Tantrums and Set-backs

Last night I picked Yuuki up and realized something horrible. I don’t need a scale– I know he’s gained weight. This always happens. The little bugger is doing fine, and then we have a major set-back. This time, Yuuki’s learned to work the system of humans in the house who are no match against his pitiful barks and hunger loops (see his Yuuki vs. the Pizza Crust video if you don’t know what I mean). He’s gotten to the point that every day at 8 pm, he pretty much demands some kind of treat.

I’ve been a little indulgent myself (maybe alot) and given him a granulated rawhide every few days. I know that some people are against rawhides and some are for them, and I have no idea what the calorie count for a little stick is (anyone know??) but, he would get 1/2 a stick every other day or so, unless he was really demanding and then he might get a whole stick. I kind of hope he gnaws some of the plaque off of his teeth. Not really happening… So, yesterday I put the brakes on the treats, because I suspect that others have been doling them out as well. Dr. Ward, in Chow Hounds, says you should “…trash your treats unless they are low in calories or swap them with some healthy alternatives. There’s simply no room for those empty calories and brain-altering chemicals in your dog’s new healthier lifestyle.” Which sounds great on paper, but alas, I am weak when it comes to this grumpy dumpling. Last night he got a baby carrot.

Let the tantrums begin.

Holy cow, he did not want that carrot. He cried (like in the video) and then he pouted (he goes to the edge of the bed facing away from us and lets out tiny whimpers until someone acknowledges him). After being ignored, he starts the hunger loops again with intermittent barking that escalates into throaty WOOFS! He’ll drink some water, and then come back again. Chilly ate her carrot and his because he wouldn’t touch it. I know he’s not above vegetables. He actually loves green beans, but I’m out at the moment.

Yuuki makes me hold the carrot so he can eat it

After about 1.5 hours of tantrums, I went and got him another baby carrot. While he refused this one as well, he immediately stopped barking and turned to his staring technique. He will look me in the face– I swear he makes himself look fluffier– until I ask him “What?” and he begins the loops all over again (this time less assertive, more cute). I know some trainers/behaviorists would say I put too much stock into Yuuki’s communication strategy, but…he’s pretty convincing.

Ultimately, the compromise was that I would hold the carrot while he ate it. What does that mean in the doggy kingdom? While I feel like I came out on top, he may have in fact won that battle.

Today I ventured to my favorite dog supply store and stocked up on some new treats. I know, I know. Real doggy dieters say never to have any treats in your house, but that’s just not me. Not yet, anyway. So, I’ve added to the arsenal: Honest Kitchen Pecks (with less than .6 calories per treat); Small Dog Himalayan Dog Chews (I know, 435 calories! But, low in fat and he only chews a corner at a time); some American-made tiny rawhides; and some Zukes Mini Z-Bones (only for very rare occasions). I know that those last three items shouldn’t be part of a fat dog’s pantry, but sometimes a dog needs to chew– even little, fat Chihuahua dogs with the worst set of chompers you’ll ever lay eyes on.

Here’s what Yuuki generally eats in a day:
Breakfast: <1/4 cup Acana Light & Fit  = (350/4) = 87.5 kcal
Dinner: <1/2  cup (maybe closer to 1/4 cup) Chicken & Rice recipe from Chow Hounds by Dr. Ernie Ward = (176/2) = 88 kcal
8pm snack: 1/2 granulated rawhide stick (calorie count unknown) and/or 1 baby carrot (2-3 kcal per carrot)
Throughout the day: 2-3 Wellness Pure Reward jerkies–they tear nicely into training treats = (3×4) = 12 kcal

Total: 87.5 + 88 + 3 (on a carrot day) + 12 = 190.5

According to Dr. Ward’s book (pg 96, if you’re keeping track), if Yuuki wanted to weigh 9 lbs (he doesn’t, but I want him to) then he’d have to eat no more than 193 kcals per day. Being generous above in the measurements for his food, he still comes in under the bar. And we were doing fine…but I guess his tactics of begging different people at different times of day is working. Time to cut back again. Let the howling and crying begin…

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Bark in the Park 2012

Rain, rain go away! Bark in the Park is my favorite dog event of the year. It started with a stormy looking morning. I signed up for the 1 mile Puppy Trot (instead of the 5k) hoping that Yuuki could walk the whole thing and get some steps on his little pedometer. We showed up to a cold dreary morning, but I wasn’t about to let that stop my fun. This the biggest collection of dog-related vendors in one place for the whole year! It was time for me to get my doggy-nerd on. Seriously.

