Dog’s Day Out – The Adventures of Sahara and Brinly

Your Pet Space is a boarding facility that operates out of New Mexico, but we have visitors to this blog from all around the world, so I wanted to reach out to the East Coast readers who are unable to use our New Mexico facility and are looking for somewhere to take your pets for a day out. Say you want something beautiful in the mountains, something different from what you have experienced before. You’re not looking for simple trails, you want to have food, new experiences and a great view, all rolled into one. I have just the place for you.

What Is The Biltmore Estate?

It took six years for George Vanderbilt to build the 250-room French Renaissance chateau, but once it was completed, it was a masterpiece in every sense of the word. He took a location that had been practically emptied of trees by the surrounding settlers and put Frederick Law Olmsted (yes, the man who made Central Park) in charge of creating a new, natural landscape to complement his home. Between Olmstead’s work on the grounds and the stunning architecture of the buildings themselves, there is no place in the country like Biltmore Estate, America’s largest privately owned home, especially since you can bring your pets along.

Sahara at Biltmore House

Horses and Pets Are Welcome

Biltmore has always been famous for hospitality, a tradition that is being kept by Vanderbilt’s descendants to this day, but it isn’t just humans who are welcome on the grounds. Horse owners can bring their horses and use the riding trails while pets are welcome to explore the beautiful scenery on garden and hiking trails. There are some rules, of course. You must keep your pet on a leash at all times and only service animals are allowed in the house and in most buildings. Still, if you are going for the scenery, what better way to enjoy it than with your four legged friends?

My wife and I are year round pass holders, so we visit frequently, often taking others with us to tour the house or winery, so on the days when we feel like a picnic in the mountains, we usually pack up the dogs for a day trip. The journey is three hours long and we tend to leave very early in the morning in order to get the most out of our visit, but Sahara and Brinly never seem to mind. In fact, they typically hear us saying the word “Biltmore” and become very excited for the upcoming adventure.

Sahara in the gardens

Most visitors start their day with a tour of the house, but since it is off limits to pets, we generally drive past and park in the lot at the garden shop. You can ask an attendant if there are places available in the Dianna lot, which is within walking distance of the house, but most often it is simply easier to drive through.  Here’s a helpful tip: If you want to drive PAST the parking attendants, turn your emergency blinkers on when you come to the parking areas, this means you do NOT wish to park and attendants will wave you through.

If you would like to walk around in front of the house first, or climb the hill to the Dianna Statue, the lot behind the Garden Center is a great place to park, as you only need to walk through the beautifully kept gardens to get to the front lawn and all the sights there.   When we have guests with us who want to visit the estate, one of us will stay out on the lawn or wander the gardens with the dogs, while the other goes through the house with our friends.  When this happens, our dogs are greeted by the staff as we wait at the door, and true to Vanderbilt’s tradition of hospitality, Brinly and Sahara have even been offered cookies on occasion.

walking Brinly and Sahara

If you are looking for something to eat, the stable area at the side of the house offers outdoor seating that serves not only the Ice Cream Parlor, but also the Courtyard Market and the Bake Shop. Here you can have a snack and wait for the rest of your party to join you, eat some lunch, or just relax with a drink or dessert before starting the rest of your day.  There is also an outdoor café behind the Conservatory, in the garden area where we park.

We usually wander around the gardens first because we prefer to picnic in the large, open area beyond Biltmore House.  Guests to the Estate are allowed to bring an outside picnic as long as it does not contain alcohol and as long as they picnic in appropriate places on the grounds.  You can also order a picnic basket ahead of time from the Bakery, Conservatory Café, or Creamery.

Brinly at the Backhouse

Once you have finished eating, there is so much to see, it is almost overwhelming. I can guarantee that you will never get everything done in one day and highly recommend that you purchase a year round pass if you plan to make one or more return visits in the year.  We are talking about taking day trips with our pets, after all, and there is simply no way you can see everything in one day on the Estate.

Around the house itself you and your pets can visit the South Terrace, the Italian Garden, the Shrub Garden, the Spring Garden, the Walled Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Azalea Garden.  All of that includes many paths that split off to give you variety on your journey.

Sahara in the gardens

In the gardens we have seen all varieties of birds as well as some squirrels and rabbits. We even saw a beautiful black snake once, making its way through the bushes along the creek that runs through the Azalea Garden. Away from the gardens we have even seen beaver and ground hogs. Our dogs love this variety and are always stimulated by these new sights and smells, even though they are used to some of them from spending time in our yard at home.

