2014 Howliday Gift Guide

Nervously, I stand outside of the mall. I know what’s coming. Endless hours of wandering around like a lost sheep in search of the mystical “perfect present.”

I used to enjoy being a part of the bustling crowds. Everyone seemed to be inexplicably happy and friendly. Sadly, those days are long gone. The fights begin as soon as you hit the parking lot looking for that coveted space. And the mall has become an arena of WWF proportions.

This is when I began to realize that the gifts that I had been so lovingly purchasing were pretty much…the same. Every year, I get my dad a tie. Mom almost always gets an ornament or mug of some kind.

Last year, I officially broke the mold. I decided to start thinking outside of the pre-wrapped box and focus on something that my whole family loves: animals! My gifts were a hit and a portion of the profits from each gift went to helping animals in need.

Here are some gift ideas for the animal lovers in your life:

1.Cuddle Clones – This unique website offers custom designed plush versions of your family pet. Simply go to their website,www.cuddleclones.com to upload a few photos of your fur baby. Then, let the customization begin! You can even select which pose your plush will be created in (sitting, lying down, etc.). Do you have a special needs pet? No problem! They have created plush of pets with one eye, no tail and even a tripod dog! You can view their work along with customer reviews in the Testimonials section of their website. Not into stuffed animals? Cuddle Clones also offers custom made figurines, gift cards, collars, clothing and granite memorials for those who have recently lost a pet. There is definitely something for everyone.

2.Sponsor a Barn Buddy – Long Meadow Rescue Ranch sprawls across 165-acres of woodland near Union, Missouri. Owned by the Missouri Humane Society, the ranch is “haven for hundreds of abused and neglected horses, cows, goats, pigs, ducks and other farm animals. The ranch is one of the most comprehensive horse and farm animal care and rehabilitation centers in the country. In addition to animal care, ranch staff provide hands-on humane education experiences for both children and adults” according to their website: http://www.longmeadowrescueranch.org. Every year, the ranch offers the Barn Buddy Sponsor program. You can select which animal that you would like to sponsor and at which level. At the $50 level, you will receive a mini-plush of your chosen sponsor animal, a color photo, biography sheet and a magnet. Additionally, you will be able to visit your sponsored pet at the ranch whenever you wish! I purchased the gift sponsor option for my mother. She loves llamas and was thrilled to receive her Miss Molly the llama plush and packet. Did I mention that your sponsorship is also tax deductible? This gift is a win-win for the gifter and the giftee.

3.Rescue Me Magazine Subscription – I recently discovered this magazine while on a Wal*Mart run. This is one impulse buy that I did not regret. Inside, I found a wealth of information about different rescue organizations all across the country. There were also tons of inspirational stories with highlights on senior and special needs pets. What I really love about this magazine is that they feature all types of animals and pets. I was even introduced to a rescue group that specialize in reptile rescue! Even the advertisements are tailored to animal lovers. No car ads here! I discovered tons of great products for my pets to try. The best part? When you subscribe, Rescue Me will donate a portion of your subscription fee to the rescue group of your choice. Check them out online at: http://www.rescuemecentral.com.

4.Pet Trading Cards –Toki Poki is a website that is dedicated to connecting fellow pet lovers in a very unique way. Creating an account is free and easy. Once you join, you will create a pet profile for each of your fur babies. Upload your favorite pet photos and then…turn them into trading cards! There are tons of cool themes to choose from including super heroes, holiday and more. When you order a pack (roughly 50 cards), you will also receive a complimentary pack that includes all of the pets in that theme pack. Toki Poki also prides itself on donating to multiple charities. My husband and I created a Halloween trading card of our tripod dog, Penny. For each Halloween pack ordered by October 31st, Toki Poki donated 2,100 Halloween packs to children’s hospitals throughout the nation! Not only did Penny’s card make us smile, but knowing that we brightened up the lives of sick children made us even happier. Head on over towww.tokipoki.com to learn more.

5.Greater Good Store – This is truly a one stop shop. My only complaint….I spend too much money! From animal themed clothes to one-of-a-kind jewelry, you will find exactly what you are looking for. With every purchase, you will also receive a card that tells you exactly how your money has helped animals in need. I was delighted to see that my order helped provide 20 bowls of food for shelter animals. If you subscribe to their e-mail list, you will receive a coupon code that can be redeemed in the store. To start shopping, head over to: https://theanimalrescuesite.greatergood.com.

So, put down that package of socks and leave the gift cards at the kiosk. This year, give a gift that will not only delight your loved one, but will also make a difference in the life of an animal in need. Happy shopping!

