The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Just Dogs Page 2 of 4

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Doggies Use Backdoor


When it comes to how to use our house, we always keep our pups in mind. It is their home too and we want to make their lives as smooth as possible. Roxie and Charlie prefer outside. So one of the renovation goals is to give them free backyard access.

As soon as we got Roxie, we considered installing a doggy door. In fact, we bought one and have been hoarding it since 2013!


The storm door we had in NC was made in metal, which meant the installation would be permanent. Being a rental property, we were not sure if the future renters would like to have a doggy door, so we did not install it. Now we could use the house however way we want. It became a no brainer to install the doggy door we had.

Our back entrance situation was not good (is there anything?). For one, this was our back storm door when we moved in:


Gorgeous, wasn’t it? It even came with a “built-in” “doggy door”.


In case that you could not see, the entire bottom panel was missing. The previous owner had a small dog who could easily go in and out through the opening.

However, it would not work for us. Charlie and Roxie flat refused to even give it a try. And the opening totally defeated it purpose of being a storm door.

Slav hated this old aluminum door from hour 1. And by hour 18 after moving in, the door had been taken off and loaded on the trailer. We were left with a solid wooden door:


Not so hot either. This door was really the second biggest eyesore with our back entry. It makes my blood boil – could not wait to refinish it.

Slav and I brainstormed a little on what type of door(s) we want at the back and where to install the doggy door. We could

  1. Get an exterior door that could stand water as our only backdoor, and install the doggy door on it. Our neighborhood is really safe and we have a wrap around fence, so there is little chance that anyone would break in from the backdoor. On top of that, our neighbor is a Policeman and he parks his police car in front of our house every night. It helps. 🙂
  2. Get a new storm door and install the doggy door on it. We could lock the wooden backdoor for safety when we are out, and leave it open so the dogs have access to the backyard when we are home.
  3. Install a new storm door, and put the doggy door on the wooden door we have. Pop the storm door open and lock the wooden door when we are out, so the dogs can have access to the yard when we are not home.

After balancing security concerns, the option of having screen/windows, the way we use our backdoor, and the price, we chose the option 2. We plan to put a french or sliding door back here when we redo the kitchen, so it does not make sense to waste a brand new exterior door as in option 1. Storm door do lock, but the locks on them are very weak. So we were not comfortable with opening a hole that a skinny person can squeeze through on the solid wood door, as described in option 3. The only drawback in option 2 is that the dogs will not have backyard access when we are out. But Slav is home 95% of the time, so it is not as big of a concern.

So Lowe’s we went. And by the evening, the doggy door was installed!


Above is the view from the inside of the door. We put the doggy door on the left, away from the hinges.


We love this doggy door, which has a clear plastic curtain with a magnetic strip at the bottom. The length of the plastic curtain can be adjusted slightly to ensure a perfect seal along the sides. And the magnetic strip makes sure that the curtain stays in its place.


The doggy door also has a cover. It is a snap on and easy to take on and off. We will use it in winter to eliminate cold draft.


Roxie, the smart one, figured out how to use the doggy door immediately. As usual, Charlie learned much slower. After watching Roxie going in and out for hours, and mommy waving some delicious treats on the other side, Charlie finally warmed up to this new black hole…


Now we can take the wooden door off and refinish it! It was A MESS. This door has been painted many times over the years. I am almost certain that it contains lead paint.


Our back entrance makeover list now looks like this:

1. Replace the old storm door with something new
2. Install a doggy door on the new storm door
3. Take down the wooden exterior door (done!)
4. Clean, patch, and paint the flaky door frames (in progress)
5. Strip paint off the backdoor
6. Refinish the backdoor with stain or paint (depending on the condition of the wood)
7. Rehang the backdoor and replace the weather strip.