Not all of the animals in the garden area are wild, though. Sahara always insists that we stop by the Italian Garden, nearest the house, and will pull and tug quite frantically if she thinks we are going to walk past it.  Why? Up until recently we had goldfish in our house and true to her motherly nature, Sahara insisted on fussing over our fish. On her first visit to the Italian Garden, Sahara realized there were fish in the pond.  Not little fish like ours, but giant beauties, perfectly suited to their magnificent setting. Since that day, we have always had to visit them.

Sahara checking the fish

If you are feeling up to a little bit more of a stroll, you can take one of the trails that leads to the Bass Pond and still get back to your car in reasonable time.  The easy path is through the gardens. It is on a somewhat gentle slope and meanders through all varieties of life mentioned above. That way is paved and it is easy to get around. The colors are different in every season, but are especially stunning in spring, when all of the flowers are in bloom.

Those who are willing to take on a bit more of a challenge can take the Deer Park Trail, which begins just at the edge of the Shrub Garden and South Terrace, wanders along the open area by the house and takes you down the hill to the Bass Pond. Be prepared to go down a rather steep hill to get to the pond, but as is the case with walking through the gardens, the view along the way is gorgeous, especially in the fall, when the trees are in full color.

Brinly walking the yard

Once you get to the Bass Pond your exploration of the areas around Biltmore House is nearly complete.  At the pond you can sit along the edges of the water to get a rest and take in the view.  There are many who picnic here or who read a book before going on their way.  We typically continue on to the waterfall, which is just beyond the pond.  To get here you walk along a woodchip path, which is marked out.  There is a little loop here, which follows a bamboo shaded creek and then turns back to the house again.

By the time we get here, the dogs are usually looking for a drink, and this is the perfect place for them to find refreshment. We usually decide to take our rest here instead of on one of the benches along the Pond, simply because it is remarkably peaceful, though it can be rather busy at times.

Brinly at the waterfall

Some trails from the house reach all the way to other parts of the estate, but I only recommend those to avid hikers, as they can be steep and long. They are especially hard on Sahara, with her short legs and stocky build, but we do hike them on occasion. I think it is important to note here that they ask you to pick up after your animals at Biltmore. There are trash cans throughout the garden area, but once you are on the actual trails you are on your own, so bring bags that will hold up for the long journey!

If you choose to walk from the house to the Winery and Farmyard, follow the Deer Park Trail away from the House and Pond. This trail winds back and forth through fields and eventually gives you a view of the lagoon. Once the Deer Park Trail meets up with the Lagoon Trail on the French Broad River, the walk gets much easier and is paved, but it is QUITE the hike! Putting the two trails together makes about 3 miles of walking (one way) and is listed as a moderate hike. We have only walked from the house to the Lagoon once with Sahara. We had to make many resting stops along the way.

Sahara at the lagoon

If you prefer to drive to the Winery and Farmyard, be prepared to be amazed. The winding roads are just as beautiful as the trails are, though you don’t get to see as much from inside the car. You will cross several other trails, including those for bikes and horses, so be on the lookout for those notifications.

The trails here form a web around the entire area and vary from flat and easy to steep and difficult, providing you with many hours of beauty to explore. The Inn at Biltmore Estate has its own trail, which links up with the others and wanders the grounds of the Inn. The Farm trails are all generally flat and easy, many are paved or follow gravel roads, and most of the six miles of walking space lies along the French Broad River. If you feel like long hikes that blend difficulty levels, you can take the Farm Trail to the Arbor Trace Trail, a path which progresses from easy to moderate to difficult and then loops around back on the same path. There is also the Westover Trail system, which wanders through both gentle and steep terrain while taking you in and out of the wooded areas of the estate. This trail system has three loops, an easy, a moderate and a difficult trail, which all intersect with each other at various points along the way. It is on these trails where we encountered an example of Biltmore’s continued dedication to being environmentally conscious and self sustainable, spotting a solar farm as we made our way.

solar farm

All this walking will probably make you hungry and put you in need of some rest. No worries! Visitors to the Antler Hill Village, where the Farmyard and Winery are located, will find all kinds of shopping and eating experiences and children will love going in to the Farmyard and meeting some of the animals. If you are hungry when you arrive, the Smokehouse and the Creamery offer outdoor dining and there are plenty of places to sit around the green if you are interested in simply having a rest. At certain times of the year there is live music as well.

