Mellan in one of his many Orvis Beds
Mellan is my dog that I’ve had since he was a mere eight-weeks old. He’s just over 10 years old now, and he’s been featured on Temptalia weekly for most of his life (Temptalia is a year older than he is!). I often get asked about his beds and collars, and I thought it might be fun to try something a bit different by writing a post on things I’ve found and loved that are dog-related and not beauty-related. It certainly proved to be cathartic for me to share some of what I’ve learned with Mellan over the years as well as just to write about something not lipstick for a moment (but I quite enjoy writing about makeup 99% of the time!). I’d love to hear about any of your go-to pet products and things that you’ve discovered, too! 🙂
Don’t worry if you’re only here for beauty posts as I don’t expect these types of posts to be too frequent (and this is an additional post to today’s schedule, not in lieu of something beauty-related–it’s a bonus not a substitute!).
Best Dog Beds & Crates We’ve Used
Mellan and I are big fans of Orvis Memory Foam Dog Beds; three of his four (yes, four) beds are their Deep Dish style, which is now called the Bolster Dog Bed. The bed above is their Small size, which was his very first dog bed that I got him after we moved into our 2-bedroom apartment. For a dog of his size (65-70 pounds), I’d recommend getting a Large bed, but I originally picked the Small because it fits inside his crate, too. His two other bolster beds are the X-Large size, which I’d say is oversized for him but was the best fit before (they’ve improved their sizing over the years).
Orvis’ beds are by no means affordable, but I expect the fact that I’ve bought four of them is a testament in and of itself of just how happy I am with them. He is a huge leaner, and he often likes to lay along the bolster and over it, so there’s always one weakened bolster on his beds. He also likes to slither and keep his rear supported by the bed but have his front half on the floor at times. Mellan curls up like a croissant as often as he sleeps upside down or completely sprawled out.
The small bed above he’s had for about nine years, and I only recently replaced the cover last year where it had a few patches where it was threadbare from him trying to fluff it up over the years. The base of his beds are all in fantastic shape. He’s had one of his X-Large beds for five or six years, I believe, as we bought that when we moved into our house. When we moved into our current house, I bought an additional X-Large bed as we have a bit more space, so he has his larger beds in the family room and my office (where he hangs out with me most of the day). His smaller ones are next to my bed and one in my master closet (where he tends to sleep and where he goes when we’re not at home).
We wash his bed covers every four to six weeks and have been doing so for the life of the beds, which amounts to quite a few washes! The covers hold up well, and they’re really easy to get on and off. The base is covered with a water-resistant liner, which helps to protect the memory foam. I’m incredibly pleased with how well they’ve held up over the years, and I love that I can replace the covers separately.
Sometimes styles and designs go on sale, which is how I justified picking up his fourth bed, their WaterShed Indoor/Outdoor Wraparound Dog Bed. It holds its shape well, has washed well, and is a great, low-maintenance bed. Mellan fits perfectly in size Large, as you can see him lounging here. (He seemed to hate the more cot-like outdoor bed we tried before.)
For travel, we use a foldable, soft crate (we’ve had Noz2Noz in 36″ for Mellan since 2011, which has served its purpose, held up well, and continues to work for us). When we lived in California, we routinely visited my husband’s family and my family, so having a crate that easily folded and fit into our car was ideal. When he was a puppy, we did crate training, so he has always loved his crate/den area. I also like that the roof can be unzipped, which can help with height for standing room. We also use a metal gate with a door (Supergate Portico Arch Gate, make sure to grab bumpers if you use a pressure mounted gate to avoid ruining your walls/doorway!) to keep him confined to my office as needed. It’s easy to open to get in an out of a room without having to hop over a gate, and the pressure-mounted system makes it really hard to loosen it.
We occasionally use an ultra-wide adjustable gate/play pen for larger areas as needed (like when he doesn’t feel well or if we go on vacation, we’ll confine him to a larger space); my mom and I both love and use the Regalo 192″ Super Wide Play Yard. It moves and bends really well but stands up fairly well, though she has small dogs and I have one big, doofy dog that doesn’t seem to realize he could a) jump the fence or b) move it himself.
Best Shops for Dog Bow-Ties
Mellan most notably wears a plethora of bow-tie collars, and yes, he has far too many for any one dog. I’ve donated a few dozen over the years as I’ve picked up new styles for him (it’s a weakness; I’ve been making a concerted effort to resist new ones). I always get his collars through shops on Etsy, and some of my favorite shops over the years have been: CrewLala, Pecan Pie Puppies, and BigPaw Collars. If you ever go that route, I highly recommend getting a dog tag clip (we use Rubit), which makes switching between collars very easy. We also use a tag silencer (Quiet Spot), which I like but don’t love (it’s not quite as silent as I’d like…).
