Who Am I?

I have a key to your house.  I know your alarm code.  I know about that squeaky floor board in your hallway and where you like to kick off your shoes when you come home.  I am in your house all the time…but you might only see me once or twice a year. Who am I?

IMG_3920I am your dog’s best friend.

It is an interesting relationship I have with my clients.  The human ones, that is.  I can walk their dogs every day for months on end, and maybe only talk to them on the phone every six months.  Mostly, we communicate via notes.  (SO sixth grade girl, right?  I’m not going to lie, though, it is kinda fun!)  I take on a odd role – I’m not family, but I’m not a visitor either.  No need to tidy up for me, but you might want to put on pants if you know I’m coming.

What I often think about, though, is who does your dog think I am?  I show up when their family is gone (either out at work or away on vacation.)  I don’t have to worry about putting away groceries or taking a shower or picking up toys – I am 100% there for them.  I am not a visitor that will pat them on the head and then shoo them away so I can have a human conversation.  I only have eyes for your pooch.  I am there to walk or play…to scratch behind the ears…to “hang out”, canine style.  I give them treats and love on them.  I might even have a special nickname for them…I might even know their favorite potty spot which even their dad doesn’t know about.  I might even notice if something is bothering them before you – because I am only their for them.

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So what do you think they think?  I like to think dogs don’t know what “dog walkers” are.  In my mind, they just think I’m their buddy.  Like their human brother who has classmates over for play – I believe they think of me as a friend.  THEIR friend.  Not your friend, not a family friend, not little Timmy’s playmate – THEIR friend.  (This is often reinforced by pup’s behavior on the rare days their parents are home when I stop by.  Parents are surprised by how their pets gravitate to me…or at least get ridiculously excited and forget their mom and dad are home.  Come on!  Who would you rather hang out with? Someone who gets worked up when you come in with muddy paws…or someone who takes you out to get those paws wet!)

So from now on I believe my official job title will be “Pet’s Best Friend”  rather than “Pet Sitter” or “Dog Walker”.  Anyone can walk…but only a select few can be a PBF.

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Diabetes & Your Pets – Obesity

The fact that over a third of the adult population in the United States is obese is startling.  To hear that 45% of our dogs and 58% of our cats are overweight is nothing less than disturbing.

This picture of Sassy has been circulating around the internet for years, but this isn't funny! Overweight pets are a serious problem.

Our pets don’t look in mirrors, count calories, or step on scales, so pet parents are the only ones to blame for these ridiculous statistics.  The more I read about diabetes in our dogs and cats, the more I realized it was obesity rather than genetics that was to blame.  Some of the facts and statistics literally made me sick.

Every pound your cat is overweight is the equivalent of 13 pounds of extra weight on an adult woman (15 pounds on an adult man.)  Are you still not shocked?!  How about this analogy – if you have a lab that weighs 90 pounds…that is like being a 5’4” woman weighing 186 pounds.  Yikes!

Part of the problem is that most people with overweight pets consider them to be a normal weight.  It’s hard to make people address a problem that they don’t see as a problem!  Also, some people think that the extra poundage their poor puppy or kitty is carrying around is “cute”.  While they think the extra fat means more of their pet to love – they are actually taking years off their furbaby’s life.  (Up to 2 YEARS off!)  They are also taking dollars out of their wallet – American pet owners spend about $25 million a year to treat obesity related conditions.

The most ridiculous statistic?  Pet obesity is 100% preventable.  Just as in overweight humans, overweight dogs and cats are eating too much and not exercising enough.  This seems super obvious, right?  Yes and no.

Everyone knows that dogs need to go for walks (although just because people know this doesn’t necessarily mean that they walk their dogs every day.)  Did you know that cats need exercise too?  (Don’t worry…you don’t have to walk them!)  Most people assume cats are fine sleeping the day away, but just getting your cat to be active for 10-15 minutes a day can make a HUGE difference in their weight (and their happiness!)

