Pros and Cons of Dog Leashes

I live on acreage in the country and see dogs roaming free off-leash all of the time.

They chase my car as I drive by. Some just sit lethargically under a tree while others lie in the road and act like I’m in their way.

The owners of these dogs don’t seem to worry that they might get hit by a car, attacked by a coyote, or kidnapped by someone who wants to do them harm. They obviously trust that their dog is safe and can handle whatever bad things may come their way. They simply don’t worry.

I kind of envy these folks because I am the exact opposite type of dog owner.

It’s not that I don’t believe dogs should be allowed to run free, because I do. They deserve it. Even though we have the land, I still have him on a leash 95% of the time because I’m an overly protective dog owner.

The times I have let my dog off leash to run to his heart’s delight have not resulted in anything too bad happening minus the time he ate a dead rabbit and threw it up on the kitchen floor. Or the time my dog chased a deer into the woods and didn’t emerge from the forest for what seemed like hours. Or the time my dog got a tapeworm from eating who-knows-what.

Nevermind the coyotes that howl at night and sometimes during the day. They live close by and would love to have my dog for an evening snack. No thanks, I’ll keep him on a leash during our walks. I did, however, let him off-leash one time to see how he would do and he managed to get out of our front gate and run off down the road.

No amount of hollering his name and pleading for him to come back did any good. I went to get the car to track him down and he was sitting by the gate waiting for me. The little stinker nearly gave me a heart attack. Thank goodness my small dog wasn’t hit by a car or eaten by a coyote.

To be clear, I am not judging the people who let their dogs roam.

That is their business. I believe each dog owner has their own lifestyle and beliefs on how to train and raise a dog.  Some dog parents are more lenient and others, like me, are more strict.

I do occasionally let my dog off his leash if I am outside with him and there are no guests coming to the house. He will chase the car as they leave and who knows where he’ll go. We go on long walks (with a leash of course) every day and he gets his exercise and can sniff whatever he wants under my close supervision. It works for both of us and he’s a happy dog.

Contributed by R. Cristine

Bringing Home Another Cat

Our Cat Clementine

My son found her in the woods after a violent windstorm ripped through our neighborhood. She must have been terrified, huddled all alone in the foliage trying to seek safety.

The next morning my son brought her in the kitchen and held her up for me to see. “Isn’t she cute? I found her in the woods by Kroger. Can we keep her?”
I stood back and gasped.

What in the world is he trying to do to me? My husband would kill me if I brought another cat into the house. Oh yes she was cute alright. With those huge green eyes and what-am-I-doing-here dazed look on her face, I was immediately taken with her.

She looked to be about 4 months old

Her fur was long and mangy and I was certain she had fleas or some other disease that she could pass onto our cat Sam. And Sam wouldn’t take too kindly to having to share anything with another cat. She was the queen of the house and wouldn’t put up with being dethroned by a stray kitten from who knows where.

“She’s adorable, but your dad will freak out if he sees her and Sam won’t be too happy either. Hide her in your room. Let me figure out the best way to handle this.”

I knew it was a long shot

I wanted to convince my husband that we should keep her. She survived that horrible storm to be found by my son. What are the odds of that? I felt she was meant to be with us.

The next morning my son and I cautiously presented the kitten to him in the kitchen. We were both so eager to have him like her. “Please dad. Can we keep her? She needs a home. She’s so cute.”

My husband looked at her and shook his head. He threw up his hands in resignation. “No. We don’t need another cat. One’s enough. Find her another home.”

I figured that would be his reaction. I didn’t argue. I knew that would do no good. I would bide my time and wait for him to change his mind.

“Okay. Fair enough. We’ll find her another home.” My son balked at us. He was not happy.

I put my hand on his shoulder and sneaked him a quick wink. He knew what that meant. Mom was going to make sure the kitten stayed with us.

It’s been 12 years since that morning in the kitchen

It didn’t take long for my husband to become attached to Clementine. My son named her Clementine and it fits her perfectly. We took her to her first vet visit and she did not have fleas or any other disease. It was determined that she most likely is a Maine Coon.

