Happy Fourth of July

If you are in the U.S. you may have plans for the Fourth of July and if you’re one of the lucky ones — you have day off from work.

 

I have always enjoyed the holiday. We live in a small beach town and there are always parades, parties and of course fireworks. I’ve seen the fireworks display on the Mall in Washington, D.C. but my favorite have been right here by the sea where the fireworks are set off from barges in the middle of the Intracoastal River and from the end of the Flagler Beach Pier with the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop.

 

When my husband and I were first married, and before there were children, we would put on a little display on the back yard patio for the cats, Toby, Mandy and Kiki. They were fascinated as they lined up inside the house looking out the patio door. Our dog at the time — Buttons, a wire haired terrier – was not in the viewing stands, His Independence Day came when all of the fireworks had been put away for the year.

 

Most dogs are like Buttons. They don’t like the noise and smell of the fireworks. Because of that we always make sure our dogs are as comfortable as we can make them. We now go to local firework shows rather than set off our own but neighbors do what we once did and the public displays may be miles away but I know Kodi will be able to hear them with no problem.

 

Every year I spend a little extra time making sure Kodi is as comfortable as I can make him. He will have his Thundershirt on this year as I mentioned in an earlier post. He will also be in our bedroom with the television on (not blaring,  normal to low level)  his favorite channel which happens to be Nickelodeon. This provides some white noise for him to serve as a buffer from outside noises. I do not try to drown out the outside sounds.

 

Sometimes I will put up his crate and pad it with towels, a few favorite toys I know he is safe with, and maybe a t-shirt or other piece of clothing one of us has worn recently.

 

Crates are wonderful pet accessories and their uses extend far past training and traveling. They can become a dog’s “room” — his safe place to go whether it be to get away from noises like what we will hear tomorrow night or youngsters in the house. If your dog has not been used a crate before you don’t want to force him during what may already be a stressful situation for him. It won’t hurt to put up the crate and allow him to make the decision.

 

I  always leave the crate open. I don’t want Kodi feeling trapped inside. To make the crate more cave-like I drape a blanket over the top. This is your dog’s preference. I know Kodi likes the cave atmosphere, why else would he chose to go under the bed to feel secure?

 

Many people try to include their pets in their holiday activities. In most instances I have observed that the dogs aren’t having fun and the people aren’t enjoying themselves as much because they are having to worry about their dogs. There are some exceptions but they are in the minority.

Dogs should never be left in cars, no exceptions, no excuses.

Tomorrow night don’t leave them outside, not even in a fenced yard. July 5th is a big day for humane societies and animal control departments with frightened dogs that tried to get away from the noises.

And if you have the day off spend some time with your favorite pooch. Before activities begin take him to a quiet park and walk with him, play inside with him and work on some tricks for treats. Having you home is all the holiday he/she needs.

Thundershirts — the calm during the storm

Outside in a storm Kodi does a quick model of his stylish Thundershirt.
Outside in a storm Kodi does a quick model of his stylish Thundershirt.

Years ago I was asked to test a Thundershirt. It’s slogan was “Takes the “pet” out of petrified.”

Well my pup, Kodi a Pembroke Welsh Corgi is definitely petrified of storms, and fireworks and if the space shuttle was still in service I suspect the sonic booms.

I was more than skeptical. Come on a shirt that is going to calm a dog during a thunderstorm – a gimmick I was sure. But what did I have to lose?

Let me give you some examples of how Kodi would react to storms. If we were home he would be under the bed, in the middle under the bed, before the first crack of thunder was complete. And there he would stay. Nothing could coax him out. Comforting words, an outstretched hand, even treats wouldn’t budge him.

Traveling south in I-95 in Georgia black clouds filled the sky. The clouds even had my attention as I scoured the horizon for possible funnel clouds. Kodi who was belted into his seat began straining and fighting the restraint. Afraid he might hurt himself I released the seat belt and he promptly wedged his 30 pound body between a cooler on the floor and the back of the drivers seat.

Trying to comfort him with gentle strokes from my spot in the passenger seat I could feel my poor pup’s fear. A few miles later we were ahead of the storm and stopped at the first rest stop in Florida. It was night and quiet and it had been quite a while since he had stretched his legs so I coaxed him out. The last paw just touched the pavement when there was a mild rumble of thunder and Kodi was back in his wedged spot on the floor of the car.

Two hours later we pulled into our driveway. No storms, no thunder and it took everything I had to get that terrified dog out of the car and into the house. That’s how frightened Kodi is of thunder.

So when the offer came to try the charcoal grey shirt I agreed. Of course as these things usually go we didn’t have a storm for weeks but one afternoon the skies clouded over and Kodi was headed for his cave under the bed. It took both of us that first time but we got the shirt on.

The design is easy with velcro attaching the collar around the neck and under the rib cage. The reason is took both of us the first time is because we had a moving target.

I was a believer after the first time. Out of habit he went under the bed but didn’t stay there long.

Today a late afternoon thunderstorm came up. He knows what his Thundershirt is and it no longer takes two of us to “dress” him. He wants it on. It offers comfort and security. When he has his shirt on he stays with us instead of cowering under the bed, still not thrilled with the noise but obviously feeling safe. He has even been known to go out and do a quick business if the need arises during a storm.

The Fourth of July is in four days and the Thundershirt is going to be part of Kodi’s Independence Day outfit.

The company website, http://www.thundershirt.com, states more than 80 percent of dogs respond favorably to wearing the Thundershirt.

In this house we are happy to be part of the plus 80 percent.

Why do we have pets?

Seems appropriate to begin with the basic question, Why do we have pets?

At some point most of us have had a pet. From dogs and cats to birds and bunnies and horses and goats. We may have been attracted by a sad shelter story of how the animal was abandoned or a neighbor/coworker had a litter to find homes for (more about that subject later).  We are nurturing beings and animals need us to care for them, feed them, groom them, make sure they go to the doctor. Sound a lot like children don’t they? They are part of the family, our children. And as much as they need us, we need them.

Dogs and cats are wonderful companions and can have positive health benefits. For the person who lives alone, it is a companion to  share their day with and enjoy. Having said that, it is important for the individual not only to want a pet, but also to pick a pet out themselves. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it boils down to the personality of the pet and potential owner.

People love to talk about their pets. Say “hi” to a scowling individual walking his dog down the street and  you may be ignored, but ask “what kind of dog is that” or “what’s his name” and prepare to listen.

When my columns were about animals  in need of a home it was much easier for them to be adopted if they had a story. TV news reports will often feature the kitten that was trapped under a bridge and had to be rescued or the dog left behind half-starved by his owner. And before the broadcaster has gone onto the next story the phone lines at the television station are lighting up with people wanting to adopt the animal.

Every animal has a story you just have to listen.

A little about me

After nearly 20 years of writing  print and online columns for newspapers and magazines I find myself looking for a new venue to share experiences, interview professionals and even try out and review pet products.

I don’t have all of the answers. I have a lot of experience and many wonderful professional contacts of people who do have the answers. They will be featured in upcoming posts.

I have moved on from my journalism beginnings to working at a  humane society in Florida as the Volunteer Manager.  This new venture provides me additional insight into the world of pets, especially those looking for good folks to adopt them.

Anyone with a pet issue, whether it be behavioral, medical (I will get answers but you will need your own vet), or even a funny story, to contact me and visit often.

So here we go….