Monthly Archives

September 2010

dog diets, Dog Health

The myth of dog food switching

So how do you switch from one food to another? Do you begin by adding a few kibbles at a time? A quarter-cup? Gradually add a scientifically calculated increasing proportion until you’re finally down to 99% new brand and 1% old? Did you try going cold-turkey once and the dog had diarrhea for a week?

If so, let me suggest that you’re maybe thinking the wrong way about how dogs should eat.

Wouldn’t you be pretty concerned if every time you ate more than a quarter-inch slice of something you got raging runs? It’s no more normal for dogs than it is for us. What we’ve done very incorrectly is that we’ve been convinced that dogs should only be fed one brand, often only one flavor of one brand, for their entire lives.


Dogs should be able to handle just about everything you throw at them – hopefully healthy, but let’s face it. It’s not evolutionarily sound for a dog to not be able to tolerate an occasional dose of Quarter Pounder leftovers and a heel of bread, much less a switch from Mister Magoo’s Chicken and Sweet Potato to Mister Magoo’s Lamb and Rice Formula.

The reason they get so out of sorts is that their stomachs and intestines are tricked into thinking there are only five substances in the world – chicken that’s been cooked at 500 degrees for half a day and then ground up, ground yellow corn, sweet potato flakes, and tomato pomace. Or substitute whatever ingredients your kibble uses. A digestive system that has never seen anything else freaks out when lamb meal and rice are introduced – it speeds up to dump what it thinks might be dangerous strange stuff out as fast as it can, and the dog gets what we affectionately call “cannon butt.”

The solution is SO simple, all it requires is ignoring TV commercials. Oh, and sometimes your vet. Dogs do NOT, heavens no, need to stay on one brand or one flavor. You can have twenty-five bags sitting on your counter and take from each as you desire. For most people that’s kind of silly, but for sure you should never be scared of feeding two or three. Or, if you absolutely love your one brand and flavor, scrape the peas off the kids’ plates into the dog bowl. The next night empty the yogurt container in it. Keep a bit of variety going in every day.

This will really save your bacon when you get a hundred miles out of town and realize your husband forgot to pack the food that you have to mail-order from Tasmania every six months. Knowing that you can pick up a small bag of a lesser-but-acceptable stuff and your dog will feel normal on vacation is a heck of a relief.


Your daily dose of kitteh

I have a shallow and completely subjective love for classic tabby (where the stripes make thick slabs and swirls rather than narrow bars) markings, but in all the zillions of cats and kittens that have gone through my life I’ve never before had a cat with them. Yay for me!


A great reason to pick up the camera again

Growing up, nobody had “cats.” We all had barn cats.

Barn cats are the pinnacle of a harsh evolution – if you survive long enough to reproduce it’s because you overcame worms, ear mites, dangerous dogs, rabid skunks, and the feet of horses and cows and sheep. We all had five or ten wandering the stalls, fed infrequently but glossy and sleek from shrews for lunch and rats for dinner.

Every few years we’d round up a whole bunch and get them spayed or neutered and their rabies shots, which would end that generation’s reproduction. A while after that the numbers would have fallen and we’d head to the dairy farmer a few towns away. His ancient wife would fish around in their loft and hand us two or three kittens, anything from babies tottering on unstable legs to half-grown wild things already catching their weight in pests.

Everybody’s mom knew how to raise the tiny ones; goat’s milk and egg and a bit of sugar, broth from the lunch soup. Once they were dashing around the kitchen they were deposited out in the barn. They were always impossibly confident, sitting around waiting for someone to squirt milk in their mouths as we milked the goats or winding around the legs of the horses as we fed them. They hated, with a deadly passion, cars, vets, and being confined. They came in wild colors and combinations and weighed within ounces of each other.

Many of you know that we’ve been looking for a kitten for a long time; we have our rescue Persian who we love to bits but we didn’t want him to be alone. But nothing was right – I was looking for something bold and fearless and dog-savvy and, while I was happy to rescue again, I couldn’t find babies that fit. We looked at adults and retired breeders and many others and nothing was right.

I kept saying “Wow, I just need a good barn cat” – but the days of the barn cat are virtually over in this area. I understand why – it’s a harsh and short life and not what most people think of responsible. And they’re exactly right, if you’re talking about the housecat dumped outside or somebody thinking that a show-bred cat would make dollars for kittens if allowed to breed with the random cat down the street. Sadly, the barn cat of my growing-up ears had been lumped in with that and was gone.

