Pet Obesity Awareness Day

active bikes cyclist elderly
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Today is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day in America. Over half of the pet population in the U.S. are overweight. There are some simple steps you can take to maintain proper weight in your pet, which lead to tremendous benefits.

It’s so easy to let your pet and your own weight management go out the window. Your 40 hour work week, your physical and/or mental limitations, your schedule and agenda, your life demands, sometimes leave you with little room for anything else to accomplish; like talking your dog for a walk.

But there are some really simple things you can do. Even if you are couch-bound after a long day at work; grab a toy and play with your cat. Throw a ball over your shoulder for your dog to chase after. Engaging your pet in exercise does not necessarily mean you have to awkwardly put your jogging pants on and run a quarter-mile with them. Take your dog for a casual stroll around your neighborhood. Even 10 to 15 minuets of walking is beneficial to your pets health and your own.

Better yet; make it fun. There are many canine toys on the market that help to stimulate your dogs mind. Try giving them a puzzle to solve while keeping their legs moving. However try to avoid games that include treats; like Kong’s. This would be counter-productive to keeping your pets weight in line. Cats as well, can be stimulated by sound. Strumming your fingers on a table nearby or crumpling up a ball of paper for them to chase, is also a super easy way to get your cat interested and potentially active.

For some owners, it is hard to get their animal intrigued at anything at all. Some owners have the Garfield cat or the Snoopy dog that just lays around all day. This can be changed. Your pet is most likely used to the idea of not having to be active. So if at first, your pet doesn’t pounce at your new idea; try, try again. Eventually your pet will understand that you are attempting to make a change in the day’s program.

In the case where a person may be disabled and unable to provide a pet with adequate exercise, there are many websites such as care.com and petsitter, that offer pet services for a fee. You can set your own price and create your own ad, for someone in your area to come and exercise your pet for you.

There are so many advantages to keeping your pet active. Not only is it healthy for them- it is also healthy for you. Many cats, dogs, birds, horses, etc have a tendency to act out when not properly exercised. Certain health issues may develop as well, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and other illnesses that could cost your pet their life. Having a healthier animal means less trips to the vet, lower food bills, and more. To find out more information on pet obesity and things that you can do to right now to have a more active pet, click here.

If you already keep your pet active; then a big round of applause to you. Although pet food manufacturers may not like the idea of less treats; your pets do. Keep up the good work!

Dolly the Sheep Clone

In July of 1996 in Scotland, a little baby sheep took it’s first breath. A cute and soft little female lamb. She was named “Dolly.” Dolly (or 6LLS to her creaters) looked like a perfect sheep. No one would have been able to tell that Dolly was actually a clone. Born in a lab from a peatry dish.

Dolly’s life began from a mammary cell of one ewe, an egg from another, and then implanted into another for growth and birthing.

Beginning in 1998, Dolly herself became a mother and produced six offspring. Including twins and triplets.

Dolly died just under 7 years old as a result of lung cancer which is common in her breed. Scientists have stated that the development of the disease is not in any way connected to the fact the she was a clone. It was just a typical genetical flaw as any sheep of her breed could have gotten.

As of 2016 there are a reported 13 cloned sheep in existence, four of which come from Dolly’s cell line.

Dolly was not in fact the first animal to be successfully cloned. Records beginning in the 1950s show tadpoles, carp, and mice as being a prelude to Dolly’s scientific conception. Some records show that cloning actually dates back to the 1880’s. Since Dolly, many animals have been successfully cloned as well including cows, goats, pigs, monkeys, a cat, and a horse. Even attempts at cloning humans and extinct animals such as the Wolly Mammoth have been researched.

All of this information makes me wonder, why our scientific community sees these experiments as valuable. Although it is a natural tendency for scientific minds to explore new territories; are these experiments beneficial or harmful? Can we potentially recreate limbs or other body parts needed for those that have lost theirs? Where are we headed as a society with this process? The questions of intrigue are endless.

Cloning undoubtedly is an incredibly interesting topic. I encourage us all to take a moment to marvel at our world’s greatest scientific accomplishments.

Polly Wants More Than A Cracker

I had initially started this post with completely different intention. Yet as I did research on the topic of birds and their ability for speech and song, I came across a daunting reality. It became so amazingly clear to me that we, as a world and as a society, have a serious dilemma in front of us that is going seemingly ignored. Of all the birds that are vocal, Parrots are the ones which exhibit the greatest ability. It is for this reason that many of the wild Parrot species are being threatened, as they are taken captive to be sold as house pets.

