Monday, January 25, 2016

Teaching Children How To Be Safe Around Dogs

Check that it's sweet, before you meet!  This is sound advice for either a child or adult.  Always ask permission from the dog’s guardian before approaching any dog.   The guardian can let you know whether the animal is friendly and enjoys being petted, or prefers not to be touched.  When approaching the animal use caution, because you never know if, that day, the dog is not in the mood for a meet and greet.

To understand, they sniff your hand!  Dogs truly rule when it comes to their sense of smell.  According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), a dog's sense of smell is approximately 1,000 times more sensitive than that of humans, and they use it to get to know those around them.  When initially meeting a dog, let him sniff the back of your hand.  This will keep your fingers out of the way and will not appear threatening to the dog. 

Chin or chest, that's the best!  Once the guardian has given permission, and the dog seems agreeable to being touched, gently stroke under his chin, on his chest or along its side for a few seconds. Pause and see what occurs. If the animal moves closer, nudges your hand, or interacts in a social way, he is letting you know that being touched is okay.  If he stiffens, moves away, or does not show any favorable body language, stop stroking.  Dogs, like us, do not like to be patted on the top of their heads.  Not only is it uncomfortable, but even a small hand approaching from above can feel threatening to a dog.

To meet a pup, ask a grown-up!  Always ask the adult guardian before picking up and nuzzling any puppy.  The puppy’s mother may be quite protective and might snap if a stranger approaches her puppies.  Even if the mother is not present, puppies can also bite and scratch like their more mature counterparts. 

If a dog has a snack, keep well back!  Approaching a dog while he is eating or chewing a bone might cause him to think you want to take his food or treasure away.  This may cause the dog to protect what it has by initially growling, then possibly snapping and biting.
Keep your face out of their space!  It is common sense to keep any face, whether child or adult, away from a dog’s mouth.  Even if the animal does not want to bite, he could nip accidently.

If you run and shout, it freaks us out!  Dogs react to the way we behave.  Screaming, shouting, or swinging arms wildly and running around are more likely to cause any dog to chase or attack.  Even more affected by rowdy children are shy or nervous dogs.  Being calm around such dogs can help them feel more secure.

A dog is not a toy, do not tease and annoy!  Never tease, hurt, or annoy a dog by its taking toys or by pretending to hit or kick him.  In addition, teach children not to yank on a dog’s tail, pull its fur, poke its eyes, or try to climb on its back and ride it.  Dogs cannot say in words that they want you to stop horrid behavior, but they can definitely growl and bite.

Quiet and slow is the way to go!  It is important that children be taught not to stare when confronted by an aggressive type dog and to move quietly and slowly away.  Direct eye contact is interpreted by dogs as aggression.  It is also imperative to tell them to “be a tree” and stand quietly, keeping their head down, with their hands low and clasped in front of them if a dog goes after them.  If they are knocked down, teach them to immediately cover their head and neck with their arms, and curl into a ball and “be like a rock”.

We know that children are the most common victims of dog bites.  Teaching children a few simple rules on how to be gentle, how to respect a dog’s space, and on what to do with unfamiliar dogs can go a long way in keeping children safer.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Start your new year on the right foot by walking your dog!

If you were like me, you did too much sitting, too much eating and not enough moving around this past holiday season.  But, it just so happens that January is National Walk Your Dog Month.  What a perfect time for both you and Fido to get off the sofa and get some overdue exercise, the benefits of which for the both of you are wonderful.  Not only will you have a reason to get out and enjoy some fresh air and maybe lose some of those extra holiday pounds, but you will also have a faithful companion to do it with.  What a perfect way to reinforce the bond between the two of you.

Healthy dogs are energetic and, unless they have constructive outlets for that pent-up energy, bad behaviors can ensue.  If the animal is bored and has nothing else to do, be prepared for the possibility of destructive chewing, barking for no reason, or him being uncontrollable and uncooperative.  Taking Fido for a walk helps to give him something positive to do instead.  Just as we need physical and mental stimulation to function well, so do our dogs.  Exploring the world with him by your side helps to provide it.  In addition, you will have a multitude of opportunities to teach him new things.  He could learn to “sit” before crossing a road, to “lie down” quietly while you rest, and to “drop it” when he gets into something he shouldn’t.  The more you share time with your dog, the stronger your relationship becomes.

