Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dogs and PTSD: A Treatment Option that IS Working

"Darby" a Service Dog for Veterans

When I am not writing this blog, I teach in a Partial Hospitalization Program for teens with mental health issues. I regularly take my Labrador Retriever to work as a therapeutic dog and have seen first hand the impact a dog can make in helping adolescents suffering from depression, anxiety, abuse, and more. I have also seen my sister return from Iraq and Afghanistan and transition back into civilian life with the help of a dog.  My stories are not unique. More and more programs are showing that dogs and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and depression go hand in paw. Although dogs may not be able to cure depression or prevent suicidal thoughts, they are helping people suffering from these diseases.
The power of a dog helping military PTSD suffers is gaining so much popularity that the United States government is currently doing a $5 million dollar study to evaluate the effects dogs have on helping people with PTSD. Dogs are now being considered as a real treatment option for veterans and other people suffering from mental health disorders. I recently had the opportunity to "virtually" meet a veteran who suffers from PTSD (and suicidal thoughts) and find out all about her experience with a program called paws4Vets. Here is Sarah's story of how a dog named Darby is making a huge impact in helping Sarah survive life after war.......

"Sarah, please stop playing around, and climb down from the edge of the balcony.  We're 17 stories up and it's not funny anymore."  While living in the Washington DC area in 2012, Sarah flirted with suicidal ideation continuously after returning from serving in Afghanistan, and Jack had to wrestle a .45 handgun out of her hand on numerous occasions.
Instead of continuing to reach for self destructive answers, Sarah will now be reaching for her furry Golden Retriever psychiatric service dog, DARBY. On August 22, 2014, after over a year and a half of intensive training for the two to become a functioning service dog team, Darby and Sarah will start their life together. This is all thanks to paws4vets, her medical team, and her wonderful husband, Jack.

Sarah, a 32 year old resident of Massachusetts, has come so far and battled the depths of depression, anxiety, hyper vigilance and flashbacks, which were all parts of a greater diagnosis of severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Sarah had spent her career working for the Department of Defense as a roadside bomb expert, and during her last deployment to Afghanistan, she lost over two dozen compatriots, to include her best friend, callsign COWBOY.  When she first came home, she went through a Major Depressive event where she couldn't even leave her home for the first three months, (and was self medicating with alcohol for the first two months).  
Sarah, Jack and Darby

Her husband, Jack, has stood by her through every step of this journey, which began back in the Fall of 2012.  He helped her get to the doctor's office where she received her diagnosis of PTSD, and he watched her crumble from the formerly self confident, world traveling independent young woman, into her deep depression where she couldn't get out of bed, considered suicide and was incapable of the most basic daily activities, such as bathing on her own.  As she began treatment with two renowned experts in PTSD, she researched the wide variety of options available for veterans struggling to hold on, and came across paws4people, a foundation that has a branch called paws4vets, where one in 75 applicants are accepted.  She never thought she would be accepted, but she received an amazing phone call from paws4vets in the spring of 2013.

She was introduced to 10 different dogs, and one in particular took a shine to her.  A small Golden Retriever named DARBY, which was an amazing coincidence, as DARBY was born two days before Sarah's best friend COWBOY was murdered in a bombing, and DARBY is named after Camp Darby, located in Italy and named after the man that started the Army Rangers.  COWBOY was of Italian heritage and was an Army Ranger.  

The dogs from paws4vets go through some of the most rigorous training known to the service dog world.  As a psychiatric service dog, the dog must go through 6 weeks of puppy training with the mother and hands on certified trainers.  Afterwards,  the puppies are brought to the LionHeart school in Atlanta, specifically for children with Autism, where the puppies and students mutually benefit from socializing together during the puppies' early ages of 6 to 16 weeks. 
After this, the dogs help inmates through the paws4prisons program, where inmates meet rigorous standards to become trainers and work with dogs until the dogs reach the age of 12 months.  At this time, students from University of North Carolina-Wilmington, that have taken a year of classes with paws4people founder and professor Kyria Henry, are selected to train a service dog for an academic year.

