Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Teaching Kids Kindness to Animals and People

It's Be Kind to Animals Week, a time set aside by the American Humane Association and others to promote kindness to animals. This is a great time to reinforce to children the importance of kindness, not only to animals, but also to other people.

In this day and age of bullying, child neglect, and other issues, re-inforcing the concept of kindness is critical. Children are vulnerable, children are teachable – they often emulate what they witness in adults within the sphere of influence.

Therefore, we adults need to take stock not only in how we treat our kids, but also how we treat other adults and how we interact with pets in our own household, as well as within our community.

The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) offers some tips for celebrating Be Kind to Animals Week with children. For example, you and your kids can volunteer together at a local shelter or rescue. Although you may not be able to walk dogs, you can hold a bake sale or a collection drive, taking in donations of money and items necessary to run the shelter. Inquire at your local humane society or animal shelter (1) what their volunteer guidelines are and/or (2) what items they currently need. Another idea: spend time together as a family with your own pet – take a walk, play in the park, or toss a ball in your backyard for awhile. Pets need social interaction with their human families; remember to take good care of your pets and involve your children in that care. Your children may want to start a Kind Club with their friends and develop projects to help the homeless animals of your community.

Every year, nearly 7 million animals enter shelters across this nation. What can you and your family do to help these homeless creatures and the people who care for them? You and your children can positively impact your community, and therefore, the nation, by showing kindness to animals, and to other people.

Find some other tips for teaching and sharing kindness at

“Teach your children well,” are part of the lyrics of a Crosby, Stills and Nash song. Those are words we can all live by, so let's teach our children, and ourselves, to be kind to others, both animals and people – when we do, we can all live in a better world.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spring into Exercise!

Just a few days until spring, according to the calendar. We've already turned our clocks ahead, so the evening light lasts longer. Many of us look forward to longer, warmer days, greening grass, and blooming flowers. As the days lengthen and the temperatures moderate, we can help our dogs and ourselves be more healthy by getting outdoors and exercising.

Exercise Benefits People and Pets
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 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 need lots of activity; a simple walk around the block will suffice. Whether it's an hour or two of playing fetch or a short jaunt around the neighborhood, exercise adds up to a more enjoyable day for your pooch – and for yourself!

Get Out and Smell the Roses!
Fresh air, sunshine, fragrances of tulips and daffodils, birds singing – the great outdoors is calling to us and our dogs this spring! Allow your furry friend 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.

Types of Exercise
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!

And, when those spring snows return, hike out to the ski trail, the city park, or an open field and spend time in the white powder, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing... or simply “hiking” in the snow! Throw a few snowballs for your pooch (but not AT him!), enjoy some fresh air and laughter... have some fun together despite the wintry weather!

Cabin fever strikes us all in the waning hours of winter; the coming of the new season 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 bring in the new season of spring outdoors with your pet – you’ll both feel better for it!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Share the Love - Adopt!

My husband and I recently adopted a new dog. It’s been nearly a year since Sage died, and we’ve felt the tugging for a few months, prompting us to consider bringing another dog into our home. However, we still have Cody, and two cats also call our house ‘home’, therefore, we had to be quite selective as to the personality and age of a new dog. Mary, a half-springer/half-cocker, fit the bill: older, spayed female, raised with cats, calm, attentive and trained, and therapy-pet trained to boot! She and Cody bonded almost instantly, and one of our cats is now also a friend (the other continues to allude and hide, but that flightiness is just part of her temperament). Mary’s former owned died suddenly, and the family needed to find a new home for her, so they turned to a rescue organization for assistance in re-homing her.

Adoption Requires Adaption

Adoption can be turmoil for all involved. I think of the drastic changes in Mary's life, from a loving home of nearly six years, to a foster home to our home. How confusing that must be for a dog! Yet, dogs are resilient, and as along as they are given love, encouragement, attention and acceptance, they do adjust. Just as Sage adapted to her new home and her situation of becoming blind, so Mary is adjusting to a new life with us. Soon, she and I will begin therapy training, becoming partners in helping others, just as she and her former owner did, providing even greater stability and certainty in her life.


Our lives, too, need to adjust. Although there are similarities between Mary and Sage because of the Springer breed, Mary is sighted; and many times when she sees something (person, cat, dog) out the front window, she barks. And, though Cody can also see, he is elderly (nearly 15!) and can no longer jump up on the furniture to look out the window – therefore, his barking is not as frequent. And, being younger than Cody, Mary has more energy – she needs more frequent and longer walks as well as more time in the backyard. We are all adjusting and learning.

