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THINKING ABOUT ADOPTING A CAT OR DOG?

By Sharon Reily, Reference Department

“Who rescued who?” This touching (although grammatically incorrect) sticker seems to be attached to every other car bumper in Williamson County. As the sticker makes clear, giving a home to a needy animal does not only benefit the animal. But a successful pet adoption that works for both the animal and the adopting family is a serious undertaking that deserves careful consideration and lots of planning and preparation. It’s an obligation that can last more than a decade. Not everyone is up to the task. If you’re in the market for a new pet, the list of adoptable critters is endless – you can adopt homeless turtles, cockatoos, rabbits, horses, even spiders! Since we’re in the middle of “puppy and kitty season,” when shelters are swamped with unwanted litters, let’s concentrate on the ins and outs of dog and cat adoption.

WHY ADOPT?

The Humane Society of the United States has compiled a list of the top reasons to adopt a pet:

  • Save a life. Each year 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in the U.S. This number could be reduced if more people adopted pets instead of buying them.
  • Get a great animal. Shelters are full of wonderful, healthy animals, many of whom ended up there through no fault of their own.
  • It costs less. A purebred dog or cat purchased from a breeder can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. The MUCH lower adoption fees often include the cost of spaying/neutering, first vaccinations, even microchipping.
  • You can fight puppy mills. If you buy a dog from a pet store, online seller or flea market, there’s a good chance it will come from a puppy mill. Puppy mills are breeding factories that put profit over animal welfare, and the animals often live in deplorable conditions. Puppies from the mills are often ill and have behavioral issues. By adopting a pet, you won’t be giving the puppy mills a dime.
  • Your house will thank you. Lots of rescue animals are already housetrained. Give your rugs a break!
  • Pets are good for you! Not only do animals give you unconditional love, but they have been shown to be psychologically, emotionally and physically beneficial to their companions. Caring for a pet can provide a sense of purpose and lessen feelings of loneliness.
  • Adopting helps more than one animal. Many shelters are overcrowded, and when you adopt one animal, you make room for others. Adoption fees allow shelters to offer better care for their animals.
  • You’ll change a homeless animal’s whole world and get a new best friend out of the deal!

Included in the “Resources” section at the end of this article is a list of books about people whose lives have been improved by adopting an animal. Have a box of Kleenex handy when you read them.

BEFORE YOU ADOPT:

Think hard and ask yourself a lot of questions before you make the decision to adopt a pet.

  • Why do you want a pet? As a travel companion? To cuddle with on the couch, go for strenuous runs and hikes, or something in between? Analyzing your reasons for adopting can help you determine what sort of pet to look for.
  • What kind of dog or cat do you want? High energy or mellow? Large or small? Long hair or short hair? Affectionate or more independent? Male or female? Puppy or senior? Once you’ve decided what type of dog or cat works best for you and your family, stick with the decision. Don’t fall for the first adorable puppy or kitten you meet.
  • Take your family’s feelings into consideration and make sure everyone is one board with bringing home a new pet.
  • Can you afford a pet? The cost of food, regular vaccinations, spaying or neutering, toys and other supplies adds up. A serious injury or illness can break the bank.
  • Do you have time to devote to a pet? Dogs, exotic birds, and cats need lots of daily interaction, but even “pocket pets” like mice and hamsters need supervised time outside their cages. If you work really long hours or travel a lot for work, adopting a pet might not be your best option.
  • Do you have enough physical stamina to take care of a pet? Cats like a lot of play time and dogs have to be walked. Some high energy dogs need more than an hour of exercise a day.
  • Are you honestly ready for the responsibility? Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer,” offers this clue: Look at your closet. Is it neat and organized? That may sound odd, but Millan says the state of the closet has always been a true test of a person’s ability to provide a pet with a structured life that has rules, boundaries and limitations. Yikes – good thing nobody checked my closets before I got my dog!
  • Are you prepared to handle some of the physical and emotional “baggage” that rescue pets can bring with them?

NEW PET PREP

So you’ve decided to adopt and you’ve found the right pet. There’s still a lot to do. The following should all be in place BEFORE you bring home your new pet.

  • Create a plan with your family to divide up the responsibility of caring for your new pet. Who is expected to do what and when?
  • Decide where your dog will stay during the day and where it will sleep at night.
  • Pet proof your house. Put cleaning products, poisonous plants and any foods toxic to cats or dogs out of reach. Tape electrical cords to baseboards. Put away any small items that could be choking hazards. You might want to roll up and put away expensive rugs until you determine your new pet’s level of housetraining.
  • Buy basic supplies. For a dog: high quality dog food, a crate of the appropriate size with a crate mat, food and water dishes, sturdy chew toys, a cozy bed, a collar with an ID tag including your cell number and address, a leash, dog shampoo, brush, and nail clippers. For a cat: High quality cat food, food and water dishes, litter box or boxes and cat litter, toys, a scratching post, cat shampoo, brush and nail clippers. Try to purchase the same kind of food the animal has been eating, and if you want to try a different brand, introduce it slowly by adding increasing amounts of the new food to the old food.
  • Have an appointment already scheduled with a veterinarian so you can have your new pet checked out as soon as you collect it.

BRINGING YOUR NEW PET HOME

First of all, be patient! Moving to a different home will be stressful for your new pet. It might take anywhere from six to twelve weeks for it to become fully adjusted to its environment. Here are some tips to make your new pet’s transition run smoothly:

  • Introduce family members and other pets in a controlled way. Try to do this in a calm, quiet manner.
  • NEVER leave a new dog unsupervised around children.
  • If you’ve adopted a dog, seriously consider using a crate, which will aid in house training and prevent destructive behavior. Feeding your dog in its crate and making sure the crate contains toys and a comfy mat may make it more appealing. WCPL has some good books that include tips on crate training.
  • Spend as much time with your new pet as possible.
  • A little exercise may make your new dog feel better. Check with your vet for your dog’s appropriate level of exercise and don’t overdo it.
  • Keep things quiet and calm for the first few days. Don’t let your new pet get too excited.
  • Realize that even if your new pet is already house trained, it may have a few accidents until it settles in.

REAP THE REWARDS

If you do your homework and follow through on the prep, planning, and day-to-day care of your new pet (with lots of love and patience tossed in), you will have an amazing addition to your family. I’m not ashamed to say that when I was a kid my two best friends were a dog and a cat. I can’t begin to describe all the ways these beautiful little creatures enriched my life. There are thousands of wonderful dogs and cats just like them out there who need great homes. Go rescue them!

NATIONAL AND LOCAL PET ORGANIZATIONS

The following sites offer general information about pet adoption.

Local Adoption Agencies and Organizations:

If you are interested in a specific breed of dog or cat, many shelters often have purebred animals available. In addition, almost every breed has its own rescue organization. Just Google the name of the breed and “rescue” (for example, “basset hound rescue”).

Read the rest of this entry

May Is National Pet Month

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Furry or feathered?  Scaled or smooth?  If you are considering getting a new pet or adding an additional beastie to your home, these are only two of the many questions that you must ask yourself and your family members, of the two-legged and four-legged variety, because your existing pets are also family.

National Pet Month was created as a celebration of the joys that pets bring to people’s lives, and vice versa.  Some of the aims of National Pet Month are:

  • Promoting the benefits of pet ownership
  • Supporting pet adoption
  • Increasing awareness of the services available from professionals who work with animals
  • Raising awareness of the roles, contribution, and value to society that service animals provide

If you are already sharing your home with a pet, here are a few fun suggestions to celebrate National Pet Month:

  1. –Do a photo shoot or a YouTube video with your pet!  Who knows, your segment with Captain Fluffypants could be the next viral sensation, maybe even with more “hits” than a Kardashian video.
  2. –Look into creating a “Take Your Pet To Work Day” at your place of employment.  (Hey, if they let human children do it, why not the animal children?  I bet you a box of Milk-Bones that some of them would be better behaved and more pleasant to have around for the day than the humans.  Just sayin’.)
  3. –Got a hipster cat or a feline princess?  Make them a customized bed that matches their personality.  Pinterest has squillions of ideas.
  4. –Get off the couch!  Hit your favorite dog-friendly park with your pooch for some new training, such as jumping through a hula hoop or learning to respond to hand signals, or just take a leisurely stroll along the trails and enjoy the day.  For your feline friend, teach your cat to walk on a leash so she can enjoy the outdoors, too.  Make sure you and your pet stay hydrated while playing outside.
  5. –Be a “pet whisperer” and learn to decipher your dog’s or cat’s body language.

Certainly, not everyone can (or should) have a pet.  However, this doesn’t preclude your ability to contribute to enriching the lives of domestic animals.  If you choose not to share your home with a pet, please consider making a donation to a local or national animal welfare organization.  There are several listed at the end of this article.

I hope you have purr-fectly enjoyed this blog, and that I haven’t driven you barking mad.  (OK, y’all know I can’t make it through a blog without at least one pun, right?)

 

Local resources:

  • Happy Tales Humane Shelter
    4001 Hughes Crossing, Suite 161, Franklin TN
    615-261-7387
    “Happy Tales Humane is a privately funded no-kill animal shelter.  We envision a world where every companion animal is loved, wanted, and nurtured. Happy Tales is committed to our mission of providing human, no-kill options for homeless and neglected animals in Middle Tennessee.”
  • Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue
    www.snootygiggles.com  
    SGDR began when founder Shawn South-Aswad and her husband began taking in a few dogs who needed a place to stay until they could find their own home. As time passed, they developed an affinity for “senior” and medical needs dogs that were being overlooked by the general rescue population. SGDR has now grown into a foster team of more than 50 families who open their homes and hearts to these amazing dogs and foster them until the perfect match of a forever home is found.
  • Williamson County Animal Center
    106 Claude Yates Drive, Franklin TN
    615-790-5590
    www.adoptwcac.org
    The Williamson County Animal Center is a public open-intake shelter serving the citizens of Williamson County, Tennessee. The shelter is a county tax-funded agency caring for domestic animals, and enjoys the distinction of being a 2nd place winner in the 2014 ASCPA Rachael Ray Challenge.

As always, the opinions and viewpoints expressed here belong solely to the author, who is owned by 4 cats (Roxie, Pearl, Blackie Lawless aka Boo, and Jack Bauer), a betta fish named Swimmy Hendrix, and a leopard gecko who goes by the name Charmian, which means “little joy.”  No animals were harmed during the making of this blog.
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