Monday, May 8, 2017

Accepting New Dog Walking Clients


We are currently looking to fill some open time slots for regular mid-day dog walks during the week. For many years we were unable to take on any more daily mid-day dog walks because our schedules were full of them -- many of whom we walked for their entire lives. Now, after 15 years, that generation has passed away and we are looking for a new generation of dogs that need walked to fill the open time slots we now have available.

Whether your dog(s) needs a walk two, three, four or five days a week, give us a call or send us an email. We're looking forward to making some new friends!

We service zip codes 77005, 77025, 77096 & 77401.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Food Forensics

We are fortunate to have organizations like the Cornucopia Institute, Consumers Lab, Association for Truth in Pet Food (ATPF) and Consumer Wellness Center (CWC) Labs, that are not associated or funded by companies or universities, and that test pet foods, treats and products so we the consumer can know what we are actually giving our pets and if there is anything to be concerned about or aware of.

I just finished reading Food Forensics (2016) by Mike Adams, founder and Science Director of the CWC Labs, and although the book primarily has to do with the toxins that were found via laboratory testing, and how to avoid them in human food, there was testing done on some pet treats that are worth mentioning.

  • High amounts of lead were found in popular pet treats made in China. A good reason to read the fine print on the back of packages to make sure it says "Made in the USA". (China has worse problems with heavy metals in the soil and foods than we do in the US, and it's pretty bad here. I warned about treats made in China back in 2012. Remember the largest pet food recall in 2007 that killed thousands of pets? Ingredients sourced from China!) 
  • Fish treats for cats contained large amounts of cadmium. Fish and other seafoods are known to contain toxic heavy metals. I wrote more extensively on this in 9 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Seafood Cat Foods. They also sell dog foods and treats with fish so the dangers apply to their foods and treats too (see herring strips for dogs below).
  • A high level of copper was found in a sea vegetable supplement for pets. Too much copper can have detrimental health effects.
  • Gourmet munchy rawhide as well as natural rawhide rings had  extremely high levels of lead.
  • Herring strips for dogs tested high of mercury. 
  • Munchy stix (for dogs) tested really high in lead.
  • Freeze dried ocean whitefish cat treats were found to be high in mercury.                                         
  • Although these items were not listed under pet foods or treats per se, they can be found in some of them or sold as pet treats by themselves: an extremely high amount of arsenic was found in dried shrimp, high levels of cadmium and lead in dried whole anchovy, and also a high amount of mercury in dried shaved bonito.
These heavy metal amounts were compared to the "allowable" or "safe" amounts as per the various government agencies (EPA, FDA, WHO, etc.) who determine these limits. Actual amounts of the metals found in each item are listed in the book.

Brand names are not shown for many products in the book for the simple reason that a book takes so long to publish and distribute that many products tested may have shifted in composition over that time. 

Another important point to mention here is that even when buying something that is certified USDA Organic -- whether for people or pets -- know that the USDA's organic standards have no limit whatsoever on heavy metals! This is not good. That means when it comes to toxic heavy metals, even if it's labeled USDA organic, it could be loaded with them!

I highly recommend reading this very informative and eye-opening book for your own benefit as well as for your pets. Awareness is the key.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pet Food Quality Resources


Did you know there are some great resources available at your fingertips when it comes to figuring out or deciphering the best quality foods and treats to buy for your pets?

One of these resources is the Cornucopia Institute, founded in 2004. You can read more about this non-profit public interest group here. They research and investigate many things, not just pet foods.


In 2015, they put out a very informative and educational report called Decoding Pet Food, which is a great resource to assist pet owners in finding high quality pet foods. It also explains which ingredients you want to avoid feeding your pets. You can become a more educated and informed pet food consumer by reading their report here.

 For instance, do you know what carrageenan is? Did you know that extensive peer-reviewed and published research indicates that food-grade carrageenan does in fact contain the dangerous carcinogen poligeenan in varying amounts, usually around 5%? "The fact that food-grade carrageenan contains poligeenan in any amount should be enough to ban its use in both human and pet food, considering it's well-documented carcinogenic properties, even at small doses", says the report's author. Poligeenan is widely used in cancer research to give test animals inflammation cancer, for testing cancer treatments and anti-inflammatory drugs. It causes intestinal inflammation with the potential to lead to cancer, even in small doses. 

Also, studies funded by the American Diabetes Association have linked the consumption of food grade carrageenan to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.

The Cornucopia Institute's research found that more than 70% of can foods contain this ingredient. Is it any wonder that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in cats, the most common cause of vomiting and diarrhea, has become so commonplace? 

Even veterinarians agree that research reveals many references to ‘carrageenan-induced inflammation’. As one vet was quoted in the report:  “Animal studies have repeatedly shown that food-grade carrageenan causes gastrointestinal inflammation and cancer at lower doses than the average daily intake. Given the high rates of colon cancer in both dogs and cats, I highly recommend removing carrageenan from your pet’s diet.