8-ball waiting for his humans to finish the 5k

I offered to walk my favorite not-my-dog so the giant husky wouldn’t have to run 5k– mostly because I thought it was going to be hot. He speeded along as Yuuki huffed behind us. Yuuki tried really hard, but he didn’t make it the whole mile. I walked him for a little bit of it in his pouch, but I let him finish strong. Just as my friends finished the 5k with their dogs, it began to sprinkle…then rain…then DOWNPOUR! Oh sadness of sadnesses. Doesn’t the sky know that today is a dog festival day?? There are dogs that need to be adopted and doggy t-shirts that need to be bought.

We waited it out for a bit under the registration tent- really about an hour. At noon, it cleared up to a regular rain and so we determined to make the best of it (thank goodness for dog-nerd friends!). Yuuki was wearing his hoodie, tucked into his pouch, zipped up in my raincoat and sheltered by my umbrella– and still a little cold. We pretty much ran from booth to booth picking up freebees like we were trick-or-treating. I had no idea what I’d grabbed. Then came the torrential downpour. We waited that out for a few minutes under the Two Brothers Dog Wash tent– he was understandably upset about the rain. Then, off again into the muddy, sloppy mess in the field. We stayed to watch the Police Dog Demonstration, but they apparently left early. The Jack Russell frisbee team was totally not feeling the frisbees.

Out of all of this, though I missed strolling without thinking about how pruny my feet are, there were two new attractions this year that I really liked. First, The Midway Veterinary Hospital in Chesapeake adopted a puppy from the Chesapeake Animal Control whom they named “Squirtle.” I’ve actually been referred to this clinic often because they handle hedgehogs there. At their booth, they were putting in raffles for a “guess my breed” contest for little Squirtle. You could guess two and write it down. They plan to get a genetic test done (though I’m skeptical of these because of an article in The Bark — I think it’s gotten better over the years as they include more breeds in the database) and the closest match wins. We all love to guess the mutt make-up, so it was a pretty brilliant idea! Next best: Radar Run. I saw it on the flyer, but didn’t understand what it was. They used police speed radars to measure the running speed of dogs down a corridor. Around midday, the fastest was about 34 mph. Of course, Yuuki had to play, too! As I expected, he didn’t run top speed and stopped to pee about 3/4 of the way through, but he got a whopping 2 mph on the records. He should get an award for cutest run. I noticed as he left the line was much longer. I’m not saying it was his cuteness that drew in the crowds, but…

Yuuki’s certificate for running in the Radar Run. 2mph!! Yay!!

All in all, despite the rain, I had a pretty good dog day hanging out with fun people and awesome dogs. Can’t wait until next year!

Yuuki sleeping off the rainy, cold day at Bark in the Park

Dogfood: its worth talking about

In the spirit of counting calories for Yuuki’s weight loss program, I recently started researching some alternative dry dog foods to the one that I’ve been using. I’m a huge Orijen fan, but the calories are quite costly- on Yuuki’s waist as well as my wallet. Eventually I settled on the idea of switching the Chihuahuas to Acana Light and Fit. It’s also a brand of Champion Petfoods, which is the company that produces Orijen, so it seems pretty safe. This means I can “easily” drop Yuuki from a 395 kcal/cup diet to 360 kcal/cup. Certainly, that’s way above the recommended caloric density for dieting animals– don’t judge me. I’ve come not to trust vets with their ideas of what makes for healthy weight loss. I’ve tried the Hills prescription diets and Yuuki became itchy, his coat was awful (the weight loss line is mostly corn) and he would cry for hours because he was so hungry. It was painful for all of us. I’ve been happy with Orijen, but I need to shave off a few more calories in a day. In my determination to switch, my dog food provider reinforced my committment to his little business. I was wondering where, exactly, can I buy the Light & Fit line of Acana? I wrote to the Two Brothers Dog Wash and got a reply less that 24 hours later. In fact, they do carry it now. The long-time supporter of Orijen for his own dogs has now switched his Pitty to Light & Fit. We are totally on the same doggy nutritional page. I love that!

