Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogsby Lynn Stacy-Smith The older you get the more you realize that some of the most beautiful and memorable things in life are the most simple, everyday moments. I find that this definitely holds true as a dog owner. As much as I am always thinking about and searching for adventures and fun things to do with Jackson and Tinkerbell, perhaps my favorite time with them is mid-morning, just sitting on the floor of our family room to play with them and pet them. The dogs and I have a very regular schedule that includes their playtime, meals, and potty time. I never consciously set this schedule, it just evolved and the dogs are sticklers about adhering to it, like furry Sheldon Coopers. If they could they might write-up a Dog Owner Agreement for me to sign, but thankfully they don't have thumbs and can't read. We seem to fine tune the schedule as time goes on and I have noticed recently that the dogs have added a 9:30 a.m. round of indoor bitey face and zoomies that never used to occur. [caption id="attachment_3650" align="alignleft" width="300"] Tink enjoying a post-lunch antler[/caption] At 11 a.m. they are ready for lunch and will remind me of this by sitting and staring at me with great intensity. After lunch, Jackson likes to come to me to do "upside down puppy" which is the name we have given to his odd habit of laying down for a tummy rub headfirst up against a human with a twist onto his back. I have never been able to successfully capture a photo or video of this, but he stands next to me while I sit on the floor leaning against our big chair-and-a-half sized recliner, then puts his head down on the floor next to my leg, and rolls himself head first onto the ground and then onto his back with a gymnast style twist. Once on his back he sticks all four legs into the air and waits for a tummy rub. It is impossibly adorable and puppy-like and is a loveable contrast to his serious, intense appearance. While I sat on the floor and scratched Jackson's belly, Tinkerbell relaxed on the love seat across from me and chewed her antler. I sat quietly and enjoyed the moment, the only sounds coming from the open window and the birds and insects outside, Tinkerbell's chewing, and an occasional contented groan from Jackson. [caption id="attachment_3652" align="alignleft" width="300"] Jackson waiting for me to give the "upside down puppy" go-ahead.[/caption] I had watched some of the 9-11 memorials on television earlier in the morning and was feeling some of the emotions that many of us feel every year on this horrible anniversary: reflective, sad, heartbroken for the victims and families of that day, remembering where I was, what I was doing and how the day unfolded so close to my hometown while I was all the way across the country living my life in Indiana. As I peacefully petted Jackson, I also was overwhelmed with pride for my firefighter husband and the work he does day in and day out, and also grateful for my own life and to be here on this exact day in this exact place. After awhile Jackson decided he was finished with his tummy rub and he hopped up and chewed on the antler for a few minutes with Tinkerbell who had moved a few feet away from us. They played back and forth with the antler for a few minutes and then both went to claim a soft spot on the sofa in our front room for their afternoon nap, the next event in their daily routine. They will now nap until around 3 or 4 pm when they find me to let me know that it is time to go outside or go for a walk. As I thought about today's blog and what I was going to write about (something I usually do during the aforementioned puppy nap time), I realized that many of my friends and readers could relate to the simple pleasure of just spending quiet time with your dogs, whether they are newly adopted and you are getting to know them or if you have an unspoken schedule and routine that you share from years of living life together. Dogs are the experts at living in the moment, and I think it's a lesson we can surely take from them, to not just live in the moment, but to enjoy each and every good moment in life even if it's something as simple sitting on the floor of your family room with your furry best friends.
When Life Gets Crazy: Overcoming Dog Owner Guiltby Lynn Stacy-Smith Here in our part of Illinois we are less than a week away from wrapping up the school year. With a son graduating high school, along with school trips, band concerts, choir concerts, end of year AP exams, end of year celebrations for all of their clubs for the two girls, our lives have been crazier than normal. Of course, having just written about the fact that having fun with your dog is the whole point of having a dog, we ended up with an unusually busy weekend that was completely un-fun for Jackson and Tinkerbell. Saturday we were up and out of the house by 9 a.m. and did not arrive home until almost 4 p.m.. Our high school has graduation at a college that is forty-five minutes away to allow all graduates to have more than just two tickets per family. With a blended family we definitely appreciate that we received ten tickets, but it made for a longer day than usual for our dogs. Of course most dogs are alone for that amount of time while their humans work, but with our particular work schedules and nuances of our careers, our dogs are with us for more time than the average American dog with two working humans caring for them. As a result, to have them in their crates for seven hours and to miss their noon Puppy Lunch filled me with extreme guilt. Of course upon our arrival home they greeted us with their normal excitement and sniffed me all over to try to figure out where we had been. "There were no other puppies, I promise you," I told them, "Not a single one! I was only around humans today!" We went outside immediately, they ran around and frolicked in the grass, I fed them their lunch even though dinner would be in two more hours, gave them plenty of kisses and tummy rubs, and all was right in their world. On Sunday we were up and out the door by 6 am for a 5K/10K to raise funds for Run Fur Shelter, a not-for-profit organization that raises money for food, medicine and shelter for the dogs of humans with financial needs. Although the race was to help dogs, I remembered from past years that the actual race was for humans only, and so Jackson and Tinkerbell had to stay behind. By the time we finished the races (I walked the 5K while my husband ran the 10K), visited the various vendors who had sponsored the event, picked up our free bananas and granola