Jet Set Pets

Long before emotional support peacocks or squirrels started making headlines, everyday folks have been taking their pets with them on sky-high adventures without causing a scene. As we approach the Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas, the height of travel season, the issue of how to reunite the whole family is top of mind. Dog mamas and daddies understand that inviting their four-legged baby is a given, and for those with a considerable distance to go, that means negotiating the barrage of challenges that’s included with airfare.

Before you start dreaming about walking in a winter wonderland with fido and well before you book your tickets, check the rules of your chosen carrier. Every airline has different regulations, and while the general guidelines for having a trained, well-behaved pup won’t vary, some require specific forms or documentation submitted far in advance of your flight. If you can’t play by the rules, you will be denied boarding, and that would really put a damper on plans.

Generally speaking, your pup must be small enough to fit in a carry-on approved bag that fits beneath the seat in front of you to fly on board. Thus, a proper carrier is a must. Have a soft sided model with a rigid base so it will be supportive while in use, but easily pressed down to fit into awkward spaces. More windows are better because no one liked to feel trapped in a tiny space all by themselves. When your dog can see you, they’re more likely to remain calm because they know they’re not alone. Take the fear of the unknown out of the equation by doing a few “dress rehearsals,” covering shorter distances, before the big event. Bring them around town in the carrier to get then accustomed to process, and leave it out and accessible when you’re home. Periodically toss treats into it to associate it with positive experiences. My little Luka was initially terrified of becoming airborne in this crazy contraption, but has come to regard his carrier as an enclosed safe haven, and at home, second bed!

Speaking of calm, even the most even tempered animal (humans included) have been known to lose their cool in these stressful situations. Try clothing your little guy in a thunder shirt, which is a very snug garment that simulates the feeling of a constant hug. It’s surprisingly effective and great to have on hand for other unwelcome stimulation, like fireworks or trick-or-treaters at the door.

Treat well and treat often. Any journey should be a vacation, sprinkled with little luxuries along the way. Bring plenty of bonuses for yourself and your dog, doling them out slowly, as needed. CBD-infused dog biscuits like Treatibles have been an absolute GODSEND; I wouldn’t dream of taking Luka anywhere without them. One before leaving the house, one before takeoff, and he’s as chill as can be. Options are still limited in this burgeoning category, which makes Treatibles even more noteworthy for their two entirely vegan flavors. They come in small and large sizes for easy dosing, but there’s no psychoactive component (no THC) so it’s impossible to overdose. For a calming supplement you can both enjoy, I’ve frequently packed pure CBD oil (3.4 ounces or less, don’t forget!) that’s specifically labeled as safe for dogs, cats, and humans alike.

Don’t feed them a full meal before departing to reduce the need for potty breaks, or potential accidents. Instead, bring it with you and dole out a few morsels at a time to keep them satiated, not stuffed. Same goes for water. Proper hydration is essential, but possibly problematic depending on the length of your flight. Bring a collapsible bowl, filling it with a few good slurps every few hours. If your pup is not reliably housebroken, consider subjecting them to the indignity of doggie diapers for this limited time. Promise them that the photos will never make it out on social media if they’re inconsolably embarrassed.

To manage both bathroom needs and excess energy, take them on as long a walk as possible before departing. A tired pup will just want to hunker down and rest, which makes it infinitely more easy to deal with inactive time in transit.

Keep a variety of toys to keep them entertained. Just like human children, they need something to do during those hours up in the air. Give them just one at a time, rotating them out if they start to get bored or fussy, switching between hard chews and soft plushies. For the love of your fellow traveler though, please refrain from packing anything with an audible squeaker!

As soon as you land, your priority is not camping out in a prime spot at baggage claim or securing your Uber. Head straight to the nearest pet relief area available. Know where to go by scoping out airport maps in advance to prevent any frantic scrambles through a maze of disoriented passengers just barely verticality upon arrival.

There’s no one fool-proof approach to bringing puppies on an airplane. Just like people, some simply can’t tolerate the stress, so know their (and your) limits if it’s simply infeasible. Always have a plan B, with a loving, trustworthy dog sitter on speed dial in the worst case situation, but don’t shoot down the idea before giving it a try. Despite the sensational horror stories circulating online, it’s really not so hard to have a proper family reunion, no matter the distance. You might even find it’s a better experience for every on board; nothing brightens a trying day like the bright, loving face of man’s best friend at your side.

