Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Munchkin Snack Catcher

Ever since I started agility class, I've been looking for a good treat bag. I got one from the pet shop, but wasn't really satisfied by it. Why? The cloth opening sometimes make it hard to reach for food. If I fold the cloth over, then the food will spill out when I start running. It's also hard to clean if I need to bring wet/greasy treats, like meat balls, cheese, or hot dogs. 

During Maya's last playdate with baby HM, one of HM's accessories caught my attention: Munchkin Snack Catcher. It's basically a small cup with a plastic lid that has soft flaps, which is designed so that toddlers can reach in for snacks but food won't spill out if knocked over. This is exactly what I need! I went to Target the next day and got myself a pack of two right away.

For those who may be interested, here are some pros and cons.

  • Cheap (about $6 for 2).
  • Easy to reach in for the treats.
  • Food stays put when running and jumping around.
  • The two handlers make it easy to attach to a bag or on the waist. 
  • Dishwasher safe.
  • Can be stored in the fridge.
  • Bright baby colors.

  • The opening might be a bit too small for those with bigger hands.
  • Does not come with a stay fresh type of lid that seals the top, but I did find a soft-spread butter lid that works well with it. I'll just have to remember not to throw it away when I finish the butter.
  • Can only hold one type of treats. I guess I can tie both cups on my waist if I have to, though it'll make me look really silly.

I've been using it for more than a week and really loved it. It might not be for everyone, but definitely servered my needs.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Big Reset?

Ever since Maya started on her allergy medicine, Atopica, I've been trying all I can to reduce the dosage. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful there is something that works to stop the itchiness, I'm just not keen on the idea that she needs to rely on drugs from such an young age. We were able to keep the itchiness at bay when giving her the meds about twice a week, but whenever we pushed it further, it always kind of backfired. She even drew blood a few times due to the insane amount of scratching. 

However, with her upset stomach two weeks ago came an interesting side effect. She went through an entire week without taking Atopica and everything seemed fine. The only big change during that time was her diet, which was limited to rice and the Honest Kitchen Zeal. I have always been worried that I might have been feeding her something that's triggering the allergy symptoms, because when I started on raw, she was on full dosage of Atopica, and it might have suppressed the bad reactions. Looks like it could have been the case, and I've been feeding her  something "bad". Though I secretly hoped that she went through some detoxication and pooped out all the allergies, but that's probably not the case. 

After she got better, I decided to start a food trial and only feed her Zeal. So far it's been two weeks without the meds and she's doing great! She still scratches here and there every once in a while, but nothing too serious. I'll start adding some meat back to her meals soon, but I'll take it extra slow this time. Since she's already on a balanced diet from a reliable company, I can take my time trying different ingredients.

Because I've only been adding Zeal to her meal about a tablespoon per day as a topper before she's sick, a trial size package was enough for us lasts quite a while. After feeding it as a full meal, the last two boxes were gone in days. I'm glad I found a good deal on and got the package within 24 hours. Just in time before we ran out.

Zeal is the most expensive of THK's product line. It was never my intention to feed her the most pricy product. I was actually trying to be cheap by ordering the product with the most unit price, since all trial packages cost the same. Oh well, you got me THK! At the end of the day, if Zeal is the only thing she can eat, I'm totally fine with feeding her just that. It's a great product and it's still way cheaper than the pills and vet visits.

The real tricky part about the food trial is the treats. Since we are taking agility classes, I really need to give her a few different treats for training. I was giving her cheese with her meals while she was sick, so I continued to use it as treats. I also gave her some Zuke's Mini Naturals and Cloud Star Buddy Biscuits during our class last Saturday, but I'll probably cut those out since she's been scratching a bit over the weekend. ZiwiPeak Cuisine, though pricy, seems appealing. I can probably skip a meal on Saturdays and just feed it to her during class instead.

Scratch scratch scratch

Anyhow, I'm thrilled by the progress so far and really glad to be able to start a trial with a clean slate. It'll be wonderful if she can stop taking the pills for good!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Food Motivating Toy

Maya has never been a toy motivated dog. She enjoys playing tug with us, but rarely does so outdoors when there are much more interesting things going on. It wasn't really a problem till we started to take agility classes. Lots of the training could be done much easier if the dog is toy motivated, such as throwing the toy to a target location. Using a toy as reward is also good for keeping the drive high, as food usually slows them down.

When asked about this issue, the trainer kind of suggested us to use a toy that can hold treats, so the dog can smell it and be more interested. With this in mind, I went to a local pet shop to search for one, but was only able to find a toy that has a small pocket for a plastic bottle. I removed the bottle and put in some jerky and tested at home with Maya. She seemed interested for a while, but once she knows she can't get the treats out, it kind of became just another toy. It was even worse at the agility class. She didn't even attempt to touch the toy, making me like a fool playing with it myself.

