My dogs, Davy and Ginger, and I have been spending a lot of time together since mid-March when COVID-19 rocked our world. I’ve been free to walk them more often and hang out with them. They have been great companions throughout and are practicing their obedience training and learning some fun new tricks while I catch up on a lot of reading.
I’ve also noticed some subtle differences in their behavior. Davy, my German Shepherd is more content to stay in the yard without me. Ginger, my Walker Hound, is more nervous on her walks because of all the extra people enjoying the outside. To lessen her stress, our walks have been shortened.
Nice to see you, now go away.
I did an informal survey of my friends with pets to see how their households are holding up. Many reported that their pets are confused about the humans being home so much. One cat servant noted their pet gives them a look that says, “Don’t you have someplace to be?” Other fur babies are clingy, and since pets are tuned in to our emotions, that could be because they are picking up our distress along with the change of routine.
Another pet owner reported, “My dogs DEMAND a long walk every day now. They’ve had more walks in the last 7 weeks than they have had their whole lives. My cats can’t get enough of us. I am grateful for this time with all of them.”
What do you mean you’re leaving?
In every case the pets and their humans have had to make adjustments from the dogs becoming personal trainers to cats who yowl when left alone in a room. And there will be readjustments when we’re allowed to go back to business as almost normal. This is especially problematic if your dog is a puppy, a young dog, or one that you recently adopted. It will be easier if you start preparing your pets now instead of letting them work it out on their own.
If you’re pets are already having separation anxiety just when you step out to the get the mail, it is time to start retraining them to have confidence that you will return. Other forms of misbehavior like busting through the baby gates or taking over your bed and furniture need to be addressed before they get to be bigger problems with tougher solutions.
Go back to their basic training, change up your routine, and start to desensitize your pets to separation. If you find this retraining to be challenging, give me a call 252-635-2655 or drop me an email and I might be able to suggest some options for you. After all, we are all in this together!
The Covid-19 pandemic is prompting people to think about alternative care for their pets should they become incapacitated. I’ve had several worried callers reach out to me asking if I can care for their pets if they become ill. They are smart to be putting a plan in place. Here are the tips I have offered my friends and clients:
Update Your Pet’s Information
Be sure you have your pet’s current vaccine information, feeding instructions, medical history, and the address and phone number of your emergency contacts and veterinarian. Remember, boarding facilities require your pets to have up to date vaccines before they will allow them in day or overnight programs.
You should have a guardianship form naming a specific person who has agreed to care for your pet if you are no longer able to do so. The form should list the friend, neighbor, relative, or a professional caregiver who can take responsibility for your pet on a temporary basis as well as the long term plan for your pet’s care. You candownload the guardianship form here and then fill it out for each of your pets. Also, consider the financial burden that comes with pet care and make arrangements to support your pet’s temporary living arrangement.
Prepare a Comfort Kit
Have your pet’s comfort kit ready before you need it. The kit includes food, medications and prescriptions with instructions, vet’s contact information, favorite toys, treats, a blanket and bedding, and a leash for your dog. Be sure that your pet has their proper ID tags on their collar or harness and microchip information. Include a current photo of your pet for their caregivers in the event they get separated. If you have a carrier for transport, set it out where it can be easily located.
Long Term Planning
Provide instructions for pets that are ill or elderly. Consider leaving your credit card number on file with your local vet in case your pet has to see the doctor or be hospitalized. And also, be clear about your wishes should your pet become terminally ill or has no quality of life.
If you are interested in permanently placing your pet, it is important to present a full picture of their personality and habits. A rambunctious dog would be a better match with an outdoorsy type rather than a bookworm who would much prefer a lap cat for company.
By preparing now, you’ll be ready for the unexpected. If you have other pet care concerns, please contact me and I will help if I am able.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fear, anxiety and stress of the Covid-19 pandemic but, I have decided to take a life lesson from my pets; I am focusing on the now. While I am being safe, following the CDC guidelines and social distancing, I am keeping informed but not glued to the deluge of information about the virus. I am watching informative webinars, listening to uplifting Ted Talks, assembling jigsaw puzzles, and spending time with my pets. Honestly, this pandemic would be even harder to endure if I didn’t have Davy and Ginger to keep me company and to set a good example.
