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.
When I wake up in the morning, before my brain can register what day of the week it is, my ears ring with the sounds of:
Diva, my 10-year-old, egg-laying cockatiel, tweeting and “dancing” in her cage to the oldies station;
Mr. Happy, my 6-year-old rescue dog, who suffers from many forms of anxiety, barking for someone to throw his favorite duck toy; and
My 2-year-old toddler, negotiating potty training and screaming that it’s time for her to feed Diva and Mr. Happy.
All of this happens before 6:15 A.M. I’m Erin, and my home resembles Times Square. It is loud, busy, exciting and sometimes smells like an overturned garbage truck on a hot day. Are my husband, Matt, and I off our rockers for embracing this lifestyle? Probably. We do have a daily pill sorter for our dog, after all. As my answers to frequently asked questions explain below, we can’t imagine living our lives any other way.
Q: Doesn’t having a small child and multiple pets make you crazy?
A: Craziness is all relative. There are plenty of things in the world that are crazier than having both small children and pets—would you cancel a trip to the park for your child or pet to burn off some energy due to a slight chance of rain? I don’t think so.
Q: You have a lot of living things to keep happy. How do you get it all done?
A: Delegation! My pets and toddler often entertain each other. Think of all the fun, interactive games you can play as an interspecies family, such as an updated version of a classic game called, “Clue: What Did I Just Step In?” Watch the whole family gather at scene of the crime to uncover the mystery. Keep in mind, the one family member or pet who is hiding during this game is mostly likely the prime suspect.
Q: If you could do it all again, would you?
A: You bet! Rewind to 2004, when Matt and I brought home our bird, Diva. Even if I knew then what I know now—the mess, the noise and the smells – I would still make the same decision. They’ve all taught me important life lessons ranging from remembering to smile and dance to being sure to give unconditionally.
When we first adopted Mr. Happy, a trainer said he had no hope of getting over his fear of dogs. Guess what? You can teach an old dog new tricks. To me, a beautiful image is not a sunset—it is seeing your dog walk right next to another dog after going through weeks of specialized training.
I’m excited to team-up with ASPCA Parents to share the wonders of pet ownership and raising young children. Stay tuned for next month’s post, when I share what’s worse than having a horse’s head in your bed. Don’t worry—no animals were harmed in the process!
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 must admit that it took a major disaster like Hurricane Sandy to inspire me to create a preparedness plan for my dogs, Mikey and Olive. When Sandy hit the Northeast, it was devastating to hear stories of pet parents who either left their pets behind in flooded homes, or worse, stayed home with their pets, putting the entire family at risk. Thankfully, my city allows pets at emergency shelters so pet owners didn’t have to make that choice.
It’s important to have a disaster plan for your pets, and what better way than to enlist your kids to help you create a plan and pet emergency kit.
Here are three tips as you start building a preparedness plan for your pet:
Keep an emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as a photo of your pet, vaccination records, water, pet food and medications. ASPCA experts suggest putting medical documents along with a photo of your pet in a Ziploc bag, and taping it to the pet carrier so it’s easy to locate when you need to evacuate quickly. It’s best to prepare a hard plastic pet carrier to carry in case of emergency. Your kids can help you put this kit together as you teach them about the importance of planning for a disaster.
Make sure your pets have collars and ID tags with up-to-date information. If you don’t have a collar or ID tags, take your kids to a local pet store (one that doesn’t sell puppies) and teach them about the importance of pets wearing ID tags in case they get lost. The ASPCA also recommends microchip as a more permanent form of ID, which can be your pet’s ticket home as long as you update your contact info if it changes.
Find out where you can take your pets in the event of evacuation. Some communities allow pets in emergency shelters, but others may not. Contact your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control to locate pet-friendly housing in your area.
