Here a Danger, There a Danger. Everywhere a Danger!

We are all concerned for the safety of our beloved pets, so it is important to realize there are many household and personal items that can be dangerous to them. The kitchen is probably the main room were our four-footed friends get into trouble, because they associate that room with pleasant smells and tastes. They are always on the lookout for a treat to snatch, and, besides food, there are always medications, cleaning products, and trash bins that pose threats. Keeping items off the counter, and keeping lids on trash bins are important if there are pets in the home.

We know that goodies containing raisins, grapes ,or currents can cause kidney problems in dogs, but It isn’t only food that poses a threat to pets. Batteries, plants, and fragrance products that are found throughout the house are common dangers. Laundry detergent pods, and dryer sheets are both hazards. It is important to keep laundry products in a closed cabinet and pick up any dropped dryer sheets or detergent pods

While most dogs love to feel the wind on their faces, allowing them to ride in the beds of pick up trucks or stick their heads out of moving car windows is very dangerous. Insects and flying debris can cause ear or eye injuries or even lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury. Pets should always ride inside the cab of a pickup, and even inside a car they should be secured in a crate or wear a seatbelt harness designed for them.

Garages can be extremely hazardous places for our four-footed companions. Most people store a variety of chemicals in the garage which pose serious concerns for pets, and often times rodenticides are stashed there. All chemicals should be securely closed and placed up, out of reach of curious paws.

Pets love spending time outdoors so watch out for poisonous plants. Toxic species common at this time of year include lilies, daffodils, and azaleas. Daffodils can be toxic, especially the bulbs, but the flower heads can also cause diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy. All parts of bluebells are poisonous to dogs and will cause discomfort with the risk of heart beat irregularity if a significant quantity is ingested. Dogs who eat ivy commonly develop diarrhea and vomiting. Even contact with ivy can cause skin reactions, itchiness, and skin rashes. Other spring flowers, such as crocuses and tulips, are considered less toxic, but it is best to seek veterinary advice if you suspect your pet has eaten them.

While it is great to have company while working in the yard, be aware of the actions of your dog. Fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides keep our plants and lawns healthy and green, but their ingredients may be dangerous if ingested. When using any chemicals on your yard, it is best to keep your pets away until it is completely dry or watered in.

Just like people, dogs can develop allergies to plants, pollens, grasses and many other spring time substances. Allergies in pets normally appear as itchy skin and ear problems, sometimes with hair loss or inflamed skin. Some will suffer respiratory signs or runny eyes, and need vet attention.

Another common outdoor danger is lighter fluid and charcoal briquettes used for outside grilling. If you are having a springtime barbecue, make sure your pets are kept at a safe distance. Bones, kebob skewers, and alcohol can be dangerous. Warmer weather. and closer contact among animals, encourage the spread of disease. Make sure your pets are up to date on important vaccines. Be aware of the common pests in your area, and use the same common sense you would use for your pets as yourself. By following basic springtime safety tips, you can avoid springtime hazards that could make springtime miserable for your pets.

Spring is Invasion Time

A tiny black speck appears on your arm; a brand new mole, you surmise.

“But moles don’t move, and moles don’t hop,” you cry in surprise.

You feel a prick on your neck, and suddenly, on your nose, appears another black speck!

Spring is a wonderful time of year, and it is especially welcome after the tough winter we have had. However, in the dog world, it’s also invasion time. With temperatures warming, conditions are just right for an unwelcome invasion of fleas and ticks. Fleas are nasty little creatures that can travel rapidly through animal hair and are extremely tough to pick off your dog. They can also hop onto humans!

Although they do not have teeth, they have piercing mouthparts that cut into the skin of their victim, and suck blood. One flea can consume up to 15 times its own body weight in a single day, and then when it takes a rest from drinking blood, as it pulls out of the animal, it leaves a bit of its own saliva behind, which is what makes flea bites itch. Fleas are more than just an irritation!

If a flea swallowed by your pet contains tapeworm larvae, the dog may get tapeworms, and there are also other diseases, which are transmitted by fleas. The average life span of a flea is about six weeks, and during that time, one female flea can produce more than 600 eggs. That means that just one flea can produce enough eggs to create a huge problem, and if you see one flea, you can be sure there are MANY more present.

The smart thing to do is to treat your animals BEFORE just one tiny critter is found. Once the pet is infected, the problem automatically extends to the home and the yard, and is more difficult (and expensive) to treat. There are many safe, relatively inexpensive products that will eliminate flea and tick problems. Talk to your vet about which product is best for your specific situation.

