Benefits of “Old Fogie” Pets

I’m delighted to be part of the PetNet Family Event sponsored by Petside.com linking many bloggers together celebrating pets as part of the family. This coincides with my “Golden Moments Senior Pet Blog Tour” featuring excerpts from my two “aging pet” books, since November also is Adopt A Senior Shelter Pet Month. Isn’t it GREAT how everything falls together?! Bottom line, pets are good for us, and we’re good for them. I hope you enjoy this combined excerpt from Complete Care for Your Aging Dog, and Complete Care for Your Aging Cat. Also check out my cats.About.com article on introducing cats to babies and toddlers. And I’ll be at Pet Hobbyist.com on Nov. 27 at 8 pm for a telephone chat.

BENEFITS OF SENIOR PETS

There’s nothing more endearing than a kitten or a puppy. But they also can be nonstop dynamos, frustrating to predict and a magnet for trouble. Although kittens and puppies can be wonderful fun, nothing matches the deep bond we have developed with our old cat buddies over a period of years.

Mature cats and dogs have many advantages over babies. Probably the biggest advantage is that together you have created a partnership, and already know each other and have adjusted to individual needs and foibles. All the hard work is done. She’s been trained to scratch the scratching post and use the litter box. You trust her not to swing from the drapes or empty the potted palm while you’re away. The dog’s been housetrained and tells you when she needs to “go”—and you know just how many hours you can be away from home before she’s in dire straits. She’s learned not to chew the TV remote control or your shoes, except for the old house slipper she’s carried around like a teddy bear since you brought her home 10 years ago. She’s learned to wake you promptly at 6:45 for work, and meets you at the door each evening. She no longer climbs the Christmas tree, unrolls the toilet paper, and only rearranges your sock drawer if you’re gone overnight and she’s lonely. She reminds you when it’s time for a pill and afternoon nap—for both of you. And she acts like the new grandbaby is her own kitten or puppy, and showers the infant with attention, gentle play, and protective care—dropping favorite toys in the crib, and even putting up with toddler tail tugs with a patient feline purr or doggy wag. Countless children have learned to walk while reaching for the furry shoulder or tempting tail of a cat or dog friend.

In fact, one of the best ways to introduce young children to the positive aspects of dogs cats is with a calm, patient adult animal. Parents already have their hands full dealing with infants and toddlers, and don’t need the added stress of an in-your-face kitten. Children can share birthdays with the aging pet and still be relatively young when she enters her golden years.

It’s not unusual for young people to say that one special cat or dog has always been a part of their life—and in times of family crises or emotional upset, the pet can ease the tension and help heal the pain simply by being there to pet and talk to. A broken heart, disagreements with siblings or parents, even physical or emotional trauma can all be helped by the mere presence of a cat or dog that the child loves.

An older pet can be a stabilizing influence on children, teach responsibility and empathy for other living creatures, and even act as a social bridge toward making friends with their peers. For example, a child shy of interacting with other children because of a perceived disability often comes out of her shell when accompanied by a furry friend–the dog or cat remains the focus of interaction rather than the child’s “different” look or behavior. Older cats and dogs often are ideal for such relationships, because they aren’t as active as younger pets, may be more patient and have learned what to expect. There’s a benefit to the old pet, too—playing and interacting with children keeps the pet’s brain and body active and youthful.

The advantages of loving an older cat are not limited to children. Studies have shown that contact with cats and dogs offers great physical and emotional health benefits to people, from children and adolescents, to adults and senior citizens.

Couples whose children have left for college and are recent empty nesters can receive great comfort by the presence of a furry companion. People of any age who lose a spouse from divorce or death—but particularly older owners—benefit greatly from a pet’s nonjudgmental love. For instance, petting lowers the blood pressure; and caring for a pet gives owners a purpose to concentrate on beyond the hurt and pain. Playing with and grooming the pet, shopping for litter and food, giving medicine to an old kitty or doggy friend, keeps people connected to the world and other people around them.

Old pets are often the companions of aging owners because that old pet has the same problems they’ve got, says William Tranquilli, DVM, a professor and pain specialist at the University of Illinois. “They don’t necessarily want a young pet, they want to do what they can to help their old buddy.” They’re willing to spend the money and often have more time to treat chronic disease to try to make the old animal more comfortable. And because the pets that we love are good for human health, just having a cat or dog around can reduce the trips owners take to their own doctors. Some physicians recommend that heart attack survivors keep a pet, because it increases their survival.

