Guest blog by Kathleen Makolinski, DVM, ASPCA Senior Director Shelter Medicine Service, within Shelter Research and Development. Kathleen graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. After working as an associate veterinarian for five years, she served as Director of Veterinary Services for a non-profit animal shelter. Since then, Kathleen co-founded Feral Cat FOCUS, a community advocacy group for free-roaming cats and co-founded Operation PETS, a stationary spay/neuter clinic in Western New York.
One day while driving to an activity with my 9-year-old son Charlie, he indicated that he learned about orca whales in school. He wanted to learn more about these wonderful creatures, so he asked if we can visit them in a nearby aquarium. I took a deep breath and tried my best to explain (in an age appropriate manner) that when animals who usually live in nature are housed in captivity, it can be very difficult to meet many of their needs. We should also consider how animals enter captivity, and ask if this was done in a humane manner. In this particular case, I suggested other ways to learn more about orca whales and that we support organizations who advocate for this species.
Other examples where we weigh childhood curiosity and the proper care of animals are inquiries about taking home a recently discovered frog, salamander, or crayfish, participating in ‘swim with the dolphin’ experiences and fishing with his friends. We thoughtfully discuss each situation as it arises and mutually reach a decision that is consistent with our beliefs about animals. Although Charlie is accustomed to explaining his choice to be a vegetarian since his preschool years, it can be difficult to be the only kid who does not participate in a group activity. My husband and I try our best to support him and recognize that as he matures he will rely less on our opinions when making such choices.
Although our family says ‘no’ to participating in certain animal related activities, we have found abundant ways to learn about, interact with, and provide assistance to many different types of animals. We watch related documentaries, follow various websites, tune into webcams, write research summaries and donate to our favorite organizations. Charlie greatly enjoys attending camp at an aquarium that rescues, rehabilitates, and releases marine wildlife. Here, he has become skilled at making enrichment items for residents who are unable to be released and had the great honor of seeing dolphins and manatee swimming in the ocean. We are hopeful that these early experiences will lead to a lifetime of positive interactions for Charlie and the animals he encounters.
How does your family balance curiosity about animals with efforts to ensure their proper care? Please share your experiences in the comments.
Guest Blogger Emily Cappo is a writer and blogger at Oh Boy Mom. She is a mom to three boys and one girl dog named Matilda, a sweet and cuddly Labradoodle. Matilda and Emily are also a certified pet therapy team.
When we adopted our sweet Labradoodle, Matilda, more than five years ago, our friends and family members assumed our three boys had pushed us for another dog after our Portuguese Water Dog, Bosley, passed away at the age of 13.
Although the kids were all in favor of adopting a new dog, I was equally enthusiastic. I had always had a dog in my life, and couldn’t imagine not having a furry companion living with us.
Matilda was a joy from the moment we brought her home, and she was the perfect addition to our family. At first, I did not considered adopting a second dog, but when a friend of mine rescued a mixed- breed puppy that curled up in my lap as soon as he met me, I started to seriously consider the idea.
We haven’t yet taken the plunge to give Matilda a sibling, and I wonder if Matilda would enjoy having a companion. She seems perfectly content to be the lone dog, of the house and when we go to the dog park, she shows more interest in the other dog owners than the dogs themselves.
I have heard stories of people adopting a second dog who doesn’t get along with their resident dog. I have plenty of chaos in my house with three rowdy boys—do I really need to add another dog to the mix? And, what if our second dog is like our old dog, Bosley, who was a loud barker with an insatiable appetite for stealing human food?
I have realized that these are trivial concerns, because family is not something you can dictate by waving a magic wand. You can make a conscious decision to add to your family – with both kids and pets – and yet you can’t control the dynamic anymore than you can control the weather. I know that well, as I watch my three boys forge three very different paths in this world.
We’ve decided that a second dog is definitely in our future. I can’t wait to find Matilda a brother or a sister!
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for over 10 years. Danielle also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’sBabble.com. Find her on her blog,Some Puppy To Love,Twitter, or Facebook.
