Baa Baa White Sheep Have you Any Wool?

 

I just celebrated a big birthday and my sister and brother wanted to find the perfect gift for me. What to get though? They know I love animals and they wanted to be creative, so they got me a sheep.

Wait, what? They got you a what? Yep- you read that correctly, a SHEEP!

No, she’s not grazing in my backyard- I live in Los Angeles with a postage stamp sized backyard and I have a drought tolerant garden. Hardly a proper grazing meadow for a sheep.

Rather, there is a co-op for farmers that supplement care of their flock through an organization called Rent Mother Nature. So I now am leasing a sheep for the spring. She will be sheared in April and I will receive a beautiful wool blanket in August!

I was a little concerned about the sheep’s welfare and I’m happy to report that Rent Mother Nature shared a little about how they care for their flock and how they carefully shear them.  They sent me the first of my three progress reports and I learned that my sheep lives in Oregon! The photo below is of a sheep from my flock (ok- I only have one sheep but still. This city girl is loving this!).

This breed of sheep is called Poll (hornless) Rambouillets and they are the finest merino. They originated in Spain, then France’s Louis XVI purchased 359 sheep from King Charles III of Spain in 1786 and they were first imported to the US in 1840. Interesting stuff! (If you want to learn more, email me and I’ll copy the letter they sent to me and share it with you.) I learned about their wool, their lambs and how well trained the folks are who do the shearing so that they don’t nick the delicate skin.

Around the same time that my sibs got me my very own sheep, my sister posted that she had helped out with some new lambs at a friend’s farm (photo above). How lucky is she! She lives in Vermont where there really is grass to graze so there’s no sheep rental for her. They get to have actual sheep.

And check out this incredible aerial video that was shared with me of sheep being herded in New Zealand.

If you look carefully, you can see the dogs doing the herding. They’re doing the job they are meant to do. Gorgeous on so many levels.

I’m thrilled and delighted about my sheep and can’t wait to get my next progress report.

Rent Mother Nature also offers cow leases, Date Palm tree leases, Peach tree leases and other options too. So if you are looking for a unique gift, check it out. Obviously, I’m excited about it and I’ll show you my blanket when I get it in August.

My Son, My Hero

My kids are quite often my heroes. This week it’s my son.

He started the week doing a service learning day with school. There were five
choices- working with kids at a nearby  school in a few different capacities, working with the elderly, and helping take care of dogs in a shelter environment.

Guess which one he chose? He thought they all sounded cool, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The group is called Adopt and Shop and there are a few very cool things about this organization. First, they allow teenagers to help out when supervised. Second, the “shop” part in their name is because they sell items to not only help raise funds for their animal rescue services, but the items are helpful for new pet parents as well.

As an aside, they also have a Catty Wagon which is a tricked out truck that brings kitten adoptions to you! Watch the video here. It’s very clever.

He really became my hero though on Monday after I picked him up from school. Driving home, in the middle of a busy intersection we saw a scared little dog. His mom was trying to catch him but he kept running out into the street. Somehow, after enough horns beeped and enough people corralled him, he ran back up onto the grass. Zander jumped out of the car and said “I’m going to help” before I could protest. I pulled the car over and by the time I got to the bush where the pup was cornered, his mom was able to grab his collar.

Zander was wise enough to ask the mom “if I pick him up, will he bite me?” This way, he would know whether it was safe for him to be the one to pick him up or not.

Our hearts were all pounding in our chests. It was touch and go there for a moment when that little dog was in the middle of the intersection. Zander didn’t hesitate for a moment. He saw that dog and knew he needed to help.  I reminded him that in this case, it was fine, but always to consider the situation and make sure that he stay safe too.

It’s usually me that comes home and says “guess what I did today? I helped a dog find his or her way home.” But that week, it was my son. Yes, he’s my hero.

Ziba

Roll Out the Carpet for the Academy Awards!

I’ve been doing super fun stuff lately. This week I was invited to attend the Academy Awards Red Carpet Celebrity Style Lounge! The invitees are award nominees and other actors, musicians, fashion and wardrobe designers, producers and directors of current films and television.

