Sunday, November 20, 2011

Avoid Turkey Day Troubles

So Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It's hard for me to say why exactly, but I suspect that it has to do with the quality and quantity of food, friends, family and football. There is nothing I like better than a day at home, yummy smells in the air, a guilt free 12 noon glass of wine, football on the tv, dogs relaxing at my feet, a post dinner nap. What could be better?

And then there is the dreaded day such warm feelings for this day. By now, we all are familiar with the term "Black Friday" to describe the day after Thanksgiving. Stores opening at 12am on the Friday after Thanksgiving, people lined up for hours beforehand. I saw this guy on the news this week, that actually pitched his tent a week early in front of a Best Buy!!! Really???

But it's not only early bird holiday shoppers that think of the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday. Often, veterinarians think the same thing. This is the day when multitudes of pets that have gotten into the wrong stuff on Turkey Day are presented to the vet for a cure of their holiday hangovers. How do you make sure you aren't one of those who spend their time and money in the vet's office instead of reaping the benefits of holiday sales? Check out these tips below:

1) First and foremost - Leave the people food for the people. Yes, it's tempting on this special day of thanking and feasting to be tempted to reward the pet in your life by adding some tasty tidbits to his food bowl. However, people food can spell disaster for dogs. A nasty bout of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis can put an end to your holiday fun pretty quickly. Dogs experience very painful abdomens and scary bloody diarrhea. Vomiting may also occur. Also, pancreatitis is a very common ailment associated with pets that eat the wrong thing. Dogs can become very sick from the "inflammation of the pancreas". Symptoms include, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and lethargy. Treatment for both is largely supportive only often requiring administration of IV fluids, special diets and hospital stays. This can become quite expensive at a time of year when the last thing you want to spend money on is your sick pet.

Even if your dog does not develop pancreatitis, eating food that your dog is not used to often times ends up in bouts of vomiting and diarrhea at the least. Who wants to spend their precious holiday time off cleaning up those messes? Not to mention that your pet will feel lousy too. Still feel bad? Consider a special treat such as a canned version of his regular kibble. Or add a little pumpkin puree to his regular food (not pumpkin pie filling, but real canned pumpkin).

2) Keep the trash picked up and secured in a safe place. With all the extra folks and garbage generated from a holiday feast, sometimes it's easy to have garbage overflow. There is nothing that a dog likes better than to go through the holiday leftovers from the garbage. Besides the fact that they may get sick from the food they eat, there is also the possibility of them getting into turkey bones. Turkey bones are a big no-no for dogs. As they travel through the digestive process they can splinter and break causing tears all the way from the esophagus to the rectum. Cooked turkey bones are even worse as the cooking process has relieved them of any moisture causing them to become even more brittle. This spells big trouble for your dogs intestines. Tears or perforations of the intestines can be a life-threatening situation. Also, obstructions and blockages can result from ingesting bones requiring your dog to have surgery. To avoid these horrible situations, ensure your garbage is secured away from your dogs sensitive snout and hungry belly.

3) Boarding Blues - many of us travel at Thanksgiving and board our dogs while we are gone. Although most reputable boarding facilities require their boarders to be up to date on vaccines, it's still a wonderful place for your pet to pick up an illness or disease. Even fleas can be a problem in the cleanest boarding facility. To make sure your dog stays safe while you are gone, thoroughly check out the boarding facility where you plan to leave your pup. Make your reservations early so that you aren't scrambling around at the last minute trying to find a place to leave your dog. Make an appointment at your veterinarian two weeks prior to leaving and get your pup up to date on his vaccinations and give him a full health check. Apply a topical flea product, such as Frontline on your dog prior to dropping him off to make sure he is protected from fleas. Or consider alternative solutions. Bring someone into your home to stay with your pet, or make arrangements to take your pet with you. Your doggy will love a good vacation!!

4) Pet ID - if you do travel with your pet, it's also wise to be sure he is up to date on his vaccinations and is healthy to travel. Also, be sure you bring the proper gear to make sure your pet stays safe. A collar, leash and/or harness are a must to guarantee you and your pet won't get separated in a strange place. Also, if you are driving, collapsible crates, a comfy dog bed or blanket and some favorite toys can make a strange place feel just like home. Last, please, please, please microchip your pet and make sure his/her collar has ID tags with current information on them. If your pet does become lost, this is the best way to ensure you will be reunited. Finally, think about hanging around the house for the first 24 hours after your arrival. Let your pup get used to his/her new surroundings before you take off. Take him for a long walk, introduce him to people he'll be spending time with. Also, find out where the best vet is in town in case there is an emergency.

