Pets in Peril

As the author of several pet loss books, I frequently receive letters and e-mail from people thanking me for my work. Along with their kind and generous words, people often give me kudos that I do not deserve. Somehow people feel the need to thank me for helping animals. The truth is I don't do as much for our animal friends as people imagine.

I do help support scores of shelters by providing books for their fundraisers, making financial donations and helping out in any other way that I am asked to, but my work, my goal is to help the people that help animals. Dogs and cats do not read my books. People do; and many of them have a sad story to share. In the past decade I have received no less than 5,000 such stories. It is heart-wrenching to read of their losses and the grief they feel.

I am so thankful to be able to offer soothing words and advice and to correspond with them for as long as they feel they need my assistance. They are not the only ones to benefit from our communication however. I have acquired a wealth of knowledge from them; in particular on the dangers that face our pets and how to avoid exposing them to those dangers.

Most of what I have learned is common sense, but it would surprise you to know how many people are born without that commodity. I won't go into the sad details, but generally speaking, many people lose their beloved best friends through circumstances that just did not have to be. From swimming pools to open gates, to exposure to the elements, most "accidents", and therefore grief, can be avoided. I have been affectionately labeled a "worry wart" by those who know me simply because I try to think ahead and imagine what dangers there might be for my pets when I am away from them. Admittedly, I do sometimes go a little overboard. For instance, when we are traveling and cannot take our pets with us, we have someone stay with them in our home rather than boarding them at a kennel.

It is more expensive, but it comforts me to know that they are in a safe environment that I created for them. If that is not bad enough, I hand the person staying in our home a small book of rules and information about the animals. I know that no one reads them, but it eases my concern to know the information is available to them should they need it. To my shame, there is still more to my confession.

I also call my pet's babysitter several times each day to ensure my buddies are okay. I suppose the label of worry wart fits, so I will wear it proudly. I would rather look silly erring on the side of safety than to bury my head in my hands in grief for having overlooked a potential danger "Oversight" is the word I want to emphasize. It is the one common denominator that I find present in each sad story that is shared with me. When tragedy comes the catalyst is usually someone not perceiving that a danger existed. I am not blaming anyone.

Indeed, there is no blame to assign. I am merely pointing out that sometimes people are not aware that certain conditions or situations might present a danger to their pets. Let me use myself as an example.

I have three dogs, all rescued from shelters. Two of them sometimes have "discussions" because the smaller of the two is dominant and pushes the larger one (twice her size) around. I was aware that there was some occasional squaring off, but these always amounted to nothing more than grumbling at each other with a low growl and icy stare. They usually got along splendidly, and on those rare occasions where they had a small confrontation over a rawhide or toy, it usually was settled by the dominant one having her way. Returning home one day from shopping, we were greeted by a frantic neighbor who told us that these two dogs had gotten into a real scrap while we were gone.

Fortunately, we had made a way for the dogs to go outside into the fenced yard whenever nature calls and the incident took place in the yard. Had it happened in the house, it is doubtful my neighbor would have been aware of it and the story might have ended tragically different than it did. He told us that he immediately ran over to the fence and yelled for them to stop, but they would not listen. He ultimately had to jump the fence and separate them because he was sure that the larger dog was going to kill the smaller one if they remained together. My initial thought was that he was exaggerating a bit, but when I saw the gashes and cuts on the bloodied smaller dog, I knew there was a real problem. As a consequence of that episode, our home is now divided in our absence, as is the yard.

The two problem "children" have separate doors that they can use to access and exit the yard. They can still be together, but they are divided by a fence. That doesn't stop the neighbor's dog from jumping over into either side of the yard (which we are still working on), but it keeps my two rascals from mixing it up.

My point is that while we need to guard against dangers, there is a limit to what we can anticipate and guard against. Sometimes even worry warts miss things. Still, when we accept the responsibility of caring for an animal, we need to be vigilant and proactive in their care and safety.

There are just so many potential dangers. With a little thought and perhaps a little study on the internet, we can gain critical knowledge that we can easily apply to our pet's environment to ensure their safety. For instance, how many of us give tennis balls to our dogs? They are fine for smaller dogs, but pose a real choke hazard to larger dogs. Tennis balls are a disaster waiting to happen, one that has happened far too many times. Swimming pools are another problem. Fortunately for me, my dogs detest the water and won't go near it.

Most dogs enjoy the water, however, and an exposed swimming pool is an open invitation to fun. While you are at home and they are swimming with you, there is little danger. When you are gone however, if they purposely or accidentally enter the pool, they often cannot find their way out, if indeed there is one. You may not realize that when you are with them, YOU are their way out of the pool. When you are gone, the whole dynamic changes. I have had so many readers share their pool tragedies with me, that I felt compelled to find a solution and make it available to pet owners.

I found a company who offers a flotation device that allows dogs of any size to exit pools without assistance. I feel that this is such an important product that I advise people about it for no compensation. I do not make any profit from sales of this product. The only benefit to me is the satisfaction of knowing that another tragedy will be avoided when someone purchases it and uses it.

There are so many dangers, too many to mention here. So please do some research and educate yourself. It is important that we be vigilant. Those trusting faces depend upon us to look out for them.

If there is a way for our cats and dogs (and other animals) to get themselves into trouble, they will find it. We need to find it first and eliminate it as a threat. Be a worry wart. It will pay big dividends.

The author is a retired Coast Guard Officer with over 32 years of service. He is also a Baptist Preacher and Bible Teacher. He helps those grieving the loss of a pet to understand the Biblical evidence that proves they live on. His most popular book, "Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates" delivers hope and comfort to the reader in a very gentle, yet convincing way. Visit at for more information and tips.

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