July 2014 Pet of the Month Winner

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Congratulations to Charlotte, winner of the July 2014 Pet of the Month contest on petconnection.ca. This months contest was a huge success and we couldn’t be happier with the results. Charlotte will now be eligible for a calendar spot and entered into a vote to be placed on the cover of Pet Connection Magazine. With 35 entries, competition was very fierce!

The August contest will be starting tomorrow, so get your submissions in! Keep an eye out on Facebook & Twitter for a link to enter! You can also check back on the contest home page for voting and entry status.

We want to thank everyone who participated in the July contest and wish you the best of luck if you choose to enter again in August. Enter early and share often for the best chances of winning!

Natural, Healthy Flea Bath

How to give your dog a natural, healthy flea bath, without chemicals.

By Hilary Barchash

DogWash_FBEveryone you’ve spoken to – the staff at the pet store, your friends, your veterinarian… they’ve all told you the same thing. “You need chemicals to get rid of fleas.” Your dog is scratching like crazy, and all you want to do is help her, but you think to yourself – “There’s got to be a better way!”.

Well, you’re right. There is a better and healthier way.

Additionally, many of us live with dogs which have compromised health or immune systems, or are sensitive to chemicals, and using a flea product containing toxic chemical pesticides can be very detrimental to the health of your pet.

Following the steps below will ensure you rid your dog of fleas in a safe and healthy manner, without worry that you may be harming your pet, even while you’re trying to help them.

  1. Use a gentle, all natural shampoo, preferably one with essential oils which repel fleas, such as lemon, peppermint, cedar and eucalyptus. Make a ring around her \neck of thick, undiluted shampoo. Make another ring in front of her ears, but behind her eyes and muzzle, being careful not to get soap in her eyes. Put a third handful of shampoo on her anus. These act as barricades to stop fleas from hiding in your dog’s ears, eyes, and rectum, once you get the rest of her wet.
  2. Wet her body, tail and legs, and apply shampoo. Use a generous amount of soap, and work up a real rich lather. At this point, you can spread the shampoo on her face, in case she has any fleas there too. Keep this lather going for 10 minutes, adding a little more water and shampoo as you go. Some dogs love the massage and the attention, others do not, and this can be a challenging process, so having a somebody to help you may be a good idea.
  3. After 10 minutes of bath time, the fleas will have drowned and most will have become trapped in the soap. Now rinse, rinse, and rinse again. Don’t forget to rinse armpits, under the tail and between the legs. Towel dry, and if she lets you, use a blow drier on a cool setting to look for any dead fleas which didn’t go down the drain. You can comb these out with a flea comb.

Now that your dog is free of fleas, you’ll want to be sure her environment is as well, so she doesn’t become re-infested.

“Greenwashing” are your cleaning products safe for your pets?

Are you being greenwashed?

 By Dr. Kim Bloomer

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“I’ve been working to protect consumers from harmful products for almost 20 years now, but what I’ve discovered about these cleaners still shocks me. I hope you’ll take some time to learn the truth about the products you use so you can continue to keep your family safe.” ~Ken Cook, Environmental Working Group

Another of the new “buzz” phrases is “going green”. Going “green” is just a term for going organic and natural. That term is now used so broadly that we have to do our due diligence in order to not be taken in by the faux greening of North America.

Suddenly seen in the market place now are “green” products from all the big corporations. They obviously decided they needed to get their oversized piece of the action as usual. Because more people are becoming conscientious of a more natural approach in what they use in the way of home, personal and yard care products, it has been rather easy for the big name brands to sneak in and of course deceive the general public. After all convenience is still the name of the game for the majority of people, and known brand names still appeal to people who grew up trusting certain brands just by name alone.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG www.ewg.org) provides examples of pseudo “green” products on their website.

Most of these products are labeled non-toxic and biodegradable. The EWG calls this “greenwashing” – a way to get a piece of the action in the movement towards more natural, wholesome lifestyles. In other words, just another marketing tactic that has no foundation in truth.

Some of the companies don’t state their products are “green” but they do put them in green bottles, with green labels and designs that are associated with nature. It’s all just marketing designed to adjust your mind to accept the product as “natural”.

