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February 23, 2014

Tails of Crate Escape, Lemon Balm as an Herbal Remedy, and C’Town Yappy Hour, 2/28!

As Ernie Sees It


2014 has been quite a year so far!  I can’t wait for salt free streets and green grass! And my blue ball.

Having said that, celebrating our 10th year has been beautiful and nostalgic. So many wonderful dogs and people have made us, that I have been trying to express gratitude…. which is a challenge. I am not clingy and refuse to be. I sometimes give multiple kisses in fast succession, to say hello, I love you, but I can’t do that for everyone. If you are all willing to give me a treat, I will show up, but my Mom will be right behind me, saying no,no,no!

Luckily, Snoopy taught me to type, so I can thank you myself, without all of the other stuff, or live appearances.

Later, Ernestine


Tails of Crate Escape, Raining Cats and Dogs/ Crate Escape too

368 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA.  Where Crate Escape began 10 years ago. It’s quite possible that you haven’t visited our original store. Located in Huron Village, which, in itself, is charming and unique, our store radiates the village feeling. The name was changed to Crate Escape too after a major renovation in 2011.

Thinking about how  Crate Escape opened, grew and changed,  we realized that Brad and Stephanie have many of the characteristics and skills , including creativity and talent,  that have made us extra special in dog care and service. Both of them are super observant, aware of every inch of the 3 Crates and repair or replace everything in need, right away. As an intuitive businessman, Bradley is a also has basic construction skills, and does many of the day to day replacements and repairs; plus, he is a wonderful idea person. Brad and Steph scrutinize each situation to see if it is time for an upgrade. Stephanie has a retail background, and a beautiful sense of decor, which provides originality and character to the stores. Nikkilee, General Manager, joined the team 6 years ago, and has proven invaluable in our growth. She is an ‘over the top’ multitasker, and efficient, which gives staff new challenges weekly. Although upper management stays current on industry trends, the most important components of the business have been ‘the next right thing’ to do, or intuitive, as opposed to following. (components being, dog safety, exercise, socialization, cleanliness, customer service and doggone fun!)

This 10th year gives us a chance to pause, and realize where the business is and how we got here. Our pride is in what has grown to be premier dog care facilities in the Greater Boston area.  Huge thanks to our customers who trust us and keep us aware of their needs and situations.


ernie drawing from website1 Comment from Ernestine:  To those of you who aren’t into holistic, I recommend reading this next article anyway. It provides easy answers to some common issues.

Herbal Medicine for Your Dog

Lemon balm is the Herb of the Year for you and your dog.
By CJ Puotinen, Whole Dog Journal

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a dog-friendly plant with a distinctive lemon-mint fragrance and flavor, lemon balm is best known as a nervine, a calming herb that soothes and relaxes. It’s also a digestive aid that neutralizes gas in the stomach and intestines. Add its muscle-relaxing, deodorizing, disinfecting, and insect-repelling benefits, and you can see why lemon balm belongs in your garden, window box, or patio planter.

Native to the Middle East, lemon balm traveled through all of Europe. Charlemagne ordered his subjects to plant it, Benedictine monks put it in their monastery gardens, and Thomas Jefferson grew it at Monticello. Today the plant is grown commercially as an ingredient in cosmetics, skin care products, and furniture polish.

Lemon balm’s key constituents include volatile oils, tannins, flavonoids, terpenes, and eugenol. Its terpenes are relaxing, the tannins have antiviral effects, and eugenol calms muscle spasms, kills bacteria and has an analgesic (pain relieving)  effect. In recent years lemon balm has made headlines for its ability to treat cold sores and other breakouts caused by the herpes simplex virus and as a treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Its strong performance in the Alzheimer’s studies and its safety make it a compelling candidate for a trial with senior dogs suffering from cognitive
dysfunction, or to reduce the depression and agitation that dogs with cognitive dysfunction can display.

