n.a.s.h.a. trains me with the treat lineup from @VetIQpets #ad

N.A.S.H.A. has me trained. I get up early–4:30 a.m. early–and she kindly gets up with me so I don't have to go it alone. Before I start the coffee pot, I let her out for a few minutes, and then back in, and then I follow her straight to the dog pantry. She knows it's treat time. Typically she only gets that one treat each day, but sometimes when we have a particularly desirable treat in the rotation, she'll request more. At first I didn't realize what it meant when she gave me a dead leg. Was she just being a jokester? After repeated pokes, it became apparent that she was trying to communicate something. Had her water bowl gone dry? Nope. Did she want to play? Nope.

 N.A.S.H.A. Trains Me with the Treat Lineup from VetIQ. wellmindedpets.com

N.A.S.H.A. Trains Me with the Treat Lineup from VetIQ. wellmindedpets.com

As a True Science Ambassador, I am being compensated for trying and conveying my opinion about True Science products. Neither True Science or VetIQ is responsible for the content of this article. All opinions expressed are my own.

As I'd head to the pantry, she'd bounce a bit to let me know I was getting warmer. And when I put my hand on the treat bag, she sat down and licked her chops, letting me know I'd figured it out. I'm blaming the VetIQ treats we have in the pantry right now for the recent dead-legs I've been getting. We've been trying Minties Dental Treats and Hip & Joint Soft Chews, which are more of a supplement than a treat, much to N.A.S.H.A.'s disappointment...she can only have a small amount. Both are vet recommended and made in the U.S.A.

what is VetIQ all about?

Their mission: 

VetIQ provides quality medication and supplements for your pet at prices you can afford. We desire to provide the best information possible so that you can make informed decisions for your pet.

I'm all about making informed decisions, especially when it comes to my family's health and the health of our pets. Each VetIQ product is given it's own web site, which is interesting to me. It may seem like overkill, but to those of us who like to be informed, these platforms offer all the facts we need to make good choices.

Hip & Joint from VetIQ

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N.A.S.H.A. loves chewy treats, so I figured the Hip & Joint supplements would be a sure thing, and I was right. She loves them. Too bad she only gets half a treat every other day, so says the package, because she'd love a lot more. The supplements help support joint cartilage, help lubricate joints, and help maintain muscle–all important as our dogs age–with glucosamine, creatine, and omega 3s.

 "Okay...I'm sitting. Kindly hand over the Hip & Joint."

"Okay...I'm sitting. Kindly hand over the Hip & Joint."

Minties from VetIQ

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I figured the Minties dental treats would be a tougher sell, but I was wrong. She loves the Minties, too. We'd tried her on other dental chews in the past with no success, so I was pleasantly surprised. Minties help clean teeth, promote fresh breath with natural ingredients, and help control plaque and tartar. They are wheat free, gluten free, soy free, corn free, and are free of artificial flavors and animal by-products. It's especially important for senior dogs to maintain good dental health, and since N.A.S.H.A. is ten, now, that is important to us. 

 "You mean I get more? Guinea pigs have it made!"

"You mean I get more? Guinea pigs have it made!"

Since N.A.S.H.A. enjoys these treats so much, we'll make them part of our regular healthy treat lineup. 

Follow VetIQ on Twitter. Follow Minties on Twitter.

is your child begging for a hamster? do hamsters make good pets for kids?

Is your kiddo begging for a pet? Perhaps a dog or cat or even a pony? Or maybe it's a hamster. A hamster is a classic. Whenever you are considering bringing a pet into the family, it's important to do thorough research and understand the type of care the pet requires. A pet is not a thing or a toy. It is a living being that depends on us for survival and requires our unwavering commitment. They can bring so much joy to us and to our children, as long as we know what we're getting into. 

 Do hamsters make good pets for kids?

Do hamsters make good pets for kids?

Hamsters are sometimes referred to as "starter pets," implying that they are somehow less important and less of a commitment than cats and dogs and other animals. In fact, when I originally wrote this article as a contributor at Brie Brie Blooms, I referred to hamsters as "starter pets." A colleague of mine, Emmy the Pet Sitter, kindly suggested that we remove the term "starter pet" from our language, and I could see her point. All pets require care and are important. Whether you adore a tarantula, hamster, or pony, they are all "pets." Emmy knows a whole lot about hamsters and, sadly, recently lost her beloved hamster, Winnie. RIP, Winnie, and a special thank you to Emmy for her guidance on this article. 

