Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Scruffy Puppy Christmas with Cousin Homer

We spent Christmas at the home of my in-laws...a nice, quiet little place in a quiet little retirement community in Washington. We brought the whole Oregon contingent of the family, including my mother, Jamie's brother and our dogs Kirby and 12-week-old Remy. Also descending on the grandparents: another of Jamie's brothers along with his wife, their two adorable daughters (5 and 8) and their 5-month-old-but-gigantic-already scruffy puppy, Homer. We had not yet met Homer, and the rest of the family had not yet met Remy, although the human siblings have had a few "climb down off the ledge" puppy-rearing discussions by phone over the past few months.

To further set the stage: The grandparents have two bedrooms, no pets and white carpet. Bless their hearts, they invited everyone to stay at their house on Christmas Eve. Despite the warnings, we were fairly certain they had no idea what they were getting themselves into this year...

The adult kids, grandkids and puppies came with Aerobeds, sleeping bags, dog crates and Nature's Miracle (Homer and Remy are mostly housetrained, but still not 100% reliable). Kirby is completely reliable in that way, but he has always been a tad freaked out by large family gatherings, particularly those that involve children whom he is not allowed to herd around.
Homer, 5 months

We approached the whole thing with a bit of trepidation. We didn't know how we were going to choreograph the puppy situation, particularly since Remy and Kirby still can't spend five minutes together without turning the whole scene into a wrestling match. Homer, we were told, is a pretty dominant puppy with a fierce independent streak, a big, strong body and the smart-yet-wacky brain of a 5-month-old puppy (they were told by the shelter that he is a German Shepherd/Poodle mix but he also looks a LOT like an Irish Wolfhound). We feared he and Remy might duke it out for number one.

Needless to say, the excitement and anticipation of a merry Christmas was getting back-burnered by our desire to just make it through the two days without any tears, major injuries (dog or human) or property damage.


In fact, it was fun and merry and remarkably without incident. There were no "surprises" on the white carpet, no children's toys were maimed, the Nature's Miracle never even came out of the bag. I still can hardly believe it.

The girls loved having three dogs to play with (though I think we all missed Baxter's presence terribly... I know Jamie and I did.) Interestingly enough, without Baxter around, Kirby took on the role of "elderly statesman dog." No herding of the children. No excited barking. He left the rowdiness to the puppies and did a remarkable job of circulating, cheerfully accepting the hugs and kisses and pats on the head from every member of the family.

To keep the peace, we did control things a bit, though. We only allowed one dog out at a time in the living room unless the puppies were on leashes. This kept it from seeming like a three-ring circus and enabled us to focus on really having a good time with the girls and the designated puppy of the moment.

Remy and Homer played in the garage and the back yard and Kirby mostly just stayed out of the way. He seemed relieved that Remy finally had a gonzo playmate a bit closer to his own age. Homer and Remy wrestled, chased each other around and generally seemed to have a fantastic time together. Homer, though nearly twice as big as Remy, was appropriately gentle with him.

Remy discovered that he needs to look where he's going even when he's being chased, otherwise obstacles like trees can really cramp your style. He also discovered that he didn't have to run around bushes, he could run THROUGH them and they made great places to hide from Homer (Remy's such a Griff). The two puppies managed to wear each other out without any injuries (despite the aforementioned tree) and while neither of them particularly liked being put into their crates for some down-time, they seemed to accept it with only minor whining.

Remy, 3 months
Santa came. Gifts were opened. Dogs chewed on rawhide. Humans stuffed themselves on cookies and candy, turkey and ham. And, to top it all off, Remy found "treats" some rabbits had left for him in the back yard. He thought they were the best Christmas gift of all.

The day after Christmas we said our goodbyes, rolled up the sleeping bags, packed up the packages, loaded the dogs into their crates and headed home...fatter, happier and quite relieved that Remy and Homer's first Christmas was pretty great.

The Duck Tape Dance

Last weekend, after many days of continuous rain, we decided to let Remy burn off some cabin-fever by running around Jamie's art studio. Jamie moved the more delicate art items out of harm's way to give Remy access to romp around the fairly good sized warehouse space. After we arrived we realized we had forgotten to bring Remy's ball (he loves to fetch), so we improvised with a roll of duck tape... We spent the next 15 minutes trying to hold the cameras steady because we were laughing so hard.

Thanks to Jamie for editing the highlights into this little video... Enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mouthfuls of Hair

The relationship between Remy and Kirby is still under negotiation. From day one, Kirby has been remarkably tolerant of Remy. Kirby wants to play and always comes over when Remy comes out of his crate, but I think Remy is a little more gonzo-puppy than Kirby wants to handle most of the time. Remy, who is now 11 weeks old and growing like a weed, is relentless in his attempts to tackle Kirby. He seems to think that pouncing on Kirby from behind and proceeding to grab and twist wads of Kirby's long hair is great fun. Kirby has always enjoyed a good wrestle as much as the next dog, but he's never encountered such a hair-puller. And the fact that Remy is now the same height as Kirby adds a whole different dimension to the puppy attack.

Remy has learned "leave it!" and is now very good at NOT chewing our shoes, rugs, etc. Amazing how quickly he learned those house rules (I hope this sticks). The one "leave it" he does not listen to is about Kirby. I take that back, if we are standing right next to both of them and we catch Remy just about to pounce, a forceful "leave it" tends to make him abort the attack. But if we look away for one second, it's hair-pulling time.

All this makes me feel a bit sorry for Kirby, but it bears remembering that when we brought Kirby home as a puppy six years ago he was absolutely relentless in his attacks on Baxter. But at the time, Kirby barely came up to Baxter's knees so his ability to de-beard his big brother was limited to a few jump-and-grabs. Baxter was remarkably tolerant of Kirby, even though he wasn't particularly happy to have him around for the first few weeks. He would even lie down so that Kirby could wrestle with him. We always treated Baxter as the elder (he was seven when we introduced Kirby as a puppy) and, from our perspective at least, Baxter was always the top dog. But that didn't stop Kirby from attempting dominance over Baxter for the next six years. He would steal Baxter's toys (Baxter always let him) and Kirby would attempt to climb on top of Baxter when the big guy was sleeping. We sometimes called Kirby "Little Napoleon" for his big attitude.

Perhaps due to this upbringing and Baxter's gentle nature, Kirby has always been fearless around big dogs. When we were first thinking about getting another Griff puppy and took Kirby over to visit with some adult Griffs, he attempted to dominate all of them, even the intact adult male. So our biggest concern about bringing a puppy into the house was that Kirby might be a little rough with the puppy.

