Every once and a while I come across a brand that has consistently good products. And I just want to take a moment to give some big canine kudos to Castor & Pollux Pet Works. Everything I've ever purchased from this company has been well-made, durable and a hit with Baxter and now Kirby.
A while back I wrote about "Bear," one of Baxter's favorite plush squeaky toys. Over the years, there have been several Bears, including one moose that we still called Bear, because that's how Baxter knew it (every animal-shaped plush toy is Bear). And every one has lasted a remarkably long time, given Baxter's tendency to want to pull off tufts of fuzz. Most Bears have had a few holes patched before they finally gave way. And we just bid farewell to the latest, (Moose)Bear, after Kirby managed to rip half the stuffing out of it before I whisked it away. I'm kinda sorry to see (Moose)Bear go, but I know I can find another at my local market.
Another big Castor & Pollux hit has been the pressed rawhide bones. The dogs can chew on them for weeks before they are down to nubbins. And they're particularly good for Kirby, who is at the height of his puppy "gotta chew somethin' right now!" period. They keep him happily occupied for hour on end (even if part of the fun is stealing Baxter's rawhide). Castor & Pollux say they've worked for 15 years with the same factory in production of their WetNose™ natural rawhide, and they say the rawhide has been tested by an "independent laboratory to ensure it's free from harmful chemicals like arsenic or formaldehyde" and that it is checked to ensure there are no traces of salmonella.
One of the risks of rawhide, and the reason I used to be reluctant to give them to dogs, is that a dog can sometimes pull off and swallow a large chunk that can become lodged in the digestive tract. With the pressed rawhide, this is not usually a problem. Despite a lot of vigorous chewing, the WetNose rawhides hold together quite well, and Baxter and Kirby only seem to be able to get fairly small pieces off at a time, which greatly lessens the risks. The risks to our furniture with a bored, chew-happy puppy on the loose are probably much greater. Just like Baxter, who was raised with lots of chew toys, Kirby has learned to focus his chew energy on the rawhide, not anything else. And so far we haven't lost a single shoe or household item to a puppy.
I'm amazed that Castor & Pollux toys are not carried in any traditional pet stores in my area. Mostly, they can be found in locally-owned supermarkets and health food stores. I'm just happy I can find them. We haven't tried their organic foods or biscuits yet, but they look mighty good.
While I'm raving about pet toys, an honorable mention should go to the Boogie Mat, from Fat Cat, Inc. I picked up a couple of these organic catnip-filled mats for some of our cat-loving friends at Christmas. The reviews are in: this is one awesome cat toy. I got my first review from a woman at the supermarket where I was looking them over. "This is the best cat toy EVER," she told me with clear enthusiasm. "My cats LOVE it!" Not being a cat owner myself, I took her word for it.
Since the holidays, we've actually had people call us to tell us just how much their cats love the Boogie Mat. They (the cats) jump and scratch and roll around for 20 or 30 minutes at a time in a state of feline, catnip-induced bliss. No surprise, catnip's been doing this to cats for years, but the mat is a great idea and the designs are pretty cool.
The dogs thought the mats were pretty interesting too, when I brought them home. I had a hard time keeping the dogs from sniffing as I packed the mats in their gift bags. It smells interesting, however the effect just isn't the same on a dog. But a rawhide bone, now there's bliss.