When considering bringing a hamster into the family, I feel that there are three main areas that need to be considered: cost, care, and reward.

cost

Relatively speaking, hamsters are inexpensive pets to keep. Most of the cost will be upfront in purchasing the hamster's environment and its food. Ongoing costs include bedding and food. Veterinary care is not a big factor unless something goes terribly wrong health-wise. 

Most hamsters are purchased when they are young in pet stores, but hamster rescues do exist (they may charge a fee). I'm always a believer in rescuing rather than buying, if possible. 

The amount you spend can vary, depending on the cage you choose and how many toys you purchase. Cages can be simple one-level structures, or you may opt for a deluxe, multi-level mansion. Always make sure that your hamster has plenty of room to roam and exercise. 

SUPPLY LIST

 Even though they are small, hamsters require lots of "gear."

Even though they are small, hamsters require lots of "gear."

ventilated hamster cage (not an aquarium)

bedding

nesting structure

wheel

ball

toys

water bottle

food

treats

Most pet stores will carry a hamster starter kit which will include most of the above.

care

Hamsters are fairly low maintenance compared to other pets, but it is vital that their needs be met. Care includes the following:

FOOD & WATER: Water should be changed daily, and food levels monitored and replenished as needed.

EXERCISE: Hamsters are active little guys, and require a great deal of exercise. This can be in the form of a hamster wheel inside the cage, and it's also fun to purchase a hamster ball so your pet can explore outside the cage, yet still be safe. 

 It is important to take great care of your hamster.

It is important to take great care of your hamster.

CLEAN ENVIRONMENT: Hamsters lick and chew on just about everything, so it's important to their health to maintain a clean cage. Weekly thorough cage cleanings (with complete bedding change) are recommended. Be sure to use pet safe (we prefer chemical-free) cleaning products. We love PL360 and Melaleuca.

INTERACTION: Though it's best not to house multiple hamsters together, they are quite social with humans and require daily play time and attention in order to be happy and healthy.

 

reward

When choosing a pet, it's important to consider what the pet can add to your life, something that is especially important when considering a pet for a child. What can hamsters add to your child's life?

• they are playful and fun

• once tame, they enjoy being held and played with

• they are great companions and can help with self-esteem 

what are the pros and cons?

As with any pet, having a pet hamster has pros and cons. Some points even overlap both categories.

 As with any pet, there are pros and cons to having a hamster.

As with any pet, there are pros and cons to having a hamster.

PROS

• they can be tamed, and become quite loving and social

• they love to play, and they are fun to watch

• they are fairly low maintenance, yet rewarding

• they are relatively inexpensive

• they teach children responsibility

• they don't take up a lot of space

• they are nocturnal: if not bothered by the noise, kids report that they help them feel more secure and less lonely at night

• they have a short life expectancy (2-3 years), so they are not as much of a commitment as some other pets

CONS

• they can take several weeks to tame, and can be skittish until they are comfortable with you

• weekly cage cleanings

• they can bite, especially before tamed or if you interrupt their nap

• they might (it will happen eventually) poo and pee on you when you hold them

• they are difficult to find if they escape, and they must be kept away from dogs and cats and other pets who may injure them

• they are nocturnal: if your child is bothered by wheel-running and gnawing in the middle of the night, it might be a problem

• they have a short life expectancy (2-3 years)

hamsters and kids: the bottom line

 Do you think a hamster would make a good pet for your child?

Do you think a hamster would make a good pet for your child?

In my opinion, hamsters make excellent pets for school-aged children (six and up). At that age, they can just about care for a hamster by themselves, though, ultimately, parents need to make sure proper care is maintained. A child younger than six may not be able to handle a hamster properly, as they require a gentle touch and a supportive hold. Hamsters make great pets for school-aged children because though they are low maintenance, they are super fun to play with and watch and are quite interactive with people and their environment.

Hamsters are a load of fun. If your child is ready for the commitment and the care as well as the love, go for it! 

Does your child have a hamster as a pet? Please tell us about it!

