Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How To Find the Perfect Dog Walker

Not all dog walkers are created equal. When I acquired my Frenchie Bleu, I knew that I needed dog walking services midday for my little guy because I work full-time and can be gone for 10 hours at a time. French Bulldogs in particular require a lot of time and attention or they tend to “act out.” And no one wants their peeing or pooping on their honeyed-hardwood floors, eating their pumps, or gnawing on their Pier 1 furniture. In San Diego, a simple Google search yields hundreds of individual and company pet walking services. So how do you choose which one is right for your furry friend?

Just as a mom would research and interview her potential babysitters, a pet parent should do the same. With a dog walker, you are entrusting your pup’s life and well being with a complete stranger, so it’s very important you get to know your dog walker and make sure they are professional and trustworthy.

Kiele Goo, owner of Paws Four Time-Out, is a top dog walker in San Diego. She sends me personal messages about her daily excursion with my dog like: “Hi Mary, Bleu is doing great! He made friends today on our walk. People love petting him in Little Italy. He peed a lot, but no poopers. We walked for about 40 minutes, and he ate his cucumber treats.” I look forward to these little notes every day, and they give me peace of mind knowing Bleu is in good hands.

You Know You Have a Great Dog Walker When:
1)   She meets with you prior to the first dog walk to get to know you and your pup’s preferences and personality.
2)   She asks how your dog is doing via text on her days off.
3)   She sends you real-time iPhone pics of their walks and of his furry friends he meets along the way.
4)   She has a professional website and business cards. 

5)   She is certified by the ASPCA and knows how to administer Pet First Aid.

6)   She asks for emergency contacts, including your vet, emergency vet, and closest friend or relative if you are unavailable.
7)   She has references readily available.
8)   She gives out free doggy massages, toys, and treats just because she cares.
9)   She gives you a report of his pees, poops, and overall behavior after each walk.
10) She alerts you to any unusual doggy behavior, such as mood swings or potential illnesses.

How Can I Find A Great Dog Walker?
1)   Referrals – Finding a dog walker through word-of-mouth is the best way to find an ideal personal assistant for your dog. Ask other pet parents your dog plays with, your veterinarian office, or your local pet store. Most people are more than happy to share their dog walker’s info, especially if they are happy with their services.
2)   Walking Around – Keep your eye out for dog walkers when you are out strolling the streets with your pup. You can spot them if they are walking multiple dogs at a time, or they sometimes are wearing company t-shirts. I met my current dog walker just by simply greeting her and Boston terrier on in East Village one day with my Frenchie Bleu.
3)   Yelp – go online and type in “dog walker” and a slew of various ones will come up. Unlike Google though, you can see actual reviews from other customers to get a feel for the person who will be pampering your pooch.

Signs That A Dog Walker Isn’t So Great:
1)   They walk too many dogs at once.
2)   They are on their cell phones while walking your dog.
3)   You don’t hear from them often.
4)   You sense they are more in it for the money than compassionate about dogs.
5)   They advertise one thing, but do another. For example, one company owner advertised her personal services, but then hired very young assistants to do the dog walking instead.
6)   Misses appointments or runs late constantly.
7)   Has no certifications and does not know how to administer CPR.
8)   Has no other clients or references to speak of.
9)   Will not meet you or your dog beforehand.
10) Charges you extra for things like: feeding the dog food, treats, or administering medication.

No matter what kind of breed you have, make sure you take the time to really research your dog walker. There are really good ones out there that really want to help you and your pet, while also making a decent living. Let’s face it, most dog walkers aren’t “in it for the money” they simply love being around your pup and enjoy the freedom that comes along with being outdoors and setting your own schedule. When you find the right fit, the bond you will form with your dog walker just may be as strong as the one you form with your dog.