Following these tips will hopefully allow you and your pet to have a stress free holiday. Stay safe and have a great holiday.

During this time of year, we are reminded again of all the HOTLR supporters and donors without whom this organization would not exist. All of us at HOTLR thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your donations, support and volunteer hours. 2011 has been one of our most successful years. Thank you for allowing us to save as many of these wonderful dogs as we can. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at HOTLR!!!

For more information on Turkey Day safety for your pets, check out these links:

ASPCA Thanksgiving Safety Tips
Petfinder Thanksgiving Pet Care Tips
Guardian Pet Sitters Thanksgiving Pet Care Tips

Need a new friend this holiday season? How about adopting or fostering one of our adorable Labs? Check out who needs a home here: HOTLR Labs Available for Adoption.

Looking for a way to pump up your holiday spirit? Sign up for Gift Wrapping with HOTLR at a participating Barnes & Noble. Dogs, kids,'s the perfect way to get into the holiday swing of things!!! For more info and to sign up, click here: HOTLR Upcoming Events

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bring Out Your Inner Picasso and Paint Your Pet

I have always wished that I could draw or paint or sculpt. Once I even tried my hand at clay. I thought I might become a potter. So I signed up with a friend to take an informal class. It was bad....really, bad. In fact, I left midway through the class and my friend had to finish the one and only pot I managed to "throw".

Then there was the time I thought I'd take a drawing class. Another epic fail...I only made it through one or two sessions before I sold my pens and ink.

But something keeps telling me, that if I want to bad enough, I should be able to create. I live amongst this amazing Labrador inspiration all the time. And I have been the very happy recipient of beautiful paintings and drawings of my canine kids from the amazing Sheila Wedegis to use as examples. So, when another friend (oblivious to my earlier artistic failures), invited me to attend a class to paint your pet, I decided to give it another try. Surely, the love I feel for my Labs will flow through my fingers onto the canvas.

Painting with a Twist is located behind the Trudy's on Burnet Road. The cost is $55 for a 3 hour class and you receive all the supplies - canvas, paints, brushes, etc. and step by step instruction on how to paint your very own pet portrait. Once you sign up for the class, you send a picture of your pet via email to an artist at the studio. The best pics are a full front headshot of your pet. Then an artist from the studio sketches your pet's picture on the canvas that you will then paint. When you arrive at class, you receive your canvas with the sketched pic as well as a color copy of the picture you sent in to use as a reference.

I chose the shot above of my beautiful yellow girl Susie. When I arrived and was handed my canvas at the front door. I couldn't wait to start.

The class is taught by an artist and teacher's assistant. They break the process down into four basic steps

1) painting the background,
2) filling in the sketch,
3) highlighting your sketch
4) adding detail.

During your class time, the artist/instructor also teaches you about combining colors, complementary colors, and helpful tips on how to make your painting look its best. The instructor and teacher's assistant also "float" through the classroom offering individual assistance, encouragement and occasionally fixing little "boo-boos".

Did I mention that the "twist" to this fun art class is that snacks and alcoholic beverages are permitted in class. My friend and I sipped a lovely Bogle Zin and munched on carrots, hummus, cheese and crackers while we let our inner artists express themselves.

Finally, at the end of your three hour session, you leave the studio with your painting, a touching and unique rendition of the love of your life. And, if you are not fully satisfied with your finished painting, an "SOS" class held is once a month at no charge. In this session, the artists will work with you to help you "fix" anything you may not like in your portrait. Although, I survived the entire class and was happy with the outcome of my portrait last night. In the light of day with a clear mind, I believe Susie's portrait and I will be attending an SOS session.

