Last week I wrote about timing and adoption. Well, for my husband and I, the timing was just right. Our family unit changed last weekend – we adopted another dog! Our springer/cocker mix Mary died of cancer in April, leaving our shih tzu Jeremiah without a canine companion - and my husband without one as well.
Mary was primarily Greg’s dog, although she greeted everyone with a wag of her stubby tail. He missed his furry friend and about a month ago, we began looking. Greg’s one stipulation: we had to adopt another springer spaniel, or springer mix. Last week, we learned of one in our region that needed a home. We filed the adoption application, spoke to the foster “dad,” and made an appointment to visit on Sunday afternoon. Sadie, an 8-year-old springer spaniel, spent Sunday night in our home, thanks to English Springer Spaniel Rescue of America.
Adopting a new pet is an exciting adventure! A new life, a new friend, a new routine, all wrapped into a bundle of joy, love, and loyalty ... and in our case, energy! Sadie may be considered “middle-age” in years, but her energy level is that of a teen-pup. We’ve nicknamed her “Rocket Dog!” First thing each morning, she jettisons from her sleeping kennel, runs through the house to the back door, and launches herself into the backyard. She runs, and runs, and runs. The spaniel smile she displays captures a person’s heart. The joy she exhibits for life inspires … and wears a person out!
We knew to expect this behavior. She lived in her foster home for nearly a month; therefore, the family experienced her energetic, OCD-like, behavior. She receives medication daily to help calm her through the day, and she responds well to the drug. Greg also takes her on two to three walks daily, and she is learning to slow her stride better each day. Fortunately, we own recreational property not far from our house, and this weekend, we plan to take Sadie there for the first time. There’s an enclosed area there that Greg built last year for Mary that will become our new dog’s “off-leash” area, and we know she will enjoy that special space, even more probably than she does our fenced backyard.
Sadie and Jeremiah get along fine … except when the bigger dog doesn’t watch for the smaller one and steps on him. However, Jeremiah stands his ground and lets out a growl to help her understand she needs to keep a better watch where she’s going! I hope they become good friends, for Jeremiah and Mary relished a special bond, and I know he misses that connection. He and Sadie may never have the same relationship as he did with Mary, but Greg and I would love to see them lay next to each other on the couch or dog bed in the near future.
Adopting a new pet is not only exciting, but it can also be challenging. Integrating an animal into the household, especially a home with already-established pets, changes dynamics. Sometimes the pets already in the house don’t readily accept a new addition, and sometimes that acceptance just takes a while. A new pet can come with physical or emotional issues, as Sadie has, but that doesn’t make the animal “less than,” any more than such challenges makes a human child “less than.” Patience, perseverance, and understanding are critical in these situations, and being willing to go the extra mile for that animal in need is vital.
Greg and I are committed to helping Sadie feel secure and loved. What we will receive through the journey is priceless – the trust and loyalty of a beautiful creature. She’s already given us kisses, and a week hasn’t even gone by yet.
Rescued pets give us what many people do not: unconditional love and devotion. A person’s life is enriched by those things that money can’t buy. We’re blessed to share our home and our lives with Sadie, and the many other animals who have graced us with their presence over the years.
What animals have you adopted over the years? How have they enriched your life? Feel free to leave a comment.
Our springer/cocker mix, Mary, died in the spring due to cancer. Our household is emptier without her. Her happy personality, enjoyment of people and the outdoors, her comforting presence is greatly missed. We needed time to grieve. Now, we feel ready to add another dog to our family.
How does a person know when the time is right to adopt a pet?
That all depends on the person. I’ve known individuals and families who have lost furry friends and never adopt another. I’ve also known people who missed their animal so much, they took hardly any time to bring home another pet. Only you know for sure when the time is right.
