Best Friend To Dogs Says Farewell After Five Years.

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Before I get to the serious part, I want to thank those who played such an important part in "Dog Day in the Park." KRIM radio did a live broadcast from the dog park. That was such fun. Cathy and Suzanne are both full of energy and they were there the entire day. What a wonderful energy they added to the event. Many thanks to both of them. We can never thank them enough.

I also want to thank our wonderful judges. Pat Johnson from KMOG radio and Ed Enos from PostNet are both such dog-lovers and are also such a lot of fun. We so loved having them -- and from what I hear, they both had fun and want to be judges next year. Would that be legal? It was great to have them. Many thanks, Pat and Ed. Wynn. You get my special thanks. We could not have done it without you.

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Higgins, Lacy, Gibson and Christy Powers are ready to do some traveling in the Roadtrek. I plan to read, write and relax.

So now to the serious part. Five years ago this week, Nov. 5, 2002, the first "Focus on Pets" column appeared in the Payson Roundup. Many asked how I would ever come up with enough pet-related topics to write a weekly column. Being a worrier, I made a list. When the number of topics reached 52, I knew I was good for at least a year. In these five years, I have never missed getting a column to the paper and I have never repeated a column. There have been 260 of them.

In that first column, I quoted Emerson who said, "The only way to have a friend is to be one." I continued, "Dogs give us so many chances, constantly forgiving and always eager to pursue the friendship they seek so dearly. Dogs are pack animals. They need the companionship of other dogs or of people, ideally both. They want to be a part of a family, and as they spend time with the family and get a little direction, they find their place in the family pack."

I also said, "Pets keep us young." I recently read that people who have pets live, on average, seven years longer than non-pet owners. Pet owners are less likely to suffer from loneliness and depression."

I have learned a lot about pets through the writing of this column. I have read countless magazines and newspaper articles and have done research on a wide variety of issues dealing with pets and pet ownership. I have shared this information with you.

People recognize me from my picture in the paper. But more often, they recognize my wonderful standard poodle, Higgins. Higgins has loved being in the center of my columns and my life.

You, the readers of this column, have kept me going. You have told me that you liked the column, that you have learned from these columns. What more could I have asked for?

I will no longer be writing the pet column. But there is a wealth of information out there so that you can continue to read and learn about your pet. The internet has an endless array of articles dealing with pet care, training, feeding -- everything. There are long shelves in the library devoted to books about pets.

There are training classes and great sport activities for you and your dogs. Clicker training and positive reinforcement are such fun ways to work with your dog.

Training sessions should be fun. When I get out the clicker and treats, my three dogs are standing in front of me, saying "me first," "I can do that." And they can. I laugh at their antics.

If your training sessions are not fun, stop and find another way.

Certain topics are near and dear to my heart. Those of you who have been faithful readers, and there are quite a few of you, know my pet topics. Obesity, spay and neuter, dogs as part of the family, exercise, training, cleaning up after your dog, good food, making mealtime special and choosing a dog to fit your lifestyle are among them.

In the documentary on public television, "Dogs that Changed the World," the question was asked, "Should people really keep a dog if they are not going to provide an environment that will satisfy its needs?" There are way too many dogs and cats in the world today, so humane organizations are sometimes too eager to place a pet with a less-than-desirable family. Until we eliminate the overpopulation and reduce the number of senseless euthanasias, we are inclined to give a pet to everyone who shows an interest.

I stepped into a pet store in the Valley recently where they sell puppies. This was a small shop, but the number of puppies was alarming. They were adorable and people were in there playing with them and deciding if they should have this one or that. But where did these puppies come from? They came from puppy mills.

Why are these people not going to the humane society to adopt their pets?

The more we buy from pet stores and people selling puppies on the street corner, the more these sources will be breeding for profit.

The concluding paragraph in that very first column five years ago said, "Hopefully this column will help each of us be a better friend to our dog. Our friendship will be returned a hundredfold with loyalty and unconditional love." I hope that you have learned to become a better friend to your dog. Those of you who have are enjoying friendship at its very best.

Thank you for reading this column. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Thank you.

Christy Powers has been a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@ earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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