Sunday, April 28, 2013

Meet the Breed: Alaskan Malamute

 "How did you start your business?" That is a question we get asked on a regular basis  Our answer is simple: an Alaskan Malamute named Buddy whom we had the privilege of spending 12 years with. He is the dog featured in our Kelly's Pet Care logo and also The Mindful Dog logo. We always wanted a "husky type" dog and after our first dog Scruffy passed in 1995 we found Buddy through The Amanda Foundation. Little did we know then that Buddy would challenge our "lack of knowledge" regarding dogs on a daily basis, forcing us to do all kinds of research on understanding dogs. We also had no clue on how to share our lives with an Alaskan Malamute, a breed, as we would soon discover,  not recommended for the novice dog owner. Yet, over time, his intelligence, unending energy, clown-like nature and extraordinary leadership inspired us to start a dog daycare business. But more importantly, Buddy taught us how to be a good pack leader and how to do it right: through consistency, understanding and  mental toughness. The day we had to let him go (almost six years ago) was a day filled with tears and gratitude to an extraordinary dog who changed our lives forever.

Buddy 1994--2007

ORIGIN: The Alaskan Malamute is one of the oldest Arctic sled dogs, one  whom most experts believe descended from the Arctic Wolf. They were first bred between 2000-3000 years ago by an Eskimo tribe named the Mahlemuts. (That is how the Malamute got its name) The tribe needed a strong dog who could pull heavy loads, hunt large animals such as polar bears and moose, and navigate harsh, bitter, winter conditions (they can withstand temperatures as extreme as 70 below zero). They are cousins with the Arctic breeds Siberian Husky, Samoyed, and the American Eskimo dog.

USES: The obvious is as a sled dog. Because of their size (75-95 pounds aprox.) they could carry heavy loads. They were also excellent navigators due to their exceptional sense of smell (they are able to detect thinning ice through several feet of snow!) They were used for search and rescue during World War I and II. Today, they are still used for sledding, search and rescue, weight pulling and racing but are no longer used for hunting.

HEALTH PROBLEMS: Hip dysplasia, heart disease, bloat, renal atrophy and chondrodysplasia (dwarfism).

IMPORTANT MALAMUTE INFO: They require an owner as stubborn as they are, or they will run the house. They're incredibly intelligent and affectionate. This is a breed that requires a good amount of exercise, or they will entertain themselves by eating your couch, jumping high fences or even digging long, deep trenches in your yard!  They usually are not good with other dogs as they tend to be dominant and many still retain a prey drive for smaller animals. They shed like crazy but are self-cleaning and require a bath only once a year. Despite their dominant nature with animals, they are wonderful with children.

IS THIS BREED RIGHT FOR YOU? We wouldn't trade our time with Buddy for anything, but this breed is not for everyone. It's easy to get seduced by the beautiful little fluff ball that is a Mal puppy. Be forewarned;  If you're looking for a dog that is great with other dogs and easily trainable,  the Alaskan Malamute is not for you. However, if you are up to the challenge, this dog will steal your heart, and reward you with a lifetime of cherished memories.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How Dogs Enrich and Save our Lives

This week's blog post was to be a Meet the Breed post. In light of the horrific events of last week that have affected all Americans, particularly Bostonians, this blog is now about how dogs help us, and even save our lives, every day.

We held our dogs even closer this past week for comfort, as we watched peoples lives change forever and, in some cases, tragically end. The Boston Marathon bombing was an event none of us will ever forget and Bostonians showed us the true meaning of the word "patriot". Through all of this, dogs helped us cope with their extraordinary compassion and patience as they kissed away our tears and endured extra cuddles, even though many dogs do not even enjoy this (due to the fact that holding dogs restricts their movements and puts them in a vulnerable position).

