Have a Happy and Safe Halloween

Halloween is a time for fun for kids of all ages and even our animals.  But it’s no fun if there’s an accident.  If you take a few precautions you can reduce the likelihood of your pet being involved with a problem.

Halloween is all about candy and we know that candy and animals don’t mix.  According to the ASPCA chocolate is the number one human food that pets ingest.  Human food ranks number 4 on their list of the top pet toxins in 2011. The 2nd most ingested human food is xylitol, the sugar substitute.

A lot of the rules are common sense and you’ve learned these if you’ve had a pet very long.  Don’t leave the basket of candy you are handing out in a place the dog can get it.  Also you may want to assign someone to handle the dog, especially if you have a dog that gets excited when the doorbell rings.  Don’t leave him unattended in another room because he may get very agitated and destructive.  If you have young children, make sure they are supervised when eating their candy so the dog won’t be able to get it.

Image   If you’re going to dress up your pet the folks at Halo pet food have some good tips for safe Halloween costumes.   Here are some creative outfits!

Many people have had their Halloween plans changed because of the damage from Superstorm Sandy.

Photo: By Mehdi Taamallah, AFP/Getty Image

Many pets have lost their homes and have become separated from their families.  The Humane Society as well as the ASPCA are both active in animal control in the damaged areas and working to reunite animals with their owners as well as helping orphaned animals.  You can follow their efforts and contribute money on their websites and their social media sites.

Fetch! Pet Care of NW Atlanta provides pet sitting, dog walking and cat care services for Roswell, East Cobb, Woodstock and Kennesaw, GA.  You can see the happy pets by following us on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/fetchnwatlanta/.

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Dog Treats for Halloween

A lot of money is being spent on candy for kids on Halloween, but your dog doesn’t have to be left out of the fun of getting a treat.  You can get healthy and fun treats at the Dog City Bakery in East Cobb.   I love going in the shop to say hello to Marcia Lain, the Pack Leader and chef.   You can’t miss the smell of the fresh treats in the oven.  Olive and Lilly, her two Boston Terriers, come up and say hello before retreating back to their beds.

Marcia opened the bakery in 2008.  She had lost 2 dogs to cancer and after she looked into why they may have died, she realized some dog food and treats have things in them that aren’t real good for dogs.   “I decided to make my own, so I’d know what was in them, she said.  “After my kids went off to college I had the time and set up the Boutique here in East Cobb.”

  You can see the ingredients for each of the treats so you can avoid something that your pet is allergic to or can’t eat.  “This is a fun way for the dogs to join in and have fun with the family,” said Marcia.  For Halloween she doesn’t just have some cookies with spooky designs, she’s also made some Halloween cakes as well.  When I stopped by to chat with her on Tuesday she was making a cake for a 2 year old birthday party.  “It’s applesauce and cinnamon based,” she said as she put the topping on the cake.  “The topping has some sugar, but it’s a yogurt base that’s okay for dogs.”   The best sellers are the personal sized woof cakes and the most popular cookies are the Apple Soft Bites and the Cheesy Beggin’ Twists.  And if your pooch needs something special to wash the treat down with, you don’t have to rely on water.  They have Bowser Beer, a non-alcoholic beer for dogs.

Marcia doesn’t make food to sell, but she has a wide selection of healthy pet foods for sale, for both dogs and cats.  And soon she may have some homemade treats for cats.  “I have a recipe for cat treats and I may start doing that again,” she said.

She’s been providing treats for me to give as gifts for new clients for more than a year.  They are always well received.  Don’t leave your dog out on Wednesday night when the tasty treats are being passed around!

Fetch! Pet Care of NW Atlanta provides pet sitting, dog walking and cat care services for Roswell, East Cobb, Woodstock and Kennesaw, GA.  You can see the happy pets by following us on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/fetchnwatlanta/.

Happy Anniversary!

Aside

October 19, 2010 was one of the most important days of my life.  That’s the day I purchased my Fetch! franchise and set me on my way with my second career.  I had “retired” after 25 years in the TV business when I left The Weather Channel in the summer of 2009.  I had never thought of myself as a business owner, but when the opportunity presented itself to get involved with Fetch!, it was too good to pass up.  And besides, it had been several years since I’d had Mack, my black lab and had missed having a dog around.

