The Cost of things: August 2014

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Incredibly busy lately. I have about two posts in me for September, and this is one, already way later than usual.

Pseudo snuggles

This is my fourth year of tracking pet finances at the House of Two Bows. This is an ongoing effort to get a practical sense of what it costs to keep two 20 ~ 30 pound adult dogs in an area of the US with relatively high costs of living. Previous posts in this series can be found under the category of finances.

The Cost of (Pet) Things for August 2014:

  • Food: $211 [previous month, $30]
  • Treats: $49 [previous, $31]
  • Grooming: $16 [previous, $5]
  • Vet & Medical: -$35 [previous, $411]
  • Accessories and misc: $50 [previous, $0]
  • TOTAL: $291 [running average for 2014: ~$200/month]

Crazy high food total included a 15 lb. bag of Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream, one more 4 lb box of Honest Kitchen Embark, and an unanticipated, large order from Creston Valley Meats. I decided to buy another two large boxes of ground turkey, as well as an order of lamb bones. It may be a while before my schedule frees up so I can make their delivery times, so I decided to restock while I could. I did not anticipate over 20 pounds of lamb bones in my order, which I’ve been trying to disperse generously amongst my dog friends. Apparently, I need to know more raw feeders, because an extra freezer is really not in my budget. Yet it was hard to pass up lamb bones at 55 cents a pound!

I loaded up on buy 3 get 1 treats at the local Pet Food Express, and dehydrated a whole bunch more chicken hearts, in order to appease the Bows when I left them with a housesitter back in August. I went overboard, so plenty of treats remain.

In grooming, I finally got my act together to order a bulk box of poop bags from Amazon. 700 poop bags for $16, with Prime shipping? Can’t really argue with that deal.

Bowdu’s major veterinary appointment was postponed for this month, September. It already happened, and I’ll have more to say about that later. What I did receive last month was my $35 Elanco rebate, slightly more than what is normally offered as a “loyalty rewards” customer. I honestly was not expecting to receive the check so efficiently. I was even notified by e-mail when the check was on its way — overall resulting in my most positive experience yet with the company that manufactures Comfortis/Trifexis.

Finally, I tacked on a somewhat arbitrary $50 fee to Miscellaneous, which includes a rare expense category for the House of Two Bows: boarding and pet care by an outside helper. The only reason I could go to Denmark was because I roped a dog-savvy friend into watching the house and the Bows, all in exchange for a free place to stay and unlimited access to all food and drink in the house. I did lug back some Danish beer as payment, so that and some miscellaneous extras are included in the $50.

Under normal circumstances, in-home pet sitting would cost way, way more — like $50 for each night, let alone seven. All the more reason that friendships with dog-friends must be carefully cultivated, with the expectation that we’re always paying it forward, and that the winning personalities of your canine charges will help balance out the karmic scales.

Good to be back, lapdog edition

Sighting: Chow & Dog Chow in Denmark

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Everywhere I go, I feel like I have an “I (Heart) Dogs” sign floating above my head.

20140820 Chow

I dropped offline for a while, as I was busy flying back and forth across the world — specifically, to Denmark, where I spent a little time in Copenhagen before heading over to Aarhus for a four-day conference. Super glad to be back home.

Whenever I travel now, I keep an eye on the local canine landscape. Frankly, I was a little disappointed by how few Nordic dogs I spotted! Sure, I saw a few, but relative to the [also few] number of dogs in passing, not nearly enough for my satisfaction. Perhaps a function of where I was staying.

Meanwhile, it’s little things like this about pet culture that catch my attention, especially when traveling outside of North America:

20140820

This was in the window of a veterinary clinic, though I don’t suppose it’s a prescription diet. Nevertheless, it’s a different perspective to have the neutered pet presented as exceptional, problematic, in need of a special diet. In Europe, where intact dogs are the norm, the neutered dog becomes the medicalized condition.

DIY delicacies

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This is what about $5 worth of dehydrated chicken hearts produces:

20140812

At $2.69/pound, the meat wasn’t on sale. They came from the grocery store that tends to have less fat on their chicken hearts, so I barely had to trim anything. Slicing each heart in half before throwing it into the dehydrator also stretches out the portions.

20140812

This’ll last a month or two, in combination with other treats. I keep one container at a time in the fridge (they’re smaller than they appear). The rest go in the freezer until needed.

