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Because you love your pet, 10 easy Valentine’s Day gifts

Who’s your most reliable Valentine?

Right, it’s your pet. Fluffy never complains about your cold feed on long winter nights. Fido never picks the holiday of romance to announce he needs his space and wants to see other people.

You show your furry, scaly, feathered friends love every day, but for February 14, you may


want to do something extra. Something easy that won’t break the bank.

If someone in your life has a pet, make them part of the celebration too. Many of these ideas make practical gifts for friends and family. Even pets you don’t know, people you never met, could use your tender attention.

  1. Exercise your dog more. Research shows that walking is good for both of you. And bump it up a notch by walking on a balance board. To make those strolls even more effective, consider a canine fitness tracker like this fashionable bow tie from WonderWoof: https://www.wonderwoof.com/
  2. Take your cats in for an annual checkup. Cats are very good at hiding illness and pain. It’s easier on them and cheaper for you to catch problems before they get out of hand. If you don’t have a regular vet, ask your cat-loving friends where they go. Some clinics are certified by the American Association of Feline Practitioners as Cat Friendly Practices. See if there’s one near you. https://www.catvets.com/cat-owners/find-vets-and-practices
  3. Give a local rescue group your time, money, supplies, or expertise. Animal shelters always need help finding homes for the animals in their care. You can volunteer to socialize (cuddle) pets, update the donor list, or write marketing copy. Many private groups are run by hardworking people who pay for every bag of food out of their own pocket. Give them a hand. You can help animals on your own by making a shelter out of a plastic storage container for a feral cat. Here are some easy directions: https://www.alleycat.org/ShelterGallery#easy



  1. Learn how to take great pet & wildlife photos. Whether you use your phone’s camera or a fancy DSLR, you can get photos that capture your pet’s personality. Get on their level, wait for the right moment, and turn off your flash. And you don’t have to be a professional to snap a pic of a gorgeous cardinal at your bird feeder or a bunny in the backyard. You might even use your new skills to take portraits of older shelter dogs to improve their chances of finding a new home. Here are some tips for getting the shot you want. https://digital-photography-school.com/9-pet-photography-tips/
  2. Give your favorite animal lover a personalized gift using one of your photos or theirs. If your photo is sharp and clear, have it enlarged and frame it for their office or apartment. If it’s just a cute picture from your phone or one you downloaded from their social media page, have it put on a mug for their favorite hot beverage. Nothing shows more thoughtfulness than recognizing what other people value–Grandad’s furry hiking buddy or your neighbor’s budgie pal. Most big drug stores and print shops handle photo gifts. Here’s another site with ideas from puzzles to pillows. https://www.personalcreations.com/personalized-picture-frames-pphofrm?REF=PCRSRCHgoog_brand_mt_e_d_c_kwd_personal+creations&q=photo
  3. Help your cat make friends with people. Cats have not lived with humans as long as dogs have, so they are often less comfortable with people they don’t know. Because they are mostly indoor pets, cats have fewer chances to socialize.  Many kitties hide whenever guests appear, or worse, hiss when someone tries to make friends. You can fix this. Make encounters with new people a reason for your feline friend to celebrate. Cuddle your pets, give them treats when visitors stop by. Get your guests involved. Have them play with any kitty brave enough to come out. Fishing pole toys are perfect. Cats love to chase the streamer, which makes your friend feel special too.
  4. Make a DIY cat condo. The internet is full of pictures of cats coiled like a spring in some barely-big-enough box. Cats love snug spaces. You can whip one together out of old an upside down side table draped with fabric, or stacked cardboard boxes taped together. Here’s a design for a tent made of a worn tee shirt and a couple of coat hangers. Your cat will probably jump in as soon as he spots it, but if not, entice him with a catnip toy. https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-cat-tent/?ALLSTEPS


