By Carolyn Iannone
We love our pets! Who doesn’t enjoy the greeting of a slobbering, tail wagging friend at the door? Or the comfort of kitty balled up in our lap every night? Pets are like people, all very different and all very much a part of the family. So when it comes to showing them just how much we appreciate their loyalty and love, we spare no expense.
From $5 chew toys to $1,400 Louie Vuitton doggie carriers, pedicures, psychics and acupuncture, we have mastered the craft of pampering our pets. In fact, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), Americans spent an estimated $35.9 billion on their pets last year alone! Sure they deserve to feel just as loved as they make us, but have we gone too far to show our four legged friends our affection? You decide.
The most notable pet pampering people are celebrities. From pop stars to movie stars, it turns out even millions of adoring fans can’t compare to their own cuddly companions. VH1’s “All Access Celebrity Pets” and “The Fabulous Life of Celebrity Pets” featured just how some celebrities make sure their pets are more than happy. Paris Hilton, for example, spared no expense on her Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, buying her a $300 cashmere sweater complete with pearls. Model Rachel Hunter’s two dogs live in luxury, literally, with a $15,000 custom built doghouse. Let’s not leave out the most over-the-top trinket of all for Britney Spears’ pup. She bedazzled her own “Bit Bit” with a diamond-encrusted collar. The price for pampering her pooch? $100,000!
It’s not only celebrities who are spending oodles of cash on their furry family. The APPMA estimates that 63 percent of American households own a pet, and 45 percent own more than one. That’s equivalent to 69.1 million homes that have four legged, two legged, or no legged animals to spoil. And spoil they will! Out of the estimated $35.9 billion we spent on our pets in 2005, $2.4 billion went to pet grooming and boarding.
With so many pet owners, various industries have adjusted their accommodations accordingly. Hotels are among several places extending their business to Fido and Fluffy. According to the 2005 Pet Products trend report, “new pet-friendly policies include everything from oversized pet pillows, plush doggie robes, check-in gift packages that include a pet toy, dog treat, ID tag, bone and turn down treat. Some even have a licensed dog masseuse on staff.” Talk about the lap of luxury! Most of us are lucky if we get a massage on vacation. Other industries reaching out to the pet community include Old Navy, Paul Mitchell, Omaha Steaks and Harley Davidson.
It’s not all about pricey pampering. We have also gone to great lengths to keep our pets safe. The APPMA highlights some of the tactics we’ve taken to avoid lost or depressed pets, such as “High-tech products like computerized identification tags, digital aquarium kits, automatic doors and feeders, enhanced reptile terrarium lighting systems and touch-activated toys help pet-owners take care of companion animals with ease and precision.”
Some might say that it’s a small price to pay to show our pets the love they so rightfully deserve. With studies suggesting the numerous health benefits of owning a pet compared to not, such as lower blood pressure, reduced stress, and even heart disease prevention, it’s no wonder people go to such great lengths to show their appreciation. And to think a pat on the head and a murmuring “good dog” use to be enough!
Choosing a pet boarder
By Arcangela Mele
Your vacation is all planned—you booked your plane tickets and hotel, and even mapped out a list of the touristy sites you want to check out. The one thing you haven’t done is figure out where your pet will be staying while you’re away. Fortunately, this area provides several kennels, veterinary hospitals and private pet-sitters to choose from. How do you know which option is right for your pet? Below are some tips to help you make your decision.
Plan a visit
Visiting websites to learn more about kennels and veterinary hospitals is convenient, but before you make a decision it’s important to visit the facility in person. Cleanliness is one of the most important things to look for, advised Jody Diehl, certified dog trainer and behavior counselor and owner of Dog’s Best Friend, in Greenville, NY.
“You should always stay away from a place that doesn’t look clean or smells bad,” said Diehl, whose dog training philosophy is “good manners taught gently”.
Other things to look out for:
• Find a facility that has staff members who belong to a professional pet group.
• In case of emergencies the facility should be insured, and you should be asked to sign a contract. A facility should also be willing to take your pet to your own vet if you prefer.
• Choose a facility where you can bring your pets’ own food, because they are unlikely to eat a brand they are not used to.
• You should be required to fill out paperwork regarding your pets’ immunizations and recent examinations to ensure the health of your pet and others being boarded.
• A facility should accommodate your pet’s need for exercise, especially if you are boarding a dog. Physical activity is especially important to help relieve the stress your pet is most likely experiencing from being away from home. “Exercise relieves stress and gives your dog the physical and mental stimulation they need to become fatigued,” said Diehl.
Choosing between a kennel or a vet
If you are deciding between boarding at a kennel or a veterinary hospital, you should take your pet’s specific needs into consideration. The major difference between the two is that a kennel cannot provide immediate medical assistance if needed. But, there should be someone on staff that can administer medications, and in case of an emergency, be willing to take your pet to a vet.
At Pinebush Kennels in Albany, Curt Miller and staff check rabies records and give pills and shots if needed for an additional charge.
