on my last shopping trip to AKA Spot in Clarendon (Arlington, VA) I was on a mission for two things: Texas Toothpicks and an Everlasting Treat Ball. They had the Texas Toothpicks (which had gone up in price by $2, and now are only a little bit cheaper there than at other stores in the area) and did not have the Everlasting Treat Ball.

Texas Toothpicks are a great alternative to rawhide bones, and are all natural & made in the USA!

Milly goes nuts for them!

Milly has started digging a lot when she is in the yard (she doesn’t dig on grass, but if the soil is loose around plants she loves to dig) and I know this is probably because she is bored, so I wanted to pick up something to keep her occupied. The saleswoman was wonderful, feeding Milly tomato treats (with my permission, of course), asking all about Milly, and making me feel very comfortable and welcome. She showed me the Busy Buddy Twist ‘n Treat and I was sold!

The Twist ‘n Treat is the first and only 2-piece adjustable rubber treat dispensing toy. You can adjust the rate of treat dispersal to suit the interest and ability of your dog by twisting the disks tighter or looser. When I first introduced the Twist ‘n Treat filled with Merrick's Lamb Fillet Squares to Milly, I left enough space in the opening to allow treats to fall out regularly, so she could “win the game.” Once Milly got the hang of it and played successfully with the Twist ‘n Treat, I screwed the opening tighter and this extends the length of play. Because the opening is adjustable you can fill the Twist ‘n Treat with a variety of soft, hard, and smear-able treats. I also love that it is made of natural rubber. Milly got the hang of it pretty quickly, and with in 4 days I was screwing the Twist ‘n Treat to the tightest setting. She’s figured out how to use her front paws and her nose to roll it on its side, and can get the treats out a bit faster than I’d like, but she seems to really love the action of playing with the toy, and having to work at a game.

I would recommend the Twist ‘n Treat to anyone and a bonus is it comes in three sizes, so you are sure to find one that works for your pup!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dog Heroes of September 11th

I was not the only one who found comfort in an animal on September 11th, but many stranded in the ruble of Ground Zero were rescued by canines and I can only imagine the comfort these faithful dogs gave to victims and rescue crew alike. These four legged heroes walked across burning metal, hot concrete, through smoke, fire and ash to find survivors. The dog heroes of 9/11 often went places humans were physically not capable of going, and assisted in the search, recovery and rescue of many victims. Of course, you cannot pay tribute to any canine hero with out remembering the handlers who helped train and guide these dogs in their rescue missions.

For days dogs searched for survivors. Many of the canine heroes could not begin searching until after 9/11, because all flights had been grounded, and those called to serve were unable to make it to Ground Zero, but the work in the days following was still equally as strenuous, if not more so. These dogs stepped up to the challenge, and displayed their dedication to their handlers, to the human race, and to helping. They courageously put their lives on the line in a way most dogs would never be able to do, and assisted our nation.

A few years ago I checked out a book from the library that has become one of my favorites. Dog Heroes of September 11th: A Tribute to America’s Search and Rescue Dogs, is an incredible book filled with photos of rescue dogs, the stories of the grueling training that went into making them capable to assist on September 11th, the pain the dogs faced as they were unable to locate survivors, and the comfort the dogs gave firefighters and rescue crew on site after the terrorist attacks. This is a must read for any dog lover, and a wonderful tribute to many of the dogs that served our nation.

Many of the dogs that took part in the rescue missions are now elderly canines, and some have since crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Many have died from cancer, whether or not their work at Ground Zero and contact with harsh toxins and chemicals in the ruble caused this disease is unknown. This video is a news tribute to one dog that served her nation, and passed away almost one year ago.

Eight Years Ago...

Eight years ago today Americans’ lives changed forever. September 11th, 2001 was a beautiful, sunny day like so many September days where the air and sky are a mix of summer warmth, and cool fall breezes. I remember it seemed like a very normal day for me as I awoke in my dorm room at boarding school, looked out the window at the clear skies, and gave thanks that it was such a beautiful day, because I had a riding lesson that morning. I didn’t have class for the first two periods, and I remember walking down to the mailroom in hopes of a care package in my box.

As I checked my mail, and rifled through a new J. Crew catalog, I remember looking up at the television, which by school rules must remain on a news station during class hours. At first I thought someone had broken the rules as I starred at the television, one tower had smoke coming from it, and a broadcaster was explaining a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, and all I could think was this must be some sort of movie I’ve never seen. I soon realized no, this was not a movie, this was reality, and I yelled. I don’t know why I yelled, as the mailroom and bookstore were in the basement, and there weren’t any people around, everyone else was in class, but I yelled. Two faculty members walked up, and together we watched in horror as the second plane flew into the other tower.

