Monday, September 15, 2014

Upgrading the Homemade Flea Repellent

I have been making my own flea repellent for quite a while, using rosemary tea, lavender oil, and eucalyptus oil. So far, it seems to be effective, and I was actually able to stop giving Maya Comfortis for a few months. I was never a big fan of the prevention meds, whether it's edible or topical, as they are all some sort of poison to me. Especially with Maya's out-of-whack immune system, the less burden the better. (This is my educated decision. Please do your research before following any advice read online.)

Recently, I read about the product Tripe Sure Flea Control and the benefit of peppermint oil and cedar oil, so I decided to do some upgrading. Hopefully, this can continue to keep Maya flea and tick free without using any harsh products.

Upgraded Homemade Natural Flea Repellent:
  • Rosemary Tea: add 2 cups of hot water to 1 hand full of rosemary leaf. Wait till it cools to room temperature and filter out the leaves.
  • Lavender Oil: 10 drops
  • Eucalyptus Oil: 10 drops
  • Cedarwood Oil: 10 drops
  • Peppermint Oil: 10 drops
  • Graveolens Oil: 10 drops (Edit: 11/2/2016. New addition to the recipe. Recommended by a fellow dog owner to repel ticks.)

I put it in a spray bottle and spray on Maya's back and legs before going out. Sometimes I had to explain to people why she's all wet when they pet her, but it makes her smell nice too. It is also a much cheaper option as opposed to the prevention meds. The rosemary leaves and essential oils could probably last us many years.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cone Head

Just when I thought things are getting better... She actually took it better than I did. I was the one throwing a tantrum. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Doggie Social

Over the past few months, we've been having fun going on walks, meetups, and parties. I started to learn what type of meetings works for her, what kind of dogs she likes, and what environment makes her feel more comfortable. Here are some highlights of her busy social life.

Weekly walks with Maya's BFF Tachi. Since we live close to each other, sometimes the moms will go out for an early evening walk during the weekdays.

Taking over Stanford University with Shiba Inu and Akita friends.

Zuko and Autumn also need some space on-leash, so we kept our distance and enjoyed the walk together.

Once in a while we go into the dog park when it's less crowded. However, she rarely plays in there.

She likes Caspian's company. He may be small in size, but he knows how to play rough!

Maya has a weird relationship with 12 years old DonDon. The first time they met, Maya was still an annoying 4 month old puppy. She tried to jump on DonDon, and he gave her a firm "NO". Ever since then, Maya somehow just adores him and tried all her tricks to get him to play, but he pretty much just ignores her.

We also started to participate in a weekly Fort Funston Shiba walk group. This is a magical place for Maya.

During one of our walks with Tachi, we also met Coconut. Coconut is a bit younger and too jumpy for Maya's liking, so she was growling at Coconut when they first met. After a long walk, they were doing great next to each other.

We were also happy to see another fluffy Shiba, Tira, at one of the meetups.

Occasionally, we run into another neighborhood Shiba, Musashi. I was a bit reluctant to let them meet on leash, but he was a good boy and left Maya alone when she growled. While I was talking to Musashi's owner, Maya started to sniff around with him, peacefully in the same space. Ever since then, Maya's always excited and happy when we run into each other. I jokingly say that she has a secret crush on him!

A very special meetup was with Actaeas and the Ti Family. Their owners live in Southern California, but also came from Taiwan. We "met" each other online via social media. They came to the Bay Area for a weekend road trip, and we got to meet them at the beach. More awesome shots of the meetup can be found here and here.

Another awesome meet, was with my junior high school friend, who brought her two dogs, Tumi and Poggi, from LA. We knew each other for a long long time, and I followed her doggie posts since they joined the family, but this was the first time I met them.

At the end of spring, Tachi also came to stay with us for a whole week while her owners went on a vacation. (More photos here.)

