This is a great week to celebrate -- I recently wrote and published a new children's book, and the timing couldn't be better. It’s Children’s Book Week, and next week is Be Kind to Animals Week. (Additionally, Monday, April 30 was Adopt a Shelter Pet Day).
From Lassie and Max the dogs, to Dewey and Skippyjon Jones the cats, animals have played a role in books, TV, and movies for generations. Do you remember your favorite animal book, TV or movie from childhood?
Mine was “Follow My Leader,” written during the 1950s but still a part of school libraries during the 1960s and 1970s when I grew up. The primary human character, Jimmy, becomes blind after a firecracker incident. He learns to rely upon a German Shepherd guide dog named Leader, who breaks down Jimmy’s emotional walls as well as helps escort him in this new reality of blindness.
For eons, animals have helped people, being used for hauling, protection, hunting, and rodent control, among so many other situations. These days, animals are used for therapy, in military service, as guide animals, and search and rescue animals, as well as companionship. Children especially respond well to dogs, cats, and other animals. Reading about animals is also a joy for many children, and so this week we celebrate kids, books, kindness and pets in honor of Children's Book Week and Be Kind to Animals Week.
As a writer of inspirational pet stories for children and adults, it’s my joy to share the wonder of animals, especially companions like dogs and cats. And, it’s my special pleasure to announce the publication of my newest children’s book “Jeremiah Finds a Home,” the story of my rescued, adopted Shih Tzu, Jeremiah. He lived in a puppy mill for three years, was rescued by Hearts United for Animals in 2016, and was adopted by me and my husband in late 2017. Although it took time for him to adjust to his new home and very own family, Jeremiah is a joyful dog who makes us all smile. My goal is to teach children and families about puppy mills, the importance of rescue, and the joy of pet adoption. The book is available on Amazon, and you can learn more about the story (told non-graphically) on my website.
There is much cruelty in the world, toward people, including children, and to pets. Kindness must be taught and modeled to kids. We as adults can, and should, do it. Pets do showcase kindness, and exposing children to therapy pets and read-to-the-dog programs at schools and libraries will help instill kindness as well. Books can also be a catalyst of kindness through subtle messages woven into the story. Just as Leader the dog in “Follow My Leader” showcases kindness toward the blind boy, Jimmy, or Lassie to Timmy, children learn compassion, kindness, friendship and other great lessons from pet books (and movies – think of how the animals helped each other in the “Homeward Bound” story).
As we celebrate children, books, pets, and kindness these next few weeks, model positive traits to your kids and read to them stories that showcase those characteristics, too. We can all impact the lives of children and the lives of animals in positive, caring ways.
What was your favorite animal book, movie or TV show and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
My pets are characters in many of my stories. In the new book about Jeremiah, the Shih Tzu, the story is told from the dog's point-of-view. Mary, my cocker/ springer mix, has two books about her, including visiting a ranch and encountering different animals there.
During the past month or two, I’ve honored people in my life who have had birthdays. Friends, colleagues, family – those milestones of years, experiences, and relationships are important, and therefore, should be recognized.
My husband's birthday is next month, and my birthday occurred on Sunday. My husband, dogs, and I took an outdoor adventure on Saturday (the nicest weather day of the weekend), traveling nearly 200 miles total to experience the spring migration of sandhill cranes through eastern Wyoming. We also visited Kindness Ranch, a livestock and pet sanctuary for former research animals. Both were grand experiences!
My husband and I don’t just celebrate people’s birthdays. Our springer/cocker mix Mary had her 12th birthday in early February. We celebrated with a cake – white with cream icing. This is a tradition in our household; it began more than 15 years ago with our blind springer, Sage. Greg started the tradition, deciding to purchase a dog-shaped cake to honor Sage’s birth. Such celebrations have been part of our life with canines in our home ever since.
We’ve also honored our pets by cooking or buying hamburger and feeding the treat to them, in particular our dogs. For the cats, tuna is the food of choice for their August birthdays.
Various websites provide ideas for celebrating our furry friends’ special day. Some of those thoughts include:
According to the UK’s Daily Mail, nearly 75 percent of pet owners celebrate their furry family member’s birthday. Do you? If so, how do you celebrate?
PersonalCreations.com provides a guide and some recipes on cakes that are edible for dogs and cats (the meat cake is thought to be best for cats; but, there are many varieties of special treats which pets can enjoy). Visit their website for ideas: https://www.personalcreations.com/blog/dog-cake-recipes. Writers for this site also give thought to what types of foods are NOT good for our animal pals, which is also important information. Check it out.
Happy Spring, and Happy Birthday to you and your pets!
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.
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.
As Old Man Winter barrels down on much of the United States, snow and ice build up on sidewalks and driveways. To rid our walkways of the dangers of icy conditions, which can lead to falls and broken bones, we often put down ice melt. However, those can have their own hazards, especially for our pets.
The primary ingredient in most ice melt products can be sodium chloride or calcium chloride. These substances can irritate the paws of pets and can also be harmful, even deadly, if ingested. A dog or cat that’s been outside and picks up salt or ice melt on its feet then licks its paw after coming indoors could experience vomiting or diarrhea. Even just a few ounces of sodium chloride or calcium chloride in a small dog or cat can be deadly.
There are two positive solutions to ice melt concerns.
