365 Days of Writing: Day 25 – Preparing for our Holiday Part 3

I’ve written 2 previous posts about our preparation to leave for our holiday in Romania while leaving our dogs behind here and here. Those previous posts dealt with us finding a dog sitter for our furbabies while we’re away.

This post is going to be about us preparing the dogs living area and adjusting their feeding schedule for when we’re away.

You see, whenever we have to leave the dogs behind while we go out for any reason, we keep them in the porch area (it’s quite a large area, is covered and offers protection from the elements). When we’re home of course, they have the run of the house – they even sleep with us at night, in our bedroom.

Now this arrangement has worked for short periods because they are allowed inside the house otherwise. But as the porch had quite a bit of clutter – plant pots, lawn chairs and even an unused bicycle – it’s not a very suitable arrangement for the long term. But we know we have to lock our doors when we leave, so the only thing to do was to de-clutter the porch.

And that’s what we did this afternoon.

We transplanted some of the plants from the plant pots into our garden. We also transferred the baby basil plants to the nursery area and the aloe veras to a bigger, rectangular planters and cleared the remaining debris off the floor. Plus we got rid of the older porch chairs – they were broken and practically falling apart.

And now we have a clutter-free porch! All I need to do is wash the area tomorrow, transfer the dog beds to the porch (they’re presently in our bedroom) and we’ll be all set 🙂

As for the dogs’ feeding, we have been working on getting them used to a once-a-day feeding schedule from their twice-a-day one. We’re also weaning them off their cooked food diet to a full dog kibble diet – just for the period of our absence of course! We’re doing that by slowly feeding them less in the morning and more at night; padding up the cooked food at night with kibble. Gradually, day by day they’re eating less cooked food per day and getting used to eating more at night. So by the time we leave, they’ll only be eating one meal per day at night. By the same process reversed, we’ll get them back to eating twice a day and only cooked food once we’re back. We’re doing it this way so that they have time to get used to a new routine. It’s less of a shock to their system if the routine is in place before we leave. Otherwise, it’s a bit much for them to start getting used to a new routine in our absence.

So far, it seems to be working fine 🙂

365 Days of Writing: Day 24 – Being Anxious Parents of Dogs and Monitoring them via a Camera Phone

Yesterday, I wrote in my blog entry about an awesome app that we installed in our mobile phones that enables us to monitor our dogs remotely. We were quite impressed at the easy setup and quality of the videos. Turns out the app is even better than we first thought!

This app, which is called Alfred by the way (named after Batman’s trusty butler?) is a FREE download for any iOS or Android device. You can even download it via Google Play for your desktop. And the best part is, you can switch the view on your camera so it faces the other way! That means, depending on where we place the mobile phone, we can view either the porch or the interior of our house. So it’s like a pet monitoring plus an intruder alert device. How awesome! It also has motion detection sensors and night vision so you’re covered for night time monitoring as well.

Today we also discovered 2 other awesome features in the app – you can share the live footage with trusted people as long as you are the original owner. So my SO shared the access with me (you need a gmail account though, to activate the app. It doesn’t recognise other email accounts) so I was happily watching my furbabies en route to our meeting this morning 🙂

The other amazing feature in the app is something we discovered only when we returned home. Since it’s wifi enabled and the mobile phones are linked, it detected that we were in close proximity to the house. So it asked my SO if he wanted to turn off the motion detection sensor. Smart eh? It knew we were back home and may not need the the sensor on. Oh and it keeps the footage for some time so you can see previous recordings if you’re bored (or if you need evidence of a break-in or some such mishap).

Altogether a very user-friendly and useful app. Highly recommended by both my SO and myself.

Anyway, we decided to test run the app today while we were out for our meeting. And apart from some difficulty with the wifi the app worked just fine. But we on the other hand, turned out to be one of those parents who periodically check-in on their baby monitors just to see what the kids were up to. That’s what we were doing the whole time we were out (barring the actual meeting of course). Seriously. We could not help ourselves. I was staring at the screen like I was watching some sort of captivating movie and he had the screen on the whole time he was driving to the meeting. And every time we spotted one of our dogs, we made a noise somewhere between a coo and a gasp.

