Ho-Ho-Holiday Cocoa Recipe

Nothing says “the holidays are here” quite like a comforting cup of hot cocoa. One whiff of this rich, chocolaty recipe will fully engage your nostalgia reflexes, conjuring up happy days of yore. Even better, the following simple mix-stir-and-heat recipe features a healthy measure of Chocolate Protein Powder, our non-GMO, nutrient-rich blend of proteins from pea, chia, pumpkin, hemp and quinoa! What better way to shore up your joyful reserves and fuel your holiday shopping, planning and festive jubilations!

As outlined, makes a single serving. Simply increase the fixings to serve two, six or even a dozen!

10 oz milk of choice

1 scoop Life's Abundance Chocolate Protein Powder

1 tsp Maple syrup or sweetener substitute

1 tsp Cocoa powder (increase for extra ho-ho-ho)

Pinch of salt

Optional: Add a few drops of Peppermint extract, or 1/8-1/4 tsp Vanilla extract for an added zing.

Directions: Add all ingredients into a shaker bottle or a blender and mix well. Pour contents into a saucepan or microwave-safe container and gradually heat at medium temperature or power level. Pour the warmed contents into a festive mug and enjoy at your leisure.

If you’re up for enjoying the holiday spirit in a more literal way, consider any of the following flourishes to upgrade your cocoa to a cup of good cheer!

Merry-making combos:

Peppermint Schnapps + Kahlua, Tequila or Cinnamon

Frangelico + Brandy or Bourbon

Rum + Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Goldschläger

Bailey’s Irish Cream + Vodka or Whiskey

Be sure to leave your comments in the section below. If you think you can improve upon our recipe, let us know how you did it! Remember, it’s the season of giving, so please share your cocoa-making secrets with your fellow blog readers.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Giving Rescues Reasons to be Thankful

A time of fellowship and enduring affections, this year’s holiday season has come. For many Americans, the chance to value and support friends, family and community offers a welcome change of pace, given a fractious election year. Many of us are already throwing ourselves headlong into preparations to spend quality time with family and friends. And while we may be fully invested in our immediate and upcoming holiday plans, this time of year finds us considering the plights of others … it is the season of giving and thanks, after all!

I’m so grateful to have helped establish a company that does so much to promote the welfare and health of companion animals. As I’m fond of saying, we’re a small company with a great big heart. Helping companion animals to lead healthier, longer and happier lives is not just an important company commitment … it’s our personal mission.

I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of our non-profit’s essential work. The Dr. Jane Foundation provides funding to an incredibly diverse array of small and medium-size animal rescue groups. Regardless of geography, all of these groups are united in common cause … doing whatever it takes to save neglected, abused and homeless animals. Over the last 10 years, it’s been my great honor to discover the hundreds of rescue organizations who invest so much time, energy and passion into forging a brighter future for these helpless creatures. Along with my fellow Board Directors, I have witnessed the amazing resilience of companion animals who have suffered any manner of trauma. Their journeys of healing and hope inspire us to do more for the legions of volunteers, foster parents and veterinarians who work so hard every single day.

Best of all, every time you purchase Life’s Abundance products, a small donation is made in honor of these groups. Simply by shopping with us, every one of our loyal customers helps to support the cause of animal rescue. So, while you're actively working towards wellness for yourself, your family and your companion animals, know that you're also giving a helping hand to the people who have dedicated their lives to making life better for homeless animals.

It seems only right this holiday season to share news of our most recent round of funding. And, seeing as how this IS Thanksgiving, I’d like to personally thank the following seven rescue groups, each of whom received financial backing from our non-profit. Please note that most, if not all, of the dogs depicted in the following photos are available for adoption.

New Kent Humane Society

Founded in 2009, this small-town animal rescue works to reduce the growing number of homeless animals. Run entirely by a dedicated team of volunteers, they strive to liberate dogs and cats from the county pound. Their greatest wish is "to reduce the number of animals being euthanized locally". Thanks to their tireless advocacy and a budding network of foster homes, more and more dogs and cats are finding forever homes. In addition to their adoption efforts, this group is also committed to helping lost pet kids be reunited with their families. We support the superheroes of this small community who strive to improve quality of life for so many, especially those who do not have a voice. To learn more, visit www.newkenthumane.org.

D.R.E.A.M. Dachshund Rescue

Serving Atlanta, North Georgia and the Savannah area, this breed-specific rescue is 100% volunteer operated. All of their dogs are temporarily homed in foster care, affording every volunteer ample opportunity to really get to know each foster pup. This hands-on approach can make a huge difference when it comes to matching their personalities with prospective adopters, as it helps to guarantee successful outcomes when their Dachshunds are ultimately placed in their forever homes. To learn more, visit www.dreamrescue.org.

