Archive for September, 2010
The fall is a wonderful time to celebrate the beauty and wonder of nature and animals. As the leaves turn color and the air becomes crisp and clear, we become invigorated and restored by the beauty and bounty of nature and the animal world. The season offers its own special magic and energy.
You don’t have to be Catholic to honor and celebrate the holy and venerable life of St. Francis of Assisi or to participate in his Feast Day which takes place on October 4. Regarded as the patron saint of animals and the environment, he is also one of the two patrons of Italy (with Catherine of Siena). He was a Catholic deacon and preacher who founded the Order of Friars Minor, more commonly referred to as the Franciscans.
Although many churches in the United States commemorate the life of St. Francis, October 4 is also a popular day for pets to be “blessed”. Many churches offer animal blessing services which may include a verbal blessing and holy water and are usually held at a venue which is suitable for the vast variety of animals which show up.
Blessings may be held indoors or outdoors. The animals receiving the blessing may include, dogs, cats, horses, hamsters, rabbits, goats, donkeys, fish, birds, sheep, etc. The Feast Day provides many animal welfare advocates, animal rights activists, educators, caregivers and animal rescue organizations with the opportunity to educate the public about abused and endangered animals as well as the beauty, purposefulness and importance of animals in our world. The Blessing of Animals is conducted in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures.
The bond between human and animal companion is unlike any other relationship. It is basic, loving, pure and without agenda or façade. The Feast of St. Francis and the Blessing of the Animals attest to the beauty and sacredness of this relationship. Why not share this blessed day dedicated to St. Francis and his love for all creatures with your special animal companion?
We seldom associate the autumn with hazards to our health or the health of our pets. Most of us look forward to this invigorating, busy and active time of year. Who would imagine that a hike in the woods or meadows on a cool crisp, autumn day might produce potential harm to our pets via rodents, fleas, ticks, snakes or mushrooms – yes, mushrooms that grow during the spring and fall, which are attractive to the eye and yet can be poisonous. Actually poisonous mushrooms can cause a range of health issues from gastroenteritis to severe hallucinations and can even prove fatal if ingested. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet has eaten a wild mushroom.
During the fall, rodents are ever present in cities in urban as well as rural areas as they search for shelter from the cold weather. They build nests and also attempt to infiltrate our homes for warmth and comfort. It’s important to be careful when using rodenticides around the house, the garage, and back yard, as they are highly toxic to pets and cause bleeding disorders that can be deadly. You may wish to consider using traps rather than a rodenticide to solve a rodent problem.
Snakes are also a fall related hazard to your pet’s well being. As they prepare to hibernate for the winter, they may be found in unusual places unexpectedly by your pet. Familiarize yourself with the various types of venomous snakes that inhabit your area and where they are generally located at this time of year. Then AVOID these areas!
Fall is back to school time, so make sure your children’s school supplies, i.e. pens, magic markers, paints, glue and glue guns, etc. are out of your pet’s reach. They can cause digestive and intestinal problems if consumed.
You may wish to increase the caloric intake of your pet in colder weather. During the heat of summer, your pet may have been eating less. However, in the cooler months your pet needs to generate more body heat to keep him warm.
Make sure that your pet always has an abundance of cool and clean water and that he remains hydrated. Check his outdoor water bowls frequently and also make SURE his water has not frozen. Use plastic rather than metal bowls or containers for his water.
If you are preparing your car for the colder winter weather and are changing the engine coolant, be aware that many coolant products contain a chemical called Ethylene Glycol that is highly toxic to your pet. Check the ingredients and make sure you use a pet friendly and safe coolant product. Also, clean up any spillage of a coolant product so that your pet can’t find and lick it up!
Finally, gradually expose and increase your pet’s exposure to the colder weather and don’t leave him outside in uncomfortably cold weather for any length of time. Moderate his activity and monitor the amount of time he spends outdoors.
Socialize your pet by taking him for walks in your neighborhood or the park. I have learned that our pets love meeting and greeting pet lovers and pets as much as much as we humans do. This is also the time of year when it is generally safe (check the temperature outside, of course) when you can actually enjoy taking your pet with you on errands without worrying that he is going to get overheated or too cold in the car.
Savor the colors, flavors and scents of the season. Enjoy spending quality indoor as well as outdoor time with your best furry friend and companion!