I grew up in the 90’s and during that time, there was a public campaign to “Save the Rainforest.” Activists and wildlife experts then were trying to raise awareness for the need to stop the destruction of harvesting the rainforest for private companies. Thousands of trees and habitat were being cut down and ravaged through, without a single tree or bush being replanted in its place. All of the jungle wildlife were being threatened and guess what- It’s STILL happening! I’m in my 30’s now and lo and behold, very little is being done; and what is being done, simply isn’t enough. The population of jungle birds are dwindling as a result of this, and yet, this isn’t the only factor contributing to this decline. What birds that ARE left in the wild, are being taken into captivity for the pet trade.

red blue animals colourful
 “Hey we’re Macaws! Check out our Facebook status; Endangered! You can also follow us on Twitter!”                             Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

Common household exotic birds include: the African Grey, Amazon Parrots (various breed types,) Caiques, Cockatiels, Cockatoos, Conures, and Macaws. All of the birds I just named above are listed as an endangered species- aside from the Cockatiels and a few Macaw breeds. Don’t believe me? Click here!

Is it possible that these birds are being sought after in the private sector as a means of ensuring conservation? Maybe. And if so; that’s great! But why is that the first measure of conservation and not the last? Preservation of their natural habitat should be the focus; not harboring as many as you can until their apocalypses. The average cost of an African Grey is between $1,000 to $1,500. What I am suggesting is that, if you truly do care about these exotic birds, take that $1500 and donate it to the IUCN, or the Rainforest Foundation.  There is still time to save what is left.

 

The Pony People

close up of horse

 

Although the title of this blog sounds a bit on the creepy side and may lead you to believe that I’m going to talk about inbred rednecks that go on pony killing sprees; I’m actually not going to talk about any of that. No, The Pony People are the ones that I call die-hard pony owners. When talking with Pony People, I’ve noticed their dedication in their words. In mostly humble ways, they talk of their ponies and their greatness. It is a love you would see in dog and horse owners however there is more of a personal connection happening that I see with Pony People. So I’m going to talk a bit about ponies and try to find out why people are so committed and honored to be Pony People.

There is little information available on the number of ponies that are owned throughout the world. Although there is claim that in Scotland the pony population exceeds the number of human population.

One breed of pony, the Exmoor, according to the BBC,has been around since the time of Sabre-Toothed Tigers and Wolly Mammoths but now faces extinction. These ponies were traditionally used for plowing fields, delivering goods, and for bringing children to school in the snow. Their population today is a shy 2,700 due to the second World War. During that time, these ponies were used as target practice for soldiers and were stolen by thieves and eaten for meat. This surge brought the Exmoor population down to around 50. Breeding efforts are still underway, in hopes of taking this breed off of the endangered species list. If you would like to help, contact the Exmoor Pony Society to find out more.

Ponies are an excellent choice for blossoming child riders. Their smaller stature and gentle temperament makes them less dangerous for an unpolished young one to be around than its larger cousin the horse.

Ponies have been used for a wide number of things including: coal mining, farming, riding, transporting goods, jumping, and pulling carriages. Some ponies are exhibited in breed shows.

agriculture animals care cavalry
Photo by Tatiana on Pexels.com

Ponies are easier to care for than a horse. They require similar, if not exact, methods of care however, they require less amount of thatcare. For example, although both horse and pony need hay, a pony  will consume less.

It’s no wonder Pony People have such an affinity for these animals. They’re kind and gentle temperament, small size, low maintenance, and all around versatility make them the type of pet that any person would feel comfortable around.

To find out more about ponies or to make a difference in a pony’s life, click here,

United States Pony Club

UK Pony Club

Exmoor Pony Society

Thanks for reading!

 

What NOT to Look for When Getting a Dog

white and brown shih tzu mix puppy with minion toy on green grass
So you have decided to get a dog. Congratulations! You are on your way to experiencing a world of love, joy and dedication. There are so many dogs out there that it gives you a headache trying to pick just one. Maybe you’ve found yourself in the middle of a litter of puppies and they are ALL so cute! How to choose!? You’re beside yourself with excitement, emotions and puppy breath. It is for this reason that I have been asked to discuss what NOT to look for when buying a dog.
What are your needs in a dog?