Additionally, they will even use the word “natural” in describing their product. The word “natural” is as overused and misinterpreted as “holistic” and “organic”. Just because something is natural or organic does not mean that it is non-toxic. The word “holistic” is a philosophy pertaining to mind, body and spirit wholism so applying this word to products doesn’t make much sense. Many “natural and organic” substances are toxic, case in point is arsenic – which is a naturally occurring organic substance.

All of this is to give the consumer the illusion of their products being safe to use around your children, pets, and in your home. Companies do this because they can, as the guidelines they are allowed to use are once again in their favor not the consumer’s. The only stringent laws we see being enforced are against those who offer TRUE green, natural, wholesome goods and products.

You will discover that it is pretty much a given that these big corporately owned products are going to be very toxic, synthetic, unsafe over the long-term, and in many cases disrupt hormones in you, your family and pets. The only thing “green” about them is the artificial coloring of the product itself and/or its packaging!

In fact many of the products can produce allergy and asthma like symptoms if you are exposed to them for any duration due to the very toxic ingredients and nature of the products masquerading as “green”.

Warning labels on containers of household, yard, and even personal care products refer ONLY to toxins that are hazardous from ingestion, however only 10% of health problems from chemicals are caused by ingestion. Ninety percent of the health problems are caused by the inhalation of vapors and absorption of particles. This would include perfume and off-gassing from personal care, household, and yard products which negatively effect us and our pets.

Some of the most toxic products used in the home today but not limited to include:

  • Hairspray aerosols
  • Furniture polish
  • Window cleaners
  • Air Fresheners
  • Laundry detergents
  • Nail polish remover
  • Insect repellent
  • Hair styling gel and mousse
  • Shaving creme

(Source: Healthy Homes in a Toxic World)

Out of 1,435 pesticide poisonings in a one year period, over 40 % were due to exposure to disinfectants and similar cleaning products in the home. Women who work in the home have a 54% higher death rate from cancer than woman who work outside of the home. The incidence of increased asthma and allergies, particularly in women who work from home or are stay-at-home moms has increased alarmingly. Additionally food allergies and asthma are also due to so many of these toxic ingredients being added to food (artificial flavorings, MSG also called “natural” flavoring, corn syrup, etc.). These same ingredients are also in all commercial pet foods and most pet treats. (Sources: State of California Study, 17 year EPA study).

When you consider that our pets are sleeping on the floors we clean with these toxic products, breathing the indoor air that is laden with the off-gassing of these cleaning and personal care products, it’s no wonder that they are presenting with similar illnesses such as allergies, asthma, thyroid imbalance, and cancer. While the exposure to indoor pets has not yet been completely evaluated, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is keeping tabs on the rising incidence in pets. In a 2008 report by this group they stated the following:

“Dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people, according to our study of plastics and food packaging chemicals, heavy metals, fire retardants, and stain-proofing chemicals in pooled samples of blood and urine from 20 dogs and 37 cats collected at a Virginia veterinary clinic…This study is the most comprehensive investigation of the chemical body burden of companion animals conducted to date, with 23 chemicals reported in pets for the first time. The results reinforce findings from prior studies showing that pets’ unique behaviors may place them at risk for elevated exposures and health risks from chemicals pollutants in the home and outdoors, in air, water, food, soil, and consumer products for people and pets.”

You will need to become a label detective in this day and age if you, your family and your pets are to be well. Here are just a sampling of ingredients we make certain are never in our own product choices:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – found in most haircare, deodorants, toothpastes, pet grooming products, etc.

Propylene glycol – (1% different than anti-freeze) is found not only in all of the above products, but also in many food products such as ice cream, used as a softener. It is certainly not something anyone or anything should be ingesting through the mouth or their skin. Remember skin is the largest organ and absorbs into the body (both human and animal) approximately 60% or greater of what is applied to it.

Aluminum chlorhydrate – Aluminum is linked to severe motor neuron, muscle and brain damage, to Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in the elderly as well as to Autistic Spectrum Disorders in the young and to vaccine-linked cancers in pets. Aluminum in any of its many forms ought to not be in any of these products but it is commonly found in deodorants.