Despite the changes, there is greater joy and comfort in our home. Mary loves to snuggle in bed and cuddle on the couch. She lays beside my feet while I'm in my sunroom office and next to my husband's desk in his home office. She has come to trust us, accept us, and bask in the companionship of us and our other pets.


Not all homeless pets are as fortunate. Statistics indicate nearly 7 million dogs and cats are turned over to shelters and rescues every year; almost half are euthanized. Yet, millions of people in America are pet owners and spend billions of dollars each year on pet food, supplies, and goodies, including clothing. People love pets!

Share Warmth, Share Love – Adopt!

As spring casts its warmth upon the land, may we who love dogs and cats share the warmth of love with animals in need. Adoption is a beautiful thing, and opening one's heart and home to a pet who needs that love and warmth helps to save lives. Perhaps your heart, like mine, is being tugged to again love a pet... share that love – Adopt! Visit your local shelter or rescue organization or stop by – your new furry friend just might be a short distance or a click away -- ours was!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Prevent Litter - Spay Your Critter!

February is considered the month of love. People think of Valentine's Day and their sweetheart. February is also known among those in the animal rescue world as Spay/Neuter Awareness Month. As we anticipate spring within the next few months, and numerous amount of “littering” that exists – in the sweet form of puppies and kittens – animal welfare groups throughout the world are reminding people to prevent litters and spay/neuter your critters!

Pet Overpopulation
Puppies and kittens are adorable, but happens to all of these little ones, and the ones yet to be born later in the year? Sadly, most lose their lives. Throughout the country, nearly four million dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are euthanized because there are not enough homes for them all. Pet overpopulation is a major problem in the United States and around the world. Therefore, animal groups take the month of February, and particularly the last Tuesday of the month, to remind people of this terribly sad world-wide problem. This year's recognition, known was World Spay Day, takes place Tuesday, February 26, 2013.

1+1 Equals Hundreds

One of the answers lies in spaying and neutering pets. This simple operation can “litterally” save the lives of millions of companion animals. Animal welfare experts estimate that one unspayed female and one unneutered male dog contribute to 512 additional dogs within 3 years and that one unspayed female and one unneutered male cat produce 382 more cats to the already high pet population.

Myths About Spaying and Neutering

Many myths exist about spaying and neutering, and most are just that: myths. If you have concerns about the surgery and its affect upon your pet, discuss these with your vet. No one is more knowledgeable about surgical procedures and the pros and cons than your veterinarian.

Here are some facts about pets that are spayed or neutered:
  1. They tend to be better behaved.
  2. They tend to be more affectionate.
  3. Spayed females don’t attract unwanted, aggressive males nor do they exhibit the nervous behaviors from hormonal changes and cry piteously waiting for a mate.
  4. Neutered males are less likely to mark territory (such as your couch!) and they are less likely to roam.
    Cesar Milan, the nationally-recognized and respected “Dog Whisperer”, debunks many spay and neuter myths on his website:
To learn more about spaying and neutering reasoning, myths and facts, visit

Be the Solution, Not the Problem

Lack of homes and pet overpopulation is a serious national, regional, state and community problem –so let’s fix the problem by fixing our pets! Animal shelters and rescue organizations are bombarded with animals; why be part of the problem when you can be part of the solution? So, please don't litter, spay or neuter your critter!

Monday, February 18, 2013

What is an Affenpinscher Anyway?

It's President's Day, and though the Portuguese Water Dog didn't take the top honor at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (sorry, Bo Obama!), the breed did score Best of Breed and competed with six other contenders for the top title. It was Banana Joe, the Affenpinscher, who took the top prize in the famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last week, and now you may be wondering, “What is an Affenpinscher anyway?”

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), this small breed of dog (it stands only 9 ½ to 11 inches tall at the shoulder) came from a larger terrier-type of dog that was used on farms as a ratter. They were later bred down in size and used to control mice in homes. The name means “monkey terrier” in German, a nod to the facial features of the breed. The Affenpinscher weighs only 7 to 10 pounds. The coat, usually black, gray, silver, or black and tan, is wiry and requires regular brushing.

