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Category Archives for How To

DIY – Doggy Snack Mix

Being such purveyors of praise around here, we go through a LOT of dog treats … very few of which are store bought. I came up with this particular “snack mix” when I needed something to put in food delivery toys that was low-cal. Clearly, the Cheerios work better for that than the Rice Chex, but this mixture has more of a party-planning, holiday flavor. Plus, it does NOT take long to make … so if you are short on time and have dog friends who need a little gift … it’s perfect.

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Introducing a New Dog into the Family

As Dog Geek reminded us recently, I am NOT Crazy. So, no … there are no new dogs at Chez Champion of My Heart, but I wanted to tell you about a new piece I wrote that went live last week on the pet health section of WebMD on this very topic of how best to introduce a new dog or puppy to your current canine pals.

Much of the advice I got from experts mirrored things we did when we nearly adopted Lilly’s best-best dog friend, Katie, the borzoi. We had to re-introduce Ginko and Katie because he pretty much tried to kick her butt the first time they met. When we gave it another go, we tried things like:

  • Proximity or parallel walks, where the dogs can be together but they don’t have to directly interact
  • Lots of praise and treats for calm, polite interaction, etc.

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Dog Training in Everyday Activities

Since we have virtually no time for “real” dog training these days, I’ve taken to making even everyday things … like Lilly following me around as I attempt to keep the house somewhat in order … into a working thing. OK, maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better, but Lilly seems to enjoy doing what I ask, even if she would do those things anyway.

For example, rather than just letting her follow me up and down the stairs as I do laundry. I ask her to SIT-STAY while I load the washer. I release her when it’s time to move. I ask her to SLOW when we go up the stairs together. I ask her to DOWN-STAY off the bed while I put on fresh sheets.

I reward these daily activities, just as if we were doing new training tasks, and I have to say that Lilly honestly responds like it is real work. And, we all know how much she loves to work.

So, even if it’s a simple HOP UP (where she settles on the bed), I ask her to do something as much as I can so that we can engage in a deeper human-canine communication than when she just follows me around hoping for a little interaction.

Her latest thing is bringing me sticks while I soak outside in the hot tub. She gets to play fetch. I get to relax … at the same time.

I really am trying to make more time to play and walk and work with her the few hours I have to myself each day. And, as I mentioned earlier, if a nap is what I need, then Lilly is absolutely invited.

I still feel like we’re in a deep hole, but we’re making the best of it.

Coping Strategies

Again, you have my apologies for the missing posts and general absence lately. I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to handle stress and worry when it comes in relentless waves for months on end. (My childhood friend’s mom died very soon after a cancer diagnosis. My mom fell again this week. My sis meets with the surgeon Friday.) This being a grown-up thing is often for the birds. So, should you find yourself mired in non-stop drama of any variety, here is my best coping advice.

** I started to write a whole thing about fitting in time to workout and trying hard to eat right, but you’ve heard all that before, I’m sure. Instead, here are the two things that REALLY keep me afloat in tough times. **

Mandatory Snuggle Time
Long ago in our love story (tomorrow is the 22nd anniversary of our first date), we instituted Mandatory Snuggle Time. Because Tom works harder than anyone I know, about the ONLY time he isn’t running around is in the morning when he first wakes up. So, if a girl needs to cuddle, that’s the time to do it.

(We like to pretend we still look this young, but … you know.)

Lilly, on the other hand, is often snuggliest in the evening. So, we head to bed long before the boys and get in at least an hour of one-on-one comfort each night.

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Thankfully, Ginko is pretty much willing to snuggle any time I am. As I’ve said before, his answer to nearly any question is “Yes.”

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So, that pretty much covers my whole day.
  • Tom – in the morning
  • Ginko – anytime I need a boost
  • Lilly – at night

When all else fails, snuggle with the ones you love most.

The Magic Chocolate Pie
I frequently use this pie to handle stress, to send Get Well wishes to friends and neighbors, and to celebrate any occasion (big or small). Essentially, it’s monster chocolate, topped with creamy chocolate, topped with chocolate mousse, topped with whipped cream. (Here’s a little secret about me: I believe dessert comes in one and only one form — chocolate.)

Magic Chocolate (Coping) Pie

3 squares baker’s semi-sweet chocolate (melted)

1/4 cup canned sweetened condensed milk
1 chocolate cookie pie crust (pre-made)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (whatever makes you happy)
2 cups of milk
2 packages (3.9 oz each) of chocolate instant pudding
1 tub (8 oz) of whipped topping (thawed & divided)

Mix the melted chocolate and condensed milk. Pour into crust, and sprinkle with nuts.

Beat milk and pudding mix (whisk or mixer) for 2 minutes, then spoon half of it into the pie shell.

Stir half of the whipped topping into the remaining pudding, then spoon it on top of the full-strength pudding.

Top with the remaining whipped topping and chocolate shavings for flair.

Refrigerate for 3 hours.

At-Home Massage for Plantar Fasciitis

When my plantar fasciitis was at its worst, it felt like the bottom of my feet would rupture with every step. I did all the usual things — the stretches, the yoga poses, saw a podiatrist, got orthotics, etc. Yet, I still had pain. The next strategy in the treatment plan involved cortisone shots right into my heels, which really creeped me out. So, the doctor recommended some painful deep tissue massage. That’s not something I had the time or cash for, so I came up with my own solution. Perhaps it will help you too.

My initial strategy was to use the yoga preventive I’d learned a decade or more ago, where you sit in Virasana (basically, kneel and sit back between your heels) and use your knuckles to really dig into your feet from heel to toe.

But, I did it so much and dug in so hard that I tore the skin off my knuckles. Eeek.

So, I turned to this massage tool I bought eons ago.

Basically, I use just one of the knobs and a whole lot of pressure to really dig into the channels on the bottom of my foot. It hurts and builds some heat, increases circulation, etc.

I’m not going to tell that you that I have ZERO pain, but it helps a lot. I typically dig in for 15-30 minutes per day, when my feet really hurt.

Orthotics took away about 80% of the pain. This at-home foot massage probably drops it down another 5-10%. I’d prefer to be totally pain free, but considering all the running around I do with the dogs, hiking and such, I figure a little ache isn’t terrible.