The Perfect of Christmas

If you are considering buying a puppy for a Christmas gift, we urge you to think carefully before impulsively bringing a companion animal into your home. A pet is a living being and involves long term adult commitment. A dog is not a toy, not a disposable item to be discarded when he becomes inconvenient, or the kids lose interest in him. Please avoid the heartache of a poorly thought out pet purchase, and don’t let the kids con you into a decision you will regret. The introduction of a pet into a household should be a total family decision that has been discussed, planned for, and researched before the purchase or adoption.

“The perfect Christmas gift” illustrates how a well intention, impulse purchase can bring heartache to both the family and the animal:

“I am a dog with a story to tell… I was unlucky enough to be born in a filthy wire cage, in a dreadful puppy mill. and was soon sold to a pet store. I was one of those “designer dogs—all of the rage,” and was bought for a Christmas present for the kids, but that didn’t last long before I hit the skids. At first everything was fine; I lived in a nice house and played with the children….it was a great life for awhile. Then things changed, and I was thrown outside to live in the yard. Maybe it was because I shed a little, and once I piddled on the rug, but no explanation or reason was given why. When the sun came up, I barked all day, but no one ever came out to play. Soon they said I I was too big for the house, and too much trouble to train, so I just sit at the end of a chain, day after day, year after year. The seasons change….I freeze in the winter, and swelter in the summer…my joints are sore, and my eyes don’t see as well any more. My fur is matted and provides a home for the fleas. I bark and I cry; I cry and I bark….it is a sad existence. Sometimes I have water….sometimes I don’t. I hope that you think of me when you see a dog on a chain and know that dog is lonely, hurting, and in pain. He was probably that perfect Christmas gift too, now forgotten and alone. Perhaps you could stop awhile and pat him on the head, or just sit beside him and talk to him , offering him a friendly word. It’s sure to be a kindness that he may not have experienced for awhile.. I guess some folks just don’t understand that a dog is not for Christmas….he is for life.”

If you have discussed, and planned for adding a dog to your heart and home, and are willing to make a long term commitment, spending a good amount of time and energy with the dog and have enough space and money to properly care for his needs, go to your area shelter or rescue group and talk to them. They can help you choose the best dog for your situation. (Do NOT buy from a pet store…you will be supporting the puppy mill industry.)

You will never know the joy that dogs bring to the world until you have one of your own. They really do deserve the title of “man’s (and woman’s) best friend. They are loyal, intelligent, devoted and affectionate, and are known to improve both our physical and mental health. Dogs keep a lonely night, less lonely; they treat us like celebrities; they make us smile; they teach us the meaning of unconditional love. A faithful dog will play with you….or cry…he’ll gladly starve to stay with you nor ever question why, and when you’re feeling out of sorts, somehow he’ll understand. His blind, implicit faith in you is matched by his unconditional love.

“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. ” (Roger Caras)

Tis The Season for Love and Joy… And Debt

For many Americans, the quality of Christmas is determined by gifts It is an undeniable fact that for our society as a whole, gifts are the central feature of the holiday season, with retailers pressuring us to spend more than we can afford by promoting the ‘buy now, pay later’ philosophy, piling on credit card debt. In a recent survey, many said they would prefer to skip Christmas altogether because the holiday season brings so much financial pressure. How sad….we need to learn that things will never make us happy, and Christmas is not about accumulating more “stuff, ” for either our two-legged friends or our four-legged companions.

