How To Reduce Your Pet’s Carbon Footprint

There’s an unfortunate truth when it comes to pets and the environment: The sweet dog or cat sleeping next to you on the couch is an eco-outcast.

Well-loved pets and their owners contribute to a $47 billion pet industry filled with bacon-flavored treats, ergonomic beds, chamomile shampoo — and a mini-mountain of pet waste.

New research out of UCLA shows that our meat-eating furry friends create the equivalent of about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, which has about the same climate impact as a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars. Meat-based diets require more energy, land and water to produce, and do more environmental damage in terms of erosion, pesticides and waste, the study notes.

“I like dogs and cats, and I’m definitely not recommending that people get rid of their pets or put them on a vegetarian diet, which would be unhealthy,” said geography professor Gregory Okin in a statement. “But I do think we should consider all the impacts that pets have so we can have an honest conversation about them. Pets have many benefits, but also a huge environmental impact.”

Some surprising stats from Okin’s study, which estimated that there are 163 million cats and dogs in America:

  • Cats and dogs account for 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the U.S.
  • If cats and dogs occupied their own country, that nation would be fifth in the world for meat consumption.
  • America’s pets produce about 5.1 million tons of feces in a year, as much as 90 million Americans.
  • Dogs and cats eat about as many calories as the population of France in one year.

All of this may have you wondering about your own pet’s carbon footprint, er, pawprint. Here are a few ways to reduce your cat or dog’s environmental impact.

Ease up on the kibble

An overwhelming number of cats and dogs walk around with a little too much fluff under all that fur. Two or three extra pounds can make a huge difference on a 14-pound animal; it’s excess weight that can lead to costly complications such as diabetes, heart disease and joint-related issues. (Sound familiar?) Have a heart-to-heart with your vet during your pet’s next checkup. Together, you can determine how much food really belongs in that bowl each day.

Get the good stuff

Dogs will happily consume shoes, dirty socks and your favorite novel, but “chicken by-product meal” isn’t that yummy or healthy. Read the label on your pet’s food carefully. Ingredients are listed by weight, so look for a quality protein such as beef, lamb, chicken or fish among the first few items and avoid cheaper versions loaded with corn, food dyes or other additives. These options may cost more, but dogs and cats typically eat less of it — and they generate less waste (that means poop) — so it could be a win-win.

For guidance on decoding your dog’s kibble, check out DogFoodAnalysis.com, where editors regularly review popular brands and break down the list of ingredients.

Get moving — together

Your dog isn’t the only family member with an expanding waistline. Burn calories and make new friends by taking a stroll through the neighborhood together. A daily 15-minute walk can help both of you de-stress and burn calories. This free workout also beats a pricey gym membership.

Recycle those containers

Dog and cat food bags and cans, as well as toy packages, should hit the recycle bin. If the food container has a plastic lining, separate that part before sorting.

Get the green poop bags

Before plastic shopping bags become extinct in your area, make the transition to biodegradable versions. A compostable, corn-based option from BioBag can be flushed and it even meets California’s strict labeling standards.

Seek out cruelty-free products

It’s hard for a pet lover to imagine another animal suffering. Thousands of companies have pledged to forgo animal testing as part of their manufacturing process. For a list of cruelty free pet products and companies, visit PETA’s website.

Streamline the toy stash

If you have enough plush toys to fill a storage box, it may be time to cut back on visits to the pet accessories aisle. Most pets have a few favorites, the rest just take up extra space. Throw your pet’s favorite stuffed toys in the washing machine to kill germs and dust mites and to give them that “new toy smell.” (A few hours in the freezer also kills dust mites.) Then donate the leftovers to a local animal shelter or rescue group so another pooch can share the love.

Foster a dog or cat

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that about 6 million dogs and cats are turned in to shelters each year. Nearly half of those animals are euthanized. Rescue groups try to make a dent in that number by pulling adoptable pets and placing them with volunteers. “We could save so many more animals if we just had enough foster homes,” said Taylor Brand, founder of Rescue Me! Animal Project in Atlanta, which helps dogs and cats find a forever home. Consider it an opportunity for your pet to provide on-the-job training in such canine pleasures as playing fetch, walking on a leash or couch cuddling. Search for a rescue group in your area and consider opening your home to a dog or cat today.

Spay or neuter

It may be tempting to have a miniature version of your furry best friend, but plenty of shelter puppies await a permanent home. There’s also the issue of cleaning up after an unaltered dog who’s “marking” the house. If that isn’t enough incentive to visit the vet, there are health benefits to getting your dog and cat spayed or neutered.

