Thursday, November 20, 2014

Keep Orlando dogs at home: Ideas to keep pets out of shelters

This is a post for Orlando's BIG Exchange Blog-Along to find a solution to an issue here in Central Florida.

Every year, around 20,000 dogs and cats enter Orange County Animal Services in Orlando.

And every year, almost 10,000 are euthanized. About half.



There are lots of reasons pets end up in shelters. But if you've ever walked through a kennel and looked at each of the cards, what will break your heart is how many were surrendered because their owner couldn't take care of them -- either they had to move or the pet had health problems or the owner simply couldn't afford it anymore. I'll never forget the times I've watched people walk out of a shelter crying because they had to surrender their pet.



Lulu was one of those. Her owners were moving and couldn't take her with them (no pets allowed). She was only six months old. Fortunately she was also at Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, which is almost a no-kill shelter.

The dogs and cats surrendered to Orange County Animal Services are not as lucky.

The Metro Orlando area remains one of the top in the country for foreclosure. How many people are still forced to leave their homes and have to give up their pet?

Unfortunately not every issue is salvageable. For people with a dog considered an "aggressive breed," many apartment complexes shut the door. If only there was a way to deal with that...

But I think we in Orlando can find a way to keep more pets with their families. It is much cheaper for the county if these pets stay with their families than if the shelter has to care for them.

Chyna (A305742) is a year old and at Orange County Animal Services.
Establish a fund for animal assistance 

Groups across the country provide assistance for people who need medical help, apartment help, etc. For instance, Orange County Animal Services has a pet pantry. In the page for the pantry, this is written:

"Life can throw surprises at you," said Dil Luther, division manager of Orange County Animal Services. "Anyone can be caught off guard by unexpected expenses like car or health issues and we do not want financial struggles to separate a pet from a loving family."

But while we have some scattered efforts to help with spaying and neutering, micro-chipping and even food, we don't have a dedicated fund to help people better afford their dogs.

My suggestion is modeled after Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship Program for students. In exchange for county tax credits, Orange County-based businesses donate to the fund, which is run by the county.

Money in the fund is split up into three categories: home assistance, medical assistance and behavioral assistance. Residents (and they must be full-time Orange County residents) then apply for a one-time grant for one of those three categories.

  • Home assistance can be used to pay for pet deposits and pet rent, a growing expense in the apartment rental world. 
  • Medical assistance can be used to pay for extraordinary veterinary bills (not for routine office visits). The fund can work with a choice group of vets to reduce the cost of those services (Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando has a clinic that provides reduced services).
  • Behavioral assistance allows pet parents to get financial help to pay for a trainer/behaviorist for their pet. They must work off an already-vetted list of trainers/behaviorists that the county has. 
This fund should not affect the overall budget for Orange County Animal Services.

Luna (A305889) is 3 years old and at Orange County Animal Services.
Tax credits to keep pet deposits down

In addition, the county should also offer tax credits to landlords and apartment complexes who reduce the cost of pet deposits and pet rent to make it more affordable for residents. 

Pet rent and a rise in pet deposits is a growing problem for apartment renters in the U.S. Some apartment managers say they need the safety net against pet damage, but according to a recent CBS News.com article, some managers say they charge it because they can. 

Pet deposits in Orlando can run from $250 to $500, and in some cases are charged per pet. By reducing pet deposits, not only will it help people trying to keep their pets, but it might encourage people to adopt too. 

Dexter (A293832) is a year old and at Orange County Animal Services.
Community bulletin boards to promote low cost services

But why stop there? Remember when I said there were scattered services for people who need help caring for pets?

Did you know about Orange County's pet food pantry? How about Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando's low-cost vet services, including spaying or neutering? Or Pet Alliance's Meals on Wheels for seniors program? 

Do people know these programs and others even exist? 

In city dog parks like Lake Baldwin Park in Winter Park and Sanford Paw Park, there are big community bulletin boards. 

In Orange County's parks, any bulletin boards are often not close to the dog parks. They're closer to bathrooms or playgrounds.

I suggest using money from the parks and recreation budget to put up those bulletin boards immediately outside the parks and keep updated listings for this information and other events. 

People don't go to parks? Make it a point to put this info in the hands of those who can help -- vets offices, pet shops, apartment leasing offices, community centers, malls and more. Put it together in a new adopters packet and hand it to shelters and rescue groups to hand out. Hand it out at farmers markets, fairs and other events. This information needs to be easier to find.

Scrappy (A220855) is 9 years old and is at Orange County Animal Services.
By handling these issues, we can hope to keep pets out of shelters and in their homes. But those aren't the only pets we save.