People whose dogs’ flatulence drives them out of the room may especially appreciate lemon balm’s ability to reduce their dog’s gas. Long considered a “universal remedy,” lemon balm is an herb that can be used for almost any ailment but is perhaps most strongly indicated in  dogs with digestive problems, separation anxiety, canine sleep disorders, stress, and irritability. It is also an effective topical treatment for ringworm.

Easy to grow

Like all members of the mint family, lemon balm has square-shaped stems and spreads more through its roots than through seeds. Under the right conditions, it grows like a weed and often is one, taking over entire gardens. Its small white blossoms are so sweet that they attract bees, hence the plant’s scientific name. Melissa is Greek for honey bee. Lemon balm is easy to grow in full sun to partial shade. It doesn’t need fertilizer – in fact, fertilizing the plant reduces its medicinal benefits. Lemon balm is happiest in poor, sandy soil. Its seeds need several weeks of exposure to light and moisture before sprouting. Many nurseries sell lemon balm seedlings, and once plants are established, they care easily propagated by dividing the roots. Lemon balm is a thirsty plant, so water it during dry weather. However, too much rain or moisture can produce mildew, so good drainage is vital.

Unlike most herbs, lemon balm is best harvested in the afternoon, when its essential oils are strongest. For maximum yield, cut lemon balm before
flowers bloom. The more it’s trimmed, the more leaves it produces.Use the fresh herb. Finely mince or chop lemon balm leaves and add them to
your dog’s food at the rate of 1 teaspoon per 15 pounds of body weight. This is approximately 1 tablespoon for a dog weighing 45 to 50 pounds. Fresh minced lemon balm can also be used as a poultice or wound dressing. Mash leaves or pulverize them in a blender, apply to the affected area, and
hold in place with a bandage.

Lemon balm can be used straight from the garden to keep your dog smelling fresh. Simply pick a few stems, crush the leaves, and run them over your dog’s coat. In addition, lemon balm’s citronella like fragrance is said to repel mosquitoes and other insects. If you can convince your dog to chew on a lemon balm leaf, her breath will smell wonderful.

And, Don’t Forget!

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February 14, 2014

Tails of Crate Escape; Harrison! One of Crate’s First Dogs! Herbal Remedies for your Pup


Ernestine, Rover Reporter

This month we are celebrating Harrison, a miniature schnauzer who was one of Raining Cats and Dog’s ( now, Crate Escape too) first dogs. His temperament  was polite and quiet, until you showed him some affection; then he was a total love bug.  He was totally content in daycare and when his mom,  Judy, came to pick him up at the end of the day, he was in heaven!! He danced around her, a bundle of joy.  Harry’s puppy picture is below and his handsome adult profile is the photo on the top of this page– left hand corner.


Judy shared what Crate Escape is to her.

Harrison,  by Judy Blotnik

“Harrison was my daughter, Emmy’s, 16th birthday present in 2004. We were going through a very rough time as my husband  was terminally ill and buying this very cute mini-schnauzer for her, one that she picked out, was supposed to help with the very sad times in our home.

He was barely 8 weeks old but having a backyard in Cambridge was very helpful in his training. Sort of. Emmy went to school and I had a job so when I saw that Raining Cats & Dogs opened on Huron Ave., Harrison was enrolled for a few hours and then full-time. Our relationship with Stephanie and Brad first and then with a whole bevvy of terrific caretakers like Barbara Stanley was one of family as they co-parented Harrison with us. But it wasn’t just us who loved this crew, it was Harrison’s second home, one he trotted off to happily every morning as if to school. Separation anxiety? Not ever.

When I traveled he stayed with the Hastings in their home and saw Ernie as his older sibling.
Harrison has a unique, calm disposition and is a delightful “person” to this day. I raise a glass 
to the crew at Crate for a great job on all fronts. In NY now, we miss you desperately.”
We miss you too, Judy and Harry!!


Below is part of an article on ‘Holistic Healing; from the Whole Dog Journal.  Many of you know about the publication;  it is very well written and highly respected in the dog world. Here is a brief intro to the article’ then I am inserting a couple of conditions that can be treated herbally each week.

drakes ernie on deck1

(I requested a summer photo, to remind us, there really IS good weather sometimes!)