Socialization is equally important, especially in the early stages, for a well-behaved, confident animal.  Walking provides exposure to a wide variety of situations, such as loud noises, other animals, unfamiliar people, and noxious smells.  Dogs without varied exposure can become fearful or, worse, territorially aggressive.  When puppies learn how to interact and communicate with people, other canines, and other species they will become less likely to show aggressive behavior when they reach adulthood. 

While walking is the perfect opportunity to do some training, there is no reason it cannot be fun and pleasurable for you both.  Before heading out be sure to prepare adequately for your jaunt.  Always carry disposable bags for picking up your dog’s feces.  Leaving dog waste is not only a health hazard, but also extremely inconsiderate to others who may be enjoying a relaxing stroll.  If you would not like to step in a pile of dog dung, why would you then consider that anyone else would like it?  Be sure to carry water for yourself and your dog to hydrate, especially in warm weather.  There are easy to carry, collapsible water bowls available, or you can always have the animal lap the water from your cupped hands.  You will also need to have some of the dog’s favorite bite-sized treats, easily eaten, for rewards as you train good behavior.

According to Tehama County Animal regulations, anytime you and your dog leave your property, the dog must be restrained by a leash and under your physical control.  It is important to be aware that, if the dog is loose and does any damage, you as the owner can be held liable for any costs incurred.  There are many types of leashes available to meet the need, so pick one that is comfortable to hold.  However, I would recommend that you avoid using a retractable lead, especially if the dog has not been properly trained to walk on a regular leash. 

It is also important to remember that, until your dog learns to walk politely on loose leash, all walks the both of you take are training walks, because good leash skills are mandatory for both you and your dog’s safety.  Even a small dog can cause injury to you and himself if he pulls too hard, wanders back and forth in front of you, or jerks you around.  When properly trained, your dog should walk steadily beside you with the leash slack (loose leash).  Initially, especially with puppies, it is also advisable to keep walks frequent, short in duration, and positive for your dog.  Until he has mastered leash walking, you may have to find additional means to exercise the dog since the training sessions might be too short to provide the necessary exercise.  

So celebrate National Walk Your Dog Month, by grabbing a leash and walking with your furry friend.  Fido will not be the only one benefiting from the exercise.  You can be sure you will, too! 

Sunday, December 27, 2015


Another year ends in a few short days.  For many of us, as the New Year begins, it signifies the hope of a better tomorrow and provides us with a fresh opportunity to change and, perhaps, make a difference.  If animals could vocalize, I truly believe they would say that they also hope their tomorrows are better.  Regrettably, they do not have the ability to improve their lives without our assistance or our voice. 

In 2002, Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff published a book called “The Ten Trusts: What We Must Do to Care for the Animals We Love”.  In it, they listed what we can do to help preserve and care for the animals in this world. 

The simple directives are, “Rejoice that we are part of the animal kingdom.  Respect all life.  Open our minds to animals and learn from them.  Teach our children to respect and love nature.  Be wise stewards of life on earth.  Value and help preserve the sounds of nature.  Refrain from harming life in order to learn from it.  Have the courage of our convictions.  Praise and help those who work for animals and the natural world.  Act knowing we are not alone and live with hope.”  Even if you never make a New Year’s resolution, it cannot hurt any of us to try to make the world a better place for us, and the animals with which we share it.

Whether we like to admit it or not, as humans we do not stand apart from the animal kingdom.  There are many similarities humans and animals share, both biologically and emotionally.  When we fail to understand the mutually beneficial relationships between us, we can lose not only our compassion, but also the joy experienced from the associations between us. 

We should respect all life.  Life has value and every animal deserves to be free from intentional harm and abuse.  It has been established that cruelty to animals eventually leads to cruelty to humans.  Then, could the reverse also be true?  If we show more compassion and empathy towards the animals we have contact with, perhaps the way we treat our fellow-man will also become more compassionate and empathetic.