According to the American Pet Products Association, pet caregivers are spending more than $60 BILLION dollars on their pets this year. Chris Riches of Dailymail says that pets are more popular than relatives at Christmas with more than half planning to spend more on their animal companions than each of their own family members. Naturally every pet supply outlet is taking advantage of the impulse buyer, tantalizing dog lovers with toys, but remember that there is NO agency overseeing the dog toy market , and many of them are not good for your canine. With the market flooded with cheap imports, it’s BUYER BEWARE. Double check…and then check again to make sure a toy is non-toxic and safe. Squeaky toys are a favorite for almost all dogs, but it is easy for dogs to choke on them, often causing a blockage that requires surgery. Dogs love rawhides, but I recommend that you NEVER give rawhides to your dog! Consider toys made of very hard rubber which are safer and last longer, and remember your dog is not impressed with expensive stuff…. They possess the spirit of Christmas every day of the year, realizing that it is not the Christmas wrapping or the gifts…it is about joy and love, and they are eager to share those attributes with you every day of every year. . However, a gift or two would be appreciated, so please choose products made in North America or Europe over those mass-produced and imported from other countries where safety standards are almost non- existent. Avoid the cheap, stinky latex toys, and Inspect all toys for loose parts or pieces that might easily break off. Don’t give children’s toys to dogs, because they could chew off and choke on the eyes and noses of stuffed animals.

One of my favorite toys is the Kong. Kong toys are uniquely shaped, extraordinarily strong, rubber toys with hollow centers, and they have an unpredictable bounce that appeals to almost all dogs. This toy can be used for therapy, boredom, separation anxiety, other behavior problems, and just plain fun. A Kong can be stuffed with almost any kind of food your dog likes…mix some of his meal with a little canned dog food, yogurt, peanut butter…combinations are endless, and if you freeze them , they will occupy your dog for extended periods of time.

Kyjen Pet Products has a great assortment of quality dog dogs….the Squeaker Mat Toy has multiple squeakers that have the squeakers sewn inside, and doesn’t have any stuffing to be swallowed when your dog eventually rips it open.

The Nylabone Durable Dental Dinosaur and the Nylabone Dura chew Wishbone are great gifts for serious chewers. They have interesting shapes and raised bristles to help clean her teeth.

The Cuz is an ingeniously designed, natural rubber ball with feet…but that’s not its only special feature. It squeaks…and the squeaker is built into the Cuz so that it won’t fall out. It is a well-made toy by JW Pets, a U.S. based company that claims their ideas are l00% homegrown in the USA. They also have a large assortment of other creative, well-made toys, including Cuz Tails, which has a soft, squeaky tail that can be bounced, tugged and fetched. JW dog toys are higher quality than most of the toys you find in the big box toy departments.

Remember that no toy is indestructible, and as long as the toy industry is an unsupervised playground, it is the responsibility of the caregivers to keep their eyes on the ball, the stuffing, and the squeaker.

Dogs help us to better understand what Christmas is truly about, and even though they cannot speak in our language-or perhaps it is that we cannot speak in theirs-we know that dogs realize the true meaning of Christmas. Have a loving , joyous, debt-free holiday season!

Gifts that Keep on Giving

We enter the holiday season of giving with the realization that gifts of love, compassion, kindness, and gratitude are priceless gifts that keep on giving, but if we focus on tangible gifts that keep on giving, I choose books. There is an old English song that puts it this way: “Oh, for a nook and a storybook… with tales both new and old, for a good book wherein to look is better to me than gold.” If you are looking for a book for a gift to a special someone, I have some suggestions:

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, is one of my favorites , and the only one I am listing that isn’t centered around a dog…..The book follows the lives of an apple tree and a boy. In his childhood, the boy enjoys playing with the tree, and eating her apples. As he grows older, he spends less time with the tree, and visits her only when he wants material items at various stages of his life…in an effort to make the boy happy at each of these stages, the tree gives him parts of herself which he can transform into material items, such as money from her apples, a house from her branches, and a boat from her trunk. With every stage of giving, the “tree was happy.” In the final pages, the boy returns as a tired elderly man to request a “quiet place to sit and rest” which the tree could provide. Scholars heatedly debate about “hidden meanings” in the book, but I choose to believe it is a fable about life and life lessons..of what it means to be mortal and flawed and the blessings of love. Everyone needs this book, and it would make an awesome gift

