Monday, October 10, 2011

Adopt A Shelter Dog Month

October brings changing leaves, cooler temperatures, and decreased daylight. October also brings to my house a touch hof "hibernation syndrome" as both dogs and humans nap more often!
This month is also Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, the time in which animal welfare organizations promote the many wonderful dogs in need of new families. Adopting a shelter or rescue dog not only may save one more canine life, but also brings great satisfaction to the one adding the furry friend to the household. Numerous breed rescues and animal shelters across the country have been inundated the past few years with dog relinquishments as the downturn of the economy affects households across the nation. Yet, despite the numbers of pets let at shelter doors or turned into rescue organizations as abandoned, unwanted, neglected or simply "I can no longer afford to keep my pet" animals, the staff and volunteers with these animal welfare groups continue to persevere, hosting special adoption events and fundraisers in order to continue helping pets in need.

If you've ever considered adopting a dog, this is a great time to do so! Check out or visit your local shelter or rescue organization. Not all animals turned into these groups have behavioral problems; some simply are the result of a family's misfortune, such as a job loss or mortgage foreclosure. A great many furry friends are waiting for the right person or family to discover them and give them the loving, forever home they deserve.

If you cannot adopt a dog right now, there are other things you can do during Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Volunteer with your local shelter or rescue group: walk dogs, help with fundraising events, or help transport a dog for a rescue group. Maybe you can be a foster parent, keeping a pet for a short amount of time while its waiting for its forever family. Perhaps you can donate products the group needs, such as pet food, cat litter or cleaning supplies. Or, maybe you can donate some funds for an animal's medical expenses. Whatever you can do will certainly be appreciated by the staff and volunteers!

I have had the good fortune to adopt my animals from various groups and to assist organizations as a volunteer. My current two dogs both came from animal shelters, and the dog before them was adopted from a shelter in 1989. What joy all three of these creatures have given me! What a blessing to my life and what a deep sense of satisfaction in keeping these beautiful dogs in my home, knowing they may have been disposed of for various reasons. My dogs have been an integral part of my life, and I am so thankful shelters and rescues are out there helping animals in need!

May each of us do something this month to help dogs during Adopt a Shelter Dog Month!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dogs and People Helping Each Other

Animal welfare groups, including many rescue organizations and animal shelters, celebrate the joys of dogs this month. October is recognized nationally as Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month and provides people the wonderful opportunity of giving a dog a new, loving home. Today, let's look at how dogs and people help one another.

My two special dogs both come from shelters, one from Montana, the other from my community's Humane Society. Both dogs have brought great joy into my life and have taught me many valuable life lessons, such as loyalty, courage, perseverance, and love.

Dogs and people have held a special bond for thousands of years. Dogs have served humankind in many capacities, from protector to bearer of burdens. Native Americans, for example, used dogs to transport loads prior to obtaining the horse. Still today, dogs serve people in a variety of ways: herding and protecting flocks; finding fowl in the field; guiding the blind; assisting deaf and wheel-chair bound individuals; rescuing lost children; and bringing smiles to those in hospital beds.

Here are some special ways dogs help people:

  • Assistance dogs are specially trained to help people manage physical or emotional disabilities. Guide dogs assist the blind, deaf assistance dogs alert people to the telephone or doorbell, and assistance dogs open refrigerators and building doors for people in wheelchairs. Some even detect cancer and epileptic seizures.

  • Search and rescue dogs look for the lost. From hikers and skiers to victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, these hero dogs put their health and life in the balance in the line of duty.

  • Military and police dogs also put their lives on the line. From sniffing for drugs or bombs to patrol duties, these dogs serve our country in the United States and abroad.

  • Visiting hospitals and nursing homes, therapy dogs bring smiles to the faces of ill children and lonely senior citizens.

  • Read-to-the-dog programs are popular in many libraries across the country and help children become better readers.

  • Sporting dogs, including spaniels, retrievers and pointers, help bring home dinner in the form of ducks, pheasants, and grouse.

  • Herding dogs, like the Australian Shepherd and the collie, have the genetic instinct to drive and gather livestock. Some of these dogs, such as Israel’s Canaan dog, have been used for several centuries.

