Posted in Maui's Caturday, Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: What Did You Bring Into My House?!

As I briefly mentioned in my Mental Health Monday post, we got a new kitten! We have adopted a two-month-old orange shorthair named Maui. IMG_0490

He’s very sweet, very playful, and very curious. He likes to cuddle, attack my legs only, and wears a bell around his neck so we can find him. He likes to chase fingers, feet under blankets, feather balls, and pipe cleaners. He shows more interest in the boxes and strings we have lying around than the actual toys we have purchased for him. He has already learned how to turn the computer on and off and thinks the window sill is the absolute best place to hang out with a possible exception being underneath the dressers so he can grab us as we walk past.

Willow hates him. These are some of her thoughts.

“He’s got weird smells, he’s got weird sounds, he jingles when he walks past because Mom and Dad put a crazy weird bell on him. There’s all this random new stuff around the house that I don’t understand. Why would you ruin a perfectly good ball with feathers?! He drinks my water, he goes into my crate when I’m not there, and is just a menace! Mom should return him straight away!”

We are going on day 4 post adoption, and he’s settling in very well. He’s getting used to the crate and rotate situation that we are living in quickly (I think due to his time spent in the shelter on his own). He’s generally unbothered by Willow’s barking, and he’s enjoying his new food. He is learning his name and that the carrier is not the worst place to be, though the car noises sometimes startle him.

We are very excited about our new fur baby, and are still getting used to how things are going to be now, and as always I will continue to update you all here too!

Posted in Mental Health Monday

Mental Health Monday: Stress, It is a Killer

I’m an average person. I work full time, I have a lovely boyfriend, an apartment, a sweet (to me) dog, and we have recently added a kitten to our family. I love my life, I love all the heartbeats (people AND animals) in it, and I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate and lucky with this beautiful life I live.

I’m an average person, and sometimes I absolutely hate my life.

I hate when the stress of adding a new family member triggers my anxiety. What if Willow and Maui are accidentally let into the same room at the same time? Was I crazy to think something like this would work? What if I’m not a good enough pet parent to make sure that both of my fur children are safe and cared for, and their needs are all met? Is Willow getting enough face time with Vinh and I? Is Maui? Is adding a kitten to the mix just going to make Willow regress from all the progress we are making?

I hate when I feel guilty living the “crate and rotate” system. How do I fully enjoy watching Maui run around and play when I can hear Willow barking and crying in the background? How can I snuggle and love on my dog when the cat is mewling from the bathroom to be let out? Who do I let out and roam when I’m doing chores around the house? I can logically rationalize it to myself, but how do I rationalize it to my animals? Or my boyfriend, who is so in love with the kitten and afraid of the dog?

I hate when a peaceful moment with one of them triggers the other. I live for the moments when they are both relaxed and at peace. To be honest, Maui really doesn’t care a whole lot if Willow is barking at him. Every day he ventures closer and closer to her crate, regardless of how ferociously she’s screaming. And every day, Willow barks a little bit less at him. Unfortunately, my heart breaks the same amount every time.

At some moments, I really hate my life. And it’s in those moments that I get the opportunity to remember the good things in it.

Willow’s probably never going to be able to be left alone with Maui and leave me feeling comfortable with it. That’s a fact of life both Vinh and I have resigned ourselves to and feel okay about. But it has always been important for her to have time for herself, to relax or sleep or chew on a special treat she gets. Her medications have been working well for her, and every day we are able to do a little bit more that used to be outside of her comfort zone. Both Maui and Vinh give us lots of chances to practice our obedience and impulse control, and this gives my girl more and more confidence that things aren’t going to get her at any moment.

Maui is a source of laughter in our sometimes too stressful home. Last night, he was walking across the window sill and slipped, falling into Willow’s water bowl. He proceeded to track water all around the room until I caught him and toweled him off. He chases our feet first thing in the morning, and rubs his face on my glasses while I’m wearing them. He’s brave, and curious, and playful, and sweet. He cuddles up with me and places his paws on my face to show me that he thinks I’m pretty okay. He climbs on top of Vinh’s laptop and turns it off to remind him that he needs to play with Maui too.

