Christmas is over. I enjoyed time with family and friends and much of that time was shared with my pets. -- and I still have a few days to be at home with them as we approach the New Year. My furry friends have been, and are, a constant reminder of what love and loyalty really are – the great comfort they bring when one has a stressful or difficult day, the joy they bring because they are always happy to see you, the solace they offer when you're ill, and the special companionship they give just simply by “being there.” Pets are truly amazing creatures!
I have been a pet owner since childhood. Both cats and dogs have graced my life and my home. As a child growing up on an Iowa farm, I spent endless hours outdoors, taking care of the animals and walking the woods surrounding our place. Most times, either a dog or cat accompanied me. Those memories transcend time and impact my life today.
I have an office set up at home, a space I use for my writing projects. I am rarely alone in that room. Furry friends surround me: Cody snoozing on a dog bed a short distance from my desk, Mary lying near the office chair, and Murphy either lying right next to the computer or on her cat bed on top of the printer. Often in the midst of my concentration, I pause and glance over at one or all of them – they want to be where I am. Their loyalty and dedication rivals most human friendships … and their presence brings calm to my often chaotic life, especially when I face deadlines. Yes, pets can be a lot of work – walking the dog, entertaining the cat, taking care of them when they're sick (vet bills can be very expensive!), training, food, etc. … but what they give us in return is priceless!
What bonds a pet to a person? People are the caregivers of their pets, feeding, exercising, playing, petting, lounging; we are the guardians. The more one positively interacts with their pet, the stronger the bond. Loyalty is inherent, especially in a dog.
We can learn a lot from our pets, including lessons in loyalty and love. Broken relationships, greed, selfishness and other negative traits often found in humans are rarely displayed in our pets. There’s a saying that goes, “May I become the person my dogs thinks I am.” Such a plaque hangs on my wall. Such a philosophy reigns in my heart.
Christmas is a’comin, and most of us know the excitement of children as the holiday approaches. Like kids, our pets also enjoy a few new toys, and what better time to give our pets a few special toys than the holiday of giving?
When you’re out shopping for the kids and other family members these final days before Christmas, don’t forget your beloved pet! Toys stimulate our pets’ senses and encourage them to exercise, thereby fostering great physical and emotional health. There are many wonderful pet toys, but there are also special factors to consider when purchasing a pet toy. Our primary consideration should be safety. Just as we want our kids to be safe with the toys they play with, so we should also want safety to be the number one factor when choosing our pet’s toys. Therefore, be sure to not give a toy that can be broken into pieces and potentially choked on or get stuck in your pet’s throat.
Toys should be durable and fun.
Here are a few ideas:
Kong toys – these great dog toys are made of hard rubber and can be filled with biscuits or a specialty-made ‘goo’ (like squeezable cheese from a can). This toy offers the thrill of “finding the scent” and an edible reward! It also provides your dog with chewable fun, saving your shoes and furniture! Kongs come in a variety of sizes so any dog can have great fun with this wonderful, sturdy toy! KONG also make wonderful toys for the felines of our family!
Rope toys – another great dog toy that allows you and your dog to play tug-of-war (or your dog and its other four-footed friend!). You can also play fetch with your dog using rope toys. Again, these toys are quite durable and will provide you and your dog with hours of endless fun and exercise!
Rubber balls and rubber rings – great for tossing and playing fetch with your dog. However, make sure that the toy is not too small for your dog’s mouth and that it won’t come apart easily, creating a choking hazard.
Plush and squeaky toys – these can also be used for tug-of-war or fetch; sometimes dogs just love to chew on them. However, choking hazards to be aware of with these toys include choking on the interior stuffing so you need to monitor your dog with these types of toys.
Play mice – cats LOVE these toys, especially the play mice dipped in catnip (some dogs like them, too, so watch for that!). Some of the mice are made with a string so you and your cat can play “catch-me-if-you-can”; cats love to stalk things, so this type of game engages your cat’s ‘wild spirit’ so to speak (think of a bobcat stalking and pouncing on a rabbit).
Laser pointer – cats enjoy chasing the little red dot around (just make sure you don’t shine it in their eyes!). Again, think cougar in the wild, stalking, chasing, pouncing.
Small balls – cats enjoy batting and chasing things, and there are rubber and other types of balls created just for them. However, since these toys are small, you’ll need to keep close watch to make sure other pets (like dogs) and your children don’t pick up these toys and put them into their mouths.
Feather-and-pole toys– these toys provide times of fun for both cat and cat owner plus gives your feline great exercise with the jumping, batting, and catching that goes on. The feathers stimulate your cat’s sense of prey, and you can sit in your favorite living room chair and give your cat the exercise it needs and the fun it enjoys!
There are many wonderful toys available for pets and pet owners to enjoy together, or for the pet to enjoy by itself. So, when you’re out and about doing your holiday shopping these next few weeks, remember your special pet and the love and devotion it gives you… so, don’t forget to put a wonderful toy or two into your pet’s Christmas stocking this year!
May you, your family and your beloved pet enjoy a safe and special holiday season!
Christmas is a time for family and friends. It's also a traditional gift-giving time, and sometimes those gifts are living beings.
People often consider giving, and often do give, pets as Christmas presents. However, there are many good reasons why this is not a good idea:
Many animal welfare organization participate in the national program “Home for the Holidays,” hoping to increase adoptions and adoption awareness during this special season of the year. But, pets shouldn't be thought of as disposable temporary residents – they need loving, safe, permanent homes. Therefore, thoroughly think through the decision to adopt a pet or to give one as a gift.
Pets give so much to people – friendship and devotion at the top of the list, and it may seem like a natural fit to bring those great traits into a household this month. During this season of good cheer and great busyness, while it may be tempting to give a pet as a gift, look at other options and opportunities to help animals in need so that when a pet goes “Home for the Holidays”, it's going home permanently with people who want to and have time to love and care for it. After all, we receive so much from our pets – shouldn't we give them all that they need without hesitation as well?
May you and your family and all your furry friends enjoy the merriest of Christmases this year!
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.