We can open our minds and learn.  The more we know, the better equipped we will be to help the animals and those around us.  Not only do we become better pet guardians, but we also become valuable advocates for all animals.  You do not need to attend a class to become informed.  Reading a book, watching a documentary or following news-worthy animal-related topics also increases knowledge.

Let us value and try to preserve what we love in nature.  As part of us caring for animals, we must also respect the environments in which they live.  Can you imagine a world without an animal in it?  It is truly a frightening prospect.  You, I, and our children may never experience that scenario but, unless all of us are diligent now, the possibility can exist for future generations.  If we are to insure a more positive future, then we must tread lightly in the existing environments.  Let us all become more eco-friendly and conscious of harmful actions in the natural world.

Have the courage to be a voice for change.  Our actions can make a difference.  Yes, you as an individual can speak up for those who do not have a voice.  We have already seen how public pressure has been responsible for many changes in animal welfare.  If you witness cruelty and neglect, inform the authorities.  Spread awareness about animal-related issues through social media, letters to the editor or your own blog.  If a specific area of focus interests you, like feral cats, find a local organization who supports it and get involved.

It is easy to feel any singular effort is futile.  To believe that one person in a world of billions can do anything to change the status quo may seem ridiculous.  Yet, each individual holds a vital key to the future welfare of animals.  Every positive action taken, no matter how small, or seemingly insignificant, does join with another and then another, until constructive change occurs.  All I ask this New Year is that you join us in trying to make the world a better place for us, and the animals with which we share it.  We will all benefit.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


This year, fear and uncertainty seem to be as extensive as the cold that surrounds us.  In addition, even though we are more connected than ever via electronics, data shows face-to-face interaction has diminished.  We appear to be looking more at our phones than at each other.  As a result, feelings of loneliness can permeate our day-to-day existence.  Advertising compounds that feeling by its relentless message that the holidays are only enjoyable through loving family bonds.  For many, however, the holidays can intensify not only the feelings of loneliness, but also of anxiety and depression. 

Psychologist Robert Weiss defines loneliness as being more than physically alone. “Loneliness is a distressing mental state where an individual feels estranged from, or rejected by, peers, and is starved for the emotional intimacy found in relationships and mutual activity.”  Multiple studies have shown that chronic loneliness can adversely affect physical health.

What you may not be aware of are the numerous physical and mental benefits of having a pet.  The American Heart Association has determined that having a pet, especially a dog, can reduce the risk of heart disease.  Other studies have also shown that pet guardians are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stress.  In addition, pet owners generally suffer fewer instances of depression and have a tendency to exercise more than people who do not have pets.  As a result, statistically, pet guardians over the age of 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

Pets are, and have been, a part of my existence since birth.  They have been my closest friends, constant companions and have provided stability in an unstable world.  I can honestly say that my life, and as a result my health, would not be the same if they were not, or had not, been in it.  Ask any pet owner and I am sure they will expound on the numerous joys that come with having a pet.  They will enthrall you with stories of their pets’ antics that brought belly laughs and smiles to their faces and others.  They will also extoll the many ways their pet has provided companionship during the darkest of times, or unconditional affection when they, themselves, felt unlovable.

Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins are responsible for our happiness.  Dopamine motivates us towards goals and gives a surge of pleasure when we achieve them.  Serotonin arises when we feel significant.  When serotonin is absent, loneliness and depression appear.  Playing with, or petting, a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine which help to calm and relax us.  Often called the “cuddle hormone”, oxytocin promotes intimacy and helps us build healthy relationships.  Scientists have found that dogs and their owners experience surges in oxytocin when they look into each other’s eyes.  Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress and help alleviate anxiety and depression.  Laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release, and pets can play an instrumental role in making us giggle.  The pleasure of playing with, or snuggling up close to, a furry companion can truly supply a sense of contentment and happiness. 

When I toss a toy for one of the dogs and watch him bound with glee, I again feel the joy of childhood.  How often as adults do we yearn to experience that feeling?  Engaging with a pet has the ability to take our minds off the plaguing issues bothering us, even if it is only for the briefest of moments.  Because, when you are fully in the moment, you are not concerned about the mistakes of the past or fretting over possible future disasters.  It is just you and your pet.  As humans, we have an overwhelming need to touch.  Touching an animal can soothe us when we are feeling stressed or anxious.  I cannot help but notice how less tense I become when I slowly stroke my cats’ fur and listen to their purrs.  Our pets can also be the perfect ones to go to when we want to talk about our day, our life, or our hopes and dreams.  They “listen” but do not judge, and the extra blessing is that we never have to worry about potential repercussions over what we have said.  