  • A variety of dogs, including the Siberian husky and German shepherd, are part of the working breed, transporting and protecting people.

Dogs help us in many ways, including the simple acts of helping us exercise, lowering our blood pressure, and getting us to laugh and smile more often. So, honor your special pooch for his loyalty and love with an extra ounce of kibble, a special hug, or a play-day outdoors in the field. And, if you’re thinking about adding a dog to your household, October is a great time to do so.
If you can’t have a dog right now, there are still things you can do to celebrate dogs, including showing kindness and compassion to animals in need and supporting your local pet rescue and shelter organizations with donations – there is always need not just for money, but also for supplies and volunteers.

Celebrate dogs however you can during National Adopt-A-Shelter Dog Month!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Saluting Service Dogs

The 10th anniversaray of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks approaches us. Most of us know where we were on that day, at that hour and we won't forget the sights, scenes, smells and stories that came from that awful day. Neither will those who handled search and rescue dogs at the scenes in New York City and the Pentagon.

Search and rescue teams from around the country converged on the site of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon within days of the attacks. In all, nearly 400 dogs were used to search for survivors and victims. Still today, search dogs and their handlers look for and find victims of hurricanes, mud slides, earthquakes and other disasters as well as hikers lost in the wilderness or skiers overtaken by an avalanche.

Here are the names of some of the heroic canines of September 11, 2001:
Roselle - Yellow lab who guided her blind owner safely from the falling Twin Towers
Abby – a black lab from California
Guinness – a yellow lab from California
Red – a black lab from Maryland
Bailey – a black lab from Tennessee
Tara – a black lab from Massachusetts
Bretagne – a golden from Texas
Jake – black lab from Utah
Ricky – rat terrier from Washington
Jenner – black lab from Colorado
Many of these dogs served during Hurricane Katrina and have conducted other rescues as well. They devoted their lives in service to people.

Dogs are a tremendous gift to humans. In addition to search and rescue, dogs are often used as therapy, visiting nursing homes, schools, libraries and hospitals. A program called America’s VetDogs provides therapy dogs to our nation’s wounded warriors recovering in military hospitals. Known as military therapy dogs, these comforting creatures provide mental, emotional and physical well-being to our wounded soldiers “Getting out and walking the dog is huge therapy,” says one doctor. Another part of the program is to provide guide and other service dogs to soldiers who have been blinded or confined to wheelchairs. The program matches dogs with soldiers. To learn more, visit

The last full week of September is known as National Dog Week. May we pay proper honor to the dog heroes of our day, from the 9-11 service dog, to the dogs used in pet therapy, to the K-9 dog keeping our community safe, to the special four-footed friend lying at our feet.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

  • August is known as the Dog Days of Summer, oftentimes bringing hot, dry days. With these “Dog Days” come unique safety concerns for our pets. Here are a few tips for keeping your pets safe in the weeks remaining of summertime:

Don’t leave pets unattended in your vehicle. Cars quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, especially on warm or sunny days, even with the windows slightly open.

  • Ensure your pets’ vaccinations are up-to-date and that heartworm, flea and tick medications have been administered. Summer brings out rabies-carrying creatures, such as skunks and raccoons, and fleas and ticks are abundant this time of year as well. Protect your pets! Consult your veterinarian for more information on heartworm, Lyme disease, rabies and other life-threatening diseases.

  • When planning your dog’s daily walk, seriously consider early morning or later in the evening when it’s cooler. If you have to walk mid-day, take a shorter route, and remember that sidewalks can burn the pads of a dog’s paws.

  • If your dog spends time outdoors in a kennel, ensure he has plenty of fresh, cool water and shelter. Rain and thunderstorms can pop up quickly, particularly in the afternoon when you may be elsewhere, such as work. And, NEVER chain or tie your dog out – lightening striking a nearby tree, heat exhaustion, dehydration and numerous insect bites are just a few of hazards posed to tethered dogs.

  • For your cat’s protection, keep her indoors. Cats can be purr-fectly content indoor pets – they just need is a bit of playtime, a cat tree and other enrichment. Keeping your kitty indoors protects her from death by car, rabies from roaming creatures, and other safety issues, such as other cats and roaming dogs.

