By Jim Tedford, Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances
There is an old cliché saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.” Like most old clichés it bears significant wisdom. And, curiosity can lead to the demise of more than just the cat. Dog and puppies also have a tendency to be attracted to things that might not be so good for them. That’s why we trusted guardians are responsible for doing the thinking for our pets!
I have often compared dogs to toddlers who never completely grow up. One of the fundamental differences between having a human child and adopting a puppy is that the human baby will presumably grow up and learn how to look out for himself. Theoretically, he will grow to understand that walking into traffic or drinking something with a skull and crossbones on the label are bad choices. Even the best trained puppy among us may never truly understand such things. So, our pet parenting is a true birth-to-death proposition.
Henry, my now 10-month-old Jack Russell Terrier puppy probably thinks his middle name is “No”. Most “conversations” with him start with “Henry NO!” He must be watched at all times as he is constantly surfing the floor for tasty morsels – things like twist ties (a favorite) and Styrofoam shipping popcorn. Most recently he discovered a new way to get our attention. As it turns out, chewing the corners off of baseboards in a new house attracts all kinds of attention and generates super excitement! Fortunately he didn’t ingest the shredded wood so a trip to the veterinary hospital was avoided…this time.
I am amazed at the number of pet owners I know who refuse to use a crate for training. I hear it often: “It’s cruel to lock him up in a CAGE!” Trust me when I tell you that Henry’s crate has saved his life and my sanity on a daily basis since he joined the family. When he came to us at 9-weeks of age, I knew he needed to be monitored CONSTANTLY. I learned to fear even blinking my eyes as in that split second he could search out trouble. When he couldn’t be monitored, he was retired to the sanctuary of his crate. He still sees it as a place not of punishment but of respite from the world. He curls up on his blanket inside the crate and snoozes like an infant even when the door is left open.
In addition to constant monitoring or safekeeping in a crate, we pet owners must take all sorts of steps to pet proof our homes. Avoid keeping plants that are known to be toxic to pets. These include many common houseplants and commonly found garden shrubs.
There are also common household chemicals that can be fatal if ingested by pets. Anti-freeze containing ethylene glycol is among the more common. Ironically, not only is this stuff extremely poisonous, it is also very palatable to dogs and cats. Having seen way too many cases of anti-freeze poisoning during my sheltering career, I can tell you it is a horrific and painful way for a pet to die. Seek out pet-friendly versions of anti-freeze and clean up any spills immediately.
For more tips on common hazards and for information on what to do if you are concerned that your pet has been poisoned, check out the ASPCA Poison Control Center’s website. From this site you will pick up all sorts of great information. For example, many people think that poinsettias should be avoided at the holidays, but as it turns out, they are non-toxic. Remember, the best offense is a good defense. Know where your pets are at all times and take measures to make sure your home and yard are poison-free zones.
Jim Tedford serves as PetSafe’s Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances. Working on the front line of animal welfare for over 20 years, Jim has served as CEO for organizations in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee. Prior to joining PetSafe, Jim provided marketing and fundraising services to animal welfare organizations nationwide. Jim holds a degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Jim and his wife Ann share their “empty nest” in the Smoky Mountains with adopted dogs Bodie, Sam, and Lila and a formerly homeless macaw, Gipper.