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Family Matters: Keep Your Small Pet Cool


Keep Your Small Pet CoolSmall pets, especially those in cages or glass tanks, need special care in the summertime when the weather heats up.

First of all, move their habitat out of direct sunlight. Most small pets aren’t big fans of bright lights anyway.

Secondly, if their habitat has a cover, make sure it’s well-ventilated and air circulates well through their living space. You might want to add a small fan nearby to help circulate air (just don’t point it directly at your pet) to help keep them cool.

Provide plenty of fresh water for drinking and play, if appropriate for your pet. Make sure the water is clean and doesn’t attract insects.

If your small pet has an outside habitat, you might want to consider an inside space on the hottest days.



Family Matters: Grilling Out with Your Dog


Grilling Out with Your DogWhenever we cook out, my dog sits faithfully right next to the grill, waiting, hoping and praying for us to drop something, preferably a ribeye.

Sadly for him, it has yet to happen.

That’s also a good thing, as cooking out around your pup can mean some hidden dangers for him.

Make sure your grill is sturdy. You don’t want your dog to be able to knock it over and get burned, start a fire or injure someone else. If he’s prone to jumping up on things or putting his paws up on countertops or tabletops, make sure the grill is in a protected area where he can’t access it at all.

Keep charcoal, matches and lighter fluid away from your dog. Any of these can be fatal if ingested.

Don’t let him eat the scraps, especially if you’re serving something with bones. Most people food that has bones isn’t good for dogs. The bones are too soft, and they can splinter and fragment in a dog’s jaws too easily.

During a cookout, don’t leave alcohol unattended around your dog.

Make sure citronella candles and sprays aren’t in your pups reach, either.



Family Matters: Traveling with Your Cat


Traveling with Your CatSummer is here, and it’s time for a vacation road trip!

Cats are pretty portable, so you might want to take your feline friend on vacation with you. Before you do, have your cat checked out by your vet to make sure he’s healthy enough to travel. Have him weighed, and get your vet’s recommendation on what to do if he gets carsick. Many recommend human Dramamine®, and knowing his weight will also tell you the correct dose to give him.

Make sure he’s wearing tags with updated contact information. Better yet, get him a microchip as well, in the horrible event he gets lost during the trip.

If your cat isn’t accustomed to riding in the car, take him on short jaunts to prepare him for the longer journey. If he’s not accustomed to being in a crate or carrier, practice keeping him in one of those as well. Put familiar toys or blankets in the carrier to help him feel comfortable.

Bring a leash and teach your cat how to use it for pit stops. You might want to pack a portable litter box for bathroom breaks if he’s not accustomed to using the potty outside.

Of course, bring food and water with you, and never leave your cat alone in the hot car.



Family Matters: Keep Your Bird Cool in Summer


Keep Your Bird Cool in SummerTemperatures are heating up, and it’s time to pay closer attention to keeping your bird cool in the summer heat.

Birds don’t have sweat glands like humans do, and they don’t regulate their body temperatures the same way we do. Unlike mammals, a bird’s body temperature runs a little higher on average.

To cool down, birds will pant rapidly, breathing through their mouths. They will also vibrate their throats. They also lose water through evaporation on their feet and skin surface.

During the summertime, it’s important to keep your bird out of direct sunlight during the hottest times of the day. Keep his cage in a place that provides light but also provides shade and adequate ventilation. This might mean providing a fan nearby to keep air circulating, extra water in his cage or water bottle, or shading nearby windows during peak hours.

Misters and birdbaths are also options, and they provide a playful option for your bird to stay cool.

Birds don’t need as much fuel during summer months, so don’t be surprised if your bird doesn’t eat as much.



Family Matters: Traveling With Your Baby


Traveling With Your BabyIt’s summer time! Your baby is ready to travel, but are you ready to travel with baby?

This is a tough age to travel with your little one because they’re a little more mobile and don’t sleep quite as much, but with a little prior planning, summer travel is easily doable.

Try to plan trips during baby’s regular nap times. Does baby take a long afternoon nap? Try to book your flight or plan your drive during that time. Or, fly or drive in the evening, if necessary.

Keep baby on schedule, if possible. This will make everyone’s vacation more enjoyable. If the schedule gets disrupted, get back on track as quickly as possible.

Travel with baby’s regular blankets and a few comfort items, so he’ll feel more at home sleeping in a strange place.

It’s great if you have your own car seat with you, and that will help baby feel right at home, too.

Travel with plenty of snacks, toys, formula, water, juice (depending on baby’s age) and books. If you are flying, make sure baby has a pacifier or is sucking during landings and take-offs, as the change in air pressure can be uncomfortable on their ears. Sucking can help alleviate that pressure.



Family Matters: Fun in the Pool


Fun in the PoolWhen you should teach your baby to swim is a personal preference, but it’s never too early to get them used to the water, in my book.

That doesn’t mean you have to throw them into the deep end and hope they doggie paddle (although that IS one method). You can certainly take your infant into the pool with you and let him enjoy the water.

By the time your baby is a year old, she probably loves the water. Some kids will jump right in; others are a little more hesitant.

First things first: toddlers should wear swim diapers, not regular diapers.