Kiele Goo
Paws Four Time-Out

Saturday, January 25, 2014

15 Signs You Love Your Dog More Than Yourself

The human-dog bond is clearly one of the strongest and most precious. We love our dogs so much in fact, that we sometimes sacrifice our own needs and desires to please our pampered pets. It’s this type of selfless love that is the truest kind of love and makes our bond with our dogs so unbreakable. Take a look at these silly signs to see if you really love your dog dearly:
1. You’ve stopped going to happy hours all together with coworkers and have reverted exclusively to yappy hours with other pet parents.
2. You take your dog to the doctor more than you take yourself.
3. On Black Friday, you spend all your time chasing down toy and treat sales at Petco rather than at Target and Best Buy purchasing human Christmas presents.
4. You turn down Friday dinner dates with friends, family, and significant others to spend quality time with your dog cuddling and canoodling on the couch.
5. During vacations, you put your dog up at 5-star doggy resorts and demote yourself to a 3-star hotel because you can’t afford both, and feel guilty for leaving your furry friend behind.
6. Your dog eats better than you. You crockpot for your dog, sautéing ground bison meat, organic sweet potatoes, and fresh spinach leaves, while you live on Chinese takeout.
7. You sacrifice a good night’s sleep for snores, farts, saliva, grunts, paw kicking, and panting, and you think it’s “cute” rather than revolting or annoying.
8. You break up with people because they aren’t dog people, and you only date men or women who have a dog, or absolutely love yours.
9. When your dog misbehaves, like poops in the middle of the living room, or eats one of your shoes, you blame yourself for not paying enough attention to him rather than blaming the real canine culprit.
10. You restrict yourself to dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and bars, because if your dog can’t come out with you, it’s just not the same.
11. You purchase DirectTV, not for you or your guests’ entertainment, but for your dog’s viewing pleasure, because it’s the only cable carrier that showcases DogTV, a TV channel dedicated to dogs, and scientifically developed to provide company for stay-at-home mutts.
12. Your dog has more clothing and accessories than you, and in turn, more closet space and drawers for all his/her belongings.
13. Your farmer’s market excursions are to pick up fresh produce for your dog, not yourself.
14. Your dog has a personal assistant, but you don’t.

15. No matter how tired, cold, sick, busy, or stressed out you are, you always find the time and energy to walk, hug, and kiss your puppy.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fresh Treats For Fido

Fresh Treats For Fido
Guess what pet owners?  Feeding Fido those milk bones aren’t the most nutritious snack for him. Neither are the new Fido food fads like doggy pup cakes from Heavely Cupcakes and Frosty Paws ice cream, which of course make our dogs wiggle and whine with joy, but after the party is over, they can get a case of the birthday blues with their bellies rumbling with regret. I recently attended a first doggy birthday party for Winston the French Bulldog at Barley Mash. Winston received more gifts than I ever have, including plush toys, sweaters, and treats galore. 

All his Frenchie friends got to partake in his edible delights except for my Frenchie Bleu, who has severe food allergies. I am always on alert during these get-to-gethers because a guest will try to sneak a piece a cake past me and into Bleu’s salivating mouth, or Bleu sniffs his way to sweet salvation and finds a morsel of maddening sugar lingering lonesomely on the ground.

While a little refined sugar won’t severely harm a healthy dog, for a dog like mine who has severe food allergies, they can get very bad upset stomachs and often times have to be rushed to the ER and be put on ant-nausea medications. The effects can be disastrous and costly.  This is how I became an expert in HEALTHY, FRESH TREATS for Fido. Not by accident, by shear necessity.

Just as in human diets, if you eat junk all the time, you will feel like junk all the time. For dogs, it’s the same way. However, their systems cannot tolerate high sugar fruits and veggies as much as ours can. Below are some very delicious, yet highly nutritious treats for your dog:

-       Sliced Cucumber: The cucumber is very refreshing, rehydrates the canine body, is a good source of B vitamins, and potassium and is low in sugar. Peel and square it, store in Tupperware container up to four days in the refrigerator.
-       Frozen Blueberries: your dog will love the crunch and the unexpected tartness of the blueberry, which is rich in antioxidants and also low in sugar. Antioxidants are essential to optimizing health by helping to combat the free radicals that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA. Make sure you properly store your blueberries so they don’t get freezer burned. Berries in general are considered low in terms of their glycemic index. My Frenchie Bleu likes to grab his berry like a ball, bat it around the floor with his paws, then pick it up and eat it.
-       Fresh Spinach Leaves: I like to buy the pre-packaged and triple-washed spinach leaves and feed them individually as treats to my dog. Twirling them around in front of his face before he munches on the little leaves is kind of fun too. He reminds me of a little pop-eye chomping down on his leafy greens, rich in protein, vitamin A, and calcium.
-       Sardines: A sardine a day keeps the vet away! Rich in Vitamin B-12 and Omega-3 fatty acids, sardines keep your pup’s heart, bones, and immune system strong.

