Since we became foster parents of our 18-year-old son with autism (our biological son–it’s complicated) we had to complete a once-a-month fire drill for the state of Texas. We decided to include our dog, Boomer, in the drills because we would NOT be leaving our dog behind if we had a fire. The agency who receives our fire drill reports was amused that we listed Boomer Bowen (the dog) in our list of people participating in the required fire drill.
July 15th was National Pet Fire Safety Day. Do you have a plan for your pets if a fire should occur? From the time you hear the smoke alarms or smell smoke, you likely have about 2 minutes to get to safety. Have you sounded your fire alarms while your pet is in the home so that they will get conditioned to the noise?
1. Start by identifying two ways out of each room (door/window).
2. If you have other people in the home, establish a meeting location where you will all meet up.
3. Keep a collar on your dog, leashes and cat carriers in an easy-to-access place near an exit point. If you don’t like keeping a collar on your dog, a kennel slip lead would work as well. Pets will likely panic at the smell of smoke and sight of fire, so secure the dog on a leash and put your cat in a carrier before exiting your home. If you have multiple family members, sometimes it is good to assign certain pets to different individuals, but that is not always foolproof. Practice with a pretend fire in a certain location in home (tell your family the fire will be in a certain location the next time you have a drill.
4. If you have birds or other caged pets, decide who is taking charge of them (assuming they can safely do so).
5. If you cannot find or reach your pet before you evacuate, leave an outside door open and call your pet’s name. Be persistent and loud and don’t give up.
What If A Fire Starts When You Are Not At Home
1. You can consider a monitored smoke-detection service so that firefighters can be called at the first sign of smoke (even if you are at home).
2. If you are leaving your pets at home alone, secure them in rooms near entrances. You can use the dog’s crate or use gates to close off a certain room (or the doors to other rooms).
3. Affix a pet alert window cling to the front window. This decal includes the number of pets in your house so first responders know who to look for when they enter the home. Keep them up-to-date as the number of pets increases or decreases in your household. Click here to order your free decal from the ASPCA.
Pets As The Cause of Fires
The National Fire Protection Association says that more than 1000 house fires every year are caused by pets. Pet proof your home against potential fire hazards. This was one case scenario: “Your dog was home alone and saw cake on the stove top. As the dog tried to get a taste, their paw accidentally hit the stove knob and turned on the gas burner that was under the cake pan. ”
1. Don’t leave pets unattended around any open flame: Candles, cooking appliances, fireplaces. Of course extinguish open flames if you are leaving the home.
2. Remove stove knobs: A stove or cook top is the most common piece of equipment involved when a pet starts a fire. Removing the knobs or protecting them with child and pet-proof covers is the easiest way to prevent this.
3. Choose flameless candles. It will give you the ambience without the danger.
4. Avoid glass water bowls on a wooden deck. This surprised me as well. If it is hot outside, the sun’s rays can heat up the bowl enough to actually ignite a wooden deck. A stainless steel or ceramic bowl won’t cause this problem.
5. Pet proof your home including electrical wires and power cords which should be secured out of your pet’s reach.
Hurricane Season Approaches
The other day the power went out in the evening at my house and stayed out for many hours. I always consider myself prepared for hurricane season, but was I really? That evening for me was a trial run. I failed. We had flashlights but where were they? I used my new keychain light to try to find them. Because it was in the evening, I needed a light that could light up the room. I have a lantern-type flashlight but it took a lot of effort to locate it. When the electric company said it would be at least midnight before it was fixed (and it was more like 2 a.m.), I had to find a better solution than candles. I needed a bathroom lantern in case my son got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. As many of you know, he has severe autism. He would not be able to be told, “Here’s a flashlight for you to use if you have to get up and the power is still off.” I found my battery-operated candle and put that in his bathroom. I certainly did not want candles burning all night so I put a regular hand-held flashlight up against something so it could light up the room.
I realize that we would have some advanced warning about a hurricane or tropical storm approaching, but if one whipped up from the Gulf of Mexico down near Mexico, we might not have much warning. Anyone who lives in the path of a potential hurricane knows the rush on supplies at the store. During Hurricane Ike, we were without power for 7 days. After that event, we bought a small generator–enough to power a refrigerator and plugs to charge things. My son still has toileting accidents, so we can unplug the refrigerator plug temporarily to plug our washer in to that same generator. The dryer plug would not work, but we can put his things outside. I have found that buying bottled water and storing it for the whole summer makes it taste pretty terrible, especially since we have to store it in the garage. Instead, I wash out milk containers starting in May and keep their lids. As a potential storm approaches I fill all the bottles. If the storm bypasses us, I just use that water on my plants. I also start making ice and lots of it (when the storm might still be in the Atlantic).
We generally focus on ourselves, but as pet owners it is our responsibility to prepare ahead for them. I could use a little work on that.
Let’s go past a hurricane. Let’s say the fire department comes to your door and says you have 30 minutes to get out of the area. Are you prepared? The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters has good tips for you.
