Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

6, maybe 7, ways your dog saves you money.

Dog with money1. Lower medical bills. Studies show: people who have dogs are healthier than those who do not. Their blood pressure tends to be lower, their cholesterol is lower, and they suffer from fewer medical ailments than people without dogs. Added bonus: Dogs can not help us physically; they are also being trained to help us mentally as well. Dogs are now able to assist people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, hopping up on your lap and laying their head on your shoulder when they sense your stressed.

2. Guaranteed, free Saturday entertainment. Who needs a movie when you’ve got a dog? From ROFL comedies to outrageous dramedies, pets work to entertain their parents 24-19/7. Some scenes are funny and others not so much, but there are Oscar-winning performances going on in our houses daily. Added bonus: Because you’re spending more Saturday nights “in,” you’ll save money on entertainment AND on meals–which will tend to be healthier, by the way. And what about that family bond?

3. Free workouts. No need for a costly gym membership; Rosie will make sure you get your cardio in. And research says you’re more likely to stick with a workout routine over time if you have a buddy. (What if it’s your best buddy?)

happy dog happy to be on a walk

Love the one you're (working out) with, and you're more likely to work out.

Added bonus: If just having a workout friend increases the chances of your exercising, then having one who kindly asks/pleads and/or makes sad eyes at you until you exercise can only increase your chances more. All for less than the cost of a trainer or a gym membership, and, conveniently, right in your backyard. Or on your couch.

Admit it; you want to pet her.

4. Instant friends. (Okay, so this doesn’t directly save you money, but it does save you time—and you know what they say about time and money.) No matter if you have a superstar dog or not; even the scruffiest, smelliest hound can make a person go “Awww.” And if your dog looks even a tiny bit friendly, people will stop and say hello. Want even more friends? Head to a dog park. Added bonus: Get past the small talk faster, as you already know you have something (or someone) in common with these folks.

5. Decreased water consumption. Though some may take sanitary issue with this, they cannot deny the “green” value in having your dog—rather than your tap—pre-wash dishwasher-bound dishes. Added bonus: Dogs are happy to clean difficult-to-clean recyclables, too (Just try getting those peanut butter or tomato sauce cleaner than a dog does; I dare you.)

6. Lower heat bills.

Enough said. “Middletons” comic strip by Ralph Dunagin and Dana Summers. Copyright 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

7. (Select dogs only) The best vacuum in the world. We call ours the Houndcuumcleaner. Pups like these have schnozes that seek out the strayest of crumbs in the tiniest of corners, sometimes invisible to the human eye. They’ll hoover foodstuffs up immediately, sometimes before impact. Added bonus: This vacuum empties itself when full.

How does your dog save you money?


Can toys for shelter dogs stop them from dying?

You’ve decided to adopt a dog, so you’re off to the shelter. Awww…there’s a pooch frolicking with a toy. He throws it up in the air, sees you, runs to you, toy in tow. “Wanna play?” he’d ask if he spoke English. There’s another pup in the corner, disengaged. Which one will you choose? Which one will your kid choose? What if the entire shelter were full of disengaged dogs—or aggressive ones? Would you leave with or without one?


dog with toy

A dog with a toy is a beautiful thing.

Statistics show: socialized dogs—dogs with behaviors that fit their environment and culture—are more likely to be adopted. What helps dogs socialize? Toys. They give dogs something to do. Toys keep dogs calm and interested—and for shelter dogs, this is especially important behavior to exhibit in a less-than-ideal situation. Because the more quickly pups adapt to their surroundings, the faster they’ll get adopted into a forever home, and the more likely they’ll be kept for good.


Teeny’s Friends is a smart project begun by some spirited people in Austin. Last year, they held toy drives at local businesses and ran a benefit buy-one-donate-one sale. They managed to get 300 toys into needy dogs’ mouths last year. And they want to do more.

If they get enough votes (hint, hint), they could win a $5000 Pepsi grant. What would they do with it? In addition to a website, signs, toys and shipping fee, Teeny’s Friends aims

  • To provide 1,000 toys for dogs in local shelters.
  • To significantly decrease the euthanasia rate in Austin, Texas shelters.
  • To raise awareness about the importance of adoption.
  • To provide 200 toys for dogs in low-income families.

