for keeps: Blog the Change for Animals

There are so many animals out there in need of homes, and so many who are destroyed as a result. So it goes without saying that unless you need a particular breed of animal pet for a specific reason, adoption is the best option. Regardless of the means by which a pet joins a family, the most important factor is that the family knows what they are getting into. A pet is a member of a family, not an armchair that can be replaced if the leg is busted or the upholstery is worn. Pets are in it for the long haul. If they are sick, they must be cared for–not discarded. If a family moves, it needs to seek out a pet-friendly option in a new home, not dump the animal at a shelter. And if your pet urinates around the house, it's time for behavior training, not the streets. We all have our issues, right?

Before getting a pet, think about the following:

1. What will this pet add to the family?

2. What care is involved with this pet?

3. Will this pet be good around children (if applicable)? And will the children be able to help care for the pet?

4. How long is the pet expected to live, and are there any health concerns surrounding this type of pet?

5. How much time is our family willing to put into training?

6. What are the potential issues with the specific pet we are considering adding to our family?

7. Who will care for the pet?

8. Can we afford to care for this pet?

9. Does our family's activity level and presence in the home fit with the needs of the pet?

10. Is our family ready to make a commitment to care for the pet for the duration of it's life?

It's wonderful that there are no-kill options for families who are in over their heads, but if research is done before a pet enters the family, there is a better chance that that pet will be a perfect, livelong fit, as it should be. Bringing a pet into the family is a commitment for the life of the pet, period. Pets are for keeps.


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the big, bad world: enter, ThunderShirt, part 2 (Jack)

After learning how great the ThunderShirt worked for Rex, I had to see for myself. Since my own pooch is anxiety-free unless a butterfly tries to invade the garden, I recruited a helper. My mother-in-law has one of the most anxious dogs I know. Jack is a four-year-old Queensland Heeler/Short-haired Pointer mix with a difficult past. After being abandoned in a shelter as a pup, he was adopted and abused. He found a new, safer, happier home, but his high energy became a problem for another dog in the house who was suffering with health issues. In addition, gardeners at a neighboring home would tease him with their blowers through an open fence. It just wasn't a good fit.

Jack finally found his forever home with Tena, who has given him both loving comfort and solid training. She's spent hours with him in obedience school and has discovered that he's quite brainy. He passed with flying colors. But, like Rex, though Jack can behave, he still suffers from anxiety.

Tena explained,

"Jack is the most loyal, loving, wonderful house dog I have ever had, but his frantic running back and forth along my fence line with incessant, loud barking every time a gardener is in the neighboring yard is a huge problem."

Since Tena's property borders a condo complex that requires a lot of maintenance, this gardening occurs four days a week. Soon after Jack arrived at his new home, neighbors started to complain. Tena knew something had to be done, both for the neighbors and for Jack. And for her own sanity.

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I suggested the ThunderShirt to Tena because I'd heard great things about it. She was skeptical, naturally, as anyone would be of a daughter-in-law who frequently comes up with hair-brained plans to save animals. Even after I had the ThunderShirt sent to her house, she was hesitant. "I was a doubter," she now admits. I finally convinced her to give it a shot. "To get Jack used to (the ThunderShirt), I put it next to his blanket on the couch and in the laundry basket with my clothes," she reported.

Jack meeting his new ThunderShirt. Photo supplied by Tena Carr.

Then it got real.

The next door neighbor began mowing his lawn, and Jack exploded into a barking rage. Tena managed to get Jack inside. She put on the ThunderShirt, admittedly too loose. Jack was so out of control that it was extremely difficult to get the shirt on. Still, "Jack immediately calmed down. He stopped panting and pacing and just laid down," Tena said.

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The next time the gardeners came, Tena did a better job of getting the ThunderShirt on, fitting it snugly, as instructed. Tena was amazed:

"Jack went to sleep! When he woke up, I let him outside, and the gardner was still working. Jack barked about two times, then came right back in. I am so impressed! I never thought there would be a solution to this problem."

Testing fate, the next time the gardeners came, Tena decided to put the shirt on Jack, then take it off a few minutes later. "He went back to panting and pacing!"

Tena plans to keep using the shirt in times of high-anxiety for Jack. I'm looking forward to hearing more about it, and now that I'm convinced that the ThunderShirt really works, I'm curious as to how it works. Stay tuned.

