Police Dogs are Making a Difference

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 immediately:

  • Training equipment (tracking harnesses, bite suits, Kongs, tug toys, collars, leads)
  • Protection gear
  • Indoor/outdoor K-9 kennels – $3500 each
  • Hot-N-Pop Heat Sensors for Patrol Vehicles – vehicle kennels $2,500 and sensors $1,500

Craven Wants a Pack

Jeanne Crockett, K-9 Ringo, and Sheriff Chip Hughes.

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 colleagues. 

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.



Attitude adjustments for your pet  

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 at 5 months.
Davy at 5 months.

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.

Keep Pets Calm & Party On

Keep Pets Calm & Party On

Get Ready! The Holidays are Coming

Your homelife is usually quiet and routine but from the end of October with the arrival of Halloween until the doldrums of January 2 set in, things are not normal. When the doorbell rings, it puts your pet on the alert that something possibly wicked is coming their way. All the holidays offer strange scents, sights, and sounds that may unnerve your usually calm pet.  You need to take special precautions during the holiday season to keep your pet and your household on an even keel.

Intriguing Decorations

As you put out your holiday décor your pet may find it interesting, tasty, or worth demolishing. Best to let your pets sniff, see, and smell the decorations first.  As you add these unusual pieces around the house, consider that they can pose a health hazard to your furry friend. They may get tangled in the lights, devour the potpourri, or trash your special crystal. Take a pet’s eye view of the things you are displaying to keep your treasures and pets safe.  And, If you are going to dress up Fido or Fluffy – chose a comfortable outfit and give them time to get used to it. 

Threatening Strangers

Droves of people coming to the door for your special event can make your pet anxious. They want to know who is entering your kingdom, if they are a friend or foe, and then act accordingly. If your dog is growling or exuberantly leaping to welcome your visitors, your guests will be uncomfortable. And remember, if you are busy answering the door, your pets may take advantage of the unguarded opening and make a dash for the outdoors. Save your pets (and your friendships) by providing a quiet and secure crate or room for them while you handle the crowd. Provide treats, toys, and a comfy spot for your fur babies so that they can peacefully enjoy your event. Both your pets and guests will appreciate having their own space.  

Festive Food

Chocolate is a food group for many humans but deadly for dogs; as is any candy containing xylitol. Keep all the human food out of reach and under close scrutiny while preparing for your party so that your pets are not tempted by something delectable but harmful for them. You certainly don’t want your pup parking his cookies in the dining room after slurping some milk and eating a few grapes. Be careful about the plants in your home, as well; the ASPCA has a list of plants that are toxic for pets.

Planning ahead and seeing the world through your pet’s eyes will ensure everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.

Long Life Bonds

Long Life Bonds

Keeping Seniors with Their Pets

There are so many benefits for senior citizens to retain their pets that it is absolutely ideal to keep them together for as long as possible.  Studies have proven that pets provide companionship, mental stimulation, plus a wider support and social network.  Pets lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones circulating through the body, facilitate social interactions, and lessen loneliness.  Crockett’s Critter Care has been fortunate to provide dog walking services to seniors over the years and we have witnessed the benefits first hand.

Dog Walking and Bird Watching

One of our clients, Mrs. M. had a little dog named Whitey.  Even though her dog was small, the aging process took some Mrs. M’s mobility and her health had compromised her breathing so it became difficult to get Whitey out for her daily walks. Mrs. M. lived in a lovely golf course community that didn’t allow a fenced yard so she inquired about us walking Whitey twice a day – morning and afternoon.  Each day we reported back to Mrs. M. how many birds’ nests Whitey spotted on her walks and how her leash manners had improved. 

Our daily visits gave Mrs. M.’s family reassurance that she had social interaction each day when we entertained her with Whitey’s adventures. When Mrs. M.’s condition deteriorated and she was no longer able to live on her own, we were able to find a forever home for her beloved pet, which comforted her knowing that Whitey would continue to be cared for and loved.

Sweet Kitty

A sweet orange cat “Marmalade” resided in assisted living with Mr. J. This little girl was a senior herself and had some serious health issues.  When Mr. J. traveled to visit his family, he always asked us to step in and care for her.  While on his trips, we would send Mr. J. pictures and reports which he loved showing to his family.  As Marmalade’s health worsened, we offered to take her to the veterinarian, but Mr. J. cut his trip short to do so himself.  I know that this cat filled a big space in his heart and home.  It was a pleasure to visit Marmalade and get to know her during her last years.

A Lively Bit of Fluff

A little dog named Duffy is owned by Mr. Bob and is a favorite at the assisted living facility. We take Duffy for a walk every day in the morning and evening and we can’t get down the hallway without everyone stopping to pet this little fluff.  Sometimes, Duffy is out front with Mr. Bob waiting for our arrival. As the seniors chat, Duffy makes the rounds to collect ear scratches and head pats from his adoring fans. When we bring Duffy back from his walk, he always jumps into Mr. Bob’s lap for a mutual snuggle.

As part of our service, we monitor Duffy’s feeding to ensure he is getting all of his meals and we send a report to Mr. Bob’s family letting them know that Duffy’s needs are being met.  We love talking to Mr. Bob about the life he has led and the importance that animals have played in it. He has been a good steward for all of his pets which included many dogs, a horse, and a donkey name Gina Lollobrigida because of her long eyelashes.  Mr. Bob feels very strongly that we develop a partnership with our pets and they should be treated with kindness and care for their entire life.

For us, it is an honor to support and share in the loving bond these seniors have with their furry companions.

