Confessions of a Dog-Loving Cat Person…

Healthy Homemade Dog Treats Doggy Bag To Go

Since I’m going to be a fairly regular contributor to this blog, I have to come clean about something.  I am a cat person. I was raised with cats, and my roommate for over 13 years was Stella, a cantankerous striped tabby who had definite ideas about sharing me with other people. I giggle over funny cat videos and make uncharacteristic squealing noises over Facebook pictures of cute kittens.

That said, I love dogs.  Other people’s dogs.  I don’t mean that sarcastically, either.  My family never has owned a dog, but there have been many dogs in my life that I have cared for and who have had an impact on my life. My earliest dog friend was our next door neighbor’s Miniature Pinscher named Ralph. He was the perfect size dog for a three year old to interact with.  Then there was my aunt’s German Shepherd, El Cid. He was so loving and protective.  The wonderfully playful Labrador Retrievers Ask’em and Gretchen lived across the street with one of my best friends. And  I’ve mourned my neph-dogs, a loving Golden Lab named Corey and a sweet Whippet named Fenris.  And just this last year saw the passing of little Tiffany, the Silky Terrier, and gentle Penny, the mutt, the beloveds of my friends.

And now, my life is rich with Balder, Hermes, Mercury, Morgan, Ginger, and Karamela, among others. I don’t get to see my puppy pals as often as I would like, having moved far, far away, but when I do see them, I love to pet them and play with them.  They are the “children” of my very dear friends, and so they are very dear to me.

Alas, I haven’t yet found a mammal with which to share my new home.  We have fish, and I have become really fond of them, but it’s pretty hard to cuddle with them on the sofa or scratch them behind the ears. And while I like to flatter myself that they know and love me, I’m secretly suspicious that they are just responding to movement near the tank, regardless of who it is. But they are a living presence in the apartment that I don’t think I could do without. For most of my life I have had a pet of one type or another; it just feels right.  But until I adjust to my new lifestyle as a city-dweller,  I don’t want to make a commitment to a cat or a dog, so I guess the fish will have to do.

Anyway, that’s my story. I am a cat person who loves dogs.  I love their playfulness and their loyalty, their friendliness and their intelligence. They give so much love and they are wonderful companions.  They are the best “friends of friends” around.

~ Jayne Burt-Ozyildirim for Doggy Bag to Go

So you want to be a dog-owner…

some_different_dog_breeds_by_insanesokpuppet-d5a69h3Human beings have a long history of co-habitation with animals.  In many cultures, those who kept livestock would bring them into the house at night to keep them from being stolen or attacked by wild animals. Cats and dogs have been domesticated since ancient times, and kept in households for practical reasons, such as keeping the rodent population in check, assisting with hunting or herding, or guarding the family.  And today, people keep various types of pets, mostly for companionship.

According the Humane Society, 39% of American households have at least one dog living in them.  Twenty-eight percent of dog owners own two dogs, and 12% of owners have three or more dogs. That’s a lot of pups!

There are over 150 breeds of dogs, and many more mixed breeds. So how do you choose the type of dog that will be an ideal companion?

Group of dogs different sizes isolatedThere are many factors to consider. First and foremost, one must consider the size of the dwelling space that will be shared with the dog.  A high-rise apartment dweller with a 1Bed/1Bath may want a high-energy larger dog, but unless that owner has the time to take that dog on a good long run every day, it won’t be a match made in heaven. Many breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, Collies, Malamutes, Border Collies, Dalmatians, among others, need lots of daily physical AND mental exercise; if their owners are short on time or energy, these dogs can become frustrated and destructive.  Smaller lap dogs, such as the Papillon, do better in smaller places.

Another factor: with whom will the dog be sharing space? Kids? Cats? Other dogs? Each breed of dog has certain characteristics that make it either more or less likely to live peacefully with children and other pets.  For example the Staffordshire bull terrier is known to be so good with children that in the UK it is called the “nanny dog.” However, this same dog may not do so well with other pets.  Great Danes are known to be good with children, but small children may be overwhelmed by the dog’s typical size.