Even though their website clearly states that pets are not allowed in the buildings, we have found two exceptions. Once, while we were parked at the Gardens, we stopped in to the Gardener’s Place and were told that next time we came in we could bring our dogs, as they were welcomed there. On another visit, we were at the old Barn past Antler Hill Village, my wife went inside to shop, but  was quickly sent back outside by the cashier and told to bring us in. Be aware that these are exceptions to the “no pets in the buildings” rule. If you are curious about your pet going to shop with you, ask before you enter.  Though there are places to eat that provide outdoor seating, and some stores do welcome animals inside, not all have those allowances. We have never walked in to a building with our dogs without being invited.

Brinly watching horses

A Favorite Doggie Day Trip

With all of the sights to see and the excellent hospitality, Biltmore Estate is one of our favorite Doggie Day Trip destinations. I have yet to experience a time when our Sahara and Brinly were reluctant to explore the grounds and they have yet to have the same experience twice. Here your pets can experience the beauty of the mountains and the hospitality of a family who keeps their private home open as an amazing historical landmark. At Biltmore pets can take in the quiet of the hills or the bustle of the barnyard. They can hike to their hearts content, or even visit with Cedric, the Vanderbilt’s favorite Saint Bernard, who is immortalized in the form of a bronze statue outside of the tavern that bears his name. This is one doggie day trip destination that cannot be missed.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at

Greyhounds vs. Coyotes


The Unspoken Battle of the Midwest

In our culture, hunting coyotes has become popular for their pelts, and general defense for pets and ranch animals. Due to their speed and ferocious behavior, however, hunting them can be difficult for marksmen. As an alternative to the traditional form of hunting, many have taken to seeking help from their canine companions: that is,  Greyhounds. Greyhound dogs are an exemplary hunting animal capable of reaching top speeds of 40 miles per hour and exhibiting great obedience skills. These characteristics of the dogs make them an ideal choice for hunters to exploit the animals when seeking wild coyotes. Coyotes can also reach very high speeds and usually hunt in packs, making them very dangerous for livestock or even local pets in rural areas.

Many organizations, like Project Coyote, don’t support the hunting of these animals, although there are many reasons as to why they are hunted regularly. For starters, just like rats and birds, coyotes carry disease from eating rotting carcasses and sick animals that may not be able to defend themselves. This disease can spread from other animals and even to humans, in some cases. In the Southwest, the growing population of these animals also makes it very difficult to hunt for small game due to the high density of coyotes hunting them before we may. Regardless of these reasons, it is still wrong for people to take the initiative to train their dogs to hunt for their canine relatives.

coyote snow

Coyotes are not natural enemies of Greyhounds, and hardly interact unless through coincidence, considering their habitats differ significantly. Forcing dogs to hunt coyotes is cruel and should not be as prevalent as it is in our society. The main problem is that many people are not even aware of these killings. The fact that so many see coyotes as a nuisance also creates the illusion that they aren’t animals that deserve humane rights. To hunt the animals to defend livestock is one thing, but to have them hunted down by another animal for sport is unethical. Although Greyhounds are marvelous animals, so are the coyotes they are forced to fight. These hunters gain an adrenaline rush from watching the canids fight in what becomes a life or death matchup. The practice is easily considered dogfighting and is illegal in states like Washington and Colorado.

hunter with greyhounds

The events that take place during these hunts are atrocious, and some people have the audacity to record and post these videos onto sites like YouTube. I had the opportunity to witness a few of these videos and heard the jeers of laughter and approval coming from the hunters and their friends as their trained greyhounds would fight and kill coyotes. These greyhounds endure injury even when they win the skirmishes they are set for. A profile was done on a cattle rancher named John Hardzog, who is an avid practitioner of coyote hunting and exploits his own dogs for their hunting abilities. To him, the dogs are expendable and he often boasts about the hunting he participates in, calling it “natural.” Hardzog has been hunting coyotes since the age of seven and is now nearly seventy years old, with the idea that having his greyhounds do the dirty work is a natural sport for the animals. The cunning coyote “always has an escape route,” says Hardzog, who uses the wits of both animals to justify the abuse he puts his pets through. Having around forty greyhound and greyhound mixes at his disposal, Hardzog says he eradicates the coyote nuisance for free and is not ashamed of his actions at all. He is only one of the many hunters who use the greyhounds in an inhumane practice that a lot of us are just barely hearing of.

