February is Responsible Pet Owners Month, and though this is the last day of February 2018, I want to acknowledge this special pet holiday. Every month, every week, every day, we who love pets should recognize our responsibility toward our beloved animals. So, in honor of my four-footed companions, I want you to meet mine – and we’ll start with the canines who share my home.
Jeremiah, the Shih Tzu
Adopted in September 2017, Jeremiah is between 4 and 5 years old; when my husband and I adopted him from Hearts United for Animals, Jeremiah was a few weeks’ shy of 4 years of age. The first three years of his life was spent as a stud in a midwestern puppy mill. When he was brought to the HUA sanctuary in southeastern Nebraska, he was basically unsocialized and had experienced minimal medical care. He lost 28 teeth due to his poor nutrition and lack of health care, and he was not neutered. HUA staff and volunteers spent a great deal of time helping him become accustomed to people and hugs. Just prior to us leaving with him, one of those volunteers told me, “He’s such a sweetie! I know you’re going to love him!” And, she was right! Six months after arriving in our home, Jeremiah now enjoys sitting on laps, receiving hugs, taking walks, and eating treats. He has become a very special member of our little family.
Shih Tzus are small dogs, weighing between 9 and 15 pounds and standing 9 to 10.5 inches tall. This is considered an ancient dog breed, developed either in Tibet or China as far back as 8,000 years B.C. The name means “little lion” in Mandarin Chinese. These dogs came to the United States during the 1940s, traveling with World War II veterans who brought them home. This breed remains one of the most popular dogs in America, usually ranking in the top 10 in popularity. These dogs are known to be affectionate, friendly, and charming, oftentimes “dancing” on their hind legs for treats and attention. They also don’t need a lot of exercise and therefore, make great apartment-dwelling dogs and companions for elderly people. They can be difficult to housebreak, need attentive grooming, and can suffer health issues with their eyes, ears, and knees. Learn more about this special small dog breed here: http://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/shih-tzu#/slide/1
Mary, the Springer/Cocker mix
Mary has been part of our family for five years; we adopted her from English Springer Spaniel Rescue in January 2013. At age 12, Mary is still active as her hunting heritage dictates. Both springer and cocker spaniels were used in England to hunt upland game birds, and in the United States, the springer is still used for this purpose by many people – although, both springers and cockers are popular simply as companion pets. Known as smart, happy dogs, the cocker spaniel is also an active breed. These dogs range from 13.5 to 15.5 inches tall, and weigh 20 to 30 pounds at optimal weight, according to the American Kennel Club. Springer spaniels are the cockers’ larger cousins, standing 19 to 20 inches tall and weighing 40 to 50 pounds. This is an energetic, active breed, needing lots of exercise and playtime, considered intelligent, friendly, and eager to please. Springers are known as “Velcro dogs,” for they love being with their people.
That personality trait describes our Mary to a “T.” Her place in particular is stretched out next to my husband, whether on the couch, in his recliner, and lying in bed. Mary is extremely friendly; her previous owner certified her as a therapy dog (sadly, her owner passed away, and that’s why she was available for adoption), and I have taken her to libraries and book signings, where she greets people with a toothy smile and a wagging stub of a tail! Like many spaniels, Mary suffers from allergies and ear infections. Our previous springer spaniel, Sage, became blind due to Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), another health issue common in this breed.
Learn more about springer spaniels here: http://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/english-springer-spaniel#/slide/1
Learn more about cocker spaniels here: http://www.vetstreet.com/dogs/cocker-spaniel
Great dogs for families!
These breeds make wonderful family pets, and I am so glad I have the honor to have them in my home.
I love my dogs! Jeremiah and Mary get along very well; in fact, Jeremiah relies on Mary – he is quite bonded to her. Both dogs are good with our cats, although Jeremiah is more startled by their sudden movements and has growled at the kitties at different times (probably still getting used to being around them). I enjoy both dog breeds, the Shih Tzu, and the Springer/cocker (guess I should say “three breeds!”) – and I would adopt one of these types of dogs again.
With the recent Kitten Bowl, Westminster Dog Show, and American Rescue Dog Show now complete, many people may be thinking about bringing home a dog, cat, kitten, or puppy. Pets touch our hearts and warm our homes – they provide companionship, comfort, and comedy to our lives.
There is little else that lifts one’s spirits than to come home from a tough day at work or school and be happily greeted by a four-footed friend. If you’re thinking of adding a pet to your home, here are six tips to help insure you and your new dog or cat will spend many happy years together:
Having a pet makes a home more cozy, warm, and loving. Pets are devoted to their humans – they love us unconditionally – and like children, they depend on us for care. Therefore, make sure you’re ready and that you’re willing to be faithful to your new furry friend, which can live 10 to 20 years.
For centuries humans and dogs have been companions and for more than 100 years people have shown off their pedigreed pooches in a special show in New York City. The 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show began this week. During this annual event, the best in breeds compete for the best in their category, and then those seven dogs compete for Best in Show. The pups are pampered, groomed for local, regional, and (owners hope) national competitions. One can learn a lot about dog breeds watching the televised Kennel Club Dog Show, including any new breeds recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club).
The AKC recognized two new breeds earlier this year: the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje, a spaniel-like canine, and the Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen (GBGV), classified in the Hound Group. The total number of AKC-recognized breeds is now 192. Read more about the newest types here: http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/newest-akc-recognized-breeds-nederlandse-kooikerhondje-grand-basset-griffon/
The top dog in the country will be chosen tonight at Westminster, from all the pampered, primped, and perfect pets that have competed the past few days. But, for those of us who don’t show our dogs or maybe don’t even care to watch Westminster, is there a program to which we (and our canine companions) can better relate? YES!
