Pup Pops

Summer can be hard on dogs as too much heat is not a good thing. Keeping them cool to avoid health issues is vital. There are lots of creative ways to keep your pup cool this summer. One of our favorites is pup pops. I make these frozen treats in under five minutes. They are healthy, inexpensive, and given five paws by Abby. It is easy to have variety as well. I think this is also great for dogs who don’t drink enough in the heat. Nothing replaces water but hopefully, this helps a bit.

I usually use what we have on hand so I am not buying anything extra. I use about 1/2 a teaspoon of coconut oil, a fruit, and some water. Abby is eight months so I water it down a bit. She is very easy-going and doesn’t mind it one bit. Adding the water allows the mix to go further as well.

Some specific combinations we use are:

Blueberry (4-8), coconut oil, and water.

Banna (1/2 or less), coconut oil, and water.

Carrot (1/2), Banna (1/2 or less), coconut oil, and water.

Watermelon (2-5 pieces), coconut oil, and water.

Strawberry (2-3), coconut oil, and water.

I use an inexpensive ice try. I make two sizes. I do not fill it with the mix. I use just enough to cover the bottom so that they are very thin. This allows Abby to have a few a day. The “bigger” ones I make are less than half way full. Once made it will last us at least two weeks.

I love to make a few batches and slowly freeze them over a few days so that I don’t have to make them as often. I use a Nutri bullet to blend it all. I throw together the mix then refrigerate till I am ready to freeze them. They probably take about a half hour to an hour to freeze. We store them in a Tupperware container.

I have this great chart which I will share with you. However, I will note what I will never use in Abby’s pup pops and why.  To me, it is a general guide and I research the best I can before allowing Abby to have it.

it is a general guide and I research the best I can before allowing Abby to have it.

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I would personally refrain from oranges (because of the string and high sugar content), doggie bacon (I don’t allow Abby to eat this at all), and raspberries (they have some xylitol) from the filling list.

As I mentioned before we use coconut oil as our filler. Coconut oil is healthy and Abby loves it. Under no circumstances would I add bacon grease because that is unneeded fat or peanut butter because many sources list this as toxic. I know many people view peanut butter as debatable if it is or isn’t toxic for dogs, but I’d rather play it safe. I’m not positive I would use honey either because of the sugar content.

Personally, I have opted recently to avoid rawhide after some research and hearing some horror stories. Therefore from the chew section, we only use carrots.

I am not saying that no one can use those ingredients we just personally do not. Each pup is unique and has unique needs. I try to be selective with what Abby eats for a few reasons; she will be a working dog, therefore, needs to be healthy and doesn’t do well with anything overly processed.

We will be trying more veggie pup pops soon! Some veggies you might want to add include but are not limited to broccoli, peas, celery, zucchini, or kale.

Share your favorite pup pop with us! If you try any of our recipies be sure to let us know what you think.

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DIY Dog Games

I wanted to properly introduce Abby on my blog, before jumping into a post. Abby is my Service Dog In Training. She is a rescue. Abby is a lab mix who is eight months old. We are in the beginning stages of training, however, her progress is astonishing. She has only been home for a month.

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Like most pet parents, I frequently post pictures of Abby on my Facebook. After receiving a question I decided to do this post on how I feed Abby. This is by no means only for service dogs; any dog can benefit from this. Additionally, let me point out, we do not do this for every meal.

Let’s begin with basics. Dogs have the tendency to eat fast. Some will basically swallow forgetting to chew which causes issues. One serious issue is “gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) which is air excessive air, fluid, and food filling the stomach, followed by swelling (dilatation) of the stomach cavity.” Other dogs will vomit which is less serious but let’s face it we don’t want to regularly deal with that either. Then there is the issue of the dog becoming hungry quicker.

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This is Abby’s bowl. It was the same price as her “normal” bowl at Wal-Mart. In addition, we do not give her a full meal at one time. It is split at least into two portions.

Meal Time is Game Time

Games engage a dog’s mind and help burn a little energy. Having a dog play for their food makes meal time exciting and rewarding. Abby is a huge fan of games. She would play games all day if she could.

