Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Holiday Safety for Pets in the Office

Sunday, December 20th, 2015
Safely Waiting for Santa

Safely Waiting for Santa

Most workplaces are decorated for the holiday season, which means that if your workplace is a pet-friendly one, you need to take extra care:

  • Be careful with holiday candles; pets can accidentally knock them over. If candles are part of your holiday decorations, place them out of reach or, better yet, use electric candles instead.
  • Watch your pet’s diet. Many holiday foods that humans enjoy can be toxic to pets. Limit their consumption to safe pet food.
  • Keep hazards out of their reach, such as gift wrapping paper, tree ornaments, holiday plants (such as poinsettas and mistletoe), tinsel and the electrical cords used to power holiday lights. Be extra careful with decorations such as snow globes. They can fall, break and spill out their contents which are harmful to pets.
  • Exercise extra care with the Christmas tree. Pets can tip over trees, chew on fallen pine needles or drink from the water used to keep the tree fresh (which may have chemicals in it to prolong the trees life – they are not safe for pets to ingest).
  • Have a plan to deal with holiday noise made by visiting guests or loud music, which may cause stress to your dogs and cats.
  • Share these tips with your employees who have pets, to ensure that pets are safe during the holidays, both at the office and at home.

My good friend, Sharon, who operates a local small business, Pet Taxi, gave me these Christmas stockings, hand-made by another local women-owned business, and embroidered with the names of my cocker spaniels. Each is filled with safe doggy treats and chews. So Coco and Henry are included in the holiday festivities, including an office party, but in a way that ensures they remain safe.

Preparing for the Holiday Fireworks

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
Storm nervousness

Not Looking Forward to the 4th of July

In anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday, people in our neighborhood are testing their firecrackers and causing fear and anxiety in one of my two canine office mates. It will likely be even worse this weekend. And, of course, even after the holiday, loud noises that frighten some dogs, including one of mine, can be expected to continue as thunderstorms are more common during the summer months.

When we are out walking and Coco hears loud noises (airplanes overhead, firecrackers, thunder), she immediately turns around and starts pulling on her leash to lead us home, where she feels safe. Henry is fine, but Coco does not like loud noises, although she doesn’t seem to mind sirens. When she hears a noise, and her hearing is much better than mine, she prefers to be safe in her home. And once home, or in the office, she tends to be very cling-y, following me room to room and jumping into my lap when I am at my desk, attempting to type on the computer keyboard.

If you have pets in your office, you might have to prepare for some mild pet anxiety that could interfere with your work as thunderstorms happen or people celebrate the summer months with firecrackers. I have found the following approaches to be helpful:

  • Keep the pets inside during fireworks or storms and stay close to them. If I have any flexibility in my schedule, I move appointments around so I can be in the office with Coco during a storm as she does become very anxious (excessive lip licking is the first sign) at that time. Make sure your ID tags and microchip information is current as, in the event a fearful dog bolts, you want to make it easier for someone to return your pet to you.
  • Get your exercise before the storm – it avoids the need to go out later as the rolling thunderstorms approach and gets the dog tired, which makes the anxiety easier to manage. Ideally, I’d have Coco so tired she’d sleep right through the storm. Keep the windows and doors closed to block out as much noise as possible.
  • Sometimes providing a safe place, like a comfortable pet bed or crate, or a toy can offer reassurance to a fearful dog. It doesn’t work for me, Coco loses her appetite when she is fearful, but I am told treats reassure other nervous dogs. Thundershirts, which are like compression garments for dogs, can also help.
  • Go about your day as you normally would. If you appear anxious, your dog will pick up on that and her anxiety will be even worse. To that end, I always make sure I do my grocery shopping in advance of a storm forecast. Because I get anxious about being out on the road when there is a thunderstorm.

Tomorrow is Take Your Dog to Work Day

Thursday, June 25th, 2015
Great for Morale, But What About Productivity?

Great for Morale, But What About Productivity?

Tomorrow is the seventeenth annual Take Your Dog to Work Day. Actually, for me, every day that I am not traveling is Take Your Dog to Work Day, but for everyone else, Pet Sitters International organized this annual celebration to showcase the benefits to employee morale of having dogs in the office and to promote pet adoption. Pet Sitters International has also put together a planning guide to ensure a successful day. If having dogs in the office is not a daily event for your business, then take a few steps to prepare in advance for your canine visitors. Make sure you don’t have any employees with allergies that may be triggered coming into contact with dogs at the office. Verify that your office is pet-safe with no cables for a pet to chew on and no hazards that could cause injury. All dogs coming into the office should be current on their vaccinations. Put together a kit with food and water bowls and toys for the dogs to enjoy while people work. Should a dog be uncomfortable in an office environment, have a plan to take him or her home or to the doggy babysitter. Never leave a dog unattended in a car while you are at work or elsewhere.

