Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Spirit of Giving

It seems the holiday spirit is infection this time of year.  It’s the time when people are nicer, more compassionate, more giving, and usually happier.  The spirit of giving is an interesting component of the overall holiday spirit.  It can be loosely defined by the Webster dictionary as an inclination, impulse, or tendency to give.  How can you not be intrigued by an invisible force that mystically inspires people to give more than any other time of year?  Don’t believe it? This concept is reinforced with the fact that almost all non-profit organizations receive 40% of their yearly donations in the last six weeks of the year, despite the need for donations all year long. (CharityNavigator.org)
Instead of trying to solve the world’s great mysteries, we will embrace the spirit of giving and let ourselves be inspired to give as well.  As we consider our approach to giving we are faced with two main possibilities.  1. Give donations or 2. Give time. 
In 1996, The HSUS launched National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week (based on an idea from the Capital Humane Society in Lincoln, Nebraska). This campaign was designed to acknowledge and promote the invaluable role shelters play in their communities and to increase public awareness of animal welfare issues and shelter services. National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, the first full week of every November, presents the perfect opportunity to start giving by volunteering or giving needed items to a local shelter.
Animal shelters have always had a rough time caring for the large influx of animals that come in each year, but even more so now.  Due to the sad state of the economy, shelters and rescues are over capacity with more pets than ever seen before.  As people continue to lose their jobs and their homes they continue to abandon their pets.  “Approximately 3,500 animal shelters across the United States serve the estimated 6-8 million homeless animals who need refuge each year.  Many more animals find themselves in need of the services provided by local rescue groups….Shelters and rescues are always in need of towels, food, toys, and other supplies for the animals, often specified in a “wish list” on their website. Give what you can, ask family, friends and colleagues to do so as well.” – Humane Society

Volunteering is a great activity for the whole family and it teaches children the true meaning of giving as well as a greater understanding and appreciation for the things they have.  Volunteering helps build character through humility, kindness, compassion, understanding, generosity, caring, and serving someone regardless their own problems or needs.  Cities are always looking for volunteers to help keep communities beautiful and community programs available.  Riverside County Department of Animal Services is always looking for teen and adult volunteers to help at shelters throughout the county.  This is a great opportunity for animal lovers who aren’t able to have a pet at the moment and pet owners alike.  The chance to make a difference in an animal’s life is a gift in itself.   
When thinking about how your family can make the most of giving this season, consider extending your commitment to providing charitable acts throughout the year.  Many organizations have plenty of volunteers over the holidays but lack sufficient volunteer resources the remainder of the year.  
There is really no substitute for the feeling you get after giving your time to help someone else in need.  Open your heart this holiday season (and for the rest of the year) to an animal in need and watch the positive impact blossom in your life. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday Prep: Cooking for the dog

Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry, sweet rolls, pumpkin pie;  With thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s almost impossible not to think about all the delicious food we’ll get to eat.  It’s hard not to feel bad for the dog who sits quietly under the table waiting for a meager scrap of food to fall for him.  But what do you do when you know it’s bad for him to get table scraps?  Well, you make him his own Thanksgiving feast.
Don’t know where to start?  There are hundreds of recipes available online that can help you create the best Thanksgiving meal for your dog.  Here is a recipe that Norah for Riverside was happy to share:
“I found this recipe on the internet a few years ago and I thought it was perfect.  The recipe makes a large serving so you could easily make this meal for multiple dogs or even refrigerate the left over servings and treat your dog to a homemade meal for the rest of the week.” – Norah

2 lbs. ground turkey
2 eggs
2 cups cooked rice
8 oz. peas
3 carrots, diced
1 apple, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well by hand. On baking sheet, form into the shape of a large dog bone (or smaller dog bones if you have more than 1 dog or you plan on saving the leftovers).  Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool and serve.  

