Keeping Pets Safe in the Garden
If you have pets that enjoy spending time outdoors, it’s important to make sure your yard is a safe place for them to be.
Consider these hazards that can negatively impact the well-being of your furry friends.
Poisonous Plants – Some common plants can be dangerous for animals, causing anything from mild oral irritations and upset stomachs to cardiovascular damage and even death. For example, these are some of the toxic plants the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has identified as harmful for either cats or dogs:
• Aloe – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, anorexia and depression
• Azalea – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, weakness, coma, cardiovascular collapse and death
• Burning bush – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and weakness, as well as heart rhythm abnormalities with large doses
• Caladium – can cause burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing
• Daylilies – can cause kidney failure in cats
• Hibiscus – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and anorexia
Mulch and Compost – The decomposing elements that make compost good can be bad for pets, according to the National Garden Society. Keep compost in a secure container or fenced off area so pets can’t get to it. Cocoa mulch can be a particular problem for dogs. A byproduct of chocolate production, cocoa mulch can cause digestive problems and even seizures in dogs. Shredded pine or cedar mulch is a safer choice.
Fertilizer and Insecticides – The chemicals used to get rid of pests or make your lawn lush can be toxic to pets. Some of the most dangerous pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poison, according to the ASPCA. Follow all instructions carefully, and store pesticides and fertilizers in a secure area out of the reach of animals.
Fleas and Ticks – In addition to using appropriate flea and tick prevention methods such as collars and sprays, make sure your yard isn’t a welcoming environment for these pests. Keep the lawn trimmed and remove brush and detritus, where fleas and ticks often lurk. Fleas can cause hair loss, scabs, excessive scratching, tapeworms and anemia. Ticks can do all of that, plus bring you and your family in contact with diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
Find more tips for keeping pets safe in your yard at eLivingtoday.com.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash
More pets go missing on the 4th of July than any other day of the year
Why? Because of the loud noises. Explosions and loud
noises freak animals out and they will run for safety.
Unfortunately they can’t always find their way back home.
Please take a little time to make sure that your pets are
safe and secure this 4th of July.
Picture for illustration purposes only
The Fourth of July’s for the Dogs
BY MATTHEW “UNCLE MATTY” MARGOLIS
You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. — Erma Bombeck
I have a friend, a nervous type, and every time she hears a loud “POP!” or, worse, a loud “POP-POP-POP!” she has a mini-meltdown and rushes through the house securing windows and doors, having come to the foregone conclusion that someone has been gunned down at the foot of her drive and she is next.
Did I mention she lives in the country?
Always — so far at least — it’s a car backfiring or kids playing with fireworks.
And that brings me back to Erma — because Frisbee, potato salad and flies don’t hold a candle to good old-fashioned fireworks when it comes to patriotic displays in the U.S. of A. For most of us, fireworks are the ultimate expression of national pride. Whether or not we draw a connection between “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” and our much more delightful version of fire in the sky, the reality is that one kid’s delight is another woman’s terror.
Or another dog’s terror.
So here we are. It’s officially the summer of 2014. The Fourth of July is less than two weeks away. What’s the plan for the d-o-g?
If your dog is as delighted by fiery skies as he is by Grandpa’s brisket, great. Count your lucky stars and celebrate with some iffy potato salad — for you, not the pooch.
If your dog is apathetic about the whole shebang, even better. Independence Day is just another day.
If your dog is ambivalent or flat-out fearful of the snap-crackle-pop that goes on all day and into the night, then you need a plan.
That plan could be as simple as staying home with your dog. But many of us like to celebrate, and if your dog has a true phobia of loud noises, he’ll require more than just your presence to survive a lengthy display, particularly if you live near the action.
If your dog reacts to fireworks like deer to wolves, you might want to ask your veterinarian about prescribing a mild sedative to help him sleep. Some dogs react so strongly to loud noises that they literally harm themselves chewing through walls and fences trying to get away from them. This is dangerous not only in the potential injury to their jaws, but also in the possibility of getting hit by a car should they succeed in their attempt. In extreme cases, a mild sedative makes sense.