Whether you’re considering adding another dog or cat to your household as we are or if you’re looking for a pet for the very first time, you should do some preparation, not only mentally but physically. For example, make sure your house is ready to welcome a furry friend. If you’re looking to get a cat, make sure you have a litterbox and cat litter, some catnip mice and other toys, and a climbing/scratching post as well as food, water, and dishes. Therefore, when you bring Kitty home, she’ll have all the basic things she needs right away.
The same goes for a dog. Do you have toys, food, pans for the food and water, a dog bed, collar and leash? Do you have a yard and plans for exercising your pup? Are you mentally prepared for the responsibility of caring for a dog?
September is considered Dog Ownership Responsibility Month, a time to remember that pet owners are responsible for the life and care of their animal. Ownership responsibility is EVERY DAY of EVERY MONTH. Therefore, the very first thing you need to recognize before adopting a pet is to accept that responsibility for the animal’s life. blDo you have time to properly care for a pet? Are you willing to spend time, not just feeding and watering your dog or cat (or whatever type of pet you have), but engaging with the animal, exercising, exploring, playing, even sitting on the couch and watching TV. Know the activity level of the pet you’re considering; if it’s a herding or hunting breed, like a border collie or springer spaniel, that dog will need lots of exercise and engagement. If you’re considering adopting a cat, you don’t have to walk it or go to the dog park, but you should still plan playtime, especially for a kitten or young adult.
If you have other pets in the house and are looking to add another, as we are, make sure the animal can accept coming into a household with other animals. And, have a plan of introducing, say your new dog to the cats in your household. Our home includes two elderly cats and a middle-aged shih tzu. We have experience introducing a new dog into the household; we adopted Mary in 2013 and had the cats then as well as an aging cocker spaniel. Mary’s laid-back personality and the fact we brought the elderly cocker with us to meet her helped make the transition easy, even with the cats. When we adopted Jeremiah, the shih tzu, he and Mary spent time in the car and in a hotel room together, helping to seal their bond immediately. We introduced Jeremiah to the cats slowly, intentionally, and within a few short months, the household was peaceful, although anxiety reigned for the first few months. That’s to be expected as everyone gets used to each other.
There’s a lot to think about when considering bringing a pet home, whether it’s your first adoption or your tenth. There are many resources, including pet adoption checklists, that you can review and may find helpful; find a few below:
When should you adopt a pet? Whenever you are ready!
Those of us who are pet lovers know the warm, fuzzy feeling when we see a puppy or kitten at play or when we observe someone walking their dog in the neighborhood. We also know the joy in our hearts when we come home from work or school and our furry friend greets us at the door with wagging tail or a “welcome home” MEOW! Many of us pet-lovers have adopted a pet or two.
I stopped watching Saturday morning shows years ago – but recently I started again. CBS carries a program called Lucky Dog; I began tuning in regularly after seeing a few episodes. Each week, Brandon McMillan brings a dog out of a Los Angeles animal shelter, trains it, and finds it a new home. This inspiring show and its host have won several awards, and the education provided is excellent.
October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month. Every year, nearly 3.5 million dogs (and just about as many cats) enter America’s animal shelters. Many thousands of others go into rescue. If you’ve been considering adopting a pet, particularly a dog, this is a great time to add a furry friend to your household. Many shelters discount their adoption fees during this month, encouraging more adoptions, and ultimately, saving more lives.
Ready to Adopt?
Here are five questions to ask yourself if you’re considering adopting a dog (or any pet for that matter):
If you answer “yes” to the above questions, then your decision to adopt a dog in need of a home is the right one! Begin your search locally for your next furry friend. Or, if you have a specific type of dog in mind, such as breed, age, sex, etc., go to Petfinder.com, put in your zip code and your pet parameters (i.e., adult, female, cocker spaniel) and see what this amazing database can find for you.
Adopting a dog saves two lives: the one being adopted and the next one in need of rescue and a home. Having a pet makes a home more cozy, warm, and loving. Just over one year ago, my husband and I adopted a Shih Tzu who had spent the first three years of his life at a puppy mill. He may never have had a home if it wasn’t for Hearts United for Animals, who rescued him and posted his availability for adoption on Petfinder as well as HUA’s website. Now, he is loved and spoiled – and I’m happy about that! You will be, too, after you adopt your next furry friend.