Best Dog Cleaning Supplies & Tools We’ve Used
One, if you don’t know anything about labradors, know this: they shed like crazy. If you’re unfamiliar one, whatever amount you’re imagining, triple it! He gets a bath every four to six weeks, and for the last year or so, a mobile groomer comes out to bathe and brush him. He loves water, though, and he’ll gladly jump into a tub or shower as soon as I say “okay.” I presently prefer a groomer since they just do an infinitely more thorough job brushing his coat out than I do (because laziness).
Otherwise, I’ve been a devoted user of Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Shampoo for years, which I find does a good job cleansing the fur, leaving behind a pleasant but non-perfume-y scent that keeps him pretty much at no odor for weeks (even up to two months). I’ll use the Conair Massage Brush for Dogs to help work the shampoo into his coat, which is comfortable to hold and doesn’t slip too much.
For my house, I cannot recommend investing in a steam vacuum if you have any pets prone to accidents in the house. I have a Hoover SteamVac (most recent version here), which is just superb at pulling up most of the excess liquid and leaving behind a clean, stain-free carpet afterward. It is heavy and a little more annoying to clean afterward, but for bigger messes, it’s a lifesaver. I also like it than spot-cleaning devices that you can set and walk away from because it ensures the whole area is clean in one go and minimizes the chance that one spot may be cleaner than the rest of your carpet. For true spot cleaning, I have been using Simple Solution Extreme (or whatever they call it at the time) for years as it’s just the most effective spray cleaner I’ve come across for lifting and removing stains (and odors) even if I haven’t spotted them immediately.
For furniture, the Fur-Zoff Pet Hair Remover, which feels like a gritty rock, has been the best at removing hair off of fabric surfaces–nothing else has compared, better than lint rollers. For clothes, I just don’t wear nice things until I’m about to leave, haha–saves on the lint rolling costs.
Mellan’s Favorite Dog Toys
Mellan is spoiled like the prince that he is, but he’s actually a very gentle dog when it comes to toys. He has no desire to tear and destroy, so his toys last ages. I tend to donate toys as he accumulates too many. They’re more likely to get tossed due to him whipping them around and biting them enough that the puncture holes start to open up or seams loosen. What I’ll say is that most of the “tough” stuffed toys on the market have lasted worse than regular stuffed toys (even children’s stuffed animals). His favorite toys:
- Hedgehog — he loves the grunting squeaker
- Lamb Chop — he seems to love really large, fluffy toys
- Kong Air Squeakers — he loves the squeaker and how irregular the bounce is of the football one in particular (husband’s least favorite toy; very squeaky)
- Knotted Rope — he loves to throw it around and whip it back and forth; we prefer 3-knots or greater as if we do play tug with him at all, he regrips all the time, and I like some space between his teeth and my fingers!
- FrontPet Foldable Dog Pool — he’s a water dog, but we don’t have a pool, so last year I picked up this foldable pet pool, and it was surprisingly durable and useful. It fills easily, retains its shape without having to fill it all the way (I usually do it about half-way, since he can’t actually swim in it!), drains with a plug (sooo much nicer than most pet pools!), and folds away. If your dog is a chewer, I wouldn’t recommend as I expect they’ll cause the sides to fail.
Mellan’s Favorite Dog Treats
Like the food we eat as humans, the food we give our pets can be quite personal, and it will be influenced by our own ideas about what is good/bad in food and any particular requirements of our pets. Mellan is a dog who hasn’t been in great health at any point in his life; he has a laundry list of problems and most of them are lifelong issues. Since this post is designed to be a comprehensive list of the things we use and love for him, I’ve included some foodstuffs below, but we’ve worked closely with his team of doctors over the years.
- Fruitable Treats — I try to only buy treats that state calories to avoid overfeeding; these are small, he loves them, and they work well for training, too, since they are small and not too high in calories.
- Greenies — we used to use Nylabones, but after talking to our vet, think they may be too hard on teeth, so we switched to the ever-popular Greenies, and they seem to do the trick for Mellan and keep most of his fish breath away (his main food is fish-based) and does seem to help minimize the need for professional dental cleaning (he’s only had one or two in his lifetime). That being said, per my vet, there are a lot of factors that go into teeth health and some dogs need yearly cleanings and others need them rarely, often regardless of what pet owners do. Amazon usually has these at a good discount during Black Friday.