We took Maya and Tachi to the annual Shiba Party. To be honest, it's more of an event for the humans than for the dogs. I'm glad I got a nice playpen for Maya, so she could have her own space while I chatted with other owners. (More photos here.)

Last but not least, we had a "long coat meetup" with 5 fluffy Shibas and 2 fluffy Akitas. Long coat in both breeds are due to recessive gene and a fault in the breed standards. Nevertheless, they are great pets and super duper cute! There were groups of people taking pictures of them everywhere we went that day.

I am a shy person in general. I usually feel uncomfortable meeting strangers, or hanging out with a big group of people I don't know well. I would never have imagined myself actively doing any of this. Because of Maya, I was able to meet lots of wonderful dogs and their humans. I hope she enjoyed the events as much as I did.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Monthly Expenses: January - March 2014

Starting this year I decided to make some changes to my expenses report. Since I've already been tracking my spending in a spreadsheet, copying out the data directly would be a much easier task than re-typing everything. Presenting the numbers in a table format also helps with viewing and comparison. Hopefully, this will be informative to my readers as well.

Vet & Medical$133$133
Treats & Chews$30$14$17$61
Daycare & Boarding$35$450$485
YTD Total$91$692$1,257


In the food category, most of the expenses went to the Honest Kitchen, including 2 boxes of 10 lbs Zeal and 1 box of 3 lbs Preference. We also got some frozen fish fillets, fresh vegetables, juice, beans, and a can of fermented veggies. 

I wasn't really planning to purchase from the Honest Kitchen in March, but because I left a few items in my shopping cart, they started to send me coupons. At first it was 5% off, then they offered 10% off. I was a sucker and fell for it. 

Vet & Medical

Despite her face healed up nicely, Maya still continued to chew on her feet, lick her vulva, and was troubled by ear infection through winter. As spring approaches, we noticed that she started to scratch her face more often as well, so we had another appointment with Dr. M.

Besides the vet visit, we also purchased a bottle of Zymox Otic ear solution and a tube of Zymox topical cream. So far, I've been pleased with the result. She stopped shaking her head in a day, and it smells/looks much better in a few days. The frequency of her licking her feet and vulva has greatly reduced as well. (Read more about them in the Ear Infection and Itchiness posts.)


For supplements, we got Maya a few different types of probiotics and digestive enzymes, as well as a bottle of THK Perfect Form. Keeping her digestive system healthy has been an important part of combating her infections, and the supplements definitely helped.

Treats & Chews

I got Maya a box of Salmon Skin Bones. I wish I have known about this sooner! It lasts much longer than a bully stick, and is made from Maya's very few "safe" ingredients. I do have to be careful and leave her alone (while supervising in range). One time I was brushing her when she was chewing on it, and my hand got too close to her mouth. She was afraid I would take it from her and chocked herself by swallowing the whole end piece. Luckily I remembered the first aid video I watched and helped her puke it out, but it was really really scary! 

I noticed Maya's teeth starting to have tartar built up since we switched her off raw. I got a bag of C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews in hope that it can help with the situation. However, I still haven't been giving it to her as frequent enough to tell the difference. 

Besides the chews, we also got a bag of Wellness Pure Rewards and a bag of Real Meat treats.


For grooming, because Maya's "little white skirt" was touching the floor and getting in the way of her poop, I had to trim it down again. Last time I used regular scissors and was bothered how there seems to be a straight line through her butt. For my own satisfaction, I got a pair of thinning scissors. Looks better?

I also took Maya to the groomer for a nail trim. I used to take her to Petsmart for nail trims when she was a puppy, but after a few visits, she got so scared of the place and even peed out of fear when I tried to get her into the room. Ever since then, I've been doing her nails myself. However, I am afraid to hit her quick, so I always only cut off a little bit, and trimming her dew claws is super hard. After hearing good reviews of this place, I decided to take her in for some professional help. Well, the groomer said her nails were short, so she didn't take much off, so I guess I was doing it right and probably won't need to come back for another few years. Since I heard her whining and crying and being a drama queen while I waited outside, I gave an extra dollar tip to the groomer for not complaining. (After being in the US for so long, I'm still not sure when tipping is necessary... Is it for this type of service? Is one dollar enough?)