They are consistent in their routine; they wake me up at 5 a.m. for breakfast every day. (There is no such thing as a weekend in my house.) After breakfast and their backyard outing, we get some exercise with our routine walk – first Davy and then Ginger. Each dog sees this neighborhood stroll differently. Davy wants to experience all the sights and smells and has a keen eye for the possibility of saying “Hi” to someone he knows. Ginger is happier with her nose to the ground – always on the alert for a new scent.
MIX IT UP
To keep the walk interesting, we vary pace with slow, medium, and fast gaits. Once we’re back home, I’ll ask them to do spins, sits, stays, go arounds, and come to keep their obedience training sharp. Now to keep our mental acuity up and to add some fun, we are going through the AKC trick dog list. Davy is learning to crawl on command and Ginger is learning to give me her paw. There are a lot of fun items on the Trick List that will take a while to get to and I have the extra time right now, so why not?
All day long they keep me engaged and out of my mental mess. They remind me when it’s feeding time, snuggle time, and when I need to take a break from my office work. Davy will lay his head on my lap and Ginger will do her dance at the door. They are great companions and provide unconditional love. Davy is in charge of security and is quick to let me know if a stranger is getting too close to the house. While Ginger is responsible for reminding me to slow down and savor life. She demonstrates it by enjoying a peaceful rest in a sunny spot.
KITTENS & BIRDIES & HORSES, OH MY!
Other pets are also a wonderful source of comfort and activity during these odd times. Cats are social animals that love to be around their humans. Many enjoy playing with toys, being brushed, bird-watching from their favorite windowsill, or chasing a laser light. Cats can learn tricks, too. Some cats fetch as well as dogs. Just be patient!
Horses can certainly help take your mind off your troubles and provide a lot of activity. Grooming is a great way to quiet your mind, a trail ride is perfect for spending time outdoors, and just being around horses is good for your soul.
If you have a bird at home, now is a great time to enrich your bird’s cage. Our avian friends are intelligent and get bored with life in a cage. In the wild, they are constantly searching for food, discovering something new, and staying active.
By offering new and colorful toys, perches with different textures, adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to their diet you can bring a lot of that excitement to their cage life. Don’t forget some yummy pine nuts for a treat. You can also add some pleasant sounds by playing music they like to hear. I know a bird who loves Enya. Experiment and observe them enjoying their upgraded environment.
Fish and reptiles are a great distraction, too. Watching fish swimming and meandering around an aquarium can be soothing and hypnotic. The slow pace of your pet tortoise or lizard is what helps them have a long life. Keep that in mind as we stay home and slow down.
CUDDLES & COMFORT
Pets can bring people comfort and calm during these trying times. I have seen more people walking pets in my neighborhood than I have ever seen before. They must be feeling the same benefits that I am feeling. It’s going to be a long few months. If you are feeling anxious, spend some quality time with your pets to help you cope and mimic their ability to focus just on the moment.
Our pets rely
on us to keep them healthy and aside from love, a good diet, and exercise we
are also responsible for their hygiene. Bathing
your cat or dog can be quite an undertaking that you may want to leave to the
professionals, but cleaning their ears and teeth is simple and cost effective.
No matter the size or breed of your dog, tooth brushing can be an enjoyable experience and the sooner you start the easier it will be. Davy, my German Shepherd, has had his teeth brushed since he was a puppy. He is now four and looks forward to our sessions. Ginger, my senior rescue Walker Hound, was recently at the vet’s for a cleaning and some dental work which was a little rough on both of us. Now she is being introduced to a good dental regimen and prefers the tooth brushing and plaque prevention water additives at home to the vet visit, for sure.
to brush your pet’s teeth start with the right tools. You can use a pet toothbrush, a finger brush,
or gauze wrapped around your finger for fragile cat teeth. Be sure to use
toothpaste for pets, like the Oxyfresh products, which both Davy and Ginger
approve of. This toothpaste is tasty and
safe for pets, will cause no harm if swallowed, and contains enzymes or
antiseptics that help control plaque. (Human toothpaste has fluoride and
artificial sweeteners in it that are harmful to pets and should not be
Get comfortable and entice your pet to snuggle up, then gently lift their lips and rub the toothbrush back and forth method for 30-60 seconds on the outside of the teeth. Lavish your buddy with praise during the session and give them a treat afterwards to create a fear free experience. Making this enjoyable will lead to a better experience during future veterinarian examinations, too. A water additive is another easy hands off way to try to maintain a healthier mouth and gums. Simply follow the directions and add the correct dosage to your pet’s water bowl.