So please vote!

P O S T  S  C   R   I    P    T

Of course, toys are part of the answer. But to stop euthanasia altogether, we must:

  • Increase adoption rates. Shelter people work their patooties off doing this, so I’m not going to preach on they can do it better. And I’d say we’re pretty maxed out on the communication that adopting from a shelter is better than buying.
  • Eliminate surrendering. How? Education, education, education. Pre-adoption counseling. (I know, you do.) Free behavior training. (I know, you’d love this.) Free vet care for those who can’t afford it. (Can we get a pet care overhaul?) And how about a nationwide PR campaign finally making it uncool to move without your pet! (Did you know almost 30% of pets are in shelters because their families say they couldn’t move with them? Come again?)
  • Stop the stray cat (and dog) strut. Less than 2% of cats and only 15-20% of dogs are returned home. Why? No ID. The lesson: all pet parents should give all four-leggeds a microchip AND a collar with a tag. Wait—pause—not just a microchip, not just a collar and tag: BOTH. (Read this .pdf by the Humane Society for why.) Tattooing? Err… I have sensitive skin, but maybe your dog doesn’t! Just please ask first. Then send me a picture. Cute!
  • Make sure you and everyone you know are talking to their dogs and cats about sex. A mere 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, versus 75% of pets in homes. Why? Neutered pets have less wanderlust, so they stay at home. Take it from a dog who knows. But I have a microchip, collar and tag, too—just in case my nose takes over.

Anything else you can think of, while I’m dreaming of a perfect world?

Statistical sources:

ASPCA, 2003, 2010
The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP)
“Behind the Numbers” by Stephen L. Zawistowski, Ph.D.

5 things to do when you lose a pet.

I’m sorry. It stinks to lose a friend. And though I usually like things that stink, not this. But please take it from this dog (who has a lot of cat friends): We pets don’t want to lose you, either–and we hope we “go” first.

Here are 5 suggestions psychologists make to those who are grieving the loss of a furry friend.

Basset angel5. Express yourself. It’s normal. The pain might be more or less intense than you thought it would be. That’s okay. Talk, cry, scream, pound the floor; do what helps you the most. Write in a journal. Make a poem. Put up a free online memorial, if it strikes you. Your pet wasn’t just an animal; he/she was part of your family. Don’t try to avoid feeling pain by not thinking about your pet. The more you can walk through this–the slower you can take yourself–the faster the pain will subside. And it will. It will. It will. Give it time.

4. Listen to music and move your body. Note: you don’t have to do those simultaneously. If you don’t like dancing, run. If you don’t like running, walk. If you don’t like walking, jazzercise. But whatever you do, start listening to music. Anything you want. Rock, pop, classical, hair metal– if it feels right, do it.

3. Surround yourself with people who care. There are pet loss support groupscat angel and counselors in your area, message boards and chat rooms. People who say “It was just a pet” or “You can get another one” don’t understand– similar to people who say to someone who loses a leg– “You have another one.” Their intention is to make you feel better, but what you need right now is someone who understands.

Pet loss support groups and individual counselors

Pet loss message boards

Pet loss chat rooms:

2. If you’re unable to move, get help immediately. Sadness and grief is normal. Depression is an illness, but there’s treatment. Can’t get out of bed? Don’t feel like life is worth living? Your brain is playing tricks on you; please just call the 24/7 National Suicide Hotline:  1-800-273-8255.

1. When you’re ready, if your lifestyle supports it, adopt another pet– one that won’t outlive you, either. No cringing; you can do this. You can’t tell me that the pain you’re feeling now is greater than– or will overtake– the joy and the love you experienced with your pet. Now, what do I mean by “if your lifestyle supports it”? That is, don’t get another pet now if you want to make a big change– e.g., move to a smaller place in the city, have a new baby, try a new venture that will take 120 hours/week, get major surgery, travel the world. (Except that last one. If it’s in an RV, most of my friends and I would really dig that.)

Additional Resources:

The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement: An extensive organization offering free services to anyone who has lost or will soon lose a pet.  Their chatrooms are hosted by kind folks who are experienced and trained in grief, and they offer information on assisting kids through this time, too.

