Thursday, October 28, 2010

Select A Halloween Costume For Dog

If you and your pooch are attending a Halloween party this year there are a handful of safety issues to consider. Of course all activities that bring together groups of dogs have safety concerns, but further concerns develop when you add costumes. In order to make the Halloween party fun for both you and Fido, consider these tips when selecting a costume.

Is the event indoors or outside? The real question is, what will the temperature be wherever the party is. If the Halloween party for dogs is outside in a warm climate or indoors in a cool climate, stay away from costumes that will cause Fido to overheat. Costumes made of felt are inexpensive but they don't breathe which could be hazardous to your pooch's health. When selecting a costume, only consider fabrics that breathe.

LARGE - Piggy Pooch Halloween CostumeSelect the right size for your dog. It's easy to understand why a costume that is too small would not be good but a costume that is too big also presents several problems. Imagine a costume that is so loose Fido's front leg comes out of the armhole and gets entangled inside the costume when he's running. Or what if it's so baggy that when she squats she urinates IN the costume?

Consider the temperament of your dog when selecting a costume. While my Golden Retriever wouldn't even wear booties to keep his paws from freezing in 50-below weather during a Minnesota winter, my Olde English Bulldog won't consider stepping out without her coat. So a Halloween costume for my golden will be a very simple black bow tie affixed to his collar. On the other hand my bulldog will go all out this Halloween. She'll be sporting the Zelda punk rock dog outfit from Costume Supercenter, complete with Mohawk and pleather vest!

Consider the temperament of other dogs at the party. While it is every pet owner's responsibility to control their own dog, all pet owners know that not every owner accepts that responsibility. So while it might be funny to create a costume for your dog that includes dog treats affixed to it, that might also invite other dogs to attack your dog. Choose or create your dog's costume wisely.

Keep an eye on your dog at the party at all times. Most dog costumes are cheaply made because they aren't intended to last very long. As dogs run and jump and play, pieces and parts of their costumes may fall to the ground. If your dog is the type that will eat anything, you don't want her swallowing bits of plastic and cloth. Otherwise she'll have the same tummy ache after the party that I did as a kid after eating my stash of candy all in one night!

Keeping these five simple tips in mind will lead to safe fun for both of you. Happy Halloween!

Tips For Coping When You Suffer The Loss of Pets

People who suffer a loss of pets go through the same emotional pains as those who suffer the loss of a human loved one. But unlike those who suffer the loss of a human, sometimes those who suffer a loss of pets are ridiculed by people in their lives. A co-worker may say, "It was only a dog." A spouse may say, "She lived a good life." While a friend may encourage you to go get another dog right away.

Only other pet lovers truly understand the pain associated with a loss of pets.

Whether your dog is at the end of a long life or dies unexpectedly, the grieving is no easier either way. Allow yourself to go through the stages of grief at your own pace so that you may heal emotionally.

When my 14-year-old golden retriever, Jake, could no longer stand up by himself or, once up could not squat to go to the bathroom, I knew it was time to end his suffering. He was also beginning to suffer from memory loss. On occasion I could see that he didn't know where his food or water bowl was or which door to go to to go outside. As hard as it was, I made an appointment with the vet a couple of days down the road and spent 48 hours completely spoiling him. I slept on the floor with him at night. I fed him spaghetti and pizza (his favorites!) I took two days off work to be with him.

When we went to the vet she laid a blanket down for him to lay on. But with his paws he pushed it aside to lay on the cold tile floor. I laid on the floor with him, my arm over his chest as the vet administered the meds that would end Jake's life - and his suffering. I sobbed. Even after he was gone, I laid with him and cried.
That was over two years ago and even as I recount this, tears are welling up in my eyes.

The five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) were identified and articulated in 1969 by Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying. In the days after Jake was euthanised I don't remember ever being in denial. It's not denial as in not believing the deceased is gone but denial as in denying your feelings of sadness. When I went back to work and someone would say, "How are you?" I'd burst into tears and say, "Just awful. I had to put my dog down earlier this week."

I didn't feel the second phase, anger, either. The life expectancy of a golden retriever is 10-12 years. I was fortunate to have Jake longer than average. And because I had him so long, bargaining wasn't part of my grieving process. But I can see how people who suffer a loss of pets could easily do this. It's that negotiation with a higher being. "Just let him pull through this and I'll make a monthly donation to the local animal shelter." Or, "His 15th birthday is only four months away. Let him live until then and I'll..." fill in the blank.

No, I skipped over steps two and three and landed head-first in Phase Four: depression. I was so very sad. I was so very lonely. I'd heard the expression "heavy heart" before but I didn't understand until then that it is more than an expression; it is a physical feeling. My heart actually felt heavy. The house was eerily quiet when I got home from work. My well-meaning friends kept saying I should get another dog. But no dog could replace Jake.

It took quite a while before I could walk in the house and not expect him to be lying on his bed in the middle of the family room. My acceptance (the fifth stage of grieving) began when I received his ashes in a wooden box, wrapped in a blue velvet bag, a plaque with his name and dog print and a certificate that said, "I'll be waiting for you at the end of the rainbow bridge." But that was just the beginning of this stage. I placed his ashes on the bookshelf in his favorite room - the family room. I passed them each morning when I went to work. Sometimes I'd touch the velvet bag and say, "Bye buddy." Other times I'd just say goodbye to him.

As those days when I would say good-bye became less frequent I knew I was on the path to healing. And six months later I was ready for another dog.

Some people who suffer a loss of pets get the same breed as the dog who passed away. I just couldn't do that. In fact, I went to about the opposite end of the breed spectrum. I got an Olde English Bulldog puppy. Where Jake was obedient she was defiant. Where Jake was furry, she was stubbly. Where Jake was regal, her beauty was "she's so ugly she's cute." And when she was a little pup I used to look at the blue velvet bag on the bookshelf in the family room and say, "Jake - I wish you were here to teach her the ropes."

Now two years old, I adore Jes just as I adored Jake.

When it's time to say goodbye to your best furry friend, allow yourself to pass through the five stages of grief. There is no one timeline that fits everyone. Only you will know when you are ready to advance to the next stage. Whatever you do, do not allow anyone to marginalize the pain you feel when you suffer the loss of pets.