Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to be a dog mom and a single working girl

Last night I read something that raised my hackles.

It's an article on called "Top 5 Reasons You Do Not Deserve a Pet."

Now, there's a lot in this article I agree with. A pet is a lifelong commitment that shouldn't be entered into lightly. You should consider the cost of owning a pet, the fact that they grow up and get old, that the "newness" and maybe even the "cuteness" will wear off.

But the number 3 reason, "you work a lot of hours," really got to me.

Because I do work a lot of hours. Oh, and to add to that, I'm single. I also don't have enough time to drive home and let the dogs out on a lunch break. And I don't have a dog sitter, and Lulu can't handle doggy day care (she can't handle an hour at the groomer).

"I miss you when you go to work."
So why bother having dogs? In both cases one of the reasons I did it so the dogs would not end up rehomed or back in a shelter. Yes, in Lulu's case she also came to keep me company after my home was broken into, but my parents had also been asking me if I would be willing to take Lulu because they were having trouble with her.

I did it because I love these dogs. I love Lulu and Jasmine.

It would have bothered me less if the point was brought up in a "Reasons not to get a dog" story. Then the point reminds people that it can be a problem and you take it into consideration. It's the word "deserve" that bothers me. Like I don't deserve ice cream because I didn't eat dinner. That to me implies punishment.

In fact, the very definition includes the word "punishment:"
to merit, be qualified for, or have a claim to (reward, assistance, punishment, etc.) because of actions, qualities, or situation:
to deserve exile; to deserve charity; a theory that deserves consideration.
Besides, there are a lot of people in this world who are single and work full time. If we told all those people they couldn't own a dog, they don't deserve a dog, how many potential animal adopters does that ban from saving animals in shelters? Pets on death row are a much bigger problem to me than pets at home waiting for their owner.

Lulu at the shelter, Nov. 2009
 So how does one be a single working girl and a pet mom at the same time? I did it. I think I'm rather successful at it. Here are my tips:

1) Know your dog. I have a friend who has a German Shepherd mix. She takes her dog on 3-mile runs. Then he sleeps with the TV on while she's at work. Oh, and he's a puppy in a studio apartment. No problems. But she knows what she needs to do to make sure he's not a behavioral problem while she's away.

Now, fortunately she's an active person (she ran the Boston Marathon and did Iron Man). So she wanted a dog who could run with her. If you're practically a couch potato like me, this wouldn't work. So know what is required to keep your dog happy and out of trouble BEFORE you get a dog.

Lulu and a friend at the apartment complex dog park.
2) Keep your pets active. I take my dogs for walks. When Lulu and I lived in my one-bedroom apartment (a beagle in an apartment, heaven forbid!!), we went for at least a 20 minute walk in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at night when I got home. We also had the dog park in the complex and the one about 15 minutes away and we used it frequently.

Now I have a screened in patio and a backyard which will eventually get fenced in. And Lulu has Jasmine to run around with. They keep each other active. And they tire each other out. Then they relax throughout the evening while I'm at work. A tired dog is a happy dog.

3) Keep them mentally stimulated. I play games with my dogs. We do training stuff. I have puzzles and treat balls. It also aids in exhausting them while I'm away, but as long as they have things to do, they keep themselves busy.
4) Don't crate them if you can help it. If you tire your dog out and give them things to chew on you shouldn't have to crate them all day. Then they have freedom of movement. Lulu since training has stopped chewing. Unfortunately with Jasmine I can't trust her not to get into a fight with Lulu. Jasmine has to stay in the crate.

ADDENDUM: I just want to add that I don't dislike crate training, though I have a mental block about it. I prefer confining the dog to a space in the house rather than the crate. When I'm gone Lulu is confined to the kitchen, dining room, and my master bedroom. If I didn't worry about Jasmine and Lulu mixing it up I would let Jaz out of the crate.

5) Spend time with them on your days off. Take them places -- a walk on Main Street, the beach, the park or just for long walks. Make sure your dogs socialize with other dogs. Take them for classes. Do training, it helps bunches.

Ideally, if I could stay home with my dogs all day, I would. The world isn't perfect, and we have to make do. It hurts me when Jasmine gives me the big eyes when she goes in her crate, or when I see Lulu's tail go down as I walk out the door.

But I'd rather Lulu and Jasmine were at home waiting for me than waiting for someone to save them in a shelter. No it's not the perfect situation, but it is possible to make it work.

I'm not the only blogger who feels this way. Check out Jessica Shipman's post over at Beagles and Bargains and Jen DeHaan's over at Dogthusiast.

Please feel free to agree or disagree below.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dog meets dolphins on a St. Augustine Eco Tour

There are lots of ways to bond with your dog -- cuddling, playing fetch, going for a walk. But there's nothing quite like doing something outside the norm and experiencing something that's new for both of you.

