Friday, February 8, 2013

Dogs,Cats, and Kids, Oh My!

My thoughts when I first started writing Secrets of a Vet Tech, was to help pet parents who had been hurt financially and were struggling to keep their pets. It seems everyone I know is either losing a job, having a medical crisis, or losing their homes.

As a rescuer and a former member of a humane society board in charge of operating an animal shelter, I am well aware that in times like these, sometimes the first to go is the pet. It was for that reason I was trying desperately to find ways to make keeping the family pet feasible.

Humans who work in a shelter, especially a kill shelter, tend to become very bitter. They see animals dumped like trash, neglect and abuse, and backyard breeders who use an animals to make a buck. The animals come in damaged and abandoned, and the shelter staff tries their best to make them feel love knowing that they may have to turn around and euthanize that same animal that they, themselves, have come to love. Its enough to drive you mad.

Those kinds of people are necessary however, because they force themselves to see daily what others can't even stand to read about.(How many of you wanted to stop reading the paragraph above?)

At the same time, that anger and bitterness, needs to be turned around into searching for solutions. Not every person who brings their pet to the shelter is a bad person. Quite often, he is a good person beating himself inside for not being able to find a better solution.

That's why I wrote the book. If we can find ways to make it affordable, most people would LOVE to keep their family pet. Whether it is medical issues that can be taken care of at home, preventing medical issues with preventive care, finding financial resources to help in times of need, or just not making them feel like bad pet parents when they can't afford top brand foods, we have to do something.

Aside from financial issues, what are some other reasons people give up their pet? That, my friends, will be the discussion of the next few blogs as we try to find solutions to keeping that pet with the family. 

First, let's discuss babies and pets.  The young couple desperately in love adopt a pet not even considering that they will probably have a baby during the lifetime of that pet. The baby is born, replaces the dog/cat etc, and no one understands why the pet gets upset. Then he/she is considered "too dangerous" to be around the child and off to the shelter he/she goes.

I realize how tempting it is when you start a new relationship and a new family to want a pet. Been there, done that. But please take into consideration that dogs, cats, and other common pets can live twenty years. Instead, consider getting a pet with a shorter lifespan. Make an awesome aquarium set up.  Get a rat (which makes an awesome pet) or a guinea pig. Both of these pets can be held and cuddled when raised from young ones, yet their life expectancy is 4-6 years.

If you do have a dog and you know a baby is on the way, go through a dog training course. This will give your dog the discipline needed to learn to sit and stay while you take care of baby needs. It will also build a good relationship between you and your dog that will give you the confidence to know that he/she will obey. It will also make it plausible for  you to involve your dog and baby in activities together. Baby can chill in the stroller while Rover gets some great exercise walking on a local walking path.

So what about the cat? Too many cats are surrendered to shelters because an ill informed doctor convinces the mother cleaning the litter box will kill the baby or the cat will smother the child. Common sense goes a long way in life. First, if you are worried about the litter box, wear gloves. They're cheap and effective. Problem solved. Cat gets to live.

Next, if you are worried about the cat smothering the baby, don't leave them in the same room. To a cat, a person, baby or adult, is a heating pad. The face is like a heat vent because warm air blows out (at least as long as the person is alive). Contrary to popular belief, the cat is not an evil entity with a diabolical plan to kill the baby. He just wants to be warm and cozy. Buy the cat a heating pad that is warmer than the baby, sprinkle a little catnip on it, and Baby will be forgotten.

Other issues I have heard from pet parents are worries of zoonosis. That's a fancy word for diseases that can be passed from animal to human or human to animal. The answer to this is pretty simple. First make sure your pet is well vaccinated and dewormed. Practice good sanitation. Clean up after pet and baby. Never let the baby near the litterbox. Its really fairly simple.

While I realize that having a new baby in the house can be very overwhelming, I also believe we should take our commitment to our pets seriously. If, however, your solution to the situation is putting an inside pet outside and forgetting he/she exists only at feeding time, then, yes, find a another home for him or her. There is nothing sadder than a single pet once part of the family, abandoned outside where he can only watch life go by. A multiple pet home, such as one with two large dogs, can at least entertain one another outside.

My intention is not to make you feel guilty. It is to approach an issue head on and look for solutions. The solution may not be to keep the pet, but finding a new home for him or her can be much less traumatic than dumping at the local shelter and running. It can be easier for you and the pet. In further blogs, I will examine the options when looking for another home and I will help you develop criteria when searching for a new family.


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