I don’t remember my emotions after that second plane hit, but I’ll never forget the feeling of confusion and fear as I heard the Pentagon had also been hit – my aunt had been working at the Pentagon around this time, but without my knowledge her job had recently moved to another location. Many of my friends’ fathers worked in downtown Manhattan at the time, and I feared for them, and for those I did not know. I walked in shock to the barn for my lesson, and saddled Monty, it was the only thing I could do in this dark time. I was distraught, and the comfort of his soft muzzle nudging my side as I saddled him eased my emotions, yet the foggy haze of the events I had just witnessed on the TV screen were still with me. My lesson was canceled, classes were not, but the entire school was required to attend an emergency chapel service. There, we discussed the events of the morning, but the news and full gravity of the situation had yet to be known.

We all remember that sunny September day, and where we were – some were driving, others slept in, at school, at work – where you were on that day is a memory we all will carry for the rest of our lives. By the day’s end the skies were black, and the once peaceful morning had turned into a tragic evening filled with loss, fear and grief. Years come and go, time flies by, and it is easy to let events become just another chapter in a history book. As Americans we must not let our day-to-day lives consume us to the point of forgetting the lives that were lost and the families torn apart as our nation was attacked.

Let us remember the fallen and honor the heroes on this day. Remember that freedom is not free, and be proud to be American. Feel blessed to have the freedoms we do, that enable us to lead the lives we do, because of the men and women that laid down their lives for us, and remember them as heroes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Labor Day Weekend

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Mine was relaxing, and very enjoyable. I started by leaving work early on Friday, and parking my car at the Roosevelt Island parking lot and walking/jogging to Hump Back Bridge and back (approximately 4 miles). I had been planning on doing this with Milly, but it was surprisingly hot that day, and I didn’t want to overdo it with her exercise wise. It was nice to workout along the water, and to be able to admire Washington, DC’s beautiful monuments from the Virginia side with the Potomac River in the foreground.

When I got home from my four mile jaunt I took advantage of the beautiful weather and bathed Milly outside. Our outdoor water spicket produces lukewarm water (don’t ask why, because the water in the house is cold), and I want to get in as many outdoor baths as possible before the cold weather sets in. I would love to one day get the Booster Bath, or better yet, have a built in dog bathing tub in my basement (I’d have to own a house first), but for now it’s either clogging my shower with her hair, or doing it outside on hot days. I gave her a complete bath and grooming including trimming her paws and ears, brushing her teeth and cleaning her ears.

For about a year I have been lusting after a professional dog dryer, and in June decided I would give up taking Milly to the groomer and put the saved money towards a dog dryer. I am almost there and think I will end up splurging for the more expensive Kool Dry Dryer (it comes in pink!), because it has gotten rave reviews from breeders, show handlers and groomers. Right now, I just use my human hair dryer on the cool setting, and it takes me over an hour to dry Milly. It literally is back breaking work. Not having a Booster Bath or grooming tub means I spend the washing part of bathing bent over her. Not having a grooming table means I sit on the floor with Milly or stand bent over her. Not having a professional dryer means all of the bending over during drying is very time consuming. Needless to say, at the end of bathing my back is killing me!

I have been using the Furminator shampoo and conditioner all summer, and while I was thrilled with these products at first, I’m starting to notice Milly’s coat is a little dull. Her diet has not changed, and I really wonder if it is the shampoo. I will say, these products do work great at removing the dead/loose undercoat, but I’m concerned about her dull coat.

The rest of the weekend was pretty relaxing. Milly and I went on a few walks, and we went to Bill’s parents’ house for a nice dinner. Milly is always such a flirt when she goes to Bill’s parents’ house, and wagged her tail incessantly to get dinner guests to pet her. As always, her cuteness paid off for her, and one guest spent most of the cocktail hour on the floor rubbing Milly’s belly.

On Sunday I went to CarMax to test drive some cars I saw on their website. If you are in the market for a new car, I highly recommend going to CarMax. They do an excellent job screening cars, and their quality control is top notch. Sales people also only get $250 commission for each car sold, and so they do not pressure you to buy a more expensive vehicle. They will get the same commission selling a Kia as they will a Range Rover. The vehicle prices at CarMax also were much lower than the pre-owned vehicle rates at local dealerships that I had looked into.

