Needy Dogs are All Around Us

I seldom repeat a column, but this is such a current problem, by request, I am sharing it again (originally published in 2012).



As Iowa weather grows colder, I would like to share an observation by Cherine Bissinger:

“As the weather turns nasty, I cannot suppress my deep feelings of desperation for the countless animals forced to endure a torturous existence with owners who willfully neglect or casually ignore the basic needs of their four-footed companions. Every day I am surrounded by humans who never extend an act of kindness toward voiceless, living creatures. Driving to work, I am horrified by the sight of helpless animals without any visible shelter. ‘What is the matter with us?’ I think to myself. ‘How can we allow such suffering?’ As I drive into town I see total disregard for decency and blatant lack of compassion for animal welfare, and as I park my car at work, my attention is drawn to the sight of a dog wagging his tail. The sun has barely risen, and the home where the dog is tied is dark. Apparently this innocent dog has spent the night outside in the blustery wind and cold, while his humans slept contentedly indoors, apparently oblivious of the painful effects of such inhumanity. I walk toward the dog, and he jumps up as much as the length of his chain will permit. He is shivering wildly, and I whisper words of comfort to the dog. I tell him how sorry I am for his predicament, and regretfully turn to walk into my workplace. Each step I take away from the dog, I imagine his desolate look of devastation for having been forgotten and ignored. I think of the thousands of animals suffering in silence. Life is unjust, and like the neglected animals, I feel helpless. When will things change? Feeble anti-cruelty laws, little enforcement of existing laws, and most of all public apathy are overwhelming. What has happened to us as human beings that we can ignore the plight of so many animals?”

We are all aware of dogs in our own neighborhoods who are not enjoying a good life. Maybe their caregivers don’t even realize that their dog is suffering. Without being judgmental, perhaps you could suggest ways to make life better. If you feel the dog is in danger, report it to the authorities, and follow up to be sure that appropriate action is taken. Each of us has a circle of compassion: the people and animals and things that we care about, that emotionally affect us. It may be our own family, our own friends, and our own pets, but not the family, friends, or pets belonging to others. It may be those just in our own comfort zone. Essentially, we all need the same things as the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion: compassion, intelligence, and the courage to make the world a better place for both humans and animals. May we all strive to expand our circle of compassion.



by Albert Schweitzer

 Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends, the animals,

 Especially for those who are suffering;

For any that are lost or deserted, or frightened, or hungry.

We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,

And for those who deal with them, we ask hearts of compassion,

And gentle hands and kindly words.

Help us to be true friends to the animals,

And so to share the blessings of the merciful.


An Almost Irreplaceable Bond

Most of us consider our dogs to be members of our families, and our goal is to make sure they are as happy and healthy as possible throughout their lives. Too quickly they pass through puppyhood, adult hood, and become seniors. Dr Michel Selmer, DVM, offers specific suggestions that pet caregivers should do to make life easier for their aging dogs:

  • If your dog is more than six years old, schedule a complete exam at least twice a year, in hope that any problem will be discovered early. The exam should include a complete physical exam, blood test, urinalysis, nutritional analysis, and fecal testing for parasites.
  • Better bed….they make special orthopedic beds where dogs can relax and be more comfortable.
  • Exercise, but less intensity! Keep a senior dog moving because movement helps lubricate the joints and maintain muscle mass.
  • Handicap accessibility. Jumping up gets harder as dogs age….Build or purchase a ramp or steps to make it easier…..and they have ramps for the car as well as the home.
  • Many homes have hardwood floors or slippery tiles. Be aware that a slip and fall can be just as much a safety hazard for your aging dog as it is for humans,.
  • Elevate the food bowls. Raising the food bowls make it easier for her to eat and swallow foods.

The reality is that our beloved dog usually leaves us too soon, as Valsa George explains:

“Out through the window of his lonely cottage the man vacantly gazes; his eyes wandering over the dew dampened meadows and the sloping paths. Over them, how many times, he had rambled with Jack, his spaniel who died a few months earlier. Never before had he felt so lonely, and the memories of his dog haunted him. With nothing much to look forward to now, he is in no hurry to leave his cottage ….there is no one to walk with him. Each day as he sips his tea, he misses his dog. Old memories swirl around in his mind. It is with a wave of deep regret that he recognizes that he is alone. There is no one to care for, and no one to care for him. His world is so cold and he feels so lost. Once his dog shared his board, and owned his bed. How he misses him…with mist blurring his eyes and with a sigh, the man once more looks into the meadows for away.”