Much to our surprise, the opposite has been true. Kirby's immediate reaction, when we introduced them in the motel room that first night, was to hide under the bed. He growled and let Remy know that the underbed was Kirby's realm. But when we got home, the sacred under-sofa realm of Kirby was immediately violated by Remy and, much to our surprise, Kirby didn't defend it very assertively at all. He growled, but never laid a tooth on the puppy, even when Remy was chewing on Kirby's ears, moustache and tail. When Remy pounces on him now Kirby always looks up at us with the same "please help me" look Baxter used to give us when Kirby (or our toddler neice) had hold of his moustache. And when Remy latches onto the scruff of hair on the back of Kirby's neck and won't let go, Kirby hardly fights back.

Right now they're close to the same size (Kirby weighs more and is a lot stronger, but Remy is taller and more agile).  It won't be long before Remy is too big to fit under the sofa, so Kirby will get his safe haven back. For now, though, we've had to gate the stairs and give Kirby the upstairs during the times Remy is out of his crate. Sometimes Kirby sits at the gate and begs to come out and play. This lasts all of five minutes before he's had enough of Remy's antics and Kirby asks to go upstairs again.

Concerned over how much we should intervene, I posted the question to the Griffology group on Facebook (a group of people who share their photos, stories, trials and joys of living with Griffs) to ask for advice. Some said to let the two dogs duke it out (within reason). Some said Kirby was just giving Remy a pass because he recognizes that Remy is a puppy and once he gets older, Kirby will be a bit more assertive with him. Some said we need to pull Remy off when he gets too rough with Kirby and assert our human dominance, keeping the puppy as the low dog in the pack. What we've ended up doing is a combination of those things. Sometimes, as one person suggested, we just keep a leash on Remy and use it to pull him back when he's trying to jump on Kirby (this is much to Remy's frustration and Kirby's relief).

We have achieved detente on a limited basis. The one time they will lie down side by side is when they both have a giant rawhide roll to chew on. But that can only be for short, supervised periods before someone (usually Kirby) rips off a chunk and tries to swallow it. Remy still has little baby teeth, so it takes him a lot longer...

I look forward to the day when these two can play together and sleep curled up next to each other. I know Kirby would like that. He always wanted to cuddle up next to Baxter and kept trying even when Baxter wasn't particularly interested. I honestly think he would do it with Remy right now, if the little guy would just give him a break.

Patience Kirby. Patience.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Remy the Cat Whisperer?

Apparently cats are attracted to Remy. At least that is how it seemed today when we discovered a feral litter of adolescent kittens emerging from our shrubbery...

It all started with an innocent trip to the back yard for Remy to do his mid-day business. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a gray and white kitten with a pink nose came bounding up to Remy. Having been raised with a cat during his first 9 weeks, Remy was thrilled to see a potential playmate and began tugging at the leash and swatting the air with his front paws. I didn't let him get too close to the feline stranger, not knowing if the kitty was truly friendly or just canine-curious. The kitty appeared to be an adolescent female, lanky, yet young enough that I would still consider her a kitten. Though thin, she did not look malnourished or sick, but she was not wearing a collar or ID. I figured she must be a new neighbor kitty.

Remy and I went on with our walk around the house and the pink-nosed kitty proceeded to follow us, right up to the front porch. I opened the door just enough to tell my husband, Jamie, that a stray cat was hanging about. He came outside and just as he was looking the cat over we heard a little "mew" coming from the shrubbery... Another collarless kitty, same age, with pretty gray stripes came trotting out to say hello. He (definitely a little male) was followed by another little gray and white female. By this time we realized we didn't just have someone's lost kitty, we had attracted an entire "lost" litter, all of whom were well beyond weaning. They were all friendly, but they seemed more like a little band of vagabonds than anyone's trio of pets.

So now what?  Several of our neighbors have lost their pet cats to coyotes in the past few months... If we left these younglings out to fend for themselves they would likely suffer the same fate, not to mention the toll they would take on our local songbird population. 

We decided the best thing would be to take them to the animal shelter - at least there they would be safe and warm, for the time being and hopefully, if they belonged to someone and were just lost, they would be chipped and/or the owners would think to look there. We brought out some dry dog food (all we have) and water and the bigger male immediately dove into it. The females were a bit hesitant to eat at first, but each ate a bit of kibble. We figured we should wait a bit to see if any more kitties emerged. As soon as I squatted down the male jumped into my lap and snuggled up next to my fleece coat. Jamie went to get a box (all our dog carriers are in use) and we proceeded to pick up the kitties and try to put them in the box. That was a trick...I'll spare you the details of the multiple failed  attempts to get three cats into the large box, but let's just say I'll never use the term "herding cats" again without remembering just how crazy that process truly was. Interesting thing is, despite the multiple efforts at their capture, all three cats kept coming back to us when we called them (they all answered to "kitty," of course). FINALLY we got them all in, put the box into the back of the Subaru and headed for the shelter.

I was greeted by a young woman who seemed not to believe me when I said we had found a litter of kittens and were turning them in. I suppose that's the line everyone uses when they're dumping kittens at the shelter. She asked me to fill out a form and informed me that it would cost $10 to drop them off. I explained that these weren't our kittens, they were strays that wandered into our yard. She replied "It's only ten dollars" and gave me that "you are dumping kittens, aren't you" look again.

I'm all for supporting the animal shelter, and $10 is not a huge sum so I didn't really mind, but I thought it a bit odd and counter-productive -- punishing people for turning in stray cats is not the way to reach the goal of getting highly reproductive cats off the street. Anyway...we brought them in and the girl took one look in the box and said "these aren't kittens, they're adolescent cats, so that will be $10 per cat."

Seriously? You are charging us $30 for the privilege of being good samaritans who just spent the better part of the past two hours chasing three cats around our yard, putting them into a box and driving them across town to the shelter? I suppose they have no way to determine if we are telling the truth or not so it's easier to apply the "rules" to everyone. But that's quite a sum, and a financially strapped potential do-gooder might be hard pressed to do the right thing if they had to choose between turning in a litter of stray cats or putting dinner on their family's table.

Jamie went to the cashier to pay and a couple more girls came out from the back and proceeded to photograph and vaccinate the cats. By this time I had told them all our story and I think at least two of them believed me. I told them I just hoped there weren't any more cats because doing the right thing was getting kinda spendy.

We left, $30 poorer but feeling good that we had prevented those cute kitties from becoming another coyote banquet. (We love coyotes but wish they would stick to rabbits and squirrels...) We got home, took Remy out again and I saw something moving in the bushes. No....Yes. Dang. It was another gray striped kitty, same age, no collar. The sibling that was left behind.

