I recently came across a wonderful story online that intrigued me. I wanted to know more, so I did what any curious pet blogger would do – I searched until I found a phone number, and then I called it. I had a pleasant conversation with 24-year-old Raymond Behrens, who happily gave me an update on one of the best “feel-good” doggie tales ever.
When Raymond enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18, he was deeply saddened to leave his best friends Bullet and Trigger behind. Raymond had adopted the Beagle puppies two years earlier. He loved his dogs with all of his heart, but because none of his family members or friends could care for them while he was in the Navy, Raymond reluctantly gave them up. As you might guess, this scenario is all too common, and is what led to the creation of Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet (GASP). This wonderful nonprofit helps find foster families for pets of deployed military members; unfortunately, Raymond didn’t have that option in 2004.
Raymond thought about his best friends often over the next six years, while serving as a Navy Seabee in Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Like any devoted pet parent would, he felt guilty for giving up his dogs; he wondered how they were doing, and hoped they were happy and healthy. Although he never forgot about Bullet and Trigger, he didn’t expect to see them again or have them be a part of his family. Yet six long years later, that is exactly what happened!
Animal shelters all across the country need help. Sure, monetary donations and supply donations are wonderful and are much appreciated. Shelters could not survive without those types of help. But animal shelters need people too, and they welcome volunteers with open arms. If you are interested in volunteering, call or visit your local shelter and find out what they need most. This gives you an opportunity to become really involved in a volunteer program by creating one that will best suit their needs. There may already be an existing volunteer group that you can join to help spread awareness and recruit new volunteers.
The inspiration for this post comes from a local animal shelter and an area community center for the elderly. These two groups are working together to provide a program that is not only beneficial to the animal shelter but also to the volunteers. One day a week the community center bus picks up about a dozen elderly volunteers and takes them to the animal shelter.
It can be hard to understand why dogs do the things they do. Their actions are related to how we treat them and what their personality is like. A dog with a jealous streak is being possessive and domineering. Whether there are other pets in the home or not, a dog showing jealousy can affect an entire household.
Living with a jealous dog can be a challenge, especially if he’s also protective of the one he loves. A jealous dog is most likely one with a dominant personality, but not all dominant dogs are jealous. A dog who is jealous is trying to tell you he’s concerned about his place in your heart. Adding a new pet to your family is upsetting to any pet already in the home, but a dog with a jealous streak may need more time to get used to the idea of sharing you and his home. Any change to a household, whether it’s another pet, roommate or variation in routine, can cause a dog to react in a way you’ve never seen before.
Routine is one of the most important and stabilizing factors in a dog’s life. They eat from the same bowl at the same time and in the same place every day. Dogs know when it’s time to go outside or go for a walk. Changes to their schedule, even small changes we may not notice, are observed by dogs. A jealous dog may see a change in routine as a threat to his position in the home and in your eyes. A new pet or person changes the routine.
My new favorite TV show is Animal Planet’s Must Love Cats. The show is billed as “a celebration of fascinating felines and the fascinating people who love them,” which is spot on. It’s hosted by musician John Fulton, who travels across America to find pawesome kitties, cat-obsessed people and interesting stories about “all things cat.” I was pleasantly surprised to see stories about many things I’ve already written about on this blog, such as Matilda the Algonquin Hotel Cat, potty training your kitty, and the Cat House on the Kings sanctuary. Haha – I had my finger on the pulse of cat culture, and I didn’t even know it! The show also covers many things I didn’t even know existed, such as cat poo coffee (ewwww!), a kitty with four ears, feline fashion shows, posh cat-only hotels, and whimsical cat statues in Catskill, New York.
Last week’s episode of Must Love Cats featured “catios,” something I knew a little about but had never seen on such a grand scale. A catio (cat + patio) is a securely enclosed balcony, deck or other outdoor area that gives kitties the opportunity to be outdoors in the fresh air. They can range from small practical structures, to full-on fantasy playgrounds for cats with multiple ledges, ladders, ramps, tunnels, catwalks (ahem) and natural scratching posts. A small catio is pretty much just a cage, which I don’t think any cat would like even if it is outdoors. The giganti-cat model featured on Must Love Cats, however, is definitely something indoor kitties would appreciate.
Agility training is a sport that’s been gaining in popularity for some time. It’s a great way to give your dog plenty of exercise and stimulation to keep his mind and body healthy. You might be surprised to learn your dog isn’t the couch potato you once thought after watching him jump, weave, and run around a course having the time of his life. Agility training requires time and patience, but it’s worth the effort to have a sport you can do together. If you’ve taught your dog basic commands, then he’s ready to learn how to navigate an agility course.
Contact obstacles include a teeter-totter, dog walk and A-frame. They’re called contact obstacles because in order for the dog to successfully complete the task, he must touch a certain spot on one or both ends with at least one of his feet.
Teeter-totter – If your dog is reluctant to walk on the teeter-totter, begin with a square 4 x 4 piece of plywood on the ground with a small ball under it. Have him move around on the wood so he can get used to movement under his feet. Once he’s comfortable with movement, move to the teeter-totter. With your dog on a 6 ft. leash, give him a description command for each obstacle (teeter-totter, A-frame, weave, etc.) and move him towards the obstacle. Make sure he touches any required spots before going on. When he correctly succeeds at each task, give him praise and a treat reward. As he gets used to the movement of the teeter-totter, you can increase his speed.
Just as parents often have to say no to their children when they want things that aren’t good for them, so too do responsible pet owners. Children and pets are not always able to discern danger or consequences, and it’s our job to keep them healthy and safe. I don’t especially like saying no to my cats when they want something I know they shouldn’t have (such as more food or treats when they’ve already had plenty) but as a responsible pet owner I know I need to. Knowing it is one thing; actually doing it can require nerves of steel and an unwavering conviction that I am right, and the cats are wrong. Anyone who has a “foodie” pet knows exactly what I mean.
Our pets beg with insistent meows and loud barks. They look at us with pleading eyes that make us think they will just keel over unless they get more food or treats. They try to “guilt” us into caving in, because they want what they want, and have no thought other than getting it. Pets live in the moment; there is no rationalization we can give them for saying no. We just have to, because we know what’s best for them, and because we love them.
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