St. Augustine Eco Tours takes guests on a trip through the fragile ecosystem of the Matanzas Estuary. The tour group offers guided tours with boats, catamarans and even kayaks. Each tour is guided by a well-trained naturalist. The goal of St. Augustine Eco Tours is to show people the natural world of St. Augustine and how important it is to keep it pristine.

And your dog can tag along.

I didn't know how Lulu would handle being on a boat. She wasn't a fan of the water. I bought her a life vest but Captain Zach McKenna said it wouldn't be necessary.

Lulu was fine getting on the dock until we got to the boat. Then she froze, her paws splayed out. The deck was crooked and the water was so close that it freaked her out (I told you she wasn't a fan). Capt. Zach helped me pick her up and put her in the boat.

Turns out Capt. Zach was right. The boat, the Cetacea, was perfectly safe for Lulu, with an inflated bulkhead that was high and sturdy. The Cetacea is a rib rigid hulled inflatable boat and used to be used by the Secret Service.

We departed from St. Augustine Marina and headed north, past the Castillo de San Marcos and out toward the Atlantic Ocean. The water was calm, there was a fair wind and the sky was a brilliant blue.

Bring a really good camera! Photo courtesy of St. Augustine Eco Tours.
 We started relatively slow, watching for different estuary residents -- birds, turtles, manatees, jellyfish. But we were lucky this trip. There's always a 50/50 chance that you'll see dolphins. We were surrounded. It's important to keep a distance from wild dolphins so we don't disrupt their movements. But we could see the pods, and when we stopped the boat, Capt. Zach would drop a device into the water and we could hear the dolphins moving around us.

Lulu watched it all from a safe distance inside the boat. She didn't get up on the edge to look into the water, even when we weren't moving. But you could see she was fascinated. Her nostrils flared in and out as she tried to smell everything. Her ears flapped in the breeze as the Cetacea picked up speed and headed into the Atlantic. I held on to the seat for fear I might fall off as we flew across the water, but Lulu did just fine.

On the way back though Capt. Zach stopped the boat and fished out a cannonball jellyfish. It's a big bulby looking thing, and it doesn't sting but it is a bit slimy. Inside there's a spider crab, a tiny creature that has had a symbiotic relationship with the jellyfish for centuries. And oh, yeah, they are eaten all over Asia.

St. Augustine Eco Tours' Dolphin and Nature Tour:
$40 / Adult
$35 / Kids ages 3-12
$15 / Infants 2 years and younger
$199 for PRIVATE tour (can bring up to 6 guests)

Tours take off from St. Augustine Marina every day. Each tour is guided by a well-trained naturalist. The goal of St. Augustine Eco Tours is to show people the natural world of St. Augustine and how important it is to keep it pristine.

For more information, call 904-377-7245 or go to the St. Augustine Eco Tour website.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Check the Chip Day: 5 important reasons

Today is Check the Chip Day!

This day is sponsored by American Veterinary Medicine Association and the American Animal Hospital Association to remind people to make sure their pet's michrochip is working right and the information is up-to-date.

A couple weeks ago we talked about the dos and don'ts of microchipping your pet. Today, we're going to talk about the five important reasons to make sure your pet's chip is working. After, check out some of my other blogging friends on microchipping.

1) When was the last time you had the chip checked? Chips can malfunction, or scanners can lose the ability to scan them. If a scanner isn't properly reading your chip, the vet won't be able to find your contact info if your pet is lost.

2) Is your chip still there? Not all chips are built to prevent migrating, and some chips will migrate from their insertion point (usually around the shoulder blades). It's good to make sure the chip is still where it needs to be.

3) Have you moved? How many of us went back and updated our pets information on the chosen registration every time they moved? Heck, some people never registered the microchip in the first place! When the vet registers your pet's number, they can check it against the registries to make sure it is up to date.

4) Is your chip on the right registries? There is no universal registry, but AAHA is working with several microchip companies to get one together. That's the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool.

If your pet is not registered with a company on the AAHA tool, that is only a problem if a vet or shelter doesn't try to look at another registry to identify your pet. You can register your chip with more than one registry. Here's the list of registries currently tied to the AAHA tool:

5) When was the last time you took your pet to the vet anyway? Your pet is supposed to go to the vet once a year for a wellness check. If you need a reason to get them to a vet, here's one.

Still need more info on microchipping? Check out some of the blogs listed below.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Aging Pets Appreciation Month: Some love for Galadriel

My cat is senior in this house, though she may not be the dominant animal in the house.

 My brother got Galadriel in 2003. She was already 2 or 3 years old, the shelter said. So that makes her either 13 or 14 years old.