Every day, amazing dogs leave us.. We pay special tribute to two: Tyler was one of 6 abandoned ditch puppies who were brought to the TLC in 2003….. he was soon adopted by his forever family, Lee and Karen Kraemer. Tyler traveled the country, enjoying family and friends wherever they went. We were eagerly looking forward to their yearly visit to the shelter this fall, but Tyler, a much loved and pampered fellow was old and tired, and we mourn his loss.

We met John Adams, manager of the awesome Hearts United For Animals Rescue in Nebraska, years ago when we assisted in a puppy mill rescue. In late August of 2005, John and a host of volunteers journeyed into the treacherous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. What they encountered was unimaginable. John and the HUA crew pulled dogs from flood waters, abandoned homes, rotting piles of debris, and even rooftops. The conditions were incredibly dangerous and heartbreaking for all. HUA transported more than 100 dogs from the wreckage of Katrina back to the HUA shelter. Eartha was one of them. Eartha stole John’s heart and she became his best friend in the world, and it was decided that she should live for him forever. Over the years, Eartha left her mark in many ways…she won many ribbons at agility meets, but most importantly, she traveled with John and spent many hours on the road while they rescued dogs from puppy mills and hoarding situations. She had a special way with those so sick and frightened. A couple weeks ago this amazing dog—whose mysterious connection with her beloved human John and her ability to communicate with and calm some of the most troubled of animals, earned her angel wings. Brave, beautiful, silver-muzzled, Eartha had just grown too tired. John instinctively knew that his precious dog was saying, “I came. I left my mark! Dad, it’s time to move forward.”

Old dogs: their affection is timeless; their devotion is ageless; their love is unconditional. Blessed is the person who has the love of an old dog.

No Charge for Love

Easter is one of the most celebrated days in the Western World, and it is the perfect time to reflect on the love and joy emphasized on this special day. You have probably heard this story, “No Charge for Love”, but is one of my favorites, and I recently received a request to repeat it, so here it is:

Oliver Townsend had rescued a neglected pregnant dog, and had cared for her, committing himself to being her forever caregiver. However, he realized that he could not keep all her pups, so he determined to find good homes for them. He painted a sign advertising “Pups for sale to forever homes” and placed it out on the edge of his yard, hoping that they would all be re-homed quickly. Several families expressed casual interest, but Oliver had grown attached to the little ones, and he didn’t feel that any of the families was really serious about adding a pup to their family, so days passed, and the pups were still there. Late one afternoon, he was outside trimming some bushes when he realized that he was being watched. He looked down into the eyes of a young boy.

“Sir,” the boy said, “I would like to buy one of your puppies. My mom says it’s okay, and I have a little money from my chores.” He reached deep into his pocket and pulled out a couple crumpled dollar bills and held them out. “Could I take a look at them?” Mr. Townsend shook his head, thinking that this would definitely not be the right match. “You know, son, the mother of these pups was in bad shape, and I have spent a lot of money nursing her back to health, and caring for her babies.”

The boy looked straight at him, “I would take really good care of the pup, and if I don’t have enough money, maybe I could mow your lawn or something. Couldn’t I just take a look at them?” The man put down his clippers, and let out a whistle. “Here, Dolly,” he called. From the front porch ran Dolly followed by three little balls of fur. As the dogs came closer, the boy’s eyes danced with delight.

Suddenly he noticed something else was stirring on the porch. Slowly, another, noticeably smaller, little ball appeared, and in a somewhat awkward way, began hobbling toward them, doing his best to catch up with his siblings. “I want that one,” the little boy said, “I will work for you until he is paid for.” The man knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. I love him dearly, but he will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would.”

The boy repeated softly, “I want that one.” He reached down and pulled up one leg of his jeans, revealing a brace running down both sides of his leg, attaching itself to a specially made shoe. “You see, sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.” Mr. Townsend carefully picked up the little pup, and gently handed him to the boy. “How much?” asked the youngster. With tears in his eyes, the man answered, “No charge. There’s no charge for love.”

May joy and love fill your hearts on this special day…and every day. Have a blessed Easter.