Christine Davis of Lighthearted Press offers awesome coffee table books, and all animal lovers should have at least two…or more…of her delightful books. She writes and illustrates magical books for lifting the spirits of anyone coping with the loss of an animal friend in For Every Dog An Angel, and Forever Paws. The Shelter Dog tells the story of Hero, an angel dog flying through the heavens with other angel dogs, requesting to return to earth and become a shelter dog. Hero discovers that things don’t always turn out the way you plan….sometimes they turn out better. Old Dog and the Christmas Wish Is a perfect gift for those who believe in Christmas miracles…and for those who are not quite certain. It is Christmas Eve, and an old dog lies chained to a tree, alone and forgotten. Beyond the fence something is about to happen that will awaken the strong spirit that still runs deep within his tired old bones. Whispers of a Christmas wish will reach the heavens, and suddenly anything is possible on this very special night. All of these books are overflowing with love, magi, and of course, FUR! If you would like information or would like to place an order, contact davis@lighthearted press.com or call 877-385-6837.

If you need a gift for someone with a special love for old dogs, Gene Weingarten’s book, Old Dogs Are The Best Dogs would be a perfect choice. Beautifully illustrated with photographs by Michael Williamson, this book emphasizes “old dogs can be cloudy-eyed and grouchy, gray of muzzle…hard of hearing, wheezy, lazy and lumpy, but to anyone who has ever loved an old dog, these things are of little consequence. They are sweetly vulnerable, show exorbitant gratitude, and have limitless trust. They possess a special sort of dignity and charm.” Old Dogs is a glorious gift book and a fitting tribute to any dog you can never forget. The book is also available as an e-book.

Another book that any animal lover would appreciate is Patrick McDonnell’s Mutt’s Shelter Stories. McDonald has been recognized worldwide for his distinctive style, heartwarming humor, and strong, yet nonpreachy, stand on important issues like responsible pet ownership, animal advocacy, adoption, and the sanctity of all life. This book provides a pathway for any humane minded person—turning us away from the pet trade and toward our shelters, where you can make a friend for life.

I have an entire stack of more books that I would recommend for gift-giving, but unfortunately can’t list them all. I do assure you that if you choose the books I have showcased, you will make someone happy! (All of them are available from Amazon, or most book stores).

“Good books are friendly things to own…the fellowship of books is real. They won’t disturb you…they’ll comfort you…they’ll share your lonesome hours, , and though you may cease to care for them, they will remain your loyal friends. The world before you will unfold with the magic key you hold in a book!” –Edgar Guest

The Importance of Gratitude

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, we pause to remember the things for which we are thankful . To quote Oprah Winfrey, “We radiate and generate more goodness for ourselves when we are aware of all we have rather than focusing on our have-nots.” Today’s life is constantly throwing us curve balls, and our busy lives are so packed with responsibilities and stress that sometimes we forget that the path to happiness is gratitude. It seems especially fitting as we turn our thoughts to Thanksgiving that we pause to count our many, many blessings ….faith, family, and friends, both two-legged and four-legged. I am making a “Thankful list”, and one of the things on my list is my dog, who offers me unconditional love every day of the year As Roger Caras said “Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. ”

  • A dog is loyal and provides love and affection. You are never alone when you have a dog. .You always feel safe with your dogs. Even the small ones act as watchdogs to warn you of visitors—welcome or unwanted.
  • You always get an exuberant greeting to welcome you home, whether you have been gone for hours or just minutes.
  • They never complain about you….no matter what you do…make a fool of yourself, come home late, or are just plain cranky…. your dogs never complain. They love you just the way you are…with all your faults.
  • No matter what mistakes you make, your dogs always forgive you. .. they never hold a grudge (a trait that very few of us humans possess.)
  • You are ALWAYS number 1. Whether in a crowd or home alone with your dogs, you are the most important thing in their lives.

This Thanksgiving, my dogs will take their rightful place on my “Thankful List”, but there are many dogs who are not on anyone’s list. Some of them have been abandoned and are living on the street. Others have spent their entire lives crammed in miserable puppy mills with little human companionship or medical treatment. The word “thanksgiving” is exactly that: giving thanks, and giving is an action….urging us to take time to do something for all the dogs who have little for which to be thankful. Your actions don’t have to be enormous to make a big difference. Here are a few ideas to make lives better for your dog, a friend’s dog, or a homeless dog.