1) When developing your family plan, add specific plans for your pets.
2) Assign each family member a pet to locate and care for.
3) Decide where you will go and pick a meeting place for your family in case of separation.
4) Think of whom you can call outside your area. An out-of-state contact can be helpful if communications are down in a disaster zone. Let this contact know your disaster plan and family meeting place should you be evacuated.
5) The best emergency plans include many people and systems that can back each other up. Please include family, friends, neighbors, your veterinarian, and pet sitter.
6) Contact hotels and motels in advance to check which ones accept pets as well as local humane societies and emergency clinics.
7) Build a phone tree. One person phones two people to see if they need help. Those two people each phone two more and so on.
8) Prepare a Disaster Supply Kit.
9) Stay current on vaccines.
10) Make your home safe (or have a safe zone in your home) for your pet in a disaster.
11) Accustom your pets to sudden actions as would be needed in a disaster.
12) Check with your pet sitter to see what their emergency plan is for your pet. Make sure you have your pet disaster kit ready and let your sitter know exactly where it is. Make sure your sitter has all your emergency contacts so in case you are not reachable they can let someone know your pet is safe. The sitter can secure your home and let your neighbors know where your pets will be. Most sitters keep keys to their clients’ homes so if you are not traveling but cannot get to your house due to work or road conditions your pet sitter may be able to secure your pets when you can’t.
Disaster Supply Kit
This is a minimum checklist for your pet should an emergency strike.
1) Prepare a list for each pet. Kits should be easily retrieved and kept in a water tight container.
2) Crate or carrier for each pet large enough to turn around in, and cat carriers large enough for a small litter box.
3) Rotate all foods into use and replace with fresh food every 2 months.
4) Collars and leashes for all pets (including cats) with ID, microchip number, and rabies tags on all collars.
5) Pet first-aid kit including bandaging material, antiseptic ointment, alcohol, gloves, tweezers, muzzle and gauze (You can buy these through the ASPCA if you don’t want to create one for yourself).
6) Vet information and vaccination records and current pictures of each pet.
7) Three-week supply of each pet(s) medications.
8) Sedatives for pets that frighten easily.
9) Disposable litter boxes with extra cat litter.
10) Plastic bags, paper towels and cleaning supplies.
11) Three-week supply of food and drinking water for each pet.
12) Manual can opener and food and water bowls for each pet.
13) Toys or blankets your pet will find familiar.
14) Towels and grooming items.
15) Detailed instructions for animal care and rescue workers.
16) Copy of emergency numbers and family evacuation plan.
17) Flashlight and batteries.
18) A simply plastic tub to carry everything for each pet helps organize in times when it is difficult to think clearly.
A Tale of Two Dogs
(I invited my clients and friends to share their stories of how they met their pets. Here is one such story).
There once was a dog named Angel. She was a beautiful, head strong, diva, alpha bitch Siberian Husky who had to have everything her way. When my husband and I rescued her, she’d been in 6 homes before her first birthday; obviously the name Angel was some sort of joke. We brought her home, introduced her to our beloved St. Bernard, Cody and they lived peacefully (well as long as Cody did what she wanted it was peaceful) until Cody passed at the age of 13 ½. Angel was lonely. On most days, I took her to work, but on the days she stayed home, she was not a happy girl. My husband and I started a search to find her another dog to boss around. We traveled from shelters to rescue groups all over the county but none of the dogs pleased Angel.
I mentioned to a close friend that we were having no luck finding Angel a new dog to be her playmate and do her bidding and my friend said she knew of a rescue group way out in the back country of San Diego and gave me a number to call. Pam, the owner of Backcountry Rescue, told me she had the perfect dog. A submissive male shepherd mix named Tai who got along with everyone. We agreed to meet at Starbucks the next day and introduce Angel to Tai and hoped it would all work out.
The next morning, Angel and I found Pam who had brought not one dog, but two. Tai the shepherd was there along with a rather large, absolutely crazy, hyperactive lab mix named Dice. I knew right away that the lab mix was nothing but trouble and had no intention of taking him home. Angel, however, had other ideas. She was ok with Tai, but she was in love with Dice. Oh boy I thought, “this is one not so good idea.” As we drank our coffee and talked about the dogs, Angel and Dice played and played while Tai lay quietly by our sides drifting off into sleep as he listened to our conversation.
When it came time to leave, I told Pam I’d take the Shepherd. We agreed that we should take them to our house and see how Angel and Tai got along on her turf. Unfortunately, the crazy lab had to come along. At home, things went well with Tai, but Angel would not stop playing doggie games with Dice. They chased each other, play boxed, and my beautiful girl was never happier. Long story short, we diced to take Tai and Dice and Pam was one happy dog rescuer; and a pretty smart one at that!