Of course, organic is the best, but if you can’t afford it, regular produce is better than any of the crap you will find in a pet store. Please make sure you properly wash and store all of your fresh veggies and fruits for your pup. The best part? You both get to snack on healthy and yummy snacks together.

Bon appetite mon chien!

Bring Your French Bulldog: French Kiss Party

I'm hosting a Frenchie Meet-up with Camp-Run-A-Mutt for Valentine's Day.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Crock-Potting for Your Dog & Other Alternative Treatments

Would you feed your baby the same processed food day in and day out every day all day for the rest of his or her life? Probably not. So why are you feeding that to your dog?

That's the question that my holistic vet asked me that opened my eyes to a whole new world of whole foods for my French Bulldog Bleu.

You know you've surpassed your wild twenties and have reached your mature, sophisticated thirties when you have invested in a Cuisinart ceramic slow cooker instead of Bloomingdale's black leather pants. You start thinking about home furnishings rather than high fashion clothing. You care  much more about making your body healthy through proper nutrition than making it buzzed on booze.

The ironic part is, I don't really cook. As a vegetarian, I tend to snack a lot on whole grains, raw fruits, legumes, nuts, and veggies, yogurt, and occasionally eat out. 

But this New Year, I've made a resolution to cook healthy. But this grand resolution is NOT for me. It's not for my friends, family, children, or boyfriend either. So who could be more important than any of the above? My French Bulldog Bleu.  Ever since I got him, I've been saddled with thousands of dollars worth of vet bills. Sinus infections. Viruses. Skin and food allergies. Head tremors. Papallomas. Ear infections. Conjunctivitis. You name it, he's had it. And he's only 3. While my vet has tried her best to keep his bulldog baggage at bay, his problems keep coming back and new ones keep surfacing, and the bills aren't getting any better.

I decided to try an alternative medicine route. I went to the Animal Healing Center and saw Dr. Diana Drum, a certified vet, acupuncturist, chiropractor, and herbalist. I captured this spectacular artwork on the wall of her office:

Be prepared to spend $175 just to get your foot in the door, and also to wait week up to a few months to see one of these specialists; it's worth it. Dr. Drum listened patiently as I recounted Bleu's saga; she sat cross-legged on the floor next to Bleu on the rug, very unconventional for a doctor's office, and I felt immediately at ease. She said that Bleu has been given suppressive medicines his whole life that are messing up his immunity and energy system. His spleen is deficient, which means his liver is toxic and his digestive system is not functioning at optimal capacity. She prescribed thuja occidentalis for bleu's papallomas that were forming all over his body, a virus, she informed me, was attacking his immune system as a result of getting his yearly vaccinations. Dogs do not need to get vaccinated on a yearly basis, she informed me, despite what conventional vets will tell you. Thuja tincture comes from a tree, and is a natural treatment for HPV (human papilloma virus), or in this case, CPV (canine papilloma virus). Warts are small growths on the skin caused by a viral infection in the skin's top layer. Bleu had a strong reaction to the meds and it scared me; he threw up the first time I administered it; and salivated excessively the second time I gave it. But in a few weeks, only one small visible wart can be seen now, thanks to the natural medication.

Dog foods have been commercialized for the public as nutritious, but they are processed and bland. Before dog food, dogs ate wild meat. Since we've introduced kibble, dog cancer and inflammatory diseases like arthritis and allergies have sky rotted. 