  1. Volunteer at your local shelter or rescue group. “There is always a dog for reasons unbeknownst to me why his family gave him up. They took him to the shelter and they just left him there, where he sits scared and lonely, wondering what he did that was so bad . He deserves a second chance! “
  2. Offer to walk a senior’s or neighbor’s dog who may not get a lot of attention or exercise.
  3. Make a donation to an animal welfare group, preferable an area group with which you are familiar.
  4. Check out the cosmetics that you use. Be sure you are using products that do not do testing on animals.
  5. Bake dog treats for a local rescue..and your dog and perhaps a neighbor’s dog… Here’s a quick and easy –to- make recipe:

 Peanut Butter Balls

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 cups flour (preferable whole wheat flour)
  • 1 ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup mashed bananas

Mix well . Hand form into 1-inch balls and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.

 

 “When life gets hectic, and you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to focus on all your blessings. When you have an attitude of gratitude, frustrating troubles will fall by the wayside. Smile, show kindness, and be grateful. Refuse to be unhappy”—Dana Arcuri

Happiness is a Way of Life

Happiness is defined as a feeling of well-being, pleasure, and contentedness. Our lives today seem to be filled with discontent and division, rather than contentedness and happiness. Shel Silverstein offers this observation; “I will not play at tug o’ war; I’d rather play at hug ‘o war, where everyone hugs instead of tugs; where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug; where everyone kisses, and everyone grins, and everyone cuddles, and everyone wins.” How sad that we humans don’t embrace that concept. Perhaps our dogs know something that we don’t know. Inspirational speaker Alan Cohen lives with his dog, Munchie, and analyzed why his dog was so happy. These are a few of his conclusions:

  • He does not need to impress anyone or prove himself. He is what he is, and that is enough.
  • He doesn’t hold grudges A psychiatrist friend once told me that a healthy amount of time to feel a negative emotion is about eight minutes. If it lingers longer than that, you are holding onto it too long. Munchie could have told him that!
  • My dog gives me a whole hearted greeting no matter how long I have been away. He doesn’t sit on his haunches and complains, “I think it’s time we discussed your commitment to our relationship.” He is just happy to see me, and lets me know it.
  • My dog knows it is okay to ask for what he wants—even though he sometimes doesn’t get it.
  • He knows that life is an adventure to be enjoyed. He finds joy wherever he is.
  • Insofar as I can tell, my dog is an enlightened being, despite the fact that he doesn’t read books, has never attended a seminar, and probably couldn’t balance a checkbook.
  • You will not find my dog wasting his energy nursing a worry. He lives in the NOW and is content in the moment . His happiness is not a destination, but a way of life. Perhaps one day, I will wake up as happy as he seems to be!”

There are always new ways to spice up our dogs’ lives, so here are a few suggestions to make them even happier:

  1. Make sure your dog has several comfy places to relax, some where the family convenes, and others tucked away should he wants some quiet time.
  2. Many behavioral problems are the result of boredom. Make sure he gets enough exercise.
  3. Rotate their toys. You don’t have to consistently buy new toys; just put them on rotation and when they seem to get bored with them, put them away and bring out an old toy your dog has forgotten about.
  4. Make sure your dog knows the rules. Basic obedience will make life better for both you and your dog. Teaching your dog new things will provide mental stimulation and is a great way to bond.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight is uncomfortable and puts him at an increased risk for a multitude of medical conditions.
  6. Play more. Daily play time will build your relationship and allow you both to have fun. Dogs get bored and they want to interact with their humans.
  7. Be consistent. Dog trainers often complain that inconsistency is the main reason for inappropriate behavior. Dogs need consistent rules and boundaries for them to understand what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. Dogs that are continually scolded for things they don’t understand are wrong are unhappy dogs.
  8. Praise, both verbal and physical, are important to maintaining a happy relationship with your dog. Spending time petting and praising your dog for even a few minutes, will make her happier.
  9. Keep a schedule. Dogs are creatures of habit. Their regular routine makes them happy, (especially where food and regular walks are concerned)

I am a happy dog…I lie belly-up in the sunshine, happier than you will ever be.