Dogs were key supporters this past week in Boston. Five therapy dogs (Golden Retrievers) who are part of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry, were brought into Boston at the request of the First Lutheran Church of Boston. Over 400 people poured into the church to seek comfort from these dogs Wednesday night and continued on coming throughout the week. The therapy dogs also visited hospital staff and victims which helped everyone relax and take their mind off what had happened. We obtained this information from which we found to have amazing information on this and several other interesting dog topics.

Here are some of the other ways dogs help us:

Service (such as guide dogs for the blind, deaf and physically disabled).

Seizure detection: Dogs not only are there to comfort and lie next to the person having a seizure and bark to alert help is needed, but some can even detect a pending seizure and alert their owner before it occurs (specifically diabetics and epileptics).

Lowers blood pressure: The calming effect of dogs can not only lower blood pressure, but their presence has been proven to actually lower plaque buildup in the arteries. Plaque is a major contributor in heart attacks.

Cancer detection: Some dogs can be trained to detect bladder, ovarian, breast and lung cancer.

Loneliness: They assist in nursing homes to aid those in need of companionship.

Allergies and Asthma: Studies have proven children who have dogs at an early age are much less susceptible to developing allergies and asthma.

Anxiety: The calming effect of giving affection to and receiving affection from dogs affects cortisol levels and helps to calm us. This is also proving to be very helpful in those returning from combat suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Exercise: They get us out of the house and get us moving (which also assists with anxiety, depression and loneliness).

What would our lives would be like without dogs? That would be a tragedy as well.

We dedicate this post to the people of Boston (among them best friend Barb who, living not far from Watertown, responded to our concern Friday morning saying "I'm a tough cookie. Ain't noone gonna hurt my family.")

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Environmental (seasonal) Allergies

Fido is itching. You check him for fleas. You treat him for fleas. Fido is still itching. There are a host of reasons Fido can itch. The one we have chosen to cover at this time is environmental allergies because with all the beautiful blooming flowers and trees, we are knee deep into environmental allergy season and many predict 2013 will be the worst or one of the worst allergy years ever due to unseasonably warm temperatures and increased rain and/or humidity.

We have encountered so many people who have dealt with this over the years but none of our dogs ever had this problem until Babe and Ivy (2 of our goldens) came along. The information we are about to share with you covers research and information we have obtained from veterinarians, holistic practitioners and our own experience of trial and error (with many errors!)
This is a complex subject wiith no easy fix. BUT there are many things you can do on your own without a costly vet bill (which can be necessary) to help Fido.

Symptoms of a possible Environmental Allergy:
Red Rash
Small pimple like red bumps
Excessive lickiing

A quick overview: What causes environmental allergies? Pollen is what causes our eyes to itch and our noses to run and it's what causes itching in our dogs with environmental allergies. Pollen is superfine sticky powder and can travel through the air (via windpower) for miles and land on Fido. Every plant and flower contains a certain amount of pollen but that does not mean that any pollen landing on Fido will cause him to itch. One of the reasons it's so hard to figure out what he/she is allergic to is because it may or may not be something in your neighborhood. It could have travelled from miles away. There are allergy tests to help determine what exactly your dog is allergic to. Problem is, they are very hit or miss on accuracy. We have spoken to people who were helped immensely through testing, and those who came up with false positives and were right back to square one.

What we have found that can help:

1. Monitor pollen in your area through where you can type in your zip code. It will tell you what the pollen count is (from low to high) and what is blooming/budding that will cause increased allergic reactions. This is great for dogs and people.

2. Wipe down Fido at least twice a day to remove pollen from his coat and especially make sure to wipe his paws top and bottom betweeen the toes and pads. There are two products we like to help us with this (but you can use a washcloth or towel). First is a microfiber cloth which you can get online or even at costco and Walgreens/CVS etc. at times. Wet it with cool water and give Fide the once over with it. We have several of them and after one use we throw them in the laundry so we don't recontanimate our pups. We also like the Grooming Wipes from Earthbath especially for the paws. is an excellent line, and their wipes do not contain any fragrances or other ingredients that can irritate dogs.