Later, Ernestine

Herbal Remedies Common Canine Ailments

Check out these herbal remedies for a few common canine ailments.

By Susan Eskew

Good holistic health care fulfills the needs of the whole animal being, physically, mentally, and emotionally. A sound, well balanced diet (along with fresh, clean water), appropriate exercise, and proper behavioral education just about

covers the bases.Or does it? Health is individual. Many people consider their animals to be healthy as long as they aren’t sick, but to me, a healthy dog is happy and expressive, exuding resilience. Whether our animal companion denotes health with a gleaming eye, a flashing coat, and an athletic leap for a Frisbee, or a half cocked ear, sly grin, and thumping tail from the Barcalounger, we can best ascertain the level of our friends’ health by observing over time what’s normal for each unique individual.Healthy animals can and do get sick occasionally. Sometimes a “tincture of time” is the best remedy, as the dog’s body fights off an invading bacteria or virus and the “illness” resolves with the passing of time. Occasionally, you’ll need veterinary help for a pet’s acute or severe problem. But in other times, a minimal treatment provides a sufficient level of care to boost the healing response. That’s where herbal treatments shine.Why should dogs have herbs?Plants provide vital natural sources of vitamins minerals, and trace elements that many of today’s commercial diets just don’t provide, what with poor-quality and over-processed ingredients.


Just as in people, arthritis is probably the most common chronic health condition in older dogs. It is characterized by chronic inflammation and calcium deposits in the joints, leading to stiffness, swelling, and pain.

A classic herb tea for arthritis uses equal parts alfalfa, burdock, and white willow. The first two are excellent detoxifiers, and white willow is an effective anti-inflammatory and pain relieving agent. In addition, alfalfa is full of nutrients. This is best administered as a tea, mixed in with the dog’s food or water. The liquid has a pleasant taste, but if a dog refuses it, squirt a teaspoon of the mixture into his mouth two or three times a day.

Given that it is such a common condition, it’s a cinch that a number of herbal treatments have been recommended by veterinarians and herbalists. Dr. Richard Pitcairn, a well-known holistic veterinarian and author of “Natural Health for Dogs & Cats” suggests adding one to three tablespoons of alfalfa to the daily diet, or using the herb in a tea. Juliette de Bairacli Levy, author of “The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat,” suggests feeding raw comfrey and chopped parsley in the dog’s food, and rosemary or nettles tea.

Herbalist Diane Stein, author of “The Natural Remedy Book for Dogs & Cats,” recommends feeding garlic to reduce arthritic symptoms. She suggests other herbs can be used for specific properties, according to their role in the individual’s arthritis. Yucca can be used for its steroid and pain-relief properties. Licorice root can display anti-inflammatory action. Horsetail grass contains silica and aids calcium absorption.For pain relief, Stein recommends valerian root, skullcap, St. John’s Wort, chickweed, or feverfew.


Diarrhea is a symptom rather than a disease. Diarrhea with no other symptom in an adult dog can be safely allowed to continue for a day or two, as the process works to rid the body of causative agents. However,a dog with diarrhea accompanied by abdominal distention, projectile vomiting, dehydration, fever, or respiratory symptoms, should be seen by a veterinarian as quickly as possible. If the stool contains blood or is black and tarry, there may be intestinal tract bleeding; seek immediate veterinary attention. Puppies suffering from diarrhea also need expert attention – dehydration can quickly result in death to vulnerable pups.

Diarrhea can be caused by many agents or conditions. Toxins from flea collars or dips can cause diarrhea and vomiting. In this case, wash the dog with soap and water and remove the collar.