Today I sniffed so many new things…I celebrate by kissing your face.

I sound the alarm! Paperboy….come to kill us all…Look! Look! Look! I sound the alarm.

Garbage man…come to kill us all…Look! Look! Look. I sound the alarm.

Sleeping here , my chin on your foot—no greater bliss. Look in my eyes and deny it.

No human could be as happy as I am.

 

Frights, Chills and Spooky Thrills

Frights and chills, spooky thrills, candy and nuts, bring lots of fun and laughter! Filling your Halloween with absolute delight” for humans, but Halloween can be a traumatic or even dangerous time for your pet. Here are a few tips to protect him on this spooky day:

  • Never leave your dog (or cat) outdoors. There are plenty of stories of pranksters who have teased, injured, stolen, or even killed pets on this night. A frightened pet could easily get lost in the confusion of the holiday, so set up a place with a quiet space in a room away from the front door, so he doesn’t freak out every time he hears the doorbell or knocking sound. Even a very mellow dog can be overwhelmed with all the strange looking creatures in wild costumes.
  • Exercise him early, before the kids begin to trick-or treat. He will be less anxious if he is tired. Be sure he is wearing complete, up-to-date , identification, just in case an escape does occur. A lost dog wearing proper ID, especially one that has been microchipped, has the best chance of being reunited with his caregiver.
  • Think twice about a costume. Most pets do not enjoy wearing a pretty pink tutu, or ghost or goblin suit, and it can put a lot of stress on the animal. If you feel you must dress up your dog, make sure the costume is reflective, isn’t constricting, annoying, or unsafe, doesn’t obstruct her vision, or have loose parts. An emergency visit to the vet could ruin the fun!
  • Dogs are naturally curious, and decorations can pose a huge threat to them. Keep all decorations including streamers, glitter, glues and adhesives, glow sticks and jewelry, costume parts, silly string, electrical cords, jack-o-lanterns, and all the props from skeletons and skulls to spider webs and candles out of reach.
  • The National Fire Protection Association estimates that over 1,000 house fires are accidentally started each year by pets. A better choice than burning actual candles would be no-flame candles. Battery operated candles with flickering LED lights create a real burning candle effect…..however, even these should be kept away from inquisitive paws…ingesting the batteries would be serious.
  • NO candy – especially chocolate. This is an important Halloween safety tip as chocolate contains the stimulant theobromine from cacao beans, and can cause seizures, coma and even death if consumed by dogs. Also sugar-free candy containing Zylitol can cause liver failure and death. Be sure that all the children in your household understand the importance of never sharing their candy with the dog. Treat bags should be stored in a designated safe place, and candy wrappers should be disposed of in a secure garbage container. Empty wrappers as well as sucker sticks can cause choking or intestinal problems,

 

A quick and easy treat for your dog would be Peanut Butter-Pumpkin Yummies:

  • 2.5 cups of flour (wheat preferred but white is okay)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin (DO NOT buy pie mix)
  • 2-3 Tlbs of peanut butter
  • A bit of water ( to make dough workable)

Steps

  1. Mix together flour, 2 eggs, ½ cup canned pumpkin, and 2 or 3 tablespoons of peanut butter.
  2. Add water as needed to make the dough workable.
  3. Either roll the dough out and cut into shapes, or you can just drop by small spoonfuls, onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
  4. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes…for harder biscuits, bake about 10 minutes longer.

Remember that your pets are depending on you to keep them safe from the dangerous ghosts and goblins that this holiday brings out!

The Spookiest Night of the Year!

