Shiva’s Random Recipe for Dehydrated Hermit Cookies

DSC_0212I’m assuming you’ve heard about this incredible giveaway going on at Kol’s Notes this week. And when I say amazing, I mean for real heavy duty, super duper MEGA crazy. The prize is every dog’s biggest fantasy wrapped in jerky and covered in liver dust.

That’s right, Kol’s Notes is giving away a brand new – too expensive for my wee budget – Excalibur Dehydrator.

This is serious stuff, pet lovers. We all know how lazy I am. Shiva has been complaining to her dog friends – or would if she had any – that it has been DECADES since I made her treats with my own two hands. Like, half her LIFE ago. Clearly I do not love her anymore. This dehydrator could change all that. Put me back on her top human list again, maybe even above the woman at the bakery who gave her a cinnamon twist. I need to enter this giveaway. My precarious relationship with the muttski demands it.

There is just one obstacle to this scheme. In order to enter, I need to come up with my own recipe.This is weave-pole level of trickiness because I do not cook. Ever. And the few times I have, that one weird afternoon several years ago in which I saw myself as the next Food Network star*, I required the use of several cookbooks. How am I supposed to come up with my own ingredients, my own techniques, and my own cooking methods when I have never even used a dehydrator before?

Instead of freaking out and giving up before I even started, I decided to get creative.

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Coconut and pineapple, this is about as creative as I get.

A quick browse for inspiration online showed me what I had already suspected. Most of the easy dog recipes involve beef and other red meats that my dog’s sensitive stomach does not tolerate. I know. She chows down garbage on a daily basis but one handful of lamb kibble has Shiva waking me up several times throughout the night. Building a recipe with cheap ingredients I already had at home was looking even more complicated if I was going to keep my dog’s guts intact.

So I did what I do best when research has failed me: made stuff up.

Looking through my cupboards, I couldn’t help but notice the gargantuan jar of peanut butter taking up the middle shelf. The peanut butter shelf. This stuff is practically a food group in our house. Though it may not be a traditional item in a dehydrated treat – based on what I found, anyway – I knew there had to be a way to incorporate it into my concoction.

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Tinfoil makes the mess go away

Cue to me throwing a whole bunch of crap into a bowl, rolling the mixture into balls, and shoving it in the oven for eleventy-seven hours. Yes, I ended up sticking with what I know, baking cookies. We can’t all be culinary geniuses.

To be honest, I also kind of cheated. Since I had to use the oven and since I did it at the last minute and since I have no idea how to make anything without a recipe and SINCE I gave myself less than an hour to pull this together… The treats didn’t turn out as dehydrated as I would have liked. They were also made with pre-dried packaged ingredients instead of the real deal. But in theory, I do believe this would work. No, I am convinced it would work given a more dedicated cook and the right equipment.

Whatever, the dog still likes them.

Tasting the "dough"

Tasting the “dough”

Prove me wrong?

Here is my beautiful, if impatient, recipe for dehydrated hermit dog cookies:

You will need:

1 healthy portion of coconut**
3 or 4 handfuls of dried fruit, can be a mix of different ones, pick your dog’s favourites!
Grated carrot. (This was my PH’s addition. I think as the resident chef, he felt left out.)
Lots of spoonfuls of peanut butter. I kind of just added as I went, enough to make everything stick together but not too much to make it extra goopy.

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Dump all of the ingredients into a bowl. Doesn’t matter what order, we’re not making brioche here. Mix them up. I like to use a wooden spoon. (My PH, the actual cook, said a metal one is better. Pshaw.) When the peanut butter looks like it has formed a cookie-like dough, or when your arm is tired, shape the mixture into small balls.

Dry in your oven or dehydrator at a low temperature for eleventy-seven hours or until they look crispy and like they won’t fall apart in your hands.

Makes about… Jeepers, I don’t know how many, a bowlful?

If you feel like something a little special, add a garnish of grated carrot and a spring of green leaf lettuce.

