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UPDATE: Our contest winner was Commenter #17, Katie! Congratulations, Katie!

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Mingus and Dottie don’t do much to help around the house, but they’re always ready to step up when there’s a treat review to be done. In this installment of Mingus & Dottie Try It, Mingus & Dottie try Soft & Chewy Buddy Biscuits and Trail Hound Dog Snacks, sent to us by Melissa at Cloud Star.

Both Trail Hound snacks and Buddy Biscuits soft and chewy treats are made in the USA with all natural ingredients. Trail Hound treats are low fat, perfect for both older pups and active youngsters. Although they contain no corn, no salt, no sugar, no soy, no egg, and no BHA or BHT, Trail Hound treats are loaded with healthy stuff, like essential fatty acids, antioxidants, L-carnatine, and kelp.

I had my doubts, as the Trail Hounds kind of look like those “cardboard” treats they have at the vet — but they smell good, and Mingus & Dottie got really excited over the Yogurt, Apple & Banana flavor. I like how they’re two treats joined together like a domino – perfect for snapping in half and splitting between two dogs.

Next Mingus and Dottie tried the Soft & Chewy Buddy Biscuits, shaped like little gingerbread men. This version of the original Buddy Biscuits is fragrant, soft, and chewy, and MY DOGS LOVED THESE TREATS. Seriously, they kind of caused a scene. I almost got mauled trying to take that picture up there. Like Trail Hounds, Buddy Biscuits are low in fat and contain no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, but they apparently do not fall short on taste. It’s hard to believe my dogs could be so crazy about something that’s actually good for them.

Suffice it to say that when we finish up our freebie bags, we’ll be getting more Cloud Star treats.

Something else I really like about Cloud Star? Following their motto of “Wag More, Bark Less,” the company (founded in 1999) makes an effort to help pups and people in need. Believing that “good business should include doing good for others,” Cloud Star has pledged at least 10% of net profits to organizations that benefit animals, women, children, and the environment.

You can see all of Cloud Star’s treats here and find out where to fetch them here.

We want to share! Simply comment on this post below, and we’ll send one lucky (random) commenter a box of Trail Hound snacks (Chicken & Sweet Potato) and a bag of Soft & Chewy Buddy Biscuits (Duck)! We’ll draw a winner at 8:00 Eastern time today. (Sorry – We can only ship to U.S. and Canadian addresses.)

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Recently a representative for The Company of Dogs, which distributes Nina Ottosson toys, sent Mingus and Dottie the Tornado and asked if we’d like to give it a try. You’ve probably seen Nina Ottosson’s toys before: They’re really well-designed brain games for dogs that exercise dogs’ critical thinking and investigative skills.

The Tornado is comprised of four stacked bone-shaped wheels with treat compartments that rotate on a central axis. The idea is to hide treats in the layered bones and have your dog figure out how to spin the bones to find the treats. Ottosson gives the Tornado a skill level of “hard,” and I assume that if you’re a dog, it probably is.

One thing I really like about the Tornado is it gives you several options for exploratory play with your dog: the game includes removable plastic bones to increase the difficulty level for your especially brainy pooch. It’s made of sturdy, durable plastic – which is good, because soon enough Mingus would be batting it around the floor with his paws.

The Tornado comes with a instructional DVD that provides directions for use and ideas for interactive games — but I’m really one to jump right into things rather than waste time on instructions. So I grabbed some treats and dove right in.

I decided to give Dottie the first shot at the Tornado. While many pet parents are quick to laud the intelligence of their dogs, I will freely admit that when it comes to brains, Dottie is decidedly average. Once she picked up on the basic idea of the game, though, she caught on pretty quickly to the idea of turning the wheels to uncover the treats. I have to say I was pretty proud.

Mingus got the second go at the Tornado. While Dottie has to rely a lot on her looks to get by, Mingus is smart enough to build bombs. Your boy is scary smart. And while Dottie relied on that giant schnoz of hers to root out the treats, Mingus got into it with both snout and paws.

While he didn’t seem overly challenged by the Tornado, Mingus definitely enjoyed it. Here’s a video of his second go at it. (Don’t listen to my voice. It’s stupid.)

Next time we play, I’m going to try the removable bone treat-hiders out on Mingus. I think he’s ready.

Watching the pups enjoy the Tornado definitely makes me eager to try more of Nina Ottosson’s toys. The Tornado is also dishwasher-safe, which is great, ’cause that thing is totally covered with slobber.

You can fetch a Tornado (or other Ottosson toys) all over the interwebs.

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Tradition would have us believe that dogs and mail carriers can never be friends – but my dogs will love our postman forever if he continues to deliver packages that smell as tasty as the one that recently arrived from Minneapolis’ The Barkery.

Thanks to April at The Barkery, Mingus and Dottie had the pleasure of taste-testing a selection of The Barkery’s flavorful treats, namely molasses & granola cookies, salmon & yogurt snacks, chicken & apple cookies, salad bar snacks, and peanut butter & cheerios.

I can tell you that Mingus and Dottie loved the treats, but they’re crazy about treats anyway (I mean, saying my dogs “like” treats is like saying Don Draper enjoys a drink and a smoke now and then) — so I should probably also explain why I like treats from The Barkery. First, they’re handmade with love rather than in some ol’ dirty factory somewhere. Plus, they’re baked from scratch to order from wholesome, human-grade, organic, fresh, local ingredients and packaged in earth-friendly materials, meaning they’re good for dogs and for the planet. Plus (again), The Barkery’s packaging and web site boasts really nifty graphic design. (Hey – these things are important to me.)

Fetch The Barkery treats (plus cute treat jars!) directly from their web site.

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Anyone remember those microwave cakes from the ’80s where you’d stir some water into the bag of cake mix, pop it in the microwave bundt pan, and “bake” it in the microwave in just a couple minutes? I LOVED THOSE THINGS… not so much for the taste, but because they were the perfect entertainment for a kid who wanted to pretend like she was cooking but whose mother perhaps didn’t trust her with a power mixer and hot oven.

PupCakes 2 Go are little microwave cakes for dogs and were voted Best New Product for 2010 at the Global Pet Expo. It’s easy to see why — they’re super easy and fun to make, inexpensive, and made from organic, wholesome ingredients (wheat, soy, and preservative-free at that). Melinda from Lucky Paws, the makers of PupCakes, sent me a couple boxes to try, and I relived a little ’80s fun whipping up a batch for Mingus and Dottie yesterday afternoon.

With PupCakes, all it takes to become a canine pastry chef extraordinaire is a little water, a little peanut butter, and a microwave. The powdered mix smells really good, just like cinnamon, and the PupCakes really do look and smell like real cakes when they come out of the microwave after a magical two and a half minutes. I was even tempted to try a tiny piece, and, well, they kind of tasted like those microwave cakes from the ’80s. But hey, they’re not made for humans, they’re for dogs. And the dogs? LOVED them.

And that preshy little purple tray? It’s reusable with PupCakes’ refill mixes. LOVE IT.

To find out how to get your paws on some PupCakes 2 Go, check out Lucky Paws’ website.

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