  1. Set up a fish tank in a local nursing home and volunteer to take care of it. Research has shown that older people eat more if there are animals around. Other studies show that contemplating a fish tank reduces anxiety. Check with your local senior residence and ask if they’d like to have a tank of colorful fish. This would make a perfect group project. Get your friends or your teen group to raise funds to buy the equipment and to care for the fish.
  2. Take your dog to visit petless neighbors who would love the contact but not the responsibility. Dogs are great icebreakers. They put people at ease, lower blood pressure, and give you something to talk about. Think about your family. Who doesn’t get enough friendly touch? Which of your neighbors reminisces about her childhood dog? Ask if next time you visit you can bring your well-behaved pooch. You might be surprised at what you learn about their current interests and past lives.
  3. Stimulate your pet’s mind and body. Enroll in an agility class with your dog. Take a clicker training class and teach your pet a behavior that will make them healthier, safer. Feed your cat from a puzzle bowl or hide their food around your apartment so they can hunt it. Get your parrot a safe toy or offer music that will inspire their big brains.

There you have it, 10 ways to show your love for pets and pet lovers. What’s your favorite way? Send us a picture of you doing something special for the pets in your life.


12 Top articles for pet lovers of 2015

If you’re an animal lover—civilian or professional—you know the special relationship we have with our fellow creatures makes our lives, and often theirs, better. Your encounters may be with a loved pet, service dog, store mascot, farm flock, local wildlife, or therapy animal.

All of these can lower your blood pressure and raise your happiness. In fact, the effect is so powerful, scientists study it as a safe way to prevent illness and heal the heart. Well-done studies don’t always show a benefit, but many do.

To celebrate the human-animal bond, here are 12 of my favorite articles from 2015. Some are rigorous research findings. Others tell the story of one kind of animal helping another. All of them will make you smile.

Enjoy. And happy 2016.Colt

  1. Tiny stray dog saves dying man. Stray dog and dying man save each other. When this little dog chose their car and jumped in, Bill’s wife was bringing him home from surgery for advanced cancer. Read how they gave each other the strength to go on. https://buff.ly/1AMC47A
  2. Beneficial effects of animal-assisted visits on quality of life during multimodal radiation-chemotherapy regimens. B. Fleishman, P. Homel, M.R. Chen, V. Rosenwald, V.Abolencia, J. Gerber, and S. Nadesan. Animal assisted visits improved social and emotional wellbeing in patients with head and neck cancer, even as their physical health declined. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Bene%C2%80cial+effects+of+animal-assisted+visits+on+quality+of+life+during+multimodal+radiation-chemotherapy+regimens+Stewart+B+Fleishman+et+al
  3. Kitty compassion: Stray cat saves homeless baby’s life. Samantha Laine. (Article & video) Stray tabby finds abandoned Russian baby in dead of winter, keeps her warm and meows till someone comes. https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/2015/0117/Kitty-compassion-Stray-cat-saves-homeless-baby-s-life-video
  4. Pet Talk: Human-animal bond a lifeline to those living on the fringes. Monique Balas. Pets keep homeless and mentally ill people grounded, give them a reason to get help. https://www.oregonlive.com/pets/index.ssf/2015/01/pet_talk_human-animal_bond_a_l.html
  5. The girl who gets gifts from birds. Katy Sewall. Little girl began feeding the neighborhood crows. Now they bring her presents. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31604026
  6. Horses Helped This Vet With PTSD After No One Else Could. Tim Hayes. Iraqi veteran suffers severe PTSD, tries everything from exercise to diets to 5-mile runs, gets nowhere till she meets a horse on the road. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-hayes/horses-for-heroes-healing_1_b_7425962.html
  7. Informing Children in a Therapeutic School about the End of Life for the Animals in its Animal-Assisted Education and Therapy Programs; How One Organization Handles this Difficult Process. Miyako Kinoshita. Children at residential treatment and special education facility, who have already lost a lot, learn to handle loss of favorite animals. https://www.latham.org/Issues/LL_15_SP.pdf#page=14
  8. Ancient bobcat buried like a human being. David Grimm. Rare 2000-year-old burial contains bobcat buried with necklace of bear teeth & shells in human burial mound. The 1-of-a-kind discovery “suggests this animal had a very special place in the life of these people.” https://buff.ly/1NFetcm
  9. ABC News. (Video).Thoroughbred racehorses get a second career with men who need a second chance. Program in New York saves horses and gives prisoners a way to contribute to society.  https://www.facebook.com/abcnews/videos/10153485692358812/
  10. Meet the therapy dogs who comforted during theater trial. (Video). Carefully trained theapy dogs provided support during trial to families impacted by the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting. https://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/nation/2015/08/13/31528311/
  11. Psychological stress affects nearly 1 in 10 veterinarians. Phyllis DeGioia. New study shows many veterinarians suffer severe stress, and fear getting help will hurt their career. Happily peer and professional support is growing. https://buff.ly/1MpwHiN
  12. Pet Dogs and Children’s Health: Opportunities for Chronic Disease Prevention? A. M. Gadomski, M. B. Scribani, N. Krups, P. Jenkins, Z.  Nagykaldi, & A. L. Olson. Dogs protect regular kids from anxiety, says major study from Centers for Disease Control. Children with dogs watched as much screen and had the same BMI scores as those without dogs, but had less fear of being alone or meeting people. https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2015/15_0204.htm