Redemption & Rehabilitation

Puppy mills abound across the country with facilities housing as many as a thousand dogs with breeding females being forced to give birth to litter after litter of puppies throughout their lifetime. The dogs are usually crammed into wire cages that are often stacked inside dark sheds or barns. Their urine and feces drop into lower cages, where the dogs are forced to stand or lie in the excrement. Many dogs become ill, and receive nothing to alleviate their suffering, because it is cheaper to get a new breeding dog than it is to pay for veterinary care. Many of the dogs have never seen the light of day or felt grass under their feet and they have had little human contact. The conditions that these animals endure are horrific, and pet stores and on-line sources get their dogs from puppy mills, regardless of what they tell you. The story of Buttons is a typical example of a puppy mill dog who was rescued, redeemed, and rehabilitated:

Buttons was a wretched creature, a small mini poodle dumped at an area shelter with six months of matted fur, and he was terrified of everything, including feet and newspapers. He had spent his early weeks in an abominable puppy mill, and was transported to a pet store where he spent four months, up for sale at half price, and then almost two years in a “home” from which he was given up without even a collar to call his own. He was so afraid of his owners, that, when they opened their car door at the shelter, he flew out and hid for a day in the wooded area behind the shelter. He refused to leave the crate in which the shelter put him when they finally caught him.

When he heard his original name, he quivered, rolled over, and peed. He was so thin that his bones showed through, and his frightened eyes peered out of a haggard face. In short, he was a mess, and even the shelter staff doubted that he could be “rehabilitated.” However, the little guy captured me with his eyes…huge, deep, black, watching everything around him intently, and oh so sad and scared. But in there with all the sadness and fear, there seemed to be a spark of hope, almost as if he was thinking, maybe, just maybe this will be different. Why he would trust anyone at this point is beyond me, but he did.

Buttons developed into a feisty, friendly, little fellow with thick black fur, and beautiful black eyes. Only occasionally does the old worried look reappear. He was reliably house-trained within a few days, and developed awesome house manners with everyone. He has become an affectionate little companion who loves his daily walks, and dances on his once pencil legs when he sees a treat coming…A few weeks ago Buttons graduated from obedience class, and has learned the meaning of “kiss” as a greeting, instead of “flip and pee.” The process of redemption and rehabilitation had few rough spots, and he is a better dog than anyone could have ever hoped for.

What can be done to eliminate the existence of these horrible places? First of all, do NOT shop at stores or internet sites that sell dogs. The only one sure way to combat the tragedy of puppy mills is to NOT SUPPORT THEM….no matter how cute the puppy in the pet store is, please don’t buy her. She comes from a puppy mill, regardless of what the salesperson tells you. PET STORE dogs come from puppy mills. You may think you are “rescuing her,” but in reality, you are only freeing up space for another puppy mill product, while supporting an industry based on abuse. Keep informed and educate your friends and neighbors about puppy mills, and monitor legislation that involves this unethical industry. Let your legislators know your concerns, and above all, ADOPT, DON’T SHOP.


Love Changes Everything

There is power in love! Angie Karen asserts, “Love conquers all…life without love is nothing.” This is true in the animal world, as well as the human arena. Sadly, for one excuse or another, there are thousands of dogs that experience little love.

Puppy mills house thousands of dogs where they are held captive in appalling conditions, and love is seldom shown. The worst part of this is that puppy mills are legal; this needs to change, and that means that laws must change, but getting a law changed isn’t easy, especially one that provides better protection for companion animals. The agribusiness lobby is afraid that any animal welfare laws will trickle down and cause problems for the livestock industry. Iowa has tried repeatedly, and failed. Other Midwestern states face the same opposition, but the public outcry is getting louder, and hopefully legislators will eventually listen!

Puppy mills aren’t the only places where there is little love shown to companion animals. Often a puppy is an impulse purchase and when the newness wears off, the result is neglect. There are neglected dogs everywhere. Look around and you will find them in your own neighborhood…once loved, then almost forgotten.

“I wish someone would tell me what it is I have done wrong, and why I must be chained outside and left alone for so long. They seemed so glad to have me when I came here as a pup. There were so many things we’d do while I was growing up. My humans said they’d train me as a companion and a friend, and that I would never be alone again. The children said they’d feed me, and brush me every day; they’d play with me and walk me if I would only stay. But now, no one has time. They complain I shed and am not even allowed inside the house to be fed. The children never walk me; they always say, “Not now.” I do wish I could please them – can someone tell me how? All I had, you see, was love. I wish someone would explain just whey they said they wanted mine and then left me on a chain.”