  • Pesticides, weedkiller and other chemicals pose dangerous risks to pets and may even result in death. Ensure your pet cannot get into any of these hazardous products, and highly consider using organic products for your garden and yard.

  • If your pet travels with you, make sure his/her ID tags are on the collar – you might even consider microchipping your pet before traveling. Also, use a leash to walk your pet for its bathroom break. One of the worst ways to ruin your vacation is to lose your pet.

  • Prior to traveling, look into accommodations that accept pets. Here are a few websites that can help you plan your pet-friendly vacation: and

  • If you don’t take your pet on vacation with you, look into hiring a reliable pet sitter. Ask friends or your vet for recommendations.

  • NEVER leave your pets home alone if you’re gone for an extended period of time. Even asking friends to “drop by” to feed and water isn’t enough. Things can happen if a pet is left alone for days – running out of water, yard and house destruction, incessant barking which can result in upset neighbors – and possibly a fine to you by animal control.

  • Don’t let the dog bite! Summer is the peak season for dog bites because of the increased number of children and dogs playing outdoors. Training, socialization and spaying/ neutering your dog help reduce the risk of dog bites. Also, remember to teach your children good manners around pets. To learn more about dog bites and how to prevent them, visit

May you, your family, and your pets have a safe and enjoyable rest of the summer!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Sadness and Facts of Aging

My two dogs are seniors, and lately some unexpected health issues have arise. These "conditions" happen with little to no signals, and can shake a pet owner to the core.

In March and again in April, our blind Springer Spaniel, Sage, experienced what appeared to be a stroke. She could not stand up and her eyes began twitching and moving in various directions. We were able to get her into the vet immediately the first time, and there she stayed for nearly four days. The vet diagnosed her with a common condition in older pets, but one that cannot easily be explained as to its cause. It's called Vestibular Syndrome. There are two types: central vestibular disease and peripheral vestibular disease. Central vestibular disease occurs because of an abnormality in the brain, and peripheral occurs because of an abnormality within the nerves of the inner ear. Peripheral is the most common; one could think of it like a bad case of vertigo. Central vestibular syndrome often occurs due to a tumor on the brain. The onset is sudden and makes an owner think the dog is having a stroke; however, canine strokes are very rare.

We hoped Sage's condition was the less of two evils, but when she experiened another "episode" in April, basically one month after the first, we began to believe she may have a brain tumor. The only real way to know if that's the case is to have a CATSCAN or MRI done, so we decided to just wait and see if she experienced another episode. The second time she had one, it didn't last as long, and she was at the vet's only for one night. Now it has been nearly two full months since Sage experienced the condition, and she's not had another episode. Therefore, we are believing she has the peripheral syndrome, not the central type. We give her the steriod Predisone two to three times a week; it's one of the meds she was given back in March, and her system seems to tolerate that small dosage, and perhaps it's kept the vestibular disease in check.

According to most vets, the cause of this disease is unknown, and affects dogs ages 12 and older. Sage turns 12 this fall, but with her other physical limitations, it's not hard to conceive she could be affected by this at 11 1/2 years of age.

For an indepth article on vestiublar disease, visit the PetPlace website:

Cody, our Cocker Spaniel, turned 13 in mid-June. During the last week of the month, he became extremely lathargic and stopped eating. I was out of town, so my husband took him to the vet after the second day as Cody appeared weaker. The vet and his staff ran some tests, and diagnosed him with autoimmune hemolytic anemia, a condition in which the dog's immune system attacks its healthy red blood cells. It is a critical situation, but with the proper treatment, not necessarily fatal. Cody spent five days at the vet hospital, being kept quiet (a blood clot could develop which would kill him) and pumped on steriods and other drugs to combat the situation and re-build his red blood cell count. Cocker spaniels are prone to this disease, although according to our vet, it generally occurs in dogs 7 to 10 years old. Other breeds are also susceptible, including poodles, Old English sheepdogs, and Irish setters. Females are twice as likely to get the disease. So, Cody having developed it was somewhat of a surprise.

