In March 2007, most pet owners grew very concerned about the food they were feeding their dogs and cats with the announced melamine-poisoned foods on the market. Being “mom” to my adorable and, I thought, very well-cared for King Charles Spaniel, I watched the lists daily with worry. I had believed the food I was feeding him was high quality and safe, yet I visited their website daily for reassurance. And daily I read that the food was safe, they didn’t use products from China, trust them.

My dog started to experience diarrhea the day we moved to a new home Best Wood Router. Being a sensitive soul for whom stress has this effect, I didn’t worry much until day 3 when it not only continued but seemed to worsen. Again, I checked the websites to see if his food was on any of the recall lists. It wasn’t. That night I had the news on in the background, sitting straight up when the latest list was announced  – his food, the food that “had never used products from China”, was on the list. They lied.

I had been poisoning my beloved best friend.

Of course, I immediately disposed of the poisoned garbage and the next day, started cooking for my dog, thinking it would be temporary until the problems were resolved. I began to research what my dog needed nutritionally to make sure I was giving him everything he required to be healthy and happy.

It was that research that shocked me, then just made me furious beyond description. I found out what was really in dog food (and cat food and other pet foods), and it is disgusting, dangerous and poison garbage even without the melamine. I was sickened by what I learned, knowing I had been feeding this to my pets for years, thinking I was doing right by them with the “high-quality” foods I paid premium price for. Not any more. Never again.

Here are some of the “quality” ingredients in your pet’s food:

* “Meat and poultry by-products” is material that comes from the slaughterhouse and dead animals, such as road kill and euthanized companion animals, classified as condemned and unfit for human consumption. It includes lungs (even when filled with pneumonia), spleen, brains, livers (including those infested with worms), bone, beaks, feet, heads, cancerous tissues… the list goes on. Be assured, if it is remotely fit for human consumption, it isn’t in your pet’s food.

* “Meat and bone meal” is the ground refuse from restaurants and grocery stores, dead stock, road kill, euthanized animals, including stomach contents, blood and hooves, cooked until the grease from it rises where it is removed and the moisture squeezed out. It also may contain foreign materials such as metals, hair, glass, mold, pesticide contamination and more.

Carp are one tough fish to catch on the fly. They are extremely wary and spook very easily. With that said, they are quickly gaining respect in the fly fishing community. To fly fish for carp, you need patience and have the right gear. Most use a 6 to 8 weight fly rod setup with a weight forward line. Heavy tippet must be used in order to land these giant fish. 0x-3x is standard issue. Fluorocarbon tippet is a must and will work to your advantage. Fluoro cannot be seen easily by the fish and gives you a little bit on an edge on the carp.

Presentation is key. The fly must not land and “splat” the surface. It does, you will spook the fish. You must cast past the fish and drag the flies where the carp are feeding. Do not hit them on the head or land it in front of them. The South Platte River is the mecca for fly fishing carp. There is nothing like catching a 20 pound carp in moving water. These are also the most educated carp in the west. They have been fished to for several years and are now wary of fisherman. The Platte is a great place to hone your skills and practice. If you can catch a carp in the South Platte River, then you can catch a carp anywhere.

Carp feed mainly on crayfish and worms in the South Platte. Although, they will eat just about anything that they consider food. Including leeches, insects, seeds, other fish and snails. Carp are opportunist, but your fly must look exactly like what they are eating. Move your fly too fast and the fish loses interest. Carp tend to hangout in deep runs and slow pools. This is not always the areas they feed. Carp love sandy and muddy bottoms, where they can forage and sift the bottom for food. Their mouths are like vacuums and they suck up the bottom and spit out everything that is not food. If you can catch one in the act of feeding, then your chances go up exponentially. Picking the right fish is key, I call them ‘happy’ fish. Ones that are going about their day, without knowing you are there. Carp in the South Platte can easily tip the scale over 30 pounds. The farther north and east you go, the more fish there are and the larger they grow.

Prepare your family to get a little muddy in the process, but what a tremendous opportunity for children to see the Wonders of Nature than to take them for a walk in the woods or exploring what is happening in a trickling stream.

When removing wet leaves that have accumulated over the Winter you will find new sprouts beginning to push through the earth. This is a way to open up a conversation about how the leaves are the blankets that keep the sprouts warm until the weather is warm enough for them to grow unprotected.

When walking through the woods you may find Violets, Wild Orchids and many plants that have begun to poke their heads above ground. Often times May Apples, Jack in the Pulpits and even Skunk Cabbage can be found. If any of these plants sound foreign to you it’s a great time to go to the library to find a book about local plants to read to your children before taking your field trip.

If you have an opportunity to walk along a nearby shallow stream you may find tadpoles, newts, snails and all kinds of things under rocks that can easily be lifted by your child. Just this past week, while doing some spring weeding, I was lucky enough to find a large Toad under a wild geranium plant. If you or your neighbor has a small pond you will be surprised at what you can find.

If you feed the birds, or have a neighbor who does, you can watch the birds to see which ones are at the feeder during the warm months. Discuss what the birds eat, i.e. worms, fruit or seeds. Everyone knows that watching for the return of robins is a fun activity and seems to be an easy bird to spot, especially when your preschooler is learning their colors. Keep your eyes open for bird eggs that have fallen to the ground and talk about their size and color.

Growing grass is an inexpensive and fun activity for children, especially when you have them draw a face on a styrofoam cup and paste on googly eyes before filling with potting soil and sprinkling the top with grass seed. This can also be done by using an eggshell that has had the insides blown out. Cut an opening to the small end of the eggshell and gently fill with soil. Sit it on a sunny windowsill where it can be watered and as the grass grows have your child measure the grass before giving the grass a haircut.

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