One of the most commonly used household products happens to also be one of the most toxic: bleach. It is one of the most recommended for burns as well as disinfecting kennels, homes, etc. This product is a form of chlorine and was also used as a form of weaponry during wartime. Many dog owners believe this to be the only product that will kill parvo in their kennels, veterinary clinics, or grooming salons but as we always tell our clients, there is always a natural alternative that is far more effective without the toxic side effects.

A book we recommend for everyone to read is “The Hundred Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health” by Randall Fitzgerald. This little book packs a punch and while the author exposes the lie about products, he also offers a solution and guides you on detoxification as well.

Recipes for the Home

Here are some different ways to create your own household products with very inexpensive yet very effective ingredients that are most probably already stocked in your pantry:

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a natural organic bi-product of fruits, vegetables and grains. It is therefore edible and biodegradable. Vinegar’s ascetic properties make it “The Perfect Household Cleaner” for its usefulness as a stain remover, mold and mildew eliminator, soap scum dissolver, chrome polisher, lime de-scaler, fabric softener, room deodorizer, and unclogging agent. Various studies have found that vinegar can inhibit the growth of some strains of E. coli. A Heinz company spokesperson Michael Mullen references numerous studies to show that a straight 5 percent solution of white vinegar—the kind you can buy in the supermarket—kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of germs (viruses).

Keep a clean spray bottle filled with straight 5% white vinegar in your kitchen near your cutting board, and in your bathroom, and use them for cleaning. You can safely leave a spraying of white vinegar on your cutting board before going to bed at night and let it set overnight without rinsing. Straight white vinegar is also great for cleaning the toilet rim. Just spray it on and wipe off.

The following are simple recipes that may look too simple and inexpensive to work but they are very effective:

All-Purpose Cleaner. Orange peels, (save the orange peels from several oranges) white vinegar, and a one quart glass jar. Place enough orange peels into the jar to fill it. Cover the peels with the white vinegar. Let it sit for approximately ten days. Then stain out the liquid and use as your all-purpose household cleaner. And of course you can now toss out the orange peels.

Produce. To clean fruits and vegetables you can just place them in the sink with water (hopefully yours is fluoride and chlorine-free) and a generous amount of white vinegar and let them soak for a few minutes. You do not have to rinse them, just air dry or dry with a paper towel. Not only have you just cleaned and disinfected your produce, but the vinegar will also stop your berries from growing that inevitable fungus allowing you to keep them fresh longer.

Laundry. We never use laundry soap, softeners, or bleach. Instead we use baking soda as the “soap” and white vinegar as the “softener/disinfectant/deodorizer”. For the “white” loads you can add in hydrogen peroxide for its natural whitening effect.

Floor cleaner. For those of you who want to make your own cleaner, you can use ¼ cup of white vinegar in a bucket of warm water with a few drops of lemon or pine essential oils for a wonderful scent as well as powerful natural disinfectant. Add oregano or cinnamon essential oil for their natural antibacterial properties.

Window cleaner. Once again use a cup of white vinegar mixed with about ten drops of lemon essential oil. Place in a spray bottle and fill the rest of the way with water. Using a microfiber cloth with the spray to clean your windows and mirrors will insure they come out sparkling clean.

Wood cleaner. Use a spray bottle; fill 2/3 with olive oil, a small amount of white vinegar for the cleansing action and approximately 10-15 drops of lemon essential oil. For the rest of your dusting needs you can use a
microfiber cloth that attracts the dust. No toxic furniture polish is needed.

Air freshener. With a glass spritzer bottle add in 10 drops or more (depending on your personal taste and need) of lavender, peppermint, Thieves and Purification essential oils, (or use them individually) and then fill bottle with distilled water. Be sure to shake the bottle before each application and use as needed. Additionally we highly recommend getting a cold air diffuser and diffuse your home with essential oils. These will purify your indoor air as well as put healthy negative ions into it, and benefit the health of your entire household including your indoor pets, while it will repel most insects.

