Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Muddy Mutt: A Self Serve Grooming Salon

When the day comes that I no longer lease, and I find myself a homeowner, I have plans of transforming my basement into a dog grooming room. I’ve looked into what tubs are the best, saved up for a professional dog dryer, have selected my grooming table of choice, and even drawn out how I want everything laid out!

Until that day comes I am stuck with either bathing Milly in the driveway with a hose and drying her with a hair dryer on the cold setting, spending $65 at the groomer for a bath and brush (I’m particular about where she goes, because she is geriatric and I need to know the groomer will give her breaks throughout the process), clogging my shower drain and struggling to rinse her in my walk-in shower, or going to the do-it yourself dog wash!

I’ve found a fabulous dog wash in Shirlington (a part of Arlington, VA) called The Muddy Mutt. For $17 (you get your 6th wash free) you are provided with a professional grooming tub that is off the wall so you can scrub from both sides, professional all-natural and organic shampoos (mixed on site for your dog’s particular needs), a professional AirForce brand dryer, all the brushes and combs you could need, an unlimited supply of treats, an unlimited supply of ShamWow’s (they’re great, but the generic sold at AutoZone work even better, incase you were wondering), and the softest wash cloths I’ve ever felt. The Muddy Mutt backs up to the Shirlington Dog Park, talk about prime location, and is owned by the sweetest lady who will help you through the entire process and answer all of your questions. They even have a small retail section, and provide you with aprons so you can leave just as clean as you entered! The Muddy Mutt supports pet adoptions by offering one free wash to any dog adopted from a reputable within the last three months.

A dog waits to be bathed in the grooming area

For senior dogs and dogs with limited mobility they offer ramps!

They have all sorts of fun dog accessories, toys and leashes in their growing retail section!

While I have the money saved up for the Chris Christensen Kool Dry Dryer I’ve been coveting, I’m a bit hesitant to make the purchase in the winter. It truly is back breaking work to bathe Milly in the driveway, and it’s way too cold this time of year, and it is just a big mess to do her in my shower (the drain clogs just from my hair so think of what Golden Retriever fur does to it!). I never thought it could be so painful to be bent over for so long, but after grooming her at home my back usually hurts for two days. So, until I can groom her in the driveway with the hose again, I’m happily spending my money at The Muddy Mutt.

If you’ve never used a grooming tub and professional dryer you don’t know what you’re missing! I can get Milly 90% dry with a professional dryer in under 5 minutes! With a regular hair dryer on the cold setting we’re looking at over an hour of coat damaging work. A professional dryer works by blowing the water off the coat, and then you can adjust the settings for detail work. The lack of heat makes this a pet-safe tool that can be used weekly (or more) with out causing skin and coat irritations. If you are spending a fortune or hurting yourself grooming at home you should check if there is a self-service grooming salon/dog wash in your area – it’s totally worth the money!

The Muddy Mutt is conveniently located (walking distance!) from my very dog friendly office. I can take Milly to work in the morning, let her play and get really filthy for a few minutes at the park, and simply put her in a tub and scrub, scrub, scrub.

This is one business I happily frequent every other week - and where I'll be spending my lunch break today! Miss Muddy Paws gives The Muddy Mutt FOUR PERFECT PAWS!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ho Ho Ho (a little late)

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your blogger friends. Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy this entire post and paste into a new post on your blog, if you have one. I got the idea from Black Labs and Lilly! Change all the answers so that they apply to you. This is not a Meme or a Tag. You simply play along if you wish to. Or just read the answers! Enjoy the Disney Pictures sprinkled throughout the post!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I use both! I love to buy nice thick paper on sale right after Christmas at discount stores like Marshalls, and stash it under my bed for the year. For pet owning friends I tie a dog treat or biscuit onto the ribbon to jazz it up - a dog themed ornament is a nice touch too. When giving multiple gifts or baked goods I go with a gift bag.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Real. My roommate bought a small real tree this year that I adore. I always make a wreath out of the tree clippings, and I feel safer if my pups chew on a real tree than the plastic ones! I love to lie on the floor looking up at the tree, using my Golden Retriever Milly as my pillow.

3. When do you put up the tree? In our house we’re pretty slow, the week of Christmas, but usually we wait until Christmas Eve.

4. When do you take the tree down? Since we tend to be behind on the tree buying, and our tree goes up at the last possible minute we wait until the second week of January.