Advertisements

No Bones About It

Iconic as it is deeply flawed, the imagery of a dog gnawing away at a huge, meaty bone is one embedded in our cultural fabric, a remnant of misguided early training practices. Our tiny beasts are carnivores at heart, some argue, irresistibly drawn to the taste of meat, who love nothing more than savoring our scraps while getting a good dental workout at the same time. Without picking apart the umpteen faults in that shaky logic, the irrefutable truth is that bones are dangerous for dogs big and small, young and old. Brittle and easily snapped into pointed shards, those sharp pieces can result in choking, digestive blockages, cuts around the gums and throat, vomiting, and in the worst cases, yes, those symptoms can be compounded, and that innocent treat can become fatal.

Vegan or not, bones have no place on the menu for humans, so why should they suffice for our canine companions? Countless alternatives exist for safer, softer options, including those made from scraps of a different sort. Polishing off a few yards of leftover remnant yarn, this quick knit bone was a satisfying project for both human and animal participants.

A prodigious chewer with especially pointed little teeth, I thought for sure my monster baby would tear right through my handiwork in less time than it took to complete, but I’m happily surprised by its longevity thus far. Content to teethe rather than shred, Luka seems to savor this new toy with a sense of appreciation. It’s only a matter of time before the plush facsimile lies in ruin, no doubt, but that can easily be replaced; the pup himself most certainly cannot.

Save Strummer!

The news landed in my inbox like a bombshell detonating upon impact. Cancer, that most insidious yet omnipresent disease, had struck again, wrapping its sickly fingers around yet another loved one. It’s one of the realities that I fear most, in my heart of hearts, so deeply that even saying the word feels like a punch in the face. I have experienced its destructive wake firsthand, losing someone so kind and compassionate that it seemed like the most perverse twist of fate. Let’s be honest, it still does, and it still stings bitterly. It still reams me out every time I think about it.

Hearing that this horrendous illness has touched another loved one, no rhyme or reason to its cruel selection, is difficult to process. Especially when that person is actually a dog; the smallest dog I’ve ever known or loved. Strummer, the endlessly loving pup cared for by Melisser, has the uncanny ability to connect with everyone she meets. It’s impossible to understand how such a terrible hand could be dealt to this gentle soul.

But cancer is not a death sentence, and I’ll be damned if the whole world isn’t fighting alongside this tiny pup. Small but mighty, she has the heart of a lion, handling treatment with grace thus far. To help pay for medical bills, Melisser has put out a call for assistance, offering up prizes as a thank you for contributing, although I get the sense that the prizes aren’t even a consideration for most donations. Stunningly, the goal of $3,000 was clobbered within 48 hours of opening up the fundraiser, and still the love and support continues to pour in. Any additional funds will be sent to an animal sanctuary, so there’s still a reason for kicking in a few dollars if you can.

Up for offer as one of the raffle prizes will be my Green Goodies. Wholesome dog treats for sharing with your own beloved pup, they’re made with power-packed spinach and green pea flour, among other more humble superfood ingredients.

We’re all rooting for you, Strummer! For those who can’t donate or don’t win these treats, the recipe is as follows. It’s worth the investment in time to share with the pup you love.

Green Goodies (Dog Biscuits)

1/2 Cup Fresh Spinach, Packed
1/3 – 1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
1/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter or Tahini
2 3/4 Cups Green Pea Flour
2 Tablespoons Whole Flaxseeds, Ground
1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or a silpat.

Place the spinach and 1/3 cup of water in your blender. Blend on high until thoroughly pureed and as smooth as possible. Add in the applesauce, peanut butter or tahini, and pulse to incorporate.

In a separate bowl, mix together the green pea flour, ground flaxseeds, and parsley. Once all the dry goods are well distributed, pour the wet mixture into the bowl. Use a wide spatula to combine, and switch to mixing with your hands when the dough becomes too thick to stir. The resulting dough should be very stiff, but if you can’t fully incorporate all the dry ingredients, add the remaining water while stirring, one tablespoon at a time.

Sprinkle a generous coating of pea flour over a clean surface and pat out the dough to about 1/2 inch in thickness. Use small cookie cutters (approximately 1 inch wide in any shape you desire) to cut out the biscuits. If the dough is too sticky to manage, dip the cookie cutters in pea flour first, and then reshape the biscuits after removing. Transfer the shapes on your prepared baking sheet, placing them close together as the treats will not spread or rise. Repeat until all the dough has been cut into treats.

Bake for 28 – 32 minutes, until golden brown and dry to the touch. Let cool completely before storing in an air-tight container or sharing with your furry friend.