Why are we feeding are dogs stuff we would never touch? We all like convenience, and Americans are unfortunately culprits for easy fixes. If something is too much work, we look for an easy way out. Hence, pre-packaged dog food. But I'm not taking the easy way out with my dog anymore. I can't afford to. Neither can his health. Sure, the weekly cooking and shopping will be laborious, at first, but as it becomes a routine, I will get used to it. I am hoping that by cooking for my dog, I might just start cooking for myself :)

The best thing about crock-potting is you can make an entire batch of food for Fido that lasts all week long. You can refrigerate your food up to four days and freeze dry any leftovers. The slow cooker allows all the nutrients to stay in while thoroughly cooking your meat through. There's even a rack on the top for your veggies if you want to keep the separate. I suggest investing is a good crockpot, like this one I bought on Amazon Cuisinart Crockpot. Depending on the size of your dog and the size of your kitchen, you may want to think about the size of the pot you get. I opted for the smaller size (3.5 quarts) because my kitchen is tiny and my dog is only 30 pounds. But a bigger crock pot (6 quarts) makes more.

The vet made sure to tell me that I have to slowly transition Bleu to a whole foods diet. 25% week 1, 50% week 2, 75% week three, 100% week four. In one month, he should be eating ground bison meat from Whole Foods, organic spinach, and sweet potato twice a day. What a lucky dog! Once I know Bleu can tolerate this diet, I can start adding in other veggies and starches and proteins, like sardines, radishes, parsnips, etc. It's important to feed your dog veggies and fruits with low glycemic indexes. Surprisingly, carrots are high in sugar and not the best treat for your pup, although they like the crunch.

Who would have thought that a non-cooking vegetarian would be whipping up ground bison meat on a weekly basis in a crockpot for her doggy? I sure hope Bleu appreciates the effort. Perhaps it will feel like fine doggy dining to him.

Bon appétit  mon chien!  

Doggy Separation Anxiety: What to Do When You Have to Travel

Around the holidays, we all tend to get stressed out. There's all kinds of parties to prepare for, family to visit and host, and shopping to be done. Sure, the holidays can be tons of fun for you and your pet, especially in San Diego, with pet festivals and parades, Petco costume contests and countless christmas yappy hours, but what happens when you have to go away?

I recently experienced this when I had to leave my French Bulldog Bleu for 10 days when I traveled back east for the holidays. Normally, I take quick weekend trips or don't travel at all, but this year, I decided to take advantage of my holiday break and do something different. If you have a spouse, boyfriend, trusted friend, roommate, sibling, or family member close by that will watch your dog while your away, then that is ideal. Another option is asking your daily dog walker if they do overnight pet sitting. Unfortunately, mine was unavailable.

For me, I don't have anyone I can trust, and no one close by that I can leave him with.

So, I was stuck in a dilema. What do I do with my high anxiety dog for 10 days? The best option for Bleu my Frenchie would have been to keep him in his own environment where he felt most comfortable. However, I had just moved into a new place right before I was leaving, and nothing was set up for him. I had no furniture and boxes were everywhere. I thought about using sites like or, but I became weary and unsure about leaving my home and doggy to strangers. Nothing seemed like the right solution. I'm sure some of these sites are very trustworthy, but I  am just a paranoid dog parent.

Then I started researching overnight dog boarding facilities in San Diego. Let me tell you now: they are not all created equal. Many are cage-free, and for a French bulldog, this is not the healthiest solution because they can overplay and get exhausted if they are staying there for a long time. My dog will not sleep and relax if other dogs are around him. He will just want to play constantly. Most doggy daycare tout "cagre-free" as a perk, but to me, it is not ideal for my breed, who has breathing problems and other medical issues.

I checked out numerous places. The ones I looked at had rooms that were stacked on top of each other and super small like a kennel. Others only had outdoor play during the day and I wanted Bleu to stay indoors where it was temperature controlled. I called Fido and Company in Hillcrest and spoke with co-owner Carla, who is also a vet technician. I instantly felt at ease with her. She understand my concerns and accommodated my dog as if he was her own. Bleu got his own private room and I got to bring his bed, toys, and food bowls with him for maximum comfort. He got to play with other doggies his size during the day, and the staff made sure to give him many "breaks" during the day so he would not overplay. They even posted a festive holiday pick on Facebook of him and his doggy friends that I could view while I was away:

The result? Bleu came home after 10 days a little neurotic from being away from his dog mom, but rested and happy and most importantly, healthy!  It took him about three days to settle back into his routine at my condo, but we are back to little italy living and loving it. He does have suitcase-a-phobia now though. When I went to unpack, he started dry heaving. Apparently the mere sight of my suitcase makes his tummy rumble. I guess that's what happens when your dog loves you that much.