We discourage the use of flea collars, which may kill the fleas in the neck area, but the rest of the body may still have fleas. We are also uncomfortable with the thought of children touching and breathing the chemicals in flea collars. Our choice is spot-on products that can simply be applied at the base of the neck, and then are absorbed and transported in the oil glands. These liquid treatments will kill the fleas on the animal within 12 hours and he will be infestation- free for a month. With consistent application, your pet will be protected.

Be aware, however, that there are some differences in available products. Some of the cheaper ones are, in my opinion, dangerous. Others are simply not effective. Your vet can help you select the best option, but don’t wait until you are faced with a flea invasion. Act now. PREVENTION IS THE ANSWER!

An Easter Memory

I love Spring…such a welcome change after a long, harsh winter…and Easter is definitely a favorite holiday. A dog lover friend asked me to share this s Easter memory again:

Easter is always special to me, but last year is especially memorable. I had promised to bake a cake for the church’s annual pre-Easter bake sale, but with all the activities going on, I forgot until the last minute. Thankfully I managed to find an angel food cake mix, which I quickly baked. I set the cake on the table to cool while I finished a few chores, and didn’t notice that Scout, our newly acquired puppy, had creatively managed to plant a paw print right in the middle of the cake. Scout had already been in more trouble than any dog I had ever met. My best friend insisted that he suffered from a serious case of Attention Deficit Disease, but I excused him as just going through the “normal puppy phase.”

Frantically I looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake, and found it in the bathroom—an almost empty roll of toilet paper. I plunked it in the middle and covered it with icing. The finished product looked like a real work of art, if I do say so myself. Before I left the house to drop the cake off at the church and head for work, I woke my daughter and gave her money and specific instructions to be at the bake sale the moment it opened, buy the cake and bring it home. However, when Amanda arrived at the sale, and discovered that the attractive, perfect cake had already been sold, she grabbed her cell phone to call me. You can only imagine how difficult it was to concentrate at work, so it was later than usual by the time I checked out. At home, a total mess greeted me. Scout had somehow gotten the lid off the waste basket, and trash was scattered throughout the house. Oblivious of the havoc he had created, he quietly lay on the living room floor, chewing on one of my new Easter shoes.

I had already RSVP’d that I would be attending the Women’s Easter Luncheon the next day, so I promised myself that I would try to not think about the cake and would go and enjoy myself. I left a very unhappy pooch in his seldom-used crate with a toy and treat and headed to the church. The meal was elegant, but I almost fell off my chair when our table hostess presented my toilet paper cake for dessert. Our minister’s wife, sitting next to me, murmured, “What a beautiful cake”… She looked at our hostess . “I didn’t know you were such a gifted baker. It is almost too perfect to cut into.”

Alice looked embarrassed and placed her cutting knife on the table. “Guess I better ‘fess up. I didn’t bake it. It was such a busy week, I just bought it at the bake sale. I am sure it will taste better than any cake I would make.”

As she picked up the knife, I realized that it was ‘now or never.’ All eyes focused on me, as I stuttered and stammered the entire story. “Well,” said Alice, pulling out the sticky toilet paper roll . “I say we try it and see if it is as good as it looks.” It was good…nobody seemed to care that Scout had touched it….and everyone agreed that it was a perfect ending to a perfect lunch.

As I recall that day, I am thankful that I have such understanding friends, and am thankful that Scout has outgrown most of his bad habits. Most of all, I am thankful for the most precious Easter gift of all, the resurrection of Jesus. Hopefully my story has made you smile, and may the glory and promise of this day bring you joy and happiness. Alleluia. Have a blessed Easter.

 

Celebrate Spring Humanely

Both humans and canines welcome the warmer weather that is just around the corner. Dogs have earthy ways to celebrate the arrival of Spring—they love to roll in the mud or the stinkiest stuff imaginable, and while warmer weather makes us all feel good, it brings increased risk of parasites to your pet, making it necessary to take steps to prevent and treat these parasites. An important part of your pet’s health care is protection from heartworm disease, a life-threatening illness that is spread by a mosquito bites. Spring brings a resurgence of these disease carrying insects, and it is much safer and easier to keep your animals on preventive medication than it is to treat the disease. A spring visit to your veterinarian should include a general wellness check, and testing for heartworm and intestinal parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, as well as protozoal parasites such as giardia, all of which can rob your dog of nutrition and can cause serious health problems. A little preventive care goes a long way toward keeping your pets healthy.