Ear cleaning is normal at my house and used as needed. Davy likes to play fetch and tumbles around, so he gets more debris to clean out. I check Ginger’s ﬂoppy ears regularly to be sure they are healthy and clean and just like the teeth brushing, she loves the treats afterwards.
Most cats are
fine without ear cleaning, but for those who are prone to wax build-up and/or
ear infections, ear cleaning is very important for their hygiene. For dogs however,
ear cleaning is a necessary part of their grooming needs. Some dogs need more
frequent ear cleaning than others especially dogs who are prone to ear
Cleaning your pet’s ears does not require any special equipment. A good quality pet ear cleaning solution, some cotton balls or gauze, and some treats to reward your pet are all that is needed. AVOID using cotton tip applicators (Q-tips) because it is too easy to perforate the eardrum, push debris deeper, or cause trauma in the ear canal.
It’s a simple
procedure: gently squirt the pet ear cleaning solution into the ear canal,
massage the outside of the base of the ear for about 30 seconds to loosen the
debris, then use the cotton ball or gauze to wipe away the dirt and absorb the
solution. You can also saturate the gauze or cotton ball and gently rub the
inside of the ear. Be sure to praise your pet and give them a treat after each
When cleaning your pets ears or teeth you have the opportunity to assess their health. If you find noxious odors, redness, or swelling you should call your vet to get them checked.
care for pets is a great way to bond with your pet, a simple and fun practice
to prevent health care expenses, and a good way to get them used to being
handled making it easier for a vet’s exam when necessary. Plus, your pet will
thank you for your tender loving care.
As the Pet
Sitters International 2020 Pet Sitter of the Year I have the opportunity to
select a “pet” project for giving back to my community. I’ve chosen the Craven County Sheriff’s K-9
Unit. These specially trained police dogs are important to our safety, a new
initiative in the county, and largely underfunded.
Sheriff Chip Hughes has a strong interest in the health and
welfare of the animals in our county. He promotes pet adoptions, visited the
storm shelter during the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, adopted a family pet,
hosted the first Craven County Pet Expo, established the new animal protection
services division, and has joined the fight against animal abuse and neglect in
Craven County. His actions have inspired
me to support his K-9 Unit.
Officer Rebecca Hopper oversees the K-9 program and
described some of their specific needs to establish the team on a limited
budget. She noted that any donation,
large or small, would be used toward the purchase of items that are needed
Hot-N-Pop Heat Sensors for Patrol Vehicles –
vehicle kennels $2,500 and sensors $1,500
Craven Wants a Pack
The goal is to build the unit up to an eight dog K-9 Patrol.
Ongoing training will be needed for the dogs and their handlers and new dogs
and officers will be added. Officer
Hopper reports that purchasing a trained police dog is approximately an $11,000
investment. However, there are
organizations like the Throw Away Dogs Project (TADP) that train and
donate dogs who need a second chance.
K-9 Nibbles, our newest deputy, is a Pitbull with a rough
start. TADP rescued him, trained him as a police dog, and donated him to the
Craven County team. On January 23, Nibbles
was sworn in as the rookie K-9
member of our Sheriff’s growing pack.
Police dogs are trained to track criminals, perform search
and rescue, sniff out illegal materials, and support their handlers in many
ways. In Craven County, they are turning
routine traffic stops into major drug hauls effectively removing dangerous
drugs off the streets before they get into the hands of our youth, family, and
K-9s Stihl, Ringo, Ghost, and Nibbles are off to a great
start serving and protecting our community. I feel, it is important for us to
support them, their training, and to provided them with the tools they need to
perform their best.
My first donation was made in January, and I encourage
others to follow suit. You can mail your check to the Craven County Sheriff’s
Office, 1100 Clarks Road, New Bern, NC 28562, and in the memo section, add Sheriff’s
K-9 Unit. This is a donation that
will make our county even safer.