Assuming that you have not in fact made it to the comfortable spot on the floor yet, surrounded by tumbling puppies; the first stage in finding a four legged match requires 100% honesty on your part. It is important to find a dog that matches your lifestyle. Are you an avid hiker and outdoorsman? Consider a spaniel or retriever. Are you more of a homebody? A less active dog would be appropriate. Are you looking for a running/jogging partner? Matching your needs alongside a dog is probably the most important aspect to consider. If you work a lot and are away from home for most of the day, a high energy dog should not be considered. If you are allergic to pet dander, check out some of the hypoallergenic breeds like Poodles and Irish Terrier. If you plan on doing a lot of travelling with your pet, be considerate of your pets size and needs. Although funny, it would not be humane to have to stuff your Great Dane into your 2 door coupe with his head protruding out of the sunroof. Maybe you want an elegant Maltese to help show your sophisticated side, that you can fit into a handy carrier without issue. Furthermore, male canines have some differing behaviors from females as well, so do a bit of research or talk to a veterinarian or trainer for more information. Identifying your needs in a dog will prove to be the most worthwhile effort in the long run. If you consider nothing else, consider at least this one factor.
What are you able/ willing to commit to a dog?

Identify how much time and resources you have. Do you have people that can watch your dog for you if you need? Do you have the right amount of income for the breed that you are considering? Certain breeds like Great Danes, Newfoundlands, and St. Bernards have considerably higher vet and food bills; due to their large size. Also some breeds are more prone to health issues. If you cannot wrap yourself around the idea of having to train a puppy and dedicate all of your time to correcting behaviors and mopping up pee spots, you should consider adopting an older dog. Maybe you want a dog for simple companionship; one that is well adjusted. Consider adopting a senior dog. Senior dogs have ran the gamut of exposure and experiences in their lives and often have more confidence, patience and acceptance. Are you going to be able to train the dog or will you be considering a professional trainer? Should a behavioral problem arise, what courses of action would you be willing and realistically able to take? Having an idea of the bigger picture, will help narrow down much of the daunting list of available canines out there.
Consider Breed….

Pretend for a moment that I am Mexican and you are Irish. My parents are from Tijuana; yours from Dublin. Although we are both human, I may have a tendency to be less tolerant of cold weather due to my genetics. Being Irish, you may occasionally find yourself wanting corn beef hash and cabbage. You don’t know why, but you just cannot stop searching restaurant menus online to see who has some really good corned beef hash and cabbage! This is the same with dogs. There are certain “tendencies” that each breed develops based on their genetic history that differ from other breeds. A St. Bernard would be okay in cold climates with his thick coat. A Coonhound can’t help but watch every little squirrel and critter that goes running by. All dogs use their nose and sense of smell but a Bloodhound may have a tendency to use that before any other sense. So consider the tendencies a breed may have. Identify whether any of those traits will be an issue for you. If you do not like a lot of barking and baying, do not consider a beagle or hound, for example, because these dogs have a genetic tendency to use these vocalizations. If you are unsure, contact a dog trainer or behaviorist, who can help you understand breeds better or visit a shelter and meet them firsthand. Do some research, because in the long run this will help avoid a lot of difficult situations for you and your potential dog.
…..But don’t consider breed

Although I have just spoke in depth about the importance of considering breed, it is also just as important to NOT consider the breed. Don’t let the breed type be the -end all be all- in your decision making. Using the same analogy of a Mexican and an Irish person, you cannot negate the fact that both are still human beings at the end of the day. Both will need food, love, and shelter. Both see the doctor when they are sick, both laugh and have friendships, etc. Many people buy from a breeder because they want a true blooded bird dog, for example, or a quick legged Greyhound.

However, not all dogs are what you read in books (if that’s even a thing anymore) or hear about. To make my point I will share with you a story that is not for the faint of heart. It is a true story that exemplifies to the letter, of why it is so important to NOT look solely at breed. There was a very sweet, young, intelligent, loving Husky/Malamute mix purchased for mushing (dog sledding.) He was trained (albeit poorly) in the art of mushing and lived the lifestyle of a sled dog. Whenever his harness was put on him, he would lay down in refusal. He did not want to pull a sled, and he would be abused as punishment for his refusal. He had scars on the sides of his body, and on his face from whipping. Thankfully, the owner surrendered the animal after 2 years, and the animal is now in a loving home where he is treated with utmost value, love and respect. The moral of the story is, just because the dog is a husky, doesn’t necessarily mean he will pull a sled. Just because the dog is a Brittany Spaniel, doesn’t mean he will flush and find birds. So remember that a dog, regardless of the breed, will have the same needs as any other dog, and remember as well the importance of not selecting a breed as an end all be all way of choosing a pup.
“The Dog Picked Me” Syndrome

This is a theory that makes me uncomfortable. Imagine you are out in a club with your friends and you see someone that peaks your interest. You move towards them and begin to engage them in conversation. Think honestly for a second, and tell me what trait you were feeling at the moment you approached. Confident? Maybe you go to this club all the time and have never recognized this person before. Are you feeling somewhat territorial? Is it out of aggression that you’ve approached? What made you so comfortable that you were drawn like a magnet to this person? All of these words described above, when used to describe a dog, is summed up by the word “dominant.” Dominant, in terms of a dog or animal, has become in our world today to be a very, very negative label.