Having a pet can give us purpose, enrich our lives, and help alleviate those feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.  Perhaps now is as good a time as any other to consider adopting a pet.  It will not only benefit the animal, but you, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


To have a “Home for the Holidays” is a wish many would like to come true.  The merriest time of the year for a lot of us can be a heartbreaking occasion for many.  Our organization, P.E.T.S., also realizes that, while there are pets who have homes and will receive an abundance of gifts and treats during the holiday season, their homeless equivalents will not receive those luxuries.  It is our hope that each Tehama County shelter pet will get a “Home for the Holidays”.  In order for us to gather the funds necessary to empty the shelter this holiday season, we will host our largest fundraising event of the year, “Strikes for Strays” on December 4th, next Friday.  No matter how much we wish that it wasn’t necessary, contributions are essential to us in achieving this and the many other goals we have for both animals and their families.  For those of you who are not aware of how P.E.T.S. utilizes donations, perhaps the following will provide some insight.

This past year we instituted at the Tehama County Animal Care Center (TCACC) two programs to facilitate increased animal adoption by covering the spay/neuter amounts of the adoption fees.  In addition, we believe each program aids some very special members of our community.  The "A Senior for A Senior” program is all about seniors discovering the joys of having a pet in their lives.  The program helps senior citizens who are on a fixed income and unable to afford the adoption fees for a companion animal, but are capable of caring for a pet.  The other is the “ Law Enforcement/ Fire Protection” Adoption program.  P.E.T.S. feels that the men and women who serve our county deserve our support and gratitude for the jobs that they do.  Just as they help us, P.E.T.S. hopes that, by reducing the adoption fees, we can help them and the animals of TCACC come together a bit more readily.  In addition, monthly, throughout the year, special adoption events are held at TCACC with P.E.T.S. again paying the spay/neuter fees to reduce adoptive costs.

Many animals come into TCACC with extraordinary needs.  The monies received allow us to assist animals who have the potential to become healthy and adoptable if provided additional medical care and resources that the limited county budget cannot meet.  P.E.T.S. also purchases equipment and supplies to provide comfort and improve the quality of their lives while the animals stay at the Center.

We subsidize the transportation of animals from TCACC to collaborative rescue organizations throughout California and other states, in order for the animals to have a better chance for adoption.  Over these past 10 months, 313 animals were transported under this amazing worthwhile program.

 P.E.T.S. truly believes that pets are a lifetime commitment and deserve a safe and loving home.  They can help make us better people and have the ability to strengthen our family unit.  As an indirect result, communities are improved and the world around us becomes a healthier, more pleasant place to live.  Therefore, we actively participate in local community events like L.I.F.T. and Community Action Agency Tailgate giveaways when resources allow.  During the past 10 months, we have provided over 4,000 pounds of pet food to low income families, and provided vaccinations for more than 180 pets. 

For the residents of our community, we offer information and education to introduce the higher ideals of compassion toward pets and people, responsible pet guardianship, and controlling pet overpopulation.  Our core belief is that the community, as a whole, greatly improves with responsible pet ownership.  Additionally, we established a Lost/Found Program, where we post and network lost/found animals in Tehama County through various media outlets in order to reunite the animals with their owners, thus preventing them from entering the shelter system. 

All of P.E.T.S. operating costs come from donations and our fundraising efforts.  We are completely run by dedicated volunteers, thus ensuring that all monies raised can directly influence the health and well-being of as many animals as we possibly can.  100% of donated monies go to our programs.

No matter what gets you into the holiday mood, celebrations with family and friends, festive decorations or joining us next Friday at “Strikes for Strays”, sharing kindness ensures that the spirit of the season will stay with us throughout it.  Let us all, this holiday season, strive to make a homeless animal believe the world is a little kinder during this most magical of times by helping us help them get a “Home for the Holidays”.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


For the "Home for the Holidays" major Adoption event during December 17th, 18th and 19th, where the goal is to "empty the shelter for Christmas" - Swiffer® and BarkBox teamed up to help us make the barriers to adoption – like pet clean-up – less of a challenge. 

