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!
Do you know you can change a pet’s life? Wednesday, January 24, is designated Change a Pet’s Life Day, and you can help do that.
Change a Pet’s Life Day started in 2009 to draw attention to the many homeless pets and to encourage adoption, bring awareness to animal welfare issues, and, for many, to establish a time to celebrate shelter/rescue workers and volunteers, who make a difference in the lives of homeless animals every day. All of us can do something to positively change the lives of animals. One of those ways, and an important one, is to adopt.
Every year, millions of animals are brought into animal shelters and rescues. Although adoption rates have increased during the past two decades, there are still about 50 percent that are not. Therefore, as a society, we still have a long way to go and improvements to make regarding pet adoption.
However, for some, adoption isn’t always possible. If that is you, what are other ways you can change a pet’s life? Here are a few ideas:
If you do decide to adopt another pet, it’s important to choose the animal that’s right for your lifestyle. Learn about the variety of dog and cat breeds, including their personalities and needs, from these sources:
American Kennel Club -- http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/?_ga=2.126130569.505065269.1516415304-2085044977.1514578697
Dogtime -- http://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/profiles
Jen’s Reviews -- https://www.jenreviews.com/dog-breeds/
Cattime -- http://cattime.com/cat-breeds
Purina -- https://www.purina.com/cats/cat-breeds
Petfinder -- https://www.petfinder.com/cat-breeds/
What will you do this week to change a pet’s life?
This is not the only special pet day this week, this month, or this year. There are many special pet holidays, including yesterday’s National Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. For a run-down of the rest of 2018’s special days honoring animals, visit this site: https://www.dogtipper.com/fun/pet-holidays.
October is drawing to a close, and that means Halloween is on the horizon. While most kids, and many adults, enjoy this time of year, our pets can become agitated, frightened, even lost.
Here are a few safety tips to help your pets during the next few weeks:
If you decide to dress up your pet for Halloween and have the time to create a costume, here’s a link to a cute DIY strawberry costume, complete with instructions: https://www.berries.com/blog/strawberry-costume-diy#dog.
I once dressed Cody, my cocker spaniel, as a fireman – I thought he looked cute, but he didn’t seem very impressed with the idea!
For additional Halloween pet safety tips, visit http://www.petmd.com/dog/seasonal/evr_multi_halloween_safety_tips.
May you, your children, and your pets enjoy a safe, stress-free Halloween!
They conduct search and rescue. They serve in the military. They lead the blind and alert the hard-of-hearing. They comfort people in crisis, visit the hospitalized and those in hospice care; they even provide a soothing balm for us, their guardians. They survive abuse and neglect to become someone’s beloved pets. They are animal heroes!
Images of the dogs searching for the trapped and injured on 9/11 and during last week’s earthquake in Mexico resonate in our hearts and souls. From fires in homes and cresting ocean waves to hospital rooms and school bullying problems, dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs and other animals provide rescue, comfort, security, and therapy to many humans, their own as well as strangers. From the military veteran suffering from PTSD or physical disability to the child lost in the woods or the trapped earthquake victim, animals respond to the needs of people as they fulfill their roles of service, comfort or search and rescue. They are K-9 officers protecting communities and military service dogs sniffing out bombs and bad guys.
Every fall, the American Humane Association partners with the Hallmark Channel to present The Hero Dog Awards. From a service dog named Roselle who guided her blind owner and others out of a building during 911 to an abused pit bull named Hooch, canines have been celebrated for their heroic story for more than five years – and their stories tug at the heartstrings!
This year’s Hero Dog Award winner’s story is no different. American Humane recently announced the 2017 winner: a one-eared pit bull named Abigail. A dog-fighting survivor who was rescued after nearly being euthanized, Abigail is a “spokesdog” for dog-fighting rescues and for forgiveness and second chances. She’s also a fashionista, thanks to her human-mom who dresses her in scarves and headbands to help cover some of her scars. Many nominated Hero Dogs have overcome the odds of abuse or neglect.
Cats are also known to be heroes. Last year the BBC reported on several cat heroes, including one that detected cancer in her special human and another who came to the rescue of the young boys he lives with.
Hero animals – whether they do incredible feats of bravery or are simply the companions of the household, they all deserve to be called the Heroes of Our Hearts!