Daycare & Boarding

The biggest expense thus far is for the 8 nights Maya stayed with the doggie daycare while we were in Asia for Chinese New Year. We paid for a 10 nights package, so we still have 2 more remaining for future use.


While we faced some challenges with agility training, we are not giving up. We went back to Agility 2 and worked our way back to Agility 4 again. She is doing much better after I decided to take it easy. She still walks "elegantly" through the courses and occasionally embarrasses me in front of the whole class (such as refusing to move till another owner offered a different treat), but I still enjoy going to class once a week to have some bonding time with her. A gift card I got helped reduce some of the cost for the classes.


As for the Misc category, I got two Squeeze Dispensing Bottles to bring aloe gel with me on the go for Maya's hotspots. I had been using small travel jars, but often found myself contaminating the remainder by my dirty fingers. Squeeze bottles work much better.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy Easter

I never really cared about Easter. I'm not Christian and it's not a holiday. But this year was a bit special, as NW Shibas4LIfe Rescue put up a photo / video contest. 

I thought it was a good chance to make use of Maya's new trick, "put your toys away", which she learned at Zoom Room Belmont. I got a small bag of Easter eggs at the grocery store and dug out an old basket. Thanks to Sakura the Diva Dog, who gave us a rabbit toy for Shibamas, our theme is now set.

When we started to practice, Maya was a bit confused about what I want from her, and ended up putting her front legs inside the basket. I took the opportunity and actually made her climb in the basket herself for another photo contest! 

A few NG's and broken eggs later, I got the footage I wanted. Then with the help of iMovie on iPad, the video is finally ready!

I was really honored that we were chosen as the winner for the "Eastah Egg Hunt" video contest, and thrilled that they sent us a lovely Shiba blanket as the prize. It was a fun experience making our training extra rewarding. I also got to teach myself how to use iMovie to edit videos and LINE camera to doge-fy photos. 

Contest and Easter aside, NV Shibas4LIfe Rescue is a wonderful rescue that provides long term care for Shibas until the end of their lives. Please help support their good cause. Every bit helps!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

And the Itchiness Begins...

It's spring again. And the itchiness begins... The wounds on Maya's muzzle that finally healed up in February, started to show up again. We have been giving her 1/2 Benadryl in the morning and another 1/2 in the evening. It seems to have some effects, at least keeping the itchiness "manageable". She is usually itchier in the morning, probably because the effects of Benadryl faded.

As much as I wanted her to not itch at all, realistically, my goal for this year to prevent secondary infections. Last year, her conditions dragged much longer than the allergy season, because of getting into a bad cycle of infections, itchier, steroids, weak immune system, more infections, itchier, antibiotics...


To combat the infections, I have been using Zymox Topical Cream. So far it has helped reduce Maya's licking on her paws and vulva. I got both versions of the cream, with and without Hydrocortisone. The one with Hydrocortisone seems to be more effective, but I'm worried about side effects for using long term and Maya licking it off. I use the one without on her muzzle and the other one on her paws. I also apply before going for walks, in hope that she won't be able to lick it off. Her vulva is no longer swollen, so I only apply the no Hydrocortisone cream when she shows signs of licking. 


Fingers crossed that this treatment will continue to work on her.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Go Away Ear Infection!

Ever since Maya had an ear infection in her right ear last August, it kept coming back again and again. I tried using the Panalog ointment her vet gave me and the Mal-a-Ket wipes, but the problem never really went away.


In December, she went through a round of antibiotics, which cleared the infection on her face, but shortly after she's off, I started to notice her tilting and shaking her head again. From her pictures, you can clearly see that one of her ears is bothering her.