Be a good neighbor

It may be a pain to pick up poop, but the risk of illness from harmful pathogens and bacteria can be much more problematic. Place dog poop in a handy biodegradable bag for disposal or flush it. Just don’t ignore it. If you’ve ever stepped in a fresh pile of yuck, you can appreciate the power of paying it forward.

Besides, it’s good for you and the planet. With just a few of these changes, you can help dogs and cats play nice with the environment.

 

Dogs Are The Key To Staying Active As We Age

It’s no surprise that people who walk their dogs tend to be more active overall than those who don’t have pets.

But a group of researchers from the U.K. wanted to delve deeper into the connection between dog walking and health, especially as people age.

More than 3,000 adults participated in the study. They were asked whether they owned or regularly walked a dog. Participants were outfitted with a device to constantly measure their physical activity over a seven-day period. On average, people who owned dogs were sedentary for 30 minutes less per day than those who didn’t have canine companions.

Because bad weather and the shorter days of winter are key reasons that many people don’t stay active outdoors, the researchers linked the activity data to weather conditions and daylight hours.

They found that on shorter days, as well as on days that were colder and wetter, all study participants spent less time being active and more time just sitting. Dog walkers, however, were much less affected by those inclement weather conditions. They were much more likely to get outside even if the weather wasn’t ideal. The study found that dog owners were 20 percent more active in bad weather than non-dog owners.

“We were amazed to find that dog walkers were on average more physically active and spent less time sitting on the coldest, wettest, and darkest days than non-dog owners were on long, sunny, and warm summer days,” said project lead Andy Jones from University of East Anglia’s Norwich School of Medicine.

Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers used data from a study that is tracking the well-being of thousands of residents of the English county of Norfolk.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night

“We know that physical activity levels decline as we age, but we’re less sure about the most effective things we can do to help people maintain their activity as they get older,” said lead author Yu-Tzu Wu from the University of Cambridge.

“We found that dog walkers were much more physically active and spent less time sitting overall. We expected this, but when we looked at how the amount of physical activity participants undertook each day varied by weather conditions, we were really surprised at the size of the differences between those who walked dogs and the rest of the study participants.”

The researchers said that perhaps their findings could inspire the development of successful programs to motivate people to be active.

“Physical activity interventions typically try and support people to be active by focusing on the benefits to themselves, but dog walking is also driven by the needs of the animal,” Jones points out. “Being driven by something other than our own needs might be a really potent motivator and we need to find ways of tapping into it when designing exercise interventions in the future.”

Why Adopting a Shelter Pet Is Not Only Good For The Animal But Good for Your Soul

The history of pet ownership dates back to prehistoric times when man first discovered that it was possible to train wolves, the common ancestor of all modern-day dogs. Today, 65 percent of U.S. households own at least one pet, according to the 2015-2016 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey.

While millions of dogs, cats and other animals have found loving homes, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters nationwide every year.

Adoption makes good fiscal sense because it costs far less to rescue a pet from a shelter than it does to buy one from a breeder or pet store.

Costs can vary depending on where you live and whether you’re interested in adopting a cat or a dog. Costs can range from as low as $20 for a cat or dog in Minnesota to $325 for a young puppy in western Pennsylvania, but the average national runs around $100 for dogs and $50 for cats.

Now compare that to what it would cost you to purchase a pet from a breeder or a pet store. In all likelihood, you’ll pay more than $1,000.

Shelter Pets Are Spayed or Neutered and Vaccinated

Shelter personnel don’t just unceremoniously dump a furball in your arms when you pay the adoption fee. Virtually all shelters spay or neuter the new addition to your family before sending him home with you.

Additionally, dogs and cats up for adoption are always up to date on their vaccines, which means you won’t have to take an immediate trip to the vet. According to Pet360, some shelters will even microchip animals at a reduced price.

You’ll pay a lot extra for these things if you buy from a breeder or a pet shop. The American Kennel Club estimates that veterinary costs alone run about $650 a year.

Adopting Helps Animal Shelters Provide Care

When you give your money to a shelter rather than a store or breeder, you’re helping support other animals that are being cared for by that shelter.

Some of your adoption fee goes toward the shelter’s costs incurred by spaying or neutering, vaccinating and microchipping the animals it houses. Your money helps pay for their care as well. It also contributes to the maintenance and upkeep of the shelter and to public education about the plight of these animals.