“Grief and the Loss of a Pet” by Dr. Holly Nash: An article detailing the stages of grief, the different ways grief can be expressed, and information on helping the elderly who’ve lost a pet.

“Coping with the Loss of a Pet” by Dr. Jeff Feinman: Provides age-specific help for children in coping with the loss of a pet.

Free Pet e-cards: Send one to a grieving friend.

Pet Loss books: Though these are not a substitute for talking with others, they can be a great help. Also a good thing to send to a grieving friend.

Do you have other resources? Please share.

Are you an animal addict?

This post is dedicated to the kindhearted peeps participating in today’s BtC4animals’ Blog the Change. They’re writing for animals. I’m writing for them.

“No budget, no donations and my personal credit cards are maxed. I will eat macaroni and cheese and currently even rent rooms in my house to be sure that the animals have the good stuff. I love doing rescue… but… they say they are going to put the animal to sleep and it’s my fault.”Anonymous Best Friends Member

“I scream that I’ll never foster another dog again… then I see another dog with sad eyes that will die if I don’t help…” -Post on Rescue Anonymous

“I became increasingly isolated from family and friends. My… mom ask[ed] if everything was okay. No, everything is not okay! There are thousands of beautiful, loving animals dying needlessly in shelters every day!” -Julia Kamysz Lane in “When a Rescuer Needs Rescuing”

Sound familiar? Are you spending more time with a rescue than with your family? More money on cat food than on treats for yourself? Feeling angry that others abandon or mistreat their pets? Overwhelmed that it never ends? Sad that you can’t fix it all? Burnout, helping addiction, compassion fatigue–call it what you will– if you think you’ve got it, you probably do. And hugs to you for acknowledging it.

1. You’re not alone. See those quotes above? There are oodles more. Though it’s seldom discussed (and difficult to find on Google!), those who help often need help themselves. An estimated 1 of 4 social workers teeter on alcoholism. 23% of psychiatric nurses smoke. Like you, they’re good people doing good for others but harming themselves in the process. And who can blame you? There are lots of loving animals who need help, so…

2. Know that you are needed, but maybe differently than you think. Once, my mom wanted to give blood. As the Red Cross worker prepared mom’s arm, the blood drained from her face when she saw the needle. The nurse stopped, laughed and gave my mom o.j., saying, “There are lots of other ways to give. Having you flat on the floor isn’t going to help us.” Draining your family of “you-time” or your bank account of money will not only hurt you; it will hurt the animals that you love. And your rational mind knows this, but your heart argues. Which leads to (Excuse the gratuitous photo):

Beagle on a lap

This hound takes care of #1. You should, too.

3. The #1 animal NEED is for you to take care of YOU. As a canine, I know what I’m talking about. When my mom is stressed, so am I. Similar to the airlines’ plea for adults to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting children, it may seem counterintuitive to help yourself before helping us–but it’s vital. A burned out you is no good for us.

Of course, there are differing levels of self care. You may just need some stress management techniques, including just talking about it. Or maybe you need some time off, to ask for help in spreading the workload, or to switch duties (e.g., instead of working at a shelter, host a party to raise money; or instead of answering the phones, donate some dog food). But if nothing will be enough–if you’re addicted to aiding animals you may need to stop altogether and do something else. Regardless, it’s important to focus on the work that HAS been done and DOES get done, the dogs and cats and horses and furries that DO get saved. There are a lot of us. And we will always love you, no matter what.

More help for you helpers:

Animals in Our Hearts: Preventing and Healing the Stress of Animal Care Work: A site full of resources for animal activists with compassion fatigue. Wonder if you’ve got it? Need more help? Check it out.

Best Friends’ Solutions for Burnout: An easy-to-follow guide to ensure you stay sane–great if you feel you’re teetering over the edge or have a friend who is.


My Recycled Pets: Diary of a Dog Addict

My Recycled Pets: Diary of a Dog Addict          A cute book to help you stay focused on the positive.

Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life A classic book on setting boundaries and saying “no” without guilt. Has a Christian slant.

Rescue Matters: Not for the burnt out, but for the burn-out-inclined; this book is full of helpful reminders and a-ha moments.