Another common symbol of spring is rabbits. Every year huge numbers of adorable baby rabbits, chicks, and ducklings go into new homes for Easter. They are already being showcased in pet stores and farm stores around the area. Most of these pets will be gifts for children– impulse purchases made with little thought given to the needs of the animals. No pet purchase is more likely to end tragically than one that’s based on nothing more than cuteness. Many of the chicks and ducklings die within a short time, killed by neglect, improper care or unintentional rough handling by children. Rabbits can make wonderful pets IF people are prepared to care for them properly, but, contrary to what is commonly believed, rabbits are not snuggly, cuddly animals, and are not well suited to life as a child’s pet. Like other pets bought on impulse, many rabbits end up turned loose or dumped as the novelty wears off. If you honestly cannot see beyond the cries of delight on the day your child and baby bunny meet, DO NOT take home a living creature. Buy a stuffed animal, one that can take abuse and neglect with no problem more serious than an occasional ripped seam or lost ear. In the short run, passing up a pet that will not hold your family’s interest is important to the animal you could have purchased. In the long run, teaching your child that animals are not to be bought on a whim and discarded just as lightly is important to the welfare of all animals, and making sure children grow up learning to care about other living things is important to the welfare of us all.

Most of us have packed on a few extra pounds during the winter, and it is likely that your dog has too. Canine-fitness trainer Gail Miller offers these tests to determine if your dog needs to lose weight:

  • Place your hands on your dog’s sides to feel his rib cage. If you have trouble finding ribs, then it is probably time to start exercising more and eating less.
  • Look at your dog from overhead. A dog at a healthy weight should have clear waist indentation between the rib cage and the hip bones.
  • A third test is to watch your dog walk away from you. Excess pounds will cause her to shift her weight back and forth, causing her skin to appear to roll from side to side.

Both human and canine bodies need exercise, and if you have been couch potatoes for several months, spring is the perfect time to start an exercise program with your dogs. Start slowly , and gradually increase your physical fitness. Grab the leash and head out to enjoy the warmer weather with your favorite pooch. HAPPY SPRING!

 

There is No Time Like Spring

There is no time like spring, when life’s alive in everything. Both humans and canines are ready to see the sun shining, with grass on the ground instead of ice and snow! However, spring brings hazards for our four footed friends. Companion animals, restless from being cooped up, are eager to romp and roam to shake off the blahs of winter. There are new smells and new places to explore! Normally well behaved furbabies will suddenly become escape artists and climb or dig their way out of their safe yards to find themselves lost in new territory with no clue about getting home again.

Sadly, only a small percentage of missing dogs are ever reunited with their families. Please be sure that you have an I.D. tag on your dog. We also recommend micro-chipping your animal. Proper identification can help recover a lost pup! Tag up today!

If you have an intact pet in your family, he or she will really become restless as natural instincts triumph over training. The alarming statistics of animal overpopulation and unwanted offspring should convince you to spay or neuter, but it is also important to do it for the health and safety of your pet.

Another hazard for pets as the weather warms up is the threat of heartworm. We used to think that this mosquito-borne parasite was a problem only in the Southern states. Not true! Discuss this serious problem with your vet, and choose a preventative measure that protects your dog. It is true that heartworm can be treated if caught in the early stages, but it is a harsh treatment, and is also expensive. Controlling and eliminating an existing problem requires time, energy, and money. The best control is always prevention.

Spring into action with these tips:

  • Get your dog tested for heartworm and on a preventative.
  • Don’t wait until you see a flea to begin treatment…it’s too late by then. Again prevention is the key. There are many safe, effective flea treatments available, and it is so much easier to prevent the problem than to have to deal with the nasty little critters.
  • If you use pesticides or herbicides on your lawn, be sure to restrict your pets from the treated areas for at least 24 hours. Those chemicals are toxic to your pet!
  • NEVER leave pets unattended in a car. Even a cool breezy day can become dangerously hot in a very short time.
  • Spring is a good time to schedule a wellness check. Hopefully the vet will give him a clean bill of health, but if something suspicious is found, perhaps it can be treated in the early stages. Most dogs have teeth problems by the time they are three years old, and since tooth and gum disease can lead to more serious problems, be sure to include a dental checkup for your canine!
  • In spring, depending on your dog’s breed, you can expect more shedding as the coat changes. Daily brushing is encouraged. And remember: no outfit is complete without a few dog hairs!
  • Daily walks with your canine are beneficial for the pooch and for you. Enjoy the warmer weather together

Spring is Officially Here – And so are the Fleas!