Pet Adoption Hurts Puppy and Kitten Mills

Possibly the most morally rewarding reason to adopt a shelter pet is to help put an end to breeding facilities, better known as kitten and puppy mills.

Female animals at these facilities are kept in cages and continuously impregnated throughout the duration of their lives. These animals are often killed when they reach an age where they can’t successfully breed anymore.

When you buy a dog or cat from a pet store, you are almost certainly getting an animal bred at a mill, according to the Humane Society of the United States. This is, of course, not always the case when purchasing an animal from private breeders, thought it might be true of some.

Shelter Pets Receive Health and Behavioral Screens

Shelters screen all of their animals prior to placing them up for adoption. Screens include extensive health exams, so you can know if the animal you are considering adopting has any health problems that may cost you more money down the line.

Shelters also screen their animals for any behavioral problems — such as incompatibility with other animals — and make an effort to treat any problems found. Many shelters will take their screening process a step further by writing detailed documents that outline an animal’s personality and likes and dislikes, which helps ensure you get the best animal for your lifestyle.

Older Shelter Pets Might Be Trained

Many people prefer to adopt animals when they are young, but older animals might have one thing younger animals never have: training.

Not only does training an animal require a significant time commitment, it’s often expensive too. A six-week individual puppy training class at PetSmart is $119. Add to that the cost of books you might want to buy to help supplement your furry friend’s training.

Even when older animals are not fully trained, they often recognize simple cues like “sit” and “stay.” They’ve also usually been housebroken, so you can skip the whole chewing-on-everything, the-world-is-my-bathroom phase — saving you money on home goods.

Pet Adoption Saves Animal Lives

According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters ever year. Millions of them are euthanized because they do not find homes.

When you choose to adopt rather than shop, you are saving the life of your pet. What’s more, when your pet leaves the shelter, he makes room for a new animal to take his place. If that animal is adopted, you have effectively saved the lives of two animals. Now that’s making a difference.

Shelter Pets Can Bring You Joy and Good Health

One of the greatest reasons to adopt a shelter pet is to boost your happiness and health.

Numerous studies, including ones conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have found that pets can have a myriad of positive health effects, including decreased blood pressure, cholesterol levels and more. Additionally, pets often increase opportunities for exercise and socialization.

Working to improve your health and well being now can lessen health costs you might have down the line.

Want to Be More Active? Getting a Dog Might Help

As if you needed another reason to adopt a new furry friend, research has surfaced showing that owning a dog can potentially improve your overall health, with dog owners walking about 20 minutes more each day compared to people without canine counterparts.

The study, published by BMC Public Health, looked at 43 dog owners and 43 people without dogs—all over the age of 65. Each participant wore an activity tracker that provided continuous tracking for three-week-long periods, with researchers studying the participants for an entire year in total.

It is the first study to compare dog owners and non-dog owners using activity trackers instead of the previously used—and often unreliable—self-reported data.

Ultimately, the study found that the dog owners walked an average of 23 minutes more each day, and took an additional 2,760 more steps. Further, the dog owners reported having fewer prolonged periods of sitting down.

What was more important, however, was the pace at which the dog owners walked. Much of the extra walking was done at a moderate speed and was vigorous enough to be counted toward weekly physical activity requirements. As the World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week for the average adult, an extra 20 minutes of moderately-paced walking every day could potentially have a huge effect.

Unfortunately, the study was not a true, randomized clinical trial—and therefore can’t accurately determine whether owning a dog makes a person more active, or if active people are just more likely to have a canine running buddy. Also, since the participants were all white, British and over the age of 65, these results can’t really be applied to the general population.

However, the study didn’t definitively show that owning dogs doesn’t improve fitness… and therefore, it’s just another reason to take the plunge on adopting a new pet.

What You Need To Know About Dog Flu

As animal experts around the country amplify their warnings about dog flu outbreaks, pet owners are scrambling to understand the illness and learn how they can protect their pets. The virus has been circulating in the U.S. since 2015, infecting thousands of dogs throughout much of the country. In May 2017, several cases were confirmed for the first time in Florida.

Here’s what you need to know about this potentially deadly disease.

What is the dog flu?

Dog flu — or canine influenza — is an infection caused by one of two virus strains: H3N2 and H3N8. Of the two, H3N2 is more commonly seen in pets in the U.S. It is thought that the strain came from Asia, possibly originating as an avian flu that was transferred to a dog.

