Friday, March 13, 2020

Great Things Come in Small Packages ~ Gio, Veterinary Nurse

When my fiancée first asked me about making our little family of animals bigger, I was a bit hesitant. I was open to the idea but thought about the animals we already have. There is Diego, my silly green cheeked conjure, Hotdog, the clever ball python, and Spaghetti, the loveable corn snake; do we need another? 

One day, as we were strolling through Petco searching for bird food and aspen for our snakes, Alexandra called out my name. “Giovanni, come look!” As I walked over, she showed me a tiny fancy rat. After a very long talk, we decided to take him home. Like most people, the thought of rats made me cringe a little. I thought rats were mean and messy; however, this is not the case. This little fancy rat touched my heart in so many ways; we decided to name him Poofy. 

After some research, we found out that rats are actually very intelligent, clean, and sweet social creatures. Never judge a book by its cover! After a while, we decided it was time to get Poofy a friend, and so we got Casper the rat! They clicked immediately. Poofy and Casper did everything together. They slept together, wrestled together, ate together, and even swam together! 

Years went by, and all of a sudden, Casper got sick. Casper had developed a small tumor that rapidly grew. Although Poofy could tell that Casper was not feeling well, Casper always kept his head up and his tail swinging! Each night, they would sleep together and share their favorite snacks. Poofy would groom Casper on spots he could not reach, and Casper would do the same. Eventually, Casper passed, and Poofy was very upset. 

Fancy rats taught me to never judge and to never turn your back on your family. All animals, no matter how big or small, are capable of teaching even the smartest person what is missing in their lives. The saying is true: “Great things come in small packages.”

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

A Childhood Friend ~ Kenyetta, Kennel Technician

When I was growing up, I would always hear the phrase, “A dog is a man’s best friend.” But in reality, a dog is a childhood friend.

Kenyetta2.pngI always second guessed getting my daughter a dog, but I wanted her to have that best friend she could grow up with and also have someone who would always have her back (besides just mom).  So on September 16, 2018, I decided that it was best to get my daughter her first ever dog. I remember this day like it was yesterday.

Kenyetta.pngI went to pick our dog, Lilo, from the person that was selling him to us, and my daughter had no idea because I had left her with her grandma while I ran out to pick him up. The second I pulled into the driveway, my daughter was waiting at the door for us. The look on her face when she first met Lilo was priceless. Since day one, Jordynn and Lilo have had the bond that I knew they would. Lilo and Jordynn are like Bonnie and Clyde.
Jordynn has to be in Lilo’s eyesight 24/7, or he will have a fit. They sleep together, eat together, and play together all day. I love their bond; it’s unbreakable. Wherever Jordynn goes, she has to show off a picture of “her Lilo”, as she would call him. Jordynn and Lilo’s birthdays are exactly one month apart, and they act more like actual siblings than anything else, fighting over toys and who gets to sit under me.

A dog is a childhood best friend, not just a man’s best friend. You're able to grow up together; it’s like having that best friend that will always be there no matter what. The best cuddle buddy, playmate, and sleeping buddy you could ever ask for. Dogs may not talk, but they can sense when they are most needed or when you just need a friend to lean on. 

We can learn so many things from a dog's behavior, personality, demeanor, resilience, and most importantly, their willingness to provide their family members with unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship down to their very last breath. A dog will stick by your side through thick and thin and protect you from anything and everything that gets in your way. There are multiple ways that you can benefit from having a pet dog, including keeping you fit and active, reducing stress, keeping you safe, and improving your social life (to name a few). Dogs are the best pets anyone could possibly ask for!

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Adopt a Rescued Bird Month ~ Dana Hogg, DVM

Move over, New Years—January is about the birds. Not only is the 5th of January National Bird Day, but the month of January is Adopt a Rescued Bird Month.

This month is especially important to me, as I have four rescued parrots of my own. My flock includes two Yellow Naped Amazons, a Red Fronted Macaw, and a Nanday Conure. They all range from twelve to over thirty years of age, and each one has their own unique story and quirks. Jack likes to sing opera scales and laugh hysterically when she thinks something is funny (yes, she is a girl). Finster says “bye bye” as I grab my keys each morning to leave for work. Oogie likes to chuckle and jibber jabber; occasionally, he will perform an opera scale just to give Jack some competition. Oliver likes to say “step up” and blow kisses before bed time. 