Picture Perfect

Snow covers the ground. Leaves fall as I walk through our back yard. The smell of turkey fills the air. It is official: The holidays are upon us.

Proud pet parents know exactly what this means. It is time for photos with Santa! My husband and I look forward to taking (most of) our pack to see jolly old St. Nick. We lovingly display our collection of Christmas photos on our entertainment center every year.

For some, this experience is anything but merry. Inexperienced or negligent pet owners can create chaos that has a ripple effect. I have complied a list of tips that will ensure you and your furry friend will stay on the nice list.

1.ALWAYS have your pet on a leash! No exceptions! Some people foolishly think that their dog will be fine as long as he/she is held. Keep in mind that your pet will be overwhelmed by new sights, sounds and smells. They may act in ways that completely surprise you. The typical reaction is, “They never act this way at home.” Of course not. Home is familiar to them. The local Petsmart, Petco, etc. is not home. And your dog may not be the problem. Perhaps another dog becomes too friendly or aggressive. If your dog is on a leash, you will have more control over the situation and will be able to escort your baby away from the problematic pooch instead of having to chase him/her through the store.

2.Bring along some of your pet’s favorite treats. I remember a Halloween photo event that we went to. The pet store people were squeaking toys and making noises trying to get our babies to look at the camera. That is when we noticed the display of Beggin’ Strips. I politely told a worker to grab one of the bags and give it a shake. That did the trick! Their heads snapped up and the photo was amazing. Not all animals like the same things. Mine are very picky where toys are concerned and could not care less about rubber toys (which is what the store clerk kept waving around). You know what your pet likes best. Use it to your advantage.

3.Dress for success. We always dress our dogs in “ugly” Christmas sweaters. They only cost $3 per sweater at the bargain spot at Target. We also have some fancy dresses for our little ladies that were a Target special as well. While every fur baby is beautiful on its’ own, dressing them up can give them confidence. Penny, our tripod, and Theo, our oldest, LOVE to get dressed up. They hold their heads a little higher and seem to have smiles on their faces. Be sure that your pet’s face and ears are free and not obstructed by any garments. While you may think that photos of your pet bundled up to their eyeballs is adorable, he/she may be miserable. Remember, this is supposed to be enjoyable for you and your pet.

4.Allow your pet to sniff Santa. While we all know and love the man in red, your pet has no idea who the bearded, big-belly guy is. Treat Santa as you would any stranger that asks to pet your dog. Slowly approach Santa in his seated position. He should extend his hand low to the ground, not directly in front of your pet’s face. Give your fur baby some time to sniff. Do not shove him/her onto Santa’s lap. Also, keep your pet’s personality in mind. If you have a dog that does not like men or beards, forcing him/her to meet Santa is not fair. You would be placing him/her in a situation that you know would make him/her uncomfortable. If this is true of your pet, ask if you can sit next to Santa and have your pet sit on your lap or on the floor on the opposite side. Be sure to let Santa know that he can look, but not touch. This will save you from potential drama.

5.Be patient. We all want that perfect picture and it rarely happens on the first take. Do not become angry with your pet. Remember that pets can sense tension. If you become agitated, so will they. Then they will start to fidget and things will go downhill quickly. And being patient also extends to the other patron’s pets. The holidays tend to make everyone feel rushed, but be sure to take time to stop and smell the gingerbread. Give peace to get peace.

6. Know when to go. My husband and I always try to arrive about 20 minutes before the photo event is to begin. This way we are assured a parking space and can get a good spot in line. However, you should also know when it is time to pack up and leave. We had a horrible experience at one of the annual Halloween events. While we were in the middle of the line, we barely moved after almost 30 minutes! None of the staff knew how to work the simple point and shoot digital camera. Pet parents were told that they could step to the side to pick up their photo only to be told to come back because their photo had not turned out. Ours had to be re-taken three times! And our fur babies were getting antsy. They had had enough of being dressed up and were so done with the ever-growing crowd. If the third attempt had not worked, we were prepared to leave. It would have been asking too much of our babies to expect them to pose, yet again as they had become tired from all of the waiting. You may be disappointed that you did not receive the photo you had hoped for, but you will save yourself and your pet from extreme stress.

Remember to be polite and friendly to those in attendance. You may even make new friends while waiting in line. Happy howlidays!

Lost Loved Ones

One of my co-workers recently acquired a dog. *Kathleen pulled into the parking lot of a local store and when she stepped out of the car, an adorable dog came shooting across the pavement. Knowing that this was probably someone’s pet, she quickly approached the dog.

Much to Kathleen’s surprise, the dog sat down at her feet. I received a frantic call from her that evening. She had so many questions about what she should do next. I have gotten a reputation for being a resource for all things pet related since I used to foster dogs and am now the proud owner of 5 rescue dogs and 2 rescue cats.

