Discussion: How Have Pets Helped Make Your Community Better?

SnoopyA recently published study in Australia found that pets help connect people within communities:

“We found that people who had a pet were more likely, than those who didn’t own a pet, to get to know people in their neighbourhood that they didn’t know before,” says [Associate Professor Lisa Wood from the University of Western Australia’s School of Population Health], adding that people from all walks of life were brought together.

“The great thing about pets is they are a really great leveller.”

And it went beyond pets breaking the ice and leading to a simple wave or a chat.

“Having a pet can actually lead to more meaningful relationships between people,” says Wood.

She and colleagues found 42 per cent of pet owners received practical or emotional support from others they had met through their pets.

And a more tightly knit community benefits everyone:

If you’ve got a street where dog owners help each other, they may be more likely to keep an eye on others in the street as well, whether they own pets or not, says Wood.

“There seems to be a ripple effect.”

What are your experiences?  Have you received support from someone in your community whom you met via a pet?  Do you perceive a ripple effect within your community stemming from relationships established via pets?  What other community benefits have you observed which you believe originated from the presence of pets?  Does your local shelter maintain a strong presence in the community in order to protect and promote animal welfare and the subsequent benefits to people?

Discussion: End of Life Decisions

As we rally against the needless killing of shelter pets for convenience, we sometimes tend to skip meaningful discussion on true euthanasia for our own pets.  This is such an important issue to explore as it is often complicated and always heartbreaking.  One way to lift the veil is by sharing our experiences, something I have tried to do on the blog each time one of my own pets dies.  I am inviting readers to share their experiences, questions and thoughts on the subject in the comments.

For myself, one of the questions I have struggled with regarding euthanasia is timing.  I know this is a common challenge for pet owners.  None of us wants to wait too long but of course we don’t want to make the decision too soon either.  With some pets, I have questioned myself on both accounts – that is, wondering if I waited too long and if I should have waited a little longer.  Hearing other people’s experiences has been very helpful to me and I hope this discussion will be helpful to others.  I will pose some questions to get the ball rolling but please feel welcome to share any related thoughts that are on your mind.

  • In euthanizing a pet, how much have you relied on input from your veterinarian?  Do you feel that ultimately, only you know when it’s time, due to the bond you have with your pet?
  • Have you ever made a decision to provide hospice care for a pet and allow the pet to die at home?  If yes, were you closely involved with a vet during the process and do you wish you had – or had not – been?
  • Have you ever scheduled a euthanasia appointment with your vet in advance and then spent a final special day with your pet or do you typically end up at the emergency clinic during the night?
  • What about when you die – do you have a plan in place to provide care for your pets once you are gone?  Is there any reliable way to protect them from being seized by animal control and killed for convenience after your death?

Pictures from a Mobile Vaccine Clinic in South Carolina

We took Schroeder to a mobile vaccine clinic in a grocery store parking lot to get his final puppy shots yesterday. Here are some of the other pets whose owners were waiting with us.

little and big dog at vax clinic

kitty at vax clinic

black dog at vax clinic

The hound, the Chihuahua and the kitty are all from the same family.  The black dog is their neighbor.

blue and wht pup at vax clinic

pups at vax clinic

b and w dogs at vax clinic

sheps at vax clinic

Schroeder kept talking in line.

Schroeder kept talking in line.

Not everyone takes care of their pets in the same way but it doesn’t mean the animals aren’t well loved. Poor people are often prevented from adopting pets by those who claim to have the best interests of the animals at heart. Meanwhile, shelters are sending pets to the landfill by the millions. It’s 2013. Resolve to cast off your biases and let pets go home with people who love them.  Then go fill up those empty cages with more pets who need help.

Keeping Pets Safe and Cool in the Heat

Toby is cool in the pool. (Photo submitted by Casey Post)

During the summer heat, keeping pets inside an air-conditioned environment is ideal but not possible for some owners and shelters.  Here are a some tips for keeping dogs and cats safe and cool in the hot weather.

  •  We are not on a stationary planet.  As such, the places that provide shade in your yard in the morning will not be shady in the afternoon.  A dog house is not adequate shade – more like a place to bake bread.  Dogs left outdoors during daylight hours in the summer must have access to shade all day long.
  • Anything left outside in this weather heats up, including buckets of cold water.  It is not enough to put out a bowl of cold water in the morning – the water bowl must be rinsed of debris (insects, pine straw, etc.) and replenished throughout the day.  Some dogs will dunk their heads in their water buckets in an attempt to cool down which further dirties the water.  Buckets should be kept in the shade to reduce algae formation and the time it takes for the water to heat up.
  • Many dogs enjoy having the sprinkler left on or wading in a kiddie pool.  Even dogs who don’t enjoy these activities will sometimes roll around in the wet grass that’s left in the aftermath.  We have both kinds of dogs at our house so everybody gets some manner of cool down they enjoy.
  • Here’s Bernice Clifford from the Animal Farm Foundation showing how to make ice bucket treats for dogs.  They’re cool, they provide enrichment for bored dogs, they’re cheap and easy – suitable for owned pets and shelter pets.
  • Kibble dehydrates pets. If possible, feed dogs and cats light meals (some pets will reduce the amount of food consumed naturally in hot weather) of home prepared or canned pet food during a heat wave. This reduces the amount of water they need to consume.