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Muffin Tin Ball Game. This is by far Abby’s favorite game at the moment. It is so simple to put together. This is an old muffin tin. I drop 1-4 pieces of food in a section than cover with a dog ball. She takes off the balls and eats the food.

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The towel sniff out game. Take an old towel. Then simply place kibble and roll up. The object is for the dog to unroll the towel.

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A piece or a few pieces of kibble on the floor then place a cup over it. This one got old quick for us. I have seen people stack cups and place kibble in between. However, Abby doesn’t like to play that.

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This game we used scraps of fabric and rolled up kibble. Next stuffed the ball. Abby pulls out each piece and unrolls.

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She also enjoys playing hid and seek with her food. I hid it in different boxes around one floor of the house. At times we have her games in different rooms as well.

Those are our DIY dog games. Let us know your favorite DIY dog games!

Debbie to the Rescue: Life with a Service Dog

Please give a warm welcome to Sammi who is an inspiration to everyone she encounters. A while back I posted on Chronically Hopeful asking if anyone with a service dog would share a little bit of their story. I am honored that Sammi said she would share because through those weeks I have had the honor of chatting with her which is something I cherish. I know her story will deeply touch you!
Every morning when I open my eyes I’m greeted by blurry vision, the inability to hear, and the dread of what’s going to hurt first today. In addition to all of those negative things, I also wake up to a little wet nose attached to a tiny yellow lab telling me mom it’s time to get up I’m hungry! I roll over and feel around for my glasses but because of that little ball of energy I have waking me up, I don’t need to reach for my hearing aids. That pup is my ears, my lifeline, my hearing dog that I truly don’t know how I lived with before I got her.

I was born with Stickler Syndrome, a primarily genetic collagen deficiency. I say primarily because I’m one of the lucky few to be the first generation with this syndrome in my family. Here is the short answer to those who don’t know what it is(which is 99% of the people I meet): Stickler Syndrome is a progressive connective tissue disorder that affects my hearing, vision, and joints.  To elaborate a bit more – I am severely nearsighted, at very high risk of retinal detachment(which I have thankfully avoided so far), I lack collagen in my joints which results in widespread, daily, chronic pain that I honestly don’t know what’s going to hurt day to day. Finally I have moderate/severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss that can progress at any time.

Now that there is a bit of a backstory to me more about my service dog, Debbie. I started research into obtaining a service dog 6-7 years ago when I was about 18 and took several years debating if it was a good idea for me. I worried if I was disabled enough to qualify, would one truly help me, could I care for a dog myself, so many things discouraged me from applying for several years. Finally, at 21 I really took a good look at my life and one thing that really struck me was I was truly scared to be alone. My hearing loss made being anywhere without someone with me something I dreaded. I may be able to hear fairly well with my hearing aids in but only if the person is looking at me and I’m not distracted. I have no sound directional awareness, I may hear someone call me, or a car beep or an emergency vehicle coming but where that noise comes from is what I can’t figure out and that can be dangerous. In my research, I found NEADS, based in Princeton, MA. Once I came across their site I knew I found who I was looking for and I hoped they could help me.

A hearing dog has the ability to quite literally be ears that actually work for the handler.  Debbie alerts me to everything a person with normal hearing may take for granted that they can hear. She tells me when someone is trying to get my attention when a car is coming up behind me, when the fire alarm goes off, when I drop my keys and don’t hear it, and many other ways.  Due to my chronic pain, Debbie was also continued with some basic assistance dog work as well as her hearing dog work. She is able to pick up my debit card/money or my cell phone if I drop it, or press the handicap door button if needed. There are not many things she can’t do!!

NEADS is truly an amazing organization from the second I submitted my application and still through today, 2 1/2 years after I brought Debbie home. What truly drew me to them was that they provide service dogs to veterans and victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing for no charge at all. Being from Boston the fact that they helped the victims of that atrocious crime really stuck with me and I knew that they were an organization I could and would love. They also use local prisons to help train the puppies that go through the program, and as part of team training on campus, we have the option to formally meet the inmate handler. This opportunity was truly amazing and I’m so proud to have a dog from this program, especially after seeing the pride and joy all of the inmates expressed when I met them.