Here are my top tips on what you should do if you find a lost dog or cat:

1. Do NOT chase the animal! If the dog or cat runs and you attempt to chase it, he/she will become even more frightened and will run that much harder. My husband and I learned this while attempting to corral a neighbor’s loose dog. Instead, try calling to the animal with “Here, boy/girl!” or the famous “Here, kitty, kitty!” If this does not work, head to your local police department and provide them with a detailed description of the animal that you saw and the name of the street where you last saw him/her. All officers on duty will then be able to keep an eye out for the lost fur baby.

2. Take the animal to your nearest vet. Explain that you believe the animal is lost and that you would like a technician to scan for a microchip. A microchip is a tiny chip that is injected underneath the surface of the animal’s skin, typically while they are being spayed/neutered. There is a unique number that is associated with each chip. When the animal is adopted, the new owners pay to have the chip registration switched to their name. Once the animal is scanned, the pet’s name, owner’s address and phone number should appear when the number is entered on a microchip site such as Google.com, Avid.com or HomeAgain.com. You or the technician can call the pet’s owner and let them know that their fur baby is safe and sound. If the owners have not yet switched ownership of the chip, the information of the shelter in which the animal was adopted from should come up instead. Shelters usually keep excellent records of all of the animals within their care and should be able to locate the contact information for the pet’s owner.

3. Keep the animal separated from your own pets. If the animal does not have a microchip and you decide to take him/her home with you, be sure to keep him/her separated from your pets. Since you do not know the history of the dog/cat, you will not know if it is friendly with other animals or has any health issues that could possibly be transferred to your babies. Additionally, your pets may become territorial and attempt to pick a fight with the stranger.

4. Create a lost animal flier. The heading should read: LOST DOG/CAT in all caps and in a large, bold font. This will capture the attention of passersby. Be sure to include a good quality photo of the animal. Take a full frontal photograph of the animal’s face. No half face shots where only one eye and ear are showing. By not including the whole face, the animal becomes vague. The side profile could belong to any brown dog. That could be the ear of any tabby cat. You may also be missing out on distinguishing features, such as eye color difference, a defining spot of color, a facial abnormality such as an overbite, etc. My dog, Penny, has a severe overbite and a deformed front paw. If you just saw a side profile photo of her, you would be missing out on the very things that define who Penny is. Include the full address of where you picked up the animal. Finally, leave a phone number where you can be reached. Distribute the fliers to all of the veterinarians in the area as well as any pet stores and boutiques. Some grocery stores and shopping centers will also permit you to post the flier in a special section of the store, usually by the entrances/exits where the most traffic is present. Do not forget to include your local police and fire departments.

5. Take to social media. Many an animal has been reunited with their owner thanks to social media. In our region, Spencer Kennel sends out a Mimi Alert when they are notified of a missing pet. The alert contains a photo and contact information about the animal and is e-mailed and sent as a text to all Spencer Kennel customers. They also post the alert on their Facebook page. You can create your own Mimi Alert by posting a condensed version of your flier onto Facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc. Do not forget about bloggers! The more people that know about the lost pet, the better.

6. Reach out to rescue groups. If you live in an apartment that does not allow pets or have a spouse or child that is allergic, you should not try to house the animal until its owner is found. Instead, contact your local animal rescue groups to see if they can provide assistance. They may have room at their no-kill shelter or be able to find a foster home where the animal can stay. This will assure that the dog/cat will be properly cared for and will not be euthanized if its owner has not been located within a certain amount of time.

After two months, Kathleen finally located the owner of the missing dog. While she was sorry to see her new furry friend go, she was overjoyed that she was able to reunite the little pooch with his family. Paw it forward!

*name changed

Expo Etiquette

Every year, my husband and I attend the Pet Expo held at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri.  We would always bring at least three of our fur babies with us.  This was actually the first year when my husband was vehement about leaving everyone at home.

I could not imagine going without them!  I love including them in family outings as much as we can.  Not only does it provide great socialization practice for them, but it allows me to soak up all of the praise that our babies typically receive (usually for being cute).

I then began to think about an e-mail that I had recently received from Therapy Dogs International.  They provided tips for handler/dog teams in regards to the Ebola outbreak.  A few days later, I received another e-mail, this time dealing with MRSA (a.k.a. Staph Infection).  While our babies are ALWAYS kept up to date on their shots, other pet parents are not so vigilant.

Reluctantly, we left…alone.  The trip felt so awkward without a furry face pressed against the window.  My heart sank as we pulled into the parking lot.  I watched glumly as happy expo goers trotted towards the entrance with their dogs in tow.

