Valentine’s Day is around the corner and we are here to remind you not to forget about your furry Valentine! Our pets provide us with companionship in so many ways; we can’t let Valentine’s Day pass without recognizing that.
Here are some doggone cute gift ideas for your four-legged Valentine this year:
Our longtime pals at Earth Rated partnered with (Red) to create a line of dispensers and red bags. These lovable essentials are a must for every day walkies, plus they help (RED) fight global health emergencies.
While most dogs go to the bathroom or stop to sniff at the nearest fire hydrant on their walks, one dog in England is using his to pick up recycling.
Scruff, 13, lives in the town of Nuneaton in central England with his humans Yvonne Faulkner-Grant and her husband, David Grant.
He has long enjoyed off-leash walks due to his mom’s dutiful training and used to participate in the more traditional stick fetching pastime until a vet recommended he stop to avoid getting scratched on the inside of his mouth as he got older.
But Scruff, ever the working dog, still wanted a task. So, he started collecting the plastic bottles he found along his route.
“This is a focus, a job for him,” Faulkner-Grant tells TODAY.com.
“He is a border collie, so he loves to retrieve and collect different things and stuff like that,” Grant adds.
The two said Scruff usually goes on two walks a day: one long walk in the morning, usually between three and four miles, then a shorter mile or so walk in the evening.
Initially, they let Scruff play with the bottles and then left them there, but soon decided to pick up the plastic.
“We felt guilty leaving them on the floor,” Grant says. “People might think that we’d dropped them ourselves.”
Faulkner-Grant says “there is a hell of a lot” of litter during their walks.
When they realized just how many bottles Scruff was picking up, they started keeping track and sharing their monthly report with the hashtag “#scruffsbottlepatrol” on Grant’s Facebook page.
Now, they try to document all of Scruff’s walks and plastic trophies with photos.
Grant says that they don’t pick up the bottles Scruff doesn’t see, even though it’s “quite hard to leave it.”
“We made the rule that he has to pick them up, otherwise it’s not really Scruff’s bottle patrol,” Grant says, noting that then it becomes Scruff and his humans’ bottle patrol.
“We were just so curious (to see) how many he could collect,” Grant says.
So far, they estimate the industrious pup has collected more than 1,000 bottles. They’ve stored all of them in the backyard and are excited to tally at the end of the year in a few weeks.
Scruff has averaged about four or five bottles every day, Grant says. In the month of November alone, he picked up 104.
Even though he’s 13, Scruff “looks absolutely fantastic,” Grant says, and he hopes the dog is setting a great example to other pups and humans alike.
“Hopefully it sends a good message out to other people around the world to just pick (litter) up and not leave it to animals to do it,” he says. “We wouldn’t be doing this if people did pick the litter up in the first place. So you know, we’ve all got to save the planet and look after it somehow.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:
After receiving the call that his dog was found, Smith jumped on a plane from Texas to Florida a few days later and was reunited with his furry friend. Even after all these years, Jazzy still remembered Smith and greeted him with licks and moved as close to him as much as she could.
Smith drove Jazzy back home to Texas over the weekend and looks forward to making the rest of her life comfortable.
“If I can make her end-of-life experience happier, that will be wonderful for both of us,” Smith said.
As a child growing up in an orphanage in war-torn Germany, Johanna Carrington never had the chance to have a dog.
She’s been making up for lost time ever since.
The 100-year-old California resident has loved numerous pet dogs over the years — including one adorable but hectic time when she and her late husband had eight Pekingese — and she just adopted an 11-year-old Chihuahua mixed-breed dog named Gucci.
“I just love him,” Carrington told TODAY.
Carrington’s home was feeling very quiet after the death of her previous dog, Rocky. When she told her daughter Debbie Carrington, 64, that she hoped to adopt another dog, they worried that a shelter might not allow a woman of her advanced age to adopt a pet.
Fortunately, one of their Moss Beach neighbors volunteers for Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco and thought the organization might be able to help. Sure enough, Gucci (then called Gnocchi) had recently been rescued from a hoarding situation involving 22 dogs. The little dog seemed ready to be the only dog in a household that could shower him with love and attention.
As part of the adoption process, Johanna Carrington’s caregiver, Eddie Martinez, agreed to take Gucci on daily walks and help with his care. So on Sept. 2, Gucci’s foster parent drove the little dog to meet Carrington — and he immediately made himself at home.