Sam managed to tolerate her, but made it clear from day one that she is the boss. Clementine humbly accepted her place in the household. They both managed to have a cordial friendship. I believe Sam loved Clementine more than she let on.

Sam passed in 2013 at 16 years old and is surely missed by Clementine. We all miss her. Today Clementine is the big sister to our 3 year old beagle-mix Cam and she lets him know she is the queen of the house. He respects that.

Every morning my husband sings a sweet little song to Clementine and gives her a treat. He tells her how pretty she is and she just eats up the attention. They have a beautiful bond. I know he does not regret allowing her to stay with us 12 years ago.

Contributed by R. Cristine

Pets? Work? Coronavirus?

The pandemic has created a lot of headaches since it arrived in full force back in March. Yet one of the major unintended benefits of us all spending more time at home is more quality time with our pets — music to our ears!

A recent survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Zoetis Petcare found that 70% of polled pet parents feel they know their animals better since the pandemic. On top of that, over 81% of respondents said the quarantine period made them feel closer to their pet than ever before.

The survey aimed to learn more about how new and seasoned pet owners are feeling and what their experiences have been like at home with their pets.

A little extra playtime

This doesn’t come as a major surprise given the current work/home climate. Humans and their pets will inevitably collide in some form or fashion during pandemic times. It’s good news it appears to be a mostly positive collision!

Pets are certainly loving their extra human time as this provides an extra opportunity to beg for a walk outside, game of tug of war, or snuggle on the couch. Can you blame them?

The cutest pesky friends

As someone who relies heavily on Zoom meetings these days, I can say it has added a bit of flare being able to meet my coworkers’ pets during our video calls.

It has also lead to more casual banter and allowed me to learn more about a person’s personality by how they interact with their pets. It’s interesting how soft a person can become swooning over their precious pet!

A recent example of how a pet can take over a Zoom meeting occurred in the UK between members of Parliament. The meeting inadvertently showcased one of the member’s cats as it waved its tail around in the video’s foreground. This brought about smiles and a few laughs to the rest of the members on the call.

Pets make our lives that much better

It is no secret that pets help us cope during stressful times. They bring a therapeutic sense to our homes and offer a great companionship to our lives. It’s one reason why pet adoptions are up dramatically and some pet shelters across the U.S. are even experiencing empty occupancy.

Working from home allows the ability for you and your new pet to gain rapport more quickly than if you are out of the home working in a more traditional manner. As studies have shown, the more time you spend with your pet the more he or she will trust you.

So, if nothing else, COVID-19 has allowed us the great opportunity to better understand our furry friends and to provide each other with comfort and love (and plenty of cuddles!) while we maneuver through these unprecedented times.

Contributed by Michael Thomssen


How My Dog Rescued Me

I adopted my dog Cam in 2017.

He is a what they call a Doxle which is a Beagle/Dachshund mix. My son, who volunteered at a local dog shelter, had suggested that I consider adopting him.

I had wanted a dog for years and my son thought he would be great dog for me. My husband was not completely on board, but I knew I could convince him. I brought him home for a few days on a trial basis and that was it.

I knew he was meant to be a part of our family.  My husband had dogs growing up and knew what a commitment and lifestyle change it was going to be. I was raised with cats and had no experience with dogs.

My idea of having a dog was a bit naive and romantic. I imagined that we would be best friends and he would come at my command, ride in the car with no problem, and never bark or chew things up. Ha! How wrong I was.

The day the adoption was final I realized there was no turning back.

I was completely committed to this precious pup. There was no way he was ever going to see the inside of a shelter again as he had a forever and loving home with my husband and me. I meant it too.

However, if I were to be completely honest, at first I regretted adopting Cam and considered re-homing him.

It was too much of an adjustment and commitment. I was blindsided by it.

Cam required constant attention as he was only 4 months old. He had to be house broken. He needed to go to obedience school. I had no idea what to do with a dog. My husband, bless his soul, was not going to be much help.

The agreement was I was in complete charge of taking care of Cam and all that went with it. I agreed. So I got to work learning all I could about dog behavior and how how to train him to be less hyper around strange people and other dogs.

He is the kind of dog that barks at other dogs so taking him to a dog park was a nightmare. Even going to PetSmart for obedience training was overwhelmingly stressful because he loathed it and would cause such a scene if he saw other dogs. I dreaded taking him anywhere.