The ASPCA recently launched its interactive mobile app, which is a great resource for disaster planning. The free app is available on iPhone and Android systems, and offers information to help pet parents protect their pets before and during disasters, as well as customized step-by-step instructions to find missing pets. The app also offers a place to safely store and update medical records for your pets. This handy tool is very easy to use and accessible as long as you have your phone. For more info and tips on disaster preparedness, visit www.aspca.org/mobileapp.
It’s often too late for pet parents to evacuate with their pets or pack essential items when they’re in a middle of a disaster, which is why it’s important to plan in advance so we don’t put ourselves and our pets in danger. My son is too young to truly understand the meaning of disaster preparedness, but he knows that helping mommy create an emergency kit is going to keep Mikey and Olive safe when we need to leave the house in a hurry.
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.
For pet parents, welcoming a baby into the family is exciting and stressful! You want your pet to still feel your unconditional love after the baby is home.
We have planned twice for a baby arriving—the first time was more than two years ago when our daughter, Gabriella, was born. Then, about eight months ago, we welcomed Tommy. Clyde, our 12-year-old greyhound, has done really well with both babies—pretty commendable for a senior dog!
We were anxious about how we would incorporate Clyde into our new day-to-day activities and make events like crying, crawling and walking less stressful on him—and us!
Here’s a list of tips that we used when our little ones were on the way:
Before your baby arrives:
Gradually make changes to your house. We put up the bassinet, pack and play and swing about a month before my due date so Clyde could get used to the new layout.
The night before I came home from the hospital, Tom brought a blanket that the baby had used and put it on Clyde’s bed.
Plan out the timing of your pet’s walks and decide who will walk with him. These things tend to slip through the cracks during the first few weeks after your baby’s arrival!
Designate an area where your baby can play and rest that is off-limits to your pet.
When your baby is home:
When we walked in from the hospital, we put the carrier down and greeted Clyde first. We then let him decide when to come to the baby .
Allow your pet to sniff the baby often.
“Teach” the baby how to properly pet the cat or dog—it’s best to start early on this one!
Stick to your pet’s routine as much as possible, including his walks, favorite treats and outings. Clyde and I still do “trick time” every night. He gets exercise (and his Kong!) These minutes together are so important.
Visit the ASPCA Pet Care section to learn more about preparing dogs and cats for the arrival of a new baby. As a mom of two human kids and one canine kid, I’ll always feel guilty that one of the three is not getting enough attention no matter how hard I try. But, I am going to continue to have fun while trying!
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
As the school year draws to a close, children become giddy with the anticipation of summer vacation. Once they toss their backpacks aside, consider using the next three months as a perfect time to ramp up the training for the four-legged members of your family. Guiding your kids as you work together to train your dog or cat can be a fun and instructive summer activity for them, as well as a way to enhance your family’s relationship with a better-behaved pet.
An excellent place to design a summer curriculum is the ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist, where a library of training tools is available sorted by dog and cat care. The site includes dozens of easy-to-read and informative articles on every aspect of the care and training of pets of all ages.
Our family includes two chocolate Labradors, Moose and Gus, who are eight and four. Though they understand the basic commands of Sit, Stay, Down and Come, they have a terrible habit of jumping on anyone who walks into the house. In the Virtual Pet Behaviorist, I learned that dogs like to sniff the faces (and other body parts) of dogs they greet. Naturally, since humans stand considerably taller, dogs follow their instinct for a face-to-face “hello” by jumping up on us. Through the years, we have been inconsistent in our response to Moose and Gus and their exuberant greetings, so it is no wonder that this problem persists. This summer, once our dog-loving teenage daughter is out of school, I plan for the two of us to train the dogs to NOT jump on our friends and neighbors. I printed a guide about this very topic from the Virtual Behaviorist for some great training tips.
As in all pet care, it is we pet parents who need to be trained to help our pets learn positive behavior. Once we welcome an animal into our homes and hearts, the next step it is to teach them how to behave. While your kids take a break from their lessons, think about using their down time to start summer school for your pet.