Quick Food Update

Silas’s modified eating schedule seems to be working!

He hasn’t eaten one blade of grass or turned down one meal since we started feeding him three times a day. This is still a 100% approved foods diet–turkey and sardines–but I’m excited. We’d been really struggling even with those foods for the last month or so.

Also, I’ve learned that he will eat raw sardines, retail price $1.99/lb. This is a big deal. I knew that sardines were an approved food because we did his initial allergy trial with Primal’s Turkey and Sardine formula. Canned sardines are very expensive, though, at something like $2.99-$3.99 for a three ounce container of what I usually buy for myself.

He’s still convinced that he’s starving, but he’s bringing in fewer rocks and sticks.

It’s early to give a final verdict, but very promising. I’ll probably add some other protein source in next week.

Vigilance

If you want to find a cache of dogs who look as much like Silas as you’ll ever see, google “Squirrel Dogs.”

I can see it in his temperament. Not that I know what makes a squirrel dog any different from any other hunting dog, but I can see how he would be a good hunting dog. (Also how he would be a terrible hunting dog, but that’s another story.)

Some of this comes out in cute ways. If I drop his toy from the upstairs loft and ask him to find it, he will walk around the corner, stick his head out between the railings, and look for it. Then he will go downstairs and get it. He will “alert” to a bug on the wall and refuse to go to sleep until someone kills or relocates it. He can find anything that I hide anywhere, even when I don’t want him to.

The downside is that he’s always, always watching and listening and sniffing. He will leap up from a dead sleep because a leaf falls “weird” against the front door. He can spot a moving car from across the park. He fascinated a PetCo employee by the way he was air-scenting for some ferrets. He notices everything.

The problem is that he has no way to process all that data about the world. That car a quarter of a mile away at the park frightens him as much as a car that’s a hundred feet away. The leaf against the front door is as bad as a person being outside. Those ferrets? He couldn’t bring himself to get within three feet of their cage. (They were safely up out of his range, I promise.)

I see my job with him in pretty simple terms. I need to help him bridge between “I notice that” and “I am afraid of that.” Or, even more simply, I want him to understand that he doesn’t have to react to every single stimulus. My usual working formula is one part confidence-building, one part counter-conditioning, one part exposure and familiarization.

Some days I do better than others.

Good Things

It has been a rough week around here. Food issues, people issues, other dog issues (that one hit me out of nowhere, too). It’s tempting to wallow in a big puddle of “can’t one thing about this dog be easy?” Instead, let’s talk about some good stuff. In no particular order:

1) Silas’s new tug toy:
Silas
There will be a review of this to come, oh yes. The perfect amount of bungee, the perfect amount of irresistible fleeciness.

2) Morning snuggles:
Silas

4) Afternoon snuggles (and the best cup of coffee in town):
Silas

5) Random acts of non-posed cuteness:
Silas

6) Laser beam focus (which we are trying to learn to channel):
Attention

There. I feel better now.

Where Paranoia Gets You

I think I may have finally gotten to the root of Silas’s most recent stomach problems.

He threw up six times in February. I cut his diet down to the bare minimum. Just turkey. No supplements, no snacks, no bits of food from peoples’ plates. It didn’t really help. In fact, it got worse as the month went on.

We made it through until the tenth of March without another incident, but only because there were a few near-misses. That is, Silas was doing his morning “I’m going to eat grass and then throw up routine,” but we caught him and got him to eat real food instead. This set my brain to spinning a little (we’ve never been able to “divert” him before), and I realized that I think I’ve got this all wrong.

Fact: Silas was at week 11 of his 12 week trial on pork when this started, and he’d had zero problems.

Fact: Silas ate a lot of acorns in February, before we realized they were bad for him. Acorns are both physically *and* chemically bad for dogs’ digestion.

Fact: Silas’s skin and ears are still perfect, even though he’s been having other symptoms for over a month. He’s itching slightly more, but taking all the potential allergens out of his diet cut his daily fat intake dramatically.

Fact: When he’s only eating turkey, Silas is convinced that he’s starving to death. He fills this gap by foraging for rocks and sticks. (I also wonder if there isn’t a mineral deficiency that encourages this, too, since he’s up to a few weeks without his usual vitamins.) His poop assures me that I am not getting all of these away from him.

