share. The Brookshire's Blog

Family Matters: Snakes


SnakesI have bad dreams about snakes.

My sister, who is a therapist, explained that I need to get over my fear of snakes.

I’m not sure I can.

However, they can make good pets.

Corn, King, Gopher and Ball Pythons are wonderful to keep in your house.

For health reasons, a snake should be able to stretch out two-thirds of its body length inside its own cage. If your pet snake reaches an adult length of six feet, its container should be 4 feet in length.  You don’t want your pet snake to have to stay curled up at all times.

Make sure that the type of snake you secure for a pet has a good temperament, as do the four mentioned above. Don’t try to tame an unruly snake; it’s not going to happen.

Take into account their feeding habits. Corn, King and Gopher snakes will accept frozen rodents as feed. Ball pythons are much more finicky, but be prepared to handle rodents, no matter what.

Don’t force the situation. The four snakes listed above thrive in captivity. Not all snakes do so without expert care.

Don’t buy a pet snake because you think it’s cool without careful consideration and study.



Family Matters: Leaving your Dog Alone


Leaving your Dog AloneOver the summer, I went on vacation.

I was gone for a week.

I brought my dog, Astro, to a local boarder who has a deluxe operation for taking care of pets when their people are on vacation. I mean, this place has TVs for each dog, a pool, a run yard and lots of great care.

Astro hated it. I mean, hated with a capital “H.” He jumped out of the car, but he refused to go in. He laid down on the concrete and wouldn’t budge. He had to be carried in, and let me just tell you; he’s pushing 100 pounds easily.

There are so many great options for taking care of pets while you’re gone, but you have to find the right one for your pet.

  1. Your vet might offer boarding. Your dog will already be familiar with going there, so that could be a great option.
  2. There are lots of places all over that board dogs, and it’s the only thing they do. See above. They are fabulous if your pet is social and accustomed to leaving the house. Make sure they have all their shots and records from your vet when you make reservations.
  3. Pet sitters. I now use a service that comes to my house on my (or in this case, Astro’s) schedule. They come every morning, love on him, let him out, feed him, make sure he has water and play with him. They do the reverse at night, letting him inside for the night. It’s about the same price as the full-service boarding, and he gets to stay home, no carrying required.
  4. Use a teenager or responsible child in your neighborhood. My boys, young teenagers, dog sat last summer and thought it was the best gig ever. That pup got more attention than our own dog receives because they were so intent on doing a great job.

There are a few things to remember before leaving your pup alone.

Make sure he has all his shots.

Make sure he has on a collar and tags, in case he does get lost. Even better, get him chipped. Many pet facilities offer this for no-to-low cost.

Make sure your sitter/facility has plenty of food (if you’re boarding him, you might need to provide your own food to avoid intestinal distress) and treats.

Make sure his caregiver has access to his favorite toys and knows his schedule, routines and any quirks. For instance, Astro will not eat if anyone is in the room, and I’ve trained him to only accept treats in one particular spot in the house.

Leave emergency contact information, and make sure there’s an in-town backup person if necessary.

LOVE your dog when you get home! He’ll have missed you as much as you missed him.



Family Matters: Bird Cages


Bird CagesWhen you bring your pet bird home, you can just use one little cage, right?

Wrong.

Your pet bird should ideally have two cages: one to live in and one to travel in. This is the cage your bird will identify with when it’s time to go to the vet, or to clean his primary cage.

Your bird’s cage needs to be large enough for him to spread his wings. For some birds, the traditional oblong cage is enough, but for other birds, a rectangular cage is necessary.

Provide a variety of perches for your pet’s comfort. Some like wider perches, but some like a more narrow space as it makes them feel more secure. They might like a wooden ladder, a rope, a swing and something in textured plastic for variety.

To clean, use diluted white vinegar and water.

Most of all, provide a variety of toys on a rotation to keep your bird interested and stimulated. Switch between toys that will provide different skills stimulation every day, such as balls, cardboard tubes, feathers, rings and bells.