According to Miller, people shouldn’t skimp on price when it comes to boarding your pet.
“Prices are important and people should be willing to pay for a good facility,” he said.
The recently opened Pet Lodges of Clifton Park offers pet owners peace of mind with video cameras that are in the $45-a day luxury suites.
“The web cams are a big deal because they allow you to view your pet at any time,” said co-owner Matt Sames.
The 13,000 square foot daycare houses up to 75 dogs and 20 cats in standard and luxury suites, which both have access to the indoor courtyard and a nine-acre outdoor lot.
If your pet is sick, or has a medical condition, a vet is a good option, since immediate medical care is available. Some hospitals, however, such as Capitaland Animal Hospital in Latham, will not accept pets that were not previously examined by them, and require a “pre-boarding physical” for pets that are new to the facility.
“From a medical standpoint it is essential to conduct a full physical examination for temperament and health standards,” said owner Dr. Edward Dalland, Jr. “We need to know the pet’s attitude and how well it will fit in with the others, as well as how it should be handled.”
When leaving your sick or injured pet at an animal hospital, be sure he or she is boarded separately from healthy pets.
“We have separate boarding and medical areas, and we encourage guests to take a tour of the hospital,” he said.
Pet sitting—an alternative to boarding
At home, your pet is used to a routine. If you don’t want to upset this routine, many pet owners are enlisting the services of pet sitters. A qualified pet sitter will come into your home and provide food, exercise, cleanup and medication for your pet. Some sitters offer overnight stays, daily dog walking for people who work long hours, and a “pet taxi” if your pet needs to go to the vet or groomers.
For $20 a day, Pam Howard, owner of Albany-based At Your Service, a local personal concierge service, will visit your home twice daily to feed, walk and play with your pet(s).
“The benefit of having a pet sitter come to your home is less stress on the pet—they get to stay in their familiar surroundings,” said Howard.
But, she added, those pets with separation issues who need a great deal of attention, might not be good candidates for pet sitting. “Boarding may be a more appropriate option.”
To find a pet sitter in your area, contact the Capital Area Professional Pet Sitters, (www.localpetsitters.net) an agency that lists sitters in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.
As human development replaces more and more wildlife habitat, the need for the rescue and rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife continues to grow. State agencies will usually only get involved with an injured or orphaned animal if it is an endangered species or poses a threat to humans. The only chance for most wild animals in distress is the intervention of a licensed, volunteer wildlife rehabilitator. Every year in New York alone, thousands of orphaned and injured animals are cared for by volunteer rehabilitators. Release back to the wild is the ultimate goal of wildlife rehabilitation, but assisting wildlife in need is not an easy task. It requires specialized training, appropriate housing, funding from the public, veterinary support and a great deal of time.
In April 2001, a handful of local rehabilitators formed a not-for-profit organization, North Country Wild Care, dedicated to the support of wildlife rehabilitators in the care and rehabilitation of orphaned, injured and otherwise debilitated wildlife. Although there are several Wildlife Rehabilitation centers in New York State, there are none located in or even close to the Capital Region or the North Country. All our volunteers work out of their homes.
Our goals are also to foster the licensing and training of our volunteers and to provide public education about wildlife rehabilitation. Since 2001 our organization has grown from four members to 50 members. In 2005, we took in over 1,200 animals from Schenectady County to the Canadian border. We network with rehabilitators from Florida to California to provide quality care for our charges.
The busiest time for North County Wild Care is spring and summer when we receive dozens of calls about baby animals. This is the time that young animals are naturally at their most vulnerable. They will often be found seemingly helpless with no parents in sight. Generally, mother is nearby, but will not return to her young with humans in sight. The myth that mother animals will not return to babies that have been handled by humans often creates needless kidnappings. If your child, dog, or cat brings an uninjured wild baby into the house, the best advice is to do your best to put it back where mom can find it.
Winter can be a busy time as well. This is when we see many injured and emaciated hawks and owls. As juveniles begin to hunt on their own and some species begin their migration, the casualties mount. Starvation cases are common among first year birds who have not yet developed their hunting skills. Car collisions occur as raptors hunt near the mowed roadside where spotting prey is easier. If at all possible, please call a rehabilitator before approaching an injured raptor as they can present a danger to the rescuer. If you do pick the animal up, wear gloves and place it in a covered, secure box or pet carrier, with air holes. Keep it in a warm, quiet place, away from domestic animals and do not try to offer first aid, food, or water. When transporting a wild animal, please keep the radio off and conversation to a minimum.
We are grateful that there are so many people that will take the time to assist wildlife. We cannot do our jobs without the assistance of the public. The more you know about the wildlife around you, the better you can help us in our mission.
North Country Wild Care offers free monthly training sessions in the winter and holds monthly meetings year-round. If you are interested in learning more about rehabilitation or North Country Wild Care, or if you would like to make a donation, please visit www.northcountrywildcare.org. If you need assistance with an injured or orphaned wild animal please call our Wildlife Emergency hotline at 964.6740.