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The process I went through:

  1. 12-15 page application submitted online, which detailed what my need was, medical documentation that I had the disability I claimed, and character letters from someone who knew me.
  2. After my application was accepted I had to go to the NEADS campus for an in-person interview that was several hours long. We went over my original application and what my needs truly were. I was officially accepted that day and the wait began.
  3. I received an email detailing who my dog would be and to set up what two weeks I could come to the campus to do team training.
  4. In person, team training was two weeks long. I lived on campus for that time with three other women who also were training with their new service dogs. We had group training every day and by midweek had the dogs full time. Having those other three women was truly amazing we are still all friends today and they are the reason I was able to get through my first year with Debbie as easily as I did.
  5. The final step in this process is graduation! NEADS holds a formal graduation for all successful teams 2 times a year. While Debbie was already working for me having graduation as an official way to say yes we can do this is priceless.

Having a service dog is not perfect, there are days that Debbie has an off day – she is a dog after all! People still do not understand that a young, seemingly healthy (to them) woman who is not blind may need a service dog for another reason. The laws have not caught up to the new craze to claim your pet is a working dog and there are stores that I am not comfortable going into alone just Debbie and me because fake service dogs are not told to leave. But despite all of these negatives making the choice to get Debbie has been the best one I’ve ever made. I can now confidently go out alone, be home alone and move out on my own and feel safe. I know that I will ALWAYS be told when someone is at the door when the fire alarm is going off when a car is coming up behind me if someone is trying to talk to me. Debbie truly is ears that actually work for me and I am beyond thankful for her and the life she has given me!

Dogs!

This took much longer than I expected to write. Many people on the Chronically Hopeful Facebook page were interested when a service dog post went up about a month ago. Please understand that I have done research to the best to my ability. This is just a general overview. There will be additional service dog posts in the next few months.

There is a substantial difference between a service dog and a pet dog in the eyes of the law and social norms. Let’s begin with the basics. A service dog is for an individual with a physical disability.  These dogs are allowed to go anywhere and everywhere their human goes.Assistance Dogs International elaborates on this, “Service Dogs assist people with disabilities other than vision or hearing impairment. With special training, these dogs can help mitigate many different types of disabilities. They can be trained to work with people who use power or manual wheelchairs, have balance issues, have various types of autism, need seizure alert or response, need to be alerted to other medical issues like low blood sugar, or have psychiatric disabilities. These specially trained dogs can help by retrieving objects that are out of their person’s reach, opening and closing doors, turning light switches off and on, barking to indicate that help is needed, finding another person and leading the person to the handler, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by providing balance and counterbalance, providing deep pressure, and many other individual tasks as needed by a person with a disability.” There are many tasks a service dog can be trained to do. Additionally, service dogs can be paired with humans for autism and hearing.

Your pet dog is not allowed to accompany you in public without a specific reason. Many view a service dog as medical assistance or even medical equipment.

Service Dog Central provides some clarification on the differences between psychiatric service dogs and therapy dogs. “A therapy dog is an individual’s pet which has been trained, tested, registered and insured to work in a hospital, nursing home, school, or other institutional settings. The therapy dog and his partner visit to cheer patients, to educate the community, to counter grief and stress, and generally be good canine ambassadors within the community. Most therapy dog partners are volunteers, but some states recognize professional therapy dogs partnered with therapists and other mental health professionals.”

Psychiatric Service Dogs are generally for people with a mental impairment (these words are chosen to line up with the laws that are in place). A mental impairment in the case would include mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD would fit under emotional/mental illness. They can be granted access in public places.

A partial listing of therapy dog organizations:
The Delta Society http://deltasociety.org
Therapy Dogs International http://tdi-dog.org
Therapy Dogs Incorporated http://therapydogs.com

On the other hand, emotional support dogs have very limited public access.

