For a person like me, October 4 is a special day – it’s World Animal Day. Started in the United Kingdom, this special day was created to bring greater awareness to the plight of animals and promote better animal welfare throughout the world.
Celebrated in different ways in different countries, the goal of this day is to increase awareness and education, thereby, creating “a world where animals are always recognised as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare.”
I love that mission. In so many places across the world, animals are regarded as property, and therefore, disposable, useless, and of little or no regard. Dogs are sold in Asian meat markets; elephants, rhinos, walrus, and bears are killed for horns, ivory, gall bladders and paws for men’s sexual prowess drugs and as a “food delicacy;” and wild horses, monkeys, tigers, and others are killed for livestock pasture, rice fields, and farms in rainforests. Just as bison were slaughtered to the brink of extinction during 1800s America to subdue native peoples and set up Caucasian farms and ranches, so, too, are other regions of the world adversely impacting habitats and animals.
In western America, that fate is manifested in this day and age by the removal of the gray wolf and grizzly bear from the endangered species list.
I once lived in grizzly bear country – on the western edge of Yellowstone National Park. Humans and bears learned to live together, with the animals only killed when they attacked someone. Often, those attacks were human-caused: people leaving out garbage, dog food, bird seed, and other temptations; the bears, like most creatures, went for the easy food, just like Yogi and the pick-a-nic basket. If people confined food items and garbage, bears would not be attracted, and therefore, there would be less conflict with humans. Yet, people continue to want to establish domain and subdue whatever they feel gets in their way. Humans and animals CAN co-exist as long as people are willing to take the risks associated with living with wildlife. After all, the animals called these areas home long before humans brought in their cattle, sheep, and farms.
As a Christian, I believe God made us all, animals and humans (see Genesis 1;20 - 26). Humankind is supposed to be His crown of creation (we often don’t act that way!); animals were made to be companions for us. Interestingly, God provided plants for both animals and humans to eat; there wasn’t a carnivorous creature in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 1: 29 – 31). God established humans to have dominion over His created works; however, dominion doesn’t mean conquering – it means stewardship, which means caregiver. We are to take care of what He made, not abuse His creation.
World Animal Day is this Thursday, October 4. Show your support for animals, including pets, by doing something to help the cause. Serve at an animal shelter or rescue, at a nature preserve or sanctuary; clean up a lake or river near you; pick up trash in your community; educate others of the importance of habitat and the value and joy of interacting with animals, whether wild or domestic; set up a bird feeding area in your garden, backyard or patio; and share what you’re doing and what is being done around the world via social media.
We can all make a positive difference in the lives of animals, in the habitats of our local communities, and positively affect creatures and creation around the world. Each of us has a part we can play to care for nature and ensure animals, birds, and habitats are still here for future generations.
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.
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.
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.