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Contest: 12 Family-friendly Activities at the National Western Stock Show (Win Tickets!)

A Colorado tradition every January 6-21, 2018, the National Western Stock Show attracts more than 600,000 people each year. It is the premier livestock, rodeo, and horse show in the nation, but this event brings more to Denver than just cattle and horses. It’s full of family fun and events for all ages! You can visit for a full calendar listing, but here are few family friendly event highlights:

The Petting Farm

Located on the 3rd floor of the Expo Hall, come face to face with over 60 barnyard animals! The Petting Farm is presented by King Soopers and is FREE with your grounds admission ticket! Mini Sicilian donkeys, pygmy goats, and mini call ducks, make up the diverse group of friendly animals. Ice cream cones of food can be purchased for $3 at entry.

CSU Ag Adventure 

This is the perfect place for children and adults to learn about the world of agriculture!  Located on the 3rd floor of the Expo Hall and FREE of charge, you will have the opportunity to have a hands-on experience learning about the animal and crop production, and how we use them everyday lives.  You don’t want to miss this interactive exhibit.

Hutchison Western Pony Trails Exhibit

Horse around in this exhibit that will teach you everything want to know about equine! Located in the Events Center Paddock next to the National Western Nursery and FREE of charge, the Hutchison Western Pony Trails exhibit is interactive, educational, and built with kids in mind! Learn how to measure a horse, the differences between English and Western disciplines, and even get a look at the Denver Mounted Patrol. 

Pedal Tractor Races

Give your youngster the rare opportunity to ride their own John Deere tractor!  Kids pedal their way through a fun filled obstacle course and race for the chance to be Champion!

Stick Horse Rodeo

The National Western Stick Horse Rodeo is perfect for your favorite buckaroos!  Kids have the opportunity to create their own, pint-sized rodeo as they hop on a stick horse and compete in some of rodeo’s favorite events including barrel racing, steer roping and bull riding.  Stick horse rodeos are a must for any future cowboy or cowgirl!

Top Hogs

Watch your favorite barnyard animals perform thrilling tricks, act out hysterical impressions and even ride a skateboard!  Kids will have the exclusive opportunity to meet the brilliant pigs after the performance.

Farmyard Follies

This delightful show features the lovable critters from the famous Great American Petting Farm. A funny and educational animal entertainment show that features goats, sheep and llamas performing with the infamous trouble-making spotted donkey, Fiona-No-No. Hosted by one of the “Zoo Crew,” the show includes animal behavior and antics accompanied by fascinating facts and stories about each type of animal.

Dairy Discovery Zone

The Dairy Discovery Zone is a fun, interactive exhibit where you and your family can discover the world of dairy and how your milk gets from the farm to the fridge. From nutrition facts to mouthwatering recipes, your family will get to see what it’s like to milk a cow, test your farm strength and score cool freebies. Visit us in the South Food Court to see how milk gets from the farm to your fridge, play cheesy games, get a free backpack and even enter to win FREE MILK FOR A YEAR! Learn more at

Mutton Bustin’

One of the National Western’s most popular events, Mutton Bustin’ features children ages 5-7 and under 55 pounds riding sheep out of a chute and into the arena. Anything goes, and usually does, as contestants hold on as long as they can!

Fabulous Farm Animals

Presented by Children’s Farms of America, Fabulous Farm Animals is the perfect way for everyone young and old to learn about agriculture!  This game show format will keep you entertained the entire time.  Located in the Beef Palace Auction Arena, you can take in this awesome show during School Visit times: 10:00am and 11:00am daily Monday, January 8 – Friday, January 13. 

Xtreme Dog Show

Dog lovers unite for a show full of tricks, stunts and unpredictable antics – all performed by man’s best friend! Trained to run, jump and retrieve at incredible speeds, this cast of canines will bark their way into your hearts and leave fans of all ages laughing and cheering throughout the entire show. This year, Xtreme Dogs is excited to feature Sara & Hero from American’s Got Talent.  Sara & Hero placed fifth on AGT last season and will be showcasing their Vegas-style act at National Western Stock Show during both performances. You also can meet the Xtreme Dogs stars at the Pat & Chat following each performance. 

Monday, January 15, 2018  |  3:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018  |  6:30 p.m.

 Wild West Show

 National Western’s Wild West Show highlights the color and pageantry of the Old West! Fans of all ages are sure to be entertained by their favorite Wild West legends, including Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley and others. The show is full of quick draw antics and cowboy entertainment, painting the story of how the West was won. Patterned after the great Buffalo Bill shows of yesteryear, the Wild West Show features nonstop action that brings guests back to the original ways of the West.