I know readers will have more good tips for keeping pets safe and comfortable in the summer heat.  Please share in the comments.

Novartis Plant Still Shut Down

In January, I posted about the Novartis plant shutdown in Lincoln, NE.  I haven’t seen anything new come across the wire about this and had assumed everything was back to normal.  When I was unable to buy Interceptor (made by Novartis) today due to shortage of product, I began looking around.  The Interceptor website doesn’t have any information.  This Novartis press release, dated February 2, seems to indicate production has resumed at the Lincoln plant – until you read more closely.  It’s a rather deceptive media release basically stating the company has resumed shipping old products they found in the back closet.  Production has not been resumed.  (See the weird disclaimer at the end.)

I eventually called Novartis and a recording told me to visit a website called PetWellness.com.  From there I was led to this FAQ page which gives information about the shortage and addresses the funky press release from February 2.  The bottom line:  The plant is still shut down and there is no estimated date when it will be operating again.

In re-reading the comments at my original post, reader Charlotte shared a link for where she buys Interceptor (Thank you!).  I went ahead and checked and they do have product so I ordered a package.  Now I’m sitting here with a case of buyer’s remorse, wondering if I should have ordered a product from a company that seems less than forthcoming.  On the other hand, outside of Novartis, I know of no company that makes any product containing just the (non-ivermectin) heartworm and intestinal parasite drugs – which is all I want.

I wonder what is going on at that Novartis plant.

Remember When?

Ironically, I’ve done a post on a theme like this in the past but I can’t recall where it is.  (It’s been a long time – at least I remember that much.)  So here we are again.

What are some things you remember regarding pet care, ownership, feeding, etc. from years gone by?  I’ll start:

When I was a kid, I remember all of us in the neighborhood knowing that when the GSD at the end of the street was out, we had to get off our bikes and walk – not run.  It was our responsibility to keep from getting bitten and the general sentiment among parents was that if a kid got bit by a neighborhood dog, it was our fault and we needed to tell what we did that resulted in the bite.  Bites were very rare (I can only remember one – mine!) but certainly nobody sued anyone and no breeds got banned.

Dog Death by Hot Car – 100% Preventable

How to avoid becoming one of this summer’s “Dog dies in hot car” statistics:

  1. If the weather can be described as warm, hot, or not cold – do not leave your dog unattended in the car.
  2. When in doubt about whether it would be ok to leave your dog in the car, do not leave dog in car.

My thinking is that the overwhelming majority of owners who kill their dogs by leaving them in a hot car thought the dog would be ok.  (There are a small number of people who actually forget the dog is in the car altogether or something along those lines.)  People think things like:

  • He’s a dog, he’s used to the heat
  • He’ll be fine, I left the window cracked
  • I’m only going to be gone for like 2 minutes, max

Problems arise when:

  • He was a dog, he was used to the heat, and he died
  • He wasn’t fine, even though I left the window cracked
  • I was gone for a little longer than 2 minutes, and he died

Here’s the thing:  No matter what your reasoning – which may on its face be sound – you are leaving your dog.  As such, you do not know what will be happening to him in your absence.  The clouds may shift and place him in direct sunlight or he may become stressed due to a factor other than the temperature – you just don’t know.

Anytime you are preparing to leave your dog unattended in the car:  Plan as if you will be abducted by aliens, medically probed for 7 hours, and returned to a spot near your car with a vague “Whaaaa?” feeling.  Will your dog be ok while you’re gone?

Needs Room to Roam – or Not

When I see a dog rehoming ad that says  “Needs large yard to run in”, I translate that to:  We don’t exercise our dog.  We expect him to do that himself but he doesn’t seem to be doing it in our yard so I guess our yard is too small.

Many dogs don’t exercise themselves to the point where they are worn out, which is where most owners want them to be.  At my house, the Beagle will follow her nose all over our property, sometimes for hours.  She does in fact exercise herself.  But of all the dogs I’ve had over the years, she is the exception.  The Flatcoats for example, if left outside to exercise themselves, will bark at the back door like, “Hullo!  We’re outside and you’re not!  What’s the hold up?”

Dogs want human companionship.  If you don’t plan to walk your dog, try an alternate form of exercise such as throwing a ball.  It’s not the size of the yard that is important – it’s the quality time spent together.  Did you know that New York City is a very popular residence for dog owners?  And they don’t have any yards at all!

What verbiage do you see in pet ads that makes you cringe?

