Dewey Dude the Chick Sitter ;) (or How to Harden Off Your Chicks)

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Recently I started taking the chicks out to the greenhouse during the day.  I set up Dewey Dude’s puppy crate with some branches for perching and wrapped chicken wire around the crate so they couldn’t slip out.

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My scruffy little chicks checking out their new daytime digs

 

They’ve got their food and water and can even nibble on some Swiss Chard that’s growing close to the cage.  They’re still protected from any serious wind, and the top of the crate is covered so there’s shade as well.  This allows them to slowly get used to outdoor conditions, as they get some sun and a bit of a breeze, but nothing too intense.  Plus they can eat all the bugs they can catch within the crate- yum! LOL  Just like hardening off plants, young chickens need to slowly get used to outdoor conditions.

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“Hey, not bad!  Food, water, perches, fresh air, greens- yeah this is nice!”

 

I started them off with a few hours and gradually increased the time in the greenhouse to most of the day, bringing them back inside in the evening.  They really seem to enjoy having room to run around and spread their wings, and they love the perches.

chicks in greenhouse

“Thanks Mom- we like this set up!”

They’re still kind of skittish, but when I just hold my hand in the crate for a few minutes the bravest ones will come over and check me out.  Then I pet them and scratch their little chests, which they really like.

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Dewey Dude, the official Chick Sitter

And Dewey Dude has become my official Chick Sitter 😉  He leads the way when I take the chicks (in a box) from the house to the greenhouse.  Then he keeps an eye on them once they’re in the cage.  During the day he frequently checks on them just to be sure they’re OK.  They seem to like him too- they’ll come over the side of the cage where Dewey’s at and nibble on his nose or toes 🙂  He doesn’t even mind when they do that!  He is such a good dog!

dewey and chicks in greenhouse

“Don’t worry Mom, I’ll keep an eye on the girls”

There’s that guarding instinct in action 😉  I still have to watch him when the chicks get excited and start fluttering around, because he wants to paw or mouth them, and it wouldn’t take much for him to accidentally kill them.  As he gets older (he’s 11 months old now) he does get calmer and better able to control himself.  I’m sure the day will come when I’ll be able to allow him to be among the chickens unsupervised.

The next move for the chicks will be out to a separate enclosure within the big chicken’s pen.  When the little ones are about the same size as the big girls I’ll allow them to fully integrate, but when they’re so much smaller the big girls could hurt them.  Chickens can be surprisingly mean.  This is the first time I’ve tried the dog crate in the greenhouse for the chicks (I forgot we even had it until we got Dewey Dude- LOL).  Last year I let the chicks “free range” in the greenhouse, but that had it’s drawbacks.  They ate too many greens and damaged what little lettuce I had growing in there, and they were very difficult to catch when it came time to go back to the house in the evening.  Each year I learn more and figure out better ways of doing things.

So that’s what’s going on with my little feathered friends right now 🙂  Before you know it they’ll be all grown up and laying eggs for us!  And my sweet puppy is so happy to have such an important job- he’s the best chick sitter I could ask for ❤

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

It’s Time For Spring Chicks!

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Yep, it’s that time of year again- time to start raising the next batch of chickens.  In the past Sal has gotten 6 or 7 day old chicks from our local feed store every other year or so.  This time we’re doing it differently and have decided to get new chicks every year so there won’t be any reduction in overall egg production as the youngsters grow to maturity and the older hens stop producing.  Our 7 Rhode Island Red chickens from last year (now 1 year old) are still producing reliably and haven’t started to molt yet, so we should have plenty of eggs until the little ones are ready to start laying.  This year instead of our usual Rhode Island Reds we got 6 White Leghorns.  The Reds lay brown eggs and the Leghorns lay white eggs, so we’ll be able to know who’s producing and how much.