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If you are not familiar with the world of animal rescue, then you may not be familiar with the concept of “fostering” or temporarily caring for an animal in order to save its life and provide rehabilitation, medical care and socialization skills for it so that it will be more adoptable and suitable for what will hopefully be his new role as someone else’s pet or animal companion. I personally have never fostered a pet - there is no doubt in my mind that I do not have the personality or skills that would enable me to be a good foster parent. I am certain that I would have flunked the class in providing care for an animal on a temporary basis until it finds its permanent or “forever” home. Instead, I have chosen to save, rescue, rehabilitate and then adopt my animal companions knowing that I do not have the skill, stamina or fortitude to know and love an animal and then give it away (relinquish it) to someone else. In my opinion, it is a very special person, indeed, who has the knowledge of animals as well as the ability, compassion and selflessness required to care for a pet in need, to provide it with love and training, a temporary family life, and then ultimately “give” it away to someone who will share the rest of his or her life with it.
Without those generous, kind-hearted and compassionate people willing to foster an animal, many rescue or animal welfare organizations would find it virtually impossible to save and adopt out as many animals as they do. Often, an animal is simply too young, fragile or ill to make it on its own and requires someone to administer special care, training, food or medications until it becomes strong and independent enough to be designated as adoptable for a family which hasn’t the special skills money or patience to care for a puppy or kitten or older dog with special needs. Medium to large, adolescent untrained dogs are also excellent candidates for foster care. The foster parent takes on the role and responsibility of nursing an animal into health and overall well being and easing the transition from shelter to home. Also a part of the work of a foster parent is socialization and temperament evaluation. Generally, the foster parent(s) work in conjunction with a rescue group or animal welfare organization, which pay for any extensive medical care, surgery or treatment, required for the animal. However, frequently foster families donate the cost of food, toys and accessories and other expenses.
Often, foster homes provide a wonderful transition for dogs or cats that have been neglected, abandoned or abused and ended up at animal shelters with very little hope for a future home. Foster parents provide a stable and loving environment and help socialize and obedience train the animals in their temporary custody. The learn about the animals physical and emotional needs and can provide potential adopters with profiles of the animal’s personality and characteristics as well as whether they get along well with children, other pets, etc. In addition, the foster family must understand that there is no defined time limit to the time the animal will spend with them. No one can guarantee that an animal will be adopted within a certain time frame, even though one can be cautiously optimistic. I have known people who have fostered animals for a few weeks, months and even years until the “perfect” adopter comes along.
A foster volunteer ideally has some general experience with dogs and should be familiar with basic dog care and training. The foster has an opportunity to correct the behaviors or bad habits, which may be responsible for the animal being surrendered to a shelter. The responsibilities of a foster parent may include basic training: including housetraining (VERY important!), walking on a leash, learning to sit, stay, come, go down and obeying your commands. Other responsibilities may involve administering medical care (dispensing medication and providing an appropriate diet) and taking the dog to the vet,. Providing him with interaction, playtime and exercise are very important components to the dogs’ emotional and physical development. Once the dog has been nursed back to health after he has been evaluated and trained and deemed adoptable, it is time to begin the search for the best possible home for the animal.
Fostering a dog or cat may seem like a difficult and challenging task. For many of us who love animals, it is a seemingly impossible mission. We simply become too attached to our new addition to let him go. However, the rewards of saving a life and finding it a loving home are indescribable. Everyone involved in the process truly benefits!
If you have ever known a beagle (as I have in many cases), you are aware of their sweet, docile, cheerful, friendly, accommodating, gentle personalities and their desire to do nothing more than love you and receive your approval. Last April, I lost my glorious Beagle/Foxhound, Chloe, who was the most loving, affectionate, gentle and demonstrative being one could ever wish to know. Chloe was an angel who had been abandoned roadside with her littermates and saved by a rescue organization called HART in Dallas from whom we adopted our Chloe.
Chloe loved everyone- animals & humans – and especially children with whom she shared a special bond and loyalty and devotion. She understood somehow that they were precious and vulnerable and to be respected and appreciated in a way different from adults and other creatures. She took them very seriously and loved them.
Before Chloe, I had known many other beagles cherished for their gentle and generous natures and spirits. I have never met a beagle I didn’t love…
Last week I read an article that just about broke my heart – except that it did have a VERY happy ending. It was featured in USA TODAY and addressed the “Independence Day for 118 Beagles Used in Lab Tests” and written by Sharon L. Peters. It spoke of the life and ultimate liberation of beagles that had been used in laboratory research – dogs that lived in isolation confined in plexiglass crates fed and watered on precise daily schedule with no opportunity for any spontaneity or to socialize or experience life outside a cage.
Ironically, with the aid of various animal rescue groups and organizations, these loving little guys were “liberated” from their lives of confinement July 4 weekend after several animal loving groups came to their aid and had them released after the AniClin Research Facility in New Jersey had gone bankrupt and locked its doors. Many of these beagles went to Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary in Middletown, New York. Some of them went to t. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey. They were assisted by Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah.