5. Do you like eggnog? I love it! My dad recently passed down his top secret eggnog recipe to me! Yum yum! It’ll give you a holiday buzz, but watch out, drink too much and your belt won’t fit anymore! Make sure to keep it away from the pups as alcohol is very toxic for pooches!

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A new saddle – I thought there was a TV in that big box, and boy was I tickled when I opened it to find the saddle I’d been eyeing in the local tack store for 2 years!

7. Hardest person to buy for? My middle brother – he’s way too practical!

8. Easiest person to buy for? My dad – he’s very practical, but I know what he likes and dislikes!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. At my parents house we have many, and I keep my nativity scene at their second home in Vermont – it’s made of Olive wood and I picked it up at a crafts fair as a little girl.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail. This year they featured Milly in 4 feet of snow, frozen whiskers and a frosty nose are hard to top!

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A bath product set that caused a terrible allergic reaction!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Benji’s Very Own Christmas Story – my dad actually sat beside Benji on a flight once, he was allowed out of his carrier and did tricks the entire flight! Boy am I envious!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I buy gifts throughout the year and stash them in a secret hiding place I refer to as the North Pole! This year I was slower than usual, and didn’t get started until the end of November.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Is this a trick question? I recycled a photo album, because I owned the same album, but I personalized it with photos of my friend and I and our dogs and horses. So, sort of.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Smoked salmon – we have it every year!

16. Lights on the tree? Yes!! Classic white lights, and some years we even add real candles, but those take a lot of supervision!

17. Favorite Christmas song? God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? I travel either to my parents house in South Carolina or their house in Vermont – it’s 7 -10 hours depending on traffic, and about equidistance to either place!

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Most of them.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Neither, a stuffed animal cow!

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning! The only exceptions are gifts from friends, and on Christmas morning we open stockings before gifts under the tree.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? People forgetting what Christmas is about (our Savior), and those who allow the stress of gifting to taint the holiday spirit.

23. Favorite ornament, theme, or color? I love our hand blown glass balls – there are a few that are over 70 years old! My childhood macaroni ornaments still have a place on our tree.

24. Favorite for Christmas Dinner? Blueberry pancakes and bacon on Christmas Eve for dinner and a nice pot roast for breakfast on Christmas morning. It used to be the other way around, but one year my mom put the roast in for Christmas Eve supper and forgot to turn on the oven! We were so hungry we just made breakfast, and it started a tradition!

25. What do you want to do for Christmas this year? Cherish my last Christmas in my childhood home, and celebrate the health and happiness my family and I have. I accomplished that one this year.

26. Favorite Christmas tradition growing up? Putting up our nativity scenes with my dad – they are very old, and take up the entire mantle.

27. Favorite tradition now? Drinking and making eggnog with my parents and brothers.

28. Favorite Christmas Memory? The year Santa’s sleigh got delayed in China, and he was forced to wrap all of our presents in Chinese newspapers! It was amazing! Another is the year we left carrots and hay in an empty stall, and the next morning they had been munched and there was real deer droppings in the stall. With memories like that how can you not believe in the magic?

Chicken Treats Made in China and a Christmas Dilemma

Last night I found myself in quite a pickle of a situation. I returned from a wonderful week in Camden, South Carolina to a stack of Christmas cards and a few gifts under my small tree. One gift was for Milly from my boyfriend’s mother, and when I opened it I was excited to see “Sweet Potato,” but quickly became nervous as I realized this treat was wrapped in dehydrated chicken. I turned the box over and scoured to find the country of origin – disappointment sank in as I read those bold letters, “MADE IN CHINA.”

Dehydrated poultry products have quickly become the treat of choice for many owners, but the majority of them are made in China (I’ve only found two brands that aren’t). I’ve noticed these treats tend to rely on marketing “All natural” or “Holistic” or "Grain and corn free" and even the more expensive brands sold in pet specialty shops tend to be made in China. When I’ve inquired about the ingredients in such treats I’ve been told by store owners and store managers, “They’re all natural – it’s just chicken,” and so I ask what they might be cooked in because my dog has allergies – 100% natural chicken is always the response.

You might remember when I committed a cardinal dog owning sin and fed Milly some dehydrated chicken strips, made in China, which had been given to me. Normally, Milly does not get any food made in China, but I made an exception, and she paid the consequences by vomiting all day. I am so lucky that was the extent of her illness, but it was a very terrifying day, and one that I will never forget. I now read every label, and she is not allowed anything made in China.