"We can't let her fend for herself...especially now that she doesn't even have the protection of her litter mates." I think I said it out loud, but I could tell Jamie was thinking the same thing. He went to get the box. She was a bit more skittery than the other kitties, but eventually she came to us. Then came the battle. This little kitty, the smallest of the four, put up an amazing fight. It took as much effort to keep her in the box as it did all the other three cats combined. We struggled to tape it shut so she couldn't jump out the top -- she sliced through the tape with a little box-cutter-sharp claw and proceeded to stab me in the hand, then slice through my husband's palm before making her escape. This happened two more times, with a different box and a new set of wounds. Even with gloves, poor Jamie ended up with blood running down his arm. Expletives were said. Boxes were thrown. We went inside to swab our wounds and left the kitty mewing in the yard.

We contemplated leaving her there. I cried (mostly out of frustration). Finally, after both our tempers cooled down, we decided to give it another go. The shelter said we could come in and get a cat carrier, so we drove back across town again, got the carrier, came home and found the cat sitting in the neighbor's lawn, still mewing. The gloves went on, the cat was successfully stuffed into the crate, we snapped the metal door closed behind her and drove her, mewing all the way, across town to the shelter.

Another girl helped us. She was a lot nicer to deal with as she took the carrier and handed us another slip for $10.  Yes, today we paid the local shelter $40 for the privilege of dropping off stray cats.

We called the doctor to ask after cat scratches and possibly bites (it was hard to tell with all the kerfuffle exactly which sharp object the cat was lashing out with). I just had one tiny scratch, but Jamie's hand and arm looked like Swiss cheese. His doctor said to come in. Antibiotics...just in case. Can't wait to get the bill for that.

Four hours later we were home and wondering when the next kitten would be wandering out of the bushes. We may just have to walk Remy around the other side of the house from now on...

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Remy Comes Home

I can't believe it's been a week since we brought home our little Wirehaired Pointing Griffon puppy, Remy. The fact that I haven't yet updated my blog with the news of Remy's home-coming is, mostly, because of his home-coming. As anyone who has ever introduced a 9-week-old puppy into their family knows, there's a lot of hoopla. There's the good hoopla -- family and friends and neighbors ooh-ing and aah-ing over the latest addition, lots of playing, snuggling, reveling in sweet puppy kisses, taking pictures.  And there's the logistical hoopla -- figuring out the feeding, potty and crate schedules around another dog, work schedules, puppy bladder size and other necessities like feeding the humans and letting them get some sleep. Then there's the relationship hoopla between Kirby and Remy and trying to get them off to a good start (more on that in a later post).

In the coming months, this blog will be filled with our experiences around all of the above. First I want to capture a bit of our experience bringing Remy into our lives. The whole thing has been completely different from how we adopted our other canine family members. Baxter was found through an ad in the paper, Kirby was found through a Petfinder listing from an animal shelter. In contrast, we were on the list for Remy before the little guy was even born. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are a fairly rare breed so there aren't that many breeders out there. And because they are starting to become a bit more popular, it is even more important to find a reputable breeder who really knows the breed's history and traits, is super careful about genetic health and who provides the type of environment little puppy Griffs need in order to be properly socialized. There are a few such breeders around the country and their pups are quickly spoken for.

The owners of Supreme Point Kennels, veterinarian Lisa Boyer and her husband Robert Miller, are just that type of breeder and they are in a neighboring state, so we considered ourselves fortunate to get on their puppy list. (There are some good breeders here in Oregon too, but timing was also an issue for us, and the timing of this litter was ideal.)

As noted in previous posts, following Mama Trey's pregnancy, whelping and puppy-rearing through photos and videos posted by the breeders on Facebook enabled us to engage in Remy's birth and early puppyhood in a very personal way that wouldn't have been possible back in Baxter's puppy days, at least not from a 10-hour drive away. After our whirlwind-long-drive-weekend visit with the 6-week-old puppies and the confirmation that we would be getting "Supreme Point's Do I Feel Lucky," the wait to bring our little guy home seemed interminable. He was available on Thanksgiving, but we weren' another week passed. was time to make the all-day road trip down to lovely Loomis, CA. We had planned to pick Remy up early Saturday morning, but we got in fairly early, so we called to let the breeder know. It turned out coming that evening was actually more convenient for them, so off we went. The whole thing was quite the family affair. On a rainy Friday night we received a warm welcome from Lisa and Robert; two of their children, Pavel and Becca; puppy-mama Trey; grown-up half-sister Blaze; Max the mini-but-mighty Maltese and the family's amazing dog-loving cat (whose name escapes me).  The two remaining pups, our little Remy and his sister, Supreme Point's Grand Torino (also to be named Remy, totally a coincidence) were still downstairs... We and the breeders knew that once we set eyes on the puppy, paying attention to paperwork and asking essential questions would be next to impossible.

Trey and Blaze padded around the dining room table and took turns putting their heads on our laps as we went through the paperwork with Lisa and Robert. They answered many of our questions before we had the chance to ask them -- chip, vaccination schedules, food, best toys, etc.

Then they brought up the puppies, who proceeded to wrestle around the living room in various configurations with all of the aforementioned human, canine and feline family members. At one point, I looked over and Remy -- all ears and giant feet -- was in the middle of the living room floor rolling around with the cat, who was gently swatting at Remy's little moustache. A few minutes later Remy was in the middle of the living room floor rolling around with Max. Then with the other Remy. Then with Pavel. Becca carried the puppies around. It was obvious that our little Remy not only came from a very sweet mama dog, Remy's first 9 weeks of life were spent in a home filled with much caring, cuddling, playing and love from every member of the family.

We posed for pictures (the puppies were having too much fun to sit still) then it was time for Remy to say goodbye to his mama and the only family he had ever known. It was a bittersweet moment.

Remy adapted remarkably quickly. That night we put his first collar on him. No struggle. We attached a leash. Again, no struggle -- he got the gist of it almost immediately. I held him on my lap as we drove to the motel. He sat calmly looking out the window and seemed fascinated by the lights and cars whizzing by. At the motel we introduced Remy to his little big brother, Kirby, who had been observing things from the gated area in the back of our car this whole time...

Kirby wasn't quite sure what to make of this puppy as they sniffed and circled and sized each other up. I think it helped that we were on neutral territory. And, for Kirby, it also helped that there was a bed he could crawl under to get away from the little gonzo guy who somehow still had tons of energy, even after all that wrestling around on the Boyer/Miller's living room floor. (Kirby made it known, in no uncertain terms, that the under-bed area was strictly off-limits to the puppy.)

