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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!



FAMILY MATTERS: PET BLUES


Pet BluesAre your pets singing the blues now that the days are shorter and it’s dark much earlier?

Are you wondering what I’m talking about?

Studies show that pets can suffer from seasonal blues just like humans can. No one likes when the days are shorter and the darkness prevails.

For dogs and cats, which are more sensitive to light than humans, make sure to ramp up the light in your home by keeping drapes open and turning on indoor lighting. For reptiles, keep heat lamps and lights on more often and for longer hours.

For dogs and cats, rev up the playtime. Both species like tug of war and constant human engagement. Take advantage of it during winter months!

Reduce food intake for your pets. Dogs and cats aren’t usually as active in colder months. Therefore, they don’t need to eat as much and feel sluggish.

Exercise, exercise, exercise. Just as humans benefit from exposure to the outdoors, so do pets. Take them with you every time you go outside. 



FAMILY MATTERS: PETS AND HALLOWEEN


Pet CostumeIt’s almost time for Halloween, and it’s tempting to dress your pet up like a cute devil, hot dog, fairy or goodness knows what else.

Now, I’m not in the dress-your-pet-up category (but then again, my dogs chewed leather collars off of each other, so a Halloween costume wouldn’t stand a chance), but I will admit I’ve seen a cute devil Chihuahua or firefighter Dalmatian a time or two.

If you do choose to trick-or-treat with your pet this Halloween, keep a few things in mind.

First, your pet might not be a good candidate for dress-up. They might be the nervous type or the chewing type.

If indeed they do channel their inner costume diva, be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure the costume fits well and allows your pet to move around freely.
  • Avoid costumes with strings or small parts that can be chewed off and swallowed.
  • The costume should not restrict your pet’s vision, hearing or breathing in any way.
  • If you plan to take your pet trick-or-treating outside after dark, look for reflective safety stripes on the pet costume; add them yourself if the costume doesn’t come equipped with reflective stripes.
  • Always supervise your pet when he or she is wearing the costume so you can help your pet if there is a costume malfunction or the costume becomes hung up on anything.


Family Matters: Pets


This is not a sad story, so keep reading.

My best friend got a call today from her elderly mother who gently broke the news that her longtime friend and companion, her dog of 16 years, had passed away.

My friend was devastated, as you can imagine one would be losing the sweet dog you’d had for so long.

About an hour later, her cellphone rang again. It was her mother calling back.

“He’s alive! He’s alive!,” she screamed into the phone.

However, she had not only called my friend, but she had also called a stranger. When she was trying to dial, she called the wrong number. In her excitement, she left a message on some unsuspecting person’s voicemail. “He’s not dead! He’s alive! He got up and got a drink of water” was the message that a flustered stranger received. The stranger, who immediately called back to check on the welfare of, well, the dog, ended up getting a good laugh, as did my friend, her mom and a bunch of other people.

Moral to this story: Check for respiration, dial carefully and always love on your pets every day!



Family Matters: Pets


A few years ago, I got a box in the mail that was labeled “Living Contents. Open Immediately.” 

Intrigued (and thankful I was home at the time of delivery), I ripped into the box. 

Inside was the most wonderful gift!

My mom had sent my boys a “Grow-A-Frog” kit. Along with a clear plastic aquarium, a lid and special food, there was a baggie of two tiny tadpoles. 

The boys wanted to get started immediately, so we carefully rinsed the aquarium and set it up to be the tadpoles’ new home.

Over the next months, we watched the tadpoles develop into frogs. We saw them grow tiny legs, develop a distinct head, lose their “tails” and finally morph into two good-sized frogs!

We eventually found new homes for the frogs in a friend’s pond, but then we ordered new tadpoles and repeated the process.

The joy of the pet tadpoles came in the daily discovery and the renewed wonder in my boys’ eyes each day. It’s definitely one of the best gifts we’ve ever received.



Family Matters: Pets


Summertime poses a pet problem you might have not considered: water.

Yep, I said “water.”

I’m not talking about the kind you pour into their bowls from the tap, but the kind lurking in all other kinds of summer situations, particularly salt water and pool water.

If your pooch likes to play in the surf at the beach, keep a careful eye on him. Salt water can be toxic to pets. Sure, they’ll lap at the water, but they don’t know that excessive salt water intake can result in severe hypernatremia, or salt poisoning.

The first signs of hypernatremia include vomiting and diarrhea, but the condition can progress quickly to neurological impairment with physical incoordination, seizures, depression and, ultimately, brain swelling. It can be treated with IV fluids at the vet’s office.

To avoid the problem all together, designate a bottle (jug!) of fresh water for your dog to enjoy at the beach. Whenever you hydrate, make sure he hydrates, too.

The other danger comes from your backyard pool. Well, the chemicals to be exact. Algaecides and chlorine shock water treatment products are generally safe once these chemicals are diluted appropriately (i.e. in the pool water), but when undiluted, pool chemicals can quickly be fatal to your pet. Corrosive chemicals can result in severe ulcers in your pet’s mouth, esophagus and stomach, and they can ultimately cause holes in the GI tract. Always store your pool chemicals and cleaners in a locked closet that your pet cannot access.

Always have fresh water available at all times for your pet, too.



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