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Family Matters: Dog Ear Infections


Dog Ear InfectionsDogs can get ear infections, too.

Just like humans, a dog’s ears can ache and cause them quite a bit of misery.

Canine ear infections are often caused by bacteria or yeast. Ear mites, unkempt or excessive hair, moisture or ear wax, foreign objects, allergies and hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) can all contribute to your dog developing an ear infection. Another risk factor is due  to the fact that a dog’s ear canal is mostly vertical (unlike the human ear which is horizontal), and it’s easy for debris and moisture to be retained in the ear canal.

Signs of an ear infection in your dog include:

  • Scratching of the ear or area around the ear
  • Brown, yellow or bloody discharge
  • Odor in the ear
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Crusts or scabs on the inside of the outer ear
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Rubbing of the ear and surrounding area on the floor or furniture
  • Head shaking or head tilt
  • Loss of balance
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking in circles
  • Hearing loss

Luckily, ear infections are easily treated. Your vet might prescribe an antibiotic and a topical ointment.

To help prevent ear infections, keep your dog’s ears clean and dry. Check them frequently for debris, mites or the sign of anything unusual.



Family Matters: Chinchillas


ChinchillasAmong small animals that make good pets are chinchillas!

Chinchillas are related to squirrels and originally hail from Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Chile. They were originally prized for their very soft fur.

While small and the perfect size for an indoor cage, chinchillas require a lot of exercise and dental hygiene because their teeth continue to grow during their entire life span. The temperature in their cage should also always be between 60 and 70° F. While they need lots of light, their cages cannot be in drafts or direct sunlight.

Chinchillas stay clean by taking dust baths frequently, so you will need to provide a special dust made of fine pumice for them to use a few times a week. If they get wet, they need to be dried immediately so their fur doesn’t grow fungus or get infected. However, their thick fur resists parasites like fleas, and it reduces loose dander. A chinchilla is a good choice for an owner with allergies, as they are hypoallergenic.



Family Matters: Quiet Your Bird


Quiet Your BirdScreaming and screeching can be a problem with many pet birds and a deterrent to keeping a feathered friend as a pet.

However, there are several techniques that can be used to help quiet your pet bird.

First of all, just know that birds are naturally noisy creatures. They need to be loud to communicate with their flock. Sometimes, they’ll screech at sunrise or sunset or if the room has filled with people. Sometimes they scream or screech because they are ill or not feeling well. Fear, a change in environment or a change in caregiver can also make your pet bird screech.

As a bird owner, your goal should not be to eliminate bird noises but to reduce them to a more tolerable level. Yelling back at your bird, hitting the bird or the cage, leaving him isolated, spraying her with water, or withholding food will not help control your pet’s screaming, but it will serve to only increase the stress on the bird and make the screaming worse.

When your bird stays quiet, a reward, like a toy, a treat or something he loves, is the best motivator. Speak to your bird in a quiet voice and have a regular command or prompt, like a soft shushing noise, to indicate that he should quiet down.

If the bird is screaming when he’s left alone, provide a radio or other soft background noise for comfort and distraction.

Be consistent with your rewards and training, and it will pay off in a quieter, calmer bird.



Family Matters: Exercise for your Cat


Exercise for your CatWhile cats have the reputation for napping, the truth of the matter is really that they need a good amount of exercise.

Exercise for your cat improves muscle tone and decreases appetite, but it also helps increase their life span.

You probably don’t want to walk your cat on a leash (although they can be trained to do so), so you have to get creative with other ways to keep your cat moving.

Provide a tower for your cat to climb. Jumping up onto it or down from it, or climbing up, keeps your cat active.

Play with him. Rolling a ball back and forth across the floor and letting him chase it, or throwing a favorite toy for him to pounce upon, are fun for both you and your cat.

Play with a flashlight or laser pointer. Your cat will have fun chasing the light (don’t point it into his eyes!).

Drag a small toy by a string and have your cat chase after it.



Family Matters: Budget-Friendly Christmas Traditions


Budget-Friendly Christmas TraditionsI remember my third Christmas.

There was a tree with large, multi-colored bulbs (this was the ‘70s, remember!) and big, plastic light-up lawn ornaments. I’ll never forget my gift that year: a set of “The Wizard of Oz” dolls.