The toy that failed me

After this toy failure, I started to a bit more research online and came across this video. (The whole series is pretty worth watching).

I tried shopping around online for the toy shown in the video, but all the ones I found are really expensive, like this and this.

As I was debating whether I should bite the bullet and just get one, the idea came to me that maybe I can make one myself and decided to give it a try. The entire project took me only about two hours and I'm quite happy with the result. (Please note that I haven't touched a needle in years, so it's probably even easier.) Here's what I did.

Step 1: Look for existing items at home that I could make use of. I found a travel water bowl that was given to us by the breeder and a rope toy Maya rarely plays with.

Step 2: I attached some Velcro sticky tape to the edge of the bowl, so that it can stick together when folded in half. I was planning to stich the tape to the bowl, but the fabric is super thick and I wasn't able to punch the needle through. Luckily, the tape itself seemed to stick quite well to the fabric, so I just left it like that.

Step 3: I realized the pocket is a bit too deep, so I sewed in some of the inner fabric and made it smaller.

Step 4: Removed the bottom part of the bowl. I should have done it earlier, which would have made my step 3 much easier, but at that point I wasn't sure if I should keep it or not.

Step 5: Sew in the rope. And here's the final product:

With food in the pocket:

So far, I'm happy with Maya's response to the toy. I let her watch me put treats in the pocket and play with it by myself for a short moment. Then I lowered the toy and lured her to play with me. After tugging for a few seconds, I gave her a "drop it" commend, and as soon as she dropped the toy, I opened up the pocket and let her eat the treat. After a few rounds of that, I threw the toy around and played fetch. Every time she brings the toy back to me, I'll open it up and treat. Since I'm still "charging it up", I made it easy for her to get the goodies. I also kept the sessions short and put the toy away when done. I want to keep it interesting and only use it during training. (Sorry, blurry cell phone pictures, but now I have a few dollars more in my camera funding!)




The only thing I don't like about the toy is the ugly "Pet Travel Water Bowl" text on it, but it might come off after a few rounds of tugs anyways. I'm also kind of worried if it's sturdy enough, but I guess I can always sew it back up when it breaks. I'll probably have to wash it quite often, cause Maya sure drooled all over and in it. Since it used to be a water bowl, the inner fabric is water resistant, which makes it easy for me to wipe clean after each use. From the way I sewed the pocket, I kind of accidentally made two pockets instead of one, which actually turned out to be nice. I can put a bunch of treats in one side and move a few over to the other to treat Maya each time. This way I don't need to refill that often.

Hopefully, this new toy can help make Maya more toy motivated. We'll see how it goes in the next class.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Happy Sunday

After not pooping for three days, which the doctor told us to except, Maya finally pooped on Sunday morning. It was still kind of soft, but at least it was in a solid form and left nothing behind on the butt. I realized I never took a picture of her pooping, so I snapped one to celebrate the moment.

Not glamorous, but worth remembering

After the morning walk, Maya had a great time hanging out with little HM, while the parents enjoyed another LINsanity sensation. Maya stole three pieces of Cheerios from HM, and HM took over Maya's bed, so I guess they were even.

Playdate with baby HM

I had been feeding Maya rice mixed with a tiny bit of THK Zeal for the past few days. Since she seemed to be back to normal, I gave her a full Zeal meal in the evening. I'll probably start adding some raw meat in a day or two if things continue to go well.

No longer curled up into a ball all day

Friday, February 17, 2012

Upset Stomach

Poor Maya's sick. :(

Since Sunday evening, she had been vomiting, suffering from diarrhea, and refused to eat anything. At one point, she would even throw up after drinking water and poop blood. At first, I thought she could just tough it out, like what I do when I have an upset stomach, but after dragging on for days, we decided to take her to the vet on Wednesday for the peace of mind.

The doctor checked her temperature, made sure there's no blockage, gave her a shot of Cerenia to stop the vomiting, and prescribed some antibiotics. Since we already stopped all food in-takes for a whole day, he wanted us to start feeding her some rice with cooked chicken or beef.

Slept all day

After the vet visit, she seems to be doing much better. She still sleeps a lot, but will walk around and look out the window every once in a while. The vomiting stopped and she also hasn't pooped for more than 24 hours. (The doctor said it's normal to go two to three days without pooping, since she cleared everything out and hasn't eaten for a few days.)

The challenge now, is to make her take the medicine and eat the tasteless rice without adding too much extra flavor. We kind of gave in this morning and added some cheese, but hopefully it's good bacteria and won't be too harsh for her stomach. We might also have to skip tomorrow's agility class as well, since she shouldn't be having too much activity nor any treats.