We are all enjoying the longer days and the warmer spring weather.. However, in addition to the welcome showers, spring also brings some unwelcome guests that should be of concern to pet caregivers. As outside temperatures and humidity rise, the onslaught of mosquitoes, fleas and ticks begin. It is important to be conscientious about flea and tick prevention because these pests are more than itchy annoyances to your dog. Both fleas and ticks can transmit other parasites and diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and flea allergy dermatitis.

The best way to deal with fleas to prevent them! According to Dr. Michael Dryden, a leading expert on fleas, preventing flea infestation is one of the most important things pet caregivers can do for their pet. “For some reason,” asserts Dr. Dryden, “most people tend to react to fleas AFTER the fact. They seem to treat pets when they see fleas, then stop once the problem seems to be resolved.” Not a good idea. That philosophy only results in a frustrating ongoing cycle of re-infestation. We encourage responsible pet caregivers to use preventative treatment all year round! An even more serious parasite than fleas and ticks is heartworm which can seriously damage your dog’s heart. Spread by the bite of a mosquito, adult heartworms settle inside the heart and lungs, and slowly strangle these organs until they cease to function properly.

Many over-the-counter flea, tick and mosquito control products can be purchased at pet stores and on the internet. However, all products are NOT equal. If they are misused, they can sicken or even kill your pet. We urge you to talk with your veterinarian about the best preventative treatment for your four-legged companion. Parasites are a medical problem and it is wiser to spend a little time, energy and money preventing a medical problem rather than playing catch up to cure an existing one!

With the continual pet food recalls, more pet caregivers are making homemade food for their furbabies. The TLC has a Canine Recipe Book and a favorite recipe is Poultry Loaf. Served on top of their dry food, dogs snarf it down with intense concentration. For those of you who don’t have the TLC Canine Cookbook, here’s the recipe for Poultry Loaf (and if you would like a copy the cook book, just contact us):

  • 1 lb. ground chicken or turkey
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons wheat germ
  • ½ cup chopped carrots.

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Put into a lightly greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for an hour( or until done) Crumble into pieces and serve over dry dog food. Freeze in small portions for later use.

The Violence Connection

We are appalled at almost daily reports of violence and abuse, and cannot comprehend how these horrendous things can happen in “nice neighborhoods” and to “nice people”. A recent news report documents a young man torturing, starving , and crushing the skull of his own dog. His lawyer convinced the judge that he “really was a nice guy” and was given only 30 days in jail. .

Animal abuse often indicates the existence of a deeper problem. The line separating an animal abuser from someone capable of committing human abuse is much finer than most of us care to consider. It can be viewed as an excellent predictor of other abusive behaviors, and children who abuse animals often live in abusive situations, and may be at risk of “graduating” to violence directed at humans. Serial killers almost all have histories of abusing animals. Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Stranger all committed heinous acts of animal cruelty prior to killing their human victims. The Columbine school killings were carried out by teenagers who “graduated” from torturing small animals to slaughtering humans.

For families suffering from domestic abuse, the threat of abuse against companion animals is often used to keep the victims silent. Research by Frank Ascione, a psychologist at Utah University, indicates that more than two-thirds of women who sought safety at shelters reported that their pets had been threatened, injured, or killed by their abusers, and that about 88 percent of pets living in households with domestic abuse were eventually either abused or killed. There is legitimate evidence that individuals involved in violent acts against animals present a danger to the public that must be addressed. Intentional animal cruelty is often seen in association with other serious crimes including drug offenses, gang activity, weapons violations, sexual assault, and domestic violence, and can be one of the most visible parts of a history of aggressive or antisocial behavior.

We need to realize that shrugging off cruelty to animals as a minor offense is like ignoring a ticking time bomb. Certainly not all children who hurt animals go on to commit major crimes; some young children go through a stage which they may hurt small creatures, but experts stress that educators, parents, and other adults should firmly intervene at these times, teaching the child about boundaries and the importance of respecting animals. Early implementation of prevention and treatment strategies may break the cycle of violence , and needs to be addressed by the entire community—churches, schools, law enforcement, and the judicial system, to make sure that children don’t grow up thinking violence is okay. Anthropologist Margaret Mead insisted that, “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to torture or kill an animal and get away with it.” It is important to recognize that abuse to animals is unacceptable and endangers everyone. Children (and adults ) should be taught to care for and respect animals.

What can you do?