These are some of the many pleasant behaviors I witness at home; however, as with any rescue animal, they also came with previous learned behaviors from their past that can pose challenges. Jack will yell for help when she is very upset. Oliver will scream for attention here and there. Finster will try to feed the dog formulated bird pellets when she wants attention. Of course, my dog thinks this is just the best thing ever! Oogie has a physical disability and is still learning how to interact with toys and forage at over fifteen years of age. They all will attempt to bite if they are over-stimulated, scared, or simply unsure of something. As you can imagine, there is never a dull moment at the house. 

In addition to having four rescued birds in my life, I also sponsor a Timneh African Grey Parrot named Scrappy. Scrappy is a resident at a wonderful sanctuary called Project Perry located in Central Virginia.  She is a wild caught African Grey who had a rough start to life prior to joining the sanctuary. Project Perry rescues multiple birds and offers lifetime care options for owners needing to place their birds in a permanent living situation. With huge aviaries and unlimited enrichment opportunities, they truly allow birds to be birds. We love getting updates on how Scrappy is thriving.

Just like dogs and cats, birds end up in shelters and rescues. Unsurprisingly, there are a significantly reduced number of shelters equipped to handle their needs. 

Birds are a huge commitment. Several parrot species can live well into their fifties with appropriate care.  Overtime, caregivers may no longer be able to care for their pet bird due to life changes, or their bird may outlive them. This leads to several birds being relinquished to shelters each year. 

Birds are very social animals. They live in large flocks where they communicate daily through a variety of sounds, some of which are pleasant, and others which are not. They attempt to communicate with people in the same manner. As humans, we often unknowingly reinforce these loud behaviors. This can lead to frustration for both parties involved and sometimes even noise violations depending on where you live. Throughout a bird’s life, some may bond with their human caregiver as their “mate”, which can lead to confusion and frustration. This can result in both behavioral issues as well as medical issues such as egg binding. Fulfilling the average bird’s social needs is certainly not an easy task.

The intelligence of birds is truly fascinating. Because they are so intelligent, they need enrichment in several forms to keep them happy in captivity. Enrichment encompasses several categories which include social, cognitive, physical, and sensory aspects. Birds in the wild spend a large portion of their day flying and foraging for food in flocks. It engages their mind and promotes exercise. It involves multiple forms of enrichment. This is a hard behavior to replicate in captivity, especially when housed in cages and fed from a dish. With inadequate enrichment opportunities, birds learn to cope with these social and environmental needs through behavior changes which can be in the form of unpleasant vocalizations, aggression, destruction, feather destructive behaviors, and self-mutilation. All of these can be very challenging to overcome and can lead to relinquishment.

From needing well-formulated diets, to fresh produce, to multiple enrichment opportunities, the expenses can add up quickly. Additionally, birds need veterinary care just like dogs and cats. While there are no routine vaccines, it is recommended to have a preventative care exam at least yearly as well as lab work at the discretion of a veterinarian. Birds are notorious for hiding illness from their owners, which makes the preventative care exam that much more valuable. 

Whether it is due to behavioral, financial, or commitment reasons, multiple birds are surrendered to rescues or rehomed each year. In fact, several parrots have had multiple homes in their life time. If you are considering bringing a new bird into your life, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions. This year, to celebrate National Adopt a Rescued Bird month, consider offering new enrichment opportunities to keep your feathered friend happy, or consider donating to a parrot sanctuary. Project Perry is a fantastic sanctuary; I strongly encourage everyone to check them out!

While my day to day is very exciting and challenging at times, I would not change the decision of welcoming my feathered kids into my life for anything. They provide me with constant smiles and teach me daily. I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

An Engaged Canine is a Well-Behaved Canine ~ Ashley, RVT

A very common reason for people to seek trainers, come to the vet for advice, or even to surrender their dog is destructive behavior. One question I usually lead with is, “Is your dog giving you a hard time, or is it your dog that is having a hard time?” 

Sometimes we get so caught up in making sure our companions fit into our routine that we forget about their needs as well. In this blog, we’ll meet Freyja, a cocker spaniel/staffordshire terrier mix that gave me a new perspective.

If you can, start early! A destructive dog might be a bored dog. Over the years, I’ve learned Freyja’s quirks. If she’s left alone too long with nothing to do or no one to play with, she will find anything to get my attention. At first I would get frustrated; no one wants to come home after a long day of work to a mess! 

On my days off, I started taking her with me on little adventures. Hiking, biking, kayaking, coffee runs-- even just running to Home Depot to pick something up would get her tail going a mile a minute. I noticed that the more we would go out, the less destructive she would be at home. To help keep up this good behavior, I had to find something to keep her occupied during the day while I was gone as well.

Enter interactive pet toys! There are tons of options out there, and my dog has been a very willing tester for most of them (no animals were harmed during this extensive product testing). Puzzle toys, treat dispensers, snuffle mats, kongs, easter egg hunts--the list goes on. I’ve also found healthy snacks to give, such as dehydrated sweet potato, frozen ground chicken/sweet potato baby food, and dehydrated beef liver/heart. If you ever have any questions about interactive pet toys, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Importance of Hobbies ~ Caitlyn, Veterinary Nurse

When you are wrapped up in your work, it's especially important to remember to take time for your personal hobbies. No matter what type of hobby you choose, you will learn, grow, and you are exposed to new ideas. For me, it’s drawing! I started to doodle and sketch portraits of dogs for fun a few years ago. I soon realized that I really enjoyed drawing those furry faces.

Why are hobbies so important?

Hobbies increase enrichment and bring us joy

It is honoring to be able to give them a portrait of their beloved pet. To see their first reaction is very heartwarming!

Social connections

Hobbies can help you meet new people. I have met so many good people who enjoy my artwork. Some who draw too, which then we can talk about and connect. 

Learning new things 

With a hobby, you can enjoy the process of learning new things without the feeling of discouragement. They can be challenging, which keeps you engaged!  

Stress relief and preventing bad habits

Having a good hobby that you enjoy can help you spend that time with positivity. It can give you a break from your stressful work week. 

There is no limit to the types of hobbies that you can try, but here are a few ideas:

  • Gardening
  • Reading
  • Glass blowing
  • Skating
  • Couponing
  • Hiking
  • Playing instruments 

There are so many! Practice makes perfect. Art is amazing, and if you ever want to grab a pencil and start sketching, go for it! You never know what talent is hidden within your creativity. 

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Friday, November 8, 2019

The Many Benefits of Having a Cat ~ Kristin, Veterinary Nurse

There are a lot of opinions out there on how cats are good for human health in different ways. Just to name a few:

  • They help provide valuable emotional support for children and adults who live with certain emotional or developmental disorders, as they offer valuable bonding, attention, and calming affection. 
  • People struggling with anxiety and stress have also found the calming vibrations of a cats purr soothes the nerves. 
  • A little affection from your kitty can also help lower blood pressure! 
  • There's always the classic reason that people have gotten cats for their barns or homes: vermin control. Having mice and bugs getting into your food can cause all sorts of health problems. 

There are so many reasons that cats are so amazing to me. 

Personally, I've always had a deep love and appreciation for cats. From the super cuddly ones who've never met a stranger, to the aloof and independent ones who only allow affectionate on their own terms. My heart flutters every time I see one. 

I've had a few cats in my lifetime. Some have been fosters who I helped find forever homes for, some have been barn cats that found me and never left, and some have been forever adopted by me. 

I have so much appreciation for every cat that comes into my life. They are always there to brighten your darkest days, be happy with you on your good days, and make you laugh with their goofy habits and playfulness. 

They are your constant when so much in your life may change. There's this beautiful, unspoken bond that you feel when you look at them. My life wouldn't be the same without those cats that have shown me so much love in my life. They're totally worth all of the stuff that they knock off of your counters! 

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Right Fit ~ Meredith, Veterinary Nurse

Shortly after my daughter Kenleigh was born, I had to put my lab mix Lyza down, but I still had my two cats. It was very important to me that Kenleigh grow up around animals. I didn't want her to be afraid of them, and I also wanted to be a voice for them.

Fast forward two years, and I decided that I was ready for another dog. We were going to Myrtle Beach for the weekend, and I had been looking at different shelters and animal rescues, since I feel strongly about rescuing vs. buying. I found three dogs that I wanted to meet while we were in Myrtle Beach at the humane society there. One by one, a staff member brought each dog out, and none of them seemed to be quite the right fit for us; I was looking for a more mellow dog for Kenleigh's first experience. She thought for a moment, and then she said, "I have one more I can show you; her name is 'Sparkle'." 

When she brought her out, Sparkle immediately went over to Kenleigh and kissed her hand, and I said, "That's the one!" None of the other dogs we met had acknowledged Kenleigh, and they were very hyper, but Sparkle (now known as Breeze) went right to her as if to say, "That's my new kid." We did all the paperwork to adopt her, got in the car, and she immediately fell asleep. She was home! 

Fast forward three years, and we've been so happy with Breeze! She adjusted well right away, and she and Kenleigh are best buds! 

She cries when Kenleigh leaves, and when I tell Kenleigh it's bedtime, Breeze runs into the bedroom and gets in the bed before Kenleigh. They both will turn five this fall. Rescues seem so grateful in my opinion and make amazing family members!

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