Have more suggestions for caring for caretakers? Comments? Please share.
Blog the Change

How to talk to your dog (or cat) about sex.

I’m not talking humping–that, we gotta do. I’m talking S-E-X. This guy, Joey, is on a mission of planned pethood. He’s got purity collars, pet sex toys, birth control information–and now, a new book titled “How to Talk to the Cats and Dogs About the Birds and the Bees.” I’m on board. Are you?

7 steps to cure a dog’s separation anxiety.

Truth be told, I don’t like being alone. And when my mom first found me, she worked so I was alone a lot… and destroyed a lot of stuff, did bad things. But I’m not bad, honest! I just needed to know SHE WAS COMING BACK. Hey, I’m a dog! I wasn’t sure! So how’d we get through this rough time?

First, my mom paid for some professional counseling with a vet. Then she read a bunch of stuff. And then she followed these steps:

1. Stop the “I’m leaving now” routines. You see, when a pet’s parent picks up keys, gets a coat from the closet, and walks out the front door– we dogs know what’s going on.  A dog’s going to be left alone!  BARK!  So for a week, my mom tricked me.  She’d pick up her keys and walk around the house with them. Jingle, jingle. Then she’d put them back!  She’d get her coat and wear it around the house, but wouldn’t leave. And she’d use different doors to leave the house– not just the front one. Tricky! I could no longer tell when she was going to leave!

2. Leave for little bits at a time. Then gradually, add time. One Saturday, my mom left for five minutes, then came back. (She said, later, that she stood on the porch for those minutes, but I couldn’t tell as I couldn’t see her.) An hour later, she left for 15 minutes, then came back. An hour later, she left for 30 minutes, then came back. And a couple of hours later, she left for 45 minutes, then came back. Then on Sunday, she left for 30 minutes, then came back. And so on– extending the amount by 15 minutes each time. But she only had a weekend, so…

3. Enroll in dog daycare temporarily, if need be. Because my mom worked full-time, she didn’t have a week to acclimate me to being left alone for 8 hours. So I went to dog daycare for a week, until the weekend, when she resumed the above– eventually extending it to 8 hours.

4. Cease the coming home ceremonies. That means, don’t give tons of kisses when you return. In fact, don’t greet at all!  Just walk in and resume your duties. Greet calmly. Pet parents should teach their dogs that coming home is no big deal, and there’s really no great reward it it.  That said…

5. When you leave, leave a special treat behind. Even better: something that keeps your dog busy, to keep his/her mind off your leaving. The Tug-A-Jug is my busy-body-toy of choice. Or sometimes my mom stuffs a Kong with frozen peanut butter. (That takes me to finish, and I guess that’s the point.)

6. Exercise independence. As much as I was attached to my mom, she (she admits) was attached to me. So she started letting me be more independent. When we went to dog parks, she’d stop watching me, and she’d let me wander to the other end of the park without her. And she stopped calling me to her constantly. When we’d go on walks, she gave me a superduperawesome loooooong Flexi-leash and let me wander (Note: after our separation anxiety had ceased, she went back to a 6′ leash. Ruff.).  And she stopped watching my every move. Hey, maybe a dog CAN be on his own…

7. Make sure your dog is getting enough activity. Every dog needs a daily walk; that’s a given. But how much? My mom began walking me 1/2 hour in the morning before work, then a 1/2 hour after work. After that, we’d have a little playtime. Play ball, play tug (just be careful!), or do some training.  Training, remember, takes a lot of concentration; so that can wear me out. Sometimes, she’d take me to the (dog) park. Other times, she’d take me to the (pet) store. And if she didn’t have time for those, she’d give me weights to carry on my walk.  Whew! Talk about dog tired. Who knew carrying full water bottles on a dog’s back would be so energy-zapping. But all this helped me sleep better during the day when my mom was out.

8. Get medicine if necessary. If it’s gotten to the point where a canine compadre is say, chewing through a metal crate (ahem), then he/she needs some meds– at least, at first. Don’t worry; there’s no shame. A dog doesn’t have to take them forever. Consult with your vet, and I bet he/she will say you can be on them for a while, do the above steps, and eventually there will be no need for drugs.

Yes, it’s hard to cure separation anxiety, but it’s totally do-able. And so totally worth it.

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