Mary Dell Harrington, mother to two kids and two dogs, is a blogger at Grown and Flown, where she writes about parenting kids between the ages of 15 and 25. She is also a certified pet therapist in the New York City-metro area. Find her on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.
Our family is not very crafty, but each year on Valentine’s Day, I gathered doilies, feathers, and pink markers for our daughter (now a college freshman) who loved making her own straight-from-the-heart designs. I remember her as a little girl as she sat at the kitchen table, gluing red hearts and writing out “I Love You” in glitter while Choco, our big chocolate Lab, slept nearby. That special card for her special dog was one she often finished first.
Did Choco notice and fully appreciate the sweet Valentine from the youngest member of his family? What Choco seemed to crave the most were our daughter’s belly-rubs and ear-scratches—tactile reminders of her affection.
Cho was already six years old when our daughter was born. As she grew from a baby to a toddler, he was her gentle playmate. She tumbled over him while he slept and was patient as she dressed him in our family’s wardrobe of hats. While she played, Choco felt her tiny hand on his head and his back, every caress an expression of devotion.
Touch is a vital component to the relationship you have with your dog. This Valentine’s Day, if you are considering buying your pet a squeaky toy or a card, don’t forget to simply give him a hug. While handling is easy and natural for many pets, for others there can be some hesitancy. Visit the ASPCA’s Pet Care section for tips if your dog resists touch.
Keri Matthews, a mom of two, has worked in the ASPCA’s licensing department for more than five years. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Tom, her children, Gabriella and Tommy, and their Greyhound, Clyde.
As Thanksgiving approaches, many families are gearing up to celebrate the holiday with their kids and pets. My family is starting to think about how we will safely incorporate our dog, Clyde, into the preparation and day-of festivities. This time of year, there are so many food hazards to pets in the home. And since Clyde is a large dog, he can reach the table and garbage pail quite readily. We will take the following steps to keep him safe before, during and after the holiday:
Take out the trash: Throughout Thanksgiving Day, we will empty our garbage more often than usual. Bones, chocolate, onions and other Thanksgiving food staples are all hazards to Clyde that will make their way into our kitchen during the festivities.
Food tasting: We will explain to our daughter Gabriella that we can’t give Clyde a taste of every food item we’re making for Thanksgiving dinner, but we can stuff his Kong toy with veggies of Gabriella’s choosing, a bit of cooked turkey and some gravy. Clyde will be thrilled!
Quiet time: We’d like Clyde to have an extra quiet space (other than his bed) while company is visiting so he doesn’t get too stressed out. We’ll set aside a few towels on the floor to give him another nook where he can sit back and relax—something we all hope to do this Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for those who may choose to purchase a turkey this year, there’s good cause to be wary of oft misleading meat labels. Turkey farms range from the conventional –where birds are bred to grow to crippling proportions to produce extra breast meat, closely confined by the tens of thousands in artificially-lit sheds, fed antibiotics, and often have body parts painfully removed to prevent stress-induced attacks on one another— to the unconventional, where more balanced or even “heritage” breed turkeys are provided with enriched indoor environments, more space and even outdoor access or pasture.
When reading food labels, don’t take the company’s word for it: be on the lookout for humane certifications that require on-farm audits and represent significant improvements over conventional practices. Other types of labels can represent mere empty marketing—for example, the claim “natural” simply means that a turkey (or any animal) has been minimally processed after slaughter and contains no artificial ingredients or added color, but the animal may still come from a completely conventional farm. Turkeys in America are generally not raised in cages and federal law currently prohibits the use of hormones in birds, so claims like “hormone free” or “cage free” are also essentially meaningless. You can try speaking with your local farmers about their practices to determine whether they’re similarly unconventional and using better welfare.
There are many ways to have a more humane holiday season, including seeking out certified products as well as other better-raised products, along with bringing the “sides” into the center of your plate: there are many delicious, hearty dishes that leave out the meat and will leave you sleepy and stuffed! Either way, we’d like to challenge you to an “unconventional” Thanksgiving when it comes to animal welfare.
With Halloween just a few days away, by now you’ve likely lined up costumes for your kids and pets and mapped out your route for trick-or-treating. Before your family heads out for a night of candy and costumes, be sure to check out our Halloween safety tips:
Keep the candy bowl out of your pet’s reach. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems if consumed. Ask your kids to keep their Halloween treats away from your pets, and if you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Be safe around candles and electric lights. If chewed, wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations might cause your pets to suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock. Pets might also knock over carved pumpkins containing lit candles.
Test out your pet’s costume before the big night. Your pet’s costume should not constrict her movement or hearing, or impede her ability to breathe, bark or meow. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider having her skip the costume or don a festive bandana. Also, be sure your pet is wearing an ID tag.
Expecting trick-or-treaters? When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn't dart outside. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.
Trick or Treat! With Halloween just around the corner, we’re looking forward to seeing many creative and adorable costumes among our human and furry friends alike. Here at the ASPCA, some of our favorite costumes involve people and pets dressed in coordinating outfits. We’d like to share a few costumes ideas for your kids and pets:
Monkey and Banana: Your child could choose to be either the monkey or the banana, and dress your pet accordingly!
Police Officer and Police Dog: The ASPCA has partnered with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to enforce animal cruelty laws throughout the city’s five boroughs, and some police officers work alongside canine companions. This costume set recognizes hardworking police dogs in New York City and nationwide.
Tortoise and Hare: Recreate this classic fable with interchangeable tortoise and hare costumes for your child and pet of any breed.
Lion and Zookeeper: This could be the perfect costume set for an outgoing feline and a budding animal caretaker.
When dressing your pet in a costume, it’s important to consider her safety and comfort. Your pet’s costume should not constrict her movement or hearing, or impede her ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider having her skip the costume or don a festive bandana. For more information, check out our Pet Care section for our full list of Halloween safety tips.