 Saturday, January 13, 2018  |  5:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 14, 2018  |  4:00 p. m.


Mile High Mamas is giving away four tickets to the  Wild West Show on Sunday, January 14 at 4 p.m. You may enter as many as five times!

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Making Health Care Work for Families with this Cutting-edge New Model

One of the toughest times as a mom is when your kids get sick, really sick.

One. After. Another.

And then YOU get sick while your kids are still miserable with what’s going around. Now your whole house is a germ-infested mess because no one has the energy to clean up, make dinner or even take a bath. Sound familiar?

One of the reasons we live through this illness hell is because going to the doctor is a lot of work when everyone is sick and the copays and bills that come after are frustrating. With long wait times to get an appointment, then short office visits and bills that bombard you later, health insurance is not working for families. But there are options that ensure great health care for every member of your household.

Provider Access at a Flat Rate

“We don’t worry about copays or how much it will cost if one of the kids gets sick,” Hailey Norman said about her experience with PeakMed, her family’s health care provider. PeakMed is membership-based family medicine, similar to direct primary care. Members pay a monthly fee and see their doctors as much as they want. Additionally they can text, email, call or video chat with their doctor when necessary, so members can still get medical issues addressed after office hours.

Norman lives in Colorado Springs and has six children ranging in age from three years old to 16 years old. She is acutely aware of the need to have a doctor available to meet the needs of their large family.

Meghan LoRe and her son may have a smaller family, but they signed up for PeakMed for the same reasons. “My son is three and in daycare and sick all of the time. I knew we would need to to be at the doctor more often,” LoRe said. Her son had an after-hours rash and a high fever recently. She was grateful to be able to send photos of the rash to their provider who explained the treatment and that it wasn’t anything that required an urgent care or emergency room visit. He’s all better now and she is thankful for not having to pay extra money for a run to the ER.

Quality Time with Providers

One perk to this health care model is that providers have the time work with you on your health care goals. Many clinics have 10-15 minute doctor appointments. At a direct primary care facility, those times are longer. At PeakMed, providers will meet with you for up to an hour.

Prior to joining PeakMed, Diana Alestri and her family of four grew increasingly frustrated with the long wait times accompanying visits to their pediatrician. “I loved my pediatrician at the time but hated spending more time in the waiting room than I was at the actual appointments. I was ready for a change.”

For months, Norman struggled with ringing in her ear, followed by a muscle spasm down her spine and shooting pain into her head. She saw many specialists about her health issues but the quality time she’s able to spend with her PeakMed provider, diagnosing the problem, led to a breakthrough. “I am functioning so much better.”

Saving Money, Better Health Care

Norman’s family still carries catastrophic health coverage for their family in the event of an emergency, but she is confident investing in a monthly membership at PeakMed has saved them thousands of dollars on health care since they began in April 2017.

LoRe is very happy with the care she and her son have received for the affordable rate that PeakMed provides. But aside from that she feels that the caring staff is just what the doctor ordered. “I feel more a part of a family. They are always nice and there for you. I so much prefer PeakMed over insurance.”

With so many families frustrated with the care they receive through their health insurance, it’s time for innovation. PeakMed is redesigning health care so moms, dads and children can see the doctor when they need to and not only because they can afford to.

In partnership with Mile High Mamas. 

My Wish For You – Get Help, Get Stronger

About a year and a half ago I finally overcame my struggle with pregnancy-related depression and anxiety. It was a dark time for me and I feel like I missed out on a lot of my baby’s life. Now that I have stepped out of the darkness, I can see my own missed opportunities for help. I wish I had talked to my husband, or mother or someone about what was going on instead of keeping it to myself.  I wish I had been honest with my doctor and taken his advice to go talk to a counselor.  My wish now is for others to seek support and have the resources to overcome pregnancy-related depression and anxiety.

My experience with pregnancy-related depression and anxiety was like many other new moms. When my daughter was finally sleeping better at night, I couldn’t sleep myself.  I cried and was frustrated and overwhelmed all the time.  I didn’t want to go outside at all. I’m a nurse on a labor-and-delivery unit so I should have known the signs better and gotten help sooner, right? What I have learned from this experience is that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, anyone can experience pregnancy-related depression and anxiety.  

I have a history of depression and, looking back, believe I also suffered from pregnancy-related depression with my first child.  Knowing how hard motherhood felt with my first, I came up with my own plan and didn’t ask for more resources from the counselor in the hospital after my second child was born.  My own plan was to do acupuncture and not be placed on medications for fear of them being unsafe. I have since learned that medications are safe, not only during pregnancy but while breastfeeding. Treatment for pregnancy-related depression and anxiety can be different for everyone so you have to do what’s best for you.