People of all ages, whose human family members live far away, become even more emotionally dependent on the cat. “I’ve met many elderly people whose cat has become the most important thing in their life. It’s a family member, and it may be the only remaining family member,” says Susan Little, DVM, a feline specialist in Ottawa, Canada. Of those pet owners who have a will, 27 percent have included provisions for their pets. Prolonging the pet’s life touches on a host of social and emotional issues. 

Pets who have spent a decade or more with us have learned what we like and expect—and we’ve learned to anticipate the senior cat’s needs, likes, and dislikes. Over the span of years, we build and then enjoy a comfortable companionship together. Our aging pets share with us our life experiences, successes and failures, joys and sorrows, and they represent milestones in our lives, says Signe Beebe, DVM, a veterinary acupuncturist and herbologist practicing in Sacramento. They may have celebrated with us when we graduated school, married, and had children or grandchildren—or comforted us when we divorced, retired, or lost a spouse. They have been there for us, through everything. The more time we spend together, the greater our affection grows. Our compassion, love, and empathy for each other reach a depth that has no parallel in human existence.

“We share our secret souls with our pets in ways we wouldn’t dare with another human being,” says Dr. Wallace Sife, a psychologist and president of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. “We’re human beings, and love is love. Love for a pet is no different than love for another human being.”

Old Dog, Old Cat & Being Water-Blogged

If you’ve read this blog you’ll realize I am not the world’s most faithful blogger. It’s not that I don’t write–I’m at the keyboard 8 to 12 hours a day, creating columns, articles, radio scripts and more. So by the time I get around to “blogging” I’m drowning from being submerged in words. Guess you could call me “water blogged.” 

Okay, that’s a stretch. Please don’t smack me. I’m feeling punchy, having just spent five hours with my writing partner working on a script. (Oh, there’s a  blog in the future on that topic!). And this past weekend, I wrote no fewer than a  dozen blog entries!  Yep, I actually created content for my first ever blog “tour.”

What is a blog tour? As best  I can tell, this “virtual tour” allows a guest to visit and provide content to several other blogs, without ever leaving the house (or asking the cat to  get off your lap). Readers from all over the world can attend, too, at their leisure to read, comment, and often partake in contests that garner all sorts of prizes.

November is NATIONAL ADOPT A SENIOR SHELTER PET MONTH. It so happens that I’ve recently updated and released second editions of my books COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT and COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING DOG. I may be water-blogged, but the synapsis made the  connection that a blog tour using the books’ content might encourage folks to take a chance and adopt a senior pet. By reading some of the blogs with book excerpts, perhaps owners will learn that caring for old fogie pets isn’t as daunting as they think, and in fact offers great rewards. So here’s the schedule–these blog hosts are fantastic writers and caring pet people, so please visit them often–and especially on my tour stop. Meanwhile, pet your furry wonders for me and I hope to “see” you along the way!

GOLDEN MOMENTS SENIOR PET BLOG TOUR, featuring excerpts from, and give-aways of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat, and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog 

1.       NOVEMBER 12th, Aging Cat excerpt at  www.PetHobbiest.com with PDF of book give-away/contest

2.       NOVEMBER 15th, Aging Cat excerpt at http://consciouscat.net/  with book give-away/contest

3.       NOVEMBER 16th, Q&A Part 1 about aging dog and cat care at http://arkanimals.com with book give-aways in a contest

4.       NOVEMBER 17th, Aging Cat/Dog excerpt at http://vivianzabel.blogspot.com with PDF books give-away/contest  

5.       NOVEMBER 18th, Aging Cat excerpt at http://www.pet-health-care-gazette.com/ with book give away

6.       NOVEMBER 19th Aging Dog excerpt, at www.PetHobbiest.com  with PDF of book give-away/contest

7.  November 20, Q&A part 2 about aging dog and cat care at http://arkanimals.com with book give aways in contest.

8.    NOVEMBER 21st Aging Dog excerpt, at http://www.pet-health-care-gazette.com/ with book give away

9.       NOVEMBER 22nd Aging Dog excerpt, at http://speakingforspot.com/blog/   

10.       NOVEMBER 23rd   Aging Dog/Cat articles on pet introductions, health benefits, and more at  http://www.redroom.com/author/amy-d-shojai , www.cats.About.com  & www.Petside.com

11.   NOVEMBER 27th telephone interview www.PetHobbiest.com  8 pm CST.

You. Are. Enough!

I’m feeling philosophical today.  

