Sunday, August 28, 2011

National Dog Day

Did you know that yesterday (August 26th) was National Dog Day?

This special holiday was created in 2004 for two special purposes: to honor dogs and to rescue dogs from homelessness and abuse.

I honored my dog by taking her and her two girlfriends (and mine) to the beach. We all had a marvelous time as it was one of Washington's perfect sunny and warm day at the coast.

Dogs are an important part of our lives. Not only do they give us unconditional love, loyalty, companionship and comfort, they also help us in so many ways. They are trusted watchdogs that keep our families safe. Police and military dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs and search-and-rescue dogs put their lives on the line every day to help save human lives. Guide dogs are devoted to serving their blind companions. Service dogs assist disabled.

Dogs give so much to us - so honoring their noble efforts is a really nice idea.

But as much as dogs help us, there are also so many dogs out there that need US to help THEM. That's why the second goal of National Dog Day is to help save dogs from homelessness and abuse.

• Rescue a dog if you can - If you're thinking about rescuing a new dog, here are some good tips:

1. Research the shelter and rescue group options in your area. Check the Internet, talk to your veterinarian and pet-loving friends, and do not be afraid to call these facilities and ask questions. Most rescue groups are quite humane and clean, but you still should do your homework to be sure they are right for you.

2. Remember to think with your head. When you are looking at those adorable doggie faces, it is easy to make a decision based purely on what your heart feels. BEFORE, you go looking for the perfect dog, seriously think about the canine characteristics that will be best for your family and home, and stick to those guidelines while at the shelter.

3. List what you are looking for in a dog. Go to the shelter with a plan. Tell the staff why you want a dog, and they will help you find the right one for you. Do you want a jogging partner, a lap dog, a hunting dog, a companion for the kids.....? Do you want a puppy or would you like to rescue an old dog? Small, large? Long-haired, short-haired?...

4. Consider your finances and lifestyle. Pets are a lifetime commitment, and they deserve the best care possible. Will your pocketbook allow you to feed a dog a quality diet, provide him with the supplies his needs to nurture his daily life, and give him adequate preventative and emergency medical care? Do you have plenty of available time to spend with a dog? Do not adopt a dog only to find that you do not have time or money for him. This is never fair to any pet.

5. Take your time when making this big decision. Do not rush into pet ownership. Take the time needed to find the right dog and get to know him. Several visits to the dog at the shelter may be best before taking him home. Also, take the time to be sure your house is ready for the new family member.

6. Visit with the dogs outside their cages. A shelter is a stressful environment. The other animals and all the noise may make a dog nervous and unsocial or over-exuberant to win your attention. Taking a dog outside or to a private visiting room will give you the opportunity to get to know the dog's true personality.

7. Interact with the dog. Do not just say, "He is cute, I will take him." If the staff will allow you, walk him, play with him, find out if he knows any commands or tricks, give him a snack... Get to know the dog, and let him get to know you.

8. Allow the dog to meet all members of the family. Bring Mom, Dad, kids, even other pets if the shelter allows it. Be sure the dog you are considering for adoption is comfortable with the whole family.

9. Talk to the staff. The staff members are handy tools for helping you learn more about the dog, his likes and dislikes, his quirks, his health, etc. The staff members spend a lot of time with these rescue dogs and have gotten to know them well.

10. Evaluate the dog's health and body condition. Check for discharge from the dog's eyes and nose. Is the dog coughing, sneezing, etc.? Note the dog's gait. Is the dog overweight or underweight? Check for fleas and ticks. Check the condition of the teeth. If you see any issues in these areas, talk to your vet and/or the shelter staff about them. Learn what you can do to resolve any health problems, and think about whether you are willing to do so.

11. Bring needed supplies on adoption day. Be prepared, and help your dog feel welcome. Bring a collar, leash, blanket for the car seat, and possibly a toy on the day of adoption. Try to make your dog's transition as stress-free and calm as possible.

12. Do not expect everything to go perfectly. There will be struggles. Remember your dog will be a little nervous in his new home, and he will not immediately know your expectations. The rules and ways of his previous home probably were not the same as they are in his current home. BE PATIENT as your dog adjusts.

13. Show him your love. Give your new dog abundant time, attention, and affection. This is especially important during his adjustment period. Help him feel wanted and comfortable.

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