Monthly Archives: August 2009

Every Single Cat Matters

By Julia Williams

Two years ago this August, Laurie Cinotto started a little blog called Itty Bitty Kitty Committee (or IBKC). This wonderful blog is a perfect example of how lives can change for the better, thanks to the advent of the internet. In this case, the lives changed are those of itty bitty homeless kitties—lots and lots of them!

I didn’t start reading the IBKC blog until recently, so I don’t know how long it took to “catch on,” but it’s very apparent that it has. The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee chronicles the daily lives of kittens that Laurie fosters for the Humane Society of Tacoma/Pierce County in Washington. Recently, she also participated in their annual Dog-A-Thon fundraiser for the shelter’s homeless dogs and cats.

The IBKC started with a modest goal of $3,000 which was quickly met by her readers. Each day I watched the pledges soar to new heights, and I marveled at the generosity of people from all over the world. Most had no ties to this particular shelter, but were obviously loyal fans of the IBKC. In the end, more than $23,000 was raised to help homeless kitties. This amount is not something one person could easily raise, unless they have a very wealthy circle of friends. Hence, the IBKC’s successful fundraising is a testament to the power of the “world wide web” in bringing people together for a common good – in this case, homeless kitties in need.

A talented Seattle artist named Mimi Torchia Boothby donated a beautiful watercolor painting to auction off for the fundraiser. The painting featured a colony of feral cats that live in a courtyard in a small Italian town. Said Laurie Cinotto, “I think it’s amazing that these cats who live on the streets, barely cared for, will be making a difference. These cats touched Mimi and she made a painting of them. The money from the sale of this painting will help fund lifesaving programs for cats and kittens. To me this illustrates that every SINGLE cat matters, and every cat has a purpose.”

Black, white, tortie or tabby…every single cat does matter. And as fantastic as it is for all of the cats that the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee was able to help through this fundraiser, I got to thinking what would happen if every single cat in every single shelter had an IBKC to help them. Imagine how many homeless kitties lives would improve if every shelter had a volunteer who had a blog with such a huge following, and every year they also raised this amount.

I’m so happy for the kitties that the IBKC could help, but at the same time a bit sad for all the other shelter cats (and dogs). The brutal economy of late is forcing people to make some really hard decisions about what’s best for their beloved pet, and many see no alternative but to surrender them. Unfortunately, a fair number of shelters are ill equipped to handle the number of animals they had before the economy tanked, let alone this marked increase. So an “Itty Bitty Kitty Committee for every city” would be a truly great thing, wouldn’t it?

My lifelong dream has been to open a cat sanctuary, because every single cat absolutely matters to me. Not only that, every single cat deserves to live each and every day with plenty of food, a warm place to sleep, and a home with a human who cherishes them. That’s my idea of utopia. I only hope I live long enough to see my lifelong dream become a reality.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Dogs in the Service Industry

By Anna Lee

There is an organization known as “Canine Companions for Independence,” or CCI. They provide and train assistance dogs. CCI provides an extremely valuable service and I would like to tell you about them. Their program is broken down into several categories as follows:

Service Dogs are partnered with adults with physical disabilities to assist with daily tasks and increase independence by reducing reliance on other people. Service Dogs can pull their partner in a manual wheelchair, push buttons for elevators or automatic doors, and even assist with business transactions by transferring money, receipts, and packages.

Skilled Companion Dogs are trained to work with an adult or child with a disability under the guidance of a facilitator. A facilitator is typically a parent, spouse or caregiver who handles and cares for the assistance dog, encourages a strong bond between the recipient and the Skilled Companion Dog, and is responsible for the customized training needs of the dog.

Facility Dogs are expertly trained dogs who partner with a facilitator working in a health care, visitation or education setting. You have probably seen segments on your local news where dogs visit senior centers or nursing homes.

Hearing Dogs are specially bred Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers who alert partners to key sounds by making physical contact such as nudging the leg or arm. Hearing Dogs are trained to recognize and respond to the sound of a doorbell, alarm clock, someone calling a name or a smoke alarm.

One special group that currently uses CCI dogs is disabled veterans. There are some requirements to be met before getting a dog including: recipient must have been disabled in combat, recipient must use a manual wheelchair, must have clear speech so the dog can understand commands, and have a fenced yard. CCI has a section of their website dedicated to the veterans program.