Makes 3 – 4 Dozen Small Biscuits

Printable Recipe

Sweet Sixteen

Sixteen is typically the year that one bridges the gap from childhood to adulthood, coming of age through the lens of tradition. Though not much really changes, aside from the ability to achieve legal employment, the number symbolizes great expectations for any young pup. But what about an actual pup? Age ain’t nothing but a number, especially now that my old lady clocks in at 77 years old in dog years. She may not be on the path to a promising career at this rate, but she does still have plenty to look forward to, like cake, for starters.

Inspired by the need for softer treats to better suit her particular dental situation, cake-like cookies seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Cookies aren’t quite enough to celebrate such a significant event, though, so I turned to my favorite cookie with an identity crisis: The whoopie pie (or in this case, “woofie” pie.) It’s definitely not a pie, despite the name, and much more like a mini-cake than a sandwich cookie, but semantics aside, they’re hard to resist. Using carob to keep them dog-friendly rather than chocolate, they look just as delicious as their traditional counterparts, but you might want to stick to the classic to suit a human palate. Added sugar is something my baby simply doesn’t need in her diet, so these treats look much sweeter than they actually taste. Additionally, dogs shouldn’t get excessive amounts of salt, so you’ll notice that it’s lacking in this formula as well. Regardless of what it does and doesn’t contain, Isis didn’t care much as she wolfed down her birthday surprise in record time. It may not be as grand as the plated dessert I lavished on her a few years back, but I’d like to believe it was met with equal appreciation.

Woofie Pies

Carob Sandwich Coookies:

1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 Cup Carob Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
3/4 Cup 100% Carrot Juice or No Salt Added Vegetable Stock
1/4 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Canned Pumpkin Puree
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Cream Filling:

1 Cup White Potatoes, Peeled, Diced, Boiled, and Mashed*

*Potatoes are safe for dogs to eat, but you must be very careful about their preparation. The potatoes must be thoroughly and completely cooked- Never feed a dog raw potato. Likewise, never use any potatoes that have any green parts, as those are highly toxic to dogs. For a more complete list of foods to avoid when cooking for canines, check here.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with either parchment paper or silpats.

Carob can be rather clumpy, so be sure to sift it before measuring if necessary. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, carob powder, baking powder and soda, distributing the dry goods equally throughout the mixture. In a separate bowl, combine the carrot juice or vegetable stock, vinegar, pumpkin puree, and oil, stirring lightly to break up the pumpkin. Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl of dry, and mix with a wide spatula just until the batter comes together with few lumps. There’s no need to beat it completely smooth, but make sure that there are no pockets of flour remaining.

Use a small cookie scoop or two spoons to portion out equal, walnut-sized dollops of the batter on your prepared baking sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 6 – 9 minutes, until the edges are set and a toothpick inserted into the centers pulls out cleanly. Let cool completely on the sheets before filling.

For the cream filling, simply mash the cooked potato until it’s completely smooth and spread about 1 – 2 teaspoons on the flat side of one cookie. Top with a second, and repeat until all the cookies are filled. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Makes 24 Cookies or 12 Filled Woofie Pies

Printable Recipe

Age is Just a Number

Aside from the benign lumps and gently clouding eyes, my darling puppy really isn’t showing her age, and is greeting the oncoming years [for the most part] with grace, just as any mature woman should. If you ask me, she doesn’t look a day older than 8. One would never guess that my little sweetheart has just turned 14 years old a few days ago!

Can you believe it? Supposedly, that’s 98 in dog years; Quite the milestone, indeed. While I would have loved nothing more than to make a big to-do about the event, and fuss over some elaborate treat for the birthday girl, that was simply not in the cards this time around. Between the book release, final exams, and a couple new projects still up my sleeve, it’s been challenging just tending to Isis’s everyday needs (such as letting her outside and then inside 50 times straight, refilling her water dish, and repeating that cycle over and over until the sun goes down.) However, I couldn’t let the day pass without some sort of special snack…

Think of a popsicle without a stick, made especially for the canine palate, and you’d have the Pup-sicle! Peanut butter-flavored, with a sprinkle of ground flax seeds for nutrition, this is one chilly treat that will be even more of a hit in the hot summer months. I can’t share the recipe just yet, as it has something to do with one of those upcoming projects I mentioned… So stay tuned for more details!

Ever cautious, Isis took a few preliminary licks when presented with this birthday gift…

…And quickly deeming the frozen biscuit not only edible, but highly tasty, she happily wolfed it down in a few large bites.

Happy Birthday, Isis- We’ll just have to celebrate the next one twice as much!