Sharing Your Life With a Furry Friend

Late in 2011, the American Humane Association launched a one-of-kind study to understand why three to four million adoptable pets are euthanized every year in shelters across the country.  “Keeping Pets In Homes” is a three part study to curb pet homelessness. The goal is to learn why some people adopt a cat or dog, some remain pet-less and others surrender them to shelters.  The first phase of the research was just released and the results are very interesting.

While there are 117.5 million households in the U.S., only 46.3 million have a dog in their family and 38.9 million own a cat.  That leaves 27.5 percent of the households in America without a pet.  The first phase of  Keeping Pets In Homes examined the reasons why so many people do not share their lives with furry friends.

Funded by a generous grant from PetSmart Charities, phase one, “Reasons For Not Owning A Dog Or Cat,” interviewed 1,500 adults who previously owned a pet and non-pet owners to determine the reasons behind their decision.  Understanding the respondents’ hesitation to bring a cat or dog into their families is the first step toward developing effective strategies to get more homeless pets adopted.

Phase one also examined if people in the study were open to the possibility of becoming a pet guardian in the future.  Here are the top reasons cited for not owning a cat or dog:

  • The cost associated with having a pet is too high.
  • Not enough time to care for an animal.
  • Grief over the loss of a previous pet was too much to      handle.

Surprisingly, people named the death of a previous pet as the top reason why they did not currently have an animal in their household.  20% of dog owners and 17% of cat owners said the stress of watching a beloved pet grow old and die was so traumatic they had chosen not to go through experience again.

When respondents were asked if they were open to the possibility of pet ownership in the future they said:

  • 45%  of previous dog owners would consider getting another, while 34% of previous cat owners were receptive to another cat.
  • 25%  of those who had never owned an animal said they were “probably” or “definitely” open to bringing a dog into their family compared to 10% for cats.
  • Previous owners said they would adopt from a shelter or rescue organization for obtaining a new dog or cat.
  • Those who have never owned an animal, 51% said they would rescue or adopt a dog and 42% indicated they would use a shelter to adopt a cat.

Some of the data from the study was discouraging.  More than one-third of non-pet owners said they dislike cats and only 22% of previous dog owners and 18% of former cat owners said they obtained their past pets from a shelter or rescue group.  And despite the documented health and emotional benefits of pet ownership, an overwhelming 90% of seniors said they were not open to owning a dog or cat in the future.

“There are still significant hurdles to overcome in helping to keep more of these healthy, adoptable animals out of the nation’s shelters,” said Dr. Patricia Olson, chief veterinary advisor for American Humane Association’s Animal Welfare Research Institute.  “Using the data gathered and the work to be done in future phases of this study, we hope over time to decrease pet homelessness and relinquishment.”

“By understanding the reasons why so many Americans do not own a pet, and learning what we can do to increase lifelong retention of those that do,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of the American Humane Association, “we can take the necessary steps to change minds, change policies and change activities to help get more of these beautiful animals out of shelters and into the arms of loving families.”

Phase two of the study is underway. The focus is to examine people who have adopted a cat or dog in the last six months from public and private shelters in three major cities and determine how they and their new pets are adapting.

More data to come and hopefully better qualified owners will adopt and keep their loving pets.  With so many reasons and such wonderful benefits to owning and loving pets, it’s only natural that the numbers will grow.

My three rescue dogs, all females are posted below because I want you to see first-hand what LOVE truly means!  Best wishes my friends …








Do Pets Help With Depression

Could the warmness of a cat or a dog, or the purring of a cat or wagging of a dog’s tail and cheerful smile help with your depression?  It certainly can and does.  I’m living proof since I’ve rescued three female dogs and nothing has brightened my outlook more.  I’m now happier, look forward to my time with my “furry kids” along with smiling and laughing more than I ever thought possible while handling my depression.  There have been many baby steps which, in the aggregate, amount to much healing over the course of time.  I still have further to go for healing, but now I realize that I will be able to do so.

Being around pets indeed as some say can feed the soul and heal the spirit.  And pets offer us unconditional love and forgiveness in all we do or forget to do.  This can be extremely helpful to those suffering from depression.