bars and headed home, and admired some puppies who were up for adoption, we did not arrive home until just before noon. Although that resulted in only six hours in their crates, I felt guilty because my husband was going to spend the afternoon tearing down the wooden swing set that nobody used anymore and I had aggravated the tendonitis in my ankle, taking away any walks or adventures for them that day. Plus I had come home from this event smelling like multiple other dogs. Of course a seven hour day and a six-hour day safely in their climate controlled crates is perfectly humane and reasonable. Most dogs do this every day while their humans are at work. Jackson and Tinkerbell are just very lucky that I work for myself in our own home and have me with them twenty-four hours a day, sometimes for several days in a row! In fact I have been out of the corporate world and without a commute for all of Tink's life, having left my old job a month before she was born. I think dog owner guilt is the same as mom-guilt. We see the lives that other dogs are having, with seemingly endless adventures and fun destinations, and we feel like awful pet owners for sometimes just giving the basics like love, shelter, physical affection, food, treats and water. It's similar to knowing those Pinterest Moms who do incredible craft projects with their teens or take them on grand adventures each weekend into the city and to plays and shows, and I'm here with mine saying "Hey, we can watch a movie, run through Starbucks, and walk the dogs together!" In reality what matters the most with our kids is that we are together, and that's really the same thing with our dogs. [caption id="attachment_3345" align="alignright" width="225"] Happy just snuggling with humans[/caption] I always have to remind myself that my dogs have amazing lives, and sometimes I have to go and do things that are only open to humans, like business meetings, professional events, graduations or band concerts. They are safe, they are loved, they are treated well, and they are happy. Sometimes I have to consciously remind myself that spending the day sniffing every inch of the grass in their big fenced yard, getting tummy rubs, and playing a game of fetch with the free frisbee I picked up at the 5K is a perfectly reasonable and fun way to spend the day as a dog, particularly since they are just happy to be having fun and hanging with their humans or sleeping across our laps as we ice our ankles from that early morning 5K.
The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listeningby Lynn Stacy-Smith Yesterday was Mother's Day, a day that used to be very difficult for several years after my own Mom passed away when I was just thirty-four, an age at which you are a full-fledged adult but also assume that you are going to have your parents around for a good twenty or more years. These days, though, I am blessed to be celebrated for my own maternal role in the lives of my kids. I became a step-mom in April 2007 when I moved in with my husband and his three young children. He shares custody with the kids' mother but because he has residential custody and the kids go to school in our district they are with us perhaps 60% to 70% of the time, especially now that they take the bus to school. This means that I became much more than an every-other-weekend step-mom, and I have been quite happy to take on the increased responsibilities and time with these incredible kids. In 2013 when I left my corporate job to become self-employed, I really dug into the role of being a mother as I was able to give rides to school and actually make it to games and concerts instead of getting stuck in traffic during my commute home and feeling like I was missing out on everything that was important in life. In those last four years of being extremely active and present in their lives I have developed an even greater love for them and truly feel like they are my own. They are far more than "step" kids to me. In addition to receiving awesome gifts like my favorite Starbucks drink, a card with a giraffe Mom and baby, and a new Pandora bracelet, their hand written messages in my card were the true gifts. They were at their mom's house for the day so for dinner my husband took me for sushi, my favorite dinner out. We came home and resumed my catching up on The Walking Dead (I am on Season 5, episode 6, Chuck and our middle teen watch it as it happens) and chilling with Jackson and Tinkerbell. When the kids came home from their mother's house later that evening, our youngest girl filled me in on her progress with her 8th grade English project in which they had to write about a cause that was close to their heart and use Pathos, Ethos and Logos to prove their point. Her cause: ending animal abuse. She told my husband and me all the information she had researched and written about, including the difference between direct physical abuse and indirect abuse/neglect. She went on to talk about how she had researched puppy mills and included those conditions as being abusive and also concluded that the lack of screening of potential puppy buyers in the pet stores that sell puppy mill and backyard breeder puppies could mean that abusive humans were able to easily purchase puppies from these stores and continue the abuse. She also concluded that this same lack of screening could contribute to dogs being surrendered to animal shelters because it meant that anyone could buy a puppy and then decide they did not want it anymore. "Have you read my book?" I asked her. "No," she replied. "Uh, ok, because you just touched on a number of topics that I am extremely passionate about in my blog and my book, so I am super proud that you came up with that on your own!" "No, I haven't read your blog at all but I understand why you said it takes so long to write and research each post, I have a new respect for what you do!" That right there was the mic-drop moment of parenting, my friends! We are pretty old school parents and we refuse to raise entitled self-centered brats. My firefighter husband sees the best and the worst of humanity. He won't bring the stresses and horrors of his job home to us but every now and then he has shared stories with the kids now that they are teens, when they get a bit too big for their decision-making britches and think they know everything, and those stories of "what can happen when you make bad decisions" are eye-opening. Same with my job only much different and less hands on: I hear about the heartwarming stories of dog lovers going above and beyond for their dogs, and I hear the tragic "what the hell is