Dog flu symptoms

Like the flu that affects humans, the symptoms of the dog flu hit the respiratory system causing coughing, a runny nose, watery eyes and a sore throat. It’s also usually accompanied by a high fever and loss of appetite. But unlike with humans, your dog won’t be able to tell you how bad she is feeling, and you may not notice the symptoms right away. Animal experts say to watch your dog for changes in behavior. If your normally hyper dog seems lethargic or if your pup who is usually enthusiastic about eating starts skipping meals, it’s time to take a closer look.

How does the dog flu spread?

The dog flu virus spreads just like the human flu virus does — through bodily fluids that are released into the air via a sneeze or cough or by touching objects or surfaces that have been contaminated. The dog flu virus can live in the environment for two days.

Dogs that spend a lot of time around other dogs — in dog parks, kennels, shelters, groomers or veterinary clinics — are the most likely to contract the illness.

What to do if your dog gets the flu

Older dogs, younger dogs and dogs that are already sick are the most vulnerable when it comes to the dog flu, not because of the virus itself, but because these dogs are the most likely to develop complications, like pneumonia, that could be fatal. If you think your dog may have the flu, it’s important to check in with your vet to make sure he isn’t getting any worse.

At home, you can keep track of your dog’s temperature by placing a thermometer under her armpit, or for a more accurate reading, in her backside. According to the American Kennel Club the normal range for a dog’s temperature should be between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius.)

Keep the fluids going as much as possible and try to entice your pooch to keep eating. Check with your vet about foods that may prompt him to eat without giving him a stomachache.

More than anything, give your pet plenty of time for R&R. Give her a week or so off from running, walking and other forms of exercise and just let her rest and sleep as much as she needs. Just make sure that she is still drinking, eating a little, and relieving herself.

How you can keep your dog from getting the flu?

The best way to minimize your dog’s risk of getting the flu is to keep her away from other dogs. If you spend time with other dogs, be sure to wash your hands and even change your clothes before interacting with your own dog. While humans can’t contract canine influenza, we can carry the virus on our hands and clothing for up to 24 hours after handling an infected dog.

You could also talk to your vet about a dog flu vaccine, although there is some question about its effectiveness as the vaccine for H3N8 may not offer protection from H3N2 and vice versa.

Dogs Are the Most Admired Animal, Fish Are the Least

Humans are biased about pretty much everything, including, it turns out, animals.

We were struck by a recent report that included a chart on animal stereotypes, based on a 2015 study from Princeton’s Susan T. Fiske and Verónica Sevillano of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

The study asked 135 Americans to rate animals for warmth and competence, two factors that have been shown to play a major role in how we view almost everything. In short, we feel admiration for things rated warm and competent; contempt for the cold and incompetent; pity for the warm and incompetent; and envy for the cold and competent.

It turns out humans admire the hell out of dogs, with cats, horses, and monkeys as runners-up. These animals were grouped in the study as “companion” animals.

Meanwhile, lions, tigers, and bears — the “predators” — are seen as fairly competent but cold. The likes of rabbits, hamsters, and ducks — “prey” — are seen as warm but incompetent. Fish, lizards, snakes — called, perhaps unfairly, “pests” — are seen as cold and incompetent.

Animal stereotyping, as with most stereotyping, can be harmful if unchecked. As Fiske and Sevillano note: “[T]he negative image of hyenas in the United States makes them a perfect target for aggressive human practices. Recently, the image of wolves in the Unites States has suffered the same fate.”

It’s National Pet Day! Here Are Some Studies That Prove Pets Are Good For Your Health

If you have pets you already know the joy and love they bring to your life. Now science is confirming just how good they really are for you — both mentally and physically.

How do they help? One theory is that pets boost our oxytocin levels. Also known as the “bonding hormone” or “cuddle chemical,” oxytocin enhances social skills, decreases blood pressure and heart rate, boosts immune function and raises tolerance for pain. It also lowers stress, anger and depression.

No surprise then that keeping regular company with a dog or cat (or another beloved beast) appears to offer all these same benefits and more. Read on to discover the many impressive ways a pet can make you healthier, happier and more resilient.

1. Pets alleviate allergies and boost immune function

One of your immune system’s jobs is to identify potentially harmful substances and unleash antibodies to ward off the threat. But sometimes it overreacts and misidentifies harmless stuff as dangerous, causing an allergic reaction. Think red eyes, itchy skin, runny nose and wheezing. You’d think that having pets might trigger allergies by kicking up sneeze-and-wheeze-inducing dander and fur. But it turns out that living with a dog or cat during the first year of life not only cuts your chances of having pet allergies in childhood and later on but also revs up your immune system and lowers your risk of eczema and asthma. In fact, just a brief pet encounter can invigorate your disease-defense system. In one study, petting a dog for only 18 minutes raised immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels in college students’ saliva, a sign of robust immune function.