Many organizations like the Greyhound Companions of New Mexico have taken notice of these illegal activities and have spoken up about the damage that coyote hunting could do to greyhounds. The organization has a website dedicated to the mistreatment of greyhounds involved in dog racing and illegal hunting. They try to spread awareness of the abuse these dogs face and collect donations to benefit the animals. Judy Paulsen, the director of the GCNM, stands out against greyhound abuse and understands that getting the word out to the public is half the battle.

greyhound brown

The abuse of the greyhounds goes further than just damage from the coyotes, but also the injury they sustain from the chase. Many of John Hardzog’s dogs come back from a hunt with open wounds from barbed wire and the terrain they travel through on the hunt. He usually treats them with penicillin and steroids to reduce infection. The “sport” that Hardzog practices is not banned in his home state of Oklahoma yet and he fears that it might be soon. In states like Colorado, these hunts are considered dog fighting which is illegal in all fifty states and I believe it shouldn’t be too long before these hunts become just as illegal. Hardzog has put a lot of effort into his expertise and has a specially made pen in the back of his pickup trucks for the greyhounds to spring from and hunt. What leaves worry in a lot of people is the fact that John is not the only hunter who participates in these cruel activities. There are hundreds of people who are doing this on their own and not facing any consequences for the deaths or injuries their greyhound dogs endure.

2 greyhounds

People like John don’t see their wrong doing because for the most part they haven’t been opposed. Legal action should be taken against the men that treat these dogs like simple slaves to do their dirty work. The greyhounds are raised believing that what they are doing is okay, and may never lead a normal life. John has accounted for having some of his dogs run off a cliff while in pursuit and had no regard for their well-being. They aren’t his pets, but more like his workers in his twisted game of fate and violence. According to men like John, he is doing people a favor for disposing of the wild coyote that may pester household pets. Regardless of what he believes he is doing for the public, the fact that many of his animals have broken their necks or several other bones as well as received large lacerations and even died show a lot about how he cares for the greyhounds in his possession.

Furthermore, the greyhounds are in a state of danger being used to hunt an animal with the cunning and speed that the wild coyote possesses. In order to help these animals, people must become aware of the mistreatment and be willing to help the cause. Organizations like GCNM and many others have projects to fund and care for victims of animal abuse. Donating and rising against the problem is easy and I encourage anybody who would like to see this problem stopped to help however they can. One selfless act can benefit more than just one of these greyhound dogs in need of help from the tyranny of egotistic men with an agenda to hurt rather than to heal.


Critics try to ban coyote hunting contests

Coyote vs. Greyhound: The Battle Lines Are Drawn

Lazarus Gomez

Lazarus Gomez, an aspiring writer from Phoenix, Arizona has been freelance writing for local newspapers and is currently majoring in journalism at New Mexico State University. He has always been an avid animal lover and has two large bulldogs named Levi and Diesel. Included in the pack of animals he owns is a small cat named Mary. He currently resides in Las Cruces, New Mexico and is hoping to pursue his passion in sports writing.  

Helping a Smart and Picky Rat Adjust to Big Change

North with fountain

North, figuring out how his fountain works and telling us to turn it on for him.

Regular readers already know of my rat North, who suffered a serious case of pneumonia almost a year ago. Since then, because of the resulting lung deterioration, he has become a rat with special medical needs. He has always been a rat with special emotional needs because he is too smart for his own good. Now I know all rats are smart, they are easily trainable and extremely curious, it’s one of the things that make them appealing as pets, but when we brought North home we knew he was going to be different. From the very beginning, he and his brother Whisper began to train US.

Rat Rules of the house as dictated by North and Whisper:

1) “If I pull on your sleeve, it means lift your arm so I can run on it to someone else’s arm or to something close by.”

2) “If I stand on your hand and lift my nose at someone else, it means I want them to lift their arm.”

3) “If I am riding on your shoulder and tap your cheek with my nose, it means I want you to turn that way.”

4) “If I tap really fast, it means you’re not moving fast enough and you’d better hurry up.”