It was embarrassing.

And this is going to be our life from now on.

365 Days of Writing: Day 23 – Preparing for our Holiday Part 2

So I’d written a post earlier about our first meeting with the dog-sitter for our furbabies while we’re away. Today we met him again, and this time we went through the whole routine of walking and feeding the dogs as a dry run.

I’d say he passed the test with flying colours.

To be perfectly honest, we knew he was the right pick from the time he walked in to our porch – and we weren’t even there!

How? Let me explain.

He’d requested (and we agreed) that we leave the dogs alone and go out on an errand or something, so that he could get in through the gate without our supervision. He wanted to see how they’d react to him without our presence. Now, he’d obviously met the dogs before and spent some time with them, getting to know them and vice versa. But that was under our supervision. This time he wanted to be sure that they’d be ok with him even without us. We agreed with him that it was a practical idea. I mean, what if we went away, leaving the dogs to his care and they went berserk the first time he tried to get in without us?

Not a good scenario.

Anyway, we felt that we could trust him to take care of himself, but we also felt that we needed to keep an eye on the situation so we rigged up a makeshift cctv camera using my SO’s previous mobile phone. There’s an app you can download and that app acts as a camera and you can remotely control it using another mobile phone as long as you download the same app in the phone as well. Pretty cool huh? So we rigged up this makeshift camera to face the porch and left home. Of course we didn’t head too far away – just in case. We just parked at the nearby park and sat idly in the car watching the live feed from my SO’s mobile phone.

First off, it’s good that the dogs acted normally when passers-by and motorcyclists went by. They barked at them to warn them off our property. Next up, the dog-sitter.

What happened next was quite impressive.

We watched him walk slowly to the gate and I think Snowy and Cas recognised him. At least Snowy walked right up to him to sniff his hand, wagging her tail. Cas took awhile longer but was also wagging his tail and eventually sniffed his hand. Sasha on the other hand was quite suspicious of him – she’s suspicious by nature and it takes her awhile to warm up to strangers (although the dog-sitter wasn’t a stranger to them). But she didn’t attack him; she just stayed away.

It took him awhile but he managed to enter our porch. And the next thing we knew, he was seated on the porch chair, petting Snowy and feeding them treats. Success!

I’m not sure how we felt about that actually. Relieved, yes. Because he managed to gain their friendship without us there. But also chagrined – it shouldn’t have been that easy for him to gain entrance. I mean, yea… they’d met him before, and not that long ago; they knew we were ok with him because we let him in our house and he played with them and everything. Still.

Ah well, guess ours aren’t really guard dogs unless we’re home. I suppose to them we’re the most valuable property in the house anyway. Hence the barking at everything that moves while we’re home. What are they guarding in our absence? Right? Although to be fair, they did bark at the strangers and motorcyclists that went past our house while we weren’t around. So they’re still doing their job when it comes to strangers, but have no problem letting familiar faces in.

Something to note.

The main takeaway from today’s experiment was that this guy could be trusted with our dogs. So now we feel less anxious about leaving our furbabies behind. We’re going to miss them, that’s for sure. But at least we now know they’ll be in good hands. We know that not just because of how he gained their trust, but also how he handled walking them and feeding them today. Of course for both those activities, we were there supervising him. But he seemed to have things in control and only needed some prompting from us for the feeding.

It’s all good.

But we’re rigging up the camera all through our absence anyway. Just in case.

 

365 Days of Writing: Day 22 – Tropical Thunderstorms and Terrified Dogs

I remember the first time I was in bed with my SO while a thunderstorm was raging outdoors. We were woken up in the early hours of the morning not by the thunderstorm but by the dogs jumping into bed with us. Snowy in particular was shaking uncontrollably in terror whilst lying right on my chest. I had to push her off so I could breathe again. And then of course I hugged her and tried to soothe her. Sasha ended up at the bottom of the bed where she pressed her body as close to us as possible and Cas was lying next to my SO.