Stayed in bed

All in all, it's been an eventful week. I'm just glad this is almost over. Fingers crossed.

So thinking back, what could have caused the sickness:
  • LINsanity: She got a treat every time Jeremy Lin scored against the Lakers, and he got 38 points that night. (Daddy said he already "promised" her, and the Knicks would lose if he didn't follow through...blah.)
  • A whole pack of string cheese the trainer gave her during the agility class on Saturday. 
  • A large amount of Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream sample I used as training treats.
  • The potato chip she picked up in the park and swallowed before I could fetch it out of her mouth.
  • The extreme amount of treats she got during the training class and training sessions.
  • An "aged" raw hide (from a relative who's dog passed away years ago) that we forgot to pick up when we went out to dinner.
  • Probably all of the above. Basically, too much food and too much variety in a small amount of time.

And of course, my lessons learned:
  • When the dog doesn't want to eat, don't make her. Pampering her into finishing a meal may just make things much worse. 
  • Don't give her anything she never eaten before when she already have an upset stomach.
  • Diarrhea + long coat Shiba = a yucky butt. A yucky butt + Shiba shakes = a super yucky butt + yucky feet. Deal with the mess ASAP, or it'll just get worse.
  • I need better soap for myself. After dealing with all the cleaning and hand feeding, the skin on the back of my hands is irritated and in pain. It's funny how I spent all the money and time to shop for a good dog shampoo, while I use crap to wash my own hands.
  • Don't underestimate the Shiba Inu's ability to keep herself clean. Throughout the episode, there were only one accident in the house, which happened in the middle of the night. Maya might have tried to warn us, but we were asleep and didn't notice. That smart girl did her business in our shower room and didn't even stain the bathroom floor. Whew... It would have been hell if she went on the carpet. Maya also refused to poop on the grass area outside of our building. No matter how much she's in a hurry, she would drag me all the way to the corner of the street or to the park. I guess she wants to keep her late night potty area tidy.

Got a valentine, but wasn't in the mood to enjoy it

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pet Expenses Since Day One

Since I decided to start keeping track of our monthly pet expenses, I thought it would be a good idea to get a rough estimate of what we've spent so far. I have been using to track my credit card expenses for years, so retrieving the data wasn't too much of a hassle. Too bad they don't have more detailed categories, but having something is better than having nothing.

This is what I have under the "pets" category from the day we brought Maya back till the end of 2011:

  • September: $312
  • October: $423
  • November: $156
  • December: $65
TOTAL: $956 ($239/month)

  • January: $137
  • February: $553
  • March: $18
  • April: $0
  • May: $37
  • June: $195
  • July: $307
  • August: $40
  • September: $433
  • October: $159
  • November: $44
  • December: $277
TOTAL: $2,200 ($183/month)

Tough I paid for most of Maya's expenses, her daddy did pick up a few bills as well. The big ones include our first dermatologist visit, a week of boarding while we traveled to Peru, and Maya's flight to Seattle, which adds up to about $850. He also paid for the pup itself, which I won't include here, as I don't know if the breeder would like this information to be public and it's not really part of the monthly expenses. (Just to be clear, I paid most stuff through my credit card, but it doesn't mean her daddy didn't help me out with the expenses.)

There are a few things that couldn't be tracked here as well, like things we picked up while shopping for our own stuff, especially treats from Costco and raw meat from the supermarket. I also made some purchases by cash, but should be minimun. I would put in a guesstimate of $250 for those added up.

So adding up everything from above, the grand total will be around $4,256 ($266/month).

The big burst in the first few months was expected, as we were preparing all the basic supplies from crate, leash, toys, to water bowls, as well as vaccinations. It cooled off for a while, then Maya got an expensive spay operation in February. (At that time we didn't know there are much cheaper options, but oh well, at least it's a one time thing and she recovered quickly.) After a few more quiet months, her allergies kicked in around June, and that's when the vet bills went crazy.

For 2012, since we have all the basic supplies and her allergy is under control, we should be expecting a lower monthly average. There will be more spent on agility classes, but the cost should be more on me than on her, as she's perfectly fine without it and I'm probably the one who enjoys it more. Anyhow, spending money on something fun would be more desirable than visiting the doctors. With the new monthly tracking methods, hopefully we can have a better idea where the money actually goes as well as a more accurate household total.

Maya was my 2010 birthday gift. Her daddy let me choose between a puppy and a Prada purse. This must be the most high maintenance Prada ever! Till this day, I still don't have a Prada, but I believe no accessory will ever bring me the happiness she brought me. Not even close.

