Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
We do our best, as moms, to protect our kids from dangerous situations. If your family has pets, that same protective instinct applies to the four-legged members of the family. On Valentine’s Day my vigilance will be put to the test as I try to keep the red satiny boxes filled with chocolates away from our chocolate Labradors.
We have owned four Labs during our 25 years of marriage, and each one has been a terrible food thief. Though I’m annoyed when a pup snatches a peanut butter sandwich from the kitchen counter top, I don’t worry about the ingredients the dog ingested. However, if the Valentine’s chocolates are accidentally left on that same space in the kitchen, there can be cause for concern.
According to the ASPCA, “Chocolate can contain high amounts of fat and caffeine-like stimulants known as methylxanthines. If ingested in significant amounts, chocolate can potentially produce clinical effects in dogs ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death in severe cases.”
If you discover that your dog has eaten chocolate, try to remain calm and ascertain these three things before you call your vet:
Determine if it was dark, milk or white chocolate
Try to estimate the ounces consumed
Know your dog’s weight
Better yet, take a look at the video below, created by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, which illustrates helpful things to note about the dangers of quantities and types of chocolate. It’s helpful to watch the video now, before your dog has a chance to snack on any unsafe treats this Valentine’s Day.
At ASPCA Parents, our goal is to help families raise the next generation of animal lovers. So when we heard about the Benedetto family, who spent Christmas assisting in the aftermath of a massive tri-state dog fighting ring, we couldn’t wait to share their story. We tracked down this inspiring family to find out just what motivated them to spend their holidays with the ASPCA.
Elizabeth and Juan Carlos Benedetto live in Seattle, Washington with their two children, Gabriel and Tatiana. Elizabeth and Juan run two adult living facilities, and both kids are in medical school. Despite their busy lives, they’ve always made it a priority to do good, and to do it together. When they heard about an opportunity to help dog fighting victims, they all agreed to head to our temporary shelter right away.
“We have a love of animals deep in our heart,” says Elizabeth. “It’s really important for us to help out animals in need, but also to stick together as a family.”
The Benedettos are trained in Search & Rescue. In the last year alone, they deployed four times through WASART (Washington State Animal Response Team) to rescue dogs and horses. Though she says she hasn’t had a real vacation in more than 20 years, Elizabeth considers this time with her family to be the greatest reward of all.
“We want to show the kids how important it is to be a part of the need that’s out there and to be a part of the community,” she says. “If your kids are old enough to do these things, they should do them. The more you expose your kids to good, the better our world will be.”
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blogGrown and Flown
It’s the beginning of 2014, which is a customary time to think about the brand new year and finalize a list of resolutions. Each year, by the time January 1 arrives, I have scribbled down a list of “be better-do-better” goals that, unfortunately, fade from memory as my attention turns to the next holiday on the calendar. This year my strategy is going to be different. I am making five resolutions with my two Labrador retrievers, Gus and Moose, as partners in hopes that they will be daily reminders to help keep me on track.
1. Increase my exercise. Every morning, regardless of the weather, I take Gus and Moose on a leash walk lasting no longer than 15 minutes. This year, I resolve to walk further, giving each of us a better daily workout.
2. Practice preventative health care. I wouldn’t dream of neglecting my dogs’ annual vaccinations. Now, as I make their vet appointments, I will also schedule my yearly doctors’ visits and not let my preventative health care lapse, either.
3. Cut back on snacks. Dropping a few pounds has made every one of my annual lists with paltry results to show. Reducing the human food we give our dogs as snacks while cutting back on my own grazing is a way I can be mindful of the harm overeating does to both canines and humans.
4. Help others. Moose and I are a certified Pet Partners animal therapy team and we visit patients at New York-Presbyterian Hospital weekly. I see the joy he brings with each session and resolve to do more to help others.
5. Express gratitude. Whenever they wag their tails, our two happy dogs elevate my mood, too. They inspire me and, though I lack a tail to wag, I have countless ways to express my appreciation for all the joy in my life, including the happiness brought to me through pet ownership.