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One of my Rhode Island Red chickens

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Our 6 new White Leghorn chicks

So far we’ve had good luck getting our day old chicks from Olsen’s feed store.  A few days before we’re ready to pick them up I wash the chick cage with soap and water and scrub it thoroughly (I do the same thing before we put it into storage too), then spray it with vinegar to sanitize it.  Their feeder and water container get the same treatment and everything is allowed to dry in the sun.  Sal made this cage years ago, when he first started raising chickens and it has served us well.  By the time the chicks get too big for this cage they’re usually ready to go out to the coop.  There’s a removable tray under the bottom of the cage that we line with paper so it’s easy to clean.  Of course the bigger these critters get, the more often I need to change their paper (they can be messy little buggers!).

For the first few weeks (or longer, depending on the weather) we keep the cage on the island in the kitchen, with the heat lamp positioned over the top.  Figuring out the right position of the heat lamp is a bit of trial and error, but the basic rule is if the chicks are all clustered together under the lamp they’re cold and you need to move the light closer.  If they’re avoiding the lamp and are scattered around the cage, as far from the light as possible they’re hot and the light is too close.  They should wander around the cage comfortably and sleep in small groups all around the cage floor.  It took me a while, but I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out how to keep them comfortable.

The really fun part is always introducing the other animals to the chicks.  I do like having the chicks get used to the cats and dogs so they’re not afraid of them, and having the dogs especially realize that these chicks are not prey, but family members they’re supposed to protect.

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“This thing is fascinating!”

This is Dewey Dude’s first experience with chicks, and I’m making a special effort to get him familiar with them.  He’s getting better with the older chickens, but still wants to jump on them sometimes.  He’s a very skilled hunter (he caught his first mouse when he was just 3 months old, and since then has caught a variety of birds, rodents, and rabbits) so I want to be sure he understands that this is not the same as the critters he hunts.  He’s very intelligent and watches me talking to the chicks and holding and petting them, so that also reinforces the idea that these little things are part of the family and are to be protected.  Ziggi’s been through all this before and really has very little interest in the chicks (or the adult chickens, for that matter).

Then of course there’s the cats.

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Ginko is utterly fascinated with the chicks.  He’s always been a housecat and has never caught anything bigger than a spider, but he’s got some pretty strong hunting insticts.  He’s not quite sure what to do with these things, but they sure do smell interesting!  BTW, I’m very careful that no animals get hurt or stressed out during these little meetings.  I’m actually surprised at how calm the chicks are when I take them out and let them interact with the cats and dogs.  Of course if the chicks were running around the house unsupervised I’m sure it wouldn’t take Ginko too long to figure out what a cat does with a critter like this.  Calcifer, on the other hand, is a complete love.

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I could probably let all 6 chicks cuddle with him in the chair and he wouldn’t mind at all.  He’s actually a little afraid of them when they start cheeping loudly and fluttering around in their cage (they really get excited if a gnat or something flies into their cage!).

And so this is just another sign of spring around here- the peeping of fluffy little chicks on the counter 😉  When the weather warms a bit more we’ll put the cage out in the garage with the heat lamp and I’ll start taking them outside for brief “field trips” to get them used to the outdoors, the sun, the wind, the feel of grass under their feet, etc.  Sal’s going to build them a separate little coop in the main chicken enclosure so when they’re big enough to go out full time they can safely be with the big chickens.  When they’re the same size as the Reds I’ll allow the flocks to intermingle.  If I put them together when the chicks are too small they could get hurt- chickens can be pretty vicious.  And when the Reds stop producing we’ll give them away to someone who wants them for bug patrol like we did with the last batch.

This will be the fourth year that I’ve raised chickens, and each year I learn a bit more.  I’ve already learned that Leghorns spook easier than Rhode Island Reds.  Loud noises have the chicks peeping and fluttering all over the cage, and any time I change the water or feed them they all spaz out- LOL.  They are getting used to me though, and I hope spending  a good bit of time with them will help them calm down and realize I’m not going to hurt them.  They do seem to enjoy it when I hold them and pet their little heads- they close their eyes and get this blissful expression 🙂

me and chick

Just hanging out with my peeps 😉

So that’s life down on the farm 🙂  I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to post now that it’s getting to be planting season, but I’ll try to keep you all up to date on the latest happenings.  On that note, the seedlings are all doing well.  I’ve got them under lights in the guest bathroom like I did last year (you can check out this post to see just what I did last year https://gettingcreativewithcreativecritters.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/starting-seeds-indoors-the-beginning-of-the-2015-gardening-season/).  I’ve been putting them out in the greenhouse during the day for extra sunlight and that seems to really be getting them off to a good start.  Then I bring them back in before it gets too cool in the evening.