On the other hand, emotional support dogs have very limited public access. Emotional support animals provide compassion, support, and friendship to his or her owner. These animals have an irreplaceable role in their human life. Not only do these animals assist their humans emotionally but also improve physical health. Many studies support that animals lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride, reduced stress levels, reduced feelings of loneliness, and increased activity. Currently, my cats are emotional support animals. I have a special bond with each. Furthermore, they can sense when I am going to pass out, fall, or shake. Even so, they are not allowed in public. I wouldn’t bring them out in public either because that would provoke anxiety.

A multitude of agencies is out there. My first recommendation is to speak with your vet if you have one. Each agency is different. However, most share that the waiting list is long. Comparing agencies is vital. Furthermore, get as much information as possible on each one. Due to this reason, some people also find training agencies. Either your current pet dog (if he or she is qualified) or adopting a dog than the trained works with you both.

Some additional agencies include but are not limited to:

NEADS

NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services, also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans), is a non-profit organization and is based in Princeton, Massachusetts. Our Service Dogs become an extension of their handlers and bring freedom, physical autonomy, and relief from social isolation to their human partners who are deaf or have a disability.

Accredited by Assistance Dogs International, the internationally recognized governing body that establishes industry standards and practices, NEADS offers a wide spectrum of Assistance Dog services, including: Deaf & Hearing Loss, Combat Veterans, Physical Disability Classroom, Therapy & Ministry, Children with a Disability Children on the Autism Spectrum, Deaf & Hearing Loss, Veterans, Physical Disability and more.

Assistance Dog’s International can help you find a program closer to you. They have a variety of resources.

Service Dog Trainers A list of trainers across America.

I hope this information is helpful. Please share your pet’s name in the comments!

 

Paw Prints on My Heart

This post is a bit different then what I usually post. It is something that was on my heart to write and share mainly to honor those in the post.

My love for animals began before the sweet air of this world kissed my lungs. While my mom was expecting, our cat Buttons gently cuddled up against her abdomen, played with me as I kicked, and purred a calming melody. I developed a deep love for animals, they have always had a special place in my heart. Growing up I was surrounded by furry friends including two cats, a dog, bird, rabbit, and a few stray cats. I jumped at the chance to meet and play with other animals. Just like no human knows how long they have on Earth, no animal knows. Many times they depart too soon. I lost many of my friends in a very short period of time. I’m going to talk a bit about my friends.

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I got my dog Hannah at seven years old. I desperately wanted a sister named Hannah, but I got a dog. Hannah and I were inseparable, best friends. She was gentle, sweet, and full of love. She adored people and cats. It worried Hannah to say the least when I became ill. Hannah made sure I stayed on a schedule. If I was up late she would sit on the stair case whining until I began getting ready for bed. Then she would make sure I shut off my light by a certain time. Hannah either slept next to my bed or in my bed with me. She knew how to get help if I was in trouble. If I fell she knew how to help me up. I never questioned my safety with her around. In the nice weather we would go for a walk around my house, she was afraid of leaving the property. We thought she had developed asthma like me. The vet was surprised to tell us that she had lung cancer in both lungs. I begged her to passed away at home. I could tell she was in pain. She got worst hourly. We had hoped she had more time. She passed away at the Vet’s four days later. She was bleeding internally as well. Looking back I am grateful for the time I had with her. Of course I wanted more time but she lived a long and happy life.

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Hope was a different cat. She was found in the woods with her brother, deserted by her mother. The first night we meet I told her bluntly that she was my cat and that I would love her. As soon as I turned my back she hid then I frantically searched all over my room for her.  She had sever anxiety, depression, and interstitial cystitis. I worked with her and she became like a new cat. She would throw her food or eat using her paw. She would answer any time someone asked her a question. Once Hannah passed away, Hope became the one who watched me. Her fur was beautiful and extremely calming to me. Shortly after I got Hope, I got Grace (who is turning three soon). The three of us were very close. The girls adored one another. They protested me going away to college by attempting to tear up my suit case and unpacking my clothing.