We spent the rest of the evening playing, reveling in the joy of having a new puppy (and hoping we might tire Remy out so we could get a decent night's sleep). We introduced Remy to his crate and he went in and out, brought toys in there to play with and seemed immediately to think of it as his space -- which was great. But when that crate door closed and the lights went off around midnight, little Remy began to whimper. I stuck my finger in through the door and he sucked and chewed on it. Soon, the tired puppy had nodded off, and so did we.

Then came the 3am "hey, I'm not in Loomis anymore" wake-up call... The adorable little creature we had put into the crate only three hours earlier had turned into a little ball of fury, unleashing a repertoire of progressively louder whimpers that turned into yelps that turned into howls that morphed into an other-worldly yodel and finally a very high/very low growly yowl that was accompanied by kicking and biting at the door of the crate. Not wanting to get kicked out of the motel, but also not wanting to immediately teach him that whining would get him out and onto the bed, we took turns crouching next to the crate, talking calmly, until Remy dropped the volume a bit and finally wore himself out.

Remy was bright eyed and rearing to go at the crack of dawn. As Jamie took the dogs out to do their duties I shuffled, bleary-eyed, over to the coffee machine in the room, to discover that it only came with decaf. We fed the dogs (Remy's a chow hound) and happily hit the road in search of caffeinated beverages.

Remy, it turns out, is a great little traveler. He protested initially at being put in the crate, but after a few minutes he calmed down and went to sleep. After a while I took him out of the crate and he sat happily on my lap, playing with his toys, watching cars and scenery go by, chewing on my hands and licking my face. He particularly enjoyed watching large semi-trucks as we passed.

We decided to make the trip home over the course of two days, to allow plenty of time for play and potty breaks and a couple of visits with friends. The first night we stopped in Ashland, Oregon and had dinner with a dear friend who was, of course, smitten with the puppy. Remy must have been worn out by the end of the first day on the road because that night he slept seven hours straight, no whining, which the sleep-deprived and road-weary humans greatly appreciated.

The next morning we visited a few of our old haunts (we lived in the area for 5-1/2 years) then hit the road...stopping to visit another friend in Grants Pass along the way. Remy took it all in stride. Truck stops were fascinating places with lots of loud noises to investigate (here is where the difference in wiring between Kirby and Remy was apparent -- at every loud noise Kirby cringes and tries to find a place to hide...Remy startles, then immediately wants to go toward the noise to see what's going on).

We were careful not to let Remy onto the grass or dirt (he has only had one set of vaccinations, so he doesn't yet have full immunity to Parvo and other puppy diseases) so the little guy had to get used to doing his business on pavement. No problem.

The rest of the drive home involved a lot of drive-thru coffee (humans), sleeping (dogs), potty breaks (everybody) and good tunes.

Next stop...Hillsboro!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Brief History of Remy

As we count down to the big day when we bring little Remy home, I thought I'd share some of the photos featuring his puppyness over the past couple of months... Thanks to Supreme Point Kennels for posting pictures and keeping us apprised of puppy progress throughout Trey's pregnancy, birth and pup-rearing!

Trey gave birth on Sept. 28/29 through the night. Little Remy (Supreme Point's Do I Feel Lucky) was the last one born. After delivering eight puppies, Trey was having some trouble with the last two... Thanks to the fetal heart monitor and the watchful eye of breeder/vet Lisa, they knew when it was time to take additional measures. Trey ended up delivering the last two via C-section. The little guys came out just fine and Mama Trey was soon up and around and all the pups were nursing.

Mama Trey

Breeder Lisa and Assistant Becca using fetal heart monitor

Hungry little newborns - Day 1/2 - 29 Sept. 2012

Day 7 - pups drinkin' and chillin'

Remy - Day 12

3 Weeks - Remy's in that pile somewhere!

Remy - Day 28

Remy - Day 28

Remy - 6 Weeks

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Do I Feel Lucky?

Yes!  A decision has been made... and soon an adorable little Wirehaired Pointing Griffon from Supreme Point Kennel's "D Litter" will become a member of our family. After our whirlwind weekend trip down to Loomis, California to meet the little 6-week-old puppies, we had it narrowed down to two. Honestly, either of the two (any of the 10 really) would have been wonderful companions for us, and we had decided that whichever one worked out for us would be the right one.

Last night we got a call from the breeder and it's now official: our new little family member will be Supreme Point's Do I Feel Lucky. That's his official name from the breeder, but we get to pick out his everyday name... After a bit of discussion over a couple of possibilities, we've decided to call him

And he'll be coming home with us in a couple of weeks. I can hardly wait!

Monday, November 12, 2012

We're Down to Two...

We made the trek down to Loomis, CA to Supreme Point Kennels to visit with the breeder and the puppies, who are now 6 weeks old. All I can say is, even the best pictures don't begin to capture just how truly ADORABLE these puppies are. Ok, yes, I'm partial, but WOW. And all of them are cuddly and sweet and active and if I had a huge farm and unlimited supplies of money I could easily take home all 10! But, alas, all 10 are spoken for and we only get to take one of them home... very soon!

When we put in our application, we didn't specify male or female -- honestly, to us, the personality matters more than the gender.  Some folks are a lot more particular. They want a dog that's very "birdy," because they plan to hunt a lot. Others must have a female for one reason or another. For us, an even-tempered, active but mellow pup who really connects with its people is the main thing we're looking for.

Together, with the breeder, we've narrowed down the field to two... Supreme Point's Do I Feel Lucky or Supreme Point's Dirty Harry. This will be a tough decision and it's one the breeder is making for us, which is probably good because I'd just as soon take both of them home!

Do I Feel Lucky - photo: Jamie Newton

Dirty Harry - photo: Jamie Newton
Do I Feel Lucky - photo: Supreme Point

Do I Feel Lucky - photo: Supreme Point
Dirty Harry - photo: Supreme Point

Dirty Harry - photo: Supreme Point

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Wrestlemania! The Puppy Video

They get cuter by the day!

(Thanks to Supreme Point Kennels for the video...)

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Why a Griff?

Trey's Puppies - photo: Supreme Point Kennels
For a few weeks now I've been posting about the forthcoming arrival of a new puppy...the little Wirehaired Pointing Griffon who will join our family in late November. A few people have asked me "Why that breed?" I always have an answer: because Baxter was a Griff.

