Are pets worth the trouble?

My dog Susie says

Are pets more "pain" than pleasure?

Since I'm just a dog and the writer of this blog, I probably seem slightly prejudiced on this question. However, I'm going to keep my analysis as unbiased and based on I can. A few months ago I wrote a 'bark' about the health benefits of owning a dog from the prospective of Americans. Let's look at some of the comments from other places around the globe.

England's young royals, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton were recently photographed walking with their black Cocker Spaniel puppy named Lupo. Doctors and medical experts around Europe immediately forecast an increase in longevity for the couple. Dog owners enjoy longer and more positive lifespans because of reduced blood pressure and obesity resulting in robust cardiovascular fitness. Score one point for pets.

Let's talk about the mental side of all of this. It seems that owning a pet, like a dog, also greatly enhances one's self-esteem while reducing depression. So while walking a dog helps in the physical side, owning a pet can facilitate the development of social contacts leading to a more optimistic view of your personal life and where it's heading. This is way better than Zanex. Score another point for pets.

German's studies showed that pet owners spent 32% less time in hospitals than non-pet owners and saved over $5 billion in health care costs. Australian studies proved that pet owners went to the doctor 12% less and saved over $3 billion annually in health care expenditures. Even in China studies have shown that having a pet in the home greatly reduced doctor visits and sick days at work. Chinese women even refer to their dogs as son or daughter... a surrogate for their missing children who have moved out. Taking care of their pets helps alleviate their loneliness. "And pets don't talk back and are nonjudgmental listeners" according to many Chinese mothers. Score point three for pets in the pleasure column.

I asked my Big Mommy, Sandy, if she could help with the negative side of the question. I wondered how much the average pet owner spent on their pets. It seems that the "average" owner spends about $300- $500/year for medical expenses like checkups at the Vet, vaccinations, pills etc. Food and treats costs another $250-$500 a year for a dog. She doesn't have any idea what a cat or goldfish might cost. So it looks like an average pet-owner (dog) probably spends up to $1,000 more per year than a non-owner. So score one point for "pain". If your pet has to have an operation then score two more point for "pain" both mentally and monetarily.

It looks like a tie between pain and pleasure. However, studies for children with autism showed dramatic improvement when a dog was present in their home. Military dogs have not only saved soldiers during war for generations, but also aided returning warriors who have been physically disabled or mentally traumatized. Canines are also being used to reduce pain and suffering for humans at hospitals, psychiatric venues, prisons, schools and nursing homes. I could go on and on but it seems to me that the benefits of owning pets are overwhelmingly positive. Whatever a pet may cost in money, it's returned a hundred fold in health and happiness.

Catch you later,

Susie & Sandy

P.S. "Whoever coined the phrase you can't buy happiness with money, never owned a puppy or kitten."

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Great Advice Concerning Our Loved Ones.


"Take care of your pets and they'll take care of you"

The list below by Dr. Kay is so complete I asked Sandy to pass it along...

10 Things Responsible Pet Owners Do.

By Dr. Nancy Kay, via Vetstreet

February has been proclaimed "Responsible Pet Owners Month," but what does the word responsible mean when applied to how we care for our beloved pets? No doubt, there are as many definitions as there are breeds of dogs and colors of cats.

Here is my personal top 10 list of "essential responsibilities," all of which have been gleaned from three decades of work as a small-animal veterinarian.

1) Believe in "Till Death Do Us Part"
When you adopt a pet, you are committing to care for the animal for its entire life. Now, we all know that life has a way of changing unexpectedly. Should your ability to care for your pet change, or if your pet has the potential to live for many decades (such as a parrot or tortoise), your responsibility should be to carefully plan who will be the next care provider for your pet.

2) Know It's "For Better or Worse"
Just as in human relationships, commitment to a pet is to provide love and care "for better or for worse." Undoubtedly, there will be struggles - delayed house training, separation anxiety, destroyed furniture, chronic health issues (no doubt, you can add to this list). When opening your home and your heart to an animal, be willing and prepared to invest the time, energy and financial resources necessary to successfully manage any rough spots. Such challenges are a normal part of life. The silver lining is that they help us appreciate and enjoy the smooth times so much more.