In 2007 and 2008, there were many articles about made in China chicken treats causing renal and kidney failure in dogs throughout the United States and Australia. The FDA investigated the issue, but no conclusions about their investigation have been released, and they caution dog owners not to feed these treats. A simply Google search of “made in china chicken dog treat” turns up enough terrifying search results to make any dog owner’s head spin, and it checks out on!

In China the standards for processing foods are very different than in the United States, and regulations are rarely enforced, especially when it comes to pet food and pet products. From mold tainted chicken strips – go to your local Pet Smart and take a look at the packages of dehydrated chicken, and you’ll wonder why the same exact product comes in so many shades of color – to chicken supposedly treated in formaldehyde, the risks associated with these loosely regulated dog treats are high. These are both speculations of causes, though independent panels have found traces of both in treats.

The American Veterinary Medical Association urges pet owners not to feed these poultry based treats from China, and explains that there has been no definitive answers one way or another, but pets continue to get sick. They urge owners who do continue to feed these treats to watch their pets closely for any signs of illness.

I have not found much from 2009 regarding these cases, but I also have not found any conclusions regarding the issues that took place in 2007 and 2008 in my searches, but the lack of data is not going to push me into feeding my dog something made in China, I don’t care how many thousands of dogs safely eat these treats.

So now, here I am with a gift that I have no idea what to do with. At first I thought, well, I’ll Google the company, and maybe make an exception just this once, but images of Milly violently ill the last time I made an exception came to mind, and that simply is not an option. What is the proper gift receiving etiquette? Do I simply write a thank you note, and pretend like this was a great gift? Do I donate the treats to a shelter – I don’t feel comfortable putting other dogs at risk. Do I find a store that carries the same brand I was given and try to exchange them for a treat made in the USA, and then write a thank you note explaining what I did? I do believe it is important to educate the public, but I don’t want to appear ungrateful. I was truly touched that someone took the time to think of Milly on Christmas, and include a gift for her under the tree.

Friday, December 18, 2009


This is an amazing video of a yellow labrador catching a huge fish!

In the spirit of Christmas, enjoy this adorable video!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Puppies Do Not Make Good Christmas Presents!

As soon as the holidays have ended, Christmas or Hanukah has come and gone, the New Year has just begun, people head back at work, kids go back to school, and shelters are bombarded with owner surrenders of puppies, kittens, dogs and cats. The weeks following Christmas are the busiest time of year for most shelters in the United States, because people quickly realize the soft, cute, cuddly puppy they picked up for a quick smile on Christmas morning is now peeing on the floor, attacking the Christmas tree, and requires a lot more time and effort than anticipated.

Almost always, giving an animal as a gift for Christmas Hanukkah, Valentines Day, Easter or any other holiday is not a good idea, and usually results in the animal being turned in to a local humane society’s animal shelter. The financial and time commitments necessary for raising a puppy are so great that often the recipient of a gifted puppy or dog will become so overwhelmed they will feel they must rehome it, take it to a shelter, or in the worst case illegally “dump” or turn out the animal onto the streets.

Puppies chew things! They’ll chew up furniture, rugs, even molding on the walls! They’ll chew mom’s shoes (only the most expensive ones), your child’s toys, and dad’s briefcase complete with important work documents. It’s hard for families, especially those with young children, to have the patience for puppy behavior. Puppies are of course attracted to your holiday decorations too – shiny balls on a tree, strange new scents, fatty foods that can make your puppy sick that are tempting to give a begging puppy. After the holidays end many families realize they just don’t have the time and patience to commit to a puppy.

Puppies bark! They bark a lot. They whine. They cry. If you like peace and quiet this will surely get on your nerves! When you’re trying to focus on writing a letter or studying for something they will bark. If you’re working from home they seem to wait for your turn to speak on an important conference call before being exceptionally noisy. There will be many long nights, especially in the beginning, where your puppy whimpers through the night because he is scared and lonely without his mother and littermates. If you have to get up early for work you’ll have all sorts of stressful emotions when you come down stairs to a pile of poop or a pee, have to walk your puppy who then wants to play, and have to rework your entire schedule around this new animal. If you gave the puppy to your children to teach them to be responsible, they might soon get bored with the puppy after a few morning walks before the school bus arrives in chilly, wet weather.