The Cornucopia Institute also has an accompanying Pet Food Guide. Is the pet food you buy on this guide? Does it contain carrageenan? Does it contain other ingredients you want to avoid like rendering products or food dyes? Are there foods that don't contain these unwanted ingredients? Yes. Check out their handy guide here.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pet Food Ingredients To Avoid


When it comes to pet foods and what we should feed our pets, we (myself included) have put our trust in those outside of ourselves, like the pet food manufacturers and veterinarians, to know what the best foods are to feed our pets because we think they are the experts on the subject. At least that's what we are led to believe. However, this is not the case.

We are bombarded with marketing and advertising on mass media, a form of brainwashing, which the pet food industry has very deep pockets to pay for. If you see certain words, pictures, phrases or jingles enough times, you will go for the familiar. They know this. They know all the tricks.

Pet food Manufacturers are in the business of making money from their products. The pet food industry violates U.S. federal food safety laws and are allowed to get away with it.

Unfortunately, the amount of pet nutrition that is taught in veterinary schools is very minute. Hopefully this will change for our future veterinarians, if it's not already. So unless they take additional years of college to get a degree in nutrition or pursue the subject of pet nutrition on their own, the only education they have in regards to pet foods is from the pet food manufacturers themselves -- the same ones whose foods they sell. And as I've written about in more detail before: this is a little biased, don't you think?

The hard reality is that we have to take responsibility and educate ourselves about what it is that we are feeding our pets. We must be proactive to protect our pet's health. I've written about some excellent books available on the subject herehere and here.

For starters, it helps to know which ingredients to avoid in pet foods and why. This means reading the ingredient list on all the foods and treats you buy. Become an educated pet food consumer. And remember: every dollar you spend speaks volumes.Wouldn't you rather support the businesses who create healthier foods and products with your animals' health more of a concern than just making a buck?

Here's a great list already provided by our pet food consumer advocate, Susan Thixton, of the "deal breaker" pet food ingredients to look out for:

http://truthaboutpetfood.com/deal-breaker-pet-food-ingredients/

I have also written in more detail about the subject of pet food ingredients here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Top 3 Pet Food Manufacturers


When only three companies own most of the pet foods, and then one of them buys up the majority of veterinary clinics and diagnostic labs...this is very scary.

Though these big companies want to own and control everything, we have to remember that We the People have the power! We are the ones who really have the power. We can send a clear message with every dollar we spend. We can become more educated and informed about the products we buy, especially when it comes to ours and our pets' foods. We can more carefully and consciously choose what to spend our money on and support those companies and products who are of higher quality, integrity and purpose. This will create more of what we want.

There are many smaller companies out there now and new ones starting up all the time that are offering healthier and better quality products, both for us and our pets. People just like you and I are creating these companies and products because there is a real need for it. It's time to look outside the box! (The organic food industry is growing by leaps and bounds!)

We are the ones we have been waiting for. It's time to remember your power and flex those spending muscles! 




Thursday, March 30, 2017

VitaJuwel Water Bottles



What would be the perfect water bottle for your Structured Water, or any water for that matter? A VitaJuwel Gem Water Bottle! These personal gem water bottles have an interchangeable gem pod, which infuses your water with the energy of your personally selected VitaJuwel Blend. 


VitaJuwel Gem Water Bottles are a part of a fascinating ancient tradition of using gemstone infused water for its healing attributes. The VitaJuwel experience is about helping people reconnect with their innate spiritual gifts and natural healing.
The VitaJuwel ViA is a glass bottle with two openings, one at the top and one at the bottom for easy cleaning. It’s made of high quality, premium lead-free glass and comes with an exchangeable bottom piece (“gem pod”), filled with a selection of hand-picked gemstones. The patented gem pod is manufactured by hand in the Austrian Alps.

VitaJuwel is your very personal piece of Jewelry for Water. There are 18 carefully selected gemstone blends available, suiting every preference and mood. Do you want to relax with your own Spa-To-Go? Have some smooth and balancing WELLNESS, filled with rose quartz, amethyst and clear quartz! (Top Photo) Care for a motivating drink of SUNNY MORNING with beaming bright Orange Calcite? Got a feeling for a little FITNESS with Magnesite and Red Jasper after a hard hour of workout at the gym? Or attract attention at the club with DIAMONDS?  Just screw off one gem pod and swap it with another. It’s easy as 1-2-3.

Click here to learn more about VitaJuwel Gem Water Bottles.


VitaJuwel Vials create the vitality of spring water in a natural way with hand selected high quality gemstones. Every single gemstone vial is handmade by master glassblowers in a patented, artisanal method with exclusively fairly-traded gems and lead-free Bohemian glass. Simply place your VitaJuwel gem vial in drinking water for 7-10 minutes and enjoy gemwater, the true elixir of life!
The VitaJuwel Vials have quickly become the symbol for the highest quality gem water. Hundreds of thousand of customers in more than 40 countries worldwide use VitaJuwel gem water and gem water accessories.
For a truly elegant and easy flowing water dispenser, pair your gem vial with a VitaJuwel Decanter Era. The lovely decanters are specially made to hold your gem vial making it easy to pour and serve energized living water.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Retractable Leashes



As a professional pet sitter, my first and foremost concern of course are the pets -- their safety and well-being. When I'm walking someone else's dog(s), as well as my own, safety for the dog, others and myself is a priority. Having an enjoyable experience is also important for all involved!