In honor of friends recently adopting animals and for those rescue groups which tirelessly work to help animals in need, I’ve composed a short story that I hope readers of this blog will enjoy. For truly, I am grateful for pet rescue and adoption!
They came from Canada to meet their new family member. Husband and wife rented an RV and made a holiday of traveling with their young son from Calgary to Sheridan, Wyoming. I drove 160 miles to bring them their new baby: a young male Great Dane. The Canadian family immediately fell in love with the pup, and they thanked me enthusiastically for being part of the team that brought this rescue dog adoption to completion.
I've been part of pet rescue transport for more than five years. Great Danes, Bull Mastiffs, English Springer Spaniels, Boston Terriers – various breeds, various rescue organizations, various adopters, all with a common theme: a story woven with compassion, love, friendship, and gratitude.
The adopters are grateful, the rescue groups are grateful, and the dogs are grateful.
Her name was Jazmine, and she reached my waist simply standing on all fours. This Great Pyrenees was abandoned in a desert where she gave birth to twelve puppies. Each one survived, thanks to a mother's protective instinct, and her tenacity to find food for herself despite the odds waged against her and her youngsters: intense heat, lack of shelter, minimal water and food. Odds were that none would survive. The scars on Jazmine's face spoke volumes to her possessiveness and perseverance. Those claw and bite marks were likely garnered from encounters with raccoons, coyotes, and other predators of young pups. By the time mother dog and babies were discovered and brought into rescue, Jazmine's giant frame was whittled to nearly nothing. After medical treatment for she and the babes, each dog found a new home. I was Jazmine's transport for 200 of her 1,200-mile journey. Thankfulness for the Good Samaritan who found the mother and puppies and gratitude for the rescue group that provided not only medical treatment but also a foster home for them, I accepted the request to help transport Jazmine, the final dog in the canine family to be accepted into the caring arms of a permanent human family.
As we walked around a rest stop adjacent to the interstate, this giant dog, though possessive of her babies to keep them alive, displayed nothing but gentleness toward me. The pony-sized dog leaned her head against my thigh and gazed at me with wondering brown eyes. I caressed the top of her white head and hugged her against me. Gratitude for my small part in getting this formerly abandoned, sweet dog to her new home many miles away overwhelmed me and tears filled my eyes. I could sense Jazmine's thankfulness, too, in addition to her uncertainty. It was like she “knew” she was going home. And she did. A few months later I received a photo of Jazmine with her new family – a man, woman, and two children laughing and smiling in a grassy backyard, hugging their new companion ...and Jazmine with a doggie grin, licking a child's face as she joined in the joy.
To be part of such unions, to play a small role in saving companion animals' lives, to find true purpose in such endeavors – gratitude is one of the many emotions I experience. I receive thanks from all sides, from the rescuer and from the adopter as well as from the dog. But, it is I who is truly grateful to have a role in bringing lives together, in helping to forge a family, bringing four-footeds and two-footeds into a friendly, caring relationship that can last a lifetime.
Theo, a Boston Terrier, needed transport through my home state of Wyoming. His new family lived in Montana, and, like the family from Canada, this couple was willing to drive a fair distance to meet me and their new furry friend. We rendezvoused at the same location where I'd met up with the Canadian couple who adopted the Great Dane, a three-hour drive for me and a five-hour drive for the Montana adopters. Theo sat up straight in the passenger seat of my car, in anticipation and expectation. When we arrived at the tree-lined rest stop off the interstate, he placed his small paws on the car's dashboard, looking around as his little black and white body wiggled in excitement. His instinct seemed to inform him this is where he was meeting his new family. He let out a happy YIP and looked at me with black eyes before gazing out the windshield again and then also the passenger-side window. I took him out of the car for a short walk, and not long thereafter a SUV with Montana license plates pulled in behind my car. Theo watched intently as a pregnant woman and then a man about 30 years of age stepped from the vehicle. Theo stood on his hind legs, his front paws dancing with excitement. The couple laughed. The man bent down, raised Theo into his arms, and then he and his wife hugged their new furry family member. Prior to leaving for Montana with their adopted dog, the man and woman thanked me for being part of Theo coming into their lives. The small dog licked my hand before getting into the SUV with his new human family. The large smile stayed on my face during the three-hour drive back home.
