Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ask Lola: A slobbering advice column written by a dog for eco-minded dogs and their owners

Dear Lola: I just adopted a dog from my local SPCA. So as a new proud parent of a Collie name Bowser who has such a playful and loving spirit his well-being is everything to me. What can I do this holiday season to keep him safe so I can host a fabulous party?


Dear FRANTIC HOSTESS IN SEATTLE: Let me first start by giving you a paw on the back for doing your part to adopt a pet, it is the ultimate form of recycling. Now Bowser will be able to spend the holidays with a loving family in a loving home roasting chestnuts by the fire. So, if you are a parent of a little boy or girl who desperately wants to unwrap a dog this Christmas with ribbons. Search no further then at your local SPCA or animal shelter. Give the gift that keeps on giving in licks and wags!!

Just by the look on my parents face of excitement it’s that time of year again. Tis the Season to be jolly even when you don’t won’t too. But don’t fret, instead relax and take a deep breath. Here’s a scenario that my family and probably you are very familiar with. This year while you are scouring the web or chasing down the aisle to buy dad that latest energy efficient tech gadget on his wish list. Looking forward to dressing a newborn in those adorable, handmade, ooak organic cotton booties you found on Etsy.

With memories being built and giving gifts you, like so many others, cringe at the thought of being the lucky person chosen party planner. As we all know with partying comes huge responsibility and can feel like a full-time job with the only benefits being gratitude from guest. As the “Hostess with the Mostess” in charge of beautifully setting the dinner table for party of 8, while Uncle Ernie snores in your recliner watching Macy’s Parade. All the while you are keeping an ear open for a buzz signaling it time to baste the turkey or ham. So in the end learning how to master the art of a perfect SoufflĂ© is the least of your worries.

Like a musical score you have managed to plan a menu, composed of a beautiful 5-course meal. Which by the way as the official taster you’ve managed to taste every course & morsel within spoons reach. Leaving you fully satisfied all you want to do now is enjoy the beautiful place setting, conversation and perhaps dessert. Your signature and delicious pumpkin pie made from scratch. Because there is always room for dessert just ask your growling stomach. Besides, with so many leftovers a midnight snack is must and the creature stirring and tiptoeing will be you to the fridge (psst..this will be our secret).

As you frantically stir, mix, baste, taste, pour and lick your battered fingers your loyal yet salivating dog waits patiently. For what you may ask... well no surprise here, for you to drop just one mouse size crumb of your grandmothers famous stuffing. Of course being the season of giving and granting wishes you oblige. You go down the checklist and everything is in the oven and tree is beautifully trimmed. Now you can take a moment to breath and sit back. All you won’t to do is bask in a brief moment of silence with a big sigh. So you steal a few seconds to sip a cup of eggnog and listen to seasonal favorites like Jingle Bells. But you are quickly remained that you are not alone when you hear the slamming of doors and screaming children running up the stairs. Oh, yes they have just arrived back from a long afternoon playing snow ball fight and making snow angles. But when you thought you had everything done on your to-do-list you realize your work is not done. Then out the door to pick of your mom and dad at the airport. Hey, at least you enjoyed serenity while it lasted.

I must say this make me proud to be dog with a carefree life, no worries. Trust me the only thing dog’s envy is that juicy turkey dinner on the table (covet operation GRAB the turkey is in effect). So as you see with so many things to do this season it is so easy to forget the important word “SAFETY”. No one wants to make a last minute call or run to the vet or emergency room just as your husband is about to carve the turkey. Here are some simple tips on making the holiday safe for Bowser, kids and family.

1. Don’t give Scraps- It is so easy to give your dog leftovers or table scraps from the meal you wonderfully prepared. But this can do more harm then taste good. Not only is it bad for Fido waist line, "Man there goes that New Years Resolution". But it can put a strain on their sensitive digestive systems. Make no bones about it! Feeding your dog turkey or chicken bones, and rawhides can cause choking, puncture the intestine, cause digestive problem. Also, bone shards can get stuck in your dogs gum. So, if you want to treat your dog to a safe and healthy bone treat give your dog a Zukes Dental Chew Bone, a great stocking stuffer.

If Fido is still turning his snout up at his dish that looks like unpleasant roadkill then here is a better option. Instead opt for Organic, Holistic, and All-Natural food that is just as tasty (you may be tempted to swap dishes with Fido), contains no preservatives or bi-products, very healthy and easier to digest. "And yes, it contains real meat, not that fake rubber stuff from 1950's tv dinner". Merrick is a great choice, with an array of gourmet entrees from the Puppy Plate, Senior Medley, to their holiday favorites such as Thanksgiving Day Dinner, Venison Holiday Stew to the famous Turducken these are doggy crowd pleaser. For all you cats they even have some yummy flavors that even the most finicky feline can’t resist.

2. Beware of Toxic Plants- Festive Holiday plants like holly, mistletoe ("pucker up"), poinsettias and lilies although beautiful can be harmful and even deadly to dogs and cats. So if you are going to decorate with plants this season keep them out of paws reach or opt for other alternatives.

