Game Face

If this name sounds familiar, it might be because you took part in our giveaway at the beginning of this year. We featured some amazing SquishyFace Studio products, and talked a little bit about some of the reasons that this company and its founders are so near and dear to our hearts.

Unfortunately, until now we were not able to add any of their toys to the toy-treasure-chest in our home, and I had placed them on the dogs’ Christmas Lists as something we may be able to order at the end of this year. However, luck was smiling down on me because I happened to win an awesome giveaway from SquishyFace just a few weeks ago! I wasted little time and used the generous gift certificate to order a toy bundle, which contains a flirt pole and super tug.

Photo courtesy of SquishyFace Studio

Photo courtesy of SquishyFace Studio

We have our mail delivered to the local post office, and when J. picked up our mail, he said that our friend who works behind the counter was very curious as to what was inside this package. I’m not really sure that I want to know what her guesses may have been!

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As you can see, the dogs were equally as inquisitive. How is it that our dogs always seem to know when something is designated for them?!

DSC_0070 DSC_0071 DSC_0073This is when the fun really began. I have to be honest and say that one reason I’m such a fan of SquishyFace toys, is because TONKA seemed to be enthralled by them. Of course, both girls loved them as well, but they love anything that we get them excited about. Tonka loves to play, but is also the most mature of our group, so he sometimes doesn’t get as worked up for things. However, he could not have been more pumped about these toys. He would. not. stop. playing with them, and even after I put them away, my always-obedient boy climbed up on the counter to get them down. He then slunk over to me, toy in his mouth, with a tiny wag of his tail, like ‘I know I’m not supposed to do that, but can we please keep playing?’ If you can resist his ways, you are a meaner stronger person than I!

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I think I will just let most of the pictures speak for themselves. Except to say, you should really, really add some of these toys to your home! We just love how they not only work your pup’s mind & body, but they also encourage owners to get out and play with their pets, instead of just watching from the sidelines.

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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!

 

CharlieDog & Friends: L.O.V.E.

“I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!”

-Buddy the Elf (…and Stephanie the Blogger)

Love #1? All of you. Can I just say how awesome our readers are?? You never fail to inspire me with your comments and support and even constructive criticism. This blogging community has become such a treasured and vital part of my life, and I don’t know what I would do without all of you! It is so special to be able to share my passions and find others who can relate.

Love #2: CharlieDog and Friends

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Charliedog and friends is a company that is doing amazing things for the plight of unloved and unwanted animals. Their approach? Start small… as in, with the smallest of animal lovers.

Almost every family experiences the begging and pleading from their children for a new four-legged family member. But what if those children were not pestering for just any pup, but for a shelter dog? I can’t say it any better than they have eloquently described it themselves, so I will be pulling much from their Mission Statement page:

”  Our mission is to help rescue organizations change the way people think about, and go about, getting their family pet.  It’s to make sure the animal shelter is the first (and, hopefully, only) stop on that exciting Saturday afternoon, when children and adults get in the car and set out to find their new best friend, brand-new leash in hand.

We hope every child that loves a CharlieDog toy loves the spirit of that toy, the spirit and the story of the once-homeless pet that inspired it.  And when the day comes — and it will! — to start pestering the parents for a dog or cat, we hope that child will say, “I want a homeless pet.”

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The unique, hand-crafted toys themselves are made in America, and based on real-life shelter and rescued pets, and now they help homeless pets get to their forever homes. In addition to their toys, they make colorful, playful, patterned bracelets that mimic pet collars, simply embroidered with the word ‘Adopt’. Talk about a conversation starter!

67485_474802525912793_176412963_n 549843_466402763419436_1926436812_nThe above pups are real-life rescue dogs Ruko and Adolla, pulled from New York City kill shelters just before their time was up. They continue to do good by touching the lives of children as treasured stuffed animals.
 
Their website calls this pup a little red-nose pit bull from PA... it MUST be Gia, right?!

Their website calls this pup a little red-nose pit bull from PA… it MUST be Gia, right?!

