Category Archives: guest post

The Grey-Hairs: Growing Old with Pets

Guest author Katie Kapro holds her MFA in nonfiction writing. When walking around town, she often finds herself talking to more dogs than people.

Binkie cringes when I call her dog Mick Jagger. “Mickey,” she corrects. “His name is Mickey.” I’m sure her only memory of Mick Jagger is from my mother’s rebellious teenage years, a scandalous poster on the bedroom wall or a song blasted too loud on the record player. Binkie had a lot going on in those days – she worked part-time at a law firm and raised my mother and her four siblings.

Now, Binkie is 90 years old and it’s just her and Mickey, a whippet-chihuahua mix with the personality of a nightclub bouncer.

mickey the commander in chief

Mickey is the size of a chihuahua and the shape of a whippet. He carries himself with natural machissmo – his muscular chest, straight forequarters, and upward-tilted jaw declaring his power to the world. There’s no question that he pushes Binkie around, yapping everyday at exactly 4:15pm for his healthy dinner of kibble, steamed green beans, and carrots. Sometimes she pushes back. “You already had your dinner, Mick,” she’ll say, wagging her finger. He yaps. “Nope. No more for you.” He clicks away on the linoleum to pout.

I swear he understands her tones better than I do. They keep one another engaged with the world and irritate one another just enough to give life that good edge.

Mickey was the product of divorce, nobody wanted him, and he made his way to my grandmother through a series of friends five years ago. Now they are all but inseparable. As Mickey gets older – the little grey hairs on his chin now in the majority – her house transforms into a senior dog haven.

Sometimes as dogs grow old, their owners give in to the momentum of aging. They don’t take their dogs to the park anymore for fear it will hurt their joints, they don’t buy them treats out of concern it will hurt their gums. Binkie doesn’t bow to those worries. Sure, she dotes on him by laying big soft blankets over the couch and giving him extra plush toys to destroy, but she doesn’t just let him mope around the house. She’s better at this growing old thing than most.

There is an empty ice cream carton in Binkie’s freezer that she warns me about every time I visit. Instead of ice cream it holds chicken bones, fruit rinds, all sorts of perishables she doesn’t want to throw in the can in the hot garage. “Whoever finds me when I die, I don’t want them to have to deal with putrid trash too.” Ever the pragmatist. Binkie has been prepared for her death for years. She has her will all sorted out, knows who is getting the crystal wine glasses and who is getting the flag from her husband’s funeral.

She also made a plan for Mickey.

Few of us think about setting up a stable home for our pet if something traumatic happens and we’re unable to care for them. We make plans for houses, cars, kids, and even trash, but pets get forgotten. There’s the assumption that someone will take care of the dog, so why worry about the details? The details, though, can make a huge difference to the physical and emotional health of an animal.

Say a man includes his dog in his will. That’s great, but it turns out it can take weeks or even months for a will to be read and fully processed.

Instead, the man could set up a pet trust. As part of that process, the pet owner names a pet trustee who will step in immediately and make sure his dog doesn’t slip through the cracks. It’s also a huge help for the person who ends up caring for the animal – after all, we all like a little notice before bringing in a new family member.

It can be less disconcerting on an existential level to focus on the day-to-day instead of the vast, unknown future. But it doesn’t have to be a big scary thing. Be like Binkie: get good at growing old. Whether we’re in our twenties, forties, sixties, or nineties, we’re all aging; we might as well get good at it and take care of our animals in the process.

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Second Chances

Second Chances

A battered pick-up truck rattles up to the curb of a neglected house. The vacant property’s lawn is infused with crab-grass, clover and dandelions. Wispy white puffs of dandelion tufts drift above the yard resembling tiny wayward ghosts.

From the truck exits a man with well-worn boots and face to match. A realtor, he seeks opportunity in this abandoned house now owned by a bank.

At age forty, this man has had his share of “second chances”, so many in fact, he’s lost count. But his friends and relations haven’t. Rehabs, bad investments, poor life choices – all have led him to start over again, once more, miles from home.

It’s been a lonely struggle.

The man’s assets are few; his old truck, a thousand bucks in the bank, and a rented studio apartment. With no property of his own, becoming a realtor has been a dicey proposition. While his well-dressed colleagues escort clients in luxury cars to fancy open-houses in gated communities, he’s found some success fixing and selling run-down properties in run down neighborhoods. This house presents his first Foreclosure, so recent, there is not yet “A for Sale” sign sprouting from the house’s overgrown front yard.

