Sunday, January 8, 2012

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Craft Idea: Make Holiday Collar Covers for Dogs and Cats

This month we're making holiday collar covers for our customers. These festive tubes of cloth slide easily over your pet's collar to add a touch of color or sparkle for the holiday season but are easily slipped off and washed or recycled. Once you're set up, each collar cover takes about 15 minutes to make and now that the kids are home for vacation, you can make it a family project.

What you'll need:
  • Sewing machine (yes you could sew by hand if you wanted to)
  • Rotary cutter or sharp shears
  • Pinking shears
  • Lightweight fabric (smaller patterns work best)
  • Neutral or color coordinated thread

Step 1: Measure
Measure the length and width of your pet's collar

Step 2: Plan
Add 1" to the width and about 30% to the length. That's the finished size of the tube you'll be constructing. You'll need the extra width to accommodate the plastic fasteners on the collar plus a seam allowance and the extra length to scrunch up the fabric so it has a ruffled look when finished.

Step 3: Cut
Using a rotary cutter or a pair of very sharp shears, cut two strips of cloth to the planned dimensions.

Step 4: Sew
Align the strips right sides outward and sew down each long side about 1/4" inch from the edge. It's a good idea to reverse at each end for a few stitches to lock the seam in place.

Step 5: Trim
Using pinking shears, trip the seam allowances and tube ends  to create pretty, non-fraying borders.

Step 6: Scrunch
Slide the finished tube over your pet's collar, scrunching as you go.

We hope you enjoy this holiday craft idea!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pet Therapy on Cape Cod: Spread the Joy!

This week our pooch and mascot, Grigri, started his career as an animal assisted therapy dog, with a visit to Eagle Pond Rehabilitation Center.

What is animal assisted (or pet) therapy?

Dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, and other small animals are used to improve a patients social, emotional, or cognitive  abilities, and to bring affection and happiness to those who are in a hospital or institutional setting. The health benefits of owning or loving a pet are well-documented and the smiles a pet therapy visit brings to the faces of the elderly or infirm are not easily forgotten.

What's a pet therapy visit like?

We arrived at the lobby of Eagle Pond to meet other therapy teams and spread out through the facility. Grigri was very excited by the prospect of a new place and other dogs and wanted to bark and play - NOT the purpose of this visit! Some animated Christmas figures near the door sent him into a tizzy! He acts like he's seen a ghost whenever he encounters a statue of a dog or person, especially one that moves and sings! He soon settled into the "job" of visiting, though, and  we talked with half a dozen patients about their pets, their families and their holiday plans. In the dementia unit one woman just petted and smiled, petted and smiled, hanging onto his ear in the most charming illustration of the bond people have with animals and its power to create joy. It's a very rewarding experience for both dogs, owners and patients alike.

How can you get started in pet therapy?

On Cape Cod, dogs have to pass the Canine Good Citizen test to get started, then be evaluated by the Companion Animal Program of Cape Cod (CAP). CAP makes sure that dogs have basic obedience skills and are not frightened by wheel chairs, walkers, or people who look or act different. One the therapy team is approved, they can start visiting local nursing homes, assisted living facilities and libraries (for the Reading to Dogs program for children) with the guidance of CAP. In 2011 there are 201 members, 29 visitation sites (including 5 libraries) and 128 or more active therapy teams.

We'll keep you updated as Grigri makes his way to his AKC Therapy Dog title, which requires certification with an approved AKC Therapy Dog organization (CAP of Cape Cod is one), registration with AKC (Grigri is registered in the AKC's Canine Partners program for mixed breeds) and 50 or more therapy visits. That will take a few years!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

UNUSUAL Holiday Gift Ideas for Pet Lovers

If you need a cat toy or dog themed t-shirt for a holiday gift, just jump online or head to your local main street to acquire. You'll easily be satisfied. But if you seek something a little off the beaten track, read on for some shopping ideas for your pets or pet lovers.

We have seen pet entertainment videos and hear that kennels and day care facilities play pet themed movies for their charges but we've also read that dogs, at least, can't really see TV that well. Certainly we've observed that our pets don't care much about screen time. For real world pet entertainment, install a bird feeder outside a window your dog or cat can see out of. They'll get a kick out of watching both birds and the squirrels that gather underneath the feeder. Try the Bird Watcher's General Store in Orleans for ideas.

If you think of "sit!" and "Stay!" as the typical fare of dog classes, you may be surprised at the breadth of training available. For example, Joseph's Obedience Training School in Pocasset offers classes in nose work, tea cup agility (for small dogs) canine freestyle, and flyball. Your dog will appreciate quality time with more than anything else you could give, right?

For an extensive collection of tasteful, pet-themed items, try Agatha and Louise, a New England pet store that has numerous gifts and decorative  items from $10 up for the pet lover and the pet, organized by dog breed (cats too!) 

One very practical idea is to shop to help the animals. Here are some great online spots where your holiday dollars can delight your friends and family while providing a service for animals in need.

The ASPCAhas an online store with a big selection. Also the MSPCA.

For a really local charity, consider CapeCodPolice K9 Relief Fund, a concern that raises funds for law enforcement dogs injured in service. They have an online store with items featuring pet themes with a law enforcement twist.

