Eating Organic is better for you

farmersmarket.jpgOur local farmer’s markets are in full swing right now, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Living in Portland has really made us feel so much more connected to our local farmers – maybe because there are so many things grown here. It’s made us much more aware of not only how much more delicious fresh organic foods are than those that have ridden in a truck or boat or train (or all of the above) to get to my supermarket, (moments from wilting), but also what a challenge it is for small, locally owned organic farmers to compete with giant agrobusiness.
I’m sure most of you know that organic farming is good for both you and the environment, as it reduces overall exposure to toxic chemicals. Synthetic pesticides and other chemicals can end up in the ground, air, water and food supply, and not only are they pollutants but they could be associated health consequences, from asthma to cancer. But did you know that organically grown foods can actually be better for you (and your pets) nutritionally than their traditionally grown counterparts? Just a few of the examples I found:
A study was presented at the Soil Association (UK’s largest soil conservation, organic farming, and environmental protection NGO) Annual Conference that came down solidly on the side of Organic milk. According to the research, cows farmed organically produced milk which was, on average, 50% higher in Vitamin E, 75% higher in beta carotene, two to three times higher in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine, and richer in Omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced milk. A group of scientists from Europe have shown that organic food is healthier, for rats. The University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and the Danish Research Center for Organic Farming found that by feeding rats only organic food they had a stronger immune systems, slept better, and stored less fat. In a study by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, organic ketchup was shown to contain 57% higher levels of the antioxidant lycopene.

So get on out there to the Farmer’s Markets while they’re still in full swing, or seek out markets in your area that carry locally grown produce. When food is locally grown, it hasn’t traveled as far to get here as stuff in the supermarket — this uses far less fossil fuel and produces fewer emissions to transport it. It’s also fresher, so it tastes better and lasts longer. Support our local organic farmers!


Did You Know You Can Bring Your E-waste to Staples?


I just read something interesting today about the Staples company – they accept all sorts of e-waste at their store whether you bought it there or not. I’ll be posting something about e-waste (discarded electrical equipment like computers and printers) soon, so it’s on my mind, but I thought I’d share this article with you as I think it’s great and should make it even easier to be able to dispose of that toxic e-waste properly. Check out this link

Fireworks — Fun for some people, but a nightmare for some dogs and their owners.


We couldn’t believe it when we moved to Portland and saw/heard how many fireworks go off here on the 4th of July. We’ve never lived anywhere with legal fireworks, and had no idea that it would be such a constant barrage of explosions for hours on end. This can be a very frightening thing for pets in our homes who can’t possibly understand what is happening, and can drive some dogs into a panic. I thought I’d put together some tips for how to get ready and how to deal with the 4th when it comes.

If this is your first 4th of July with your new puppy, this is your chance to set the tone for the future. This exercise can also help older dogs that are already frightened of fireworks noises. <! — more — >