The Cost of things: July 2014

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Too close. TOO CLOSE.

This is my fourth year of tracking pet finances at the House of Two Bows. This is an ongoing effort to get a practical sense of what it costs to keep two 20 ~ 30 pound adult dogs in an area of the US with relatively high costs of living. Previous posts in this series can be found under the category of finances.

The Cost of (Pet) Things for July 2014:

  • Food: $30 [previous month, $21]
  • Treats: $31 [previous, $6]
  • Grooming: $5 [previous, $0]
  • Vet & Medical: $411 [previous, $0]
  • Accessories and misc: $0 [previous, $0]
  • TOTAL: $477 [running average for 2014: ~$187/month]

Most of this month’s food total goes towards Bowdu’s liquid glucosamine, which is not a cheap supplement. It really seems to be effective though, so I’m incorporating it into the regular budget. Otherwise, the food costs this month only include some whole pike mackerel and chicken drumsticks. The freezer is starting to look a bit bare though, and I’ll need to do a kibble run for August.

Treats included commercial treats on a buy-3-get-1-free deal, and a couple packs of raw pig’s ears, seven pieces total, which were chopped and dehydrated. Still have a gallon bag stashed in the freezer, which will get us through next month.

Grooming supplies were a 3-pack of store brand baby wipes from Target. I use these for Bowdu’s feet after walks, especially in the summer. He has been licking his feet black, which has been a seasonal thing the last few years. As long as he’s not breaking skin, I’m satisfied that his summer allergies are being kept under control.

Obviously, the big blow this month was veterinary costs. You can see my previous post about Bowdu’s vet visit for the breakdown on that. Twelve doses of Comfortis are also included in this figure. This time, they sent me a special “loyalty” promotional code for a $35 rebate on a pack of twelve. I’m never very optimistic that the rebate will go smoothly, so I’m not accounting for the discount until I actually receive it.

Anticipating another high total next month. And it’s going to be a busy one… Meanwhile, after three weeks, I can say that Bowdu is doing better, probably due to a combination of the supplements and time. He’s not at 100% though, and now he’s blowing his coat again so he’s back to looking rough and scraggly.

20140804 Sunset Bling

We’ve been enjoying some gorgeous sunsets all last month, most of which I fail to capture in photo. Some things are better experienced off screen, anyway.

20140804 Earpiercing

Threshold: Bowdu’s July checkup

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I dreaded the accounting on this one, but delaying it doesn’t make the expense go away. Bowdu’s last vet checkup was a heavy one, financial and psychological.

20140716 The Bows go to the vet

For Bowdu’s annual exam, I had an additional concern. Bowdu’s back legs — his back right leg, in particular — had been shaky for quite some time now. Last year, the vet said it indicative of muscle weakness, a symptom that often accompanies hypothyroidism. Bowdu’s energy levels remain consistent, so we maintained observational hover pattern.

Unfortunately, in the last couple months, his hind leg seems to have been giving him more trouble. The shaking, which was fairly sporadic in the past, is fairly constant now. One day a couple months ago, he started walking with a limp and keeping that back right foot raised. This wasn’t set off by any memorable trauma, and our routine has been fairly steady and low-impact, all around. He wasn’t expressing any audible pain, so I kept watch and waited it out. He returned to normal stride after a few days.

A few weeks ago, the same thing happened again. This time, however, he wasn’t so quick to bounce back. He is clearly not jumping as high as he used to. Getting up on the bed is a two-step process now, using his dog bed (placed on a cushion at the foot of the bed) to trampoline himself up to the human bed. He even allows me to lift him into the car — something that he usually makes an undignified stink about. On our off leash walks, he boycotts certain regular routes that we’ve hiked for years, and won’t follow closely. This is unusual, even for his Shibaness.


(Apologies for the vertical videography)

The second video, in particular, is Bowdu at his creakiest and slowest. [**Significant ETA: I just realized the second video is from the same day of his vet exam, which means his slow motion is actually a residual effect of the Acepromazine. The pace helps to show his funny gait though.] He is not a young dog anymore, but at nine years old, this is not what I would expect either. So we went off to the vet for as full a workup as we could manage without sedation (other than his acepromazine) …

  • Office Call: senior semi-annual exam, $56 $50.40
  • Total Body Function, $179 $161.10
  • Urinalysis add-on, $61 $54.90
  • Comfortis, 12 doses (20.1 ~ 40 pounds), $201.06
  • Referral credit, ($56.00)
  • TOTAL: $411.46*

* Prices reflect my 10% student discount, where applicable

The bloodwork came back just fine, and his thyroids continue to be well managed at his current dosage of 0.2mg of Soloxine, twice a day. The physical exam, however, was a shrieking, fur-flying, anal gland-releasing mess.