CCI is the largest assistance dog organization in the world. They were formed in 1975 and placed their first service dog in 1976. In the summer of 1984 they placed their 100th dog! They now have training centers throughout the U.S. They only use the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever, or a combination of those two breeds. Dogs are provided free of charge. The students must pay their own transportation to and from the centers plus the cost of meals and housing during training.

A ‘puppy raiser’ has the dog until age 15 months when it is returned to CCI where it goes into either a six month or nine month training program. Dogs also go through a vigorous health screening. At that point some may be released from the program due to a medical condition or temperament problems.

The first three-month semester reviews and builds upon the basic obedience commands the dogs learned as puppies. During this semester the dogs begin to work around the wheelchair and learn the retrieve command. Those that pass the first semester continue into their second semester of training.

The second three-month semester finishes the commands the dogs will need to know such as pull, and light-switch. They learn over 40 commands and practice working in different environments. During training the dogs are screened to see if they truly have what it takes to become a CCI assistance dog.

Next is Team Training, where the dogs are paired with a recipient and both human and dog are trained to work together. This two-week session teaches the recipients proper care and handling of the Canine Companion. After the training session and public access testing, they attend a graduation ceremony where the puppy raiser passes the leash to the Graduate and the Graduate officially receives the Canine Companions assistance dog.

Approximately six weeks after the two-week Team Training class, graduates return to CCI for final testing, certification and fine tuning if needed. Throughout the working life of the dogs, graduates periodically return to campus with their dogs for workshops, seminars and reunions.

CCI instructors remain in close touch with graduates through correspondence, reports and by providing advice via telephone and email. Instructors also travel into the field to conduct workshops and to resolve specific training or behavioral problems in the graduate’s home and/or workplace environment.

If you or someone you know could benefit from a Service Dog, check the CCI website for more information and application forms. It is an excellent program and it is giving the recipients a better life all around.

Read more articles by Anna Lee

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

What is a Dog Breed Club?

By Ruthie Bently

Have you ever been to a dog show? When I was in grade school I went to my first dog show, which was held right down the road from where I lived on an estate called “Tara” (really, I’m not making this up). At first glance, it seemed as if we had walked into a three ring circus. There were dogs running around in several rings with their handlers, dogs in crates in other areas, and there was one main ring with a red carpet laid down in it, without the dogs. Since I had grown up with Boxer dogs, the area where they were kenneled was the area I gravitated to. I met a very kind woman who explained what the show was all about, and she told me about the local breed club as well. This was where I learned about breed clubs for the first time.

There are breed clubs for most of the AKC recognized dogs, and even clubs for some of the rare breeds as well. The purpose of a breed club is to promote their given breed, along with educating anyone interested in their breed. They can also be instrumental in giving you information about the breed you may be considering purchasing or adopting. The breed club is usually also a good place to find out information about rescued dogs of the club’s breed.

Breed club members are people who are dedicated to the preservation of the breed, as it was meant to be used. They also want to preserve the breed’s standard. The breed club members are also careful to ensure that any breeding that takes place between dogs are for the betterment of the breed itself and not the individual breeder. Most breed clubs have a code of ethics that their dog breeders must follow to be a member of the club. The code of ethics for each breed club usually has to do with maintaining the standards of the breed as a whole, and members who do not adhere to them can be evicted from the club. It also helps ensure that anyone getting a new puppy will get a quality puppy – one that is free of health issues and conforms to the standards of the breed.

Breed clubs often hold their own dog shows, and these can be a confirmation show, or a working trial. For example, a Labrador Retriever breed club may host a tracking trial or hunting events for their given breed. The parent club of the breed is responsible for writing the standards that all dogs of that breed are judged by. Any dog that is allowed to be shown at a breed club show must meet the breed standards or be disqualified from competing.

Breed clubs are wonderful places for someone looking for a puppy of a specific breed. They can point a new dog owner in the direction of a breeder who adheres to the code of ethics of the club and who may breed dogs for confirmation or working, and sometimes even for just a great family companion dog. So the next time you want a certain dog, or even a dog to help you around the farm, consider contacting the breed club of the dog you are seeking.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Hiring a Pet Sitter: What You Need to Know

By Julia Williams

In my last post, I explained the benefits of hiring a professional pet sitter to care for your dog or cat while you’re away, as well as how to find a reputable one and conduct a phone interview. The process of hiring a pet sitter is not overly complicated, but should not be taken lightly. After all, you’ll be entrusting them to take good care of your faithful four-legged friend, and you need to be sure you’re choosing the right person.