So how much work can you get done when you have dogs in the office? I find their presence to be very helpful. Coco and Henry like to go out every two hours or so for a short leash walk and to take their potty breaks. That allows me to schedule my time to be productive in two-hour “chunks” and I return to my desk refreshed and ready to resume work. Without the dogs, I would never enjoy nature and take walks every two hours. This photograph, by the way, shows Coco with her friend Louise, the black cocker spaniel on the left.  We are just outside the patio adjoining my home office playing a game before returning to work. If you decide to participate in Take Your Dog to Work Day, it can be great fun, just make sure everyone stays safe by following the tips in the referenced planning guide.

Postcards from the Past

Monday, May 18th, 2015
Coco With Her Toys

Coco At Play

As I am making my summer vacation plans, I happened upon a television commercial for Home Away, a vacation rental service. Actually, it was two commercials: one tells the story of Emma, a little girl who cannot enjoy her family vacation as her dog was left behind. The other tells the story of Biscuit, Emma’s dog who goes to great lengths to be reunited with her on vacation. It is a cute story and illustrates the dilemma that vacationing adults experience, too: it is hard to enjoy your vacation when you are worried about your pet. And the commercial really resonated with me, bringing back my favorite childhood vacation memory.

I didn’t actually go anywhere, I stayed home and someone joined us, a girl named Margot, who lived in the Bronx and spent two weeks with us as part of the Fresh Air Fund program. It was a great stay-cation for me, as I not only made a new friend, but my parents went all out for us, as we went to the beaches, to the amusement park and to Gray’s Ice Cream, played badminton in the backyard and Monopoly and other board games inside at night, and all the fun activities that define summer. But, for Margo, she most enjoyed playing fetch with our family dog, as her family did not have a pet. Now that I have one – actually, two, it is a consideration in vacation planning. It is just more fun when they are around.

So I am planning a week at the home of a friend with a swimming pool. Coco (shown here, as she usually is, with a ball in her mouth and another toy close by) and Henry will be on vacation with me, too. But for those times when you cannot take the pets with you, or you are on a business trip, advance planning for the pet sitter will let you rest easy that your pets are well cared for and you can enjoy some long overdue R&R – another example of how preparing for a disruption (like if someone else is unexpectedly called upon to care for your pet) makes everyday life run more smoothly.

May is National Pet Month

Thursday, May 14th, 2015
Coco and Henry

Coco and Henry

National Pet Month is a celebration of the benefits pets bring to our lives. In the United States, National Pet Month is observed in May; in the United Kingdom, it is observed during the month of April. National Pet Month is a time to promote the benefits of pet ownership, support pet adoptions, and raise awareness of the contributions made by working companion animals. During the month, many retailers offer sales on pet-related items, from dog food to toys.

Out of curiosity, I checked the “pet calendar” and found a number of days designated to various pet causes, from the seemingly silly (January 14 is designated “National Dress-Up Your Pet Day”) to the serious (February is “Spay/Neuter Awareness Month”). But for every month, there are certain tasks we need to do to ensure the safety of our pets in the event of a disaster. In addition to keeping “Go Kits” or “Emergency Packs” for each human member of the household and small business, we need to do the same for our pets. The “Go Kit” is the pack of supplies that we take with us in the event of an evacuation. It is a good practice to refresh the Go Kits monthly:

  • To ensure that the food set aside for emergency use stays fresh, each month, I take the food out of the “Go Kit” and use it while it is still safe and tasty to eat and replace it with new food provisions for take-away.
  • I verify that all of the medical records and vaccine information is current. I keep a record of this information in my smart phone, so if I have to check into a hotel with the dogs, I can prove that they are current on rabies and other vaccinations. I always update their electronic records after every visit to the veterinarian. But I also check it as a precaution when I refresh their “Go Kit” food.
  • I check that contact information for all of the pet caregivers is current in my smart phone, should I have to evacuate. My veterinarian recently married and moved out of state, so I just updated my records for the new vet who is assuming his practice responsibilities. This ensures that I have the current contact information available to anyone who presses the “ICE” button (“In Case of Emergency”) on my smart phone.
  • Of course, I perform the same “refresh” tasks for the Pet Go Kits as for the human ones, including replacing the bottled water each month and checking the batteries in the flashlights.

So I see National Pet Month as the opportunity to stock up on non-perishable items at discounted prices for the “Go Kit” for my cocker spaniels, Coco and Henry. But, as a pet parent, I celebrate them every month.

National Pet ID Week

Sunday, April 19th, 2015
Coco and Henry bonding

Coco and Henry Begin to Bond With Each Other

April 19 – 25 is designated National Pet ID Week, the time to verify that you have taken appropriate precautions to ensure that your pet will be reunited with you, if you are ever separated from one another. Unfortunately, too many pets become lost and homeless in the aftermath of a major disaster. If you have not yet seen it, check out “Mine”, an Independent Lens documentary about the fate of pets in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

On 9-11, many of my neighbors in Battery Park City left for work in the morning expecting to return home to their pets in the afternoon. They never imagined that the community would be closed and evacuated and that we would not be allowed to return to our homes for some months (I did not have pets at that time). My friend and neighbor Ariel joined the ASPCA in returning to rescue pets left behind in Battery Park City apartments.

The need to ID pets is critical. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that only 33 per cent pet owners have identification on their dogs and cats at all times. (The ASPCA website has some great tips for protecting your pet against the risk of a disaster.) Microchipping your pet ensures a safe, permanent means of identifying your pet should you become separated from one another. Collars can be removed and tags can be hard to read, but microchipping (a safe and painless process just like a vaccination) is permanent.

Be sure to register with the appropriate agency so your microchip ID can be traced back to you. At the time your pet is micro-chipped, you will be given information with a link to a website where you can enter your name, mobile telephone number and other information on the record of your pet’s unique micro-chip number. Be sure to update this information should you move or change your telephone number. And, as an extra precaution, on your next wellness visit to the vet, ask him or her to scan the microchip to make sure it is reading properly. Give the microchip identification number to your vet for record keeping should your pet need emergency care before he or she can be returned to you. I had both Coco and Henry microchipped. I paid $20 for each one. The entire process, including filling out the paperwork, took five minutes.

This is one of my favorite photographs of Coco and Henry. I had just adopted Henry from a local rescue shelter. Initially, Henry seemed very fearful and withdrawn. Coco would get in her little bed next to my desk and take her afternoon nap while I was working. Henry would take his afternoon nap under the bed in the master bedroom, away from us. Coco seemed baffled by Henry’s behavior until, over time, Henry began to feel more comfortable and safe in his new home with us. He began to participate with enthusiasm in our daily routines.

I took this photograph the first time Henry, without warning, climbed into the bed with Coco so that they could take their afternoon nap together, at the foot of my desk. Coco looked up at me, as if she wanted me to explain Henry’s unusual behavior. The startled look on her face is priceless. From then on, they took their naps together in the doggy bed. The last time I took them to the salon, the groomer reported to me that Henry started to cry when she took Coco in for her bath. Henry didn’t want to be separated from his sister. You would think Henry has been with us forever. And the micro-chip is another assurance that he will be.

Preparing Your Pets for the Unexpected

Monday, March 23rd, 2015
Doggy birthday cake

Happy Birthday to Coco

Today is Coco’s birthday and we celebrated with a birthday cake made at our local doggy bakery. The cake is not sugar-y and gooey as it appears in the photograph; it is actually made of hamburgers. Coco’s birthday reminds me of a resource I want to share, a workbook titled “Organizing for the Care of My Dog”. It is part of a series called “Wise Up! Workbooks for Organizing Life’s Information”. I came across this workbook when it was offered in a charity auction for pet rescue. The workbook offers a template for organizing your dog’s information to provide for his or her care in the event of your absence – planned or otherwise.  The workbook includes a draft legal trust for the care of your dog should be unable to do so, as well as basic daily care information that can help your petsitter.

I also want to share a link to pertinent information about preparing your pet published on, the pet rescue adoption resource where I found Henry at a local shelter. Their post provides a great deal of valuable information, particularly the insight that you should not leave the care of your pet to your local animal rescue organization, which is probably already overwhelmed with other abandoned pets in need of loving homes.

I probably like the Wise Up! workbook because it fits my general philosophy for being prepared to reduce your stress levels for an unexpected event, while helping everyday life to run more smoothly. So whether an extreme event like death or disability or more commonly, family vacation or a business trip, requires you to entrust the care of your dog to someone else, this book is a great resource. It is also a great value as the draft trust document can reduce your legal fees as you plan your affairs. I also recommend sharing it with your employees, as the better prepared they are to deal with the unexpected, the better prepared and safer your business will be. One final recommendation: after you have filled in the workbook, scan it in and store the digital file online. Your efforts would be for nothing should the workbook be lost in a fire.