Fairy-tale endings may not exist for all people or all pets, but for the rescue animals I transport, there is a happily-ever-after – love, comfort, dedication, family – and I’m grateful to be part of that ending.
I'm grateful to be part of their happily-ever-after stories. And to have ones of my own.
Earlier this month, a day was dedicated to pets with special needs, also known as “specially-abled” pets. Once termed “disabled,” that label infused “not able,” and though pets that are blind, deaf, three-legged, diabetic, etc. may require additional care and patience, these animals are first and foremost dogs and cats, just like any other.
I lived with a blind dog for more than a decade. Her name was Sage, and she taught me many valuable life lessons. In fact, my authorship sprouted because of her. We visited schools, libraries, and bookstores, and she inspired many others with her abilities despite her disability. Other specially-abled pets do the same – they are amazing in how they adapt to their limitations. For example, given the opportunity to have a K-9 cart, pets with immobile back legs race around in play and fun just like an animal with all four functioning legs. I’ve even seen dogs with short front legs adapt to using their hind legs for propulsion, much like a kangaroo.
Their courage, perseverance, joy, and adaptability are inspiring. Sadly, many blind, deaf, two-legged and other specially-abled pets are euthanized because they are perceived as less adoptable; many consider it “more humane” to kill them. Do we perceive the same of people who are blind, deaf, or in wheelchairs?
A wonderful blog post at Pets for Patriots discusses the beauty and joy, as well as some of the challenges, of having a special needs pet. Here’s a link to the post – I hope you’ll take time to read the encouraging words and view photos of some veterans who have specially-abled pets sharing their lives. https://petsforpatriots.org/understanding-the-special-in-special-needs-pets/
Don’t be afraid to adopt a dog or cat with special needs. Not only will you likely be saving a life, but your own life will be enriched by the presence of these loving, fun animals who know no difference between themselves and other pets. Watch this delightful video of a blind and deaf puppy named Piglet, who has learned commands through touch and plays energetically with his canine siblings:
Below is a photo of Sage, my blind dog, navigating stairs. Blind, yes, capable, yes, inspiring, yes!
The 5-month-old puppy came into the care of Black Dog Animal Rescue, located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in March 2017. The signs of abuse were apparent: more than 20 broken bones, a large, fluid-filled mass on the dog’s neck and shoulders, and her timidity around people. Months of medical and emotional care transpired, and her story took flight thanks to local media and animal advocates on social media. The pit-mix was named Angel; she became the “spokesdog” for advancing stiffer cruelty laws in Wyoming. Angel recovered from all her physical injuries and eventually the happy, friendly puppy-self emerged. She was adopted by one of BDAR’s board members and renamed Stitch. Read her entire journey and see photos and X-rays of her injuries here: http://www.bdar.org/angel/
Although no strong statistics are available on the number of animal abuse cases, which can and often does include the international trade of dog meat and the national issue of horse slaughter, hoarding, dog and cock fighting, and puppy and kitten mills, the issue of animal cruelty exists everywhere. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) documented 29 incidences last year in which they were called in to assist. More than 47,000 animals were rescued or helped in some way last year, and more than 300 criminal charges were filed, according to the organization. Just last week, the organization announced it was helping New Mexico law enforcement with a critical case involving more than 100 animals, many living without shelter and in need of medical care at a supposed animal sanctuary.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month
April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. What can you do to help? Here are five suggestions:
Forms of Abuse
Animal cruelty takes on many forms, from lack of food, water and shelter and violence against an animal (as in Angel’s case) to dog fighting and puppy mills. The dog my husband and I adopted last fall, Jeremiah, is a puppy mill survivor. He and many other dogs were rescued by Hearts United for Animals (HUA), a sanctuary in southeastern Nebraska which, for the past 30+ years, has rescued animals throughout the Midwest. That portion of the country seems plagued with puppy mills, with Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa involved in this industry in high numbers. But, according to the Humane Society of the United States’ 2017 report on puppy mills, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas also have a big issue. That’s why organizations like HUA, which recently helped rescue several German shepherd dogs, and National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR), exist – to provide a sanctuary where these animals can heal physically and emotionally and hopefully find these creatures new, loving homes. Which we’ve provided for our Jeremiah.