Fact: Rocks and sticks surely irritate one’s stomach.

So, my new working assumption is that this particular outbreak has nothing to do with his allergies and never has. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my allergy paranoia has made it all worse. I think, instead, that he’s just made his already sensitive system even more so by eating acorns and rocks. (His vet and I have never been entirely sure of the relationship between his food allergies and his stomach acid issue anyway. Sometimes it seems causal, sometimes not.) He threw up from eating acorns, and I panicked and cut everything out of his diet. Because turkey has fewer calories than pork and much less fat, he thinks he’s starving. Because he thinks he’s starving, he’s eating more rocks. I also have a hunch that I’m feeding him less turkey now than I should be. It’s been a while since we’ve done the one-ingredient diet.

Now I’m trying the logical thing–treating the acid reflux as its own case. The usual theory with dogs who vomit bile is that their empty stomachs are overproducing acid. Silas is getting three meals a day now, including last thing before bed and very first thing in the morning. I’ve upped his food quantity slightly. I’ve added back in all of his supplements, including the L-glutamine that’s supposed to be good for his stomach.

It’s too early to tell if it will really help, but I’m pretty optimistic. If this does turn out to explain everything, we’ll probably be in for another round of veterinary work.

Product Review: Lupine Roman Harness

Tuesday outing

A good scratch

I’ve been holding off on a review of Silas’s new harness until I was sure that it was perfect. And it is. So, so perfect.

The problem with harnesses is that Silas is a weird shape. His chest is very narrow, but his chest circumference is somewhere in the low 20-inch range. He’s pretty squarely between harness sizes for most of the big-box type brands. (This same problem hits us almost across the board, which is why my 30 pound dog is in a 36×22 “large” crate.)

Lupine is one of the only brands that we’ve ever had any success with, because they understand this about dogs. At the “between” sizes, they offer their harnesses in two different widths. One of our harness problems has been that they look extremely out of proportion. Silas’s size is often a 1″ width, which is crazy for a dog his size. Lupine offers their 20-32″ harness in both 3/4″ AND 1.”

Our other harness problem is that they rub behind Silas’s front legs. He’s got almost no hair, you know, especially on his little belly. You can see the problem here, in his old step-in Lupine harness:

Silas on a Log

The Roman harness has a longer span between the two pieces, as you can see in the top photos. This harness is comfortable enough for him that I can leave it on for a long car trip, which makes me feel much better about getting him out at rest areas.

Two last perks: Lupine has an excellent guarantee. They promise to replace your dog’s harness, even if your dog chews it up. And, even better, they’re made in the US (webbing and all, it looks like).

Now, there are two drawbacks to this harness. Personally, neither of them negate the perfect, amazing fit. First, it is not the very easiest harness to put on. It isn’t bad, but your dog needs to put his head through the opening and then put one leg through. (You technically don’t have to put the leg through, but otherwise you have to thread the belly strap back through a belt loop. Silas would rather pick up his leg.) Silas is crushed by this process, but he’s a drama llama and has also been crushed by every harness we’ve owned. The second problem is, I think, my adjustment, but the back strap does shift to the side under the weight of his leash as we walk. I believe I could fix this by tightening the straps a little more, but I keep forgetting.

Bottom line: LOVE.

Fine print: I bought this myself, from an excellent local retailer. Find yours at http://lupinepet.com/locator/ . The leash in these photos is from another company and merits its own review in the future.

Silas 1, Lavender 0

I’ve shown you a few photos of our back patio. You’ll notice that it’s basically a wasteland, especially on the sunniest end, where puppy Silas pulled up all the shrubs.

I thought I would fix this by putting out some potted plants.

Silas was very interested in this potting process. He sniffed of the dirt, and stuck his head down in the big pots. Interested, but not destructive.

I put out my mint and my lavender (potted herbs were on sale at the supermarket last week, and we already had two big empty terra cotta pots). Silas played in the water hose spray. We enjoyed the sunshine.

The next time I let Silas out, I thought, “Hmm. It’s been a few minutes, I should make sure he’s okay with the plants.” It’s a good thing I checked, because that was the exact moment that he lifted the lavender bodily, roots and all, out of the pot. I repotted it again, and I think it will be okay.

Maybe I should just learn to love the wasteland look.