It’s hard not to fall into a pit when it seems like a bunch of things are clashing together and none of it is mixing together, no matter how hard you try. But there are always, always opportunities to find the light during those moments of darkness. No matter how hopeless or frustrating life seems, there are good points in every sadness.

Posted in Doggy Reviews, Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: Merrick Wet Foods

Happy Wednesday! This week I’m going to be chatting about the nightmare that was my experience with Merrick food. We tried out a couple of different flavors, and each one was worse than the last. It’s gotten to the point where Willow won’t even touch a can of Merrick if it’s put out in front of her and she eats everything. Except lettuce, but what dog ever eats lettuce? I’m writing and posting this long after the Merrick Mayhem of 2017, so I don’t have any pictures or anything like that. I do, however, have a vivid memory and a whole lot of adjectives.

We tried three flavors, Turducken, Thanksgiving Day, and Grammy’s Pot Pie, all in their grain free line. All three were an odd blend between a pate and a stew with very few definitive chunks in it. There were specks of carrot bits, but most of it was a blob.

Seeing as how this was my first experience with canned dog food, I didn’t really know what to look for. I remember it having a tinny smell to it, but assumed that it was just part of the fact that it came out of, y’know, metal can. The thing that really turned me off it was Willow’s reaction to it.

[WARNING: DISCUSSION OF BODILY FLUIDS. THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE SENSITIVE, SKIP TO THE NEXT BOLD BRACKET]

She was just coming off a tooth extraction procedure, so she needed to eat soft foods. Her normal kibble is not that (obviously). I’d heard good things about Merrick and thought I’d give them a try. This was before they went and changed their formulas for everything. Whatever conglomeration of ingredients they use now is terrible. It gave Willow such bad stomach cramps that she will no longer touch it. She had severe diarrhea, to the point where she would just explosively poo the moment she got outside. It was barely solid, almost all liquid. She would throw up 2-3 times each time she ate it. I felt so horrible for her, she was so miserable and she wasn’t eating anything.

[OKAY THE GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF BODILY FLUIDS IS OVER NOW, YOU CAN COME BACK.]

So, due to it making her so sick, and the fact that she won’t even touch it if I put it in front of her anymore, Merrick is long off the list of foods I will give to any dog. Not just mine. My sister has three little dogs, also very food driven, who won’t touch Merrick either.

Posted in Doggy Reviews, Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: Koha Super Premium Dog Food

Happy Willow Wednesday!! Today I’m going to be reviewing Koha’s brand new canned dog food flavors! They came out recently (I don’t have an exact date) and my pet store just put them out on the floor.

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First on the docket is the Lone Star Brisket flavor. This has a lot more gravy in it than I was expecting, putting it safely into the “soupy” category instead of a “stew” or “pate.” There were a fantastic amount of meat chunks in it and it smelled surprisingly good. Not gonna lie, I was tempted to eat it. However, with Willow drooling on my foot while I took all these glamour shots, I refrained.

 

There were a couple of reasons I picked this up. The first was that really nice white, bold headline on the bottom of the label. Grain and potato free. Fortunately, my girl doesn’t have any problems with eating grains or potatoes. I just don’t like to give them to her. With her behavior issues and skin issues early on, I try to minimize things in her diet that could cause inflammation or make her uncomfortable.

Second, these cans are single protein. With a fish allergy in the family, I have to be pretty careful with what I give her. A lot of foods mix proteins, which normally is a good thing. Mixed protein is actually healthier for dogs to incorporate several protein sources into their daily intake. In my case, Willow can only eat single-source proteins. With Koha, what you see on the front label is what you see in the ingredients list. There are no hidden fish meals or fish oils.

Third, isn’t the packaging so cute?! And it’s super colorful! Look!

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And these are just the fish-free ones! There is one more with fish in it that I obviously didn’t buy. It’s got a green label and is called Pike Place Platter. I thought there were more, but the website only shows the one additional flavor.

Now on to business! The eating!