Prognosis is not great; about 40% of animals do not survive, and the condition usually re-occurs. I'm fortunate that my vet has experience dealing with this disease, but Cody's age is most likely problematic. For more information on this condition, visit

We can feel quite sad when our pets age. As I journey through the aging process of my pets, I am also traveling the road of aging parents. The paths are quite similar. As I await Cody returning home, I am exploring options for my parents, who live 450 miles away, to move closer. On their behalf, I am looking into senior housing in communities closer to where I live (though they have expressed their inclination to move closer, they don't want to live in the same town as I do becasuse they really don't like the town or the area; that, too, will most likely change at least as far as location, but not the "liking" of the location).

I, too, am aging and feeling the physical inadequacies of middle-age. We all go through it, it's a fact of life, but a fact not less challenging, and in many cases, sad. I am thankful I beleive in a better life beyond what I can see and currently physically experience, a wonder-filled special place where neither people nor pets will age, experience health issues or the ultimate "as we know on Earth" death. There is a better home a'waitin' as the old hymn says.

In the meantime, we live, we laugh, we love, we experience, we age. And, we enjoy the good as much as we can. Be blessed along the journey!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beware of Water Hazards

As spring wings it way toward summer and moisture continues in both rainfall and snowmelt, we need to think about the dangers of our dogs being in the water. Summer’s heat can make a running river appear refreshing for people and pets, however, racing waters pose dangers for both. Therefore, pet owners, BEWARE!

Contrary to what many people think, not all dogs swim or swim well. Dogs can and do drown. Even the best of swimmers, like Labrador retrievers, can lose their life in the water, especially a swollen, fast-moving river or stream.

In the early part of May, when rain fell and snow melted in the Rocky Mountains, a lab fell into a creek near Salt Lake City, was swept away by the cruising current and drowned. Owners need to keep their dogs on a leash when walking near racing water and keep their dogs close at hand so the animal is not as apt to fall or jump in.

Like many people, most dogs enjoy a great swim – it’s good exercise and helps alleviate some of the summer heat. However, swimming is also dangerous, especially when the water is high as it has been this year. As snows continue to melt in the higher elevations, our state’s rivers and streams may continue to pose hazards to both people and pets. So, when you’re camping, hiking or fishing this summer, keep your dog close at hand and restrained so that you control how close s/he gets to that fast-moving water.

Lakes and ponds have their own dangers, including blue-green algae, chemicals and motor oil. Take special note if you see blue-green algae or chemical pollutants in the body of water and hose off your dog or bathe it when you get home. Boating with your dog can also cause concern. Just as people should have personal floatation devices (PFDs) [and remember, children are required to wear them while in the boat!] PFDs for dogs are also available.

According to outdoor gear specialists REI, the U.S. Coast Guard does not certify canine PFDs, however, these doggie life jackets can be life savers. The device should fit snugly so your dog cannot twist, step or swim out of it, and it should have easy-release buckles and a handle so you can lift your four-legged friend out of the water if necessary.

Pools are another area of concern. If you have a pool and own a pet, again, be cautious. Make sure your dog doesn’t swallow chlorine and make sure your dog knows how to get out of the pool – be sure there are steps into and out of the pool and that your dog knows where those steps are located. Cover your pool when no one is around to keep your dog (and your children) safe.
For more information and tips on dogs and water safety, visit or talk with your veterinarian.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Joy of a Mature Pet

Our cocker spaniel, Cody, turned 13 a few days ago. He has been part of our household for more than four years now. I recall seeing that sweet little guy, nearly 10 years old, behind the gate of a kennel at the Casper Humane Society, and my heart nearly broke. Who would "dispose of" an older gentleman, used to living in a home? When I learned more of his story, I decided he really didn't have much of a loving home, had only been a 'stud' for service, then thrown away when he got "too old".

Society seems to like disposing of things -- disposable diapers, tossing plastic into the garbage instead of recycling, putting older parents into nursing homes instead of embracing them as part of the family, divorce instead of working through problems... why should we expect to treat our pets any different? Thankfully, not everyone thinks "disposing of" something is the best option; people recycle, people volunteer, people help, people adopt. And, adopting and embracing an older pet, like welcoming and gleaning from older people, is truly the smart option.