Note: This recipe makes a large batch. I had enough to make 6 dog bones.
So why not treat your dog to a Thanksgiving feast this year.  He will thank you by letting you eat your feast in peace.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holidays Prep: Decorating

Every holiday season we lug out the tubs of decorations and table settings to make our homes look and feel festive.  Why not add a little seasonal cheer to our pets as well?  I’m not talking about dressing them up as a pilgrim or strapping mistletoe to their collar; I’m talking about decorating their bed.  Everything else in the house is getting a makeover, why not the dog bed too? 
No-sew fleece blankets are simple to make and easy to keep clean (just throw it in the wash).  It can simply drape over your existing pet bed and you can choose the fabric to match any holiday, sports team, or theme you want.    Not only is fleece comfy but it’ll give your pet a little extra warmth this winter.  Don’t have a pet bed? That’s fine too.  Fleece blankets can just as easily go on the couch or bed to help contain the pet fur left behind.  
No-Sew Fleece blanket
How much material?
You can decide how big you want your pet blanket. Look at how wide the blanket is and keep in mind that most fabric is folded in half when sold by the yard.  Your fabric could be anywhere from 21 inches to 1 1/2 yards.

Things you’ll need:
·         Two pieces of fleece the same size. Piece may be the same pattern, two different patterns, two plain colors or a pattern on one side and a plain color on the other.
·         Scissors (sharp ones or fabric scissors if you have them)
·         Tape measure or ruler
·         One 4" x 4" piece of paper
Instructions (for picture instructions, refer to the slideshow):
  1. Take your two pieces of fleece. Put one piece on top of the other lining up the edges so they are even. (Be sure you have the two sides that you want showing facing the outside.  Of the sides you see, one side will be the front of your blanket and the other side will be the back.)
  2. Trim off any selvage around the edges of your fleece (try not to cut in more than 2 inches). Use your ruler to help you cut straight.                                     
  3. Take your piece of 4"x4" paper and lay it on the corner of your blanket. Then, cut out the corner through both layers.  Repeat this step on all four corners.                                                                                      
  4. Now you are ready to cut your fringes.  Cut 4 inches into both layers of fleece, making each fringe 1 inch wide.  You can use your ruler but I found it easier to lay a tape measure across (4” inward) from one cut out corner to the other.  Your measurements don’t have to be exact, just try to keep them the same size.  Repeat this step on all four sides.  
  5. Starting on one side, tie every other fringe pair (one fringe from the front and back side) using an over hand knot. (You may prefer to double knot each fringe to prevent them from coming untied in the wash.)  Repeat this step on all four sides.
  6. Flip the whole blanket over and tie the remaining knots until your blanket is complete.            
*Bonus: If you want to make this a pet bed, just put a pillow in between the fabric before you tie your knots.
The blanket is now complete and ready to spice up your holiday d├ęcor.  This is an easy to make DIY project and it makes the purr-fect gift for anyone (pets or no pets).   

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Barking up a Strom

There are changes being made in Los Angeles that may inspire changes throughout Southern California.  Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, November 1st, to enhance the city's dog barking law with a new ordinance that would impose fines for excessive dog barking.
The old ordinance was last amended about 20 years ago, and as it was, it was stalling city action.  This ordinance did not reprimand residents who did not have their dog licensed nor did it come with fines, essentially rewarding those who were not abiding the law.
With this new ordinance, dog owners would be looking at a starting fine of $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense, and $1,000 for the third strike if a hearing held by the Department of Animal Services determined that their dog barks too much.  According to the Los Angeles Times, this new ordinance also gives animal service officials more power in dealing with owners of unlicensed dogs.  These fines will be imposed regardless of whether or not the dogs are licensed by the city.

“Excessive barking” is going to be more clearly defined for authorities.   Assistant City Attorney Dov Lesel said, “A dog's barking would be considered excessive if it continued for 10 minutes or more, or intermittently for 30 minutes or more within a three-hour period.”
This new law is met with mixed emotions.  Some do not believe this law will be enforced any more than it was before, despite the changes, while others are grateful and hopeful that it will make a difference.  Some officials worry that this might negatively impact the neighborhoods that own dogs as a crime deterrent, and are concerned that the fines may be too steep.  General Manager of the Animal Services Department, Brenda Barnette, believes the fines are reasonable and says that dog owners would have time to fix the problem before a fine would be imposed.

