The third month, and often hottest time of summer (for the U.S. anyway) is upon us. We are in the midst of “The Dog Days of Summer” and this time of year generally sees little moisture, especially on the high desert plains where I live. With wildfires raging across many western states already, those of us who live in such locations dread the onslaught of August.
But, there are reasons to celebrate, especially if you’re a pet parent. There are many special dog and cat days ahead, starting the end of July.
National Mutt Day & Spoil Your Dog Day
Tuesday, July 31 is National Mutt Day, also known as National Mixed-Breed Day. This special day recognizes, honors, and celebrates mixed-breed dogs. It was first established in 2005 by Colleen Paige, a celebrity pet and family lifestyle expert and animal welfare advocate. The goal of this day is to raise awareness of the numerous dogs in animal shelters waiting for homes, in particular mixed breed dogs.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates the number of pure-bred animals in America’s shelters is about 25 percent. That means the majority of dogs and cats waiting for adoption are mixed-breed.
People argue which is healthier: purebreds or mixed breeds? A study conducted in 2013 and reported on by the Institute of Canine Biology two years later indicates mixed breeds may have a slight health advantage over purebred dogs. A summary of the findings include:
An article on DogTime reminds us that it’s “the personality, not the pedigree” that matters in a companion animal. Even so-called “designer dogs,” like Labradoodles (mix between a Lab and a Poodle) and a Puggle (mix of pug and beagle) are truly “mixed breeds” of dogs.
August 10th is National Spoil Your Dog Day. Since that’s a Friday, why not take the day off work and spend a 3-day weekend with your special pooch? Perhaps a short trip you’ve not taken before or a trek into the woods, to the lake, or up a mountain? We can spoil our dogs in many ways – whatever you do, your pup will appreciate the extra attention!
Cats Have Their Days Too!
There are several special days for cats also coming up. On August 8, the world celebrates our feline friends during World Cat Day (also known as International Cat Day). First created in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the idea is to celebrate this popular pet.
We’re hardly the first to fawn over felines. Cats were idolized in ancient Egypt, even considered goddesses. The penalty for injuring or killing a cat back then was severe, according to the Cat Museum of San Francisco. Cats were used on ships to keep the rodent population in check and on farms for the same reason. There were times when felines weren’t popular, such as in Medieval Europe, when cats were associated with witches and heretics.
These days we may not treat our cats like goddesses or think of them as the devil’s kin, but some people certainly do spoil them while others keep them at arm’s length. Some may do the latter because of allergies while “cat people” dote on their feline friends as much as “dog-lovers” do their canine buddies. Cats can be seen dressed up for Halloween or a costume contest. Cats can be walked on leashes if trained at a young age. Cats offer a soothing purr when content, make good lap sitters (when they want to), and provide health benefits to their human friends, such as stress reduction and decrease in anxiety and depression. Cats are amazing creatures, so let’s celebrate them on their special day just as dog people do with their canine companions.
Friday, August 17 is Black Cat Appreciation Day. Black cats get a bad rap, again associated with superstitions and witchcraft. Like black dogs, black cats are less adopted in animal shelters. However, again like dark-colored canines, these regal creatures often have wonderful dispositions and make excellent companions.
Take time these next several weeks to honor the affection and gifts of cats and dogs. Perhaps adopt another furry friend or volunteer at your local animal shelter. You can also spread the word about the joys of these amazing animals, teaching others about the delightful companionship of pets.
According to recent statistics, there are nearly 70 million stray animals in the United States, and only about six to eight million enter the nation’s shelters. Additionally, only two percent of stray cats are reclaimed by their owners compared to the (still low) number of 30% for dogs.
July is Lost Pet Prevention Month. There are many ways to insure your pet’s safety and offer hope for a safe return in case it does become lost.
My husband and I have a variety of ways to keep our pets safe. We use the Whistle and Marco Polo on our dogs, especially when we travel, and all of our pets have microchips. Our cats are indoor animals with cat trees and other furnishings near windows to give them outdoor viewing opportunities. The dogs also live inside and when they are outside in our 6-foot wooden fence backyard for extended periods of time, we are with them. They also wear collars with ID tags.
Losing a pet is difficult. I have walked that road before, thankfully, with a happy ending. I also have friends whose pets have gone missing, one lost her dog for nearly three weeks before successfully finding her precious pup and bringing her home.
