Guest blog by ASPCA President and CEO Matthew Bershadker
When I separate those two words—"thanks" and "giving"—I can't help but think of all the animals we love, rescue and fight for, and the appreciation we owe them.
Pet owners are often portrayed as rescuers, with their newly-freed animals seen as rescued. But that exchange of generosity and appreciation goes both ways. We give to animals because what we get in return is immeasurable. We also owe them our thanks because, frankly, we've failed them in many ways, some horrifically.
Animals make us feel alive; they make us feel needed. They give us trust and affection without hesitation. They deliver complete loyalty and unconditional love, and respond to us with affection even when we sometimes fail them.
These are priceless things.
Just ask Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott, whose cat Koshka got him through the darkest days of his tour in Afghanistan, especially when a suicide bomber killed two close friends. Koshka gave Knott a reason to live. When he returned home to Oregon, Knott arranged for the cat to join him there. Just last week, Koshka was named "Cat of the Year" at our annual ASPCA Humane Awards Luncheon, and rightfully so.
Also consider our "Dog of the Year," a pit bull puppy from Georgia named Xena who was found so abused and neglected that no one expected her to survive. Xena miraculously rebounded and was adopted by the Hickey family, including eight-year-old Jonny, who suffers from Autism. Before Xena came into his life, Jonny rarely communicated with others, and only found comfort in solitary activities. But Jonny forged a miraculous connection with Xena that brought out his personality, and reconnected him to the outside world. The Hickeys could not be more thankful.
The Henry Bergh Award, named after our founder, was given to Colorado's National Mill Dog Rescue founder Theresa Strader, who's dedicated her life to saving breeding dogs destined for death in puppy mills. Kept in deplorable conditions, these dogs' sole purpose is to pump out sellable pups; when the mothers can't continue, they're typically killed. Strader's operation has rescued and placed over 8,000 puppy mill survivors since 2007, but it's Strader who sounds thankful. Animals gave her life meaning and purpose.
Could there be bigger gifts than these?
This Thanksgiving, remember there's no limit on the amount of thanks you can give. And chances are, there's someone in your home—maybe looking longingly at the platters of hot turkey (or tofurkey) on your table or just warming a corner of your bed—who deserves all of it and more.
As you gather around the table this Thanksgiving and give thanks for good food and good friends, don't forget the furry members of the family. Check out these easy-to-make, festive treats for your pets.
Pumpkin Pie Stuffing 1/2 cup canned or freshly cooked pureed pumpkin 1/2 cup yogurt or cottage cheese (only use plain) 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal 2 tablespoons low-fat graham cracker
• Put a spoonful of cooked oatmeal at the bottom of a Kong or other toy to seal the small hole. • Put two spoonfuls of pumpkin into the toy. Follow with a spoonful of yogurt or cottage cheese. • Repeat, layering the pumpkin and yogurt or cottage cheese until the toy is almost full. Then cram a few pieces of graham cracker into the end of the toy. Serve warm or frozen.
Pumpkin Pie Cookies (for cats and dogs!) 2 cups rice flour 1/2 cup oatmeal 1 cup canned pumpkin 1 cup grated carrots 1/2 cup unsweetened plain applesauce 1/4 flour for rolling
• In a food processor blend carrots, applesauce and pumpkin until smooth. • Mix rice flour and oatmeal in a bowl. • Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently until dough forms. • On a floured breadboard place dough and roll out to about 1/4 inch in thickness. • Use cookie cutter to cut out little cookies. • Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for seven minutes. • Flip treats over and cook for five more minutes. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly.
Special Note Remember, these recipes are treats and should not replace your pet’s regular meals. Please check with your veterinarian if your pet has special dietary needs or food allergies.
Tomorrow, September 28, is International Rabbit Day, dedicated to arguably the most adorable animal with two ears!
Unfortunately, the sad truth is that they are also one of the most neglected animals. More often than not bunnies are only thought about during Easter-time festivities, but the range of cruelty they face never takes a holiday. From being slaughtered for their fur, farmed as food, used for product testing, and hunted for sport, bunnies endure endless cruelty.
Even rabbits kept as loving pets are regularly mistreated by being kept outdoors. Although an outdoor hutch has been the traditional housing for a rabbit, today we know better. A backyard hutch forces these social critters to live in unnatural isolation. Rabbits may be quiet, but they are extremely social and crave interaction. Another heartbreaking fact is that rabbits are very vulnerable to predators, and if frightened, can actually die from heart attacks!
As the country dons its red, white and blue to celebrate Independence Day, nothing says patriotism like a good old-fashioned barbecue with a side of fireworks. But beware pet parents, what’s fun for people can be a drag for our furry friends.
Even if your pooch is a pro picnicker, we recommend keeping him indoors as much as possible during backyard parties and Fourth of July festivities. From toxic food and beverages to raucous guests and fireworks, the holiday is rife with potential pet-astrophes.
“Even the most timid dog can leap a six-foot fence if he’s spooked by loud noises,” says Dr. Pamela Reid, Vice President of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team. If your dog shows signs of distress from fireworks or boisterous revelers, Dr. Reid suggests giving him a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter. “The persistent licking should calm his nerves,” she says.
The ASPCA offers some more expert advice to keep your pet singing, “Oh Say Can You See,” all the way to the fifth:
Keep your pet on the wagon. Since alcohol is potentially poisonous to pets, place all wine, beer and spirits well out of paws’ way.
Avoid scraps from the grill. Stick with your pet’s normal diet—any change, even for a day, can result in stomach upset. Certain foods like onions, avocado, chocolate, grapes and raisins are especially toxic to pets.
Skip the sunscreen. Avoid lathering your pet with any insect repellent or sunscreen not intended for the four-legged kind. Ingestion can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy.
Stay fire smart. Keep your pet away from fireworks, matches, citronella candles and lighter fluid, which if eaten can irritate the stomach, lungs and central nervous system.
Be cool near the pool. Don’t leave pets unsupervised around a pool or lake—not all dogs are expert swimmers! Also, pools aren’t large water bowls—they contain chlorine and other toxic chemicals that can cause stomach problems.
There’s nothing like starting off the New Year looking your best, and our awesome new app makes that easy for your pets.
Using our Happy Near Year app, you can design a goofy card featuring your pet! Just upload a photo of your furry pal, then drag and drop some festive accessories like a party hat or pearl necklace. Share the image with your friends and wish them a happy New Year!
It’s super easy and super fun. Besides, we bet your cat will look awesome with a mustache and top hat.