Ingo Rademacher

Sonia Rockwell

Each year the event is held in part to encourage donations to a charity. This year the charity recipient was Best Friends Animal Society and I was asked to represent pet rescue products! The photo above is one of the Best Friends Ambassador dogs, Ziba. He was once homeless but was adopted by a Best Friends employee and got to come to the event! OMG- love that dog. Look at those ears!

The majority of the products and services are beauty related, but some are tech, travel and even condos! It sure is an eclectic mix. Three of my favorite items were VivaJENNZ hidden wine purse (you’ve got to check this out), Dorey Aromatherapy,  and a gorgeous coffee table photo book about native California gardens called “The Gottlieb Native Garden… a California Love Story.”

Felix Solis – Red Carpet Style

Maria Conchita Alonso

The attendees perused each booth and were gifted a small gift. I was excited about the number of people who love animals and support rescue either a little bit (they would if they were getting a pet) or a lot (they have rescued a pet!).  These folks all stopped by my booth and were excited about the books I was showcasing. I loved sharing my books and stories with people I wouldn’t normally connect with. Thanks to everyone who shared their animal and rescue stories with me.

Bonnie Morgan

Gabriel Bateman – Benji

It was fun posing with the talent and snapping photos with them. They were so gracious to hold my books and many have already shared on their social media. I love taking photos but I’m a terrible selfie photographer (as if you couldn’t tell). Here’s a few shots. Do you recognize any of these beautiful faces from your favorite tv shows and films? (Check out 12 year old Gabriel Bateman. So poised. He is set to star in the upcoming remake of Benji!)

Massi Furlan

Find even more on my Instagram @DianerSolomon and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PetsPeoplePlanetConnection/!

Thanks Ziba for the smooch. It made my day!

Ziba

2017 Dog Writers Association Awards: And The Winner Is…

 

I recently attended the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) awards this year as a nominee for What to Expect When Adopting a Dog. I felt very fortunate. While I was there, I got to meet the other great nominees- people who write about rescue, military dogs, service dogs and many many other dog related topics.

Before I tell you about the DWAA awards, I want to tell you a little about the Westminster Dog Show. They may seem unrelated, but it turns out, the two events were held concurrently.

Many of the Westminster show dogs were staying in the event hotel. While I love all dogs, dog shows have never been my thing, Of course, it’s great to see the different breeds. And I saw a few incredibly gorgeous, well-groomed dogs in the lobby. Most were running past me so I couldn’t get a proper shot, but I did get the big guy above. (He doesn’t look like he moves too fast when he moves. But fortunately he was laying down.)

Some of my dog-loving writer colleagues did get to attend part of the dog show and festivities and I encourage you to check out Fidose of Reality on Facebook and Instagram and Bark & Swagger on Instagram for more photos and videos of the show (and pet fashion too!).

But enough about the Westminster dogs. I’m sure you are anxious to hear more about the writing conference and who won in the category I which I was nominated – books about rescue or adoption.

The day started out with presentations from professional bloggers Carol Bryant of Fidose of Reality and Maggie Marton of Oh My Dog Blog who spoke about The Digital Revolution. Next, Amy Tokic, the editor of PetGuide.com discussed Joining the Online Pet Community and author Lisa Begin-Kruysman taught us about Creating Engaging Proposals.

During the afternoon session, the winners for each book nomination category were announced. My book did not win the books about rescue and adoption category. However, the book that did win titled My Old Dog is really fabulous and rather deserving.  The other three books nominated in my category are gorgeous and show different aspects of humane treatment of animals. They are all worthy of the prize and here is more about each of them:

My Old Dog by Laura Teresa Coffey                                            

 “No Dog Should Die Alone” was the attention-grabbing — and heart-stirring — headline of journalist Laura T. Coffey’s TODAY show website story about photographer Lori Fusaro’s work with senior shelter pets. While generally calm, easy, and already house-trained, these animals often represent the highest-risk population at shelters.