3) Guarantee Food and Shelter
Perhaps the most obvious responsibility on this list, provision of the basic necessities of life, is an important one. Water and nutritious food are a must, as is protection from the elements. Here is where I will present my plug for providing shelter within the home. Given the choice, I firmly believe that the vast majority of dogs and cats would prefer to be housed indoors, living side-by-side with their favorite humans. From their perspective, a bed in the garage or a doghouse in the backyard is invariably a second choice.

4) Provide Emotional Nutrition
The kitty who persistently meows at an unanswered door and the dog who is chained to a tree in the yard are both in heartbreaking inhumane situations. The need for emotional nourishment is just as great (if not greater) than the need for what is in the food bowl. Every animal's emotional needs are different, but every animal deserves to have their emotional needs fulfilled. Your responsibility is to recognize and fill such needs (overfilling is perfectly acceptable!).

5) Commit to Preventive Health Care
There is a rather long "to do" list when it comes to proactively preserving your pet's health. Protection from harm, balanced nutrition, exercise and annual checkups are a good start to any list. I encourage you to work with your veterinarian to create your own "to do" list for your pets.

6) Practice Responsible Parenting
If I possessed a magic wand, I would personally like to see all the homeless animals in this country placed in loving homes before any more dogs or cats are bred. Without that magic wand in hand, my best bet is to appeal to you to do whatever it takes to prevent your pet from reproducing. If you are not convinced this is an important issue, I encourage you to visit your local animal shelter or to see for yourself how many pets are currently homeless.

7) Ensure Your Pet's Safe Return
Should the unthinkable happen and your pet becomes lost, the likelihood of a happy ending is greatly enhanced if he or she has been micro-chipped (and the microchip registry has your current contact information). Another critical safeguard is a collar sporting a current identification tag.

8) Create a Model Citizen
Behavioral issues are the number-one reason dogs and cats are relinquished to shelters and other humane organizations. Re-homing such animals is a huge challenge, and the unfortunate end result is often euthanasia. Do the work early on to create a model citizen by participating in training classes or one-on-one work with a trainer. You and your pet will both benefit.

9) Advocate for Your Pet's Health
Whether selecting a vaccination protocol or making a life-or-death decision, your active involvement as a medical advocate for your pet is imperative. You may not have realized it, but at the time of adoption, you accepted "power of attorney" to make medical decisions on your pet's behalf. Yes, your veterinarian's recommendations are important, and he or she is an important member of your pet's health care team, but you are "team captain" because no one knows your pet as well as you do.

10) Plan for End-of-Life Care
Unfortunately, sick or aged animals rarely simply pass away peacefully and comfortably in their sleep. In most cases, it is incumbent upon their human family members to decide upon and create an end of life for the pet (whether via euthanasia or hospice care) that is managed humanely. If you share your life with pets, you will undoubtedly find yourself faced with this all-important responsibility, and it is up to you to make sure your animal is as comfortable, free of pain, and well-loved as possible.

This is Dr. Kay's top 10 list of essential pet care responsibilities. What would you add to the list?

Catch you later,

Susie and Sandy

P.S. Susie says these are a few things we can learn from our dogs: 1. Never pass up a fun joy ride. 2. When your loved one comes home, run and jump up in pure joy, every single time. 3. When you're happy, show it by dancing around and wagging your entire body. 4. When your loved one is sad, be silent, sit close by and kiss and nuzzle them gently. 5. Enjoy the wind in your face and the simple pleasure of a long walk with a loved one.

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Civil is part of Civilization.

My dog Susie says

What's the world coming to?

It seems to me that our country and the world is in a dubious position. As a smarter than your average dog, Border Collie, I feel that my observations do have a little merit. First, why is everyone so dang angry? It can't just be the upcoming elections, is it? And why are different religions so mad at each other. Didn't they all start out by basically believing in a God that loves? Animals don't hate each other and only kill for food. Where are we heading and can anything be done to change our course for the better?

One of my Big Mommy's favorite sayings is "If you want to know what's going to happen in the future, look at the past." So that led me to Google. Now our country sort of resembles the Roman Empire of thousands of years ago. For hundreds and hundreds of years Rome ruled the world. Then it fell apart. Why?