3. The dreaded bath. Bathing dogs once a weeek with a gentle, fragrance free shampoo can really help reduce itching. We're hooked on Keys Metaclean Shampoo and have found it to give Babe and Ivy excellent temporary relief. To find their line check out

4. Treat red rashy, bumpy spots with a topical to relieve itching. We love Keys Metacare Healing Therapy Spray. It has a strong lemony smell that Fido may not like but also can keep him away from chewing those irritated spots, allowing them to heal.

5. Vacuuming helps remove pollen that we, and they, track in on the carpet.

6. An air purifier which will filter pollen and other allergens.

7. Wash their bedding weekly. Taking covers off dog beds can be a supreme pain but you can toss on a loose cover such as a blanket, towel,, sheet, etc that can be easily taken off and thrown in the washer and dryer.

7. DEEP BREATHING! This is for you (and us). Allergies can be very frustrating to deal with as we all are searching for the perfect cure. However, there is no cure for allergies, only treatment when they occur and preventing them from becoming worse.

We hope we helped give you an in a nutshell look at Environmental Allergies. We of course would love to hear your comments and/or stories related to this subject. Thank you for taking the time out to have a look!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Today's Blog: Meet the Breed: Golden Retriever

Hello Everyone!

We cannot express how excited we are to finally be blogging! We will publish a blog every Monday and will cover a plethera of things: health, helpful gear, behavior and a Meet the Breed post every other Monday with interesting facts and fun information you may or may not know about each specific breed. Maybe you have or have had this breed that we feature or maybe you are a fan of this particular breed and would like to share an observation, comment and/or story about it. We would love to hear from you and learn from your experience with this breed! So sit back, relax and experience the wonderful world of dogs with us!

This week's breed is the beautiful Golden Retriever. We have chosen this breed to begin with for very obvious reasons: we have three! And why have we chosen this breed to share our lives with? Because with what we do (dog daycare) it is essential that our dogs be able to integrate with every walk of canine life and the Golden Retriever adapts to this lifestyle so perfectly! Now for the facts:

ORIGIN: The Golden originated in Scotland in the late 1800's by crossing a yellow flat-coated retriever with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel. The breed was later crossed with the Bloodhound (why goldens have such a superior sense of smell), Irish Setter (helped to perfect their skills as a bird hunter) and more Tweed Water Spaniel (making them more adaptable for retrieving fowl from the water).

USES: The Golden Retriever is highly trainable and eager to please which makes them adaptable to almost any job: family dog (exceptional with children), obedience competitions, hunting and tracking on both land and in the water (they have webbed paws and a waterproof coat for this purpose), narcotics detection (their incredible sense of smell due to the bloodhound in them), service dog for the disable, guide dog for the blind and therapy dog.

HEALTH PROBLEMS: Because of their popularity and intense breeding, they are also prone to a host of health problems including cancer, hip dysyplasia, heart problems, congenital eye defects and skin allergies. With all breeds but especially this one, DO NOT OVERFEED! Extra weight puts extra pressure on joints and the heart and will accerlerate cancer. Don't give into those beautiful eyes telling you they are still hungry.

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS: This is based upon our observance of the breed over the last 14 years. There are two types of Goldens: field (American) and show (English). Field goldens are taller, lankier and have a higher metabolism (built for field work, hunting, etc). The show Golden is a stockier, lower to the ground Golden with a lower metabolism that better suits the show ring. We have also oberved a difference in personality based upon the color. Reds and yellows tend to be more outgoing with other dogs, while the English cream and Alpine Whites tend to be more standoffish around other dogs.

IS THIS BREED A GOOD CHOICE FOR YOU? They need good exercise seven days a week. They shed but interestingly enough not as much as a labrador does. They will bark at strangers approaching but it is very rare they will act on it and bite as they were not bred for this purpose. They are outstanding cuddlers!