Goodbye Bad Guys by Kate J Kuligowski

By joining together to form an animal cruelty task force in their community, Bernalillo County law enforcement and animal control officers have reduced reported animal cruelty by more than forty percent. This step-by-step training manual presents all the organizational and training information communities would need to easily form their own animal cruelty task force, without additional cost to the taxpayers. It’s a win-win situation.

Beyond Fight or Flight by Sunny Weber

Photo courtesy of Rhonda Cassidy

Fearful dogs can be saved and have quality lives, free of anxiety. This book will help 1) you grow in compassion, 2) your pup find peace, and 3) bring both of you to a warm appreciation for each other.

I’m so glad I was able to attend the DWAA event. There were numerous categories represented for magazine, newspaper and online articles and blogs as well as books, graphics, and other media along with special prizes and awards. Having the Westminster show right nearby was a bonus and I loved meeting two photographers who came to photograph the Westminster dogs! The photo to the right is of “Angus the Clumber Spaniel” and rumor has it everyone loves him. This photo is courtesy of Rhonda Cassidy one of the photographers I met at DWAA and you can check out her website.

Congratulations to all of the nominees and winners of the 2017 Dog Writers Association of America awards!

Team Kindness – Compassionate Kids Changing the World

 

What is Team Kindness?

I realized that not everyone in my Pets People Planet Connection world is familiar with Team Kindness. In my opinion, kindness is more important today than ever. So here’s a bit about it:

After I became a Certified Humane Education Specialist (CHES), I began writing the JJ the American Street Dog children’s book series. You may be familiar with JJ the American Street Dog and How He Came to Live in Our House, and JJ Goes to Puppy Class.

My friend and colleague, Virginia Hamilton who is also a CHES, a teacher and founder of Canine Commandos and Aim Humane created a lesson plan to accompany JJ The American Street Dog. The lesson plan satisfies required standards for all public schools offering MANY compassion and humane based activities.

I then started Team Kindness so that groups or classrooms can optionally receive a certificate of completion (among other goodies) once any of the activities in the lesson plan are completed. The benefit is that the children are acknowledged for their budding compassionate leadership, plus bringing home a certificate connects the family with the humane lessons learned during the school day.

Classrooms, groups like boy or girl scouts, or even home school programs play a huge role in educating kids about empathy, kindness, volunteerism and making a difference in your community.

Team Kindness offers free downloads of coloring pages, word searches and crossword puzzles plus many other resources.

And I love reading my books to children in person locally, or via Skype anywhere in the country (or around the world for that matter!) Here’s a photo of the group of kids at Camp Kindness (coincidence!) in Michigan after our Skype author visit program.

Would your school or group like to participate in a Team Kindness activity or an author visit? Learn more by visiting the website, or contacting me directly!

Pupsaver Gives Back to Rescue Pets and Their Parents

 

Pupsaver Dog Safety Car SeatOne of my greatest joys in writing What to Expect When Adopting a Dog was connecting with the many pet professionals that shared their expertise with me.

Once the book was complete, I started sharing it with shelters and rescue groups in my network- another joy. They can’t wait to share it with the individuals and families that come through their doors in search of a new pup. They know that the information in the book would make it easier for prospective and new pet parents, and ultimately for the dogs.

But the challenge for many of these organizations is money. They work so hard to save lives yet it takes many people and is very costly. So how can they get my book into the hands of the folks it can help without tying up precious, lifesaving funds?

Enter Pupsaver–  one of the amazing companies I discovered while writing What to Expect When Adopting a Dog. They make, among other things, dog safety car seats that help protect your pup when they travel in the car with you. Their rear-facing design catches your dog upon impact and acts as a protective barrier to prevent contact with hard surfaces.

Pupsaver supports rescue in a big way and they were super excited to be mentioned in my book. Here’s what they decided to do to give back and help educate new pet parents.

What to Expect When Adopting a Dog Bookpupsaver-logo 2First, they donated copies of my book to the Greenville Humane Society in South Carolina. Greenville is now able to hand out free copies to new dog families when they adopt from their shelter. With a copy of What to Expect When Adopting a Dog in hand, new pet parents now have answers to many of the questions that come up. And in the month of February, Pupsaver will offer a free paperback copy to anyone who purchases one of their car seats from their website!