20140716 Black Dress + shedding dog + vet day

So much for his winning streak as a “good” patient. Bowdu was not having it this time. Suffice to say, I’m now looking forward to another estimated $500 examination, which will include sedation and X-rays, to get Bowdu’s back end issues properly diagnosed.

Based on Bowdu’s history and what I know of other Shibas with similar health profiles, I strongly suspect it’s an ACL injury. I don’t want to say much more without an official diagnosis. In the meantime, he’s been getting loaded up on liquid glucosamine supplements (which I’d stopped for a while, and more on that some other day) and he continues to get daily fish oil capsules. His weight is good, so there’s no change to his diet. We continue our regular walks, including our off leash hikes along less strenuous trails, which I think gives him the freedom to move at his own pace and comfort.

I have to trust that he knows his own body as intimately as nature allows. He won’t tax or purposely hurt himself. It’s only been a couple weeks since his visit and about 10 days since I started loading him with glucosamine, but he’s been noticeably improved. His situation is far from dire, but it will need to be addressed.

And this, too, is when I feel the pressure of maintaining an aging dog on a student’s budget. Even if his situation is “just” remedied with steady glucosamine supplements, I think I’m looking at about an additional $200 a year on nutraceutical expenses — which I’m ready and able to do. What I do now will have an impact on Bowdu long beyond my current budget situation.

The vet also mentioned an injectible solution called Ichon which is more expensive, but reportedly, more effective. Absorption is one of the biggest variables across tablet, liquid, and now injectible forms of glucosamine, so I’m going to have to do some research to figure out a solution that works best for us.

Getting ahead of ourselves though, especially since there hasn’t been an official diagnosis. Apparently, the supplements — and time, of course — are making a difference, so this is what’s in our future. Clearly, we’ve passed a life stage threshold of some sort. While Bowdu may not be as active as he was even a mere year ago, there’s a lot of life in him yet. Learning how to make the most of it is an ongoing, mutual process.

Lotta life

Idle privilege

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The dogs get to be lazy when I’m not.

20140723 Warm day

I’ve been ruminating lately on how good lives take hard work. Some labors are more visible than others, which doesn’t make them inherently more or less valuable, just different.

During SPARCS2014, Ray Coppinger spoke of how he finds it cruel and freakish to reduce dogs, with their evolutionary history as working animals, to the lazy lifestyles of modern pethood. When you take the “work” away from the working dog, the drive always remains, as a matter of biological coding. Apparently, there’s no such thing as true retirement either when your existence is valued on the basis of your work. Even Coppinger has remained awfully busy as an emeritus professor. Yet I’m keenly aware of his age and accompanying stature because I don’t think he’s allowed his thinking to change much in light of emerging research, scientific and historical.

As the meaning of “work” has changed over the course of anthropological history, we need to rethink canine labors within the context of cynological history, too. I’m not arguing that human or canine laziness is actually laborious, or anything nonsensical like that. But I must acknowledge the complexity of human-animal relationships by admitting that dogs’ roles are at least as versatile as the human conditions to which they are attached.

As I currently work largely from home or outside in spaces where dogs are not free to enter, pet inactivity is necessary to enable this kind of productivity, which does end up mutually beneficial. My lifestyle, my worklife — similar to that of many people the world over — is compatible with the comfortable idle of these dogs. I rest assured that the Bows are equipped to age, change, and adapt to these pet roles, just as so much of canine-human evolutionary history has been about how these two social species develop in accordance to each other.

Playing possum

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When a possum wandered into the backyard this weekend, I learned something about Bowdu’s prey drive.

20140713 Bowdu and possum

Bowdu and possum

Specifically, his prey drive doesn’t kick in if the creature doesn’t dart and just huddles in place, hissing and making ugly faces. The worst that Bowdu did to the hapless opossum was bark and “play” bow, occasionally starting forward — but he did not make physical contact.