I Chortled

Terrierman has a post up about Veterinarians pushing for twice yearly well pet exams.  One justification is the idea that every year is actually 7 “dog years” so you’re really only bringing your dog in every 3.5 years.  No sale there:

Question: Do you think this vet tells hamster-owners that because their animals live for only three years, “every month in a hamster’s life is really two years in human years, so you need to bring in your hamster every month just to see what’s going on.”

*coffee spew*

I tend to agree with much of the post although I don’t get my dogs’ teeth cleaned at the Vet’s under anesthesia.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t if some situation ever arose where my dog needed to have a veterinary teeth cleaning in order to maintain a good quality of life.  It’s just that situation hasn’t presented itself yet (knock on wood).  I don’t brush my dogs’ teeth either.  File that under Things-I-haven’t-found-the-need-for too.  I’m not knocking anyone who does provide veterinary and/or at-home dental care for their dogs.  My motto is Do whatever works for you and your pets.

I do think vaccines probably last for the life of a dog (except in cases of vaccine failure) and I don’t revaccinate mine as adults, except as required by law for Rabies.  I wish there was a more reliable and cost-effective means of testing how long vaccines remain effective.  My Vet requires titers if a dog has to be hospitalized and the owner doesn’t revaccinate.  Titers give us only limited info and really don’t answer the question of whether the dog still has any immunity from a prior vaccine.  But I understand she has liability issues as well as other clients who follow her yearly revax protocol.

Needless to say, I don’t bring my dogs to the Vet for semi-annual well pet exams.  For starters, I can’t afford to do that.  And that pretty much negates the need for providing any additional reasons.  But even if I win the lottery tomorrow, I don’t envision myself changing on that point.  A visit to the Vet means stress for the dog.  And I’m big on minimizing stress.  I tend to think stress contributes to the deterioration of otherwise healthy animals in a much bigger way than is often considered.  That’s just my opinion, not based on scientific studies of the effects of stress on pets or anything like that.

Anyway, I enjoyed the post and thought many of you would as well.  Plus with so much bad news in the media this weekend, it’s good to laugh and read a little plain talk.

The Stay with an Exclamation Point Mat

I would guess that the average house dog has some amount of training, at least in appropriate house manners.  And as many of us know, there are times when we can expect our dog to “break” (go against his training).  For example, a dog with a bladder infection may not be capable of waiting until you return from your errands to be let out like usual.  A doorbell causes many normally quiet house dogs to erupt in a torrent of yip-yaps, despite sometimes diligent efforts by the owner to counter this tendency.  Of course some owners, myself included, do teach their dogs to generally be quiet indoors but just can’t be bothered to worry about things like doorbell barking.  Therefore, I expect my dogs to break the “no barking in the house” rule when someone comes to the door.

Likewise, many dogs are taught to stay on a rug or mat of some sort.  This comes in useful at dinner time when owners don’t want to deal with a begging dog underfoot and I know some owners use it for other occasions as well.  But it’s hardly something I would expect the average pet dog to rigidly adhere to for any length of time.  That’s why I hate this product:

The Stay! Mat functions by detecting your dog’s weight on the mat. If your dog leaves the mat while the unit is turned on, the mat will send a radio signal up to 6 feet in all directions. The receiver collar will receive the radio signal and produce a beep or beep and mild static correction until your dog returns to the mat. The correction type depends on the setting you choose. Once your dog returns to the mat, the beep and static correction will cease. (Two week training period required.)

Regardless of how you feel about using electric shock as a correction in dog training, I can easily envision a number of scenarios where the dog will be shocked when he shouldn’t be:

If the dog starts to throw up, he will move off his mat.  Does anyone really want his dog to get a shock because he got sick?

If the dog falls asleep on the mat and rolls over in his sleep (some of mine like to have their paws in the air while sleeping), the mat will register that his weight is not on the mat and shock him.

If someone accidentally drops a piece of food on the floor, the dog may stretch himself off the mat to get it.  He may well return on his own and unless you are a STAY Nazi, you probably don’t care about minor infractions of this nature.  I don’t.  But in this case the dog would get shocked.

If the owner gets distracted by a phone call in another room or whatever, he may forget that the dog is on the mat and leave him there for an extended period.  When the owner eventually realizes he hasn’t seen his dog in awhile, he may call the dog.  In responding to the owner – ZZZZZT!

If some emergency occurs – fire, intruder, serious injury to a family member – the dog will likely leave the mat and the owner will in fact want the dog to move as quickly as possible.  ZZZZZZZT!

If the unit malfunctions (always a possibility with these type of radio devices), the dog will get shocked while on the mat.  He will likely move away from the mat and probably be shocked again.  How confusing for the dog!

At any rate, it looks like the vendor at the link is discontinuing the product.  I’m glad.  I only hope no one buys any of the remaining units because they’re on sale and it seems like a good idea.