Which human-animal bond stories made you smile this year? Drop Dr. Susan a note here at PetDecisions.com and tell her your favorites and what you’d like to see in 2016.



17 powerful quotes that will make you an outstanding leader

Lead the wayWondering how to get out of a rut and inspire your organization to be great? These are quotes from successful leaders in many fields. They range from poets and proverbs to writers and warriors. There’s something here for everyone, no matter what your style.



  1. “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. “As a leader, you’re probably not doing a good job unless your employees can do a good impression of you when you are not around.” Patrick Lencioni


  1. “You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” Edwin Louis Cole


  1. “Better leaders create a story that inspires people. They do so by keeping things simple, expressing their most important core value, clarifying boundaries of responsibility and staying consistent.” Bruce Avollo and Fred Luthans


  1. “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” Doug Larson


  1. “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” George S. Patton


  1. “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” James A. Michener


  1. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” Napoleon Bonaparte


  1. “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
    Martin Luther King, Jr.


  1. “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” Emelia Earhart


  1. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” Nelson Mandela


  1. “Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.” Chinese Proverb


  1. “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” General Colin Powell


  1. “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership.” Dwight Eisenhower


  1. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”Antoine de Saint-Exupery


  1. “We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” Whoopi Goldberg


  1. “I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars; I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.” Warren Buffet

What are your favorite quotes? Are they your private pleasure or do you post them to encourage your colleagues? Please share them with us.

And if you found these quotes got you thinking, please share the link with your staff.


21 ways pets help you beat the holiday blues

Holidays got you down?

Traditions can be a source of joy, but not for everyone all the time. It’s painful to feel sad when everyone else seems to be so happy. Maybe you lost a loved one or ended a relationship this year. Trimming the tree or lighting candles alone reminds you that life is forever changed.

Perhaps your family saves their nastiest barbs for what’s supposed to be a time of love and good will. Possibly Auld Lang Syne makes you tearful instead of giddy. You don’t have to be clinically depressed to feel out of step with the calendar’s forced cheer.

Whatever saps your spirit, pets can help. Here’s how:


  1. Get you to exercise.

Physical activity is a proven mood lifter. Walk the dogs or drag a cat toy around for her majesty. Walking dogs DSCN6249Taking care of yourself includes the body your feelings live in.

  1. Be your boon companion.

When your friends and family let you down, your four-legged family members keep you company without the drama. They’re happy to join your adventures or cuddle up while you watch trashy movies. If the house is too quiet, a chatty parrot or purring cat gives you someone to talk to. And you’ll get all the best lines.

3. Shift your focus to someone else.

Do fun, active things with your pets or for your neighbor’s pet. It will take your mind off your own problems, and move it to something with more potential.

  1. Offer you friendly physical contact.

People need hugs. Touch strengthens the immune system, and pets provide an opportunity to reap those benefits.  A caress, a nuzzle, and you’ll remember that someone loves you.

  1. Take a nap with you

Losing sleep can make you grumpy and feeds depression. Treating sleep problems so you get enough sleep will improve your state of mind. If you are one of those people who sleeps better with a warm body next to you, curl up with your pet.

  1. Spark your creative juices.

Making art, crafting, and writing satisfy your soul.  They help you feel productive instead of paralyzed.

Sketch the animals around you. Write your faraway mom a short note about how much your guinea pig loves his new toy. Bake dog treats. Crochet a cat toy. Create, and you’ll come out of the holidays with something to show for it.

  1. Get you to learn something.

It’s more fun to study something you love. Take a pet first aid course. Use your free time to prepare your dog for agility events. What you learn can keep your pet healthy and give you a new hobby, friends included.

  1. Inspire a visit to lonely animal lovers

Many people who love animals can’t have one of their own. Why not bring yours for a visit? Or invite them over to see your tropical fish? If your pet is sociable, consider training as an animal assisted therapy team.

  1. Invite you outdoors

The evidence is strong: Nature is good for us. Let your dog get you out of the house and into the great outdoors. Join a birdwatching group. Take a trail ride through the forest or down the beach. Research suggests that the more experiences you have, the happier you will be.

10. Provide an excuse to leave unpleasant events.

Trapped at a loud holiday party with people you hardly know? Family Feud starting at Uncle Harry’s annual get-together? Announce that your dog has to be walked every three hours and your cat gets cranky without her kibble. Excuse yourself and leave.

11. Lick your tears away

Going through a rough patch? Find that no one wants to hear how hard the holidays are for you? Your pet will not only listen but lick away your tears.

12. Get you into the here-and-now

When we are in the grip of sadness or fear, we grieve old injuries or worry about things that may never happen. Cats and dogs live right now. Like the best meditation teachers, pets remind us to stay in the present moment.

13.. Distract you.

Watching animals do their thing takes your mind off whatever ails you. In fact, animals make such good distractors, that people who hang out with pets after surgery need less pain medication. Let it work for you.

14.  Be your dance partner.

If your pet is willing to be picked up, put on your favorite music and waltz. Kitty not a fan of leaving the floor? Dance around your living room with moves inspired by different birds. Or if your dog loves to gambol, sign up for lessons in canine freestyle (dance steps with your dog!).  Blue ribbons and Internet fame, here you come.

15. Prompt you to try something new.

The old traditions may feel wrong this year. Make some new ones.  Pop Fido in the car and drive somewhere you’ve never been before.  Add your own additions to the potato latkes, cut your homemade dog treats with a candle-shaped cutter, and introduce your neighbors to Hanukkah. Head outside Rover and howl at the full moon.

16. Persuade you to talk to fellow pet lovers, even ones you don’t know.

Pets are great ice breakers. Animal lovers are friendly group, eager to talk about their furred, finned, or scaly family members. Say hi at the dog park. See if your pet supply store has special events. Start an animal-oriented book club.

17. Respond to a pet blog.

The web is full of sites, photos, and blogs about pets. Your fellow animal lovers are sharing hearts and experience for your enjoyment. They’d love to hear what you think. Take a moment to repin a photo or comment on an article. Like this one.

18.  Excite you to throw a pet-friendly party

How much fun would you have at a party where your pet was welcome? Right. Why not organize one yourself? Mulled cider and Scotty-shaped cookies. Or ice skating at the park. Your friends will thank you for it.

19. Inspire you to volunteer at shelter

You know how good you feel when you do something for someone else? Think how much your local animal rescue group could use an extra pair of hands. Or your fundraising efforts. Or your word smithing for their newsletter. Even a small act of kindness lifts your spirit and may help you live longer.

20. Excuse you from Facebook and other places where people seem happier than they really are.

Most people put the best version of themselves on display. For lots of reasons you don’t want the world to know you’ve been laid off or spent half your vacation in your room with traveler’s tummy. If seeing your friends’ happy updates makes you jealous or feel like a failure, pets are your way out. And truthfully, wouldn’t you rather make new memories with them than cozy up to a computer?

21. Make you laugh

Let’s face it. Animals are hilarious. They vault into the air for the ball you threw. They use the sounds you taught them to wolf whistle at the dog. They stalk across your floor to pounce on imaginary prey. They make you laugh. And laughter is the best antidote to holiday blues.

Tell us what you think of these tips. Which ones will you try? What’s your favorite way to beat the blues?

Susan P. Cohen, DSW