Many professionals feel that when choosing a dog, to in fact not chose the dog that directly approaches you or “chooses you” first; since this act shows the trait of dominance.  The reason that this ideology makes me uncomfortable is because with proper instruction, dominance can be corrected. In fact, there is no better time for it to be corrected than in those young, and influential puppy stages. However, not everyone is able to be a responsive dog owner. Not everyone is able to take the time to correct each dominant behavior and some may not even be able to recognize what is dominant behavior and what is not. Therefore, professionals keep it simple by stating to in fact pick a different pup than the one whom approaches you first. You would look for a dog that acknowledges you but also is comfortable resuming play or other activities that may take their attention.

Adopting from a shelter or rescue group can help your decision making process simpler because of the fact that they have had exposure to the animal and are able to tell you certain traits or behaviors that may or may not be ideal for your life.

And Finally,

It happens, more often than people think, that someone you know, finds themselves in a desperate situation and can no longer care for their dog. Suddenly someone is unemployed, or they are being evicted. In the instance where you find yourself with a dog being thrown your way, or if you find that your new dog is not jiving with you or your life, consult an appropriate dog trainer. If you find that you honestly have no want or need to care for a dog, (as some people do) then take a trip to your local animal shelter or call your local animal control officer and forfeit the animal. Not only would you be doing the right thing, but you would be doing what is best for you and for the dog.

Thanks for reading. I hope this information helps in some way. And a huge high five to you for educating yourself before making such a big decision. That’s already being a great dog owner!

Music and Your Pet

printed musical note page
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Do you leave the radio or t.v. on for your pet while you’re away from home? If you do, don’t worry- you are not alone. I would often leave Classical music streaming at home while I was at work. My once anxious Great Dane, Vito, would slowly relax on his bed while Mozart and Beethoven played. After a month or so this response seemed to lessen and have a weaker effect. So I began to stream Elvis while I was away, and I would watch as he once again slipped off into a state of peace and serenity. His energy changing once again from tense, anxious, “Where are you going Mom!? Take me!” to ” Okay, I’m going to lay right here on my bed, wake me when you get back.” Although this process may seem to a human being to be an awkward behavior or a strange concept, there’s actually real science behind it.

According to research done by the Scottish ASPCA, dogs in particular were more relaxed while being played classical music in their kennels. The sounds were able to lower heart rates, reduce the amount of barking, and lessen the tell-tale “stress” sign of standing around aimlessly. Male canines especially were more responsive than females. Although these findings brought drastic behavioral changes, the effects did not last long (24 hours to be exact.)  However, classical music may not be the only genre your pet will respond to.

There are many audio tracks available on You Tube, for example, that help your bird to learn songs. Although interaction with your bird is ultimately the best way to encourage verbal retention, these audio clips which loop repetitively provide a good level of mental stimulus for most birds. Birds are able to recognize beat, tempo and frequency ranges and in turn try to mimic or translate those sounds into their own birdsong. The ability to perceive beat is not easy to find in any species other than the avian. If doubt exists of this uniqueness, you will find proof in the “dancing” and head bobbing that ensues with a boogeying Budgie, a two-stepping Cockatoo, or any bird for that matter!

To appeal to your pets musical tastes, you must first acknowledge how each species communicates. As birds are more keen on picking up tempos and frequencies of other birds in their vocal range; the same can be said for cats. Psychologists at the University of Wisconsin developed feline friendly songs to help decode the mystery behind cats and music. Working along the same theory of communication, they were able to create music that cats were noticeably interested in and in particular, the oldest and youngest of the tested group. Examples of the “cat music” can be found here.

Music appreciation goes beyond the realm of household pets however; as the Wild Dolphin Foundation explains. It is the percussive sounds of the 90’s rock band Radiohead that sweeps their dolphins off their feet! (Or should I say fins.)

Regardless of your species of pet; consider giving them the treat of music. You will be surprised at the results.