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May is National Pet Month! Woohoo! Not that I needed a designated month to tell me to celebrate my pets.

I love my kids and husband very much, but when I come home, no matter what mood I might be in, I'm always excited to see my dogs. They make me feel like a rockstar! They greet me with their tails wagging, big smiles on their faces, jumping up and down like I've been gone for months, instead of the few seconds it took to walk to the mailbox.

For the love of a dog -- National Pet Month

 

As far back as I can remember, we have always had a family pet.

I don't exactly remember this, but when I was little we had a big black lab named Geronimo. Geronimo would get loose all the time and my brothers thought it was hysterical when my dad had to run around the neighborhood calling, “Geronimo!” while looking for him. I think maybe they let Geronimo out on purpose just for this reason. (If you are younger than 30 you probably don't understand why this is so funny. Read this.)

The first pet I can remember was a cat named Smokey that a fireman rescued from a burning storage shed on our elementary school property. I don't quite remember how we ended up with him, but most-likely one of my brothers claimed the poor singed cat and brought it home. My brothers and I were always bringing home stray cats and dogs. And my parents were usually pretty cool about it.

My mom, the thief

For the love of a dog-National Pet MonthOnce, my mom “stole” two older kittens from our next-door neighbors.

The neighbors only wanted the kitties when they were tiny and cute. When they started to get bigger and more independent, the mom threw the felines outside.

Occasionally, one of the kids would bring the kittens in to play for a short time. Then they would get dumped outside again after the kids became bored.

Every night my mom would call the kittens over to our house to feed them and let them sleep inside. She even took them to the vet and had them fixed when they were about 3 months old.

Eventually, the neighbors decided to “let us” keep the cats. (Like they really had a choice in the matter, lol.)

As you can probably tell, my mom is partial to cats. My brother Jeff is also a cat person.

My dad was a dog person who learned to love cats (it was inevitable considering we always had a half-dozen or so as pets).

My brother Bob is a dog person, and I love any four-footed creature I can get my hands on. I even brought home a white lab rat from my high school Earth Science class once, but sadly I had to return it to the school because mom drew the line at rodents.

Some interesting facts to share during National Pet Month.

Pets are awesome & science proves it!

For the Love of Dogs-National Pet Month

While I do really like cats, I prefer dogs. My dogs have always been my best friends, confidants, therapists, and bedtime snugglers. Their unconditional love got me through a lot of rough teenage years, and continue to comfort me even in my 40s. So I wasn't at all surprised when I read that dogs are not just cuddly companions. They are actually good for your health and well-being. There is even science to back it up.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having a family pet helps decrease stress and anxiety, as well as increase exercise and outdoor activities and opportunities for socialization, which can reduce feelings of isolation, loneliness and/or depression. Other important health benefits recognized include a decrease in blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Marty Becker, DVM, “America’s Veterinarian,” says, “If you have a cat, you're 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack, and you're 40 percent less likely to have a cardiovascular incident like a stroke”. In addition, pets can aid in the recovery after a heart attack. Dr. Becker states “If you have a heart attack and you have a dog, you are  more likely to be alive a year later.”

For the Love of Dogs-National Pet MonthPet therapy (animal-assisted therapy or AAT) is used in many health-care settings to improve emotional, physical, social, and cognitive health and can help improve the quality of life of patients.

A study from Loyola University found that pet therapy reduced the need for pain medication for patients after joint-replacement surgery. Patients who did not experience pet therapy needed more pain meditation to help aid in their recovery.

I thought that was very interesting. I've always had a high tolerance for pain. Most of my doctors attributed that to being a redhead, but maybe it's because I've always had a family pet!

National Pet Month

With warm weather arriving (or in our case it has arrived) you and your pets will most-likely be spending more time outside. In celebration of National Pet Month, I thought I'd share with you some tips to help keep your four-footed furry friends safe this summer!

  1. For the Love of Dogs-National Pet MonthMake sure your pet is up to date with their , heartworm prevention medication, and rabies and other vaccinations. Taking your pet for walks in your neighborhood or to the local park will create opportunities to meet other animals. It's important to be sure your pet is protected, just in case.
  2. Every time you take your pet out for a walk check them–and yourself–for ticks. You don't have to go into the woods to get a tick, and some ticks are no bigger than the head of a pin! There are many different types of tickborne diseases that can affect pets and humans, so be extra cautious. (While DEET is safe to apply to humans, NEVER use it on your pets. The chemical is toxic when ingested in high doses. Your pet is likely to lick it off their fur potentially resulting in toxicity.)
  3. If you haven't already microchipped your pet, spend the $10-20 to get it done ASAP, and be sure to order a tag (, or ) for your pet's collar with at the very least your name and phone number printed on it. (Better yet, with your phone number embroidered onto it. Your pet is more likely to lose a tag than a collar.) Update it every time you move or get a new number. These items exponentially increase the chances of finding your pet if it becomes lost.
  4. DO NOT leave your pets outside all day long. Dogs and cats are very susceptible to heatstroke.
  5. When it is hot and your pet is outside, make sure they have (what dog or cat wouldn't love this?!?) and – or even better, keep them in your air-conditioned home except for potty breaks.
  6. NEVER leave a pet in an unoccupied automobile, not even for “just a minute”. Have you ever sat in your car during the summer for a minute or two after turning off the engine? It only takes a few seconds before the heat can become unbearable, and you aren't wearing a fur coat!

Summertime is meant to be fun for you and your pets. I hope these simple precautions will help keep you both healthy, happy, and unharmed all summer long.

A few bonus tips for National Pet Month–or any time of year–that your neighbors will appreciate:

after your pet! There is nothing worse that stepping in dog poop when you are running around barefoot in your yard, except maybe when it's poop from someone else's dog.

Be mindful of your dog's .  Nobody, not even a dog person, enjoys hearing a dog barking all hours of the day.

If your neighbor happens to be the one with the barking dog, please don't immediately call the police. Knock on their door and inform them the dog has been barking for hours and ask nicely if they could check on the dog. Leave a note if they aren't home. If they are less than civil with you, or you become aware that their dog is in a bad situation, then by all means call your local non-emergency police line to report the issue.

Do you have any tips to share for National Pet Month?