Making sure pets are OK in OK (and everywhere else!)

Pets Ok in OKIf you have watched any news the past weeks, you have probably seen the video of Barbara Garcia explaining how she and her dog followed their emergency safety plan by sheltering in the bathroom of her house during the E5 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma. She tells the story to a news reporter while searching through rubble that used to be her home for her dog who was still missing. Suddenly, movement is spotted, and the pup emerges from the rubble, and they are tearfully reunited.  Another reporter, who found Abby the Dachshund but not her owner, took Abby into his home, and used television and twitter to find Abby’s owner. They were reunited right before Abby’s owner was due to have surgery for her tornado-caused wounds. According to her son, the reunion was the “best medicine” his mom could have.

While stories like this are heartwarming and uplifting, they should also be the catalyst for some somber reflection on our responsibilities as pet owners.  As we have seen this past year with the tornados, ice waves, floods, wildfires, and super storms like Sandy, natural disasters hit hard and unexpectedly.  And even if you don’t live in an area particularly prone to natural disasters, there are still plenty of man-made disasters (oil spills, fracking blowbacks, house fires) that can destabilize our daily life and destroy our homes.  You may have an emergency plan in place, but do you have one for your pets?

The ASPCA has information and advice for making sure we have a plan to protect our pets in case of disaster. Their recommendations include arranging a safe haven (because many shelters don’t allow pets), readying an emergency supply kit to go with you in an evacuation, making a plan for an evacuation, and designating both temporary caregivers (in case you are injured) and a permanent caregiver (in case the worst happens).  They also have a free Rescue Alert Sticker that gives your pet’s information to rescuers, or that can inform rescuers that your little ones are safely evacuated.emer-service

The American Humane Association posted that an estimated  14.5 million dogs were caught in the path of super storm Sandy.  Hundreds of thousands of them were lost or left behind when families were forced to evacuate to shelters that will not take animals. While animals are pretty resilient and have latent survival instincts that can kick in, our pets are domesticated animals that are dependent on us for optimum care.  They need and deserve our help.

The Humane Society has Disaster Animal Response Team training workshops across the nation.  There are several online courses offered by FEMA and the American Red Cross that are specifically related to helping animals in times of disaster.  You could learn to plan and manage an emergency animal shelter in your community.

There are other ways to help as well. Some communities maintain food cupboards for disaster response; making sure there is a stocked pet section would definitely help out in a disaster.  Volunteering to be a temporary caregiver for a neighbor’s pet family is a good way to help proactively. After a disaster, keep an eye out for cats and dogs that may need your help in finding their family.

abby480x360And if the videos of Barbara finding her pup and Abby finding her mommy have inspired you to want to help those pets on the plains, make sure to move your cursor over this paragraph for links to where you can direct your good will. You can send towels, paper towels, bleach, gloves, and crates to the The Central Oklahoma Humane Society  to help them help lost and injured animals. If you want to donate online, you can designate your donation for the “OK Humane Disaster Relief Fund” with the hope of more happy OK reunions.


~ Jayne Burt-Ozyildirim for Doggy Bag to Go


Confessions of a Dog-Loving Cat Person…

Healthy Homemade Dog Treats Doggy Bag To Go

Since I’m going to be a fairly regular contributor to this blog, I have to come clean about something.  I am a cat person. I was raised with cats, and my roommate for over 13 years was Stella, a cantankerous striped tabby who had definite ideas about sharing me with other people. I giggle over funny cat videos and make uncharacteristic squealing noises over Facebook pictures of cute kittens.

That said, I love dogs.  Other people’s dogs.  I don’t mean that sarcastically, either.  My family never has owned a dog, but there have been many dogs in my life that I have cared for and who have had an impact on my life. My earliest dog friend was our next door neighbor’s Miniature Pinscher named Ralph. He was the perfect size dog for a three year old to interact with.  Then there was my aunt’s German Shepherd, El Cid. He was so loving and protective.  The wonderfully playful Labrador Retrievers Ask’em and Gretchen lived across the street with one of my best friends. And  I’ve mourned my neph-dogs, a loving Golden Lab named Corey and a sweet Whippet named Fenris.  And just this last year saw the passing of little Tiffany, the Silky Terrier, and gentle Penny, the mutt, the beloveds of my friends.

And now, my life is rich with Balder, Hermes, Mercury, Morgan, Ginger, and Karamela, among others. I don’t get to see my puppy pals as often as I would like, having moved far, far away, but when I do see them, I love to pet them and play with them.  They are the “children” of my very dear friends, and so they are very dear to me.

Alas, I haven’t yet found a mammal with which to share my new home.  We have fish, and I have become really fond of them, but it’s pretty hard to cuddle with them on the sofa or scratch them behind the ears. And while I like to flatter myself that they know and love me, I’m secretly suspicious that they are just responding to movement near the tank, regardless of who it is. But they are a living presence in the apartment that I don’t think I could do without. For most of my life I have had a pet of one type or another; it just feels right.  But until I adjust to my new lifestyle as a city-dweller,  I don’t want to make a commitment to a cat or a dog, so I guess the fish will have to do.

Anyway, that’s my story. I am a cat person who loves dogs.  I love their playfulness and their loyalty, their friendliness and their intelligence. They give so much love and they are wonderful companions.  They are the best “friends of friends” around.

