Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"I wouldn't feed this meal to a dog!!"

"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."
-Immanuel Kant
It's 5pm, do you know what your dog is eating? A post at Re-Nest started my wheels turning about what we are feeding our pets (and what those of you out there in TV Land might be feeding yours) so I thought I would share our experiences with you. My family eats an organic, "Paleo" diet as much as possible (all things in moderation, of course!) so we decided to have our dogs go "Paleo" as well and buy grain-free dog food. 

Why Grain-Free?
Grain-free foods and treats contain ingredients and nutrient levels which most closely resemble the ancestral diet of dogs and cats; high in animal based proteins and a healthy balance of fats and low carbohydrates(derived from vegetables and non-grain sources). The protein content in grain-free dry foods is high but not so high that can damage a dog's system (there are claims that raw-meat only diets can damage a dog's pancreas and more) and the rest of the food is composed of fresh fruits and vegetables (not corn gluten, which is the corn by-product that most dog food is made of). It only makes sense that animals descended from wolves and wild cats would be healthier eating a meat-based product instead of a corn-based one, but in our corn-based American society these days, who is really surprised that we are feeding our pets corn too?

How did you chose your food? 
   There are tons of options of dog food options out there from a Raw Food diet (this all-natural, rehydratable"just add meat & water" one looks pretty neat!) to your average bag of kibble at the grocery store but here was our criteria when we chose our dog food:

1. Quality of the product: We wanted a high-quality product that provided the best nutrients specifically formulated for active dogs.

2. Ease of Use: I think that raw food diets (especially one that incorporate vegetables and other necessary nutrients and enzymes) is probably the best thing for my pet, but do I have time to be baking breakfast and dinner for a pack of dogs twice a day? Um, No... I wanted to be able to buy the product, put it in a huge Tupperware to keep it fresh and then scoop it out twice a day at mealtimes. Dry food without preparation was a must.

3. Price: Buying raw meat for our pets, especially organic meat, is often cost prohibitive for many families, ours included. I do believe that feeding creatures, be they children or pets, quality food now saves on medical bills later but sometimes the price tag right now is just too high. Bagged, grain-free foods can be found at reasonable prices at a variety of retailers, even in the boonies where we live, or can be bought in bulk online.

So what do your dogs eat?
    We are actually in a food transition right now. We have fed our dogs EVO for the past two years and absolutely LOVED it! Unfortunately, Proctor & Gamble just bought out EVO and, as they did with IAMS after the Eukanuba buy out, they plan to "adjust the formula" in the food after the buyout is complete in June 2010. By law, P&G has six months to inform the consumer that the formula has been changed, so your dog could be eating grain & other junk for six months (while you are paying full price!) and you would never know!
     In light of the buyout, we are in the process of switching over to another grain-free dog food. We have tried "Taste of the Wild" and "Orijen" foods (both in their red meat/bison formulas) and we have decided to go with "Taste of the Wild" because it is significantly cheaper. I bought three huge bags of EVO this month before the formula changed, so once the pups run out of that I will put them completely on "Taste of the Wild." and see how it goes... Another review to come! Here is a site that lists all of the grain-free dog foods and their contents if you would like to compare foods and chose for yourself.

What differences did you notice after transitioning to grain-free food?
     We transitioned right after bringing a new dog, formerly a stray, into our home (Sadie, our little princess that you've seen on the site before). Her ribs were showing she was so thin, her coat was awful and she was generally unhealthy when we brought her home. Our oldest dog, Atticus, was a little chunky thanks to too many extra treats from his Mama (oops!). After several months on grain-free food, all of our dogs had healthy, thick, coats (we received a flood of  compliments on the two boys coats today while volunteering at the local pet shelter! And those dog people know a good coat when they see one!), much improved overall muscle tone for all of the dogs and their previous health problems (chronic yeast ear infections in both spaniels) disappeared! We haven't had to take the dogs to the vet other than for accidents and their annual shots since switching to grain-free! And the dogs weights all evened out to be "perfect specimens" without having to feed any of the dogs more or less food than the recommendations on the bag.
   Additionally, because the food is so nutritionally dense, you are able to feed your pet a smaller quantity of food. Those of you out there (like Re-Nest's author) who are feeding your 50 lb dogs four cups of traditional, corn-gluten dog food daily will be able to cut back to two cups of grain-free food, in our experience. The grain-free foods are more expensive, but the smaller quantity needed allows us to make a smaller bag of grain-free last as long as the grain-based food we were purchasing previously.