Everybody needs some strokes. The creative mind of authors, actors, musicians, and artists takes criticism so personally, a single sneer can quash the muse. I’m an author, actor, musician and artist so maybe I got hit with a quadruple whammy. Dang gene pool . . .

Those who read this blog know that I’ve recently “Kindle-ized” my backlist. I’m excited that the Aging Cat book has sold very well, and have high hopes that the just released print version will do equally well. But this week for the first time, books sold on Kindle were “returned.”

Huh? What happened?! Didn’t they *sniff* like the book? Why not? *whimper* THEY HATE ME!

I suspect you’re like me, whether you’ve published, performed, created for years or just recently dipped toes into the creative abyss. Dozens of great reviews leave me with a temporary glow, but it only takes one blistering comment to negate all the positives. And we LOOK for those negatives, don’t we? The reader who posts a modest review must not have liked the book all that well. The audience that didn’t whistle and offer stomp-along standing O’s must have hated the performance. If the artwork failed to sell, gallery attendees hated the artist.

Realistically, the book returns probably were accidental purchases of the Ebook instead of print. I think. Hope. Hell, maybe they really do HATE ME! I’m gonna go eat worms and die.

It must be in the definition of “artist”  to question our own talent and worthiness, even without help from outsiders. Self sabotage destroys more careers than anyone can measure. Because it’s safest to do nothing–pull all the books from the shelves, never write again. To try and fail is so painful, we’d rather close ourselves off and stop trying than risk the hurt. Again. So how many of y’all have decided to shut down the laptop, put away the viola, throw out paints, or hang up thespian aspirations?

I’ve made that “decision” dozens of times. But it never stuck. Because this is who I am. It’s what I do.

Last weekend I attended an audition workshop with the brilliant Del Shores, who notes that many people have !!@#$%^! -loads of baggage. Nobody gets out of life without some bumps, bruises, and the scars can be visible, deep inside, or both. Successful performers (and writers ARE performers!) learn to tap-dance into this wealth of virtual crappiocca, use it to create memorable damaged characters on stage, screen, canvas, music scores–and in our books, essays and other writing. Unblemished, perfect paintings, book characters, photos and music is freakin’ BORING!

In dog and cat behavior (another of my worlds), the perfect pet is a stuffed toy that has no potty accidents, no cost to feed, no need to walk in the rain, and no chewed up shoes or clawed sofas. But real pets also have baggage, seen and unseen–baggage is normal, folks. It’s what makes them special, rather than cookie-cutter boring. On top of that the old days of “punish the bad” has shifted to “reward the good.” I counsel clients to ignore the bad, and instead catch their pet in the act…of doing something good, and then rewarding with praise, treat, a ball or whatever floats the pet’s boat. We’ve learned that constant brow-beating or (heaven forbid!) actual beating causes pets to shut down.  It shuts down people, too, and it flat-out murders the creative process.

What floats your boat? How do you reward yourself? You are worthy, ya know!

Del Shores is fond of saying, “You are enough,” to his actors. No extra bells and whistles required. It applies to all creative people. Lessons learned:

  1. We’re all damaged goods. Use it. Mine the gold and let it resonate in your work.
  2. Ignore the bad. Reward the good.
  3. You. Are. Enough.

It’ll take practice for me to believe that. But I’m getting better. How about you?

Censored!

I’ve written a weekly PETiQuette column for my paper for nearly a decade now. In all that time, my terrific editor has rarely changed a word. Well, there was that time she was on vacation and somebody left the “i” out of the word “doing” and caused some minor embarrassment. But for the most part, I’ve managed to keep the content relatively clean despite often writing about what goes into (and out of) each end of our furry companions. So I was surprised to receive a note last week about language I’d used in an article on cat fights:

“I opted to change one word on this week’s column” she wrote. “Due to the recent uproar over us running a story with a curse word in it, we’re having to really watch it. You were discussing where bite marks would be found and used the “ass-ets” pun (which, by the way, I thought was cute). However, I was afraid some of our hyper-sensitive readers … would find it offensive … I changed it to nether “regions.”  I’m sorry about that, but really had to do it.”

WHAT?! At first, I laughed long and hard. And then I got hissed off (you know the REAL word but I don’t want to get bleeped here *eg*). I can’t get upset at my editor as she’s simply following the rules stated by the powers-whut-be. But I’ve used that pun on local and national TV, and in the same column in the past. I’ve been known to brag that I’m able to come up with hundreds of ways to say “bathroom deposits” without getting censored–until now. But I’ll rest easier knowing the newspaper is keeping us N Texans safe from real life language that could otherwise corrupt our innocent souls!