After trying acupuncture for about a month and not feeling like it was helping, I called my OBGYN office and asked to be placed back on my anti-depressants. My doctor wanted to see me right away to write the prescription and give me a number for someone to talk to for support.  I also called my employee assistance program to get other names and numbers. Still, I never called anyone. Why? Because I didn’t feel like I could take the time to go and talk with someone.  Because my husband was back to working full time and was taking online college courses.  Because I also had a toddler and didn’t want to burden anyone else to come and watch my children. Because of a million reasons.

Six months after talking to my OBGYN, I shared my symptoms with my primary care provider who sent me to a psychiatrist.  After finally talking with the psychiatrist and adjusting my medications, I started feeling better and could function in life. What a difference.

Since sharing my story, I have had friends and co-workers say they wished I had said something to them because they would have been there for me. Looking back, I believe I may have overcome my struggle much sooner if I had just taken the time to talk to someone. I didn’t have to go through it alone.

Pregnant women and new moms: use your support system and talk about it.  Being open and honest and talking about what’s going on makes you stronger.  You can’t take care of your new baby if you can’t take care of yourself.  Ask questions and ask for help.  Everyone is going through something, we have to support one another.

Friends, family, and partners: help out the new moms in your life.  Make meals, do the laundry, clean the house, take the baby so they can nap or just take time for themselves.  

Our babies need us and we need them! For more information about pregnancy-related depression and anxiety, and to find local support, visit

Ashlyn Baird, Colorado Mom

Putting the “Care” Back Into Family Health Care

We have all had to visit urgent care or the emergency room for ourselves or a family member because our clinic is closed or we can’t get a doctor appointment when we need it. And when you do make an appointment, you frequently have to schedule well in advance, endure long wait times and very short appointments. Even with health insurance, those medical visits can leave families with expensive co-pays and high medical bills.

So how do you solve this health care rut for your family? Mile High Mamas recently sat down with Dr. Mark Tomasulo, founder and chief medical officer of Denver-based PeakMed, to discuss whether direct primary care (DPC) is a viable solution for health care among Colorado families.

Mile High Mamas: What is direct primary care?

Dr. Mark Tomasulo: Direct primary care (DPC) removes insurance from health care allowing patients to access primary care medicine for a monthly, quarterly or annual fee. DPC improves the connection between a doctor and patient. Patients benefit from cost savings and better access to their physician to focus on preventative care.

For example, PeakMed’s monthly plans begin at just $79 for a single member. For that fee, you can see your PeakMed physician as often as you like with no additional fees, no co-pays and no insurance.

MHM: What is PeakMed?

MT: PeakMed is a membership-based solution similar to DPC. We strive to solve two problems in the health care industry: affordability and access to care. Bypassing insurance allows PeakMed members and providers the necessary time for appointments with no deductibles, co-pays or insurance required. Through PeakMed in-person visits, as well as email, phone, text or video visits, PeakMed members can see their doctors during same-day or next-day appointments. Members pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited visits, 24-7 access.

MHM: Is PeakMed health insurance?

MT: PeakMed is not health insurance and does not bill insurance. It is membership-based primary care. We recommend having insurance in addition to PeakMed, in case of a major medical event, like a severe injury or illness.

MHM: If we already have health insurance, how will we save money by adding the cost of DPC to our health care?

MT: By pairing a DPC practice, like PeakMed, with a high-deductible insurance plan, the cost combined can be less than a traditional Gold or Platinum health plan. Without PeakMed, you would pay deductibles and co-pays for doctor visits, racking up thousands more dollars in health care expenses. With PeakMed, for example, a family of four can see their doctor as much as they want for less than $4,000 a year, about half of the deductible for many insurance plans. With PeakMed, you see your doctor when you want to or need to, not just when you can afford to. 

MHM: Who is DPC an ideal health care solution for and what ailments can be treated?

MT: DPC is for people who are tired of long wait times, short appointments and going to urgent care or the ER because they can’t see their physician. DPC doctors typically treat colds, the flu, strep throat, ear infections, rashes, ear, eye, skin and sinus infections, and sprains and strains. Additionally, DPC practices offer EKG access, wart and skin-tags removal, weight loss and overall health management and preventative care, like annual and school physicals.

For some DPC practices, prescriptions, vaccinations and lab work may be included in the membership fee, however, at PeakMed, we offer these services at low, wholesale cost.

MHM: How can I get signed up for a DPC?

MT: First, check with your employer. Many companies offer DPC, like PeakMed, as a complement to your health insurance. Second, join a DPC on your own as an individual or family.

With this year’s open enrollment period underway, families should be aware of every health care option available, including DPC practices in Colorado, like PeakMed with locations in Colorado Springs and Englewood and in 2018, Littleton. When poring over your choices this year, consider the numerous advantages that DPC practices offer to keep you and your family healthy.

In partnership with Mile High Mamas

FREE infant CPR and adult hands-only CPR training sessions

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest fears and nightmares of parents is the possibility of their child choking. In this critical moment, we often panic and do not know what to do to effectively prevent the worst.

The American Heart Association is here to help with a FREE infant CPR and choking relief training session at 8 a.m. and  adult hands-only CPR training sessions at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Saturday, December 16, 2017 at North High School, 2960 N. Speer Blvd, Denver, CO.  Each session will take approximately 45 minutes.

All event participants will receive an American Heart Association CPR Anytime Kit that contains a manikin and instructional DVD, which can be used to train other individuals.  Attendees are welcome to participate in both the infant and adult training sessions.

The training sessions are free and walk-ins are welcome, but attendees are encouraged to RSVP at

Nearly 360,000 Americans suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year and 90 percent die because they do not receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene.  Approximately 70 percent of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they do not know how to administer CPR or they are afraid of hurting the victim.  If started immediately, hands-only CPR can double or triple a person’s chances of survival.

Eighty percent of sudden cardiac arrests happen in private or residential settings.  Statistically speaking, if called on to give CPR in an emergency, individuals will most likely try to save the life of someone they love: a child, a spouse, a parent or a friend.

December is a time to celebrate loved ones and there is no better way to do it than with this free 45-minute class that could potential save a life.  

In partnership with Mile High Mamas

Santa’s Big Day at Outlets at Castle Rock Kicks Off a Month of Festivities!

To celebrate the arrival of Jolly Old St. Nick, Outlets at Castle Rock will be hosting a special family-friendly celebration on Saturday, Nov. 18 dubbed ‘Santa’s Big Day.’

The morning will begin at 8:30AM with a pancake breakfast with Santa in the Food Court for $5 per person (purchase tickets here); all proceeds benefiting Special Olympics of Colorado. After posing for photos and meeting with attendees, Santa will move to an outdoor courtyard at 10AM to announce the launch of the season-long ‘Run, Run Rudolph’ scavenger hunt activities.

The ‘Run, Run Rudolph’ scavenger hunt is a self-guided tour around the center to find all 9 of Santa’s reindeer – including Rudolph – that will be on display throughout the holiday season. Participants are given a map and reindeer stickers at Customer Service and, after going on the hunt, those that return with the stickers placed over each correct location will receive a special treat from Cinnabon.

The animated reindeer installations are new for the 2017 season and were designed specifically for Outlets at Castle Rock. Each reindeer is programmed to have individual movements and the herd was built using the same control systems as the animatronics displays at Disneyland. Special effects will include moving their heads to look around at shoppers and shaking their necks draped with hand tuned sleigh bells that emit a perfect Christmas jingle. 

“With this new extra special decor, Outlets at Castle Rock is going above and beyond to transform into a winter wonderland,” said Andrea Nyquist, Marketing Director. “It’s the perfect place for families to take their family photos, meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and build magical memories this holiday season.”

Additional Santa Claus activities scheduled for the 2017 holiday season are detailed below:

 Dec. 3 – ‘Santa Cares’ Creates Holiday Magic for Children with Special Needs

Outlets at Castle Rock is proud to host a ‘Santa Cares’ event on Sunday, December 3 from 9AM-11AM, welcoming families with special needs children to a photo environment supportive of their sensory, physical and developmental needs. The sensory-friendly event will take place in a comforting and physically accommodating setting designed to reduce behavioral triggers associated with this bustling time of year. The center will be providing a warm and quite space, eliminating the need to stand in line and providing special activities like coloring books and special sensory books from the Douglas County Library that will keep children engaged and prepare them for their visit with Santa. Registration is encouraged; however, walk-ins are welcome.

Dec. 6 – Pet Night with Santa

On Wednesday, December 6 from 6PM-8PM, shoppers are invited to bring along their furry, feathery or fuzzy friend for a special “Pet Night with Santa” photo opportunity. Guests are asked to be sure pets are on leashes or appropriate harnesses. All friendly and safe pets are welcome.

