Two Dogs, One Bone… or something like that

Like any good dog-owning household, we have been long time proponents of durable chew toy options including bully sticks and antlers. However, as much as we wanted to maintain these toys in our weekly rotation, we just couldn’t get around the high prices at which most of these toys are offered.

You may remember our post last week, where we wrote about the outdoor festival we attended while visiting family in Virginia. Dogs and their owners were one of the most common customers at this event, and so it should come as no surprise that there were a hand full of canine-centered vendors in attendance. The most notable of these was a booth for Best Bully Sticks.

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At the Dominion Riverrock event

When we walked up to the booth, we were greeted by friendly and knowledgeable dog lovers, standing behind deep buckets full of every array of natural, safe, and durable dog treat, toy, and chew that you could imagine! We made our selections (three EXTRA LARGE elk antlers, a giant braided bully stick, a kangaroo tendon, and a stuffed gullet, as well as a few small all-natural dog treats) and were astounded when they told us the price… $36! We have seen elk antlers of similar size go for $20 EACH, so we were so pleased to receive so much value for our money.

Frog legs... the go-to pose in our home for optimal elk antler destruction.

Frog legs… the go-to pose in our home for optimal elk antler destruction.

The dogs were so pleased with our selections, and we were so happy with the minimal effect on our wallets, that we went back the next day for more!

This is about the best view we can get of the antlers, as the dogs hate to give them up!

This is about the best view we can get of the antlers, as the dogs hate to give them up!

"You're not gonna tryen take this, right?"

“Yur not gonna tryen take this, wight?”

The more time I spend researching the company, the more pleased I am, and the more I want to support what they do. They take every effort to make sure that their products are going to earn and retain your loyalty… by only selling the kinds of items that they would happily offer to their own pets! They set themselves apart from the competition by pledging that their products are never chemically-treated, and therefore remain genuinely all-natural… they are even FDA/USDA approved. They also take their reputation a step further by offering financial support to a variety of animal charities.

Shown at about half its original size... the coveted elk antler

Shown at about half its original size… the coveted elk antler

Check out Best Bully Sticks on their website, where your order is eligible for a 5% discount if you like their facebook page. You and your pups will both be glad that you did!

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I received no compensation for this post, and wrote it of my own volition as a happy BBS customer!

 

Dogs and their Dapper Duds

We have blogged about Sirius Republic collars a few times now. Most notably, here and here. But finally, finally, we are able to introduce our own pups, and their spiffy collar choices! Drum rolllllll… (Please, no flash photography, and hold your applause until the end.)

Gia Sue, looking pretty in paisley!

Gia Sue, looking pretty in paisley!

Tonka Tue, our dapper dude in this manly selection.

Tonka Tue, our dapper dude in this manly selection.

And then there was one…

Yes, that really is the best I could do...

Geege Louise. Yes, that really is the best we could do…

But at least her collar is cute, right?

While I had pretty high expectations while anticipating the arrival of the dogs’ new duds, I was even more pleasantly surprised than I thought I would be. The quality of these collars just can’t be described, but I will do my best. The patterns are bright and bold, and the collars themselves are much thicker than they appear, backed with nylon. I expect that this will enable them to be worn for months to come. In addition, they were perfectly sized to each of our pups’ unique measurements. I am so thrilled with our purchase and the customer service that I am already looking forward to the day when we will need additional collars, just so that I can return to Sirius Republic… the hardest part of the whole process was making our selections!

You may also have noticed their unique and eye-catching custom tags. You can find them at Sew Olive. We adore them… and think they pair perfectly with the Sirius collars.

“The Best Gift Ever”

You may remember that during our fundraiser, we introduced our readers to the genius and adorable-ness (what? This is my blog… I can make up words if I want!) that is Yellow Brick Home. If not, you can check out the post here.

Yellow Brick Home is a dynamic duo of a husband and wife team. Kim is the artist behind these masterpieces, that feature the mugs of YOUR precious pets. That’s right… utilizing photos of your fur-children, along with detailed descriptions of their personalities and past-times, she creates one-of-a-kind works of art to encapsulate all that you know and love about your pet. Okay, they aren’t exactly cuddly and squeezable, as they are painted on wooden blocks… but seriously people, we are talking minute attention to detail and incredibly intricate work! Painted with whimsical creativity and bright, bold backgrounds, Kim has a knack for capturing the adorable antics that set our pets out from the rest of the pack. Don’t believe me? See what I mean… and try to spot some of your blogging favorites!

