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Let’s Make This Summer Fun and Safe For Pets

Wednesday, 20. June 2012 9:42

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. But here in Miami you would never know it. Dark and very threatening outside, we are under an urban flood advisory and on our beaches the rip current flags are flying. There really is water, water everywhere today. This is the time of year when lakes and rivers and canals and swimming pools and hot tubs and the ocean (and even the bathtub) offer the promise of fun and relief from the oppressive summer heat. But for us and our animals, all that water can also spell disaster. All too often the stories on the evening news or in our local paper deal with accidental drownings: children in swimming pools, tourists in rip currents, occupants of cars that have gone off the highways and into canals. But it’s not just the humans that can become victims, animals are in very real danger as well. Drownings can and do happen very quickly. And contrary to popular belief, people and animals do not cry out when they are drowning, it tends to be a fairly silent death. So I would like to offer a few suggestions as to how you can keep yourself and your pets safe and happy this summer:

Seth casteel, All Rights reserved 20111. Never leave your animal unattended around an unfenced outdoor pool. Although most healthy dogs and cats are able to swim short distances, pools can quickly become death traps. Unless your animals have been trained to swim to the shallow end of the pool, most will head for the edge of the pool and attempt to claw their way out, to no avail. For smaller animals it may be impossible to use the steps. Pools with vinyl liners offer nothing for the animal to grip onto and vertical ladders are unclimbable for most small animals. For a dog, barking is difficult; and if the dog is alone outside, the barking will not be heard. Panic will ensue and they will quickly become exhausted .

2. Pool and hot tub covers can offer a false sense of security. Should an animal fall into the pool between the cover and the gutter of the pool, the animal may become completely disoriented and escape may be impossible. And an animal who manages to get under a hot tub cover may panic in the darkness and drown.

3. Lakes and canals offer their own set of problems for animals. Because they can initially walk into the water, your animals may become overconfident in their abilities. Keep your eyes on your pets lest they swim into deep water and become tired and unable to return to shore. And where I live in South Florida, we don’t let our pets swim in canals or some of our inland lakes unless we know for sure that those waters are not concealing some of our other local residents: alligators.

4. Rivers are wonderful places to escape from the heat of summer. But make sure that the current isn’t flowing too fast for your animal to comfortably return to shore when he or she tires. And always be careful when entering a river as there can be hidden objects in the mud or between the rocks that might injure the feet of you or your pet.

5. And should you find yourself lucky enough to be spending some time at the ocean on your vacation, there is one more precaution you should take for your pet. Make sure that you are carrying an adequate supply of fresh water for your animal. If you or your pet drink saltwater you will quickly become dehydrated as your kidneys attempt to remove the excess salt through urination. A small bowl of fresh water can make all the difference.

6. And if you have a boat, you should always have a plan in place for what to do if your pet accidentally goes overboard. Emergency equipment to get the animal back on the boat should be readily available, and everyone on the boat should know where this equipment is located. As with a “person overboard” situation, the same rules should apply for an “animal overboard” situation: one person should be designated to keep an eye on the animal in the water until that animal is safely back on the boat.

7. And finally, as you are traveling to all of the wonderful places that your are going to go on your vacation, and you are doing this traveling by car, I hope that you are not the only occupant of that car who is wearing a seat belt. And I hope that you are not the only person who gets an opportunity to stretch your legs along the way. A restrained animal is a safe animal when it comes to car travel. These restraints do not have to be terribly restrictive. What you are trying to accomplish is the prevention of your pet becoming a projectile in the unlikely event of an accident along the way. And, when it comes time for a bite to eat or a bathroom break, please, please, please, don’t leave your pet behind in the car unless you are also leaving another human in the car with the air conditioning running. Putting the windows down does not count. Cars can heat up very, very quickly and are a virtual death chamber for any animal that is left in them in the heat. And, if that previous sentence didn’t scare you enough, in many states it is also a crime to leave an unattended animal in a car. And wouldn’t that be a memorable ending to your vacation?

But don’t cancel your summer vacation plans just yet. There are lots and lots of products that you can purchase that will help ensure your pet’s safety. There are pool monitors that make a noise when an object over a certain weight hits the water. And there are floating ramps that can be tethered to the edges of your pool to provide a gradual slope that your pet can crawl onto to get out of the water. There are “doggy docks” that can attach to your boat’s swim step or to the boat dock itself. And, with the addition of treats or toys, training your pet to use these lifesaving devices can easily be accomplished. Specially designed pet life jackets are available from a number of manufacturers, as well as specialty cooling jackets to make your animals more comfortable in the heat and humidity of summertime. And it’s always a good idea to carry a portable water container, as well as plenty of fresh water, for both you and your pet. This can be such a fun and rewarding time of year to be outside with your pet. And with just a little bit of planning, it will be a safe time for you all as well.

I think it’s time for some lemonade for us and some treats for our pets, don’t you?

Category:Animal Protection, Woof Tales | Comment (0) | Author:

BEFORE AND AFTER: Meditations on the Gulf Oil Spill

Wednesday, 23. June 2010 19:33

I had lived in Miami for exactly 85 days when Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida. That’s not much time to commit a landscape to memory. It was my first hurricane. To this day, my friends from other parts of the country continue to tell me that I am mad to live here. They, of course, live in parts of the country where there are floods or tornadoes or earthquakes. I guess you pick your poison. But the things about Miami that I loved before the storm were still here after – many of them just weren’t in the right places: boats were in the streets, trees were on the ground, and people’s roofs were nowhere to be found. But the luminous quality of the light was unchanged, as was the impossibly blue color of the ocean not far from my apartment. And even though the multilayered canopy of trees and vines and plants in a multitude of greens was gone – ripped apart and decaying to a sodden muddy brown everywhere that you looked – the nocturnal sounds of insects and animals, sounds that I remembered from my childhood visits to family, still rang out in the dark, humid nights.

The day before Andrew, I remember packing up a few things and piling my cat into my Jeep as I evacuated my apartment eight blocks from the ocean and headed to the relative safety of a family member’s home on the mainland. A 16-foot storm surge had been predicted for my neighborhood; we could not stay, evacuation was mandatory. But I also remember driving down Ocean Drive for one more look before I left. One last look at the pastel colored deco hotels, lined up like so many petit fours next to the sand and the palm trees and the sea. I just sat by the side of the road and tried to commit it all to memory, because I knew that in a day, everything would be different. Even with only 85 days in Miami I knew that after that day, I would have a before and an after.

So how on earth can the folks in the Gulf cram a lifetime of memories into their heads while they wait for the inevitable? The fishermen and oystermen whose families have plied the Gulf waters for generations, the fish houses and packing plants, restaurants and motels that all depend on the the Gulf of Mexico for their livelihood – what will become of them? How do you find that spot where everything is stored for safekeeping? Is it even possible to capture the smells and tastes and sounds of a life in jeopardy? All of them are waiting, waiting and watching. Surely the bayous and back bays and seagrass beds and small town life that is the Gulf will survive. Maybe. Or maybe not. Sullied oyster beds and ruined beaches, oil encrusted birds and other wildlife may be their version of my stripped-to-the-bone South Florida landscape. Are those folks taking one last look? Are they allowing themselves a quick drive to a lighthouse or a fort or a favorite fishing area or beach one last time before the oil changes every part of their world into before and after?

Here in South Florida, before Hurricane Andrew, we all were mesmerized by a giant orange blob on our television screens – a blob that relentlessly plowed across the Atlantic Ocean and straight into our living rooms. But then it was gone. However, for the residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida, it isn’t one blob they are watching, but thousands. And they just keep coming with no end in sight.
How can we help, what can we do, when will it end? When will they get their “after”?

“The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,
And ‘twixt the green sea and azur’d vault
Set roaring war.

- William, Shakespeare, The Tempest -

Note: I started to write this piece a few days after the spill when it seemed as if a quick solution would be forthcoming. But my mind was jumbled with unease and fear and sadness, and the piece went nowhere. About two weeks ago I took another look and refined the piece to what you just read. Although still numb, I retained some small measure of hope in regards to this horrific occurrence. Today, when I heard that one of BP’s robotic machines had jostled the cap on the pipe, forcing its removal, and that oil was once again flowing full force into the Gulf, I decided that there was nothing more that I could say. And, for now, that there is nothing else that I can do. June 23, 2010.