With that in mind, the next step in the process is to invite a prospective pet sitter to meet you and your animal in your own home. An in-person meeting will help you decide if this is someone you want to care for your pet. They may sound great over the phone and look good “on paper,” but first impressions are equally important. Notice how they’re dressed, how they carry themselves, and how they interact with you as well as your pet. Does your pet seem to like them and feel comfortable in their presence? Do you feel at ease when talking with them?

It’s imperative at this stage of the hiring process to trust your instincts. If anything about the person makes you or your pet uncomfortable or wary, then do not hire them, because that “gut feeling” is never wrong!

Trade important information

Besides helping you decide if you want to hire a potential pet sitter, the in-home interview also helps them know if they can handle your pets and their specific needs. Be sure to tell the pet sitter everything they might encounter when caring for your pet, such as medications, conditions, dietary concerns, feeding and walking schedules, behavior issues, and any other pertinent information.

A professional pet sitter will likely have a written contract spelling out their services and fees. Before you sign, read it over carefully, and ask any questions you may have. Make sure you understand their rate, how many visits they will make, and what will happen in case of an emergency with your pet. Give them your cell phone number, and/or a number where you can be reached while away. Provide your vet’s name, address and phone number, and consider signing a form which lets your vet know that the sitter is authorized to seek care for your pet. You may also want to give them the phone number of a nearby friend or family member who could help them in an emergency.

If the interview goes well and you’re satisfied that the sitter will take good care of your pet, you may want to start by hiring them for just a day or two first rather than for a week or longer.

Pre-Trip Preparation

Even the most experienced and reliable pet sitter could run into problems if you haven’t properly prepared for your absence. Be sure your pet has current identification tags and vaccinations. Stock up on their regular pet food and other supplies, and buy extra just in case your return is delayed. Leave everything in one place, where the pet sitter can find it easily. Give your spare key and the sitter’s phone number to someone you trust as a backup; also give their phone number to the pet sitter. Make sure the pet sitter understands your home’s safety features, such as the circuit breaker and alarm system.

Leave Detailed Instructions

During the in-home interview, you should go over the care of your pet verbally, and ask your pet sitter if they have any questions. They will probably take notes as you go over your instructions. However, it’s still a good idea to leave them a detailed written list they can refer to, in case their notes are incomplete or get misplaced.

Write down everything the pet sitter will need to know about your dog or cat — including their likes and dislikes, medications and conditions, habits, fears, and anything else you think may help them when caring for your pet. You may also want to prepare a daily checklist of tasks the pet sitter can use during each visit. This is particularly helpful if medications, special food or specific exercise routines are involved. Post your instructions on the fridge, or leave them with your pet’s food and supplies.

Remember to bring your pet sitter’s phone number in case your plans change, or you want to find out how your pet and his temporary caretaker are getting along. Some of these suggestions may seem like overkill to you, but honestly, it’s much better to prepare for anything and everything rather than deal with it on the fly. And when you feel confident that your beloved pet is in the care of a capable pet sitter, your vacation will be all the more enjoyable!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Oral Hygiene and Your Dog

By Ruthie Bently

Good oral hygiene is as important for canines as it is for humans. Our dogs can get cavities, crack a tooth, and get plaque buildup on their teeth. They can even get gum disease if their teeth are not taken care of properly. Dogs don’t get as many cavities as we do, because they don’t have access to the sugars that we have in our foods or beverages. However, veterinary dentists are noticing a rise in cavities in dogs that are fed dog treats which are high in sugar. CANIDAE Snap-Biscuit® treats are a great choice for a healthy dog treat. They contain high quality chicken and turkey meals, whole grains, essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, and their crunchy texture helps scrape away plaque and tartar.

Dogs can crack their teeth if they are chewing on something that is too hard for them, so if you have a very oral dog you might want to consider a hard rubber toy with a bit of flex to it. If they are an aggressive chewer, try a toy that is bigger than their mouth; this way they can’t bite down on it too hard. You can even smear peanut butter in some of these toys to keep your dog occupied.