While we know we'll never have another dog quite like Baxter, getting a dog of the same breed does stack the odds in favor of having a dog that has a similar temperament and a similar -- for lack of a better word -- energy. It's an energy we miss very much. Everyone I've met who has had a Griff in their lives says the same thing. There's just something unique about them. A certain "je ne sais quoi" that I've attempted to describe in many past blog posts about Baxter.

I recently joined a Griffology group on Facebook and it's almost overwhelming, even sobering, to find that so many of the traits we so valued in Baxter are traits every Griff person in that global group says they so love about their dogs. It's a great breed. I'm sure every dog breed group feels the same way. It's just that Jamie and I know it to be true in this case.

Now, as a vocal supporter of pet adoption from shelters and rescues, and as one who proudly shares my home with a mixed-breed dog we adopted from a shelter, I have done some soul searching about whether it's right to get a purebred dog from a breeder when there are so many unwanted dogs needing homes. My answer (which I fully recognize may be the result of some cognitive dissonance) is "it depends."

So here, in the form of unsolicited advice, I will explore that dissonance and how I've come to accept that either way, it's OK, with some notable exceptions...

Shelter puppy: If you want a puppy and you enjoy the wonderful mystery that is a mixed-breed like our Kirby, the shelter is, far and away, the best place to go. I highly recommend it. In fact, if you aren't going to get a well-bred, purebred puppy from a reputable, small-scale dog breeder that pays attention to genetics and careful breeding practices, your best bet is a mixed breed -- hybrid vigor helps ensure that any health or behavioral problems that might be inherent in any contributing breeds is diluted. And it can be fun trying to figure out what breeds are in your dog's ancestry (with Kirby we turned it into a contest among friends -- the winner got a donation to the animal shelter of their choice).

Shelter/rescue adult: Better yet, if you want an adult dog, the shelter or a breed rescue is a great place to find a dog that is already housebroken and comes with a well-formed personality. That can be a very good thing, because if you have time to get to know the dog, you already know how they're going to turn out!  But if you don't have time to get to know the dog, you have to be OK with the fact that these dogs were surrendered to a shelter or rescue for a reason, and you may not know what that is. It may have nothing to do with the dog other than having an owner who can not or will not care for it anymore. But in any case, these dogs come with their own mysteries and you need to be ready and willing to put the time in to help solve them. Too many shelter and rescue dogs end back up in shelters and rescues for the same reasons they were surrendered in the first place.

While Kirby was still a puppy (although older than the shelter thought) when we adopted him, he had come from a feral litter of puppies that had little or no human contact during some critical periods of early development. He came pre-loaded with heartworm, too many teeth and a few socialization issues, and it was our challenge to help him overcome them. It was a challenge we embraced with the love and caring (and large vet bills) our sweet little guy needed and deserved, and we helped him grow into a healthy, friendly, well-adjusted little dog. I wouldn't trade him for any dog. Ever. But Kirby was more than a dog, he was a project.

There are times in one's life that such projects are welcome. There are other times that one has too many projects, and just the effort to housebreak a healthy, well-adjusted puppy is project enough. A well-bred purebred puppy at least gives you a fairly accurate prediction of the kinds of health and behavioral issues you may need to deal with. It also gives you a pretty good idea of how big the dog will be, what the personality will be like, how much care the coat will be and how to approach things like training. For us, at this time in our lives, these were key factors in our decision to get another Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

Not from a puppy mill! I say well-bred purebred because poorly-bred purebred dogs are probably the worst choice you can make. They may look like you expect them to, but they may be riddled with genetically-based health problems, just for starters. And if you get a puppy from a pet store, there's a high chance that your purebred or cross-breed dog (I see a lot of labradoodles and puggles around these days) came from a puppy mill. I think we've all seen the photos of the inhumane treatment of these dog-breeding factories with cage after cage of breeder dogs living in misery and filth, existing only to produce puppies as "products" for some uncaring person's profit. The in-breeding that often takes place can result in dogs that have serious health and mental problems, behavioral issues and short lifespans. It's not the puppy's fault. But if you get one of these dogs, you are supporting an "industry" that should not exist.

There is a HUGE difference between these puppy mills and the small-scale, loving, humane purebred dog breeders who keep their dogs as family companions and put a great deal of effort into ensuring that their puppies' bloodlines and genetics are sound to further the development of the breed. These people are dedicated to their breeds, and their dedication is usually out of love for their own dogs and the desire to continue putting those great dog genes into the world. It's both a passion and a science. And it's not new -- it's something humans have been doing with dogs ever since someone noticed "hey, look at that dog pointing at that bird" or "wow, if only we could get more dogs to round up the sheep like that."

Good dog breeding has been helping humans eat and live more productive lives for millennia. Now it helps people like us find a puppy that we know a little bit about before we bring him or her into our home. It helps us stack the odds in our favor that the little canine who will be a part of our family for the next (hopefully) 12-15+ years will be the kind of companion we have come to know and love through one who shared some of his or her ancestral DNA.

So yeah, it depends. We are getting a purebred Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and we are very happy about it. We've found a great breeder who is also a veterinarian, who raises her puppies in a warm, loving home, around their children and their cat and a little dog. We know, from our experience with Baxter, that Griffs are great around children, but it helps to know that the puppies are being adored by children from day one. We got to see the pictures of mama Trey when she was expecting, the first pictures of the newborn pups (on my birthday!) and we're following their growth and progress through pictures and videos the breeder posts on Facebook. It's an experience unlike one I've ever had in the past when it comes to adopting a dog, but it's fun. And we can hardly wait to bring that little Griff into our home.

I still have my dream of starting a rescue/rest home for senior dogs some day. And we'll probably have more shelter or rescue dogs in the future as well (when we get more space). But there's just something about those Griffs...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Puppies in my iPhone

Our little Kirby believes there are teeny puppies inside my iPhone. At least I think he does. I showed him a video of the 2-week-old puppies that was posted on Facebook by the breeder. He watched intently for quite a long while, then he walked around behind where I was holding up the phone and looked at the back, puzzled.

Interestingly enough, the exact same puppies are being kept inside my iPad and my desktop computer, and when I watch videos on either, Kirby jumps into my lap, whines and tries to sniff the screen.

Boy, he has no idea what he's in for next month when that puppy enters our home in three dimensions!