       In the next week, try to desensitize the noise of random fireworks and turn them into a signal that something great is going to happen for the dog. People are always impatient for the 4th to come, and they end up setting a few off ahead of time. These can be very useful opportunities for you to work on getting your puppy happy with the noises instead of being frightened. First, get some sort of outrageous treat ready — something that will really blow your dog’s mind that he doesn’t usually get. Hotdog slices come to mind, or pieces of real meat. Cut them up and put them in a Tupperware in the front of the fridge, ready to grab. Any time you hear a bang outside, start your “puppy party”. React like something really exciting and fabulous has happened — “Lucky lucky puppy!! Oooh Boy!” Bounce your way to the fridge and grab your goodies. Sounds silly, but if you’re lucky enough to get some repetitions, your dog will soon associate the sound of the fireworks with an opportunity for a hotdog puppy party, instead of making up his own interpretation of what this big noise could possibly mean. Dogs are incredibly good at associations, and this sort of classical conditioning works well with anything that a dog has previously found unnerving. They will quickly come to associate a noise (even a scary one) with big fun if that’s what you seem to be saying it means. An industrious puppy owner could even come up with ways of getting some more repetitions under their belt in ways they can control and predict. Maybe you can get a hold of some fireworks and enlist the help of a friend or family member to set them off when you’re ready. Cell phones make this an easier exercise. Maybe they start from a block away and set one off — just a little pop. “Lucky puppy”! It makes you happily jump up from the couch and get him a hotdog. Then you settle down again. When you’re ready, maybe a few more pops, and a few more hotdog slices and maybe a little game of tug, or a new toy. Then your helper moves closer. Just a few repetitions a night can lead to some good associations for your dog. If your dog has an extreme case of fireworks phobia, consider occasionally working on this exercise throughout the coming year, and next year will be easy sailing for your dog. You might also be able to find a fireworks noises tape or CD, or maybe even a DVD (I found one online by Nova called “Discover the Explosive History of Fireworks”) In the cases of extreme fear, you want to start as small as possible — very low volume on the DVD, or just those little snaps you throw on the ground (someone can pop them outside in the yard for you, then build up to bigger bangs later). The key is to wait to increase the intensity until you get a good response at the level you’re at. It may seem like a pain, but it’s so worth it in the end to help spare them from such a stressful experience. You can also use this “Lucky Puppy!” response to help work on other noises for the noise sensitive dog. The other reason this works is that dogs play off of your energy. You might be inadvertently reinforcing the trembling terrors by cuddling a trembling dog, whereas if you appear to think a noise is OK, or even fun, they might believe you (especially a puppy).

        – Next, consider picking up a product to help ease the fear of a nervous dog. Homeopet makes an Anxiety Blend which is specific to fears about noise called TFLN (Thunder, Fireworks, Loud Noises). Homeopathy is extremely safe and can be given safely even in conjunction with other medications, so it might be worth trying. Other options include an herbal blend by Animals Apawthecary called Tranquility Blend to relax an animal, and Ark Naturals makes an herbal blend called Happy Traveler that might help to take the edge off. (We carry all three in the store, if you’re in the neighborhood).

         – On the day, make sure that you exercise your dog really well. A tired dog is much less likely to be stressed about the noises. Keep your dog inside, as more dogs are lost on this night than almost any other trying to flee from the noise. If you’re not going to be home, find a secure place in the house and draw the blinds (if your dog is crate trained, this would be a perfect time to use it).

        – Some folks have told us that drowning out the noises sometimes helps. One woman said she puts her dog in the laundry room with a meaty bone or a stuffed Kong and puts sneakers in the dryer, and it works well for her dog. You’d have to decide though whether that would add stress to your noise sensitive dog, or whether it might help. Of course it depends on your dog. Perhaps more “normal” noises like the TV or radio would work better for some.

        – Other people have had good luck with the T-Touch method of wrapping a dog in fabric to give it a greater sense of security. The easiest way to try this is to get a tight t-shirt, put it on the dog and tie the bottom in a knot to keep it snug around the dog’s body. (If it smells like you, even better.)

        Most importantly, don’t ever bring a dog with you to a fireworks display. Not only are they very crowded, but they are far too loud for your dog’s sensitive ears. While there are some dogs out there who might take an experience like a fireworks display in stride, it would be far too easy to traumatize a dog with this very extreme evening of smells, giant explosions overhead, the feeling of rumbling in the ground, and earsplitting noise. Once you’re packed into a crowd, it’s hard to make a quick exit if your dog isn’t handling the situation well, and the damage might already be done. Perhaps you could spend the puppy’s first 4th of July at home with him and make it a fun evening for him, so that future fireworks aren’t as scary.

Have any fireworks tips for others, or product recommendations? Please feel free to post a comment here and share your idea with others!


Northwest Working Dog Expo *and* Plastic Recycling Roundup!

Northwest Working Dog Expo – 1st annual event, open to all breeds! Lots of fun events, demonstrations and competitions in areas such as Obedience and Personal Protection, CGC and ATTS testing, Youth Obedience Contests, and much more!

