Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pet Food Recall

I just read about this pet food recall thanks to the lovely blog Fetch Me My Fainting Couch, so I’m passing the information on to fellow fur parents. 
This is so disappointing.  Emma is a boxer mix, so we’ve been feeding her the Eukanuba Boxer food for a while now.  It looks like a trip to PetSmart for different food is on this evening’s agenda now. 
What are your thoughts on a pet food recall?  I’ve typically adhered to a one strike and you’re out policy.  The fur kids are our babies and I just can’t justify taking chances with their wellbeing.  We’ve promised to take care of them to the best of our ability.  That being said, it’s becoming harder and harder to find a brand that hasn’t had some problems.  I’d love to hear what any of you feed your fur kids.    

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Park Behavior

This is going to be a bit of a tirade, or possibly a public service announcement.  I lean more toward tirade, since I’m sure you lovely people aren’t guilty of any of these offenses. 

Yesterday evening a friend, Beth, and I went walking in a local park.  We’re trying to get together once a week for a good, long walk at a local park or trail.  Beth is also a dog person; she has three and usually brings one or two of them.  I always bring Emma.

Emma doesn’t like to be approached by strangers.  She came from a really bad place and has some fear aggression issues.  She’s fine as long as no one tries to get in her face.  One of Beth’s dogs, Tanner, was practically wild when she began fostering him (he’s a failed foster) and has taken years to become even somewhat comfortable around people.  He’s also very afraid of loud noises and sudden movement.  Because of this we’re really careful about where we choose to walk.  We take the less traveled trails.  We step to the side of the trail and let other folks go ahead.  We realize our dogs have some issues, so we’re careful.

Yesterday we chose a park that has a lot of paved areas.  It had rained a lot during the day and we thought some of our usual places might be really muddy.  We’d both been to the park before and had good experiences.  A co-worker takes his dog there often and always says it’s great.  Apparently we’ve only been when the other park visitors were behaving properly.  Also, yesterday must have been Go To Your Local Park And Be A Total Jerk Day; we just didn’t get the memo in time.  So here are some highlights of proper park behavior:

DO NOT allow your dog off leash.  Unless you are on your property (and no, being a taxpayer doesn’t make the local park your property) or in a dog park, do not allow your dog off leash.  It doesn’t matter how friendly your dog is.  Some people are afraid of dogs. Many people don’t like to be approached by a strange dog.  And not all dogs are friendly.  Many dogs don’t like to be approached by another off leash dog while they’re leashed or in a new environment. 

DO NOT tell me how friendly your dog is.  If I’ve asked you to restrain your dog, don’t tell me how friendly he or she is.  Your dog hasn’t met mine.  They are animals.  You cannotguarantee their friendliness toward my dog.  I know my dog, you don’t.  If I’ve told you they need to be separated I have a reason for it. 

ALWAYS ASK before trying to approach a strange dog.  It doesn’t matter how cute the dog is, how much you love dogs, or how “good with dogs” you are.  If you don’t know the dog, stand at a distance and ask the owner if it’s alright for you to meet their dog; if they say no, do not argue with them that you’re really, really good with dogs.  You’re not good with thatdog.  Most dog parents are more than willing to let people fawn over our fur kids; if we say no, we have a good reason.  Respect that. 

FOR THE LOVE OF WHATEVER YOU HOLD HOLY, TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO ASK BEFORE MEETING A STRANGE DOG.  I cannot stress this one enough.  Children do not need to go running up to strange dogs.  It’s just not safe.  Aside from the whole dog standpoint, children shouldn’t be running up to the strange person on the other end of the leash. 

Clean up after your dog.  Even to crazy pet parents dog “leavings” are just gross.  It’s not that hard; many parks even provide the bags.  No one wants to step in that. 

Respect the park rules.  They’re there for a reason.  If you don’t like them, find another park.  The speed limits are slow because it’s a park.  People are walking, kids are riding bikes and roller skating.  It’s not the Daytona 500 (hoping I got that name right).  If an area of the park is reserved for a certain activity (biking, walking, dog walking, etc) don’t do something else in that area. 

I know I probably sound a little bit like the Wicked Witch, but yesterday was awful.  We had to cut our walk short, and at one point ended up practically in a stream, serving as the mosquito all you can eat buffet, in an attempt to avoid pushy kids and off leash dogs. 

I’m sure it’s probably happened to everyone at least once.  What are your park behavior pet peeves? 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pet Planning

I’m going to be climbing up on a soapbox here.  Now, you’ve been warned, so don’t complain, but please do hear me out.  It’s a good soapbox.

