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: