Every year, the third Monday in January is dubbed Blue Monday — the most depressing day of the year. To beat the blues, I have a rather upbeat confession to make...a reflection on something that makes me joyously happy.
Walking my dogs is one of the most rewarding things that I do in my life.
It puts a smile on my face every time I see them get joyously happy as we get ready for our walk. While the holidays are a wonderful season to spend time with our friends and families exchanging good cheer, once the holidays are over, the sense of “back to reality” can be a bit tough.
What is Blue Monday?
After the holidays, the added stress of additional bills, a sense of loneliness now that our loved ones have gone back to their day-to-day lives and the realization that we have to get back to taking care of our bodies creeps up on us all at once. When all of the fun and excitement have come to an end and we face the realities of our everyday lives, that’s when Blue Monday kicks in.
Your Pet Can Help
It was recently published that the two greatest threats to well-being in the United States are obesity and loneliness. A study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that high BMI accounted for over 4.0 million deaths globally. The good news is that being a pet parent can help with both of these.
There is a tremendous amount of research that highlights the health benefits of being a pet parent. The benefits range from improved cardiovascular health to an overall improvement in quality of life. Dogs, in particular, are very good at giving us an incentive to get outside and walk. How can you turn down those hopeful eyes looking at you and the leash? I can’t resist those looks of hope (and the occasional bark), they get me up and outside every day.
Lean on your Four-Legged Friend
Loneliness is a serious issue in today’s society. An AARP study found that the rate of loneliness in this country is around 45 percent. Our busy and disconnected lifestyles can often leave us feeling isolated and lacking purpose. Studies on the impact of animals on our self-worth have shown that they are a wonderful antidote to loneliness. A cat cuddling on your lap, purring at the gentle stroking is a bond that makes us feel good. The wagging tail of a dog as you come home from a bad day at work makes you realize that there is love in your life.
I have met more people while out walking my dogs than any other way. How many friendships have been started by a simple “wow, your dog is really cute!”? Animals bring us together and make us feel like we belong. They unite us and help us get through tough times. They can always put a smile on our face. Who hasn’t watched cat videos and laughed out loud?
Animals have a powerful influence on us, they make the world a better place and on days like Blue Monday they can get us off the couch and outside to enjoy the sunshine and some exercise. If you aren’t a pet parent already, then I recommend you consider it. There are so many great relationships waiting for you!
Read and watch the stories that helped shape a year of life-saving work, thanks to you.
Thousands of homeless pets found forever homes. Millions of dollars granted to animal welfare organizations. Truck-loads of pet food distributed to pets in need. A look back at the biggest impact stories of 2017, none of which could have happened without your help.
Our friends at PetSmart donated more than 60 million pet meals through The Buy A Bag, Give A Meal program.
Like many dogs, Maggie, The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is affectionate, sweet and loves attention.
“She’s very loving,” said Maureen Stier, Maggie’s owner. “She’s really drawn to people.”
But, what makes Maggie different from other dogs is something the eye can’t see.
“When she was around three years old, I started noticing her hearing wasn’t what it used to be,” said Maureen. “Before that, if the doorbell rang, she’d run to the door. But soon, she didn’t seem to notice it anymore.
Early on, Maggie had the normal range of senses that most dogs have. At the age of three, she began to show signs that she was losing her hearing.
By the time she was five, Maggie had become completely deaf and Maureen had to consider a change in they way she and Maggie would communicate.
In true dog fashion, Maggie was resilient in handling her disability. Almost as if the hearing impairment didn’t change her approach to life.
“It doesn’t seem to bother her in the least,” said Stier.
Maureen knew it was up to her to ensure Maggie continued to life a safe and happy life. So, she made adjustments to their day-to-day
routine. For instance, because Maureen can’t call Maggie when she is out running, she keeps the pup on a leash whenever they’re outside. When she's off-leash in their fenced yard at night, Maureen uses a laser pointer to signal to her that it’s time to come in.