In my efforts to provide the best possible care for my clients’ pets and for my own, I became certified as a Fear Free Pet Professional in 2017. Their mission is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them. Or, as they say: Take the pet out of petrified. Below are examples of Fear Free techniques in action.
Snippy Sick Pooch
Cassidy was a terrier-type, senior dog that we walked twice
a day. She was doted on by her family
and, by the time we met her, had already lived a long and happy life. As she aged, she was diagnosed with a heart
condition that required medicine twice a day.
However, the first time her owner attempted to pill her; Cassidy showed
her displeasure with a nip.
My colleague who cared for Cassidy called me to relate the
incident and to request instructions for administering the medicine in a safer
manner. I drove right over to Cassidy’s
house for a Fear Free “Teachable Moment.”
Using what Fear Free calls a considerate
approach, I tucked the pill into a small dollop of peanut butter on the end of
a spoon and offered it to Cassidy. She
was delighted with her new treat and took her medicine willingly from that day
forward. This quick win turned a negative
experience into a positive one for both Cassidy and her owners.
Very Skiddish Vizslas
One of my clients is a busy professional whose work schedule
was making it harder and harder to come home for lunch to let her dogs
out. She had a blended pet family of
four dogs – her two little dogs: easy-going, people-friendly Italian Greyhounds
and her friend’s dogs: high-energy Vizslas that were fearful of strangers and
reactive toward me. I knew the little dogs well as I had been pet sitting for
them for a while but needed to get to know the two bigger dogs.
As always, I met the dogs in advance with the owners present
and observed that they were well-trained and attentive. Sit, stay, and go to your place commands were
executed perfectly. However, my first
visit alone with them turned out to be a challenge.
The Vizsla female was not happy with me being there. She advanced toward me growling, barking, and
kept it up for most of the visit. A thirty-minute visit went into overtime with
me trying to put a slip lead on a frightened, reactive dog. I actually hid behind the larger male Vizsla and
while reaching over him slipped a leash
on the little girl. I spoke calmly,
moved slowly, and offered her plenty of treats to win her over. The Fear Free tactics enabled
me to get all the dogs outside to potty and playtime and back inside again
without further ado.
Making a Good Impression
To ensure my next visit would be a pleasant experience, I
knew that I needed to create good associations with these dogs. When I arrived, I carried the Vizslas’ toys
in where they could see me and they enthusiastically followed me out back for a
good game of fetch. After a few more visits, they were comfortable with me and allowed
me to put on their leashes to take them for a walk.
Now these dogs are easy to handle, fun to play with, and
loving toward me. I was able to introduce
another one of my dog walkers to them who they took to readily. She accompanied
me three times and is now able to enjoy walking these dogs on her own.
Davy and The Doctor
My three-year-old German Shepherd dog is named Davy. Davy and I have been going to dog school with
a top-notch trainer since he was ten weeks old.
He excels in obedience and rally.
But as a puppy, when he went to the veterinarian’s office for a visit,
his boldness faded away, he became distressed, he would often pee on the floor,
and when the vet examined him, he became snappy. I had just started my Fear Free training certification and I was determined to change his dreadful veterinary
experiences into happy visits.
Over the next year, Davy was trained to be relaxed and cooperative during routine veterinary procedures. We practiced skills at home and, with my vet’s permission, repeated our lessons at regular intervals in the vet’s lobby and exam rooms. Davy enjoyed the treats from the vet staff who often participated with us and quickly became accustomed to our simulated exams, pretend blood draws, and x-rays. He calmly accepted a muzzle and the sounds of the clippers. His anxiety about going to the vets was replaced with tail-wagging enthusiasm. He now wants to explore every nook and cranny and attempts to go behind every closed door. Most importantly, Davy has become a vet-friendly dog!
Fear Free for All
I and my staff apply Fear Free methods on
every visit to ensure that each pet we care for has a calm experience with
us. We have cats come out from under the
bed for snuggles, formerly fearful dogs greet us with tail wags, and owners
return home to happy relaxed pets. Proving
that Fear Free techniques are simple and pet tested.