June 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, 2007 at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds. More info at

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — –

Plastic Recycling Roundups
Next event: Saturday, May 19, 2007, 9am to 2pm 

  • PCC Rock Creek Campus 17705 NW Springville rd
  • PCC Sylvania 12000 SW 49th
  • Floyd Light Middle School 10800 SE Washington

Bring those hard to recycle plastics, Master Recyclers will collect it, and Agri-Plas, a recycler located in Brooks, Oregon, will recycle the plastic into new products. Master Recyclers sponsored five similar plastic roundup events and reused and recycled over 25 tons of plastic. more info at
There are many places to recycle plastics year round: to find a location near you contact Metro at (503)234-3000 or use Metro’s Find a Recycler site.


ST. CHARLES, Mo., May 11 /PRNewswire/ — Royal Canin USA is announcing today the voluntary nationwide recall of eight Sensible Choice dry dog food products and seven Kasco dry dog and cat food products.
This announcement is based on the company’s ongoing extensive review of its manufacturing and quality assurance testing procedures, which identified trace amounts of a melamine derivative from tainted Chinese rice protein concentrate provided to the company by domestic ingredient supplier Cereal Byproducts, headquartered in Illinois.
“We deeply regret the concern and anxiety this announcement today will cause our loyal customers and the entire pet community,” Olivier Amice,
President and CEO of Royal Canin USA, said. “While a very limited number of Sensible Choice and Kasco products in this recall tested positive for trace levels of a melamine derivative, Royal Canin USA is voluntarily withdrawing these products out of an abundance of caution and because we are fully committed to the welfare of our customers’ pets.”
Royal Canin USA has no confirmed cases of melamine related illness in pets eating Sensible Choice and Kasco products affected by this recall.
Last month, Royal Canin USA announced it will no longer use any Chinese vegetable protein suppliers.
The following eight Sensible Choice dry dog food products and seven Kasco dry dog and cat food products with date codes between July 28, 2006 to April 30, 2007 are being voluntarily recalled:
SENSIBLE CHOICE(R) (available in pet specialty stores nationwide)
— SENSIBLE CHOICE(R) Chicken and Rice Adult (Dry Dog Food)
— SENSIBLE CHOICE(R) Chicken and Rice Reduced (Dry Dog Food)
— SENSIBLE CHOICE(R) Lamb and Rice Reduced (Dry Dog Food)
— SENSIBLE CHOICE(R) Chicken and Rice Puppy (Dry Dog Food)
— SENSIBLE CHOICE(R) Chicken and Rice Large Breed Puppy (Dry Dog Food)

KASCO(R) (available in pet specialty stores nationwide)
— KASCO(R) Chunks (Dry Dog Food)
— KASCO(R) Hi Energy (Dry Dog Food)
— KASCO(R) Maintenance (Dry Dog Food)
— KASCO(R) Mealettes (Dry Dog Food)
— KASCO(R) Mini Chunks (Dry Dog Food)
— KASCO(R) Puppy (Dry Dog Food)
— KASCO(R) Cat (Dry Cat Food)
Based on today’s announcement, pet owners should stop feeding their
pets the eight Sensible Choice dry dog food products, seven Kasco dry dog
and dry cat food products listed. Pet owners should consult with a
veterinarian if they are concerned about the health of their pet.
The safety and nutritional quality of Royal Canin USA pet food is our
company’s top priority because we understand that the health of pets comes
first. Pet owners who have questions about the voluntary recall of Sensible
Choice and Kasco dry pet food products and other Royal Canin USA products
should call 1-800-513-0041 or visit our web site at
All Sensible Choice and Kasco products have a satisfaction guarantee
and the company will refund or replace the diets that are part of this
recall announcement.


earth.jpg Earth Day is always a great time to take a look at little ways we can be more conscious of our actions and our consumer choices as they relate to the health of our environment. It can act as a New Year’s resolution of sorts. We like to make it easy for people to make good consumer choices when they shop with us, but we thought it might be appropriate to offer a few suggestions that might be helpful for the rest of you who don’t live nearby.

