Nov. 4 marks three full years that I have been writing this column, "Focus on Pets." Some wondered what I would find to write about, week after week. After 156 weeks, there are still topics I have not covered.
As you read this, Higgins, Megan, Gibson and I are in Corvallis, Ore. Higgins and I will compete for the first time in a Canine Musical Freestyle competition. Also, we will try our skill in Canine Dressage and Rally. This is a big event sponsored by the World Canine Freestyle Organization.
We are not here to win, but to witness the evolution of new dog sports. Sandra Davis, who is one of the pioneers of musical freestyle, developed Canine Dressage. Her goal has been to offer hard-core obedience people some fun and challenging options.
Canine dressage is a combination of obedience, equine dressage and musical freestyle. It is rather a formal event requiring special dress -- dark slacks, white shirt, cravat or scarf and a salute by the person and a bow by the dog at the end of the exercise. I worked with Sandra Davis early on as she was developing this new sport and I am eager to participate.
The other night as I was putting together this column, it was a gorgeous night in Medford, Ore. At 7 p.m., it was totally dark. I was sitting outside my mini RV in my fold-into-a-bag chair. I wanted the dogs to have a chance for some fresh air since they had been cooped up for several days. I was getting chilly, and as I looked around, I realized that my three dogs were inside our little house on wheels cozily snuggled on my bed. So, I went inside instead of bringing them out.
In the three years that I have been writing this column, readers should have become aware of where I stand on spaying and neutering, training and having your pet as part of the family. Spaying/neutering is the only way to eliminate the massive pet overpopulation problem, which is a constant struggle. Thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized every day due to our lack of responsible pet ownership. The feral cat problem also is due to our lack of responsible pet ownership. We need to leave the breeding to reputable breeders who are dedicated to improving the breeds.
It is with training that our dogs become welcome members of the family. A well-behaved dog is such wonderful company. Those poor dogs who are chained or stuck in the back yard alone and lonely have so much love to give, and are so wanting to be someone's best friend. A neglected pet is such a sad waste. The more time your pet spends with you as part of your family, the more he will work to be the best, most loving and loyal dog he can be. But then, he needs to be taught what is expected of him.
As I spend a few weeks with these three dogs in very tiny quarters, that "part of the family" bit hits close to home. Fortunately they love to travel. But mostly, they love to be included. I see how willingly they adjust. They are happy to be part of this adventure and they work pretty darn hard at being the best they can be. There are gopher holes here to explore as well though, and all sorts of wonderful new smells. But some basic obedience training makes it all possible.
It is time to remind you that cold weather is upon us, so make provisions for your dogs, cats and other pets.
If your dogs are outside during the day, be certain they have a place up off the cold ground. A doghouse is best, with the door facing east if possible to catch the warm morning sun. Straw makes great bedding and does not hold moisture like blankets. Have you ever snuggled into a cold, wet blanket? It is the worst. Straw can be nestled into and it holds the dog's heat.
Hopefully, your dogs are in the house with you at night, but if they are not, make a place for them in the garage or shed where you can provide heat. Oil filled radiators are safe and efficient heaters for small spaces.
Pine needles, bugs and ice quickly find their way into water dishes. Water dishes must be rinsed daily and filled with fresh water. Have several dishes of water both inside and out since they get tipped and consumed.
Thank you for reading this column for three years. How many more years? How many more columns? Who knows? So many people approach when they see me with Higgins and ask -- "Are you the one who writes the column? Yes -- that's me. Thanks for your support.
Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.