  • Urge your law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges, and schools to take cruelty to animals seriously. Those charged with protecting our communities and animals need to send a strong message that violence against animal is unacceptable. Learn more about Iowa’s animal abuse laws and advocate for appropriate legislation.
  • Be aware of signs of neglect or abuse in children and animals, and report suspected crimes to authorities. Take children seriously if they report that animals are being neglected or mistreated. Often children won’t talk about their own suffering, but will talk about an animal’s.
  • Never ignore even minor acts of cruelty. The cycle of abuse can be broken IF caring and concerned people have the courage and intelligence to act.

While it is sadly true that there is a frightening violence connection, it is equally true that there is a compassion connection. A kind person is a kind person is a kind person—kind to children, kind to the elderly, kind to animals. If we concentrate on a cycle of compassion rather than violence, we can make a difference.

Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has!—another quote by Margaret Mead.

 

Winter Time Blues

We are still experiencing very cold winter weather in this area, and driving around town on errands last week, I was saddened by the number of shivering dogs left outside. Responsible pet owners do NOT leave their dogs outside in the cold. Windchill factors make days even colder than actual temperature readings. If you absolutely refuse to let your dog into the house, at least fix up a warm corner in the basement or garage. Fix a bed to provide a barrier from cold floors, and place it away from drafts. Especially useful for older pets and pets with thin coats are the specially made-for-dogs heating pads (with chew resistant cords).

Frozen water is another common problem in this area. It is absolutely essential that pets have fresh water available at all times. Heated waterers are available at reasonable cost and should be provided if there is a danger of freezing. I often hear pet owners say that their dogs eat snow. Responsible pet owners realize that water is necessary for all body functions from walking to sleeping and that snow does not provide adequate water. As a general rule, a normal, healthy pet’s daily water needs are about 2 ½ times the amount of dry food he is given. For example, if your dog eats 2 lbs. of dry food, he should drink 5 pints—almost two-thirds of a gallon – of water. There should always be clean, fresh water available for your pet.

Dogs need regular exercise, but excursions outside in freezing weather need to be brief. Pets are sensitive to the cold—you can’t take your pet’s temperature by touching her nose, but you can see if she is shivering. If she is shivering, she is cold. There are a number of good dog coats and sweaters available. Choose a coat for warmth, not for style—and make sure it is an easy on-easy off garment.

Never let your dog off the leash in snowy, icy weather. Dogs can lose their scent in snow and ice, and can become lost. They may panic in a blizzard and run away. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season.

Tying them outside in any weather for extended periods of time is cruel and inhumane, but in this cold weather, it can be fatal. If you see animal neglect, it is your responsibility to take action. Report an animal in trouble immediately. In this weather, a puppy will die if left out in the elements. We have already received several reports of dogs tied outside shivering. We cannot save all of them, but we can take actions to prevent neglect in our own neighborhoods. I repeat a quote by Rabbi Kenneth Segel: “We must not become so hardened to the plight of animals that we begin to accept it. If we are insensitive to the suffering of animals, we are on the road to becoming cruel and inhumane with people.”

Winter: Keep Your Dogs Cozy and Safe as the Temps Drop!

Winter has definitely arrived, and it is EXTREMELY cold this year in Iowa, with snow already piled high in many places. Even though we enjoy looking at the “Winter Wonderland”, this season of freezing temperatures and numbing wetness poses many dangers for our four footed companions. Please follow some common sense rules to help your pets remain happy and healthy during these cold months.

