Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It Was Bound To Happen...

....the 120 cm ball freaking popped. :(

Le sigh.  I brought the giant thing out of retirement because our center wide talent show (which we did a few years back) was in danger of being cancelled.  I agreed to do the giant dog on the giant ball routine, but with a week to prepare, I realized that I should probably practice a little bit with Heffner.  Things have been going great the past few days until last night.  Heffner got up on the ball, things were going fine, and then it just tore.  To be honest, I probably should have expected it.  It's been sitting in my hot garage since I moved in and I haven't inflated it until last week.  The material isn't meant to hold up to that kind of heat stress, even while being stored inside the house after inflation.  This time, I'm not going to bother replacing it.  FitPaws has more than enough fun and new equipment that's more manageable for me with a giant dog, that it's not worth the cost of replacing a ball that size.  In the mean time, the audience will just have to appreciate a giant dog on an overly large inflated peanut. ;)      

In memory of this giant ball, I thought I'd post the links to a few posts that it has so graciously made an appearance in:


The Evolution of the Ball Studio

DVD of the Month

The National Continued - Parades

We're Back!

Darwin's Post on Dane Outreach's Education Day

Our "act" for the talent show is going to be a little different than the last time.  I'm tweaking a few things.  I haven't worked on a lot of these tricks with Heffner in quite some time.  And of course, he and I are getting older. ;)  It's been really exciting getting back into working with the conditioning equipment again.  Heffner and I both missed this fun training time together.  His eyes just light up and he gets so excited!!  Working on some of the "old" tricks has also given me ideas for new tricks that I want to work on, that unfortunately won't be ready in time for the talent show.  It's gotten both Heffner and I up and working on fun things and building on what we already know.  All happy good things. 

Looking back on the old posts, pictures, and videos, I am thankful that I have these memories to happily look back on and relive.  Good memories with my wonderful dogs.     

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Milk Thistle

In my ever ongoing search for ways to keep my dogs happy, healthy, and with me for as long as possible, I naturally turn to supplements.  Barring my finding a sugar daddy who can single-handedly fund research into making my dogs bionic and therefore live as long as I do, I have to work with what I've got. ;)  I've written a few posts previously about the supplements that I was already giving my dogs, but there's one that I've added more recently that I have absolutely fallen in love with!  So much so that I'm actually taking it myself.  This wonderful supplement is milk thistle.

Milk thistle is a hepatoprotective supplement.  Meaning, it helps protect your liver.  You cannot survive without your liver.  And if your liver is damaged or failing, it creates a plethora of health issues that may not immediately seem like they are directly related.  While the liver has MANY functions, one of the more important ones is that it works to detoxify the body.  Without a fully functioning liver, toxins build up in the blood stream and damage the body as a whole.  If you'd like to read more about the function of the liver I recommend going here.

Use of milk thistle has been shown to protect the liver against damage caused by free radicals as well as increasing protein synthesis in these same cells.  A protected liver, and better yet, one that can regenerate it's cells more effectively, leads to better overall health for the body.  Basically, a happy liver, is a healthier, longer lasting body.  Additional studies have shown that milk thistle appears to have some tumor growth inhibiting properties as well.  The sky almost seems to be the limit with the benefits of this supplement.  Not sure you buy into what I'm saying?  Don't trust me, trust some of these peer reviewed scientific papers on the subject!

Silibinin Inhibits Tumor Promotional Triggers and Tumorigensis Against Chemically Induced Two-Stage Skin Carcinogensis in Swiss Albino Mice:  Possible Role of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

Milk Thistle:  A Future Potential Anti-Osteoporotic and Fracture Healing Agent
Milk Thistle:  Early Seeds of Potential

Silibinin inhibits accumulation of myeloid-derived suppressor cells and tumor growth of murine breast cancer

 Hepatoprotective Effect of Silymarin

You may need to look around on the pages of some of these papers to find the link to the full text version, but they should all be accessible to anyone, I believe.  These are just a smattering of papers that I found on the subject that I thought were helpful.  I'm a fan of science and I'm a fan of work that has been peer reviewed and deemed accurate enough to be published and stand up to public scrutiny.  It's the basis of what I do for a living and I believe whole-heartedly in it.

