Monthly Archives: June 2009

Skinny Bitches: Weight Loss for Dogs (and Us)

Kids love to point to C-Biscuit and Machu Picchu and call out, “Look at the skinny dogs!” We can guess what the adults are thinking: Skinny bitches.

"Don't hate us because we're beautiful...and thin...and fast...and fashionable."

"Don't hate us because we're beautiful...and thin...and fast...and quite fashionable."

Realizing that canine obesity is a national problem, Biski & Picchu are thinking of doing a dog weight-loss book, which could even be part of the successful Skinny Bitch series.  Their barking points would include:

  • Exercise: Sure, some of being thin is genes. Biski and Picchu admit to being well-endowed there. But the other part is getting off your hindquarters and exercising! 

How much exercise do dogs need? An hour of walking a day seems to be the minimum for good health & behavior. Biski and Picchu walk 3 to 5 miles a day, plus regular sprints at the soccer field, playdates, indoor romps, and hikes most weekends. Good for the body, good for the spirit. Dr. Oz and others recommend people walk 10,000 steps a day, or about 5 miles. Research also shows that exercising with a buddy keeps people motivated – so walking the dog is good practice on all fronts (and backsides). 

  • Snoozy time

    Time to take snoozy time seriously

    Sleep: When not exercising or eating, the whippets are sleeping. Several human studies have shown that not sleeping enough correlates to weight gain. Maybe it’s time to lose the American glory badge of being sleep-deprived and overworked and start to treat sleep like the dogs do, as an essential part of any health and beauty regime. Biski & Picchu prefer the buddy system here, too.

  • Eat Well: As a child, my sister had a t-shirt that read, “If you love me, don’t feed me junk.” Learn to read labels, both theirs and ours. In dog food and treats, avoid meat by-products, chemical preservatives, sugars, corn and soy. If you don’t understand the ingredient list, research it or avoid the product. To maintain a healthy weight for your pooch, feed high-quality food twice a day, and follow this advice from trainer Victoria Stilwell in her book, It’s Me or the Dog:

It’s a question of monitoring your dog. If he’s getting plenty of exercise but is still gaining weight, you’re feeding him too much. If he’s regularly leaving a lot in his bowl after 20 minutes are up, you’re offering him too much. If he’s lethargic and losing weight, or if he’s ravenous at every meal, he may need a calorie boost. A dog is the right weight when you can feel his ribs clearly but can’t see them.

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Scrat: A Dog’s Superhero

Scrat, the Saber-Toothed Squirrel of "Ice Age"

Scrat, the Saber-Toothed Squirrel of "Ice Age"

I could have named this site “Squirreling for Sesame.”

I come from a family of squirrel-lovers. My partner, Bob, makes his living in trees (as an arborist) and used to sleep there with the squirrels. Their biggest fans, of course, are C-Biscuit and Machu Picchu, who like many dogs are absolutely fixated on squirrels.

So it is with great glee that the whole family follows the adventures of Scrat, the hilarious “saber-toothed squirrel” starring in the Ice Age movies.  

Here’s one of Fox’s trailers for Ice Age 3, opening July 1st:

 

Modern-day descendent of Scrat

Modern-day descendent of Scrat

The more time you spend in the park staring at squirrels while holding back dogs on their leashes, the more you see squirrels haven’t changed much since Scrat: They still spend their days darting around, flapping their bushy tails and scratching for acorns; you can still see their little hearts beating in their chests (okay, I guess it’s really their lungs) when they pause and sit up, alert and seemingly unsure what to do next.

All they’ve lost is that helpful tool, the mythical saber tooth.

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“What kind of dog is that?”

One of the first things I learned as a new dog owner was: When you meet a new dog, don’t guess the breed. 

Blue Tick Coon Hound

Blue Tick Coon Hound

My dad, a volunteer dog walker at two local shelters, had just called me excited about meeting a Blue Tick Coon Hound, so I looked up a photo. Then, like learning a new word and then immediately hearing it in conversation, I was at the dog park when what should I see, feeling so in the know, but what I thought was a…

“Oh!” I asked the lady owner of the two blueish-speckled hounds, “Are those Blue Tick Coon Hounds?!”

