Happiness Is A Welcoming Doormat

This week’s Spin Cycle is “Happy Happy Joy Joy.”  Gretchen tells us, “Considering we tend to be a cynical bunch around here, this one might be tough. Or not.”

Well, alrighty, then.

So, as my contribution, I give you a Father’s Day gift that made me happy as the gifter, and Beloved very happy as the giftee:


Our new doormat.

What can I say?  Being cynical IS what makes some of us happy…

(Receiving influx of “unsubscribing” emails in five…four…three…two…)

Scooter’s Diet, And An Update

ScooterThis week’s Spin Cycle is about pets.  If you’ve been reading here any time at all, you know I have an 11-year-old dachshund mix named Scooter.  He’s been a frequent subject here, but most recently because when we changed our diet, we changed his, too.  I wrote about it last year, and thought I’d rerun it again, with a brief update.

About a year ago, I wrote about Scooter – our little beagle/dachshund mix – and the autoimmune disease centered in his anal glands that he developed after years of eating commercial dog food (Kibble and Bits Beefy Bits, to be exact).  The ingredients are horrible:

Corn, soybean meal, beef and bone meal, ground wheat flour, animal fat (bha used as preservative), corn syrup, wheat middlings, beef, water sufficient for processing, animal digest, propylene glycol, salt, hydrochloric acid, caramel color, potassium chloride, sorbic acid (used as a preservative), sodium carbonate, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, D-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), choline chloride, titanium dioxide, calcium sulfate, red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, BHA (used as a preservative), potassium sorbate, dl methionine.

You have no idea the guilt I feel because I let my sweet little dog eat that garbage for so many years.

When Scooter began having his problems, they were accompanied by terrible inflammation and infections.  I was pretty sure that much of this could be mitigated by diet, but when I spoke to the vet about it, he said I should keep him on commercial dog food, because if I fed him anything else he would run the risk of nutritional deficiencies.  In fact, his only solution to the problem was to put Scooter on steroids for the inflammation and give him antibiotics for the infections.  So we did, and the minute his course of steroids ended the inflammation returned, and eventually the infection did as well.  This happened three time before the vet decided that he was just going to have to be on steroids permanently – he could even end up on low levels of the antibiotic for the rest of his life, as well.

In the meantime, Scooter was miserable.  The inflammation was somewhat better, but he was still constantly licking his backside and dragging it across the carpet.  Because of the steroids, he was constantly, ravenously hungry and even though I wasn’t feeding him any more than usual, he was still gaining weight – at his heaviest, he was 24 pounds.  That may not seem like a lot, but for a dog that’s only supposed to weigh 16 or 17 pounds, that’s a lot of weight gain, especially in a very short period of time.  He also lost all of his spunk; he’s always been a happy, active dog – even at 10 years old, he’s more than happy to play fetch, or zoom around the house if he can get you to chase him, or run around the yard or take a walk.  But no longer; all he wanted to do was eat and lay on the sofa.  It was breaking my heart.

Now, as soon as he became ill and the vet told us to keep him on commercial food (and tried to sell us a brand that cost almost as much per week as we spent on groceries for the three of us), I began  to make Scooter’s food myself.  After doing a little research on what was in most home-prepared pet foods, he went on a mixture of cooked beef, rice and vegetables, mostly peas, carrots and green beans.  He loved it at first – he’d always preferred “people food” over kibble – but when those initial courses of steroids were over, he began to lose his appetite and often refused it, which worried me a great deal – Scooter NEVER left food in his bowl.  By the time the vet said he needed to be on steroids permanently, I decided it was time to get drastic – so I put him on a raw food diet.

When I told the vet this, he said that was unsafe; it was simply not a “balanced diet” for a dog.  But the more I thought about it, the sillier that statement seemed and when I began researching raw food diets for dogs, it became even sillier.  So Scooter began eating raw meat – mostly beef and pork, with some chicken thrown in every now and then and liver or other organ meats about once a week.  (We do give him bones from time to time, but even before he became ill bones messed with his digestive system – when we give him one, we have to confine him to areas of the house that are tiled because there will be a mess.)

Scooter loved the raw food diet – he ate it enthusiastically, and it wasn’t long until we began to see some improvements.  He continued to gain weight, because that’s just the nature of the Prednisone beast, but he regained some of his spunk and began acting more like the dog we all love so much.  And after much deliberation, we decided that when it was time to get the steroid prescription refilled, we’d wait a bit and see what happened.

What happened was astounding…or maybe not.  The inflammation not only didn’t return, it became better.  Not entirely better – it may never go fully into remission – but remarkably better.  The lingering infection, which the vet said might not ever entirely go away, even with long term antibiotic use, cleared up almost immediately.  He immediately began to lose weight and is now back down to 17 pounds.  More importantly, he is his old self again – active and happy and feeling pretty good for a 10-year-old dog with what amounts to nagging case of hemorrhoids.

Update:  Scooter is still on a raw food diet, and is still happy and thriving.  I’ve begun adding small amounts of pulverized egg shells and sea salt to his food once a week, since he no longer gets any edible bone.

However, recently he became quite ill as the result of a rawhide chew stick.  I’d had people tell me that dogs shouldn’t have them, but I’d been giving them to Scooter occasionally for years without anything bad happening to him.  I wish I’d listened, because it was truly awful; we thought we were going to lose the little guy.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I can give him to satisfy his need to chew?  Bone is out of the question, since it gives him diarrhea.

The Gardening Obsession

This week’s Spin Cycle is about “obsessions.”  Hoo, boy.

