Lisa Jakub is a writer, retired actor, wife and dog-mom. You can read more from her at LisaJakub.net and see photos of her dog on Facebook or Twitter.
We all have mentors in our lives: someone who exemplifies a better way of moving through the world, a better way of living with an open heart and a better way of embracing joy. I found my mentor when I rescued a 7-year-old dog.
I adopted Grace a few years ago. She had been in pretty rough shape and judging by her enthusiasm for dumpsters, had likely been living on the streets for a while. I thought I was the one saving her.
When Grace came home, I was still learning how to reconcile my past with my new life. After working as a child actor for 18 years, I decided to retire from the film industry and find a path that felt more authentic to me. I left everything that I knew, and moved from Los Angeles to Virginia to start over.
Grace seems to understand the importance of both acknowledging one's past and letting it go. Although she has terrible nightmares and lingering issues from apparent abuse, her sense of gratitude for the present moment is always stronger than her fears. She never lets her issues stop her from living her life. And while I will never understand why the sight of a garbage bag makes her flatten her ears and cower, she always bounces back moments later, returning to her preferred spot at my heels. That moment is gone, on to the next.
We both have new lives now, and Grace is my writing partner. She curls up next to my desk and inspires me to be honest on the page. She reminds me that we don't need to be defined by our past. We create our own story. Every day is a chance to start over. Grace has decided that her story is about joy. She spins in circles at the mention of a walk. Regular meals are a cause for wholehearted gratitude. A belly rub is the best thing imaginable.
Life is good for Grace. And life is good for me, because of Grace.
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
One of the most delightful yet difficult tasks in dog ownership is the very first one—choosing your pet from among a litter of absolutely adorable puppies. Taking time to carefully observe each puppy is well advised, and will help maximize the chances that the pup you pick is healthy and a good match for your family.
One summer day four years ago, I spent several hours with a pack of young chocolate Labradors, intending to take one home. At four weeks old, each pudgy member was simply irresistible. Mesmerized, I sat on the floor and watched them tumble, play fight, and curl up into a puppy pile for a brief post-nursing snooze. I knew it was going to be a challenge to pick one, but “cute” could not be the sole criterion for my future dog.
As the afternoon wore on, I realized that my attention returned, again and again, to “Larry,” one of the larger males. He could focus when I jangled my keys, he tolerated my handling and cuddling, and I loved the way he played with his litter mates. Sometimes he was top dog, other times he was dominated by a brother or sister. Yes, Larry, whom we renamed “Gus,” would become our new puppy after he was weaned and old enough to leave his litter.
If you have a chance to pick out your own puppy from among a litter, the ASPCA suggests that the pup’s physical health be scrutinized carefully. A reputable shelter or breeder should be candid in revealing all they have observed about each young dog. Further, here are six tips they suggest for evaluating a puppy’s behavioral health:
How do the puppies interact with each other?
Does the puppy seem to like people?
Does the puppy respond appropriately to your reaction when he nips you?
Does the puppy guard things from people?
Does the puppy like being handled by people?
Does the puppy seem overly sensitive to sights and sounds?
Guest blog by Emily Schneider, a proud mom of two feisty yorkies and a two-year-old living in the Garden State. Emily works in media and public relations for the ASPCA. Find her onTwitter.
I must admit that it took a major disaster like Hurricane Sandy to inspire me to create a preparedness plan for my dogs, Mikey and Olive. When Sandy hit the Northeast, it was devastating to hear stories of pet parents who either left their pets behind in flooded homes, or worse, stayed home with their pets, putting the entire family at risk. Thankfully, my city allows pets at emergency shelters so pet owners didn’t have to make that choice.
It’s important to have a disaster plan for your pets, and what better way than to enlist your kids to help you create a plan and pet emergency kit.
Here are three tips as you start building a preparedness plan for your pet:
Keep an emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as a photo of your pet, vaccination records, water, pet food and medications. ASPCA experts suggest putting medical documents along with a photo of your pet in a Ziploc bag, and taping it to the pet carrier so it’s easy to locate when you need to evacuate quickly. It’s best to prepare a hard plastic pet carrier to carry in case of emergency. Your kids can help you put this kit together as you teach them about the importance of planning for a disaster.
Make sure your pets have collars and ID tags with up-to-date information. If you don’t have a collar or ID tags, take your kids to a local pet store (one that doesn’t sell puppies) and teach them about the importance of pets wearing ID tags in case they get lost. The ASPCA also recommends microchip as a more permanent form of ID, which can be your pet’s ticket home as long as you update your contact info if it changes.
Find out where you can take your pets in the event of evacuation. Some communities allow pets in emergency shelters, but others may not. Contact your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control to locate pet-friendly housing in your area.