“Trick or treat, bags of sweets, ghosts walking down the streets”…..Halloween will soon be here, and promises to be a howling good time for kids and many adults, but for your dogs…not so much. For most dogs, it is one of the most frightening days of the year, and the new trend to put your dog in a costume will only add unnecessary stress!… Pet stores are loaded with really cute outfits for your pooch, with sales of pet costumes soaring in recent years, growing by 68% last year, according to the National Retail Federation, and retailers say they see demand only increasing in the years ahead. Pet Smart points to the fact that it now carries 111 styles of pet costumes and accessories; it’s even starting to offer items for “small animals.” These are commercial ventures targeted for the enjoyment of humans, not the animals!

According to Pet Poison Helpline, emergency critical care and toxicology calls increase dramatically during the week of Halloween, making it one of the center’s busiest time of the year. One major reason for the calls is ingestion of costume parts, and average costs are documented as more than a thousand dollars. Dress-up is usually a major mess-up from a dog’s perspective; they are not excited about wearing a costume, and most, however “cute” they are, are uncomfortable, British Prevention of Cruelty to Animals strongly advocates against this fad, calling it annoying, and potentially dangerous, believing that legal action might be warranted for people who dress up their pets. Dogs aren’t “dress up dolls” or toys to play with, and if you are honest with yourself, you will probably admit that, even if your dog doesn’t fight being dressed up, she probably wants nothing to do with it, and it’s a huge relief once it’s off. My advice is FORGET DOG COSTUMES, but sadly, many of you have already bought your dog’s Halloween outfit, and many others will ignore my advice, so please make sure that the costume doesn’t restrict his movement, hearing, vision, or movement, and is safe and comfortable.

  • Most costumes are made of scratchy, cheap material which could result in your dog’s adverse reaction. If you notice her scratching while trying on the costume, remove it. An allergic reaction can cause an itchy rash, and possible infection.
  • Make sure the costume isn’t a tight fit. Tightness around your dog’s paws, legs, torso, or neck or tight elastic cords can pinch his body and cause a great deal of discomfort. The outfit should not constrict his movement, or hearing, and should not impede his ability to bark or breathe. Many of the ones that I looked at would hinder a dog’s vision which could be very dangerous.
  • Check carefully for small or dangling accessories which she might chew off and swallow. Buttons, ribbons, and tassels could cause intestinal blockage or choking if swallowed.
  • Some elaborate Halloween costumes can cause your dog to overheat. Depending on the outfit, the temperature, and your dog’s coat, it is easier than you might think for him to overheat while all dressed up.
  • Be sure to try on costumes before the big night. Place it on the floor, let your dog sniff and examine the costume. After he examines it, drape part of the costume over his back…repeat this several times prior to actually putting the garment on him. Take it off and put it back on several times. If your dog shows abnormal anxiety or is distressed, please don’t force him to wear it. A colorful bandana would make for a happier dog.

It is our responsibility to make sure our dogs’ Halloween doesn’t turn into frightful nightmares.

Does Your Dog Need Fake Teeth?

Dogs are affected by teeth and gum problems from early ages…..often by the age of 3….and the solution is usually tooth extraction. A gum disease may also cause tooth loss, and many dogs end up having few or no teeth before they reach their senior years of life, which can dramatically affect the dog’s quality of life. In recent years, medical advances have been phenomenal and new technology has provided the ability to have implants for pets. However, just because we have the technology, many vets conclude that the real risks and expense of dental implants for pets outweigh their usefulness and should not be considered a routine choice in pets.

A better option to false teeth or implants for our dogs is taking care of their teeth to prevent a whole range of problems . Dirty teeth and bad breath aren’t just unattractive …periodontal disease impacts a dog’s overall health . Plaque and tartar buildup on teeth can lead to irreversible gum disease, and according to The Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, the majority of dogs over the age of three have periodontal disease, and advanced periodontal disease often results in bacteria in the heart, kidney, and liver. Bacteria in the mouth can get into the bloodstream, traveling throughout the body to create life-threatening infection.

If your pet has a sore mouth, she can’t tell you about it, and it is the nature of dogs to hide pain, so your dog might really be hurting from dental disease while you remain totally unaware that there is something more serious than dirty teeth and bad breath. Keeping plaque and tarter at bay to ward off oral disease is just the tip of the iceberg; your dog’s kidney, liver, heart and overall immune system are affected by the condition of the teeth and gums. The best way to remove tarter (calculus), is with a professional cleaning by a veterinarian, but nothing succeeds better to remove plaque, the sticky, colorless film that forms on the teeth, than brushing.