3. Snow Globes are toxic if Shattered-Snow globes often contain antifreeze, and if shattered is poisonous to pets if licked. Be very careful with these around pets and children.

4. Holiday Sweets are Not Good dog eats- Giving your dog candy, cookies, cakes, peppermints, and especially chocolate can cause life-threatening illnesses. So keep all desserts away from Fido on a very very high shelf so they cannot reach. You may want to invest in infrared lights and survelliance cameras (okay, perhaps thats a stretch) since your mission is to get dinner to the table safely in one piece.

5. Keep Dish Free of Pine needles- Keep your pets food dish far away from pine needle because if ingested can puncture your pets intestines.

6. Give your dog a safe chew toy- Pets can get in a lot of mischief and play with extra cords, plugs, holiday lights, fixtures and slippers mistaken for chew toys. So, tape down or cover cords to help avoid shocks, burns or other serious injuries to your pet and hide those slippers. While you are out running errands unplug lights when you are not home.

7. You didn’t say Timberr!!!- Cats love climbing to top of Mount Everest on your Christmas. With that said its important to cat proof your tree, because you don't want your cat losing its nine lives. So anchor your Christmas trees to the ceiling with a string to keep it from falling on pets.

8. This Ain't No Watering Hole-Do not let pets drink the holiday tree water. Some may contain harmful fertilizers if ingested, and stagnant tree water can harbor bacteria. Check labels for tree water preservatives and artificial snow, and buy only those that are all natural and nontoxic. Some folks use screens around trees to block and barricade their access to electrical cords and gifts.

9. "No, Trees Do Not Get Headaches- Very important: do not put aspirin in the water (some folks do this to keep the tree or plant alive longer). If a pet ingests the aspirin-laced water, his health or even life can be at risk.

10. Hang tinsel high- Pets, particularly cats, are fascinated with all things shiny and can be tempted to eat tinsel. Although tinsel provides a beautiful glisten to your tree if ingested by your pet can block the intestines. So, hang tinsel high and securely to keep it out of paws reach.

11. "Now thats a Mouthful"- Keep all ornaments out of reach of pets, especially those that are sentimental. Ingestion of any ornament, which look like toys to pets, can be life-threatening. Even ornaments made from dried food can lead to ailments. And remember, shards from broken glass ornaments can injure paws, mouths and other parts of the body. So, if an ornament breaks make sure to get out your sweeper and clean up the mess immediately or your pet may do it for you.

12. Put toys in the toy box- Even though little Tommy may scream and throw a tantrum, make sure he puts away his miniature army of toy soldiers. Once gifts are opened and children are done playing toys should be safely put away in their room or toy chest. Small plastic pieces and rubber balls are common causes of choking and intestinal blockage in dogs. Ingested plastic or cloth toys must often be removed surgically. In doing so, you won’t have to console a tearful little Tommy over the unfortunate demise of his brigade.

13. Opt for Non-toxic decorations. Sorry to rain down on your parade but as a precaution as you decorate your home or tree for the Neighborhoods Holiday Decorating Contest. Just bare in mind the following: Bubbling lights contain fluid that can be inhaled or ingested, snow sprays and snow flock can cause reactions when inhaled, Styrofoam poses a choking hazard, tinsel can cause choking and intestinal obstruction, and water in snow scenes may contain toxic organisms such as Salmonella.

14. Create Safe Haven- With the non-stop ringing of the door bell, expected and sometimes unexpected holiday guests, Christmas Carolers, kids running & screaming, pans banging, china breaking, and doors slamming. The hoopla of the season can be stressful, frightening and exciting to any pet. Just, take it from experience, my upset stomach says it all. Stress, fright and excitement can trigger illness and intestinal upset. Make sure pets have a safe place to retreat in your house and a comfy place to flop. For me it’s in the corner in my parent’s room with my West Paw Eco toy and Eco Nap. If you are still having problems calming your dog another holiday must have is Spot Organics Chill Spray or Essential Oil and Happytails Sleepytime Tonic. Also, don’t be afraid to give your dog a break in a quiet room with their familiar doggie bed or binky (yes, we dogs have binky's) or in his 'den.' Allow your canine companion and co-host or hostess (aka as the official Christmas Licker & Greeter) to join the festivities after the initial commotion from the arrival of dad dressed as Santa and guest have subsided.

Important Note: For furry Escape Artist (they know who they are) make sure they are wearing current I.D. in case they escape out a door when guests come and go.

15. Be on Schedule- During the Holidays it’s important to have a sense of normal (ifs that possible) in the midst of chaos. Reduce your pets stress by keeping feeding and exercise on a regular schedule. Once again, do not give your pet table scraps.

*Exercising your dog for 30 minutes prior to arrival of guest will keep both of you happy and get your dog napping.

