Friday, March 29, 2013

FUN Friday

Happy Friday!
Let's start the weekend off with a few giggles, shall we?

We hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Bunnies

With Easter fast approaching, we want to remind people to think before they add a bunny to the household. Rabbits make wonderful pets for the right family. As pet owners, it is our responsiblity to do our research and be sure that they any pet is the right fit for our household before we get the pet. This includes purchases for children around the holidays.

Bunnies are intelligent, loving animals. They are very social so they need a lot of love and attention from their owner. They don't make good Easter gifts, especially for small children who crave something that they can hold and cuddle. Rabbits can feel insecure when held or restrained. They prefer to be on the ground. Children quickly lose interest and the bunny ends up neglected in an outdoor hutch or dropped off at the shelter. (For reasons on why your bunny should live inside the house with you, click here for our article.)

Bunnies are not a low-maintenance pet. They grow quickly from that cute little bundle into a larger adolescent. If you don't spay or neuter them, they can urine mark just like a dog or cat. You have to bunny-proof your home so that they don't chew your cords, your books, and your furniture. Your bunny requires daily exercise and they can live for 10 years. They require as much work as a dog or cat.

If you are seriously considering adding a bunny to your family, we encourage you to read up on them. House Rabbit Society has a great starting point for you in your research here. We have more links on our website, here. When you have decided that a bunny is the right match for your family, we encourage you to find a shelter or rescue in your area.

What about you - have you ever had a bunny? Ever thought about adding one to your family?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Training Lily NOT to Bark

Lily has never been a good nor a consistent watchdog. She's far too people friendly. When the neighbor dogs get going sometimes, she might join in - but they have to keep going for awhile before Lily thinks there might be something she needs to voice an opinion on.  She's hit or miss with the front door. 99% of the time, she's not barking, but racing to the door (because everyone comes to the house to see HER, right?). There will be a time or two that she is startled awake by the door and might bark, but those times are rare. We love it.

We had a lovely couple move in to the front house on our property with their amazing dog a few months ago. They have what we think is a border collie/husky mix? Who knows. She's full of sweet, but a fierce defender of the property. If she doesn't know you, she will let you know that you are not welcome. Her growl and bark are intimidating as hell. Unfortunately, they had Lily on edge. She felt if August were barking at something, she needed to be in on it. The first few times that she jumped to her feet in full bark scared the bejesus out of all of us (including the cats). After that, it just got annoying.  Because when August is in 'bark' mode, she can go on for hours.  She'll shoot barks out in bursts, then quiet. Just as you relax, she's shooting more barks out.  I did not want to lose my non-reactive dog (or my sanity).  What to do?


Lily got rewarded for NOT barking. The second August let out a bark, I would say, "Good girl, Lily!" before she could respond. It was quite comical the first few times as her expression clearly showed that she had no idea what the good girl was for.  We would toss her a cookie or small treat. It took less than a week to correct this behavior entirely.  At the sound of August's voice, she would immediately look to us. "Good girl!" *Toss cookie* After the first week, we pulled back on the treats, but kept up the verbal praise.  Now, we no longer have to do either. August barks and Lily doesn't even flinch.  We have our peace and quiet back (if you don't count the loud barrage of August noise).

What about you - is your dog a barker? Have you tried training your dog not to bark?

Friday, March 22, 2013

FUN Friday

It's Friday - time to have some fun!

Is there anything cuter than puppies? How about a puppy playing with an ice cube!

I love watching my cats squeeze into small boxes and bags. Turns out, I love watching other people's cats do it as well.

Have a cat that goes crazy over cat nip?

Wishing you a wonderful weekend with your four-legged friends!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dogs and Cats

When I'm teaching, the kids like to tell me "facts" that they know.

"Miss Jennifer, dogs and cats hate each other."

This one comes up often. Whether they get it from their own experiences or cartoons, it's something all of the students seem to believe.

We discuss how each dog and each cat is an individual. Some dogs actually really like the company of cats, and vice versa.

I tell them about Lily and our cats. She's loved them from the beginning. They weren't all that sure about her. They took their time warming up - she was hyper and big and stinky. She was very persistent, though. We had a baby gate up on the den to give the cats a safe place to retreat from this new family member. Lily would take her toys and line them up at the gate, and than lay there hoping that they would come out to play. (My heart is breaking that I can't find one of the pictures)

Pip was the first to warm up. She  accepts anything we bring into this house - other cats, puppies, dogs. She's our cool cat. From the beginning, she knew not to run around the dog. She made it a point to seek her out first thing in the morning for a nose to nose greeting and a rub. And she was the first of the cats to sleep with Lily. (see picture to the left)
Next was Wednesday. Lily is scared of her. Wednesday set the tone from the beginning - and her message was very clear. I AM THE BOSS OF YOU. I can't tell you how many times a day we say, "Wednesday, BE NICE!" This little grey cat loves to torment Lily. She'll sucker her in by rubbing up against her, only to turn and swat her on the nose. If Lily has a cut, we know which cat did it. She's on a total power trip with the dog.  The picture below is from one of her nice phases. Right now, she's back into the tormenting phase. She'll jump up on the back of the couch when Lily is up on it - within a few seconds, Lily is sliding off the couch to get away from her.  She can back Lily off the water dish. She can even back her off her food.
And then there is Eowyn. For the first two years, Lily chased her often. She loved her sister because she thought it was a game. Now, Eowyn doesn't run around her much. Sometimes, she'll come racing across the room. Lily will watch her go. Once in awhile, Lily will try to engage her in play. But Eowyn is 11 and not interested in games with a dog. She does love her sister, though. She'll sleep next to Lily on her dog bed in the living room and rub all over her collar at night if I leave it on the floor.

Each of the cats has a very different relationship with their dog (because really, they own everything in the house, including the dog). Lily gets along well with my mom's cat as well. She thinks it's fun to chase the neighbor's cat, Bob, when he's lounging in our yard. She slows up before he reaches the gate, as though she's giving him space to jump the fence. Yesterday, she snuck into their yard and was play bowing to him through their back door (it's glass). He rewarded her with a hiss and a swat at the glass.

It's not that dogs and cats don't like each other really. Even when they do, their relationships can be complicated by their communication differences. Dogs have no idea what cats are telling them and dog communication seems completely foreign (and probably quite despicable) to cats.

What about you - do you have dogs and cats? How do they get along?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monty's Story

Today, we are excited to bring you a guest blog - Rachel is sharing the story of their latest rescue dog, Monty, with us.
I’d like you to meet Monty (Montezuma), our newest family member. We met him on Sunday, December 30th, 2012 and we knew immediately that he was meant for us.  He was meant to be in OUR family, not the family that he had been living with for the last two years.  His first family had good intentions of raising him and keeping him forever, but as he grew and grew, they realized that he was too much dog for their family.  They did their best to provide the basics for him: food and shelter, but that was about all he had.  He was tethered outside in the backyard all day, and crated in the garage all night.  He was lucky to get a walk about three times a week, but it was never more than about 2-3 miles. 
When he was outside in the backyard, he was lonely and bored.  He dug up the grass and landscaping as a form of entertainment.  His family got mad and frustrated with him so much so that they gave him away! 
I love the car!
His second family seemed like THEY would be his forever-family as they had lots of experience with German Shepherds and the handling of working dogs.  It was a perfect match…for about six weeks.  After having him for six weeks, Family #2 said he was too destructive and that they just didn’t want him anymore.  Family #2 returned him to Family #1. 
And so it began all over again: Monty was tethered during the day, and crated at night.  Boredom set it (again), and the digging returned. 

In the meantime, a friend of a friend got word to us that Monty needed a new home.  The timing of this phone call was perfect, as we had been looking for a new family member since the passing of our Buddy Holly in August.  What we were looking for was a rescue dog.  We really felt strongly that this next dog needed to be a rescue dog. But, one that was a German Shepherd, at least 2 years of age or older, and a male.  We knew that this criteria would prove to be challenging, but we were hopeful to find our new boy! 
With Mom and Dad
AND….Could it be that what we were looking for WAS Monty?!?!?  But were WE what Monty was looking for?!?!?!?  Well, after nearly three months together; sharing the same space; (and at times the same bed, same couch, same food, same chair….) we feel that we were who Monty was looking for…and he was what we were looking for!  In fact, he was EXACTLY what we were looking for.  We were his perfect match---we are his FUR-ever family!

Monty has settled into our home and family very nicely.  He has taken up space in our bed, on our couch, and most of the time in our arms (and lap…he thinks he’s a lap-dog)!  He is a very sweet and loving dog who seems to smile all the time!  He is in no way a destructive dog as Families #1 and #2 claimed him to be.  He has very little time to get bored because he’s on long walks with the family (sometimes two walks a day), playing “chuck-it” with dad, camping with the family, and training with mom and Sue (a professional dog trainer).  Although he loves chuck-it, and loves tennis balls, camping appears to be his new-found love.  He enjoys every aspect of camping: the long car rides there, the tent and trailer set-up, campfires and cook-outs, and the numerous adventurous walks. 
He is no longer tethered for hours on end.  He no longer sleeps in a crate, or is even confined to a crate at all.  When he does get a few minutes to himself, he quickly occupies his time with a tennis ball (or two), his “Kong” toy, or playing with his sister Luka (which actually looks more like wrestling, not so much playing…but nonetheless, spending time with sis)! 

We can’t image life without him and we can’t imagine why two different families could give him up.  We love our Monty and couldn’t be happier that HE found US! 

With my sister Luka - she's 12 in July!

Isn't that a wonderful story? Monty is so lucky to have Vito and Rachel - and you can see that they feel very lucky to have found him!

Friday, March 15, 2013

FUN Friday

Happy Friday!

Let's bring in the weekend with some smiles and laughter, shall we?

We love Jesse the Jack Russell Terrier for so many reasons.  Jesse was left at the shelter by previous owners.  He hit the jackpot when he got adopted by his current owner.  He has learned all kinds of cool tricks and showcases them in a series of videos.  Here is one:


I'm sure all of us can relate to this:

Wishing you a wonderful weekend full of hikes and cat toys and whatever you and four legged friend find fun!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Have Allergies? Me Too!

I've got horrible allergies. And asthma. My worst allergy is to bee stings. I have to carry an epi-pen with me everywhere. The second worst?  Cats.

I have three.

That's right - I'm allergic to cats and I still have three.  Inside the house.

Here are my tricks:

1) Air filters are my besties. Best friends ever. I have one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in our den.  These are the areas we hang out in the most (by "we" I mean the entire family, including our pets).

2)  Bedroom door closed.  The minute we get up in the morning, everyone is ushered out, and the door remains shut.  This keeps the cats off my pillow.  I do fine with them sleeping in the bedroom, but they can't be up near my face.  They're fine with that.  They each claim a spot - Eowyn between Daddy's legs, Wednesday wedged between the two of us, and Pip at our feet.

3)  Dusting and vacuuming are done every other day. If I'm doing them, I wear a mask.  When I finish, I go out for a few hours (to allow the air filters to do their job!).  We have hardwood floors so it's very easy to see when the cats are shedding.  One of the many reasons we settled on an American Staffordshire Terrier is the no shed factor. She doesn't ever shed. To quote Taylor Swift, "Like ever."

4)  Throws. Throws are the cornerstone of our living room.  We have nice furniture, but only the guests get to see it.  It's much easier to pull the throws off the furniture and throw them in the wash twice a week than it is to clean the furniture.  They're inexpensive too.  Warm in the winter.  Can't say enough about them and how much easier they make my pet owning life.

5)  Steamer.  We bought a Shark Steamer and it's the best invention ever.  This picks up any extra dust or dander on the hardwood floors.  We steam the floors once a week.  We have a two bedroom house and we can steam these floors (EVERY room) in under and hour.

6)  Long sleeves.  If I'm going to snuggle with my pets (and I love to do that!), I have to have long sleeves on.  They prevent hives.

7)  Wash your hands! This one isn't always followed - and the consequences aren't as drastic now as they were the first few months we got each cat.  But they're still there.  If I touch my eyes, they burn like crazy. If I touch my skin, I get welts.  So once I'm done petting, I must wash my hands.

8)  Antihistamines. Benedryl helps with the adjustment period.  After a few months, they stop making me sneeze and triggering asthma attacks.  Then, I can lay off the benedryl.

I can't imagine my life without my pets.  They enrich my life in a way that my allergies and asthma do not.  That unconditional love is worth what I have to go through to begin with.  Now, if I go visit friends who have a dog that sheds or cats, I still react to their pets.  But once I get home again, my chest relaxes and the sneezing stops. 

It's very workable and it doesn't take much.  Air filters just have to be vacuumed or wiped down every so often.  You have to clean your house whether you have pets or not.  Laundry has to be done and it doesn't take much to do an extra load here and there.  And how hard is it to close the bedroom door?

What about you - are you allergic to your pets?  How do you work around the allergies?

Monday, March 11, 2013


We run across a lot of myths when we're teaching.  I thought we'd cover a few on the blog so that you can see what's out there.  There are a few that we hear over and over and over again and those are the three that I'm sharing with you today.

1) Once they taste blood, they crave it. This isn't just something we hear out of the children. We've heard this out of adults as well. I've had concerned adults ask me if feeding a raw diet to my dog is smart because it encourages blood thirst. I'm not really sure where this started. I know it's often used as an excuse to kill wildlife (bears, mountain lions, tigers) - and I've never read any proof of that either. Dogs and cats attack for various reasons, none of them craving blood. Behavior problems exist. When untreated with proper behavior modification, the aggression can escalate. Fear based training can make the problems worse as well.  That dog that is repeatedly biting isn't doing it because the first taste of blood made him or her crave more.  This has been a hard myth to combat, but we're trying.

2) Cats have nine lives. This one is mostly from the kids. I blame cartoons.  I can't remember how old I was when my father busted this myth.  This does not come to us in question form like #1 does. "Cats have nine lives." That comes out as a statement.  Not just from elementary school students either. I had a high school student make that statement a few weeks ago.  There is much shock, and more outrage, when I debunk this one. "What?!?!" I had an eight-year-old proclaim while crossing his arms indignantly upon hearing, "Cats only have ONE life. Once they're dead, that's it.  They don't get another chance."

3) Swallowing a hair, whether it is dog or cat, will give you cancer. The kids tell us that their dog or cat can't sleep inside the house because if they sleep on the bed and you swallow a hair, you get cancer. This is a hard one to fight because it's ingrained in certain cultures and passed down from generation to generation. Dogs are viewed as dirty and if you swallow their hair, it has very serious health consequences. How do we try to combat it?  We use ourselves as examples. Lily doesn't sleep on the bed with us because the cats won't let her.  But I tell the children that I've been sleeping with cats on my bed for the last twenty years - cancerfree (knock on wood).  Meredith has been sleeping with dogs on her bed for almost ten with no health consequences. Dogs don't have to sleep on the bed with you, but they should sleep inside the house with their family. 

4) Owls can turn their head all the way around. This is kids and adults (my own mother being one of the adults - thankfully, she's attended my City Wildlife presentation and no longer believes this one).  Did the Tootsie Pop owl turn his head all the way around?  Because I remember growing up believing this one as well.  I hate disappointing the kids, but I tell them that they can still turn their heads 270 degrees! That's more than our 180 degrees.  It falls short of all the way around, though.

What about you - any myths you hear?  Or ones that you grew up believing?

Friday, March 8, 2013

FUN Friday

Let's usher in the weekend with some fun animal videos!

This dog waits for his boy - and helps him once he's off the bus.

This is a link to an Owl Cam.  Mrs. Tigger has been coming back to the same family for five years.  This year they set up cameras to share her nesting with the rest of us! It's really cool.

And speaking of cats...or adorable is this little girl and her interpretation of of the book Kittens?

We hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Dangers of Chocolate

We discuss the danger of chocolate in every one of our elementary presentations. While we occasionally get Chocolate Stories, I've never had two in one day. I'm happy to report that both family pets are okay, but it highlights the importance of keeping chocolate up and out of the way.

The first story involved a french bulldog, some Valentine's bags, and heart shaped chocolate candy. A mother had twenty-four bags lined up on the living room floor. She wanted to be sure each child had a bag full of goodies. She was halfway through the bags when the phone rang. She stepped out of the room to answer it, not realizing their dog had come back into the house.  When she hung up the phone five minutes later, the little frenchie had eaten 13 pieces of chocolate. Rather than waste time driving to the vet (in L.A., a 10 mile trip can take you an hour), the vet had them induce vomiting at home. It was messy, but the dog ended up fine in the end.  And there will be no more bags left on the floor!