What do I do with all of my old corn-based dog food?
Don't know what to do with all of that old dog food? Corn Gluten is also a great natural, broad-leaf weed preventative for your lawn. It is part of a long term maintenance program, so check out "corn gluten" on an organic/natural gardening page, but you can sprinkle the old dog food straight on your yard and it will disintegrate after a few waterings or good rains!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our Sweet Princess

We are taking a break for a few weeks here at High Cotton Home.
     Our sweet Sadie was cut down in the prime of her life this week and loosing our little family member has taken such a toil on us. Our sweet princess pranced away to be with the angels on Friday morning, June 4th, and our lives will never be the same again.
     We need some time as a family to regroup and to honor our baby girl's memory, and so we are taking a break for awhile from the blog... I can't imagine taking the dogs to the beach without her right now, or even having one of our fun Saturday mornings full of breakfasts and music and dancing and love...
Our angel is home with us now and she will forever be a part of our family. God can borrow our sweet Sadie Sue for a little while, but he has to play with her at the ocean all day and return her to us when we reach those pearly gates... I can't wait to have my baby girl back in my arms again. We are a pack of five and loosing one of our pack is incomprehensible for each and every one of us. From our family to yours, hug your babies a little closer today, and to our sweet Sadie Sue... you are such a good girl, princess... Thank you so much for holding on as long as you did to let Mama & Daddy say goodbye. We know you did it to save our family, and we know you are prancing in heaven, so happy that we finally figured it all out.
We adore you, angel... kisses on your little black piece-of-coal-in-the-snow nose...
We love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.
- Mama, Daddy & your brothers

These photos are the Sadie I remember...
Fast as lighting...

I just know she is about to bark right here...
"Throw the Frisbee, Dad! Come on, throw it!"
Bark, bark, bark, bark, bark...

Leap tall bushes in a single bound
(she lept this literally from a stand-still... she was amazing).

Love you, Mama...

Always the one who would swim out the farthest,
our smart & brave Sadie was the first to come back with the prize.

Farewell, my sweet baby girl...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hump Day Happiness

     If you are the kind of person who saves wine for a special occasion or silk panties for an anniversary, than today's post is not for you... but if you regularly make margaritas because of, not despite of, it being Thursday or wear real pearls to the grocery store, than listen up... Today's post is on candles, mostly taper candles, and how happy they make me at the dinner table each night. With slow food, the entire meal becomes an event and giving it an added edge with crystal glasses, candles burning, great textures for your cloth napkins... it just encourages you to linger even more. Sure, we could catch American Idol or Biggest Loser on whatever nights they come on, or we could spend an hour with me cooking dinner (while the hubby plays with the pups in the backyard) and two hours lingering at the table talking and laughing together (let me recommend the soundtrack to The Big Chill as the perfect cooking and lingering music... I love it...). Here are a few that are on my list to purchase...
     Ana Candles are already a lust of mine and they have been on my "Ebay Saved Search" for six months or more (let me tell you, NO ONE is selling Ana candles on Ebay... boo). They run about $21 a pair and at the rate we go through candles (a set of tapers every two weeks) these are a little pricey for our blood... but I am going to splurge soon... very soon...
     I found these Hand Painted Robin's Candles on Ebay and my obsession with birds (my mom too, it's genetic... we buy bird everything) spills over into thinking these candles are perfect. Pretty sure I could paint my own candles, but these are so darn pretty, and at only $8/pair, who can beat that?
     These French Script Candles make me think of playing while drinking strong coffee and making blueberry pancakes on Sunday mornings while I let my main man sleep in for a few extra hours (yea, we don't have kids, we give in to little luxuries a lot... smile...) Also, super affordable and on Etsy as well, which always makes me happy to be supporting artists themselves, directly at the source...

     If you like scented candles (though not tapers) Yankee Candle is making a few strides... Yankee Candle used to make these "Beanswax" candles with two wick which meant they were not only made from soy, but also actually burned well as opposed to those huge one-wick wonders that Yankee Candle usually sells. They only came in a half dozen scents but Yankee Candle discontinued them stateside and overseas this past year. You can still find them floating around at discount stores (though I may have bought out my local T.J. Maxx of all of them last December... sorry about that...) but other than that, my excitement at a greener face to a cooperate company was short lived. I found these Yankee Candle Soy Wax Signature Tumblers online, but I haven't actually seen them yet so I am reserving judgement until I track one down...
   Anyway, tonight, light some candles, put out some crystal and linger until those wooden chairs make your butt hurt... than move to the couch and keep talking! Enjoy!

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