Our black Lab, Django, and our Chihuahua, Hayley, have been pretty spoiled this summer. There is usually someone home at any given time for them to play with, hang out with outside or to hand off a treat here and there. I was just thinking about how dramatically their worlds will change when our kids head back to school.
As my kids are in grammar school, high school and college, our schedules have just changed at the speed of lighting. The once-lazy days of hanging poolside with a barbecue going have been replaced by fast-paced mornings and hectic evenings. The dogs won’t likely receive much affection each day until late afternoon.
Hayley is about 10-years-old, and she does fine on her own if left to her own devices. Django, on the other hand, is three-years-old and a total mush. She loves nothing more than hanging out with her people, and as long as she is with us, she’s perfectly happy. As it turns out, that may problematic.
Guest blogger Sandy De Lisle has a Masters of Science degree in education and has served as a classroom teacher, science museum programmer and program manager for the End Dogfighting in Chicago campaign. She is Senior Manager of Content Development for ASPCApro.
In 1987 high school student Jennifer Graham blazed the way for student choice in classroom dissection, suing her school district after she received a failing grade for refusing to dissect a frog.
Now, thanks to Jennifer, 11 states guarantee students the right to refuse to dissect animals. I wish I had been as brave as Jennifer when I was in high school. Instead, I suffered through a frog, crayfish and fetal pig dissection—though surely I didn’t suffer as much as the animals my lab partner and I dissected.
Had it not been for those dissections, there is a good chance I would have majored in biology in college. However, I couldn’t bear the thought of having to cut into more animals—especially cats. So, as a student with an interest in animals—living animals—I focused on earth and environmental sciences.
When I graduated with a certification to teach middle school science, I vowed not to do dissection in my classroom—and I didn’t. Now, my three sons are faced with the dissection decision. Neither of my older sons chose to dissect, though they each handled the situation differently—one asked to be excused and was given an alternative, and the other opted to stay in the class but not perform the dissection. My youngest son is in elementary school and has not yet faced this decision.
How can you help a child faced with upcoming classroom dissection activities?
Educate yourself about dissection and its alternatives—and have your child do the same. Luckily, things have changed a lot since I was in school and there are many options available.
Find out if your child’s school conducts dissections. Most dissections occur in middle and high school, though some elementary schools may do so as well.
Check your state’s laws to see if you live in a student choice state. Even if you do, some teachers may not be aware of the law, so you may need to advocate for your child.
Long before the dissection, respectfully let your child’s teacher know that your son or daughter will not be participating. If your child is older and would like to speak to the teacher alone, I suggest first having your child practice what he will say with you.
Commend your child for having empathy for animals.
Has your child’s class participated in animal dissection? How did you and your child respond? Please share in the comments.
Adjusting to life post-maternity leave was a struggle. We encountered day care drama and I fought to find the energy to get everything done.
One day, all the pieces came together for my husband, Matt, and me. We even made our bed. I felt like Super Parent with a milk-stained, sparkly cape.
That was until I returned home and pulled back the covers on the bed. Screams and panic followed. There in the center of the bed was a Lake Superior-sized puddle of yellow dog pee, and it reeked. Mr. Happy, our dog, had not only urinated all over the bed and pillows, but also had the chutzpah and talent to somehow get the blankets back to look like the bed was still made.
Occasional canine bladder accidents come with dog ownership. But when is it normal behavior versus cause for medical concern? Frequent dog urination can range from medical or behavior issues to the failure to spay or neuter your pets. Your veterinarian is a key partner in addressing frequent dog urination, and the ASPCA website offers fantastic information on dog marking. Solving the problem is often a simple fix (pardon the pun), and low-cost spay/neuter services are offered in many communities.
Our situation fell on the more serious side. After Mr. Happy engaged in other destructive behaviors, our vet referred us to a board-certified veterinarian behaviorist. We learned that Mr. Happy's urination was a byproduct of separation anxiety. Our beloved dog had grown accustomed to having someone at home, and was devastated when his humans left him for the day. Our behaviorist developed a treatment plan, which we continue to tweak based on Mr. Happy's mood. Separation anxiety impacts many animals, and it is important to consult a medical professional so you can get the best help for your pet.