The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.  The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well being.  ~Dalai Lama

You Don’t Have to Live With Depression

Understand the symptoms of depression, from sadness to hopelessness to headache.

Studies show that animals can reduce tension and improve mood.  Along with treatment, pets can help some people with mild to moderate depression feel better.  If you’re depressed, here’s a rundown of how pets could help.

  • Uncomplicated love.  Are your relationships with family and loved ones complicated and frayed?  A pet can be a great antidote.  With a pet, you can just feel.  You don’t have to worry about hurting your pet’s feelings or getting advice you don’t want.
  • Responsibility.  You might not think you can take care of a pet right now.  I didn’t at first.  My dear friend tried to be helpful and brought me a pet.  However, it was too soon and I became so anxious and afraid, she had to return it.  She now understands, however, and realized what I was going through back then and has seen the progress in me over time.

Taking care of yourself may seem hard enough.  But give yourself a little time and after a while, experts say that adding a little responsibility can help.  It adds a new and positive focus to your life.  Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance.  It will remind you that you are capable — that you can do more than you might think.

  • Activity.  Are barely getting off the couch these days? You need to get more physical activity.  Pets can help. If you have a dog, that dog needs to be walked.  A little extra physical activity is good for your physical and mental health.
  • Routine.  Having a daily schedule helps people with depression.  An animal’s natural routine — waking you in the morning, demanding food or walks — can help you stay on track.
  • Companionship.  Depression can isolate you.  It can make you pull back from your friends and loved ones. If you have a pet, you’re never alone.  That can really make a difference.
  • Social interaction.  Having a pet can gently push you to get more social contact.  You might chat with others while walking your dog at the park or waiting at the vet. Pets are natural icebreakers and other pet owners love to talk about their animals.
  • Touch.  Studies show that people feel better when they have physical contact with others.  Pets offer something similar.  There’s something naturally soothing about petting a cat on your lap.  Studies have shown that petting a dog can lower your heart rate too.
  • Better health.  Research has found that owning a dog can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and boost levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain. One study of Chinese women found that dog owners exercised more often, slept better, reported better fitness levels and fewer sick days, and saw their doctors less often than people without dogs.

Drawbacks of Getting a Pet for Depression

Pets aren’t for everyone with depression.  If you’re depressed, think carefully before getting a pet.  If you have a loved one with depression, don’t assume that surprising him or her with a kitten will help.  It could make things worse.  Here are four things to ask yourself before getting a pet to help ease depression.

  • Are you comfortable with animals?  A lot of people helped by pets had them as children.  They’re used to having an animal as a source of comfort.  If you’ve never had a pet, it may be less likely to help now.
  • Will having a pet make you worry?  Dwelling on death is a common sign of depression.  If getting a pet just means that you’ll worry constantly about it dying, that won’t help.
  • Is your depression too intense right now?  Taking care of a pet is not unlike taking care of a small child.  If your depression is so severe that you can’t take care of an animal, it’s not a good idea to get one.
  • Can you afford a pet?   The reality is that caring for pets can be expensive.  The ASPCA estimates that in the first year, a cat can cost more than $1,000 and a dog up to almost $1,850.  Yet the price of owning a dog or cat, not as expensive as dealing with serious major depression issues, can be a bargain at providing you with love, understanding and unquestionable forgiveness.

Even if getting a cat or dog isn’t wise right now, other animals could help. Birds can be surprisingly affectionate and cost only $270 a year in care. While you may not want to snuggle with a fish or a turtle, caring for them could also improve your mood.  It creates responsibility and a new focus. Studies have shown that watching fish can lower your pulse and ease muscle tension too.

Pain insists upon being attended to. 

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences,

but shouts in our pains.  It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.  ~C.S. Lewis 

How To Honor National Dog Day

How To Honor National Dog Day

Some go into law enforcement. Some go into medicine. But they all appreciate a good belly rub. Whether they’re saving lives or simply enriching them, rescue dogs, police dogs, therapy dogs and family dogs are selflessly devoted to making the world and their homes a better place. But with four million adoptable animals put down every year, many dogs never get the chance to put their big hearts to use.