Crystals from salt and ice melt can get between your pet’s pads, causing irritation and potential burns. Take time to clean your dogs’ feet after a walk and your cats’ paws if they venture outdoors during winter. Paying close attention to your animals’ feet will help keep them more safe and healthy during these snowy months.
For some references on ice melts, visit these websites:
If your pet ingests ice melt, contact your vet, the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680), or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435).
Animals are heroes; they impact people’s lives. Last week the Hero Dog Awards were presented by the American Humane Association and broadcast on the Hallmark Channel. These seven dogs all impact people, whether through their law enforcement or military service, bringing smiles to people in hospitals and nursing homes, or simply through their tenacious spirit after a time of abuse – dogs inspire us, if we let them.
I recently wrote post about Animal Heroes. This week, I’m pleased to present a guest blogger who will showcase some types of hero dogs, particularly service dogs who help people with various afflictions. For years, I’ve admired organizations who help people in need of service dogs, groups like Canine Companions for Independence, located in Santa Rosa, California, a community devastated by recent wildfires (thankfully, CCI’s facilities and dogs survived that inferno). I hope you enjoy Paige’s article regarding service dogs and the assistance they provide people – these types of dogs are truly heroes!
Guest Post by Paige Johnson
There are vast types of service dogs, including severe allergy alert dogs, autism assistance dogs, mobility support dogs, diabetic alert dogs, medical assistance dogs, emotional support dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and more. These distinctions can be broken down into three major categories: mental illnesses, permanent mental disabilities, and physical conditions that require assistance. The Great Danes from Service Dog Project, Inc., for example, are for mobility. You would be amazed by what this can do for someone who might become stuck behind a 6-inch curb.
This article will touch on each of the above-mentioned major categories, and how having a service dog can significantly improve day-to-day life for people with such conditions.
Perhaps the most complex of the three categories are service dogs that aid physical conditions such as mobility support, allergy alert, medical assistance, and seizure response. These dogs require a substantial amount of training, as outlined by Paws Training Centers. It can take years to fully prepare a dog for the complexities of physical support. Each situation is different. For this reason, training regimens vary greatly.
Common skills include the ability to notice people approaching, to respond to a name, recognize specific sounds or smells (such as detecting low blood sugar levels), seek help from others, press a medical button, wake up an owner or retrieve personal items. Physical support dogs should be able to apply pressure, cuddle on cue, respond to anxiety or panic attacks, and interrupt nightmares or night terrors caused by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). As you can probably tell, physical support dogs accept a great deal of responsibility for the health and well-being of their owners. They are, quite literally, life-saving animals. Therefore, when you notice a support dog in public, you should never approach without asking first. These dogs are trained to detect danger and could perceive you as a threat, and they are working, caring for their special person. Physical support dogs are far from pets. They are considered companions and dogs with a job.
People with issues such as panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, and depression are aided by emotional support dogs. These dogs require little or no training. They can live in all rented spaces, much like other support dogs. However, they are not always allowed in public places. This is because any pet can be considered an emotional support animal. You can register guinea pigs, cats, dogs, rabbits, or ferrets. If you feel comforted in the presence of your pet, you can register him or her as a support animal. Most non-pet apartment complexes will ask for a record of your counseling or mental diagnosis to ensure that you aren’t taking advantage of the system.
If you choose to get a service dog for your mental illness, understand the difference between a physical and emotional support dog. Should you decide to bring your dog to public spaces as though he or she is a physical support animal, it is your responsibility to provide training. Learn more about access and legal issues through Nolo.
It’s also worth noting that many people who are in recovery from substance abuse addiction find that companion animals are great options for support when managing sobriety and navigating through the difficult aspects of recovery. Animals used in this aspect, while offering emotional support, are not eligible for registration as a support animal, but they still provide ample comfort at home.
Not sure if you need an emotional support dog for your anxiety or mental illness? Anxiety Guru can help you make an informed decision.
Permanent Mental Disabilities
Our final category involves permanent mental disabilities such as autism. Called Autism Support Dogs, these animals are somewhere between physical and emotional service dogs. They do, in fact, require training. They are also respected in public areas as a physical support dog. Their job is to calm and ground an individual through deep pressure or tactile stimulation. They may also help teach important life skills. There is special bond between children and dogs, and those youngsters (as well as teens and adults) paired with such service dogs can see improvements in their lives and therefore, also in their loved ones.
All three categories of service dogs can improve your daily life by making you smile, helping you accomplish otherwise impossible physical feats, or comforting you when you need it most. Remember though there are laws against “faking” a service dog, and those people who really need a service animal can be affected by others who decide to try to by-pass the rules about housing or traveling with a dog. True service dogs are vital companions and often life-saving ones for people with various mental and physical issues.
Whether in need of a service dog or not, consider adopting from breed-specific rescues or animal welfare shelters and getting involved in the Canine Good Citizen Program, which is considered the “gold standard” for dog behavior.
Paige Johnson is a fitness nerd and animal lover. She shares her insights on LearnFit. She loves offering advice on a variety of topics. As a personal trainer, she has a passion for fitness training and enjoys sharing her knowledge with those seeking to live a healthier lifestyle. She's also mom to three dogs, all rescues, and volunteers at her local animal shelter. Through her time with her own pups and working at the shelter, she's picked up some great tips on pet care and training.
Photos from Pixabay.com
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!
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/.
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.