Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hermit Crabs!

I believe the key to proper socialization of a puppy might just be to involve them in every possible crazy activity your family does.  Luckily around here we are never too short on crazy activities.

This week it was time for our annual deep clean of our hermit crab tank.  If you are thinking of those hermit crab habitats you buy at the mall or the pet store with a little plastic palm tree and some sand then you should think again!  Sadly most hermit crabs sold in stores are destined to a slow and painful death at the uninformed hands of their new owners.  Even the major chains (aka petco and petsmart) send people away with horrible information about their crabs.  Since I am not here to lecture you about proper hermit crab care I will just leave you with a few facts and urge anyone currently owning or looking to own a hermit crab to visit The Hermit Crab Association for more information.

Crab Facts-
  • All land hermit crabs in captivity are wild caught.  Scientist and hobbyist alike have been spending decades attempting to breed crabs in captivity but all attempts have been unsuccessful.  In fact we do not even know what happens to baby hermit crabs during the aquatic stage of their life.  That crab in the mall may have traveled the oceans far and wide before it's little adult stage body washed up on shore and it found it's first shell.
  • Land hermit crabs can live for 20+ years if cared for properly.
  • Crabs need substrate at least twice as deep as their shell is tall so they can properly molt.
  • The calcium sand sold as "crab sand" in the pet store kills crabs.
  • Land hermit crabs need to be able to fully submerge in water from time to time and require both fresh and salt water to survive long term.
 This is "Big Red" she is one of my favorite crabs and is our biggest by far.  The pictures don't really show size, but she is BIG!  So big that when Kerrigan was just 14 weeks old I found her sitting on the stairs whining and shaking.  She had seen Big Red climbing around in the tank and did not like what she saw!  In reality Big Red probably is older than Kerrigan's great grandmother but being a crab she lacks the size and central nervous system to pose any real threat to even the smallest puppy.  I walked over to the tank and said "Don't worry Kerrigan, that's just Big Red, she can't get you."  Then went back to watching TV.  Kerri never whined at the crabs again because I showed no fear myself and just ignored her issue.  Through my example she learned not to be scared of hermit crabs and I learned that with a puppy everything is a teachable moment.

I won't bore you with all the details of the deep clean, but it is a process.  We spent nearly 7 hours carefully removing hermit crabs and carefully chasing fiddler crabs back to the 30 gallon brackish water tank on one end of the greater hermit crab tank (this is a bit of a "project" tank, don't think you need a fish tank to keep these crabs happy, but they do appreciate their occasional swims over there I think).  In the end I everything ended up looking pretty nice.

 Did I mention the tank is massive?  Kerrigan did a good job of staying out of trash bags, redirecting to appropriate toys and not pestering us while we were cleaning.  Copley spent most of the last several hours staring at me making this perticular face.
I think he is trying really, really, really, really hard to figure out what we are doing and/or thinking.  The idea of keeping pet hermit crabs seems to be totally beyond his comprehension.

Before you see this last picture I must stress that all the animals had been removed from the tank and this is just a pile of dirty sand and coconut fiber.  Also it was nearly 2am and I had been carefully scraping sand out of a tank with a soup spoon for many hours.  Both of us may have lost our minds by this point.
In conclusion I hope you take these two points away from this very long post.  1. Land Hermit crabs are really cool.  2. Introduce you puppy to as many new thing as possible- even if those thing are shells and sand and 5 gallon buckets.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I'm a PUPPY!!!!

Kerrigan has been doing so well lately that sometimes I forget she is still a puppy.  She has not peed in the house in several months, her teething seems to have subsided and her attention span grows longer by the day.  Sometimes I am reminded that she is still a puppy and it is going to show from time to time.  This past Thursday was one of those times.

It all started when our dryer broke.  Then the next morning a sprinkler pipe broke flooding the neighborhood and to top it all off that morning our dishwasher wouldn't drain.  While Ben was trying to deal with one of the water issues he turned the shutoff valve for the house and it broke!  I think you get the picture- the house was falling apart.

Repair people were here from when we got back from obedience class at 12:30 to about 5pm.  It was a BEAUTIFUL day so I spent a lot of the morning hanging out with the dogs outside.  Kerrigan whined and whined and whined.  She got pissed when I went inside to do anything, she got pissed when I stood on the other side of the fence to talk to a neighbor, she was intermittently pissed because she could not go inside and play with the repair people or lick the dirty dish water off the kitchen floor.  She calmed down (mostly) when I told her to be quiet but it was one of those days when you know your dog is just reinforcing the stereotype of a yappy chihuahua.  On the other hand I am happy to report Copley thoroughly enjoyed his time outside.  He was able to partake in many of his favorite activities- laying in the dirt sunning himself, chewing a bully stick and ridding the yard of stray pigeons.

