Many people enjoy having more than one pet in the household, but adding another animal can come with challenges. Some dogs are more domineering than others, yet you don’t want an overly aggressive dog who won’t allow your second canine friend to eat or play with the toys. And, if you have cats, you’d like to see your feline friends get along. Or, if you have a mixture of dogs and cats, you’d prefer the dog not aggravate or chase the cat… or the cat to constantly swatch and scratch the pup. Just like blending human families, blending a furry family can take a great deal of patience and a lot of time. Be prepared to work with your animals in order to experience harmony in your home.
We had a dog named Cody, a cocker spaniel we adopted from our local humane society in 2008. He was wonderful with our blind springer spaniel, Sage, but she took more time to acclimate to Cody living with us. And, Cody was terror for our two cats. We didn’t properly introduce Cody and the cats, and for several weeks, even into a second month of living with us, Cody chased the cats every time he saw them. Finally, one of our kitties had enough and she swatted his face. That’s all it took and the chasing ceased. It was still another month before harmony set in but it did happen.
After Sage passed, we waited another year to obtain another dog, and this time we chose one who had been around, and therefore, was good with, both dogs and cats. Mary became our next dog, adopted in 2013, and she and the kitties get along wonderfully!
Cody passed away in January 2016. In October, I brought home a small Pekinese mix named Lemmons, again from our local humane society. He had not been around cats, but the shelter staff “tested” him by taking him into the cat room; Lemmons behaved well. And, when I brought him home I introduced him properly to the cats, taking things slowly and having them sniff each other through closed doors. All seemed to be going well. Then, the day I let Lemmons and our cat Murphy near each other, he lunged for the back of her neck. Too much trauma and drama, so I decided he would do best in a home without cats. He had also snapped at Mary a few times. Lemmons was later re-homed through the humane society with someone who had no other pets and to my knowledge, he’s doing much better in that setting. And, my household is harmonious once again.
Sometimes blending furry ones into one household doesn’t work and a person must make the decision that is best for all animals (and humans) of the household. There is the right home for that animal; it just might not be yours.
As my husband and I once again consider adopting another dog – Mary is lonely as the only dog in the house; she had a smaller pup friend in the household before ours and then of course, she had Cody when she first came to live with us – we will once again seek a smaller dog that has been in a multi-pet home. We are hoping to find our next furry friend later this year, possibly another Cocker Spaniel, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, a Bichon Frise, or a Shih Tzu. Each breed is different, in personality, in activity level, and in requirements, just as people are different. So, I’m studying, I’m asking questions, I’m researching. Petfinder.com is a great way to find a new furry friend and the various rescues and shelters in my region are also excellent organizations to contact.
If you’re looking for a feline or canine companion, visit your local rescues and shelters and check out Petfinder as well. Just remember that blending a furry family takes time and patience so do your homework first for the right breed and the right individual.
You may have seen news clips or online photos of children reading to animals. Many libraries across the nation have implemented a “Read to the Dog” program, in which children and therapy dogs spend time together at the library, with the children reading to the dogs. But, did you know there are also programs in animal shelters in which children read to the shelter’s residents, cats or dogs? These programs have multiple benefits: helping children improve their reading skills, helping socialize shelter pets, and developing stronger human-animal bonds for both pets and people.
The Animal Rescue League of Berks County in Pennsylvania started a Book Buddies program in 2013. Through this endeavor, children in grades 1 through 8 who can read at any level can come to the shelter during regular business hours and read to the cats available for adoption. According to the organization’s website, “the program will help children improve their reading skills while also helping the shelter animals by providing socialization and human interaction. Cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing.”
Many literacy experts say children feel more relaxed and less self-conscious reading to animals than reading in front of their peers, to a teacher, or with their parents. Pets and children go together like peanut butter and jelly – mingling and mixing and enjoying one another, all the while improving kids’ reading skills and providing socialization and connection with animals.
In my state of Wyoming, the Sheridan County Library offers a Read-to-the-Dog program several days a week, and north in Montana, the Lewis and Clark Library in Helena also provides such a paw-some service. Children of different ages and reading levels can come and read to a certified therapy dog.
In Salt Lake City, Intermountain Therapy Animals offers a Reading Education Assistance Dogs program, also called R.E.A.D. This program uses already registered therapy dogs and their handlers and trains them to work as a team to improve child literacy. The human-dog teams can go into schools, be at libraries, and visit other settings to serve as reading companions for children.
My dog Mary and I have visited libraries in our area off and on for the past few years. Although we haven’t been part of a Read to the Dog program, we have conducted programs about pet adoption and rescue (my husband and I adopted Mary in 2013 from English Springer Spaniel Rescue), and I have read to children from my various books while Mary sat quietly near my audience and they petted and loved on her. I’m happy to share my sweet Mary with these little ones who hug her, pet her, and talk to her. And her wagging stub of a tail assures me she loves the attention lavished upon and by her!
March is Paws to Read Month, a reminder that children and pets share a special bond, and that implementing a library or shelter program by which children can read to animals either in school, at the library, or at the local animal shelter benefits both kids and pets. If your local library or animal shelter doesn’t have such a program, perhaps you can be the catalyst to help start one. Speak to your shelter’s director or board, speak to your children’s librarian or the library director. Tell them about some of these programs in place around the country. Be an advocate for children’s literacy, therapy animals, and shelter pets, helping benefit kids and animals simultaneously.
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.