On Monday evening, February 19 (next week) Hallmark Channel presents The American Rescue Dog Show. Categories include:
Who might win Best in Rescue? The choice is likely going to be difficult, but I’m rooting for the deaf Dalmatian who lived in several different homes until finding his “true love” (Valentine’s Day is tomorrow after all!) and is being certified as a therapy dog. We can all learn about perseverance, courage and trust from rescue dogs, especially those who have faced more challenging circumstances, like disability and rejection.
Before and during the show, we can tweet and share pictures of our own rescue dogs using the hashtag #BestinRescue and @Hallmark – the company plans to award someone $1,000! That would buy lots of dog biscuits!!
I love Hallmark Channel – many shows and movies are uplifting, funny, and family-friendly. And, I’m delighted at how they often incorporate animals into the programs, including upcoming movies. The company has also chosen to promote pet rescue and adoption, partnering with Adopt-a-Pet to help people look for the proper pet for their household: http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/2018-american-rescue-dog-show/adopt-a-pet-search.
They also provide a listing of the rescues from where the Rescue Dog Show contenders were adopted: http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/2018-american-rescue-dog-show/rescue-organizations.
Wyoming, the state in which I live, stepped into the rescue spotlight earlier this month. Governor Matt Mead signed a proclamation declaring February as Adopt a Rescue Pet Month. My state hasn’t been the best at protecting companion animals until recently. Because of many rescue organizations which have cropped up in the state, including Cheyenne-based Black Dog Animal Rescue, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, more attention and compassion has been given toward pets by legislative measures and other means. We still have a long way to go in this state, but thanks to the governor’s recent action and the increasing number of people involved with and supporting rescue endeavors, I believe Wyoming may continue making positive strides.
Rescue Dogs Rock! I’m the guardian to two in my household, and we’re going to sit back and enjoy Hallmark Channel’s American Dog Rescue Show next Monday evening as well as many upcoming movies with pets as co-stars – I hope you and furry friends will do the same.
February is known for two main things: Valentine’s Day and Hallmark Movie love-stories.
Love is a Hallmark movie… well, not for everyone, and certainly not for every companion animal. Pets are called companion animals for a reason – to provide companionship to people, to be devoted, loving, faithful… and they would be, if only we let them. Instead, many cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, even turtles and lizards are mistreated, neglected, and abused. Where is their Hallmark Valentine hero/heroine?
In truth, humans and animals share this one thing in common: rejection. The person you love and trusted abandons you, mistreats you, breaks your heart and spirit. Yet, many people and pets have another thing in common: resiliency. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, as they say, and carry on. That perseverance may take months, even years, but when we dig deep inside ourselves and we let others help and encourage us, we discover that fortitude and we move ahead to a brighter future.
For animals as well as us, that brighter future involves compassionate, kind people. When you watch a Hallmark movie, friends surround the broken-hearted, hurt individual, encouraging them to be open to love again. And, surprise, surprise, s/he comes along! That can be true for pets as well. Rescues, SPCAs, Humane Societies, and others step forward to lift pets’ spirits, saving their lives from abuse and neglect, and then prepare them for adoption. But, there needs to be more adopters, more heroes and heroines to help the light shine more deeply into the spirits of those animals cast-away, those treated not just poorly, but many times cruelly.
Can you be an animal’s Hallmark Valentine this year?
Five years ago, my husband and I adopted a springer/cocker mix named Mary. She wasn’t abused or neglected; in fact, she was deeply cared for by her previous owner. Sadly, that person died, and Mary needed a new loving family. Greg and I answered the call, and we have been her Valentine ever since! She is devoted to us and she has also impacted others, serving sometimes as a library read-to-the-dog companion, nestled among a group of children and giving them affection as well as courage. Her stories which I’ve written take kids on adventures and teach them lessons like kindness, friendship, and joy. I love sharing Mary with others and teaching them the value of adoption.
Then, there’s Jeremiah, whom we adopted last fall. He came from a puppy mill, serving as a stud for three years. He lost 28 teeth due to poor nutrition and came to us from a rescue still timid and uncertain about living in a house. Now, five months later, he realizes kindness and compassion can come from human beings, and he’s settled in well, with Mary as his best friend. He walks proudly on a leash, dashes through our fenced-in backyard with joy, and cuddles next to me on the couch with thankfulness on his face. His Valentine’s Day gift this year is a warm home and caring people (plus a canine BFF!)
Even if we, as a man or woman, have been rejected by human love, there’s a way to share our love. Numerous animals – dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, and others – are waiting for their special Valentine. Nearly 1.5 million dogs and cats die in kill-shelters every year, and more than 10,000 animal mill facilities confine creatures (especially dogs and cats) simply for the act of breeding. They lack socialization and medical care. Several rescues, such as National Mill Dog Rescue and Hearts United for Animals, take in these animals and care for them while searching for loving, permanent homes for them to call their own, i.e., for their special Valentine.
Find your four-footed Valentine this month, knowing that creature will be devoted to you for its life, and then make some popcorn and sit on the couch together while enjoying some Hallmark movies!
NOTE: The Hallmark Channel features several films in which animals play important roles. Check out titles such as Like Cats and Dogs; Love at First Bark; Walking the Dog; and Eat, Play, Love -- some of these are scheduled this month and others in March. Enjoy, and especially enjoy your furry Valentine!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.