Puppies don’t come potty trained – you need to train them! It can be very difficult to potty train a puppy or dog, and many people are not prepared for this process. Potty training relies on keeping a very strict schedule, especially in the beginning, with specific feeding times, play time, and walk times. Even when watched closely a new puppy will manage to squat and pee or poop on your new carpet, furniture, and even your mattress or bedding! You can not quickly potty train a puppy. It is a major commitment that needs to be worked on daily – you need to continue potty training when your stressed, when your child is sick you still need to stick to the schedule, and when all you want to do is sleep in on Saturday morning your whining puppy will remind you sleep is no longer a luxury in your life.

Puppies grow up quickly! They become dogs that slobber, shed, jump on people, require training and attention, chew your shoes, and dig in your flower bed. They might knock a small child over, and may even bite! If not trained properly a big dog can be very dangerous, especially around children. Training is an extra cost, often requiring going to obedience classes, and is a large time commitment for the owner who will need to practice with the dog between classes. It is best to start obedience classes as soon as you get a puppy by enrolling in puppy kindergarten.

The truth behind Christmas puppy classifieds! It is never a good idea to give an animal as a gift, and often times people are led astray by unscrupulous breeders after a quick buck that list “Christmas Puppies” in the classified sections of the newspaper. A responsible breeder, knowing how hectic the holidays are and the high turnover rate of gifted puppies, would never plan a litter with puppies available to go home over Christmas. Instead, the Christmas Puppy ads you see are often for-profit breeders who cut corners in health and nutrition of their dogs and puppies to make some extra holiday cash. Breeding responsibly is expensive – costly health clearances must be done on both parents (performed by board certified orthopedists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, etc. and not just a general bill of health from your vet), dogs should not be bred until they are at least two years old, vet bills for both parents and puppies, high quality food for mother and her litter, the cost of a whelping box, add in an unforeseen cesarean section and often times a breeder loses money on a litter – and most responsible breeders barely break even.

There’s no such thing as a free puppy! If you’re reading this and still want a Christmas puppy you might be thinking, “Well, I’ll just get a mutt that’s free.” You must know there is no such thing as a free puppy. The cheapest part of owning a dog is the initial cost – whether it is “free”, purchased from a breeder, or the adoption fee. The first year and last year or two of a dog’s life are the most expensive. A puppy requires shots that equate to numerous vet visits in the first year alone. In many areas you will also be required to register your dog with the county or city and purchase a dog license. If you rent you’ll either need to pay a monthly pet fee or put down a hefty pet deposit – usually a few hundred dollars. You will need to spay or neuter your puppy, there are low costs spay/neuter clinics that are about $100, but if you use your regular vet for this procedure expect to possibly pay up to $400 for a spay. If your puppy gets sick it will be another trip to the vet, and costly medications to treat your puppy. Puppies often require special diets if they have any health problems, and these can be costly. The less glamorous side of puppy ownership includes fleas, ticks, common parasites or worms, mites and other nuisances that are expensive to get rid of. Then of course you’ll need supplies for your puppy – food, bowls, collars and leashes, a crate, training classes, a bed, heartworm preventative given monthly, flea and tick preventative, brushes and shampoos for grooming, ear cleaning supplies, nail clippers or a Dremel, treats, and plenty of toys to keep your puppy occupied so it is not destructive in your house.

Why is a Puppy a Bad Christmas Present??

There are numerous reasons pets given as holiday presents rarely stay in their new home. The following reasons demonstrate why puppies and kittens make terrible Christmas gifts.

  • It’s the most wonderful hectic time of year. There are many stresses during the holiday season – buying gifts, traveling to see relatives or preparing for out-of-town guests, decorating the house, attending parties, wrapping up end of the year responsibilities at the office, planning meals, entertaining… the list goes on. The hectic aspects of the holiday season make it very challenging to care for and bond with a new pet. The success of a puppy often is connected to the owner following a strict schedule involving plenty of attention, training, care and love. It is very difficult to accommodate a puppy’s needs with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and the result is a puppy’s whose needs were ignored resulting in a puppy with behavioral problems, and a stressed, frustrated and overwhelmed owner realizing they bit of more than they could chew.

  • Bonding with a new puppy is an important step for owner and pet – there must be a connection there for it to work. All puppies are cute, and it might seem like a wonderful idea to surprise your significant other, parent, sibling, child or spouse with an adorable, cuddly puppy you selected for them, but this should be avoided at all costs. Selecting a puppy that is right for a person is as individual a decision as selecting your spouse – one person’s spouse might be great for them, but you know would be a terrible match for you – you probably don’t want an arranged marriage where you have no say, so would you want a lifetime commitment of a dog where you didn’t take into account your wants and needs? A pet owner should personally select, or select with the guidance of a breeder, their new furry family member to ensure the owner and pet’s personalities do not clash. When I decided to adopt Milly there was a strong underlying attraction I had for her – there were plenty of other dog’s at the shelter that day, but there was a reason I was attracted to Milly. That initial attraction was a critical step in our bonding process, and enabled me to happily open my home and heart to Milly for the rest of her life. Adopting or purchasing a puppy is a very personal process, and it must be done by the new pet owner to ensure happiness of animal and human alike.