“He came to the house like he’d been here before. It was remarkable,” Carrington said. “He saw me sitting on my chair, jumped up on me and sat on my lap. He made himself very, very comfortable. He was just our baby right away.”
She’s offered her new companion “oodles and oodles” of toys that he likes to fetch, and she gives him back massages while they watch TV together. At night, Gucci loves to burrow into blankets on their bed to make a cozy nest.
Carrington hopes to do something fun with Gucci to celebrate her 101st birthday this December. Though she credits a healthy lifestyle to her longevity — she’s never had a cigarette or even a sip of alcohol — she “definitely” feels that spending time with pets is one of the secrets to a long, happy life.
“Animals bring so much happiness in our home,” she said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Studies prove she’s right. The free database of the nonprofit Human Animal Bond Research Institute contains numerous scientific studies on the benefits pets can bring seniors.
For example, one study found pet ownership can positively impact the mental health of community-dwelling older adults by providing companionship, reducing loneliness, increasing socialization and giving a sense of purpose and meaning. Companion animals also provide psychological health benefits following a social loss like the death of a spouse, and contribute to healthy aging by reducing stress, promoting physical activity and even helping people cope with pain.
“The human-animal bond can have a positive impact for people of all ages, including for older adults,” Steven Feldman, president of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, told TODAY in an email. “Research has shown that pet ownership and human-animal interaction can provide important forms of social and emotional support for older adults that can encourage routines of daily living, reduce loneliness and improve overall quality of life.”
When senior humans adopt senior pets — such as dogs ages 7 and up — it can be a win-win for everyone involved, according to Alice Ensor, adoptions coordinator at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. That’s why Muttville offers a Seniors for Seniors program. If a senior adopts a dog but can no longer care for them due to death or hospitalization, Muttville pledges to take the dog back — and stays in contact in case the adopter needs anything, such as temporary fostering.
“We want them to still have that time together and experience the full joy of their senior years together,” Ensor, 62, told TODAY. “I know as a dog lover, if I get to live that long, I hope that someone will adopt to me because I can’t imagine my home without an animal in it. Life is better with a dog, whether you’re young or old.”
In August, Muttville celebrated its 15th anniversary by rescuing its 10,000th dog. The Seniors for Seniors program typically accounts for 32% of adoptions each year. Ensor said the team works to find the perfect match, such as a small dog who can be lifted but who isn’t so tiny as to pose a fall hazard by scampering underfoot, or a dog who is comfortable around walkers or wheelchairs.
In the case of Gucci, he was well-behaved and still active enough to not have an issue with the stairs in Carrington’s house. He seemed to be a dog who would love being the only pet in a home.
“He’s a very soulful little guy,” Ensor said. “It really is a matchmaking process.”
One way that family, friends, neighbors and caregivers can help seniors adopt pets is by navigating technology during the adoption process, Ensor noted. Particularly during the pandemic, many rescue organizations have used social media to connect adoptable pets with people, such as virtual meet-and-greets and home inspections through FaceTime or Zoom.
“Helping the prospective senior adopter handle the technology can be the first step,” she said.
Helping her mom adopt Gucci from Muttville through the Seniors for Seniors program has proven extremely worthwhile for Debbie Carrington. The senior dog was already housetrained so they don’t have to worry about messes, and he no longer has any teeth, so they don’t have to budget for future dental work.
But mainly, it’s “heartwarming” seeing the loving bond the pair share.
“After she lost her other dog, it was kind of sad here,” Debbie Carrington told TODAY. “It was quiet and sad, and then Gucci brought joy into the house. Laughing about him running around and doing funny things, and then also him sleeping on her lap with her while she’s in her recliner or sleeping in her bed, it’s just making her very happy.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:
The following content is created in partnership with Hill’s Pet Nutrition. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBCUniversal Local stations’ editorial staffs. Click here to learn more about Hill’s Pet Nutrition and its annual Clear The Shelters campaign, a mission to help shelter pets find the loving homes they deserve.
The duality of a veterinarian’s job can be challenging—a vet must be both caring and analytical, combining scientific training and technical skills with empathy, compassion, and sensitivity towards both pets and their humans. Add the often-chaotic environment of an animal shelter, and you have a career that’s not for the faint of heart, albeit an extremely rewarding one.