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We… well, I… have been wanting to commission some portraits of our pups for quite some time now. Of course, I was strategically hoping to find a way for this to be a ‘gift’ as well; you know, a two dogs, one bone kinda thing. What better time than Foster Dad’s birthday?!

DSC_0017For budgeting reasons, we chose the smallest size, but you really can’t go wrong with any choice! (They are available in 4×4, 6×6, or 8×8 blocks) We can’t wait to add more to our collection!

This gift was a 100% surprise for Foster Dad… which, if you know me in real life, is so rare. I can’t lie, can’t tell a fib, and certainly can’t resist spoiling a good surprise! I L-O-V-E selecting gifts, about 10x more than I love receiving them. So sometimes the anticipation of giving that perfect gift is just TOO MUCH for me to bare, and I end up letting the dog out of the crate, so to speak. But this time, it was just too good… I may have dropped some hints here and there, but it is safe to say that Foster Dad was legitimately surprised! (Don’t mind the fact that I made him open all of his presents on Friday night, when his birthday wasn’t actually until Monday… that’s just what I like to call stretching out the celebration, people!) He may have even shed a tear or two, but don’t tell him I told you that! Gaige is his little baby, after all.

Of course, what portrait of Gaige would be complete without her big red ball?

I think it’s safe to say that Gaige approves…

Of course, what portrait of Gaige would be complete without her big red ball? And if you look closely, you will even notice the slight white roaning across her back. It’s our girl!

I am telling you… run, don’t walk, over to The Pet Shop to place your order. You will be so glad that you did!

Thank you so so much, Kim! We just adore your work. This will be a treasured keepsake for years to come… J already told me that it is his ‘fire thing’. (You know, the one thing you’d grab if there was a fire and all living beings had been safely removed from the home. How special!) Did I mention that Kim had this to us well BEFORE the estimated delivery date? I told you she was the best…

Practice Makes Perfect

During our trip to visit my parents in Virginia last weekend, we were ‘forced’ to walk the dogs on-leash, as they live in a busy community neighborhood.

Look at that tired pup!

Look at that tired pup!

We look at our living arrangements as such a blessing… we live on a piece of property that is blissfully large and safe enough that we can walk and exercise the dogs off-leash most times. However, this trip brought us the realization that when you live in (or visit!) a place that requires you to walk your dogs on-leash, you are faced with a great opportunity to work on training each day. In some cases, the dogs in this circumstance may actually be receiving more exercise and interaction, than those who are just let out the door to a fenced in backyard, unsupervised.

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During our walk, a little white dog ran out from one of the yards, across the street, and up to our dogs. The owner was calling her (“Cookie!”) but she was not interested! Thankfully, J jumped in front of the Jeep that was headed straight for her, and was able to grab her collar. We were so proud of our dogs for reacting quietly and politely, even as the little dog would bark in their faces and run away, only to repeat the process!

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We really enjoyed the opportunity to share some focused training time together with our dogs, and were so impressed by how quickly they were able to refresh their polite leash-walking skills.

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Tonka found a souvenir on our walk!

Do you walk your dog(s) on-leash on a regular basis? Is it out of necessity, or because you realize the importance of these skills? How would your dog handle a change in the routine, or an impolite dog disrupting their walk?

Are we the only weirdos that go to the gym while on vacation??

Are we the only weirdos that go to the gym while on vacation??

Welcome Home

If you read yesterday’s post, you know that we traveled out of town this weekend. You also know that we took Tonka & Gaige. Thankfully, my parents are dog lovers, and always treat our pooches like their grandchildren. (Read: Spoiled. Rotten.) However, in their brand new house in a gated community (without a fenced-in yard!) it isn’t the best place for all THREE of their grandpuppies. On top of that, neither of our vehicles are quite large enough to comfortably accommodate three dogs, two people, and all of our belongings, on a 6+ hour drive. Out of the three dogs, Gia is the one that can become most stressed out in new situations, so we have always felt that she would be most comfortable staying in her normal surroundings here at her home with our close friends.

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

A snuggly puppy makes cramped quarters less comfy... but exponentially more adorable!

A snuggly puppy makes cramped quarters less comfy… but exponentially more adorable!