Food and treats are two not-so-obvious causes of obesity in our pets.  There is no law requiring pet food companies to provide calorie information for their products (unless they are specifically marketing their food as “low calorie.”)  Also, a majority of people are simply feeding their dogs and cats too much.  Following the recommended portions on the bag isn’t always an accurate guideline – these are based on young, active pets that have not been spayed or neutered.  If your pet is older or isn’t being regularly exercised, but you are still following the printed serving sizes, you could be giving your four-legged friend 25% too much food.  Some of us (myself included!) cannot resist giving our little guy or gal a treat….sometimes for just being adorable! Giving your dog a small bone treat is the same as you eating two chocolate doughnuts.  A pig ear treat for your pup is the same as you drinking a six-pack of Coke.  Yuck!  Many treats today are simply loaded with sugar and fat (which is why our pets love them so!)  Am I saying you shouldn’t give your pup a treat for good behavior or for giving you those “puppy dog eyes”?  Of course not!!!  Just as in our own diets – they key word is moderation.

Our pets rely on us for everything.  They bring so much joy to our lives – the least we can do for them is keep them healthy.  Diabetes in dogs and cats is on the rise, and the main cause of this horrible disease is obesity.  They don’t know about cardio or portioning out their meals.  They are animals for Pete’s sake!  It is in their nature to eat whatever they can get their paws on.  It is up to us to make sure they aren’t getting their paws on too much!  This is going to sound harsh, but if you don’t have half an hour every day to devote to exercising your pet – you shouldn’t have gotten one in the first place!

Or maybe you should just call a fabulous dog walker….

These Paws Were Made for Walkin’ (the first of many posts about walks)

“Max is just a little dog, so he doesn’t need to go on walks.” 

“We have a big backyard, so Isabelle gets plenty of exercise running around by herself.”

“Lulu doesn’t have any behavior or aggression problems.  She is perfectly happy lounging around the house.”

“I take Rocky out to potty several times a day.  That is the same as a walk.”

NO! NO! NO!!  I hear this all the time.  There are so many reasons why all the above statements are completely wrong.  Your dog needs to be walked every single day.  People assume when I say that, I am promoting my own business.  This is not the case – your dog NEEDS to be walked.

Dogs, before we domesticated them, were pack animals.  All day, every day, they walked.  They walked to find shelter.  They walked to find food.  They walked…that is what they did.  When working and living with dogs, you must remember….they are animals.  Though we think of them as members of our family (which they are!) biologically speaking, they are still animals.  Evolution has not erased their need to move around and travel.  Now, think of little Fifi staring out the window.  Her body is telling her to walk, to explore, to see the world!  The two minutes you let her out back to do her business is not fulfilling her most basic need. 

I would venture to say 95% (no scientific studies, folks, this is just my best guess) of behavior problems in dogs are caused by boredom.  What would you do if you couldn’t leave your house?  Maybe not chew the leg of the table, but some human equivalent to it.  (eating an insane amount of iced animal cookies?  Maybe that’s just me….)  Jumping on guests when they come in?  Hell, ya!  Your pup hasn’t had that much excitement in days.  Whining in the middle of the night?  Of course!  Fido isn’t tired…he’s ready to roll.  A nice long walk would have fixed these problems. 

I think lots of people get dogs expecting the pups to adapt to their lives.  You have to go to work, go to the gym, cook dinner, pay bills… and maybe have a social life once in a while.  You just don’t have time to walk.  Well, people, walking is as important as remembering to feed your pooch.  You’re dog – quite simply – cannot adapt.  The need to walk  is literally in their.  You just have to find the time.  Maybe every day is unrealistic.  (I tell myself I’m going to go to the gym everyday….and let me tell you, that is unrealistic!)  Maybe the recommended hour per walk is just not doable.  (Ahh, the things I could do with one extra hour in my day!)  But you have to make an effort.  You assumed a responsibility when you brought little Max, Isabelle, Lulu, or Rocky home.  You have to keep them happy and healthy….and walking will keep you happy (sleepy puppy = happy human) and healthy (we all could use a little exercise) as well.

And if you just can’t find the time….you could always hire a dog walker! 😉