Archive | June, 2013

Not a Pet Person

What’s a mom to do when she doesn’t love pets but her kids do? I’m excited to present today’s guest post by Christi Seidman, blogger for Growing Up Fort Collins.

Not a Pet Person

I don’t like dogs. They’re smelly. They ruin the yard, wipe their butts on the carpet, and sniff strangers where they don’t want to be sniffed. Their owners say they’re friendly, but to me that simply means they jump on people, lick faces, and tackle toddlers. Yes, they can be cute and cuddly, but I’m just not a dog person.

I don’t like cats. They’re destructive. They claw furniture, leave clumps of hair everywhere, and drag in dead rodent surprises. They pounce viciously and suddenly on their unsuspecting humans. They send my husband into red, watery eyed fits of sneezes and sniffles. Yes, they can be funny and playful, but I’m just not a cat person.

I love my children. They are also smelly and destructive, but I love them dearly.

So, what is a pet averse parent to do when the kids beg and plead for an animal friend?

Here’s what I did:

Arla the Rat

Yep, I caved in. My 12 year old daughter convinced me that she would benefit from having an animal friend, and she was adamant that she would take on the full responsibility. Here are the parameters we gave her:

1.       She can have one pet.

2.       It must be in a cage or a tank.

3.       It cannot be a snake or any other creature that eats live, squirming meals.

4.       We would take on the financial responsibility. She would take on the day-to-day responsibility.

With those guidelines, my daughter got to work. She completed extensive research to discover the best possible pet for her situation. She read books. She googled. She spoke with ‘experts’, otherwise known as her friends and the staff at a local pet store. After much deliberation, she settled on a fancy rat. Why? I’ll let her tell you:

“After much research, I decided on a fancy rat for several reasons.  They are smart and easy to train. In fact, I have litter box trained Arla. Also, they are usually neat and tidy. Not Arla! She tends to use her food bowl for extra bedding storage and puts the food, well, everywhere! Finally, like dogs, they tend to develop bonds with their owners and act socially, running to the cage door to meet any approaching human.”

Flash forward to one year later. Arla is thriving and my daughter spoils her. The rat even has an occasional playdate in the yard with Doodle, the rat who lives across the street. No, my daughter has not taken on 100% of the day-to-day responsibilities, but she has taken on most of it. We quickly learned that the enormous, tri-level rat cage was a nightmare to clean, so it is now a two person job. My husband and I have been known to rock-paper-scissors to determine who has to help with that particular chore.

And me? Have I come around to the idea of having pets?

Hmmm…

I don’t like rats. They’re gross. They nibble fingers, chew things up, and fling food within a one foot radius of their cage. Their claws are scratchy and uncomfortable and their long tails are creepy. Yes, they are smart and easily trained, but I’m just not a rat person.

Eager to connect with other parents in our community, Growing Up Fort Collins provides a resource for local families in Northern Colorado. Christi’s various experiences as a mom have instilled in her an understanding of parenthood in our community and a genuine empathy for the different challenges parents can face. She’s delving deep into our family-friendly city, exploring a variety of kid’s activities, writing honest reviews of her experiences, and gathering feedback and opinions from other parents.

Keeping your dogs safe this 4th of July

While many of us humans are looking forward to celebrating Independence Day next week, to our pets the holiday is anything but a celebration.

The loud crack and pops of fireworks causes severe anxiety in many dogs. The Denver Dumb Friends League reports July 5 is their busiest day of the year- often nearly doubling the number of lost pets brought into the shelter.

Dogs that are frightened of fireworks break free of their homes and yards, frantically running through the streets. Other dogs injure themselves trying to get out- to get away from the crashing thunderous noise of exploding fireworks.

It’s important to note that ALL fireworks are illegal to sell, possess, or use in the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County. That said, there will still be plenty of citizens breaking the law this 4th of July.

Our beloved pup, Kaylo, was terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms. That’s right, our 65+ pound American Staffordshire Terrier was a scaredy cat!

Kaylo’s anxiety would rise at most loud noises- he wouldn’t even go outside to go potty when our neighbors had their roof re-shingled due to the pop of the nail gun.

When he got scared he often hid in the closet, though to be fair, sometimes he slept in the closet for no particular reason.

We learned a lot about keeping Kaylo calm during fireworks and storms.

Summer 2010 051Yup, that’s Kaylo hiding in the closet- in a laundry basket, no less!

6 Tips to keep your dog safe this 4th of July

01. Keep your dog inside

Dogs left outside are more exposed to the noise and light, and far more likely to escape the safety of your property and run away in a panic. Keep your dog inside, preferably confined to a comfortable room or in his crate if he is crate-trained.