Please check out the Pupsaver seat to see if it’s right for you and your dog. Whether you bring your dog on car rides frequently or just occasionally, safety should always be first. If you’ve been considering a safety seat for your dog anyway, now is a great time because you will get a free copy of What to Expect When Adopting a Dog too!

 

Is Your Child Savvy and Safe Around Dogs?

 

Teach Your Child to Act Responsibly Around DogsYour dog is smart. They look for a leader, or leaders in the family. Adults generally exude more authority, so a new dog usually takes queues from us. Children have a different energy, and dogs behave differently around them. Dogs can ignore children,  or see them as competition. Kids aren’t the “pet parent” and dogs know it.

Since dogs may perceive kids as lower in the hierarchy, several problems can arise. The dog may try to physically push them around. It can escalate to growling, especially when a child is near food or toys, or even baring his teeth and biting when a child approaches or tries to play with the dog. According to the CDC, most dog bites occur in kids ages 5-9.

Teach Your Kid to Be a Responsible Pet “Parent”It’s important to teach a child how to appropriately interact with the family dog (these skills are great for meeting strange dogs too).

— Teach kids basic ground rules.  For example, they should not run past dogs, pull their tail, yell at, taunt, try to hug them, or stare into their eyes. You should also teach your child to move with intention around the dog. Help them learn how their behavior might be interpreted by the dog.

— A good approach that is age appropriate for any family is having children join a family walk. This way, the dog can learn to recognize the child as one of the “pack”. This is a good time for your child to observe canine body language as your dog explores the world. At some point, while you are holding the leash, the child can hold onto it too. With your supervision, and readiness to take over if the situation becomes too overwhelming, older children can walk the dog themselves.

— Get kids involved in training. Younger children can ask a dog to sit before being pet or giving them a treat. If the child is older, they can teach fun “tricks” like shake and roll over. Joining you at training class if allowed by the instructor is a good way for children to learn from the pros. This will all help build a bond between the dog and child and ideally allow your dog to respect your child.

— Teach kids that dogs communicate differently than people. They can’t speak so they communicate with body language. Teach kids to read the “warning signs” when their dog is getting stressed. It can be complicated so it’s ultimately up the parent to spot the signs but there are some simple things you can teach kids.

Some signs that kids can easily recognize are growling, stiffening and freezing, yawning at times other than when they are just waking up, and being able to see the whites of their eyes. If a dog is doing any of these things, the child should be taught to leave the dog alone and let an adult know. A super easy and fun way to teach kids what relaxed versus stressed body language looks like is to have them watch this video from Stop the 77:

 

— Older children can start getting involved in day-to-day care. Dogs can learn to see children as someone that provides and cares for them. Kids can learn to brush or feed a dog, which can be a great bonding experience, all under close supervision of course.

Helping kids to properly interact with a dog will help keep everyone safe and happy. I highly recommend you spend some time at the TheFamilyDog.com and Stopthe77.com  where you will find the best videos that teach kids the dos and don’ts of interacting with dogs.

What to Expect When Adopting a Dog BookAnd remember, your child should be taught to always ask permission before petting a stranger’s dog.

For more information about bringing a new dog into your home, pick up a copy of my book What to Expect When Adopting a Dog. This book is a guide to successful dog adoption for every family and offers expert advice from rescue specialists, veterinarians, dog parents, and pet professionals. Consider it a one-stop shop for all dog-related questions, before, during, and after adoption.

How My Pets Saved Me From Bullying

 

Little girl with cat

My sister Julie with Kougle the cat circa 1973

When I was a little girl I was bullied. A lot. I was small, sweet, naive and an easy target. In middle school, in addition to the taunting, the big tough girls threatened to beat me up. It was scary and I didn’t have the emotional tools to deal with it (Who does?).

I thought… what did I do to deserve this? Will I survive?  It didn’t seem anyone quite understood the torture. I know middle school can be tough for almost everyone. I also know my experience was painful.