Greyhound Pets of Greater Orlando

Originally founded in 1996 as a chapter of the National Greyhound Pets of America, this Orlando-based non-profit has two main goals: to locate loving homes for ex-racing Greyhounds and to educate the public on the merits of adopting this breed. Unlike most of our grant recipients this quarter, this group operates a physical facility, where right now nearly 50 of these elegant creatures are awaiting placement in their forever homes. Another fully volunteer enterprise, this group is proud that all donations go directly to the care of their rescued Greyhounds. The depth of their connection to the breed is evident in their commitment to never turn away a Greyhound due to injury, illness or old age. To learn more, visit www.greyhoundpetsorlando.org.

Southeast German Shepherd Rescue

Founded in 2010 to save German Shepherd Dogs from abuse, abandonment and high-kill shelters, this non-profit organization owes its existence to the compassion and dedication of its volunteers. Their efforts to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome this noble breed take place primarily in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, but they provide assistance to rescue efforts throughout the Southeast. Everyone in the organization volunteers their service, doing their utmost to identify and place these social, intelligent and agile creatures in loving homes where they can thrive as loving and loyal family members. To learn more, visit www.southeastgermanshepherdrescue.com.

Lovebugs Rescue

This non-profit was founded by Heather Peterson in honor of Kaya, a special-needs Chihuahua who was rescued from a high-kill shelter. Located in Southern California, this foster-based rescue has made remarkable progress building relationships with overcrowded animal shelters in the area. Taking homeless pups into foster care not only saves their lives, it undercuts the reliance on euthanasia by other shelters as an acceptable response to overpopulation. Leading by example, their hope is to educate people about the gravity of the issue and how easy it is to make a difference that benefits everyone involved. To learn more, visit www.lovebugsrescue.org.

Southwest Metro Animal Rescue & Adoption Society

Based in Chaska, MN, this all-volunteer organization has more than 35 years of combined experience in the animal rescue field. One of a growing number of shelter-free charitable groups, this foster home-based organization commits serious time and energy into rescuing abandoned, abused and stray domestic animals. They are passionate about their work, and their mission of caring is clearly born out in the good works they accomplish every day. They have seen firsthand how the bond humans and companion animals share is strengthened through education, whether it's on humane treatment, the vital need for spay/neuter programs or the legal protections afforded animals. To learn more, visit www.swmetroanimalrescue.org.

Southern California German Shepherd Rescue

Founded in August 2006, this amazingly dedicated team of volunteers rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes pet kids all across Southern California. Additionally, they provide veterinary care and spay/neuter surgeries. In the last decade, they have successfully located forever homes for over 900 companion animals. Despite what you might think based on their name, this foster-based rescue saves not just German Shepherd Dogs, but also Great Danes, Poodles, mixed breeds ... even a few cats! To learn more, visit http://socalrescue.org.

Including these awards, The Dr. Jane Foundation has awarded grants totaling nearly $24,000 to 18 worthwhile rescues this year! Soon we will reveal more details about what these non-profits are able to accomplish with our funding. But for now, we extend our hearty, holiday congratulations to all of these groups for their remarkable efforts to make the world a better place for companion animals!

Are you involved in an animal rescue, or know someone who is? We are currently accepting applications for 2017 funding. Our Board will be considering applications for the next round of funding in January, so try to have completed grant requests submitted by the end of the year to ensure your group’s consideration.

This holiday season, any contribution you make will help to ensure that deserving groups like these continue to receive much-needed financial support. We will be thrilled to receive your donation, in any amount. For all of you who have already supported our non-profit, we can’t thank you enough. Thanks to your personal donations and continued patronage, we are taking real steps to help animal rescue groups across America. With your help, we’re making a positive difference in the world, one animal at a time.

Wishing you the very best this holiday season, and always!

Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM

Top Five Amazing Cat Facts

Russian Blue cat

I used to think I was a dog person, which lasted right up until I adopted a cat. While I’m still a huge dog fan, I no longer believe you have to prefer one over the other. There’s a reason cats are the most popular pet kids in North America!

Yes, cats are nothing like dogs: they are enigmatic, independent, sometimes aloof and always entertaining. Their completely unique natures are, in my opinion, their most endearing feature. It should come as no surprise that in addition to their one-of-a-kind personalities, they also have some pretty exceptional physical features and roles to play in our society. As a veterinarian, writer and cat enthusiast, it pleases me to no end to learn more about these fabulous furballs. Here are just five of my favorite unique cat facts!

1. Cats can use their mouth to smell

Have you ever seen your cat take a big sniff, then pull their mouth back in what looks like a sneer? That’s called the flehmen response, and it’s one of the wonderful, weird things that makes cats so unique. Cats have a special organ called the vomeronasal organ wedged up between the hard palate and the nasal septum. The vomeronasal organ is used to analyze pheromones, which is an important means of communication in the feline world. If you’ve ever gotten a good whiff of cat urine, you may make the same face … but unlike us, cats are actually gaining extra information from that stimulus.