Our dogs are crate-trained and they not only love their crates, they see them as a safe place.

02. Keep your dog calm

If you put your dog in a crate, cover the crate with a blanket to help your dog feel safe and secure. Close your curtains or blinds to block out flashing lights. Play calming music in the background.

If possible, have a family member or trusted friend stay home with the dog. In years past we took the dogs downstairs with us and watched movies during the fireworks.

03. Keep your dog occupied

It may be helpful to give your dog a food puzzle, such a Kong filled with frozen yogurt, cottage cheese, or peanut butter. Food puzzles require dogs to work for food, keeping their minds occupied.

We often give our dogs food puzzles to reduce stress, anxiety, and boredom!

04. Talk to your veterinarian

If your dog’s anxiety is severe you may consider talking to your veterinarian before the July 4th holiday. Your veterinarian may prescribe medication help your dog keep calm.

In some cases you may even be able to give your dog over-the-counter Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to soothe anxiety but be sure to discuss the proper dosage with your veterinarian first!

05. Try a Thundershirt

The Thundershirt is a fabric wrap that provides a gentle, calming pressure that reduces anxiety, much like swaddling a baby or Temple Grandin’s Hug Machine!

The Thundershirt worked wonders for Kaylo- he was noticeably calmer during fireworks and storms wearing it.

06. Keep your pet licenses up to date

If your dog does escape from your home this holiday, your dog’s license is his ticket home! Make sure your pet is licensed with Larimer Humane Society and that your contact information is correct.

1 050With a little love and preparation your dog can be as chill as Kaylo!

It’s Take Your Dog To Work Day!

Happy Take Your Dog To Work Day!

Take Your Dog To Work Day was first celebrated in 1999 as part of a program to encourage pet adoption from animal shelters and breed rescues.

Living in Fort Collins has many advantages, one of which is enjoying the dog friendly community we share. This community creates a great opportunity to take advantage of Take Your Dog To Work Day!

While I’m excited about Take Your Dog to Work Day, I must admit I’m also a little nervous. Like I said before, my dogs aren’t perfect (and neither am I!)

What if Maggie got a case of the zoomies and started running around like crazy? What if Maggie and Malcolm started to wrestle and knocked over a piece of office equipment in the process? What if, what if, what if?!

Okay, so that’s my worst case scenario thinking, and I’m a little more optimistic than that. I am, however, also pragmatic, so I’m just going to bring one of my precious pups to work today.

Last night I performed a test run, introducing both dogs to my work environment to see how they responded. While both dogs behaved relatively well, Maggie showed some fear upon meeting one of my co-workers, so I decided to leave her at home. (Truth be told, I feel guilty leaving one of the pups at home.)

Mags at RCCAny guesses where I work?

Mal at RCCObviously, a bike shop, but which one?

And since I’m a planner, here’s my plan to make the most of Take Your Dog To Work Day:

  • Perform a test run to introduce the dogs to the environment and gauge their comfort level – (Done!)
  • Bring just one dog to work – (Malcolm)
  • Take the dogs for a walk before work to wear them out (even though I’m only bringing one to work)
  • Pack nummy treats to create positive co-worker-dog introductions
  • Pack a cozy, comfortable bed for dog snoozing
  • Be prepared to take a break and bring Malcolm home if it doesn’t seem to be going well – (Huzzah for working less than 2 miles from home!)

Okay, people, I’m ready to go!

I’ll be sharing photos and updates on Facebook and Twitter, so follow and join the fun!

Pet Friendly Housing in Fort Collins

Pet deposits, pet rent, and restrictions on species, size, and breed- finding pet friendly housing is a headache for pet owners.

I rented for years with my cats, rabbits, and iguanas, struggling to find affordable housing that didn’t nickel-and-dime renters, and let me assure you none of my pets caused property damage and I always received a full refund of any refundable deposits, but even as a responsible pet owner, finding pet friendly housing was a challenge.

pet friendly housingImage via sparktography

Fort Collins Pet Friendly Housing

A friend of mine recently asked me if I knew of any pet friendly housing in Fort Collins, as her and her husband are moving here from out-of-state. What a great topic for a blog post, I thought to myself! I mean, ummmm…., what a great opportunity to help my friend find affordable pet friendly housing!

As it turns out Larimer Humane Society has done most of the work for me! They have a fantastic resource page listing pet friendly apartments and pet friendly property management companies in the area! Huzzah, Larimer Humane Society!

So what’s the deal with breed restrictions?