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She sucked up the gravy real quick, so I’d say that’s a positive vote for the flavor and palate-ability. The chunks did slide around quite a lot, so I’d recommend a not-so-shallow bowl or somewhere that’s easy to clean up…

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As illustrated by the towel covered in meat bits that slid off the plate.

Overall, I’m very excited to experiment with the other Koha flavors. Willow’s last experience with Merrick wet foods was not great, so it’ll be nice to have a solid wet food in my back pocket should the need ever arise.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Hippie (Sort Of) Home

Once upon a time in my dreamy and carefree youth (HA!), I worked at a summer camp called A.R.E. Camp. I had a blast, worked incredibly hard, and learned a lot about holistic/alternative living. I ate 90% vegan all summer, lived in open-air cabins, all but entirely removed sweets, processed foods, and caffeine from my diet, and learned the importance of limiting the amount of chemicals in the household.

Growing up, I lived a bit differently. I was raised using Clorox scrubs in the kitchen sink, bleach in the toilet, windex for windows and mirrors, and sanitizer wipes for the counters. We were never overzealous with cleaning supplies or the use of chemicals in our daily lives, but we were never skimpy with their use either. I remember every month, the kitchen would smell overwhelmingly of bleach when the kitchen sinks were soaking for stain guarding and germ-killing.

Now that I have my own home, I have been given the opportunity to decide what products to use to clean and I’ve been faced with a task that was far more daunting than I thought it was going to be. There are more types of dishwasher pods, dish soaps, surface cleaners, laundry detergents, and floor cleaners than Khaleesi has Dothraki. The products that I naturally gravitate toward are not necessarily the best products, but the products with the best advertising. So I did a bit of research to determine what would work best for my sort of hippie household.

I wanted to focus on products that had a strong homeopathic footprint. I have a dog at home, and I prefer not to have products around that could do her serious harm if she were to ingest a small amount of it. Not to mention, I cook on these counters. I don’t need to be worried that there’s too much ant killer on them.

My favorite solution is the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day brand.

I use almost exclusively Mrs. Meyer’s products. They produce handy dishwasher pods, counter wipes, multi-surface cleaner, laundry detergent, and more. I have used the lemon verbena, lavender, and honeysuckle scents and I love them. They are fresh, floral, and best of all, not overpowering. They pack a punch, scrub away any toothpaste grime, shower scum, toilet bowl yucks, and counter crusties that I could possibly wish for. It’s cruelty free, which means no little animals get harassed by scientists, and the products themselves are biodegradable.

I haven’t tried too many other “green” product lines, mostly because why mess with what works? While I’ve made a good start, I still have a lot of products to replace.

Posted in Doggy Reviews

What Is a Reactive Dog?

I mentioned in another post that my pupper, Willow, is a reactive dog. This post is going to explain exactly what something like that looks like.

Willow is a 5 year old rescue pit bull mix. She’s small for a pit at 45 pounds, but she is a strong and athletic girl. I adopted her just before her third birthday and I am her third, and final, family. I don’t know anything about her history before I met her, other than the clinical things listed in her veterinary papers that were given to me with her. I don’t know who the people were that owned her before me, and I don’t know what sorts of things she experienced. I do know that whatever those experiences were, they affected how she interacts with and perceives the world.

Willow falls under the category of “reactive” because most things that we consider normal stimuli elicits a negative, or fearful, reaction from her. Things like seeing another dog, people walking into a room that she’s in, strangers talking loudly, delivery people driving trucks past the windows, sometimes even the sounds of babies crying or children laughing on the tv. There was one time where a flag flapping in the wind on a flagpole scared her on a walk, and we had to make a point to positively reinforce seeing and hearing the flag so that she didn’t develop a full blown fear of it.

I can already hear people asking “but aren’t all dogs okay with everything?” Let me put this in another perspective for you:

Humans all respond to things differently too. Some people are afraid of heights, or spiders, or water. Some get emotionally worn out being around other people for long periods of time, while others thrive on human interaction and socialization. Some people have had experiences in their lives which causes them to react in a certain way to that certain stimulus, always (Hello, ice cream truck song). People who were victims of abuse or assault tend to be more wary in unfamiliar settings, uncomfortable around strangers, or unsure how to navigate socially when it was, at one point, effortless. And others still are just born this way, with anxiety or higher levels of sensitivity that make normal things harder to deal with.