For most dogs who fear the Fourth’s festivities, a thoughtfully arranged crate or other comfortably secure and familiar area will go a long way to calming his anxiety. Close all of the windows and window coverings, and play some soothing music to drown out exterior noises. Make sure he has access to his favorite toys, cushion, and blanket. If you’re going to be around to supervise, give him something special to chew on. And if you’re going out, secure him in his crate or in the room you’ve made so comfortable.
It might be best to avoid walking an anxious dog on Independence Day, but exercise is a great weapon against anxiety. If you decide to forgo a walk, make sure you get in a good play session in the yard or in the house.
Above all, make sure your dog is chipped and is wearing ID tags that include your current contact information. You can be too full, but you can never be too safe.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Picture for illustration purposes only
DON’T PICK A CATFIGHT
Don’t punish your pet if she bites — just freeze
By Dr. Marty Becker
The average housecat weighs about 10 pounds, but boy can she pack a punch when she needs to. Believe me, a lot more veterinarians are injured by cats than by dogs. We do get dog bites from time to time, but dogs don’t have those little bacteria-tipped, hypodermic-needle claws on the ends of their paws, and their teeth are not all razor-sharp like the ones your cat’s got.
A cat can shred your arm in a second, and she won’t hesitate if she thinks she’s in danger. Because cat bites need to be taken seriously, there are a couple of rules every cat owner should always follow:
• Respect your cat’s limits. Many cat bites are simply the result of an owner pushing an interaction just a minute or two too long. Cats almost always give body-language warnings before they attack. You need to know what to look for, so yours doesn’t have to tell you “the hard way” when she’s had enough. Signs a cat is getting edgy include tail swishing, crouch-ing, ears rotated back or lowered, dilated pupils and hair standing on end. Tuning in and ending an interaction before your cat reaches her breaking point will be a vast improvement for both of you.
• Freeze! If your cat does go after you, you need to think fast to prevent serious injury. First, if you are holding her, let go. Second, don’t move a muscle. Your cat’s instincts are to fight until she wins, and your lack of movement tells her you’re not a threat anymore. The worst thing to do is fight back, or to hit your cat. In the short run, you will escalate the conflict and worsen the possibility of injuries for you both. In the long run, you’ll be teaching your cat to fear you. Punishment is controversial when dealing with dogs — trainers argue that there are kinder, more effective ways to get the behavior you want using positive reinforcement. But there’s no debate that punishment is not a match for training your cat.
• Never, ever get in the middle of a catfight. If you have more than one cat, the possibility of a fight is always real, even if it’s a remote one. If a fight breaks out, the last thing you want to do is put your hand in the mess — it’s like reaching into a blender to try to fish something out — maybe you get it, maybe you don’t, but you darn well might lose a finger. Instead of reaching between fighting cats, do something to startle them and redirect their attention. Throw a blanket over them, make a loud noise, or spray them with water to break their focus.
• Get yourself to a doctor. Because cats carry bacteria on their claws, a high percentage of scratches become infected. If you get scratched or bitten, you’ll likely need antibiotics to heal. Better to head things off at the pass by calling your doctor sooner rather than later. Cat scratches and bites have been known to lead to nasty infections and even disease.
If your cat has a hair-trigger when being petted, you can build up her tolerance by limiting your scratches to the underside of the chin and possibly the base of the tail. When your cat’s body language suggests overstimulation, just stop. If you’re consistent, you will build up the amount of petting your cat can tolerate. If the situation doesn’t seem to be improving, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist.
How to Help Manage Pet Separation Anxiety
For more than a year, working from home and keeping social circles small due to COVID-19 has meant people have been able to spend more time with their pets. However, as more Americans are vaccinated and restrictions loosen across the country, it’s likely many are spending less time at home with their pets. As a result, pet parents should be prepared to spot the signs of separation anxiety and help their pets manage.
