Contest runner-up Margaret M.’s dog, Mango, pictured right.
Throughout the month of October, we asked readers to share stories about their family’s rescued pups in our Adopt a Shelter Dog Month Story Contest. We received hundreds of amazing submissions from readers across the country. With the help of our contest guest host, Mary Dell Harrington of the parenting blog Grown and Flown, we selected one grand prize winner and four runners-up. One of our runners-up, Margaret M., shared this story:
My husband is in the Navy and he deployed on September 10, 2001. He was on his way to Guam and his last words to us were, "Don't get a dog while I'm gone." After 9/11 happened, we needed something to love and to come home to every night, and two weeks later, we got Mango. We rescued her, and she rescued us. We are a military family, and she's lived in Gulfport, MS, Memphis, TN, Virginia Beach, VA, Jacksonville, FL, Washington, D.C. and now Norfolk, VA. She's about 15 years old—a Border Collie and Sheltie mix. She's my best friend. Currently, my husband is deployed once again. This time he's gone for a full year to Pakistan, and I'm all alone—except for Mango. I’m not sure what I would do without her.
We loved your story, Margaret! Stay tuned for one more winning rescue story to come next week.
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.
When my husband and I decided to have kids, we agreed that we would raise them as vegetarians. Not wanting to overwhelm our kids or fill their minds with horrible images of animals on factory farms or in slaughterhouses, I decided to take a more positive approach to explaining why we chose to have a meat-free household—by giving them the opportunity to interact with real pigs, cows and chickens.
However, living in the Chicago suburbs does not afford much opportunity to see farm animals, so when my mom told me about SASHA Farm, a farm animal sanctuary outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, I knew this was a chance to gently explain our choice. Within a few weeks of learning about the farm, I loaded the kids in the minivan and off we went. From the moment we arrived my kids were in awe. Co-founder and owner Dorothy Davies gave us a personal tour, allowing the boys to collect the eggs from the hens’ nesting boxes and get up close and personal with more than 300 animals who reside there. The kids relished spending time with Gandolph the turkey, Buckeye the goat and Digger the Texas longhorn. Over the years we have “adopted” various animals at SASHA Farm and have framed pictures of the boys with their favorites throughout our home.
I believe the visits to SASHA Farm have helped to inoculate my boys from the insensitive comments and teasing they’ve gotten for eating differently than their peers. After all, since they had relationships with farm animals, they had little interest in eating them. Their vegetarian diet is no longer a philosophical principle, it’s a belief that has wings and hooves and fur.
Aside from the practical function these farm visits served for my family, they are downright fun! And not just for vegetarians, but for anyone who is curious to get to know individual farm animals, observe their natural behaviors, learn more about how their brethren live on factory farms and just spend time around animals you probably don’t get to see day-to-day. Depending on the sanctuary there are often family-friendly activities going on—especially in the fall. With 25 farm animal sanctuaries across the United States, there is likely one within a day’s drive from you—and many have overnight accommodations onsite.
Guest blog by Emily Schneider, a proud mom of two feisty Yorkies and a two-year-old living in the Garden State. Emily works in media and public relations for the ASPCA. Find her onTwitter.
I read recently in a New York Times article that doctors are encouraging parents to read aloud to their infants from birth, as it enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills in children. I also learned that reading has benefits for shy or timid four-legged family members as well.
I asked ASPCA animal behavior experts if reading is a good socialization activity for dogs nervous around people, and found out that reading helps fearful dogs become more comfortable with people without forcing interaction. As an individual reads out loud, he or she is focusing on something other than on the dog. In turn, the dog grows accustomed to the person’s presence and voice, which is much less intimidating than being handled or stared at (see the ASPCA’s article on canine body language. If you have a dog who is terrified of people or specific individuals, you may want to seek professional help to find out how to help reduce your dog’s anxiety.
Reading is also a good activity for those who aren’t yet skilled enough—e.g., my two-year-old son—to handle a timid dog. If there’s a choice between playing with your iPhone and reading a book, encourage your kids to go for the book and make it a family activity. You might be surprised by the results, as I was—my dogs Olive and Mikey sat quietly nearby while we read a story about Splat the Cat. Our next book? Skippyjon Jones, a story about a irrepressible Siamese cat who thinks he’s a Chihuahua.
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
Happy birthday, dear Moose! Our chocolate Labrador is turning eight, and we are planning a birthday party for him. With family, friends and neighbors’ special dates to remember, I must admit that our dogs’ birthdays have sometimes slipped through the cracks. But this year, Moose is getting the royal treatment. Here are three reasons why you should celebrate your pet on his birthday, or anniversary of adoption, too:
Fun for the whole family: What child is not gleeful at the thought of a birthday party? Let your kids create decorations, plan refreshments or shop for an edible gift for your pet. We once held a festive 100th birthday party for our first dog, Choco, estimating this milestone when he turned 13.5 years old. Typically, though, our “parties” have entailed singing “Happy Birthday,” giving our pup a chew stick gift and sharing a few extra hugs.
Special attention for your pet: In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sometimes our pets don’t receive extra helpings of attention. Here is one day to shower him with the love you feel but might not always have the time to show.
Along with the 30 men and women we visit weekly, I will sing “Happy Birthday” and eat a cupcake in my pup’s honor. I’ll get to share the love I feel for him with others. For both Moose and me, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Guest blog by Kathleen Makolinski, DVM, ASPCA Senior Director Shelter Medicine Service and Shelter Research and Development. Kathleen gradu¬ated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. After working as an associate veterinarian for five years, she served as Director of Veterinary Services for a non-profit animal shelter. Since then, Kathleen co-founded and served as president of Feral Cat FOCUS, a community advocacy group for free-roaming cats and co-founded Operation PETS, a stationary spay/neuter clinic in Western New York.
I am very fortunate to have an 8-year-old son named Charlie who is very eager to learn about every type of animal. Given his seemingly insatiable curiosity, my husband and I search for opportunities for Charlie to interact with and build respect for many kinds of animals. These opportunities often include summer day camps, books from the library and internet research, as well as visits to nature centers, animal shelters and museums.
One great way Charlie has learned about animals is in his classroom at school. These “classroom educators” have included a bearded dragon, a turtle, a betta fish, African clawed frogs, finches and gerbils. Students in Charlie’s class provide these pets with regularly scheduled feedings. They also learn about the animals’ anatomical features and how such animals live in the wild. Together, Charlie and I have learned about these animals’ nutritional, lighting and temperature requirements. We have implemented environmental enrichments and shared newly discovered information with his fellow students and his teachers. This summer, we are caring for Charlie’s classroom’s turtle, Zippy.
It’s important for teachers, parents and students to consider the following questions before acquiring a pet for the classroom:
How will classroom pets be obtained—from a shelter, pet store, student or teacher, or from the wild? What are the ramifications of each choice?
Where will animals go and who will provide care during breaks from school?
Is the classroom’s ambient temperature appropriate for the animals when school is not in session?
Who will finance food, habitat furnishings and veterinary care?
Are related zoonotic diseases—contagious diseases spread between animals and human—understood and are steps taken to minimize them?
Are allergen sensitivities adequately addressed?
Given the numerous demands on teachers, do they have enough time to maintain animal habitats?
Although there may be great educational benefit for students who have animals in the classroom, some animals may be better suited to this environment than others. Perhaps students and animals can optimally benefit from a mix of interactions with classroom pets, animals who visit occasionally and during field trips.
Have you or your children interacted with classroom pets? Please share your experiences in the comments.