Buy Locally whenever you can. Not only does it support your local economy, items that travel to you from down the street use far fewer resources like fossil fuels than those items traveling to you from places like China.

Try to refrain from using chemicals and pesticides in your yards and when you clean your house. Pets and children can be especially vulnerable to the health affects of exposure to these chemicals, and they can have a detrimental affect on the other wildlife in your yard, as well as leaching into our drinking water. Check out beneficial insects as good ways to fight pests in your yard. Beneficial Nematodes are an especially great way to fight fleas on your property!

Natural cleaners work very well and keep pollutants out of our homes. Check out Seventh Generation website for tons of useful information about the benefits of natural home cleaners to us and to our environment. Remember, your pets are in closer contact with your grass and your floors than you are, and they will ingest chemicals that they groom off of their coats and feet. Chemical cleaners can also irritate their eyes, ears, throats and skin, can have negative affects on their central nervous system, and could contribute to certain cancers.

Switch from clay cat litter to a more sustainable material like corn, wheat, or pine. Clay cat litter must be mined from the earth creating habitat loss (did you know that 1.5 million tons of clay is strip-mined every year to make cat litter?), and must be landfilled when you are done (one source says it’s about 50,000 lbs a week in the U.S.). Did you know that more clay litter is put into landfills than dirty diapers? Litters made from corn, etc are easy to use, they clump well and can be composted or flushed. (Cat feces should never be composted, and in many states like California, they are discouraging flushing cat feces because sea otters are showing high levels of toxoplasmosis which is carried in cat feces. The urine clumps are fine to flush and compost though)

Choose products with less packaging when you have the choice. Let companies know that you aren’t choosing their products because of their wasteful packaging. Recycling what you can is good, but buying products which create less waste to begin with is even better. We see quite a few unnecessarily wasteful products out there for pets, like disposable plastic food bowl liners. Just say no to needless landfill!

Check out other green tips on this blog – I try to post simple tips that all of us can use to make our daily lives have a little less impact on our environment. Thanks for reading!

Natural Balance Venison Products Recalled

Melamine was found in the rice protein concentrate (described by the company as rice gluten) used by Natural Balance in their Venison dog and cat formulas.
Carrie Peyton Dahlberg of the Sacramento Bee is reporting Tuesday that:
Natural Balance, a Pacoima-based company, is “99.9 percent sure” that a rice protein made in Asia is responsible for the melamine detected Tuesday in some of its pet foods, company president Joey Herrick said.

“It was pretty shocking,” he said in a phone interview after the company recalled several of its venison-based foods. “I was livid.”Herrick declined to name the supplier of the rice protein or the country it came from, saying only that a large American company acquired the ingredient for Diamond Pet Foods, which makes venison products for Natural Balance.

Because both wheat gluten and rice protein enhance protein content of pet food, “It certainly is suspicious” that melamine now is associated with both, said Bob Poppenga, a UC Davis veterinary toxicology professor.” Read the entire article here
We have found a few excellent links to blogs/sites that have very current information on the recalls as they unfold. If you are interested in staying current on these issues, check in with them often: – these folks have several updates per day and are a great source for very current info as it breaks. Also of note, there is a call to action – we can all get involved by visiting our local stores with lists in hand of recalled products to see if they have gotten them off of the shelves. We’re hearing far too many reports of foods still found on shelves that should have been pulled. There are links to good instructions on how to do this at the top of this site. I hope people all over the country take it upon themselves to print these lists and check their local stores, for the sake of the pets who might be eating them. is another good current blog with excellent discussion about the issue and excellent links.
In other news, on 4/17, Natural Life canned foods were also added to the Menu Foods recall list. Please check all foods for wheat gluten and avoid them, and check back here or at the blogs mentioned above for new info. There are allegedly 5 more companies being tested right now for the Chinese rice protein ingredient that was implicated in the Natural Balance recall. They are not releasing their brand names yet of course, as they have not finished with the testing.
It definitely could be a global problem – Royal Canin pulled all of its South African foods on 4/16
Did you know that the FDA’s current list of recalled items now is over 5,000 items long?? List available here.