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A special thanks to my friend, Tory, of Victoria O'Leary Photography, for allowing me to use her personal photos of her super cute daughter, Leighton, and Leighton's adorable hamster, Cookie. If you live in the Los Angeles area and are looking for an amazing (arguably the best on the planet) newborn/family photographer, please check out her work.

This article, written by me, originally appeared on Brie Brie Blooms and has been reposted here, with minor changes, with permission.

a pet sitter's schedule

For the first time in I-can't-remember-how-long, it's a Saturday, and I have no pet sitting visits scheduled. This is almost unheard of, except during the rare times I let my clients know I'm taking time off for travel and am unavailable. So with this unexpected day off, what am I doing? I'm panicking every five minutes that I'm forgetting to see an animal. I'm checking and rechecking my calendar. I'm reviewing email, text, and Facebook Messenger correspondence I've had with clients over the past few weeks to make extra sure I really do have the day off. And I do! I really do!

I love what I do, but it sure is nice to have an unscheduled day every once in a while. I slept in to the glorious hour of 6:30 a.m., which feels like a sin. Yes, 6:30 is sleeping WAY in. My husband even congratulated me and gave me a hug and a high-five. What time do I normally wake up? Well, let me tell you about my typical schedule.

 A Pet Sitter's Schedule

A Pet Sitter's Schedule

the morning

As a professional pet sitter, the time I wake up depends on how many visits I'm scheduled to make in the morning. Typically, my alarm is set for 4:30 a.m., which allows me to freshen up, get dressed, and pour myself a cup of Joe (essential) before my first visit. 

How do I decide who to see first?

I prioritize based on the circumstances of all of the pets in my care at a particular time and their humans' wishes regarding their schedule. I don't guarantee a specific time. In the morning, I see pets between the hours of 5:00 and 8:00 a.m., unless some other time is specified and agreed upon. When deciding whom to see when, I consider the type of pets and their bathroom needs, first. Dogs without doggie doors come first, followed by dogs with doggie doors, and then cats and other pets who have means to go potty without being let out. If I have any unusual or exotic pets such as horses or chickens, they are considered, as well. I also think about geography. I try to make my visits in a somewhat organized fashion rather than bounce back-and-forth around town like a ping-pong ball.

the afternoon

My afternoons are typically booked with dogs and other animals that need to be seen three times a day, as well as mid-day potty breaks and dog walks for working families. In the summer, I am busier with vacation visits, but have very few mid-day dog walks, as I do not walk dogs when temps are higher than 100° for the safety of the animal. All pet sitting visits include a daily walk, if desired, so, during the summer, I fit those into the early morning visits, which are the only times the weather permits. In Phoenix, summer highs are 110°+. In the fall, however, when the weather is gorgeous and everyone wants to be me, my mid-day dog walks pick up.

Afternoon visit times aren't typically as critical as morning visit times, but some of the same principles apply. If I'm giving a potty break–say–for a family who works long hours, I take their schedule into consideration and try to visit the pets about mid-way through their time of absence. I typically make afternoon visits between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. 

the evening

I use the same principles for evening visits as I do for morning visits: priority one are dogs who need to relieve themselves. In the evening, however, I typically make those visits last. Why, you ask? Because they have to make it through the night. I try to make the overnight wait as short as possible for these guys because it's typically the longest stretch of time they will be left alone. When deciding whom-to-see-when in the evenings, I take the next day's schedule into consideration. My evening visits are typically made between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. 

in-between visits

As you probably know, I have two kids at home (one away at college), ages eight and six. My husband has a demanding job that requires him to be out of the home a lot and sometimes work atypical hours, plus, sometimes he travels. Thankfully, he's usually home on the weekends, my busiest times. 

During the week, I try to be back from morning visits in time to get the kids ready for school, but if my hubby is traveling, the kids get up early and come with. They are my Junior Pet Sitters, and they know the drill. They aren't always thrilled about it, but they do what it takes and are usually rewarded with an ice cream or extra allowance for a particularly demanding schedule. After morning visits, I get the kids off to school, hit the gym, and then do administrative tasks and work on this blog you are reading right here.