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Both Whisper and North do these things, but Whisper is always very calm about it, using the commands only when he most needs to get his point across to us.  North, on the other hand, quickly began to use them with a purpose.

It wasn’t long before North worked out our daily routines. Most rats get used to the regular schedule of their humans, but we soon realized that he hadn’t just figured out that after dinner we watch TV, he figured out that starting at 8pm we watch TV.  He began coming to me for a snuggle after dinner, at exactly 8pm, lasting until exactly 8:30.

North’s Routine:

1) Go to my first human and tap on her to get her to pick me up.

2) Climb across her shoulders and pull her sleeve to indicate I want to go across to the snuggle chair.

3) Cross to the snuggle chair and settle with my other human.

4) When snuggle is over, climb other human and pull on sleeve to indicate I want to cross to the first human again.

5) Cross the first human and climb down onto sofa for the rest of my play time.

If no one was available to get him to my chair, or if I wasn’t in the chair to start with, North would go on a frantic search for a human who could fix the situation.  One evening, he even jumped on one of our guests, who promptly gave him to my wife. Once in her arms, North tugged on the FRONT of her shirt, pulling her to where I was, down the hall, working in the computer room. By this point we all knew what this meant and North was brought in to me, with much eager cheek tapping.

North and Whisper

Whisper and North settled down on their table next to the snuggle chair.

A TV Watching Rat

After a few months of all of this it became so much of a habit with us that we mindlessly lifted our arms and snuggled into blankets without thinking anything of it. We completely failed to notice that on certain nights, instead of sleeping inside of his nesting box, North would climb on top of the box and face the TV.  By now you can guess that I am about to tell you he had memorized the schedule there as well, but it took us a while to realize there were certain shows he would “watch.” Most of the time North cares little about the television, but he has two favourites that he literally cannot live without: Hell on Wheels and Sleepy Hollow. These two shows he will not miss and when their regular seasons are on air, he is settled in his TV spot just as the show comes on.  And when he is sick? Well, he snuggles down in his blankets and watches reruns of both.  Sometimes this is the only way we can get him to eat food!

north watching TV

North watching Hell on Wheels from his nesting box.

His absolute favourite is Sleepy Hollow, which he still watches on Monday nights, even though the season has finished. When I come home on Monday he is desperate to get my attention, running all kinds of ways, standing up on his back legs, waving his arms in the air. At the mention of Sleepy Hollow he settles down, but heaven forbid I should forget to put on a rerun for him at exactly 9pm!  North has actually become somewhat famous for his Sleepy Hollow watching, as a video of him has gone around one of the rat groups I belong to, and even surprised our vet, who was stunned to see how attentive North was being.

North watching sleepy hollow

North eating banana, recovering from a bout of pneumonia, watching Sleepy Hollow.

Recently things changed at our house.  In January our ceiling caved in and needed to be repaired. Unfortunately for all of us, North can’t live in the dust and paint of construction, and with the insulation out as well, the house was much too cold for his recurring pneumonia, so the rats and I had to move out. With a rat this particular about routines, relocating was much more complicated than getting the spare cages and hauling things into a temporary home at my mother’s house. Along with all of his regular food and cage supplies, I had to pack baby food and yogurt, medications, and therapeutic items like North’s heating bed. Of course, the move required taking a computer for him to use as a television set.


North and Whisper watching an episode of Evolve with John Edward, another of their favourite shows. It’s an episode I’m in, actually, and one in which they are mentioned.

Many would ask why I went through all of the trouble. It seems ridiculous that I should cater to the needs of a rat in this way. Few realize the anxiety North displays when even one part of his routine is out of place. For a little fur creature who tells time and depends on that understanding of his schedule to lower his stress, it was a vital step to take. I knew we were going to be away from home for an undetermined number of days, I knew that my wife wasn’t going to be with us and I knew that the unfamiliar surroundings would prevent North from feeling comfortable. I also knew that as soon as he is uncomfortable it becomes difficult for him to breathe and he begins to lose color in his limbs. These stresses prevent him from regulating his body temperature and reduce his appetite, so I was prepared to keep strictly to his routine, even when we were away.

