Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tea Party

The year's end is a fine time to highlight the most useful thing we've learned about in ages -passion flower (passiflora foetida).  
We started by foraging and drying it for tea and both noticed how better rested we were the morning after an evening cup. A little online research revealed that it is safe for dogs. 

Theanimalherbalist.com has a page that I recommend reading. 
The description of symptoms that passion flower addresses "... separation anxiety or fear aggression that is associated with jealousy of another animal." was reason enough to give it a try. 
I'm looking at you Maggie and April -2 dogs that have gotten much better over the years, but still have a nasty habit of lashing out at other dogs vying for Sean's attention. Frankie and Bosha have similar issues, though they are slightly less fixated. A dose of passion flower makes a difference in all of them! They seem happier and are noticeably less defensive/confrontational with no grogginess. The effect is subtle, but undeniable.  
Sean and a mellow April.

We've had no luck yet finding the supplies we need to make tinctures, and we can't possibly afford to buy them for so many dogs, so we been giving it to them in powdered form. We've started with boiled potatoes as a cost-effective and successful medium. Herbed potatoes for the discriminating dog!  Roughly 1/2 tsp for a small dog, 1 tsp large -mixed in a bite of spuds (with garlic powder and olive oil for the persnickety few). We've been feeding it to many of the dogs (usually in the morning) and paying attention to the results.
It has the most noticeable impact on unquestionably nervous dogs, but it has a calming effect on most of them. A handful receive it almost daily and I never want to be without it!  Medication time at the asylum.

The last 3+ years have undeniably been made more stressful as a result of the presence of the six dogs we call theTribe. The number of them, coupled with their manic personalities, result in a terrifying sibling group mind. Their family motto would be "vigilance and hysteria." 
They've made hosting volunteers and Couchsurfers difficult and less pleasant -so much so that it has been over a year since we've considered it.

Zoot (theTribe) on passion flower is slightly less crazed. 

I know a fair amount about about dogs, but there is much more that I don't know. Some of the behavioral changes surprised me. After a few days on passion flower, Mega and Amber (both of theTribe) volunteered to go along on Sean's morning run for the first time in months!
Amber and Ginger.

Passion flower worked so well on dogs whose behaviors are obviously anxiety based, that it made us reevaluate what motivates the behavior of the other dogs that showed a distinct change. It has little to no effect on Ginger, a sensible, well-balanced girl. 
Ginger and Ziggy, morning walk.

Then there is Ziggy: heart of a lion, brain of a turnip. Frustratingly single-minded about barking when he's in the yard and perfectly well behaved outside of it. Newer recruit Roxy is similar (and April and Greta to a degree). I've come to see this as a territorial anxiety and it is noticeably reduced by the addition of passion flower. 
Zasu and Ziggy.

Initial attempts at making passion flower biscuits have been a resounding success! The original batch was
-whole wheat/gluten free flour (what I had already open)
-roasted beet and pineapple juice puree (left over from making a batch of  "http://minimalistbaker.com/fudgy-vegan-beet-cupcakes/" -which were freaking amazing!)
-ground flax, garlic powder and dried passion flower
-spread on greased baking sheet, pre-cut with pizza wheel and baked

The result is more aptly described as purple jerky (sounds like a euphemism) than biscuits, but nearly all the dogs loved it! All but 3! Outstanding! 
The improved version also has olive oil; it comes out thin and crispy. We call them Beet Thins. The problem now is explaining that they don't all need it! We have some expert moochers.
Amber is much less tense on passion flower, while Bette and Linda (aforementioned expert moocher) need no help with being well-adjusted.

Seven happy little dogs in a row (and 2 of them benefit from passion flower).

I hope that by reducing their anxiety we can increase their quality of life. I'm absolutely certain that reducing the frequency of crazy outbursts (barking at birds?!) and bone-headed skirmishes will increase the quality of our lives, as caretakers.  
Three of these seven have noticeable behavioral improvements from passion flower.

A happy new year to all the lovely pollinators, without whom there would be no passion flower! You're the bee's knees!
...and best wishes to the helpful boa constrictor that took up residence here for a while.  Good hunting in your new (and hopefully safer) home in the deep woods.