Cruelty to animals is not something to be taken lightly. These animals suffer, physically and emotionally, such as children and other people do. Let’s hold abusers accountable and not tolerate the harm they inflict.
Resources on animal cruelty:
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.
With the recent Kitten Bowl, Westminster Dog Show, and American Rescue Dog Show now complete, many people may be thinking about bringing home a dog, cat, kitten, or puppy. Pets touch our hearts and warm our homes – they provide companionship, comfort, and comedy to our lives.
There is little else that lifts one’s spirits than to come home from a tough day at work or school and be happily greeted by a four-footed friend. If you’re thinking of adding a pet to your home, here are six tips to help insure you and your new dog or cat will spend many happy years together:
Having a pet makes a home more cozy, warm, and loving. Pets are devoted to their humans – they love us unconditionally – and like children, they depend on us for care. Therefore, make sure you’re ready and that you’re willing to be faithful to your new furry friend, which can live 10 to 20 years.
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.
Living in the 21st century has many perks, from technological gadgets to how, as a society, we view animals. According to the American Pet Products Association, 68 percent of people living in the United States own a pet, with the majority (60.2 million) having dogs and 47.1 million having cats. The organization estimates that nearly $70 billion was spent on pets by pet owners in 2017, up from 66.75 billion in 2016. Americans certainly seem to love their pets!
Still, improvements are greatly needed, especially in the areas of animal adoption and pet ownership responsibility.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), nearly 6.5 million animals enter shelters and rescues every year; they are comprised of owner surrenders, strays, and animals rescued from hoarding, dog fighting, and puppy/kitty mill operations. Only about half are adopted. More than 700,000 strays are reunited with their owners; sadly, less than five percent of the cats that come in as strays are reclaimed, and many of the animals brought in are not spayed or neutered.
Pet ownership responsibility includes caring for one’s animal, providing food, water, shelter, and medical treatment. In addition to vaccinations and teeth cleaning, medical care should include spaying and neutering. Such procedures curb the number of litters born, and therefore, helps cut down on the number of animals needing homes, either through the owner giving/selling the youngsters or taking them to rescues and shelters. Cats and dogs can breed two to three times a year, having an average of six babies per litter. Multiple that out over the course of five to seven years, and you have thousands more animals per unsprayed female. For every kitten or puppy sold or given away by owners, that’s one less adopted and therefore, one more possibly euthanized.
Until there are less strays, less owner relinquishment, more adoptions, and more spaying and neutering, no more animal hoarding or puppy/kitten mills, there will be the need for animal shelters and rescues.
We all can do our part to positively impact responsibility and rescue. Here are some suggestions:
Although America has come a long way since the 1970s when 12 to 20 million pets were killed in animal shelters across the country, there a great need still exists for pet ownership responsibility and, therefore, for animal rescues and shelters. Let’s all do something to help continue the downward trend of euthanasia rates and increase pet ownership responsibility. Maybe one we will realize the #NoKill dream many animal welfare organizations envision – that no healthy, adoptable animal is euthanized – but it takes responsible pet owners to get there.