Here are a few reasons older pets make great pets:

·Puppies and kittens require a great deal of attention and time, and for busy families, time is something of a commodity. Mature pets can be left alone for longer periods of time, and often enjoy having ‘down time’. Now, this doesn’t mean they should be locked up in a kennel all the time and it doesn’t mean they don’t need exercise – adult pets just require LESS time and energy than puppies or kittens.
·Young ones require training, such as housebreaking, and a great deal of patience. Older pets often come housebroken/litter box trained, and in many cases, adult dogs have some basic obedience training, such as knowing “sit”, “stay” and “come”.
·What you see is what you get when you adopt an adult – adopting a mature pet allows you to know more about its size and temperament, whereas adopting a puppy or kitten is sometimes a guessing game when it comes to the animal’s temperament and size.
·Older pets expend less energy – often, a simple walk around the neighborhood for an older dog is sufficient, and mature cats enjoy lounging in the sun more than chasing strings or feathers. So if you’re not terribly active, an older pet might suit your lifestyle.
If you are an active person, such as a hiker or runner, your best companion could be a 2- to 5-year-old dog who is just waiting for that energetic person to help HIM expend some energy! (plus, most likely, not in need of potty training!)
·Adopting an older pet is truly a selfless act. As an animal ages, its chances of adoption grow slimmer; by giving a mature pet a home, you’re showing great compassion and empathy – and gaining a wonderful furry friend in the process!

Some people think if an older dog or cat is in the shelter there must be something wrong with it – not so! Many adult and senior pets are relinquished because the owner can no longer care for them due to the person’s health or even death. Some of the most wonderful companion animals in need of new homes are awaiting another chance to shower a family or individual with devotion, just as they did with their previous owner.

Cody had no trouble bonding with us when he was 10 years old. In fact, I believe he is thankful we brought him home with us. Sage turns 12 in a few months. As the time passes and I know we will face the inevitable one day, I never cease to be amazed at the devoted, loving, loyal hearts of my pets, especially my older dogs. I am SO GLAD I didn't turn my back on those gentle, heart-tugging brown eyes of an elderly male cocker spaniel. My life would not have been as enriched.

Happy Birthday, Cody!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Help Animals in Need -- They Need You!

The weakened economy, the unchecked pet population, the inability to care for one's animals due to illness... these are just a few of the factors affecting companion animals in our country today. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 3 to 4 million pets go into animal shelters across America every year, and less than half get new homes. The Doris Day Animal Foundation estimates millions of other pets are simply abandoned, left to fend on their own in apartments, houses, urban streets and country roads.

Animal shelters, Humane Societies, and pet rescue organizations throughout the United States are stressed to the max with abandoned, neglected, unwanted animals, as well as those pets whose owners can no longer care for them due to illness, death or economic conditions of the pet guardian. What can be done?

These organizations are doing their very best to place animals into new, loving homes. However, there are things we, the general public, can do as well, and not all those activities involves adopting an animal. Some of us cannot adopt, but there are many other things we can do to help animal welfare organizations care for and assist animals in need in our own community or region.

Chester, the dog pictured on the left, was a handsome Springer boy who went into rescue and needed a new home. I helped him get there simply by being part of the team which delivered him to his new home. I have been involved with transporting dogs for various groups as those organizations seek to get the pet to its new home, or as the organization brings it from a kill-shelter (or even an abused owner situation) into a rescue situation. I've transported primarily Springer Spaniels, but also other breeds, large and small -- all these creatures have touched my heart with their need for love and companionship! I enjoy helping an animal get out of a terrible condition/situation into a loving, caring environment. This takes a few hours of my time every few months, and yet I know how critical this transporting activity is for the animal's welfare. Many people across the United States help transport pets from one place to another; without these willing partners, rescue groups (and the animals themselves) could not be helped. Transporting is a volunteer job -- you pay your own gas and don't get reimbursed for your time. However, the knowledge that you've done a vital service and helped an animal in need -- WOW, WHAT A FEELING!

Volunteers are vital to rescue and other animal welfare organizations, and there are many ways a person can volunteer. Some of these endeavors take lots of time, others take only a few hours a week. Even if you don’t have innumerable time to volunteer, you can still be part of helping animals in need.

