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Monthly Archives: August 2013

National Dog Day

August 26th marks National Dog Day-a day set aside to honor man’s best friend and express appreciation for all the joys and benefits dogs bring to our lives. From the well-known heroes like the dogs that led their owners to safety on 9/11 to the quiet champions that enable their sightless or physically impaired owners to live life to the fullest through their keen senses and canine instincts, dogs play a vitally important role in the lives of many people.

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In celebration of National Dog Day, here are a few stories of the amazing faithfulness of our canine companions. Many of us are familiar with the story of Hachiko, made famous through the recent movie Hachi. This true tale recounts the faithfulness of an Akita who waited ten years for his deceased master to return home.

Grayfriars Bobby, a devoted Skye terrier who stood at his master’s unmarked grave for over fourteen years, is a symbol of fidelity throughout Britain. A gardener, touched by such devotion, built a small shelter for Grayfriars Bobby and Edinburgh’s Lord Provost paid the dog’s licensing fee to allow him to remain at his post. Grayfriars Bobby died in 1873 and a year later a giant granite fountain was commissioned as a symbol of the dog’s loyalty and headstone was finally placed at his owner’s gravesite. You can read more about Grayfriars Bobby here.

There is also a story of a lone sheep rancher who died in 1870. Given his remote New Mexico location, it was two years before anyone discovered his death, however, his flock of sheep were all doing fine (in fact, they had grown in number during those two years). The rancher’s dog had diligently taken the sheep out to pasture, watching over them through the day and then herding them home each evening.

Dozer, while not recognized for his faithfulness to his owner, is still a very dedicated dog. This goldendoodle crossed his invisible fence after seeing large crowds of people run past his home. Dozer ran along with them, completing the seven mile Maryland Half Marathon to raise money for cancer before quietly returning home. Not knowing about his running spree, his owners were concerned about Dozer’s sudden exhaustion and took him to the vet. Soon after, they saw TV coverage about Dozer’s amazing feat and realized the cause of his fatigue. Dozer received a special award and has raised over $21,000 towards the area cancer center through his Facebook fan page.

Founded by author Colleen Paige in 2004, National Dog Day was created to celebrate dogs and encourage ownership. Many pet owners choose today to celebrate their dog’s birthday (if they don’t know the actual date), making it an even more memorable occasion. It’s also a great day to adopt a dog from your local shelter or rescue group, and to make a donation to your local shelter. Let’s celebrate the contribution dogs make to our lives-today and every day. Happy National Dog Day!

Party Animals: Celebrating Animal-Awareness

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Do you have a future vet in your household? A budding zookeeper? A prospective animal behaviorist? If so, you know that planning a special birthday party for the philotherian (aka animal lover) in your family can be a real challenge. Here are a few ideas to help make this a birthday they’ll never forget.

The Arizona Animal Welfare League and SPCA offer several birthday party packages to suit your child’s interests. Featuring exotic animals like chinchillas, lizards, and ferrets and more familiar pets like bunnies, parrots, dogs, and cats, the AAWL’s animal specialists will provide detailed introductions to the traits and characteristics of each of their featured creatures. Starting with intimate animal encounters, animal themed invitations and decorations, and a private tour of the facility, your child is sure to be enthralled. One birthday package even offers instructions on dissections, suturing, and proper intake exams. If you prefer to have the party at your house, the AAWL will even bring the animals—and the fun—to you. Visit their website to learn more.

The Arizona Humane Society also has birthday packages for the party animal in your life. Party participants take a tour of the 20-acre Nina Mason Pulliam Campus and barn, learn a lesson about animal compassion, meet a special animal visitor, and a work on a Shelter Buddies craft to help encourage animal adoption. The highlight for the guest of honor is the sure to be the privilege of naming a shelter animal. Partygoers are encouraged to bring in a gently used towel or blanket as well as a can of pet food or treats for the homeless animals, making this a great opportunity to focus on giving meaningful gifts. Committed to building awareness about homeless animals, the Arizona Humane Society uses these parties as an opportunity to teach children about making a difference in the lives of animals. You can download a party application and learn more at the Arizona Humane Society’s website.

If you’d like to keep the party closer to home, why not have an animal awareness party right in your own backyard? You can make homemade dog treats to donate to your local animal shelter and make “Adopt Me” signs for the animals at the shelter. For an action-packed party activity, you could create a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Call your shelter in advance to find out what items they currently need then create your scavenger hunt list. With adult supervision, children can go door-to-door in small groups, asking for the items on the list and perhaps even handing out information about the local shelter or the animals awaiting adoption. As a bonus, after the party is over, your child has the opportunity of going with you to donate all these items to the shelter.