All of that has always been true, until this trip… poor girl lost. her. mind. when we left without her. 😦 She was barking and crying and scratching at her kennel after seeing us loading up the truck with our bags and being left in her kennel without Gaige in the one right beside her. Babygirl was not happy… and of course, then neither was I. We’re talking crocodile tears here… how could I leave her when she was so visibly upset?

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving more than one dog here for our friends to watch. The girls have had a tendency to try to wander off lately, even when I’m right there calling them to come back… we need to work on our recalls! The spring bunnies in the yard are just more tempting than anything that I can offer. Because of that, I have been leashing them more often than not, and I just feel like two dogs with shakey recalls is too much to ask of a friend/pet-sitter. We are getting closer to being able to purchase and install a fence, but that hasn’t happened yet. So I left Gia content with a delicious frozen Kong, and made my way hesitantly out the door… armed with constant contact from my friend, who offered regular photos and updates to keep me from feeling too guilty or heart sick.

These are a few of the photos they sent me <3

These are a few of the photos they sent me ❤

0516132030As hard as it was for all of us to be away from our girl, it was all worth it when we came home… when I came to her kennel, little lady just stared out at me in disbelief! It was like she hadn’t thought we were ever coming back 😦 Once she realized that it was really me, she gave me the most enthusiastic welcome home that I’ve ever received… wags and kisses and paws were all flying!

Life has returned to normal here in the AFM5 household (aside from the flu bug I brought home as a souvenir from our trip. Ugh!) All of this has left me with a lot of thoughts, and a driving passion to start something that has been on my mind and heart for a little while… I know that I sound a bit cryptic, but I promise I will share more with all of you as the process continues! Until then, I want to know:

1) What do you do with your pets when you travel? Do they go along with you, stay in their own home, or visit a fun place?

2) If you opt to have someone else stay with your dog, what are your non-negotiables? What requirements do you have?

3) What are some services, skills, or experiences that you wish your dog sitter or kennel offered?

4) What is your budget for your pet’s care when you are away?

5) What is the best experience you have had with trusting someone to care for your pet, and why? Did it keep you coming back?

6) What is the worst experience you have had in trusting someone to watch your pet, and why? How did you handle it?

I really appreciate any and all input that you can share with me!

Wordless Wednesday: Pocket Pittie Snuggles

IMG_2957Check out this little cutie! ❤ We sent surprise packages out last week, filled with our Charliedog & Friends pocket pitties, to some very lucky friends!

In love with this little lady? Read her special story on her mama’s blog: The Sweeter Side of Mommyhood

Getting our Paws Wet!

jumpusFriends… we did something so, SO cool this weekend!

While visiting family in the Richmond, VA area, we made time to visit the Dominion Riverrock Festival. Set against the backdrop of downtown Richmond’s urban cityscape and river front, the festival brings athletes, spectators, chefs, musicians, and the general community together. It is an outdoor lifestyle festival, making it possible for visitors to experience adventures including trail running, kayaking, biking, bouldering, slacklining, stand up paddleboarding, and (drum roll please!) dog dock jumping. Any guesses as to where this is headed?!

Some of you may know that our Tonka-Tue is a lifelong water lover. His favorite way to spend a day is by running after a stick or ball as it is endlessly tossed into the water. Whether from land or dock, he dives enthusiastically into the blue depths with reckless abandon.

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jumpprev1 I visited the Dominion Riverrock Festival a few years ago, and was amazed by the Ultimate Air Dogs competition. I just knew that I had to find a way to make Tonka a part of it!

jumpcollieOf course, life had other plans, and I became busy with school, horses, etc. While each trip to the river would remind me of Tonka’s aspirations, the competitive side of things took a back seat.

Fast forward to 2013… we had already made plans to visit VA this past weekend, and then realized at the last second that it happened to be the same date of this year’s Riverrock. What better way to get our feet wet?! (Literally!)

Look at this little peanut! Any pup can be a dock dog!

Look at this little peanut! Any pup can be a dock dog!

It was amazing to see so many happy dogs and dedicated owners all gathered in one place. Many of the pups were rescue or shelter dogs, and their happiness was palpable. The owners were all so proud of their pups, whether they were seasoned competitors or novice jumpers.

Look at this cutie pie!

What a cutie pie!

jumplabOf all of the demonstrations at the festival, the dock diving dogs certainly saw the most visitor traffic!

jumpmisc2The rules behind the competition are pretty straight forward. The owner throws a toy into the water, the dog runs and jumps into the water to retrieve it. Where the base of their tail hits the water is the measurement that is recorded to be compared to the other dogs. The best of two jumps is the official score.