So this meant watching episodes of Hell on Wheels, Evolve, and Sleepy Hollow.  It meant continuing with his steam treatments in the morning and in the evening.  It also meant learning new rules, such as “When I come out of the steam you will NOT have the fan on. It’s bad for me to have the cold air after humidity!” This is a recent addition to North’s list of regulations, something he taught me just the other night, when he came back from his steam as usual, but wouldn’t eat. Instead he ran frantic circles around the dish and gave me such determined, intense glances that it looked like something out of a horror movie. I kid you not, I sent a message to my wife, filled with concern over his behaviour. It wasn’t until he looked up at the fan above him that I noticed I had forgotten to turn it off.  Once I did he settled down again and waited for his “movies.”

Watch North Watch His “Movies” Here

While some things have changed (the time we watch TV together and where we do it) I have tried my best to keep as much of his routine the same as it has always been.  For a while it was touch and go, but I am happy to say that even though we are still not back at home, North is alive and well. I am also happy to say that as I write this, we only have one more week of construction and then we’re back to everything he knows best, his own cage, his own chair, his own reruns. After having been gone for three whole months, I will no doubt have to help him adjust to life at home, but something tells me it isn’t going to take him long to settle in this time.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

 Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at

Product Review: Bentoball


Sahara with Bentoball

When you have a dog who displays a fear of the typical dog toys it is difficult to find something that is durable and engaging.  Sahara, our oldest dog, was a rescue and we did all of the things you do when you rescue a new animal, including purchasing new dog toys. We can only guess at the type of environment we saved her from, because she was terrified of everything we gave her. Simply picking up a dog toy would send her cowering into the next room, trembling as she desperately sought a place to hide.  Just getting her to chew on a rope toy on the ground took months and having her chase sticks took even longer. We always wanted to get her a busy ball of sorts, something that would dispense treats and keep her engaged when we were at work and unable to provide interactive stimulation. Nothing we tried ever worked and all of Sahara’s brand new toys ended up going to our neighbor’s dog when he came for a visit.



We recently got another dog to be a companion for Sahara.  It took a lot of looking and a lot of work to find just the right companion for her.  We needed a younger dog that she could care for (Sahara had puppies before she came to us and her mothering instincts are VERY strong – I’m sure you will hear more on that in some other post) but we also wanted the dog to be old enough to show Sahara how to “be a dog.” In the end, we got Brinly, who is energetic and only two years younger, but became the perfect fit.  Soon Brinly had Sahara running at dog parks and regularly playing with rope chew toys. The key there is the word “rope.” Brinly came to us unwilling to play with anything that wasn’t soft, so again we had a dilemma. Neither of our dogs would have anything to do with hard chew toys or treat dispensers. It was a very frustrating situation.


What Is BentoBall?

Enter the BentoBall! While standing around in the pet store one day, it happened to catch my eye. This was a treat dispensing, chewable toy that would help clean their teeth and keep them entertained… if only we could get them to use it! The surface looked softer than your typical rubber toy and I wondered if that would make a difference. Hoping for the best we purchased one ball for the two of them to share, mostly because we had been down the road of giving away all the toys before and we wanted to go the way of caution this time. As it turned out we had to go back the next day to get a second one.

Brinly with the Bentoball.

Brinly with the Bentoball.

The girls loved playing with this thing! Brinly went at it right away because it was a softer, chewable material that had some give to it. Sahara watched Brinly for a good hour or so, then cautiously took a turn for herself. The rest, as they say, is history.


So what is it about this ball that is so appealing?  I’ll start from the dog’s point of view, which is that this bright, bouncy ball has a large “everlasting” treat at its core. These treats are easy to replace and refills are easy to get your hands on. While the one side of the ball holds this large treat, the other side has a hollow pocket, which you can fill with any kind of munchies that your dog loves, making it stimulating in two ways. A dog can either work at having the ball dispense their favorite treat OR they can lick and chew at the large “everlasting” side. The dispensing side has a customizable hole, which allows you to snip off parts of the opening to make it larger in order accommodate the treats of your choice.  We decided not to customize this opening and left it as it was, which seems to work just fine for bits of cookie, since I have to keep filling it.

bentoball open

From a human’s point of view, the ball is free of latex, vinyl and phthalates, the textured surface helps to clean teeth and the ball itself is dishwasher safe.  The “indestructible” material this ball is made out of certainly seems to be just that, but without being hard or harsh. Our best chewer has worked on it for a month straight and it looks brand new. When it comes to describing the feel of the material, it is easiest to describe it as a sort of stiff gummy bear; it is soft enough to have some give, but hard enough that it doesn’t rip. The large chew treat is wheat free and the ridged texture also provides some dental health benefits. Most importantly, this ball provides hours of fun for dogs like Brinly, who are very high energy or have nervous behaviors. Want more benefits on the human side? This product is made in the USA.