- Greenies Peanut Butter Pill Pockets — Mellan takes a lot of pills, and he’s had a pillbox for almost as long as we’ve had him (10 years). In the last few years, he’s had more capsules added to his medications, so these have come in handy. I only recommend them if you routinely use them, though, as I do feel they dry out over time. Pro tip: smash them into a flat, round shape and then fill with multiple pills and reshape to fool the dog.
What I’ve Learned: Health & Wellness
As I’ve mentioned, Mellan’s health has never been great, though he’s the most optimistic of dogs and you’d never know that he is anything but a happy, healthy boy. I wanted to conclude this post with some tips, tricks, and insights I’ve learned over 10 years of dealing with: pulmonic stenosis; severe, bilateral hip dysplasia; severe, bilateral luxating knees; acid reflux; auto-immune canine hepatitis; copper storage disease; and irritable bowel disease. I think that’s the list.
Keep track of your pet’s behavior. The more you know what’s “normal” for your dog and what’s “weird” the better you’ll be able to spot signs of possible problems. For example, for the last year and a half, we’ve been dealing with Mellan’s liver diagnoses, and we’ve discovered that when he chews on his foot oddly and spits it out (almost like it hurts him to chew), it means all the liver values we want to keep down have shot up all over again. (This was the sign that actually caused me to bring him into the vet–I thought it was a tooth that was hurting him, and the pre-dental bloodwork showed a different story.)
Get a second opinion in the case of severe (or expensive) diagnoses and/or treatments. Mellan’s hips started to pop out at around six-months of age. He was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia in both of his hips, and the first orthopedic surgeon we saw said that we had to do surgery (triple pelvic osteotomy, TPO). The first orthopedic surgeon said he wouldn’t be able to walk by two-years of age if we did not. It was a devastating diagnosis, but I did more reading and talked to my regular vet, and then I used Yelp to find another orthopedic surgeon.
She said one of the most profound things to me (which is something I’ve heard through the years since by many doctors!), which was: “Treat the dog, not the x-ray.” She said that we could try conservative management (a mix of pain medications, supplements, keeping him lean, etc.), and if and when it was needed, we could always do a total hip replacement (THR), which, by the way, is the gold standard for hip dysplasia with a very high success rate. His third (and current) orthopedic surgeon (since we moved) actually argued that doing a TPO would have been worse and doesn’t recommend it. Mellan’s over 10 years old, and his hips have not needed to be replaced yet.
You might find you get the same diagnosis and/or treatment recommended, but sometimes, there are alternatives, and the decision of what to do for our pets is often deeply difficult on an emotional level. I’d also say that sometimes it might be prudent to ask your pet’s doctor if there are any alternatives to try, different mix of medications, exercises, or what have you. We had to switch Mellan’s pain regimen to something else due to his liver diseases, and we’ve actually found that one of the new medications seems to have worked even better.
Also, there are a lot of forums and groups online these days that can be support systems if your pet has a disease or illness. They can be invaluable in helping one navigate a diagnosis and/or treatment!
Start an emergency fund or get health insurance. Mellan’s had pet insurance for most of his life, but he was diagnosed with a heart murmur at his first vet appoint at eight-weeks of age (later, officially diagnosed with low-severe pulmonic stenosis and mild tricuspid valve dysplasia (TVD)). I was fortunate enough that I could swing the surgical correction for it, but it made me get insurance straight away for the rest of him. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what I know now about dogs, their health, and insurance companies, so I bought insurance for a place that had lifetime limits by category, and those categories were large and encompassing. Mellan maxed out his lifetime benefits due to his knee surgeries, so I have actually switched to a second pet insurance provider (with a yearly limit instead of a lifetime or condition limit).
Insurance has worked out for me; we came out ahead, significantly, with the first company, and with Mellan’s liver issues, we’re ahead with the second company as well. I know that not everyone feels that insurance is worth the money, so for those who don’t think it’s the right move, I would highly recommend putting together an emergency fund for any pets to help make difficult decisions a little less difficult. I speak from experience when I say that not having the funds makes everything so much more emotional and challenging, and I’m just very thankful that alternatives were available, have worked in his favor, and that I’ve been able to do everything else I’ve ever wanted to do for him since his original hip dysplasia diagnosis. (I’ve since made it a priority to be able to do a total hip replacement if that’s what we think he needs.)