There's a saying in the animal rescue world that I will paraphrase here: Keeping a pet out of a shelter saves two pets: that pet, and the one who could be euthanized. By reducing the shelter pet population, Orange County Animal Services can give more time to pets in the shelter who need a little extra help to get out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The great clothes debate: Does your dog need a coat?

It's the question every pet person has heard -- to clothe, or not to clothe your dog?

I admit, before I owned a dog, I came down firmly on the no clothes side. I even wondered if it was some form of abuse. If you haven't noticed, my opinion has softened somewhat.

But I know the question still remains among pet owners -- is dressing up your dog too much?

Now's as good a time as any to have this discussion -- because baby, it's cold outside!

Yes, even here in Florida.

Lows have been in the 40s and 50s every night. They may even get down to the 30s this week. Yeah, I know boohoo, right?

Well, I'm fine, thanks. It's the dogs you might want to be worried about.

They're willing to snuggle, it's so cold!
You see my dogs are southern dogs, and Lulu is a Florida dog. When Lulu and Jasmine outside it's clear they are not used to the cold. Poor Jasmine especially shivers and whines outside.



If you have a dog who has short hair, a lean body type, is small or has a health issue, you should really consider getting a coat or a sweater.

What should you look for:
  • If you live in a snowy area, you may want to consider a water-resistant coat. 
  • You want something that covers the chest. The chest and abdominal area is your dog's core, just like it is on you. If you keep that area warm the heart can better pump blood to other areas of the body and help regulate temperature.  There area also has the least amount of fur.
    (Often in stores you see a coat that covers the back with a piece of fabric that goes across the middle. That's not as helpful when it comes to the cold)
  • Something that fits snug around the chest and waist, but not too tight. It should also give a little cover to the neck and down to the tail.
  •  Be roomy around the arm pits so the dog has plenty of movement.
If you've ever been to Pets Weekly.com, last year Stacy Mantle did a good write-up on coats for winter. It includes some of my favorite companies, like KumfyTailz and Thunderworks. Another coat listed, Fido Fleece, is actually now made by PetSafe. Take a look at that review.

Now, sure I could buy a fancy coat for Jasmine, but since I'm learning to use my sewing machine, I've got it into my head to make one.


And one for Lulu too while we're at it.

So we'll be tracking that project over the next few weeks. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest.

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Rehoming your beagle: Dos and Don'ts

Before we start, I just want to get something out of the way.
  1. I am not judging anyone who needs to find a new home for their beagle.
  2. I am not trying to enable people who are looking for an easy way out of pet ownership.
But the reality is every month I get at least one email from someone seeking help with finding a new home for a pet beagle. It's heartbreaking to read. Everyone has a reason for what they do.

If you are rehoming your beagle, here are some things to think about first:
  1. Is the problem a behavioral one? Not housetrained, or barking and going crazy when you leave? Or perhaps the dog is moody, even bitey? Have you contacted a trainer or a behaviorist in your area for help?
  2. Is the problem a medical one? Can you not afford the health costs associated with your dog's condition? Have you looked for a cheaper vet, or alternative care, or a group that can help you locally?
  3. Is the problem a cost one? Can you not afford the cost of owning a pet anymore? Have you looked into food pantries, or thrift stores or discount stores for needed supplies?
There are other questions I could be asking: kid with allergies? Significant other says you have to get rid of the dog? Landlord says you have to get rid of the dog?

These are not areas I am willing to get into because my responses probably will not be helpful and simply upset you in an already upsetting situation.

So if your mind is made up, and you getting rid of your beagle, here are some dos and don'ts.
  • DON'T just drop your beagle off at your county/city pound. Many pounds will kill your pet, and if they are an owner surrender they may not get a waiting period before they're put down. That's not fair to any pet.
    Now in a place like Orlando where there aren't a lot of beagles in the pounds, the chances are good a beagle will be adopted or rescued, but don't take that chance without reason. The pound should always be a last resort, and always done with a bit of research.
  • DO contact any shelters that use euthanasia as a last resort, or are "No-Kill."
  • DON'T just put your beagle up on Craigslist. Lots of people put dogs up for sale or "free to a good home" on Craigslist. Even if you try to do background checks on the person taking your dog, there's no guarantee they aren't just going to flip the dog, or worse -- use it as dog fighting bait or just plain abuse it.
  • DO talk to your vet. Vets can be very helpful in this regard, if only because they know lots of people who might be interested in taking a dog.
  • DO contact your area rescues. Rescue groups have foster networks that might be able to take a beagle in. This won't always work though, especially if you have a pet with an illness that needs help. Also, some rescues may not have enough fosters to care for an owner surrender. Don't just look at breed-specific rescues either. Need to find the rescues in your area? Look at Adopt a Pet or Petfinder.
  • DO get on Facebook. There are lots of Facebook groups out there for dog lovers, especially crosspost groups for pets that need homes. 
  • DO ask your friends. Friends and family may be more willing to help than you are aware. 
  • DON'T just set your pet loose outside. That's a good way to get them killed.
As a rule, I don't personally post re-homing pets on my social media pages. It would open flood gates. But there are lots of people who do. You just have to find them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#WholeBodyHealth The poop about dog poop (with no pictures)

