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!