A dog suffering from gum disease can experience pain and dental issues as they get older if it is not treated. It can also lead to health issues with their kidneys or heart. By getting your dog used to having their teeth brushed when they are as young as possible, you are helping them stay healthier in the long run.

Bad breath is caused by bacteria, and if your dog has it, they might also have a problem with plaque or tartar. If the plaque or tartar is bad on your dog’s teeth you may want to consider a professional cleaning. There are both veterinary dentists and homeopaths that can perform the service for you. In most cases, a veterinary dentist will have to anesthetize your dog to clean their teeth.

There is a bright spot in all this – whether your dog is young or old, there are many good cleaning products on the market for your dog’s teeth. There are actual dog toothbrushes, which are smaller than ours to fit a dog’s mouth. There are also finger toothbrushes and even a wrap that goes on your finger like a piece of gauze. As for toothpaste, there are several varieties with flavors like beef that are sure to please a dog. When purchasing toothpaste for your dog’s teeth, make sure you do not use human toothpaste, because they have chemicals, abrasives and sweeteners in them that can be harmful to dogs.

Although it’s preferable to start your dog on their road to good oral health when they are a puppy, dogs of any age can be taught to accept having their teeth brushed. There are even toys for those dogs that are hard to win over to getting their teeth brushed. These toys have grooves in them that you can apply the toothpaste to, and then you give the toy to your dog and let them play with it. They get their teeth brushed while they are playing and they think you have just given them a treat. Not only that, they will remember and it will be that much easier the next time. As with anything else you are trying to teach your dog, consistency, patience and praise will win the day.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Bonding With Your Pet: What is Trust?

By Linda Cole

Our pets give us unconditional love with no hesitation. Dogs protect our homes as well as their pack leader and the rest of their family. Eager ears listen for the sound of our vehicles as we return home, and we are greeted at the door every time as if we’ve been gone for months. Most cats are more independent and dignified in their greetings. They would never lower themselves to the level of a dog by giving us wet kisses. Cats show their affection with a nip on the nose, a lick on the arm or head rub on our leg or face. Yet their happiness when we return home equals that of the dog, even though they exhibit the cool attitude of a cat. However, cats and dogs have one thing in common. They trust us, sometimes when it’s not deserved. So what is trust?

The trust our pets give to us is non negotiable as far as they are concerned. Dogs work with humans to aid policemen and rescue workers digging through piles of rubble after an earthquake or other natural disaster hits a region. They help the blind and handicapped lead productive lives on their own. Therapy cats and dogs help hospitalized children and those in nursing homes cope with day to day challenges. The only thing pets ask from us in return is to care for their needs and treat them with respect and kindness.

Every time I gaze into the eyes of one of my pets, I see trust. They know I would never do anything to hurt them. What we think of as responsibility, they see as trust, but it’s deeper than just us taking care of a pet. It’s knowing them so well that we instantly know if they don’t feel good, are frightened, curious or something is bothering them. Trust is also being able to look into the eyes of a pet who is sick and know, because they are telling us, it’s time to let them go. Trust is an emotional bond between owner and pet. It’s not something we think about, it’s just there. You can’t explain it, you just feel it.

A cat will curl up in your lap with a gentle purr not because you fed him, but because he trusts you. Of course the food doesn’t hurt, but he won’t sit on the lap of someone he doesn’t trust. A dog will fight an intruder to protect his owner because of trust. They curl up at our sides or at our feet because they want to be near us. Our lives are enriched because we share them with our pets. They know when we are happy or sad and share our sorrows and joys. It all comes from trust.

The elements of trust means something different to our pets than it does to us and probably means something different to each of us as responsible pet owners. It’s much more than making sure they’ve been fed and watered or they’ve had their walk and the cat pan is clean. It’s a snuggle, a happy tail wag or gentle purr as we interact with them. It’s a passion we feel for doing what’s best for them and making sure they have everything they need.

As pet owners, we see how their eyes light up when they look at us, an undeniable trust that brings a smile to our hearts. We get a warm feeling when they rest their heads on our chest and they give us a look that tells us just how contented they are. It’s all because of trust and that’s one of the best feelings around. Simply put – trust is love.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.