Now, you’ve fallen in love with this product based on what I’ve told you, how do you use it? That part is easy, since it comes with one chicken flavored dental treat already inserted in the ball. All your dog needs you to do is open the package. From that point on they can happily chew away on the dental treat. If you want to mix things up a little bit, or if you need to encourage your dog to play with the ball, you just stick a cookie or favorite treat out of the dispenser side. This is what we had to do with our dogs. I put a whole cookie in the dispensing hole, making sure that it stuck out halfway, to make it obvious.  Once Sahara and Brinly discovered this strange thing gave them their favorite treats, it was virtually impossible to get them to stop playing with it. Constant use also meant that the dental treat needed to be replaced the next day, which brings me to say that when you get one of these balls, you should go ahead and get the refills while you are at it, because while the dental treats do last a long time, that first day or two really wears them out faster due to your dog’s fascination with their newness.

dental treat

Replacing the dental chew is easy; you simply get the edge of the treat wet just a tiny bit and insert it into the large opening. While the toy is stretchy, there is a little bit of elbow grease involved if you want to just push the treat in. I would personally recommend using a knife or some other thin tool to help you insert the chew. We found that sliding the knife around the rim of the opening helped pry the rubber with much less effort. Once you have the treat in, the packaging recommends that you let it dry before you give the toy to your dog, but otherwise, you are done. It really couldn’t be much simpler.

Overall, I can’t say how happy we are with this product. It has given our most fearful dog the confidence to enjoy play and it has given our most active dog an outlet for that activity. Though we have had it for only a month now, I can safely say that even with the dogs chewing on empty balls, there are no marks of wear and I have no reason to believe they will rip easily. Treats of all varieties fit inside the dispensing compartment and the large dental chew isn’t too much trouble to get in, but provides hours of pleasure for the dogs and is certainly not easy for them to get out. Keeping the balls clean is easy, since they are dishwasher safe. I highly recommend this toy for active or timid dogs everywhere.

Final Scoop On the BentoBall


Sturdy construction

Long lasting treat

Cleans teeth and keeps dogs engaged

Dishwasher safe


People with lower hand strength or a disability affecting their hand/coordination may need someone to help them put the dental chew in the toy.

I am Sahara, and I approve this message.sahara face shot

What Is Freedom From Panic?

july 4th lost pets

When we think of freedom for our pets, we imagine long, rolling fields of wildflowers where they can run freely, leaping about to their heart’s content.  We might even think of this happening without their collar being on. But freedom also implies the absence of fear, and the provision for freedom of choice.

The 4th of July is a celebration of freedom everywhere in the US.  Everywhere, often, except our own backyards and living rooms.  For our pets can feel anything but free from panic.  And we sometimes do not think about all the choices we might for how to alleviate this.

No one really knows how many pets flee in a panic from their homes during holidays like the 4th of July and Labor Day, where fireworks are present.  Animal shelters all over simply report that they are inundated with pets that panicked at the noise and fled their yards or homes, winding up lost, injured…or even killed.

scary fireworks

Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe On Fireworks Holidays

Keep your Pet Indoors–To you, fireworks might be the highlight of the summer–but to your pet, it can be terrifying.  Dogs never known to have jumped fences or walls,or ever have broken from restraint, can go to amazing lengths to get away when they are panicked.

Leave Your Pet at Home When Going To See Fireworks–Pets that are normally quite calm can become quite desperate to get away in crowds of strange people and smells, fireworks not withstanding.  And, as we know, leaving them in a car is not an option, either.


Another Choice For Pets

If you cannot keep pets comfortable at home or leave them home alone during holiday festivities, find a safe, secure boarding facility (preferably, cage-free) where they can have a lot of fun and never know anything happened.  This way, you can enjoy the holiday yourself, knowing they are being kept somewhere securely and are enjoying themselves.  And don’t forget that people often set off fireworks a day or so before–and after–the holiday.

NEVER Keep or Use Fireworks Around Pets–Most people realize pets can be injured by fireworks.  But did you know that even unused fireworks can be hazardous? Some fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as arsenic, potassium nitrate, and other heavy metals.