He wonders what’s become of the home’s former residents; their circumstance somehow resonates with him. He blocks this thought, moving along the side of the house to the back. Rusting gardening tools and a plastic watering can rest near a tangled mass of drooping stems and browning leaves that have overtaken an area that looks like it was once a garden.

He quickly punches a code on the home’s lock box. He is cautious. Warned that some foreclosed houses contain squatters, meth labs, or infestations of wild critters, he’s prepared for unpleasant surprises. The door creaks open to stillness, but within moments, the empty room is overcome with a plaintive cry; the saddest sound the man has ever heard. It draws him to the kitchen where beyond a safety gate, a small brown and white dog stands amid overturned bowls. All traces of food and water are gone.

The dog fixes its amber eyes on the man’s face. They speak of loneliness and despair. Spooked by the sudden appearance of a stranger, however, the dog hangs back.

“Good dog,” the man whispers.

Loathing and sympathy consume him. He feels hatred for those who have abandoned such a helpless soul. But his anger mingles with sadness. These people were forced to give up their home and pet – believing this was the best they could do for this dog. Hoping for someone, even someone like him, to come to the rescue.

The man removes the gate and sits on the kitchen floor. The dog settles at his side, licking at the man’s face, wiping away the tears that trickle from his eyes.

The man stands and walks around the kitchen. Plastered on the refrigerator door are photos of the dog surrounded by his former care-givers in happier times. Next to one photo is a handwritten note. “Please take care of our dog. He is a good boy but we can’t take him with us.”

He recalls the bumper stick on the back of a car that he’d seen the day before – the image of a dog’s paw with the words, “Who Rescued Who”. Now those words take on new meaning.

The man removes one photo in which the dog sits alone, staring up and into the camera. The rest of the photos he leaves. He crumples the pleading note. He wants to track these people down and rage at them, and then report them to the police for being so negligent. But what good would come of it? They are already cloaked in their own brand of desperation; it lingers in the walls and floors of this home.

According to his information, the family has vacated the home just days earlier. It is fate that has brought him here in time to be useful. The choice is clear. He will make a new home and life with this fellow cast-off. The thought of this lifts a weariness that he’s carried for a long time.

The man leads the dog out of the house toward the truck. He’ll pass on trying to make any money on this empty shell. Let the bank seek the money owed them; he’s collected his commission.

Out on the front lawn, the dog pauses and with his nose pokes at a fluffy orb at the end of a dandelion stem. In the afternoon breeze, tiny white dandelion seeds float up in the air. One follows the dog as he heads toward the truck.

The man recalls a boyhood habit of wishes made on dandelion fluff. He laughs. “Did you make a wish boy?” he asks.

As if on cue, the dog walks to the passenger side of the truck, sits and waits. The door swings open and the dog hops in. The man goes round and settles into the driver’s seat. Both stare straight ahead as the car pulls away from this empty place, forming an alliance forged in second chances.

Lisa and TedAuthor’s Note:
This story was inspired by true stories related by realtors and a haunting, single blog post, of a down on his luck man who was trying to start a career as a realtor despite his age and string of unsuccessful attempts to make a new start. So many people, having no one to turn to, become desperate. Afraid of “Kill Shelters” they truly believe that their pets have a better chance staying behind in abandoned homes. I’ve spoken to a heartbroken man (a fellow author) in the military whose family had to leave his beloved cat behind when they lost their home while he was stationed in Afghanistan.

Although I often write works of Non-Fiction, I believe Fiction can truly engage the minds and emotions of readers and can be an effective way to start a dialogue that may benefit man and animal.

Lisa Begin-Kruysman is the author of Something’s Lost and Must Be Found a short story collection that celebrates the dog-human bond and Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher, the true story of one man’s mission to let every dog have its day…and week! To learn more about the author and her work please visit: www.lisabegin-author.com

 

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5 Most Important Things to Know As A First-Time Dog Owner

Who doesn’t love a companion that is sweet, loving, caring, protective, and totally cuddle-worthy? Well, for most of us, the ideal pet companion is a dog that is also dubbed as a man’s best buddy and we couldn’t agree more.

Puppies!

Dogs are the most affectionate, fun, and adorable pets to have around, especially for those who like some company with them at all times. However, just because they are utterly adorable and perfect as best friends, there are still a few things to consider prior to bringing them home. In order to enjoy a happy and loving bond with your canine pet, we have listed down the 5 most important things you must know as a first-time dog owner.

Train your Dog to Follow Commands and Behave
First-time dog owners often make the mistake of spoiling their pets with ample food in their bowl at all times, offering them too many treats throughout the day, falling for their pet’s puppy-dog face, and many more. However, if you want your dog to be well-behaved, you will need to stop spoiling and start training.

