Did you save a life today? by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Tuscany
Tuscany, transitioned from a foster (recovering from being hit by a car) to a hospice foster (after she was diagnosed with cancer) to being adopted by a loving family.

How often do you get to say, “I saved a life today?” When you volunteer with the your local animal shelter that assertion can be a daily affirmation. That is especially true when you volunteer as a foster caregiver.  Every animal fostered back to health or to an adoptable status is a life saved. The ability of a local animal shelter to care for all the animals rescued depends on reliable foster volunteers willing and able to help. The more foster volunteers, the more lives saved.

Foster volunteers are typically caring people who do everything from bottle-feeding orphaned neonate babies around the clock to socializing little ones to ensure they are able to interact with both humans and animals to caring for an older animal recovery from an injury or surgery.  Foster volunteers provide care, safety and love. Continue reading “Did you save a life today? by Ed Boks”

Thwarting the attack of the pre-alarm cat by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and cat
Contrary to popular belief, cats are not nocturnal. They are “crepuscular,” which means they are most active at dawn and dusk.

I’ve always been a dog person, so you can imagine my surprise when I learned that cats have idiosyncrasies no self-respecting dog would ever engage in. For instance, why do cats insist on waking you up before the alarm goes off?

Contrary to popular belief, cats are not nocturnal. “Nocturnal” refers to animals that are awake at night and sleep during the day. However, cats sleep at night, as we do – just not as long. Cats are “crepuscular,” which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. This is because their ancestors’ natural prey was most active at these times. Although cats have good night vision, they can’t see without light, so they do sleep at night.

Two dynamics conspire to create the relentless “pre-alarm” cat.   Continue reading “Thwarting the attack of the pre-alarm cat by Ed Boks”

Pets provide health, emotional benefits for owners by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and health benefits of pets
Pet ownership comes with many proven physical, mental and emotional health benefits

Pet ownership comes with many proven physical, mental and emotional health benefits – from enhancing social skills to decreasing the risk of heart attack.

Consider a University of Wisconsin-Madison study which found that a pet in the home can lower a child’s likelihood of developing allergies by as much as 33 percent. This research, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, shows that when children are exposed at an early age to animals they tend to develop stronger lifelong immunities. Continue reading “Pets provide health, emotional benefits for owners by Ed Boks”

Why do cats purr? by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and cat
My cat Belle loves to purr; and I love it when she does…

There are many questions our children (and grandchildren) ask concerning the mysteries of our universe. Such as: Why is the sky blue? Why do birds sing? And why do cats purr? While we may often fail to provide satisfying answers to these difficult questions, we instinctively know that so long as the sky is blue, and birds sing and cats purr, all is right with the world.

One of the things we love most about our cats is the feeling of contentment we share when they climb onto our lap and purr. When cats purr we feel calmer and more peaceful – even if we don’t hear the purring, we can feel the soft reassuring vibration.

So, just why do cats purr? And how do they generate that entrancing sound? Continue reading “Why do cats purr? by Ed Boks”

What we learned from Marty Crane and Eddie by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and John Mahoney
John Mahoney and “Eddie” modeled the joy and health benefits pets provide our senior citizens

Many will rightly sing the praises due the remarkable actor, John Mahoney, who died today.  However, I want to take a moment to point out the important public health service Mahoney provided through his character on the popular TV series Frazier.  “Marty Crane” and his loyal dog “Eddie”  beautifully presented the many wonderful benefits pets afford our senior citizens.

According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society there are many health benefits for seniors who have a pet or two. In fact, the Journal states there are many benefits for the seniors, the pets and society as a whole. Geriatric researchers found seniors with pets more active than seniors without pets and they score higher in their ability to carry out normal activities of daily living. Many positive effects on physical well-being are identified, including a healthy ability to fend off isolation and loneliness. Continue reading “What we learned from Marty Crane and Eddie by Ed Boks”

A Tribute to Dogs

Ed Boks and George Graham Vest
George Graham Vest

George Graham Vest (1830-1904) served as a United States Senator from Missouri from 1879 to 1903, and became one of the leading orators and debaters of his time. This delightful speech is from an earlier period in his life when he practiced law in a small Missouri town. It was given in court in 1855 while representing a man who sued another for the killing of his dog.

During the trial, Vest ignored the testimony, but when his turn came to present a summation to the jury, he made the following speech and won the case.
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Gentlemen of the Jury: Continue reading “A Tribute to Dogs”

Anthrozoology studies the human-animal bond by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Jeffrey Masson
A groundbreaking and inspiring book on the unique relationship between dogs and humans

Humans and animals have a long history together. Evidence of this is found with a 12,000-year-old human skeleton in Israel with a hand resting on the skeleton of a 6-month-old wolf pup. Our long relationship with companion animals has given rise to a field of study called anthrozoology – the study of human-animal interactions.

“When you see how long we’ve had pets in our lives, and how important they are to us it’s amazing the study is so new,” says Dr. Sandra Barker, director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Researchers have only just begun to explore this wonderful relationship and its health benefits.”

Best-selling author Jeffrey Masson explains in his book, The Dog Who Couldn’t Stop Loving (How dogs have captured our hearts for thousands of years), that the human capacity for love, sympathy, empathy, and compassion may actually have developed as a result of our long association with dogs. Continue reading “Anthrozoology studies the human-animal bond by Ed Boks”

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus nothing to fear by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and black cat
FIV is responsible for the unnecessary killing of far too many cats in way too many animal shelters; and that is not right, because FIV cats often live long, healthy lives with few to no symptoms.

This week I want to feature Portia, a 4-year-old domestic short hair with a spice for life; described by those who know her as cool, calm, confident, playful and a joy to be around. She is mellow enough to get along with a cat-savvy dog and respectful children.

Portia has had many suitors in her two months in the shelter, but potential adopters quickly lost interest when they learned she has feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Continue reading “Feline Immunodeficiency Virus nothing to fear by Ed Boks”

Children’s moral development influenced by adopting a pet by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Pia Salk
Dr. Pia Salk,Psychologist, Writer, Spokesperson, Animal Advocate

Psychologist, animal welfare advocate and human-animal bond expert Dr. Pia Salk is a regular contributor to Martha Stewart’s The Daily Wag. In a recent article, Salk asked the provocative question, “Can adopting a shelter animal make a difference in your child’s moral development?”

Salk offers important insight into the values we teach our children when we adopt a companion animal from a shelter. According to Salk, the very decision to devote family resources to caring for an animal in need sends a clear message to your children about who you are and what you stand for.

When you adopt a shelter pet, Salk explains, children internalize important values – “We are a family that uses the power of choice to save a life.” This teaches kids that by taking personal responsibility, their choices can affect the larger community.

Children need to feel they can impact their world. Parents need to give children opportunities to do so in positive, pro-social ways. Adopting and caring for an animal can provide this opportunity.

Where should this life lesson begin? Salk suggests a family meeting to discuss if the family is willing and able to meet an animal’s needs. Together, a family should explore every facet of these questions, such as: Do we need landlord permission? How much exercise will the animal need? How will we provide medical care? Who will be responsible for feeding, training and walks? Who will care for the animal during vacations? How will a pet affect plans to move? Such conversations teach the importance of planning, navigating around potential obstacles and committing to a goal, for better or worse. This exercise is an important step in teaching children the inherent value of the animal’s life and well-being.

Answering these questions will also help you determine what sort of animal is a good match for your family. Don’t hesitate to ask your local shelter for help in making this decision.

The choice around which animal to adopt can lead to deeper discussions about family values. Perhaps your family is willing to provide a home to an older pet abandoned because of an eviction, or maybe to a cat who has lost an eye or a limb. These choices help children see past age and physical “limitations” so they appreciate another being’s intrinsic worth. This teaches acceptance and gives children a chance to witness the inspiring resilience of animals.