Your Pet’s Medical Needs in an Emergency

Sunday, March 15th, 2015
Henry at the Office

Henry at the Office

In Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses (page 103), I wrote about the need to ensure that you have an adequate remaining supply of prescription medicine on hand in the event of an emergency. I also wrote that mail order pharmacies are a great convenience, but you need to plan for how you would receive your prescription refills should a disaster force you to leave your home. If your pet takes medications, you have to have a plan for obtaining his or her prescriptions as well. Now I have some new information that I want to share with you about filling your pet’s prescriptions.

This photograph shows Henry taking a nap at the foot of my desk as I work. I adopted Henry from a municipal shelter and immediately took him to the veterinarian for a check-up. He was found to be in good health, but about nine months after I adopted him, he had a seizure. I immediately brought him to the veterinarian for an evaluation and we decided not to medicate him at that time. The vet explained to me that the medication that is typically prescribed reduces the frequency of seizures, but does not eliminate them entirely. The medication does, however, cause side effects and as Henry had only a single seizure episode, which was mild, or “partial” as the vet described it, we decided to keep a watchful eye on him. I called Henry’s seizure episode “mild” because he did not lose continence or consciousness and he was back to normal in short order. The correct term for such a seizure is “partial”. Thereafter, Henry had additional seizures, all mild, and occurring about once every three months. I kept careful notes of these episodes to share with the vet. The vet advised that we would reconsider the decision to medicate Henry should (1) the seizures become more severe or (2) the seizures occur more frequently or (3) Henry were to suffer a “cluster”, or back-to-back seizure, in which he comes out of one seizure and immediately goes into another. In the event of a cluster seizure, I would have to immediately bring Henry to the local 24-hour veterinary hospital where they would stop the seizure by administering Valium, as cluster seizures can be fatal.

Henry did well without medications, having one mild seizure approximately every three months. After a year, however, he had his first cluster seizure. The vet referred us to a veterinary neurologist as there are new, safer drugs on the market. As my vet’s practice did not have sufficient experience with these new drugs, it was decided to see a specialist. Thankfully, Henry had a normal neurological examination and the decision was made to start him on Zonisamide. He has been on the drug for about nine months now and has not had a single seizure and has not experienced any side effects, for which I am very grateful. I did some comparison shopping in getting Henry’s prescription filled. All of the major chain pharmacies fill pet prescriptions with the order of a veterinarian. The average price was a 30-day supply of Zonisamide was just under $200. Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club can each fill the same prescription for $22!

Then I asked pharmacist at my local Wal-Mart if they offer mail order delivery for pet medications just as they do for humans, and the answer was yes. Wal-Mart would issue a 45-day supply of Henry’s prescription for under $20 and free shipping! It is a great convenience to have Henry’s prescription delivered by mail at no extra charge. And because it is a pet medication, for which I am paying cash out of pocket, it is not so difficult to order refills in advance, such that if we had to leave the home under an evacuation order, I would have a sufficient supply of Henry’s medications on hand to ensure that he remains well. I want to share that information with all pet owners, as I was shocked to learn of the range of prices for pet medications and the flexibility for mail order delivery.

Pet Training as Contingency Planning

Saturday, May 5th, 2012
Dogs on the Beach

First Beach Visit for Coco and Henry

I recently adopted a second cocker spaniel, this one from a local rescue shelter. An animal control officer picked him up and as he lacked identification, he was listed for adoption as “Franklin”, for having been found in February. I named him Henry, a name he now responds to as his own. Unlike Coco, my first puppy, Henry has a history with another family that we will never know. What we do know is that he was found on the streets without a collar, a tag or a microchip and no one came to the shelter to claim him during the mandatory hold period, when his photograph was posted on Petfinder.  When the hold period expired, he became available for adoption. I had brought Coco to the shelter to meet him to see if they would be compatible as sibling playmates. There was little interaction between them during this visit; Henry was very anxious. His nervousness was evident in profuse sweating through his footpads, which left prints on the floor. It is difficult to assess a dog in the stressful environment of a rescue shelter.

So I was quite surprised when I brought him home. It was quite an adjustment for all of us, as Henry shifted from hiding to interacting with us, and finally, feeling comfortable and totally at home. It took about a month for him to be integrated into the family as I worked with a trainer to deal with some of Henry’s more difficult behaviors, like chronic barking. I remember commenting to our trainer that owners do their dogs a terrible disservice by not socializing them and investing in their obedience training. A visit to reveals stories of dogs that are homeless because of human problems: foreclosures, evictions, relocations, divorces, deaths, loss of independence of elderly dog owners, etc. Dogs that are not socialized or trained are difficult to place in permanent homes. I read that nearly one-third of dogs are returned to shelters within two months of their adoption. In most cases, the dogs are returned because of behavioral problems; the cuteness wears off very quickly once the dog is home.