What we could not see until we exited our vehicle was the long line.  The expo started at 10:00 a.m. and we arrived at 10:15.  As we got closer to the convention center, we discovered what the line was for.  Those that brought their pets had to sign waivers AND present the expo officials with a copy of their dogs’ latest shot record.

Since we did not have anyone with us, we got to breeze past the line and jump right in with the fun!  We love to see all of the different items that the vendors have to offer.  And I love to look at all of the adoptable animals!

What we had not expected was the complete and utter rudeness of many of the attendees.  I was actually glad that we had not brought our kids along.
Here are my suggestions for proper pet expo etiquette:

1. Do not bring retractable leashes.  These leashes are notorious for getting tangled.  Not only can they trip you (or someone else), but they can also trip your pet and cut off circulation if the rope remains tangled around your dog for any length of time.

2. Your dog is NOT a battering ram!  I cannot tell you the number of people that used their dogs to cut through the crowd.  One man in particular grabbed his dog’s collar and literally shoved him into people so that they would clear a path for him to get to the next vendor booth.  This is unacceptable behavior on many levels.  Your pet is there to enjoy himself/herself, not to be used as a tool for you to be rude to others.  If you and your dog need to pass through a tight space, simply say, “Excuse me, please.”  You would be surprised to know that the typical reaction is an immediate apology from the blocking party as they step aside.

3. Do not bring your pet strollers.  My husband and I had incredible luck when we won an awesome pet stroller for our babies to cruise around in.  However, the stroller is HUGE.   We could actually almost fit all of our dogs in it.  That being said, expos usually have tight quarters with which to move in.  Combine that with the fact that there are a large number of people and their pets in attendance, adding a stroller would make your moving space next to nothing.  If you cannot bear the thought of your precious pooch walking, try investing in a dog carrying bag.  Your dog can enjoy the expo from the comfort of a custom-made bag that you wear like a cross body bag.  This way, your baby remains close to you and off of the floor.  Our doxie, Hope, just loves hers.

4. Maintain control of your dog (s).  Just because you are at an expo with other animal lovers does not mean that they are responsible for your dog (s).  You must make sure that your dog (s) is under control at all times.  I have seen too many owners become lax about their dog’s behavior.  That is when the barking and snarling begins and others in attendance will avoid you and your pooch like the plague.

5. Your dog is still a dog.  We saw many different types of service as well as therapy dogs at the expo.  One incident that I saw was truly horrifying.  A woman was walking her large medical alert dog.  The dog became excited and started pacing back and forth.  This wrapped the leash around the woman’s arm.  She grabbed hold of the handle that was on the dog’s special harness and began shaking him!  She kept yelling the command, “Hold!  Hold!”  This was completely uncalled for.  While dogs can be trained to do many wonderful and helpful things, they are still, at heart, a dog.  You cannot train all of the dog out of a dog.  He was clearly feeling overwhelmed with all of the new sights, sounds and smells.  All that her shouting and shaking did was to make him even more anxious.  If you have a medical alert dog that you are not able to carry, please, consider bringing a friend with you that can assist with your furry companion should he/she become overwhelmed.  If your dog is not an assistance dog and he/she becomes anxious, consider walking outside for a few minutes to give him/her some space in which to calm down.  When you re-enter the expo, if he/she is still uncomfortable, you should respect your pet’s feelings and take him/her home.

6. Never touch someone else’s pet without asking.  I know that I sound like a broken record with this one, but it is so true.  Each dog has he/her own personality.  They cannot simply be lumped in together with the idea that “all dogs are friendly.”  Or even worse, “all [insert breed here]” are friendly/mean.”  If you are interested in petting someone’s pooch, just ask.  They will be so appreciative and you will get to make a new friend.

Pet expos are all about having fun, but as pet parents, we have a responsibility to make sure that we, as well as our pets, are on our best behavior.  Following these 6 tips will assure that everyone will have a tail wagging good time.

Canine Carnival 2014

My apologies once again, for being behind on my blogging.  We attended the annual Canine Carnival, held at Tilles Park in St. Louis, Missouri.  There were tons of adorable dogs (and even a few cats)!  With tons of games, food and shopping, it was easy to lose track of time.  The day passed so quickly, but was tons of fun.  And all proceeds from the purchase of the Canine Carnival t-shirt go directly to the Missouri Animal Protection Agency.

 We dressed Adriel in her famous angel costume for the costume contest.

 I love the ears on this adorable Chihuahua!

 More big ears to love!

 Keeping warm on a cool day.

 Adriel channels her inner bliss.