In just a few short weeks, my two cats, Murphy and Bailey, will turn 12 years of age. They are sisters, even though they look nothing alike. My husband and I adopted them when they were about 10 weeks old, being born of a feral mother who allowed herself to be taken into a friend’s home a few days prior to giving birth; it was like Mamma knew she needed to be somewhere safe to protect her newborns. Everyone received a new home, and on August 1, our two girls will become even more “senior” at the ripe age of 12.
Prior to Murphy and Bailey coming into our lives, my husband and I had a long-haired orange and white cat which I brought into our marriage. This cat, Ama, was also a rescued kitty; I adopted her from the Bozeman (Montana) Humane Society in 1990, and she lived until she was more than 18 years of age.
Cats often live to middle-to-late teens, and even some to age 20 and beyond. In fact, the oldest cat known is Crème Puff, who lived to be more than 38 years of age. Senior cats require extra-care. For example, they often can’t groom themselves as well as when they were younger, especially the long-haired variety. Experts recommend frequently brushing your older cat. Thankfully, my girls were brushed while they were very young, and therefore, they are used to it and they enjoy it. In fact, they know the word “brush,” and come running when I call their names and add the word “brush.”
Other care one needs to take with senior cats include:
Diseases common to senior kitties include renal failure, diabetes, cancer, and overactive thyroid. Many pet experts recommend twice-yearly visits to the vet since cats are good at hiding pain and can’t tell you if they’re feeling sick or where it hurts.
Caring for a senior cat can take extra time in your day, extra expense in your budget, and extra love and compassion. But, your feline friend deserves all the “extras” you provide, for s/he has provided you the companionship and devotion you longed for, whether you’ve had your cat from kittenhood, as my two girls, or adopted at an older age, as was my Ama. Each cat has blessed my life, and I’m thankful to have enjoyed so many years with each of them!
For more information on caring for senior cats, visit this website: https://www.petfinder.com/cats/cat-care/senior-cat/.
June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, a time to bring to light the millions of cats who are in need of homes. Because spring and early summer are considered “kitten season,” a time when thousands more cats and kittens need care and new homes, animal shelters and rescues across the country designate June as Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month.
Here is a short list of things you can do to help, whether or not you can adopt:
By helping organizations that help cats, whether it’s through actual adoption, by volunteering, through community education, or by donating funds and supplies, you are helping cats in need during this special time of year.
Science has proven that having a pet has many health benefits for people, including lowering one’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Some of that is attributed to walking and other exercise activities with a dog. But, what about cats? Does living with a cat benefit a person?
The answer is YES! According to PetMD’s daily Vet Blog, owning a cat also has health benefits. Those include reducing stress levels and blood pressure, which can also help reduce cardiovascular disease. Having a cat can also reduce the risk of depression. Having a furry companion eases loneliness and helps a person unwind and decompress after a rough day at work or school. Cats provide special companionship, and though they tend to be more loners than dogs, cats are also affectionate and playful, helping people not feel so alone and helping them be active, even if it’s just tossing a ball or a catnip mouse across the room. In fact, cat companionship seems especially beneficial to people who live alone or are widowed.
Additionally, a 20-year study found that people who live with cats were 40% least likely to die from a heart attack, and cat owners visit doctors 12% less frequently than non-cat-owners.
Although some people are allergic to cats, exposure to dander and fur in the house can “result in increased resistance to allergens, decreasing risk for allergies and asthma,” according to Health Fitness Revolution.com.
A psychological study showed that children who grow up with pets, including cats, tend to have greater compassion, empathy, and higher self-esteem.
Two different friends have added cats to their homes in the past few years. One adopted an adult male cat, the other obtained a female kitten. Both agree the benefits of companionship, laughter, and relaxation and much more come with living with a cat.
A cuddle with your kitty, a purring lap sitter, or a frisky game of chase the feather chases away the blues and provides fun and laughter. A cat is a wonderful companion, and in its unspoken way benefits a pet parent in a variety of ways.
So, hug your kitty today … and if you don’t have one or are thinking of adding another to your home, adopt one today! June is Adopt-a-Shelter Cat Month, a great time to consider adding a feline friend to your family – there are millions in need of homes, and you can be one of those life-saving heroes. Both you and the cat will benefit.