As we prepare to bring a new puppy into our home I find myself wondering what kind of teacher Kirby will be. When we brought Kirby home as a puppy six years ago, Baxter was a bit annoyed at first (after seven years as an only dog, that's not surprising). But Baxter made the best of the situation and became a wonderful teacher for Kirby (something I wrote about at the time). In fact, we seldom had to teach Kirby anything directly. He would just watch Baxter do things and copy whatever his big brother did. Breeze. It helped that Baxter was a very patient, mellow, easygoing dog -- a nice counterpoint to Kirby's less patient, jumpy nature. It also helped that Kirby was a quick study.

But even though he learned commands, Kirby never really picked up on the larger behavioral things, such as Baxter's big dog mellowness or his complete lack of fear around loud noises. Without any training, from the get-go, Baxter's natural reaction to a loud noise was first to look at Jamie or me for a cue as to whether it was life-threatening or not, then to run and investigate whatever it was. Exactly the behavior one would expect from a hunting dog breed. Kirby's response to loud noises, in contrast, has always been to engage in intense (and inconsolable) barking while running to hide under the sofa.  It's just one of those dog-wiring things, the nature that nurture can only do so much to shape.

For the better part of six years, the combination seemed to work well for the dogs, particularly as Baxter got older and his hearing began to fade a bit, enabling him to sleep through the occasional knock at the door or the sound of the neighbor's grandbaby crying in the front lawn. Kirby, being on alert 24/7, would sound the alarm then run and hide while Baxter went to investigate the source of concern. Kirby would calm down, knowing Bax was on the job. (Incidentally, Kirby seems to be missing his big brother the investigator...and the intensity of his alarms seems to have cranked up a notch as a result.)

So this brings me back to Kirby as teacher. While Kirby has many fine qualities I would be delighted for him to teach the little one, I find myself wondering if the forthcoming little Wirehaired Pointing Griffon puppy -- the same breed as Baxter -- will default to his or her little goofy-mellow-brave Griff nature and overcome any of the little dog habits Kirby might inadvertently teach...such as "Sound the alarm, the UPS guy has come to kill us all!" or "Eek! Thunder! Run and hide!" or "Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey that big mean truck is stealing our garbage!" (Ok, in all fairness Baxter also objected to the big mean truck stealing our garbage, he just did it with a couple of deep, loud woofs that let the guys know they were under surveillance.)

Will the puppy pick up on Kirby's reactions or will he or she tap into the Griff nature and be the brave dog in the face of danger? And what, if anything, can (or should) we do to intervene? 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Griff Toddlers

The breeder posted this little video of the 2-week-old pups from a few days ago -- they are growing so fast! It is amazing how suddenly their eyes are open and they're howling and whining and romping around...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Puppy Fever - And so it begins...

5 boys, 5 little future Newton pack member...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Puppy Fever - Meet the Parents

It's official. We will be getting a puppy! Supreme Point Kennels is a family operation run by a veterinarian along with her husband and their three children.

So...a few introductions.

This is the mama dog, Ch. Griffondor Trey
(aka Trey)...

This is the papa dog, Ch. Fireside's Spontaneous Combustion
(aka Buster)...

Breeder Lisa and her daughter/helper Becca using ultrasound equipment to listen to puppy heartbeats.

And somewhere in there is a little Griff that will become a member of the Newton family in late November! Pups are due somewhere around my birthday (fingers crossed on that one). 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Puppy Fever - Part Deux

Timing is everything. And once you decide you are ready to get a puppy, tomorrow doesn't seem soon enough. Putting a more rational hat on, it wouldn't make sense for us to get a puppy in September or October because we're having work done on our house. Bringing a little puppy into this world of ripping, pounding and workmen running around just wouldn't be a good idea.

We decided to connect with a few folks in the Griff world...just to see what was happening out there. I tried to call the family where Baxter came from. They'd moved.

So I looked up the breeder of Baxter's mom. One of her dogs just had a litter -- a pup could come home with us in October... Nope.

Another contact was planning to breed her lovely Griff... We'd love to get a pup from her, but her dog hasn't come into heat yet... Given the likely timing, that would mean the puppy coming home some time February. Not sure we want to wait that long for a number of reasons.

Then I came upon the website of a breeder in Northern California...she's a holistic veterinarian, has started a nice pet blog and her family has a beautiful Griff ready to give birth very soon (likely date might even fall around my birthday...)

We're on the list!  Is our next family member in there somewhere???

Puppy Fever

Kirby doesn't know what he's in for. Or maybe he does. We love our little guy dearly, but we all seem to be missing that big dog energy around the house. Baxter has left a hole in our lives that can never be filled... even so, lately we've been feeling a bit of puppy fever. I'm not sure exactly when it started, but a few weeks ago, both my husband and I compared notes and realized that we each had started looking at websites for Wirehaired Pointing Griffons. We decided maybe -- just maybe -- it was time to start looking for another puppy.

Meanwhile... our last trip to the beach with Kirby made it quite obvious to us that he still misses his pal. When Baxter was around, Kirby used to happily tag along with him as he ran and explored and sniffed every clamshell and bit of driftwood (and the occasional dead fish or bird). They chased and played and Kirby seemed more free and more confident at the beach than he did anywhere else except the inside of our house. But without Baxter, our trips to the coast have been different. Kirby hangs at our heels. He doesn't explore. He doesn't play. He will sometimes run to greet another dog, but then quickly runs back to us. He looks around constantly, flinching at noises and things that move. Oh, he still enjoys the unfettered running, but the paranoia seems to have taken some of the joy out of it.

We thought maybe hanging around with some Griffs would help us know if we were ready to bring another dog into our lives, particularly one who might look and act a bit like Baxter. We decided to visit the woman who first introduced us to the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. She welcomed us to her home where she now has three Griffs and two Dobermans running around. Kirby played tirelessly with the Griffs (the Dobies were segregated so as not to overwhelm our little guy...three vaguely familiar dogs were overwhelming enough). Actually, Kirby didn't seem overwhelmed at all. We were a little nervous that he seemed quite comfortable running with the big dogs, to the point where we knew roughhousing might lead to tears (ours).

We had a great time soaking in that energy -- and there really is a Griff energy that is unique. It's hard to explain, but if you've ever known one, you know what it is. It's a lightheartedness, a goofiness, a sweetness. Well, here's a wee glimpse of it...

So, perhaps it is time. For all of us. We want that big dog energy, that Griff energy in particular, back in our lives. Now to find a puppy...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kirby and Mr. Hedgehog

 Last week we got Kirby a new toy. He has always loved stuffed animals and, sadly, most of his older ones had been eviscerated and de-squeakered (by Kirby) and re-stuffed and sewn-up (by me) so many times they were no longer recognizable as the cute little bunny, bear and moose they once were.

