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Family Matters: Pets National Adoption Month


National Adoption MonthOctober is National Adopt a Dog Month, and my family recently hit the jackpot with a dog we adopted from the local SPCA.

Astro is a 2-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Redblood, Coonhound mix. He’s 85 pounds, stands as tall as my kitchen counter and has the most soulful eyes I’ve ever seen on a dog. He’s sweet, loving, docile and friendly. However, he howls when he’s out in the yard, and my boys and I are inside without him. He’s quite social that way.

We have had dogs in the past, and this summer we were ready to adopt a new one.

We started by watching the SPCA website. There are always great rescue groups, no-kill shelters and pet havens in most communities.

We watched the pictures, looking at all the cute puppies and marveling at all the varieties of dogs and cats that came through the shelter.

We knew we didn’t want a puppy; I’m just not home enough during the day to train a little one.

When we saw Astro’s picture (his name at the SPCA was “Red”), we knew he was the ONE.

I filled out an application through the SPCA, and a lovely woman came to our house to do a home visit. She looked for things like making sure I had a fenced-in backyard with enough room for an 85-pound dog, and she gave me all kinds of great information about taking care of Astro, getting his flea prevention and heartworm medications, and explaining to me that an adopted dog from the SPCA would be neutered and microchipped. The adoption fee, which is nominal, included all these services, and we knew he was up-to-date with shots and a checkup.

The next day, Astro came home. He’d been in a foster home while he waited for his fur-ever family, and his foster mom brought him right to our house with a baggie of his favorite treats and a yellow bandana tied around his neck.

The following Saturday when the SPCA had an open-adoption event, we took Astro to visit all the people who’d had a hand in getting him into our home.

I can honestly say he’s the best dog I’ve ever had, and adopting him was the best decision we’d made in a long time!



Family Matters: Pets and Storms


Pets and StormsWe recently adopted a beautiful dog, a two-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Redbone Coonhoud mix that we named Astro. He’s huge with long, lanky legs like a newborn colt. Weighing in at 85 pounds, we call him the “Big Red Love Machine.”

I found out this week, however, that when 85 pounds of dog become terrified during a thunderstorm, it’s not a pretty sight. To his credit, Astro found my closet, an interior space with no windows or exposure to the outside of the house. He lay inside, shaking like a brittle leaf in a gusty wind, until the storm passed. Even then, he wouldn’t venture outside to use the restroom until the very last drop of rain had seeped off the porch roof into the grass below.

Storm anxiety for pets is a very real phenomenon that can be trigged by lightning, thunder, rain and even changes in barometric pressure, experts say.

Calming, soothing and stroking your dog can help, but you can take a more proactive approach to storm anxiety.

Practice getting your dog to settle on command. Use a special “inside” leash on the dog and practice having your dog lie at your feet while praising the calm behavior.

You can also try distracting your pup by offering his favorite toy, playing fetch, petting it and giving him treats (as long as he remains calm and you don’t upset his stomach. One or two is plenty.)

Let him have a safe place during the storm. For Astro, it was my closet. A bathroom, pantry or under a bed will work, too. Let your pooch pick out the spot he likes, within reason, and let him stay there during the storm if he wants to.

Snug garments, like the trademarked ThunderShirt, can soothe a pet by giving them close, tight, comforting sensory input they need to feel secure in the uncertainty of a storm.

If you want, you can also play recordings of storms when it’s NOT storming to try to desensitize your pet to those noises, as well.



Family Matters: Lost Dog


Lost DogI’ve mentioned before that I lost my three dogs about two years ago. More accurately, my neighbor opened the fence gate and let them out. They were never to be seen or heard from again.

Now, there are so many pages on Facebook to help reconnect you with your lost pets. We have one managed locally that has had so much impact; it has helped pet owners in the United Kingdom find their lost dogs.

The fact of the matter is that when a pet gets out and is picked up by animal control, it goes to a city or county shelter, depending on where it’s found. The shelters are all overcrowded, through no fault of their own. If a pet isn’t claimed, it may or may not be adoptable, depending on the breed of dog and the shelter’s policies. Locally, shelters consider pit bulls, pit mixes, German shepherds, Rottweilers and their mixes to be “not adoptable.”

The vast majority of government-run shelters then euthanize those animals, plus the ones who are sick or have been in the shelter too long. So, check out Facebook. Look for pages for “lost and found pets” in your area and share those status updates. You’ll help reunite a pet and its owner, or you might find out you want to give a “furever” home.