Birthdays are great occasions for teaching children about living charitably. Bringing together a child’s love for animals with an opportunity to improve animal welfare and enhance awareness could ignite a love for animals that lasts their entire life.

Bringing Home Baby: Helping Your Pet Adjust to the New Arrival

Is a baby in your future? If so, it’s never too early to start preparing your pet for the changes your household is about to undergo. In fact, the earlier you begin training your car or dog, the less likely you’ll encounter issues when you baby arrives.

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Brush Up on Obedience
It’s essential that you teach your pet to obey your commands before the baby arrives. Waiting until you’re sleep deprived, stressed, and emotionally drained to begin working on obedience is just going to end in frustration on everyone’s part. Working with a professional trainer is a great way to gain insight into behaviors you may not see and ensure that you are being consistent in your training style. There are even classes and trainers who specifically focus on working with expectant families.

The Arizona Animal Welfare League, for instance, offers a 90-minute class for you and your dog, covering basic behavior training and tips to prepare your entire family for a new member. The next session is scheduled for Saturday, August 17th from 1:00-3:00 pm. To register, visit the Arizona Animal Welfare League website or contact Rachel Gardner at rgardner@aawl.org.

Make Routine Changes
This is a great time to set some new boundaries. If you have a nursery, you may want to make it a pet-free zone. By putting up a baby gate now, before baby actually arrives, will help establish that it’s an off-limits area.

You should also take a step back and evaluate the kind of behavior you’ve allowed up to this point. Perhaps your dog leaps onto the sofa with you every time you sit down. Up until now, that hasn’t been an issue; however, if you think about him bounding into your lap while you’re trying to feed the baby, you may not feel the same way. Set the ground rules now so that good behavior is already in place before you bring the baby home.

You may want to role-play using a doll or stuffed animal so that your pet becomes accustomed to the sight in advance. Practice having your pet sit patiently and wait to be invited to approach you. Allow your pet to sniff the doll, praising and rewarding them for positive behavior. These pretend scenarios can go a long way in helping your pet ease into the real life scenes right around the corner

Role Shift
If mom has been the primary pet caretaker, it may be time to make some changes to account for the changes in her energy levels (and likely, her availability) after the baby arrives. Start by alternating feedings and walking to gently ease them into a new routine. While you’re working out your new routines, this is a great time to start planning who will be in charge of which duties once the baby arrives so nothing gets overlooked.

If mom’s been in charge of litter box duties, she should relinquish that responsibility immediately. Due to concerns about toxoplasmosis, a disease-causing parasite often found in cat’s feces, pregnant women should avoid contact with the cat’s litter box.

The Sniff Test
To help your pet acclimate to the scent of their new family member, bring home something from the hospital with your baby’s scent—perhaps a blanket or outfit. Allow them to sniff the new item and praise them for being gentle and calm. If you’ve been role playing with a doll, use this new blanket or outfit with the doll to further the association. While it may feel silly, you may also want to practice taking your dog for a walk while pushing a stroller. There’s a bit of finesse involved in keeping everyone moving without getting intertwined and it’s nice to have these kinks worked out in advance.

The Introduction
Before introducing your pet to the new baby, take time to engage your pet in an activity that will tire them out. A long walk or play session will ensure that they are not full of pent up energy for their first meeting with your little bundle of joy. This is especially important if they’ve spent the last few days in unfamiliar surroundings while you’ve been at the hospital.

Greet your pet first—without the baby. Then, after you’ve ensured your pet is in a calm, controlled state, introduce them to each other while keeping them at a safe distance and being respectful of your pet’s interest in the new arrival. Remember to lavish praise and treats on your pet for good behavior. Watch for signs of stress and remove the baby from the room if your pet seems agitated. If your pet is still having trouble adjusting after the first few weeks, seek advice from your vet.

Try to keep routines as normal as possible with your pet, feeding, walking, playing, and sleeping according to the schedule you’ve been working on over the past few months. Also, make sure to create time for the whole family to be together so that your pet can acclimate to all the new sounds and activities. Sometimes families will have their pet leave the room every time the baby is around. Rather than eliminating potential problems, this often has the opposite effect—creating a negative association to the baby.

Lastly, regardless of how gentle your dog behaves around your baby, never leave dogs and children together unattended. It only takes a minute for the unthinkable to happen.

For pets who have long been at the center of your world, it can be hard coping with all the changes a baby brings. However, with a bit of advance planning and preparation—and a lot of praise and patience—the entire family can relish in the joys of a new baby.