2017 Santa Claus Schedule

Santa Claus will be posing for complimentary photos from Nov. 18 until Christmas Eve. Professional photo packages will also be available for purchase. Hours vary and can be found at

Outlets at Castle Rock is conveniently located between the Denver Metro Area and Colorado Springs region at I-25 and Exit 184 in Castle Rock, Colorado. For more information please visit To join the Outlets at Castle Rock community, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram @outletsatcastlerock, Twitter @OutletsCR or Snapchat @outletscr and search #CastleRockIt and #HolidaysAtOCR.

Shopping On A Budget: How to Save Money and Help Denver

‘Tis the season of giving and if you’re like me, you’d like to help those in need but your budget is maxed out every single year.  
Enter:, the perfect marriage between great online deals AND giving back at the same time. The concept is simple. Find your favorite brand name products at deeply discounted prices (up to 75% off) on and they’ll automatically donate 10 percent of your purchase price to your favorite school, church or charitable organization.  Part deal site, part fundraiser, and part environmental surrogate, Give10Back offers consumers products and brands they actually want and need at prices they love while supporting causes that are near and dear to them – all while saving the planet!
When I first heard of this company, I thought of purchases I’ve made on AmazonSmile where the behemoth online retailer donates a percentage of eligible purchases to charity but was dumbfounded to learn it was only 0.5 percent of the price of eligible purchases.  Contrast that to Give10Back’s 10 percent donation (on every item including deeply discounted items) and there is no comparison.

What You’ll Find

Give10Back has a great selection of brand name toys & games (Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, etc.), home & kitchen, baby products, designer apparel & shoes, health & beauty, & more. It obviously doesn’t have the sheer volume of options of its competitors but is steadily growing every day.
The signup process took me less than a minute. I then spent about a half-hour perusing the different categories and purchased some fun board games for the kids, a shelf organizer for myself and CamelBak waterbottle for my husband. I price-checked each item and was pleased to find the prices were almost half what they are on Amazon! Plus I love that they offer free shipping for orders over $49. 
Here are a few examples:
Baby Jogger City Mini Gt Travel System In Charcoal $599.99 MSRP
Amazon’s price = $579.99
ONLY $331.49 on! (Save 45% OFF Everyday!) That’s a $268.50 SAVINGS
Playskool Heroes Star Wars Galactic Heroes Millennium Falcon and Figures $39.99 MSRP
Amazon’s price = $25.49
ONLY $19.99 on (Save 50% OFF Everyday!)
Pampers Cruisers Baby Diapers Economy Plus Pack, Size 6, 104 Count $41.58 MSRP
Amazon’s price = $39.50
ONLY $19.99 on (Save 52% OFF Everyday)

How It Works

When hosting a dinner party you know the Golden Rule is to make more than you need, you’d rather have leftovers than disappointed guests. Big Box Retailers follow this SAME rule – they’d rather ‘overstock’ than have empty shelves and disappointed shoppers. takes this excess merchandise (their leftovers) and offers it to you and your supporters for 30%, 50% even 75% OFF. PLUS they donate 10% of every sale to your school, church or charity – every time you shop!


I’d love to live in a world where butterbraids and cookie dough are forever banished.  GiveBack10 offers the easiest fundraisers ever: 1) Do your supporters a favor…tell them how they can save lots of money on 2) Your organization earns 10 percent of every sale. 3) Cash your monthly fundraising check.  The end. Simply download the free customizable marketing templates, use Facebook or Twitter to share the link to your online shopping fundraiser and then sit back and relax. There is nothing to inventory, nothing to fulfill and nothing to track. 
When I made my purchases, there was a drop-down box at check-out where I selected my charity of choice: Denver Children’s Home, which helps kids who have survived trauma, neglect and abuse. I would love to see many more Colorado charities, non-profits and schools in the mix! You can learn more about how to register your cause here
Give10Back’s founder, Walter Engelbrecht, created the company with a goal to give back $50 million to U.S. schools through their unique Give10Back online shopping fundraiser. “We help people save lots of money on things they already buy while giving schools, churches, and charities 10 percent of the sales. I, along with everyone at Give10Back, won’t rest until we’ve accomplished our mission.”
Before you do your online shopping, check-out GiveBack10 first to see if there is anything on your wish list…and know you are helping someone along the way.
In partnership with Mile High Mamas

Denver Lifestyle Family Photographer and Portrait Photographer

Mile High Mamas is regularly contacted by local photographers who want to partner with us. We recently sat down with Vala Vincent and Mariah Ehlert to find out what sets them apart from other photographers. 

Tell me about Vala Vincent Photography and Mariah Ehlert Photography, and how you both ended up working together?

Vala: I am a lifestyle family photographer who uses a documentary style to capture the beauty a family life has to offer.