When you transport your bird, keep the cage sterile and clean with one reminder of their regular home, such as a soft wash cloth that bears the scent of home.



Family Matters: Bathing Your Cat


Bathing Your CatNot only does your dog need to be groomed, especially if he’s an outdoor sort, but your cat should get some pampering, too.

Cats are somewhat self-cleaning. Their tongue is designed to help keep them clean and neat, but if your cat gets smelly, you might need to step in.

Bathing a cat can be about as fun as wrestling an alligator, but here are some tips to make it an easier process.

Choose a time when your cat is most mellow, maybe after an afternoon nap in the sunshine. Don’t attempt this right after they eat, however. It can upset their stomachs if they get stressed out during the process.

Trim their claws before you attempt a bath, for your safety.

Place a fluffy towel or rubber mat in the bottom of a sink or the tub, whichever you use. This will help with traction.

Place an oven rack or cookie-cooling rack in the tub or sink. This gives kitty something to cling to, besides your arm, during the bath process.

Make sure water is warm, but not too hot or too cold. Don’t suds their faces; they usually hate that. Using the water wand, gently and thoroughly wet the cat. Massage some specially formulated shampoo (made for cats, not for humans and definitely not dish soap) into his coat. Rinse thoroughly.

Immediately scoop your cat up with a towel wrapped snugly around him; dry thoroughly.



Family Matters: Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Your Small Animal


Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Your Small AnimalYour small pet needs some power-packed nutrition for all its energy needs.

Specifics will vary with your small pet, but follow these guidelines to provide the safest, healthiest food for your small animal.

Do give your small pet hay. Hay should comprise approximately 75 percent of the diet for guinea pigs, chinchillas and rabbits because its fiber helps them maintain a healthy weight. It is also good for their teeth.

Serve them a salad! Kale, collards, mustard greens, dandelion, escarole, broccoli, zucchini, squash or carrots make a great meal for your small pets. If they haven’t finished their serving in a few hours, remove the extra from their cage.

Nutritional pellets that you can buy at a pet store or from your vet are good choices as well; serve in moderation.

DO NOT feed your small animal any kind of chocolate, alcohol, caffeine or anything spicy. Do not give them meats, cheeses or dairy. Keep them away from any houseplants or any other indoor foliage they could chew on.



Family Matters: Earning Cat’s Trust


Earning Cat’s TrustMy boyfriend, Paul, is the pet whisperer. My dog, Astro, loves him more than me.

Paul has also recently acquired a pet cat at his house, not really on purpose. She was a stray that had a litter of kittens under his storage shed. She’d hiss at him if he came near or run away if her kittens were safe.

Little by little though, he’s won her over.

Now, she jumps into his lap for some daily love and lets him hold her and pet her.

Cats don’t always trust easily, especially if they’re wild cats. It takes time and patience. Paul started out just by sitting on the back porch and letting her get accustomed to him being there.

He spoke to her softly and stayed pretty still while she got used to him.

Gradually, she’d come out of hiding if he was there and sit across the yard.

Little by little, she’d come closer if he was outside (it helped that he started feeding her). Then, she let him pet her gently while she stood on the ground.

Eventually, she let him hold her.

Now, she loves to be held and gets comfortable on his lap out in the afternoon sun every day.

Give it time with your pet cat. Even domesticated kitties take some time to become your lifelong friend.



Family Matters: Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Your Exotic Bird


Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Your Exotic BirdFor humans, a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables is a good thing. For your pet bird, some of those things that are healthy for humans are toxic for birds.

DO NOT FEED YOUR BIRD:
Avocados, for one. Do not give your bird avocado in any form. There is an enzyme in the pit that can leach into the fruit and be perfectly fine for humans but toxic for birds.

Do not give your bird onions; there’s too much sulfur in them for a bird to digest.

Avoid garlic; it has similar chemical compounds to onions.