She looked at me like I’d just asked if her Hermes scarf was by Isaac Mizrahi for Target. “They’re English Setters,” she said pointedly.

English Setter

English Setter

What can I say? To a sighthound owner, they look like the same deal.

This reminds me of our friends telling us that passers-by once insisted that their fawn whippet, Algernon, was a Dalmation because “He has spots!” 

I’ve also learned – again the hard way – that when you are told the breed and do not understand it, simply nod and smile. A woman told me her big-eared little dog was a rat terrier. I thought I hadn’t heard her right. “What kind of terrier?” I asked. She repeated, “RAT.”

“Rhett?” I asked, “Like in Gone with the Wind?”

I could tell she wanted to say, “No, stupido, as in rodent of the night.” 

Few people have heard of a whippet, so the most common comment we get is, “Look at the greyhounds!” Or, “Are they puppies/miniatures?” Two women in Central Park who did not speak English still managed to ask, “Simpsons?”

The Simpsons' dog is a greyhound

The Simpsons' dog looks like a whippet but is a greyhound

When we were deciding to get a whippet, I saw a sign from the universe: A man with a giant whippet! I excitedly asked the question we now long to hear from strangers: “Is that a whippet?”

I am possibly the only person ever to make that mistake. “He’s a retired racing greyhound,” the man told me as he edged himself between me and his lanky hound.

Bob didn’t do much better. He called me from Central Park: “There’s someone sitting here with a whippet!” 

“I’ll be right there!” I said, and ran a mile to see the “whippet.” 

“It’s got long hair,” Bob told me. Uh-huh. It was, alas, an Afghan.

When it is your dog you are obsessed with, it seems perfectly and utterly clear: It is what it is, and could not possibly be anything else. In other cases, save other owners shock and awe at your ignorance (or maybe it’s just me…) and limit your comments to, “What a nice/beautiful dog!”

"I am not a whippet."

Ce n'est pas un whippet.

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Can a dog earn a living? Jobs for Dogs

According to my budget, the whippets cost about $2,000 per year, each. This leads me to wonder: What can they do to earn a living? We did some skills testing and brainstorming:

Real Whippets Have Jobs: I was especially inspired by this working whippet at Devereux in Tennessee

Gentleman Farmer: I am inspired by this working whippet at Devereux in Tennessee

 

A Model: C-Biscuit did do a photo shoot once for the Houndz in the Hood catalogue (albeit without compensation)

Fashion Model: C-Biscuit did a photo shoot for Houndz in the Hood (for fun, not profit). But she'd rather do runway.

 

Reading Tutor: It's not just for kids!

Reading Tutor: Not just for kids!

 

Toy Tester: "Is your toy snuggable?"

Toy Tester: "Is your toy snuggable?"

 

WhipWatchers: Reminding you to give your food to the needy, the thin and the hungry, before you have a chance to eat it yourself (*individual results may vary)

WhipWatchers: Reminding you to give your food to the needy, narrow and hungry - before you have a chance to eat it yourself. "We'll whipp-whip you into shape!"

 

Box Opener: aka Chipper-Shredder

Box Opener: aka Premium Chipper-Shredder, by the hour or by the project. "We also unstack firewood!"

 

Whippet Express: "Light loads, short distances, lightening fast delivery"

Whippet Express: Prettier than a pony, Sleeker than a pack mule, Faster than FedEx (Light loads, short-haul only, please)

 

Whipsitter: When Picchu came, Biski found a way to earn some pocket biscuits

Whipsitter: An old standby to earn some extra pocket biscuits

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Weekend Window Shopping: Rope Toys

You know what whippets say: You can never be too thin or have too many toys. 

