Friday, November 13, 2009

Visiting the Shelter: For Once It's Not All About Me

Recently, I bopped over to the Humane Society of Warren County, thinking in all my grandiosity that I could do something for THEM. That they would be ever so lucky to have me, wonderful me, volunteering for them and wouldn’t that just enhance their lives? Well, in the approximately 45 minutes I was there, I was humbled by what I saw -- and I was the one whose life was enhanced.

I happened to go in while a new owner was finishing the process of adopting a dog. In the time the shelter had had the dog, the staff had obviously generously slathered affection on said dog like melted butter on warm bread.

As I waited and watched, the staff babbled to the dog in sweet baby talk. They held her big head in their hands and kissed her nose. They wrapped their arms around her in big hugs. They proudly showed off how well she could sit on command. And they smiled with indulgent love as she pranced like the big puppy she was.

And then, having worked to forge a close connection with this dog, they gracefully and graciously handed her over to her new owner. They were cheerful. They didn’t give into any temptation to cling to the dog, which would be upsetting for her. They did the right thing – they handed the owner the new leash, and then they walked away to care for other animals who were still awaiting homes

As I write this, I want to cry. That’s because I cry a lot anyway, but that aside, there was such grace in the staff’s actions. They loved the dog up until the second she had a new owner … and then they let go. This was, partly for their own sanity, I’m sure. It must be difficult to nurture an animal, to care for it every, single day, and then, to just let it go. But more importantly, they did this for the dog. They, in essence, told her it was okay and that she should set her face forward and go with all the happiness in the world to her safe new home.

I saw her look back a few times as her new owner led her away. She seemed doubtful and unsure, and was half turned toward the parking lot and half turned toward the shelter. But then, seemingly vertebrae by vertebrae, her body straightened out and she headed out toward her new forever home.

So it is with great confidence that I urge you to consider donating to the shelter. They are wonderful folks, who need your help. Right now, they’re overrun with puppies and need lots of puppy chow for the little ones. Or perhaps you'll fall in love with a dog or cat who will look back just a few times before firmly throwing their lot in with you to become your new beloved friend.

Visit the Humane Society of Warren County at and please, don't forget to help.  It will do you, like it did me, a world of good.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I Like to Leave It Leave It

I felt a bit creaky the other evening, and so set off for Tylenol.  As I popped the cap off the Tylenol bottle, one shiny red caplet escaped and made a graceful arc toward the floor. 

To some dogs, especially my dogs, anything that lands on, near, or within three miles of the floor, is F.O.O.D. (Fascinating Odorous Offering (that is) Devourable).  With a Tylenol caplet skittering across the floor, and two hungry wolves on patrol, it could have been bad news.  Human pain medication is not made for dogs and can be bad news if it lands in their crocodilian jaws.

Here's where the Leave It command comes in.  If you've taught Leave It, you can issue your command and swipe the offending caplet/object/food while your disappointed dogs, um, Leave It.  Having taught my dogs Leave It, I was spared the horror of watching them gobble something they shouldn't -- or alternatively, of having to fly across the room in slo-mo with "Noooooo" issuing from my twisting, gaping mouth.

But with Leave It, it's end of story ... not the end of your dogs.  I strongly urge you to consider teaching this command.  While your dogs may still forget or disregard the command and go for the goodie, they may hesitate a second, giving you time to step in.  My Lab mix, who will knock me down a flight of stairs for even the most minute morsel of anything edible, immediately stepped back for the "Leave It" that evening.  For that, he got praise and a compensatory treat popped into his willing gullet!

There are plenty of good dog training sites, books, and compassionate trainers to demonstrate teaching Leave It.  Consider looking into those resources.

Leave It increases the odds that you'll be able to stop your dog from gobbling up anything that could be dangerous (cleaning supply spills, clippings from poisonous plants, bad mushroomy looking things in your yard, etc.).

And don't be a dummy like me -- I should have opened that pill bottle over an opened drawer, so spilled pills wouldn't land on the floor.  Lesson learned. 

So Leave It is a great command.  Now, I just need to use it on myself when I'm near chocolate, ice-cream, or anything that is not a vegetable.  But it's hard to say the command, when one's mouth already has the chocolate in it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Get that 'Twilight' Grin

Vampire movies are (dreadfully) popular these days, aren't they? Note that the vampires have such clean, sparkling teefies with which to bite.   Who cleans the vampires' teeth? Do they have a lowly grunting grunt-type to do that or do they chew on doggie rawhides, the kind that are supposed to help dental hygiene?

