I asked Furry Face owner Lorin Grow to name the top best gives pet owners can get for their pets, expecting to hear about the Lamb Chop squeaky doll (a big hit at my house) and some chewy tendon braids.
She said, not even close.
These, she said, are the best gifts of all:
Good nutrition Making informed decisions about your dog's food will extend your dog’s life, keep him younger and keep him mobile. "This is the most important drug that you put into your animal, three times a day," said Grow. "How it’s made, where it’s sourced, what’s been added to it, has a profound effect on dogs and cats."
Good health Achieving and maintaining healthy pets means understanding antibiotic effects, vaccinations, how chemicals affect them, the ingredients you put in and on them and all aspects of their environment, such as the impact of cleaning supplies. It even means getting the right collar. "I see increasingly pain down front legs, disc and spinal issues," said Grow, talking about people using the wrong collar and then pulling their dogs by the neck.
A good vet Interview your pets' potential veterinarians before choosing one, Grow advises. Choose someone who listens to you, asks questions, partners with you and respects where you’re coming from. "People are super intimidated by their vets, and that prevents them from becoming their pets advocate," Grow said. "A good vet comes down to three things: how well they paid attention in school, whether they can think outside the box, and whether they have the experience to be an expert on what you’re seeing them for. It’s not a matter of posting on social media, 'Does anyone know a good vet?'"
A good groomer Not all dogs get groomed, but some must. If you use a groomer, interview first. "The fact is that nowhere in the USA is grooming regulated, tested, licensed, monitored, re-examined. It doesn’t require schooling.," said Grow. "Anybody could take surgically sharp instruments to people’s pets and put them in harm’s way." A good groomer listens to you and gives you what you want, understands how to do different styles, understands different breeds. A good groomer partners with you and is honest about how your dog did, uses high quality products -- not chemically laden or highly perfumed.A good groomer NEVER hits your dog on the nose or butt, jerks your dog by the neck, yells at your dog or is in any way rough or abusive. There are homeopathic calming products available that can help if your dog is stressed.
A good pet sitter Choose somebody with experience who is licensed, bonded and insured with multiple referrers. If you’re leaving the animal with them, choose someone who lets you examine the site the animal will be staying. If they're coming to your house, choose someone who comes in and goes through the place with you and meets the animal more than once. If you're choosing a boarding facility, check the history, meet all of the people involved, find out what happens at night. "Heavily verify all claims," Grow says.
A Plan B Have a back-up vet, boarding facility, food brand, groomer, everything. "Owning an animal requires caring for them properly and being ready for emergencies and changes," Grow said. "All food companies change at some point. I’ve been doing this 14 years. The numbers of times I’ve had to stop backing a manufacturer is staggering. Small independent food makers sell to large companies who do not get their supplies from the same places. Ethics are different, processes are different." And what if your vet is at a conference, or retires? What about after-hours, are you choosing based on what’s open and close? It's in your pets' best interest to be prepared before emergency strikes.