The tennis ball and rope toy seemed to be holding his interest for a while... But when I saw the Hedgehog in the pet department at our local store, I just knew. Anyone who says dogs don't show expressions on their faces hasn't spent enough time around dogs. And no, I really don't think I'm anthropomorphizing when I say Kirby was ecstatic when I presented him with his new little friend.

For several days he just carried Mr. Hedgehog around, squeaking it, licking it gently, lying down with his paws around it and attempting to smuggle it into his crate at bed time (at which point Mr. Hedgehog was quickly discovered and removed so that the human inhabitants of the house could get some sleep).

That was the romance stage.

Then, as usual, things got more complicated. Mr. Hedgehog's squeaker was eventually squished to the point where it no longer worked. I don't know if it was the disappointment or just the desire to change things up a bit, but we have discovered that Kirby is now in the process of plucking Mr. Hedgehog, hair by hair, and spitting out the yarn in little piles around the house.

Mr. Hedgehog has not yet been eviscerated, much to my surprise. Perhaps Kirby has finally learned that when the stuffing starts coming out, the stuffed toy goes away. So he's doing it slowly, fiber by fiber.

I'm not sure I should allow this indignity to continue to fall upon Mr. Hedgehog (or the carpet or Kirby's innards). But the bald spots seem to have remained the same for a few days now. Kirby continues to carry his little, depilated Hedgehog around the house (albeit not with the same level of enthusiasm he once had) and, when we've been away for a couple of hours, he still greets us at the door with Mr. Hedgehog when we come home.

When I look at Kirby's sweet little face with the pudgy little Hedgehog in his mouth, I can't imagine taking it away. At least not yet.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Kirby Goes Solo

Life without Baxter has not been easy for us. I could write an endless number of posts talking about all the little things I miss each day about him. But not today. Today is about Kirby. The other dog. The little guy. Little Mug. Kirb.

Kirby has had a period of adjustment as well. Being the only dog in the house is entirely new to him. Since birth, he's always been around other dogs. At first, Kirby seemed to be waiting. He seemed quieter, more somber. His barks were tentative (in the past, Kirby would sound the alarm whenever anyone came anywhere near our home, then he would run and hide under the sofa and continue to bark while Baxter ran to the window or door to investigate). They had this worked out. Kirb was the alarm dog, Baxter was the brave investigator, the enforcer. Anyone who tried to break in thinking there was just a little dog inside would have been greeted by a very tall, very scruffy dog. Without his enforcer present, I think Kirby is being a tad more judicious about his barking. This is not a bad thing. Although he does seem to gradually be finding his voice and his courage.

Over time we have noticed that Kirby has become much more interactive with us, more tuned-in to what we are doing. We always thought that Kirby -- while very sweet and, at times, downright cuddly -- lacked the sort of deep social attachment Baxter had with us. I thought perhaps this was just a breed thing. Now I'm realizing that Baxter really was Kirby's translator most of the time. Kirby would let us know when he wanted something, but he didn't spend much time watching us, gazing into our eyes or even checking back with us when we were all on a walk. Baxter did all of those things while Kirby gazed at Baxter, picked on Baxter, played with Baxter. Now he is turning to us more as playmates. His tennis ball is with him most of the time, and the second there's an open moment, it's dropped at our feet. He sits on my lap and looks me right in the eyes. He checks back when we are walking. He asks to come up on my lap while I'm working, something he only used to do when we were on Skype (that's fodder for another post...) In short -- he's communicating with us more.

There's not doubt that Kirby has helped us through the loss of Baxter. Just having him around is a comfort. And I think he feels the same way about us. We've always loved Kirby, but I think now we are getting to know him in a new way. And it's really quite endearing.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Baxter Henri Campagnard: 4 April 1999 – 23 April 2012

This is the Scruffy Dogs post I never wanted to write.  Our beloved dog, Baxter, has passed away. It has taken me a while to get to the point where I can even begin writing about him. And even now, more than a month later, it is incredibly difficult.

Baxter Henri Campagnard was the scruffy dog who inspired this blog a number of years ago. He and our little dog Kirby, who came along later, provided fodder for most of my musings about dog companionship over the years. Baxter made it easy. He was the sweetest, gentlest, most soulful dog I have ever known. And while all dogs are special, I can’t tell you how many people over the years Baxter was in our lives told us what a truly unique and special dog he was. Of course, we knew that. We knew it from day one, when the family who bred his litter opened the gate to their back yard and that little, scruffy puppy with the golden eyes just sat there, right in front of the gate, looking straight at us as if to say “well it’s about time you got here!”

The connection was immediate for both my husband and me. As for Baxter, his place in our lives seemed perfectly natural, expected. There was no transition period, no crying for his mother or littermates. Baxter just nestled into our lives with a comfort and confidence that he was exactly where he was meant to be. 

He charmed us, inspired us and made us laugh. He drove us crazy at times with his puppyhood antics: the shredding of whatever we put into his puppy crate; the discovery of the bowl of Belgian seashell chocolates that, when consumed, set off a frenzy involving a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a turkey baster; the penchant for eating whatever stinky things he found along the sidewalk; the insatiable curiosity that had us following him around the house saying “no” and “leave it” almost constantly for a few months. He tested his boundaries and he tested our patience at times, but every moment of puppyhood and adolescence was worth it because Baxter grew into a thoughtful, loyal and trustworthy dog – a dog who never destroyed anything in our house that wasn’t in his crate (people don’t always believe me when I say that, but it’s true); a dog who learned not to touch the food we left within easy reach; a dog we could trust around the delicate pieces of artwork throughout our house. (There was the mysterious disappearance of a hotdog off the hibachi at a 4th of July cookout, but I’m still not sure it wasn’t eaten by one of the human family members...) Baxter earned our trust and that, among other things, made him an incredibly free, relaxed and easy dog to live with. 

Everyone in our lives who came to know Baxter – even those who didn’t particularly like dogs – were quickly won over by him. Baxter was a consummate diplomat, at the dog park and among humans as well. There was just something incredibly charming and disarming and goofy and completely non-threatening about him. If he sensed that anyone, dog or human, didn’t want him around, he took it on as his challenge to get them on his side. He managed to break down the defenses of some of the most grouchy dogs at the park (and a few people as well). Part of it was his gentle nature from the get-go. I'll never forget his first encounter with a toddler, on a hiking trail. Baxter was still a puppy, less than a year old at the time. We rounded a corner and he came face-to-face with a little girl, a pre-verbal toddler, who had managed to run ahead of her parents. The girl ran right up to Baxter without an ounce of fear, reached out and grabbed his big, brown nose with her little hand. Baxter just stood there. He wasn't afraid, he didn't jump or try to play with her as he might have done with us. He just calmly waited as the little girl giggled. Finally his eyes rolled up to look at us as if to say "it will be nice when this nose-squeezing stops...can you help that along perhaps?" From then on, babies, toddlers and children of all energy levels were immediate friends.

