Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
I love seeing first day of school photographs on Facebook. The pictures remind me of my own two children when, as little kids, they were eager to pose in brand new shorts or a favorite dress. When they grew into preteens, smiles faded to smirks and, with older high schoolers, I was lucky to snap a quick photo before they jumped behind the wheel of the car to drive themselves. Now in albums, my favorite first day shots are those where our family dogs lean into the children. Our kids’ smiles are genuine and broad, showing their happiness that the pups were included in the send off.
This fall, our back to school photo tradition changed. No longer do we have a child to line up in front of fading summer roses or at the school bus stop. Instead, we watched our youngest say a tearful goodbye to her dog, Moose, before she left home to move into her freshman dorm. For our family and others with college kids, witnessing the final hugs between a young adult and her childhood pal is painful. New college students realize that they’ll no longer share a home with their confidant, their playmate and study buddy. They may worry about the health of an aging dog and wonder about his life expectancy.
And as for the dogs left behind? It’s common for pets to exhibit symptoms of separation anxiety as their human companions prepare to leave home and depart, as well as in the case of the sudden absence of a resident family member. Dogs with separation anxiety may become depressed and disruptive when left alone.
While I miss our daughter terribly and am trying not to fret about her well-being on campus, I also want to be vigilant about Moose in case he becomes anxious and sad. Warning signs include pacing, whining or barking, chewing furniture or other items, attempting to escape or “having an accident” inside the home. The ASPCA provides a list of tips for helping pets overcome separation anxiety.
Although I no longer have kids under roof to parent, my “mothering” responsibilities for our pups goes on. From the vantage of my empty nest, I have never been more grateful for the presence of our dogs!
Guest blogger Sandy De Lisle has a Masters of Science degree in education and has served as a classroom teacher, science museum programmer and program manager for the End Dogfighting in Chicago campaign. She is Senior Manager of Content Development for ASPCApro.
In 1987 high school student Jennifer Graham blazed the way for student choice in classroom dissection, suing her school district after she received a failing grade for refusing to dissect a frog.
Now, thanks to Jennifer, 11 states guarantee students the right to refuse to dissect animals. I wish I had been as brave as Jennifer when I was in high school. Instead, I suffered through a frog, crayfish and fetal pig dissection—though surely I didn’t suffer as much as the animals my lab partner and I dissected.
Had it not been for those dissections, there is a good chance I would have majored in biology in college. However, I couldn’t bear the thought of having to cut into more animals—especially cats. So, as a student with an interest in animals—living animals—I focused on earth and environmental sciences.
When I graduated with a certification to teach middle school science, I vowed not to do dissection in my classroom—and I didn’t. Now, my three sons are faced with the dissection decision. Neither of my older sons chose to dissect, though they each handled the situation differently—one asked to be excused and was given an alternative, and the other opted to stay in the class but not perform the dissection. My youngest son is in elementary school and has not yet faced this decision.
How can you help a child faced with upcoming classroom dissection activities?
Educate yourself about dissection and its alternatives—and have your child do the same. Luckily, things have changed a lot since I was in school and there are many options available.
Find out if your child’s school conducts dissections. Most dissections occur in middle and high school, though some elementary schools may do so as well.
Check your state’s laws to see if you live in a student choice state. Even if you do, some teachers may not be aware of the law, so you may need to advocate for your child.
Long before the dissection, respectfully let your child’s teacher know that your son or daughter will not be participating. If your child is older and would like to speak to the teacher alone, I suggest first having your child practice what he will say with you.
Commend your child for having empathy for animals.
Has your child’s class participated in animal dissection? How did you and your child respond? Please share in the comments.
Keri Matthews, a mom of two, has worked in the ASPCA’s licensing department for more than five years. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Tom, her children, Gabriella and Tommy, and their Greyhound, Clyde.
With autumn just around the corner, the warm and sunny days of summer are drawing to a close. While summer has likely been a time of frequent outdoor playtime for your kids and pets, here are some ideas for indoor activities to try during the cool and rainy days ahead:
Indoor water play: This is a favorite in our house. Our dog, Clyde, loves sitting in his pool. I set up a kiddie pool for Clyde with a bit of water inside, and another for my daughter, Gabriella. I also set out a few buckets, as Clyde likes to get a “bath” from Gabriella. If you have a waterproof indoor space, water play is sure to keep everyone busy for the afternoon!