This week, I discovered Good Karma Rope Toys. They’re cute, cute, cute, handmade from natural dyed cotton, look pretty durable, and are supposed to be good for the dogs’ teeth. A portion of the proceeds goes to a non-profit to help distressed pets, Rescue Train. There are 19 animals, and they cost $14-$16. 

The Good Karma Squirrel is Biski and Picchu's top choice!

The Good Karma Squirrel is Biski and Picchu's top choice!

 

The Good Karma Lion is irresistible too - Biski & Picchu might not go to my alma mater, but they can play with its mascot!

The Good Karma Lion is irresistible. Biski & Picchu might not go to my alma mater, but they can play with its mascot!

 

If my friend Kendra from Maine had a dog, I would give her the Good Karma lobster!

If my friend Kendra from Maine had a dog, I would give her the Good Karma lobster!

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DIY Dog Camp

 

Happy canine campers

Happy canine campers

I’ve been wanting to go to dog camp in Vermont with C-Biscuit and Machu Picchu (and Bob, of course!). But it costs more than Sesame, so for sure isn’t in the budget this year.

In the meantime, we decided to do-it-yourself dog camp by taking the pups camping in the Catskills. It’s not as social as dog camp – for them or us – but still tons of fun, for a very low cost!

 

 

 

We hiked into the clouds ascending Slide Mountain

We hiked into the clouds ascending Slide Mountain

 

Retracing the steps of writer John Burroughs

Retracing the steps of writer John Burroughs

 

And the next day took an excursion up Cornell Mountain

And the next day took an excursion up Cornell Mountain

 

The pups often needed a helping hand to get up the rock faces

The pups often needed a helping hand to get up the rock faces (this was easier when they were wearing their Ruffwear harnesses)

 

But the views atop Cornell Mountain were worth it!

But the views atop Cornell Mountain were worth it!

 

Our luxe accommodations included a large "pup tent" and kitchenette

Our luxe accommodations included a "pup tent" with doublewide sleeping bag and detached kitchenette

 

The girls enjoyed close encounters with wildlife

Picchu enjoyed a close encounter with wildlife (interestingly, the Bee smelled just like home!)

 

Activities included "Rock climbing"

Activities included "Rock climbing"...

 

Morning "doga" (or at least a riverside walk)

Morning "doga" by the river...

 

Trail running...

Trail running...

 

Sniffing...

Power sniffing...

 

And on the third day, a bit of rest

And on the third day, a bit of rest

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Cost of Dog Grooming

Thank goodness whippets are the dog equivalent of a no-iron dress shirt. They require minimal bathing, no brushing, and are generally self-cleaning. Teeth and nails excepted. 

I was shocked yesterday when I ran into our neighbor and his maltese-bichon frise dog, who had just come from the groomer. As I admired his trim, my neighbor said they tried a new salon and it had cost the same as Petco: $90.

Like a silk shirt, a fluffy white dog comes with a high cost of up-keep

Like a silk shirt, a fluffy white dog comes with a high cost of up-keep

$90?! I had no idea dogs were so expensive to groom professionally. And this is a very small dog, which means it gets much more costly than that. Granted, we are in Manhattan where a half-gallon of (organic) milk is $5 or more. Still, if I had picked out a fluffy dog rather than a smooth-coated one, I never would have thought to budget more for their grooming than I spend on my own haircuts. 

As with nail trimming, I like to think I’d learn to brush and trim a long-coated dog myself. I do think it’s a good bonding experience for dog owners and pups, and of course it costs much less. Here’s a basic grooming primer from the ASPCA

"Save on salon trips and just buy me another coat!"

"Save on salon trips and just buy me another coat!"

Then again, C-Biscuit and Machu Picchu don’t have “special conditions” like impacted anal glands (Gr-oss!). The groomer’s website explains that manually “expressing the anal glands,” as needed, lets out an “especially putrid liquid.” I expect more – or, in this case, less – from my little bundles of joy. So professional grooming might well be worth it for some dogs – just be prepared for the cost.

Or, in my opinion, consider a “wipe & wag” dog, like a whippet!

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