This post is sponsored by Natural Balance and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Original Ultra Whole Body Health Pet Food, but Life With Beagle only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Natural Balance is not responsible for the content of this article.

*********************

Lets have a serious discussion: how's your dog's poop?

I am totally serious and I promise I will not illustrate this point with pictures.

Your dog's poop says a lot about how well your dog is and how well your dog is eating.

So when we're talking about digestion, what are some important things to know?

Courtesy Merck Manuals
1) Your dog really shouldn't be pooping more than one or two times a day.
2) The poop should be firm -- not too hard, but you should be able to maybe touch it with your foot without squishing it (if you must test this, wear shoes).
3) Gas shouldn't be a major issue because of the food -- no burping, no farting (now if your dog eats too fast, that's another matter).
4) Color should be good -- no black flecks or red tinges. If you're seeing that, you should probably go to the vet.

If Lulu is laying out for a while after eating, she probably ate too fast.
To do this, you want good protein. You also want good fiber.

Now fiber is broken down into two kinds (and this true for us humans too, so watch the nutritional info on your cereal boxes): insoluble and soluble fiber. In nutritional info on dog food bags though you will only see "crude fiber." That has nothing to do with the quality of fiber, only the quantity, so be sure to know your ingredients. Soluble fiber is dissolved in water, while insoluble fiber absorbs water.

When it comes to digestion, you want both. Soluble fiber helps slow the movement of food though the system. Insoluble fiber takes in lots of liquid. Using either one can help prevent constipation or diarrhea (that's why you can give pumpkin to a dog to help when stool is soft).

Insoluble fiber controls diarrhea and soft stool by absorbing moisture. Soluble fiber meanwhile ferments in the colon and helps repair the organ, thus helping to prevent colon cancer.

Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health dog food uses several fibers, including oat and pea fibers (soluble fibers). There's also a number of vegetables in the ingredients, so it has layered fibers. And potatoes are insoluble fibers.
Chicken, Brown Rice, Oats, Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Brewers Rice, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Dried Carrots, Duck Meal, Salmon Meal, Pea Fiber, Oat Fiber, Natural Flavor, Tomato Pomace, Flaxseeds, Brewers Dried Yeast, Menhaden Oil, Salt, Potassium Chloride, DL-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Minerals (Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Calcium Iodate), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Tryptophan, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Taurine, Dried Cranberries, Dried Blueberries, Dried Spinach, L-Lysine, Dried Kelp, Dried Yucca Schidigera Extract, Rosemary Extract.
Layered fibers help maintain digestive balance. No matter what food you get, you want to make sure that they have a good mix of insoluble and soluble fibers.

Digestive health is one of the important things readers specified when it comes to pet health in the #WholeBodyHealth survey a couple months ago. Take a look at this infographic to see more results.



Interested in trying it for your dog or cat? Here's you chance at a coupon.

Click here to download a coupon for $3 off the Original Ultra Whole Body Health dry formulas. Act quickly as the coupon expires December 31.”

And for more updated and promotions from Natural Balance, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Oh, and while we're on the subject -- scoop your poop! Don't leave it on the ground where it can seep into our water supply.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

American Beagle Outfitters is real! Check out the new line

Rejoice doggy parents who dress up their pups: American Beagle Outfitters is real.

You may remember that last April American Eagle Outfitters released a line of clothes for dogs called American Beagle. Well it was released on April Fools Day, and while the joke line helped raise $100,000 for ASPCA, the clothes were not real (in my personal opinion, thank God).

Don't you wish your dog was hot like this? Courtesy American Eagle Outfitters
 Considering the overwhelming demand, AEO decided to make American Beagle Outfitters for the fall.

ABO is a selection of winter wear designed for dogs, including hats, sweaters and puffer (pupper) jackets.

Courtesy American Eagle Outfitters
The pupper jackets come in three colors: red, navy blue and silver. They are quilted microfiber with velcro fastenings. They run about $39.95, and the biggest size they come in is large.