Voila!

Voila!

So… They may have turned out more crumbly than I anticipated. That doesn’t mean the recipe doesn’t work. It just means my oven isn’t a dehydrator. I challenge the winner of this competition to try this and I guarantee it will work. And if it doesn’t? I’ll owe you a signed picture of Shiva.***

This "treat" looks questionable. At least there is lettuce.

This “treat” looks questionable. At least there is lettuce.

Have you ever made your own treat recipe? Did your pets like it? I think I am going to stick to my usual method of hanging out in the living room reading blogs while my PH cooks. It seems safer and is far more successful.

*Yeah, I had this idea that me drunk on wine while baking cheesecake would make a brilliant show. This was after my idea for a travel show in which I drank wine while touring historical landmarks. Like “The Thirsty Traveler” only more nerdy.

**What? You expected proper measurements?

***Yes, I am still trying to give these away. 

Show Off Your Dog’s Waistline Campaign – Or, Shiva’s Lovely Lady Lumps

I typically consider all of my spaces, including this website, official diet-free zones. There is a lot of rhetoric out there and I am usually the first person to shut down any talk of body-size. Yes, I talk about exercising and getting out and being active, but this has nothing to do with trying to achieve a certain weight. Not for me, anyway. That line of thinking is pretty dangerous on a personal level and I just won’t go there. Regardless, I am shoving my internal misgivings aside to broach the unfriendly topic for an important cause.

Today I am participating in the Dawg BusinessShow Off Your Dog’s Waistline Campaign”. Blogger Jana Rade came up with the concept to raise positive awareness of the importance of weight management for our pets. With all the recent media around unfortunately overweight cats and dogs and with the numbers rising every year – especially for cats – I do think it is a serious topic for our animal companions. So many websites love to poke fun. Images of fat cats parade through Internet memes and commercials. They are all presented as an amusement, a hilarious “Garfield” stereotype.

In reality, joking about an overweight dog is about as funny as joking about an emaciated one. They are both worthy of concern.

In Jana’s post she shared a graphic showing the basic “Body Condition Scores” of dogs and cats. I’ve seen these charts before and many find them a useful way of gauging their dog’s health based on body size. According to the graphic, the ideal animal should have a score of 3 out of 5, ribs can be felt, and there is a slight waist when viewed from above.

It might just be my own dragons breathing fire on my brain, but I’ve personally found it difficult comparing my own pets with the images on the charts. Real dogs and cats have muscles and fur and legs that stick out in weird places. I have a lot of trouble deciding where exactly Shiva fits in. Looking at her from the side she looks like the first dog yet when I look at her from the top she is more of a number three. Given that I’ve always been told by random strangers on the street that Shiva is much too thin, I don’t know how to read this.

So, in other words, I decided to join in Jana’s Campaign for primarily selfish reasons: I really want to know if I am the only one who struggles understanding these things.

It was a lot harder getting Shiva to pose for a picture than I thought it would be. Maybe because I took it right after I got home from work but I couldn’t get her to stand still. None of the photos give a truly good idea of what her waist looks like. In the end, I had to put a peanut butter cracker on the floor in front of her to get her to quit wiggling. Does that defeat the purpose of a weight-related challenge?

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The Cat was surprisingly easier to photograph. Of course, his general poofiness makes it hard to actually see his waist so I tried to show it with a hand. This displeased him immensely so again I had to pull out a treat. I am not worried in the least about his weight as he has weighed the same for years. He is a large cat with a lot of fur but there isn’t one bit of fat on his body. We keep his bowl full and he eats when he’s hungry.

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I don’t know. I think it comes down to trusting your instincts. If your dog or cat is developing new health issues or has less energy than before, you might want to check with your veterinarian. Really your vet has probably been monitoring your pet’s weight anyway. If he or she hasn’t brought it up, you might be fine.