Lack of hearing causes Maggie to get startled easily, so she makes sure Maggie knows when she leaves and when she comes home.
Maggie has also made some light adjustments keep mom in plain sight. “She usually picks a spot on the couch by the door, so she can see when I come in,” she said.
Developing a Stronger Bond
Many potential dog owners worry about adopting a deaf dog because they think the dog will be more difficult to train or that they won’t be able to build a bond with the animal.
Despite Maggie’s disability, Maureen says her dog’s deafness hasn’t hurt their bond.
If anything, it’s made their relationship even stronger.
“I would never not adopt a dog because he or she was deaf,” said Maureen. Successfully working through their challenges proves the strength of the human-animal bond. Not only has Maureen learned how to better communicate with Maggie but Maggie is also at ease knowing her mom is there to help.
“I never have to look for her; she’s always with me,” said Maureen. “She’s very much a snuggler. She sleeps on the bed and likes to be nearby where she feels safe.”
An Update on Hurricane Harvey from our COO, Deb Turcott
Thursday, August 31, 2017
To our partners, donors and friends,
Thank you for the outpouring of support you are providing to the relief efforts in Texas and Louisiana. Here at Petsmart Charities, we’ve received many phone calls, emails, and inquiries on social media about how people can help and what we’re doing to assist during this time of devastation.
From our operations center at PetSmart Charities, we would like to take the opportunity to share the work that we are engaged in and the different ways that you can join us in helping.
How PetSmart Charities has helped thus far:
Commitment of $1 million in initial grant funding for the immediate response, rescue and relief efforts already underway. Some of these funds have already been issued to organizations in the Dallas, Houston, Dickenson, San Antonio, and Austin areas. To learn more about the specific organizations we have funded thus far, click here. More funds will be deployed on a daily basis as needs are evaluated and grant requests are received.
Truck-loads of supplies are being shipped in to staging areas near the convention centers in Dallas, Austin and as soon as roads are passable, Houston. These trucks include a variety of much needed items like crates, bowls, leashes and collars, disposable litter pans, and kitty litter.
An estimated total of more than 100,000 pounds of dog and cat food is in the process of being distributed to partners assisting in the sheltering of humans and their pets.
And this is just the beginning
PetSmart Charities has assembled a 10-person team that is triaging inquiries, reviewing grant requests, coordinating with partner organizations to avoid duplication of effort, and monitoring current and emerging needs as the situation unfolds. We recognize that this response will last for some time and this response team is focused on doing what we do best; supplying the greatly needed funding and supplies for organizations who are serving in the affected areas.
We couldn’t do what we do…without you
The funds, supplies, and food that we can give as an immediate response are entirely made possible by the donors who give so generously at PIN pads in PetSmart stores, online, or by mailing in gifts to PetSmart Charities. We are also immensely grateful for our strong relationships with the animal welfare and social service communities and our partnership and collaboration over the years. Your trust in us is appreciated and we want all of our partners, donors and supporters to know that we are deploying resources in an effective and strategic way to meet needs in real time.
How can you help?
This is the question we have received most frequently from our friends, donors, and other animal welfare organizations, and we are so glad you asked! Here are some ways you can help:
Donate to the continued relief efforts. Click here to donate through PetSmart Charities for Emergency Relief.
Encourage organizations in need to apply for needed funds or supplies by clicking here.
Adopt! You can adopt a pet from your local shelter or animal welfare organization today which will help make space for more animals needing shelter due to the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
Please try your best not to “self-deploy” one-off emergency relief efforts or shipments of supplies. We know it’s hard to watch the news and not want to jump into action! We feel it, too! However, when facing an emergency relief effort of this size, there are tried and true systems in place to make requests for help and highly-coordinated response groups that work quickly and effectively during these times. If too many people show up, then there are more mouths to feed, more beds needed to sleep in, and more vehicles and generators consuming greatly needed fuel.