We can’t wait to make a little red pocket pittie addition to our family! (Remind you of anyone?!) As if all of that isn’t enough to send you running to their website to share and make purchases, CD&F isn’t just talking the talk barking the bark… they are also walking (no-pull leashes & harnesses in hand!) the walk in their every-day lives. $5 from each and every purchase goes directly to rescue shelters across the country.

”  We promise never to waste your money.  We’ll pledge to spend it thoughtfully and directly on on-the-ground rescue needs — exactly how we would spend our own money.  Vet care for sick or injured animals.  Transport costs (gas and tolls) for pets who have been rehomed, but have no way there.  Direct sponsorship of individual dogs or cats in shelters.  The people behind CharlieDog and Friends have seen local rescue in action (we volunteer ourselves) and we can tell you: it’s awe-inspiring, and because it’s a job that tears at the heart, it needs constant funding. We’ll never donate to large, bloated animal welfare organizations, that — despite their size, and without a doubt — do good.  Rescues need more help. 

My friend Suzy Allman is the brains, brawn, and (especially inner) beauty behind this amazing group. If you’ve fallen in love as quickly as I did with her heart, which she so openly shares through her words, then show her some love by following her blog and liking their facebook page. She is essentially an angel for animals… not only is she running this amazing yet fledgling company, she is a blogger, writer, NY Times sports photographer, and shelter volunteer, but she also provides free transportation for ‘super urgent’ rescue dogs out of New York shelters in her spare time. Wow.

Perhaps my favorite kernel of light from the CharlieDog website is as follows, because it so closely resembles my own mission when it comes to unwanted animals (here):

”  It’s hard for us to see a homeless animal without thinking of our own pets — safe, warm, loved, living a life that we know they need, and deserve.  It kills us, and we’re not alone.  We’re in the company of millions. CharlieDog and Friends believes we all want the same thing for our animals: a soft place, a loving place, a place where scraps sometimes land on the floor and it’s okay to pick them up with your tongue.  A special spot in the heart of a family.  ”

The dogs in shelters are no different than the dog resting at your feet, guarding your front door, or curled up beside you on the couch. (Cats too!) They deserve the chance to prove that. By supporting CharlieDog and Friends, you are giving those deserving animals the opportunity to find their forever families.

While CharlieDog and Friends is entirely deserving of a post all their own, I will be back tomorrow to talk about how their toys just might pertain to some of you! Stay tuned…

Let’s Play a Game…

It’s called; What’s in My Hand?

It’s no secret that being a pet photographer (like, a legitimate one. Not like what we try to do on here!) is no easy task. You can’t exactly just request that the animal look patiently into the camera with devotion! That’s why most of us who have a passion for pets and an interest in photography, have to have some tricks up our sleeves. We learn what elicits adorable expression from our pets, and we use it to our advantage!

We’ve talked on here a bit about what our dogs Favorite Things are. Our most devoted readers might know that each of our dogs is MOST motivated by a specific type of item, which is different for each of them!

So, in this series of pictures, we want you to guess, based on the pups’ expressions, what is in the hand of the photographer! (That would be me) Items used include food, toys, or just plain, old-fashioned attention.

There might be something special in it for you 😉 Bonus points if you can tell the black dogs apart!

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A Few of Our Favorite Things

The telltale sign of a household that is run by dogs? No, it’s not just the dog hair covering most surfaces. It’s the toys, strewn about from room to room, owners wincing when they step on the remains of nylabones or trip over rubber kongs.

It is no secret that our pups are a bit spoiled. There are three different rooms where the dogs are likely to be found, and in each, lives a bucket that overflows with toys. Many are simply scraps of fabric or plastic, remnants of toys that once were…. monkeys or snakes or piggies.

In a house full of three dogs, it doesn’t take long for us to determine which toys will stand up to the tests our dogs put them through. Here are our favorites, for your viewing chewing pleasure. (Many thanks to our friends Casey, Leroy, and Tofu over at Leroy & Co. for the inspiration!)

