It’s Kong O’clock Somewhere

At best, it looks like a beehive toddler toy. At worst, it appears to be some bizarre contraption best kept hidden in the bedroom.

Introduced in the late 1970’s, the Kong is a toy (or as we professionals call it, “enrichment device”) that has nearly become a staple in dog-owning homes. The founder, Joe Markham, designed it after his canine companion finally found gnawing satisfaction with a rubber suspension part from a VW Bus.

The patented one-of-a-kind plastic is safe on teeth, yet strong enough to withstand determined chewers. Its hollow “snowman” design allows for treats to be stuffed inside, prolonging the challenge and fun for users. Is the cost worth it? Yes! Even rat fanciers and zookeepers appreciate its value. (See video links at bottom.) To find the perfect Kong “fit,” more on its history, and recipes, visit the official Kong website.

My Josie Junebug is an energetic young dog who spends her workdays in the kennel. In addition to her walks and indoor play sessions, her dinnertime Kong serves as great mental exercise. I fill it in the morning, when I’m packing lunches, and stow it in the freezer (for extra challenge). When the family congregates for dinner, her Kong keeps her too occupied to even consider begging at the table.

I invested in a second Kong so one can be rotated through the dishwasher each night while the other remains available for her enjoyment. (That is assuming she doesn’t hide it from me.) Even after it’s emptied of edible surprises, it still provides hours of squeaky chewing enjoyment.

How difficult is it to fill? My husband was clueless when I texted him a request to prep Josie Junebug’s Kong after I had forgotten one morning. How easy is it? He asked my seven year old for directions!

Step One: Plug the smaller bottom hole with peanut butter (non-chunky), or cream cheese. I invest in a separate doggie PB jar, so I don’t have to worry about double-dipping.

Step Two: Set Kong upright in a cup for filling convenience.

Step Three: Fill with something yummy and exciting. My basic “recipe” is kibble soaked in a bit of meat broth or dinner drippings, but feel free to allow your doggie chef creativity to run wild. The hippie in me abhors food waste, so I often use food scraps (yogurt, pizza crust, rice, etc). The daily Kong is an especially good use for “ugly produce,” those slightly wrinkly blueberries, bruised tomatoes, and old carrots that human family members scorn.

Step Four: Fill to top with water.

Step Five: Freeze until dinnertime

That’s it! That two minute investment in the morning buys dinnertime peace for us all.

Family, friends, co-workers, pets: I think it’s worth a little extra time to set each other up for success and harmonious living. Don’t you?

Obligatory notes about safety and other resources for Kong recipes:

Like diets for all species, do what works for you. If you feel it’s best for your dog to only eat store bought food (or perhaps he medically needs to do so), use a Kong stuffed with dog food and water.

If your dog is getting fat, cut back on calorie intake. You can feed dinner in the Kong as a way of slowing down eating and providing some amount of exercise.

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, of course, don’t go pouring bacon grease or some other craziness into a Kong.

Some human foods are toxic to pets. Chocolate is the most infamous; however, you should also not feed grapes/raisins or onion. Also, check labels. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, is toxic to pets and now also used in some peanut butters and yogurts! The ASPCA has a good starting list, or check the Pet Poison Helpline for a more exhaustive list.

Still, there is some solid evidence that veggies are good for dogs too: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/want-your-dog-to-live-to-30-add-this-to-their-bowl.html 

Here are other videos links where you can watch other species enjoying Kongs:

More Kong Recipes: http://www.k9instinct.com/blog/frozen-kong-dog-treat-recipes

Go to Fern Dog Training to download a nice Kong recipe book, and while you’re there, check out his informative and entertaining dogcasts.

A Punxsutawney Miracle

Our crate training journey wasn’t graceful, but you know what? In less than three months, we got where we wanted to be.

When it comes to relationships, be it marriage, raising kids, or training dogs, I think compassion and the pursuit of mutual understanding will guide you to success.

Trainers’ guides to introducing a puppy to a crate go something like this: crate training should be a gradual and positive experience so that your puppy learns to accept the crate as her happy den of comfort. Start by leaving the door open and littering the floor of the crate with treats so your puppy willing enters…

Josie Junebug’s crate introduction at our house went more like this: Welcome home, adorable girl, here’s your crate, go in it.

I admit, it was abrupt. In our defense, we had not raised a puppy before and were told when we adopted her that she had been crate trained at her foster home. So, I guess we just assumed she would take to it with the grace we expected.

She spent the first night whining and barking at the top of her lungs for forty minutes, every hour. I cowered under my pillow thinking “oh, what have I done? Dogs are smelly, loud, and trouble.” I was convinced I had forfeited all domestic tranquility for the next decade and a half. (Note that this is the kind of thinking that stems from anxiety and exhaustion.) Though it was a long, frustrating, worrisome night, I felt it was important not cave to her whining.

The second night, we moved her crate into the kids’ room so she wouldn’t be all alone. She whined for twenty minutes, sans barking, after which she slept through the night without incident. From that rebound, she quickly adapted to keeping quiet and not eliminating in kennel.