wrong with people" stories that stick with you and make you wonder what could cause such evil. For our 14-year-old daughter to come up with those concepts and thoughts on animal abuse on her own and then say "I have a new respect for what you do" is an incredible feeling. It was hands down the most incredible mother's day gift that I could have received. One of the main focuses of my book and my blog is to encourage people to be compassionate dog owners. Putting yourself in your dog's position is the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. I am not naive enough to think that I can change the entire world and make everyone loving and compassionate toward animals. But I do know one thing: our kids are listening to what we say. Our kids are among those who we can impact with lessons about being kind to dogs and to all animals. They are the next generation of dog owners and will use the lessons they learned about pet care in the same way many of us learned from our own parents, so keep talking to them about topics like preventing animal abuse, being a responsible owner, why it is so important to do your research before getting any pet, making sure you make time in your life for your cats and dogs, and all of the other things that are so important in raising compassionate human beings. It can make a difference, it will make a difference, and we are already making a difference. [shopify embed_type="product" shop="love-laugh-woof.myshopify.com" product_handle="love-laugh-woof-a-guide-to-being-your-dogs-forever-owner" show="all"]
Funny Puppy Stories: The "Laugh" in Love, Laugh, Woofby Lynn Stacy-Smith The Laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof is all about including laughter and fun in your life with your dog. Whether it is laughing at the funny things dogs do, understanding that dogs enjoy the sound of our laughter and realize it is a fun and happy sound, or wryly laughing at something naughty or frustrating that your dog has done, laughing is important in life and with dogs. Sometimes laughter falls into the category best described by my favorite songwriter Bruce Springsteen, like the lyric from Rosalita that says, "someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny." Stories like the one I wrote about earlier this week in The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree fall into this category. That day was terrifying and stressful when it happened, but now I can tell it with a type of self-deprecating humor about how I tore the cherry tree right out of the ground and whisked Jax off to the vet only to later learn that it wasn't the harmful type of cherry tree, as well with some laughter about what a naughty puppy Jackson often was when he was little. As we continue our theme of puppies for the next week, here are two of my favorite puppy stories from each of my dogs.
Jax Mistakes Inside for OutsideJackson came home to us on May 5, 2011, and like most summers in the Midwest the temperatures stayed consistently in the 80s and 90s from Memorial Day until after Labor Day. Because we have zero shade trees and it feels like we are living on the sun, our air conditioning runs pretty much non-stop. The front of our house gets so hot for most of the day that you literally cannot touch the metal door knob without burning yourself and I'm afraid to hang a decorative wreath for fear of it combusting! As a result, virtually all of Jackson's first four months with us were spent with the windows closed and the lined drapes in the front of the house closed to help keep the house cool. [caption id="attachment_3193" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sorry, Mom, I thought I was outside![/caption] As we headed into fall that first year of his life, Jackson was 100% house trained. In fact he had not had an accident for about two months, a major accomplishment that we are actually going to talk about in my next blog. As a fully house trained dog I no longer followed him around watching to see if he would squat, and he had not yet started to lift his leg. We were keeping him intact until his first birthday for health considerations and thankfully he did not have any obnoxious boy dog behavior yet. On the first day that the temperatures dropped we turned off the air conditioning and opened all of the windows. In the front room of our house we have large picture windows that are quite low to the floor. That afternoon I was sitting in the front room reading a magazine and Jax started to explore the world through the picture windows, his black nose pushed up against the screen while he sniffed the outside air. I watched and smiled as he moved along the length of the window, pausing periodically to sniff some more. "Whatcha smelling, sweet boy, do you like having the windows open?" I asked him and he wagged his tail in response, nose still smushed up against the screen. My warm fuzzy feeling came to a screeching halt when he got to the bushes at the far side of the window. They were planted outside but tall enough that they actually touched the screen and he sniffed with great interest before squatting and peeing a little right where he stood sniffing. "NO!" I exclaimed loudly and told him, "Outside, outside!" I grabbed his leash and snapped it onto his collar and took him out the front door, praising him heartily as he finished urinating near the same bush only outside the house. Once inside he watched with great interest as I sopped up the pee with paper towels and then squirted it heavily with a mixture of white vinegar and water. I pointed to the violated area and calmly said, "no" while his eyes searched my face as if he understood. I didn't say another word, not wanting to do anything to accidentally reinforce this behavior.
Note: It is important to reinforce that you have to correct your dog while they're doing the behavior but since he was looking at the pee I took the chance that he'd understand. Remember to never punish your dog by rubbing their nose in a potty accident.Later on I shared the story with my husband. "So you know how Jackson hasn't gone potty inside in a few months? He was sniffing out the front screens and when he got to the bush he peed on the floor! I swear he got confused and thought he was outside!" That was the last accident we ever had and five and a half years later he's never even had an accident when sick. We still joke about it anytime the weather is right for open windows. "Ok, Jaxy boy, you are inside the house, ok?" we laugh as he wags his big otter tail and nuzzles us lovingly. Part of me thinks he understands and is laughing along with us.