Yesterday I picked up these two cats from the county shelter, which is a kill shelter, to take them to the no-kill shelter one county over.  The cats had been adopted from the no kill shelter, but wound up back in the kill shelter when their owner died and the family didn’t want them.  The no-kill shelter’s policy is to take back pets that were adopted from them in a case like that.  The boys were obviously stressed, but will hopefully be re-adopted soon.

However, there was a third cat, who wasn’t adopted from the no-kill shelter.  She also ended up in the kill shelter when the owner died.  She’s still there because the no-kill shelter is full.  We’re networking her, and I have a friend who may be able to take her, but right now she’s in the kill shelter, with limited time.  Based on the boys’ demeanor, I imagine she’s frightened, and she doesn’t even have a buddy with her.  The boys at least have each other.

The cats were in very good condition when I saw them; their coats and eyes looked good, they didn’t have fleas, and were well fed.  It appears that they had a good home before their owner died and everything changed.  The folks at the kill shelter said they were brought in by animal control because the family didn’t want anything to do with them.   So that’s what brings me to today’s topic of planning for your pets, so that they still have a good home, even if something happens to you. 

A couple of years ago hubby and I attended a pet planning workshop at the no kill shelter.  It was put on by the shelter, a pet cemetery owner, and a local attorney.  It was free and the email announcement about it was a real attention grabber; it had pictures of really cute fur kids and said something along the lines of, “If something happens to you today, what happens to me tomorrow?”  So we decided to attend the workshop.

It was sort of sad, very enlightening, and absolutely worth our time.  The folks from the shelter said that most of the time people don’t really think about what will happen to their pets if something should happen to them, or they just assume that their family will take them.  The attorney said that “valuable” pets could be fought over, and the pet cemetery owner said some folks actually euthanize grandma’s dog to be buried with her.

There was also discussion about all of the practical things that someone willing to take on your pet might not know about if you haven’t made the proper arrangements: their vet, dietary issues, medications, behavior issues, etc.  They also really drove home the point that shelters are full and thousands of adoptable pets are euthanized every single day.  Pets whose owners have died without making arrangements for them probably aren’t going to fare well.  

We were told that the way to go about making arrangements for your pets varies from state to state, so you need to check and see how it’s best handled in your area.  It is definitely something that needs to be handled. 

Fortunately for us, North Carolina addresses the issue of pet arrangements, so our pets are included in our will.  We have a first and second choice for each fur kid, with the no kill shelter as the back-up for all five fur kids.  We’ve talked to everyone we’d want a pet to go to and made sure they’re alright with taking on the pet we had in mind.  We (hubby) have also created a spread sheet that lists everyone’s vet with their contact information, medical issues, behavior issues, current food, and any medications.  We’ve also made sure that the people involved know where to find this information and how to get in touch with anyone they may need to. 

I’ll be honest; it’s a little weird to think about something happening to both of us.  It’s not the most comfortable conversation to have when you talk to someone about taking care of your pet if something happens to you.  Some people think it’s a little morbid.  I like to think of it as being prepared.  Yes, hubby and I are young, but things happen.  No one is promised seeing a ripe old age.  We promised the fur kids we’d take care of them for the rest of their lives.  If that happens to be longer than the rest of ours I like knowing that they’ll be cared for.  

So, please, if you have pets, make the necessary arrangements for their care in the event of something happening to you.  I'll climb down from my soapbox now.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

From Our Garden

We planted a vegetable garden for the first time this year.  It’s fairly small because I wasn’t sure how it would do, or how much we’d be able to keep up with.  Honestly, I had my doubts about the seeds ever sprouting.  I don’t exactly have a green thumb.

My husband’s grandmother definitely does have a green thumb, so she has helped a lot with the vegetable garden.  Were it not for her help I don’t think anything would have made it, but with her help we’ve been fairly successful.

We planted bell peppers, banana peppers, lettuce, squash, zucchini, and tomatoes: cherry, Roma, and heirloom.  The lettuce started off great, but didn’t really do much.  We basically ended up with enough for a small salad.  The squash has been doing fairly well, but even the small ones are full of really big seeds.  I think I will try a different kind next year.  The zucchini has been slower.  I’m not sure why because it was planted at the same times as the squash, and is right next to it.  We’ve picked a few squash, and we now, finally, have one little zucchini.  The banana peppers have done well; we’ve picked about eight of them.  The bell peppers are just coming in now.  We’ve picked one full size bell pepper, and there are lots of baby peppers on the plants.  The tomatoes are thriving!  They’re all doing well, but the cherry tomatoes are almost taking over.  We’ve been making lots of tomato dishes and have been giving tomatoes away as well.  They’re so good, and it seems like more are ripening every day right now.