Bowdu and possum

After a while of the same expression from an otherwise motionless creature, he lost interest.

Bowdu and possum

Or maybe he was confused, especially when I brought out the camera. He kept staring back at me, as if wondering why I want to take a picture of that ugly ol’ thing?

So we just had a backyard visitor...

Better than cleaning up bloody possum shreds!

Off and on and intercepted

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Bowpi can be a pretty flexible pile of puppydawg when in rest…

20140614 Liquid dog

… and in action.

Adventures of liquid dogAdventures of liquid dog
Adventures of liquid dog

Adventures of liquid dogAdventures of liquid dog

The pit bull’s owner was very conscientious about how rough her dog was playing with Bowpi, due to her size. “Is this okay? Can your dog play like this?” she kept asking. I forget sometimes that many people see Basenjis as “small” dogs, because they don’t display the kind of frailty one associates with toys and minis.

Bowpi does get overwhelmed by larger dogs pretty quickly, particularly during chase. She’s good at outrunning them in short bursts, but can’t quite match their stamina when they keep pursuing and eventually catch up and knock her over. This pit bull was just charging in on her terms though, persisting in roughhouse instead of actual chase. Yet, it seemed she was holding back and playing rather loosely, as far as I could tell from watching bullies play before. And to my surprise, Bowpi was actually reciprocating.

Like I told the pit bull’s owner, Bowpi can handle her own until she doesn’t want to anymore, and then she’ll make it clear when she’s had enough.

Adventures of liquid dog

On that day, I realized that when Bowpi gets overwhelmed, one of her strategies (as a reader once suggested) really is to deliberately lead the overly exuberant pursuer into Bowdu. I used to think his refereeing was obtrusive, that he was being the killjoy to her chase games.

Time out!

Well, I think Bowpi has figured out Bowdu’s habits, just as he’s learned to relax a bit when she wants to play chase. And they have learned to cover for each other, developing something that might be called effective teamwork.

When Bowpi started to have enough, I could see her breaking away, but this prompted the pit bull to start chasing instead. When she caught up, she’d try to roughhouse again, throwing all her weight into a galloping headbutt. Bowpi wasn’t having that anymore, so she led her straight towards Bowdu, who jumped right in to intercept the pit bull. After a few moments of all sorts of communicative microsignals that I couldn’t fully observe from my angle, Bowpi was able to slink away without being tailed again.

Adventures of liquid dog

It was some good playing, and a good finale.

The Cost of things: June 2014

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20140622 Peeps and Doobs

This is my fourth year of tracking pet finances at the House of Two Bows. This is an ongoing effort to get a practical sense of what it costs to keep two 20 ~ 30 pound adult dogs in an area of the US with relatively high costs of living. Previous posts in this series can be found under the category of finances.

The Cost of (Pet) Things for June 2014:

  • Food: $21 [previous month, $194]
  • Treats: $6 [previous, $41]
  • Grooming: $0 [previous, $0]
  • Vet & Medical: $0 [previous, $0]
  • Accessories and misc: $0 [previous, $0]
  • TOTAL: $27 [running average for 2014: ~$139/month]

Last month’s food total was horrendously high, so I made a conscientious effort to pace things out this month. I didn’t meet my single-digit spending goal, but I’m satisfied with the numbers anyway. That amount included a couple pounds of sardines, turkey tails and necks, chicken livers, and a whole roasting chicken. When roasters are on sale, they’re extremely economical, hacked up and apportioned as dog food for the week. I even saved a breast for myself, which lasted several meals given the way I portion my own meat intake.

Treats also consisted of raw fare, chicken hearts chopped up and thrown into the dehydrator.

I’m not expecting such a low total next month, as Bowdu is due for another vet appointment — his periodic thyroid check.

June Gloom comes to a close

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This is the year I learned the meaning of the term “June Gloom.”

20140604 June fog

Supposedly, we in NorCal aren’t as susceptible like they are in SoCal.

20140601 Marin Headlands in the fog

The above photo was taken the first of the month. The picture below was taken today, on the last day of the month.

20140630 More fog

On a clear day, you would see populated hills climbing up the horizon.

Not this June though, or at least not in this summer fog.

There’s a deep metaphor you could extract from this weather, I’m sure. But I’d rather leave it behind — onward and forward to next month!

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