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Monday, September 30th, 2013, 08:42 PM | Updated: 09/30/2013, 08:42:01 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

As a student of human nature and someone who enjoys people-watching, I am fascinated by the way pets bring people together.  Whether you’ve moved to a new city and are looking to make some new friends or you simply wish to expand your social network, one of the best ways to connect with others is to step out with your pet.  Of course, this is ideal if you’re a dog owner.  Whether it’s a visit to your local dog park or taking your pooch for a walk, you are sure to meet other dog owners and inevitably strike up conversations.  Initially these conversations center on our pets.

It is this exact scenario through which I met Pat.  I can’t recall the first time Pat and I actually spoke and introduced ourselves.  But we first encountered each other one morning when Pat was walking her Maltese, Sam and I was walking my two Shih Tzus, Lucy and Ethel.  It was an instant doggie love-fest.   To describe Sam as adorable is an understatement.  How could I not reach down to pat his head, scratch his bum and rub his tummy as he rolled over on his back exposing himself?  Last year, Pat and her husband Larry expanded their family by bringing home a second Maltese named Sadie.  Sam and Sadie make a perfect duo. 

And so, on most mornings, Pat and I would meet on our respective dog walks and we would talk.  I do not recall the substance of every conversation; however, I do remember a compliment that Pat once paid me.  She looked me straight in the eye and said that Sam and Sadie clearly adored me and that was because I must be a good person.  She believed (as I do) that dogs possess a heightened ability (far superior to humans) to sense authenticity and kindness in people. 

Over the months, our conversations continued.  On occasion, I had the opportunity to visit Pat and Larry at their home, and even walk Sam and Sadie.  And through this all, my admiration and friendship for Pat and Larry grew.  What most attracted me to Pat was her larger than life personality.  She was a powerhouse!  The kind of person you could never forget once you met her.   Physically she was slight in stature with red hair, so visually she should stood out amongst others.  But it was her personal demeanor that captured one’s attention.  Her warmth and genuine kindness coupled with her high-pitched voice, sharp wit and one-of-a-kind laugh were magnets that would draw people to her.  When she would see me, her face would light up.  And my own heart would skip a beat with joy in anticipation of our conversation to come.  While we always talked about our four-legged children, our conversations also broached other topics.

Last week, Pat passed away after a brief illness.  I’ve wanted to post a tribute to Pat in my blog since then.  However, every time I tried, the words would not come as I choked up with emotion and sadness enveloped me.  Until now.  The most fitting tribute I can offer to Pat’s life is that going forward, every time I walk my own dogs or my clients’ dogs or for that matter, place my hand on a kitty client or some other adorable pet and gently stroke its head, I will think of Pat and the indelible mark she left on me.  She and I were like-minded.  We met through our pets, we grew to admire each other and developed a “simpatico” of implicit understanding.  It truly is amazing how pets bring people together and forever change our lives.  The word “simpatico” best describes my friendship with Pat.  Moreover, her name is embedded in the word.

May her memory be a blessing!

Friday, June 21st, 2013, 03:36 PM | Updated: 06/21/2013, 03:39:25 PM | (Anonymous) [3 Comments]

When I made the decision to start my pet care business, I knew that my work would encompass activities other than dog walking and pet sitting.  This does not mean that both activities aren’t professionally and personally meaningful to me.  Quite the contrary!  They allow me to spend time with dogs and cats, which is enormously gratifying and they are the cornerstones around which Deluxe Dog Concierge is built. 

Simply put, in addition to providing the basic pet care services clients typically look for, Deluxe Dog Concierge seeks to be a credible informational resource for pet parents. 

So it should not come as a surprise that I stepped before a group of 16 older adults and the Program Director at a senior living community in University City/La Jolla this week to present a program on canine health and ways to strengthen the bonds between people and their dogs.  We covered topics including ideal weight range, appropriate food portion size, canine nutrition, exercising your dog, the value of playtime and the importance of physical touch.  Although I was the so-called expert who delivered the program, Dr. Ira Feinswog (a highly regarded local veterinarian) joined me to manage the Q&A session at the end.

What resonates with me most from this experience is having had the opportunity to observe the extremely close relationships between the residents and their pets. Their dogs sat on their laps, by their feet or underneath their chairs on their doggie cushions.  The residents listened intently and their dogs also were captivated by the subject matter.  Good questions were asked and thoughtful remarks were made.  The residents (probably unbeknownst to them) stroked their dogs’ backs, petted their heads and showered them with kisses throughout the hour-long program. 

When it was over, I reflected upon what had just happened.  The residents hopefully benefited from participating in the program.  But with all their life wisdom, they were already doing and reinforcing much of the emotional bonding and pet enrichment practices we discussed.  In this regard, they had something to teach me:  It’s not just about acquiring some new pet health information or learning important “pet facts”; it’s also about doing what comes naturally when a dog looks into your eyes and his/her soul reaches out to you to say, “Thank you for loving me and taking care of me.  You mean so much to me and I am here to look after you too.”  As I left their retirement community and got into my car, I felt so humbled by the experience.  These elders taught this not so old dog the best lesson ever.  

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013, 03:09 PM | Updated: 06/05/2013, 07:30:59 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

One customer demographic that Deluxe Dog Concierge is pleased to serve is our senior population.   Being an older adult and having the responsibility for a pet’s care can have both enriching and challenging consequences.

On the plus side, caring for a pet can exert a positive influence on the life of an elderly person, especially if he/she lives alone.  Just having the companionship of another living being can ward off feelings of loneliness and depression.  But there are other emotional benefits to consider.  Pets can add greater purpose and meaning to an elderly person’s life.  Simply following one’s daily pet care routine may add the necessary structure to nourish one’s cognitive skills and help maintain their mental acuity.  From a physical standpoint, pet care responsibility serves to keep elders more active.  They usually have to bend and reach to pick up, feed and pat their loved ones.  And for dog owners, there’s the health benefits reaped from walking their pets and getting some physical exercise.  In addition, some studies have even shown that pet companionship helps lower human blood pressure.

In terms of the challenges that pet ownership present amongst elders, there is the real concern over how to effectively care for a pet as your own mobility diminishes.   It can be extremely disconcerting and worrisome because as one’s range of motion becomes more limited, their capacity to provide the pet with the exercise it has grown accustomed to also lessens.   Furthermore, there is the issue of even being able to keep one’s pet with them should the elder have to move into a care facility or other senior living community. 

The encouraging news is that the owners/management of more senior living and retirement communities recognize the psychosocial and physical benefits residents derive from pet ownership.  And so, more of them have adopted a “pawsitive” pet policy. 

In June, I have been invited to deliver a pet education seminar at two communities for older active adults in San Diego.  Leveraging what I know about both the enriching and challenging aspects referenced above, my presentation will center on “Staying Healthy: You and Your Dog”.   I selected this topic in light of the tight emotional bonds that develop between people and their pets.  Pet ownership/care amongst elders is truly a symbiotic relationship.  The person gives attention and loving kindness to their pet and the animal showers unconditional love upon his/her parent. 

In closing, one of the reasons for my embarking upon pet care as a professional endeavor is that I treasure the deep and meaningful relationships that form between people and their pets.  This is often magnified in our elder populations as they have more time to spend with their pets and give them personal attention.

There are so many animals in need of a good home and there are many older adults who have the time and space to share their lives with another soul.  May these special relationships flourish! 

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