Again, we are grateful for your interest in helping during this time. Emergency relief efforts like these take all of us, working together towards a common goal, to make a difference.
Keegan is nine years old and has Asperger’s syndrome. Throughout school, he had trouble focusing and showed little interest in reading. However, that all changed when he met Buddy, a special Sheltie dog.
Keegan’s father said the difference in his son after working with the dog was dramatic.
“When my son started to reading to Buddy,” he said. “I began to notice how excited he was about reading, how he talked about it and about the dog, all the time. How the excitement and interest in reading carried over, even when the dog wasn’t there.”
When children practice reading aloud, it improves their language fluency, reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. But, doing so in front of their classmates can be intimidating, and their nervousness can hurt their development.
But that’s where dogs like Buddy can help.
Organizations around the country have introduced programs that connect children with dogs, and they have impressive results.
How Reading Dog Programs Work
Kathy Klotz, executive director of the R.E.A.D. program, says the impact of dogs on children’s literacy can be dramatic.
“We take therapy dogs to libraries and schools,” said Klotz, “The dog and his handler will sit one-on-one with a child, and the child will read aloud. Away from their peers, they don’t get embarrassed if they make a mistake.”
Klotz says the dogs have a calming effect on the children. Because the dogs are quiet and nonjudgmental, children can practice without getting nervous.
“There are real, psychological benefits,” said Klotz. “The children’s blood pressure goes down, their breathing slows and they feel better with the dog.”
And the learning improvements are significant. Students who spent 13 months in the R.E.A.D. program improved by two reading levels, on average; some students gained as much as four levels.
How Your Dog Can Become a Reading Dog
If you’re interested in volunteering with your dog in reading programs, there are certain requirements you have to meet:
Your dog must be a certified therapy dog.
You must complete a program-specific training session.
Your dog must be comfortable with loud noises, children, costumes and sitting for long periods.
You must be able to commit to 90-minute volunteer sessions once a week.
If you want to give back to your community and help children develop a love of reading, volunteering your time can be a rewarding experience. With the assistance of your dog, you can empower children to improve their literacy skills and confidence.
August is already here, which means parents are celebrating sending their kids to school again. But while back-to-school season might mean more free time for you, it can be hard on your dog.
During the summer, your pooch might get used to lazy days in the sun. The family probably sleeps in a little, the children are home to play and he may have free rein of the house. Once the first day of school arrives, that all ends.
That change can be a shock to your dog’s system. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. By preparing in advance for the first day, you can ease your dog into the transition. Here’s how:
Get him used to a new routine
One to two weeks before the start of school, introduce the morning routine to your dog. Set your alarm for earlier than usual and start breakfast. Take him for his morning walk or let him out into the yard, but only for as long as you’ll let him on a typical school day.
By experiencing the daily routine now, he can get used to it gradually while you’re still home.
Set up an exercise schedule
Your dog probably got used to playing with your kids all day. Suddenly being alone in the home, without all that activity, can cause an energetic dog to destroy your household items.
To prevent that from happening, set up an exercise schedule. Enlist the help of your children to plan morning, after school and nighttime walks or play sessions. By getting his excess energy out, he’ll be more likely to spend the day peacefully sleeping.
Practice with the crate
If you plan on crating your dog during school days, get him used to it in small doses while you’re still home. Place a fun toy like a stuffed bone in the crate, and keep him in there for short periods. He’ll get accustomed his crate and rest in it when the first day of school arrives.
Preparing for School
The back-to-school switch can be tough for a dog. But by taking steps now, you can help your dog adjust to the new schedule and have a more relaxed routine for the whole family.
Between sparklers and fireworks displays, the loud noises and strange smells can be particularly difficult for cats.
While Independence Day parties can be an exciting way to spend time with friends and family, the festivities can be hard for your pets. In fact, more pets go missing on July 4th weekend than any other time of the year.
“Cats will often fall victim to burns from sparklers and can often be found to enjoy string-like material that can shoot out of some fireworks,” said Dr. Osborne. “These can be very dangerous, so it is best to keep your cat out of harm’s way.”