Choosing a dog is also like choosing a roommate; you must consider day-to-day living and your  tolerance for shedding, drooling, barking, and chewing on items other than dog toys. If your potential roommate’s habits will annoy you, it would be wise to choose differently.

The pros and cons of purebred vs. mixed breed dogs must also be weighed.  With purebreds, it tends to be easier to predict the general characteristics and personality of a dog, but they tend to be more expensive to adopt (unless from a rescue organization), and they may have a greater risk of genetic health problems.  Mixed breeds have greater genetic diversity leaving them less prone to health problems, but there is also less certainty about physical and behavioral characteristics.

group_of_dogsOnce you have puzzled out the purebred/mixed breed decision, then you must choose where to look for your best friend.  Choices include breeders, rescue organizations, and animal shelters, each having their own set of advantages and disadvantages.  The Human Society of the United States strongly urges people not to buy dogs from pet stores in an effort to combat the cruelties of puppy mills.  Wherever you decide to go, see how the dog responds to you in a petting area. Ask about the dog’s characteristics—is it good with children? High or low energy? A barker or a shedder, etc.? And observe the dog’s interactions with other dogs—is it reserved or social, domineering or timid?

Wow! There is a lot to consider when choosing a new companion. Luckily, we live in the internet age, where information and help is readily available. There are websites with quizzes that can help you determine which breed is right for you and your circumstances.  Choosing a dog is a big deal; choose wisely and you’ll be the best of friends.

~ Jayne Burt-Ozyildirim for Doggy Bag to Go

Sweet Potatoes: The Sweetest Way to Treat

Healthy Homemade Dog Treats Doggy Bag To Go

Don’t touch my Pooch-Sweets!

You ask most people about sweet potatoes, and they usually have a pretty strong opinion about them. They either adore them or despise them.  Many times their dispositions toward the root veggie are tied to some childhood Thanksgiving incident involving marshmallows.  But the sweet potato is really more than just a holiday side dish.

Only distantly related to the regular potato, the sweet potato is super-packed with nutrition.  Rich in omega-6 fatty acids and dietary fiber, this vegetable has a low glycemic load and is naturally anti-inflammatory.  They are loaded with vitamins (A,C, B5, and B6) and minerals (potassium and manganese.)  They also contain modest amounts of E, K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Choline, and Betaine.

The flesh of a sweet potato can range from beige, white, yellow, and pink to red, orange, and even violet and purple! The sweetest, moistest flesh tends to be in the pink, red, and orange range.  And in some regions the leaves and shoots of the sweet potato are eaten as healthy greens.

While many times sweet potatoes are labeled as “yams,” they are not, in fact yams at all. Genuine yams are native to Africa and Asia. But in the US, originally only firmer varieties of sweet potatoes were produced; softer varieties were introduced commercially some time after.  Because they resembled the yams of Africa, African Americans had been already calling sweet potatoes “yams.”  So the companies used the term “yam” to distinguish the soft sweet from the firm sweet potato.  That’s why if you look closely at a can of yams, you will also see the words sweet potatoes; it’s required by the USDA.

Sweet potatoes grow well in various farming conditions, so they are an ideal crop to grow. With few natural enemies, they can be grown organically with no pesticides.  That’s what makes it so baffling why some people would wantonly use pesticides on sweet potatoes. There have been incidents of treats made in China that used sweet potatoes that had been contaminated with toxic pesticides.  Dogs  developed kidney problems from ingesting these toxins.  A treat that should have been good for their digestive system turned out to be just the opposite.

It’s important to know where the food we give our pets is coming from.  When you buy commercially manufactured treats, it may not always be clear where those ingredients are coming from.  We get our ingredients for our dog treats from the same place where we buy our own food, and we prepare the treats right in our own kitchen.  Our sweet potato treats are just that: sweet potatoes. Nothing added. Nothing. We dehydrate them, pack them up, and send them to you.  Our dogs love them, and so will yours.