Learning stations: Utilize stations to practice various tricks with your pups. You’ll need paper, markers, bath mats or towels and treats. Create signs to hang at each “command” station—such as Sit, Stay and Paw. We walk Clyde around to each station and repeat the command, and reward him with a treat once he performs the trick. You can also swap between verbal commands and hand-signal cues.
Homemade treats: If your kids love to help out in the kitchen, consider whipping up a batch of homemade dog or cat treats. Clyde’s favorites are peanut butter dog biscuits and canine carrot cookies.
Hide and Seek: To incorporate our dog into a classic game of Hide and Seek, we hide a few of his treats around the house. I limit the number of treats for this game so both Clyde and Gabriella know when the game is over. This can be done with your feline friends as well!
Grab a book: For the restful part of the day, Gabriella picks one or two books to read to Clyde. She loves to show him the pictures and make up stories. This is another activity that can be done with dogs and cats.
Playing indoors with can be a fun bonding experience for kids and their pets. But don’t forget, everyone still needs some outdoor time—even if only for a few minutes a day!
We’re beyond excited about our line of plush dog and cat toys that offers kids a chance to snuggle up with their very own rescue pets—no housetraining required! Besides being adorable, the ASPCA rescue plush also teaches children invaluable lessons about the importance of finding loving homes for shelter animals.
If you’ve already purchased a plush dog or cat for your child—congratulations on your adoption! Here are a few fun things you and your child can do together to get off to a great start as the proud guardian of a plush rescue pet.
Register Your ASPCA Plush Rescue Pet Make your adoption official by registering your pet’s name and gender. You’ll also receive a special registration number to add to your adoption certificate.
Sign our pledge to always make pet adoption your first option. There are tons of healthy, sweet animals in shelters nationwide. Please join our effort to find them homes.
Read our pet care guides. Your plush adoption package includes some helpful hints, but we have tons of great guides to caring for live pets on ASPCA.org. Teach your kid how to trim your cat’s nails or give your pooch a bath.
Get involved by becoming a member of Team ASPCA. Does your child want to have a bake sale or lemonade stand for animals? Great idea! See our Get Involved section for more info.
More Ways to Help Animals
Talking to Your Kids About Pet Store Puppies Talking to kids about pet store puppies and puppy mills is no easy task. To help children understand why they can’t have “that puppy in the window” of your neighborhood pet store, we’ve put together some kid-friendly talking points for tough questions.
Adjusting to life post-maternity leave was a struggle. We encountered day care drama and I fought to find the energy to get everything done.
One day, all the pieces came together for my husband, Matt, and me. We even made our bed. I felt like Super Parent with a milk-stained, sparkly cape.
That was until I returned home and pulled back the covers on the bed. Screams and panic followed. There in the center of the bed was a Lake Superior-sized puddle of yellow dog pee, and it reeked. Mr. Happy, our dog, had not only urinated all over the bed and pillows, but also had the chutzpah and talent to somehow get the blankets back to look like the bed was still made.
Occasional canine bladder accidents come with dog ownership. But when is it normal behavior versus cause for medical concern? Frequent dog urination can range from medical or behavior issues to the failure to spay or neuter your pets. Your veterinarian is a key partner in addressing frequent dog urination, and the ASPCA website offers fantastic information on dog marking. Solving the problem is often a simple fix (pardon the pun), and low-cost spay/neuter services are offered in many communities.
Our situation fell on the more serious side. After Mr. Happy engaged in other destructive behaviors, our vet referred us to a board-certified veterinarian behaviorist. We learned that Mr. Happy's urination was a byproduct of separation anxiety. Our beloved dog had grown accustomed to having someone at home, and was devastated when his humans left him for the day. Our behaviorist developed a treatment plan, which we continue to tweak based on Mr. Happy's mood. Separation anxiety impacts many animals, and it is important to consult a medical professional so you can get the best help for your pet.