It is the same for my dog, and for many other dogs out there too.

I don’t know exactly which of these scenarios are her truth. I don’t know exactly what happened to her to make her so uncomfortable around men and so terrified of other dogs. I don’t know if she’s ever suffered from physical abuse of some kind, or if she was ever attacked by another dog. The only things I know for sure are the things she’s shown me.

I know seeing other dogs scares her. I know that strangers and people she’s unfamiliar with scare her. I know that sometimes she gets overwhelmed and socially exhausted, and she needs time to relax and decompress alone. I know that when she’s scared, she looks like she’s aggressive because she is externally reactive. Her goal is to make the scary thing go away, and in order to do that, she barks and growls.

It breaks my heart to see her like this, and it’s frustrating to have a dog that I can’t introduce to people, take on puppy play dates, or just go on walks in the park on nice days. There is a lot of work that goes into managing her environment correctly so that she’s not unnecessarily stressed out, and so that everyone around her is kept safe and comfortable. Going into all the small things that I do every day would take a thousand years and become unbearably boring, so let’s just say that it’s a lot. Constant. All the time.

And as much work as having her is, I wouldn’t change it for the world. She teaches me new things every day. She’s helped me grow up and face adult responsibility. She’s taught me how to parent, and how to handle situations that may seem like the end of the world. She’s also taught me what true, and unconditional love feels like. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Posted in Mental Health Monday

Life With Anxiety

Anxiety is something that I typically don’t talk about much. I mention it here and there because it’s such a huge part of my life that is really difficult to get away from. As much as I try, I can’t keep my anxiety from touching every part of my life, and every relationship I have, and every activity that I do. And that’s an extremely difficult reality to live with.

I’ve mentioned before that my boyfriend is an incredibly outgoing person. He has never had to deal with anxiety, or depression, or any other incredibly common mental health issue personally. And it’s very difficult to understand how crippling and frustrating it can be if you’ve never had to experience it before. He’s incredibly understanding and does everything that he can to learn about it and figure out how to help me out of my downswings. If I’m having a spike in anxiety, he will ask me after I’m calm how he can help me avoid those situations, or how he can adapt to ease the difficulty of dealing with those situations that can’t be avoided.

I so appreciate everything he does for me. And sometimes I feel horribly guilty about it. I find myself asking, “but won’t it be better for him to find someone without these issues? Won’t his life be more fun, or less stressful, or less frustrating, more exciting, if he were with someone who didn’t have to deal with these feelings?” Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t someone out there who would fit his life better than I do. It’s hard to feel like I’m worth all the effort he’s putting in for me, when it feels like I’m not doing the same for him, just putting more requirements and restrictions into a situation that should be freeing and fun.

But when I have those thoughts, I try to pull myself back a little bit. He’s choosing to stay. He’s choosing to put the effort in. He’s choosing to make a relationship with me work, to accommodate the things that I can’t control, and to support me when I’m having trouble holding myself up. While he doesn’t have mental health issues to work around, I compensate him in other ways. Relationships aren’t always 50/50, even though I want to make them that way as much as possible. Some days, it’s 60/40 toward him. Sometimes it’s 30/70 toward me. And yet other days, we are fighting for who has the larger percentage because we want the other to feel more appreciated than any other person in the world.

These are the things I try to remember when I find myself in downswings. I try to remember that it’s not always easy. It’s not always fair. It’s not always balanced, or equal, or anything. Sometimes, the relationship will be all about me. And sometimes, it’ll be all about him. Those days when I feel unworthy of him, I try to remember that my anxiety is a nefarious little demon whispering half-truths and insecurities into my ear and that they are not reality.

PS: I know this post isn’t actually posted on a Monday. In the future, I will try to post my articles about my journey with my mental health specifically on Mondays and under the tag “Mental Health Monday” so you can easily find/avoid them as you choose.