When left at home alone, pets can exhibit behaviors that could indicate they’re experiencing separation anxiety. It’s not a new problem, but it can become more pronounced as pet parents begin to spend less time at home, whether they’re returning to work full-time or just leaving the house more often. It may be especially challenging for pets that found their forever homes during the pandemic, as being alone may be a stark contrast to what they’ve become accustomed to. In these cases, pets may struggle to learn how to cope with being by themselves.
To help pet parents identify separation anxiety in their pets and embrace alone time, consider these tips from Dr. Crista Coppola, PetSmart’s consulting animal behaviorist and separation anxiety expert.
How to Identify Separation Anxiety
Changes in behavior are some of the most common indicators of separation anxiety. These behaviors are coping mechanisms and can include excessive barking or whining, destruction near exit points or windows, having accidents around the house, hyper salivating, pacing, decreased appetite and depression. To better understand what your pet is experiencing, consider setting up a video camera when you leave to see how he or she behaves when you’re not there.
Ways to Prepare Your Pet for Separation
Unpredictability has been shown to add stress for many animals, including dogs, Coppola said. Routines, however, can help many pets cope with stressful situations. Because a vacation or long weekend getaway involves a change in your pet’s routine, these seemingly small changes can make him or her susceptible to separation anxiety. If you know change is coming, slowly introduce your pet to the idea of being alone beforehand to help your four-legged friend prepare. Start by taking short trips outside your home without your pet – even if just for a few minutes – and consider leaving treats or toys to help make the alone time more enjoyable.
When you are ready to leave the house, set up a cozy, inviting space for your pet, where he or she can’t destroy items or get hurt trying to escape. Consider a non-carpeted area in case of accidents or install a doggie door to allow for going outside when necessary. Prior to any period of alone time, mentally and physically engaging your pet by going for a walk or run, or working on quick trick training, can make it more likely he or she spends at least some of the time you’re gone resting.
While you’re gone, Coppola recommends providing your pets with enrichment activities such as puzzles, chews and calming aids like the Adaptil Calm On-the-Go Dog Collar. Calming vests like the veterinarian-recommended Thundershirt can also help pets transition.
Solutions for Coping with Anxiety
If your pet is excessively barking or exhibiting destructive behaviors, never punish him or her and avoid expressing disappointment or frustration, Coppola said. It is understandable to feel this way, but it can upset your pet further and add to the stress he or she may already be feeling. Instead, spend time having fun together when you are home and consider an option like PetSmart’s Doggie Day Camp, which can help ease the transition by gradually introducing your pet to the amount of time left alone. Available at more than 200 locations in full- or half-day sessions – including themed playdates – your furry friend will receive expert care, exercise, mentally stimulating playtime and socialization with other pups.
Learn more and find additional solutions to help deal with separation anxiety at petsmart.com/newnormal.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Make Nutrition a Priority for Your Pet
As a dog or cat parent, you are responsible for your pet’s well-being and making good decisions about what’s best for him or her. Providing your cherished companion with a high-quality, nutritionally balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your pet lives a happy and healthy life.
A balanced pet food recipe formulated with high-quality ingredients provides your pet with the optimal mix of the proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals he or she needs to thrive. For premium quality, look for recipes that are minimally processed; made with fresh meats, poultry and fish; and contain no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.
While the quality of ingredients is important, it’s also crucial to choose a recipe that is specific to your pet’s life stage and breed size. This helps ensure it contains the right balance of nutrients to meet your pet’s specific needs, including hip and joint support and weight management as he or she gets older.
Puppy and kitten recipes are specially formulated with higher levels of protein and essential fats to help support the needs of growing pets. Conversely, adult and senior pets may benefit from diets that are lower in calories and fats to help maintain a healthy weight as their metabolisms and activity levels slow.