Running Buddy

I have taken to running with Silas. I’m a terrible runner. Terrible. I’m slow. I have short legs. But I like that feeling of smug virtuousness that comes from running, so from time to time I take it up.

In order to fit it into my schedule this time around, it’s just easier to do it with Silas. I’m at the park anyway. Two to-do items off the list at once, etc.

Finding the right park was tricky. I’m very lucky to have so many choices, but Silas is particular. Lots of them are too close to the road. Some allow horses, not dogs, on the trails. One doesn’t allow running (it sounds crazy, but it’s a good fit for that park). One of them closes the trails when they’re anything less than bone dry.

We’ve found a couple of reasonable options, though. The park that closes the trails too often is fantastic. Close to us, with a wide, flat loop of trail that stays out of sight of the parking lot the entire time. There’s also some more adventurous terrain, when/if we’re up to it. When it’s damper out, one of the “too close to the road” trails is workable, as long as I’m willing to go back and forth on one section.

I’ve learned some interesting things running with the dog. Or, I should probably say, jogging very slowly while he trots at slightly over his regular walking pace.

One: if I’m not walking he’s pretty sure I’m playing. It takes him a minute or two to establish that we’re still moving forward, rather than jumping around in a circle like a crazy.

Two: dogs who walk three inches from your left leg are annoying. I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve never done heel work with Silas. He has absolutely zero training for it. It just hasn’t been, and honestly isn’t like to be, a priority. Sometimes when I’m running, though, my pace is fast enough that we just naturally fall in side-by-side. I’ll get that classic dog position/attitude. Right next to my leg, attention on my face. And I’m constantly worried that I’m going to step on him. If he were fully trained to it, it might be okay. Since I can’t trust him to stay there without randomly crossing in front, it just makes me nervous. I’m much happier when he gets a burst of speed and goes on ahead.

How about you–do you run with your dog/s? Do you have any pro-tips for a beginner?

A Question About Play

I’m tossing this one out to you, dear readers.

Silas plays one and only one game with other dogs: chase. He doesn’t seem to care if he’s in the front or the back, he just wants to run. Heck, he doesn’t even care if the other dog is running with him–he’s happy to follow along while the other dog fetches a ball and completely ignores him.

I’ve been letting him play with other dogs a little more, and I’m seeing a behavior that I’m not really sure about.

Say Silas wants you (you in this scenario are a dog) to play chase. You’re sitting there, chewing on some clover, having a nice time not playing. To get you to stop sitting and start running, Silas walks up behind you and pokes you in the rear end with his front paw. It isn’t a mounting thing, just a poke. (It’s actually eerily similar to how my husband “gets” Silas when they play chase.)

Is this an acceptable doggy protocol, or is he being a bully? Someone at the park on Friday said that they hadn’t really seen a dog do that before. Is this going to get us in trouble when he’s playing with someone larger than 15 pounds? His body language is good, otherwise.

Food Costs

I just did the shopping for what should be the entire month of March. It’s been a while since I shopped this way, rather than buying bits and pieces to supplement the two whole turkeys that I bought in November. Since it was so handy, I thought I’d share with you. This is a pretty realistic cost of raw food in my area, for a dog who can’t eat beef or chicken, and it gives you a nice breakdown of the balance I try to hit in Silas’s diet (minus supplements).

Meat with bones:
2lbs turkey tails: $4.50 ($2.25/lb)
4lbs pork riblets: $10.00 ($2.50/lb)
9lbs turkey necks: $17.91 ($1.99/lb)

Organs:
3lbs mixed ground turkey organs: $8.50 ($2.83/lb)

Boneless meat:
10lbs whole turkey hearts: $17.50 ($1.75/lb)
1lb ground boneless pork: $3.50
5lb ground turkey thigh: $16.25 ($3.25/lb)

Misc:
One pig snout. (These are a dried chew): $1.00

Total weight: 34 pounds. At 32 pounds, Silas should be eating about 25 pounds of food in a month. I overbought because some of the turkey hearts will be dehydrated for treats. I also can’t really count on the pork, so I bought it as an over-and-above thing. Total cost, including our very high sales tax: $84.88. If I could buy in more bulk I could save myself a good bit, but this is really the very most I can store in my freezer.