2. Cats are well adapted to high-heat environments

Have you ever seen a cat pant? Hopefully not, because they aren’t supposed to. We all know that dogs use panting to dissipate heat, while humans sweat. Aside from a negligible number of sweat glands in the paws, cats do neither! Evolved from desert-dwelling creatures, cats have extremely efficient kidneys that can concentrate urine to a very high degree, meaning they can survive longer than other mammals with less water without becoming dehydrated. I watch my dark-coated cat Penelope seek out blocks of sunlight all the time … like many cats, she thinks “The hotter, the better!” Meanwhile my dog is laying on the coldest spot of floor he can find.

Striped Cat

3. You can’t top a cat’s night vision

Cats are unusual in that they have both predator and prey adaptations. One of their most unique features is their slit pupil, which allows the pupil to contract more quickly than the circular pupils of dogs and humans. This means they adjust more quickly to changes in ambient light. They also have the largest eyes of any mammal relative to their size! They have several other adaptations meant to ensure they can see well at night, including more rods in the back of their retina as well as a tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer of tissue that gives their eyes that eerie green glow.

4. Cats could have changed the course of history

In the Middle Ages, the Black Death swept through Europe, killing off an estimated 25% of the continent. The causative agent of bubonic plague, Yersinia pestis, was found to be carried by fleas who moved about the countryside on rodents. During the Spanish Inquisition, cats were condemned as evil and killed by the thousands. This cat depopulation allowed the rodent population to explode, extending the effects of the plague. Who knows how many lives could have been saved if only cats had been spared and out hunting the plague carriers.

5. Hissing is a unique feline vocalization

Have you ever heard a happy cat hiss? Probably not. Though not all cats hiss, those that do are invariably upset or frightened. Experts believe hissing may actually have evolved as a mimicry of a snake hiss, a way to warn someone that whatever they are doing, the cat is not at all happy about it. If you have a cat who hisses, consider yourself lucky! It’s a clear warning to stop whatever is upsetting them before they escalate to the next level, something usually involving claws or teeth.

Pet Kids Totally Acing This Halloween Thing

Pet Costumes

Earlier this week, we asked our readers to submit photos of their dogs and cats celebrating Halloween. So many of you responded and now we’re happy to share some of the spooky fun with you!

Adorned in a flattering ensemble, Kinzie is rocking a look she calls ‘Candy Corn Witch’.

Kinzie the candy corn Witch

No Halloween would be complete without a great pumpkin, and they don’t come any cuter or sweeter than Pumpkin Vasquez.

Pumpkin Vasquez

Oliver being totally chill and owning his role as Scary Biker Dude.

Ollie Biker

By far, our most highbrow submission goes to the classically inclined Ludwig 'von Big Boy' Beethoven.

Elise Big Boy

Granny Zelda was caught wearing her unmentionables, saying, “I can’t talk now, my stories are on."

Granny Zelda

Stella’s costume definitely raised some eyebrows.

Stella Groucho

Is it a bird? A plane? Nope, it’s Copper doing an excellent imitation of Superman! Looks like this Kal-El is hangry.

Copper Superman

Well, Hello Kitty! We’d trade all of our Beanie Babies for a few minutes holding Buttercup.

Ty Hello Kitty

Even though he’s not from Baskervilles, this hound is definitely on the case. Now we just need to find him a suitable Watson!

Wilford Sherlock

Simple, but always spooky, Wendell looks particularly ethereal in his ghostly garb.

Wendell Ghost

Slow and steady wins the race, says Luna, pulling off her turtle costume with aplomb.

Luna Turtle

It’s barely November, but Coffee is already gearing up for Christmas!

Coffee Reindeer

For all of you who sent evidence of just how awesome your companion animals are, we thank you from the bottom of our candy hearts! And to all of the dogs and cats who participated, we hope your bags were full of yummy, healthy treats!

Just because Halloween is over, it doesn’t mean that your companion animals don’t deserve high quality treats all year ‘round! Be sure to check our big selection of dog treats and our gourmet cat treats.

Keep in mind that we’re always interested when your pet kids do something cute, sweet or funny. Email your awesome pet photos to blogfun@lifesabundance.com.

Show Off Your Pet Kids' Costumes

Fonzi Dog

Dressing up for Halloween isn't just for humans anymore! If your dog or cat is donning a costume this year, we want you to share the adorable photographic evidence. Email your costume pics to blogfun@lifesabundance.com. Staff favorites will be posted the first week of November, so tell your four-footers to say "CHEESE!"

Easy Bliss Bites: Recipe

Chocolate Bites

Who says healthy living can’t be irresistibly delicious? Definitely not anyone after sampling the latest Life’s Abundance recipe!