As you can see, Sarah is getting to bring Darby home to live with her as a form of treatment for her PTSD. However, due to the rigorous training involved with this incredible Dogs and PTSD Program, donations are needed to help bring this treatment to more and more people. Right now only 1 in 75 people in need are able to get a mental health service dog. Please consider donating to paws4people in honor of all the work they have done to bring Sarah back from the brink, and all the work they hope to continue to do to help more and more people in need.  Please share this post to help raise awareness to this program and encourage friends to donate. "No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted." (Aesop)

(All photos used in this post were provided by Sarah to Pupcycled. Please do not re-distribute, copy, or share without crediting Sarah and

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How to Clean Food and Water Bowls

Your dog's food and water bowl can get pretty disgusting and dirty, so it is important to know how to clean food and water bowls the eco-friendly way! Just like human dishes need to be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis, so do pet bowls. If your dog eats dry food, you really should wipe or rinse out the bowl after every feeding. However, the bowls still need a good scrubbing and disinfecting frequently as well. If you can put your bowls in the dishwasher that is one option. However, if you are hand washing, this cleaner is great to use once a week to really get the grime and build up off. This eco-friendly cleaner works on all types of bowls as well; stainless steel, plastic, or ceramic.

All Natural Dog Bowl Cleaner Ingredients:

1 lemon
1 TBS baking soda
1 tsp salt

Directions on How to Clean Food and Water Bowls:
  • Put salt and baking soda into bowl
  • Cut lemon in half and squeeze lemon juice from the one half into the baking soda salt mixture
  • Dip other half of lemon into mixture and then spread and scrub all around the bowl
  • Rinse with warm water and repeat as needed or use scouring pad and lemon juice for tough spots
How do these all-natural products clean your dog's bowl? Well....the baking soda deodorizes, the lemon disinfects and the salt helps grind off the tough stains. This eco-friendly dog bowl cleaner also works well as a toilet bowl cleaner, too! ( a place my dog can often be found trying to get a sip of water). 

I have included pictures below of the cleaning process. I also used the cleaner on my dog food bowl holder....which I bought before I started living a more eco-conscious lifestyle......if you are looking for an ECO-FRIENDLY dog bowl holder check out this one made from an old crate that I featured on a previous post. 

Dirty bowl with baking soda and salt ...notice the grime on the sides...GROSS!
Squeezing lemon juice and getting some fizz with the baking soda

Getting mixture on the lemon and scrubbing the bowl with the lemon

Bowl looks much cleaner now....grime is gone!

Eco-friendly dog bowl cleaner works on all types of bowls and bowl holders and mats

Friday, August 8, 2014

Seven Simple DIY Dog Projects That Only Take a Few Hours

We all love finding and pinning DIY dog projects over at Pinterest, but many times those projects just never get done. Here are seven simple, earth friendly, upcycled, and easy to do projects that can be started and finished all in one day! You might even have most of these items in your home to upcycle into something spectacular for your dog.  Most of these ideas and instructions can be found by clicking on the upcycled crafts tab at the top of this page OR click on the photo next to the project description to be taken directly to the post that contains detailed instructions.

1. Treat Canister: 2-3 hours
Materials: old popcorn or cookie tin, spray paint (eco-friendly type), chalkboard paint
This project is not difficult, but does take some time to dry between painting. Get an old popcorn tin and and spray paint it and then use chalkboard paint to label the types of homemade treats you are storing in the canister. Consider gluing on ribbon for some extra bling!

2. Photo Keepsake Jar: 2-3 hours
Materials: Jar with lid, paint (spray or acrylic), photo of your dog, masking tape or vinyl shape

This DIY dog project is really nice if you have a pet that is no longer living. You can put their photo and old collar inside for a keepsake. It is cute for your current dog as well, especially for your desk, since it could hold items you need in a more decorative fashion. First, use masking tape to create a  paw print or bone shape on the outside of a jar. (You can also use sticky vinyl shapes). Next, spray paint or acrylic paint the outside of the glass. When the paint is dry, remove the tape/vinyl. Finally, stick a photo of your dog inside the jar and any other items you want in the jar.

3. Dog Leash: 1 hour
Materials: Old t-shirt, fabric glue, thread and needle, metal clip
This DIY dog leash is best for smaller dogs or when taking bigger dogs for quick trips. If using with a larger dog, and on a walk where a squirrel happens by, a t-shirt leash is going to only hold so much! I made a few of these and did donate them to my local humane society for newly adopted dogs to have a nice way to get home! Click on the photo for detailed directions.