Here are some ways in which you can help your local animal shelter, Humane Society, or animal rescue organization:
Donate time to walk and play with dogs.

Donate time to brush and play with cats.

Serve as a foster parent, providing a temporary home to injured or orphaned animals, those awaiting a new home, or mothers with very young kittens or puppies.

Transport pets going into new homes.

Assist with fundraising and other special events.

Help landscape and/or clean the facility.

Donate products, such as pet food, toys, treats, laundry soap and cat litter.

Donate money.

Collect aluminum cans, take them to your local recycling center, and donate the money you receive from that aluminum to the animal organization in your area.

And, don't forget your own pets -- make sure they are spayed/neutered so they aren't adding to the pet overpopulation problem; insure their vaccinations are up-to-date to protect them and other animals in your neighborhood, and please put a collar with ID tag on your furry friends so they can get back home faster in case they become lost.

Visit with a representative from the animal welfare group you’re interested in helping and see what their needs are that volunteers can provide. If you don't know what organizations are in your area, visit, look up your state and city, and learn about the animal welfare organizations in your area. Then, contact them and let them know you'd like to help in some way and learn about the organization's needs. These groups rely on volunteers to help in many different ways. You will be amazed at the difference you can make in the lives of homeless pets in just a few hours a week or even a few hours each month as these animals await their loving, forever home!

Be part of the positive solution regarding the issue of pet overpopulation and pets in need by giving of yourself in some small, or big way!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Great Animal Movies to Watch

The first long weekend of the summer season is approaching, and though many people spend time outdoors, if you live in an area where the weather is expected to be less than ideal (of if you just want to kick around your PJs a bit for some needed R&R), here are some great movie ideas for you and your family:

"Hachi: A Dog's Tale" is the story about the dog-human bond. It's about loyalty to the "nth-degree!" The movie stars Richard Gere and Joan Allen and a beautiful Akita. Based on a true story about a dog in Japan in the 1920s and 1930s, Hachi, a dog, waits for his master's return for nearly a decade. If you don't cry, or at least get choked up about Hatchi's (the Akita) devotion to his person, your heart is stone! Learn more at

"Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey" features the voices of Michael J. Fox and Sally Field and again, showcases the devotion of pets to their owners as three lost pets make their way through wilderness, storms, and thousands of miles to return to their beloved family. SPOILER ALERT: I always cry when the old Golden Retriever crests the hill, limping but alive! See for more information.

"Because of Winn Dixie" may be classified as a kids' movie, but adults can learn alot about life and loyalty as well! See for more information.

I never saw "Marley & Me" the movie, but I read the book -- animal death scenes are difficult for me and with senior dogs at my house, I think I'll wait on this one awhile. But, I hear it's a pretty good movie. Visit for more information.

Additionally, there are NUMEROUS great dog and cat books available at libraries and bookstores. Maybe you want to take one on your camping trip and sit by the campfire to read in the evening. Or curl up in your favorite chair on Sunday afternoon for a good rest with a good book. "Marley and Me" was already mentioned; "Dewey" about the library cat in Iowa; "Saturdays with Stella" and the various "Chicken Soup" for pet lovers area also great reads. Check out information on these books at

And, if you like knowing more about the loyalty of dogs, there's a wonderful story about a dog, like Hachi that lived in Montana during the 1930s. Like Hachi, this dog greeted every train that rolled into Fort Benton, Montana looking for his master. This dog's name was Shep, and, also like Hachi of Japan, a bronze statue of this loyal dog graces the town. Another story to bring tears to your eyes. Learn more about Shep's story at There are also books about this special dog. Find a listing on Amazon at

Couldn't we people learn great lessons for Shep, Hachi, and the stories behind each of these movies and books? No wonder we love our pets so much!

Enjoy a safe holiday weekend and don't forget to include your pets -- and a good movie or book or two!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Try a Little Kindness

Everyone enjoys bits of kindness and concern; our pets are no different. Owning an animal isn't license to do as you will and break its will; having a pet in one's household is a privilege, a joy, as its life melds with yours and you show responsibility for its care.