Many dogs must necessarily be left alone during the work day, and when the humans return home, it is easy to overlook the dog’s needs. So little time, so many things to do, but a dog is a social creature, and just a human’s presence in the home is not the same as actively engaging in interaction with your dog. Perplexed caregivers often don’t understand why their dogs could be bored when they are with them several hours every day. Just being there is not the same as “being there” for them, and doesn’t mean they are getting the necessary mental and physical stimulation they need. The more time you spend “being there FOR THEM”, the more you will appreciate and love them. Enjoy their unconditional love:

When a dog offers you his heart, accept it with a smile

For his love will last a lifetime, which is such a little while.

When a dog offers you her heart, take it gladly and with pride

For she will be a faithful friend, ever by your side.

When you’re sad, he’ll comfort you and kiss away each tear;

He may even wake you in the morning with a cold nose in your ear.

No matter what you ever do, he will always love you.

When a dog offers you her heart, accept it with a smile

For her love will last a lifetime which is such a little while. 

“Love changes everything; how you live and how you die.

Love can make the summer fly, or a night seem like a lifetime….

Love will turn your world around, and that world will last forever.

Nothing in the world will ever be the same”

(From Aspects of Love: Andrew Lloyd Weber)

If you possess these you are rich!

“The bottom line is always money” is an oft-used phrase, but in the final analysis, money cannot make a person rich..or happy. True happiness includes faith, family, and friends, both two-legs and four legs A dog lover-friend recently sent us a face book post by James Shepard sharing a story of riches and happiness , totally unrelated to money:

“I was twelve years old when I met Max. School was out for the summer, and I had been pestering my parents relentlessly for a dog, and they eventually succumbed to my constant pleading. We went to the local shelter and I was overwhelmed by the many dogs vying for attention as we walked through the facility. How could I possibly choose from all those dogs?

Then I saw Max. He lay motionless in the corner of his cage. As I approached, he briefly lifted his head. and looked at me with sad, brown eyes. I paused, calling to him softly, and he slowly stood up, and hesitantly took a few steps toward the front of the enclosure. I immediately knew that Max was the one.

To the casual observer, Max was probably nothing more than a scruffy mongrel, but to me he was the most beautiful dog ever born. We spent hours that summer, happily exploring the creek which flowed nearby. I would throw sticks, and Max would retrieve them, tail wagging wildly. . Sometimes we’s just sit and watch the clouds float by, happy with each other’s company. Max listened intently as I shared my innermost hopes and dreams.

A deluge of rain came unexpectedly that year, and my parents instructed me to not go down to the creek until the water returned to its normal level, but ignoring their warning, Max and I were soon walking toward the creek , which had become a seething swell of roaring water rushing ferociously to the whitewater below. As I edged closer to the swirling torrent, not noticing the jagged rock protruding from the undergrowth, I tripped and was enveloped in the powerful grip of the current. In desperation I tried to swim, but found myself being propelled further down the creek.

I could hear the frenzied barking of Max as he ran alongside the creek in pursuit. Panic set in as I realized I was drowning. I began to pray, and suddenly I felt something touch me. It was Max. He had jumped into the frothing cauldron and was now swimming next to me. I placed my arm around his back and clutched his fur as he pulled me to safety.

It was years before I told my parents about my close encounter with death that day, and Max never told them either. The years passed, and my youth unfolded into manhood, but Max and I remained inseparable. On the morning he died, I cried and offered a prayer of gratitude for our time together. He had not only been my best friend and companion, but a giver of life…a life I was determined would be lived to the fullest, always cherishing the loving memory of a dog named Max.”

Max was an adopted dog…if you are thinking of adding a dog to your family, please consider adoption. A shelter pet is more than one in a million—he’s one in 3 million. That’s the number of adoptable dogs and cats who are still euthanized each year in the United States, simply because there aren’t enough people adopting. Almost all dogs at pet stores and on the internet are puppy mill dogs that are housed in shockingly poor conditions with improper medical care, where the mothers are kept in cages to be bred over and over for years, without human companionship. Don’t support puppy mills. Please adopt, don’t shop. You will change the whole world for a homeless animal, and you will get the best friend imaginable. What could be better than that?