I then make my afternoon visits, and if there's time before picking the human rugrats up from school, I get some more blog work done. After school, we'll grab a snack and do homework, and then the Junior Pet Sitters are off with me again to do evening jobs so that we can be home and reunited with Daddy for dinner as often as his schedule allows. 

what about holidays and my own vacations?

Being a pet sitter is a 365-day-a-year job, and major holidays are some of my busiest times. Winter holidays such as Christmas and New Years are pretty hectic, but we make it work. On Christmas morning, I've been known to start my pet sitting visits around 3:00 a.m. so that I can be home when my kids wake up to see what goodies Santa brought. And, yes, I have to be careful about champagne consumption on NYE. I really don't want a massive hangover when visiting pets on the first morning of the new year. 

My family does not typically travel during holidays and times others usually travel. Everyone wants to get out of the Phoenix heat during the summer, so that means we stay put and watch their pets. And holidays? Forget it. We stay home, and I work. 

So when do I get away? Well, we'll (shudder) typically pull the kids out of school for a week in the fall and/or spring, but not during fall and spring break when I'm busy. Our kids' charter school usually has a slightly different schedule than the public schools in the area, so sometimes we get lucky and can travel during their school breaks.

sick days

What's a sick day? 

I work when I'm sick. On the rare occasion that I simply can't (picture the worst), I have relationships with other pet sitters in the area who are willing to help, or my husband pitches in. Visits are made, no matter what. 

 This is how my son, Porter, and I worked together back in the day (he is now eight years old).

This is how my son, Porter, and I worked together back in the day (he is now eight years old).

keeping it straight

How do I keep all of these appointments straight? I have three calendars. Yup. Three. I make sure they all match, and I check them throughout the day. I schedule everything into iCal, which pops up on my laptop and my phone. I also have an old-fashioned planner in which I write everything down. Believe it or not, that's my go-to calendar. In addition, I schedule all visits through online pet sitting software, so I can view my visits any time there. The system sends me an email in the middle of the night letting me know my visit schedule for the next day. It may seem like overkill, but all of this means I don't miss visits. My reliability is one of the most important things to my business, so I keep things straight.  

living the life

Though my schedule can be demanding, I wouldn't have it any other way. My days are dictated by the needs of my furry, feathered, and scaly friends. I have flexibility that allows me to do things like go to the gym, schedule doctors appointments, or meet a friend for lunch, which I consider a luxury people with traditional work schedules don't have. 

A day off rarely happens unless I schedule it that way. So I'm going to try to stop freaking out that I'm missing a visit today and relax, enjoy my family, and double-check my calendars only a few more times. Just to make sure. 

Do you have an unconventional schedule? How do you manage your day?

when a pet passes away: a pet sitter perspective

One of the most difficult parts of being a pet sitter is when a client's pet passes away. Over the course of my pet sitting career, I've had to experience this more times than I'd like. Only once has it actually happened in my arms. A handful of times I've let my client know that it might be time when it was too hard for them to let go. But, mostly, the pets I care for pass peacefully with their families. This has happened more than once over the last couple of weeks, and I must say that my heart is breaking. 

 When a Pet Passes Away: A Pet Sitter Perspective

When a Pet Passes Away: A Pet Sitter Perspective

I always say that my greatest qualification as a pet sitter is my love of animals. Sure, it takes a lot more than that to be a professional, but if love doesn't motivate one to do a stellar job, I'm not sure what will. You can't learn to love animals. It's just in you or it isn't. 

So each time a pet I've cared for passes, a little bit of my heart goes with him or her. I've spent quality time with these magnificent creatures. We've bonded and shared love. They come to depend on me in their owners' absences, and I depend on them because they deliver the best part of my job. They deliver the joy that makes me love what I do for a living.

Since we're a small family business, my children sometimes come with me on pet sitting visits, so they, too, become bonded with the pets we care for. These past couple of weeks have been really rough on them, too. Though they have now had quite extensive experience in pet loss at such a young age, it still hits them hard every time. 

My clients understand the love we have for their animals, and they usually keep me updated if their pets have a serious health issue, even if we aren't caring for them at the time. The humans who hire us understand and appreciate the bonds we share with their pets. We are so grateful that they take us into consideration. The fact that they are dealing with difficult decisions and sadness but still take the time to keep us in the loop is amazing.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a text from my client, Liz.* She let me know that their mixed shepherd, Clayton, had taken a turn for the worse. Over the past several months, I'd been taking care of Clayton as the family traveled, giving him supplements, medication, and special food, and keeping an eye on his overall health as he battled an insulinoma (cancer of the pancreas). I helped care for him after surgery, and the family and I were in regular communication about his condition, even when they weren't traveling. 