This pooch was trained to come running at a moment's notice... he would leap into the water to show novice dogs where and how to climb out!

This pooch was trained to come running at a moment’s notice… he would leap into the water to show novice dogs where and how to climb out!

jumpmisc1Tonka, of course, was such a perfect gentleman. In an environment that was at times chaotic and fraught with tension, he maintained his composure and relished the opportunity to show his skills. He remained 100% focused on me at all times… that dog makes me look so, so good. He was definitely a crowd favorite.

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Waiting in line for our turn

The 'wonderful' photos that my mother took for us ;)

The ‘wonderful’ photos that my mother took for us 😉

Thank goodness that a kind stranger in the audience happened to get a great shot and share it with us… that’s my boy!!!

Look at the faces of the spectators!

Look at the faces of the spectators!

We are in the process of researching some local groups that offer the dock diving competitions. It is such a great way to let your dog burn some energy, while also building the relationship you share with your pup. I definitely recommend checking this out!

Goin’ to the Chapel and We’re…

Most of you know how rare it is for us to interrupt weekend time for a blog post… but today we are thrilled to do so, and for great reason. My BBF (best blogging friend, remember??) is getting M.A.R.R.I.E.D!

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Morgan runs the blog Temporary Home, Permanent Love

I never knew it to be possible to have so much love for someone you had never met, but I am sending tons of well-wishes and congratulations down to the sunny land of Florida to Morgan & Rich, the new Mr. & Mrs! I hope your day is every bit as beautiful as you had imagined, but more than that, I wish for a marriage that is even more exquisite than your wedding day… and with hearts like yours, I know it will be! Enjoy every single second… we will be thinking of you! (And planning our visit!!!!) If these two put even HALF as much love, loyalty, and dedication into their relationship as they do to their dogs, I know that it will be a lifelong love story.

943181_10151570920158184_1182463192_n526072_10151231570049484_1901281874_n( I didn’t take a single one of these pictures… I stole them all from Morgan’s fb page. Oops… probably should have asked first, but that would have ruined the surprise, right? Sorry, Morgan! haha Aren’t they just adorable?!)

Of course, Morgan’s wedding would never be complete without her pups in attendance. To get in the spirit, check out the Wedding-Dogs facebook page, where they feature beautiful weddings and their fabulous four-legged guests.

Pittsburgh’s For the Dogs!

Some of you may know that I spent some of my childhood growing up in a suburb of Pittsburgh. However, life threw me a few curve balls, and I ended up living in a variety of places during my late teenage years. While I enjoyed where I grew up, I never had the opportunity to fully appreciate all that the city had to offer. One of the many things I love about Foster Dad is that he is equal parts country boy and city slicker. He is just as comfortable baling hay, driving his lifted pickup truck, and helping me at a horse show, as he is dressing to the nines and enjoying an elegant dinner in the city, followed by a show at the Benedum or a romantic ride on the incline. In falling in love with him, he has helped me to fall more in love with the beautiful city of Pittsburgh!

I once envied other cities for the plethora of dog-friendly locations and activities, but in spending more time in the Steel City, I have discovered an endless array of canine adventures. Whether you are a ‘Burgh native, planning to visit (please do!) or just curious, here are a few of the top pup spots in town.

This photo, and some of the content of this post, courtesy of Pittsburgh Magazine's Pet Lover's Guide

This photo, and some of the content of this post, courtesy of Pittsburgh Magazine’s Pet Lover’s Guide

Groceries for Grover

  • Healthy Pet Products : A pet food store that specializes in organic, natural diets and raw food! Their slogan: “Our pets can survive on most anything, but don’t we want them to thrive?” They do all of the research, scrupulously reviewing the brands that they carry, so that you don’t have to!
  • Petagogy: Not only does this store carry premium, all-natural foods for your pets, but they also provide fun and innovative toys, beds, and other products. Their name comes from the word “pedagogy,” meaning the art of teaching, as they pride themselves on learning about the best products out there, and hope to pass on that information to their customers.
  • Animal Nature: This store caters to dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, rats, guinea pigs AND other small animals! They take an active role in the community, and are strong supporters of rescue efforts. They know that quality food makes a difference in the lives, behaviors, and dispositions of our pets, and take this responsibility seriously.