Large breed dogs may also benefit from ingredients in their diets like glucosamine, chondroitin and green-lipped mussels to support healthy hips and joints as they age. Smaller kibble and breath freshening ingredients like parsley and peppermint are often well-suited for small breed dogs.
By choosing carefully balanced pet foods made with premium ingredients, you can take nutrition to another level for your pet. One example is Now Fresh recipes for dogs and cats. Each kibble recipe is made using fresh, de-boned muscle meat and no by-product or meat meals. The recipes also feature more than 20 nutrient-rich superfood ingredients.
Consider the important benefits superfoods can provide your pet and look for ingredients such as:
•Whole nest-laid eggs: Eggs are a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids in the optimal amounts dogs and cats need.
•Pumpkin: Rich in beta-carotene and prebiotic fiber, pumpkin helps support healthy digestion.
• Blueberries: A great source of essential fiber and manganese, blueberries are also rich in antioxidants that help support healthy immune systems.
• Pomegranate: This fruit is rich in antioxidants and a good source of dietary fiber, folate, vitamin C and vitamin K.
• Papaya: A tropical fruit, papaya is a natural source of digestive enzymes.
• Cranberries: With antioxidants to support immunity and antimicrobial properties, which can help support urinary tract health.
• Strawberries: An excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C, B vitamins, dietary fiber and essential minerals.
When selecting the right food for your pet, look for a statement on the packaging that confirms it has been formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. An option like Now Fresh also clearly indicates on the package which life stage and breed size the recipe has been formulated for.
Learn more about pet nutrition at NowFresh.com.
Proper Puppy Nutrition
Choosing the right food is an important part of providing your pet with good nutrition, but there are other aspects of feeding that can help ensure your pet is getting the most out of every meal.
Puppies need smaller, frequent meals consistently spaced throughout the day. This helps them learn routines while continually replenishing their fast-growing bodies with energy and nutrients. At 6 months, you can consider reducing your puppy’s meals to two per day.
You can reinforce routines and help set good bathroom habits by always taking your puppy for a potty break after a meal.
Keeping your puppy well hydrated is also important. Always leave a bowl of fresh water where he or she can access it during the day then pick it up a few hours before bedtime to help with house training. Incorporating wet food can also increase water intake, but be sure to balance it out by reducing the dry food you offer so you’re not adding excess calories.
Shelter Pets Need a Temporary Place to Stay as Transport Season Begins
EL PASO, Texas — The Spring and Summer months bring lots of opportunities for shelter pets to find new homes, but before they make it to their new families, they need help from El Pasoans willing to provide a temporary loving home.
El Paso Animal Services’ “Flight Attendant Foster Program” is a short-term fostering opportunity to prepare dogs for transport to other shelters and rescues for adoption. This new program asks families to welcome dogs into their hearts and homes for a one-to three-week period while they wait for their rescue flight to their new homes located in northern states.
Last year alone, El Paso Animal Services transported nearly 1,000 pets to their new homes.
The “Flight Attendant Foster Program” is completely free, with all supplies and veterinary care provided during the foster period. Families only need to supply love and a temporary home.
Families ready to “check in” as a “Flight Attendant Foster” can sign up on our website,
For more questions on this new lifesaving program, email the “Pre-Boarding Team” at janiceRA@elpasotexas.gov. The team will help answer any questions and walk families through the registration and pick-up process.
4 Ways to Refresh Your Pet’s Routines
The spring season and warmer months are typically all about renewal and evaluating things that may no longer serve you, such as habits, products or routines.
This can be true for your dog as well. As the season changes and you spruce up your daily habits to feel and look fresh, consider these four things that may help brighten up your pup’s spirit. Learn more at Nutro.com.
