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Sunday, March 29, 2015

A healthier, greener, organic lawn for a healthier dog!

There are few things better than watching a dog romp in their wonderful lush green lawn, playing, chasing, herding and enjoying the great outdoors.

But what is the cost of that lush green chemically treated lawn?

To some dogs it may mean risking their health. Over the years several organizations have provided invaluable research and information that shows chemical exposures to a variety of lawn chemicals (including pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers) may be putting your dog at risk for canine malignant lymphoma, bladder cancer and more.

To learn more about the dangers of commercial chemical laden lawn care companies check out these links:
  • In January of 2012 year a published study was released (Abstract of Environmental Health 112(1): 171-6 (Jan. 2012), that shows a link between chemical exposures (including lawn chemicals) and the risk of canine malignant lymphoma.
  • A respected report and DVD "The Truth About Cats, Dogs and Lawn Chemicals," funded by the Newman’s Own Foundation, contains a lot of information for you to learn about the dangers and effects of lawn chemicals on your pets, including the use of herbicides, insecticides and other chemicals, and the resulting effects of seizures, tremors, vomiting, respiratory failure and more for dogs.
  • studies have found that dogs "exposed to herbicide-treated lawns and gardens can double their chance of developing canine lymphoma. And these dangerous chemicals may also increase the risk of bladder cancer in certain breeds by four to seven times."
  • You can read more about the dangers of lawn chemicals in our 2012 post, 'Is Your Lawn Killing Your Dog.'
  • new study, released in May of 2013 and published in the July 2013 issue of Science of the Total Environment, indicates that exposure to herbicide treated lawns has been associated with significantly higher bladder cancer risk in dogs. (Read more).
Many of the lawn chemical companies, and providers of lawn chemicals, may say their products and services are perfectly safe for dogs, even going as far as including pets in their marketing. But the reality is that there is proof that these chemical laden lawns are having a dangerous affect on dog's health.

So what is a green dog to do? Go organic and healthier, that's what!

When we lived in Indiana, we grew an entire lawn from seed at our new home organically. It was a process and we didn't see that lush green lawn immediately. But the second year, we had a wonderful, green, healthy, very safe lawn for our dogs to play, enjoy and even eat a little now and then.

So how did we do it?

Spring is one of the best times of the year to start new lawn practices to keep your dogs safer and healthier. Here are our tips for creating and developing a healthier, safer, lush green organic lawn:

Start by...
  • Cleaning up all the poo after the spring thaw.
  • Raking up any leaves and debris.
  • Mowing if needed.
  • Wait for a good rain, and then pull any unnecessary weeds, as this is the easiest time to get those weeds from the root so they won't come back again and again.
Once you've done the clean up:
  • Put down a good quality, organic, weed preventer that includes corn gluten before or during the blooming of the Forsythia. Distributing this type of product on your lawn before weed seeds begin to germinate is key to cutting back on crabgrass, dandelions and other unwanted weeds throughout the year. But remember corn gluten will prevent all seed from germinating so...
  • Wait approximately one month and then overseed your lawn with a good quality uncoated grass seed that's appropriate for your area. Uncoated seed is important as coated seed is many times treated with a non-organic fertilizer or other growth hormones that may be harmful for birds, rodents and other small bodied living things, including your dog.
  • Wait a few days and then spread a good organic fertilizer, like spray Fish Emulsion, or Worm Poo (these fertilizers won't hamper the growth of new grass seed). We like sprays because they are not as attractive to dogs once they have been on the lawn for a few hours. You can also look into a good organic fertilizer that's pellet based, like Lawn Restore, or Espoma Brand organic foods. Even though these are perfectly safe for dogs, some dogs, like my sis Gracie, just can't help herself from sniffing the pellets prolifically which gives her a runny nose, so we use a spray organic fertilizer.
  • Continue to pull unwanted weeds after each good rain.
  • If your lawn is in very poor shape, continue to reseed until the hot parts of summer and fertilize with a safe organic fertilizer every 6-8 weeks. You can even fertilize with a healthy fertilizer during the summer months without worrying about it burning your lawn like those chemical-based products do.
That's it! We hope these tips help you have a wonderful, safe, healthy lawn this year and many years to come.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Join us tonight for Earth Hour!