Home-made Bone Broth for Dogs

After weeks of snow, hail and rain, we welcome a gorgeous sunny day here in Evergreen. Blue sky, beautiful clouds and cool breeze make it a perfect day of driving a convertible (borrowed from a friend).  We also set out for a BBQ on our newly finished patio. Roxie and Charlie, of course, are sunbathing by our side.

Besides enjoying fresh air like us humans do, dogs sunbathe for a particular reason – getting their Vitamin D. According to a recent study, most of the domestic dogs do not get enough Vitamin D, which is associated with multiple diseases in dogs, including heart failure and cancer. Neutered male dogs have the lowest blood serum level of vitamin D compared to other dogs, putting them in highest risks to diseases.

Vitamin D is mainly responsible for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body. Insufficient amount of Vitamin D leads to bone deformation and bad teeth. These are a couple ways of supplying your dogs Vitamin D, including home-cooked meals and fish oil/salmon oil supplement, both of which are pricey/time consuming.

We turned to another effective way to protect our pooches from Vitamin D insufficiency – home cooked bone broth. Bone broth does not contain Vitamin D itself, but when cooked right, is enriched with calcium and phosphorus. Mixing bone broth with our pooches’ dry food compensates for potential Vitamin D insufficiency. Over the last four years, we have tried different cooking method with different kind of soup bones, and developed a simple method to supply our pooches rich broth every day. Just like the home-made joint supplements we wrote about a few weeks ago, this home-made bone broth for pooches is simple, cheap, and requires only about an hour of your time each month to prepare.

1. Supplies

– Soup bones. We find that the neck or spine soup bones in Asian/Chinese market are the best for this purpose, because:

  1. Smaller bones for complete cooking – Asian stores have neck bone or spine, and they will chop it for you into small pieces. Comparing to leg bones or hip bones you see in the American stores, these from neck or spine fall apart nicely after cooking, resulting in richer broth with more minerals. Lots of nutrition in the bone will remain in the sediment after cooking. The sediments from neck or spine are relatively soft and in small chunks, so you can easily break them up and incorporated into the broth.
  2. Budget-friendly – neck or spine bones (usually from pigs) are usually $1.19 ~ $1.29 per lb, makes the bone broth super cheap to make. We usually get 3 lb and cook it with an average size of slow cooker, and the broth from these 3 lb will last us for 3~4 weeks.

– Ice tray (similar). For easy storage/distribution of the broth. We find the quick release ones with silicone bottom and rigid sides work the best. (We got ours from Walmart.)

– Sauce/Gravy Ladle. For transfer broth into the ice trays. Regular ladle or spoon works too, but we find the ones with a lip on its side helps preventing spills.

– Plastic Food Wrap and Freezer-safe container. For any big piece of left over bones.


2. Simmering the bones slowly, for a long time, gives the best result.

To ensure the broth is enriched with minerals, the bones needs to be cooked until they fall apart and the bone marrow dissolves. We usually use a slow cooker on high overnight, for 8-10 hours. Simmering the bones on stove also works, but it will take longer to soften the bones, usually 16-20 hours.


The finishing product should look non-transparent and with lots of grease on the top. Keep the grease – it is good for the hair and the nails of your dogs.

3. Ice tray method makes it easy to store and access for the broth.

You can store the broth in any container you like, just make sure that you keep it in the freezer. Over the years, we used to yogurt containers, take out boxes, paper cups (which you can peel away for a quick release), and ice trays. We found ice tray works the best because we can easily calculate how many days of broth we have, and these silicone bottom ice trays really made popping out ice cubes super easy. the only drawback of cooking a huge batch of soup is that these trays takes up quite a lot of freezer space – we have 8 of these trays, and gives pups 4 cubes per day (2 per dog, and they only gets broth with dinner dry food), which give us 24 days worth of broth. So if you only have room in your freezer for 4 of these trays, you will need to cook broth twice a month for two dogs, or give the dogs a bit less each day.