2. Pets up your fitness quotient

This one applies more to dog owners. If you like walking with your favorite canine, chances are you’re fitter and trimmer than your non-dog-walking counterparts and come closer to meeting recommended physical activity levels. One study of more than 2,000 adults found that regular dog walkers got more exercise and were less likely to be obese than those who didn’t walk a dog. In another study, older dog walkers (ages 71-82) walked faster and longer than non-pooch-walkers, plus they were more mobile at home.

3. Pets dial down stress

When stress comes your way, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, releasing hormones like cortisol to crank out more energy-boosting blood sugar and epinephrine to get your heart and blood pumping. All well and good for our ancestors who needed quick bursts of speed to dodge predatory saber-toothed tigers and stampeding mastodons. But when we live in a constant state of fight-or-flight from ongoing stress at work and the frenetic pace of modern life, these physical changes take their toll on our bodies, including raising our risk of heart disease and other dangerous conditions. Contact with pets seem to counteract this stress response by lowering stress hormones and heart rate. They also lower anxiety and fear levels (psychological responses to stress) and elevate feelings of calmness.

4. Pets boost heart health

Pets shower us with love so it’s not surprising they have a big impact on our love organ: the heart. Turns out time spent with a cherished critter is linked to better cardiovascular health, possibly due to the stress-busting effect mentioned above. Studies show that dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Dogs also benefit patients who already have cardiovascular disease. They’re not only four time more likely to be alive after a year if they own a dog, but they’re also more likely to survive a heart attack. And don’t worry, cat owners — feline affection confers a similar effect. One 10-year study found that current and former cat owners were 40 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack and 30 percent less likely to die of other cardiovascular diseases.

5. Make you a social — and date — magnet

Four-legged companions (particularly the canine variety that pull us out of the house for daily walks) help us make more friends and appear more approachable, trustworthy and date-worthy. In one study, people in wheelchairs who had a dog received more smiles and had more conversations with passersby than those without a dog. In another study, college students who were asked to watch videos of two psychotherapists (depicted once with a dog and once without) said they felt more positively toward them when they had a dog and more likely to disclose personal information. And good news for guys: research shows that women are more willing to give out their number to men with a canine buddy.

6. Provides a social salve for Alzheimer’s patients

Just as non-human pals strengthen our social skills and connection, cats and dogs also offer furry, friendly comfort and social bonding to people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of brain-destroying dementia. Several canine caregiver programs now exist to assist at-home dementia patients with day-to-day tasks, such as fetching medication, reminding them to eat and guiding them home if they’ve wandered off course. Many assisted-living facilities also keep resident pets or offer therapy animal visits to support and stimulate patients. Studies show creature companions can reduce behavioral issues among dementia patients by boosting their moods and raising their nutritional intake.

7. Enhances social skills in kids with autism

One in nearly 70 American kids has autism (also known as autism spectrum disorder, or ASD), a developmental disability that makes it tough to communicate and interact socially. Not surprisingly, animals can also help these kids connect better to others. One study found that youngsters with ASD talked and laughed more, whined and cried less and were more social with peers when guinea pigs were present. A multitude of ASD animal-assisted therapy programs have sprung up in recent years, featuring everything from dogs and dolphins to alpacas, horses and even chickens.

8. Dampens depression and boosts mood

Pets keep loneliness and isolation at bay and make us smile. In other words, their creature camaraderie and ability to keep us engaged in daily life (via endearing demands for food, attention and walks) are good recipes for warding off the blues. Research is ongoing, but animal-assisted therapy is proving particularly potent in deterring depression and other mood disorders. Studies show that everyone from older men in a veterans hospital who were exposed to an aviary filled with songbirds to depressed college students who spent time with dogs reported feeling more positive.

9. Defeats PTSD

People haunted by trauma like combat, assault and natural disasters are particularly vulnerable to a mental health condition called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sure enough, studies show that the unconditional love — and oxytocin boost — of a pet can help remedy the flashbacks, emotional numbness and angry outbursts linked to PTSD. Even better, there are now several programs that pair specially trained service dogs and cats with veterans suffering from PTSD.