“We go through so much with these animals and really help change their lives. We’re there for them when they’re scared, hurt, or injured, and we’re able to gain their trust and have them allow you to provide them with medical care and love,” says Dr. Edlin Cornejo, Shelter Veterinary Services Team Lead at the Dumb Friends League of Denver, Colorado. “The most rewarding part is seeing them go off to their forever homes and being adopted by families that truly appreciate the work you’ve put in to get their new pets where they are.”
Animals sometimes arrive at the Dumb Friends League in dire straits, either brought in from the streets by good Samaritans or rescued from cruelty. With journeys and origin stories as diverse as the kindhearted vets, technicians, and volunteers that take care of them at the shelter, these animals are ready to start a new chapter. That’s why Hill’s Pet Nutrition—partnering with NBCUniversal Local—is once again working with the Dumb Friends League and hundreds of other shelters throughout August, for one of the largest pet adoption campaigns in the country, Clear The Shelters.
Seeing the inspiring and tenacious veterinary team at Dumb Friends League in action illuminated the ins and outs of shelter medicine, including the variety of roles they must embrace for a variety of animals, personalities, and even surprises. With the ultimate goal of finding homes for all adoptable animals, these vets are part doctor, part nutritionist, part animal whisperer, and all heart.
Shelter Medicine vs Private Practice
All fields of veterinary medicine provide a valuable service; however, shelter vets face some unique challenges. “The main difference between being at a shelter or working at a private practice is that shelter pets don’t have an owner at that moment who will advocate for them and provide the care they need,” explains Dr. Erin Hickey, Lead Veterinarian at Dumb Friends League. “In a private practice, those pets already have owners, they have somebody looking after and providing for them. They also have consistent veterinary care. What we’re hoping to do is to be that bridge until the adoptive parent can take charge.”
While everyone at the Dumb Friends League can’t help but fall in love with the varied personalities they encounter, their work primarily focuses on two fronts: Population-level care and getting the animals adoption-ready. That means addressing the needs of the individual animal, the shelter population, and the sustainability of the organization, all while navigating the challenges of sometimes limited resources.
Shelters are also the embodiments of second chances for animals—and for some humans as well. After a first career in finance, Hickey decided it wasn’t what she was looking for. “Life is too short not to do something you’re not passionate about,” she explains. After working in different staff and volunteer positions at the shelter, she decided to go back to school, this time to become a vet. “Shelter work can be very challenging; you tend to work long hours and see rough cases. But at the same time, it’s extremely rewarding.”
For shelter vets to provide the care and interventions that animals need, shelters across the country rely on donations, community organizing, and the support of partners like Hill’s. The Dumb Friends League, and over 800 other North American animal shelters, receive food for all the dogs and cats in their care, through Hill’s Food, Shelter & Love Program. It truly takes a village, and it’s key for shelters to generate a culture of enthusiasm for animal welfare and develop a network of support so that vets in the shelter system can help animals get ready to find their new homes.
The Road to Adoption
For shelter vets, the most heartening and rewarding part of the job is the moment an animal is matched with new parents. “Seeing families be made, it’s thrilling and so rewarding. To feel like you were a big part of that, it’s huge,” says Hickey. But getting an animal from intake to home-sweet-home requires logistics, procedures, lots of pet food and indeed lots of love.
First, the team evaluates the animal, provides any immediate care that may be needed, and starts them on the appropriate Hill’s pet food. But before making any big decisions, they allow time for owners to find lost pets.
“When they come in as a stray, we hold them for a 5-day loss period to make sure that if their owner is out there, they have adequate time to look around. We also post the animal’s photo and information to our website,” explains Hickey. After the loss period is up and the animals are evaluated, the vet team can proceed to more advanced treatments such as spaying and neutering, bloodwork, and dental work. Additionally, they will develop a nutrition plan using Hill’s pet food that best addresses the animals’ needs. Once ready, they’re put up for adoption, along with the appropriate information and suggestions so they can be matched with the best possible home—for both animals and owners. “If an animal might not be good with children, then we make that recommendation,” says Hickey.
Another important role for shelter veterinarians is helping future pet parents understand that the choice goes beyond looks. “Lifestyles should be kept in mind when thinking about adopting an animal,” explains Cornejo. “If you’re an avid hiker, or if you’re looking for your very own couch potato, it’s important to recognize that all these animals have different requirements depending on breed, size, and age.”