Now that we've gotten the technical stuff out of the way, lets get down to the anecdotal, which ultimately is what people want to hear about.  There are very few things that I expect to give to my dogs and see a rapid benefit from.  I, personally, am well aware that things like physical activity and staying in shape are something that you build on.  You don't just work out once and expect to wake up the next morning with a body builders physique!  However, I will admit that I noticed some positive changes in Heffner within just a few days of starting him on milk thistle.  I was not expecting that at all.  The most obvious change that I noticed with him was in his ears and his eyes.  I went to clean his ears about two days after starting him on the milk thistle and his ears were clean.  There wasn't really anything for me take care of.  Bess always had nice clean ears.  For the longest time Heffner had one ear that was always clean and one ear that always had a darkish, waxy build up.  Even with weekly ear cleaning, by the time ear cleaning day came around, there was always something to clean.  I never thought too much of it until he actually got an ear infection last year.  The first time that he'd ever had one and it was in the ear that always had the waxy buildup.  After medicating and cleaning the ear, it cleared up.  But I was now afraid that if I wasn't diligent enough with his ear cleaning that he would get an infection again.  While his ears clearing up wasn't a result that I expected, it makes sense thinking about it now.  His liver is in better shape and better able to clear the toxins from his body in a healthy way, so these toxins don't have a chance to build up and cause him issues elsewhere. 

In addition to his ears clearing up (and they've continued to stay cleared up!), he doesn't have much in the way of eye discharge any more.  The discharge was never anything overly concerning.  It was clear and not unhealthy looking, but it was just always there.  Particularly in the morning when he'd wake up after a full night of sleep.  He'd shake his head and it would get flung on the walls, or land on the floors, or he'd do his favorite thing and stick his head between my legs and rub his eye boogers off on my pants.  While he doesn't have overly loose eyes, his eyes were not quite as tight as Bess' and I just assumed that because of this there were goobers that would build up.  Those goobers have almost completely gone away.  He may occasionally still get a little schmutz in one of his eyes here and there, but it's definitely not the regular occurrence that it was.

As for the benefits that are going on within his body, that I can't tell you for sure without taking actual biopsies of his organs and running a bunch of blood tests to get all the parameters.  What I do know, is that my dog seems overall healthier and that's the most important part for me.

To all you skin and fur mothers out there, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Don't Let Them Age!

"An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion." -Newton's first law of motion

The past few months Heffner has had some health issues pop up (angry liver and stupid tumor).  Each time it has way laid him from his regular exercise routine of jogging and hiking with me.  Then there's the gradual build back up into shape.  And then he turned 8 and I basically started treating him like a piece of porcelain that would potentially shatter.  In a nutshell, I was letting my dog get old before his time.  

This wasn't necessarily a bad thing when there were two other dogs in the household to keep him mentally and physically engaged.  But now it's just him.  And he and I have both been a little mopey lately.  I had to give myself a firm shake to get my butt back in gear and start taking care of my dog the way he should be taken care of.  Yes he's technically a senior dog.  Yes he is actually starting to age.  But I'll be damned if I'm going to let him get old before his time!

There were a few things that caused me to realize that I needed to make some changes and be more supportive of Heff.  He was letting me sleep in.  Like past 8:00 am without coming to whine at the baby gate across my bedroom door.  He was sleeping all the time.  I could be in the office on my computer and he would just stay out on the couch sleeping, no matter how long I was in there for.  Pretty much the only time he would get up to greet me at the door was when I came home from work.  That is NOT my dog, and I needed to do something to change this.