Do not feed your bird tomatoes; they are too acidic.

Also, avoid mushrooms; they are a fungus that birds cannot digest well.

Finally, stay away from celery, specifically, the strings. Birds (except parrots) cannot chew the stringy fibers well.

Citrus fruits. Again, too acidic.

(Also, it should go without saying, but no chocolate, alcohol or caffeine either.)

There are still plenty of healthy foods you can give your bird.

DO GIVE YOUR BIRD:
Apples, grapes and bananas. These are easy to chew and digest, and they supply lots of vitamins for your bird. Cut into a small dice before giving to your bird.

You can also give corn, broccoli, carrots, yams and peas. Your bird will enjoy the different flavors, colors and textures.

When in doubt, ask your vet!



Family Matters: Crafts with Your Pup


Crafts with Your PupIt’s no secret that our pet pups have our hearts.

This is especially true in the case of my dog, Astro, and my boyfriend, Paul. Astro loves Paul like nothing I’ve ever seen. Sure, Astro LIKES me, but he LOVES Paul. Every evening, when Paul pulls into the driveway, Astro hurtles off his chair and runs to the back door, so he’s the first one to greet Paul when he walks through the door.

After we finish eating dinner, Astro is waiting to take his place next to Paul on the couch. He lays his head on Paul’s lap and stakes his territory with a (large) paw across his legs.

Astro talks to Paul, making sounds in a language clearly only the two of them understand.

So, this Valentine’s Day, Astro is making a little present for his favorite person: Paul.

We’re going to dip his paw in acrylic paint and stamp paw prints on a canvas for Paul. All you need is a fresh white canvas and some non-toxic acrylic paint in a color of your choice. Get your dog comfortable and relaxed. Spread newspapers on the floor and place the canvas on top. Squirt paint onto a paper plate or bowl. Have your dog lay or sit next to the canvas. Dip his paw into the paint and press onto the canvas. Repeat until you have a pattern you like. You can do the same with poster board and place it in a frame.



Family Matters: Staying Safe


Staying SafeYour small pet is exactly that, a small pet, so special care must be taken to keep hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats and other teeny creatures safe.

First of all, don’t let them run free. Keep them contained in a safe cage, roaming area or enclosure. This reduces the likelihood they’ll get stuck under or in furniture or stepped on by a larger creature.

Design a play area for them in a safe, enclosed space. Use cardboard boxes to create a playscape, but be sure to check for holes so they can’t escape. They are also likely to chew on cardboard, which could also lead to an escape route.

Don’t overestimate their climbing ability. Yes, your furry friend will likely tackle an incline or more vertical surface, but they’re not adept at climbing and can fall back, leading to spinal injuries.

Do not put their cages in direct sunlight; it’s too much for your small pet. Same with drafts, they can catch cold easily.

Finally, don’t mess with your nocturnal pet during the day. He wants to sleep and might not be so gentle in letting you know.



Family Matters: Putting Your Pooch on a Diet


Putting Your Pooch on a DietYou might not have been the only one to overindulge during the holidays; your dog might have gotten a bit fluffier as well. It’s easy for pups to sneak treats during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and the colder weather is making exercise more difficult.

To tell if your dog is overweight, feel around his ribs and spine. You should be able to locate both with only a thin layer of fat separating the skin from the bones. If you can’t find the ribcage, you have an overweight dog.

Don’t worry; it’s pretty easy to take care of on your dog. After all, your dog can’t raid the freezer at midnight for that gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream you have hidden in the back.

First of all, know the correct portion size for your pup. Consult your vet; they should be able to tell you quite easily how much you should be feeding him.

If necessary, cut back on the amount of food he eats. You might also have to evaluate the kind of food he eats and make a change appropriate for overweight or less active dogs.

Limit or restrict treats entirely. Just like with people, they can be empty calories. Use other rewards, like hugs or cuddles, for incentive.

Take your dog for a walk! It’ll be good for both of you.



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