Tinkerbell vs. The Dishwasher[caption id="attachment_3192" align="alignright" width="225"] Tink at obedience school with plenty of homework to work on the "off" command![/caption] It is quite normal for a dog to be interested in the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I mean, come on, it's at their level and all of the dishes have remnants of actual food or at least the scents of human delicacies that are usually off-limits to dogs. They cannot resist trying to take a little lick as you turn to grab the next dish to put on the racks. Tinkerbell was particularly persistent in her obsession with licking the dirty dishes. She was around five months old and we had been working on the "off" command, blocking her from licking the plates and silverware and telling her off. In typical puppy rearing fashion this process was done over, and over, and over, and over. Her desire to get a taste of our dinner kept winning over her desire to please us by following our instructions. After all, dogs want to please their humans, unless it involves a young Labrador and their mutated gene that gives them their love of food. One night I was cleaning up after dinner and Tinkerbell was in her normal spot, watching me and waiting for her chance to get a lick of a semi-dirty plate. The door was open and the bottom rack pulled out all the way. I turned to the sink to rinse out a pan and swiveled back to the dishwasher just in time to see the bottom rack go flying off of the door, bouncing and clattering across the kitchen floor with plates and silverware flying out of it and Tinkerbell racing at top speed in front of it as if she was being chased. [caption id="attachment_3191" align="alignleft" width="225"] Helpful appliance or terrifying contraption?[/caption] I ran after Tinkerbell and the dishwasher rack and caught up to her in our family room. She was panicked as I caught her and quickly removed her collar from her neck. One of the tags on her collar had somehow gotten caught in the narrow side portions of the wire rack and attached her to the rack, startling her. When she tried to pull away she had jerked the wire rack off its channel, which scared her even more, and she took off with the entire dishwasher rack "chasing" her. It all happened so fast that it was like a scene out of a cartoon, her paws slipping on the tile floor as she tried to run faster than she could with dishes flying out all around her. You could have substituted Pluto for Tinkerbell and animated it for a surefire Disney hit! These days at three and a half years old, Tinkerbell still loves to stand by the dishwasher and watch me. She embraces the "off" concept, though, but every now and then she darts in to try to get a lick. I tell her a stern "off" and she backs up and looks at me like they are trained to do with that command, waiting for further direction. Sometimes I ask her, "Don't you remember what happened the day the dishes chased you, sweet girl?" as she wags her tail sweetly, "Now, out of the room!" With a big doggie sigh she heeds the "out" command and goes to join Jackson in the living room, away from the potential attack of the dishwasher.
Do you have funny puppy stories? Join the Love, Laugh, Woof Forever Owners Facebook group and share your best "laugh" stories of life with your forever dog!
How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Ownerby Lynn Stacy-Smith I. Love. Puppies! If you read that with the same tone of voice as Oprah saying that she loves bread on her Wight Watchers commercial, then you read it correctly! I. Love. Puppies! When I see a puppy I am the same way that most women are around babies. I cannot wait to hold that puppy in my arms and get puppy kisses and snuggles. Large breeds in particular are my favorite to hold and snuggle because they stay that small for such a short time. I often look at my own dogs and reminisce about when I could hold them in my arms while they slept when they weighed just fifteen pounds, and how they are now big sturdy adult dogs who I love more with each passing day. In my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner, I write extensively about puppies, how to prepare for them, how to choose where to get your puppy, how to house train them, the first few days with you, and a variety of other important topics. I am able to guide other puppy owners through these essential areas because of the experience I have from raising dogs my entire life and my recent puppy rearing of first Jackson and then Tinkerbell. I have definitely walked the walk of the puppy owner! Perhaps the most important thing to master as a new puppy owner is to be a compassionate puppy owner. And although I am loath to rely on the dictionary definition of a word to make a point, this is a word that we hear frequently but may not understand entirely. If you're like me I think about compassion in terms of being understanding and putting myself in the other person or animal's position. But the definition of compassion, according to Merriam Webster's online dictionary, has another element to it. The definition reads that compassion is "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it." So compassion is not just being understanding, there is an important element of helping to actively alleviate the distress that the other is feeling. [caption id="attachment_3179" align="alignleft" width="300"] I am looking to you for guidance every step of the way![/caption] So how do we translate this into raising a puppy? It means that we as humans are conscious of the difficulties of being a puppy and trying to figure out the rules of the human world and that we have a desire to help them understand the rules and alleviate any stress that they are going through as they go along the puppy learning curve. No matter where your puppy comes from, to leave their mother and litter mates is traumatic. No matter how much you love them and plan to care for them, all they know is that everything they have grown used to has changed without warning. Some puppies, like those born into puppy mills, backyard breeders or even worse situations in which the humans do not care about the mothers of the puppies or the puppies themselves, may have never known the love of a human, the comforts of a responsible breeder or foster home. It is even more terrifying for them to go into the unknown. Before your puppy comes home, or when you can take a few minutes to yourself if your puppy is already living in your home, take a few minutes to sit