 Clayton, circa 2007, at the Maricopa Mutt March, a community event I co-founded.

Clayton, circa 2007, at the Maricopa Mutt March, a community event I co-founded.

Clayton and his family will always hold a special place in my heart. They became clients of mine when Clayton was just a puppy, soon after I moved to Arizona and opened my pet sitting business ten years ago. Their family gave me a sweet little Dalmatian stuffed animal for my son, Porter, when I was pregnant with him...something he still cherishes. After a couple of years, they moved out of my service area, then we moved a couple of times, then they moved again, and just a few months ago, I got an email from Liz..."remember us?" They were back in my service area, and I was reunited with Clayton. To say that these people and this dog are special to me would be an understatement. 

A couple of weeks ago, when Liz let me know that Clayton had taken a turn for the worse and that the veterinarian was running some tests over the weekend, it didn't sound good, but we hoped for the best.

Come Monday morning, I received a text from Liz letting me know that the cancer had spread to Clayton's bones and had made them so brittle that they could break at the slightest pressure. If that happened, the bones could not heal, and he would be in a great deal of pain. There was nothing more to do. There was really only one choice to make. Liz let me know that the vet would come to their home that evening at 7:00 PM. 

 Campbell took the news about Clayton particularly hard. Our dog, N.A.S.H.A., tried to comfort her.

Campbell took the news about Clayton particularly hard. Our dog, N.A.S.H.A., tried to comfort her.

I thought about Clayton and his family all day and watched the clock. I broke the news to my children, and they were devastated. We'd spent a lot of time with Clayton over this past summer, and they had really bonded with him, too. As the clock struck 7:00 PM, we stopped what we were doing, had a group hug and a moment of silence for Clayton. 

About an hour later, I received a text from Damon, Liz's husband, letting me know that Clayton had passed peacefully.

Over the next few days, I exchanged quite personal text messages with Liz and Damon. They sent me a picture of Clayton enjoying the back yard just a few hours before he passed. Their family was struggling, and so was ours. I tried my best to support them. After all, it was their dog. Even so, they somehow understood our deep loss, as well, and considered our feelings. They even offered for my children to choose one of Clayton's toys as a keepsake, as her children had. This was truly a remarkable relationship. 

A couple of days ago, a card came in the mail. It was addressed to the "Junior Pet Sitters." 

 The thoughtful message to my Junior Pet Sitters.

The thoughtful message to my Junior Pet Sitters.

The kids smiled and got a little teary, as did I. Included inside was a gift card for them to get some ice cream. That made them smile, and–I think–made us all feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Times are sad, but we can always find joy. And what better joy than ice cream, right? I plan to take the kids for ice cream this week and use it as a time to remember all of the things we loved about Clayton. 

I couldn't be more thankful to have these people, and to have had this dog, in our lives. Bonds like this go beyond the "business" of pet sitting. 

I am looking forward to the day when the Ashcraft family brings a new dog into their lives. They are remarkable pet parents, and I have confidence that our partnership in pet care is far from over. It may take some time, but we'll be here when they are ready. 

R.I.P., Clayton. You will always have a piece of our hearts.

 Junior Pet Sitter Porter enjoying cuddles from Clayton.

Junior Pet Sitter Porter enjoying cuddles from Clayton.

 Clayton and I liked to cuddle.

Clayton and I liked to cuddle.

 The many moods of a morning walk with Clayton.

The many moods of a morning walk with Clayton.

 Clayton enjoys a good brushing from Junior Pet Sitter Campbell.

Clayton enjoys a good brushing from Junior Pet Sitter Campbell.

 Smooshing in for a selfie.

Smooshing in for a selfie.

*All names are typically changed in the interest of client anonymity, but I have been given special permission from my clients, in this case, to use their real names. I wanted to honor them properly.

can toxic mold affect my pets?