Thanks, Gus and Moose, for the daily reminders of my 2014 resolutions. With you as my partners, I hope to be more successful in focusing on my goals all year long.
When I was a child, my sister and I hung up our Christmas stockings on the same wooden doorway in the dining room each year. Once our stockings were up, we’d place our dogs’ stockings right next to them. I continued the tradition with my own kids, so we hang our Mom and Dad stockings next to our daughters’ and son’s stockings, and then we begin the process of hanging the pets’ stockings. If you walk into our living room in December, you’ll see 10 stockings in total and you might think we have an enormous family; two of them are for each of the dogs and three are for each of the cats (shhh, the frog, fish and turtles don’t get their own stockings!)
It’s a little extra effort in a home when Santa comes to all the children and pets. Many a late Christmas Eves have been spent filling stockings with goodies, including toys, rawhides and catnip, but it has all been well worth the effort, partly because many Christmas mornings have been spent speculating what Django and Hayley thought of Santa since they are really the only ones in the house who knew for sure what he looked like in person. And then it’s off to inspect the stockings to see what Santa left behind for Hayley, Django, Baby, Lily and Cloe. The joy on the children’s faces is always a delight. I hope it is a lasting memory that they will keep and share with their own children one day.
Django was the last pet to get her own stocking after we adopted her in November 2010. We excitedly made room on the wall for our new pup as I recalled making a new stocking for each child and furry family member throughout the years.
Our dogs may not talk but they certainly provide comfort and love to all of us. From Hayley’s restorative bond with my daughter to Django’s insistence on lying with me (and sometimes on me) when she senses that I am down in the dumps, our dogs are a definite part of our family. We would be a different family without them. Yes, we’d have less fur and chores, but we’d also have a whole lot less love.
Wishing you and your family (human and furry) a wonderful and warm holiday season!
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blogGrown and Flown
Our youngest child, now a senior in high school, used to beg for her own dog. Whenever asked what she wanted for Christmas, the answer was always “a puppy.” Knowing that a calm and predictable schedule is necessary for a pet to become acclimated to a new environment, we never granted this wish. Further, for years, we resisted her pleas for a puppy of her own until she became old enough to manage the dog it would become.
My husband and I discovered a different way for her to spend time with puppies without taking on the responsibilities of ownership. The Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB), an internationally accredited guide dog school in Yorktown, New York, has a need for volunteer “puppy socializers.” After being accepted into the program, my daughter and I spent an afternoon at the GEB where we learned our new responsibilities: feeding, walking, cleaning up after and loving a pair of six-to-nine week old Labradors in our home. It was a volunteer match made in heaven for our little girl!
In the decade since, we have hosted more than a dozen pairs of puppies, mainly during the summer months and holidays when our daughter had the time to help with their care. Climbing into their fenced space, she would hug each new puppy, playing with both and often holding one until he fell asleep on her lap.
But she has also felt puppies chew on a finger and listened to them yowl. She has walked them in the back yard, bringing them inside to see them soil freshly laid newspapers. She has learned much, not only about dog guardianship, but also about the commitment required to be a volunteer.
As I think back on holiday gifts past, I believe that one of the most enduring presents our daughter received was not delivered on December 25. Instead, she discovered a volunteer role that allowed her little girl love of puppies to blossom into a mature dedication to others in need.
Mary Dell Harrington, a graduate of the University of Texas and Harvard Business School, began her career in the media where she worked for NBC, Discovery and Lifetime. Most recently, she and Lisa Heffernan co-foundedGrown and Flown, a parenting blog that looks at the entire arc of family life from the point of view of moms with kids 15-25. Their writing has appeared in Huffington Post, Atlantic.com, PBS Next Avenue and Lifetime Moms. Along with her chocolate Labrador partner, Moose, Mary Dell is a certified Pet Partners animal therapist and volunteers for New York-Presbyterian Hospital in that capacity.