With February slipping away, it’s time to look again at the calendar, which is filled with holidays honoring our animal companions. Some of the holidays are serious; others are silly. Whatever their objective, they still might give you some ideas about how to have fun with or honor your pets. To help you keep track of those very special dates, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors will post a round-up of them every few weeks.
First, let’s take a look back at a couple that happened earlier in February. You might belatedly celebrate them or simply write the date in your calendar for next year.
February 14: Pet Theft Awareness
It is estimated that about two million pets are stolen each year, and only 10% are returned to their owners. Launched in 1988 by the Last Chance for Animals organization, Pet Theft Awareness Day is aimed at educating animal owners about how to keep their pets safe from thieves.
According to Pet Safe, the top two reasons pets are stolen are for money and for illegal dog fights. In the case of monetary gain, pets are sometimes stolen with the intent of returning it to the owner for a reward. Other times, someone may steal a pet to sell it to a third party (for example, to entities using animals for research). As for illegal animal fights, dogs will either be trained as fighters or used as bait.
The most important thing you can do on this holiday is learn how to keep your pet safe. Pet Safe offers the following advice:
- Never let your dog wander freely.
- Secure your yard with some type of fencing.
- Never leave your pet unattended.
- Make sure your pet is wearing identification tags.
- Get your pet microchipped.
- Keep updated pictures of your pet from different angles. This may help prove that your pet is in fact yours if he’s stolen.
- Some pet insurance plans offer assistance if your pet is lost or stolen and can help you with the cost associated with recovering your pet.
If you want to get further involved, you can also help Last Chance for Animals in the fight against animal cruelty. About a decade ago, LCA undertook a groundbreaking undercover investigation into the world of pet theft. The latter was a topic of the 2006 HBO documentary Dealing Dogs. This documentary drew attention to a bill called The Pet Safety and Protection Act, which got started in honor of a dog named Buck who was one of the many animals rescued during a raid of animal dealers. After his rescue, Buck was in such bad shape that he stayed at the vet clinic for seven months. When he was well enough, he went to a foster home where he lived until he died a few months later from internal hemorrhaging. According to LCA, the bill “serves to honor Buck and all the animals that die due to inadequate care and abuse” at the hands of dealers.
February 20: Love Your Pet Day
There’s a National Parents Day, National Grandparents Day, and even a National Children’s Day. Why shouldn’t there also be the equivalent of a National Pets Day? After all, most households in the United States have at least one pet, and we’re often closer to our pets than to most people.
I couldn’t find anything on the origins of this holiday. Mostly, I found lots of ideas for gifts and ways to pamper our pets. To celebrate this day, you might read LAA’s article on Pet Heroics or on Pet Gifts (aka Smiles for December). And if you have a story about how a pet changed your life, I’d love to hear from you and to share your story right here at LAA Pet Talk!
Next, let’s look ahead at a couple upcoming pet holidays. You might start planning now how to celebrate them or simply write the date in your calendar as a reminder to observe it.
February 22: Walk Your Dog Day
No one knows who started the holiday, but it makes sense for the health benefits for both pet owners and dogs. Here’s a list of benefits compiled from different web sites:
- A daily walking routine keeps both you and your dog healthy. According to Cute Calendar, a study by Michigan State University shows that people who walk their dogs are 34% more likely to meet expected levels of exercise, with a recommended level of 150 minutes of activity such as dog walking per week. In addition, walking provides mental and physical stimulation for your dog. As such, it’ll help burn off some of your dog’s built-up energy, which will in turn help prevent separation anxiety and destructive behavior.
- Walks are a great way to bond with your dog. I Heart Dogs aptly points out that such an activity helps solidify the bond you have by allowing you to experience new environments together. As an added perk, dogs that are walked in new places meet new people and experience new things, which makes them a better socialized and good canine citizens.
- A daily walk lets you and your dog get the social interaction you both need. There’s an old adage that if a guy wants to catch the attention of a girl, he just needs a baby in a stroller. My experience is that dogs will also attract attention, whether from a neighbor you’d like to get to know better or just random strangers. Going for walks will also help your dog learn how to interact with other animals and people in your neighborhood.
- Walking your dog is an excellent training activity. Pet Care RX points out that by using proper methods you can stay in control during the walk, and this will establish you as the alpha dog in the relationship. I personally enjoy the opportunity to practice commands I’ve learned in obedience classes.
- Giving back is as simple as taking a walk. According to I Heart Dogs, there’s a Walk for a Dog app that allows you to raise money for shelter pets simply by taking a stroll.
February 23: Appreciate Dog Biscuit Day
You might notice that many pet holidays seem to have unknown origins. Appreciate Dog Biscuit Day is no exception. What is known, however, is how the first dog biscuits came about. In the mid-19th century, American manufacturer James Spratt observed stray dogs scrounging for food when he visited England. Inspired, Spratt began producing dog biscuits using a secret recipe including both meat and vegetables.
Today, some dog biscuits can help keep our dogs’ teeth clean, and others can be used as training rewards. As to what the best ones are, When it comes to picking the best treats, guess what? You should start with the ingredients list! According to Dog Journal, there are ingredients to avoid:
- Artificial preservatives
- Artificial colors
- Chemical humectants (which keep treats soft and chewy)
Another item to look for on the label is the expiration date. Just like human food, dog treats can go bad. If a package has been around for a long time, smell the treats occasionally to ensure they haven’t gone rancid.
If you’ve enjoyed this holiday wrap-up, stay tuned in future months for more pet-related dates. Some articles have given me ideas for future articles, so be watching for them as well. I’d like to do one about how to protect your pet from crime, and another about the best treats for your pet. Keep checking back for more educational articles, right here at Pet Talk!