Food WITH Fido

  • Big Dog Cafe: They serve delicious coffee and light food, while welcoming pets to their outdoor patio. That’s my kind of meal!
  • Cappy’s Restaurant: This is my favorite stop for people-watching, outdoor seating, and a delicious burger! But then again, maybe it just tastes better to have Tonka by my side while enjoying a night on the town! They have great nightly specials, making this a popular spot for locals.
  • Jergel’s Rhythm Grille: This is a must-see! They are a live-music venue with outstanding food to boot. Not only do they allow your dog to accompany you on their outdoor patio, but they boast an actual doggie-menu for chowing down!
  • Redfin Blues: Aside from their fido-friendliness, the best thing about this spot has got to be the outstanding river views from the docks of Washington’s Landing. (OH, and all you can eat crab legs! YUM!)
  • Dozen Bake Shop: If you know me, you know that I have a serious problem when it comes to sweets. I love this spot because of their delectable delicacies, but they also offer ways to satisfy Fluffy’s sweet tooth, via dog-safe cupcakes!
Through my research for this post, I was pleasantly surprised to discover MANY restaurants in Pittsburgh that boast dog-friendly outdoor seating. Check out more, here.
 

The Sweet Tooth’s connected to the Dog Bone…

While we haven’t (yet…) personally experienced any of these, I found three bakeries that SPECIALIZE in sweet treats for your pets. Check them out!

Hot Dog Hotels

While we do not choose to board our dogs when we travel, we have visited all of the places below for a variety of reasons, and can vouch for their reliability, attention to detail, and pet-centered approach. It is safe to say that if you choose any of them, you had better be prepared to come home jealous, as your dog may enjoy more fun and pampering than you!
  • Lucky Paws Pet Resort: Rather than blab on and on about them, I will simply let their offerings speak for themselves… they boast a swimming pool, spa treatments including blueberry facials and fur butter deep hair conditioning, indoor/outdoor dog parks, luxury suites (complete with heated floors, cable TV, and sound systems) a multilevel cat condo that features a fish tank, and on, and on, and on…
  • Misty Pines: Set back in a beautifully wooded area, Misty Pines is what I call a doggie adventure park. They possess numerous outdoor enclosures for separation of dogs via play style, size, or age, each complete with various obstacles and agility courses. They offer doggie yoga classes, a swimming pool, spa treatments, agility classes, and obedience training. My favorite part? Miles of winding wooded trails, which lead to an amazing lake and dock, perfect for dock-diving training and retrievals.
  • K9 Kingdom: While you will be hard pressed to find a nicer exclusively indoors pet boarding and doggie daycare business, perhaps more impressive is their amazing staff, who put their heart and soul into caring for your pets. They boast a huge play space and lots of opportunities for socialization, all under the watchful eye of a caring staff member. After a day of treadmill workouts and loving attention, overnight guests are treated to a frozen peanut butter Kong at bedtime… and you know how we feel about Kongs around here!

Nature Adventures

  • McConnells Mill State Park: I had been begging Foster Dad to go here with me for literally YEARS. Once I finally convinced him to visit, he couldn’t stop talking about our return. Shaded by giant trees, their trails wind along a rapidly cascading river (flanked by giant waterfalls, and of course, an old mill!) and boast occasional sandy beaches… perfect for throwing sticks into the water for the dog that loves to swim, or to relax with a picnic lunch. You can take it easy on a leisurely walk with your dog, but for the more adventurous, there are white rapid kayak spots and intimidating climbing areas.
  • Rails to Trails- Butler-Freeport Community: This is a scenic trail that is dog-friendly. There are numerous parking spots along its 20 miles stretch, meaning that you can start and end at a different location each time. It boarders the Buffalo Creek, providing ample water access.
  • Frick Park: Located just outside of downtown, this parks offers a creek with a dam, perfect for swimming, as well as a popular off-leash area with doggie water fountains.
  • Hartwood Acres: This is on of the area’s most beautiful locations, and with 200 acres, it is not uncommon to leave without seeing another soul! Romp around the mansion and its gardens, visit the off-leash dog park, explore the wooded trails, or venture out to the barns and stables…
  • Animal Friends: Though known for their animal shelter and rescuing efforts, they also rent out their off-leash area for private frolicking.

So we wanna know… are you planning a visit? Or perhaps you have already been to some of these great businesses. Any you would add to the list? As always, we want to hear from you :O)