Over the last fifteen years, I have either experienced or witnessed all kinds of situations and scenarios while walking dogs. I have had someone else's (otherwise friendly) unleashed dog attack and almost kill the dog I had on a leash. I've had dogs come charging out of an open door or gate while walking by with a dog so many times I can't begin to count them. I've had small children come running at me (with parent near by), wanting to pet the dog I'm walking, which is not friendly and doesn't like to be around children. There have been times I have turned around and run the other way with the dog to avoid situations. 

Not long ago I passed someone walking their dog on the other side of the street and she wanted to bring her dog over to say "hi" to the dog I was walking, which was 1) not my dog, 2) not dog friendly and 3) was barking and displaying aggressive body language that was obvious to me, but was not understood by her. She got mad or offended when I said it wasn't my dog and declined! 

 I've had dogs pull out of their collar. I even had a dog back out of her harness once (which was obviously fitted too loose). I've had collars break, leashes break. I mean, when you do something long enough, you will experience just about everything that can happen while doing it. And as you go along, you learn by experience what kinds of things or situations to avoid. So for safety's sake, my rule of thumb is stay away from all others -- people and other dogs.

Another thing that I have learned along the way to avoid are retractable leashes.They are anything but safe. If you want to use one while walking your own dog, that is your choice. But as a professional pet sitter in a big city, I don't use them walking other people's dogs and I don't use them to walk my own dogs either, for many reasons:


  • They are easily pulled out of your hand. A sturdy loop that is around your hand and wrist can't be beat for control -- and control of the dog is of the utmost importance.

  • They allow dogs to get too far away to have reasonable control if something occurs to warrant quick action. Six feet away is long enough. I have seen people use retractable leashes with prong choke collars, which is an oxymoron.

  • They can break or snap unlike a regular leash (that is the correct size and strength for your dog).

  • They can and have caused burns, cuts and worse -- amputations.

  • They are dangerous in that dogs can easily jerk their necks or cause spinal injuries while behaving like the animals they are, and charging after something full speed, or just running and not realizing when the end of the line is coming.
  • They actually teach dogs to pull. Dogs learn that to get a longer extension, or to go where they want, all they have to do is pull hard enough and they get it.
  • To have any dog, especially a large dog, essentially on a string/thin cord/thin ribbon is not a good means of control. When I see children walking their dogs on these, I just cringe. Not a safe idea.
  • They are just harder to manage, especially if walking more than one dog and picking up the poop, which in most places is the law.
  • They can malfunction and won't retract.
  • They can frighten dogs (especially fearful ones) if they are dropped, and then they are injured due to running to try and get away from the handle that is chasing them. (True story.)

  • I don't know of a good positive reinforcement dog trainer or a veterinarian that recommends them.
While I was in the process of writing this I had to take one of my pets to the veterinarian. While we were waiting to be seen, a young mother with two small children, a boy and a girl, and two small dogs came in. The dogs were on retractable leashes. The mother originally had the leashes but as she was standing at the counter filling out paperwork, her children kept asking to have the leashes. She gave in and I watched as these two small children under the age of five got themselves and the dogs all tangled up to the point that the little girl was totally wrapped up in the leash and couldn't move. After the mother got them untangled and took control of the leashes again (still filling out paperwork), she was oblivious to the fact that one of the dogs still had the thin cord of his leash wrapped around his front leg and he kept hopping around trying to pull his leg out of the loop, which he finally managed to do after several tries. 

This is a perfect example of why I cringe when children use them. I have either experienced, witnessed, read or heard about so many different instances in which people and/or pets have gotten injured or worse while using a retractable leash.

Even adults have trouble using them correctly. More recently, a man was walking his large dog down our street on a flexi-leash. Our three-legged cat was sitting in the driveway, up close to our house, far from the street, where they were walking. The dog saw our cat as he got close to our house and ran full speed after our cat, going to the end of his extended leash line in about a second, yanking the man up into our yard with him. As the dog ran around a tree and the man himself a few times -- all the while this man never uttering a word to try and control his dog or using the brake on the leash, this man ended up being all tied up and tangled in the flexi-leash, trying to get himself out of it. It took him a few minutes. (Our cat ran and got away to safety.) And this is a grown man!

So as a policy, we do not use retractable leashes. If you are a client and that is all you have, no worries -- we have our own preferred equipment that provides the control and safety that we require. And if someone walking a dog sees you and your dog coming towards them and they go the other way, don't be offended. We're just playing it safe and keeping it fun!

I want to thank Karen Becker, DVM, for writing a great article on this subject, which inspired me to finally write about it too. Read her article here: 

Dr. Becker: 10 Reasons Not to Use a Retractable Leash

And another more recent article on the subject by Dr. Becker:

 Pitch These Five Items in the Trash