quietly and close your eyes. Try to picture a movie screen and the experiences of your puppy playing out on the movie screen. Imagine their life before you adopted them, imagine you are watching from outside the situation as they spend time with their mother and their litter mates, and then imagine your puppy leaving them and making their journey to your home. Picture how everything looks to them from their point of view. Imagine them trying to figure out their sleeping arrangements, where to go to the bathroom, how to explore new things when they do not have hands or thumbs or the ability to talk to us. Imagine what it must be like to have to explore their environment through trial and error, choosing to chew on something and then being corrected over and over. Imagine what it is like to be lonely in another room without the understanding of when or if you will ever return. Imagine what it is like for all of their basic needs to be fulfilled by you. [caption id="attachment_3180" align="alignleft" width="300"] Jax took every chance to learn and explore![/caption] When you step back from the situation, watch their journey and experiences as if you were watching a movie, and put yourself in the puppy's position it is easier to have compassion. It is easier to be sympathetic to their situation and have the desire to alleviate their stress and help them learn in a patient and repetitive manner. When you put yourself in your puppy's position it is easier to understand that not only do you have an infant of an entirely other species, but that there is a language barrier and different natural instincts. In my book I talk frequently about the fact that dogs and puppies are not furry humans. They are a completely different species from us. It doesn't mean we should treat them poorly because of it, it doesn't mean that we can justify being unkind or unfair. It just means that it is critical to be compassionate, to figure out how they learn, to learn how you can teach them the rules of the house, to understand how you can communicate with each other. It is important to remember that puppies and dogs are sentient beings, full of emotions, thoughts, and feelings like us, but with many differences, too. You love them like they are furry humans but you must treat them like they are dogs and honor the fact that they are dogs. [caption id="attachment_3181" align="alignleft" width="300"] Jax planning his next puppy mischief or dreaming about the future?[/caption] Of course being a compassionate owner does not mean that you never correct your dog or train them. Just like when you parent human children, your job is to teach your puppy the rules of living in their environment to keep them safe and to keep them from destroying your home. A great puppy owner does that with a never-ending amount of patience, fairness, love, and firmness, by teaching and correcting wrong behaviors with repetition, guidance and compassion.
The Love, Laugh, Woof blog is being taken over by puppies!
Watch for more puppy blogs tomorrow and all of next week!
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World Spay Day: Worldwide Issues and How to Helpby Lynn Stacy-Smith Two years ago my foster dog Destiny changed my life forever. She did it in small ways, by letting me teach her to trust people, to transitioning from being terrified of anyone touching her anywhere other than under her face to being the type of 60 pound lap dog who sprawled across your entire lap in a deep sleep. She did it by letting me rehab her from a terrified former stray into a beloved and happy dog headed into her forever home. One of the most noticeable thing about Destiny was that her nipples were extended as if she had had puppies recently or just so many litters of puppies that they never went back to normal. When found as a stray, tied to a tree and left to die in a wooded area of Puerto Rico, she was around six or seven years old and un-spayed. Like many rescue dogs, she was promptly spayed before making her journey from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Chicago, Illinois. [caption id="attachment_116" align="alignleft" width="448"] Destiny crashed out after a game of ball[/caption] Because of Destiny, I began following the work of the non-profit organization Love Puerto Rico Goldens on Facebook. Because of Facebook translations I was able to learn about their near-daily task of rescuing purebred Golden Retrievers and Golden Retriever mixed breed dogs and puppies who have been abandoned and left entirely homeless. Because most of them are intact and able to reproduce, they do, in plentiful numbers. A few months after Destiny found her forever home a friend of mine went to Puerto Rico for a wedding. "You can probably bring a few puppies back in your carry on," I joked, although it was a joke with a wish that she could save a few dogs while down there. She texted me from there and said, "Oh, Lynn, it's so heart breaking, there are dogs and puppies everywhere, just wandering along the streets." According to an article on CNN Money, "People are literally fleeing Puerto Rico because the island's economy is so bad. One in 10 people is out of work. The island's government has run out of money and is $72 billion in debt. Over 10% of the population has booked a one-way ticket out (mostly to Florida, Texas and elsewhere in the mainland U.S.) in the past decade. Sometimes people just leave their homes and lock their dogs inside, never to return." The same CNN Money article includes ways to help with dogs in Puerto Rico: http://money.cnn.com/2016/03/20/news/economy/puerto-rico-crisis-stray-dogs/ . You can also donate directly to Love Puerto Rico Goldens, which is 100% dependent on donations: http://www.lovepuertoricogoldens.org/. Even more heartbreaking is that this issue is in no way unique to Puerto Rico. If you remember leading up to the Sochi Winter Olympics there was a massive culling of stray dogs and the despicable and inhumane term "biological trash" used to describe the innocent dogs who are a victim of irresponsible humans. These situations happen all over the world. How can you help?Donations, spreading awareness, volunteering and spaying or neutering your own dog(s) are important things that you can do to help with pet overpopulation problems both here and around the world.I found three web sites with important information on how you can make a difference. Click on these links to read more:
- After Sochi Cull, How Do We Resolve the World’s Stray Dog Problem?