Faith, family, friends…if you possess these, you are rich. Enjoy your wealth!


Paws to Give THANKS!

Thanksgiving reminds us to “paws”, and reflect on the many, many simple things for which we are thankful. With our days packed with responsibilities, and our world filled with stress and tragedy, it is easy to focus on the negative aspects of our lives, and take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. Faith, family, friends, and furbabies. We are all rich, if we add up our blessings, we realize that we should have an attitude of thankfulness, not just once a year, but all year long. Matthew Henry said, “Thanks Giving is good, but Thanks Living is better.”

It was Thanksgiving time when Rev Melissa Billing became aware that her area animal shelter had just rescued a dozen puppy mill dogs, and she decided that it was time to put Thanks Living into action. She was shocked to see the condition of the dogs, and was especially drawn to a little one huddled in the back of one of the kennels.

Billing tells it this way: “She was quite a mess; with a lot of hair missing and sores all over her body. When the shelter attendant tried to coax her out of the corner, she urinated on herself, and curled up in a tight little ball, shivering violently. The gal just shook her head, and scribbled a note on the chart hanging on the dog’s cage. Apparently this one was considered unadoptable. Her future was certainly not good. Impulsively I blurted out, “I’ll take her.”

A vet check confirmed that she had numerous mammary tumors, the result of too many litters of babies, but she was so undernourished, it was decided to postpone the surgery for awhile. Then one day, she had a seizure…she had epilepsy. It was weeks before she would even come close to us, but slowly she seemed to realize that she had a home and someone who would care for her forever. We named her DeeDee and although she no longer had continual litters of babies, it was almost as if she decided that her stuffed, plush donkey toy was her baby, and she carried it around from place to place. She even refused to go for a walk unless we took the donkey. My husband and I laughed at what the neighbors must think about two adults carrying a stuffed donkey with them when they were out walking the dog.

The months seemed to just fly by. We had her mammary tumors removed, and the meds controlled the seizures, but her life of fear and neglect at the mill had taken a horrendous toll on her. She had lost most of her teeth, and her eyesight was minimal. She loved us, and we loved her, but her body was just worn out, and she left us the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We did all we could to save her, but it was not meant to be. She passed away quietly and peacefully. Her passing at Thanksgiving was very sad, but appropriate. For you see, she was a blessing…a blessing in our lives for which we will be forever thankful. She came to us, discarded, sick, and without hope. In that year, we all learned what love could do. She taught us about loyalty and gratitude and forgiveness. We miss her! “

Be thankful for faith, family, and furbabies…they are all precious and priceless. Have a blessed Thanksgiving as you count your many blessings, and look forward to a year of Thanks-Living!!

Cecil the Lion Generates an Outcry of Disgust and Sadness

The senseless death of Cecil the lion dominated the news recently, and although there are conflicting reports concerning this now-world famous lion, everyone expressed huge disgust and sadness. Cecil, a 13 year old major attraction at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, was being studied and tracked by Oxford University as part of a larger study, and was a favorite tourist attraction at the park. In June of this year, an American recreational big-game hunter paid more than $50,000 to a professional hunter to enable him to kill a lion. Allegedly, Cecil was lured out of the sanctuary where he was safe, where he was shot and wounded with an arrow. He was tracked for several days and was finally killed with a rifle, skinned, and his head removed. His headless skeleton was found by park investigators, and the killing has drawn international media attention and well-deserved outrage. The American hunter left Zimbabwe and returned to the United States where he expressed regret for the killing, maintaining that he had relied on the expertise of local professional guides to ensure that the hunt was legal. His public statement concluded with “I regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in taking this lion.”

I join the millions who feel huge disgust and sadness over the senseless death of Cecil, but I feel even more sadness and disgust over the comments made by Cecil’s killer concerning his “pursuit of an activity that he loves and practices responsibly and legally.” Celebrities have been vocal in reacting to this incident; the politicians have been vocal; the general public has been vocal: everyone has expressed shock and horror; everyone is outraged about this horrendous incident, and loudly demands that “something has to be done.” Yet many of these same people seem indifferent to the plight of the hundreds of innocent companion animals that suffer daily, not in some far off place like Zimbabwe, but right here in our own country, sometimes in our own neighborhoods. Where are the celebrities when an ordinary frightened dog of unknown ancestry is dumped along a deserted country road? Where is the public outcry when an animal is battered and beaten, and the excuse is, “He’s my property; I can do what I want to with him? “ Where are our politicians when they have the opportunity to pass common sense laws that would make life easier for innocent, dependent companion animals? Is it possible that our priorities and our value systems have somehow run amuck? Perhaps those who are blessed with enough wealth to spend $50,000 on frivolous ego-centered activities could consider options that might enhance the wellbeing of others, and all animal lovers, regardless of their financial status, can find ways to make a difference right in their own communities.