I’m going to take the topic a step further because pets are close to my heart. Perusing the list of pet friendly housing I noticed a disturbing trend- breed restrictions. I couldn’t find one single property that didn’t have some kind of breed restriction! Not one property- yikes! :(

Restricted breeds, and restricted mixed breeds, make up a large number of dogs in our community. Of the dogs currently available for adoption through Larimer Humane Society, 12% are breeds commonly restricted. 30% of the dogs currently available for adoption through Animal House Rescue and Grooming are likely classified as breeds commonly restricted. (I say “likely” due to the fact that identifying breed of a mixed breed dog is difficult, even for experts, and always highly subjective.)

Dog breeds, and mixed breeds dogs including any of these breeds, that are commonly restricted include:

Akita
Alaskan Malamute
American Pit Bull Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier
Chow Chow
Doberman Pinscher
German Shepherd
Presa Canario
Rottweiler
Siberian Husky
Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Let me take a moment to make this very important point- “pit bull” is not a breed. The term “pit bull” is a slang term that may include the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier, or ANY dog that is short-haired, or medium-sized, or has a square head, or a wide chest, or any number of other physical characteristics.

Other options for pet owners

So let’s say your furry friend is one of those restricted breeds- what’s a renter to do?! The good people at BAD RAP have a list of helpful tips for renters with commonly restricted dogs.

Even following BAD RAP’s awesome tips, renting with a commonly restricted breed causes loving pet owners even more headaches and often results in these types of dogs being surrendered at the shelter. For those of you working to keep your dogs while renting- kudos to you!

For my part, I’m more grateful than ever to be a homeowner. I take back all my laments about home ownership, at least for today.

The challenges of bringing home a new pet

As much as I love my furry family, bringing home a new pet is a challenge. Everyone in the family, from human to animal, has to get through the difficult transition period that usually comes with the potential for loss of sleep, destruction of property, and, let’s face it, a little bit of lost sanity- at least temporarily. (Hey, I wasn’t really all that sane to start with!) Bringing home a new pet is stressful though it pays off in the end!

Gaining a new family member- the 14th most stressful life event

The Holmes and Rahe stress scale identifies 43 stressful life events. Some of the stressful life events are also happy life events, but stressful nevertheless! Gaining a new family member ranks 14 on the list of the most stressful life events.

Maybe you remember I recently adopted a new kitty, Max, from Larimer Humane Society. Let me tell you- Max is great! He’s curious, friendly, and easy going. Just look at him!

Max's first night 2

Max is doing just fine but everyone else in the household is still adjusting to the new family member. While the family dynamic improves every day it’s still a challenge to keep the pets separated when we’re not home and manage pet-to-pet interactions when we are home.

We followed many of the suggested guidelines for new pet introductions, including keeping the furkids completely separated for the first few days and doing slow introductions. It’s been going reasonably well, though our routines and habits have been interrupted in the process.

For example, we temporarily moved one of the litter boxes to our bedroom so we can keep Max with us in the bedroom at night. I’m almost getting used to being woken by the smell of a particularly pungent cat poo. Okay, that’s not true, I’m not getting used to it at all! It’s better than an alarm clock. If only we could get Max to make a stink at exactly 6:00am every morning. There’s no snooze for your nose, folks!

It’s all worth it in the end

I’ve been through the challenges of bringing home a new pet quite a few times throughout my life and it never really gets easier. After the challenge of the initial transition period I’m as happy as ever to share my life with my new furry friend!

I remember when we adopted Malcolm from Longmont Humane Society last year. After a successful initial meeting between Malcolm and Maggie we brought Malcolm home! But once Malcolm was in our home suddenly he and Maggie weren’t getting along so well.

For a few weeks I was worried it might not work out at all but as Malcolm gained confidence his interaction with Maggie improved- now they’re great friends! It was worth sticking through the first few difficult weeks to share my life with this adorable and sweet pup!

And just look at how well they get along today:

Maggie & Malcolm snuggles

Getting started with a new pet

If you’ve recently brought home a new pet, please stick with them and give everyone in your family the chance to adjust. Know that there will be challenges, but it will be worth it in the end!

I have some wonderful resources to share for the next time you bring a new pet into your home. Check out these great resources from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary:

For Cats

Welcome Home: Preventing Problems From Day One (For Cats)

Introducing a New Cat to Resident Cats

Introducing a Cat and Dog(s)

For Dogs

Welcome Home: Preventing Problems From Day One (For Dogs)

Introducing a New Dog to Resident Dogs

Introducing a Dog and Cat(s)