Secondly, they should never be left unsupervised at a pool, not even for an I’m-just-running-back-inside-for-sunscreen second.

In the water, don’t rely on water wings, swim rings or any other flotation devices other than Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

You can start by having your child blow bubbles in the water without putting her whole face in. She can kick her feet and move her arms without having to swim. When she’s comfortable with this, she can mimic these swimming motions with you supporting her stomach and build up to actually swimming. For some kids, this won’t gel until long after age 3, but you can certainly get them comfortable in the water during the early toddler years.



Family Matters: First Father’s Day


First Fathers DayThe first Father’s Day for your main man and your little one is coming right up.

Sure, your infant won’t remember much, but his dad certainly will.

There are lots of cute and meaningful gifts you can make your honey to commemorate his first Father’s Day that are easy and inexpensive.

“Following in Daddy’s Footsteps/Big Shoes to Fill” picture. Take one of Dad’s pairs of shoes. Dip it lightly in paint and stamp it on a large sheet of white poster board. (Use washable paint.) Let dry. Dip baby’s foot in a contrasting paint color, and stamp it on top of the shoe print. Let dry. Trim poster board, mat and frame as desired.

Photograph your little one holding a sign (or propped up with a sign) that says, “You have my heart, Daddy!” Frame the picture for his desk.

Compile a digital photo frame of pictures of baby and Daddy.

If Dad is a sports fan, take a new ball from his favorite sport, and cover it in baby’s handprints stamped in paint.

Baby can also stamp handprints or footprints on a tie with fabric paint.

Photo gifts are super fun. Baby’s picture can go on a beverage koozie, mouse pad, Christmas ornament, guitar pick or almost anything you can imagine.

Write a letter to your husband about what this day means to you. Write him a letter every year, and keep adding to his collection. Pretty soon, baby will be able to join in.



Family Matter: Summer Fun, Summer Challenges


Summer Fun, Summer ChallengesSummertime is hard, especially if your kids are school age, you work and you can’t take the whole summer off yourself.

My kids are now old enough to stay home alone during the summer, but it’s not much fun for them, if we’re being honest. There aren’t any kids of a similar age nearby, so they end up relying a lot on each other during the summer (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

The challenge comes in keeping them occupied in a productive manner, even though I still have to go to work each day. I’m sure I’m not the only one in this situation.

Generally, they sleep late. When they wake up, they each have a job to do around the house, like vacuuming or cleaning their bathroom. This summer, they’re going to be in charge of some meal prep, too. They exercise every day, usually alternating between running, walking and riding their bikes through the neighborhood (they keep a cellphone with them for safety or emergencies). They will still play outside in the sprinklers; I don’t think you ever outgrow that. I’ve purchased some books for them to read over the summer, as well as what they have assigned for school.

My older son just got a part-time job. My younger son will attend one week of theater camp, and we’ll take a family vacation together one week as well.

It’s not the best solution. They still have too much screen time, but I’d be curious to hear from readers in the comments about what you do with your kids during summer vacation!



Family Matters: National Pet Month – Small Animal


National Pet Month - Small Animal

May is National Pet Month and a great reason to celebrate all the people out there who take care of small pets like hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits.

The goal of National Pet Month is to promote the benefits of owning a small pet, support the adoption of small pets, raise awareness of the benefits of owning a small pet for both owners and furry friends, increase awareness of services available from professionals who work with pets, and draw attention to the valuable contribution of working companion animals to society.

So, let’s talk about owning a small animal.

The first benefit is space! You don’t have to have a lot of it, or a yard, or an outdoor space to keep a small pet happy and healthy! They don’t tend to break furniture, chew up your shoes or need to go on walks.

Small pets tend to be fairly clean and keep themselves clean with little effort on your part. They don’t eat a lot and don’t tend to be very expensive, either for initial cost or upkeep. Small animals are also independent, and they’re a great choice if you want the companionship of a pet without having to keep one constantly entertained.



Family Matters: National Pet Month – Dog


National Pet Month - Dog

May is National Pet Month and a great reason to celebrate man’s best friend.

The goal of National Pet Month is to promote the benefits of owning a dog, support the adoption of dogs, raise awareness of the benefits of owning a dog for both owners and furry friends, increase awareness of services available from professionals who work with pets, and draw attention to the valuable contribution of working companion animals to society.

There is a reason dogs are called “man’s best friend.”

If you get a dog, the chances are that the dog is going to love you for life. Dogs are loyal, committed, protective, territorial and playful. They can have a variety of talents and skills. Some dogs will hunt with you. Others are great for herding. Some varieties are great for farms, and others are perfect for your lap.

Dogs, like humans, come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. It shouldn’t be hard to find one that suits you and your lifestyle. Dogs are great with families and with children. They can help protect your house. They will ride in the car with you. They love to be petted, walked and played with.

My dog, Astro, is a 100-lb lap dog. He thinks he’s a lap dog, anyway. He is thrilled when I walk through the door at night. He stands beside me if the doorbell rings. He alerts me any time someone walks into the front yard. He cleans up any food that I drop on the floor. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it. He brings so much joy to every day. I can’t imagine not having him around.



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