Hopefully this season will be at least as productive as last!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Dewey Dude’s New (recycled/ repurposed) Dog Bed

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My little boy is growing up! LOL.  The bed that fit Dewey Dude when he was just a  little two month old puppy just wasn’t working anymore.  Now he’s a great big 8 month old (and still growing) puppy and it was definitely time for an upgrade to his dog bed.

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Look at that cute little puppy! I could pick him up with one hand at this age!

morningstar hike me and dewey dude

Now look at The Kid (one of his many nicknames)! I can barely pick him up with both arms- he’s at least 50 pounds!

I thought about buying a new dog bed, but c’mon, this is me we’re talking about here!  I don’t buy anything I can make myself, and I usually make it better than what you find in the stores 😉

Last year we got a new mattress, but of course we still had the old one.  Sal’s like me- he doesn’t throw away anything that he might be able to recycle, reuse, or repurpose.  So we carefully took apart the mattress, which had a really nice pillow top, and the box spring and put everything in storage until we found a use for it.  The box spring will likely become a gate, and I already used some of the padding to re-stuff Ziggi’s dog bed.

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Ginko was helping me work on Ziggi’s bed- he’s a very paws on kind of supervisor 😉

I decided to use the pillow topper from the mattress to create a new Big Boy dog bed for Dewey Dude.  Since he likes to sprawl when he sleeps I knew I’d have to make a pretty big bed.  I cut the well padded pillow topper in half then folded it and sewed the seams.

Of course I had help from Calcifer!  It was a real pain (quite literally!) to sew all this by hand, but it did turn out really nice.  If I were to buy a bed this big and soft it would cost well over $100.  This thing has four thick layers of padding and is very durable.  I covered it with his blankets so he would know it was his, and so I could easily wash the blankets and keep the bed clean.  Dewey Dude certainly approves!

 

Hopefully he won’t outgrow this bed anytime soon!  I’ll make one for Ziggi when my hands heal up from this one.  I managed to shed a little blood on this project 😉  Hey, anything to make my critters happy! 😀

Be sure to check back and see what else I’m working on!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Fun with the Dogs at Beaver Creek

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The other day Sal decided that we ought to take a spontaneous trip with the dogs to Beaver Creek, one of our favorite little getaways.  We always go during the week when no one else is there, so we have our choice of spots to hang out at along the creek.  Of course Ziggi, being the water dog that he is, absolutely loves the creek.  We’ve been taking him there for the last few years, and the minute we get near the water he’s in it!

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Dewey Dude isn’t as much of a natural when it comes to water.  This is only his second trip to the creek- the first time he only just got his paws wet 😉  He’s gaining some confidence though, and he really wants to be where Ziggi’s at.

beaver creek ziggi and dewey

The dogs had a blast running and jumping over the red rocks (this is in Sedona BTW), and racing through the trees.  This place is like doggy Heaven!  And I think when the fish are around Dewey Dude may just turn out to be a pretty good fishing dog.  He knows how to put his whole face in the water and can even fish things out (like rocks and sticks).

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He’s working on getting a rock out of this puddle 😉  Ziggi tries to go fishing, but doesn’t comprehend how to stick his face in the water.  It’s really pretty funny to watch him try to go fishing.  The fish will be swimming around in front of him and he just sort of snaps at the surface of the water.  It does keep him busy though, and he seems to enjoy himself, so it’s all good.  Maybe Dewey Dude can teach him how its done.

beaver creek dewey dude and ziggi dog

This is a shot of the boys patiently waiting for their treat.  Dewey’s as big as Ziggi now!  Whenever we go on these little day trips we pack some snacks for ourselves and treats for the dogs.  It’s such a pleasure being out in nature with Sal and the boys.  We all feel revitalized when we get back 🙂  And it’s good to be able to let the dogs run and play and just be dogs.  I take them for walks daily, but it’s not the same as being able to climb mountains, swim, and race and leap through open fields.