New Dog Bed
After a long year of cozying up inside, it is probably safe to say your dog’s bed could use a refresh. If you notice he retreats to the couch, floor or your bedroom for a good night’s rest, that may be a sign it is time to switch out the old for something new. Use this opportunity to gift your pet a plush and comfortable bed set. There are many options out there from donut dog beds to heated or kennel beds, so make sure you’re getting what’s best for your pup. A new bed could help brighten his mood in the morning, and after a full and active day, it can be exciting for him to have a new spot to relax.
When provided with the appropriate toys, dogs can keep themselves occupied when you’re busy with work, chores or life’s daily responsibilities that can take your focus away from them. If you have noticed a drag in your pup’s energy – laying around the house, acting less excited when you come through the door or staring at you blankly when you try to play, your dog may be experiencing boredom. It may be time to give him new toys that pique his interest. As you’re doing your cleaning and shopping, make sure to swap out old toys with new ones and even have him come along on your next trip to the pet store to pick out new ones.
Change of Scenery and Activities
It’s not a secret that dogs love the great outdoors. As the weather warms, it’s time to start thinking about breaking your dog away from the same old routine. Consider trying a new dog park, walking trail or taking him on more car rides with you. Your morning coffee run might be a fun adventure and a good way to help your pup start his day, especially if your local coffee shop has dog treats, too. This change of routine and scenery can leave him feeling energized to take on the day with you.
As the seasons change, it may be time to switch up eating habits and choose a diet that suits your lifestyle and dietary preferences. If you’re feeling ready to make a change to your normal routine, consider doing the same for your dog. An option like NUTRO™ dry dog food provides a healthy and nutritious diet with recipes featuring ingredients such as chicken, brown rice, kale and spinach, and garnishes like egg, tomatoes and more. Following the NUTRO™ FEED CLEAN™ philosophy with simple, purposeful and trustworthy recipes, each recipe is rich in nutrients, full of flavor and made with real, recognizable ingredients to help energize your dog from the inside out.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
Don’t assume dogs know the rules for water safety
By Gina Spadafori
Warm weather came early this year to much of the country, and that means lakes and rivers — and even swimming pools — are already being enjoyed by dogs who love to swim. But every spring, as my field-bred retrievers (who happily swim year-round) greet new dogs at the river’s edge, I see dogs at risk of drowning.
Most times, some caution on the part of their owners would prevent any problems. The keys to water safety for dogs: prevention, preparedness and awareness.
No dog should be given unsupervised access to a backyard pool or a neighborhood pond or creek. Swimming pools are best fenced-off for safety. And if that’s not possible, they should be equipped with alarms that sound when the surface of the water is broken by a child or pet falling in. Escape ramps are a great idea, but it’s better to prevent pets from getting in unsupervised in the first place.
Prevention also includes teaching your pet what to do when he’s in the pool. Dogs don’t understand the idea that the steps are on one side only, and they may tire and drown trying to crawl out the other side. If your pet likes to swim, work with him in the pool to help him learn where the steps are, so he can get out easily. Tip: Put contrasting paint or tape on the fence behind the steps to give your dog a visual clue he can count on.
Finally, obedience training is extremely important. Your dog should come when called, even while swimming, so you can call him back before he heads into deeper water or stronger currents. Emergency shortcut: Always carry extra retrieving toys. A dog who’s heading out into a dangerous area after a ball or stick can often be lured back to shore with a second item thrown closer in. It’s no substitute for training, but it could save your dog’s life.
Before letting your dog swim in any natural surroundings, survey the area for safety. Rivers and oceans can change frequently, and an area that was safe for swimming one visit can be treacherous the next. Consider currents, tides, underwater hazards and even the condition of the water. In the late summer, algae scum on the top of standing water can be toxic, producing substances that can kill a pet who swallows the tainted water. When in doubt, no swimming. Better safe than sorry.
One of the best things you can do is to take courses in first aid and CPR for your pets. Many local Red Cross chapters offer these classes, and some veterinarians may also teach them in your community. A dog who’s pulled out near death from drowning may be saved by your prompt actions — if you know what to do.