It was a crowded morning in bed. And it was the first time I’d had dogs in bed with me, so I was not quite comfortable with it.

Now of course, it’s a different story. Rarely a night goes by without one of them (at least) gets into bed with us – storm or no storm.

This morning (or rather noon) I was snoozing in bed (we’d gone to bed past 5am so I was still to tired to get up and my SO had gone off for a meeting) when I was suddenly woken up by a tremendous clap of thunder. I’d hardly ever heard thunder that loud before but I didn’t get the chance to fully process the information before all 3 jumped in bed with me. It was a good thing they did because I realised I had some emails to send out, and I needed to send them out soon. So I got out of bed and went into my study.

All 3 of them followed me in. They stayed by my side while I was typing my emails and followed me downstairs, sticking as close to me as possible.

I don’t blame them. This was a major tropical thunderstorm. It was bad enough that it tripped the electricity both upstairs and downstairs, and the wifi was out. And though it was the middle of the day, the darkened sky made it seem like it was after sunset.

Now, we normally feed the dogs around lunchtime and after their late night walk. But this time, we had a problem – Cas and Snowy would not go out to the porch in this rain and we always fed them in the porch (Sasha is food protective so we do this in order to not have an unnecessary fight break out). So I had no other choice but to wait until the worst of the storm had cleared.

Meanwhile, I needed to get into the store room to turn the power back on downstairs. I walked into the room with both Sasha and Snowy walking right behind me. It was a tight squeeze in the tiny room, to say the least. After I’d turn the power back on, I turned around and tried to leave the room, only to have my passage blocked by 2 terrified dogs. I coaxed Sasha gently out since she was the less terrified of the 2 (at least she was moving. Snowy was petrified with fear). Once Sasha was out, I had to drag Snowy out as she seemed incapable of moving her legs of her own volition.

I swear, the girl becomes catatonic every time something distressing (as far as she’s concerned) happens to her – be it thunderstorms or ant bites. She just stays put; unmoving and unmoved until the crisis passes. That’s what happened this afternoon as well. It’s also what happened tonight during our nightly walk. She got bitten by ants on her paw and after spinning in circles for a bit, she suddenly stopped moving, tail between her legs. She refused to walk even when we called her, so we had to inspect her paws one-by-one to get rid of the nasty ants. It was only after we cleared them all that she finally became un-petrified.

She’s a strange one. We know. It’s why we find her so endearing – because her needs are so special. But it’s also why I’m most worried about her when we travel to Romania.

Fingers-crossed nothing untoward happens while we’re away.

365 Days of Writing: Day 18 – Dogs Are Children and they Love Snacks

This is Sasha.

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My baby!

Sasha has several quirks. She also happens to be very smart and behaves like a hyperactive 4 year old.

Tonight was no exception.

Being a hyperactive, smart dog, she tends to find ways to entertain herself. Sometimes that involves parking herself at the front gate and barking at anything that moves (whether imaginary or real). When that happens, either one of us – usually my SO – tells her to stop. And she does, well… most of the time anyway.

Tonight she didn’t.

My SO was hard at work so he found her barking very disruptive; more so than usual. So he used his “strict voice” to get her to calm down.

She didn’t listen.

So, he went outside to confront her. And using his strictest voice commanded her to come back into the house and then placed her under house arrest – he made her stay in the study with him. So she couldn’t even see outdoors.

Now, I did say she behaved like a 4 year old, didn’t I? What do 4 year olds do when they’re told to stop whatever they’re doing and punished? They sulk.

And that’s exactly what she did!

The entire time she was in the room, she refused to look at my SO or me. And she had the sulkiest face I’ve ever seen on a dog. She kept it up even later when he allowed her to leave the study – she went to her corner next to the sliding door and just lay there, refusing to look at either of us. I tried to coax her out of her sulk, but to no avail. Her head suddenly became very heavy when I tried to lift it up to kiss her.