4. Elevated Dog Bowls in Old Crate: 1 hour
Materials: old crate, drill, jigsaw, stainless steel bowls
This project is super simple, IF you have the right tools. Just take an old crate and turn it upside down. Next, cut holes in for your dog bowls and drop the bowls in place. It may also be a good idea to put a sealer of some sort on the wood to keep it in use longer. I found this idea on, be sure to check out their website for more fun DIY projects!

5. Rope Toy: 15-20 minutes
Materials: old jeans, scissors
This DIY dog rope toy was made from old worn out jeans. The  jeans are cut into strips and then braided and knotted at ends and middle for a very sturdy tug toy. I have three dogs and these last for several months with daily use!
6. Yoga Water Mat: 10 minutes
Materials: old yoga mat, scissors
This is one of the easiest DIY dog projects ever! Just take an old yoga mat and cut it in a shape or leave as is and place under dog's food and water bowls. It helps keep your floor protected and can easily be cleaned anytime with an all-natural cleaner. If keeping it in rectangle, consider stamping dog bone or paw prints onto it.

7. Outdoor Dog Bed: 3+ hours
Materials: Old dresser drawer, four furniture feet, dog bed materials, umbrella, sandpaper, paint, sealer
I found this project on and they have plenty more great DIY projects there as well. Be sure to check out their website for full instructions on how to make this awesome outdoor dog bed.

So, which simple DIY dog project are you going to attempt? Share your completed projects on the Pupcycled FB page!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gardening Tips for Dog Owners

Having a garden and having a dog can seem like an impossible task. Believe me, I know! I attempted gardening with three dogs and two outdoor cats on five acres of land with a mix of open grass, woods, and nicely landscaped gardens, and keeping the dogs to one area is difficult at times. This year I completed an all new garden project in the front area of my house. After my husband spent hours shoveling a ton (literally it was a ton) of stone into place, two of my dogs were running through it (and the new bushes and lilies I planted) and sending rocks everywhere, instead of staying on the nice path next to it. Not to mention I noticed my backyard garden plants, (especially the bleeding heart plant), looking very sad and droopy. I came to discover why.......
Jake, my Lab/Collie mix has been hanging out in it when he got hot. After a few years of gardening with dogs I have developed some very simple rules to follow to keep your dogs from ruining your garden and landscaping.
Rule #1- Don't expect to have a nice garden while living with a young dog
Rule #2- If attempting to spend time and money on a garden, see rule #1

Now, that probably isn't the advice you want to hear, and as an earth friendly dog owner, you probably like plant and vegetable gardens as well as an outdoor compost pile (which by the way, attracts ALL kinds of animals).  So, if you don't want to follow the above rules, here are some ways you might be able to pull off owning a dog and the most beautiful garden on your block!

1. TRAINING: Like with anything else, if you don't want your dogs to do something, (like take naps in your bleeding heart plant), you have to train them. You have to work on showing them where they should and shouldn't go to the bathroom and what areas are off limits.
2. USE FENCING: Whether you fence in an area of your yard for a dog area, or you use small fencing around your plants and gardens, most dogs owners find using fencing while gardening with dogs is helpful.
3. DON'T LEAVE THE DOG ALONE: The more time your dog has outside alone the easier it is for him to get into trouble. Many dogs can get bored quickly and digging holes cures boredom, but also ruins your yard. So, be sure to be with your dog for the majority of the time he is outside.
4. BE CREATIVE: If creating a new garden, use barrier plants that discourage dogs. Planting some things in tall containers also helps add beauty and keep the dogs away at the same time.
5. HAVE TOYS AND WATER IN GARDEN: Having some toys and a water bowl in the area of the yard that you want your dog to stay in can be helpful. However, make sure you keep the water cool and clean and change up the toys regularly.

The younger your dog is the more time you will need to put in to keep them in the right areas, but in the long run it will be worth it! As your dog does enter his senior years, be sure to continue to help him around the yard, as his reduced hearing and eye sight abilities may lead to accidental trampling of flowers and plants.  Gardening with your dog is not impossible, but it does take some patience and perseverance.