Sunday, April 29, 2007

Enough Already!

I know, I haven't been posting much lately. Too much going on. This is a long post. If you want to skip the yada yada about the recall debacle, feel free to scroll down and enjoy pictures. Also, sorry about all the formatting issues in this post, maybe someday I will figure out how to deal with blogger formatting.
A reminder that if you need up-to-date info about the pet food recall the best sources I have found are and By the way, these are available at the top of my links list now. At this point you'll do yourself a favor by checking every day, because new or additional products are being recalled on a daily basis. In fact, at this point, it is so complicated that I'm not even going to attempt a synopsis; just go to one of the suggested sites to get the lay of the land.

Posted several days ago at itchmo:
'If melamine spiking started happening before the Menu Foods recalls, why are we learning about it now? Two theories so far (which can be combined as well):

1. Greed. Initially, small amounts of melamine was used to slightly increase perceived protein content. As time went on and money kept flowing, the fraud got even more brazen by using larger amounts of melamine in lower standards of ingredients.(This is Itchmo’s theory)

2. Mistakes. Proper dosing and mixing of melamine in foods kept pet deaths low enough to be undetected. But someone got careless and large amounts of melamine got into smaller batches. One batch was detected with melamine concentrations as high as 6.6%.(This is David Goldstein’s theory) '

Unfortunately, these theories are confirmed in the article below, lifted from itchmo:

'Highlights below from the IHT article (emphasis Itchmo):
Here at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group factory, huge boiler vats are turning coal into melamine, which is used to create plastics and fertilizer. But the leftover melamine scrap, small acorn-sized chunks of white rock, is then being sold to local entrepreneurs, who say they secretly mix a powdered form of the scrap into animal feed to artificially enhance the protein level. “It just saves money,” says a manager at an animal feed factory here. “Melamine scrap is added to animal feed to boost the protein level.” The practice is widespread in China. For years animal feed sellers have been able to cheat buyers by blending the powder into feed with little regulatory supervision, according to interviews with melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here.
“Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as fish feed,” says Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company. “I don’t know if there’s a regulation on it. Probably not. No law or regulation says ‘don’t do it,’ so everyone’s doing it. The laws in China are like that, aren’t they? If there’s no accident, there won’t be any regulation.”
Most local feed companies do not admit that they use melamine. But last Friday here in Zhangqiu, a fast-growing industrial city southeast of Beijing, a pair of animal feed producers explained in great detail how they purchase low-grade wheat, corn, soybean or other proteins and then mix in small portions of nitrogen-rich melamine, whose chemical properties give a bag of animal feed an inflated protein level under standard tests.
“If you add it in small quantities, it won’t hurt the animals,” said one animal feed entrepreneur whose name is being withheld to protect him from prosecution.
The man - who works in a small animal feed operation that consists of a handful of storage and mixing areas - said he has mixed melamine into animal feed for years.

We’ve always suspected that this problem went back further than Menu Foods and this article confirms our suspicions. Again, we may never know the degree of deaths and illnesses in pets as many have long died and evidence has been lost.'

And the last is a soooo reassuring quote from a joint update released by the FDA/USDA regarding hogs fed contaminated/poisoned pet food (emphasis mine):

'At this time, we have no evidence of harm to humans associated with the processed pork product, and therefore no recall of meat products processed from these animals is being issued. Testing and the joint investigation continue. If any evidence surfaces to indicate there is harm to humans, the appropriate action will be taken.
The assessment that, if there were to be harm to human health, it would be very low, is based on a number of factors, including the dilution of the contaminating melamine and melamine-related compounds from the original rice protein concentrate as it moves through the food system. First it is a partial ingredient in the pet food; second, it is only part of the total feed given to the hogs; third, it is not known to accumulate in the hogs and the hogs excrete melamine in their urine; fourth, even if present in pork, pork is only a small part of the average American diet. Neither FDA nor USDA has uncovered any evidence of harm to the swine from the contaminated feed. In addition to the dilutional factor and the lack of evidence of illnesses in the swine fed the waste pet food, we are not aware of any human illness that has occurred from exposure to melamine or its by-products. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention systems would have limited ability to detect subtle problems due to melamine and melamine-related compounds, no problems have been detected to date. '

Baby back ribs or pork chops anyone? Like David Goldstein says 'translation: "We are unable to detect such problems, but don't worry, no such problems have been detected.".