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Tommy was born in my house two weeks before Hope passed away. His mother is a stray named Fluffy Fluffy invited herself into my house one day and had a litter of kittens. She wanted someone to hold her paw the entire time which was over twenty four hours. Tommy was the sweetest kitten with the ideal personality. He wiggled his way into my heart and had no intesions of leaving. When he was a few weeks old I talked to him for a few minutes until we fell asleep; he knew I was sick and wanted to help. He loved plating hide in seek and he loved stuffed animals. He was an extremely bold and adventurous kitten. He loved to play and loved to run on his tipy toes. The love and excitement he had for life was admirable.Tommy was always purring. Anytime he got in trouble all I had to do was say his name and count like mothers do for their children,and he would immedeity stop, sit, and look at me.The memory of the day he passed away is still fresh in my memory, it was a heartrending experience. I am usually a level headed person who is fairly calm in perspective. Tommy was just over six months old and it was  his time to get fixed. The phone rang earlier then I expected and I had a terrible feeling. Though I could only hear pieces of the conversation I knew he was gone. I literally lost it. Screaming. I had just lost Hope five months ago. Tommy was only six months. I couldn’t do it. He was too young. It was the worse feeling. The vet told my mom what happened and was running test to find out why. He did well in surgery. After he stood up, fell over, and passed away. The vet found out that Tommy had heart disease and a blood clot near his heart, which of course was unexpected. He most likely suffered a heart attack.

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Grieving with a Chronic illness is difficult. I doubt there is any advice that I could give you that would make the grieving process any easier. If you are grieving, I am deeply sorry for your loss. Grieving can cause flare ups and complicate things. I cried rives each time. Allow yourself to feel any emotion that you need to, it is healthy. Personally, making collages, talking, writing, and reading quotes helps me cope with this agonizing process. I also spent a lot of time with Grace, my cat and Fluffy the stray. They provided me with so much comfort. Though time does not erase what has occurred, it does help to a degree.

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One of the most difficult things for me has been memory loss. I am afraid that I will completely forget my beloved friends. It is a burden which has consumed my fragile heart at times. I already feel the memories slipping through my fingers, quickly fading away. No matter how many of my memories desert me, I know I will always deeply love them and cherish the time I was blessed to have with them. These furry friends have left paw prints on my heart.

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Meet My Pets

The holiday season is a time to celebrate those who you cherish, those you hold in your heart. For me this not only includes my family and friends, but this also includes my pets. Being chronically ill has changed, altered, and strengthen various relationships in my life. This is true of my relationships with my four legged friends as well. I have always adored animals however I have learned to cherish their love, loyalty, and friendship even more.

Currently I have two cats who I adore and a dog. Then there are my additional kitty friends who are strays but have a big place in my heart. Grace is my two year old princess who surely knows she is beautiful and adores attention. Buddy is my dog who just turned two. He is extremely hyper and forgets how big he is. Sadie is our newest addition who is around seven months old. She is a curled ear kitten with lots of energy, enjoys attention, and loves to follow me around. Sun shine is the oldest stray who is set in her ways. She does not understand that hitting people is rude but she can be sweet when she wants to be. Midnight is her son, he is around five years old. He is lazy and enjoys sleeping. Fluffy is a younger cat who adopted the basement as her home after inviting herself in last spring to have kittens. She is different, even strange at times but she is sweet and playful. Sadly we could not find her a home however now she is very attached to everyone here and is content.

Grace & I:

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It is a known fact that pets are great for those of us who battle chronic illnesses. My cats, Grace and Sadie assist me on a daily bases. They watch me and make sure I listen to what my parents say. One day I was told not to use the stairs but needed water so I had to. My cats were less than happy and ‘yelled’ at me.  My cats also come when called which is great if I need them.

Sadie:

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Purring has health benefits for humans. Both of my girls purr often and loudly. They also provide me with emotional support when I am overwhelmed, having anxiety, or upset. Their fur is comforting. If I am having a good day we play or stretch together. Of course taking care of them helps make sure that I am using different muscles in small ways. I will be sharing more about how these two lovely girls help me and more about them in future posts.

Share in the comments how your four legged friends assist you with your chronic illness.