I love watching Dewey Dude gain confidence and try new things too.  He was testing his balance and getting a feel for the water here.

beaver creek dewey dude in water

While part of me was a bit worried about him going over the falls, I knew he’d be fine.  We picked a fairly safe spot and there was a calm, shallow pool just past the falls.

It was a really gorgeous day- about 70 degrees and sunny.  Gotta love these Arizona winters!  It’s nice to have this time with Sal too, something different from our everyday routine.  It helps us stay connected with Mother Nature and with each other ❤

beaver creek me and sal kissing

So, in conclusion, take some time out in nature.  Be happy, enjoy your dog’s enthusiasm for the great outdoors, and kiss your sweetie in the sunshine ❤

Life is good! 🙂

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

2015- A Very Good Year!

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Yes, I know, we’re already two weeks into 2016, so I’m a bit late in posting this 😉  But, as usual, I’ve been rather busy and just haven’t taken the time to sit down and blog.

2015 was a very good year indeed.  The garden did quite well, and for the first time (since I’ve been in Arizona anyway) I started the seeds indoors and allowed the seedlings to mature a bit before moving the trays out to the greenhouse.  This strategy worked very well and resulted in strong healthy plants that thrived once they were transplanted into the garden.

P1030693 There were some insect issues, as usual, but the regular applications of Neem seemed to keep the squash bugs and cucumber beetles somewhat under control.  We’re considering getting Guinea Hens this year and allowing them to free range in the garden.  I’ve heard they’re excellent at insect control and not as destructive to plants as chickens can be.  If anyone wants to share any info on Guinea Hens with me please leave a comment below- I’d certainly appreciate it!

In March we got 7 new chicks to replace our older chickens who were no longer producing many eggs.  We gave the older chickens away to a lady who wanted them for bug control in her yard, so no chickens ended up in the soup pot 😉  I’m not sure if I could actually slaughter our chickens- I do tend to get attached to them, so I’d much rather just find them a new home when we get new chicks.  And our chicks have been very happy and healthy little critters!

chicks 10 days old 3 And now these cute little things are full grown and giving us delicious fresh eggs every day 🙂

Then in April we found out that Sal’s daughter, Christina, was pregnant 🙂  Anna was born in September and both she and her mother seemed to appreciate the gifts I made for her.

The kitty was named Miss Kitty and Christina used the booties and hat and blanket the whole time she was here visiting in early December.  We spent a very enjoyable 5 days together and I had a chance to get to know Christina even better, as well as spending some quality time with Anna.  Such a beautiful girl!

Anna and Miss Kitty In June Sal and I spent 5 glorious days relaxing on the beach in Mexico.  His friend has a beach house in Rocky Point and let us use it for our vacation 🙂  We played in the ocean, had dinner on the beach, and chilled out by the fire at night.  Of course Ziggi was with us and he just completely wore himself out chasing sea birds up and down the beach and swimming in the ocean.

rocky point mexico june 2015 3 The trip to Mexico was one part of my 40th birthday gift.  The second part of my gift came in July.  We’d been discussing getting another dog for almost a year and Sal decided that the time was right this summer.  And so we adopted the sweetest, most wonderful German Shepherd/ Rottweiler mix ever ❤  Dewey Dude has been such a joy and has brought even more happiness into our household.  And I finally have my own dog, which is something I’ve desired for years.  This is what my little guy looked like when we brought him home at 2 months old.

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Dewey Dude

How cute is he?!  And this is what he looks like now at almost 8 months old.

dewey dude.jpg He’s grown into such a handsome dog!  Of course he’s still got a lot of growing left to do 😉  I love this guy so much!

One sad thing this year was that Calcifer got sick and I had to take him to the vet where they put him on antibiotics for an infection.  He hadn’t been eating well and had dropped to just 8 pounds.  I started feeding him kitten chow, which he loves now, and once the antibiotics cleared up the infection his appetite really came back.  Now he’s up to 11 pounds- more than he’s ever weighed!  He looks great and seems to feel as good as he looks.  He’s still eating Kitten Chow (it’s the only dry food he’ll eat) along with his canned food, and he has a good, healthy appetite now.  So what started out as a worrisome thing ended well.