Courtesy American Eagle Outfitters
I really like the sweaters, personally. It's full body, so it's more likely to keep a dog warm at the chest than the pupper is. A dog's heat escapes from the chest area. Unfortunately, the largest the sweater is made in is medium, which is disappointing, because I don't think the medium will fit Lulu. The sweater is also $39.95.


Finally there are the hats -- right now there are only two on the ABO page, but there are four in the media kit American Eagle provided me, so maybe more is coming out. As you can see the hats are basically what AEO showed us back in April. They run $15.95 a hat.

While the outfits are, for the most part, for style over substance, they do also match the fall line for humans -- so you and your pup can match.

American Beagle Outfitters outfits are available at some stores, and also online.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Barkworld recap in photos

This past weekend Lulu and I got to hang out with some of our buddies at Barkworld 2014 in Atlanta. Every year bloggers, rescue groups and other pet parents come together, learn how to use their online knowledge to help pets and meet pet product companies too.

But I like to go because ever since I started blogging I've met some great friends from all over the world. Some of them come to Barkworld every year!

Here's some pics from our weekend at Barkworld!

Lulu and her cousin Cappy.
Lulu is nuts for the Ellis Bros. pecan farm in Georgia. We stop every year.
Lulu tried some of the pumpkin latte from The Honest Kitchen.
Lulu goes shopping at the Jones Natural Chews booth.
And at the Zuke's Treats booth!
The mancat, the myth, the legend... Waffles the cat!
Waffles with his can: Mike's Harder "Mad Kitty Cocktail."
Lulu all dressed up as Tinker Bell for the Halloween party.
Lulu and Carma Poodale with Sarah.

Niqqi with Emmy the Pet Sitter.

The #PetChat team.
The crew! Follow them all!

Diane and Rocco: To Dog With Love
Sandra: Dolly the Doxie
Jan and Ricky
Deanna and Kona: K9 Carryall
Emmy: Emmy the Pet Sitter
Theresa: A CoonHound's Tales
Angel and Pepper: Pepper's Paws
Bunny and Carma: Carma Poodale
Mom and Cappy
And of course, Me and Lulu!

Monday, October 27, 2014

How to make an easy skirt for your dog this Halloween

I'm not big on costumes, but there is something amusing about a dog in a puffy skirt (like a tutu).

So when I had to come up with a Tinker Bell, I knew I needed a skirt. But I couldn't find one in the stores, and I didn't want to buy one online.

Turns out making a skirt is pretty easy!


What you need:
  • Elastic band (I used a one-inch wide band)
  • Tulle fabric in the color or colors you desire. Tulle is a net-like fabric that you can find at Jo-Ann Fabrics or other fabric stores. (I needed two yards of tulle. You might need more or less, depending on the size of your pet. The fabric cutters can help you measure.)
  • Needle and thread (or sewing machine)
  • Fabric tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Pins

1) Measure your dog's waist. It's best to do this in the middle so you have good room for the skirt. Make sure the band is comfortably snug.

2) Next, measure the length from your dog's waist to the tail. This will be for the individual "petals" you're going to make.

3) Cut your elastic to size, giving yourself a little wiggle room in case you need to adjust.

4) Now, we stitched the band together first, but if you are worried you'll have to make a bigger adjustment, you can make until the end of. I found it easier to stitch the band first.

We used my sewing machine and stitched a zig zag stitch, going over it a couple of times so it holds tight. This is so the stitch won't break if I have to stretch the elastic. If you don't have a sewing machine, you can hand stitch it, just make sure it's definitely tight. A zig zag stitch is better for elastic.
* You could also glue it. But you need to make sure that glue is pretty strong. I don't think I trust it.

5) Next you are going to measure out and cut your tulle. Remember that length measurement you took? You want to take that size and double it. You're going to fold that length of fabric in half. Like below. If you fold your tulle right, you should have two pieces of folded over tulle like so:

Next, cut two-inch strips of tulle. We actually use a paper pattern for this, since I'm not exactly a neat cutter.

6) Once you cut your strips, you're going to tie them onto the elastic.


I believe this is called a Larks Head Knot. You're going to take your folded tulle strip, place the loop at the elastic, then take the two ends of the tulle and pull them through the loop so they wrap around the elastic.

Doing it this way will create two layers of petals.

7) As you're tying your tulle the elastic, make sure to push each strip tight and close. This will give it its puffy effect.

8) If you already stitched the elastic before adding the tulle, then put it on your dog and adjust accordingly (you may need to trim the tulle, particularly in the underside). If not, stitch the elastic together using a zig zag stitch and then make the adjustments.

I paired Lulu's skirt with a green Thundershirt and Tinker Bell wings! She had her tail up the whole time, so she liked it.