August 26 is National Dog Day, a holiday to celebrate dogs and all that they do for us, and to welcome those in need into our lives through animal rescue.

National Dog Day founder Colleen Paige was inspired to create the holiday after looking at a coffee table book that depicted the horrors and triumphs of 9/11 without a single mention of the hundreds of rescue dogs who put their lives on the line at Ground Zero to help the emergency crews.

“The lack of attention for what these dogs endured and accomplished made me weep,” said Paige. “It also made me realize all that they do, unconditionally, and how so many are abused and abandoned. I felt that they needed a day of recognition, a day for us to say “thank you” for saving our lives, lowering our blood pressure, guiding our blind, protecting our streets, our homes and our families, and to show our appreciation by helping to celebrate them and save lives in return.”

With the support of the Animal Miracle Network, National Dog Day has grown annually with events expanding as far as Puerto Rico, England and Italy.  Affiliates are welcomed to host their own National Dog Day events ranging from dog shows, walkathons and photo contests to picnics, adoption drives and fairs.

If you’re already a proud pet owner, take some time on National Dog Day to show your dog how much you appreciate him.  Some recommended holiday activities include having a picnic at a dog park, inviting the neighborhood dogs over for a pool party, coordinating a costume parade on your street, taking your dog shopping to pick out a new toy and planning a pet-friendly getaway.

If you’re looking to give a homeless dog a loving home, visit to meet your new best friend.  Or you can go to any of the ASPCA sites in your state or local rescue sites.   With pet adoption, you’ll find that National Dog Day will be the first of countless great ones to come.

“It is the Human Condition to Love.
It is Love that Changes the Human Condition.
It is the Love of one Human that can Change a Nation.
It is that Love which empowers one Nation, to save man’s best friend.”
~ Colleen Paige – Founder of National Dog Day



National Dog Day has officially gone International with 6 countries participating this year!
Thank you United Kingdom, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Spain and Canada!

Depression Is Very Real

How To Help Someone Who’s Depressed

I’ve gotten lots of questions from friends and other folks of depression patients, as to how to handle it.  This article assumes that the depressed person has been diagnosed and is in treatment.

Main Problems for Friends and Family

Let me start by saying that I, for one, appreciate your wishing to understand someone else’s depression.  I commend you for taking an interest in a very difficult subject and for wishing to help.  In an indirect way, you’re a victim of depression too because this illness impinges on everyone around the people who have it.

Pardon my bluntness, but there are a few things you really need to know, before you get too far into this subject.

  1. You cannot cure someone else’s clinical depression.  It is not just sadness which can be waved off with a few kind words.  It goes far deeper than that.  If you are going into this with the heroic notion that you can somehow “fix” it for your friend, spouse or relative, then you need to disavow it immediately.  Operating on this assumption will only frustrate you and does no one any good.
  2. There are ups and downs in depression recovery. It is neither swift, nor steady. Your friend or relative is going to go on the decline, now and then. Don’t think it’s because you are failing them or they are not trying hard enough. The “roller-coaster” effect is just a part and parcel of depression.
  3. Please don’t tell a depression patient “you understand.”  Unless you, yourself, have experienced clinical depression, you don’t.  And your friend, spouse or relative knows it.  It’s not a bad thing since understanding depression means having it.  I’d rather that no one, anywhere, understood it.  The point here is to be honest with your friend or relative and don’t profess things that aren’t so.  Sincerity will help him or her a great deal; it will engender trust, which every depression patient has a problem with, at one time or another.
  4. No one wants to make your life miserable by being depressed.  Try not to view someone else’s depression as your own affliction.  Rather, be grateful that you don’t have clinical depression and try to realize what the other person is going through.  Don’t take the things your friend, spouse or relative says/does, personally.  They aren’t meant that way.
  5. Recovery from depression is not just a matter of taking anti-depressant medication and going to therapy.  Both the depression and recovery from it can totally change a person’s life.  Treatment involves a lot of fundamental changes in a person.  At times, you’ll wonder if it’s the same person you’ve known for so long.  Believe me, it is–the depression probably hid the “real person” from your view, up to the point that he or she was diagnosed and began treatment.
  6. At times, it may seem that the person is actually pushing you away.  This is very likely true.  Most depression patients believe that they unduly affect those around them and will do anything to prevent that from happening.  Thus, they isolate themselves from others.  This kind of self-sabotage is actually a symptom of the illness itself.  Don’t let it overcome your relationship.  Try to understand that this is often involuntary and irrational, and act accordingly.