Brush your dog’s teeth? You gotta be kidding, right? NOPE. Documentation has shown that brushing is the best way to insure your dog’s dental health. Most dogs can be acclimated to teeth brushing if you just take it slowly. Start by just lifting your dog’s lip and rubbing your finger along the gum line. Do this daily for a few days; then take a warm washcloth, or piece of terry cloth and rub that over the teeth for a few days. There are soft-bristled toothbrushes, or finger brushes made especially for dogs, but I have found that most dogs are more receptive to just a wash cloth. Squeeze a small amount of DOG toothpaste (formulated especially for dogs) on the cloth. Do not try to hold the dog’s mouth open; just slide the wash cloth (or brush) under the lips and along the teeth, toward the molars. Don’t give up if the first few sessions don’t go well, and always offer a reward when the process is successfully completed. ..Patience and persistence! Make a commitment to daily brush or rub your dog’s teeth and gums, feed her a healthy diet, offer raw carrots and chew toys designed for dental health, and have regular professional checkups. By maintaining your dog’s oral health, he won’t need false teeth, and his life will be prolonged by lowering the complications of major systemic diseases caused by periodontal disease, crucial to his overall health. A happy dog needs healthy teeth and gums, not false teeth!

Appreciate Your Pet

While we always love and appreciate our pets, the Animal Welfare Association claims this as a special month to appreciate them even more, stressing that appreciation means love, understanding, paying extra attention to your pet, and doing something special. Here are just a few ideas for you to celebrate your pet this month.

  • Good old fashioned attention is always welcome…taking them to an extra long walk (maybe on a new route, with new sights and smells)…extra tummy rubs or ear massaging…. quality lounging time with your dog.
  • Nothing shows your appreciation more than making sure your pet is happy and healthy. It is important to stay up to date on necessary vaccinations, and have regular checkups. Many problems can be easily corrected if detected early. Sounds gross, but fecal checks are probably one of the first indicators of health problems. Usually a healthy poop is well-formed, firm but not hard, moist, and doesn’t fall apart when picked up. If your dog’s poop strays from the norm for a day or two, it may not be serious, and even blood doesn’t mean that your dog is dying, but it definitely warrants a visit to the vet, and just because you don’t see worms doesn’t mean that parasites are not infecting your dogs. A fecal sample should be taken to the vet for examination at least once a year, or if you detect a change in color, odor, consistency, contents, or amount of poop.
  • A couple new toys are a great way to appreciate your dog, but if your pooch already has an over-abundant supply of toys, have a “toy exchange party. Your dog-lover friends probably have the same situation. Toys that are in good condition can be washed and exchanged… toys that a friend’s dog is no longer interested in can become a “new” toy for yours! And it gives you an excuse to throw a party!
  • Volunteer at your local shelter or rescue…your opportunities are almost endless…writers, graphic artists, and photographers can help produce fliers, newsletters, or information packets; dog health professionals and groomers can offer free or discounted services….dog trainers can provide positive training methods….socializing or transporting the dogs …money, supplies and your time are always needed. Keep in mind that anything you do is appreciated.
  • According to research, dogs have the genetic potential to live 20 years, but humans often rob years from their lives by feeding low quality pet foods. Deciphering a pet food label may be confusing, so www.dogfoodafvisor.com, an independent on-line site, ranks all the major dog foods. Click on BRAND and it will rate any specific food, or you may also review all brands A to Z. If you check the ranking of the dog food you are currently feeding, you may decide that it’s time to make a change. (Popular foods like Beneful, Iams, Kibbles and Bits, Pedigree, Purina, and Science Diet all rate law). It is also important what treats you are giving your dog. Most commercial treats are not healthy, and some are downright toxic. There are continual warnings about dog treats (and foods) that are potentially poisonous to your dog.