"If a dog hears somebody or something and barks, that's a good thing. That's a warning," Barnette says. "If a dog just stays out and barks and barks, that's really not reasonable."
If this was news in your immediate city would you be worried that you might be facing a fine very soon? Excessive barking is not a normal part of being a dog.  It’s a habit formed from anxiety, be it from loneliness, boredom, or frustration.  Dogs are very social and they need a lot of exercise, attention, and stimulation.  If you ignore them or confined them all day, with no way to get out their energy, they will become a behavioral nightmare.
Keep in mind, not all barking is bad.  Dogs use barking to communicate with us.  But if your dog has learned that barking is the only way to get attention, then he might abuse the power (because negative attention is better than no attention).  If your dog has an excessive barking problem, look into the options available to help you change your dog’s bad barking habits into good barking habits.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Presents for Paws

The 2nd Annual Presents for Paws Drive kicked off yesterday, November 7th!  If you are unaware of the Presents for Paws Drive it's like Toys for Tots, only this campaign collects new or lightly used dog/cat toys and blankets to benefit the needy dogs and cats at O.C. Animal Care and L.A. Animal Service facilities.  This drive will be going on from November 7th until December 5th, having drop off locations throughout Orange County.
Beach Pit BBQs in Aliso Viejo, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Orange and Tustin.
Sharky's Woodfired Mexican Grills in Aliso Viejo, Irvine, Newport Beach and Tustin.
Island Tan Salon in Fullerton and Laguna Niguel.
Fred's Mexican Cafe in Huntington Beach.
Camp Bow Wow in Anaheim.
Paws at the Coffee Mill in Old World Village.
Anaheim Feed and Pet Supply, Inc. in Anaheim.
On December 17th the blankets and toys will be distributed to the dogs and cats in the shelter at the Paw It Forward Campaign’s Pawliday Dog Adoption Event. 
 You can see last year’s donations from the Presents for Paws Drive being distributed to the dogs in the shelter in the first part of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng3lXZb9tdI
For more information about this drive and the adoption event in December, please visit http://www.pawitforwardnow.org.
Become more involved in your community by collecting blankets and toys (for dogs and cats) from family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  Spread the word and let them know what you are trying to accomplish so they might spread the word too and help you collect more.  The items you collect can be dropped off at one of these locations or you can take them to your local shelter.  Every shelter is in need and every little bit helps.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Holiday Prep: No Jumping….Continued

Imagine you are going to a friend’s home for a dinner party.  You ring the bell and suddenly you hear your friend screaming and yelling in excitement all the way to the door.  She opens the door and excitedly screams at you to come in.  As soon as you step in the house she is literally jumping all over you, sniffing you and licking your face.  What is your reaction?  I’m sure you are thinking that your friend may have lost her mind.  While this may be an exaggeration, it holds true that if it’s not acceptable for us to jump all over our house guests, it’s not acceptable for our dog to either.
If you let your dog run your home and dictate whether you can have guests over, now is the time to put a stop to it.  A dog is never too old to learn and it is never too late to break a bad habit.  These next exercises are not only meant to deter the jumping but to replace the behavior with an acceptable one that your dog can use when greeting you and your guests.  
Exercise 2: Replace the jump with a sit
·         When your dog starts to jump up, stand still, look straight ahead (not at your dog), and pull your hands and arms up to your chest.
·         Say “Off” and immediately turn your back to your dog so that she can’t reach your face.
·         Then say “Sit.” When she sits (watch her in your peripheral vision so that you can see), turn around to face her, kneel down and calmly stroke her.
·         If your dog jumps up again, quickly stand up and turn your back on her as you did before. Keep repeating this sequence until your dog stops jumping up.
Exercise 3: Greeting guests (and you)
·         If you’re entering a room and your dog starts to jump up, immediately step back outside and close the door behind you, leaving it open just a crack.
·         Through the crack in the door, say “Sit.” When your dog sits, calmly walk back into the room, kneel down and gently stroke her.
·         If she jumps up again, quickly stand up and walk right back out of the room again, closing the door behind you. Keep repeating this sequence until your dog stops jumping up.
Once your dog has mastered this with you, ask a few friends to help with the next steps:
·         One at a time, have your friends practice the exercise above that starts with the person entering the house or room.
·          Then start your practice session with one of them knocking or ringing the bell, and go with your dog to answer it.
·         Before you open the door, tell your dog to sit. When she does, open the door.
·         If your dog jumps, your friend knows what to do. If your dog stays sitting, your friend can calmly greet her and you can praise and treat her. Have each of your friends do several repetitions.
Exercise 4: Replace the jump with a toy
Because of their extreme excitement when greeting people, some dogs find it easier to grab a toy to shake or hold, rather than sit for petting. If this sounds like your dog;
·         Keep a toy by the front door. When you come home, open the door and immediately direct your dog’s attention to the toy or throw it for her.
·         Do the same thing for your dog when visitors come to your home.
The most important part of these exercises is CONSISTENCY! You must be consistent when reinforcing good behavior or you will only confuse your dog and the jumping will continue.  That is why it is so important that everyone in the household learn what behaviors to reward with attention and what behaviors to discourage.  If you continue to have difficulty teaching your dog to politely greet guests, consider employing the help of a dog trainer or behaviorist.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Holiday Prep: No Jumping