Perhaps your family is willing to take in a breed disadvantaged by negative stereotypes. This teaches kids to learn for themselves and not be influenced by a biased or misinformed public perception.

For kids who are adopted, adopting a pet provides an opportunity to talk about their feelings while learning more about their family’s love and compassion for others in need. Likewise, for a child who is hearing-impaired or has a condition such as diabetes, adopting an animal with a similar condition, or other special need (provided the resources exist to properly manage it), can be therapeutic and enriching for all involved.

“There is no limit to the great lessons you can teach your children when you opt to adopt,” says Salk. “These lessons benefit everyone involved and they live on in the minds of children, manifesting in a lifetime of compassionate acts.”

What better time to have this compassionate, life-saving family discussion?  Visit your local shelter today to see all the pets waiting for the perfect home – yours.

Woman sues to prove animals are ‘living souls,’ not property by Ed Boks

“Today Show” contributor Scott Stump recently reported on a New Yorker named Elena Zakharova who filed a civil suit in a New York court against an Upper East Side pet store. The store, Raising Rover, sold Zakharova a puppy that developed numerous medical complications. The suit seeks to hold the store liable for the dog’s pain and suffering, and medical bills, as if the dog were a person rather than an inanimate product.

New York law considers pets “property,’ but the complaint wants to change that definition. The goal is to help shut down puppy mills that often mass-produce animals sold in boutique pet stores like Raising Rover, where “Umka” was purchased.

“Umka is a living soul,’ the suit reads. ” She feels love and pain.’

Ownership of Raising Rover has changed since Zakharova purchased Umka.

“I know nothing about the sale. The prior owner has the records. We are careful about where we get our puppies,” Raising Rover’s new owner Ben Logan told the New York Daily News. Logan declined to provide information about the prior owner.

Zakharova is seeking compensation for surgeries and medical treatment for Umka totaling about $8,000. She also wants a full return of the dog’s sale price plus interest since the date of purchase in February 2011. Zakharova intends to donate any award to an animal charity, Lask said.

New York state has a “Puppy Lemon Law’ that allows buyers to return sick animals to a pet store within 14 days for a full refund. The law is meant to slow puppy mills’ mass production of dogs with inherent medical problems. However, Umka’s medical issues did not become apparent for months after Zakharova purchased the dog.

“The Puppy Lemon Law doesn’t cut it,’ Lask said.

If the definition of a pet is changed from property to a sentient being, it could substantially change the amount of damages awarded when an owner buys a defective dog born in a puppy mill. That could have a chilling effect on pet stores buying animals from puppy mills fearing large payouts from lawsuits.

“It’s going to put a number on my dog’s broken hips that you created because you’re negligent, you’re greedy, and you’re mass-producing puppies,’ Lask said. “Right now, even if you return it, they just kill it, which is so inhumane.’

Lask is an animal lover who owns a Chihuahua named Lincoln who was found to have a hole in his skull months after her purchase. That discovery led her to investigate the practices of puppy mills. She waited six years to find a case to help correct the larger issue.

“It’s much bigger than this case,’ she said. “I am looking to shut down the puppy mill world.’

The main issue will be proving to a judge that pets are living souls who experience feelings of pain and emotion. “Human beings have treated other humans as property in history before recognizing it was wrong,” said Lask, “so it’s not too much of a stretch to ask the courts to change the definition.”

“It’s already a felony to abuse an animal. If animals have criminal rights, why not put rights on a damaged leg or a heart condition? If we’re not equating (an animal) to a human being, and we’re not equating it to a table, there has to be something in the middle.’

The suit brings to light the practices of puppy mills and their damaging effects on animals and their human owners. A 2011 investigation by The Humane Society of the United States revealed that Raising Rover, where Umka was purchased, was one of 11 upscale pet stores that purchased animals from Midwestern puppy mills with horrendous conditions.

The moral of the story is buyer beware! Experts agree consumers should opt to adopt from shelters to avoid the trauma that comes from paying exorbitant fees for pet store animals with hidden defects.