Dogs are individuals. As I said to a friend on Twitter earlier today, what is ideal for Shiva may not be ideal for your dog, and vice versa. If your dog is still running around after the ball for hours on end or if your cat is still chasing invisible mice at three in the morning (yes, felines get zoomies too) then you probably don’t have to worry. When in doubt, ask a veterinarian. I think that’s all anyone can do.

Chewy.com Giveaway Winner!

The time has come to announce the winner of the Black Friday Chewy.com Giveaway. Are you ready? The winner of the Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Chicken Jerky Treats is…

Kelly Ann! Congratulations to her and her beautiful rescue dog, Artie! Isn’t he a stunner?

 

I hope he enjoys the treats! Here was her winning comment:

“My dogs will do anything for peanut butter frosty paws or treats.”

Shiva is a pretty big peanut butter fan as well. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that without this stinky nut butter, we may not have gotten as far with her separation anxiety as we have. A little peanut butter in a Kong goes a very long way to soothing our neurotic puppy.

Overall, Shiva seems to prefer novelty more than any specific treat. It doesn’t matter if it is just a new variety of kibble or a hunk of meat. If it smells interesting and different, she wants it more than anything else in the world. There have been times where I have pulled her away from tempting fast food wrappers with boring old dog biscuits, simply because she had never had those exact dog biscuits before. It’s all about the newness factor for our Sheevs. I can’t blame her, really. As an experience junkie, I can definitely relate.

Thanks to all who participated in the giveaway! I have a feeling there will be many more great opportunities to come!

 

Black Friday Giveaway from Chewy.com!

Do you like chicken jerky? I don’t particularly. It’s difficult to chew and usually ends up making my teeth hurt. Also, I have more of a sweet tooth and prefer to save my snack calories for brownies. My dog, on the other hand, adores chicken jerky. As in, she will literally attempt a back flip in order to get a nibble.

I don’t put it past her. She’s come pretty close!

Chicken jerky is high up on the list of Shiva’s favourite currencies. She might even like it more than mud. When I work with her on a new trick, I like to pull out the big bucks. This puppy sure don’t work for free! Unfortunately, there are a lot of chicken jerky treats out there that just aren’t safe for the Shivas of this world – or dogs by any other name. With all the disturbing news about treats from China, we are pretty careful about the brands we buy. No cute trick is worth Shiva’s health and safety.

Not even my reigning personal favourite.

As it happens, for one lucky reader I have a solution to the great chicken jerky dilemma. In order to spread the word of their name change from Mr. Chewy, Chewy.com is sponsoring a giveaway. And not just any old random giveaway either. It is the American Black Friday, after all. We’ve got to make this special.

Today Chewy.com is letting me give away high-protein, US-made, all-natural Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Treats Chicken Jerky!

Let the canine trick trainers rejoice.

Isn’t Chewy.com awesome? The only downer of it all is that their services are not available outside of the US so even I can’t partake in the chicken jerky party. Mega bummerage. This just means there is more jerky for you!

Regardless of where you live, I do recommend you check out their fantastic referral program. All you have to do is sign-up, get the code, and start sharing! Every time someone uses your code while checking out he or she not only receives 10% off (which is brilliant enough) but $10 are donated to animal welfare. Even though I can’t buy from Chewy.com, if you use my code (CONT6892) you will save money on your purchase as well as send $10 towards Best Friends Animal Society.

Pretty genius, I’d say.

Anyway! On to the giveaway!

Because all you USians are probably still sleeping off your big Thanksgiving meals, I’m going to keep this simple. You’ve all seen a Rafflecopter before, right? The only real thing you have to do to enter is leave a comment sharing your dogs’ number one reward. Is it chicken jerky? Is it a game of tug? Or is it a roll in dead fish? Whatever it is, I’d love to know! I’ll keep the giveaway going for three days and announce the winner on Tuesday, November 27.

Sound good?