Thundershirt Is Not A Person

Many pet owners have success with using the Thundershirt pressure wrap to calm their pets during storms as well as the fireworks holidays.  But it doesn’t work for all dogs…and you must follow the instructions on getting your dog used to wearing the device.  Noted animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, who helped develop the Thundershirt, has also stated that after about 20 minutes, its effectiveness diminishes.  So if an extended episode of noise is in the cards for your pet, this might not be the best option, even if it has worked for brief periods.

I read a story the other day of a woman simply hugging her dog during storms and fireworks–not restraining the dog, but offering brief, comforting pressure.  This worked so well that the dog would return to her when it was panicked, for more hugs!

So keep in mind…a thundershirt is not the same as having a human there to give comfort.  Pets absolutely know it is we that protect them.

dog with half moon eye

Signs of Panic in Dogs

  • One Paw Raised–cute, but denotes worry
  • Half Moon Eye (white of the eye shows in a half moon. Looks like the pic above.)
  • Displacement Behaviors (behaviors that substitute for panic aggression) such as:

yawning when not tired
licking chops without the presence of food
sudden scratching when not itchy
sudden biting at paws or other body part
sudden sniffing the ground or other object
wet dog shake when not wet or dirty

  • Avoidance Behaviors:

gets up and leaves an uncomfortable situation
turning head away
hiding behind person or object
barking and retreating
rolls over on back in submissive way

  • Other Behaviors:

tail between legs
tail low and only the end is wagging
tail between legs and wagging
tail down or straight for curly-tailed dog (husky, malamute, pug, chow chow, spitz-type dogs etc.)
ears sideways for erect eared dog
ears back and very rapid panting
dog goes into another room away from you and urinates or defecates

fireworks cat

Things To Know About Panic In Cats

A cat’s sense of hearing is far more acute than that of dogs and humans!  A cat can hear sounds up to 64,000 kHz.  By comparison, dogs can hear sounds up to 45,000 kHz, while humans hear sounds only up to 23,000 kHz.  For this reason, sounds are much more intense for cats.  Here are some tips for your cat:

Create A Hideout!–This can be a chair covered with a blanket, a comfy  nest in the back of the closet or bathroom, anything that feels like a cozy wild cat den.  If you can, notice the place they typically hide when they need to get away, and use that.  Shelter it from the noise and light coming in at windows, and get your cat to seek out this safe zone before fireworks begin. Stimulate positive feelings in this place with treats and cuddles.  You can even use catnip, as long as your kitty is the type that gets relaxed with it, and not hyper.  It’s also a good idea to turn on the lights around the house, which will help mute the flashes from fireworks.

Be Cautious With Adding Sounds–Sometimes, pet parents think if they turn up the TV or stereo so it’s louder than whatever’s going on outside, they can fool their pet into thinking they’re safe.  But the resultant noise is usually more stressful than helpful.  There is a variety of calming music for pets.  It’s a good idea to get your pet used to this special music at least a few days before you have need of it.  After a time, they will come to associate it with peace and calm.

Check these links to see what we recommend.

Through a Dog’s Ear

Through a Cat’s Ear.

Homeopathic Remedies–Feliway (cat appeasing pheromones), Spirit Essences, HomeoPet, and Pet Rescue Remedy are extremely helpful.  You can find these at most health food stores or animal supply stores.  Applying a few drops to their food, water, or directly into their mouths BEFORE the booms begin can do wonders for stress levels!  Essential oils such as lavender and valerian can also help with various anxieties. You’ll want to check with your veterinarian before using any of these, for their thoughts on what is best for your pet.

Signs of Panic In Cats

Body – crouched directly on top of all fours, shaking
Belly – not exposed, rapid breathing
Legs – bent
Tail – close to the body
Head – lower than the body, motionless
Eyes – fully open
Pupils – fully dilated
Ears – fully flattened back on the head
Whiskers – back
Vocalisation – plaintive miaow, yowling, growling or silent
Hissing, growling, shaking, drooling
Involuntary urination, defecation
Aggression if approached

We certainly hope this article has helped to give you some choices for your pet to keep them safe and relaxed during the summer holidays.  Please feel free to call or e-mail me at any time with questions and comments.

Joy Jones

Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area.  She is also a  syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.