Sometimes animals eat plants that cause diarrhea to rid their bodies of wastes. Once the animal has removed the causative factor from its system, or toxin been removed, the diarrhea usually stops. Diarrhea is often the result of your dog eating something laden with bacteria, such as spoiled food or dead animals. If you know your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t have, and suspect that as the main cause of his diarrhea, your first treatment should be to withhold his regular food until the diarrhea has run its course. Then give him one half to one teaspoon of slippery elm syrup or powder mixed with honey or water,three times a day for three days.

Ear Infections

Head shaking, pawing, or scratching at the ears, a foul odor, brown discharge, and redness or swelling inside the ear flap all indicate infection. The causative agents may be a foreign body (tick, foxtail), bacterial or fungal infection, or even ear mites (these are usually not common to dogs, but are contagious to those dogs living closely with infected cats). A veterinarian’s inspection with an otoscope, and perhaps a slide prepared with a smear of the dog’s offending ear exudate will offer clues as to the source of his discomfort and subsequent treatment. Foreign bodies may require removal by your veterinarian.Many flap-eared dogs have hair growing in the ear canals. Trimming this hair will help air flow and facilitate drying after bathing or swimming.

A clothespin can be used periodically to hold back the ears of long-haired dogs (take care to close the pin on the long hair, not the tender ear flaps) to expose the insides of the ears to air and help heal infections.

To clean ears, make a solution of half witch hazel, half water, or half hydrogen peroxide and half water, wiping out the ear canal gently with cotton balls. Mullein and garlic ear oil, readily available from health food

February 8, 2014

Crate Escape Charlestown Yappy Hour; February 28, Tips for Dental Dog Month

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Ten Steps to Your Dog’s Dental Health

ASPCA Article

 ernie drawing from website1Comment from Ernie:  The article below from the ASPCA is interesting and informative.  Brushing teeth  is recommended to keep your pup’s mouth free of plaque and bacteria. We are featuring several  new dog oral care products, in honor of February being Dog Dental Month.  Check out the blogroll on the right hand side of the page for details.  The Plaque Zapper is on special sale this month, 50% off; part of our 10 years, $10 special price on one product/ month! Crate Escape also offers Ark Naturals Brushless Chews. What does your dog do for oral health?

Did you know that regularly care of your dog’s teeth and providing her with a healthy diet and plenty of chew toys can go a long way toward keeping her mouth healthy? Many pooches show signs of gum disease by the time they’re four years old because they aren’t provided with proper mouth care—and bad breath is often the first sign of a problem. Give your dog regular home checks and follow the tips below, and you’ll have a very contented pooch with a dazzling smile.

1. The Breath Test

Sniff your dog’s breath. Not a field of lilies? That’s okay—normal doggie-breath isn’t particularly fresh-smelling. However, if his breath is especially offensive and is accompanied by a loss of appetite, vomiting or excessive drinking or urinating, it’s a good idea to take your pooch to the vet.

2. Lip Service

Once a week, with your dog facing you, lift his lips and examine his gums and teeth. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. His teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar.

3. Signs of Oral Disease

The following are signs that your dog may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian:

    • Bad breath
    • Excessive drooling
    • Inflamed gums
    • Tumors in the gums
    • Cysts under the tongue
    • Loose teeth

4. The Lowdown on Tooth Decay

Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause build-up on a dog’s teeth. This can harden into tartar, possibly causing gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss. One solution? Regular teeth cleanings, of course.

5. Canine Tooth-Brushing Kit

Get yourself a toothbrush made especially for canines or a clean piece of soft gauze to wrap around your finger. Ask your vet for a toothpaste made especially for canines or make a paste out of baking soda and water. Never use fluoride with dogs under six months of age—it can interfere with their enamel formation. And please do not use human toothpaste, which can irritate a dog’s stomach. Special mouthwash for dogs is also available—ask your vet.