Monthly Expenses: January 2012

Inspired by the House of Two Bows, I decided to start keeping track of our monthly pet expenses as well. January is always a good time to start this type of stuff, so the timing is perfect. Let's see how bad's the damage:

January 2012
  • Accessories: $24
  • Vet & Medical: $407
  • Training: $160
  • Food & Supplements: $9
  • Treats: $4
TOTAL: $604


Maya got a new Kong harness (but she hates it). It kind of shifts to the side, so I don't really like it either...

Vet & Medical

$360 was spent at the dermatologist for the office visit plus blood test. Another $47 for 30 Atopica pills, which hopefully can last us more than 3 months. Ideally, if we can keep the fleas away, this can be our last time going there. (Fingers crossed.)


Since we are starting agility training, this will be an on-going expense. We spent $40 for the evaluation itself, and $120 for the actual classes, which will last till the end of February. After that, it will be about $30 per week till I get tired of it.

Food & Supplements

We still have a lot stocked up, so we didn't spend much this month. I picked up some beef liver, pork kidney, and chicken gizzards while I was shopping at the Chinese supermarket. 


I was shopping online and needed another $4 for free shipping, so I picked a bag of Buddy Biscuits dog treat. It tastes really good. Even Maya's daddy, who always gives all dog treats a try, likes it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Maya Killed a Bird

Maya got an Angry Bird for Christmas.

One month later...

Oh well...

Allergy Test Results

Though I kind of swore not to go back to the dermatologist ever again, I had to give in because we ran out of Atopica and they refused to give us another refill unless we do a follow-up. I thought about going to a different dermatologist, but I really don't want to go through all the blah blah blah again with yet another doctor, since Maya's conditions are already pretty well under control now. 

Last dermatologist visit in Sept. 2011

The doctor was really impressed by Maya's improvement since she last saw her and was surprised that she's doing fine with such a low dosage (a 25mg pill every 3 days without the booster). She encouraged me to even lower the dosage if possible, but to be cautious when spring arrives. She was also a bit hesitant when I told her Maya's on a raw diet, as Atopica suppresses the immune system and may make Maya more prone to infections. She wanted me to switch to a home cooked diet instead, but I'm still not so sure about this. 

Maya had her blood drawn without a flinch

Since we were already spending the big bucks on the office visit, I figured we might as well get an allergy test done. The doctor gave us two options: skin test or blood test. I really don't want Maya's fur being shaved nor her being put under, so I opted in for the blood test, though it might be less accurate.

About a week later, the results came back. To my surprise, it's far from what I imagined. I always thought she's allergic to some grass/tree that's common in the parks or some sort of dust mite that resides in the house, but looks like those are fine. So what's on the list?
  • Fea Saliva: 389 EA units
  • Cat Epithelium: 152 EA units
  • Orchard Grass: 110 EA units
  • Yellow Dock: 102 EA units
  • Bluegrass, June: 85 EA units
  • Russian Thistle: 80 EA units
(According to the report, "EA units of 150 or higher may be considered significant".)

Test results (sorry, we don't have a scanner at home)


Looks like this is the biggest offender. We did catch a flea during Maya's worst days, but her symptoms were kind of different from typical flea allergies, which usually occur around the back legs and root of tail area, so I thought it wasn't related. It could be because Maya's fur is so thick, the only areas where the fleas could get to were her face and paws. This can also explains why Maya's conditions gets worse whenever we visit a dog park or go on hike.

Though she's already using Frontline for flea prevention, but seems like it only kills fleas that bites her, but wouldn't stop fleas from biting her, which in her case is already too late. Unfortunately, there's not a cure for flea allergies, we'll have to make sure no fleas come near her at all.


Maya has never been in close proximity of a cat, at least since we got her. We don't have a cat, nor any of our immediate neighbors. There could be other tenants in the building that have cats, and I know my boyfriend's coworker has one too, but in either case, the contact is so minimun. There's also the vet that's across the street from us, which our window is facing, but it's quite far from us. If cats really are causing the trouble, there really isn't much I can do. 

Weeds and Grasses

If the numbers are accurate, the weeds and grasses shouldn't be much of a concern. Besides, according to the doctor, they grow mostly in the wild. I'm really bad at recognizing plants, but I'll keep a few pictures in my phone and try to match them next time we go hiking.

Orchard Grass: from UC IPM
Yellow Duck: from Wikipedia
Bluegrass: from Wikipedia
Russian Thistle: from UC IPM

My Plan

There really isn't much I can do about the cats and plants, so I'll focus on the fleas for now. I'm planning to add some fresh garlic and brewer's yeast to her diet as well as spray some rosemary water with lavender oil on her fur. The goal will be to turn her into the most unattractive beast for fleas. Hopefully, this can keep her itchiness under control and stop relying on the drugs for good.