I knew failure wasn’t an option so I decided that I was going to love and accept Cam as he is and relax and enjoy him. Barks and all.

It’s okay that he is reactive around other dogs and hates PetSmart. We no longer go to those places. He has tons of room to run around on our 100 plus acre property and I groom him myself.

I could no more give away Cam as I could one of my kids or grandkids! The truth is I loved him the first day I saw him and with my loving guidance he has turned into a mostly obedient and totally amazing dog. He even loves other dogs once he gets to sniff them! My husband also adores him. I think he is Cam’s favorite person. I’m his second favorite.

Rescuing Cam has been one of the most meaningful things I have done.

I gave a homeless dog a home. I became committed to something other than myself which made me less selfish. I became more compassionate and empathetic. I have had the privilege of sharing my life with the most devoted, loving, and spunky dog in the world who is also one of my best buddies. I would do it again in a minute and recommend others do the same!

Contributed by R. Cristine


Do Dogs Really Love Their Owners?

Dogs: our best friends, companions, confidants, and everything in between.

There’s good reason for our unspoken connection to our furry friends, although many naysayers claim it’s mostly rooted in emotion and classical conditioning.

“Well of course your dog loves you. You’re the one who gives him food,” they say.

The problem with that logic is that it fails to acknowledge all the not-so-lovable characteristics dog owners (and humans in general) often have. Our beloved canines tend to turn a blind eye to our blatant and numerous shortcomings.

Who else would forgive you for being the slob you are when you drop your dinner crumbs on the floor for them to pick up? Who else could you trust to completely refrain from judgment when you spend an entire Saturday in bed binge watching the latest Netflix series instead of making good on your public Facebook commitment to attend a weekly yoga class?

Dogs. Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time with dogs knows that their love seems unconditional, but is there any hard data to back up that claim?

I mean, we already know our dogs love us regardless of what any literature might say, but for those of you that want some cold hard facts to legitimize your claim, this article is for you.

 Their behavior says it all

They say sometimes the truth is often right in front of your eyes. That couldn’t be any more correct as it pertains to dogs loving their owners.

Studies have shown that dogs do indeed respond to voices and expressions unique to their favorite human. Simply put,  your dog can interpret and empathize with the look on your face and the tone of your voice. You might observe true guilt when Fido notices the disappointed look on your face when you discover the destruction he inflicted on your favorite slippers.

And, as it turns out, that cute baby-talk voice we do with our pups can evoke certain positive canine behaviors and strengthen our bond. So next time your friends make fun of you for your enthusiastic and higher-pitched praise of your “goodest little puppy!”, tell them it’s scientifically backed, thank-you-very-much.

It’s all in the chemicals

It’s well known in the scientific community that human and animal brains work in a similar fashion when interpreting our environments.

Whether we are running from a potential predator or expressing love, our brains respond by producing certain chemicals. The chemical most associated with love and affection is called oxytocin. Oxytocin plays a huge role in social bonding in a variety of contexts — between parents and children, romantic partners, or, yes, dogs and their owners.

When examined under an MRI, dogs’ brains show increased levels of oxytocin  as they gaze into their owners’ eyes. Not only do dogs get a rush of this love-infused chemical when they admire us, but we do as well when we look back at them. But you already knew that.

Love Stinks

Dogs rely on their sophisticated sense of smell to do more than find your freshly worn socks or a weak spot in the pantry’s armor. They also use it to relish in their love for you!

When a dog gets a whiff of his owner, the part of the brain associated with reward and pleasure lights up. Researchers have observed differences in canines’ caudate nuclei when sniffing their own favorite humans versus a stranger or another dog. Turns out a dog’s brain lights up the most when presented with his or her owner’s scent.

So… does my dog love me?

We will keep this simple. Yes! You probably didn’t have to scour the internet to know that, but sometimes it’s nice to reinforce the simple truths.

Humans and dogs have had a long history of bonding, and even though the research shows our furry friends love us back, there is probably a lot more to the story than an MRI can show. Let’s just assume your dog will love you just as much as you love him or her. We all know that amount is endless!