As you may know, I contribute regularly to a natural wellness blog, Hybrid Rasta Mama, where I talk about natural pet health. The blog's author, Jennifer, and her family have been going through hell as a result of discovering toxic mold in their home. They learned that their persistent health problems were almost all caused by mold present in their walls. They moved from California to Arizona, and I had the opportunity to spend time with them and learn about their situation, which is nothing short of hellish. Not only did they have to abandon their home, but they had to get rid of all possessions. They are on a long, hard road to physical and emotional recovery. Naturally, the health and well-being of their pets has been a chief concern. Just a few years ago, it was thought that toxic mold did not have an affect on pets, but we now know that it does. Toxic mold can cause terrible health problems for animals in the household, even more so that for humans, depending on the specific case.

Jennifer's family includes multiple cats and a rabbit who are now all safely out of the home and on the road to recovery. They got lucky.

discovering that toxic mold is a health risk for pets

It was a 2007 press release from the American Veterinary Medical Association that really brought the effect of toxic mold on pets to light. Douglas Mader, a Florida veterinarian, was performing a dental procedure on two sibling cats. Soon after beginning the procedure, he noticed frothy blood in the anesthesia tubes. Alarmed, he stopped the procedure. Sadly, the cats both passed away within two days, and blood samples indicated that there was black mold in their lung capillaries. A hemorrhage exacerbated by the procedure was the cause of death. The cats showed no prior symptoms, and the family only discovered after the cats' blood test that there was mold in their home. 

symptoms of toxic mold exposure in pets

People discover that they have been exposed to toxic mold in a variety of ways. Sometimes they develop health problems that lead to the discovery, sometimes they physically see the mold in their homes, and sometimes the family pet falls ill. Prior to the 2007 press release, pets' symptoms were often attributed to other ailments. The following is a list of the most common symptoms pets exhibit when exposed to toxic mold:

severe scratching and chewing when fleas or other pests are not present

lethargy

runny nose

runny eyes. wheezing

coughing

nose bleeds

change in eating habits

It's easy to see why these symptoms were often assigned causes other than toxic mold exposure. They are common to a wide array of health problems that can affect our pets. The severity of the symptoms depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the mold issue and the type, size, and general health of the pet. Sometimes symptoms are so mild that they go unnoticed, and sometimes they lead to death even before the source of the problem is discovered.

why is toxic mold so dangerous to my pet?

Respiratory problems are the most common health issues pets develop as a result of toxic mold exposure. They are also the most concerning. When mold is inhaled by your pet, capillaries in the lungs are weakened by the mold spores. Over time, the capillaries can rupture and hemorrhage. If left untreated, this condition will eventually lead to death. These issues typically progress faster in animals than in humans due to their smaller size.

what to do if you suspect your pet may be suffering symptoms due to toxic mold exposure

If you've been following Jennifer's "molaggedon," you already know that toxic mold exposure is no joke. It's better to be safe than sorry. If you suspect your pet has been exposed to toxic mold, take all pets in the household to the veterinarian as soon as possible, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms. It is common in multi-pet households that one pet will display symptoms before the others. Typically smaller animals are more quickly and severely affected. 

If the veterinarian determines that your pet is suffering as a result of toxic mold exposure, do not bring your pets back to your home where the mold exists. You may need to board them or find a family member or friend who is willing to take them in while you eliminate the mold problem, a lengthy process.

The veterinarian may prescribe medications to help your pet's symptoms and may also suggest that your pet take an antibiotic to prevent or treat a secondary condition that may occur as a result of your pet's weakened system.

If your pet will be temporarily staying in a home where there are other pets, it is important to verify with your veterinarian that all of the pet's symptoms are attributed to toxic mold exposure and not another underlying condition. While health issues from mold exposure are NOT contagious, other conditions with the same symptoms may be. In order to protect all of the animals in the house your pet will be staying, make sure the animal is in good health, otherwise.

the bottom line

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to toxic mold, don't hesitate to seek veterinary assistance. You may safe your pet's life, and your own. 

Are you a pet parent who has dealt with toxic mold? Please share your story.

RESOURCES

Beware: Toxic Mold and Pets, Pets and Mold, New Findings Show Toxic Mold May Affect Dogs

This article, written by me, originally appeared on Hybrid Rasta Mama and has been reposted here with minor changes with permission.