How To Help Someone Who’s Depressed

What To Say or Do

  I cannot tell you precisely what is best for your friend, spouse or relative. I can only give you some guidelines. The rest is up to you.

  1. Don’t ask very general questions; you won’t get a meaningful answer. As an example:  Rather than asking “How are you?” ask “How are you today compared to yesterday?” or something of this kind.  Make the question open-ended, so the person can say what he or she wants, but provide something specific for them to talk about.
  2. Try to get the person out.  He or she will want to isolate themselves–hibernate, even–but this is exactly what should not happen.  Take walks, go shopping, go to a movie, whatever you have to, to get the person out of the environment they are trying to take shelter in.  You may get some resistance, and even complaints; be persistent but not unreasonable.
  3. Don’t be afraid to let your spouse, relative or friend talk about whatever they want to.  Even if they mention self-injury, or they are suicidal, you are not endangering them by listening.  Actually, you are helping to protect them from those things; talking helps them deal with these feelings.
  4. Keep an eye out for any changes in behavior.  These can include appetite, sleep habits, drinking or drug abuse, anything at all.  Any major changes may be a sign of trouble.
  5. Little things go a long way for someone with clinical depression. Small gifts and favors seem much bigger to them than to you. Don’t be afraid to (for example) leave the person a short note with a smiley face on it. Even if it seems silly or hokey, small considerations will help.

What Depression Is Not

Understanding Depression

Non-depressed people have a difficult time understanding depression; which is completely understandable.  I ‘ve discussed these things elsewhere, but I think this bears repeating here. Depression is not a weakness, character flaw, personality trait, or anything of that kind.  It’s not God’s punishment for past sins. It’s not karma catching up with something the person did in a past life.  It’s not someone just being too sensitive.  It’s not laziness or immaturity.  No one does anything to deserve it.  And you did nothing to cause someone in your life to become clinically depressed.

Depression is also not just the emotion of sadness.  In fact, many depression patients experience numbness, or no emotion, rather than sadness.  It is called a “mood disorder,” but this is a misnomer in that it can go way beyond someone’s mood.  Depression can totally disrupt someone’s thinking, in every way.

Depression is also not an excuse.  Having this illness doesn’t absolve anyone of responsibility for themselves.  Don’t make the mistake of letting a depression patient “off the hook” because of his or her illness.  Point out any transgressions and explain what went wrong, and make sure the person understands it.  However, getting angry or vindictive do no good, either. Keep criticism constructive. And stick by your friend or relative; you will find that it pays off in the end.

Go here for a more in-depth look at depression and supporting a depressed person.

Accepting Depression In Someone Else

Just as any depression patient must learn to accept his or her illness, and work on overcoming it, so you must accept that they have a mood disorder.  Since recovering is really a matter of work on the patient’s part, it’s impossible to start doing this work until one accepts that one must do it.  By the same token, you will find it impossible to deal with someone else’s depression, unless you accept that he or she has an illness–a very real one.

From what I’ve seen, this is one of the hardest things for friends and family to do.  I will not kid you into thinking that this is easy.  It’s not.  Accepting an illness in someone else, that you don’t understand and never will (hopefully), is not a simple or trivial matter.  Above all, don’t blame yourself for it.  No one can “make” another person depressed, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you caused it.


For Caregivers of Depression Patients

This is just as important as anything else!  You offer nothing to someone else if you’re stressed out.  If you need to, take some time away from the depressed person. It will give you a better perspective on things and unravel frustrations and tensions.  Just make sure your friend or relative knows you’re still committed to him or her, anyway.  You can even tell him/her that you’re taking “time out” for yourself, so you can better help. (It’s true.)