They are alert, active, independent-spirited little dogs that bond well with their people, and because of their small size, they make great dogs for apartment-dwellers.

They were recognized by the AKC in 1936, but have been around for centuries, most notably in Germany and France. This was the first year an Affenpinscher won Best in Show at Westminster.

In the recent AKC ranking of mostpopular dogs, the Affenpinscher came in at #138. The other breeds competing in last week's Best in Show were the Old English Sheepdog (which placed as the runner-up), German Wire-haired Pointer, American Foxhound, Portuguese Water Dog, Smooth-coated Fox Terrier, and Bichon Frise. Of all, the later ranks highest on the popularity chart, at #38.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the second longest continuously held sporting event in the United States. The Kentucky Derby is the longest running, but only by one year. Millions watch the dog show on TV or online. More than 185 different dog breeds and varieties competed in this year's show, including two newly recognized breeds: the Russell Terrier (once called the Jack Russell Terrier) and the Treeing Walker Coonhound.

Just as the monkey-faced Affenpinscher took top honors for the first time this year, perhaps one of these newly-recognized breeds will receive Best in Show in the not so distant future.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Who's Top Dog at Westminster?

In light of the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show returning to New York City this month and the recent release of the American Kennel Club (AKC)'s ranking of most popular dog breeds, I thought it would be interesting to review the winners of Westminster's Best in Show and compare those with the AKC's listing of most popular dog breeds.

 No Labs

Although the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular pup in America for more than a decade, a Lab has NEVER won Westminster's Best in Show! As recent as 2010, the Lab placed fourth in its group classification; that feat also happened in 2009 and 2003. The highest placement the breed has received was second in its Sporting Dog Group category, and the last time that was accomplished was in 1978. During the 1930s, Labs seemed more popular at Westminster – the breed placed second in group in 1933, 1934, and 1939. Labrador Retrievers were recognized as a breed by the AKC in 1917.

No Goldens Either

The Golden Retriever, ranked third this year on AKC's most popular dog breed list, has also not done well at Westminster, placing only three times, including one best in group (which took place in 2006). The breed placed second in 2009 and second also in 2005.

Winners in Both Categories

America's second most popular dog breed, the German Shepherd, has had one Best in Show placement at Westminster; that occurred in 1987.

The AKC's fourth most popular dog breed last year was the Beagle, and in 2008, Uno the Beagle, became the first of his breed to win Westminster's Best in Show. So, Lab lovers, there is still hope – perhaps this will be the year for the Labrador Retriever!

The Terrier Group has received the most number of Best in Shows at Westminster with 45 winners; terriers are also popular pets, with the Yorkie listed as sixth most popular pooch by the AKC this year the Boston terrier is number 23, and the West Highland White Terrier listed at 36.

The Sporting Group has achieved the second most number of Best in Shows at Westminster with 19 wins. Within that group, the English Springer Spaniel has placed Best in Show six times, and Cocker Spaniels have placed Best in Show four times, each breed receiving more nods for top dog than any other breed in the Sporting Dog category. These dogs are also popular as pets: Cockers rank #27 and Springers #29 on the AKC breed popularity list for 2012.

New Breeds in 2013

Two breeds that will be in this 2013 competition that have not been recognized at Westminster in past years are the Russell Terrier and the Treeing Walker Coonhound. Might one of these “newbies” receive the ultimate prize? We shall see.

Where will your favorite dog breed place at the 2013 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show? Tune in your television Feb. 11 and 12 and find out!
Statistics and other article sources:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Does Your Dog Win the Popularity Contest?

Recently the American Kennel Club (AKC) released its annual ranking of the most popular dog breeds in the United States.

As with previous years, a few surprises took place, but not surprisingly, the Labrador Retriever remains at Number 1, a position the breed has held for more than 20 years. Bulldogs moved to the #5 slot in the Top 10, up one position from last year. This breed has been gaining in popularity during the past decade; the bulldog sat at #18 ten years ago. The Rottweiler also moved up one place, from #10 last year to #9 this year, and the Golden Retriever moved from #4 to #3, replacing the Beagle, which moved from #3 to #4. Remaining at the Number 2 is the German Shepherd Dog.

The Yorkshire Terrier slipped in ranking once again, slipping from #5 to #6; the Yorkie was the second most popular dog breed just five years ago. Also slipping a notch is the Daschund; last year the breed ranked #9 in popularity, and this year it's #10. The Daschund ranked in the top 5 most popular breeds 10 years ago.