In other news, I have finally gotten a prescription for a six month trial of Enbrel. Getting the prescription has turned out to be the easy part. I knew this was an expensive drug, and I knew my medical insurance had really poor coverage, but fark!

I gave myself the first injection Thursday. Even though I know that I can't expect to feel an improvement for at least two weeks at the earliest, Hello!?! Enough already! I'm sick of hurting all the time and I'm sure the cardikids are sick of short walks and a cranky cardima!

Enough ranting! Here's some pictures of the kids collected over the past week.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Food, Food Everywhere and Not a Bite to Eat!

Until this week the pet food recall was awful, but didn't really hit that close to home. After all, it was in my mind mostly the 'cheap' foods that had been recalled. I can't believe that there are people who still give their dogs foods like Alpo and Ol' Roy, but now I wonder how much quality there really is in the 'premium' brands.

I used to feed Natural Balance Venison and Rice until suddenly Holly broke out in hives every time she ate it. My dad was feeding this food until Monday of this week. So far, both of his dogs seem ok. The final straw for me was the dishonesty of Natural Balance about their ingredients. The recalled ingredient, rice protein concentrate, was not a listed ingredient until after they were caught with their pants down this week. So can I trust the label on any bag of dogs food?

And then there are so many other issues going on with the pet food recall. Still only 16 animals reported dead! Oh please! The FDA really looks like a bunch of goons with their hands deep in the pockets of big business pet food companies. The incompetence here harkens back to the hurricane Katrina debacle. The pet food companies are so obviously only interested in covering their butts and could give a fark about the pets that have died and are dying. Then there is the issue safety in human foods. Wheat, rice and corn gluten are all used in human foods, and the FDA hasn't been able to ensure that none of the contaminated products are in the human food chain. We do know that contaminated food was fed to hogs in California, and that all of the pigs sold recently for human consumption have not been accounted for. And then we have the Chinese companies that sold the poisoned wheat, rice and corn glutens to begin with; the evidence is pointing more and more strongly to deliberate contamination with melamine because this chemical can make the protein content of the gluten concentrates look artificially higher, and thus worth more. Last I heard, the Chinese government is still blocking visas of FDA investigators.

There are so many issues going on with the pet food recall that it's hard to keep up with the facts. Several sources that I have been using, which have had information posted about various recalls long before the information was available at the FDA website are:, and All of these web sites have tirelessly kept current information available and have been invaluable to me in keeping up-to-date. I have also learned a he!! of a lot from the comments sections too!

From the comments section at The Pet Connection:

o I lost my Golden Retreiver to kidney failure Dec. 27th. He was also placed on Purina NF by my Vet in Florida. I was in the process of moving to NC and when I got him to the Vet up here, he only lasted another 3 days. He was just 8 years old. I know that I was feeding him one of the recalled foods, but who keeps grocery receipts from November? I feel so guilty……….he depended on me, I should have been able to protect him. Fortunately my Rottie was on a prescription weight control food, I could have lost them both.
Comment by Pat —

o I forgot to post this earlier today. I finally heard back from our state FDA representative today (my first call to their office was the Monday after the original recall was issued). At any rate, she told me that they were averaging around 25 pets per day being reported with almost half of those being reported as deceased. She said it had been a nightmare for their office. I had a lot of questions for her but unfortunately she didn’t have many answers.
Comment by Adrienne —

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Tragedy

There are just no words. . .

Farewell dear friends, yet not farewell,
Where I go, ye too shall dwell.
I am gone before your face,
A moments time, a little space.
When ye come where I have stepped,
Ye will wonder why ye wept.
Edwin Arnold