Just like human medicine, the cost of medical care for our beloved pets can be high. For example, my dog Mary suffers from allergies; her injections cost nearly $300 a year plus she takes daily medication that costs nearly $70 per month. Vaccinations can run $20 to $30 and annual exams nearly $50. Health care for a person’s pet is oftentimes a reason someone will give up that pet (i.e., medication costs) or will ask a vet to euthanize the animal. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Yet, what is a pet owner, who lives on minimum wage or is working two or more jobs and caring for a family, to do, especially with unplanned, emergency veterinary bills? There are several options.
First, explore low-cost vaccination clinics and spay/neuter clinics. Oftentimes various animal welfare organizations will team up with veterinarians to offer such services. For example, my community’s Humane Society pairs with a local vet to offer monthly low-cost vaccination clinics, and occasionally the local city/county animal shelter teams up with a vet to provide low-cost microchip clinics. Learn what’s available in your community for such services.
Second, talk with your veterinarian about a payment plans. Some vets will take monthly or twice-a-month payments; however, many do not. It does not hurt to ask. If your vet is one of those who doesn’t accept payment plans, here are a few other choices for you to consider to help with the financial aspects of your pet’s health care:
We all want to keep our furry friends as healthy as possible, but sometimes the expense can be challenging. Investigate these options and see if one if right for you. Additionally, here is a website that gives more information on how people can find help to pay their veterinary bills: https://www.paws.org/cats-and-dogs/other-services/help-with-veterinary-bills/.
Last week a friend of mine lost her dog. The black pug escaped out of a backyard gate that hadn’t been latched correctly. Her case is not unusual. Dogs frequently escape. Some dig. Some jump. Some look for those unlatched gates. And some dogs are just prone to wander. For example, the working breeds, from hunters like retrievers to herders like heelers, these types of dogs are bred for different jobs… and they may go looking for that work.
Cats also are known to roam. Many people don’t like to keep their cat “cooped up,” recognizing a feline’s instinct for hunting. However, whether cat or dog, a loose pet can be a dead pet. Every day, dogs and cats are hit by cars. Sometimes they’re caught in traps. Maybe shot, stolen, or fall prey to predators like owls, hawks, foxes, and coyotes. Therefore, the best idea is keep your pet at home. Cats can easily become indoor pets. Between carpeted towers, windows to look out of, toys that engage their stalking and hunting instincts, and healthy food, a cat will find contentment inside her home.
However, should your pet escape the house or yard, there are ways to increase its chances of returning home. A collar with id tags is very helpful. For those concerned that a collar will hang up on a fence, or for some other reason not a collar on your pet, then please consider a microchip. It's an easy procedure done by your vet; and sometimes shelters offer microchip clinics for reduced fees. iThat way, no matter what happens to the collar (perhaps someone takes it off or the pet slips out of it), you have another way for someone to help your pet get home. Many animal shelters have a microchip scanner and will check stray animals for a chip. Both id tags and microchips need to have up-to-date information – people can’t return your pet if the address and phone number are no longer valid.
To help find your lost pet, here are a few other ideas to consider:
Before you find yourself in my friend’s situation with a lost pet, take proactive steps, such as collar and id tags, microchip, and regularly checking your gates and fences for closure and holes. Also, be vigilant when opening the doors of your home as well as the gates in your yard. And, if your pet does go missing, do everything you can, employ all types of actions, to get your furry friend back home.
One of the reasons people give for leaving their pets at animal shelters or surrendering them to rescue groups is “I’m moving” or “My landlord won’t let me have a pet.” Being separated from one’s animal is heartbreaking, both pet and owner grieve. I’ve volunteered and worked with enough animal rescue and shelter organizations to know how such separation impacts people and animals.
I was recently approached by a fellow pet-lover and writer about contributing to my blog regarding this subject. She’s written a piece about pet-friendly housing, and I agreed to link to her article.
As March dawns and spring draws ever closer, many people consider moving. Therefore, this is a good time to remind those who rent that it’s important to find out as much in advance as possible if the landlord allows pets. If the new place you’re considering is NOT pet-friendly and you have pets, re-consider moving there; search for pet-friendly accommodations. In some areas, you may find buying your own small place a wiser move, both financially and pet-wise. If purchasing your own place is not an option, consider your renting options.
Read this article written by Rebekah May regarding pet-friendly housing and options you may have as a pet parent. The article begins with these thoughts:
Not only is moving a stressful situation, owning pets only serves to compound the hassle. Pet friendly rentals are increasingly harder to come by for pet owners.
Visit this site to read the remainder of her article:
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.