My point is that I can remember my third Christmas, so chances are that your 2 or 3-year-old toddler might start retaining memories, too. Of course, you’ll want to make those memories magical.

Some of my favorite traditions from the holidays include decorating sugar cookies every year with my brothers and sisters. You don’t have to be a baker to make this tradition magical. Simply buy a roll of Brookshire’s brand sugar cookie mix in the store along with assorted sprinkles and frosting, and go to town. The more sugar, the better.

I also remember riding around bundled up in the back of the car, wearing my pajamas and a winter coat, with a mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows on top) looking at Christmas lights. Christmas music played in the car, and it was a fabulous family experience (for free!)

Another cherished tradition was that my family was involved in “Advent Angels.” It’s the Secret Santa concept, but we drew names on December 1. Throughout the holiday season, we did nice things for the person whose name we drew, like leaving a nice note on their pillow or doing their after-dinner chore for them. Then, we handmade a gift to present to them on Christmas Eve.

There are so many wonderful Christmas traditions that don’t cost a dime but that you can enjoy with your children from an early age.



Family Matters: Babyproofing at Christmas


Babyproofing at ChristmasMerry Christmas to you and your little one!

If your baby is rolling, scooting, sitting up or even toddling, you might want to take precautions this Christmas. A mobile baby around lights, a Christmas tree, ornaments and breakables is an accident waiting to happen.

Luckily, it’s easy to protect your baby and your décor from a close encounter.

First of all, teach your baby “no.” If they are touching or pulling on the tree, firmly tell them “no” and move them away from it. You don’t want your tree toppling onto your baby.

Secondly, secure your tree. That might involve a few extra steps this year, but it will be worth it in the long run. Anchor your tree to the wall, so baby can’t pull it over on top of them.

Don’t put ornaments on low-hanging branches. You don’t want baby putting anything small or sharp in his mouth.

Make sure lights are not where baby can reach or pull them either. Use outlet covers when lights are not in use.

Remember Christmas plants like mistletoe and poinsettias are poisonous. Keep them out of reach of baby.



Family Matters: Baby’s First Christmas


Baby’s First ChristmasIn just a few weeks, you’ll celebrate your first Christmas with your newborn, and it will be a magical time.

Clearly, babies don’t need a lot for Christmas, but you’ll certainly want to get your little one something snuggly to wear, an age-appropriate toy and maybe a book.

A lot of families adopt a minimalist approach to Christmas, and I almost wish I’d started it right from baby’s first Christmas.

They buy four gifts: something to wear, something to read, something you want and something you need. I love this idea of keeping it simple and keeping the holiday focused on its true meaning.

Another wonderful tradition is to buy your baby an ornament, maybe with his name on it, every year for Christmas. Then, when he’s ready to be out on his own, you can gift him with all his ornaments, and he’ll be ready for his very own tree. My godmother bought me an angel ornament with my name on it each year until I was 18. Then, I took them with me when I moved out of the house.

Handprint traditions are fun as well. I have some kind of handprints from my sons each year of their lives. Sometimes the handprints make Christmas trees and sometimes they are reindeer, wreaths or other fun Christmas pictures, but it’s always THEIR own hands.

One thing we started doing in recent years is the “reverse” Advent calendar. Every day in December, we add a non-perishable food product to a large box and deliver it to the food bank right before Christmas.

Enjoy making memories and traditions with your baby this holiday season!



Family Matters: Christmas Baking


Christmas BakingOne of my favorite memories of childhood is helping my mom with the Christmas baking.

Our house always smelled good at holiday time, and there was never a shortage of baked treats to eat. In fact, lunch on Christmas Day was usually Christmas cookies sandwiched between a big breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls and sausage and the Christmas dinner.

You’d know when the season would start because my mom would make her cinnamon raisin bread. We’d take bundles of those loaves of sweet deliciousness in our arms, and we’d carry them to neighbors and to our teachers who looked forward to them every year. I was back home visiting last year, and someone even asked, “Does your mom still make that raisin bread?” Indeed, she does.

One of the best parts of the raisin bread was helping her knead the dough, punching it down, and wrapping the golden-brown loaves in aluminum foil to deliver to loved ones.

Baking with kids is so much fun. It’s great quality time to spend together over scents of yeast, cinnamon and heaps of sugar.