She has been with me ever since. She isn't cuddly, she hates to be picked up. But she shows affection in her own way. And it's comforting having her around.

Here's some pics of Galadriel from over the years.

Galadriel with Koko (OTRB) circa 2004 or 2005.
On top of a kitchen cabinet. She used to be quite the jumper.
Up close.
Somewhat playful.
Watching a stray cat.
Stealing my computer.
Kitty in the sink.
Talk to the paw.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Favorite dog treats for training your beagles

We love our treats! (They are beagles after all!)

Look at the awesome box we got from Merrick -- It's got all kinds of doggy treats inside.

I like to make sure Lulu and Jasmine are doing things and learning for their treats. I try very hard not to just hand them a cookie.

But some tricks and behaviors are more important than others. And I also have to make sure my girls don't lose their figure eating treats.

So here are the treats I like to use -- and why I use them.

Day-to-day small stuff

Merrick Kitchen Bites: These are small doggy biscuits made by Merrick and come in the company's canned food flavors. We particularly love the Brauts n Tots one because we think chicken makes Jasmine itchy.

Why I like these: Grain free, gluten free, and small. I like to use these for little midday treats, particularly when I need to get the dogs in the house, or I need to get Jasmine in her crate so I can go to work. They are crunchy, but not particularly stinky.

Keeping them in line 

Zuke's Treats: Zuke's treats are made in the USA or New Zealand. They are flavorful treats, and they aren't big treats. I like the Lil' Links and the Hip Action treats.

Why I like these: The treats are small enough to give the girls a taste of something good. I like to use them when we're out and about to keep their attention. For instance, I gave them to Lulu during outdoor photo shoots. I also used them to maintain her attention while at farmer's markets and the post office. They aren't too fattening, and the Hip Action have the added bonus of having glucosamine.

Training time

We have a small stash.
Natural Balance Food Rolls: My trainer, Adam at Petco, is the one who coined the term "puppy crack." It's the truth. Dogs will do almost anything for some food rolls. They are also Made in the USA.

Why I like these: The food rolls can be broken apart or cut. You can mold them into a ball. They are incredibly stinky. And with a beagle that can be a great help. I save these for training because it's helpful in keeping them focused on you. They love the taste and smell.

Now I say this all with the understanding that Natural Balance changed the recipe recently. The roll is crumblier and not as easy to use. But from what my trainer understands, NB has gotten so many complaints they are changing back to the old recipe.

Very Important Tasks

Peanut butter: I kid you not. Lulu can hear a jar open from half the house away. If I have peanut butter Lulu wants a taste. So I make it very special. For instance, pills. I put the pill in the middle of the peanut butter and she takes it in one go. Jasmine is a bit more judicious, licking and licking. But she still goes for the pill at the end. 

Why I like it: Ummm peanut butter is tasty? No seriously, I can buy a jar and share it between the dogs and I. Cheaper than treats, good for the dog and when they know it's extra special they'll do anything. Just try to buy one that doesn't have lots of sugar.

Busy time

 Jones Natural Chews rib bones: There are lots of ways to keep your pets busy, but I like these bones. Plus, stripping bones is good for doggy teeth.

Why I like these: All natural, made in the USA. No preservatives. Plus, Lulu finds these beef rib bones easier to chew. She likes her bones not to big, not too small. Plus, Jones also sell a "rib roller," a beef bone wrapped with pig skin. The dogs really like those!

What are your favorite treats for training? TELL US BELOW!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The dos and don'ts of microchipping your pet

This week we're working on something very important: transferring Lulu's and Jasmine's microchip information.

Both dogs have microchips registered with 24Pet Watch via my parents. But I must admit I never transferred ownership of both dogs on the microchips (and I've had Lulu going on three years). So this is a big step.

Couldn't we be playing instead, Mom?
This happens to coincide with a lot of questions I've gotten lately about microchipping pets. I was following a Facebook group this weekend where this was a big topic.

People want to know if microchipping is safe, if it will hurt their pets, is it worth doing?

Without a doubt, it is. There's ample evidence that done right, microchipping works. Pets have been found years after they disappeared. And it doesn't hurt your pet. It doesn't require surgery, it's just an injection. But there are some things you need to consider.

DO make sure your pet's microchip is registered. There are many places where you can get the microchip registered, but different shelters use different chips and registries. And did you know you can register your pet's chip in more than one registry? Some charge, some don't.

DO make sure to keep your contact information up to date. Did you move? Did you split up with your significant other? Did you change your phone number? It's important to keep the microchip up to date. If you don't, a shelter won't be able to find you if they have your dog.