The second story involved an easy bake oven, a cat, and a sleepover. One of the students was having another student over for a spend-the-night (we called them sleepovers, but the kids now are calling them spend-the-nights?). They decided to break in the new Easy Bake Oven that the girl had received at Christmas. Because her father was "fond of chocolate", she got out the chocolate pieces.  As kids do, they got distracted after baking their treats.  The chocolate was left out next to the oven.  No one realized the cat had gotten into it until..."she puked on my bed, then she puked on my pillow, and then she puked next to Susana's* bed, and THEN she puked in my closet!"  The little girl felt so awful that she had caused her beloved cat to be sick. Her tears served as a good lesson for the class.  With some supportive care at the vet, the pet was fine.

We had a close call with our Wednesday cat.  My husband can be stubborn - and he didn't believe that chocolate was poisonous to cats. He shared his leftover ice cream with his cat, Simon, all the time and nothing ever happened.  Wednesday wasn't so lucky.  Despite my warnings, he let her lick a small amount of mint chocolate chip ice cream from his dish when he was finished.  The bigger problem?  It had been smothered in Hershey's Syrup.  We woke to a very, very ill kitten the next morning.  Even with a lecture from the vet, he still denied that it was his fault.  But he hasn't allowed her any ice cream since.

Have you ever had a close call with a pet and chocolate?  Thought you had it hidden out of reach, but they managed to get into it anyway?

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Things Kids Say

Meredith and I have to hear some very sad stories in the classrooms. But we also get some pretty funny comments and stories when we're teaching. You never know what will come out of their mouths.  I thought it would be fun to share some of the exchanges we've had.

This picture is from our Dog Safety presentation.  Our "safe dog" has a leash, a collar, and a grown-up owner. But before we can pet the dog, we have to ask first "May I please pet your dog?" When we finish the presentation, we do a quick review.  I asked the class, "Can we just go running right up to the dog and start petting her?" "No!" A little boy shouted. "You have to say the magic words first!"
Our 2nd Grade Presentation is on Kindness to Animals. We play a game with the kids where they pull items out of a bag, hold them up for the class to see, and figure out what they are. Then, they have to figure out if they're kind or unkind.  If they're kind, they have to figure out who to give it to.  If it's unkind, we throw it in a trash bag.  A little girl pulled out the item to the left.  "It's unkind." "Why?" "Because dogs can't eat pancakes."
Today, I asked the kids to tell me something nice they would do for their pets. When we got to dogs, a little girl said, "Give him a bubble bath!"
I've had a few fun exchanges in City Wildlife (our 3rd grade presentation). We have pictures of some of the cool animals, insects, and reptiles that live in their areas.  We talk about why they are important so that the kids learn why we shouldn't harm them - and that it's pretty cool to have them living around us.
"What do opossums eat?"
"Squirrels gather up all the food, what do they do with their leftover nuts? Do they put it in their fridge up in the tree?"
"They give it to the less fortunate squirrels who don't have any nuts."
And by far one of my favorite exchanges. I always think I can stay a step ahead of them, but it doesn't always work.
Me: "What do owls eat?"
Boy: "Leprechauns."
Me: "No. They're too quick."
Boy: "But you said owls fly 40 miles per hour."
Me: "But Leprechauns are faster and they have magic."
Boy: "And a magic pot of gold!"
Girl: "Owls can't carry a pot of gold."
Boy: "She said they carry three to four times their body weight."
Me: "What do owls eat?"
Another Student: "Rats."
Me: "Right. What else?"
Another Student: "Mice."
Me: "Right. What - -"
Student at the back of the room: "Wait, wait, wait. So Leprechauns are real?"
Even the 4th and 5th graders come up with some funny answers.  We teach Pet Needs and when we discuss milk, most of the kids are surprised that you aren't supposed to give milk to cats.
"When they're kittens, where does their milk come from?"
"Their mom."
"Where does our milk in the grocery store come from?"
You just never know what kind of connection they're going to make with something. It keeps you on your toes! We love the fact that we're teaching Humane Education, but we also love the way that they entertain us!