The day after they came to live with us, my husband asked me if I liked the name Dice. I admitted I wasn’t crazy about it. He asked if he could rename him and we did. Dice became Quinn in honor of Brady Quinn, the quarterback for Notre Dame, and my hubby’s alma mater. Quinn still has a serious case of the crazy’s and I can’t find his off switch and Tai is still calm, serene and loving.
So that’s the tale of two dogs, well actually three, because without Angel, there’d be no Quinn and Tai. Angel died in 2010 before her 8th birthday. I miss her every day.
Kittens Available for Adoption
I got a phone call from a woman yesterday who asked if I could put the word out about this adorable kittens she has for adoption. In her note she said, “Attached is a photo of them and one of the mom, who was a stray who decided to have them in our garage. We have found a home for her already. The kittens were born August 28; they are litter trained and have been handled by us so are people friendly. They are very fuzzy and will be longhair like the mom. I appreciate anything you can do, as we already have 4 cats and just cannot keep these.”
If you would like to adopt one of these adorable fur babies or know of someone who might, please email me at Hilda@aleashabove.com and I will contact the person who contacted me and provide introductions. Please forward my blog post to try to get the word out.
Credit Card Processing Fee Not Legal in Texas
You may have heard about a settlement last summer with retailers and credit card companies that would allow a business to charge you a credit card processing fee. At the end of January, that became law. Of course, many businesses will continue to believe it is just the part of doing business and you might not have the cost passed on to you (in the states where it is legal to assess the fee).
While this may be valid in many states, TEXAS is NOT one of them. In fact, the other states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Oklahoma have some sort of law either limiting or restricting these fees. Recently I have been told that some pet sitting businesses in Texas, including some in The Woodlands, are charging you not only a fee, but sometimes even more than the 4% maximum of the transaction (if you happened to live in a state that allowed it, which again Texas does NOT).
In the state of Texas, the only entity that can charge you a credit card processing fee is the government (for example, for property taxes or other fees). It is not just for businesses located in Texas. No business, including those in other states, can charge a resident of the state of Texas a credit card processing fee. Retailers in the United States cannot assess these credit card processing fees to buyers in other countries either.
We promise to stay on top of laws that might affect businesses and our customers. We value and appreciate you.
To read more about this, visit Visa’s web site at: http://usa.visa.com/personal/using_visa/checkout_fees/index.html
To read more about this from the State of Texas Office of the Attorney General, please visit their site at:
If you are a resident of Texas and have been charged a credit card processing fee, please use this link to register a complaint. https://www.oag.state.tx.us/consumer/complain.shtml
Cleaning Your Pet’s Teeth
February is National Pet Dental Health Month. People shy away from doing this with their pets, but it is just as important as brushing your teeth with the same risks to their health as it is to yours. Here is a great instructional video on how to go about doing this. It’s never too late to start.
Why You Should Scoop The Poop
In changing over the “going-green” consciousness, the top reason I am finding people do not scoop their yard of dog poop is to let the sun break it down naturally. Actually it is quite the opposite. Ecofriendly dog owners should be picking it up.
The poop contains viruses, bacteria, and other microbes. They will end up in your/our water supply. A heavy rainstorm and water-outlet run-off will end up in the water table. Any water that flows into a sewer goes into a body of water without being treated. Imagine a deer coming up to drink from the stream where your dogs’ waste now resides. Kids might also play in these bodies of water and they are notorious for not being germ conscious. They think, “its water, therefore it is clean.”
Putting it in the garbage is also not an eco-friendly idea as it will wind up in a landfill somewhere. You could use biodegradable bags that are compost friendly. You can always just come home and put the poop in your toilet. Your poop is good enough to be there, so why not your dogs? It then can be treated in the same fashion as human waste.
The Environmental Protection Agency has classified pet waste as a dangerous pollutant, a classification made over 20 years ago. The CDC confirmed that dog poop can spread parasites. Even if the poop is picked up, eggs linger for years. So your dog, your dogs’ toys, your kid, and even you could come into contact with it and risk getting a parasitic infection.
People think dog poop is a great fertilizer. It’s actually toxic to your lawn (just look at the grass and the discolorations), having a high amount of nitrogen. It also likes to form cooperative relationships with other harmful bacteria like E. coli.
If the health side of the equation doesn’t move you, there are communities taking this a step further by imposing a ticket to anyone who lets their dog poop without picking it up. Fees vary per community, but upwards of $1000 can be common.
It might surprise you that in Texas, a state that is heavily Republican and Republicans scream over governmental interference in private lives, an apartment complex in Plano, Texas is keeping track of the dog poop DNA to match it up with your canine. It is not the first community to do it. Some places in New Hampshire and Florida have been doing it for a few years now. The apartment complex in Plano gave residents a time period where they needed to come in and have their dogs swabbed and DNA registered (for free). If your dog has pooped and the DNA matches, you can be fined $250.
We are part of a global community and even though you believe that what you do in your yard should be your business, when it comes to water it is a shared resource. What affects one affects all.