- American Humane: Get Involved
- Animal Sheltering: Promote World Spay Day
Ten Traits of Responsible Dog OwnersBy Lynn Stacy-Smith The month of February has quite a few different awareness events and in the end, all of them fall under the umbrella of being a responsible pet owner. In fact, that is what Love, Laugh, Woof is all about: being a responsible and forever owner from the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the last breath that they take by your side. So while every single month is Responsible Pet Owner month in reality, let's take this opportunity to share ten traits of responsible dog owners: [caption id="attachment_693" align="alignleft" width="236"] Jax is everything a lab stud dog should be...we neutered him anyway! No puppies from this boy![/caption] 1. Responsible owners spay or neuter their dogs: Responsible owners leave the breeding up to professional/hobby/show breeders who already have a demand for their dogs before they create the supply. By spaying your females you never have to worry about them going into heat (as messy and miserable as it is for human women) or having unwanted canine suitors lining up outside your fence to get to your female like Scarlett O'Hara at the barbecue. In the same way, neutering your male means that he can focus on being your best friend instead of searching out a mate and acting like a testosterone driven dog. Let's face it, there's a reason we refer to overly promiscuous men as "dogs", right? Take that desire off your male dog's mind and let him just be your best friend; he does not need a female dog to be his friend with benefits. 2. Responsible dog owners provide good medical care: I once had a vet who told me "thank you" for choosing to go with more elaborate tests to seek a diagnosis for my now late German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch. "Why are you thanking me?" I asked, legitimately confused. Dutch was my dog, a part of my heart and soul, why wouldn't I do everything possible for him? "Not everyone goes this far to try to keep their dog healthy," was their answer. What an eye-opening lesson that was! In my mind proper medical care was a given. A sick dog went to the vet, period. You did everything in your power and budget to help them. Responsible pet owners provide basic care like annual exams (or even better, twice a year), heartworm pills, and vaccinations. They also know how their dog looks and behaves when healthy, notices changes like acting lethargic or a change in appetite or lumps and bumps that appear, takes them to the vet, pays for testing and treatments and follows the vet's orders for home care. [caption id="attachment_53" align="alignright" width="315"] Dogs on the sofa? Totally![/caption] 3. Responsible owners create a comfortable living environment: Today I shared via Facebook a heart wrenching video of extremely young puppies covered in flea bites, scabs and a horrible skin disease. All they had known was disease, misery, pain, suffering and filth for the few weeks since they had been born, and they were so young that they were not even ready to leave their mother. Luckily they had been rescued after their owner literally dumped them off somewhere. There was no sign of their mother and my heart breaks even more wondering what her fate is. Responsible owners provide a clean, climate controlled, bug and pest free, safe, comfortable environment for their dog in their residence. Dogs are pack animals and want to be with their humans. They should live inside the family home with the human family, whether it is a family of one or ten, and be with the humans when they are home or safely in their own secured, climate controlled spot with access to water when the humans are away. 4. Responsible owners train their dogs what to do: Imagine being hired for a new job. Nobody tells you what to do, what they expect of you, or how to do it. When you try to do it your own way they yell at you for doing it wrong. That is what it is like for a dog who does not receive training. Although we are able to create loving bonds and incredible friendships across our different species, living in a human world does not come automatically to a dog. Training them what to do is responsible and gives them the confidence to go about their day-to-day lives with you with joy and the relaxing knowledge that they are pleasing you. 5. Responsible owners are calm, fair, kind and compassionate: Good leaders do not need to yell and use aggression to motivate and lead people. This is the same with dogs. Your dog needs you to be their leader, establish rules and be firm, but they also need you to be calm, fair, kind and compassionate. Anything else will just scare and confuse them and break their trust in you. The fact of the matter is that dogs living in a human world need you. Their entire life revolves around you, for love and companionship, food, water, and every basic need. Any good leader respects her team, and it is quite possible to respect and honor your dog while still being their leader. 6. Responsible owners provide quality nutrition: You don't have to be able to afford the most expensive food on the market for your dog, but providing a good quality food made with safe ingredients is important. Dogs are like computers: garbage in, garbage out, and the better the food your provide the healthier your dog should be. If you are on a super strict budget, try to avoid anything with the words "animal" or "by-product" and the controversial menadione. Dog Food Advisor is an amazing website that can help you research particular brands of food. 7. Responsible owners exercise with their dogs: Whether you participate in an official dog sport like agility, or if long walks are your thing, responsible dog owners make sure their dogs get plenty of exercise and enjoy getting exercise together. There is a mind meld that you get with your dog when you are out exploring the world together. [caption id="attachment_1975" align="alignleft" width="279"] Tink going on an adventure[/caption] 8. Responsible owners make time for their dogs: Obviously life happens