Due to the various issues that have come up with him and some minor foot issues that he's had, I've retired him from running with me.  So he hasn't been getting the same level of exercise that he's been used to for the past several years.  And yes, it totally sucked when I made the decision to do this, but it's what was best for Heffner.  I had already implemented what I was fondly calling "old man walks."  Instead of going running with me, I'd take him for walks in the evening.  Just he and I.  It was sweet.  But it wasn't enough.  There was only so much variety that I was giving him on the routes that I would pick and that's just not enriching enough.  So I've implemented what I am fondly calling our date nights! (Hey, I've gotta maintain my crazy dog lady status some how!  I'm practically normal now that I only have one dog.  I've gotta do something to amp up the crazy ;) )  Date night involves a bunch of other things, but part of it is that I load him up and we head off to one of the pretty parks in the area, that have some lengthier trails/walkways.  I make sure that I pick places that have softer footing for his feet and joints.  I make sure that there are plenty of places to go so that we're out for at least a half hour.  The pace is set by Heffner (this gets more critical now that the weather is warming up and I don't want him over heating).  If he wants to stop and sniff something, then we stop and he sniffs.  My cell phone is turned off during this time.  It's just Heff and I, enjoying our little outing.  We do this twice a week and he definitely is enjoying it!  We've got some really pretty parks in the area and he LOVES going for car rides.  It's really a win-win situation.  
We're still going hiking, so we've got at least three outings away from home a week that we do.  Spicing up Heffner's physical activity?  Check!  After last year's trip to the Great Dane Club of Northern California's annual specialty weekend, I retired Heffner from competition in all performance sports.  I also basically stopped training him for anything.  That was dumb.  Nothing quite lights up my dogs and gets them excited than when I would do my bouts of daily training with them.  Well, nothing except when they'd lose their little minds as they watched me get the truck ready to take them for an outing. ;)  It's pretty well known that if you keep animals and people mentally engaged, they age slower.  I know this.  And apparently I chose to ignore it.  I know, I have serious moments of stupidity at times.  So, I've started back into training Heffner to do random tricks and behaviors.  I'm back to videoing each training session for each activity.  And I freaking LOVE it!  Even better, Heffner freaking loves it!  He's so excited to be "working" again.  And he's so excited to be getting yummy treats for these activities again. ;)  There's an added bonus of additional physical activity for him that is absolutely helping as well.  I've got a plan for tricks/behaviors to train right now and more to come.  While there are sports that would be friendly to an aging dog competing in, I doubt that we'll actually compete.  But who knows!  Right now we're having fun working together and re-establishing that working bond that I let falter.  I'm feeling re energized and excited and I'm getting my obnoxious boy back. 

My dogs used to jump up and follow me any time I got up from where ever I was sitting in the hopes that it meant I was going to do something with them.  Because it usually did.  Heffner hasn't done that in a while, and it's understandable since I was being a huge slacker.  But now he does!  I'll be sitting at my desk and need to get up for whatever and he's up and following me where ever I go.  As I mentioned, he used to just stay sleeping on the couch regardless of where I was in the house or what I was doing.  Now he's with me all the time, keeping an eye out for when our next activity is going to happen.  He's eager, bouncy, and ready for action!  Even more surprising, while still definitely heat sensitive, that boy is still wanting to play and engage outside, even on the gross 90 degree day that we had recently.  It feels like I've stopped the aging process in him and I've got my boy back.  It feels really good.:)

There's a few additional things that I've started implementing for him (and more that I plan to add) to help with the aging process and to keep him around, happy, healthy and as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.  I'll be sharing those as well.

Newton's first law of motion is particularly pertinent as our dogs age.  While we do need to look out for them and make decisions that are best for THEM, we also don't need to cause them to age prematurely.  If we want these guys to be around for a long time and stay in motion with us, then we need to do what we can to keep them in motion.  Don't be a jackass like I started to be.  These guys give us everything they have and they stand by us no matter what happens.  We owe it to them to keep them happy and healthy and aging gracefully.