First, by trying to maintain their occupation of so many countries and land, it made everyone mad at them. Second, the taxes on paying for the armies to maintain control helped create two distinct classes of citizens. The wealthy and the poor. Third, because the average citizen was becoming frustrated by their diminishing lifestyle caused by taxes and such, they became very despondent. And the rich were so bored that they cried out for "free" entertainment. This resulted in the Colosseum having weekly events where gladiators slaughtered lower class citizens and all types of animals. How gross is that? If this happened today, would it be broadcast over cable and YouTube? Just think of the ratings and hits. So have people really come that far in evolution? Seems the animals still only do bad things to exist, while humans do "bad" things for entertainment, politics or religion.

Now Sandy, my Big mommy, is the eternal optimist-cheerleader type, so she feels more positive about things than me. She sees a world that, because of electronics, is now totally connected. Bad behavior, no matter where it occurs, can be identified and altered if possible... hopefully peacefully. Anyway, she's lived a lot longer than me so I hope she's right. Time will tell.

The creation of America was against all odds and unexpected. Our country changed the way things were done around the entire world: how people could control their own destinies and government. Didn't matter if you were black, white, man, woman, rich or poor, a human could become something they dreamed of. After America's independence, France's independence followed a decade later. Then more and more countries around the world became independent and free. Lately, the Middle-East is finding freedom for their individual citizens. The Soviet Union became Russia, a land of freer enterprise, and look what's happening in China today. Freedom and hope is spreading all over the planet with a little help from us and our strong beliefs in freedom and individuality.

Now we seem to be at a crossroads. One path leads to the same events as the collapse of the Roman Empire. The other road leads to an unbridled explosion in human connections and positive feelings spreading around the globe: The hopeful result: "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All."

Since I'm just a dog, I think "goodwill to all" should mean ALL living things on Earth.

Catch you later,

Susie & Sandy

P.S. Here's a "Singles" ad that ran recently in the L.A. Times.
SINGLE WHITE FEMALE Seeks male companionship..looks not important. I love long walks in the mountains and lying naked on the beach. Rub me the right way and I'll do anything. When you get home from work, I'll meet you wearing nothing. Hug and kiss me and I'm yours forever. Lassie xoxo

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My dog Susie says

The Power of Pets

My big mommy, Sandy Steele, is writing her 5th book about people feeling physically better, doing better with money and being happier overall. It's called "HEALTH WEALTH HAPPINESS" and she's been researching for years and years. In her research, she discovered that owning and taking care of a pet can add years to one's life. It also can help heal the body and soul. Well, I could have told you that! All animals know that if you treat them nice, it will come back to you 100 fold.

My cousin Jenn from England, who I blogged about a few months ago, sent me an interesting text about scientific studies done over decades and recently published in the "British Medical Journal." These studies were looking for solutions to depression, chronic fatigue and post-traumatic disorder, and they concluded that the answers were right under all their noses; people's pets. Now... Sandy is just about the happiest human I know... so this must be right.

Jenn's text also said that American medical journals reported that riding horses helps children with cerebral palsy. They also said that after suffering a heart attack , pet owners have more than 8 times the survival rate than non-pet owners. And based on extensive studies in Australia, people in America could save over $3 billion a year in health care costs, just if everyone owned a pet.

Studies all over the world showed that pets have a very positive impact on children and the elderly. When young children experienced sadness they would confide it to their pets before their parents. When older people had visits with dogs or cats in the hospital, their social, conversational and physical behaviors all significantly improved. Alzheimer's patients showed increased weight gain and fewer episodes of anxiety and anger when they were simply around cats and dogs. Sandy's mom recently passed away from Alzheimer's and I'm sure she wants everyone to know this information about animals helping humans with their ailments.

You know it's kind of funny that in ancient cultures animals represented spiritual and religious symbols for thousands of years. Animals came to be synonymous with human "cycle of life," power, and fertility and it's now recognized that one's spiritual beliefs can help with the maintenance and recovery of robust health. I just love that word robust! The foundation of most of the world's major religions share a common ideal: unconditional love for others.

Show me a better example of unconditional love than what's between a caring owner and their pets, especially dogs. I'm a little prejudiced of course, but hey, this is my bark! If unconditional love contributes to health and happiness, then maybe people who are without pets should seriously consider adopting one. Both the animal and human will be equally thrilled for years and years with the benefits of this wondrous companionship.

Catch you later,

Susie and Sandy,

P.S. Have you ever noticed the difference between humans and dogs when it comes to eating? A human eats dinner and then eats the desert. The dog eats the desert(treat) immediately and then their dog food. Who's smarter?

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