Saturday, March 13, 2010

Delighted by Training

It has been a fantastic few weeks of pet sitting some really amazing pets. The more I work with dogs and cats, the more I see their intelligence and depth of feeling.

I have 3 dogs and 2 cats of my own. Annabelle, our newest (formerly our foster dog - but we fell in love with her) is learning some obedience commands. Loki and Fiona know a lot of this stuff already, so they're playing along, too, sitting on command, laying down, and so on. We had a lot of fun playing together, but it was also fun to observe the dogs and see the little lightbulbs go on over their heads as they learn (and refine) commands.

I taught Loki & Fiona to hi-five, which is a fun, easy, and impress-your-friends-cool kind of trick. When I first started teaching Loki, he needed lots of encouragement to jump up, and then to tap me with his paw. But after a few little sessions every day, he was getting it. He would hit me with his paws, just not on my hands. So then I got him to the point where I would only reward him if he tapped my hand. I could see, over a few sessions, how he would refine his technique to get that treat!

I am not a dog trainer, I just do this for fun with my dogs. The challenge of learning new things gives them mental exercise, and the treats I reward them with make them happy. I love bonding with them and watching them figure things out. I do these little training sessions in five- to ten-minute blocks of time during the day, squeezed in before or after dinner, on the way to the mailbox, whenever it seems that the dogs need some activity.

Maybe in a month or two we'll have learned a new trick. But if not, that's fine, time with pets is NEVER wasted.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Microchip Your Pet!

In light of Baby P's situation, and based on my own personal and professional knowledge, thereis one piece of advice I offer to EVERYONE reading this:

Please get your pet microchipped!

What is microchipping? A microchip is a tiny computer chip (about the size of a grain of rice) that your vet can implant safely under your pet's skin (usually between the shoulder blades). Each chip has a unique number that is entered into a database. If your pet gets lost and is picked up by someone, they can take that pet to any vet or shelter who will then scan the pet for a microchip that will tell them who the pet belongs to! The chip is permanent, can't get lost, and is very inexpensive. We paid $46 per dog to have ours microchipped (they did it when we had the dogs in for spay / neuter so they were under anesthetic, however the procedure doesn't require it and I understand it's not painless, but it's quick and not too painful either).

There is no annual fee - once your pet is microchipped, it stays with them for life, and all you have to do is notify the company if your address or contact info changes.

I have not been able to think of a single downside for microchipping. My 3 dogs are microchipped, and for $46 per dog, the peace of mind is so worth it. I know that if they were to get lost (and something like 1 in 3 dogs get lost in their lifetimes - NOT a good statistic), I have exponentially increased the chances of getting them back.

I welcome any thoughts on microchipping, pro and con! What do you think?

Update, And Some Personal Thoughts.

It looks like Baby P's mom was able to find the person who adopted the dog from the shelter. From what I understand, that person is attached to the dog and won't give her up.

I thought a lot about this. I imagined how I would feel if I picked out just the right dog at the animal shelter, feeling like I was saving a life, only to find out after I got attached to the new member of the family that there was someone desperately looking for the dog that I adopted.

I know that's gotta hurt. We fall in love with our pets. I know I'd be devastated.

But I think that if I were in that position, I would have to think "What is the RIGHT thing to do?"

This dog had a home, a family that cherished him, a family that still cries and grieves because he isn't with them. I think that just as a human being, I would have to do the right thing and give the dog back to it's rightful owner. I couldn't live with myself knowing that I was keeping this precious dog away from the family it loves so much. I think about the message I'd be sending to my family, friends, the kids in my life - "We're going to do the wrong thing because it will hurt to do the right thing." Sometimes it DOES hurt to do the right thing. If I found a million dollars, it sure would hurt to have to give up all of the financial freedom that could offer me when someone came forward with proof that it was their money. Maybe I'd resist, I'd probably cry a lot too! But as an honest person, and to be the person I need to be to look myself in the mirror every day, I would give the money back because it was not mine. And that's just money, with no thoughts or feelings! I imagine this poor, confused little dog, who misses it's real family, and the thought of depriving that poor dog makes my heart ache.

The fact is this is a tragic situation all around. People are hurting. I just know, that if it were me, I would rather hurt for the RIGHT reasons than not hurt for the WRONG reasons.