The ASPCA recently launched its interactive mobile app, which is a great resource for disaster planning. The free app is available on iPhone and Android systems, and offers information to help pet parents protect their pets before and during disasters, as well as customized step-by-step instructions to find missing pets. The app also offers a place to safely store and update medical records for your pets. This handy tool is very easy to use and accessible as long as you have your phone. For more info and tips on disaster preparedness, visit www.aspca.org/mobileapp.
It’s often too late for pet parents to evacuate with their pets or pack essential items when they’re in a middle of a disaster, which is why it’s important to plan in advance so we don’t put ourselves and our pets in danger. My son is too young to truly understand the meaning of disaster preparedness, but he knows that helping mommy create an emergency kit is going to keep Mikey and Olive safe when we need to leave the house in a hurry.
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’s Babble.com. Find her on her blog, Some Puppy To Love, Twitter, or Facebook.
As many families plan barbecues and Independence Day celebrations, pet parents should also include their furry friends in holiday plans. Between navigating a house filled with guests and booming fireworks going off outside, it is common for dogs to run away and for a pup’s escape to go unnoticed.
Here are some tips to safeguard your beloved pooch and enjoy a festive Fourth of July party:
Getting Lost: Loud fireworks scare many dogs, and festivities including visits from friends and family often create extra distractions for pet parents. It’s best to make plans for your dog before guests arrive. Try to keep him in a gated area where he can see people but cannot get out. If your dog is anxious, consider keeping him in a quiet but cool bedroom and make it a point to check on him regularly.
IDs, Please: For added insurance, ensure your pet is wearing proper identification tags that list their name, your name, your home address and phone number.
Avoiding Alcohol: Keep alcohol out of your dog’s reach. Ingesting alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, difficulty breathing coma and even death in pets.
Prevent Burns: It’s not a good idea to give your dog (or your kids for that matter) free roam of the yard when the grill is on. Burns can happen in an instant.
Steer Clear of Fireworks: If your dog is afraid of fireworks, place them in a cool, closed room until the explosives are over. It may be helpful to play soothing music for your pet during the fireworks display. If you’re traveling to view fireworks elsewhere, it’s best to leave your pets at home.
Poisonous Products: Keep matches, citronella candles, bug sprays, sunscreens and lighter fluid out of your dog’s reach. These products can all cause serious health problems for your pup.
Even if Laura Wright weren’t an award-winning actress for her role as Carly Corinthos Jacks on General Hospital, we’d be huge fans of her lifelong dedication to animals. She and her husband, John, daughter Lauren, 15, and son John, 13, have four dogs at their home in California’s Santa Ynez Valley. The newest member of the family, Fire, is a Border Collie/German Shepherd-mix puppy whom they adopted from their local rescue, Old Yeller Rescue Ranch. Laura recently joined We-Care.com, the online shopping portal that raises funds for nonprofits, to help support the ASPCA and the animals we serve. You can Visit We-Care.com and enter to win a day on the set of General Hospital.
Can you introduce us to your dogs?
In addition to Fire, we have Dusty, a Border Collie/Golden Retriever mix, who’s 11; Lily, a miniature Dachshund, who’s about nine; and Rider, who looks like part white Shepherd mix, part Lab, who’s 16 months. I want to get a DNA test on him.
What’s your favorite part about being a pet parent?
There’s never a dull moment! Of course, it’s like having babies again, but we have the best time watching the dogs run and play. They keep you in the present moment, by watching how present they are. And they’re always happy to see you. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, hi!”
Have you always had pets in your life?
I had a German Shepherd as a kid. We had horses and barn cats who had kittens all the time—you never thought about it. As an adult, my first dog was not a rescue; she was purchased from a woman whose own Dalmatian had puppies. Her name was Rain, because James Taylor’s “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain” was playing on the radio when my husband and I got her. So when we got our new puppy this year, my husband said, “We should name her Fire.”
What have you taught your children about animals?
We’ve always been animal lovers, and we already had two Dalmatians when we had kids, so we’ve always been on top of the kids about being responsible with dogs. We’re nature people—that’s why we live where we live. When my daughter first went to school she wouldn’t let her friends step on ants!
Why are you an advocate for animal rescue?
After I got Fire, I started looking at shelters. I’d become more educated by that time, and I realized what puppy mills do, especially to female dogs, who may never live outside of a cage. I was blown away by it.
When you go to a rescue, in every dog cage you walk by, there’s a soul in there. They want to be loved, they want to be happy and they want to please you. I wanted to support that. I want to be part of an organization that educates people about having your pets spayed or neutered, and helps them find them forever homes.
You can visit We-Care.com/LauraWright to support the ASPCA’s efforts on behalf of animals nationwide and for a chance to win a day on the set of General Hospital!