Throughout the course of my life, I’ve encountered my own share of dogs. From early childhood days, I recall having several dogs that stayed temporarily with us until my dad’s next military assignment. Though my parents took good care of our animals, military life was unsuitable for animal adoptions as in most cases, animals were not permitted to go back overseas with us; thus we were inevitably forced to find homes for our pets.
In 1983, my parents adopted our first ‘forever’ dog. She was a beautiful, graceful German Shepherd mix. Because my oldest sister had small children, my mom kept ‘Apollo’ outside in the backyard. Living in the South, my family was virtually unaware of the risk of heartworms . In Europe, heartworms didn’t exist, and unfortunately, the SPCA where Apollo had been adopted did not pass out information on these dreadful predators. While our Apollo was continually outside, she was even more susceptible to the deadly mosquito infestation. After a short two years with us, we learned that our beloved Apollo had heartworms and died in less than 24 hours of our perceived understanding.
At the time, I was merely 14 years old and deeply distraught and heartbroken over the loss of our priceless family dog. It was at that time that I had consciously made an oath to never have an outdoor dog and to always seek preventative medicine so that something like this would never happen with my own, future animals.
In retrospect, I never imagined I would ever surrogate eight (8) dogs in my home – but Max, Zeus, Cujo, Hailey, Sharley, Tiny, Thor & Ozzie have become a cherished part of my family pack. Having all been neutered & spayed, annual checkups, immunizations, plenty of fresh water & food, heartworm preventative, and proper grooming – my dogs would never dream of ‘escaping’ their lap of luxury. Aside from having all the love in the world, my dogs lazily lounge on the sofas, get to run and play on nearly an acre of fenced yard, and even watch Television – which is usually set on the Animal Planet
One can never get me to stop talking about my dogs. They are comical, sincere, understanding, loving and in addition to being the most grateful living things, give so much love and health benefits in return.
Many persons do not realize the profound effects that animals have on us, but most importantly, do not understand the effects that we have on them. Though puppies and kittens are adorable, soft, cuddly and cute – all animals mature and take on their mature form – sometimes as big as a 140 lb rottweiler. This is when things can ‘become sticky’ for folks.
Suddenly, the cute black & tan pup is a massive bulk of clumsiness. He bumps into your living room end table and breaks the cherished lamp; the velvety kitten is now a fully-grown cat and he’s decided to ‘redo’ your tapestry with his claws; and ‘Happy’ the dog isn’t making you ‘so happy’ anymore because he is too hyper and keeps escaping your paradise home. So what is one to do?
First and foremost – and I cannot stress this enough – Spay or Neuter your animals. The sure-fire way to not only calm animals, spaying or neutering is also a positive way to reinforce and strengthen bonds between animal and human counterpart; and additionally has incredible health benefits, as these cost-effective procedures help to lengthen lifespans as well.
Okay, so now you’ve spayed or neutered your pet – but she still wants to squeeze her way out of the fence to roam. That’s understandable. She’s been escaping the yard the whole time, and spaying isn’t going to stop a learned behavior. So now what? My first suggestion would be to take your pet outside on a lead. (This should already have been one of the first training methods taught upon adopting a cat or dog) Teaching basic commands will help her to understand that she has boundaries and has to adhere to them.
If the lead technique still doesn’t keep her at bay, a kennel can be purchased ranging from $40 – $400 (depending on size of kennel). A house kennel is appropriate for indoor animals who are exhibiting disallowed behavior such as chewing, biting, scratching, urinating, etc. These kennels cost usually less than $100 – again, depending on size of animal. An outdoor kennel, is excellent for training animals to stay inside your fenced yard. (Note: Never, under any circumstances, allow your animal to run freely.)
Start by placing animals in your indoor or outdoor kennel if you have to go somewhere or if you will not be directly supervising them. Never use the kennel as a means of punishment. Most animals may be a bit leary of the kennel at first, but give them some time, and you’ll discover that they love their kennel so much that it becomes a safe haven – and animals may even want to make it their permanent sleeping place.
Animal behavior can sometimes become frustrating as we’ve seemingly tried just about everything, and no matter what we do, they still sometimes do the things we don’t want them to. But that’s what separates animals from human beings: the fact that they are indeed animals. Our expectations can sometimes be set too high and we come to think of Rover or Mittens as a ‘little person.’ It’s when we do this, that they will ultimately ‘fail’ our logic every single time.
One cannot allow himself to set behavior standards so high that we no longer accept our animal counterparts for what they are. When behavior becomes an issue, and the lead and kennel have not produced adequate results, the next step is seeing an animal trainer or animal behavior consultant who may be better able to assist you.
Finally, but not least, animals are forever. Love your animals. When you open your home and hearts to animals, you have instantly become their lifetime mentor and surrogate parent. They look up to you for your time, patience, compassion, understanding, food, shelter, healthcare and everything else in between. Without you, they are helpless. The worst thing someone can do is abandon or willfully neglect his devoted dog or cat.
Below are some alarming statistics and vital information (1) from the Humane Society of the United States:
- * One female dog and her offspring can give birth to 67,000 puppies. In seven years, one cat and her young can produce 420,000 kittens.
- * Every year, between six and eight million dogs and cats enter U.S. shelters; some three to four million of these animals are euthanized because there are not enough homes for them.
- * Living creatures have become throwaway items to be cuddled when cute and abandoned when inconvenient. Such disregard for animal life pervades and erodes our culture.
- * Abandoned and stray companion animals who survive in the streets and alleys of cities and suburbs pose a health threat to humans and other animals. Each year communities are forced to spend millions of taxpayer dollars trying to cope with the consequences of this surplus of pets. These public costs include services such as investigating animal cruelty, humanely capturing stray animals, and sheltering lost and homeless animals.
- * Free-roaming cats–owned cats allowed to go outside as well as stray and feral cats–often are hit by cars or fall victim to disease, starvation, poisons, attacks by other animals, or mistreatment by humans.
- * Leaving a dog outside for long periods, especially if he or she is chained or otherwise tethered, can be physically, emotionally, and behaviorally detrimental. Dogs need companionship, care, exercise, and attention. Leaving a dog outside for an extended period without supervision not only deprives the animal of these things, but can also lead to behavior problems (including aggression).
In their short but special time they share with us, it is important to remember that animals belong in forever homes. Are you up to the challenge? Some thoughts to ponder.