~ Jayne Burt-Ozyildirim for Doggy Bag to Go

So you want to be a dog-owner…

some_different_dog_breeds_by_insanesokpuppet-d5a69h3Human beings have a long history of co-habitation with animals.  In many cultures, those who kept livestock would bring them into the house at night to keep them from being stolen or attacked by wild animals. Cats and dogs have been domesticated since ancient times, and kept in households for practical reasons, such as keeping the rodent population in check, assisting with hunting or herding, or guarding the family.  And today, people keep various types of pets, mostly for companionship.

According the Humane Society, 39% of American households have at least one dog living in them.  Twenty-eight percent of dog owners own two dogs, and 12% of owners have three or more dogs. That’s a lot of pups!

There are over 150 breeds of dogs, and many more mixed breeds. So how do you choose the type of dog that will be an ideal companion?

Group of dogs different sizes isolatedThere are many factors to consider. First and foremost, one must consider the size of the dwelling space that will be shared with the dog.  A high-rise apartment dweller with a 1Bed/1Bath may want a high-energy larger dog, but unless that owner has the time to take that dog on a good long run every day, it won’t be a match made in heaven. Many breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, Collies, Malamutes, Border Collies, Dalmatians, among others, need lots of daily physical AND mental exercise; if their owners are short on time or energy, these dogs can become frustrated and destructive.  Smaller lap dogs, such as the Papillon, do better in smaller places.

Another factor: with whom will the dog be sharing space? Kids? Cats? Other dogs? Each breed of dog has certain characteristics that make it either more or less likely to live peacefully with children and other pets.  For example the Staffordshire bull terrier is known to be so good with children that in the UK it is called the “nanny dog.” However, this same dog may not do so well with other pets.  Great Danes are known to be good with children, but small children may be overwhelmed by the dog’s typical size.

Choosing a dog is also like choosing a roommate; you must consider day-to-day living and your  tolerance for shedding, drooling, barking, and chewing on items other than dog toys. If your potential roommate’s habits will annoy you, it would be wise to choose differently.

The pros and cons of purebred vs. mixed breed dogs must also be weighed.  With purebreds, it tends to be easier to predict the general characteristics and personality of a dog, but they tend to be more expensive to adopt (unless from a rescue organization), and they may have a greater risk of genetic health problems.  Mixed breeds have greater genetic diversity leaving them less prone to health problems, but there is also less certainty about physical and behavioral characteristics.

group_of_dogsOnce you have puzzled out the purebred/mixed breed decision, then you must choose where to look for your best friend.  Choices include breeders, rescue organizations, and animal shelters, each having their own set of advantages and disadvantages.  The Human Society of the United States strongly urges people not to buy dogs from pet stores in an effort to combat the cruelties of puppy mills.  Wherever you decide to go, see how the dog responds to you in a petting area. Ask about the dog’s characteristics—is it good with children? High or low energy? A barker or a shedder, etc.? And observe the dog’s interactions with other dogs—is it reserved or social, domineering or timid?

Wow! There is a lot to consider when choosing a new companion. Luckily, we live in the internet age, where information and help is readily available. There are websites with quizzes that can help you determine which breed is right for you and your circumstances.  Choosing a dog is a big deal; choose wisely and you’ll be the best of friends.

~ Jayne Burt-Ozyildirim for Doggy Bag to Go

Sweet Potatoes: The Sweetest Way to Treat

Healthy Homemade Dog Treats Doggy Bag To Go

Don’t touch my Pooch-Sweets!

You ask most people about sweet potatoes, and they usually have a pretty strong opinion about them. They either adore them or despise them.  Many times their dispositions toward the root veggie are tied to some childhood Thanksgiving incident involving marshmallows.  But the sweet potato is really more than just a holiday side dish.

Only distantly related to the regular potato, the sweet potato is super-packed with nutrition.  Rich in omega-6 fatty acids and dietary fiber, this vegetable has a low glycemic load and is naturally anti-inflammatory.  They are loaded with vitamins (A,C, B5, and B6) and minerals (potassium and manganese.)  They also contain modest amounts of E, K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Choline, and Betaine.

The flesh of a sweet potato can range from beige, white, yellow, and pink to red, orange, and even violet and purple! The sweetest, moistest flesh tends to be in the pink, red, and orange range.  And in some regions the leaves and shoots of the sweet potato are eaten as healthy greens.

While many times sweet potatoes are labeled as “yams,” they are not, in fact yams at all. Genuine yams are native to Africa and Asia. But in the US, originally only firmer varieties of sweet potatoes were produced; softer varieties were introduced commercially some time after.  Because they resembled the yams of Africa, African Americans had been already calling sweet potatoes “yams.”  So the companies used the term “yam” to distinguish the soft sweet from the firm sweet potato.  That’s why if you look closely at a can of yams, you will also see the words sweet potatoes; it’s required by the USDA.

Sweet potatoes grow well in various farming conditions, so they are an ideal crop to grow. With few natural enemies, they can be grown organically with no pesticides.  That’s what makes it so baffling why some people would wantonly use pesticides on sweet potatoes. There have been incidents of treats made in China that used sweet potatoes that had been contaminated with toxic pesticides.  Dogs  developed kidney problems from ingesting these toxins.  A treat that should have been good for their digestive system turned out to be just the opposite.

It’s important to know where the food we give our pets is coming from.  When you buy commercially manufactured treats, it may not always be clear where those ingredients are coming from.  We get our ingredients for our dog treats from the same place where we buy our own food, and we prepare the treats right in our own kitchen.  Our sweet potato treats are just that: sweet potatoes. Nothing added. Nothing. We dehydrate them, pack them up, and send them to you.  Our dogs love them, and so will yours.