We recommend NO commercial treats, but especially avoid those that are imported from China. Make your own homemade treats for your companion animal. There are plenty of recipes that can be found online. Here is a very easy-to-make healthy treat:

  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 ½ cups flour (preferably wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup non fat dry milk powder
  • 6 tablespoons of margarine.

Mix ingredients and knead until the dough forms a ball Pinch off small bits and drop on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. (If you want to make fancy looking cookies, roll to ½ inch think and cut into dog bone shape… the dogs don’t care about their appearance, but if they are for gifts, they will look more impressive.)

“Dogs have given us their absolute all…We are the center of their universe….We are the focus of their love and faith and trust.
They serve us in return for scraps….It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made…they are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole” (Roger Caras) CELEBRATE PET APPRECIATION MONTH BY SHOWING YOUR DOG SOME EXTRA LOVE AND ATTENTION !

 

Scandals, Secrets and Lies

A headline in a recent major newspaper read “Stories of scandals, secrets, and lies” which focuses on various scandals that make us cringe. The past week I have been almost obsessively researching scandals, lies, and especially secrecy concerning dogs being used in the testing industry. We have accepted the fact that rats and mice are routinely used in laboratories for experimentation and research, but it has been a maze of scandals, secrets, and lies as I researched the use of dogs in testing. According to the California based Beagle Freedom Project, approximately 70,000 dogs are used in research lab experiments every year. However, accusations abound about the statistics presented by the BFP, and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, as this is a practice that is intentionally hidden from the public, with testing taking place behind closed doors. Research institutions often purchase animals from “Class A” Licensed animal breeders who produce animals for the purpose of selling them for experimentation. Some research institutions purchase dogs from Class B dealers, licensed dealers who sell “random source dogs” obtained from animal shelters, dog pounds, auctions, or individual people. The United States Department of Agriculture admits that tens of thousands of dogs area used for “research, testing, teaching, or experimentation” in the U.S. every year by research facilities.

The Humane Society International claims that a large percentage of dog used in lab experiments are beagles, because the breed’s trusting and loving nature makes them easier for lab technicians to handle. I have personal knowledge of a lab facility within an hour’s drive from my home that used beagles….I know because I am friends with the designer who built the windowless. Soundproof facility….but the public never knew about it. (I do not know if the practice still continues in this facility, since it is under new ownership, but I KNOW that took place there, and that the dogs were routinely euthanized at the end of experiments. )

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), dogs have been especially popular for use in toxicology tests, which determine safe levels of an unknown substance for humans, and to evaluate the hazards of ingredients in consumer products. It is now evident that tests on animals do not necessarily predict outcomes in humans, and many non-animal methods are available and continue to be developed.

I was shocked to learn that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires pharmaceutical companies to conduct archaic and painful tests, even in instances where reliable non-animal tests exist. The FDA has acknowledged that data produced from such tests are not reliable. During a recent meeting about funding for research, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, former National Institutes of Health director, told his colleagues that “The problem is that animal testing hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem. We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies. There are modern alternatives, including in vitro testing, computer modeling, tissue engineering, and microdosing , that take less time and money and do not inflict pain on animals.” Thankfully almost all medical schools across the U.S. have completely replaced animal testing with simulators and systems like TraumaMan which are more effective in imparting lifesaving skills than courses that require students to experiment on dogs.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel as more people become aware of the practice of lab testing on animals. Be a hero for dogs and tell your friends and family to demand that Congress help end animal testing. Ask the FDA to stop requiring cruel, unreliable tests on animals, and to accept data from humane, non-animal methods instead. Make personal choices by refusing to buy products that are tested on animals. Contact your favorite brands to determine whether the company does any animal tests on their products, realizing that they may be less than truthful. Leapingbunny.org has an online shopping directory of companies that don’t test on animals, and the Beagle Freedom Project’s Cruelty-Cutter smartphone app. Allows you to simply scan an item in the store and you’ll get an immediate response about its animal testing status. Download it at cruelty-cutter.org

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead