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Editorial

Casper Critters


Tips for Adopting and Living with a New Pet



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05/01/2009 - by Gayle Irwin

Most of us know that warm, fuzzy feeling of seeing a puppy or kitten at play. Pet lovers all know that tug at our heartstrings when we visit a Humane Society or animal shelter and see the numerous animals looking at us through their cages or designated rooms. We also know the quiver of our lip when we look on the Internet viewing the photos and reading the stories of all the pets looking to be placed through the hundreds of rescue organizations. Many of us respond by adopting our pets.

May 3 9, 2009 is Be Kind to Animals Week, and throughout the country animal welfare organizations will host events to bring greater awareness of being kind to pets. One way to do that is to adopt, not purchase. The Casper Humane Society plans an Open House for May 3rd from 1 4 p.m.

Each year, nearly 5 million dogs and cats are euthanized in the U.S. because there are not enough homes. For people considering adding a four-footed friend to their family, here are a few tips to help insure you and your new pet spend many happy years together:

1. Don't adopt on a whim - seriously think about this important decision. Consider your lifestyle and what type of pet best fits your family situation. Dogs require a great deal of exercise; cats are more independent-natured, and fish don't shed.

2. Research! Various breeds of dogs have different personalities and needs; research the many breeds to help find the best fit for your family. Most shed, that's a fact of life, so if you or a family member has allergies, you should consider the breeds that shed the least, as the Obama family did. Cats also come in a variety of breeds and temperaments; maybe one type suits you better than another.

3. Consider your finances. Pets require annual vaccinations, and, like people, can develop medical issues due to genetics, accidents, or older age. For example, most cats are litterbox-trained as kittens, but later in life they can develop kidney problems and may not use the box as regularly. Medication can help keep the infection at bay, but, like all prescriptions, regular medication costs money. Remember: nothing is free, not even a "free pet"!

4. Think about the future. Are you planning to have a baby in the next few years? Do you think you might be moving soon? The number one reason people relinquish a pet to an animal shelter is "I'm moving". That's a lame excuse pets can move with you just like children do. It may be a bit traumatic on pets at first, but they will be fine, just as people eventually adjust to a new home and neighborhood. It is more traumatic for them to be left by their family. If you are a person who would move without your pet or who would consider giving up your pet because of having a baby, it would be best for you to wait and adopt a pet after you're more settled.

5. Train your pet! Puppies often need to be housebroken, and all dogs should know the basic commands of sit, stay, come, and no. No pet is perfect (just as no child or adult is perfect, although we might like to think otherwise!). Classes are often offered by various organizations and businesses; in Casper, look to Casper College, PetCo, or a private trainer listed in the phone book. You can also buy books on training and do it yourself. Teaching a dog obedience is not only good manners, but also helps insure your pet's safety and a stronger bonding with you. Even cats can learn a few things from their human (whether they like to admit it or not!). And remember: train lovingly, not harshly!

Adopting a pet is a wonderful experience, and having a pet makes one's home a warm and loving place. Our pets love us unconditionally, and, like children, they depend on us for care. Follow the above-mentioned tips and you and your pet can live happily ever after!

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Gayle Irwin is the proud "pet parent" of two adopted dogs as well as the author of the children's book Sage's Big Adventure: Living with Blindness, an inspirational story about her blind dog. Gayle and Sage often visit schools and libraries, showcasing the amazing experience of owning a pet with special needs and teaching about pet ownership responsibility. A new book, Sage Learns to Share, is forthcoming. Gayle also works part-time with the Casper Humane Society and has been a journalist and conservation educator. For more information about her writing and speaking, visit www.sagestory.com.

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