How to Keep Your Pet Calm & Safe July 4th

How to Keep Your Pet Calm & Safe July 4th

Fireworks Frighten Pets –Tips for Your Pet’s Safety

We humans enjoy the Fourth of July Holiday.  The fireworks displays are dazzling and the booms are amazing – to us.  But they frighten many dogs.  In fact, there is a spike in dogs escaping and running loose. 

For many dogs, fireworks can send them into a frenzy. Dogs don’t see this sparkling display and hear this ear-popping noise from the same perspective that we humans do. Davy, my German Shepherd, is fine with the commotion.  But, my little Walker Hound, Ginger, trembles from the first neighborhood firecrackers popping off down the street to the spectacular crescendo resonating from the community fireworks displays.  Here are some tips to stay safe, have fun, and take good care of your pet:

Create a safe place for your dog

Keep your dog inside, and don’t leave them alone.  Close the windows and blinds. Provide a safe den-like spot (crates are a good choice).  A ThunderShirt or similar compression wrap or garment may help keep them more relaxed.

Provide distractions

Give them a full meal ahead of time and something fun to do when the festivities begin such as a frozen treat-filled peanut butter Kong to chew or other safe chew-toy to gnaw on. Fans, white noise machines, audio books, music designed for pets, or leaving the TV on may help.  Pay attention to your dog to divert his attention to you – cuddles and assurances are always welcomed.

Pheromones & pharmaceuticals to the rescue!

Adaptil is a pheromone scientifically proven to help calm dogs. You can spray Adaptil on your pet’s bedding or on a bandana that you place around your pet’s neck. Or you can buy an Adaptil diffuser that emits pheromones continuously.  Adaptil collars are available too, but they need to be worn about one week before they are effective and they stay effective for about one month.

In serious cases, talk to your veterinarian about medications that may keep your pet comfortable through the celebration. Veterinarians say that July 3rd is usually the most trafficked day in their offices with clients coming in to get sedatives for their dogs.

Plan Ahead & Pay Attention  

Give your dog plenty of exercise on the day that fireworks are scheduled to help settle them for later.  Make sure they are wearing ID tags. If you are hosting a party, keep your pets away from the grill, alcohol, and unsafe foods:  chocolate, xylitol, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, onions, avocado and bread dough.  Also be cautious with décor that could be harmful if swallowed:  shiny or colorful wrappers, sparklers, and glow sticks among other tempting items.

You know your dog best and how much to intervene better than anyone. Remember that their fear is real and can put them in danger. By keeping your dog in a safe place and providing him with distractions, cuddles, and TLC; you’ll be able to keep him safer and calmer during the upcoming festivities. And that means you can have a happy and fear free holiday.

How to Care for A Senior Pet

How to Care for A Senior Pet

Smokey, My Aging Cat

I met Smokey in 2002 when I was volunteering with Pals for Paws.  She was part of a feral cat colony that lived in the woods somewhere behind a business on Oaks Road in New Bern.  There were a handful of cats of various ages, sizes, and colors living there.  Several volunteers took turns feeding them morning and evening.  We’d park behind the business and hike a trail in the woods to their spot. 

We spread out about five cans of wet food and fill up bowls of fresh water and watched them dine.  When it was my turn, I would talk to them and try to win their trust.  The youngest of them was Smokey – a gray cat with a white spot on her chest.  She would follow me down the trail when I was leaving – talking the whole time.  We bonded before she even let me pet her. 

By summer I dreaded hiking in the woods because it was so hot and full of mosquitoes.   It dawned on me that I could take Smokey home and feed her in my air-conditioned house.  The other volunteers thought this was a splendid idea. 

We ended up trapping the whole group, taking them all to the vet, made sure they were all spayed and neutered and healthy and found homes for them all.  Smokey came to live with me and fit in harmoniously with the rest of my pet household.  I now had a balanced “petfolio” of three cats and three dogs.  Smokey is the only pet left from that original group.  The others have passed on.  It’s tough watching her struggle with illness and the effects of old age.

Making Adjustments

She is smaller and lighter than she used to be.  She no longer jumps up to the heights she could easily soar to in her youth.  Arthritis keeps her slow and close to the ground.  I leave some soft bedding in various rooms so she can rest more comfortably. I lift her onto my bed each night.   Smokey was diagnosed with a thyroid condition a few years ago and can only eat special food.  I try to vary her food a little even though it’s basically the same formulation.  I may add water one day or heat the food in the microwave on another.

I place her dish on something to lift it a few inches off the floor so it’s easier on her neck when she bends over to eat.   I groom her every day as she needs a little help.  Her coat has dandruff so I brush her with a soft brush and wipe her down with a wet cloth being careful not to brush her spine. 

After noticing a few accidents, I changed her litter box recently to one that is shallower with lower sides so she can get in and out with ease.  I’m pretty sure she doesn’t hear me anymore either.  So I move carefully near her so she isn’t startled.  We visit the vet’s office more frequently for nail trims and wellness checks.  Her numbers are good – for now.  

Love & Comfort

I plan to keep her comfortable and well-cared for in her senior years.  She still follows me around, enjoys resting in sun spots, loves to eat, and cuddles with me each night before bedtime. I wonder if I am doing enough. I hope so.  I love her. 

I have clients with older cats that seem healthier and more agile.  Maybe Smokey’s mother was too young and stressed when she gave birth. Perhaps Smokey is missing some early comfort, love, nutrition, and safety that is influencing her aging process now. I do know that this once little cat from the woods fills a big space in my heart.