During our last appointment with Dr. M a few weeks ago, she looked into her ear and said it's all swollen. She believes another round of antibiotics might be necessary, or it'll never clear up. But before going there, she suggested us to try out Zymox Otic Ear Solution.


According to the doctor and the product description, the solution includes some enzymes that "eats" the bacteria and yeast. After reading all the positive reviews, I decided to get a bottle right away.


I have to say, after trying so many products on Maya, I kind of got used to the disappointment when something doesn't work as well as other people claimed. Well, this is the first time I experienced something "magical"! She certainly wasn't pleased when I squeezed the fluid into her ears and made a mess with oily hair around her ears when she shook it out. But within a day, she stopped scratching her ear and tilting her head. I used it daily for one week, then twice a week ever since. Her ear is smelling much better and the color is getting close to the healthy one.


I really wish I knew about this sooner. It could have saved us lots of headache and maybe even the not-so-helpful trip to the vet. I'll definitely keep a bottle in hand from now on. Ear infection, please don't come back ever again!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chinese New Year Adventures

After spending 10 Chinese New Years away from home, this year we finally decided to take two weeks off and head back to Asia for the celebration. Of course one of the biggest challenge is to leave Maya behind. Fortunately, Tachi's family kindly offered to look after Maya for a week, and the doggie daycare was available for the other.

If only we can bring her with us

Thanks to Tachi's parents for not only taking a good care of her, but also sending us lots of pictures. She sure had a good time hanging out with her Shiba friend.

Pictures we got from Tachi's parents

Besides the photos with Tachi, we were also surprised by the videos of Maya with their guinea pig Sam. I pretty much held my breath while watching them. 

Once Maya headed to the doggie daycare, she was pretty much off the radar, so we had to find comfort elsewhere, including visiting a neighbor's Shiba Inu, Kuruma in Taiwan. She's a shy girl and usually hides when people look at her, but I did manage to make myself interesting enough to come close for a picture, despite her tail still pointing down.

Shy Shiba girl Kuruma

Besides Taiwan, we also took a short trip to Hong Kong. It's not my first time there, but it's the first time I noticed that there are no dogs in the city at all. The only "dog" I found was on a poster in the subway stations. Ironically, a Shiba Inu pooping on the street.

Poster in Hong Kong subway stations

On our way back to the Bay Area, like our previous trips, we were able to help out the rescues in Taiwan to bring back another 14 dogs to their new forever homes. There's always a dog that gets to me and this time, it was a Golden Retriever named Brian, who was skin and bones when his foster parents found him on the streets. I can tell that the family was so attached to him, but were willing to let go, because they think he'll have a better life in California with more space to roam. It was hard watching them say goodbye.

At Taipei airport getting ready to head back

On our flight back, there was a small hiccup. Our flight landed at 8:30 pm, two hours later than scheduled, and we were supposed to pick up Maya before the daycare closes at 9:00 pm. We came up with a great plan to have Maya's daddy rush off the plane as soon as it stopped, literally running past all the passengers before they had a chance to stand up. By the time I retrieved our carry-ons, passed the super long line at customs, collected our luggage, gathered the dogs, rolled them out, and handed them to the local volunteers at the lobby, Maya's daddy already took the taxi home, drove to the daycare to pick up Maya, and was only minutes away from picking me up. Team effort! (He was still a few minutes late. Thanks to the daycare staff who was willing to wait for him. We would have been very sad if we weren't able to pick up Maya that day.)

Maya slept for two whole days

We were all exhausted after the trip. Maya pretty much slept for two full days while we jet-lagged for an entire week. She smelled like doggie daycare when she got back, but we waited a few days to give her a much needed bath, because we didn't want us coming home to be a negative experience (maybe I was over-thinking...) All-in-all, it was a great trip and we were really happy to see all our family and friends. Wish everyone a wonderful Year of the Horse! 新年快樂!馬年行大運!

Totally not happy about the bath