Baxter had a way of looking at you, directly in the eyes, with an earnestness and an inquisitiveness that felt like he was reading your mind. That look was never confrontational. Rather, it felt like he was striving to connect with you, to understand you – to read your words, your intentions, your wishes. He did seem to comprehend human language better than any dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, and he usually responded to our thoughts and spoken words with an uncanny accuracy that further demonstrated his level of understanding. I could go on for hours about all the words and even concepts he understood. I think I sometimes took his communication intelligence for granted because it was just such a part of who he was. I’m realizing now just how rare that is, among people and dogs. And I realize how much he served as a dog-human translator for Kirby.

There is so much more I could say about Baxter and his life with us, but most of it is already here, in the blog entries over the past six years. I want to celebrate Baxter’s life somehow. Perhaps this blog is part of it, celebrated over time. And I’m glad that I spent a lot of time appreciating him while he was alive, even more so during the past couple of years. Baxter still had an incredible joie de vivre, but the changes that come with age were apparent. He was slowing down. And while I missed the energetic, lively, athletic dog of his youth, I grew even more deeply attached as we moved into the soulful calm of his senior years. There is something about a dog who just knows how the world works. Nothing rattled him (except the neighbor cat, still). And he seemed so perfectly happy to just be with us, to pad around the house following us from room to room, to nap with his head on Jamie’s shoulder every afternoon, to curl up on the couch at my feet every evening.

I knew every inch of that dog. I studied him, held him, spent countless hours stroking his wiry brown-gray coat, looking into his expressive eyes and caressing the soft hair on his head and ears. I miss those times. I miss hearing his breathing – even his snoring – when we go to sleep at night. I miss his big brown nose and his giant pink tongue, lolling out the side of his mouth on a hot day. I miss the sound of his dog tags jingling as he shook-off a nap. I miss how he insisted on standing in the yard smelling the wind when I was impatiently waiting for him to do his late-night business. I miss the paw on my lap and the earnest stare that told me it was time to get up from my desk and go outside. I miss the impish, playful glance and the bay-like howl that let me know it was play time. I miss his warmth. I miss his energy. I miss his earnestness. I miss his presence.

I still have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that he is no longer with us. Sometimes I forget, just for a second, and expect him to come along with Kirby to greet me when I come in the door. Sometimes I can feel his presence. One evening, before bed, I looked up at the stairway landing and I saw him there, just for a second, looking down at me. It felt so real, and so fleeting. I don’t want these apparitions to ever go away. At the same time, I hope Baxter’s soul is at peace. And I take comfort in knowing that he is with me in all the wonderful memories of our time together.

Baxter Henri Campagnard will always have a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Scruffy Dog Kudos: Organix Grain-free Dog Food from Castor & Pollux

Ages since I've posted. Broken record, right? Well, I thought this was worth mentioning...

A friend sent me a link today to yet another frightening story about toxic pet foods imported from China that are resulting in much suffering and death of dogs around the country. It's frightening. And it underscores how the great power of global trade also comes with a great responsibility to ensure the quality and safety of items we import from other countries. For me it drives home how important it is to know where ALL of our food comes from. Or at least to have a pretty good idea of it.

"Buy organic and local whenever possible" has been a practice I've tried to stick to for human food for a long time. But unless I cook my own dog food, it's much harder to know what Baxter and Kirby are getting. I barely have time to cook my own people food (note how infrequently I blog these coincidence...), so cooking separate, highly meat-oriented dog food for the canines isn't likely to happen any time soon.

So the next best thing, for us, is purchasing high-quality pet food and treats. Also, because of Baxter's issues with grain, we need to be very careful that none of the dog food that we buy has any grain in it at all (not even rice). Some might think this is excessive, but Baxter had recurrent ear infections and horrible skin allergies for seven years, even when we were feeding him lamb and rice and special allergy formula foods from the veterinarian.

On the advice of a different, holistic, veterinarian, we took him off ALL grain six years ago (see this post from 2006) and I'm happy to report that Baxter has not had one skin allergy problem or ear infection since. NOT ONE. And we've had him on several different grain-free foods. It really does make a difference. 

So I was excited when one of our favorite local pet product companies, Castor & Pollux, began offering grain-free versions of their Organix pet food. I've been waiting for them to offer organic, grain-free food for years. When our local New Seasons market, where we do most of our people-food shopping, started carrying it a few months ago we decided to give it a try.

First, I have to say this food passed the Baxter and Kirby taste test with flying colors. Kirby is always enthusiastic about dinner, but Baxter usually takes his time and hasn't been very enthused with mealtime for a few years now. Since switching to the Organix grain-free kibble and canned food (we mix a small amount in) he has been right there with Kirby at meal time, waiting for the "go" signal so he can plow into it immediately. He hasn't been this excited about food in years. Even with other canned food mixed in.

Health-wise, the food seems to be good for both of them. Both dogs have shiny coats, no skin issues and excellent bills of health from the vet. Baxter's digestion, which faced a few challenges after a dozen years on the planet, is now in perfect working order. That alone was worth the switch.

And I've been happy to purchase from a local, Oregon company. It's the first time I've ever purchased dog food at our local food market (I have to say, though, New Seasons is no ordinary market). Anyway, it's HANDY.

So, the last question for me about the Castor & Pollux food was origin. Today I sent them an email asking about where they source their ingredients and linking to the article on Chinese imported pet foods. I was impressed that I got a very nice and thorough reply within a few hours:

Over 95% of our ingredients are from the US and Canada, but sometimes the highest quality is from other countries.  Our chicken is from here in the United States and our lamb is from New Zealand, but none of [our] meats or veggies are from China.  All our ingredients are tested upon arrival, samples are tested throughout production, and all finished product is tested for toxins and contaminants before we release it for sale.  The quality and safety of our food is our #1 priority and we would never compromise our commitment to the wellbeing of our four-legged family members by using anything less than the best available ingredients in their food.
I'm taking their word for it. Why? Because they have earned my trust. We've always had great experiences with their other pet products and now with their Organix grain-free foods. They responded to me quickly and thoroughly. And I know where they are. I can drive there and look them in the eye if I want to. And that's close enough for me.