If your dog isn’t much of a swimmer, or is older or debilitated, get him a personal flotation device. These are especially great for family boating trips because most have sturdy handles for rescue if a pet goes overboard.
Be aware of your dog’s condition as he plays. Remember that even swimming dogs can get hot, so bring fresh water and offer it constantly. When your dog is tiring, be sure to call it a day. A tired dog is a good dog, but an exhausted dog is in danger of drowning.
Be particularly careful of young and old dogs. Both can get themselves into more trouble than a healthy adult dog with lots of swimming experience. Young dogs can panic in the water, and old dogs may not realize they aren’t as strong as they used to be. Keep them close to shore, and keep swimming sessions short.
Swimming is great exercise and great fun for all, and with these few simple precautions you can keep the cool times coming, with safety in mind.
Taking your dog hiking is a great way to make him love you as much as you love him, if that’s possible. The two (or three or four…) of you out in nature, soaking up sunshine, watering trees, chasing chipmunks, sniffing snakes. What? OK, so hiking isn’t all soft breezes and wildflowers — it’s also rattlers, poisonous plants, heatstroke and hypothermia. But with some solid planning, you and your trail dog can be ready for just about anything.
Here are some tips to keep your pup safe on the trails:
–On-leash, all the time. I know some of you will ignore this, but in most places and in all national parks, it is the law, and violations are punishable by steep fine. If dogs are allowed on public trails, they are typically required to be on a 6-foot lead. This is for their safety, but it’s also out of respect for fellow hikers, as well as native wildlife.
–Harness up. If hiking in rocky areas, consider a body harness with a handle, particularly for smaller dogs. If your dog is small enough to slip between rocks or get stuck in a tight crevasse, your job of getting him out is going to be a lot easier if he’s wearing a handled harness, as opposed to a leash attached to a collar that could easily come off or strangle him.
–Hydrate. Just as you need ample water when hiking, so does your dog. Don’t rely on water from lakes, streams and ponds as it may contain giardia, toxic algae or some gnarly parasites. Bring bottled water and a collapsible bowl, or fit your dog with his very own hydration pack — available online and at outdoor stores such as REI.
–Leaves of three, let it be. Learn to identify any poisonous plants in the area, and keep your dog away from them. If the oils from these leafy demons get onto your dog’s coat, they are that much more likely to find their way to your skin. This is, if not the best, the most selfish reason for you to keep your dog on a leash when hiking. I wouldn’t wish a case of poison oak on my worst enemy.
–Heed the bark. If your dog launches into a fixed and alert barking session, pay attention. He’ll sense the presence of a bear, mountain lion, coyote or snake well before you see anything.
–Be alert and prepared. Wildlife is an awesome reality of hiking. It’s also unpredictable. The best you can do is know what kind of wildlife is native to the area you’re hiking and prepare for it: bear spray, a long stick, a loud whistle and a solid plan in the back of your head just in case. Most wild animals want nothing to do with us, so heeding your dog’s natural warning system and keeping him on a leash will help you maintain a respectable distance.
–Know your hunting seasons. Be aware of hunters and put yourself and your dog in bright colors to alert them to your presence. A dog pack in neon yellow, orange or red makes him stand out in the forest — and allows him to carry his own stuff!
–ID tags and microchips. No kidding. This needs no elaboration.
–First aid on the trail and after. Carry a small first aid kit — one for humans should work for dogs, too. It should include bandages for cut or scraped paw pads, as well as disinfecting ointments and tweezers. And always check for ticks after hiking. These nasty buggers should be removed promptly to prevent potentially debilitating disease.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Visit Uncle Matty at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to email@example.com or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
PICTURE FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES ONLY
Old dogs teach you the meaning of love.
BY SUSAN ESTRICH
Judy couldn’t get up this morning. She’s 14, my oldest, and she’s named after my best friend, who died. A brilliant idea, it seemed, at the time. I was missing her, and this would be a way to talk to her every day. The first Judy taught me not to be afraid of dogs. It sounds silly, but my mother raised me to fear them. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing a dog, so we never had one; my mother was so afraid of life that sometimes it seemed she hardly dared to live.