I understand why the editor felt compelled to play scrabble with my word choice and since it didn’t change the intent, I didn’t argue the point. The incident that prompted the prickly attitude arose from a wire story with a direct quote that (as I recall) broke the second commandment–but it was a DIRECT QUOTE! The editor ended up writing an apology for publishing it, assuring readers that the paper would land hard on the news service for sending such a thing, and would “vet” such things better in the future.

And I soooooooo appreciate being protected from the perils of being corrupted by my own errant wise-ass-isity. Oh damn…I mean darn, there I go again! Love to hear from any readers/writers if you’ve felt the heavy hand of censorship in your work. And I’m very tempted to write a future very dirty, suggestive, beyond-the-pale column but using only politically correct words and language. Wonder if I’d get censored again? Hmnnnnn. I do so love a challenge!

amy

http://www.shojai.com

Kindle-izing (Dog) News!

Holy cats! er…dogs! I didn’t realize it’s been so long since blog updates. Please forgive the delay, but I have been busy. And this installment is (mostly) about the dogs, and all about helping pets.

The American Pit Bull Terrier book will be released August 30, YEE-HAW! It’s available for pre-order, and should be in stores including Petco for all you pitty-loving owners. These loving, powerful dogs with the forever-grin are arguably the most maligned and misunderstood of dog breeds, and despite bad press, remain one of the top dogs in popularity. If interested in adopting one of these great pooches, educate yourself. My latest book covers puppy-to-adult, purebred to rescue, training and dog sports, liability and more–but there are certainly other great Pit Bull books available. The key is–get info first!

Have an aging canine? Complete Care for Your Aging Dog has been revised and updated from the original, and is now available from Amazon Kindle. The book in print form won the prestigous Dog Writers Association of America Maxwell Award, and became known as the “Old Dog Bible.” I’m delighted to bring it back to readers with value-added content and click-able links to products and resources to help keep your aging dog happy and healthy longer than ever. If anyone reading this would like a review copy, please drop me a note (amy@shojai.com) and I’ll send you the PDF.

The same offer goes for those of the feline purr-suation, if you’d like to review the Complete Care for Your Aging Cat. I’ve been working with Who Dares Wins Publishing to bring this multiple award winner back into print and other Ebook versions, too. Writers who have a backlist of books languishing for want of readers may wish to investigate this terrific publisher–my editor Jenni Holbrook and publisher Bob Mayer have been outstanding!

Now for a bit of editorializing…in the past couple of weeks, I’ve received emails and phone calls from a record number of folks needing help re-homing and/or caring for their special fur-kids. I’m not a vet, not a rescue or adoption agency, and not a social worker. It hurts my heart not to help more–oh, I do what I can and refer folks to organizations and resources. But if we ALL did just a little bit, just think of the extra wags and purrs that could be forthcoming?

In today’s economic situation, many pet owners are but a paw-step away from being in dire straights. Often the first impact hits the family pet, where stress levels and cost in both time and dollars may make giving up the pet seem like the only choice. Even as we tighten our belts and say “no” to charities that would have gotten our help in the past, pet lovers are in a unique situation. We not only sympathize with other pet lovers, we empathize on a gut-wrenching level.

Pet people can easily see themselves in another’s “paws” and faced with being unable to properly care for a beloved pet–a pet that has given love and undying trust, and doesn’t have a clue why the owner is so upset. Yet that pet still delivers happy wags and soothing purrs, sometimes the only one in the family able to calm the stress we live with. Pet lovers know that tomorrow it might be them at the soup kitchen. It might be them having to move to an apartment and give away the 8-year-old best buddy. It might be them, having to move in with a family member who dislikes pets.

Many vet clinics encourage their clients to donate funds to a “Good Samaratan” fund for this reason. Altruism aside, it’s what we’d want someone to do for US and our beloved pet. And it gives us hope that we can help somebody maintain that bond, a bond that’s perhaps even more important  in a modern world where finances, human relationships, and job security is more fragile than ever.What can be done? Donate what you can. It doesn’t have to be $$ and I’ll hazard a guess that local soup kitches and the like have patrons who’d also welcome an extra can of pet food, a bag of litter, or other pet necessity to lighten their load. I’m searching for answers and will let y’all know what I come up with…and meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

purrs and wags,

amy

http://www.shojai.com