and sometimes you have to work long hours or go to human only events, but spending time with your dog is the whole reason you got them. One of the cruelest things you can do to a dog is to ignore them or stick them in a kennel or room away from their humans. Dogs are fun, they are comforting, and they are some of the best friends I know I've ever had, and all they ask in return is for our companionship. Even when I was a single dog owner with a full time job and an active social life, I made sure I carved out substantial and frequent blocks of time that were dedicated just to my dog Babe. 9. Responsible owners are their dog's rock solid support system at the end of their life: I have lain on the floor of the vet's office with four different dogs at different times in the last twelve years as the veterinarian gave them the two injections to end their lives. All four times I held my own self together, not showing my fear or my grief or pain until they had all passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. It was only after the vet told me that each of them was gone that I let myself howl with grief, finally able to let my own pain out. Why? Because I did not want to stress them, worry them, scare them, or have any sort of negative energy around them during the final moments of their lives. My job was to be their rock, after all of the times that they had been there for me, it was the most important moment for me to be there for them. There are no excuses to not be there with your best friend, I don't care how hard it is or how painful. It is an unwritten promise that we give to them the moment we accept them as our dog. [caption id="attachment_2630" align="alignright" width="302"] Babe[/caption] 10. Responsible owners are forever owners: From the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the final breath that they take with you by their side. Forever. Responsible owners do not surrender their dogs to kill shelters, let them loose in the woods and drive off to let them fend for themselves, list them on Craigslist or anywhere else "free to a good home," tie them to trees, tape their muzzles, or any of the other truly evil things that have been done to innocent dogs to "get rid" of them. They do not give up on them or harm them in any way. Period. And if extenuating circumstances happen, they reach out to every rescue group until they can find a no-kill option, pay the surrender fees, and make sure that their dog will find a new, loving, forever home. Please share this with anyone you know who is considering getting a dog or who is a new dog owner. Irresponsible pet ownership is, in my opinion, the primary reason for the massive pet overpopulation problem in this country. It is my mission to help educate owners to become forever owners to help reduce the number of innocent dogs who are surrendered and euthanized each year. [caption id="attachment_2789" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Don't miss a single blog or message, click here to sign up for my mailing list and Your Weekly Woof![/caption]
Note: there are links to both Peta and the HSUS in these resources; both of these groups are controversial and although I do not generally support them personally, their advice on this particular topic is acceptable and logical.Unchain Your Dog: This organization was started by a woman who rescued a dog who was chained to a dilapidated doghouse, fed twice a week and rarely had water. There is some great information that you can use to help dogs in your area. http://www.unchainyourdog.org/index.html http://www.unchainyourdog.org/WaystoHelp.htm There is a lot of great information on this page about how to unchain your own dog, how to reach out to other dog owners, and how to help pass laws against chaining dogs. Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue: http://www.unchainedmelodies.org/help/ Located in Missouri, this site's help page has more great information on how to help by speaking to fellow dog owners and fighting for local legislation. SOAR (Speak Out and Rescue): http://www.speakoutandrescue.org/how-to-help.htmlLocated in Kentucky, SOAR also has information on what they are doing to help and how to help in your own community. Coalition to Unchain Dogs: https://www.unchaindogs.net/This group has helped other charities get started rescuing chained dogs and building fences to help free chained dogs from a live attached to a tether. They have extremely helpful information on starting your own group, how to help, and organizations in other parts of the country. Fences for Fido: http://www.fencesforfido.org/ I follow this group on Facebook and love seeing their success stories and the videos of dogs who are freed from life on a chain. The joy in these dogs as they run their first zoomies around the yard is incredible. They are located in the Washington/Oregon/Northern California area. [caption id="attachment_2814" align="alignleft" width="350"] Wearing a shirt like this in a public place like Disney, a festival, a sporting event can help spread awareness to all of the people walking behind you![/caption] Dogs Deserve Better: https://dogsdeservebetter.org/ Located in Virginia, this group also has extensive resources on their site as well as a CafePress store where you can purchase t-shirts, signs, stickers and other items to help share the word about chained dogs. You can shop their store and help raise money and also purchase items to start conversations whether you are wearing a t-shirt in public or a showing a bumper sticker on your car. Wear their shirts places like Disney, sporting events, festivals, so that everyone walking behind you sees the message! https://dogsdeservebetter.org/resources/ http://www.cafepress.com/dogsdeserve Here are additional resources to share via social media to help spread the word: Whole Dog Journal: Be Cautious About Tying Up Your Dog in the Backyard How to Help Chained Dogs in Your Community Do You Chain Your Dog? The Canine Escape Artist: this link contains information on dog proofing your fence if a canine escape artist is the reason for a chain.