Kindness – giving of oneself in service to others in order to make another’s life better. In large and small ways, kindness goes a long way in the betterment of individuals and communities. Kind acts and gestures don’t need to cost a lot of money or even a lot of time, yet the affirmation of a smile, a hug, or a small act of selflessness is priceless. And kindness impacts more than human lives when bestowed upon our furry friends.

The second week of May is “Be Kind to Animals Week”, a week designated and recognized by American Humane, a non-profit organization based in Colorado that works to better the lives of both children and pets. Being kind to companion animals, who often give selfless devotion to their owners, can be done in one’s own household and within the community. Here are some thoughts of how you and your family can be kind to animals:

At home:
· Don’t leave your dog constantly kenneled or tied up in the backyard, forlorn and forgotten. Dogs need interaction and socialization; why have a pet if it’s left alone outdoors all the time? Enjoy the companionship, the energy, the loyalty dogs have – relish the devotion and fun that is part of your dog’s makeup!

· Keep your cat indoors and play with her when she seeks your attention. Although cats are often more independent than dogs, they still need their owner’s companionship and care. And, keeping your cat indoors will protect her from roaming dogs and speeding cars.

· Make sure your pets are up-to-date on their shots. With the warming weather, more wild animals, such as raccoons and skunks, will be invading our communities, especially along streams and creeks; sometimes these creatures carry diseases harmful to our pets, such as rabies, so protect your four-footed friends with the proper vaccinations.

Within one's community as well, your kindness to animals is vital. Here are some ways to help organizations that help our community’s pets who are waiting for new homes:

· My community of Casper has several animal welfare organizations that care for homeless pets. Most communities have rescue groups and animal welfare organizations that help pets in need. Donating your time, talent and resources goes a long way to help care for your community’s thousands of animals still waiting for their forever home.

· Your donation doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – recycling and donating your aluminum cans and newspapers, for example, is a help for many of these organizations. If you already recycle cans and newspaper, why not recycle them to the Humane Society, thereby helping care for the animals in their care? And, if you don’t recycle these items, why not start and donate them to the Humane Society? They use newspapers to line cat cages and aluminum has monetary value that can go in the organization’s coffers to buy the items necessary to run the shelter. Simply recycling your newspapers and aluminum doesn’t cost you a dime and helps bring some or save some extra dimes to help homeless pets.

· Give of your time in some way to help animal rescue groups – volunteer! Perhaps you can help at a special event once or twice a year; perhaps you can sign up to walk dogs or brush cats once a week or twice a month; maybe you have carpentry or maintenance skills and can give a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to help the organization with repairs or clean-up; perhaps a few times a year you can transport a few dogs or cats to new locations for a rescue group. Contact your local animal welfare organizations, ask where they might need an extra hand, and extend that hand of kindness to the staff and the temporary 4-footed residents under their care.

Kindness doesn’t have to cost money – it simply takes a bit of effort to better another life. Kindness makes a big difference, but only takes a small step. Be a role model for your children, make kindness toward animals and toward other people a positive practice as a family. Remember that wonderful phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Leave a positive legacy in your family – be kind to animals and to other people not only this month, but on into the future. Kindness makes the world a better place – and it starts with each one of us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Exercise Your Pet -- It's Good for You, Too!

Winter is finally coming to an end (thankfully!) in Wyoming, and many of us anxiously look forward to longer, warmer days, greening grass, and blooming flowers. As the days lengthen and the temperatures moderate (sometimes!), we can help our dogs and ourselves be more healthy by getting outdoors and exercising.

Exercise is important for our dog’s health as it is for our own, and living with a dog can help us be more diligent in our daily exercise. Many dogs, especially those of the herding and hunting breeds, need activity to keep them not only physically healthy, but also from becoming bored. Without exercise and activity, a dog can become destructive, chewing on furniture or digging up the yard or carpet. Depending upon the type and personality of your dog, a romp in the park, a few throws of the ball, a couple of chases of the Frisbee, or even a meandering around the neighborhood all add up to a healthier, happier dog. Some dogs, like the toys breeds, don’t necessarily need lots of activity; a simple walk around the block will suffice. Either way, an hour or two of playing fetch or a short jaunt around the neighborhood, adds up to a more enjoyable day for your pooch – and for yourself!