Bonus in all of this: Perhaps Tena will subscribe to more of my hair-brained schemes in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ThunderShirt in exchange for my honest opinion.

keeping it small: size matters to me

When I started pet sitting full time, I initially tried any advertising I could think of. In order to build an initial client base, I threw lots of time and money down every conceivable avenue, only to receive very little in return. I learned quickly that networking and building relationships in the community was the fastest and best way to build my client base. Though we're always accepting new clients, we're now a manageable size, considering it's basically just myself and one other sitter. I prefer to keep it small because, well, let's be real: I'm a control freak. That, and I love the fact that I know each of my clients very well. They are almost like family. We partner with our clients to make sure their pets get the best care. Many of our clients have been with us since the beginning in 2005, and we're so grateful to have these relationships that often last through multiple "generations" of pets.

We now build our business primarily from client and community referrals, which is the best way to go for us. Just as our clients want to have the best pet sitter in all the land, we want to have the most awesome clients. By gaining new clients through referrals and spending time in the community, we can more readily trust that this will be the case, and they usually feel very comfortable knowing that a trusted source has said we're the best.


Because we value referrals so highly, we offer our clients an ongoing, graduated referral reward that gets better each time the referred client uses our services. Our client who is kind enough to refer to us gets rewarded over and over! It's been a great success for us, and it's a good feeling to know that we can say thank you to those who spread the word about Well Minded.

Growing our business this way allows us to create a family bond with our clients. I love that when a client's name pops up on my phone, I know exactly who they are and who their pets are. Size does matter. And we prefer to keep it small.

the moment of truth: deciding about euthanasia

The other night I had a conversation with a dear, lifelong friend. She sought my opinion and advice about her impending decision about when to euthanize her dog, who suffers from a terminal heart condition. This decision is the ultimate terror for any pet parent. I believe all of us would rather our pet just pass peacefully in his sleep and spare us the misery of choosing the proper time. The right time. The best time.

Each situation is unique in terms of the pet and the owner. There is the physical status of the pet and the emotional condition of the owner. And, though we don't want to expose the elephant in the room, there is the financial aspect, as well. I believe that all three issues must be taken into consideration, with the pet's comfort and quality of life being the absolute number one consideration.

I have helped several clients and friends through this difficult time, and the hardest situation is when the owner can't let go and lets the pet suffer. I have only witnessed this a couple of times and was able to gently guide things in what I considered to be the direction in the best interest of the pet.

When evaluating the physical condition of the pet and deciding when to make the final call, I truly believe in the "you'll know" philosophy. You know your pet best. If they aren't themselves and can't enjoy life, you'll see that. There is a difference between a pet who is slowing down and a pet who is in pain and can't function. The connection between you and your pet can't be denied, and your pet will be able to communicate to you in some way. You'll be in tune to that, and you'll do the right thing, even though it's hard.

Your emotional state is very important, though secondary to your pet's needs. When we become pet parents, we have to know that eventually we will likely be called upon to make this decision. No matter what, there will be some degree of guilt...Did I wait too long? Did I do it too soon? Did I do enough? You have to know that you have done the best you can for your pet. Your pet knows that. Your pet knows your love. Your pet knows. Though the last moment we have with our pets is usually heartbreaking, it's hopefully peaceful, and we should walk away remembering not just that moment, but all the wonderful times, which made up the majority of your time together.

And then there's the money. Having a pet with a long-term disease or issue can often be costly, and the decisions we have to make regarding what to do and the extent to go to can be financially agonizing, which only adds to our guilt. Even if you have all the money in the world, some tests and procedures can be invasive, stressful, and even painful for your pet. Regardless of cost, you have to evaluate the likelihood that it will make a difference. If you can afford something and it's minimally invasive to a declining pet, then go for it. But spending any amount of money on something that is very unlikely to make a difference, especially if it is invasive, just doesn't make sense for you or your pet. I have seen people spend thousands of dollars for an invasive procedure that had little chance of bettering the quality of their pet's life. It can certainly make you feel that you've done absolutely everything. That helps your emotions in the moment, but it doesn't help your pet. And it doesn't help your pocketbook to consent to unnecessary procedures. If you have a quality veterinarian (that you've hopefully built a relationship with), they will help guide you through the process. Most have you're pet's best interests at heart.

Your pet's quality of life is the number one priority. When we sign up to be pet parents, we commit to making the best decision for those in our care. Finances must also be considered, as well as our own emotions. This time in your pet's life is, without question, the most difficult. Trust your instincts, and move forward with confidence. The love and unbreakable bond will be there, no matter what.