The first month I had Coco we participated together in Puppy Kindergarten. Class met one evening each week as a trainer led five puppies and their owners through basic obedience training (loose leash walking, the name game, coming when called, sit, stay, etc.). It gave me more confidence as a dog owner. It also provided some assurance that should I ever, through death or disability, be unable to care for Coco and now Henry, the relative in whose care I have arranged to entrust them would not be overwhelmed and surrender them to a shelter. It is my responsibility to make sure that they have a loving “forever” home and training-socialization is part of that commitment. I also realize that should we ever have to evacuate due to a disaster, it would be a secondary disaster to have to get into a battle of wills with a dog who doesn’t come when called, walk on the leash or whose behaviors compound what will certainly be an already stressful situation. Better to deal with the behaviors when the environment is calm.

I am so glad I brought Henry home. All he wants is to love and be loved and be part of a family. It is amazing to me that this little creature, who was sweating and pacing when we first met in the shelter, is now climbing into my lap and gently taking treats from my hand. He acts as a very protective older brother to Coco and intervenes when he thinks her play with other dogs is getting too rambunctious. By the way, this photograph shows our first visit to the beach. Coco and Henry are checking out the seaweed, digging in the sand and walking along the beach (it is still too cold for swimming). Then we had a little clambake and they enjoyed bowls of cool water and doggy cuisine while the adults had clams.

Preparing a Pet

Friday, May 4th, 2012
Coco puppy


I have been busy working on our new venture, but I promise to be more diligent about blogging. This is Coco, a beautiful cocker spaniel puppy whom I adopted. I keep a little pet bed next to my desk, where she naps or plays while I work. I typically work for three hours or so and then we take a play break, either a long leash walk along the waterfront or a game of fetch at our doggy park, which is just a ten minute walk away. Then we repeat that routine two or three times (work three hours, play for one-half hour) and that is my day! It is great for productivity, as I structure my time in blocks to get things done and know I can look forward to our break together. Coco has also taught me a few things about disaster preparedness. In Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses, I wrote about disaster planning for household pets. After all, it is hard to focus on your business when you are worried about the safety of your pets. Since I have become a pet owner after writing the book, I am learning from the experience, particularly since our area was directly affected by Tropical Storm Irene just days after I had adopted Coco!

Areas in our community were subject to mandatory evacuation orders and while ours was not, I was prepared with a pet emergency travel kit. I included in it copies of Coco’s medical records, particularly her rabies vaccine, as I had to produce it to bring her into one public building. I also included a photograph of her, in the event, heaven forbid, we were separated, a photo would help for identification purposes. Here are several lessons I learned from the Tropical Irene experience that I will certainly include in the next edition of the book when we update it:

  • Ask your veterinarian to test for Giardia, a small parasite that can live in the intestine of your dog. You bring a current stool sample from your dog to the vet for testing and will generally have the results the same day. I paid $20 for the test. Diarrhea is often a sign of Giardia, but infected dogs may be without symptoms. My vet didn’t include a Giardia test in our regular wellness visit, so I had to ask for it. Many kennels require proof that the dog is free of Giardia, so if you ever have to board your dog in an emergency, it is good to have the results of a recent Giardia test.
  • If you have a carrier for transporting your pet, practice using it before you will need it. I purchased a large comfortable pet carrier for Coco and when the time came for us to go on a trip, I learned that she hated the carrier and refused to remain inside. I should have kept it on the living room floor for a period of time to let her climb in and out of it and get comfortable with it. Now I know.
  • I have a pet “Go Kit” packed with food, dishes, bottled water, etc., but now I am more careful about keeping the food stocked. Coco eats a brand of dog food that is not widely available. I went to the brand’s website and found that it can be purchased only at specialty retailers and veterinarian offices. I had assumed that I would just bring a quantity of food sufficient to get us to our shelter destination and replenish our supply from there. Now I am keeping a larger supply of food on hand.
  • Animals have instincts about weather changes and may act out during a severe storm, such as showing signs of fear when they hear thunder, for example. I am lucky that Coco is pretty resilient. She stayed up the whole night, sitting at the edge of my bed watching the heavy rain as if she were completely fascinated by it. Not all of my neighbors were so lucky. So be prepared that your pet may go through a rough patch during the storm.

As I have written before, building resilience is an ongoing process of learning from experience and improving practices. Being sheltered in my home with Coco during Tropical Storm Irene was a learning experience for me and I will be even better prepared the next time.