By Tracie Korol
This year I’ve been receiving, instead of holiday coupons and adverts to buy another big shiny thing, emails with links to articles about doing more with less. What a relief! My favorite is The Buy Nothing Survival Guide from Zen Habits. Strategy Three of the Guide recommends finding gift alternatives, the most valuable — our time. If we start small, say, with our animal companions (who give us their time every day of the year), maybe we’d be more likely to stick to a new year resolve.
For instance, commit some time to walk your dog every day, even when it’s gray and chilly and you’d rather huddle on the couch. Few things are more important for your dog’s health and happiness than the opportunity to stretch his legs and read the daily “news” on the local fire hydrant. A daily dog walk is a win/win arrangement.
Or, set aside some “canine quality time” every day to play with, talk to, get your hands on your dog. It’s too easy to overlook our smaller friends when life gets hectic, and most dogs are too polite to complain when they’re bored or lonely.
Senior pets that have been around so long they’re considered part of the furniture particularly appreciate and benefit from personal hands-on time. They have given you their best years and their time is growing short. Commit to spending quality, hands-on time with your old friend.
If you really feel that a holiday isn’t a holiday unless you spend some money, do it in fashion that will garner constant benefit. Arrange to have your dog spayed or neutered, if you haven’t already. Not only will it protect your animal from potential late life ailments but will prevent accidental litters. Thousands of animals are born in this county only to end up on the streets or dumped at the animal shelter. If your dog is already “fixed,” why not offer to help your friends or neighbors have their animals spayed or neutered by gifting your time transporting them to SNACC or the veterinarian or even giving a spay/neuter gift certificate?
Resolve to be an Angel for a lonely, chained backyard dog in your neighborhood. I can’t think of a more cruel punishment for these loving, social animals than to be isolated, far away from their human “pack,” with only a few feet to move around in and nothing to do but watch the pounded dirt turn to mud. Engaging the dog’s guardians in conversation about what dogs need, such as companionship, a warm and dry house filled with straw in the winter, fresh food and water every day, and regular veterinary care, is a good start. You might be told to mind your own business (or worse) but sharing your concern with the owner could also be a starting point for a better life for that animal. Offer to take the dog for walks, or offer good food and toys. Don’t give up: some lucky dogs have had their entire lives changed because of someone who cared enough to intervene.
Take some time to speak up when you notice neglected or abused pets in your neighborhood. Call Animal Control if you suspect an animal is in danger or in an abusive situation. This isn’t pleasant, but if you can help even one animal escape a painful life, it is worth it. Shelter staff and rescue group volunteers will thank you for your help.
There are thousands of animals in our town in need of help each day. This concept can be overwhelming for many residents. For them, it is easier to turn a blind eye and pretend the problem doesn’t exist or leave it for “those other people.” Take some time and resolve to become one of those “other people.” Every little bit helps. Financial donations, donations of supplies to the shelter or a rescue group are always appreciated. Resolve this year to volunteer some time: write a letter, make a phone call or be a foster family. Real live animals are helped by your generosity. It’s a great way to start a new year.