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In October  we took Dewey Dude to Beaver Creek for the first time and had a blast watching him romp and play with Ziggi.  This was also the first time he was allowed off leash on a hike, and he did very well when it came to sticking fairly close to us and coming when called.

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Since then he’s been on several more hikes with us and I feel confident about allowing him off leash when we’re out in the wilderness.  Of course when we’re around other people or dogs I keep him on a leash.   Sometimes he can be a little too friendly, and not everyone appreciates that 😉

In November Ziggi was the one headed to the vet when he cut his leg.  We think he was running past some sheet metal Sal has in the yard and sliced his leg open.  He had to get about a dozen stitches then had to wear the cone of shame for about a week.  The cats couldn’t figure out why the dog was wearing a lamp shade on his head 😀

Ziggi and cats He’s as good as new now, although he does sport a very macho scar on his front leg.  And the incident did prompt Sal to go around the yard and try make all his scrap metal as safe as possible so this wouldn’t happen again.  The dogs just tear around here at breakneck speed, so we have to try to eliminate or safeguard as many obstacles as possible.

And then there was December, and December 23rd, which turned out to be a very important day in our lives (and not just because it was Calcifer’s 6th birthday ;))  That was the morning that Sal proposed to me!  I love this man with all my heart and have had every intention of spending the rest of my life with him, with or without being married, but I really did want to be his wife, rather than just his girlfriend.  And yes, I did cry when he slipped that diamond engagement ring on finger, tears of the utmost joy.  And the days that followed were filled with even more joy.  Later that day we headed out (with the dogs) to the Embassy Suites where we had a room booked for two nights and Sal had arranged a banquet for his birthday (which was on the 24th) that night.  And the birthday banquet ended up doubling as an engagement party 🙂  There was so much love and laughter in that room that night!  Sal’s family is wonderful and I am thrilled to finally become a true part of it.  Most of them have considered me part of the family already, but this makes it official 😉  On the 24th we got engagement pictures taken and then headed over to his brother’s house for the annual Christmas Eve dinner and party- always a fun time!

engagement pic.jpg Oh, and when I was planning my outfit for the Christmas Eve party (before I knew we’d be getting engagement pictures taken), I picked out Gramma’s necklace, bracelet, and earrings to wear with my dress.  Not only did they go nicely with the engagement ring, but it felt like Gramma was there with me, at least in spirit.  I wish she could have lived long enough to meet Sal- I know she would have liked him, and I know she would be so happy for me.

We headed back home Christmas day, taking our time and stopping a few times along the way to let the dogs out to run and play in the desert.  We had a very peaceful Christmas day, and enjoyed being back home.

Then to start off the New Year we put our Christmas gifts to use.  Without planning it his aunts gave us gift certificates for dinner at the historic Hassayampa Peacock Room and his daughters gave a gift certificate for an overnight stay at the hotel.  We had a wonderful  time and I think the best dinner I have EVER eaten!  Life is so good, and I am thankful beyond words for all the many blessings in my life!

Here’s to more of the same in 2016! 🙂

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

 

 

What I feed my puppy

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Today I wanted to share with you what I feed my puppy.  Dewey Dude is a German Shepherd/ Rottweiler mix, so he’s going to be a pretty big dog, and good nutrition at an early age is especially important.  I want my little boy to grow up to be a big healthy dog and have him live a long life free of illness and major health issues.