Recipes for the yard and outdoor activities

The most natural and recommended all-purpose yard product to use to deter bugs of all kinds is food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). Used for ants, caterpillars, aphids, ticks, fleas, etc., it is inexpensive and effective although it does have to be re-applied after rain or any wetting of the ground. Recently I had an infestation of caterpillars on some of my herbs and after a good dusting of DE the caterpillars fell to the ground off of the plants giving the wild birds that flock to my yard a mid-week feast. We don’t use any type of pesticides or herbicides in our yards. We use good old-fashioned well water to water, and organic fertilizer or compost to feed our yards. The incredible ecosystem you will experience when you go back to this way of yard care is wonderful. Your animals and children can safely play in your yards and your personal environment will once again be healthy in a natural balance. You will not have the perfect Better Homes and Garden yard but it will be a healthy and safe one for your loved ones.

 

Are You Ready for a Puppy?

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By Lisa Kerley

For many of us who have shared our lives with dogs, it’s hard to explain everything they mean to us. People have dogs for many different reasons – companionship, friendship, to enjoy the outdoors together, to participate in activities and sports together. We grow up with them, raise our families with them and if we are lucky, they are with us for many years.

Yet to some, having a dog is just what people do and not a lot of consideration is put into the decision of getting one beyond picking the colour of leash and collar to buy or what type of bed to get. Having a dog is a big responsibility. Deciding to bring a dog into your life requires careful thought and planning. Raising and keeping a dog happy and healthy takes time, consideration and commitment.

Are you ready for that commitment? Take the short quiz to see. Pick the statements that describe how you feel or that you think are appropriate.

Choosing a Dog

  1. Oh my gosh, that puppy’s just too cute. I wasn’t planning on getting a dog, but I can’t resist.
  2. A puppy would make a great retirement gift for Sally. She’s had dogs before and am sure she would love to have another. What a great surprise!
  3. Our kids want a dog. We think it would be a good way to teach them responsibility.
  4. I’m allergic to dogs, so we’re getting a labradoodle.
  5. I want a border collie because they’re very smart and easy to train.
  6. Our kids want the shy puppy in the corner.

Socializing, Health and Training 

  1. I need to wait until my puppy has finished all her shots before we start socializing and puppy classes.
  2. I will just do what I did with my last dog for training.
  3. I’ll get my vet to decide about what vaccines my dog needs.
  4. My designer pup cost $3000. I can’t afford puppy classes.
  5. I’m going to get a rescue – purebreds are too expensive.
  6. I’ll get a purebred so I don’t have to worry about behavioural problems. Rescues are too risky.

Providing Care

  1. Theo pulls on leash. He’s stays with me when he’s off leash anyway, so I usually let just let him off.
  2. Bailey’s fine in the house alone during the week. I make sure he’s gone to the bathroom before I go to work and he doesn’t have accidents while I’m gone.
  3. We’ve just renovated. Baxter always gets into stuff and chews on our things, so with everything being new, we’ll keep him in the yard. He likes it out there.

Keeping Your Dog Safe

 

  1. I just need to pop into the shop for in minute. My dog will be fine tied up outside.
  2. Fluffy likes to sit in my lap when I’m driving.  She’s my copilot!
  3. My dog is nervous about other dogs, so I’m taking him to the dog park so he will get used to them.

How did you do? How many selections apply to you or you agree with? Let’s go through each of the sections and see how you did.

Choosing a Dog

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Although it should go without saying, dogs (any animal for that matter) are living beings that require years of care and commitment. Before getting one, there are considerations and decisions that need to be made. No animal should ever be an impulse buy. If you live a life that’s free and easy, you need to think hard about whether you’re willing to give that lifestyle up. If you are busy already, can you handle even more responsibility? You’ll now have someone in your life whose entire care and well-being is up to you.

If your family is considering getting a dog, it’s crucial to discuss things together as a group. Is having a dog something that you all want and you’re all willing to share in the responsibility of their care? Getting a dog because your child wants one often ends up not being what you planned on. After the initial excitement wears off, its typical for one parent to ultimately do everything. You can’t return the dog because your kids aren’t keeping their end of the bargain. Are you prepared to care for the dog yourself? Could you fit the extra time required into your daily schedule? Even teenagers get distracted with studying, romance, work or travel, and the dog often becomes the responsibility of one adult.

