Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Get a professional holiday photo of your dog when you help animals

Each year around the holidays you can find organizations that host holiday photo events.  Your dog can have a photo taken with Santa, or get a photo with a beautiful holiday or wintery backdrop.  The photos are usually taken by professional photographers who donate their time and studio for a donation to an animal welfare organization.  The donation can be as small as a bag of pet food, or as much as $50. 

A photo session with a professional photographer normally runs anywhere from $75 on the low end to hundreds of dollars or more.   These are not the same photos you shoot of your pets in front of the Christmas tree at home!  These are photos taken with all the fancy equipment and a great studio scene or backdrop.  Usually the photographer will give you one free copy of the photo taken.  You can then order additional prints, holiday cards, etc. if you want.  Most photographers will offer them at a discounted price for those who participate in the event. 

To find holiday photo events in your area, start by searching online for holiday pet events being held in the area.  Scroll through listings to find pet photo events.  You can also check out the events section on the web sites of nearby animal shelters, animal rescues, and other organizations that serve the pet industry.  For example, in Long Island New York there are several; the Bideawee Home hosts photos with Santa, the ASPCA is also hosting photos with Santa, and the Long Island Dog Owners Association hosted a photo event with a top professional photographer.  It featured a gorgeous wintery scene designed by an upscale local floral designer.

Once you locate some events, find out the details.  Find out what type of donation and how much of a donation is required.   Ask who is taking the photos and where; is it a professional photographer and studio, a photography student taking the photos in a park, or a staff member of the organization taking photos right in their office?   Find out exactly what is being promised.  Will they provide a hard copy 5x7 photo, or a digital copy of the photo?  Make sure there won’t be a watermark on the photo or anything that prevents you from sharing it on your social media networks.  If there are any other expectations, such as requiring you to order additional prints you will have to pay for, make sure you know that beforehand.  Match the required donation to what it being provided and decide whether or not you want to participate.

 If you can’t find a holiday photo event you like, try creating your own photo shoot.  Brush up on your pet photography by checking out sites that offer tips on how to take great pet photos.   I found several sites by searching on “how to take professional looking photos of your pets”   Make it extra special by including some of your friends’ dogs or family members’ dogs.  Invite them all over for a group photo session by the Christmas tree, or outside with a pretty Wintery scene.  Serve cookies and some doggie treats and make it a party.  You’ll capture a beautiful holiday memory!       RYUTXUUUQ8J6

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How You Can Help Shelter Animals This Holiday Season

Tis the season of giving!  Many people do the majority of their charitable giving during the holidays.  In addition to helping people, animal shelters and other animal welfare organizations are also in great need of both money and donation items.  They are hopeful that animal lovers like us will incorporate their organizations into our charitable giving budget.  Here are some things you can do to help animals this holiday season:

 Organize a fund raiser, donation drive or volunteer event at work to benefit a local animal shelter or rescue organization.  Collect money, much needed items such as food, blankets or towels, or organize a volunteer event at the shelter.   Volunteers can get the dogs out of their kennels to walk and play with them.  This helps the dogs get exercise and stay well socialized, which helps them remain healthy and adoptable.  Ask the shelter for their Wish List of donation items most needed.  Check with your boss or Human Resources department beforehand to ensure you follow whatever guidelines or policies they have for organizing charitable giving and volunteer events in the workplace.   You may even be able to get your employer to agree to match all or a portion of money you collect!   

Round up the kids to organize a shelter or rescue donation drive or special project through their school, girl or boy scout troup, or religious organization.  We have had kids collect food, blankets, towels, and other much needed items for the shelter.  We once had a group of Eagle scouts build whelping boxes for expectant shelter dog mothers at the shelter.    Get a Wish List of items they need most from the shelter.  Ask if there are any simple projects the kids can do for them.  You may even be able to get a shelter employee to come and speak to the class or group about how to treat animals, what an animal shelter does and how it works, etc.  Just ask!  Activities like this help educate kids and teach them responsibility and empathy.

Organize an event to raise funds such as a doggie fashion show, lunch and silent auction, outdoor event such as a walk, run, golf or other sports outing.  Anything that gets people together for a cause they want to support!  You may be able to request that your donation be earmarked for a specific dedication in honor or in memory of a dog or cat lover.   Partner with a local pet store or other business to gain sponsorship.

Foster a dog or cat in your home.  Some shelters host Home for the Holidays events where families offer to host an animal in their home during the holidays.   If you can do it, becoming a permanent foster would be a wonderful gift to a shelter or rescue.  They are always in need of fosters.  I foster animals in my home, and I know that it saves lives.

Offer to take photos of adoptable animals for a shelter.  Shelters usually have a high intake rate, and they are not always able to get a good photo of every animal that comes in.  If you’re good with a camera and with animals, ask a local shelter if they need some help.  Provide a few props such as a holiday blanket, toy, or santa hat and take some great shots for the shelter to post online.  Bring along a friend who can help.  If the dog or cat doesn’t have a name, give them one!  This helps people identify with the dog – he isn’t just a number. 
 
Use your social media network to help get the word out about animals that are available for adoption.  Work with a shelter or rescue organization to post photos of their adoptable dogs or cats with compelling details about the animal and links to their site.   “Goldielocks is a lovable Golden Retriever mix.  She loves walks and playing fetch!”   Then Share it and ask all your friends to do the same.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shih Tzu happens and pets get lost

You think it won’t happen to your dog, but it happens every day.   Barely a day goes by volunteering at the shelter where a devastated pet owner isn’t walking up and down every aisle in tears, looking for their precious lost dog.  Invariably, they are shocked that it happened.   Short of keeping them locked in a bubble, how can we keep our pets safe?  If the unthinkable happens and a beloved pet disappears, how can we be prepared to act quickly?


TAGS+ MICROCHIP= GET HOME SAFE 
Always have your pet wear a collar with updated tags.  It amazes me how many people remove a dog’s collar for one reason or another; they don’t like the noise it makes when the dog shakes or they bathed the dog and forgot to put the collar back on.  Even so, collars can get lost or damaged.  If a collar gets snagged on something, it can break off.  A microchip is tiny and takes only seconds to put in.  Any vet can do it and most shelters offer it, usually for about half the price, which can range from approximately $20 – $75.  Do you love your dog twenty bucks worth?   Micro-chipping plus tags together can make the difference between your pet being linked back to you and getting home safe … or not.  You may also consider tattooing your pet, or using a GPS product that allows you to monitor your pet’s activity and location.

UNEXPECTED OCCURRENCES IN THE HOME CAN CAUSE DISTRESS 
When something unsettling is happening within the home it can cause pets to freak out and possibly wander off and get lost.  Pets may become frightened if workmen are in the home, if furniture and moving boxes are being packed up, or if strangers visit the home.  Workers and movers often leave the front door open to make it easier to cart items in and out of the house.    When kids go back to school after a long break, it can cause anxiety for the dog.  They miss the kids, worry that they won’t come back, or simply get bored without them.  Give him a new toy or something else to keep him occupied as the kids leave the house in the morning.   Consider doggie day camp, boarding, or a pet sitter if unexpected occurrences are happening in the house and you can't keep a close eye on your dog.

KEEP YOUR DOG LEASHED AT ALL TIMES IN UNSECURED AREAS 
I know people love to let their dogs off leash so they can be “free to run”, but be smart about it.  If signs tell you to keep your dog leashed, then do it.  Not only can your dog get enticed by a number of small animals, people running, or other distractions and take off, but off leash dogs can be picked up by Animal Control in public places where they are supposed to be leashed.  There’s often some mean biddy  with animal control on speed dial.   Sadly, dogs have even been shot by authorities in park or camp grounds where unleashed dogs are prohibited.   It’s unfortunate, but an unleashed dog is scary to many people, even the authorities.  They don’t know that your dog is loving and friendly and is only bounding towards them at warp speed to say hello!  Their reaction might be to defend themselves against your sweet pooch, especially if the dog is large or perceived to be an aggressive breed.  


PAY ATTENTION AT THE DOG PARK!  
I love taking my dogs to the dog park and I enjoy chatting with the other moms and dads there.  My girl Icy loves to greet new dogs as they enter the park, so I’m always on guard when she gets close to the gate.  Recently, a mother and her two kids came into the park, just to see all the dogs.  They didn’t know to ensure both gates remain locked at all times and one of the kids left the interior gate open.  A Beagle made his way over and slipped through.  Several folks tried to coax him back into the dog run, but the dog snarled when a guy tried to grab him.  We yelled out trying to locate the owner but no one responded.   I finally clipped my own dog’s leash on, and walked him around the dog park shouting “who owns this little guy?!”  The owner finally came forth.  She was in the back of the park yackin’ it up with friends, not paying attention to her dog. 

TEACH THE WAIT AND EMERGENCY RECALL COMMANDS  
In addition to a reliable come when called, also teach the “wait” command and have an “emergency recall” command.   These simple commands can save your dog’s life.  If your dog spots a bird, squirrel, or other moving object he may dart across a street, hop a fence, or jump out of the car and lay chase for many blocks.  He can be hit by a car or lose his sense of direction.   Make sure your dog reliably comes when you call him.  One of the keys to this is not always calling your dog when it’s time to leave the park, have a bath, or go to the vet.  That can reduce their positive reaction to your call, so when it’s bath or vet time rather than calling your dog to you, go and get him instead.  Teach your dog to always wait at the door or inside the car until you give the go ahead for them to exit.   In the event that something is just too enticing and your dog takes off, tuning you out, have an emergency recall command.  This is a one or two word command that immediately snaps them to attention and makes them run right to you because the reward for coming to you is irresistible.  My dogs know that whenever they hear "Danger! Danger!" they will receive delicious bacon.  It is the only time they get bacon, which is what makes it different from the “Come!” command I use on a near daily basis. 

PARTY HEARTY BUT SAFELY! 
If you throw a party, keep your pet in mind as you plan the party.  Holiday parties, graduations, etc. are wonderful occasions that enrich our lives.  However we can easily get distracted while hosting our event.  Pets can find it unsettling to see their home fill up with people, some of whom they don’t know.   Loud noises and people wearing costumes can be scary to pets.  Be sure to work in a plan to keep your dog secure during parties.  This is another good time to consider boarding, pet sitting, or day camp.  If you want to include your pet in family festivities, designate one person to keep an eye on the dog at all times.     


AN UNATTENDED DOG IS AN INVITATION FOR DISASTER 
If gardeners, housekeepers, or workers of any kind are in your home or yard be sure to double check that all doors and fences have been secured after they leave.  Every time.  Don’t expect them to reliably remember to close & latch gates or doors – ultimately it’s your responsibility, not theirs.    Never leave your dog unattended in the yard, in the car, or tied up outside a store.   It’s a sad fact that not only do dogs get lost every day, but they get stolen every day as well.  According to Petfinder.com, as many as 2 million animals are stolen each year.   What kind of person would steal a dog from a shelter, break into your car to steal your dog, steal your dog right out of your yard, or reach over to pet your secured dog outside a store, unclip her leash and make off with her?  Your dog doesn’t need to be an expensive purebred to tempt unscrupulous people to snatch her.   “My girlfriend always wanted a dog like this”.  “I got it for my Mom, she’s lonely”.  “They left that poor dog tied up in the yard all day, or in a hot/cold car, or outside a store while they shopped.  They’re cruel and don’t deserve him!”   Don’t give unscrupulous, misguided people any opportunity to steal your precious dog!

SPAY AND NEUTER!  
As everyone knows, spaying and neutering prevents the enormous number of unwanted puppies that end up in shelters, especially every Spring and Summer which is unfortunately puppy and kitten season at shelters.  Neutering can reduce your dog’s desire to get out and roam the neighborhood, and can reduce unwarranted aggression.  It could also curtail theft, since a dog that is spayed or neutered cannot be bred for profit, which is often a dog snatchers goal.

Always practice these safety tips to help prevent your dog getting lost or stolen.   Don’t make it easy for a thief to snatch your dog and don’t give someone an excuse to keep your dog because they’ve convinced themselves she must have been abandoned, or that you must be an irrresponsible owner.  People can make all kinds of assumptions about your poor lost dog…. and you.   

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PET GETS LOST 
If the unthinkable does happen and your pet disappears, time is of the essence so act immediately.  Spend an hour or two searching the area, but if you can’t find her, here are some steps you should take:

·    If your dog is micro-chipped contact the recovery service right away to alert them that she is missing.  They may be able to assist in recovery by alerting area shelters and vets.


·    Keep good quality updated photos of your pet handy, especially when travelling.  Photos should clearly show the dog’s face and body and should be in color, a black and white photo isn’t very effective.   Place color photos on flyers with details of your pet and pass them out to all the neighbors within several blocks.  That way neighbors will have the photo to refer to if they should see your dog.  Post them in grocery stores, area veterinary offices, and other central places near where your dog went missing. 

·    Go online and post quality photos and details about your lost dog.  You can post on Craigslist, your local newspaper web site, Fidofinder.com  WherePetsAreFound.com and other sites.  Do a “lost and found dogs” search online to locate other sites you can post photos and details on.  Many fabulous shelter staff comb through Lost Dog sites online in an attempt to find a dog’s owner if there are no updated tags or microchip.  This works if your dog has unique attributes or is an uncommon breed.  A post for a lost Golden Retriever might be overlooked, but a Komondor probably won’t be!  For more tips on finding a lost dog check out this PetFinder.com page

·    Post signs throughout the area, especially near stop signs and traffic lights.  Don’t use white 8.5” by 11” paper, most of us can’t see them from a car!  Buy larger pieces of oak tag in bright or neon colors, post a color photo of your dog, and write details and contact info in black magic marker in large print.  Don’t cheap out, have color photos printed.
Keep your eyes open and keep your pets safe at all times!