  • Timing is everything – is it really the right time for a new pet? I’m constantly saying “I’d love to get a puppy!” I make this desire clear to my boyfriend multiple times a day, but I haven’t come home with a dog on my many visits to the shelter in the three years we’ve been dating, and the reason isn’t because there wasn’t a puppy or dog I felt a connection to. Just because I want a puppy or second dog, I know the timing needs to be perfect. To give a puppy or dog to a person as a gift is like thrusting a major life commitment on a person that may not be ready. The receiver of the puppy will most likely be put in an uncomfortable situation where they logically know the time is not right for a pet, but they are now holding a cute puppy with a great personality, and the new owner might be compelled and somewhat guilted into keeping the puppy, or accepting the gift. The emotional aspects of holding a puppy, the soft fur, the little paws, the cute personality can easily tug at the new owner’s heart strings and soon they’ve lost touch with the sensible, logical reality that states, “I don’t have the money to afford vet bills on a puppy,” “I don’t have time to train a puppy,” or “I travel too much to give the puppy a good life.” This situation is unfair to both puppy and human, and is a great reason not to gift a puppy.

Alternatives to Giving a Dog or Puppy as a Christmas Gift:

It’s never a good idea to give a living animal as a holiday or birthday gift, but there are instances when you know someone in your life truly desires to own an animal, is ready for the commitment, and you want to give the gift of lifelong animal companionship to that special human in your life. If you are 100 percent sure the person is ready for a pet you can use some of these creative alternatives to giving a live animal as the gift, and ensure your loved one receives the animal they so desire.

Head to your local pet supply store and pick up some basic puppy or dog supplies and/or a gift certificate to the pet supply store. You might want to start with a collar and leash (make sure they’re exchangeable, because you won’t know the size), a few puppy toys and chews, maybe even a dog bed – put these items in a box and wrap them and put them under the tree.

When your loved one opens the box they’re reaction will be one of slight confusion “Why did you give me this stuff? I don’t have a dog /puppy.” This is when the gift giver can explain to their loved one that the real gift is a trip to the local animal shelter or to a breeder, all-expenses-paid, to select the new puppy or dog. The gift giver should explain if selecting a breeder that they can take all the time necessary, and a puppy might not be available immediately, but they can select the breeder and get on the waiting list for a litter if need be. This situation is the ideal way to give the gift of a canine companion to a human that is ready for the commitment, because it enables the pet recipient to not only select the right puppy or dog for his or her lifestyle, but it also enables the recipient to prepare his or her life for a puppy, even if that means postponing getting the actual puppy for a few months to prepare the house, acquire the supplies necessary, ensure he or she can take a few days off from work to be with the puppy, and get all finances in order before acquiring the new pet.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Removing Sap from a Dog's Coat

Recently, Milly and I spent a lot of time outside, and at some point during out nature romps Milly had a love affair with a pine tree, or at least that's what I'm thinking must have happened. I didn't notice it until we got home and was combing through her coat. She was covered in sap in small patches all over her coat and even on her face! If your dog has never gotten sap on their coat it is not something I would wish on anyone! First, it's sticky. You touch it and it gets on you. Second, the hair balls all together into a tangled mess. Bubble gum in my hair had nothing on my sap covered dog! It was an utter nightmare, and I had no idea what to use to remove it.

My gut said try something oil based - I went with bath oil (what I had on hand) - and this did work somewhat, but not as much as I'd like. I then e-mailed one of my favorite Golden Retriever breeders knowing she'd have the answer. Her response was to keep applying oil (but use baby oil) to the sappy spots, and then give a bath in Dawn dish soap. So lots of baby oil later (this is a timely process), and a bath in diluted Dawn dish soap (to remove the oil - you can use full strength in the super oily spots) Milly was good as new. Thank goodness I was able to get it out, because I really did not want to have to resort to cutting her coat, especially her feathers!

So before you hit the woods for a hike remember baby oil and Dawn dish soap will remove the sap!