So I cried when I got home. And listened to music. And told my cat, Kougle everything. He understood. He would be waiting under my bed. Willing to listen and be with me. And he purred. It was his honor and duty and he loved his job.

He didn’t care that I didn’t have the right things to say back to the bullies, or that I said and did stupid stuff ALL THE TIME trying to be accepted. He just loved me for me. He was grateful for the warm home, the stroking, the food and the love I gave back to him.

Obviously, I survived middle school. I am forever grateful to Kougle. After college I adopted a kitten my sister couldn’t keep (she now fosters kittens).  Once I was settled, we added another cat and then dogs. Having pets is one of my greatest joys.

I work from home by design. I don’t have the overhead of office space, plus I get to be with my dogs all day.  From time to time I think about spending an afternoon working in a coffee shop (which I have done in the past) but I love being home with my dogs.

I take breaks and play with them or we go for walks.

I find it comforting with them here. It happens infrequently, but from time to time both of them are out of the house. It is eerily quiet.

Dogs hanging out on the couch

My dogs are not really allowed on the sofa

I love walking past them and rubbing an ear, or a belly even just for a moment. The science is right, petting an animal calms us down. And I’m not just talking about the times when I’m upset about something. Even when everything is great, there is a comfort in their warm furry bodies.

Yes, it takes work and commitment. But they are so simple really. Give them the basics and some love and everyone is happy.

January 24th is Change a Pets Life Day. I know in my bones that all of my pets have changed MY life. They have offered me companionship, taught me compassion and love and in return I care for and love them.

My dogs listen to my stories and they know when I’m sad. I get extra kisses and snuggles on those days. Plus we take walks together which is a great stress reliever.

valoffice-dogrevI can’t imagine my life without them. Since I rescued all of my dogs (and a few of our cats), I know I changed THEIR lives too. They are no longer on the streets, or chained in a backyard. I’d say they’ve got it pretty good. But so do I.

Have you ever changed a pet’s life? If you’d like to but don’t know where to begin, you will find tons of life changing information in my book What to Expect When Adopting a Dog.

Time to Get Off That Couch. It’s Walk Your Pet Month!

  

Tips for Walk Your Dog Month

January is National “Walk Your Pet Month.” Pet parents everywhere are encouraged to get outside and exercise with their dog (or pig. I’ve seen it!) Increasing the duration or frequency of your walks is something your pup will appreciate (assuming everyone is in good health), and it’s good for you too. You definitely shouldn’t skip this “New Years Resolution.” Here’s why:

Regular exercise keeps your dog’s bones strong and muscles healthy. It also helps keep their brain healthy. If your house is being destroyed by your energetic dog, they’re probably just in need of exercise. Walking helps let go of excess energy and stress so they’ll behave better throughout the day. Exercise also helps their digestive system run smoothly. Dogs already have the sleep thing down, so it’s your job to get them some exercise.

It’s not just dogs who get something out of it…  humans benefit too. Instead of sitting on the couch watching TV, get outside, walk your dog, get some fresh air and use your muscles. While you may be tired from work, walking your dog will give you a second wind. Being outdoors is a way to clear your head and help any stress from the day melt away.

Dog Playing at the Beach to Burn EnergyBut what if you are already walking your dog regularly and it’s not enough? If you have a breed with extra energy, you might need to incorporate more into your routine.

The first thing you could try is a more challenging walk or hike. Head out to the nearest hiking trail and enjoy the scenery while you’re at it. You could incorporate short bursts of running into your neighborhood walk if it’s safe for you both. You could stop along your route at a park or field to throw a frisbee or ball. If you live by the water, swimming is another fun option for your dog while participating in an activity that’s safe on their joints.

What if it’s too cold out to go for your regular walk? Take your workout indoors instead!

There are “boot camps” for people and dogs to work out together popping up all over the country. For example, the Bark and Barbells near San Francisco, Calif. and the K9 Fit Club in Lansing, Mich., and other K9 Fit Club locations. Agility is also a great indoor sport for both dog and people. As the dog runs an obstacle course, their humans run alongside them. Nosework is another fun activity that stimulates your dog’s senses and brain.