Fresh air, sunshine, fragrances of tulips, lilacs and crabapples, listening to birds singing – the great outdoors is calling to us and our dogs! Allow your dog some extra time in your fenced backyard to drink in the sights, smells, and feelings of the new season. Spend time out in that yard with your dog, enjoying your pet’s company and tossing a toy around for amusement.
Walk your dog in the park or around your neighborhood. Walking is great exercise for both human and animal, and partaking of spring’s flavorful sights and sounds stimulates the mind as well as the muscles in both you and your dog. A simple stroll or a long, leisurely walk benefits your physical and emotional health – and your dog’s as well.

Perhaps running is more your sport. Many dogs, such as labs and border collies, also benefit from a jog or run. These types of dogs need more active exercise than a short walk around the block, and the companionship you’ll share on such an outing with your dog helps cement the dog-human bond. Hook your pet’s leash to your waist and head on out there!

Casper is fortunate to have wonderful walking and running paths and great parks for playing Frisbee or throwing a ball -- as are many communities, both large and small. Enjoy these special places with your four-footed friend this spring!

Cabin fever strikes us all, and the coming of spring helps alleviate some of that by providing extra daylight, extra sunshine, and extra-stimulating fragrances. So, get outdoors with your dog and help ring in the new season of spring – you’ll both feel better for it!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Allergy Season!

I believe I'm back in the saddle for posting about pets. This past year has brought changes, not all good, to the Irwin house, but I think we getting back on track. So, here's another pet posting for WnW, relevant to the season.

Spring does seem to be coming now in the Rockies and Great Plains, and with that season often comes allergies for many people. If you or a loved one are allergic to your pets, there are things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms. First, visit with your doctor and even your veterinarian and learn their recommendations for dealing with your allergy. However, there are some simple things that you can do to reduce symptoms if your or a family member’s allergies are simply miserable and not life-threatening:

*Create an “allergy-free” zone in your home (such as the bedroom) and strictly prohibit your pet being in that room. Consider using impermeable covers for the mattress and pillows -- allergens brought into the room on clothes and other objects can accumulate on your mattress and pillows.

*Use a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner in the bedroom.

*Use HEPA air cleaners throughout the rest of the home as well.

*Clean frequently and thoroughly to remove dust and dander, washing things such as couch covers and pillows, curtains, and pet beds.

*Use a “microfilter” bag in the vacuum cleaner to effectively catch allergens.

*Bath your pet regularly, even as often as once a week, and use a shampoo recommended by your vet.

*Consider getting rid of carpeting and having wood or tile floors as they are easier to keep clean; also carpet collects dust mites, another allergy trigger.

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), studies show that approximately 15 percent of Americans are allergic to dogs or cats. An estimated one-third of people who are allergic to cats live with at least one cat in their household. In a study of 341 adults who were allergic to cats or dogs and had been advised by their physicians to give up their pets, only one out of five did so. What’s more, nearly half of those folks got another pet after a previous one died. It seems, for many owners, the benefits of pet companionship outweigh the drawbacks of pet allergies.

People can be more allergic to cats than dogs or vice-versa. Experts with HSUS state that, contrary to popular belief, there are no “non-allergenic” breeds of either dogs or cats -- even hairless breeds may affect a person’s allergies. However, some dogs such as poodles, may be less irritating to people with allergies, possibly because they are bathed and groomed more frequently.

If you have or develop allergies, don’t be hasty to blame your pet; ask your doctor to specifically test you or your family member for allergies to pet dander. Also keep in mind that many who suffer with allergies can be sensitive to more than one allergen, such as dust, pollen and cigarette smoke. Allergy shots can help your symptoms but cannot eliminate them completely.

A combination of ways to deal with allergies, including medical, good housecleaning methods, and frequent grooming and bathing of your pet, can help you enjoy a furry friend in your home even if you or someone in your family deals with allergies.

For further information on coping with pet allergies, talk with your doctor and your veterinarian. You can also find more information at the following websites: