Going to the Dogs!

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but a man’s best friend is his dog.

Gender aside, I’d hand over my rather humble supply of sparkly gems for the love of a pet in a heartbeat!

According to recent data, over 14 million Canadians feel the same way. An estimated 7.5 million households in our nation are home to pets,and many people love them like their human family counterparts.

As apartment dwellers, seniors and other members of society have discovered, the presence of a pet can enhance one’s life in many ways. From fish to felines, puppies to pot-bellied pigs, pets are our friends, companions, helpers and very often, teachers. Their grasp of unconditional love is legendary, and scientific data is proving that many of our pets are capable of strong attachment and actually feel love for their humans.

Okanagan Veterinarian Dr. Tannis McCarthy, who owns Mission Creek Animal Hospital along with her husband Dr. Andrew McCartney, say sone of the biggest benefits of pet ownership is mental health.

“Owning a pet can provide a lot of stress relief,” she says. “Their welcome when you get home is enough to put a smile on your face and feel the tension of the day leave you.”

In more and more workplaces, animals are welcome to join their humans on the job. Hospitals, seniors’ centers, dentist offices and even hotels often engage the help of animals to make their patients or clients feel welcome and calm.

Dr. McCarthy said, “walking your pet is a social activity, and especially if you’re new in an area it can be a great way to meet your neighbors and strike up new friendships. A pet also helps combat loneliness and provides great companionship.”

“Cats also develop strong bonds. We have a cat that we got at four months of age who was paralyzed in the backend. That cat won’t leave Andrew alone from the minute he gets home!

”While she encourages people to become pet parents, Dr. McCarthy also cautions that prospective owners must do their homework and choose an animal that suits their lifestyle. “Do you work at home, or are you out all day? Some breeds of dog require a great deal of activity and need to have a brisk walk two or three times a day,” she says.

For information on local dog parks, check the web site of your area’s regional district.

Cats are more independent; they don’t require walking and still provide companionship to their human. If you have a particularly busy lifestyle, a cat maybe the best option. Nearly eight million Canadians are cat owners, due in part to their feline preference but also because there is less time commitment involved than with some other animals.

Some pets have problems with being left alone all day, while others adjust very well. A visit during the day from a neighbor may help, and many people choose to have two pets to keep each other company.

One of the prime considerations when deciding to get a pet is their long-term care. Pet health insurance has become popular in recent years and gives you the peace of mind knowing that if they need special treatment – which can be very costly – the cost is covered. There are varying packages and prices for pet insurance, which starts at about $50 per month.

Dr. McCarthy emphasizes the importance of regular health maintenance for your animals. Dogs that are out in public, whether it’s at a dog park or on a walk near home, should have their vaccinations and deworming kept up to date.

Training classes are also a good investment if you’ve decided on a puppy.

“The training is as much for the owners as the pets!”

said Dr. McCarthy.

Training is usually done in a group, although individual training programs are also available. Check online for the training companies in your area. Ask around to friends who have pets; a personal recommendation is always very helpful.

Other costs to consider include food, grooming, licensing, medications, kennels if you’re travelling or using pet sitters.

Deciding on a pet can be complicated and there a number of ways to go about it.

The most common way to get the perfect pet is through a reputable breeder, and the SPCA also have wonderful programs to place their animals into their perfect forever home.

Selecting the right breeder for a specific type of dog is critical. Dr. McCarthy suggests you ask for referrals from previous clients. Don’t be afraid to ask the breeder questions...how long have they been breeding? At what age do they begin breeding their animals?

After a long history of working and volunteering with animals, Sean Hogan has been Branch Manager of the Kelowna SPCA since 2016. He concurs that the breeder is all-important.

“Ask to visit the parent animals and see the vet records. Don’t settle for a picture of the puppy; ask to see the puppy if you are nearby. Transparency is a good indication of a good breeder,” he says. The SPCA web site has some tips on choosing the right breeder.

Sean is clearly loving his job. “Companionship is so important. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of owning a pet. They can teach us so much about ourselves and they definitely bring kindness into the world,” said Sean.

“People speak of their pets as being innocent and childlike. They offer us an untainted, unsoiled version of living. They lower the level of loneliness and it is well-documented scientifically that having an animal companion creates happiness. Dogs, rats...it doesn’t matter. They are non-judgmental, loving companions.”

Sean has seen thousands of cats, dogs and farm animals come through their doors. They need immediate help and he is honored to be able to respond. Kelowna’s SPCA has provided shelter for cats and dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs and even bearded dragons or chameleons.

“When you first begin considering a pet” says Sean,“check out www.spca.bc.ca and the ‘I need help’ tab.” SPCA animals spend a surprisingly short amount of time before they are adopted; the average length of stay for a dog is only 7 days. Cats are often under 14 days and a kitten can be as little as four or five days. Even rabbits usually find a home within 28 days!

“Having a quick turnaround means we can help so many more animals. We also have a program in BC where animals are moved around giving greater exposure to a pet who might be proving hard to place in one area. We will get a Border Collie living in Vancouver, which is a difficult match, so we transfer them to Chilliwack. We have kittens from Williams Lake here in Kelowna. It’s tough to adopt them there, but plenty of people in Kelowna seem to want them.”

Somewhat surprisingly, older or elderly pets are often adopted quite easily.

“We meet a lot of people who want to help senior pets. Elderly people often prefer an animal that doesn’t require training or a lot of exercise. ”Sean sums it up in this way: “We’re trying to find the best possible fit for the pets and humans. In the funniest way, it’s the dating game!

”While owning a pet is a commitment which shouldn’t be taken lightly, the benefits are wonderful. Visit the SPCA, research breeders or talk to your local vet.

A little research goes a long way to ensuring the success of one of the

most important relationships in your life.

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