Dogs should never be gifts. They should not be given to people who have not been involved in the choice to get one. That person may not be in a position to care for the dog properly, either financially or time-wise.

Where you choose to get your pup or dog from is important too. Choosing to purchase from a pet shop or the internet continues the demand for puppy mills. You’re not rescuing a dog, you’re supporting an industry that imprisons and causes unbelievable suffering to 100,000’s of dogs used for breeding. Instead, save a life by rescuing from a reputable organization. If you do choose to purchase a dog, do your homework. Make sure the producer’s breeding stock is healthy, both physically and in temperament, and raising the pups to be balanced family dogs.

Choosing a dog solely on the way it looks, its breed or its reputation for being intelligent is a recipe for disaster. Deciding whether you can handle a super-sized dog rather than a more petite version is a reasonable consideration; as is choosing one that won’t take a lot of grooming versus a shaggy-coated one. Other factors should take precedence in the selection process, however. What do you plan to do with your dog? Will you participate in a sport with them? Are you an active person that likes to get outdoors often or do you enjoy quiet, indoor past times? If you are looking for a companion dog, is the dog you are considering bred to do something specific and can you provide an appropriate lifestyle for them?

Working breeds typically need more mental and physical exercise than those bred to be lap dogs. Appropriate mental and physical activity needs to be provided to prevent emotional issues and inappropriate behavior from developing. Guarding breeds or breeds labeled as ‘loyal’ can be suspicious and reactive to people and dogs outside their family. They require exceptional early socializing and may require extra management or training to help them be comfortable and appropriate in an ordinary household. Do you live alone or do you have a hectic household full of kids? Your personality, lifestyle and household all need to be factored into the type of dog that you choose.

The temperament and personality of the dog are also important in the selection process. Do you have the time, skill, personality and lifestyle to suit a shy pup or a really gregarious one? Although every dog is an individual, with dogs from the same litter even varying greatly in personality, it’s important to do some good research before deciding on any particular dog.

Research the breed and check out the personality of the dog you’re considering to make sure it’s the right match for you and your lifestyle.

Socializing, Health and Training 

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I’m always amazed (and very disappointed) by the number of people getting new dogs that haven’t already educated themselves regarding socialization, vaccination and training. The number of people getting new pups that don’t know that socialization and vaccination need to occur simultaneously is truly upsetting. By the time we see them in puppy class, their pup’s critical imprinting phase is pretty much over. Along with a lack of early socializing, the majority of my behavioural business is helping clients that have made bad training choices, Missed the memo that you shouldn’t rub your pup’s nose in his accidents? Think your dog jumping on you means they’re dominant? Outdated and misguided ideas can land both you and your dog into a whole lot of problems. And we still see way too many dogs who are following out-of-date vaccine protocols, including continuing to give their dogs annual boosters. All of these are symptoms of not being properly informed. Thanks to studies conducted over the last 20 years we now have a better understanding of the importance of socialization early in life; we better understand the efficacy of vaccines and how immunology actually works; and we have a better understanding of how dog’s think and learn and the damage that confrontational and corrective methods have on our dogs as well as our relationship with them. Many problems could be completely avoided by doing good research. This includes using reputable sources, getting information from more than one source and discussing the options that best suit you and your dog with your trainer or vet before going ahead with anything.

Many people make the mistake of not planning for the real cost of having a dog in their life. They may budget for the cost of purchasing the dog and the first round of puppy shots, but not beyond that. Actually, the purchase price of the dog is the least expensive part of having a dog. Routine expenses include food, regular checkups, medications, training, care, (daycare, walkers, overnight care during holidays). And what if your dog develops a serious health condition or is injured? These unplanned expenses can really do a number on your pocket book. Paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for the pup but not being able to afford appropriate training or emergency care is unacceptable.

Are you willing and able to teach your dog the skills they need for their lifetime? Training involves more than housetraining and obedience. It’s vital to give your dog the skills they need to live comfortably in your life. Ultimately it is YOUR responsibility to help your dog be successful. Whether that means helping your be OK being home alone during the day, being crated, having guests in the home, OK with kids, or walking nicely on leash – you need to figure out what’s necessary and take the time to get it done. And in case your lifestyle or circumstances change, you need to be prepared to help your dog get the new skills they need to cope. Moving or having a baby is no excuse to abandon your dog. If you’ve spent the time to raise and care for them well, you won’t face this problem.