Family Matters: Pets


Chicken JerkyRecently, two of my friends hosted a wedding.

For their dogs.

No, really, they did.

Their new boxer puppies were wed in a backyard ceremony complete with a water fountain, doggie guests and a lavish buffet of puppy chow.

The bride wore a white bow tied around her neck, which clearly she wasn’t fond of, and the groom donned a sharp new black collar.

After the short ceremony, the couple began their new life together in a custom dog run, complete with a log cabin doghouse. I think they’ll live happily ever after.

What do you get the couple that has everything?

I decided to make homemade dog treats.

These chicken jerky treats aren’t just for dogs, though; you could eat them yourself if you were so inclined.

I packaged them in a Mason jar closed tightly, and although Mr. and Mrs. Boxer did not send thank-you notes, I’m assured they were well-received.

You can make these in a food dehydrator or right in your oven.

Chicken Jerky

Ingredients:
11/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders, sliced into strips about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp salt
dog-friendly seasonings, such as parsley, rosemary and sage

Directions:
Rinse off chicken breast strips and remove any fat. Slice the chicken with the grain. Next, coat the chicken slices with your dog-friendly seasonings.

Place the chicken breast strips in an even layer across the entire tray, leaving an equal amount of space between pieces and making sure that they do not touch each other. This is so air can flow between them while they are drying out, which helps dehydrate them.

Once the strips are all set out, place the trays in the food dehydrator, turn it on and set the temperature for 140° F. It will probably take between 3 and 12 hours for the chicken to fully dry, depending on how thick you cut your slices and the exact temperature of your food dehydrator. Check the strips once every hour after the first hour. To do that, simply open up the tray and take one slice out; cut it open with a sharp knife and examine the inside. You should see no moisture at all, and if it is properly dried, the chicken will have the same color throughout. If it is not finished, put it back in for another hour. Once it gets close, start checking once every half hour.

In an oven, bake the chicken strips at 200° F for approximately 2 hours.

Once your chicken jerky is done, store it in sealed containers; zip-locking bags work great for this. Write the date you made it on them. You can also store the finished product in the refrigerator for an even longer shelf life.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.



Family Matters: Runaway Pets


DogsA little over a year ago, my three dogs ran away.

I say “ran away,” but in reality, the next door neighbor let them out of her gate.

You see, they’d dug under our adjoining fence a few times, twice that I knew of, actually. I’d get home from work and it would be dark. I’d walk along the fence line trying to make sure the holes were filled.  Apparently, I wasn’t always successful.

I understand it’s irresponsible and annoying to let your pets dig out, but honest to goodness, I was trying my best. Two of my dogs were still puppies and were seriously high-energy. I wish the neighbors would have called me instead of just opening the gate. I never found any of them.

So, 18 months have passed and today a friend posts on Facebook that her friend is looking for a new home for my ideal dog, a 3-year-old German shepherd.

The holes in my yard are now filled. This isn’t a puppy. My kids are older and better equipped to help me take care of her. She’s mainly an indoor dog, but I can’t decide. It was horrible to lose my dogs. Even though they were diggers, I took good care of them.

Owning a pet is a huge responsibility. There’s also a huge reward with having a loving, loyal pet.  However, I still can’t decide whether or not to venture back into the world of pet ownership after having failed before.

Decisions. Decisions.

 



Family Matters: Pets


Washing the DogMy friend lives in a beautiful home in the country where her four big Labrador retrievers have plenty of space to run and roam.

They take full advantage of it, coming home sweaty and more than a little stinky most times. But there’s nothing worse than when they encounter a certain black and white adversary on their adventures.

This happened not too long ago, and all four dogs came home “skunked,” that is, sprayed by their furry foe as it tried to protect itself.

Luckily, she knew exactly what to do.

She kept the dogs outside while she prepped the anti-skunk wash.

Then she mixed together:

  • 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 tsp liquid dishwashing soap

Of course, she had to make four times this much.

Wearing rubber gloves, she washed the dogs with this solution, being careful not to get it into the dogs’ eyes. She rubbed it in, but don’t let it sit too long as it can bleach their coat. Then she rinsed each dog with the garden hose (luckily it was warm outside).

After that, she shampooed the dogs with regular shampoo and left them outside in the sun to dry completely. By that night, they were ready to come back into the house, stench-free.



Family Matters: Homemade Flea Spray


Flea SprayI loved having dogs but did not love the fact that we constantly battle flea control down here in the South.