Below is the ranking of the top 10 dog breeds in America in 2012, according to the AKC.

  1. Labrador Retriever
  2. German Shepherd Dog
  3. Golden Retriever
  4. Beagle
  5. Bulldog
  6. Yorkshire Terrier
  7. Boxer
  8. Poodle
  9. Rottweiler
  10. Dachshund
The French Bulldog, like its cousin, climbed in popularity this past year. The breed ranks #14 this year, up from #18 last year, and significantly more popular than even five years ago when the breed ranked #34. The Chihuahua dropped from #14 last year to #18 this year. Pomeranians dropped two places during the past year, from #17 to #19 this year. Rounding out the top 20 is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, up one place from #21 last year to #20 this year.

Larger dogs continue to gain popularity, as noted by the placement of the Labrador, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, and Rottweiler in the Top Ten. Larger breeds made some large strides in this year's rankings; for example, the Doberman Pinscher moved from #13 to #12 in the past year, replacing the Miniature Schnauzer, and the Great Dane breed gained two placings, moving from #19 to #17, and replacing the little Pomeranian in popularity.

A complete list of AKC's most popular dog breeds, including statistics for 50 U.S. cities, is available at The organization uses registration statistics to gauge dog breed popularity. They also rank the most popular dog breeds in various cities across America.

View the lists and find out where your favorite dog breed ranks. The breeds of my special dogs, Sage and Cody, retained their rankings: English Springer Spaniels at #29 and American Cocker Spaniels at #27. English Cocker Spaniels are down on the list at #64; they are more popular, however, than Italian Greyhounds, which rank at #66.


No matter what breed your dog is, whether in the top 10, top 20 or below, one thing all dogs have in common is that they offer great companionship to their humans!




Monday, January 28, 2013

Microchips Help Pets Return Home More Quickly

I still remember those dreaded words, choked out by my husband that early August morning: "Gayle, Sage is lost." We were camping on the property we had just purchased; I had unzipped the tent and let Sage outside to do her business. I went back into the tent with no thought about her running away. However, her spaniel nose probably picked up the scent of a squirrel, or her acute hearing caught the sound of deer hooves -- whatever transpired, within a short window of time, our blind dog had vanished. We searched for three days, and finally, with the help of caring people, we found our nomadic blind dog, running a circular roadway two miles from our camping area. Our lost dog story had a happy ending.... many do not.

What Would You Do?
If your dog or cat were to become lost, what would you do? Like many pet owners, you'd probably post flyers, knock on doors, post to social media sites like Facebook, and contact your local animal shelter. Tags on collars with the pet owners' name and address also help, however, collars can become entangled, drop off, or (in the event of a stolen pet) be taken off. Microchips are permanent and help bring pets home.

Not Always a Happy Ending
According to some animal experts, one in three pets become lost, and nearly 90% don't return home. Microchipping is simple procedure that is done at your veterinarian’s office and is similar to providing your pet a vaccination – it requires no anesthetic and takes only a few seconds. The chip is injected between your pet's shoulder blades and contains a unique identification number that is associated with your contact information, thereby allowing your lost pet to return to you more quickly. The microchips are not tracking devices, but instead, are radio-frequency identification implants that provide permanent identification for your pet. The chip lasts the lifetime of your dog or cat. It can never fall off (like collars and tags), be removed by pet thieves (like collars and tags), and never impossible to read via a scanner (which most animal shelters have on hand to use on stray animals, checking for identification). Your pet's microchip information needs to be registered with a pet recovery database; your vet will do that for you, but some vets may require you to do so. Talk with your veterinarian about the next step once the microchip is implanted.

Collar and ID Tags Integrate with Microchips
Just because you have your pet microchipped doesn't mean it doesn't still need a collar and tags. Many communities require licensing of pets in the city limits, therefore, at a minimum, your pet needs a collar and license ID. Collars and identification tags are also important to have on your cat or dog in case a Good Samaritan who finds your lost pet can return it to you. A microchip, though, is permanent, and so should your dog or cat's collar and tags be removed either accidentally or on purpose, your lost pet can still return home.