Judging by the reaction this recipe got here at our home office, you might want to throw caution to the wind and whip up a double batch of this fudge-inspired delight.

Be sure to share this delectably sweet and coolly refreshing treat with friends and family!

Ingredients

Ingredients:

2 Cups toasted rolled oats

1 Cup unsweetened coconut

1/2 Cup slivered almonds

1/2 Cup virgin coconut oil (warmed to liquid)

1 Cup almond butter

2/3 Cup raw honey

1/2 Tsp. almond extract

2.5 Scoops (approx. 1/4 Cup) Life's Abundance Greens Blend

3/4 Cup chia or flax seeds

3/4 Cup mini chocolate chips

Bake

Directions:

Spread oats and coconut on cookie sheet and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Use a mixer to combine the almond butter, honey, almond extract and the softened coconut oil. If needed, add more coconut oil by the tablespoon to reach the desired consistency. Once these ingredients are well mixed, add the remaining ingredients and mix until evenly blended.

Spread and press the mixture into a 9 x 13 pan (line with parchment paper for easy removal and clean up) and set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Cut into bite-size delights and enjoy!

On the very slim chance you have leftovers, be sure to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Four-Legged Heroes: Dogs in the Military

Dogs in the military

I’ve always wanted to attend the annual New Year’s Day Rose Bowl parade, but when I finally got to attend it wasn’t even the floats that wowed me the most … it was the dogs.

That year, I had the pleasure of meeting several service members who were riding on a float supporting the US Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, which made its debut in 2013. It was there that I met Sgt. 1st Class Charles "Chuck" Shuck and his dog Gabe, who had just received the American Humane Association Hero Award for his work in Iraq.

Both Gabe and Sergeant Shuck challenged my preconceived notions about working dogs in the military. Gabe wasn’t a stern, antisocial dog but a sweet yellow Labrador, trained for explosives detection after being rescued from a shelter in Texas. He participated in 170 combat patrols and racked up 26 “finds”, saving potentially hundreds of lives! After his retirement in 2009, he was adopted by Shuck.

You might imagine the relationship between handler and dog to be all business, but when Shuck and Gabe looked at each other, I saw the same adoration and love all dog parents know and recognize. Dogs in the military have important jobs to do but also serve as vital emotional support for many soldiers. I also learned that veteran dog handlers haunted by having to leave dogs behind in Vietnam are responsible for the current stance on canines in the United States military, which is this: dogs are to be treated with the same regard as any other soldier. They are not treated as commodities, but are accorded respect and reverence for their work and sacrifice. When they are injured, the medics are sent in just like they would be for a wounded person.

Gabe

After meeting Gabe and several other distinguished canine veterans, I wanted to learn more about the eventual landing place for the memorial: The US Military Working Dog School, located at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. While researching the training facility known more affectionately as “Dog School”, I also learned some other amazing facts about dogs in the military:

  1. Dogs have served with US soldiers in every major conflict since the Civil War.
  2. The school trains dogs to work for all branches of the military as well as for the TSA.
  3.  Worldwide, about 1,400 dogs are working in service of the United States Military at any given time.
  4. The most commonly utilized breeds are German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. Sporting breeds such as Labradors are more frequently utilized as needs for explosive detection have increased.
  5. Congressional Bill HR-5313, signed into law in 2000, recognizes the value of canine life by allowing retired military dogs to be adopted into loving homes.

A month after I met Gabe, he sadly passed away from liver cancer. I sent Sergeant Shuck the photo we took at the parade along with my condolences. It was an honor to meet such an incredible team, a handler who grew into a dog parent and loved his hero dog with all his heart. They represent the best of what dogs and people can accomplish while working together.

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

Why is This Adorable Duo So Happy?

Michele and Max

Meet Michele Dobos and Max. While attending an enormous pet adoption event co-sponsored by Life’s Abundance in West Palm Beach, Florida last month, Michele took a chance and entered our Free Pet Food for a Year Giveaway. And we’re so glad she did!

Michele is smiling because she is the winner of our drawing! Max is smiling because he’s just a happy guy, plus he was given a basket full of tasty goodies.

Max

When asked what motivated her to attend the Countdown 2 Zero Adoption Event, Michele said, “I went to support the rescues. A friend and I filled our pockets with bills and dropped donations into each rescue group’s jar at the event. As a former rescue volunteer, I know how important this event was for all 32 of these groups.”

Michele Max and Lester

Life’s Abundance CEO Lester Thornhill took our winners on a red carpet tour of the headquarters. Within minutes Max and his broad Shih Tzu grin dominated the day and won the hearts of everyone who met him. He’s a seven year old with spunk and now that he’s eating Life’s Abundance All Life Stage Dog Food we’re certain to see an extra spring in his step.

Congratulations to Michele and Max, and welcome to the Life’s Abundance family!