With Gratitude for Our Animal Companions

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“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” –Anatole France

My love and passion for the earth extends to all her creatures, especially our beloved animal companions! I am a decidedly better person for having dogs in my life. Loving and living with dogs (first Labrador Retrievers, now Bichon Frises G.G., Tuffy and Ellie) has taught me so many things. One thing I’m sure of is that they deserve the best care we can provide, throughout their too-short lives. The photo above is me with my beloved Bichon B.B., who passed in November several years ago, and who is always in my heart. In this month of gratitude, I am so grateful for the unconditional love and companionship our pets give to us so freely.

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There are good people doing important work in caring better for our companion animals. One of my favorites is Ted Kerasote, author of the book Merle’s Door, Pukka, and Pukka’s Promise. In Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, he tackles the way we feed, vaccinate, train and live with our dogs. How many vaccines are too many? Should we rethink spaying and neutering? Is raw food really healthier than kibble? He interviewed hundreds of breeders, veterinarians and animal welfare experts to help us rethink the everyday choices we make for our companion animals.

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Ted Kerasote with Puppy Pukka

Ted believes, as I do, that the best place to begin is with nutrition. One of the most commonly used pet food ingredients is corn. Not only is corn rich in carbohydrates, raising blood sugar levels in dogs quickly, it’s also one of the most heavily sprayed crops, receiving 30% of all agricultural herbicides used in the U.S. We’ve seen massive pet food recalls for products containing tainted rice and wheat proteins from China. Dogs and cats have suffered kidney and liver failure after eating food from China contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers.

Wet chocolate havanese puppy after bath

We must be informed about what we give to our pets. They depend on us to safeguard their health, and their small bodies are quickly impacted by poisons. Like children, they are more sensitive to environmental pollutants because of their small size. It’s important to avoid carpets finished with formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Use glass or stainless steel bowls for feeding, instead of plastic, which may contain endocrine disrupting phthalates. Pukka’s Promise is filled with the latest research and best choices. Learn more about Ted Kerasote here.

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I’ve written before about alternatives to toxic flea and tick remedies: read more here. Our dogs certainly shouldn’t be exposed to environmental pollutants, especially the herbicides and pesticides that many people unthinkingly apply to lawns. Too many people have lost pets at a young age to cancer. One of my favorite holistic pet stores is Earth Animal, in Westport, Connecticut. Founded by Dr. Bob Goldstein, and his wife, Susan, the stores carries products as green, natural and pure as possible.

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I encourage everyone who is concerned with the health of their animals to visit Dr. Bob and Susan Goldstein’s Healing Center for Animals online. Founded in 1995, their focus integrates science, nutrition, emotional support and your own involvement in helping your companion animals recover from illness, or remain healthy as long as possible. They work with you and your own vet by phone, email or fax, conferring about the benefits of integrative medicine.

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November is the National Humane Society’s Adopt a Senior Pet Month. Older animals are often calmer, already trained, and happy to spend time on the couch with you. Puppies are adorable, but they’re also a ton of work. At shelters, older dogs are the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized. And, as you can see in the photo below, they’re beautiful!

Devotion of the dog

Finally, when it is time to say goodbye to our beloved companions, it is natural to mourn them, and to seek comfort. Here are some books that I’ve found helpful for myself, and for friends when their dogs have passed away.

When Your Pet Dies, by Alan Wolfelt, PhD

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Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant

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Good Dog. Stay., by Anna Quindlen

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“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals.  For the animal shall not be measured by man. They are not brethren.  They are not underlings. They are other nations, caught with ourselves in a net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of earth.”–Henry Beston

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