Mariah: I am a portrait photographer. I specialize in headshots, professional branding and families with an editorial style in my turn of the century brownstone church studio. 

We have distinct styles, yet love to collaborate on projects and bounce business ideas off each other. There is strength in creating versus competing, and we are definitely working that muscle. 

What sets you apart from other photographers?

Vala: I give my clients a lot of service. I work very hard to get to know my families before our photo session, so not only will I capture exactly what they want, but their personalities, those real smiles and perfect moments. I have been known to rifle through a client’s closet before a photo session as part of my wardrobe consult. Due to this, I have great success every time and deliver amazing galleries to my well deserving families. 

Mariah: Through my photography I celebrate, empower, and serve my clients. I learn my client’s ‘why’ and mission statement of their business model, which helps me create images that show their personality and what makes them distinct in their market. I do the same with families and individuals, creating sessions that celebrate their lives, their successes, and most of all how they want to be seen in the world. 

Working with kids is memorable, I’m sure! Do you have any funny moments from one of your shoots?

 Vala: Once I was photographing a newborn, I had placed the baby in dad’s hands when we heard a loud fart accompanied by a shriek from the father. The baby had done a poo right into his hand.

Mariah: Dogs and kids always have good moments and laughs, unless you’re a robot. Mostly everyone is laughing at ME and the crazy sounds I’m making to get the pups’ and kids’ attention at the same time. 

Tell us about your packages and what kind of offerings you have for families. 

 Vala: I offer both in-home and outdoor lifestyle sessions. My digital packages start at $845 and product packages starting at $750. I also offer mini sessions which start at $445. Those are great for special needs kiddos or the little ones who aren’t ready for an hour or more session. 

Mariah: My session fee is $250, image packages start at $1,200 with printed images matted in beautiful archival papers and custom made photo boxes. I also offer quickie headshot sessions for busy professionals at $200. 



For additional information, be sure to go to Vala Vincent Photography  or

and Mariah Ehlert Photography or

Why does my dog have such bad breath? (And when to take action)

Dog breath. The mere words conjure up a myriad of scents and none of them are good. But have you ever wondered what is normal and how often do dogs need dental cleanings?
We asked Parkside Animals Health Center’s founder Brenda Eisenhauer, DVM, to share some insights.  This Aurora vet clinic offers so much more than a standard veterinary practice and they look at the lifestyle and the current needs of the pet and its family. Is it an athlete? A couch potato?  A puppy or kitten?  A senior citizen? They then try to tailor their medical recommendations to each individual, but also address behavioral and nutritional needs.

What is Normal?

Most people think stinky “dog breath” is normal, but when your favorite pup pants into your face, it should never smell sour, rotten or like garbage.  These awful smells are usually the first indication something has gone wrong inside the mouth, or sometimes even inside of the body.  According to Eisenhauer, there are certain medical conditions (digestive, diabetes, kidney and liver) that can affect a dog’s breath, and may require blood work or other testing to sort out. 
However, much more commonly, the stinky breath is related to infection inside of the mouth.  This can happen for many reasons – the more obvious ones include a broken and infected tooth, and excess tartar and plaque that has caused gum and dental infection. 
Other conditions can be more breed-specific.  For example, dachshunds can have infection from their long upper canine teeth (“fang teeth”) creep up the roots and into the nasal sinuses.  Boxers and American bull dogs often have very deep ridges in their hard palate where fur and food gets trapped, creating sores and infection.  And sometimes pets have done something sneaky (chewed on a cord and burnt part of their mouth, or gotten their head caught in a car window or between banister railings and accidentally bitten their cheeks or tongue before getting out), causing sores and infection. 

What Should You Do?