Not bothering to teach the skills your dog needs doesn’t only impact you and your dog, it can also impact others. For example, dogs lacking proper leash skills that aren’t being managed sufficiently, can be a menace in public. Those without adequate social skills or reliable recalls  often  harass or frighten other dogs or people by inappropriately running up to, barking at or jumping on them. It’s typical that the dogs with the least skills are given the most freedom. It’s a strategy that’s often easier for the owner, but puts both their dog and everyone else in difficult, potentially dangerous situations.

Providing Care

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Under the Animal Cruelty Act, a minimum level of acceptable care is defined as:

  • ensuring that the animal has adequate food and water,
  • providing the animal with adequate care when the animal is wounded or ill,
  • providing the animal with reasonable protection from injurious heat or cold, and
  • providing the animal with adequate shelter, ventilation and space. Most of us would agree that dogs’ requirements go far beyond this. Being sentiment beings, they require not only appropriate physical exercise, but also a sense of safety and security, companionship and mental stimulation. Are you able to enrich your dog’s life on a daily basis, not just spending time with them or doing things together when it’s convenient? Many people quickly become fair-weather owners, only taking their dogs out for more than the obligatory potty walk on days that suit them. They’ll stay at home just on those days when they feel like doing nothing, otherwise they’re gone, leaving the dog to languish at home alone.

Although its important for dogs to be comfortable being on their own, leaving them all day without some form of mental stimulation is unfair and will typically lead to problems. Without an appropriate balance of physical and mental exercise, any dog can become destructive, hyper-active, depressed or clingy.

After getting a new dog, many people don’t take any time off to help get them settled into their new life. Those that do, often don’t help teach the dog the skills they need to adjust to their regular lifestyle. As a result many dogs quickly become stressed by their inability to cope with their daily life. Even if you’re weren’t planning on using daycare or walkers, you may need to if your dog has separation anxiety. And what if your dog is fearful, reactive or has behavioural issues that are impacting your daily life? Are you willing to hire a certified, experienced professional trainer? Can you afford to?

Keeping Your Dog Safe

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Again and again I see dogs tied up unattended both in yards and in public places. Although we would consider our yard to be a safe place, dogs can be at risk if there is no one there to watch them. In addition to becoming entangled in the line, other dogs or wildlife entering the area can be both physically and psychologically dangerous when the dog has no way to get away. Dogs tied up on sidewalks and parking lots are put at risk to a wide array of dangers. Only a couple of weeks ago I had to go over to stay with a traumatized dog that was tied up to a shopping cart kiosk. Every time someone returned their cart, the poor dog was trapped as the cart rolled towards him and crashed into the other carts. Unbelievable.

Our vehicles can put dogs at risk as well. Too many are not stationed safely – riding in laps, stationed in front seats exposed to the risk of airbags or even loose. People are still leaving their dogs in cars on warm or sunny days or in the backs of their trucks even though the risks have been in mainstream media for years. Apart from health and safety issues, they are at risk of being stolen and being the victim of fight rings as bait dogs, or sold for other unimaginable horrors.

For many dogs, daily life can be challenging. Whether they are uncomfortable meeting new dogs, nervous about people outside their own familiar group, or anxious in the presence of children, they may be experiencing stress regularly. Many dogs are expected to do things they’re not cut out for or comfortable with. Are you your dog’s advocate? Are you aware of potential stressors? Can you recognize signs of stress and manage the environment to minimize their exposure? And are you willing to help them become more confident instead of just leaving it, hoping it will get better?

So how did you do? Although many of the statements in the list are commonplace, I hope you can see that none of them are desirable. Most of them will negatively impact the quality of the dog’s life. The choices you make ultimately determine whether your dog can be successful with you AND in your life. Too many dogs suffer because of poor or irresponsible choices that people make. If you are considering getting a dog, the decision should not be taken lightly. Not everyone is cut out for the responsibility. If you do choose to bring one into your life, make sure you’re ready and it’s the right time.

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A dog is for life.