What a wonderful segue into pet dental hygiene! How did that happen? Well, pet dental hygiene is on my mind, because I had just been to a lovely pet first aid and care class by Vet Tech, taught by Ines de Pablo, owner of Wag'N (, a company that sells pet safety supplies, pet products, and disaster-preparedness kits, and lotsa great pet stuff.  As I sat in class and Ines began discussing pet dental hygiene, I gradually slumped toward the floor, lest Ines suddenly point to me and ask if I cleaned my dogs' and cats' teeth regularly.  Had this occured, and of course, it didn't, because Ines is a kind teacher, I would have had to admit that I've been neglecting several sets of ivories in my household, with the exception of my own.

Ines, knowing that we were a class of cast-iron tummies, displayed slides of clean and not so clean pet teeth.  Bleaugth! And that was just the "clean" slide! Seriously, when I learned just how quickly doggie and kitty teeth can go bad, under the auspices of benign neglect, and how seriously those dirty old teeth can affect pet health, I became a zealous new convert to the Cleanin' Club.  (Mind you, I had virtuously been scrubbing away at them over the years, but lately, had become a dental slacker.) However, my dogs and cats, are not as interested in joining the Club.  But they will, gradually, as they learn or re-learn that getting their teeth cleaned isn't all that bad.  After all, the toothpaste for dogs that I got is beef-flavored.  Beef-flavored toothpaste! For all your meat-eaters out there, resist the temptation to gobble it down!

Note: Do NOT use human toothpaste on your pets.  Rinse and repeat: Do NOT use human toothpaste on your pets. 

Here's the good news: You don't have to clean your pet's teeth after every meal.  A couple of times a week is more than great.  In fact, it would be stupendous.  And you want your pet to think you're stupendous, don't you? Ask your vet to show you how, if you're unsure.  For my dogs, I started with the yummy (no, I didn't try it) beef-flavored toothpaste and vowed to choose one canine.  Meaning tooth, not dog.  You should start from the back of the pet's mouth -- that's easier, especially if the little darling starts to back away.  But I found that giving one of the canines a quick polish made it easier.  The canines are big teeth and easy to lightly scrub (or just initially touch) with the toothbrush, your finger, or with a finger-toothbrush, if your dog is cooperative (read: gentle, does not bite!).  The teeth toward the back are sharp little runts that are half buried by the gums and harder, for me, to initially deal with.  I plan to work my way back from those big old canines over the weeks, gently showing the gang how lovely it is that Mommy puts flavored toothpaste in our mouths, then bends over us, squinting her eyes in concentration, as she makes "Yippee, this is fun!" noises.  Then there's that funny creaking noise Mommy's back makes when she tries to straighten up!

And of course, you or your vet would want to assess the condition of your pets' teeth and what, if any, intervention is needed.  Also, ask your vet about dental chews that promote fang health.  Your pets and the dental chew company will thank you.

And this post concludes with a possible explanation of how vampires teeth stay so clean.  It's not as you think, the great makeup artist who races in after each scene to splash a little white paint on Old Fangula and his larger than life Draculian nippers.  Instead, could it be dedicated use of human-flavored toothpaste?

Right Off the Bat (The Wooden One)

When I contemplated writing a blog, I wanted it to "do some good."

While I myself VASTLY enjoy reading my own rantings, I figured you might not feel the same way. So for you, I endeavor to add value to these postings. This value (in amongst my self-indulgences) will include helpful information for that vast army known as "pet owners."

(See also: pet guardians, pet parents, parents of fur people et al.)

This blog is dedicated to pet people and, in that group, to my wonderful petsitting clients.

It's dedicated to the client who recently lost a pet and despite their grief, soldiered on and chose to give a shelter pet a happy home. In doing so, they honored the memory of their lost pet -- and provided a loving home for a pet that had watched and waited while "cuter," or more outgoing pets around her were adopted. Or to the clients who keep their pet looking absolutely, stunningly gorgeous, like velvet, because, when you love someone, you take care of them.  And to the clients whose doggie gets an upset tummyy sometimes and you don't hesitate to go with her into the cold night so she can go potty (and have company). And to the client who laughs at their pets' foibles and invites me to laugh too, recognizing how funny these beautiful beings can be. 

All I can say is, becoming a petsitter has piqued my always-growing love and interest in pets -- and restored my faith in humans.