Any change or continual worsening of the breath is cause for concern, and worth getting checked out.  A thorough dental exam will require sedation (it’s hard to see everywhere inside the mouth without sedation, and also impossible to take dental X-rays).  But what can you try at home?  For the really fetid breath, there is something going on inside that needs addressed medically.  But for the run-of-the-mill dog-food bum-sniffing breath, a bit of homecare can really help.  There are dental diets, chews and treats available that have been proven to reduce dental plaque and tartar just by the way they are built – they actually rub against the teeth and remove the bacteria and films that lead to dental disease.  A couple of words of caution – dental diets are only effective if they comprise at least 50 percent of the food your dog eats.  Also, dental treats and chews are never calorie-free – if your dog is prone to being a little heavy, these have to be used in moderation and in balance with your pet’s other nutritional needs. 
The best thing you can do at home, though, is to brush those teeth!  Dog toothpastes do not contain fluoride but DO contain enzymatic cleaners that help decrease plaque build-up, and come in yummy flavors like chicken, peanut butter, malt and vanilla mint.  Just like any new trick, your dog will need time to learn that the toothbrush and toothpaste are treats – they should be introduced slowly, with positive reinforcements (petting, scratches, and love), and then used gently once daily over as many tooth surfaces as your dog will allow.  
Even if you are able to keep that dog breath away, it is still important to have regular physical exams and dental cleanings, just like with children and adults.  Annual exams are often enough for younger pets, and the frequency of dental care can be based on the breed of dog, age, and their individual predispositions toward dental disease.  Older pets often need exams at least every six months, as so many health conditions can be managed more effectively if caught early.  In addition, although the stinky breath may be there, many older dogs do not show other symptoms of advanced dental conditions at home, but a medical exam can pick up on more subtle signs that your pooch may be in pain.
Brenda Eisenhauer opened Parkside Animal Health Center six years ago after working in shelter medicine at area shelters. Though she was committed to getting animals healthy, shelter medicine often saw the worst situations with animals who had been given up by their families or were ill or neglected. She missed seeing pets in happy, healthy and loving homes and Parkside was opened to help meet that need. This Aurora vet clinic has become a place for happy endings.

When You Meet The Other Woman: A Strange Kind of Sisterhood

A few years ago, Eryn started documenting her journey after her husband’s affair on her blog, Gunny Girl. She recently met his former mistress, Kristin, and was shocked to discover their story is nothing like she originally thought.

 Eryn’s Story

Last month, I sat across the table from my ex-husband’s former mistress. I casually sipped a cocktail while we had an actual, real adult conversation. We talked about living in Colorado and my kids, but mostly we talked about my ex-husband.

This is not how I envisioned it would go.

For a long time, Kristin was my enemy. When I discovered my ex-husband’s cheating, I didn’t hate him but I certainly hated her. I had visions of publicly humiliating her, of punching her face in and yes, I even had dreams of killing her. Because what kind of heartless, selfish person knowingly breaks up a family?

That was the thing.

She didn’t know.

My ex-husband was and is a charming inventor of complex lies. I assumed that he only lied to me. I was very, very wrong.

Before I met Kristin for dinner, we exchanged text messages and emails. During those exchanges, I learned that my ex had created fake divorce paperwork to convince her that he was divorcing when they met. I learned that my ex had invented an autoimmune disease for my son. I learned that my ex’s best friend had died in his arms in combat (patently untrue. My ex was never in combat and his *former* best friend is alive and well). I learned that I was tagged as bipolar.

I learned that my ex-husband never cleaned up after himself. Not once did he tell the truth to Kristin and ask for forgiveness.

Not once did he say, “I’m sorry” and really mean it.

Instead, Kristin had to discover the truth on her own.

On a perfect late summer evening, I sat across from Kristin and I didn’t feel anger or hatred or vitriol. Instead I felt a deep, pervasive sense of sadness. I wanted to cry, not for myself, but for her and for the painful, twisted lives we have both led as a result of one man’s manipulative game.

In this twisted game of deceit, it turns out that some of us may come out on top. While, my ex husband will continue his pattern of lies, digging ever deeper into the downward spiral of manipulation, Kristin and I will move forward in our lives. We will find success in our jobs and our hobbies. We will seek and find authentic, truthful love. We will be honest with ourselves and others.

I drank that delicious cocktail that night and I thought about how my ex-husband had destroyed my self-esteem, stolen my confidence and killed my sense of trust. Because of him, I only have my children 50% of the time. My savings account is empty. I am wracked with guilt every single day that my children are growing up in two different homes.

I thought about the woman across the table from me. She too had suffered the effects of my ex-husband’s sociopathic tendencies. I didn’t want to kill her or punch her face in or humiliate her in public. I just wanted to hug her.

When everything you think is true turns out to be false, you grasp desperately for what little you are certain of. I was certain that Kristin was evil. That turned out to be false too and I found myself diving ever deeper into the web of deception woven by my ex-husband.

Webs of deception can be dangerous places and on this night, sharing a drink with Kristin, I felt comforted in the truths we shared. Everything made sense and nothing made sense but together we were able to put the puzzle pieces together and to create the beginnings of closure for both of us.

Thank you, Kristin- for being my truth-teller, for being brave enough to talk with me and for standing next to me in this very bizarre and sadly, continually growing, sisterhood.

Kristin’s Story

I didn’t know I was the other woman. And I certainly didn’t know there were at least a half dozen of us out there. I only recently discovered the sheer amount of lies I have been told, and I am I sure there is more we haven’t discovered yet. I can only imagine what the last few years have been like for Eryn.