My friend Judy’s dog, who rode in the car for two hours to go to the door in the hospital parking lot where Judy would meet her in her wheelchair, was named Molly. My 12-year-old dog is Molly. Irving, 10 years old and the baby of the bunch, is named for my father, who died 40 years ago.
Three old dogs. I try not to think about it. Rosie helped me raise my children and now helps me take care of my dogs. The children are grown. The dogs are old. Rosie’s dog, Sunshine, is Judy’s sister. She beat cancer. How do you freeze time?
Just days ago, so smug was I, telling the woman who put in my garden that of course I would cover the cost of surgery for her dog, younger than any of mine; that I was happy to pay, happy so long as it was not my dog. When she came by today to pick up the check, my son was carrying Judy outside. How foolish to feel smug. Rosie left for Rome today on a church trip, something she has dreamed of all her life. I pushed her out the door. My son came and is staying with me.
So I didn’t practice law today. I don’t know what anyone wanted. I didn’t write a brief or read a case. I sat with Judy. Our appointment was at 4:30. She didn’t get up at 6 a.m., but I did. I stroked her head until it was time to take her to the vet. A lot of hours. I fed her from my hand. I watched her breathe. I kissed her and told her how much I loved her. I reminded her how, back when she was a little puppy, I told her that she would be bigger than all the big dogs she hid from. And she is.
And she is the sweetest girl in the world. Molly thinks Judy is her mother. Molly was sick when we brought her home — abused, we assumed. Judy took her into her bed, and they have been together every night since. When we took Judy to the vet, Molly waited by the door. When we got home, she got in bed with her.
Our vet, Dr. Schlanger, is a wonderful man. I am a very good customer. My dogs get better care than most people on the planet: better care meaning more loving care, and not just more visits and pills. He just saw me a few weeks ago for Judy’s arthritis. We talked about how well she was doing.
I was not supposed to be back today.
My son sat with me. They took an X-ray. “Not bad,” Dr. Schlanger said. “She might get better.” They found a harness, and we walked her outside. She went to the bathroom. I filled the prescriptions: some of the same meds I take.
By the time we left she was a little better — almost standing on her own. She rode home in my lap. No miracles promised. But maybe. I’ll take maybe.
My mother was wrong. Loving Judy is the best of me, loving dogs, loving my children: This is the best I can be. Even if I cannot freeze time. Especially so.
COPYRIGHT 2021 CREATORS.COM
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Do Dogs Understand Humans and Languages?
DR. WALLACE: I’ve had a dog for 10 years, since he was a puppy. I named him Clever Endeavor. I give him commands like, “Sit,” and he promptly sits down and looks up at me. Then I’ll ask him to roll over, or even to hand me his paw, and each time, he’ll follow up with my requests. To me, it’s obvious that Mr. Clever Endeavor can understand my commands because he does what I ask him to do.
So, my question is, do dogs understand humans? And if they do, can they understand different languages? What I mean is, a puppy here in America might lean commands in English, and a dog in Japan learns them in Japanese, and a dog in France learns his commands in French, right? Then what if the French dog visited Japan? Would he be lost in translation? — Love Man’s Best Friend, via email
LOVE MAN’S BEST FRIEND: According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, dogs tend to be good listeners, and they can have an uncanny knack for knowing exactly how we feel. No wonder they’re our best friends!
A recent study shows that these kinds of reactions are because dogs recognize how we’re feeling. In this research, dogs were shown pictures of people expressing six emotions: happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, fear and disgust. They were also shown a neutral face. The researchers measured the heart rates and stress levels of the dogs as they looked at these different photos.
Dogs had a stronger reaction when they viewed fear, anger and happiness. Their heart rates went up, and their stress levels increased. It makes sense that fear and anger would elicit this response since they are heightened emotions that can make a dog feel threatened.