 This Dalmatian totally rocked the Robin costume.

 Check out this dappled doxie!

 This is one stylin’ Dachshund.  Note the matching hat and bandanna.

 Meet Fergus!  This little cutie is up for adoption.  He may only have one good eye, but he is a total love bug!

 The babies and I pose in front of the giant dog inflatable.

 This long-haired Chihuahua reminds me of my Theo!

 It’s a Mexican Hairless!  I know what breed I’ll be adopting next!

 Check out this costume:  It’s a Min Pin-cushion!

 It’s a Min (Pin) ion!  Super creative costuming!

 Take a look at those gorgeous eyes!

 Look at this adorable one-eyed wonder!

 This pooch is relaxing after getting a (temporary) tattoo.

 Meet Sebastian, the cutest dog alive!

 He looks so serious for such a young pup.

 Even angels get tired.

 What a stately Scottie.

 I got to meet this adorable Bostie pack!

 This tiny poodle is a Therapy Dog!

 Crikey!  It’s the rare Tigerchi!  Just kidding; this is one super-cool air brushed tattoo.

 Chihuahuas are one of my favorite breeds.

 Hello, poochies!

 It’s a Whippet pack!

 This little cutie dressed as Winnie-the-Pooh!

OMD!  What a doll!

I can’t wait until next year’s Canine Carnival!

Races for Rescues 2014

First, I would like to apologize for my recent absence.  My Grandmother, who has been battling cancer for three years, was suddenly placed into Hospice care two weeks ago.  She passed away on Monday, October 13th.

Grandma loved dogs almost as much as I do.  So, I would like to share some wonderful photos that my husband took from the Belleville Humane Society’s annual Races for Rescues.  This event features a timed run as well as a fun walk.  There were tons of adorable adoptables and inspawrational pooches.

 This dog/owner team was really in sync!

 I think this little guy REALLY wants to be adopted!

 Penny and Domino decided to sit in my lap and watch the runners whiz by.

 Check out this amazing tripod Husky!

 Who wouldn’t want to adopt this cutie?

 Just look at those baby blues!

 I just loved this adorable couple!

 This Corgi is ready to be on the cover of Modern Dog.  Look at that smile!

 I could not stop laughing at this shoe wearing dog!  My fur babies would hate having something on their feet.

 This dog has eyebrows!  I think he is just gorgeous.

 Mr. Mohawk stole the show!  How has he not been adopted yet?

 Penny even made a new friend.

 The fur was flying as the dogs crossed the finish line.

 I was so excited to meet another tripod pooch!

 This dog knows how to pose.

 “Come on!  Walk me!  I am ready to be adopted.”

 “Awww, mom!  Do we have to leave?”

Inbred Chiweenie Finds Happiness

Check out this amazing video:  http://youtu.be/P00j1u8pbuI

I love Ms. Flans!  I am the proud mom of 7 rescue dogs, 3 of which are “special.”  Adriel, short-haired Chihuahua, was born with a tongue that is longer than her head, so it always sticks out.  She is a certified Therapy Dog.  Children love her!  Penny is a Chiweenie that was born with a deformed front foot (lobster claw paw) and a severe overbite.  She may be a tripod, but she can scale our pet gate!  Our most recent rescue is a double dapple doxie named Hope.  She was also the product of a backyard breeder.  She was born without eyes and is completely deaf, but that doesn’t stop her from living a wonderful life and accomplishing amazing things.  Hope is able to open our bedroom closet door with her nose!  All animals are special and deserve to be treated with respect and love.  You wouldn’t call helping a disabled child a “waste of time,” would you?  Helping and loving differently-abled animals is no different.  Continue to stand up for those that have no voice.  Adopt, don’t shop!

Curious Kitty

Tomorrow will officially be October!  And we all know what that means.  Halloween is rapidly approaching.

Miracle, our rescue kitty, has decided to start celebrating a little early.  She has an unusual fascination with my pumpkin tote bag.  It was housing a few Halloween decorations, but now….you’ll have to see for yourself.

 I was just sitting here, minding my own business, when this bag attacked me!




 Maybe I will use this bag as a hat.


 This is the perfect hiding spot!  Domino has no clue that I’m about to pounce!


 These straps sure are fun the chew.



Picturesque Pooches

My husband has suddenly developed (pun intended) a love of photography.  He is currently borrowing his dad’s very spiffy camera to practice with.  Naturally, he decided to take photos of some of our fur babies.  What do you think?

 Penny loves to stare at the neighbor’s Dachshund.




 Penny take in the fresh scents of fall.




 Hope does her happy prance!




 Hope is one happy weenie!




Nothing gets this queen ween down!