Using the borrowed kitchen and Vitamix to experiment with dog food recipes

So, Yuuki has made the switch. I have to say, he does seem a little hungrier. But, given his general lack of energy over this last summer, it’s nice to see him eager to eat again. I know I’ll regret saying that later! In addition to the change in diet though, and after many years of tough consideration, I’ve also made the committment (to myself) to become a partial dog food chef. Hardcore dog-people cook food for their dogs. I’d like to think I’m hardcore, but I’m not. But the other day, I was reading my bible for doggy weight losswhen I realized just how much Yuuki would save in calories if I cooked his food. Holy cow! Generally I’m pretty lazy. I don’t want to cook for myself, much less my dogs. In fact, I’ve always been a little jealous of their nutritionally balanced kibble with no menu planning or grocery store visits required.

The sardine, blueberry, veggies and lowfat cottage cheese concoction that Yuuki didn’t appreciate

Here’s the reality: Dr. Ernie Ward’s recipe for chicken and rice would allow Yuuki to eat nearly double the volume (less density) for halfthe calories. That’s worth cooking at least one meal a day for! Now if I could just figure out how to make it in the slow cooker. Really, it doesn’t take that long. But, by the time I’m finished cooking his food (I freeze some for later, so it’s not like I cook it every day– more like once a week), I’m too tired to cook my own, so I eat cereal. I suppose I could just serve myself up a bowl of his food (plus some salt and pepper!), but I’m not that interested in chicken and rice that’s green. Yes, green. The little bit of spinach or kale or kelp that is required to keep it balanced pretty much turns the whole thing green. He likes it, but it looks pretty gross.

Side note though: while we were housesitting, I had access to a really nice food processor, so I tried to make the sardine recipe from the book. Not a sucessful run, I’d say. Yuuki looked down at his bowl and sniffed the fishy mess, looked back up at me and telepathically shouted “Are you kidding me?!” That will be off the lists for future doggy menus! Now I’m going to work on incorporating some heart-healthy vitamin mix that a friend gave me. Healthier every day!

After some hesitation, Yuuki decided it was okay to eat

Yuuki bit me! (and other housesitting drama)

Thomas with our pack and Sisi

Not the first time…not the last…Yuuki sank his little gila monster teeth into my hand. As usual (except for one time when I stuck my hand in his kennel and tried to pull him out- I earned that bite), my hand interfered with his intended target: this time, a dopey lab who was overly curious up in his face. We’re house/dog sitting and the resident dog, Sisi, is your typical old lab. She’s set in her routine (potty breaks at 7 am and 4 pm; daily rawhide between 6-7), relatively unconcerned with the world around her and always looking for a good snuggle. Actually, we’ll be lucky if Thomas doesn’t steal her at the end of this- he’s gotten quite attached!

So, Yuuki was perched on my lap in his usual place, cone encircling his tiny head in an attempt to keep him from chewing the allergies out of his paws, when Sisi moseyed up to sniff his face. Yuuki growled a confident, “Get out of my face, old lady!” But, not speaking much “dog,” Sisi ventured closer until her muzzle was nearly entering the cone. I stuck my hand out to push her head away when my little hero launched his attack. Honestly, it hurts my soul more than my hand. That my doggy-soulmate tore two little vampire nicks into my hand reminds me that he’s still a little demon- still an angel in progress. We made up a little while later. He had no idea he’d bitten me. Better my hand than Sisi’s face, I guess. Yuuki and I can make up, but his actual intended targets (throughout his time with us, in particular the 60 lb pit bull foster he bit me for twice) may not have been so forgiving.

The big dogs enjoying the sun

On the up-side, Yuuki and the rest of the pack have taken well to housesitting. Shizuka’s got a new yard to patrol with animals that haven’t yet heard of her prowess for murder. (If you think that’s harsh, please consult the two opossums she ravaged in our yard earlier this year- one walked off without a lower jaw– serious stuff!) Plus, Yuuki now has three flights of stairs in the comfort of central air to climb every day as a workout. It doesn’t seem like much, but each stair is taller than he is, so it’s a significant jump for a tiny little lump like him. For each little leap, you can hear him puff out a little breath- a little umph to help him along. I’ll be totally honest though, he only goes up the stairs because going down’s a little dangerous for his tiny self. He can do it, but it takes a long time and I’m a little afraid he’ll hurt his back. So…he harumphs his way up and I tote him back down again. I’m sure up is what requires the most energy anyway, right?? I can’t wait to see if it’ll help him shed a few extra pounds in the next few weeks! If only the weather would cool a little and we could combine that with some hiking…