Happiness is also an excited state, which helps account for the dogs’ reaction to smiling faces. In addition, dogs may mistake the pulled-back lips and bared teeth of a smile as a sign of aggression.
But when it comes to languages, dogs respond mostly to tone of voice, especially when commands are spoken and accompanied by simultaneous hand signals.
And no, I don’t think a French dog would have any problem with a Japanese person who used similar tones and hand signals! Dogs and most animals that are capable respond to the universal language of repetition and familiarity that blends current situations with prior events and outcomes. That’s why the Pavlovian theory, a learning procedure that involves pairing a stimulus with a conditioned response, is so famous!
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Smart Ways to Save Money on Pet Care
Recently, I read about a family who spent $1,000 to cat-proof their backyard so their two cats, who they consider full-fledged family members, could roam outside without escaping to the outside world.
And that’s not all. Their felines also have lots of cat furniture, and they regularly dine on cat food that costs north of $7 per pound.
Perhaps you spoil your pets, too. There are plenty of ways to save money on pet care.
For example, you can feed them expensive food, but make sure you buy it on sale. And then buy enough to last until the next sale. Instead of paying the big bucks for furniture or beds, make them yourself. There are plenty of how-tos online for those willing to make the effort.
Here are some more ways to save money on your pets.
When selecting a pet, it’s wise to think beyond cuteness or breed. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a large dog will likely require an average yearly food allowance of $225, while a bird’s diet is only $75 per year. Rabbits and guinea pigs like fresh bedding, which adds up to $415 per year, while a self-cleaning cat will cost you only $165 a year for litter, on average.
Here’s another surprising fact when considering which pet you’ll adopt: Recurring yearly exams and vaccinations range from $210 to $265 on average for dogs and $160 on average for cats.
ADOPT INSTEAD OF BUYING
Breeder prices for dogs are many times higher than the cost of adopting from a shelter. Sure, there will be expenses and fees involved with adopting — but they will be so much less, plus you’ll be saving a life.
Stores such as Petco, not unlike every supermarket on earth, have loyalty rewards programs. And they have sales. You need to be a loyalty club member to get in on the goodies. It’s worth the effort to join. In fact, join several of these programs so you have options. Then watch the sales, and take full advantage of every savings opportunity.
Feed your pets all the human food your vet or other pet professional approves and or recommends. Animal Planet says that baked carrots, steamed broccoli and eggs are safe and healthy for cats to eat — and much cheaper than cat food.
PET FOOD STORAGE
Some pets are picky about what they’ll eat. I don’t have a cat, but I’ve learned that felines are known to refuse food if it’s too old because it’s been left out. No matter which pets you have, keep an eye on those expiration dates. Refrigerate as necessary, and even look into freezing pet food, especially if you are able to stock up when the good stuff goes on sale.
SPAY AND NEUTER
The decision to spay or neuter has a number of implications, according to blogger and pet owner Len Penzo. Spaying or neutering is better for your pet’s health, which saves you money in the long run.
Neutered male dogs live 18% longer than unneutered ones, while spayed female dogs live 23% longer than their intact counterparts.
Unspayed cats have been known to damage furniture and carpet by spraying urine on them to attract males. Unneutered dogs can be violent, resulting in injuries or even lawsuits, if they attack people.
There’s also the obvious huge cost of not fixing those pets: puppies and kittens.
Unexpected vet bills can be the most expensive part of owning a pet. Insurance is certainly an option, but choose wisely. Like all insurance, pet insurance is a gamble. It’s likely that you will spend more over the course of your animal’s life on monthly premiums, if your pet remains healthy
Can’t quite pony up to those big monthly premiums? Create your own insurance. Determine to deposit a set amount of money each month into a special savings account you create for pet health care. Never miss. Should your pet require expensive care, you’ll have the money to cover the cost. And if not, you will have built up a nice nest egg.
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”
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