Microchips Help Bring Those Happy Endings!
There are many stories of lost pets being reunited with their owners because of a microchip. Sometimes, it's years later, as in the case of Vanilla, a cat who was missing almost a decade (being cared for, however, and not just roaming the streets – see Vanilla's story at or of Cassie, the border collie mix lost from her family for four years (see In both cases, these pets had microchips. Holly, a tortiseshell kitty that walked nearly 200 miles trying to reach home, also had help because she had a microchip (see

Cats Need ID, Too
Many owners don't put collars and tags on their cats. Studies show that only two percent of lost kitties return home because they have no identification tags and are not microchipped. However, the return-to-owner rate climbs by 20% for those cats that are microchipped. The cats as well as the cocker spaniel that share my home are chipped.

Keep Your Contact Information Updated
One of the key factors for a pet owner who does microchip his/her animal is to keep the contact information updated. If you do microchip your pet and move or change phone numbers, please contact either the vet who did the procedure to find out how to update your contact information, or contact the manufacturer of the implant and update your contact information. It does no good to have your pet microchipped and then fail to keep your information current should your pet become lost.

So, help your lost pet get home more quickly with a microchip implant. Cost averages $50 for the one-time procedure. Talk with your vet and research the options. You can find more information about microchipping your pet at

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Take Your Dog to School!

Even though children hit the books several months ago, with this New Year and all the resolutions people make, now might be a good time to also think of schooling your dog. How is that possible, you might ask? Consider taking your dog through training.

Why Train My Dog?
Most dogs need activity to prevent boredom, especially the breeds of the herding, working and hunting classifications, such as border collies, German shepherd dogs, huskies, spaniels, setters and pointers. These and many other breeds respond well to training, to obedience, agility and hunting trials.

Keeping a dog occupied with instruction alleviates boredom and thus also lessens bad behaviors, such as chewing, howling, and jumping. Working dogs were bred to work, and many canine club events provide that opportunity. Dogs that are not trained in at least basic obedience are often the dogs left at animal shelters and rescue groups with the excuse, “I can’t handle this dog.”

Obedience training bonds a dog more closely with its owner, for that interaction time is quality time. Just like spending time with one’s children, focusing on their concerns, their joys, their interests creates a stronger parent-child relationship, so, too, does spending solid, quality time with our dogs bond them more closely to us. Dogs are pack animals; they are social, and they want to engage with their people. Obedience, agility, hunting, tracking, even search and rescue and animal assistance therapy training strengthens a dog’s bond with its human. According to animal behavior specialists training a dog has been shown to be the single most important thing that keeps a dog in its “forever” home. Training builds a mutual bond, enhances the pet-human partnership, and enriches the relationship a person shares with his/her dog.

Where Can I Go to Train My Dog?
A variety of prospects abound to enroll your dog in school. For example, some of the American Kennel Club's regional and local clubs provide obedience classes, tracking and agility trials, and Canine Good Citizen evaluations. To find a club in your area visit you will find a list of obedience, agility, tracking and training clubs.

Some community colleges offer classes through their Community Education programs, and several of the big box pet and pet supply stores, such as PetCo and PetSmart, also provide obedience and puppy training programs. Additionally, some smaller businesses, such as boarding kennels and grooming salons, provide opportunities for dog owners to train their dogs. Check with your local businesses, including your veterinarian – perhaps, if they don't offer obedience or other training sessions, they can provide a recommendation and give you a local trainer's contact information.

Specialized programs, such as Sit Means Sit, are found in various communities, and various pet experts, such as Cesar Milan (“The Dog Whisperer”) offers books and DVD to help pet owners train their pets at home.

Advantages of Training Your Dog
Having a pet in the home can be a physical and emotional health benefit to people. Scientists have documented the positive affects pets have on humans such as lowered blood pressure and cholesterol. Yet, if your dog doesn’t come when it’s called, jumps on people constantly, and takes the hamburger off the counter while you’re waiting for the grill to get hot, obviously your stress level is going to be high, not low.

But, if your dog sits and waits patiently, returns upon command, and doesn’t chase the neighbor’s cat, everyone will be happier, including your dog. The bond with your dog is strengthened when you positively interact with it, and training times offer that bonding opportunity.

Go Back to School!
So, consider taking your dog – and yourself – back to school this New Year! Become involved with a local obedience class, and perhaps even an agility, conformation, or track and field event. Learn together, become more deeply bonded, and enjoy the companionship, affection, and devotion your dog longs to give you… if you will only give your dog the time and opportunity it needs!