I got 4 days of pretty intense training with the Fetch! corporate staff in California and having the backing of the franchise has been very helpful to me.  This experience has been great for me. Image It’s revitalized me from the staleness I had developed.  It’s forced me to develop new skills and change the way I think about things.  I didn’t really open for business until right before Christmas and only had a few clients.  I didn’t really start marketing a lot until February, hoping to pick up some business from spring breakers.  It came slowly but surely.  It was nice getting the repeat business too.  Things really picked up this year in March and haven’t slowed down.  It was important having the year under my belt and that helped me with some marketing decisions and some things I did at different times of the year.

The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is new relationships I’ve made with my sitters, the clients, their pets and the many people I’ve met while attending various networking groups trying to spread the good word about Fetch! Image Several people have kind of taken me under their wing and have been very giving with advice and suggestions.  I learned at the Weather Channel how important it is to hang out with people who are a lot smarter than you.  It’s amazing what you can learn that way!  I’ve tried to do the same as a business owner and listen to people who are very knowledgeable in things like marketing, sales, social media and computers.

It’s been very rewarding for me.  The financial rewards aren’t where I want them yet, but I’m very pleased with the way that is progressing.  It’s given me a real sense of accomplishment to be able to make this work.  I’ve learned how important we’ve become to our clients and how much they love being able to count on us to take care of their pets.  That’s been the most rewarding thing, seeing the pets so happy when we’re there.  What a great job I have!  I get to play with dogs like this 9 week old border collie,Image Abby, we signed up today!  I get to spend my afternoons outside enjoying the wonderful fall weather!  What could be better!

Every day’s not great.  One day I was walking a dog and it seemed sluggish.  I noted that to the client and she agreed and said she was going to take it to the vet.  Two days later it was put down.  An old dog I was staying in the house with over Christmas was having some issues.  I was staying in contact with the owner and he told me to take it to the vet on the day after Christmas.  The dog had developed pancreatitis and had to be put down.  I was sorry the owner wasn’t there to say goodbye.

I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve tried to learn from them.  That’s something I feel like I’ve always been good about.  Sometimes there have been procedural mistakes and we’ve tried to develop a way to keep it from happening again.  I’ve tried to have a sort of checks and balance system with the sitters and the clients.Image  I’ve made some marketing investments that didn’t pay off, either in the time or the money I’ve put into it.  I still think that anything I’ve done to get my name out there hasn’t been a total waste of time.  Who knows when it eventually pay off with some business.

I take the responsibility of caring for my client’s homes and pets very seriously.  But we market ourselves as having fun with the pets.  ImageAnd when there’s fun involved, the animals are happy.  When the animals are happy when the clients come home, the clients are happy.  They use our service again and that makes me happy!  For everyone who’s helped make these two years so successful I say thanks!  I’m looking forward to many more years of providing great service to the clients and the pets and giving the sitters a chance to earn extra money and have a great time doing it!

Fetch! Pet Care of NW Atlanta provides pet sitting, dog walking and cat care services for Roswell, East Cobb, Woodstock and Kennesaw, GA.  You can see the happy pets by following us on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/fetchnwatlanta/.

True Rescues

    People “rescue” animals from humane societies and rescue organizations every day.  I have clients who have gotten dogs and cats that were in abusive situations or were neglected.  Two of my clients have  pets  they have “rescued”   from two of the most destructive storms in the past few years.    Sugar CookieImage is a Siamese cat that survived not only Hurricane Ike on Galveston Island in 2008, but also an attack from pit bulls running loose after the hurricane hit.  Joplyn is a golden retriever that survived the disastrous Joplin, Missouri tornado that hit in 2011.  This is their story. 

    Mike Bettes is an On-Camera Meteorologist with the Weather Channel.  He was one of the first people to start broadcasting live from the scene of the Joplin tornado on Sunday, May 22, showing America the twister’s immense devastation. He had been chasing severe weather in southwestern Missouri and was positioned right behind the storm, so he arrived on the scene of the destruction only about 10 minutes after the tornado hit “I had never seen anything where the damage was that fresh and chaotic,”Image Bettes said.  “Usually when we covered damage we didn’t get there until the day after.  It really hit home how destructive it was.”   He was reporting live from the St. John’s Regional Medical Facility where 6 people were killed.   158 people were killed, making it the deadliest tornado in the US since 1947.

     When reporters start covering a story, especially when it becomes a big story, they want to continue to cover the story.  Because they are there, they develop contacts to help them with their coverage, to give them information and story ideas.  In the public’s mind they also get identified with stories because they are seen covering them so much and this was the case with Bettes and the Joplin tornado.

