The man at the dog park told my husband he was traveling the country with his furry friend, an Australian shepherd mix. He also said the pair were visiting as many dog parks as they could, and that this stop, in our community in Wyoming, was just one of many. The man went on to say he’d been in a car accident a few years previous, and that his dog became a reason for him to get up, do his therapy, and improve his health. He said his dog “saved my life.”
Dogs do that. There are the K9s in the military and on police forces; there are the service dogs for blind and wheelchair-bound people; therapy animals that visit hospitals and nursing homes; and search and rescue dogs who find the lost (read a recent story from Ohio about such a canine who found a missing young child).
Next week, American Humane’s Hero Dog Awards will be shown on Hallmark Channel. This program, in its seventh year, showcases the many wonderful dogs on duty, and this year, the categories include Shelter Dogs. This is wonderfully appropriate since October is National Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month. Car company Subaru recently announced its first Make a Dog’s Day, being celebrated on Tuesday, October 22. This month is certainly “going to the dogs,” and that’s just fine!
The ASPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) estimates more than 3.3 million dogs enter America’s animal shelters every year. Some come in as strays and may be reunited with their owners; others are turned in by their people for various reasons. About half (1.6 million) are adopted and nearly 700,000 dogs are euthanized. October offers shelters, rescues, and others the opportunity to showcase the many wonderful dogs in need of homes through promotion of adoption.
My husband and I recently adopted a rescue dog named Sadie from English Springer Spaniel Rescue of America. She may not be a service dog, military K9, or therapy dog, but she has rescued us. We lost our other springer, Mary, to cancer in April. That loss, like most pet losses, left a hole in our hearts, and left our Shih Tzu, Jeremiah, without a canine friend. Sadie is filling both voids. She and Jeremiah haven’t drawn as close and he and our other springer, but when Greg and I are away from the house, she at least provides companionship for him. Sadie has bonded strongly with my husband. She stays with him in his home office, goes for walks in the dog park and around the neighborhood, and spending time on the couch watching TV as well as outdoors in our back yard. That hole left by the passing of our other springer is slowly healing, thanks to a hyper springer spaniel named Sadie.
I’ve heard others say the same. After the passing of one pet, the adoption of another helps the healing from the loss. Dogs (and cats) help us in other ways, too. They fill a gap, for loneliness, for service, for recovery, for friendship. We rescue dogs, and they rescue us in many, varied and special ways.
So, this month, consider adopting a dog in need. And, if you can’t adopt, do something else to help, like volunteer, donate supplies or money, attend events. And always remember to be the best responsible pet parent as possible! We rescue dogs and they rescue us.
NOTE: My forthcoming novel, Rescue Road, is about second chances, both for the humans and the animals in the story. Releasing next month in honor of both October’s National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month and November’s National Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month, the book highlights the importance of pet rescue and adoption and provides resources to do just that at the back of the book. Rescue Road will be available in both print and e-book format and is scheduled for release on November 9, 2019. Learn more about the novel and watch a short book trailer here: http://www.gaylemirwin.com/novels.html
There’s a funny song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” – did you get one of those? Sometimes families or individuals bring home a new pet as a Christmas gift, maybe not a hippo but a dog, cat, or guinea pig. Is that you this year? No matter what time of year you bring a new pet into your household, your life is going to be different – just as it is when a new human baby arrives. Here are a few tips to help you, your family, and your new pet friend adjust to the “new normal:”
These are just five tips to consider before and after you bring home a new pet. There are many other ideas offered by the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and Petfinder, two sites which provide pet adoption opportunities and pet care tips:
Pets bring people deep joy through their antics and their devotion. Studies show pets benefit people emotionally and physically, helping with depression, cholesterol, and blood pressure, among other things. A pet is a special gift, and it’s a gift for life. Take care of your new pet and it will take care of you!
After a full day of school, the ten-year-old, brown-haired girl filled the two dog dishes with kibble and sprinkled water to coat and soften the food and gave a head scratch to each pup as they began to eat. Next, she went to the three rabbit hutches, and refilled food pans and water bottles as needed. She also scooped the cat box every other day and refilled her calico furry friend’s dishes. This was her job – caring for the small animals on the 14-acre Iowa farm.
That girl was me. From age seven, when the cat followed me home and I begged my parents to keep her, the care for the family pets became mine (overseen by the adults, of course). At a young age, I learned pet ownership responsibility – and kindness toward animals. Dogs were part of my growing up years, but, like many young children, I also had turtles and goldfish. Although my parents took care of the dogs at first, my mother modeled caring for the turtles and goldfish until I learned to feed them by myself. As I grew older, and especially after the blessing of the calico cat whom I named Precious, the pet care shifted to me.
The is Be Kind to Animals Week. Kindness is a learned, modeled trait. There are numerous people, including children, who are NOT kind to animals and NOT kind toward other human beings. Animal cruelty exists in many forms, from neglect and abuse to dog fighting and torture. The national organization, American Humane, began during the early 1900s; they started Be Kind to Animals Week, geared toward children and families. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals started even before American Humane in response to horses used to pull carriages almost to the point of death. Together, these organizations, along with the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society International, promote kindness toward animals, putting a stop to animal cruelty, and pet ownership responsibility.
We can all show greater kindness, and we can all do something to educate others about kindness, not only toward animals but toward one another. Education is the key. If you’re an animal lover, speak out about cruelty and abuse. If you’re a parent or grandparent, model kindness to your kids and grandkids and teach them pet ownership responsibility. Kids mimic what they see and hear – show them that kindness makes a difference in the lives of pets and other animals, as well as in the lives of people.
The late Glen Campbell had a music hit called “Try a Little Kindness.” This world needs more kindness. Let’s start together, in light of this special week. Volunteer or donate at your local rescue mission, animal shelter, women’s shelter, daycare center, or pet rescue organization. Take the kids with you and make it a family endeavor. Ask the kids to help care for your pets at home, take Fido for a walk or to the dog park, spend time petting and playing with the cat. There are many ways to show and model kindness – let’s all be a little kinder this week, even more the week after that and the week after that. Kindness shown is kindness appreciated – and often kindness shared. Animals and people are the same this way – they need kindness in their lives. Let’s be the ones to give it, teach it, and pass it on.
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.