DO make sure your pet's microchip number will be found. There are many databases, but some participate in a universal database that animal shelters and vets can access. This makes it easier for your pet's chip number to be found. That's the AAHA’s Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. These microchip registries take part in the lookup tool:
DO consider cancer risk. I want to make it clear: there's no conclusive evidence yet that the microchip causes cancer. Testing done on rodents shows cancer at the injection site. Dogs and cats have a different biological makeup than rodents. Any instances where it might be connected appear to be rare.

The microchip is only activated when its scanned. Otherwise it lets off no radiation. And it's not a tracker or a GPS. All it does is store the registry number for scanning purposes. But should there be a risk, it is something you should consider. But is the risk worth the benefits? I think so.

DO get your pet's chip checked yearly. Your vet can scan the microchip during your annual visit. This will help make sure the chip hasn't moved (which can happen with the older chips especially) and that it's still scanning right.

DON'T implant two microchips without good reason. If you have two microchips, it doesn't hurt the pet. However, most people don't realize that a pet might have two microchips. So whichever one the scanner picks up first is the microchip number they will look up. So if you don't have information updated for both chips, you may not get your pet back.

One of the first things I did was get Jasmine her own tag.
DON'T ditch the collar tag. Just because you have a microchip doesn't mean you should get rid of the good old fashioned collar tag. There is always a chance the microchip will fail or can't be found. If your pet still has their tag with contact info, you will still find the pet.

DO consider other forms of identification. The more forms of identification you have for your pet, the better than chance you will find them again. For instance, Lulu has a collar with a QR code plate. Anyone with a red laser app on their phone (which everyone should have, by the way) can access the information via PawsPrintsID is another QR code database.

Lulu's QR tag from Pet Hub. As you can see, it's a plate on her collar.
But there are other ways too. There's Tagg, which is a GPS collar. 

And now, there's a growing number of programs that involve facial recognition. There's the PiP App. You take a picture of your pet, and if the pet becomes lost, you activate an Amber Alert system. Finding Rover is the same kind of program.

August 15 is Check the Chip Day. Be sure to check out the American Veterinary Medical Association's website for more information and FAQs about microchips.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Whoever is shooting their gun near my house, you're scaring my dogs!

You know how all the dog lovers complain about people shooting off fireworks for days after Fourth of July?

How about gunfire, or something that sure sounds like it?

Today, I was in the shower when I heard a loud bang. It sounded like someone hammering into a block, I thought.  The dogs started barking like mad. Then I heard it again and again. Through my glass shower door I started to see Jasmine pacing. I know from reading about rescue dogs that pacing is a sign of anxiety. I finish my shower.

I hear the bangs again. That's not someone hammering next door.

Since I moved into this house, every once in a while, between 9 and 10 in the morning during the week, I hear a series of shots. To me, it sounds like someone firing off a gun. Whether it's someone with some Red Ryder BB Gun or someone with a .22 or someone with a shotgun I don't know.

Or maybe it's a nail gun. Like a super-powered nail gun. I dunno. Here's what I do know.

Lulu has, at least outwardly, recovered.

Jasmine, on the other hand, is no where to be found. The doors are all closed, the gate is still up on the other side of the house. No windows are open or broken. She's not in the living room, the kitchen, the dining room, not in her crate. So I decide to try a hunch. I get my camera, attach it to the monopole, lay on my bed and start taking pictures underneath.

I find her.

This dog has long, long legs. She was able to fold herself up and get herself under my bed, and on the other side where it's not too easy to get around.

And she would not come out.

I called the sheriff's office, but what are they supposed to do? I don't have proof it ever happened. No one is home. I think the noise is coming from the street behind me, but where?

And here's the thing -- if it is gunshots, in Florida, the cops may not even be able to do anything!

A law on the books since 1987 pretty much allows Floridians to shoot guns on their own property with few restrictions (Florida statute 790.15). A man in Big Pine Key, Florida discovered this last January and started target practice in his backyard.

And then, in 2011, lawmakers added teeth by prohibiting local lawmakers from restricting gun use on private property. Local leaders can be fined or even removed from office.

Now if you're on a 10 acre farm, fine, have at it. But if you're in a dense residential area, like a subdivision, NO! That should not be allowed. But apparently the lobbyist behind the NRA in Florida has pictures of all the lawmakers playing golf with Satan or something, because crazier and crazier pro-gun laws are being approved in this state.

By the way, that lobbyist, Marion Hammer, also represents the groups that killed a proposal to require shelters spay and neuter animals and provide state funding to make spaying and neutering cheaper for people -- you know, the local kennel clubs and the Sportsmen's Associations.

I get the Second Amendment, I do. I get why people own guns. I don't like it, but I get it, and it's your right. But at some point I have to be allowed the right to live a life without worrying if I'm going to get hit with a stray bullet in my backyard, and my dog shouldn't have to do this all the time.

Have your guns, but lets be safe about it, huh? Take that crap to a gun range and stop scaring me and my dogs!