     “My reason to adopt was because of my experience covering the story,” Bettes said.  “There were literally hundreds of homeless animals and we did a story on it.”    “I had wanted a dog and I saw this sweet golden and the director hooked me up. Image Nobody knew anything about her before she got there.  She showed up 9 days after the tornado hit and they could tell she had a litter of puppies either right before or right after that.  No one knows what happened to any of the puppies.

      When Joplyn arrived at her new home in the Atlanta area on June 27 she weighed only 49 pounds.Image  “When we first got her she was underweight and very shy.  It took her a little bit of time to get warmed up.  S he was sweet and wanted attention.  She has adjusted really well and has put on weight.”  She was getting real agitated during thunderstorms but Mike got her a thunder jacket and it has worked well.

     Mike was out of town recently and I took Joplyn for her midday walks. Image I can attest that she is doing great.  I first met her about a week after she arrived in Atlanta.  She’s now up to 60 pounds and by looking at her, you would never know what she’s been through.

      Sugar Cookie has not adjusted quite so well.  Stacy Fox was working with the Houston chapter of the SPCA when preparations for Ike were underway in September 2008.  When the evacuation order for Galveston Island was issued, residents were told to take their pets with them.  Many people thought they would only be gone for a day or two and their pets would be fine.  Now we know that many of the buildings on Galveston Island were destroyed,Image including the original animal shelter on the island.  The SPCA set up a mobile animal shelter, or MASH, within 24 hours of landfall.  Stray animals were brought to the MASH and a pet hotline and website was set up so people could see if their pets were turned in.  One of the animals turned in the day after the hurricane hit was a 5 week old Siamese cat.  Rescuers going door to door heard a commotion and found a group of pit bulls attacking a family of cats and only one was saved.  He was sent to the MASH and was checked out by the vet there.  After 10 days, no one claimed it so it was sent to the SPCA shelter in Houston and placed in a kennel there.

    “I would walk past his kennel and he’d paw and meow at me,” Stacy said.  “One day I stopped and picked him up and loved on him.   He kissed me and bit my nose and my ear.  I paid the adoption fee and he came home with us.”

    After he got comfortable with his new family, Stacy said that’s when the trouble started.  “He became aggressive and would attack family members and even some strangers.”

    She got in touch with Dr. Lori Haug, an animal behavior diplomat.  They are vets who study animal behavior.  They diagnose and treat mental illness in animals.  After spending many hours in the Fox’s home observing Sugar Cookie and his environment, she determined he suffered from fear aggression and predatory aggression.  Since Sugar Cookie was separated from his mother and family, he didn’t get the kitten socialization that normally occurs.  Dr. Haug set up a treatment plan, but it was up to the Fox’s to implement it.  

    “We had to make sure he was mentally and physically stimulated in the house.  He was able to chase things.  Once we moved to Georgia, he can chase chipmunks from window to window.  New things are introduced slowly and increased when appropriate. Image I did some trick training.   I taught him to twist and twirl.  They learn differently but can be taught,” said Stacy who has trained both her dogs.  (One of them, Eddie, has won a pile of ribbons at dog shows.) 

      Sugar Cookie has learned to respect the boundaries of the family members, but usually stays in the downstairs of the house.  When we sit for them, the sitter keeps her in one room, while she puts down the food and cleans the box.  He didn’t have any problems with our sitter. 

   You can see what a pretty cat he is and Stacy says he means a lot to the family. Image “He’s a work in progress.  I think he loves us now and he feels safe and comfortable.  When we adopt a pet we make the commitment to the animal for their life and we love him and his uniqueness.”  Stacy urges anyone who may be having some problems with their pet get in touch with a behaviorist to examine their pet before they give up on it and send it to a shelter.  From the ACVB website you can find one near you. 

     On a personal note, before operating Fetch! I was an executive producer at the Weather Channel and had worked with Mike on coverage of many severe weather events.  I left the Weather Channel in the summer of 2009, so I was not involved in the Joplin coverage, but Ike was the last significant hurricane I covered at the Weather Channel. 

Fetch! Pet Care of NW Atlanta provides pet sitting, dog walking and cat care services for Roswell, East Cobb, Woodstock and Kennesaw, GA.  You can follow us on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/fetchnwatlanta/.