If you love Pit Bulls, and who can resist them, shop the Stubby Dog catalog for clothes, holiday items, and home/office items all with cute Pitty faces and poetry. The new Sargeant Stubby designs are particularly attractive. 

Or, you might want to give a loved one the gift of a clean pet. There's really nothing like snuggling your nose into a soft, freshly scented dog or cat that's not shedding hair all over the house. Call Aussie Pet Mobile  at 508 534 9875 for a gift certificate. We can make up a pretty paper certificate for you to present to someone you care about, and that person could be you!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book Review: Made for Each Other, by Meg Daley Olmert

Why do we love our pets so much? And why do they love us? These are the central questions posed by Meg Daley Olmert's  2009 book about the biology of the human-animal bond.

Her inquiry follows the research done on the role of the hormone oxytocin in animal behavior. If you're of a certain age, you probably think of oxytocin as the hormone that initiates labor, delivery and lactation in humans. But over recent years, research has focused on the much broader role that oxytocin plays across all mammal behavior, and especially in that of domesticated animals.

As it turns out, according to Olmert, oxytocin suppresses the fight or flight response, one of the most powerful motivators in the animal kingdom; it also stimulates trusting, close, and nurturing behavior and lowers stress hormones, heart rate and blood pressure. In fact, Olmert and others make the argument that oxytocin may have been a major factor in the domestication of animals.

Olmert brings a new perspective to several of the major themes in the behavior of domesticated animals, covering well known stories such as Clever Hans, the "trick" horse, Rico, the brilliant German Border Collie and the taming of the Russian silver fox and points to what she thinks is the role of oxytocin in  these events. 

The central theme of the book is the relationship between pet dogs and humans. It's now possible to measure the degree of oxytocin produced by interacting with our pets and, as you might expect, petting a dog produces high levels of oxytocin in both the human and the dog. The best anti-stress results are produced at forty strokes a minute, the same rate we naturally use to stroke our pets.

One study showed that the biggest factor in who survived a heart attack was not family or friendship, but whether a patient had a pet. Interestingly, another study showed that when humans are performing a stress test, having a friend or spouse nearby had no effect on reducing heart and blood pressure, but the presence of their dogs kept them significantly calmer.  Simply owning a cat produced a 30% reduction in the incidence of heart attack. It is often said that during tough times people prefer the comfort of a pet even to their closest human kin.

Is anyone surprised that stroking a pet produces a feeling of well-being? Well, no. But it is interesting to see this profound effect has shaped our shared history with animals and to speculate on how we might leverage the effects of oxytocin to improve our future. It certainly helps to illuminate why so many of us have chosen to work with animals and why we derive such pleasure from it. Grooming produces oxytocin in both the groomer and the groomee!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thanksgiving Idea: Low Fat Carrot Dog Treats

If you're worried about your pooch's waistline, and for many of our furry friends you should be, consider making these low fat treats for the holiday:

1 medium banana
1 c shredded carrots (can buy pre-shredded for convenience)
1/4 c unsweetened applesauce
1/8 c water (or more as needed)
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (plus extra for rolling out cookies)
1 c rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or a light coat of oil.

Mash banana and mix in shredded carrots (give carrots a rough chop to make the pieces a little smaller.) Add water and applesauce and stir. Add flour and oats and combine thoroughly. Using hands, knead into a dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/2" thickness. Cut into 3" shapes using a knife, cookie cutters or the rim of a glass. Put the treats onto the oiled baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. If your dog prefers a crunchier treat, turn off the oven after baking and let the treats cool in the oven overnight.

This recipe makes 24 treats which will keep for 3 weeks in the fridge or 6 months frozen.

Thank you Country Gardens, Hyannis for this great recipe!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

2 Million Dogs, 2 Miles

A satisfying a day was had by all the 200 or so dogs that strolled through Plymouth under brilliant fall sun and skies today in order to raise funds for the fight against canine cancer. What more does a dog want than the simple joy of taking a walk? 101 dogs preregistered online but scores more lined up to take part in the walk.

It was a parade of breeds with some unusual attendees among the throngs of Golden Retrievers; one woman brought her 18 year old cat, Felicia, perched on her shoulder, complete with pink polka dotted sweater and matching leash. All together we saw four Dogues de Bordeaux, not a dog you see every day in Southeast Mass. 

We gave out coupons, dog treats and brushing guides and had a good time chatting with other visitors, vendors and sponsors. In fact, we saw the folks from the Howl-a-Day Inn there. Three interesting non-profits attended: 

"I can follow the scent of a criminal for up to 10 days but all he needs is a split second to kill me" is what you'll see on the home page of this organization's web site. They primarily raise money to furnish active police dogs with bullet-proof vests, but they also provide other essential equipment such as kennels, heat alarms and even the purchase of dogs themselves. Check out their online store for gift ideas.

Great photos and stories on this group's web site. FairyDogParents helps prevent dogs from being surrendered to shelters due to financial hardship. They've sponsored more than 100 dogs since March of 2009 and have pledged to help 175 more by the end of 2012.

Helping Hands for the Plymouth Animal Shelter: These kind folks raise money for veterinary, wellness care and spaying /neutering for animals lodged at the Plymouth Animal Shelter to supplement the town budget. All monies raised, donated or collected go toward the well being of the animals.

 We'll certainly support the Puppy Up! Walk again next year.