Thanks for participating and happy (Black) Friday!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Adventures in Canine Cuisine, The Sequel

Does anyone else have difficulty leaving a pet store without making several purchases? On the weekend I found myself checking out the new Pet Valu store in my neighbourhood. Shiva had chewed through her ninth (tenth? fifteenth? thirtieth? I’ve lost count) Kong and we needed to get a new one before the work week.

These are the super-tough black Kongs, mind you. I really wish they’d make another colour level because while I adore these rubber toys, they are just not durable enough to withstand Shiva-jaws for very long.

But I digress.

I found what I was looking for almost right away so decided to poke around the rest of the store for a few minutes. Usually this leads to me spending the next three months’ rent on dog toys, forcing me to break dance on the street to avoid eviction. Or, in other words, it’s typically not a good idea. But hey, at least my dog has cool stuff.

This time, however, was different. Okay, so I did buy Shiva a new toy she chewed through after five minutes of play. But I am so glad I stopped to browse as it led me to a thrilling discovery. The Honest Kitchen is finally available in Nova Scotia! Woo hoo!

I have heard so many great things about this food from Go Pet Friendly and I’ve always wanted to try it out myself. The ingredients are all natural and human grade and the food comes in several different varieties. They even have a brand of cat food. We’ve been experimenting a lot with different types of pet food ever since we got the chance to sample Nature’s Harvest Fresh  earlier this year. It’s pretty cool to live in a time with so many very unique options.

Now here is where I have to lavish praise on the helpful pet store manager. He saw me checking out the cute little boxes and asked if I’d like a free sample. Unfortunately, after checking his supplies, he couldn’t find any left.

“No problem,” he said. “I can give you a one pound box instead. Would you like one for your cat as well?”

Silly question. Do I write incredibly long-winded blog posts about my dog? Of course I would! I left the store totally ecstatic, mentally vowing to do all my pet store shopping there in the future.

As soon as we got home, I had to check the stuff out. Unlike Nature’s Harvest Fresh – which comes frozen in patty form – the food from The Honest Kitchen is dehydrated. It makes preparation super easy. Just measure out the dry ingredients from the package, add water, and stir.

At first, it doesn’t really look all that appetizing. Kind of the consistency of soup or runny porridge. But after sitting about five minutes, the liquid gets absorbed and it looks a lot more like normal wet dog food.

Yum.

Shiva apparently thought so. She couldn’t stop staring at the bowl on the counter.

Is it ready NOW???

It should come as no surprise that she licked every last smudge from the bowl. Shiva is hardly a food critic. Her favourite treat is grass clippings, for crying out loud.

Still, I am pretty impressed with The Honest Kitchen so far. It was everything I expected it to be after reading so many reviews. I love how easy it is to store and think it would be great to take camping. I don’t know if I would switch over completely as I like the handiness of kibble for lots of other things, but I would definitely think about adding it as a supplement to beef up some of Shiva’s meals. I love how easy it is to mix in my own ingredients with food like this.

The real question is, will our ultra-picky-white-meat-kibble-only cat be willing to give it a serious chance?

Stray Dog Syndrome?

Most dogs are “food obsessed” in some form. I don’t even really like using the term obsessed as it implies abnormal behaviour. It believe it is very normal for a dog to seek out food at every opportunity. Nutrition is essential for survival. Being natural scavengers dogs are genetically pre-disposed to eat as much as they can when they can. A dog not interested in food is not a dog who will live on his own for very long.

Shiva takes all of this to a new level. She is a scavenger with a capital S-C-A-V-E-N-G and even an E. Nothing gets between her an a possible edible. Even if that edible turns out to be a boring piece of paper. If she thinks it might – possibly – in another world  – be food, she is going for it. And how.

As much as I dislike the practice of blaming a dog’s past for current behavioural issues, I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t at least part of case here. We don’t know how long Shiva lived as a stray mutt, roaming a bad part of town. It could have been days or weeks or months. All we know is where she was found and how she arrived at the shelter. The thing that most stands out to me is when we took her home after her brief stay at the shelter, Shiva weighed about 38 pounds. Three years later with a very consistent, very healthy diet, she weighs 40. She only gained two pounds in her solid home life versus her life on the streets of Spryfield.