Talk about a fun night out with friends, or a cool Christmas present (either the class or the painting), Painting with a Twist is a definite must for any Lab lover!!!! Need inspiration, check out the Labs Available for Adoption at the HOTLR website!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Get the Foster Fever

I would like to dedicate this blog to fostering.  It may seem a bit hypocritical to you that I could write a blog on fostering when I'm not even a foster myself.  Of course, I was......and I failed.  I was a big, fat, hairy "foster failure".  Sometimes when I tell people that, I think they think that I must have had really bad foster dogs.....Definitely not the case.  In fact, just the opposite.  For those of you unfamiliar to foster terminology, a "foster failure" is defined as one whose foster dog becomes adopted by the foster parent and/or family.  I was so terrible at fostering, that I failed fostering not once, but twice.  With my second foster failure, the dog population in my household outnumbered the human occupants 2 to 1.  My husband and I suddenly went from a two Lab family to a four Lab family.  Can you imagine how much dog food is required to properly feed four Labradors???  Are you aware that we are responsible for the invention of Dyson "Animal" vacuum cleaner?

But let me tell you something about fostering that I failed to understand from the beginning. As much as I love all my dogs including the ones I adopted, there is something special about fostering.  The excitement and thrill that you get each time you get a new foster never fades.  Observing the transformation of your foster dog during the time he/she lives with you and knowing that you are directly responsible for that transformation can move you to tears.  The feeling you get from this transformation is indescribable.  Learning about your foster dog's personality quirks and the special things that make your foster unique is heart-melting to discover and provides invaluable information to perspective adopters about the dog.  Knowing that you are the most stable and dependable family your foster dog has or may have ever known is a vital part of our rescues' rehabilitation no matter the medical status.  The time a rescue spends with the foster family teaches the dog how to behave in a loving home environment.  Yes, it's true.  You have to be a strong person to foster.  After spending so much time loving a dog, it is hard to watch them go.  But here's the cool part....the pain that you feel after losing your foster instantly fades as soon as a new one walks through your front door.

We would love to have all our dogs in foster homes, so they could learn how to be polite family members. This ensures that they become permanent members of their forever family once they are adopted. HOTLR foster dogs often do adopt more quickly then the HOTLR dogs that live at the kennel.  But, don't get me wrong, we are so very lucky to have the Canine Hilton as a back up to our foster program.  The people at Canine Hilton really love our dogs.  The time that Tiffany McCalla, trainer for the Canine Hilton, spends with HOTLR recruits is priceless.  They are all given individualized attention and that attention in addition to the training that Tiffany provides is a vital part to a HOTLR rescue's second chance at a good life.
This time of the year is hard on our foster families also as many travel for the holidays and need someplace to temporarily place their foster dog.  However, this is a perfect time for you to try fostering.  You have a dog already in a foster situation that needs a dog-sitter while the foster family is gone.  You get a good taste of how wonderful fostering can be.  You get to "practice", before you commit to your own foster.  Are you ready for a trial run?

Fostering is pretty simple.  HOTLR pays for all medical costs and any medications that your foster may need.  The only thing that we ask of our foster families is that they provide shelter, food and love to their temporary family member.  We do like to get monthly updates from our foster families to know how the foster dogs are doing, especially before a meet 'n greet where your foster dog may be shown.  This information is used at the meet 'n greet to let prospective adopters know a little bit about your dog, especially if you cannot be there.  If you can provide transportation to and from meet 'n greets that helps as well.  It's nice for the families meeting the dogs to be able to talk with the foster family about the dogs they are meeting.  However,  we know people are busy and things can come up, so we can always arrange for transportation also.  

If at anytime you have questions or problems you can give any board member a call or an email.  All the board members have fostered in the past or are currently fostering.  No question is ever too silly.  Chances are we've probably had the same question ourselves.  We know it takes time and dedication to foster, that's why we are here to help. 

I would never trade my Labs for anything in this world.  I am so very grateful for all the Labs that have come through my door.  I remember each and every foster I've had and they have all been special.  It's funny to me to hear my husband talk about fostering for HOTLR.  He was not as excited about the prospect of fostering as I was, but when he talks to other people about our experiences, he is enthusiastic and positive.  He tells people all that time that there wasn't one of our fosters that we wouldn't have kept.  It makes me smile to hear him talk like that.  As for me, I'm sad that I don't foster anymore.  For now, I get my rescue fix by working at an animal hospital and occasionally participating in shelter checks.  I truly miss is and look forward to a time when I can foster again.  I miss making that much difference in a single dog's life.  As of November 2nd, HOTLR currently has 10 dogs at the Canine Hilton.  They are all waiting for foster families.  Check out the HOTLR website to see all the dogs available for fostering.  So,go ahead and give fostering a try.....It'll do a dog and your heart good.....

HOTLR Zephyr pictured above is currently looking for a foster home. For more information on Zephyr, go to