The sound of fireworks can also induce panic, causing your cat to run away. Cats can end up with broken bones or suffer from dehydration and fatigue because of fear.
How to Keep Your Cat Safe
By being proactive, you can minimize your cat’s stress. Following these four steps can help keep your cat safe and happy:
Confine Your Cat
“Keep your cats inside, especially if they are indoor cats, and keep them out of harm's way” said Dr. Osborne.
One option is to create a secure safe space for your cat, such as a pet carrier with a favorite blanket and toy. Or, if your cat simply must be outside, you can set up a kitty play plen in your backyard so you can supervise her.
Make Sure Your Cat Has a Collar and Tags
If your cat does manage to escape, having identification on her collar can help her get back to you safely. “Be sure your pets have well-fitting collars with up to date ID tags just in case your pet gets lost,” says Dr. Osborne.Also, having your vet implant a microchip can be lifesaving. If someone finds your cat, they can have a vet scan the chip and locate you.
Locate an Emergency Veterinarian
Before any mishap occurs, it’s a good idea to know where to go in case of a crisis.
“No matter where you and your four-legged family are spending the holiday, locate a 24-hour veterinary facility just in case an emergency occurs and keep the phone number handy,” says Dr. Osborne. Add the emergency veterinarian’s phone number and address to your phone, or paste it on the refrigerator so you can find it quickly.
Emma is on a mission to keep homeless pets cozy, comfy and loved
Eight-year-old Emma Heffner wants to cover every dog and cat at her local shelter with warmth and love.
So, she set off to do exactly that — by handcrafting 300 blankets, one for each and every homeless dog and cat at the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS).
"The animals are homeless and in cages and don't get to feel love from people all the time and don't have anything of their own," says Emma.
Emma’s love for pets and critters was almost inherent. Her mom, Kelly Heffner, recalls a time Emma made her stop traffic to rescue a caterpillar that was struggling to cross the street. “She's been talking about wanting to be an "animal doctor" since she was three. Her heart is endless when it comes to animals."
About a year ago, Emma discovered the Facebook page for BARCS. She was especially taken by the story of Miracle Molly — a homeless pit bull who survived being hit by an Amtrak train in January 2016. A police officer pulled the badly injured dog off the tracks and to safety, and got her to BARCS where she received lifesaving medical care.
Emma raptly followed Molly's story — her care, her recovery, and then the dog's adoption by the police officer who'd saved her life last February.
The family already has a cat and two rescue dogs — adopting every other pet at the shelter wasn't feasible. But Emma was determined to help.
Emma made fleece blankets as Christmas gifts for family and friends. One day, one of the family's dogs lay down on one of the blankets as she was making it."
Then she said, 'Mommy I can make these for animals at the shelter?' and it went crazy from there," said Emma's mother, Kelly Heffner.
The blankets, made out of fleece animal-print fabric, will go home with the pet when they are adopted. Emma has delivered 40 of her hand-made blankets so far. She's enlisted family and friends to help make more, and is raising money to cover the costs of the fabric by selling animal-print blankets to supporters.
"I think they get lonely and I think a blanket would be something that they could have of their own to snuggle. And it makes me feel like I am giving them love."
BARCS spokesperson Bailey Deacon says the blankets provide the shelter's resident critters warmth, coziness — and sometimes, a first taste of their wonderful lives to come. "We love giving them to the dogs and cats that we suspect may have never seen a blanket before coming to BARCS," adds Deacon.
Emma says it makes her very happy, knowing so many cats' and dogs' lives will be brightened, with her blankets. It makes her mother very happy, too.
"Emma has always had the biggest heart," says mom Kelly. "She is just so full of life and love, and we are so incredibly proud of her."
Wes Borland and Carré Callaway are the founders of Motor Kitty Rescue, a Detroit-based organization aimed to rescue, foster, and adopt cats in need across the Motor City. You may recognize their names from rock groups Limp Bizkit and Queen Kwong, respectively, but their latest project is far from the stage or studio.