This dog is a survivor.

 Am I assuming too much? Perhaps. It’s very tempting to make excuses for her wild food-related behaviours instead of working hard to train them out of her. I am aware that many dogs live as strays and then go on to be adopted into homes without jumping on every counter and lunging into every bag they see. Some of Shiva’s behaviour was definitely learned and I take responsibility for that. However, she also has a lot of natural drive. More than most dogs – at least I am guessing more than most. (If not I have no idea why so many people have dogs as pets! Cr-a-a-a-zy.)

Could not this insano energy combine with her stray dog mentality to create a dog who will do anything to get to the birdseed located in a neighbour’s feeder? Or the treats that might be in a bag on the other side of the classroom? Or the chicken bone in the bottom of the garbage can? Or the bloody Tim Horton’s cup underneath the bench?

Maybe I am just trying to make myself feel better. I’d rather think there are forces beyond my control at play, than feel like a jerk who can’t train a simple “leave it”. Yes, my dog can do hand stands (almost) but no, I can’t stop her from eating your lunch. Love me, love my dog stealing all your food.

It doesn’t matter what I have in my hand either. I could wave bacon around, throw chicken pieces in the air like confetti. Shiva’s motto is that old adage: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. She knows with me she has to earn her treats. Why work for a piece of steak when there is perfectly good grass just over there?

Yes, she will turn down steak for grass. And mud. And seeds. And old shoelaces. And whatever else she can find that doesn’t require her to pay attention to me.

I am not being completely fair. This behaviour has gotten a lot better. She does focus a lot more and we do manage to actually make our way around an agility course every now and then. She isn’t always a maniac these days. Just most of the time.

I suppose even if Shiva’s past does contribute to this very annoying scavenging activity of hers, the results are still the same. It just gives me a weak excuse to toss out when she eats some other dog’s very expensive liver treats in one gulp.

“Sorry about that. She was a stray.”

Maybe I should start telling people she has an incurable disease. It’s a lie but it might prevent all the other dog owners from glaring at us. Just look how thin she is, it’s totally believable. Pity is much easier to handle.

Superfood for Pets: Rejuv-A-Wafers Giveaway

For the past few months, I have been experimenting with Shiva’s diet in an effort to find something with the right balance of nutrition for her active lifestyle . It doesn’t matter at all to me how much she weighs or what size she is as long as I know she is healthy.

It has been difficult trying to sort through all the information, though I am impressed by how many different options are out there. Luckily Shiva has guts of steel and a willingness to imbibe anything I put in front of her. It makes playing around with varieties much easier and less stressful.

One of the things I didn’t realize before I started this quest was the large amount of supplements there are for dogs. I have long been curious about the efficacy of vitamins and detoxifying tablets for humans and when I discovered health food companies have branched out to include pet products, my curiosity strengthened. Like a true dog lover, my own health is not nearly so interesting to me as my dog’s.

Even with all the reading I have done, I remain unsure. Is there such a thing as a “super food”? Do things like antioxidants really increase one’s health?

Around this same time I was approached by Sun Chlorella USA about the relaunch of their line of pet treats called Rejuv-A-Wafers.

According to the website, Reju-A-Wafers are a supplement for dogs and cats that contain Sun Chlorella and Sun Eleuthero, a whole good green algae. These ingredients are said to be “super foods” that help purify pets of dangerous toxins and chemicals.  The beta-carotene enhances health and helps improve the appearance and overall health and well-being of your pets.

It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Have you ever tried supplements like these before? Have you found them effective?

If you would like to try something like this to see if it helps your pet, I have some good news. Sun Chlorella USA has offered to give a month’s supply to one lucky reader!

All you have to do to win is leave a comment on this post by Sunday, April 15th. It’s that simple. I’ll perform a random draw and announce the winner next Monday.

Good luck!