The animals underwent an enormous transition and transformation. Most had never experienced sunlight or had walked upon the grass. They had lived in an air-conditioned or climate controlled and sterile environment year round. They were not socialized – and did not have human or other canine friends.
They learned to adjust – one step at a time, each at his or her own pace. Experiencing the hugs and embrace of humans, the licks and nips of and playful interaction with other dogs – learning to communicate with human beings and other animals, they adjusted to their new lives. And then, they were the recipients of the ultimate joy for a dog that has been lonely, alone and isolated – being adopted by caring, compassionate and warm-hearted people that care deeply for these animals and their welfare. Would that all laboratory animals could be liberated from lives of misery, loneliness and despair. However, one step at a time. Pet loss and pet grief can be difficult to cope with. We have an example of what CAN be – the hope that can become reality - dogs that are free at last – and loved, appreciated and respected for all they have to offer – for the joy, beauty and richness they contribute to our lives!
I am frequently asked this question by parents who want to make their children happy but are unaware of or apprehensive about many of the aspects of pet ownership. My response to their question is nearly always “ A pet can be a wonderful addition to the family” with the disclaimer that the parents will almost always end up supervising and assuming the ultimate responsibility for the care and well being of the pet. No matter how kind-hearted, precocious, compassionate and well-intentioned, children are, well, “ children” who can be easily distracted, unfocused, unreliable, irresponsible and preoccupied with the demands of daily life including school, extracurricular activities, socializing, homework, household chores, and so on. They may love animals and want to take care of them, but, in reality, the likelihood of a child between the age of five and ten assuming full care of a dog is simply unrealistic. However, the decision to adopt a dog and incorporate it into your family’s life can result in one of life’s most joyous, enriching, satisfying and rewarding experiences.
Before adopting a dog, numerous family discussions should be held regarding the various facets, dimensions and responsibilities associated with pet ownership. Research should be conducted about the pros and cons of dog ownership. Your and your kids may love animals, but because of academic, athletic activities and other obligations, you may simply not have the time for the interaction, socialization and obedience training a dog requires. Information and opinions should be freely shared. Families need to understand that their lives will be forever changed/transformed as a result of bringing a pet into their homes. Various dog breeds and their physical as well as personality characteristics should be thoroughly studied and investigated to determine if a dog is right for you and your family, and if it is, figure out which kind of dog is best suited and most compatible with your family’s lifestyle. Personalities of each family member should be taken into consideration to determine who will assume which responsibilities associated with the pet’s care, feeding and exercise needs.
Above all, it is important to carefully think about the decision to adopt a pet. Here are some questions to ask that will help you determine if it is right for you to adopt a dog.
1). Can you afford the costs associated with a pet? Vaccinations, spay/neuter, adoption fee, visits to the vet for check-ups, dog food, doggie meds, toys, accessories, leash, collar, doggie bowls, travel kennels, identification tag and microchippng.
2). Do you have physical space for a dog –a place where he can sleep, play and eat in comfort, safety and security?
3). Is it legal for you to have a pet in your apartment, home or community?
4). Do you have the time to interact, exercise and play with the dog?
5). Do you have time and are you willing to walk a dog at least several times a day?
6). What is the ideal age and sex of the animal you would consider adopting – those that are most suitable to your lifestyle?
7). Are you willing to feed the animal two or three times a day and provide it with fresh water several times daily?
8). Are you willing to socialize the dog and teach it basic obedience skills so that it will obey you and be a well-behaved, well-mannered member of your family?
9). Will you be able to bathe and groom your dog regularly?
10). Will you be able to accommodate the dog’s activity level and any destructive behaviors he may exhibit?
11). Will you be able to housetrain your pet?
12). Will you be able to discipline your pet without any physical or verbal abuse?
13). Will you always walk your pet on-leash and never off-leash unless he is in a safely fenced in area from which he cannot get out?
14). Will you be able to teach your children discipline, responsibility and compassion and respect for a pet you adopt?
15). Will you respect and appreciate and lovingly commit a lifetime of care for a dog that may become old, frail or ill and will eventually die?
16). Will you provide a “forever” home for your animal regardless of what may happen to you? In other words, will you make arrangements to provide care for the rest of your pet’s life with friends, neighbors, family members, etc?
If you ask yourself these questions and answer them thoughtfully and honestly, you will know whether you should adopt a dog. A dog is precious and sentient and to be valued, appreciated and respected. The responsibilities associated with dog ownership are varied and many; however, the joy, wisdom, love and companionship of a furry friend are indescribable and immeasurable. To give your children the gift of a dog is to give them one of life’s greatest treasures.