  • Be a responsible pet caregiver and set a positive example to others. Spay or neuter your own animal and educate others about the importance of altering their pets.
  • Keep updated on legislation to protect the animals… all states have important grassroots organizations that would welcome your involvement Iowa Voters for Companion Animals is an Iowa based animal advocacy group concerned about the welfare of Iowa dogs. This group provides updated information regarding legislative action (and inaction) concerning animal welfare issues. For information on this group contact
  • Get to know the animals in your neighborhood. Keep an eye out for abuse and neglect of companion animals, animals left outdoors without shelter and other signs of abuse. Talk to the caregiver and suggest ways to improve the situation, and, if necessary, report problems to the authorities. Sometimes the elderly or ill have difficulty providing essential pet care, and they would welcome assistance walking the dog, cleaning, grooming, etc.
  • Rescue groups and animal shelters across the country are always in need of volunteers! Call your local group and ask how you can help make a difference in the lives of the animals housed at their facility. If you want to feel good, volunteer!!! Pet therapy is an awesome mood enhancer!!!!!

By the time this piece is printed, Cecil will be old news, and the celebrities , the politicians, and the general public will be focusing on new issues….but the issue involving the plight of our companion animals remains: “unseen they suffer…unheard they cry…in agony they linger, and in loneliness they die,” One of Shel Silverstein’s poems refers to “all those woulda-coulda-shoulda’s talkin’ about all the things they woulda-coulda-shoulda done,” and it is a choice whether to be woulda-coulda-shouldas, or committed doers. The TLC is one Iowa based, non-profit 501(c) 3 group working to help needy dogs, and right now really needs committed doers, so if you are interested, please check out the website at to discover specific ways you can become involved!

Don’t Panic – Protect & Prepare

Animal Welfare groups showcase the month of April as Pet First Aid Awareness month. Most responsible pet caregivers are prepared to handle minor problems with their dogs, but, according to Dr. Debra Primovac, many do not handle emergencies well. The three keys to managing a dog related crisis are:

  1. Don’t panic!
  2. Protect yourself from injury
  3. Prepare in advance

When faced with a severely ill or injured dog, the first thing to do is take a deep breath and assess the situation, to determine the best option for both you and the animal. Understanding how to approach an injured pet safely is vital, because even animals that know you well, and are docile and well behaved, may respond to pain and fear instinctively. Preventing a bite to yourself and any assistant should be your first objective, but in many situations, having done advance planning means the difference between life and death for your dog. Every pet caregiver should have a pet first aid-kit, kept in an accessible location….we actually suggest two kits: one for the home, and one for the car. Kits should include:

  • Phone numbers of your veterinarian and poison-control center or hotline.
  • A good pet first-aid book –Pet First Aid, a book developed through the combined effort of The American Red Cross and the HSUS, is an excellent book of emergency care procedures.
  • Bandage materials (do not use human adhesive bandages such as Band-Aids on pets) Include sterile gauze pads and rolls, and tape for securing wraps or bandages, cotton balls, and swabs. Roll gauze can be used for wrapping wounds or muzzling an injured animal. An ordinary ruler can be used if a splint is needed. Towels or strips of clean cloth can be used to control bleeding or protect wounds.
  • A blanket should be available: a compact thermal blanket is best, but a regular blanket is better than none.
  • Digital rectal thermometer—a dog’s temperature should be between 100 and 103 degrees.
  • Plastic eye dropper (or large syringe without needle) to give oral treatments or flush wounds;
  • Small scissors,
  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • A leash to use if the dog is capable of walking without further injury.
  • Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, but contact your vet or poison control center BEFORE inducing vomiting or treating for poison. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used for cleaning minor wounds.
  • Antibiotic ointment for minor scrapes or cuts; betadine (iodine) and antiseptic lotion or spray.
  • Eye wipes, sterile eye wash to flush eyes, and a sterile eye ointment
  • Ear wipes and ear cleaning solution

