Ben’s Two Cents: Pet safety for a happy Fourth of July!

Hey everyone! Sorry it’s been awhile, but, for those of you in the US, Ben and I thought it was important to share some pet safety tips for the Fourth of July. It’s a quick read, so here is Ben’s two cents:

1) Fireworks are Scary
Please be aware that, for most animals, loud noises are not friendly. If you have a pet who doesn’t really care about loud sounds, you’re in the minority. Whether you realize it or not, your pet probably doesn’t love the sound of loud explosions any more than a small child might. It’s not actually ok, and they aren’t going to just get over it, because they don’t understand that it won’t hurt them. Exposure to fireworks isn’t your best answer either. This will likely intensify their fear instead of diminishing it.

2) Keep your pets inside (especially if you are going out)
Animals don’t feel safe around loud noises, so they are most likely to get as far away as they can. If your pet is left in a yard, they are going to find a way out. Confining your pet with a rope or chain is going to have the same affect that exposure will; you are likely to increase their level of fear and subsequently increase their motivation to escape. If your pet is an outdoor animal, please bring them inside for one night. Even the laundry room or wash room is safer than being chained outside for the night. Make sure that they have a safe space indoors. Favorites are always a good thing to leave with them (blankets, toys, etc.).

3) Consider leaving the television or music on during noisy times
I’m never sure if the dogs care, but if nothing else, it creates a sound buffer. Our houses are rarely sound proof, and, if you’re traveling, your hotel/camper/tent definitely won’t be. The extra sound helps buffer the sound of explosion and (in theory) tricks your pet into thinking the explosions are from something benign like the TV or radio. I have also seen pictures and videos of people putting noise canceling headphones on their dogs and playing music or videos through those. I don’t think my dogs would go for that, but you never know!

4) Know your pet!
You know your pet the best. If they’d be happier to sit next to you in the back of your car while you watch fireworks, even if they’re scared, do it. Look out for the best interest of your animal; they rely on you for safety and security. Keep them safe and spoil them for the remainder of the July holiday.

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Have fun everyone! Happy Independence Day!

Spotlight: Ben – my furry miracle

I thought I would take a moment today and introduce my handsome traveling companion who’s throwing his two cents in on my traveling posts. This is Benjamin Button (a.k.a. Ben, along with other more creative variations of his name including Ben Butt, Mr. Buttons, Ben-Ben, etc.). He’s a Papillion-who-knows-what mix (we kind of assume Border Collie, though let me tell you, he can howl with the best of them and he’s LOUD!). At this point, he’s about 3 years old and has been my constant companion for two of those.

About 2 and a half years ago, I had a seven-year-old Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie), Spirit. She was spunky and independent, an obsessive tuggy and fetch player, and all around wonderful dog. She was also my first puppy. Through a series of unfortunate events, I lost her in the fall of 2014 when her liver shut down in response to a medication. I was in the middle of student teaching at the time and discovered how much I missed having a happy face to great me when I got home. I made it two weeks before, with many tears, I started looking for a new puppy.

I ended up on Papillion Haven Rescue (paphaven.org), having wanted a Papillion since I was a very little girl. This was when I ran across the cutest puppy I had seen. Screenshot_2014-11-14-23-08-27Look at him. Isn’t he sweet?! I put in an application, called the next day, and set up a home visit with his foster home. She drove him up from Tucson a few days later. I sat down on the floor to greet him, he climbed into my lap and plopped down and…well the rest is history. Almost

He stayed, don’t worry. But about two weeks later, I ended up having a diabetic seizure (brought on by a severe drop in my blood sugars). I ended up with a concussion from the fall and some wicked drugs from the hospital, all of which made for a long recovery…longer than usual to be sure. So we started looking into solutions to help avoid this. One of the solutions was having a service dog. Ben was about 8 months old, still puppy aged, so we looked up an organization and took him in. They said he was right at the cut off of when they train puppies, but he showed aptitude (he crawled across the table to sniff the scent sample the lady was testing him with). We began about a year of classes to learn how to train him to alert to my high and low blood sugars and how to train him to function in public spaces.

To answer the most frequently asked questions: He can tell by smelling it. What they smell exactly, I’m not sure; no one has done the research. We train them using saliva samples from diabetics (or in my case, me) at the moment their blood sugar is too high or low: spit on a cotton ball, stuff it in an old test strip container, label it, and toss it in the freezer.

He’s now been training for about two years, and we definitely still have things to learn, but he’s been my miracle dog – silly and cuddly and lazy as all get out (we’re working on him being willing to give up on sleeping to alert…so far, no such luck), he makes sure that I’m healthy and he’s happy. He also runs agility (timed doggy obstacle courses) like a pro, despite his novice handler over here. His favorite things are fetch with the bumper, running full out in any large open grass space, hikes, being the center of attention, licking the ice cream bowl, and Saturday morning cuddles. His least favorite things are getting his toe-nails done, being left behind (despite his distaste of car rides), having his picture taken, and being made to wake up from a good sleep (his working hours are from 6AM-10PM if he has his way). But most of all, he worries about me in his own weird way and keeps me accountable. God knows we don’t deserve them, but I thank Him for my furry partner in crime every day.

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