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.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for over 10 years. Danielle also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on her blog, Some Puppy To Love, Twitter, or Facebook.
For my kids, summer equals water: the pool, ocean waves and even the garden hose will ensure sunny day amusement. Nearly every day since school ended has involved time spent in the pool. Our dogs, Hayley, the Chihuahua, and Django, the Lab, enjoy accompanying us to the pool. They sit with us by the water and join the party. They snack, run and play, so we thought they must want to swim, too. Especially Django—her breed is known to enjoy the water.
Dogs will naturally start “dog paddling” when they find themselves in water, but that doesn’t mean that they can stay afloat for any length of time, that they like being in the water or that they can safely swim.
To see if our dogs would even enjoy being in the water, we bought a child-sized pool, filled it halfway and placed Hayley in the water. She swam across it, paddling her little paws non-stop. She really seemed to enjoy it. But Django wanted to get out of the pool immediately. She didn’t like the water and didn’t attempt to swim. Later on, we let Hayley in our 4-foot pool with my daughter staying right by her side, ready to intervene if she needed help. Hayley made her way across the pool and then we took her out. She was one proud and cool girl.
Every dog is as individual as is each person, and although dogs of a specific breed may embody similar personality traits, they certainly won’t display every characteristic of their breed. The most important thing as a pet parent is tuning into your dog’s individual personality—just as you do your child.