Veterinarians will tell you plenty of ways to get rid of fleas, but there’s a natural remedy as well.

Mix equal parts white vinegar and water together in a spray bottle, and apply the mixture directly to your pet’s coat. Finish by rubbing it in well with your hands, and your pet is largely protected from those nasty fleas.
Fleas hate the smell and taste of vinegar, and they do their best to avoid it.



Family Matters: Another Dog?


DogI’ve been facing a dilemma recently, that being whether or not to get another dog.

I had three of them until they dug under the fence into the neighbor’s yard, and she let them out of her gate without bothering to tell me that they’d gotten out.

I was trying to be a responsible pet owner, I really was, but perhaps an Australian shepherd puppy and a German shepherd puppy weren’t the best choices for a smallish, suburban backyard.

That was over a year ago, and I’ve gone back and forth about getting another dog.

On the pros list: I love dogs. I would enjoy their companionship and having company when I’m home alone. I’d love to “rescue” a stray and give it some love. The boys would like it.

On the cons list: Nothing can change the fact I work long days and am not home to give a dog a lot of attention during daylight hours. I still have the hole under my fence. Vet bills can be expensive.

So, I’m still pondering.

What do you think?



Family Matters: Pet Grooming


Pet GroomingI read an article in the newspaper recently about a pet grooming salon that takes pretty pets to the extreme.

For example, one woman had her poodle dyed red, bright red, with the word “Bama” shaved into his fur for her favorite sports team.

Another had her dog tie-dyed for attending a festival honoring the hippie band, The Grateful Dead.

Still another had her Swarovski crystals embedded in her pooch’s nails during her mani-pedi.

Pampering your pet is nothing new. Many, even most, pet owners take their dogs to be bathed, brushed, clipped, manicured and trimmed, but I was curious to see what extreme the pet owners I know took their pets’ beauty regimes.

So, I polled my friends on Facebook.

The most popular answer was that pet owners took their dogs to be bathed.

“I just can’t deal with doing it myself,” one friend said. “It makes a mess no matter where or how I do it.”

The second most popular answer was having long-haired dogs – and cats – trimmed and clipped.

“Keeps Mitzie’s fur from getting nappy under her belly,” a friend explained.

One friend does have a personal groomer for her horse to braid its mane and tail before shows.

“Hey, it’s part of the judging process,” she defended the VERY expensive treatment.

However, one answer stood out above the rest.

I have a friend who took her black cat to the groomer to have stripes shaved into its fur.

“We were trying to convince my son that Blackie had turned into a skunk overnight!”

I forgot to ask whether or not it worked. 



Family Matters: Pets


FishThis is one of those “out of the mouths of babes” stories.

I bought a small submersible heater four our 5-gallon aquarium yesterday, an aquarium which houses ONE Beta fish. (Yeah, you know the kind that are supposed to be able to live in a small bowl without any problem whatsoever.)

Luke, my younger son, helped me install it, and by “install,” I mean suction-cup it to the inside wall of the aquarium and plug it in.

“Mom,” he said earnestly “why does the fish get a heater and we freeze all night?”

Once again, reality-checked by my 10-year-old.

He’s not wrong; I love sleeping when it’s cold, really cold. I’d write what temperature the house was yesterday morning when we woke up, but I run the risk of someone calling Child Protective Services. Now, the boys have blankets, warm pajamas and the whole nine yards. They’re in no danger of freezing, trust me.

The fish, on the other hand, was an entirely different story.

Scramble has been with us for about a year. There used to be TWO Beta fish in the aforementioned aquarium, divided by a big, black piece of plastic because male Betas are born to fight each other. However, we lost Boomba (the other Beta) about two months ago, so Scramble reigns supreme in the 5-gallon tank.

However, there has been more than one instance of late that I’ve come into the kitchen in the morning, or after work, and have been pretty sure he’s dead, floating lethargically at the surface. Then, I started doing some reading. Beta fish need water temperatures between 76 and 82 degrees. Again, without divulging the temperature of my house, let’s just say it’s not close to 76 degrees. So, if the air temperature is colder, it stands to reason the water temperature was colder, much colder.

So, the fish got a heater which keeps his tank at a balmy 78 degrees. (Hey, that’s practically bathwater in my house.)

He’s more responsive, he swims around far more frequently and I haven’t had that panicked moment of thinking we’ve lost Scramble, too.

Point being, pets aren’t people. Pay attention to their needs this winter and adjust accordingly!



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