1) The Big Red Ball

IMG_0259This Paw-zzle Ball, found at Cabela’s, was such a winning purchase. If Gaige is outside, she is either chewing on this toy, chasing it, trying to find it, or trying to steal it. It is a large plastic ball, with a few holes around the outside. On the inside another ball is retained, which rolls around, enticing the dogs to try to plot its escape. This is an outdoor only toy, due to its size and weight, but it is incredibly durable. Its numerous holes make it easy for a few dogs to grab ahold and play tug. One warning: Gaige loves to hold this at the bottom, prancing around with her head high in the air (see photographic evidence, above). This creates an obstruction of vision, which may or may not have resulted in a dent to the back of Dad’s new truck!

2) Anything Nylabone

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Nylabones are a big deal in our house, but most especially for Gaige and Georgia (might it be their shared pittie heritage?) These hard plastic toys are not meant for playing fetch,  but work really well for dogs that love to chew, chew, chew. I feel comfortable leaving them with the dogs while in their crates for the day, because I know they will not break off into small, swallow-able pieces. They come in a large variety of shapes/sizes/types, but I know that the quality of Nylabone toys is always impressive, regardless of the specifics. Tonka generally prefers toys that are more cuddly, but these will last long enough to be worth the money!

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3) This Weird Cheap Scrap Toy

DSC_0039This toy was a spur-of-the-moment purchase from a Marshall’s or Ross’s or similar discount store. I didn’t expect it to last long, because it was so affordable, but it has turned into one of our favorites. You know those tug toys that our dogs love, but we hate? They are twisted and braided together with rope, which then frays and sheds EVERYwhere. Well this is nothing like those. Sure, it is twisted and knotted and works great for group play. However, this toy is made out of scraps of what is a stretchy, almost T-Shirt-like material, so there is no fraying! While this isn’t a toy that our dogs will play with on their own, it works well for fetching or tugging, and it still looks cute if it is accidentally left out when company comes over. While I can’t tell you exactly where to find it, I can tell you that you could probably make this into a DIY project!

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4) Antlers

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Have you tried antlers with your dogs? Our pups cannot. Get. Enough. These are all-natural, and you can even provide them yourself if you have access to the necessary supplies (ie a husband that hunts!) They are silly expensive from pet specialty stores, but you can also get them online through Etsy, or from private dealers (again with the Cabela’s, but there is a man who sells antlers himself outside of this store on weekends, and they are only $1.00 per piece!) Regardless of what price you pay for the antlers, it is worth it. Ours last for MONTHS, even with aggressive chewers in our house, and will not break off into shards. They also don’t smell or stain your flooring. Our dogs like antlers so much that they are the only toy we have to moderate during playtime, to make sure no one is getting too possessive. If you have tried the antlers, and your dogs didn’t take to them send them our way, please! try running them under warm water, which will release lots of smells to entice your pooch.

Look at that concentration!

Look at that concentration! There is an antler under there somewhere…

We are very lucky in that, for the most part, our dogs are pretty good about sharing their toys with one another. As I said, particularly high-value toys (like the antlers) can cause a grumble, so we make sure to moderate the pups when they are out. We try to dictate the “finder’s, keeper’s” rule, meaning that if one dog has a toy, they are to retain possession of that toy until they drop it of their own volition. Furthermore, if two dogs are tugging on the same toy, we make sure that their body language is light and happy, or the game ends and the toy disappears. Gaige is not always good about taking the other dogs’ signals seriously, so we must sometimes reinforce their growls by removing Gaige from the room, or putting her in a down-stay with a different toy.

Georgia and Gaige have a funny little routine that they have worked out when it comes to sharing toys. If, for example, Gaige is chewing on an antler that Georgia wants, Georgia will come up to her, playing animatedly with a different toy (typically one that is obnoxiously squeaky). This will entice Gaige to drop the antler, at which point Georgia will drop her squeaker toy. Once Gaige goes for the squeaking toy, Georgia is able to steal the antler, and head off to an undisclosed location. What a sneak!

Wanna play??

Wanna play??

We still have a few awesome giveaways leftover from 2 Hounds Designs! For a chance to win a collar or a collar/leash combo, leave a comment with a suggestion for a post topic 🙂 Thanks!