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Holly, my dad, Meg, and I went to our first Rally-O class yesterday. Rally Obedience is really essentially the low calorie version of AKC obedience. In rally you follow a series of signs, or stations, that tell you what exercise to perform, and then go on to the next station and perform that exercise, and so on. An example of an exercise is halt (with the dog sitting in heel position), pivot right (with the dog maintaining heel position), and halt again (with the dog sitting in heel position).
One really nice thing about Rally is that you are allowed to speak constantly to the dog, repeating commands and encouraging the dog all you want, unlike obedience where you may only give a command once and cannot speak to the dog in between commands. This makes Rally in some ways very similar to a training session, with the exception that you cannot correct the dog or touch the dog, so lots of people use Rally as early ring training for obedience.
The class we are taking is one two hour session once a month for three months. A nice schedule, especially considering that the class is held a little over an hour from here, so going every week would be a bit much. And there is plenty of time in between classes to practice.
The class is actually a bit more advanced than I had been expecting. The first course we did was advanced level, which is done off leash, with a jump, and obviously, advanced level exercises. And I had not done a single second of obedience training with Holly in about a year. She really did great though. In fact she did so well that I was reminded that if I just put a little bit of effort in, both she and Mikey are capable of a lot more than I realize.
My dad's dog Meg was really the star of the class. It's really amazing that such a wild child turns into a totally different dog when she works in obedience. She has the most amazing heel, with perfect focus on my dad and pretty prancing with the front legs which is so desired in obedience work. It's almost like a split personality, because no one watching her do obedience would realize what a huge handful of a dog she is, and know one meeting her outside of the obedience ring would believe that she could even do obedience work at all.
I missed the deadline for the last local conformation show between now and the big Reliant Center show in July. So I am stuck showing conformation with Mikey, even though I had planned on only showing both dogs in Rally. Will make for a very busy, very long weekend, hope that I am up to it by then. I'm really, really hoping that the rheumatologist will be willing to try some more aggressive treatment at my next appointment in May and that by July I will feel a little bit more like my old self.
Oh, and good news on the dental front. The tooth that recently been sensitive to cold doesn't have anything wrong with it! Weird I know, but x-rays and exam of that tooth didn't show anything but slightly recessed gums. I have an appointment for May 11 for the three teeth that probably will all be having root canals. Cha ching! I can't wait (ha, HA, ha).
Enjoy the pictures from the bayou this morning. Yes, one picture is Mikey getting totally bowled over by Holly, they like to play rough! And a couple of pictures I just managed to catch a minute ago through the open window of the birds at my feeder (purple finch and sparrows).
Currently re-reading 'The Secret Diary of Ann Boleyn' by Robin Maxwell
Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

This Is Gonna Be Really Fun!

Yahoo! or as Mikey would say, 'Aaaroooo'! J agreed to running both Mikey and Holly every week in agility class. Tonight was course night and we all had a great time. Mikey was ON! and Holly has really stepped up her game too. Not only is running both dogs going to be harder physically, but it is also going to be harder mentally. The handling techniques are different for each dog and I really have to think about what I'm doing as I switch back and forth between dogs.

For example, with the weave polls, Mikey is much faster and does better if I stay quiet and just use body language after the first command to weave, while Holly is slower and needs both the body language and constant verbal encouragement to 'weave, weave, weave'. So quiet for Mikey, chatty for Holly, same body language, but sloooow the body language down for Holly, and keep the body language brisk for Mikey. By the way the body language is swinging the hips and flapping my elbow in time to their weaves to encourage them to weave in and out of the polls.

Like I've said before, I'm sure that I'm going to learn much more about handling by training both dogs at the same time, and I don't really have a choice, they're only going to be young once, and doG only knows how long I will physically be able to do agility. Besides, it really is sooo much fun, for all of us!

In other class related news, Holly and I are starting a Rally Obedience class Saturday. One nice thing about this class is that it is held once a month for two hours on Saturdays. What a great idea! My dad is taking this class too, with his young Brittany, Meg. We're planning on driving together in his SUV, so it will give us rare chance to chat since the class is about an hour away. We've both really enjoyed sharing agility, obedience, and tracking and occasionally getting to take classes together. How often do fathers and daughters really have an interest that they can share in common?
In other good news (Ha) a fourth tooth has started hurting and I have an appointment tomorrow morning to get that tooth checked before I make the appointment to get all of my rotten teeth worked on. Let's all pray that all four teeth don't need root canals, because that will cost a pretty penny (not that it's going to be cheep either way!).

Enjoy the pictures of the last full moon; I just can't resist trying to capture the perfect shot.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi' and 'We're all tuckered out!'

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter Morning on the Bayou

Happy Easter!

It was not (quite) as cold as the weatherman predicted, I think. But still chilly enough for Texas in April! The dogs loved the cool weather of course, and ran around like little maniacs and managed to get themselves soaking wet by galloping through every puddle. The rain we had yesterday has turned the bayou into a flowing river. And a few wild flowers were still holding their heads high into the cold breeze. Last but not least, Mikey was just begging for this head shot!