Tonight is a special night!

At 8:30 PM tonight, wherever you are, it's Earth Hour, a wonderful time to take one hour, turn off the lights, and take time to join millions of people in uniting to protect our planet.

Earth Hour is a worldwide grassroots movement and is organised by WWF. Engaging a massive mainstream community on a broad range of environmental issues,

Earth Hour was famously started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since then it has grown to engage more than 7000 cities and towns worldwide, and the one-hour event continues to remain the key driver of the now larger movement.

In honor of Earth Hour, I've taught both of my older dogs how to turn off the lights. It's a fun way to honor the day, learn some new tricks, and spend some quality fun time with my dogs.

Gracie learned to turn off the wall lights, since she's a larger dog and can reach the switch.

Johann is smaller so I taught him to turn off a lamp that has a floor switch.

Enjoy the night, and join us in celebrating, honoring, and contemplating our wonderful planet Earth!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Top tips to help dogs live in harmony with wildlife.

It's Spring, finally! With Spring many of you, like us, are getting out and enjoying the nice weather, taking longer walks and hikes.

It's great to get out there and enjoy nature again after a long Winter. But while you are out enjoying the nice weather, so are the critters that live around your home, and frequent the areas where you hike and walk your dog.

We live in the mountains of North Georgia and there is no shortage of wildlife here. We've learned a lot about living with the multitude of wildlife here over the years and how we can live more in harmony with nature's critters, keep our dogs safe and healthy, and keep our environment healthier as well.

We've encountered a wide variety of 'critters;' from bears and mountain lions, to snakes, toxic toads, ticks, possum, wild pigs, wild turkey, raccoon, venomous spiders and more. And in some areas of the country alligators and crocodiles can be a problem, although we don't encounter those where we live.

Since we've learned some tips and tricks to help us stay safer around wildlife we wanted to share our Top Tips to Help Dogs Live in Harmony with Wildlife. All year around we take precautions relating to these specific species:

Bears - We never leave our trash outside, or a bird feeder out in our yard. Trash and bird feeders are magnets for wildlife including bears, mountain lions, raccoon, possum and more. Every Tuesday on trash day, we put our trash out near the road just one hour before our pick up is scheduled to keep critters at bay, especially bears.

Yes, that's a bear under our car.
I don't know if you knew this, but you can actually smell most bears (if you are down wind) from about a mile away, at least the Black Bears where we live and hike. They smell exactly like a dirty, wet dog with poop on it's butt. I know that is a bizarre description, but if you keep this fact in mind you will know the minute you smell a bear, we have!

Bears really aren't interested in engaging and harming you unless they are protecting their young. If this is the case, then watch out. We keep very aware of any bear scat when we hike and if we see it we can tell just about how 'fresh' it is and keep our nose and eyes open for any dangers.

The best things you can do is keep your dog leashed, all your food in secure locations, and always be alert and aware with your nose and your eyes when out walking/hiking. Another good tip is keep bear spray with you at all times when out hiking. If you encounter a bear, here is a good link with more tips to keep you safer.

Baby birds can attract snakes.
Fleas and Ticks - Tick diseases can be very dangerous for you and your dog, and fleas are a pesky problem.

To keep the ticks and fleas out of our fenced in yard around our cabin, we take precautions early in the Spring. Over the winter these bugs aren't usually a problem, but come the first sign of good weather, they show up in droves.

Just a couple of weekends ago, on the very first really nice day, we spread food grade Diatomaceous Earth (which is safe for dogs) around the perimeter of our fence. This will help keep the ticks from entering our fenced in yard, which Mum calls our 'safe haven.' In addition, when we're out hiking, Mum will spray a bandanna with a good, high quality, effective essential oil spray with a base of neem or cedar to repel ticks and fleas from sticking to us on our adventure hikes.

Snakes - We've encountered a lot of snakes in our fenced in yard, and a few while out hiking. There are good snakes and bad snakes, and it's important to know the difference about the snakes where you live. Good snakes, like black rat snakes, will get rid of food sources for bad snakes and that's a very good thing. So remember to not harm any good snakes. Bad snakes (like Copperheads and Rattlesnakes) are a very different story.