  • Do NOT leave dogs outdoors when the temperature drops. I receive regular calls regarding dogs tied outside during this cold winter weather. We discourage tethering dogs in any weather, but it is especially dangerous this time of year. Dogs left out in the cold too long can get frostbite and hypothermia just as humans do. Responsible dog caregivers do NOT leave their dogs outside in the cold. While dogs may possess some natural protection against winter weather, Iowa’s variety of bitter elements can jeopardize any pet’s health and safety. Even with temps above freezing, the wind chill can still threaten a pet’s life. If you don’t want a dog in the main part of your house, surely there is a heated area that could be kid-gated where he could spend his day in warm comfort. If he has behavioral problems, the solution is not to banish him to the back yard, but to spend time training him. Dogs are usually willing to comply to house rules IF they understand what the rules are. Remember that good caregivers have good dogs! If you absolutely refuse to let your dog into the house, at least fix up a warm corner on the porch, basement, or garage. Use plenty of blankets to provide a barrier from cold floors, and provide him a warm, cozy “den”. There are many small, safe heaters that can be used to warm his den. (Don’t keep pets in unheated areas!)
  • A little extra food is usually recommended in cold weather, and fresh water is an absolute necessity…ice and snow are NOT acceptable substitutes. Your dog needs clean, fresh water available at all times. He will also appreciate a few extra chew toys and other playthings so he isn’t tempted to turn to the furniture or your shoes out of boredom!
  • Shelters are already getting complaints about Christmas puppies. Puppies do not tolerate the cold well, and we admit that it is difficult to housetrain a puppy during the winter. If you recall, we strongly advised against giving puppies as Christmas gifts, but if you did get one, it is now your responsibility to train him. Your dog may feel it’s more convenient to use the floor or carpet, but you can curb this with a regular outdoor comfort-station schedule in which you GO OUT WITH him first thing in the morning, several times during the day, and last thing at night. You made a commitment (and it isn’t the dog’s fault that the weather is lousy!)
  • If you see an animal shivering out in the cold, don’t just ignore him. Perhaps his caregiver doesn’t even realize the dangers, and ignorance is curable by education. Avoid being belligerent or accusatory, but politely explain the dangers. If the friendly approach is unsuccessful, notify the authorities. It is Iowa law that animals be provided ADEQUATE shelter, fresh water (not ice) and fresh food. When you report to the animal control authorities, it is important that you calmly, coherently give brief, specific facts. Exact address of the dog is needed, and it is best to have written documentation of the problem. The authorities are very busy, so sometimes you need to be persistent. If the situation does not improve, report again…and again…and again. A dog’s life may depend on your intervention.

AS I LAY DYING is an observation shared by Patti Ragsdale which I was asked to repeat.

As I lay dying in a pile of ice and snow, I felt a hand touch my matted coat, and saw an angel looking down at me. As gentle hands stroked my fur, I wondered if I had died, released from the never ending agony of chains, neglect, and loneliness. The human angel gently lifted me from the cold frozen ground, bathed my skinny, dirty, body and treated all the wounds and sores.

Her soft touch, kind word, and warm blanket overshadowed the years of suffering when no one cared.

I am no longer lonely and frightened. I am loved.

Sadie’s Valentine Angel

SADIE’S VALENTINE ANGEL

Kathleene Baker has allowed us to share a favorite Valentine’s Day memory, based on an event in her life that she will never forget.

“I was finishing lunch at our local restaurant, when a scruffy, poorly dressed fellow entered and approached the clerk at the counter, apparently asking for some sort of handout. When speaking, he glanced out the front window several times, which motivated me to do the same. He wasn’t alone. He had two companions outside, one a terribly thin dog.

After a few minutes, the man at the table next to mine got up and walked to the counter. “I want to order a couple big broiled chicken breasts for that poor dog out there, and bag up a couple of to-go meals for the dog’s owners.” The chicken was ready before the meals, and the stranger grabbed the chicken and headed outdoors. Being curious, I hustled outside and lingered by my car. The aroma of chicken had the dog’s tail wagging…actually her entire body wagged.

Her new- found friend offered small bites while stroking her lackluster, drab coat. “Her name is Sadie,” said the caregiver. “She’s a real good dog…We found her roaming the streets, and she just kind of took to us. My name is Ed. The guy inside is my brother, Charles.”

Sadie was obviously in need of the chicken she was smelling…I wondered how long it had been since she had enjoyed a full tummy. Then out walked Charles with the to-go meats, and both men got teary-eyed as they expressed thanks. “You know we love Sadie. She is all we have and we try our best to care for her. You know, we took her from the animal shelter because she was pregnant when she found us. They said they would find homes for the puppies, but Sadie was old and wasn’t likely to be adopted. We couldn’t stand to think they might put her down, so we went back and got her. We are a family.”

The generous stranger looked at them, and said, “I’ll make a deal with you. When you can’t feed Sadie, she will have a running tab at this café. All you need to do is tell them that Sadie needs a chicken breast. “ He pulled a card from his pocket, “and I know the managers at the shelter down the street that offers aid to both men and their pets. You go down and give them this card, okay?”

Tears welled up in the eyes of both men, as they knelt and wrapped their arms around the skinny old dog. “And,” continued the stranger, “perhaps they can help you until you get on your feet again.. I will be getting reports from the folks who work there, They’ll be watching out for all three of you.”

I climbed into my car and dried my eyes as I watched the benefactor walk back inside, where, through the window, I good see him speaking with the manager, who was nodding his head, and shaking hands with Sadie’s Valentine Angel.

May the spirit of love and compassion make you someone’s Valentine angel.