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Where the He!! Did Spring Go?

I'm thinking that everyone across the country is asking where spring went this weekend. This blast of cold air really blows (pun intended) for anyone hoping to enjoy some time outside on a long holiday weekend. The poor wildflowers pictured in my last post are freezing their bums off today, and the weather man says tomorrow will be even worse, with possible wintry mix in the morning! Thank goodness the weather was nice yesterday and I was able to get two very enjoyable walks on the bayou with the kids or the entire weekend would have been a disappointment. I had been planning to go to the nursery this weekend and then spending most of the weekend outside with dirt under my fingernails. Guess that will just have to wait until next weekend.

As it is, I am planing on getting some chores done around here, such as finishing taxes. I know, I know, tax is a four letter word! I usually get a little something back each year, but unfortunately this year I will be paying.

Really bad timing since I have the huge (to the tune of 4K) bill for dental work looming. I haven't set the appointment yet for my three - yes three! root canals yet. Oh well. There's not a darn thing most of us can do about big, unexpected expenses like this; and it's not like buying a new tv, there isn't much choice when it comes to your health.

The good news is that I will find a way to pay of the dental bill and neither I nor the dogs will starve, and we will keep a roof over our heads. For a lot of people and a lot of families with no medical/dental insurance and less income, this kind of bill would mean complete financial devastation. For me it will just mean a year or so of penny pinching and doing without a few things while paying off the credit card company. There is definitely something wrong with the medical/dental system though. Going into debt or worse should not be the price we pay for simply trying to stay or get healthy!
Enough ranting, what about the cardi kids? Well, this was Mikey's week for agility class. It was exercise week using, as J calls it, the 'circle of death'. This involves a circle of about six jumps and, handling from inside the circle you send the dog around the circle in either or serpentine or 'threadle' (threadle is sending the dog out of the circle over the jump, then back in the circle between jumps, then back out of the circle over the next jump, and so on). Mikey and I had a little trouble at first because I wasn't working close enough to him, but we did better once I started handling him from a little bit closer. Before I got it together though, I got one very frustrated bark from Mikey directed right at me! From Mikey! Lord only knows what kind of back talk I would have gotten if I had been working with Holly!

Next week we will run courses in class, and next week is Holly's turn. Which I have suddenly realized is a problem. Because every other week in class we do courses, and the week in between we do exercises. And I alternate dogs every other week; so Holly only gets to do courses, and Mikey only gets to do exercise work. One solution is to take Mikey for two weeks in a row, and then take Holly for two weeks in a row. A better solution, if I can talk to J into it, is to work with both dogs in every class. I'm thinking I can take our soft crate and set it up in the corner of the agility field to hold which ever dog I am not working with. The potential problem is that J likes to keep her classes from getting too big, and by working both dogs I will essentially be adding a dog to the class.

So what do Cardigans do on a cold rainy day? Well, if they're my cardi kids, and they had a good hard run on the bayou this morning before the rain started, they sack out on the couch all day. Which is really quite nice since I have spent the day so far curled up on the couch too, either reading or on the computer, and nothing is nicer on a cold day than a couple warm dogs curled up with you. A relaxing way to spend the day, to be sure.

But I really should get up and get moving. There are always things that have to get done, if you're a human, that is.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.

Here I tried to recapture a picture I took of Mikey when he was tiny.

Not quite the same, but cute anyway.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Blah, blah, blah

I haven't been posting lately mostly because I've got a sever case of mental inertia. Both too much and not enough is going on to blog about. Nothing very interesting has been going on with the dogs; we've just been going through the same old daily routine. Other areas of my life have gotten a little too interesting, with stress at work, family stresses, unrelenting regularity of joint pain and digestive troubles, and an entire nightmare involving discovery of a third tooth that needs work and a cost quote for dental work that seems absolutely criminal. What with one thing and another and another I've slipped into a funk. I do have some dog related thoughts and opinions, including about the Menu foods recall, that I will share another day. Also, I've registered Holly and me for a Rally class that will be held once a month on Saturdays, starting in mid-April. In the mean time, enjoy these pictures from our walk on the bayou this morning.

Re-reading 'A Breath of Snow and Ashes' by Diana Gabaldon.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.