What we've learned is that snakes are often around homes looking for food. They love mice, toads and baby birds, and we have some of those around our cabin. Another thing we've learned is that snakes don't like sulfur. So we have worked to get rid of the mice and toads in our yard through relocation, and also this weekend at the first sign of warmth we sprinkled organic sulfur (which is safe for dogs) in the areas where snakes like to hide, between rocks and under our deck. In addition, we don't allow any birds to make nests in our 'safe haven' because baby birds and bird eggs are a sure encouragement for snakes.

Yes, that's a copperhead.
Toxic Toads - The toxic toads around our home are a lot less dangerous than the toxic toads that frequent areas like Florida. But they are still toxic.

My dogs have all learned very good 'leave it's' that help greatly when encountering dangerous critters, especially toads and snakes.

Get familiar with the toads in your area and find out if they are toxic. These types of toads like to come out early in the morning and later in the evening; so many times during high toad season I will scan the yard for toads before letting the dogs out for their early morning pit stop. And if I miss one, I use the leave it command and my dogs come running to me for safety, as 'leave it' means stop what you are doing and come to Mum.

If you do have a dog that gets some of the toxin from a toad please be aware of the symptoms your dog may exhibit and what you should do.

Mountain Lions - I remember the first time I saw a mountain lion on our mountain. I was driving one of the mountain roads and saw what looked liked a very big cat ran across the road. The second time I was enjoying the weather on my back deck, looked to the left and saw a mountain lion running down the ridge next to the cabin. Big cats really aren't interested in engaging unless they too are protecting their young; and they hate loud noises. If you do have a close encounter with a mountain lion (which is very, very rare) take these tips into consideration.

Raccoon and possum - Raccoon and possum are on our mountain, but we don't see them very often. That's because we don't keep pet food or treats, or trash outside to attract them. They love nothing better than scavenging trash around homes.

When we do encounter one of these critters, the one thing we never do is corner them. That's when they want to defend themselves and become aggressive. And raccoon especially carry some nasty diseases like distemper, roundworm, rabies and leptospirosis. So it's best to make sure you have your dog leashed when out and about to keep them safe.

One night, at about midnight, I was doing my usual quick check of critters in the yard before letting the dogs out for last potty and saw two eyes shining in the light of my flashlight. It was a possum. So how was I going to get it out of our fenced in 'safe haven?' I gingerly started walking toward the possum and spoke softly as I opened the fence gate. Turned out that he was right near a tree and climbed right up waiting for me to go away. So I let my dogs out, keeping a good eye on the possum in the tree, and they never knew he was there.

A Saddleback Caterpillar, packs a nasty sting.
Alligators - These strange creatures can be found mostly in Florida, but are also all along the SE US. They can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, swamps, and even man-made canals.

Alligators primarily hunt at dusk or during the night so these are the best times to keep an eye out. The best thing for your dog to stay safe around alligator country is to keep them leashed. That way you can keep a watchful eye and prevent any encounters. It's also important to not let your dog swim in waters that are known to inhabit alligators. Here is a link for more information.

Coyote and wolves - We hear coyote on the mountains around here often at night, but there is only one time that we've seen one. The dogs and I were outside in our fenced in area, working on some training. We all looked up and saw a coyote running down the road. The dogs started barking and the coyote ran even faster.

They are sleek, very agile runners and wanted nothing to do with my dogs and their barking, as they hate loud, harsh noises; and generally don't want anything to do with humans. Some tips we've learned about living near coyotes and wolves is, again, keep all trash and foods inside only; and keep your dogs leashed when hiking. Visit this site for additional tips in living around coyote; and this one for wolves.

Turtles - We've encountered turtles often on our hikes, especially near water and after big rains. Since we're not that familiar with the varieties of turtles I've always kept my dogs away from them. Why? Because snapping turtles which are found all over the country have very strong jaws and can be very aggressive with a nasty temper, if provoked. I allow them to look at them, and use the turtle encounters for training time for their 'leave it.' It's a fun game my dogs love.