My SO chuckled and said he had a sure-fire way to get her out of her sulk – treats!

But these weren’t any ordinary dog treats. These were milk biscuits (these ones )and our dogs go berserk for them. Really. All he has to do is say “Who wants some biscuits?” and there’ll be a mad scramble to reach him.

And that’s exactly what happened tonight as well. All the dogs ran to him, including her sulkiness – she just couldn’t resist those biscuits.

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Look at how well-behaved they are; giving their paws just so they can get those biscuits.

All the dogs get to have the biscuits as long as they sit and hand him their paws. And you know what? You’d never see a more well-behaved dog anywhere else. The only drawback to these biscuits is the amount of drool they leave on the floor, while waiting to be handed the much coveted snacks.

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Here’s another time they were waiting for those delicious biscuits. See that long tongue Sasha has sticking out? 

My SO uses the biscuits to train them to do stuff. That’s how he got them to give him their paws, lie down and behave. It’s a great way for us to bond with them, and for them to bond with one another – this way they don’t fight over the food.

Tonight, by the time he was done feeding them those treats, Sasha was his girl again 🙂

So, what methods do you use to train your dogs?

365 Days of Writing: Day 16 – Going on a Holiday and Leaving the Dogs Alone; Dealing with Anxiety

My SO and I are flying off to Romania soon. It’s my first visit there and my first time meeting the parents. I’m excited about Romania (because it’s a brand new place to explore and because I can’t wait to meet his parents). But I’m nervous about leaving our furbabies behind – both of us are. It’s also the first time that he would be leaving the dogs behind without getting someone to stay in the house to look after them.

We’re both anxious because it is quite a lengthy period we’ll be leaving them for – almost 3 weeks! And because we don’t have any friends or family who can look after them for this period. Since we live in JB and most of our friends and all my family lives in Singapore, it’s hard to ask them for this favour.

So we decided to bite the bullet and call on the services of a dog sitter – just to feed the babies and walk them once a day. At the very least they’ll be fed and have their daily exercise. We were quite adamant that the dogs remain in our house while we’re away as we didn’t want them to think we had abandoned them. They’re all rescue dogs so we didn’t want them to have issues when we returned home. So no boarding for them. Period.

Now, we researched dog sitters online and found a few promising ones. But the one we liked best was this guy who had started the pet sitting business several months ago (I know it’s a short while ago). There were others more experienced, but we liked his responsiveness and his reasonable rates. We asked to meet up with him and he obliged by turning up punctually at our gate. My SO stayed indoors to observe how he reacted to our dogs – they’d started going berserk, barking at him like mad because of his close proximity to our house. But he was calm and collected, coolly extending a closed fist through the gate so that they could sniff him. It was only then that my SO walked out to greet him.

As far as first impressions went, that was a good one. We were off to a good start.

We conducted the interview while sitting on the porch, informing him about our dogs’ various quirks and their feeding/walking schedule. In turn we asked him about his business, his motivation to run his own business and his reasons for choosing pet sitting. We liked his answers, and more importantly, we liked his demeanor with our dogs – he never flinched when they came to sniff at him, and he petted them when they were more settled. He also asked us the right questions about the care for our dogs and requested us to do a walk-through with him for our usual walking route. We were also gratified when he himself suggested that he come once more just before we left, so as to practise the routine with our dogs.  We were going to request for that session anyway, but we were glad that he suggested it unprompted. So it’s safe to say that we felt better about leaving our dogs in his care by the end of the interview.

This week, when my SO contacted him to fix the date for his next visit, he firmly requested that we let him come in while we weren’t home – so as to stimulate the actual process. He proposed that we “disappear” just before he arrives so that he can gauge our dogs’ response to him without our presence. We just needed to be a few minutes away so that once he got in safely, he could inform us and we’d join him at home. My SO of course joked that if he didn’t contact us within a few minutes we’d just have to assume that he’d been fatally attacked. I asked if there was anyone, a close relative that we should inform in the event of his demise. He laughed at that.