Category:Our World | Comment (0) | Author:

April 22, 1970 – April 22, 2010: Love Your Mother

Monday, 19. April 2010 9:55

If memory serves me correctly, forty years ago on April 22nd it was a lovely spring day in Pittsburgh. I was a junior in college, and because it was a Wednesday (no, my memory isn’t that good, a quick check of the Internet gave me this information), I was walking across campus to go to one or another of my classes. Jeans and t-shirts were the uniform and long hair was the norm. Our “senior fence,” a sort of free-form  message board in the center of campus, bore freshly painted anti-war slogans and Vietnam was never far from our consciousness. So the sight of groups of people on the lawn in front of our Fine Arts Building and the sound of music did not surprise me, as protests seemed to pop up at a moment’s notice and the various factions on campus always seemed to be at odds with one another over something. But closer inspection revealed something quite unexpected: “We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon…” There was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s anthem ringing in the air through a pair of badly overworked speakers, and strung between two poles was a giant sign proclaiming “Earth Day, March 22, 1970.” There were brochures and leaflets, a potted plant or two  and lots of earnest faces imploring us to take better care of Mother Earth than we had been and offering us numerous ways to get started. As I recall, I gave it all a quick passing glance as I hurried on to class. Earth Day would have to wait, I had a class to get to and I couldn’t be late.

And now, here we are, 40 years later (40 years – how can that even be possible?!) And we all know so much more, and we all know so much less. We’re in another war, corporate America still makes headline-grabbing news, and even though we have done countless things to attempt to aide and protect the environment, much of our natural world appears to be in worse shape than ever. Global warming, images of polar bears drowning in the Arctic seas, rain forests decimated for profit, dying coral reefs and extreme weather worldwide seem to be the new normal. Happy Earth Day, indeed.

But I continue to have hope. That small girl that I was in Ohio, the girl who loved animals and loved to camp and spent hours lying in the grass looking up at the sky, the stars and the moon, has morphed into the woman who I am today: an involved, informed, and verbal (some would say too much so…) individual who is not afraid to state her position and make her case for various environmental issues. I remember reading a few years back about the concept of “compassion fatigue” and how it led otherwise well-meaning people to become so overwhelmed by the multitude of organizations and causes appealing to them for help that they – these same people who could be potential volunteers and donors – would end up doing nothing. The article went on to say that it was so important to listen to that little voice inside of you, to really focus on what area of concern it was that resonated the strongest for you. And that was where you should devote your time or your money or your expertise. There will always be so many more worthwhile areas of concern than any one of us can ever hope to address in a meaningful way. And we shouldn’t try to undertake that as a personal goal. But by zeroing in on that one thing that makes you smile when you have finished a day as a volunteer, or made a contribution to some organization where you know that it is going to make a difference, or mentored someone, or shared your knowledge of a particular subject with a larger audience, then you’re on the right track.

I love that we are paying more attention to what we eat and how and where it is grown. Urban gardens bring better nutrition to all of us living in cities and take advantage of the knowledge of the elders in our communities who may be only one or two generations away from life in the country or on a farm. And we are finally focusing more clearly on our treatment of food-producing animals and their impact on the larger environment as a whole. Cleaner water, more efficient automobiles, alternative energy sources and recycling are now all components of our daily lives. Every day we gain more and more protection for the forests and the oceans and the very air that we breathe. But so much more remains to be done. In this fight for the health of Mother Earth, there are major international players who appear to have very different items of importance on their agendas. We have to continue our vigilance, since we absolutely won’t get a “do-over” on this one.

So here’s what I think and what I plan to do this Thursday on Earth Day. I’m going to look at the causes that I am passionate about, the organizations to whom I contribute – either with my time, my expertise, or my checkbook – and I am going to push myself a little bit harder to do a little bit more. To strengthen my resolve. To do better.

After all, this is my planet, And I love my Mother Earth.

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