Paper towels, a flashlight, and heavy gloves are often helpful. It is important to check your kits periodically, and update anything that needs replacement. Being prepared is important because your dog’s health is your responsibility, but sick, wounded, or otherwise stressed animals are unpredictable, so it is important to be cautious when treating pet injuries. Prevention is always the best medicine. Pet proof your home, keeping all cleaners, medications, and other hazardous items out of reach. Take your pet to the vet regularly, and in between visits, do regular home checks to find any health changes. When thinking of pet first aid, BE PREPARED, and contact your veterinarian before administering questionable treatment. Emergencies and accidents can’t always be prevented, but you can often positively influence the outcome by being prepared, and calmly reacting quickly, decisively, and correctly when misfortune strikes.

A Valentine For Mom


–thanks to Ann for sharing this uplifting story by Cathy Moore

My mom was a quiet, gentle soul and when Dad died unexpectedly, she was devastated but kept busy with her many friends and activities; however, four days after her sixty-sixth birthday (the week before Valentine’s Day), she had a stroke. An ambulance rushed her to the hospital, and the next month was tough, and although she survived, something inside her died. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with anger and sarcasm. Her number of visitors thinned, and gradually stopped altogether. She was left alone.

Since my husband and I were now empty nesters, we invited her to come live with us on our small farm, hoping the fresh air and casual atmosphere would help her adjust. We soon regretted the decision…she was moody and critical and had frequent outbursts of anger. She criticized everything, even the birthday gifts that she had received. Feeling frustrated, I desperately wanted to get her a Valentine that would brighten her spirits (and mine!). I browsed through everything at the local gift shop and was ready to give up when the store owner suddenly exclaimed. “I just read something that might help you. Let me go get the article.”

The article described a remarkable study done on stroke victims. It offered many ideas that we had tried without success, but there was quite a commentary on how attitudes often improved dramatically when stroke survivors were given the responsibility of caring for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon, filled out a questionnaire, and explained my reason for being there. The attendant showed me row after row of pens with dogs. As I neared the last pen, a sheltie in the far corner struggled to her feet, looked at me, and then lay back down. Years had etched her face and muzzle with shades of gray, her hip bones jutted out…she certainly was not a show dog, but there was something about the sadness in her eyes that held my attention.

The attendant noticed. “She’s a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and just sat at the door. That was three weeks ago. Her time is up tomorrow.”

As the words sank in, I turned to the guy in horror. “You mean you are going to kill her?”

“Ma’am,” he said gently, “We don’t have room for every unclaimed dog. It certainly not what we would choose to do, but dogs seem to be throw-away property, and we are left with the sad responsibility to do what has to be done.”

I looked at the sheltie again. “I’ll take her,” I said.

I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached the house, I honked the horn twice, and Mom came out onto the front porch. “I want you to meet your Valentine.”

Mom looked, then wrinkled her face in disgust.” If I had wanted a dog, I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Take it back. I don’t want it.”

Anger rose inside me, and as we glared at each other, the sheltie pulled free from my grasp, stumbled toward Mom, and sat down directly in front of her. Then slowly, hesitantly, she raised her paw. Mom’s face softened. The dog just sat there, staring at her with those sad eyes. Mom dropped to her knees, sobbing as she hugged the dog.

We can’t explain what happened, but in that moment, Mom’s peace of mind was restored, and it was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. She named her Lucy, and together they explored the community, making new friends. They were inseparable. Mom was once again a gentle, lovable person, and the sadness disappeared from Lucy’s eyes.

Then last year, late on the eve of Valentine’s Day, I was wakened to feel Lucy’s cold nose frantically pawing at our bed. I rushed to Mom’s room, where she lay, hands folded across her chest, face serene. Her spirit had left quietly sometime earlier in the night. The next day my grief deepened when I discovered that Lucy had pulled Mom’s blanket from her bed, made herself a nest, and curled up for a permanent sleep..

The morning of Mom’s funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This day looks the way I feel, I thought, as we entered the sanctuary, surprised to see the church overflowing with the many friends Mom and Lucy had made through the years.. As the pastor paid tribute to both my mother and the dog who had changed her life, I noticed that sunlight was streaming through the window. The heaviness in my heart lifted, as I realized what a blessing the Valentine for Mom was to all of our lives.