6. Brightening the Pearly Whites

Taking these steps will make brushing a lot easier for the both of you:

    • First get your dog used to the idea of having her teeth brushed. Massage her lips with your finger in a circular motion for 30 to 60 seconds once or twice a day for a few weeks. Then move on to her teeth and gums.
    • When your pooch seems comfortable being touched this way, put a little bit of dog-formulated toothpaste or a paste of baking soda and water on her lips to get her used to the taste.
    • Next, introduce a toothbrush designed especially for dogs—it should be smaller than a human toothbrush and have softer bristles. Toothbrushes that you can wear over your finger (or a clean piece of gauze) are also available and allow you to give a nice massage to your dog’s gums.
    • Finally, apply the toothpaste to her teeth for a gentle brushing, as in step 7.
    • A veterinary exam beforehand may be helpful to find out if your dog’s gums are inflamed. If your dog has mild gingivitis, brushing too hard can hurt her gums.

7. Brushing Technique

Yes, there is actually a technique! Place the brush or your gauze-wrapped finger at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and clean in small, circular motions. Work on one area of your dog’s mouth at a time, lifting her lip as necessary. The side of the tooth that touches the cheek usually has the most tartar, and giving a final downward stroke can help to remove it. If your dog resists having the inner surfaces of her teeth cleaned, don’t fight it—only a small amount of tartar accumulates there. Once you get the technique down, go for a brushing two or three times a week.

8. Know Your Mouth Disorders

Getting familiar with the possible mouth problems your dog may encounter will help you determine when it’s time to see a vet about treatment:

    • Periodontal disease is a painful infection between the tooth and the gum that can result in tooth loss and spread infection to the rest of the body. Signs are loose teeth, bad breath, tooth pain, sneezing and nasal discharge.
    • Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums caused mainly by accumulation of plaque, tartar and disease-producing bacteria above and below the gum line. Signs include bleeding, red, swollen gums and bad breath. It is reversible with regular teeth cleanings.
    • Halitosis—or bad breath—can be the first sign of a mouth problem and is caused by bacteria growing from food particles caught between the teeth or by gum infection. Regular tooth-brushings are a great solution.
    • Swollen gums develop when tartar builds up and food gets stuck between the teeth. Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth at home and getting annual cleanings at the vet can prevent tartar and gingivitis.
    • Proliferating gum disease occurs when the gum grows over the teeth and must be treated to avoid gum infection. An inherited condition common to boxers and bull terriers, it can be treated with antibiotics.
    • Mouth tumors appear as lumps in the gums. Some are malignant and must be surgically removed.
    • Salivary cysts look like large, fluid-filled blisters under the tongue, but can also develop near the corners of the jaw. They require drainage, and the damaged saliva gland must be removed.
    • Canine distemper teeth can occur if a dog had distemper as a puppy. Adult teeth can appear looking eroded and can often decay. As damage is permanent, decayed teeth should be removed by a vet.

9. Chew on This

Chew toys can satisfy your dog’s natural desire to chomp, while making his teeth strong. Gnawing on a chew toy can also help massage his gums and help keep his teeth clean by scraping away soft tartar. Ask your vet to recommend toxin-free rawhide, nylon and rubber chew toys.

P.S.: Gnawing also reduces your dog’s overall stress level, prevents boredom and gives him an appropriate outlet for his natural need to chew.

10. Diet for Healthy Teeth

Ask your vet about a specially formulated dry food that can slow down the formation of plaque and tartar. Also, avoid feeding your dog table scraps, instead giving him treats that are specially formulated to keep canine teeth healthy.

Here’s Ernie!

With my parents talking about the ‘old days’ when Crate Escape first opened and I was a puppy, I remember when I was really in charge! I played in the pen at Raining Cats and Dogs, with the other dogs, but if I gave my Mom the ‘sly eye’ saying I wanted to come out and do my own dog interviews or check out a new toy she sometimes said yes.  Those were the days!

We will be profiling one of our original all time favorite dogs, Harrison, a handsome miniature schnauzer, this month. He has moved from Cambridge, but he visits my house for a few days each year, so we get to catch up. A dear friend, that Harry.

So, start taking better care of your dogs teeth this month, and put the Charlestown Yappy Hour, February 28th, 5-7pm at Crate in C’town, on your calendar!



Later, Ernestine


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