The bonus of doing any of these activities is that it’s natural to incorporate obedience training into any of them. You can ask your dog to sit while waiting to cross the street or before you throw a ball. Participating in agility requires that your dog waits for your What to Expect When Adopting a Dog Bookcommand. If you jog together, you can teach them to pay better attention to your body cues and follow your lead by switching direction frequently. Just merely spending time together, you will improve your bond.

For more information about bringing a new dog into your home, pick up a copy of my book What to Expect When Adopting a Dog. This book is a guide to successful dog adoption for every family and offers expert advice from rescue specialists, veterinarians, dog parents, and pet professionals. Consider it a one-stop shop for all dog-related questions, before, during, and after adoption.

You Just Adopted a New Dog. Now What?

 

10 Important Things To Do For Your Newly Adopted DogCongratulations! You just adopted a new dog over the holidays. What a magical time in so many ways. You followed your heart to finding your new furry family member, and you probably want to start off on the right paw. Here are some tips and reminders to make this transition as joyful as the season.

— It might seem silly, but get down on hands and knees and look at your surroundings from dog eye level. If you still have holiday decorations up, consider whether your dog can chew or choke on, knock over or ingest any of it.

While you are down on your hands and knees, check the perimeter of your yard for holes. This is a good time to make sure your fences are secure too.

— Taking down front yard decorations? Be sure to close the gate behind you. Fido isn’t used to his surroundings yet and an open gate might be his escape route.

— Schedule a check up with your veterinarian. If your dog is from a shelter or rescue organization he or she is likely neutered or spayed already. If not, check with your vet for the recommended age for either procedure. There are already more pets than homes and you don’t want to add to the statistics. Your vet can make sure your new dog is up to date on all of his shots and has been microchipped too. It’s a good idea to be familiar with the location of your emergency vet- just in case.

You just adopted a dog. Now what?— Contact a recommended trainer to get your new dog learning what you expect of him in your home, socialized with other dogs, and bonding with you and your family. If there are no classes in session right now, ask the trainer if they can come do a private class.

— Does Rover need a bath or grooming? If the idea of making a mess in your tub, or leaning over while bathing him doesn’t sound appealing, then try a cost efficient doggie dunk where the tubs are elevated and they clean up the mess. Or do you know a trusted groomer? You can either take your dog to the local groomer or research a mobile groomer who will come to you.

— Got kids? There are many resources to teach children how to act safely around dogs. Meanwhile, since your dog is new to your family, be sure to supervise at all times while everyone is getting acquainted. Learn about dog body language so that you are educated and can teach your children the basics.

— Potty training a pup? Consistency and a gentle tone work wonders. Be sure to set him up for success by taking him out frequently- especially if he’s just awakened, eaten or been playing.

— When you go out, your new dog should be confined to a crate or a room where he can’t do any damage or get into any trouble. Be sure to consult a professional trainer about proper crate training.

— Muster up all the patience you can, especially in the first few days and weeks. You are getting to know one another and it can be trying. But the unconditional love is well worth it! Spend as much time with your new pup as possible as he transitions into your family. Take lots of walks together. It’s a great opportunity to get to know him, for him to get to know your neighborhood and for you both to get much needed exercise. It takes a bit of time but you will hit your stride and won’t remember a holiday season that he wasn’t part of the family.

— Spend as much time with your new pup as possible as he transitions into your family. Take lots of walks together. It’s a great opportunity to get to know him, for him to get to know your neighborhood and for you both to get much needed exercise. It takes a bit of time but you will hit your stride and won’t remember a holiday season that he wasn’t part of the family.

What to Expect When Adopting a Dog BookDoing all of these things will help ensure your new pup safely transitions to his new home and you two will start creating a positive bond right away.

For more information about bringing a new dog into your home, pick up a copy of my book What to Expect When Adopting a Dog. This book is a guide to successful dog adoption for every family and offers expert advice from rescue specialists, veterinarians, dog parents, and pet professionals. Consider it a one-stop shop for all dog-related questions, before, during, and after adoption.