A West-Coast Beginning
“We ended up bottle feeding three baby kittens and it was this really overwhelming, nail-biting experience,” said Wes on his first experience with fostering kittens in his former home of Los Angeles. “Carré had done it before but I never had, and I flipped out a little at first because I felt responsible and worried for their safety.”
He and Carré volunteered with a local animal rescue group and discovered quickly the astounding demand for help for cats in need. That was when they had their eureka moment: “You know what, if we don’t do this, no one else will.”
A Rock Star Named Boba
Wes and Carré, now married, left Los Angeles in 2016 and moved to Detroit. Their love and dedication to cats followed them to the Midwest. The demand for fostering cats in LA was high, but they found the issue with strays in Detroit was especially concerning.
“We wanted to continue helping local rescues when we moved to Detroit,” said Carré. “We immediately realized that there was a huge stray problem here.”
They brought cats into their house, fostered them and helped find forever homes, but one cat in particular would become the face of Motor Kitty Rescue and change everything. Wes and Carré found Boba and his five siblings after following their stray nursing mother to her litter. This would normally be just another rescue, but there was something special about Boba. The middle digits on his front paws were missing, creating the universal hand gesture for “rock out.”
“At first I was concerned,” said Wes. Carré chimed in, “We didn’t really know what the deal was. We felt his paws and he was totally fine. We took him to the vet to get it checked out and the vet said he had never seen anything like it, but there was no concern. It was a birth defect, not an injury.”
Today, Boba isn’t just the Motor Kitty Rescue mascot. He’s an irreplaceable part of the family.
A Place to Call Kitty Home
Motor Kitty Rescue is currently stationed in Wes and Carré’s home in Detroit, where they are personally fostering cats, but the couple is looking for a more permanent solution.
“Considering we’re both traveling musicians, we’re trying to find a better way these cats can be cared for, have a good life, and a good environment,” said Carré. “We want to find those special kind of people who will adopt these cats.”
Motor Kitty Rescue is in the process of securing its 501(c)(3) to become a fully recognized nonprofit organization, and Wes and Carré have big plans for its future. They’re currently looking for a new 3,000-square-foot home for Motor Kitty Rescue with high ceilings for a cat wonderland and even a cat café.
“We cant to have a café people can come to and interact with cats everywhere,” said Carré. “Wes and I went to Japan and we were really inspired by a lot of the design there and that they have its cat cafés in Tokyo.”
A Need for Helping Hands
Wes, Carré and Motor Kitty Rescue are making a positive impact for cats in Detroit but still need help with both supplies and volunteers. Detroit locals can help clean and socialize with foster kittens, and everyone else can visit MotorKittyRescue.com to learn how they can contribute. As for Wes and Carré, they’re currently very much hands-on with rescuing the kitties of the Motor City and working towards a successful adoption center.
A Purple Heart recipient. A homeless, hungry kitten. A friendship that changed them both.
In this powerfully inspirational story, Mutual Rescue follows a brave young soldier from a battlefield in Iraq, where he sustained traumatic injuries in a mortar attack, to Fort Riley, Kansas. There, during a thunderstorm, a kitten suddenly appears to save the soldier’s life, then later disappears, only to reappear at another pivotal moment in both their lives.
Meet Josh & Scout.
Josh & Scout, a Mutual Rescue™ Film - YouTube
Josh was a decorated veteran with wounds not easily visible. Scout was an orphaned kitten trying to survive — they needed each other more than either could know.
“Even before he was my cat, before he even knew me that well, Scout saved my life.”
At PetSmart Charities, we believe in the healing power of the human-animal bond. That’s why we’re proud to partner with the Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) in support of their national animal-human welfare movement called Mutual Rescue through a series of films aimed at challenging the world to reimagine how our lives can be transformed when we adopt a homeless pet.