Seven Days of Giving Thanks for Dogsby Lynn Stacy-Smith As we approach another Thanksgiving, I am thankful for everything good in my life. My husband, my step-kids, my Labrador Retrievers Jackson and Tinkerbell, our cat Nala. For the ability to write and self-publish a book this year, and for all of the new friends and fans who I've met. For my family in Florida, Virginia, and Michigan. For clothes, food on our table, a car to drive, a home in which to live. If you've followed me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you may have seen the Seven Days of Giving Thanks for dogs. If not, here they are again. I hope you enjoy, and stop by on social media and share what you are thankful for this year! [gallery ids="2276,2277,2275,2274,2278,2272,2273" type="rectangular"]
The "Why" Behind Love, Laugh, Woofby Lynn Stacy-Smith In the world of the self-employed, entrepreneurs focus on the "why" that is driving them to pursue dreams that seem crazy to others. The "why" is that thing that makes them give up perfectly good, stable jobs. It is that thing that makes them work twice the hours that they would in a 9-5 job. It is that thing that drives them to work for literally no money for a very long time. The "why" is what they push back up to the front of their mind the hundred times a day they ask themselves the question, "Am I insane to try to do this?" For the longest time I looked at my "why" for creating Love, Laugh, Woof as revolving around my human and dog family in my own home. After all, self employment offers flexibility so that I can be there for teenage taxi services (aka rides to and from extracurricular activities) and I can work at home with my dogs with me instead of at a corporate office. If I could succeed at writing about dogs and teaching people how to raise their dogs I wouldn't need a dog sitter of my own to perform potty breaks and afternoon play time. Then there was my husband; I could spend long hours working when my husband was working and spend time with him when he was off. Now, do not get me wrong. I live and breathe for my husband, dogs and human kids. They are a huge "why"for me. But they were also all quite satisfied and well cared for when I worked a corporate job. They still got all of my free time, plus I had a whole lot more discretionary income to spend on them. So I missed a lot of band concerts and sporting events and was still grumpy and aggravated by office politics and suburban traffic upon my arrival home, that was normal for working parents. In the last few weeks, though, I had a massive awakening, a mind-blowing revelation and huge "A-HA!!!!!" moment that the "why" for Love, Laugh, Woof is ALL ABOUT the millions of dogs who are not Jackson and Tinkerbell, who are not in loving forever homes with organic food, plenty of affection and a doting human mother. I am doing this not because I couldn't walk down the same well-worn hallway in the cube farm or spend another day teaching another college bookstore manager how many textbooks to order, I am doing this to save dog's lives!! My "why" is the approximately 760,000 dogs who are relinquished to shelters because their owners do not have time for them! My "why" is the approximately 760,000 dogs who are relinquished to shelters because of behavioral issues! My "why" is the approximately 2,204,000 dogs who are relinquished to shelters because their owner cannot find a dog friendly place to live! These numbers are from the ASPCA Pet Statistics web page and are approximate, but they still show that owner surrenders contribute hugely to the heart wrenching shelter problem. If these dogs got out of the shelter and into a happy new home, it would be one thing. But 31% of dogs who go into animal shelters (from all sources, not just owner surrenders) are killed every year. Many owner surrenders never leave the shelter again. These numbers are despite incredible efforts and the nonstop work of dog lovers who work on spay/neuter programs, stopping puppy mill operations and pet shop sales, and on increasing the adoption of shelter animals. These numbers also do not include strays who are also in dire need of forever homes and are on their own because they were simply allowed to run loose, intentionally cast off into the world or lost without proper identification.
The "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof is to influence in particular the dog owners who relinquish their dogs because they do not have all of the information that they need to be a forever owner. Maybe they were not educated enough about dogs before buying a dog, whether it was about how to approach dog ownership with housing in mind, what to expect in terms of time commitment, how to work with a temporary time constraint, who to seek in the event of behavioral issues. Maybe they have been through a major life change and do not know how to work through a new situation and keep their dog in their home. My mission is to help decrease the number of owner surrenders who could be prevented by teaching their owners how to be forever owners. As an avid social media user I see endless posts about dogs who need new homes because they shed too much, they had too much energy, a new baby was born, the owner did not have time for the dog, and all sorts of other reasons that can be fixed or prevented. It is daily and it tortures me to see them. My "why" is to help people in these situations, to perhaps show them another alternative, a way to keep their dog with them. I am blessed that along with a "why" I also have a "how". My "how" is through using my background as a corporate trainer and my writing ability, combined with my lifetime of raising dogs. I am thankful every single day of my life that I have some of the tools that I need to help solve the problem that keeps me up at night, that tortures me when I log onto social media, wanting only to see what my friends had for dinner, what their kids were for Halloween or bought on their latest shopping trip. My "how" also includes you, my followers, friends and family. I need you to help me spread the word, to share the message, the excitement of Love, Laugh, Woof. I ask you to share your commitment to being your dog's owner forever owner, what that means, and how you are doing that. I need you with me on this mission so we can truly get the word out that dog ownership is forever, that there are educational resources for dog owners, and that they can learn to be forever owners like you are. Maybe we cannot impact hundreds of thousands of dogs lives, and maybe we can. At least once a day I think, "you are insane, what are you doing, go back to the cube farm" and the other 23 hours and 59 minutes and 55 seconds of the day I remember that I am JerseyStrong, that I was raised to work nonstop on a goal, that this is what I have a heart for, and that I was raised along side these beautiful furry creatures that I love so much and I can finally give back to their species, and then I get back to work. If we help even one dog owner be more compassionate, be more understanding, more willing to see what it is like to live life as a dog in a human world, then we are on our way to fulfilling the "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof. If we help one dog owner see that maybe they don't have to surrender their dog to the shelter, that they can solve different issues or work through situations that might be putting their dog's future in peril, we are on our way to fulling the "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof. If we prevent one dog owner from dropping their dog off at a shelter or listing them on Craigslist, we are on our way to fulfilling the "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof. If we help one dog, that one dog will be better off and we are one step closer to filling the "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof. One step closer to filling OUR COLLECTIVE WHY.
The "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof is to influence in particular the dog owners who relinquish their dogs because they do not have all of the information that they need to be a forever owner.
Join the new Love, Laugh, Woof Forever Owners group on Facebook:
This group serves the dual purpose of being a place for forever owners to socialize and enjoy the company of other dog owners as well as promoting the importance of responsible dog ownership for all the days of a dog's life.