And then yesterday I got a call that said “Did you know that Pete’s has a kittens sign outside?” Pete has a huge shambling farm with five or six rickety barns. He’s got cows and Percherons and a giant flock of Embden geese that keep getting out and going across the road and visiting the motorcycle repair place.

I’ll admit it – I hung up the phone and RAN.

When I got there it was like twenty years ago – Pete’s wife said “Oh, we’ve got five or six down t’ barn but we can’t put hands on em yet, let me get you the little ones we rounded up today.”

She pressed two tiny creatures on me and I made crazed squeaky noises and got out to the car and went home, kittens screeching and climbing my calves.

When I got in, I put them on the floor and they swaggered in, stopping only to punch Bramble across the face. Oh, how much do I love barn cats.

They’re as bitty as can be, perhaps five weeks old (or one is five and one is six – I have no idea if they’re from the same litter and I honestly don’t think Pete did either), wormy and dirty and wonderful. We scrubbed them up and wormed them thoroughly and filled them with warm food.

They have taken over the house (which is where they will stay – I can’t provide them a real barn so indoor neutered pets they will become). They are incredibly bold and completely unfazed by anything.

The brown tabby is Percy; the black and white van-marked one is Grover. Both boys. Absolutely my favorite impulsive move this year :).


Dear all academic writers:

When you use eight commas in a sentence, it doesn’t make you sound complicated and deep. It makes you sound like you don’t understand how English works.

When you refuse to write in complete sentences, it doesn’t make you sound “vital” and urgent. It makes you sound like you don’t know what a verb is.

When you refuse to use four words when you can come up with sixteen that mean the same thing, it doesn’t make you sound intelligent. It makes you sound like you threw a thesaurus at a page and picked whatever words looked smartest.

When you call students “the subjects of the andragogical exercise at hand,” it doesn’t make you sound wise. It makes you sound like a total douche.

– Joanna, weeping at the state of a nation that gives PhDs to people who think “emerging and growing trend that is increasing” is an acceptable way to refer to anything. Lady Redundant Woman would be proud. Also, wow am I burnt out.


Previously on Ruffly Speaking…

Hello again! The number of times I’ve gone a week without blogging are very few, and perhaps none had a better or sadder reason. It was a very rough few days after Sprocket died and I was glad to focus on work and kids and not try to be happy or informative. My ability to be either rational or gentle was pretty well shot and I thank you for your patience.

After we were a little more recovered from that, the remainder of my time was spent finishing up the enormous freelance thing I’ve been working on for two months. It’s been my constant companion for all those weeks, but finishing it required a string of 20-hour days broken only by episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix. I finally turned it in on Saturday, which means I am actually able to sleep at night again and that I can recite entire dialogues from Blink and Journey’s End. The kids got terrifically into it as well, so our dinner conversations now revolve around the meta-roll of the Daleks and whether Catherine Tate is awesome or Truly Awesome.

There was wonderful news over the weekend, where Magnum (our gorgeous puppy named Dashiell while he was here) took his second major from 6-9. He now has eight points and both his majors and we couldn’t be happier or prouder. I tease Dawn that I should have kept him, but I love the fact that he’s so adored and doing so beautifully.

Friday was safely delivered to Kate; she’ll be hanging out through the fall and hopefully putting some points on as well.

And now you’re all caught up! We have some fun and exciting things planned for the fall and I need to pick up the camera again as well. I haven’t touched it since the morning I took pictures of Sprocket, which is as unusual as not blogging for a week. It still feels very sad. So Doug has promised a little trip and some scenery and some happy pictures to take.

More soon,


Thank you

I wanted to thank you all for your kind words about Sprocket. The kids and I are reading every one and it is a comfort. We’re going to take a few days off and do a lot of drinking tea and talking and then I’ll be back in the swing of things a little more.

I want to be sure to tell you that this is why we rescue, as much as the happy endings are. We made a choice to do high-risk rescue, and that means things don’t always have the endings you hope they will. Sprocket was a glorious dog. I am so, so happy that I was able to see that before the sickness rose up and took over. I may not have been able to change him, but every dog changes us, makes us more gentle and more caring and more acutely aware of the gift of time. So I am not at all regretful that we did it and I would do it over again.

And we WILL do it again; I was barely back from the vet before Doug said “Let’s plan for the next one in another month or two.” We’ll heal, and we’ll go onward with a bit more tenderness, and we’ll do it again knowing that the ending may be the same, but hoping that we can win the battle. And, each time, it will do us good.