The Power of Nutrition
A shelter vet must also provide proper nutrition for these furry friends, but it’s far more involved than just giving out kibble. Different animals have different nutritional needs, and over 800 shelters across the country rely on Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s Food, Shelter & Love Program to provide their dogs and cats with science-led nutrition to help them be as healthy as they can be.
“Good nutrition is a critical part of every healthy animal. It helps maintain their digestive system, supports their immune system, and helps them reach their ideal weight,” explains Cornejo. “It also provides the right nutrients the animals need for their organs to function properly and helps them have a healthy and shiny coat and skin.”
Pet nutrition shouldn’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach. Specific formulations can help animals flourish at different life stages. “When choosing the right food, we consider a series of factors. They may have unique nutritional considerations or age-related concerns. Hill’s helps us provide them with the nutrients they need for their specific age and size.”
This support should go beyond the shelter. “When pets go to their new homes, as exciting as it is, it’s also a stressful experience due to all the changes. It’s important that new pet parents keep feeding the animals the same food,” says Hickey. “It’s an easy way to offer them some consistency and lower their stress levels.” Thanks to Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s ongoing support through the Food, Shelter & Love program, hundreds of shelters are able to provide new pet parents with samples of the same premium food they’ve been eating while at the shelter.
Behavior and Wellness
Because shelter animals arrive with different life experiences and exposure histories, proper behavioral care is another crucial part in getting pets adoption-ready. In fact, behavioral problems are a leading cause of pet surrenders by owners to animal shelters in the United States.
In addition to the trauma associated with experiencing homelessness or cruelty, animals can be further stressed by a high-density shelter setting and often require extra TLC as they navigate socialization with other animals as well as humans. The skills and techniques of shelter vets help to mitigate aggression, anxiety, urine marking, and other behavioral issues, so animals can put their best paw forward throughout the adoption process.
“We see a lot of pets that come into the shelter that maybe didn’t have the appropriate socialization before they got here. We’re able to work with them on how to walk on a leash, meet new people, and how to be around other animals. A lot of the socialization, especially for dogs, comes down to learning all these things and associating them with rewards that range from treats to a belly rub,” notes Hickey. In other words, shelter vets help the furry friends of the Dumb Friends League prepare for a life outside of the shelter and in the homes of loving owners. They even set up for success by providing guidance and education that owners can apply once their 4-legged friend arrives at their new home.
A Second Chance for Karmen
“For me, this is my dream job,” says Hickey.
Indeed, working with doe-eyed kittens or cuddly dogs is an ostensibly desirable career. It’s even a common misconception that veterinary medicine provides an easier path than traditional human medicine when, in fact, many of the prerequisites are the same, and veterinarians must additionally learn about a vast multitude of species. Oh, and the patients don’t usually talk.
And while Hickey and Cornejo both have achieved their dream job, they’re as familiar with the unglamorous road to veterinary medicine as they are with the reward: The incomparable joy of seeing an animal get a second chance at life. Today, Cornejo, Hickey, and many other shelter vets throughout the country can have a much larger impact thanks to programs such as Clear the Shelters and Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s Food, Shelter & Love Program.
When hope for certain animals feels elusive, Erin Hickey remembers Karmen’s story, a severely injured pup who was in the care of the Dumb Friends League for a particularly long time. “We didn’t know if she had chemical burns or electrical ones. She was antisocial, was afraid to walk on a leash and she was very timid around most people.” Karmen required a lengthy stay at the shelter, allowing time for the burn wounds on her eyes and face to improve.
While Karmen began to flourish and became a staff favorite, she did struggle to find the right home for her. “She was adopted out a couple times and returned because it wasn’t the right fit. It was hard seeing her in a shelter and feeling like she was missing out on a normal dog life in a home,” explains Hickey.
Karmen’s patience paid off when the perfect pet parent finally arrived. “It was the perfect home, it was the perfect set up,” says Hickey. So perfect, in fact, that Karmen’s new owner affectionately referred to Karmen as her soul dog. “It made sense to me. Now I realize the reason why she was here as long as she was. It’s because she was waiting for that perfect person.”