His big brother Ziggi, a German Shorthair Pointer/ Australian Cattle Dog mix, has been eating essentially the same thing since he was a puppy, and at 6 years old he’s the picture of canine health and vitality!

handsome Ziggi

Both dogs were started on Kirkland Super Premium Puppy food.  Right now Dewey Dude is eating one cup, three times a day.  Breakfast is his biggest meal.  To his puppy food I add one fresh egg (we have 7 chickens so we normally get 7 eggs a day), which provides protein and fatty acids which can improve skin and coat health, as well as vitamin D, calcium, and Choline which assists with healthy bones and teeth.  Eggs also contain iron, Selenium, iodine, vitamin E, zinc, and riboflavin.  Lots of really good stuff in one little egg!

dewey's breakfast

I also add a teaspoon of Diatomaceous earth which helps to prevent and control internal parasites, and can also help to detoxify the body.  It’s supposed to help with digestion as well.  Then I add one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, which also helps with digestion, along with many other health issues.  I take it daily myself as well.  Then there’s the scoop of yogurt, also to aid digestion and add protein and good bacteria.  Then about a teaspoon of wheat germ, which helps with skin problems, dull, dry hair and to regulate both immune and inflammatory responses in a dog’s body. Then a teaspoon of nutritional yeast, which is a rich source of amino acids and minerals and has high levels of B-complex vitamins.  And finally I add about a teaspoon of ground flax seed, which aids in making his coat softer and shinier, with healthier skin underneath.  In addition to the omega fatty acids, flax seed contains alpha-linoleic acid, which offers benefits to his immune system. Alpha-linoleic acid also has an anti-inflammatory effect, so it can help prevent or control arthritis or other joint problems. Flax seed also contains antioxidants.  I add some water, mix it all up , and create a delicious stew 🙂

dewey eating LOL

Dewey Dude certainly seems to approve!  I add each of these ingredients for very specific purposes.  Both German Shepherds and Rottweilers can have issues with dry skin.  Rottweilers can suffer from digestive issues and have frequent bouts of diarrhea.  My neighbor had a Rotty that was constantly ill- poor thing 😦  And both Rottweilers and Shepherds are large breed dogs that can have joint problems and arthritis.  Dewey Dude did have dry skin at first, but now his skin is nice and healthy and his coat is smooth and shiny.  From everything I can tell he’s a very healthy puppy, physically and emotionally.

My pet’s health is of the utmost importance to me and I want to do all I can to ensure that they live long healthy lives.  That starts with nutrition, but also factors in exercise, environment, mental stimulation, and lots of love ❤

dewey dude and me

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Cheese Kitty!

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To Dewey Dude, Ginko will forever be known as Cheese Kitty!Ginko LMAO

Twice a week I make omelets for breakfast. One of the benefits of having our own chickens is a surplus of fresh eggs 😉  Calcifer and Ginko have gotten into the habit of getting a bit of cheese when I add it to the omelets.  They’re so smart they even know when it’s time to add the cheese and they both come into the kitchen to wait for their treat.We're ready for our cheese now!

We’re ready for our cheese now!  Ginko prefers mozzarella and Calcifer will only eat goat cheese 😉

After I got Dewey Dude Calcifer requested his cheese in a dog free area for safety reasons 😉  Ginko the Fearless still wanted his cheese in the kitchen though, and since the puppy was usually sleeping while I made breakfast he figured there was no reason to change eating locales.

dewey and ginko

The first time we did the cheese thing Dewey Dude woke up while Ginko was eating his cheese, completely unaware that there was food to be had.  All he saw was a kitty, and he wanted to see the kitty, and jump on the kitty, and lick the kitty.  Of course Ginko made his escape as quickly and gracefully (which wasn’t very graceful at all- LOL) as possible, leaving behind a little pile of shredded mozzarella.

ginko and dewey

Of course Dewey Dude was quick to find and eat that delicious cheese!  And he seemed to think that it came from Ginko.  After all, he jumped on the kitty and then there was cheese!  This has happened several times now, with the same result.  Ginko gets his cheese, eats a bit, Dewey wakes up and jumps on Ginko,  Ginko leaves and voila- there’s cheese!  So Ginko has become known to Dewey Dude as Cheese Kitty!

Come back Cheese Kitty!

Come back Cheese Kitty!

I almost think Ginko does it on purpose now.  He really is a very generous cat, and will often leave his toys in the dog’s bed as a little gift for them.  He’s lost several toy mice like this 😉

I just wanted to share this little bit of humor that brightens my day a few times a week 🙂  I hope it gives you a giggle too! 😀

~Michelle of CreativeCritters