I loved learning how to knead dough until it was no longer sticky but not yet tough, how to punch it down when it had doubled in volume, and how to never open the oven door when it was baking. I got to talk to mom, too. Sometimes, in a household with five kids, one-on-one time was hard to come by, but I could always count on baking together.

We also baked Christmas cookies, usually three or four varieties, but the highlight of the cookie-baking experience was always the Saturday when we made the sugar cookies. It was an all-day endeavor, and it became a tradition that my mom continues with some of my nephews who live nearby. We’d make the dough the night before, so it would have a chance to chill before we rolled it out and cut the shapes. They included candy canes, stars, trees and even Santa, himself. Then, each kid would get a baking sheet and some decorations, and they could decorate to their hearts’ content. My brother was the painstaking one who’d line up individual sprinkles on the cookies in intricate patterns. My other brother was a dumper: the more colored sugar he could get on a cookie, the better. I was somewhere in between. My favorite part was really creaming together the butter and the sugar to make a light yellow, fluffy cloud of cookie base. It was also being in the kitchen with my mom.

Kids can help with so many Christmas treats. Make a memory and a tradition today by picking out a project to make with them. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Dip pretzel rods in melted chocolate, and roll in Christmas-colored sprinkles. Bake pumpkin bread or pecan pie. Whatever you choose, food, family and fun make the holidays special.



Food Watch: Prepping for Natural Disasters


Prepping for Natural DisastersOn a venture to visit friends during what seemed to be a light rain, I came to find how unprepared you can be going into natural disasters. My drive was great until I reached the road before theirs. My phone made a resounding alarm that made me jump: “TORNADO WARNING IN THIS AREA. TAKE SHELTER NOW.” I looked toward the direction in which I’d be going, and I saw dark, swirling clouds starting to rotate around each other.

Once I arrived, everyone was on their phone trying to figure out what was going on. The wind picked up, and then it was silent. Next, quarter-sized hail showered down around the house, followed by a torrent of wind and rain. At that moment, we decided to run to the storm shelter. We went to the storm shelter twice that night – six of us along with the family dog – and the realization of how much we lacked set in.

It was a great opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of storm shelter use. However, since I work in grocery, I thought mostly of what foods could keep for extended periods of time to not only prepare for such an event, but to help keep you alive if you were trapped. Food should have a long shelf life with little to no cooking required, and it must meet the needs of all family members (including pets).

Canned meats and vegetables can keep a few years on average depending on the product. Highly acidic canned goods like fruit and juice store well for less time (12 to 18 months). Water can also last quite a long time.

Thankfully, Brookshire’s has a plethora of high-quality canned products that will help you stock up if need be. I really like their vegetable assortments, which are picked at the peak of freshness and come with a handy pop top. No can opener needed!

Also, consider how your food is stored. If you’re preparing for a natural disaster, make sure that your food and water are stored away from the outside door, away from the elements. Keep these items elevated and, if possible, in a storage area of their own.

You most likely won’t need to hide in your storm shelter for years at a time, but you never know when a natural disaster may hit. It’s best to prepare in advance, and that will be one less thing to worry about when the time comes.



Family Matters: Age Appropriate Birds


Age Appropriate BirdsSome birds are great companions for older adults, and some birds are tailor-made for kids.

If you are bringing a bird into a household with small children, some experts recommend a canary or finch as being the best bird for kids.

Why is their song a little sweeter?

Well, they don’t desire a ton of human contact, so they’re better for kids who aren’t adept at handling a bird. Canaries have a sweet voice, which children tend to like. Canaries can be kept by themselves, but you’ll need to buy a finch in a pair, so he has a friend.

Another kid-friendly bird is a cockatiel, which are not hyper and whistle well. These birds don’t like staying caged for long, so an older child might be better-suited to taking him out and playing with him.

Parakeets are great for older children, too, because they have a sophisticated vocabulary, and they are not too large. Plus, they don’t mind a smaller cage, which is well-suited for a child’s room.

The Pionus, a type of parrot, is another good choice. They are sweet, friendly and rarely bite.

Finally, a Meyers parrot is a quiet, calm variety of parrot. They don’t bite often, and they can form a loving relationship with a lot of different people.



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The products mentioned in “Share, the Brookshire’s Blog” are sold by Brookshire Grocery Company, DBA Brookshire’s . Some products may be mentioned as part of a relationship between its manufacturer and Brookshire’s.

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