We all know how embarrassing it can be to have a disobedient dog assaulting our guests by jumping all over them.  It looks like we have no control over the situation (because we usually don’t) and it makes our guests hesitant to return (especially if you have a large dog).  Whether your dog is small or large or you think it’s the cutest thing in the world, it is not ok to let them jump on anyone!  Dogs who greet you or your guests by jumping are usually displaying signs of dominance.  This is their house and they want the visitor to know it.  And while you may think it is cute when little Muffin does it, it’s considered rude, especially for people who don’t have dogs.  But it isn’t too late to fix this bad habit, and there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to have guests over, whenever you like.  After all, it’s your house….isn’t it? 
If you are serious about correcting your dog’s bad habits, now is the time to start because it takes time and consistency to crack this one.
Keep in mind, not every dog responds the same to training techniques.  Lucky for you there are a few different ideas out there to get your dog to stop jumping.  One technique is to teach your dog to jump on command.  The idea is that he will only jump when given the command instead of every time he greets you.  Another technique is the ol’ knee routine.  Many people have only had to put their knee out once to stop a jumping dog and then have a guest use their knee once to get the idea across.  Of course, that technique doesn’t work on little dogs and it doesn’t teach the dog how politely greet anyone.  So today we will be focusing on positive reinforcement training to teach a dog not to jump but to politely greet you and your guests.
Training your dog not to jump starts with training yourself (and everyone in the household):
·         Keep your attention and your hands away from your dog unless her front feet are on the floor.
·         Immediately give your dog attention the instant her front feet land on the floor.
·         Do not greet your dog excitedly, ignore her until she is calm
·         Do not yell or push your dog when she is jumping, it will only make her more excited
·         Do not withhold praise or attention once your dog has all four paws on the floor.  Even if you are irritated, she needs instant positive reinforcement to make the connection.
·         When praising your dog for her good behavior, do so in a calm voice and simple touch.  If you get excited she will get excited again.
“Your attention and your touch are the words that you can use to let your dog know how she needs to act to get your attention….She has to be able to make the connection that front feet on the floor magically result in attention and affection from people.” -ASPCA
Exercise 1: Ignore the jump
·         When your dog starts to jump up, stand still, look straight ahead (not at your dog), and pull your hands and arms up to your chest.
·         Calmly wait for your dog to stop jumping. When her front paws touch the floor, immediately look at her and calmly stroke her.
·         If she gets excited and jumps up again, straighten back up and repeat the sequence.
Try this exercise for a few days every time you see your pup throughout the day. Tune back in later this week for the second edition of this article for three more exercises to practice with your pup. Remember, consistency is key.