For your sake and the sake of your furry family members, do all you can to help them NOT become a lost pet statistic.
In honor of friends recently adopting animals and for those rescue groups which tirelessly work to help animals in need, I’ve composed a short story that I hope readers of this blog will enjoy. For truly, I am grateful for pet rescue and adoption!
They came from Canada to meet their new family member. Husband and wife rented an RV and made a holiday of traveling with their young son from Calgary to Sheridan, Wyoming. I drove 160 miles to bring them their new baby: a young male Great Dane. The Canadian family immediately fell in love with the pup, and they thanked me enthusiastically for being part of the team that brought this rescue dog adoption to completion.
I've been part of pet rescue transport for more than five years. Great Danes, Bull Mastiffs, English Springer Spaniels, Boston Terriers – various breeds, various rescue organizations, various adopters, all with a common theme: a story woven with compassion, love, friendship, and gratitude.
The adopters are grateful, the rescue groups are grateful, and the dogs are grateful.
Her name was Jazmine, and she reached my waist simply standing on all fours. This Great Pyrenees was abandoned in a desert where she gave birth to twelve puppies. Each one survived, thanks to a mother's protective instinct, and her tenacity to find food for herself despite the odds waged against her and her youngsters: intense heat, lack of shelter, minimal water and food. Odds were that none would survive. The scars on Jazmine's face spoke volumes to her possessiveness and perseverance. Those claw and bite marks were likely garnered from encounters with raccoons, coyotes, and other predators of young pups. By the time mother dog and babies were discovered and brought into rescue, Jazmine's giant frame was whittled to nearly nothing. After medical treatment for she and the babes, each dog found a new home. I was Jazmine's transport for 200 of her 1,200-mile journey. Thankfulness for the Good Samaritan who found the mother and puppies and gratitude for the rescue group that provided not only medical treatment but also a foster home for them, I accepted the request to help transport Jazmine, the final dog in the canine family to be accepted into the caring arms of a permanent human family.
As we walked around a rest stop adjacent to the interstate, this giant dog, though possessive of her babies to keep them alive, displayed nothing but gentleness toward me. The pony-sized dog leaned her head against my thigh and gazed at me with wondering brown eyes. I caressed the top of her white head and hugged her against me. Gratitude for my small part in getting this formerly abandoned, sweet dog to her new home many miles away overwhelmed me and tears filled my eyes. I could sense Jazmine's thankfulness, too, in addition to her uncertainty. It was like she “knew” she was going home. And she did. A few months later I received a photo of Jazmine with her new family – a man, woman, and two children laughing and smiling in a grassy backyard, hugging their new companion ...and Jazmine with a doggie grin, licking a child's face as she joined in the joy.
To be part of such unions, to play a small role in saving companion animals' lives, to find true purpose in such endeavors – gratitude is one of the many emotions I experience. I receive thanks from all sides, from the rescuer and from the adopter as well as from the dog. But, it is I who is truly grateful to have a role in bringing lives together, in helping to forge a family, bringing four-footeds and two-footeds into a friendly, caring relationship that can last a lifetime.
Theo, a Boston Terrier, needed transport through my home state of Wyoming. His new family lived in Montana, and, like the family from Canada, this couple was willing to drive a fair distance to meet me and their new furry friend. We rendezvoused at the same location where I'd met up with the Canadian couple who adopted the Great Dane, a three-hour drive for me and a five-hour drive for the Montana adopters. Theo sat up straight in the passenger seat of my car, in anticipation and expectation. When we arrived at the tree-lined rest stop off the interstate, he placed his small paws on the car's dashboard, looking around as his little black and white body wiggled in excitement. His instinct seemed to inform him this is where he was meeting his new family. He let out a happy YIP and looked at me with black eyes before gazing out the windshield again and then also the passenger-side window. I took him out of the car for a short walk, and not long thereafter a SUV with Montana license plates pulled in behind my car. Theo watched intently as a pregnant woman and then a man about 30 years of age stepped from the vehicle. Theo stood on his hind legs, his front paws dancing with excitement. The couple laughed. The man bent down, raised Theo into his arms, and then he and his wife hugged their new furry family member. Prior to leaving for Montana with their adopted dog, the man and woman thanked me for being part of Theo coming into their lives. The small dog licked my hand before getting into the SUV with his new human family. The large smile stayed on my face during the three-hour drive back home.
