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!
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.
I was stressed out last week. I had one of those days when I had a million things to do in about an hour, and everything was going wrong. I was running late, forgot to make my son’s lunch, was further held up by the mounting ice forming on our front walk and the phone was ringing off the hook.
“Calm down, Mom,” my daughter said. “You’re making Django nervous.” She was right. Our black lab, Django, didn’t want to be near me and walked around with her head down. It was something I had noticed before. You know how when someone comes into the room frazzled, and you can feel their nervous energy? Well, Django does the same with me. She knows my tones, and when I’m stressed or feeling sick, she knows it.
Many dog owners have long known this to be true. How many times have we told our friends and family that our dogs sense when we are feeling sick or down in the dumps? Fellow pet owners understand right away, but non-pet people sometimes look at us as if we’re crazy. Recent studies suggest that dogs read our emotions based on our vocal cues.
It’s surely not news to those of us that love our pets; we have already known that they understand us. But it sure is affirming to have science back us up!
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blogGrown and Flown.
On that afternoon in August when we said goodbye to our youngest child at her freshman dorm, my husband and I became empty nesters. We joined ranks with countless other parents who also turned keys in front door locks and walked into much quieter homes. Although I miss our daughter terribly, I take comfort in knowing that our chocolate labs, Gus and Moose, wait for me at home. They are great companions and cheer me with hearty tail wags, their exuberance on our morning walks, and expressions of devotion when they look up into my eyes, holding the stare.
Having dogs but no children under our roof made it easy to relate to a fellow empty nester, Susan Morse, who has recently published a memoir, The Dog Stays in the Picture. In the book, Morse credits her rescued greyhound, Lilly, with providing similar canine company after her three children had moved out to go to college. I discovered Morse’s writing when her book and the blog I co-author with Lisa Heffernan, Grown and Flown: Parenting from the Empty Nest were both featured in a story in a recent article in The New York Times, “The Empty Nest Book Hatchery” as examples of a growing group of blogs and books aimed at adults whose children have flown the coop.
Morse’s title refers to Lilly’s steady presence in her household despite constant changes. The youngest children graduate from high school and leave for college while the eldest child, a daughter, begins her career. As her children grow increasingly independent, Morse laments “At least Lilly needs me, even if her constant shadowing has been a bit tiresome, more and more, I’m coming to understand the use of pets as a subconscious substitute for children.”
I love Moose and Gus but am not sure that I am trying to transfer a need to “mother” from our kids to our dogs. I take care of the two pups with the same level of exercise, feeding, and attention that I have always given them. What I treasure, though, are the memories of our kids at younger years that often co-star the dogs. I remember when our daughter, then 10-years-old, first laid eyes on Moose, the puppy. My daughter turns 19 in two weeks. I recall when our son, playing football in college, came home for surgery on his knee four years ago. I love thinking about how Gus, then just several months old, was a great diversion and source of happiness while he recovered.
For Susan Morse, her Lilly "stays in the picture" and is a comfort during a time of family changes. Our dogs stay close at hand and also remind me of family times gone by. I am grateful for Lilly, Gus, Moose and all other pets that help keep our nests full.
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.