I’d like to think the guy appreciated our gallows humour. 🙂

Anyway, now we have a dog-sitter, therefore we should have our minds at rest. Right?

Not really.

The anxiety remains. It’s just not that strong a presence now. More like an annoying buzz that we’re trying not to pay attention to.

But trying isn’t really succeeding. So we’ll be feeling the anxiety throughout the trip. We know that. We’re resigned to that.

What else can one do?

365 Days of Writing: Day 5 – Dogs and Bones

Cas had not been eating well for a couple of days, and this had gotten us a little worried. Normally, we wouldn’t have been that concerned, but we’d had a scare with him recently and this caused us to be more concerned than usual.

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Our handsome Cas, just lying down and looking at me with his soulful eyes

Let me explain –

A few months ago, Cas had been losing his appetite. We didn’t think it was cause for concern yet – he’s known to be a fastidious eater and wouldn’t eat his vegetables or the rice if he didn’t feel like it. We thought we’d observe him for a few days longer, and if his lack of appetite persisted, we’d bring him to the vet.

We didn’t have a few days; we found out that he had tick fever. Thank goodness we caught it in time! Otherwise, he’d have bled out.

But that’s a story for another day.

This time though, it wasn’t the case. Turns out, our Cas is just a fussy eater. I don’t even know why he’s so damn fussy. It’s not like he was raised by us since he was a pup, or spoiled by some other family. He was a street dog until just 2 years ago (when my SO adopted him)!

The boy doesn’t like to eat his vegetables. Or rice. He just wants to eat meat. So he ONLY eats the meat and leaves the rest of the food behind.

He’s a sneaky one alright. But we’re sneakier.

My SO and I are now chopping up his meat into smaller bite sized pieces and mixing them thoroughly with the rice and vegetables so he has no choice but to eat it all if he wants the meat.

Looks like it’s working – he’s licking his plate clean nowadays.

You might be curious about what we feed our dogs. We don’t normally feed them kibble; we find them unhealthy and too full of preservatives. We cook their food in a 16 litre pressure cooker (that’s right; 16 litres) that we bought just for them. And we do the cooking every 6 days. Why 6 days? Because that’s the easiest way to calculate how much to feed them. 6 days of food = 2 x 3 boxes of food per day x 6 = 18 boxes in total.

We buy vegetables and keep them in the freezer box (again, bought just for the dogs) and we buy the meat on the day we cook for them. 6kg of meat + 6kg of vegetables + 6 scoops of rice for 6 days of food for the dogs. We boil the meat first in the pressure cooker – it’s always pig’s head plus some other meat like liver or chicken; 1 pig’s head is approximately 2kg of meat, collagen and bones. Then we take out the meat and boil the vegetables (in the same broth we boiled the meat) and then remove the vegetables, replacing them with rice. While the rice cooks, I mash the vegetables (they become really soft due to the pressure cooking) and then I add the mashed veg to the rice so that they all mix together. This way, the dogs have a harder time separating the rice and veg. Besides, it’s tasty with all the meat juice. My SO chops up the meat into manageable portions while I portion the rice and veg mixture into their food containers for the 6 days. Then I add the meat plus eggs (cooked separately; 2 eggs per dog, per day) into the containers and then we place all the full containers in the freezer. We only take out the portions for each day to thaw and feed them.

In case you’re wondering, yes, we feed them the bones as well. It’s good for them (lots of calcium) and they’ve all been used to chewing and crunching on bones. We even buy them pork bones to chew on as a treat every now and then. We boil the bones with the meat and them let them have the bones. They usually reduce the bones to scraps within a couple of hours or less. My SO and I also like to joke that we don’t have any food waste – each time we eat meat, we feed our dogs the bones. The only bones we never give them are fish bones. That’s only because fish bones are a choking hazard.

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Cas enjoying his pork bone treat

What do you feed your pets?