Through their kindness, P.E.T.S. has been awarded 50 BarkBoxes full of Bark&Co toys and snacks along with Swiffer products for cleanliness to be given to all adopters during this mega-event! We can't thank them enough...

 Be sure to watch for updates as we get closer...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving and Pets

Thanksgiving is a wonderful occasion to enjoy the company of family and friends.  It is also a time when people simply cannot resist sharing part of their feast with their pets.  As far as pets are concerned, it is “Table Scrap Heaven” and they will certainly be begging you to share some of that big turkey dinner.  While all those goodies are quite enjoyable to us, some can be problematic for our canine or feline family members.  Let’s face it, none of us wants to spend the holiday speeding to a veterinary emergency clinic, so I would like to offer a few tips to help keep your pets safe and you happy during the upcoming holiday. 

One of the best parts about Thanksgiving, for me, is that delectable turkey, smothered in rich creamy gravy.  Unfortunately, turkey skin can be hard to digest for some pets.  In addition, fatty trimmings and gravies can cause our pets to have diarrhea or vomiting in a best-case scenario.  Worst case would be that it causes a possible life-threatening inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis.  If you feel the overwhelming need to share your meal, then take the skin off and consider feeding the blander, easier to digest white meat in bite-sized pieces.  Be prudent with the gravy, too.  Think about substituting some of the clear turkey broth instead of utilizing the finished, buttery gravy.  Also, whether your holiday feast consists of turkey, goose, or roast beast from Whoville, do not give the bones as a treat.  Both raw and cooked bones can splinter when eaten and get caught in the pet’s throat, causing him to choke.  In addition, the shards can also cause serious punctures or a blockage in in your pet’s intestine.

Have we talked stuffing yet?  The scrumptious melding of fragrant and delicious ingredients is a toxic cornucopia for dogs and cats.  The mushrooms, onions, chives, garlic, scallions, sage, and pepper we typically use in our mixtures can be quite harmful to our pets.

Every meal usually has a side dish, and Thanksgiving dinner is not an exception.  Green beans are a first-rate nosh for dogs, green bean casserole isn’t.  You are just asking for trouble with Fido if you give him those beans along with the creamy mushroom soup and fried onions.  The same advice goes for candied yams or sweet potatoes.  The plain potato is fine, but you will not want to give it to your fur-buddy with all the butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows.  While you might find cranberries as an ingredient in some commercial pet foods, be aware that cranberry sauce, whether home-made or the store-bought kind, contains large amounts of sugar.  In addition, the homemade type may contain additives like raisons, nuts or certain spices that are harmful to pets. 

Holiday meals would not be the same without a tasty array of bread, pastries, desserts and candies.  You can bet those little noses sniffing the air are thinking the same thing, too.  Please do not allow your pet access to raw yeast bread dough.  When a dog or cat ingests the dough, the yeast converts the sugar to carbon dioxide gas and alcohol.  This can result in a bloated drunken pet.  While it may be acceptable for the “black sheep” of the family, for your feline or canine companion it can become a life-threatening emergency.  Keep pet noses out of cake batter and cookie dough.  They usually contain raw eggs, which can carry salmonella bacteria that may cause food poisoning.  We should all know by now that chocolate can be toxic to dogs and cats, so be sure to keep it out of sight and reach.  While veterinarians often recommend feeding pumpkin to settle a pet’s digestive system, the pies or desserts made with it often contain nutmeg and cinnamon, which are also harmful.

Even though you have finished your meal and pushed away from the table, do not think your pet is done.  These furry rascals will be brazen enough to snatch food off the counter or table and out of the trash when you are not looking.  They are quick and quite resourceful.  Be sure to keep garbage securely fastened and all food items put away.  If they get into the garbage, for them it will be like hitting the mega-million jackpot.  For you, the results could possibly break the bank or your heart.

May you have a wonderful and safe time this Thanksgiving, with your furry friends and family.  Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at P.E.T.S. .