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2015-12-30 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Tempus Fugit! About 15 years is the best we can expect a dog or cat to be with us. If we live until 75, we’ve spent 1/5 of our life with that pet; and if we survive to 90, the fraction drops to 1/6 of our lifetime. Each day we spend with our precious pets is a gift.

That’s why the only regret many have about owning pets is they do not live long enough. Our time is the best present we can give back to our furry friends in appreciation for their unconditional love. As 2015 draws to a close, let’s resolve to devote more time to our own dogs and cats in the New Year. Here’s how:

*More time to decide which type of pet fits your lifestyle. Research breeds to find out traits and exercise/ grooming needs. Go to dog shows, speak to breeders, contact the breed’s rescue and see if this dog is right for you. Visit shelters, ask to see the pet out of the cage and find out what the shelter staff knows about the pet. Ask questions: What medical has been done? Has the dog been temperament-tested? How does the dog interact with other dogs, kids or cats?

Tempus Fugit! Tempus Fugit! Impulse purchases, especially from pet stores, often cause problems later. Genetic screening has not been done for conditions common to the breed. Worse, you are perpetuating the horrors of Fiona as a Sheltie puppy puppy mill breeding.

You may realize the timing is wrong to add a dog to your life. Perhaps your work schedule changed and adopting a cat (or pair of cats) is more easily managed. Or maybe you should wait until you are home longer before adopting any pet.

*More time for a pet to settle into a new home. Some people return a new pet after the first transgression. (By the way, pet stores do not give refunds, just credits.) Some odd behaviors at the beginning are never seen again. When I first adopted my Afghan “Halle” at 16 months old, she stood up against the windowsill in a frantic way. She stopped after a day or two. It takes time for a new pet to relax, learn what is expected of her and adapt to the household routine. It also takes time for owners to read a pet’s signals. This period of uncertainty can last six months or more. Patience and consistency will remain the keys to bonding and to shaping your new pet’s behavior.

Photos by Mary Bloom Photos by Mary Bloom *More time being together with your pets. Some of us treat our pets like ships passing in the night. After a day alone, they are thrilled to greet us at the door but we rush by for a quick greeting, meal time, change of clothes and we are out the door again. The pets waited all day for us but we only gave a few distracted minutes to them. I feel quite guilty when I spend more time at shelters or with rescue pets than I do with my own dogs.

We need to slow down and appreciate our dogs and cats while they are still with us. When weather permits a short stay in the car, take your dogs along for some errands. Plan a “dog day afternoon” or “catnap” together. Spend more time as co-couch potatoes. Try to be less on-the-go.

*More time for dog walks. My first Afghan’s trainer said: “There are two types of dog walks–a quick walk where you and your dog have to get somewhere fast, and a leisurely walk where you stop to let your dog sniff the roses.” Sniffing is a dog’s Facebook. They know which dogs left their calling card and can determine what previous dogs had for breakfast. New and familiar trails are interesting. Their noses take in status updates from their canine friends.

*More time for your pet’s learning. Despite the adage “You can’t teach old dog new tricks,” dogs as well as cats are lifelong learners. They are enriched when they understand more “people speak” and can interpret our requests. If your pet is having trouble grasping your rules, take the time to consult a trainer.

*More time to enhance your pet’s learning. Some pets have the potential to go beyond the basics. If your dog steals people’s belongings and runs away or leaps over the hedges, turn his shenanigans into obedience or agility titles. Cats can learn tricks too, as long as you supply treats for tasks well done.

*More time for grooming. Even while watching TV together, brush, comb or gently de-mat your pet with your fingers. Grooming is a way of bonding too. Coat kept in good condition protects your pet’s skin. If you start early, your pet will tolerate tooth brushing and ear cleaning. Check for fleas while combing.

*More time to examine your pet. If you groom, pet or brush your pet’s teeth regularly, you are more likely to find a new lump or bump right away. Early detection of a malignancy may save or prolong your pet’s life.

*More time for vet visits. Going to the vet for wellness visits can nip health problems as they emerge.

Staying current on heartworm Fiona at 12 years old preventive and blood tests will save your dog from an insidious disease.

*More time checking your pet’s ID. Are your dog’s tags on his collar? Are the tags still legible? Is your pet’s microchip registered and up to date? Tags and microchips can be your pet’s ticket home if lost or stolen.

*More time reserved for monitoring your aging pet. Walks are slower; grooming sessions more gentle; meals specially prepared. Perhaps arthritis or other meds are part of the recipe. Orthopedic beds and ramps become part of your décor. Have your vet on speed dial.

*As much time as you need holding your senior pet at the end of her life. If possible, arrange for a vet to come to your home for euthanasia. Otherwise, go to an animal hospital where you are permitted to stay with your pet during your last moments together on earth.

Waiting for Homes at Babylon Town Shelter (631- 643-9270) Lamar St., W. Babylon: Our poster pets are hoping 2016 will be their lucky year. “Harlequin” 5-276 is a handsome, long-haired tuxedo who’s grown up at the shelter. He’s eight months old. “Mae” 15-515 is a Shepherd mix chained outside until an eviction. She wants a special someone to love.

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