You will need to teach it simple commands like sit, no, come here, stay, etc., to make your life easier. These commands also help keep your canine safe in risky situations. Depending upon the temperament and breed of your dog, you might also need to get your dog into obedience classes to make it obey your commands and remain in a good mood in public.

Positive Reinforcement is a must
Your dog might test your patience by not obeying your commands or doing something that irritates you, but you need to maintain your composure at all costs. Many dog owners get aggressive with their pet dogs and when their dogs don’t listen, they simply hit them to correct their behavior. Although it might seem the right thing to do to lightly tap your hand on your dog’s head to stop it from misbehaving, you need to know that it will only make things worse. Always apply positive reinforcement techniques to train your dog and make use of treats to encourage your dog to learn new tricks and commands.

Avoid too much Processed Dry and Wet Food
A healthy dog is the one that gets nourishment and nutrients from home cooked fresh food. However, due to the convenience that commercial dry and wet food offer, many dog owners opt for it without realizing the threat they may pose to their beloved companion’s health and well being.

Commercial dry and wet dog food can be given to your dog, in limited amounts on an occasional basis. It is best to cook homemade food for your canine friend with food items that are fresh and nutritious.

Bathroom Train your Dog First
When you bring your pet dog home, you need to know that it requires bathroom training. You cannot immediately train your dog to defecate in the yard, but you can place a litter box in its room with sand so that it doesn’t spoil your home. Once your dog learns to defecate in a litter box and is comfortable going in the yard, you can train it to use the yard as the bathroom.

Get in Touch with a Reputable Vet
One of the most important things that you need to do first when you get a dog is to get in touch with a reputable vet. Talk to your friends and family with dogs to recommend a good vet for your dog. Make sure the vet you choose is near your home so that you can rush to them immediately in emergencies.

We hope these tips will help make your dog a happy and healthy part of your family.

Guest post thanks to: Spoilt Rotten Dogs day care in Sydney, Australia.

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5 Essential Tips for Sharing a Living Space with Your Dog

Here it is! The big day when you pick up your new BEST FRIEND, your dog. Everyone is excited and happy as you drive home. You get out of the car and bound up the walkway, you throw open the door and let your dog inside.

Woops you’ve just planted a lot of future dog behavioural issues. You’ve just unleashed a strange and rebellious teenager on your home!

Cute dog posing on the carpet

Home Sweet Home
In order to have a well-balanced home, one where your dog behaves himself you need to teach him/her the house rules when coming into the home. These 5 essential tips can help you share your living space harmoniously with your new pet.

Keep in mind that the message you send your dog the moment he/she enters your home is critical. This is what establishes the ground rules for your dog. If you let him run in the door, the message you send is “everything is available here.” And that leads to broken things, eaten shoes, scratched furniture, unwanted pet hair on furniture, and utter disaster.

Follow these 5 steps for a smoother transition.

Keep Calm
When you bring your dog home remains calm. Don’t get too excited. Accept the dog into your home but only give a minimum amount of attention and affection at this point.

Take a Walk
When you first arrive keep the dog on a leash and go for a long walk through the new neighbourhood. This drains out the dogs excessive energy and gets him/her used to his surroundings; smells, sounds and sights.

Introduce your Home
Once you finish your walk, keep the dog on the leash and introduce him/her to the house. Bring the dog to the front door but don’t let him/her in before you do. You need to enter first and if possible get the dog to sit down before entering.

Take a Tour
Keep your dog on the leash and lead him/her from room to room. Don’t let him/her wander around yet. Keep him/her at your side then spend a few minutes in each room before going to the next one. At every door you go first to establish your leadership.

During the tour don’t speak, just use your body language and simple sounds to communicate. This keeps your dog from feeling overwhelmed.

Show Him/Her the Feeding Area
When you finish the tour, show your dog the food and water area. Offer a reward of water and a little food, but not a full bowl of food until you are ready to remove the leash. Likewise take the dog to his/her sleeping area or the place he needs to stay when you need him out of the way of household activities. Let your dog off the leash here. This is your way of telling him “this is yours.”

Bottom Line
By following these 5 steps you will claim your leadership in the pack and show your dog that you allow him into it, so long as he behaves and follows your lead.

Woman relaxing with dog and cup of tea

Guest post courtesy of Martha from Colour Pet Studio. Martha is a painter specialized in creating lifelike pet portraits from photos.

Posted in dogs, guest post | 6 Comments