Yes, we tend to be obsessive, which is probably why Beloved and I are so well suited.  Three years ago when I began to obsess about the kind of food we eat and where it comes from, Beloved was right there with me.  In fact, he’s become more obsessive about it all than I have. (Not surprising, since my loving husband is an “A type” if there ever was one. As for me, I’m not sure I even qualify as a “B type” – I’m probably somewhere down the line at…M).

At any rate, last year we weren’t exactly excited about the offerings from our CSA.  Not that they were bad or anything, just nothing too terribly out of the ordinary – lots of lettuce and green beans and zucchini and tomatoes and peppers, but no kohlrabi or bitter melon or dragon tongue beans or anything like that.  Now, there is a farmer we know who grows things like that (and much, much more) and offers CSA memberships, but his farm is considerably further away.  He’ll bring our share to the farmers market, but that means driving out to Peninsula every Saturday morning, something we elected not to do last year; we attended that particular farmer’s market once or twice a month.

So, Beloved decided we’d grow our own vegetables, hopefully being able to ditch the CSA all together eventually.

Now, we’ve been growing our own food for at least six years; I have a wonderful herb garden on the east side of the house, and we have two 8′ x 4′ plots in our back yard where we’ve grown everything from tomatoes to okra to peppers to broccoli over the years.  But once he decided we’d expand on that, those two plots became home to perennials – rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries to be exact (the asparagus crop has been disappointing to say the least, but the rhubarb is huge and we’re going to have a ton of strawberries, much to The G Man’s delight).  I should also pause here and mention that we have a huge blackberry bush that is going to drown us in that beautiful fruit as well, and a raspberry bush that we hope will eventually be just as prolific.

Once he decided to expand our backyard garden, I began finding sketches all over the house with various layouts of raised beds and positions for water barrels (don’t even get me started on The Search For The Perfect Water Barrels).  Fortunately, he decided to “start small” and built 3 raised beds:

Raised Garden Beds

Well, until recently, anyway – I think he’s decided to build 3 more before Spring is over.  At any rate, we have squash and peas so far – the peas are what the lines of twine are for, and you can see they’re off to a good start.  (Remind me to tell you the compost squash story another day.)  Here are the “old beds” we’ve been growing things in for several years (I forgot to take a photo of the herb garden):

Old Garden Beds

If you look closely, you can see the three sad, lonely asparagus spears next to the huge rhubarb.  The strawberries are in the bed in the foreground.  You can’t really tell, but there are dozens of flowers in there, each with a tiny strawberry in the center.  That big bush to the right along the fence is the blackberry bush; the small plant to the left of it is the raspberry bush we put in last year.

Of course, I’ve already shown you the compost bins and told you about our weekly jaunts to pick up eggs and 25 gallons of cow manure (I swear I have the only blog where you can do a legitimate search for “seriously good shit”), but then the man just went off the deep end and decided we weren’t going to purchase “starter plants” any longer because we had no idea where the seeds came from (“Monsanto” is a four-letter word in our home).  So he got a seed catalog that sells organic, heirlooms seeds and the next thing I knew we had this behind the loveseat in our living room:

Seed Trays

That long trailing plant is the squash I’ll tell you about at a later date.  The green pot contains a live basil plant we purchased at the grocery store, the plastic up is The G Man’s geranium he started from seeds at preschool, and the two small plants in the foreground are red bell pepper starters we got from a guy in the neighborhood who is also an organic gardening enthusiast.  Everything else are plants Beloved started from seeds – I can’t tell you everything off the top of my head, but I know there’s butter lettuce, Brussels sprouts and purple carrots in there.

But it doesn’t stop there, oh no.  He’s talking about digging up the part of the front lawn that runs beside the walk leading from our driveway to the front door with a decorative raised bed and planting sweet potatoes there because the flowers are supposed to be so pretty.

And he’s taken the lawn organic so we can harvest our own dandelion greens and the purselane that grows there wild.

I’ll let you know when he buys me a large, iron kettle and some lye and begins to refer to me as “Ma.”

Apple, Meet Tree

It might surprise you to learn that my kids are a bunch of, well, smart asses.

Then again…maybe not.

This week’s Spin Cycle is “Apple/Tree.”  I could carry on about how my kids are just like me (especially in the smart assery department) all damn day, but it’s all been pretty well documented here.  And here.  And here.  (And several other places that I don’t have time to hunt down.)

They’re all tremendous geeks, as well; something else they come by honestly.  I’m a huge fan George Takei and his internet memes and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  So when he posted this the other day, I just had to share it on my own Facebook wall:

Yesterday's Tribble

It didn’t take long for Oldest Son to comment.

“And now it looks as though they’re here to stay…until Scotty beams them over to the Klingon vessel.”

He and Darling Daughter are flying up to Ohio in June to watch their baby brother receive his high school diploma and so we can celebrate Oldest Son’s 30th birthday.  If I give them enough beer food, I may convince them to let me make a video of a family sing-a-long of Yellow Submarine while Darling Daughter accompanies us on the ukelele (trust me, it’s funnier than it sounds – have I mentioned that they’re all enormous hams, too?).

Our license plate reads “WEIRDOS”  for a reason, you know.

Best Quote I’ve Seen All Day

“”Back in my day when my mother sent me to the store with 5 pennies I came home with 1 loaf of bread, 1 gallon milk, 2 pots of butter and 1 block of cheese. That is not possible anymore. Too many &%$@ing security cameras.”

For more quotable Spins, get thee to a nunnery blog called Second Blooming and visit Gretchen, the High Priestess of All Things Spinned.