Join us as we clear the shelters. Hill’s Pet Nutrition is proud to return as the national sponsor of NBCUniversal Local’s Clear The Shelters nationwide pet adoption campaign, which has placed over 700,000 animals in loving homes since 2015. In addition to sponsoring Clear The Shelters, Hill’s supports animal shelters year-round through its Food, Shelter, & Love program which has provided over $300 million in food to support pets in need and has helped more than 12 million pets find new homes since 2002. Interested in adopting or fostering a pet? Maybe you’d just like to donate money or supplies? Or just spread the word? Whatever the case, our furry friends still need you. Click here to take part.
A survey by pet care site Rover found that to adjust for increasing prices, pet parents are trading down on things like food, treats and accessories for their dogs.
In some cases, owners have been forced to say goodbye to their four-legged best friends.
Shelters across the country are hearing from more pet owners that they’ve been forced to surrender their animals due to housing or financial constraints.
Lisa Spillman can’t imagine life without her dog, an 8-year-old chihuahua mix named Rosebud. But she says her household expenses were getting tough to handle.
“Everything – rent, groceries, dog food… it’s all going really high,” Spillman, 52, told CNBC.
And she’s not alone.
According to a new survey conducted by pet care site Rover, the majority of pet parents say they are spending more on their animals than they were six months ago. More than 90% of pet parents in the U.S. say they have noticed an increase in pet-related costs due to inflation, up from 71% who said the same in January, according to the survey.
Rover also found that to adjust for increasing prices, pet parents are trading down on things like food, treats and accessories for their dogs.
In some cases, owners have been forced to say goodbye to their furry best friends.
Spillman, who lives in Tucson, was forced to move after rent skyrocketed nearly 40%. Her only option was a place that wouldn’t take dogs.
“Losing my baby, who loves me so much, hurt very much,” Spillman said.
Pima Animal Care Center in Tucson is hearing more often from pet owners that they’ve been forced to surrender their animals because of housing concerns, such as eviction or lack of affordable housing, according to shelter Director Monica Dangler. A year ago, housing-related surrenders made up 6% of the shelter’s surrenders — now, they make up 18%.
“It’s staggering. And it’s, you know, sad that people are having to surrender due to things outside of their control due to inflation and the rising market costs for housing,” Dangler said.
While the number of animals entering shelters has decreased more than 14% since before the pandemic, shelters across the U.S. are still overwhelmed with animals, according to Shelter Animals Count, which tracks animal sheltering across the country. So far this year, 6% more animals have entered shelters than have left, according to the organization.
“Many shelters report in recent months that the reasons people are needing to give up their animals has changed,” the organization’s Executive Director, Stephanie Filer, told CNBC. “They’re now more commonly seeing issues related to housing or finances as why families – often tearfully – are forced to say goodbye to their family’s pet.”
In Kansas City, Missouri, KC Pet Project expects to take in a historic number of pets this year – 15,000 – compared with roughly 10,000 on average in recent years, according to Chief Communications Officer Tori Fugate.
“We need the community to help us get through this – through adoptions, fostering and just helping us save lives,” Fugate said. “I highly encourage you to reach out and get involved with your local shelter.”
So far in 2022, 40% of the dogs that have come into the shelter have been relinquished by their owners as a result of housing or financial constraints.
“[Families] don’t want to give up their pets, but they are coming to us as a last resort because they have no other options,” Fugate said.
A few months ago, Veronica Gurrola had to say goodbye her two miniature schnauzers, Oreo and Cookie.
“It came to where I had to choose, you know, my kids, you know, over our pets,” Gurrola told CNBC. “Having a mortgage to pay… all of that stuff… it adds up. And it seems like everything is going up – except for, you know, pay.”
One shelter in New York City, Animal Care Centers of NYC, reported 4,567 animals were surrendered so far this year – up 22% from the same time last year.
“Due to the economy, a lot of people are needing to move to different places,” shelter Director of Marketing and Communications Katy Hansen said. “They’ve lost their job or they can no longer afford the 30% rent increase – that is one of the biggest reasons that people are having to surrender their animal.”
For some, the separation is temporary. Both Spillman and Gurrola were able to get their dogs back.
Their local shelters have foster care programs that place dogs on a short-term basis while owners get back on their feet.
“I’m really grateful for that,” Spillman said, who now lives in a pet-friendly home in Tucson with a backyard for Rosebud. “She’s very active. She missed us a lot – as much as I missed her.”