4. Use ladle to carefully transfer the broth from your pot into ice trays, and leave them in freezer for a couple hours before stacking them. Remember to stir frequently during transfer, so the grease on top and the sediments at the bottom will evenly distribute into each cube of the broth.


5. Freeze left over bones.


There is always some left over bones, and they contain quite a bit nutrition as well. We usually separate them in small chunks and wrap them tight, then freeze them all in a container. Each night, when we pop a few cubs of broth, we will take out one portion of the bones and thaw them as well. Mixing them into their dry food while your pooch(es) drooling next to you.

Below is an example of the leg bone after cooking. They are too big and tough to fall apart. We decided to use them as Kong toy and freeze peanut butter in them as a treat, but soon found that they are too hard for our dogs teeth. We eventually threw them away , and stick to the smaller neck bone/spine since.


6. Monitor your pooches after they eat bone soup.

Our dogs love the broth and look forward to dinner everyday. They never had bad reaction to the soup. But if your dog has a sensitive stomach, monitor closely the first a few days when you start giving it the broth. Some dogs may have softer stools.

Roxie and Charlie gets lots of praise for their shining fur and energy. We think having the broth every night helped. They only eat inexpensive dry food otherwise (from Costco). Their two meals are at 7 am and 7 pm. And you can see how much more eager they are before dinners, compared to breakfasts. By 6:50 pm, Roxie and Charlie will be sitting nicely in the kitchen, looking at us intensely, sometimes whine a little bit, to remind us the spoilers. If you give this recipe a try, let us know how your pup loves it. We’d like to know!

Outdoor Water Station for Dogs

Outdoor water for dogs


Roxie and Charlie love to stay in the yard. As long as it is not raining, they always prefer lounging outside to sleeping inside.

We always had an outdoor water station for them at our last rental. It was a big glass bowl that takes about two liters of water, which we refilled once a day. Here in Colorado, the dogs started drinking a lot more water due to the dry weather, and the water we put outside evaporates very quickly.

Soon after we settled in, we started to search for a more updated outdoor water solution for our dogs. We had a few criteria in mind when we started our research:

  1. > 1 liter in volume with a big opening.  Charlie drinks a lot of water at a time. And due to his floppy cheeks, he spills just as much. It is better to have a water station that is shallow and big in diameter, opposed to being small and deep. A big opening of the water bowl not only limits spills, but also allows Roxie and Charlie to drink at the same time.
  2. Automatic refill.  To keep the water fresh,  we would like to keep the water under a relative small volume but refresh it frequently. An automatic dispenser that refills itself saves our labor. We have a faucet in the sunroom to which we can connect the water station.
  3. Can be mounted at knee-height.  Roxie and Charlie have no problem eating/drinking at the floor level. However, we would like to have the option to mount the water station higher.
  4. Inexpensive and easy to fix.

After some research, we ordered a low-end automatic water bowl in which the water can be replenished by the hose after each drink.


Two screws hold the top down onto the tank compartment, which houses a float.


It is basically the same mechanism that toilet tank uses. And on either side, there is a vertical edge with two screw holes for the option of mounting it higher.


All the plastic parts can be taken apart and the water level can be adjusted relatively easily by adjusting float adjustment screw.



After reconnecting everything and to the faucet, we turned on the faucet and watched the water bowl filled.

(It was raining when I took the video. So the water sound you hear from the beginning is the rain, not the faucet.)

There it it. We have used it for almost a month, and it functions as expected. It refills when the water is low, sometimes while the dogs are drinking from it. Roxie and Charlie do not seem to be bothered by the noise it makes during refill.


Do you have an outdoor water station for dogs? How expensive is your setup – and is it worth the money? For long-time users, do you notice any pros and cons for your setup? We are pretty satisfied with this $15 little station now, but would like to learn how other system performs. Our tap water is pretty good (from a well). But at some point, we might need to filter the tap water before giving it to the dogs. Anyone has experience with water stations with a filtration system?

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