I never would have thought I would be labeled a mistress. I never thought I would meet Eryn, who several years ago tried to make my life hell (looking back, it was perfectly justified). I never imagined conversations with the women my ex had dated during the course of our relationship, and those that followed during these last few months (where he described that he was so very lost and alone, and I was trying to be a supportive friend). I never would have considered the love story that I thought had lived, the kind you write books about, was really a mystery novel.

Fortunately for both Eryn and me, the truth can change everything. The impact is greater than we thought, and the twisted sisterhood keeps growing. All of these women seriously misjudged one another due to the lies we were told and the manipulation we had endured. Thankfully, we now see each other in a new light – women who did the best they could with information they knew at the time – and we have all forgiven each other. That empathy was seen as a weakness, but it gives me hope that we are good people.  

Four years ago I fell hopelessly in love with a man with two kids who lived 2,000 miles away in Colorado, and told me he was mid-divorce. Within a month, it became an all-consuming romance where we talked about the future – marriage, kids, having a life together. I thought I had found The One. The emotions were a drug-like high – I could never get enough and I was so damn happy. He consistently expressed how much he loved me and was a constant in my daily life. We were both in love.

He had talked about his failed marriage, and how he was heartbroken. He showed me the divorce paperwork, and painted a picture that his soon-to-be ex-wife was unloving, irrational, crazy, and vengeful. It made complete sense to me as to why he was getting divorced.

I supported him through his divorce (I hoped my personal experiences as a kid with divorced parents would be useful), helped him with his marketing work (he’d admit on multiple occasions that I should have his job), and tried to offer advice on how to be a good dad (with the hope of being a bonus mom someday). I believed we were a team – all the drama in our lives seemed to come from outside sources, but at our core, we were good together. It ended abruptly in late October 2015, where he at least waited until AFTER my first marathon to break up with me. It was devastating and soul crushing. I went from the happiest I had been to my life to the saddest. The future I had dreamed of was over, and the explanation was that he didn’t want to take me out of New England (with a subtext that I couldn’t make it in Colorado). The reality was that the lie had gotten too big.

In talking with Eryn and the others, we all experienced the same pattern. The incredible drug-like high of falling in love, and meeting a man who seemed too good to be true. How he was incredibly charming and swept us off our feet. That he was a heartbroken man with troubled past relationships, and that he was simply seeking a love that would fix it. Then the situations where things seemed a bit off – an odd text, an inconsistent story, the sudden emotional distance. Each time it goes well until it doesn’t, and the ending is devastating for every women involved. I read Eryn’s blog after my break-up and I went through something similar. Call it the Barker Weight Loss program if you will.

The breakup was hard, but the most troubling part has been discovering each extensive lie. A year later I submitted a public records request. It was only then that I learned Eryn had filed for divorce, and that I had been an unknowing mistress for the first year of our relationship. I know that may be difficult to fathom, but his lies were that good. As a marketer he knew how to creatively handle photos, texts and excuses. In addition to the lies tied to covering up his cheating, there are the seemingly unnecessary lies focused on him as a person, making him into something much greater (and more appealing) than he is in reality. He played with the idea that perception IS reality.

Hindsight is 20/20. I should have listened to my gut, and not tried to explain away the spidey-sense tingling I felt when I saw red flags. Something is amiss if your ex-wife and every single one of your ex-girlfriends are “crazy,” “mentally unstable,” “bipolar,” “suicidal,” “depressed,” or whatever other mental health term you would like to ascribe to them. The pattern seems to not be with them, but quite possibly with the man they have in common. When two mortal enemies – an ex-wife and an ex-mistress – learn the truth and band together, then you have probably done something very wrong.

It has become evident that in the last four years he has cheated on every woman he has been with, and at one point, was dating three of us at the same time, without any of us knowing about each other. This certainly wasn’t the man any of us fell in love with, and we all agree we deserve much better. I am grateful I have learned the truth – it has truly brought me the closure I had been lacking for almost two years. It is much easier to get over the love of your life when you realize he was a fictional character.

It hurts like hell to have had my heart broken then learn the last few years of my life weren’t anything close to what I experienced. I have no idea if any of it was true, and I never will – I have to accept that. It is painful to know the person I trusted the most betrayed me with all these lies. But what hurts even more has been realizing how much pain and suffering I unknowingly caused others, and I can’t change that.

One of the definitions of the word romance includes the following: “a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention.” I don’t believe there is a more accurate description.


Read Eryn’s previous posts:

The death of a dream: my personal hell after discovering my husband’s affair

A Year Later: The aftermath of my husband’s affair