When it was time to return to work (after Thanksgiving break), I was very anxious about leaving her in a crate all day. My husband was surprised: “I thought you were all pro-crate.” The funny thing was, professionally, I had no problems putting other people’s dogs in kennels all day. Turns out, as a [dog] mom, I’m a total sap. Still, though, she could not be trusted to hold her bladder or avoid the temptations of destroying all we possessed.

I knew from counseling clients that it was important from the beginning to avoid  nuisance barking and separation anxiety. So, we were consistent and no-nonsense about putting her in her crate at night and while out of the house. Though she accepted her fate with slumped shoulders and pleading big brown eyes, she had to be carried to the kennel every time. The optimist in me thought “thanks for the sixty pound deadlift, Junebug.”

I’m sure her crate would be more comfortable (and quieter) with a mat or blanket. We bought a cheap rug at Aldi (my husband pointed out that, at $8, it cost the same as every toy we tried on her). She left it alone the first night, but chewed it so thoroughly the second that I felt it was safer to trash it. So, until we save up enough for a chew-resistant pad, kennel time means cold, hard, nail-tapping drudgery on the plastic.

Then, on Groundhog’s day, I get a surprising text from my husband. Josie Junebug voluntarily crated herself! Recognizing the signs of their morning exit routine, she slinked in of her own volition! Now resigned to her lonely schedule, she “kennels” on her own.

I certainly would not claim she has embraced her kennel as a comforting wolf den. We could have handled the whole situation better by working systematically on crate acclimation. A few days, I fed her in her crate so she’d have positive, short duration exposure while the cats ate in peace, but I forgot to do this consistently. Working full time, managing a house, and caring for two kids and three pets keeps me busy. Though I’m quite organized, consistent training (of dogs and kids) is not one of my strong points.

 

Our crate training journey wasn’t graceful, but you know what? In less than three months, we got where we wanted to be.  What lesson did I ultimately glean from all this? Follow your own path. When it comes to relationships, be it marriage, raising kids, or training dogs, I think compassion and the pursuit of mutual understanding will guide you to success. After all, it’s not about me asserting my will over her, but about us all discovering how to live together. To that end, I have just as much learning to do as anyone else.

The Gift of a Renewed Habit

Reclaiming a healthy routine seemed impossible to do for myself, but when a beautiful brown-eyed girl entered our lives, it became effortless.

Before my daughter was born, I woke up 45 minutes earlier than I needed to every morning for the sake of self-development. I would be sure each day started with a positive thought of intention, read something spiritual or personally progressive, and end with a set of simple calisthenics. Every self-improvement guru will advise you to do this. So will this anal-retentive blog author.

Unfortunately, once the sleepless nights of motherdom hit seven and a half years ago, I fell out of this habit and never managed to restart it. As a matter of fact, the stresses of long-term joblessness in my household and the addition of a scrappy son have, for years, dunked me continuously under the waters of chaos. I can honestly say that the loss of this one clarifying habit has, for me, been the main contributor to a chronic sense of “not having a handle on things.”

predawn
Stepping into the predawn, starting the day with a breath of fresh air. (Thankfully, she doesn’t poop until later.)

This habit gently resurfaced in my life a couple of months ago, and it should be no surprise to the reader that I owe it to the adoption of Josie Junebug (Greatest dog in the world). You see, I felt guilty that, after spending all night in her crate (to insure she didn’t chew up the entire downstairs whilst we slept), she got only a short reprieve before returning to her crate while we were at work and school.

The Monday after Thanksgiving break, my alarm rang half an hour earlier than usual. What had seemed insurmountable for years suddenly just happened. Since that day, and every work day since, after showering and dressing, I liberate her from the evil crate (her sentiments, not mine) and am rewarded with grateful adoration displayed via entire rear-body wags.

Friedrich Nietzsche picture quotes - He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how. - Inspirational quotes
Reclaiming a healthy routine seemed impossible to do for myself, but when a beautiful brown-eyed girl entered our lives, it became effortless.

I drink my coffee while it’s hot, not having to set it aside to pour chocolate milk, or cut up an apple. In 15 minutes, I am able to read more of C.S. Lewis’s  Mere Christianity than I could accomplish in hours while wearing the Mommy Hat. I put away the clean dishes, accomplishing something before I even leave the house.

In the stillness of predawn, my dog and I peacefully step into the day together.

 

Leave a comment: What good habit has your pet (or loved one) inspired?

 

 

Bedtime Routine

Bedtime for Junebug

This dog has her routine, and she thrives on it. Like Peter Pan’s Nana, our girl makes sure the kids are tucked into bed with love. Of course, the lights don’t go out until each young one has his or her favorite toy and a cuddly blanket. My son is the most trouble, getting out of bed to fetch a truck, or talking to his sister. However, Josie is also known to stir up some mischief, the usual conflict being that she considers her half of the bed to be the middle half.

nana
Disney’s Peter Pan, 1953

Please tell me we’re not the only ones whose bedtime resembles cat herding. If you’ve just successfully tucked away your progeny and pets, pour a tall glass of wine and enjoy this awesome oldie but goodie:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk7yqlTMvp8