Finally it was getting a little chilly so I put the dogs upstairs on the other side of a doggy gate that usually is meant to keep them downstairs.  With so many people coming and going it would have been bad news for them to be "in on the action."  This set up resulted in less barking but as you can see from the picture below it was a lot more of the same.  Copley resting and keeping an eye on things while Kerri (aka The Blur) just spazzed out.

The thing is that overall she did great.  She quieted when asked, was able to redirect her attention to me and remained polite to Copley and our company throughout.  She has just been doing so great lately that it is a bit of a shock when she acts like the 7 month old puppy that she is.  For now I am trying to just be grateful that she is doing so good and just block out that whole five hours where she didn't even so much as sit down for a second.

Friday, February 17, 2012

If I Were Getting a Dog... Part 1- Books

We over here at DogInTheDesert have a few friends thinking of becoming dog owners.  This inspired me to write some posts about what I would make sure to have if I was getting a dog for the first time.  Hindsight is 20/20 after all.

In the first part of this series we will be covering...


We read a lot of books before we got Copley and they were extremely helpful.  I see a lot of new dog owners do a lot of nutty things and reading a bit about dogs can really help you avoid screwing the dog up totally in your first few desperate weeks of owning them.  I have gotten my list of must reads down to a manageable three books and here they are-
  • For the Love of A Dog, by Patricia McConnell.  While the title makes it sound like a mushy book about loving dogs it actually is a fascinating book full of facts about dogs and the way they experience life.  The most vital part about this book in my opinion is it's in depth look at canine body language.  So many dog-human issues are caused by people being blind to the signals their dogs are sending them.  After reading this book you will never be blind to your dog's emotions again (ok, that was an exaggeration, they are confusing sometimes, but it will help).  If you are really feeling like some reading Patricia McConnell has a few other books and all of them are great.
  • Cesars Way, by Cesar Millan.  Be careful with this one, because for some reason dog people seem to hate Cesar Milan with a fiery passion.  I really don't get it.  Just like every other book I read it has some great info and some not so great info.  Understanding how your energy effects your dog and how picking a dog of the proper energy level really makes a lot of sense to me.  His emphasis on exercise and calm leadership seem like great ideas.  Until one of the people out there shouting "Cesar Millan is evil" can tell me something horrible about his training style that is actually in one of his books I will continue to recommend them. Maybe the hate comes from things he does on his TV show.  I wouldn't know, I don't have cable.
  • Feed Your Pet Right by Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim.  This book has great info on dog nutrition.  It talks about everything from reading labels on commercial dog food to cooking your dog a well balanced diet.  No matter what you plan to feed this is a must read.  If you are fascinated by the pet food industry and don't mind a long rather complicated read you can pick up Nestle's other book Pet Food Politics.  If you make it to the end of that one and would like to be scared to ever eat anything ever again unless you grew it yourself then feel free to round out the series with Nestle's book on people food, Food Politics (this book actually came before the pet ones).
 Isn't is great how I wrote a whole post about dog advise without actually giving any?  Sometimes it is best to leave these things up to the professionals, so get to reading their books and hopefully I will have written the next post in this series by the time you get back.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Less Dogs More Sheep- Zoo Edition

I spent two years living out here hoping that I would catch a glimpse of a bighorn sheep.  Finally a month ago I started seeing lots of them everywhere.  This weekend was no exception.

Sheep hanging out in the zoo

Sheep hanging out in the carousel

This weekend we took a dog-free trip to visit family and stopped by The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA.  The living desert is a great place to visit and has a little something for everyone.  In fact the first time I went there was before I married Ben (Mr.DogInTheDesert).  He has been coming to the Living Desert for a long time so he took me directly to the things that interested him most- the cacti gardens.  I actually thought it was a desert botanical garden with lots of cacti, some birds and hiking trails.  It was not until this trip that I learned it was actually a zoo that also happened to have lots of cacti and hiking trails.

I thought that last paragraph would paint a picture of how quirky my husband is but upon further reading it mostly just shows how oblivious I am to my surroundings.

Moving on...

While the dogs were hanging out in boarding back here we got to spend some times with their wild cousins.  I hoped to get lots of good shots and talk a bit about the similarities and differences between my dogs and wild dog-type animals.  Unfortunately by the time we got to the wolves and foxes it was the hot, sunny middle of the day.  Until I visit another zoo in Miami next month you will have to settle on pictures of dogs doing what dogs do best at high noon.  Sitting in the shade panting.