Fox - When we lived in a cabin about a mile from our present cabin, we had a fox den about 300 feet from our front door. Fox, by nature, are not interested in humans or large animals, unless they are protecting their young or their den. Fox are most active in the early morning and at night; and we would hear their 'screams' at night occasionally. Generally speaking, we kept our distance from the fox den, kept the dogs leashed when outside their fenced area, and that was enough to keep them safe.

Wolf Spider
Spiders, scorpions and other creepy crawlies - We've encountered a wide variety of creepy crawlies around our cabin, from wolf spiders to small scorpions to caterpillars that pack a nasty sting. Many of these we didn't know about when we saw them the first time, but took precautions to stay away until identified. Good thing we did because Gracie found a Wolf Spider (which can leave an ouchy bite if provoked) last Fall, and I found a Saddleback Caterpillar (which packs a nasty sting) one day under the back deck.

It's always a good idea to have your dog first aid kit on hand for any emergencies while at home or away. For these bugs, especially scorpions, spiders, stinging caterpillars, bees and wasps, some of the regular items we keep on hand are hydrogen peroxide for cleaning (I took a little to clean out YoYo's mouth and gums after encountering a toxic toad) and Children's Benedryl (1 mg. per 1 lb. of body weight for dogs) which we've used for stings and copperhead snake bites, and Traumeel Cream after to reduce swelling and pain. But remember when something like a sting or snake bite happens to your dog, get to your vet immediately to be sure your dog doesn't go into shock from the sting or bite.

Now that you have a ton of information on hand you can keep aware while still enjoying the great outdoors this spring.

Have fun!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Welcome Balcony Pets to the Raise A Green Dog Partner Pack!

Raise A Green Dog is very proud to welcome Balcony Pets to the Raise A Green Dog Partner Pack!

I remember very well back in the late 80's, (before dogs even!) my two kitties, Wolfie and Wiggy, loved going out on the balcony of our apartment.

They would want to go out there all times of the day, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall; and it was a very safe place for them to enjoy.

And I remember well that when I would leave the sliding glass door open during the warmer months the bugs would fly in; and in the colder months having the door open would really affect the thermostat.

I sure wish we would have had this solution back then!

The Balcony Pets Apartment Pet Door™ is a revolution in pet doors for apartment dwellers or anyone with a pet, a sliding glass door, and a need for an easy, lightweight, non-invasive pet door solution.

It’s modular, goes up without tools or expertise, and easily stores or travels with you. This pet door is lightweight, portable, and allows your pets to go in or out with total freedom!

The door installs in only five minutes and the flap is lightweight, which is much more accommodating to cats and smaller dogs.

If you have a secure yard for your dog or cat, we highly recommend trying the Balcony Pets Apartment Pet Door. Not only will it make your life easier, but it will keep your heating/cooling bills in check, while providing a wonderful, easy way for your pets to go in and out and enjoy the outdoors.

Balcony Pets Apartment Pet Door is currently available through their Kickstarter campaign, which runs through April 12th.

For a pledge of $99 or more you will receive the Balcony Pets Apartment Pet Door from their reduced price of $150 if funded.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Kiosk in Turkey helps both stray dogs and the environment.

Earlier this year a Turkish company introduced an interesting product that helps feed stray pets and helps the environment!

Pugedon developed this product because in Turkey over 150,000 dogs and cats are living on the streets without food. In addition, drinking water from the tap isn't as safe as it is in the US, so bottled water is very popular, providing an overabundance of plastic water bottles that contribute heavily to their landfills.

With Pugedon these bottles can be recycled to help the stray dogs all over Istanbul. It's a metal kiosk that works with an integrated solar system.

Individuals place their old water bottles in the machine and it recycles them into dog and cat food, dropping down food when the bottles are placed in the unit. They can also pour some of their water into the kiosk and provide needed water to dogs and cats, as well.

The Pugedon Smart Recycling Boxes operates at no charge to the city, and the recycled bottles cover the cost of the food, creating a kiosk that dispenses help for both the environment, and cats and dogs.

What do you think?

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