Man’s Best Friend is Good for the Soul—and the Body!

The day that I brought Emma home from the breeder changed my life. She was a tiny little ball of white fluff that loved to nuzzle my neck and get lots of cuddles, which she still loves to do—along with getting plenty of belly rubs.

At that time, I was going through a very bad period of depression, and once she joined the household, life became a bit more gratifying with her at my side. After all, I had a puppy to walk (and boy, does she love to walk!), to feed and to tend to. There was hardly time to succumb to depression. For those of you who have/had puppies, you know that for the first 6-8 months, you’re on the go. Nonstop.

Emma has been by my side for many years, and has helped me navigate through depression, anxiety and grief, while keeping me active and motivated.

Not surprising, there are a majority of studies that show the physical, emotional and social benefits of having a canine companion. Here are just a few:

Reduce heart disease. A recent study shows that having a canine companion is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease (lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels).

Lower stress. Having a fur baby can help lower anxiety and blood pressure, reducing the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Think about it. You’re sitting on the couch, giving belly rubs to a cute little fur ball who wants nothing more to snuggle and be pet. It turns us to mush, right?

Weight loss. If you have a dog, you better love to walk—and walk a lot. Ever since I brought Emma home, she’s been a walker. I know we were meant for each other because, I too, love to walk and hike and be outdoors. Our daily routine consists of at least 3 miles—sometimes more in cooler weather, and less in the summer. But we make up for it with her agility classes, which usually give me a run for my money, too!

Social life. Before I brought Emma home, I didn’t know all of my neighbors that well. But once Emma was on the scene, all that changed. Neighbors with dogs would come around and we would share stories about our fur babies’ latest antics. Not only that, but whenever I’m out and about with Emma, I’m guaranteed to be stopped by someone who loves dogs. It’s easy to strike up a conversation when you’re accompanied by a great conversation starter. (Read: single peeps, having a dog is great for getting dates!)

If you’re thinking about getting a dog, stop thinking about it and do it! You won’t regret it. And if you are already a pet-parent like me, then you know what a bundle of joy these four-legged fur babies can be.

Five Tips for Traveling With Your Dog

I love to travel. Exploring new hiking trails or different cities can be exciting. But I have a small dog and I don’t like leaving her behind. Thankfully, after years of hating the car, she has grown to like traveling.

The first time I took Emma on a plane was last summer when we visited my dad in Florida. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck. Silly, I know. But I couldn’t help worrying about: What if she pooped on the plane? What if she had to pee? Would she howl or whine if the flight was delayed? What if something unexpected happened to me, what would happen to her? All that and a million other things crossed my mind.

Since then, though, we’ve been on a plane several times. Each time had its own minor worries (mainly because I’m a worrier), but it all went well in the end…even the one time when she pooped inside the terminal at JFK. Yeah, well, if she could’ve just held it two more minutes, we would have been at the pet relief area; but when you gotta go, you gotta go. And while it was one of the things I was initially worried about, poop happens. I grabbed one of the dozens of bags I keep in my jeans pockets when we travel, and quickly cleaned it up and tossed it.

Here are some of my travel tips for smooth sailing with your small pet:

1. Choose A Destination Wisely. Are you staying with family/friends, or will you have a dog-friendly hotel room? Either way, be sure to bring items from home that has your dog’s and your scent on them, so it will help her settle in when you arrive. Plush squeaky toys, balls, and a small blanket are always a good start.

2. The Right Carrier. If you’re flying with a small dog, then she can come on the plane with you. You’ll have to use a carrier that is acceptable to the airline, so be sure to check their website before you purchase one. Inside the carrier, keep a shirt or item of clothing that has your scent on it so your pooch will be calm during the flight.

3. Back Seat Driver. If you’re like me and you like toting your dog around with you no matter where you go, you’ll need to find the option that works for you. The best carriers and harnesses, though, have been crash tested, so do your homework before purchasing. The best ones are a bit pricey—but certainly worth the safety of your pet.

4. H2O. Whenever I take Emma out, I always carry a bottle of water (you can refill it anywhere) and a small collapsible dish. Just like humans, dogs need to stay hydrated, especially when traveling.

5. Travel Food. Just as you would pack snacks for yourself, be sure to bring some along for your pet. Keep in mind: feeding your pet right before a trip is not a good idea, especially if you’re flying. It will increase their urge to go potty in a contained environment. But once you’re on your way, a few bites of kibble here and there will keep her satisfied until you reach your destination.

Over the years, I’ve taken Emma on countless trips with me. And whether traveling by car or plane, these days, she’s a better travel than I am!

5 Winter Safety Tips for Dog Owners

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I’m sure I’m not the only pet parent whose dog loves the outdoors and the snow. It seems, the colder it gets, the longer Emma wants to stay out. And when it snows, it takes forever to get her back inside. If it were up to her, she’d dive through all the mounds of snow until it melts.

Thankfully, I’ve picked up some helpful tips over the years to keep her safe and warm during the coldest season of the year. Hope these will help you, too.

Protect the Paws

Ice melt and rock salt are irritants and can burn the paw pads, so the best thing to do is cover your dog’s paws with booties or a protective salve before heading out. Once back inside, be sure to have a towel handy to wipe off excess snow or salt. If you need to use an ice-melter on your own driveway or walkway, please be sure to choose one that is pet-friendly.

Limit Outdoor Time

To avoid frostbite, limit time spent outdoors. Instead of longer walks, go out several times a day in shorter spurts. It’ll give your fur baby something to look forward to. And, please, don’t leave your dog outside for extended periods of time. I’ve seen too many stories on the news where dogs are left outside in the cold—without food, water or shelter—and they end up with frostbite, or worse, dying. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog. Be smart.

IMG_0479Bundle Up

Depending on the temperature, I have several different outerwear options for Emma. From sweaters in the fall, to insulated coats in winter, I always make sure she is protected from the elements. I wouldn’t like to be outside without a coat in the extreme cold, so why would I let her?

Eat Up

Since dogs burn extra energy trying to stay warm, it might be a good idea to give her a little extra food at mealtime. Not too much, mind you. You don’t want your pup gaining a lot weight that she will have a hard time taking off when the weather gets warmer. Also, don’t forget to provide fresh water. This will help keep dogs hydrated and their skin less dry and flaky.

Join a Gym

Yes, they are such things as doggy gyms! Emma goes to one and it’s a great place to be when the weather outside is rotten. Indoors, she can run around, jump through hoops, zip through tunnels, and even swim! Does your neighborhood have a canine fitness center? If so, give it a try. Your dog will love it. Mine does!