African Wild Dog

Mexican Wolf
All coyotes and foxes were hiding :(.

I was so glad to see OUR dogs when we got back to Vegas.  Copley likewise was happy to see us!  He showed his appreciation for our love by immediately running from the door to a patch of sun and staying there without even looking at us.  What a love bug we have.

"I wagged my tail when you picked me up from boarding, what more do you want?"

Kerrigan on the other hand was a little more excited to be home.

How did this picture even happen?

Bonus shot of me petting a goat:
Happy weekend everybody!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

We are on vacation without the dogs but since this is dog in the desert I have decided to share with you this beautiful bunch of desert wildflowers we found blooming somewhere between Nevada and California.  Dog cuteness will have to take a break for a week so I can share some desert beauty.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What we are eating around here

I realized the last post I made about what we ate around here was this.  At the time I was really trying to get the puppy just to eat anything but for it to be the only post about what we eat here is a little unfortunate.  Cause dinner prep around the DogInTheDesert household looks a whole lot more like this these days-
Before I go on about what we feed I would encourage everyone to do their own research.  I read two great books Feed Your Pet Right by Marion Nestle and Pet Food Politics also by Nestle.  I also did lots of research online.  In the end I settled on a diet of 70% muscle meat, 10% raw edible bone, 10% organ and 10% veggie mix.  It has been going well for us for a little over a year now.  Unlike some people I know out there I really believe any way you make a diet (prey model raw, BARF, home cooked, some mix of them all) is better than commercial kibble as long as you do some research and make sure you offer lots of variety.

We accomplish our diet with veggies from the farmers market, Cornish game hen and chicken for some meat and nearly all bone, beef, venison, and goat for meat and organ.  I also throw in the occasional egg or odd meat we get here or there.  For supplements I use a multivitamin, a green lipped muscle product for omega 3's because Copley can't handle fish oil and occasionally coconut oil.

I find that diet is one of the biggest hot button issue when it comes to dogs.  At the vet practice I go to half of the vets seem to be all for my raw feeding and half of them are very leery about it.  On the internet some people would call me a total traitor because we keep some high quality kibble around for vacations or the occasional meal when the kitchen is really busy.  Some say I am killing my dog by not feeding them enough veggies, some would say I am slowly killing them by giving them any veggies at all.

In conclusion I have some messages for the people out there-

To the crazy-die-hard-only-natural-foods-everything-else-is-killing-you-and-your-family-and-by-the-way-modern-medicine-is-a-conspiracy-to-end-the-human-race-people:  Be happy I feed a whole foods diet and shop at a farmers market but for real sometimes I need to go on vacation and it is not always sanitary to camp with a cooler full of raw meat.  A meal of kibble here or there is not going to kill my dogs.  You already won me over with the natural diet, now get a grip on reality and get off my back.

To the ALL-CHICKEN-BONES-KILL crowd:  Google it.  Also have you ever heard of mass wolf die off due to bowel perforation?  Me neither.  Cooked chicken bones kill, raw ones build strong joints.

To the but-only-kibble-can-possibly-provide-a-complete-and-balanced-diet-people:  You could live off of nothing but ensure and total cereal.  Instead you eat a variety of foods, maybe take a multi vitamin, and if you are really snazzy you read a book on nutrition once.  And guess what?  You are still alive and a lot of you are healthy.  P.S. I bet that book on nutrition told you to eat lots of whole fresh food with minimally processed ingredients.

To the raw-meat-makes-your-dog-viscious-taste-of-blood-and-all-that-people:  Do wolves eat each other?  Does a piece of kibble look any more like a cow than a steak?  If you were one of the people who "warned" me that because of raw feeding Copley would eat the puppy please comment because I really don't know what to say here.  A lot of you were educated normal people I want to know what you were thinking.

Finally for the vast majority of people out there who feed commercial dog food- you are not evil.  For reals.  This raw feeder does not bite (or jump down your throat).  Good quality kibble can keep your dog healthy and happy. Just do your research on the brand you choose and maybe throw in a home cooked meal every so often. 

In conclusion I am won over.  Nothing could get me to go back to full time kibble after the results I have seen.  Not even the rather hardcore and somewhat off putting members of the raw feeding community themselves.

Final Disclaimer:  Don't use this page alone to decide what to feed your animals.  Do a little research, don't believe everything you hear, demand proof , e-mail me if you want to chat with another real life raw feeder, and use common sense.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

 Observe Kerrigan once again using Copley's squeaky toy as a bed.

For more pictures of this and similar phenomena see this post and this post