16. TLC Required- Always make time to care and nurture your pets, besides isn't he or she part of the family. With the busyness of the season it is so easy for folks to get lax about walking their dogs, and a few resort to letting pets out on their own. This puts the animal in danger, can lead to nuisance complaints and dog bite incidents. Pet owners although it may be tempting do not take a holiday from responsibly caring for your pets. With so much on your plate taking care of a pet can be a juggling act, so call in reinforcements. Enlist the help of a responsible teenager, neighbor, family member or friend as the official surrogate parent. They can be in charge of walking, feeding and playing fetch with Spot. But, we can't forget the all-important task of belly rubs and treats.

17. Quench their thirst- When pets are stressed by holiday activity or during travel, they may require more water. Dogs typically pant more when they feel stressed. Keep fresh water available for them to drink.

18. Guard Gifts & Packages- Nothing says Merry Christmas to grandma then a ripped, torn and half eaten crocheted sweater with matching scarf (which you made in beginners knitting class and took a month to create). So, for everyone’s sake, keep pets away from gift packages as well as your gift-wrapping area. Ingested string, plastic, cloth and even wrapping paper can lead to intestinal blockage and require expensive surgical removal. Not to mention pets have been severely injured by scissors and other items left on floors and tables, disguised as play toys.

19. Take out the Garbage- With so much food there is bound to be a few scraps going in the garbage from bones, rolls, to a half eaten drumstick. Not to mention your finicky yet sweet little niece is known to not finish her plate of string beans and ham unless bribed by Santa. With that said keep pets away from the garbage. Use pet-proof containers. As a side note if you are going to be discarding some food don’t forget peels, uneaten fruit, and flowers can be placed in your compost. This not only means less waste in the landfills but now you have a great fertilizer.

20. Call for Emergency Help- It is always good to be prepared for anything, especially a call or run to your vet or doctor. So have emergency numbers posted on the side of your fridge just in case. If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, call your veterinarian and/or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center's 24-hour emergency hot line at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP. Keep in mind that the key to your pet survivial is to act fast, remaim calm and don't panic. You don't want to upset your pet or make what is a stressful situation worser.

21. Check Detectors- By the way, with so much cooking, houseguest, and Christmas lights, candles being lit its important to check it twice, detectors that is. Now is a good time to double-check smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, other safety devices and replace batteries. Always keep an extra pack of batteries on hand. Besides the fact that safety of your family and loved one comes first. Here's another good reason to check these safety devices. When batteries run low, the devices often emit alert or alarm sounds at frequencies that can be painful and frightening to many pets. If you're not home when the alert/alarm sounds, your animals will have to endure that sound until you return, which can be traumatic. So always keep fresh batteries in those devices.

22. Beware of dropping temperatures, ice & snow- With the arrival of guest you may be tempted to put your dog outside. It can be very dangerous putting your dog outside in the cold & freezing weather with pavements covered in ice. So to avoid a huge vet bill, broken bones and injures, it’s best to keep pets in doors.

Important Note: Don’t let your dog roam the streets alone on icy roads since icy roads can make it harder for cars to put on the break when they see a wandering pet.

23. Squeaky Green- With guest coming to visit this season its all about making a lasting impression. So opt for green cleaning products such as Method, Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyers which will get your house dust mite free. If you want you can even use lemon, vineger and baking soda that would put Mister Clean to shame. These products are non-toxic to both you and your pet and have my green seal of approval. Besides, I decided to throw in my towel as official floor mopper & shoe shiner, its on to bigger and better things.

24. Give a gift to Buster- You nay be wondering whether or not to give your beloved, yet bad to the bone dog a present this year. Perhaps like many (me included) deserve a little coal in our stocking. But as the phrase goes "Tis the season to give" and that includes that sometimes hard to love dog (aka the Un-decorator & Chew-minator). Well, with all the entertaining you will be doing you may want to say yes to gifts. Giving your dog a new toy on his wish list will not only keep him entertained, but out of harms way while you carry hot dishes from the kitchen to the table. You won’t have to worry about spilling your 5 course meal on the floor, stepping on paws or having to stare at those sad puppy eyes. So, save a shoe and throw your dog and the planet a green bone. There are a lot of eco-friendly and durable toys available on www.pawlux.com from Hucks to Hemp toys to squeakers you name.

By keeping these safety tips in mind the Holidays are sure to be a cheery one for everyone, including your pet. When all is said and done you have truly earned the name and badge "Hostess with the Mostess".

If you have any words of encouragement to get through the holidays please email me at asklola@pawlux.com or post a comment. We as well as our loyal readers would love to hear your story.

Barkingly yours,

Lola the eco dog

If you have a question or need advice from Lola the eco- dog on ways you & your dog can go green just Twitter or email her at asklola@pawlux.com . Lola the eco-dog is here to help! If you are part of the Twitter community or have not joined please do and once you are friend us up and we will do the same. Just click twitter icon to go to website to sign up. It's FREE!!!!


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