Anyways, I test drove two cars, a Volvo station wagon, and a Subaru Outback XT station wagon. I drove the Volvo first, and it was a smaller wagon that came with a pre-installed dog grate in the back – clearly the car’s first owner was a dog person. I loved this car. It was a blast to drive, all wheel drive (important for me because my parents are moving to Vermont), and seemed to have enough room for Milly. I then test drove the Subaru, and while I liked the Volvo more from a driving standpoint (the Volvo was a much zippier car), I felt my visibility in the Subaru was much better. I wasn’t quite ready to make my decision, and decided to sleep on it, but before I left I asked the salesman if it would be okay to come back with Milly in the morning. I am getting a station wagon to have more room for Milly, and so I can keep her separate from my backseat human passengers, and wanted to make sure she fit well in the back of both vehicles. When I came back, in true Milly form, she flirted with everyone at CarMax and was an ideal canine citizen. When it came time to test her car she fit very nicely in the Volvo, but had even more room in the Subaru. Because I want to get another Golden Retriever I went with the Subaru. I am thrilled with my new car! It is a 2005 Subaru Outback XT with 39,000 miles. My family encouraged me to go with the Subaru, as my brother and his wife have an Outback, and my mom is about to purchase one herself – they are supposed to be excellent cars for the Vermont winters!

Monday, September 7, 2009

My favorite photo of Milly and I

I promise to post more tomorrow - I have a lot to catch everyone up on, but it's been a very long and tiring weekend, and I must go to bed now. I will tell you I bought a car today, and I think the car dealer thought I was insane when I asked if I could come back with Milly to see how she liked it/fit in the back. He let me, and Milly seems to love her new wheels. :)

Anyways, I was looking through old photos and wanted to share this one of Milly and I. I absolutely love it. It was taken in May 2007.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dog Blankets and Cool Coats

The past two days have been surprisingly chilly for the end of August, and I have been donning sweaters to work. I’m sure the weather will return to sweltering hot in a matter of days, but for now, it is enjoyable to know that fall, one of my favorite seasons, is just around the corner!

I want to buy a few new articles of clothing for myself to get the autumn season rolling, but a few of my friends who enjoy putting clothes on their pups are busy selecting their dog’s back-to-doggie-daycare wardrobes! I’m not a fan of pet clothes (for the most part), but to each his own, and if you enjoy dressing your pet, and more importantly your dog enjoys wearing the clothes, I’m not going to judge you or stop you. Unfortunately, I often see people in line to checkout at pet supply stores with armloads of dog sweaters and jackets to keep their pets warm in the fall and winter, and to me, these products seem to be designed for style and not functionality.

While I don’t put cable knit sweaters on my dogs, I do use dog blankets as needed. I absolutely adore dog blankets for keeping dogs warm in cold weather. Dog blankets are based on horse blankets and many companies that manufacture top of the line horse blankets simply miniaturize their horse designs to fit your pets. This ensures quality – these blankets are made to withstand the roughness of a horse, and stay on as a horse gallops across fields. The materials in dog blankets are very durable, and the blankets can simply be tossed in the wash if they get dirty. In my opinion, dog blankets are usually made of much higher quality materials than dog jackets or sweaters, and are made to withstand a dog really playing and moving in it. The prices vary, but they are designed to withstand a lifetime of use (chewers excluded), and tend to be the same price or less than a doggie jacket you’d find at a pet store. Adjustable straps with either Velcro or buckle surcingles provide your pet with the best fit, and are just one of the few advantages to using a blanket over a jacket in the winter.

It is important to note many breeds do not need extra warmth, and too many layers can lead to overheating. If you have a breed that is known for having a heavy winter coat and enjoying cold weather these products are probably not for you, but for those with short-haired dogs that are prone to shivering might like to look into a dog blanket as an alternative to the sweaters and jackets pet stores tend to push on you. Dog blankets are also great for older, less active dogs needing extra protection from the cold. Dover Saddlery offers a large selection of dog blankets in a variety of prices. Horse Creations also has a big selection. offers a great polar fleece option for less than $20 that my old Beagle wore.

If fall and winter seem like a lifetime away for my readers in hot locations, and you are still worried about options available for keeping your pet cool in the summer you might be interested in trying a cool coat. Canine Cool Coats are made from the same Oasis fabric used in equine fly sheets, and protect your dog from the sun! The mesh material offers durability while at the same time being soft, breathable, and coat friendly. The fabrics tend to be extremely reflective offering your dog UV-protection (blocking both UVA and UVB radiation) so it will help keep your dog cool even when the coat is dry. You can order cool coats at

For additional cooling, you can submerge a cool coat in cool/cold water prior to use. If the coat dries out you can simply mist it with a spray bottle of water. If needed, a fan blowing over the coat increases the cooling power of an Oasis Cool Coat dramatically. But, always keep an eye on your dog when doing this, as he could actually become too cool.

You’ll often see these on dogs at dog shows. They feature snap front closures and hook and loop belly bands for optimum fit and comfort. While there are many brands available, my favorite is the Oasis Canine Cool Coat as the fabric does not get too heavy, especially when wet, and allows for maximum breathability.

Want to add a personalized flair to your dog blankets or cool coat? You can have them monogrammed or embroidered on the hip with your initials, your pet’s name, or your kennel name!