I’m so proud of our modest gardening success. I’ve never grown actual food before.  I planted an herb garden last year, and that was enough to make me want to try vegetables this year.  It’s just a great feeling to grow your own food.  I definitely want to plant a vegetable garden again next year, and I think it’s going to be a little bigger than this year’s.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Save Up & Clear Out Project

I read about a Pantry Challenge a while ago.  Parts of it sounded intriguing; I liked the idea of using up some of the random things that have been on the shelves for a while, or that we have just way too much of, or that tend to go bad before we use them.  There was a great sale on canned tuna a while back, so now we have a lot of tuna in the pantry.  I recently had to throw away a box of beer bread mix from a specialty store because it expired before I got around to using it.  I never seem to use up more than half of a carton of sour cream before it goes bad.  I liked the idea of maybe addressing issues like these.  Part of it sounded kind of annoying, though; I don’t always have the time to get super creative when it comes to meal planning.  Hubby’s work schedule is weird (to put it nicely) and some days there’s a very limited window of time to get dinner ready between when I get home from work and when he has to leave for work.  It doesn’t leave much wiggle worm for extreme creativity or made from scratch everything.  And we like food.  A lot.  Neither one of us are terribly happy when dinner isn’t great. 

One of the perks of the Pantry Challenge is that in theory you’re able to save up the money that you normally spend on groceries, or use it for another purpose.  I definitely liked the sound of that.  The bills, even with insurance, from my medical issues earlier this year are insane.  We also had some septic tank issues last month, so that was a big hit to the savings account.  It could definitely stand an infusion.

I haven’t been very diligent about keeping the grocery spending as low as I can.  We’ve switched to organic milk and organic beef.  Because I’m trying to avoid soy now we’re pretty limited as to which brands we can buy of a lot of different things.  I’ve found myself justifying a higher grocery bill because we’re trying to eat healthier and buying more organic foods.  But I need to be more conscientious of checking to see which stores offer the best deals on organic milk and beef and trimming the cost of other grocery items to help balance it out.  In an effort to do this we’ve allotted $200.00 for groceries this month.  It works out to about $44.45 per week when you factor in the half week at the beginning of the month, with about $22.20 for the short week. 

We’ve also slipped into the habit of eating out quite a bit more than we should.  It started slowly, but has built into a pretty bad habit.  It’s kind of shifted from “hey our favorite Mexican place sounds great for Friday night” to something along the lines of “I’m tired/had a bad day at work/don’t feel like cooking/didn’t defrost anything/it’s just easier/ we won’t have to clean up the kitchen”, which leads to eating out a lot more than we should.   It’s bad for the budget, and has brought the weight loss to a halt.  Fortunately we haven’t gained, but restaurant portions aren’t the way to keep that from happening. 

The eating out thing is a little tricky, because as I said before, we like food.  We like trying new foods, and going new places.  We don’t have much time off together, so we tend to eat out when we do as something that we both enjoy doing to spend time together.  We talked about it and decided that saying we’re not eating out this month is just setting ourselves up for failure, so we’ve imposed a limit.  We’re allowing ourselves three times of eating out together this month, and we each get one time of eating out on our own with friends or co-workers.  If we both don’t use our own option by the end of the month we’ll allow ourselves the fourth time together. 

We’re hoping that we’ll save some money this way, start losing weight again, use up some of the things that we have too much of right now, and eliminate a lot of food waste by actually using the bottles of salad dressing, bunches of herbs, cartons of sour cream, leftovers, and everything else that ends up languishing in the back of the refrigerator.  I’m also hoping to come up with some new recipes this way; some of the best recipes are born of desperation, so I’m hoping for some good ones. 

One of my other objections to the Pantry Challenge was the daily blogging of what you eat.  Daily blogging doesn’t seem to happen for me lately.  And I think that kind of daily blogging makes for very boring reading!  Maybe, maybe if you’re someone like Kate Middleton the world cares what you eat for breakfast on Tuesday, otherwise I don’t think so.  So, I plan to only post recipes or quick meal ideas, or how to make something cheaply.  I hope that will keep it interesting. 

Basically this all comes down to our very own Save Up & Clear Out Project; $200.00 for groceries this month and limiting eating out to four times this month to save up some money, using up things we have on hand to clear out the pantry and freezer, and sharing recipes and time savers we utilize to do this.  I’d also love to read about any of your quick go-to meal ideas.