Fairy-tale endings may not exist for all people or all pets, but for the rescue animals I transport, there is a happily-ever-after – love, comfort, dedication, family – and I’m grateful to be part of that ending.
I'm grateful to be part of their happily-ever-after stories. And to have ones of my own.
Summer visitation at many national and state parks is in full swing. These places remain popular destinations for individuals and families. I recently returned from the Yellowstone National Park area, one of my favorite places in the U.S. Each year nearly four million people trek by automobile, motorcycle, bicycle, and RV through Yellowstone; many also hike the trails and visit the famous geyser basins, such as Norris and Old Faithful.
There are rules about pets when it comes to taking them in national, as well as state parks. Before embarking upon such a journey with your furry friend, review the pet policies.
National Parks and Pets
Pets are welcome in America’s national parks. However, there are some rules that travelers with pets should be aware of. Those include:
In addition to providing a wonderful respite for humans, America’s national parks are home for many species of wildlife; in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, for example, these include bears and bison. Pets running loose or hiking with owners in the backcountry can harm wildlife – or be harmed themselves. Therefore, the National Park Service, recognizing that many people travel with pets, accommodates our four-footed companions in certain areas while prohibiting them in others, for the safety of both pets and wildlife.
Speaking of accommodations, are there places inside the parks that allow people to stay with their pets other than the campgrounds? In some cases, yes. Hotel accommodations in Yellowstone, for example, are not pet-friendly, but a few of the cabin facilities inside the park do allow pets. Additionally, just outside the national parks’ boundaries are gateway communities in which many hotels can be found, and many of those are pet-friendly. Prepare in advance to review the communities’ lodging options and investigate ahead of time whether pets are welcome. Look and book in advance! There are many great resources for finding pet-friendly lodging, including GoPetFriendly.com and BringFido.com. Rover.com provides a listing of pet sitters in various communities, which can be a good option if you’re staying in a town near a national park and you want to take a day-trip for hikes, horseback riding or other activities that don’t accommodate pets.
Although the national parks have similar guidelines because they are federal entities, different parks may have different pet policies. To learn about the regulations in the park you’d like to visit, log onto the National Park Service’s website at www.nps.gov, find the park you’re interested in, and review that park’s pet particulars. You can also visit this Travel Channel site to read an article about national parks that are pet-friendly and those not as much so: https://www.travelchannel.com/interests/national-parks/photos/exploring-our-national-dog-parks.
State Parks and Pets
In June, I spent a week in Oregon visiting family and driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. I was pleasantly surprised to find two things: (1) many Oregon state parks have no (or minimal) entrance fees; and (2) pets are welcome at most Oregon state parks and beaches, including some trails. Therefore, I visited many of these places with my traveling companion, Jeremiah the Shih Tzu.
All states differ in their pet policies when it comes to visiting state parks. Wyoming, where I live, for example, allows dogs to be on leashes up to 10 feet in length (many other states limit the length to six feet). A person is also able to leave a pet unattended for an hour (although I personally would not do so).
So, know before you go! Visit the parks’ websites for the state (or national) park you want to visit before taking your pet on the trip.
May your adventures with your furry friend be enjoyable – happy traveling!
July is upon us -- half the year zipped by like an Indy 500 racer. With this new month comes enjoyable activities, like swimming, hiking, camping, picnics, travels, and playtime in the park. July also brings safety concerns, such as pests (think ticks and mosquitoes), rattlesnakes, heat exhaustion, and thunderstorms. And, this week, add fireworks to the list.
People and pets can be harmed by fireworks as well as from overheating and severe storms. Pets also become frightened, and many lost, due to the noise from fireworks. Extreme temperatures have plagued the United States already, and forecasts in various regions call for more intense heat -- and July has just began. The infographics below remind us pet parents to keep our beloved furry friends safe this season.
Read some great summer safety tips on Petfinder.com: https://www.petfinder.com/pet-care/summersafetytips/.
Also, here are links to two blog posts I wrote last year regarding pets and heat and pets and fireworks.
Have an enjoyable and safe 4th of July! And, remember: don't leave children or pets in cars this summer!
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.