10. Fights cancer

Animal-assisted therapy helps cancer patients heal emotionally and physically. Preliminary findings of a clinical trial by the American Humane Association shows that therapy dogs not only erase loneliness, depression and stress in kids fighting cancer, but canines can also motivate them to eat and follow treatment recommendations better — in other words participate more actively in their own healing. Likewise, new research reveals a similar lift in emotional well-being for adults undergoing the physical rigors of cancer treatment. Even more astounding, dogs (with their stellar smelling skills) are now being trained to literally sniff out cancer.

Travel: The Ultimate Pet-Friendly Road Trip

If your furry friend is your best friend, you simply cannot go on a cross-country road trip solo. Amy and Rob Burkert understand this, and thus they took it upon themselves to create the “Ultimate Pet-Friendly Road Trip” so that you and your best buddy (or buddies) can enjoy a journey together without fear that one of you may have to wait in the car while the other gets to savor the scenery.

On Gopetfriendly.com, the Burkets formuated the perfect road trip to take with pets; it covers 48 states and includes a pet-friendly attraction in each. To test it out, Amy and Rob will be spending the next 10 months trekking it themselves with their dogs, Ty and Buster. “Each selection had to represent the spirit of that state and, in combination, they needed to communicate the diversity of pet friendly adventures to be had across the country,” said Amy in a blog post on the website.

From the kickoff on the beach in Carmel, California, to the final destination of Portland’s Parks and Gardens in November 2017, the adventure is nothing short of diverse. The only possible repercussion of this trip is that your dog may feel he is too cultured for your local dog park after frolicking through the National Mall in D.C. and the Biltmore Estate Gardens in North Carolina.

Why Your Dog Is The Ideal Valentine

The beginning of the year can be stressful, with New Year’s resolutions and Valentine’s Day, which is a huge deal even if you’re one of those people who claims that they don’t care. Valentine’s Day is hard to forget and it sometimes adds all kinds of pressure on people.

Couples tend to become unbearable over social media and basically every store within sight is filled with teddy bears and heart shaped candies. The struggle is real.

We’ve concluded that the perfect date for the world and yourself is your dog. Don’t believe us? Here are some reasons that might change your mind.

You Guys Are So Cute Together

Instead of becoming one of those people, you can treat your social media friends to a photo they might actually want to see. A cute selfie with your dog is never annoying or out of place, and you can be sure no one will be rolling their eyes at you and claiming that you’re looking for attention.

Exercising Together Is Fun

Dog parks are surreal places that make you feel like you’re somewhere where dreams can come true. Is there a better way to raise your spirits than to be surrounded by lovable pups?

No, there’s not.

Bring Your Valentine To Work

Since V-Day is the type of boring holiday where you still have to go to work, you can bring your dog and add some pep to your co-worker’s step. They’ll be thankful.

Ordering Take Out Is Easy

You won’t have to share. Wait, yes you do.

No Judgement

Your dog won’t care what you’re wearing or how your hair looks. Spend the night in and catch up on a movie or your favorite show. You won’t be disturbed.

Cuddles!

Dog snuggles are amazing. There are few things that are better than the moment when your dog falls asleep on your lap and you decide you’re not moving for the rest of the night.

No Fighting

It sounds a little bleak but be sure to enjoy the silent companionship that only a pet can offer.

There will be no arguing over which movie to pick, or which restaurant to go to. Just peaceful cuddles.

Quality Time At It’s  Best

It’s hard to remember to spend some quality time with your pet during the hustle of everyday life and work, but be sure to appreciate them on this special date. It’s good for your health!

Cheap Date

You won’t have to worry over chocolates, gifts and an expensive dinner. You’re dog isn’t after your wallet, and they won’t get offended if you don’t give them the most expensive gourmet treat.

Unconditional Love

The best reason of all. Your dog will be over the moon just because they get to spend some alone time with you.

Retired Circus Animals Leave The Big Top Behind For New Roles As Therapy Animals

When the Big Apple Circus closed midyear in 2016, it wasn’t just animal trainer Jenny Vidbel who found herself unemployed. The dogs and horses she had rescued over the years were now jobless too. Vidbel owned the well-trained menagerie so they retired with her to her 70-acre farm in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York.

But “retired” is a relative term, especially when it comes to a third-generation circus performer and animals who certainly appear to enjoy an appreciative audience. Inspired by Big Apple’s programs for children with special needs, Vidbel created a foundation that will offer animal-based therapy for people, while benefiting the horses, dogs and the occasional pig that make up its starring cast.

“It’s about mentally healing one another. I know what animals have done for me and my life and what joy and peace they’ve given to me,” Vidbel states. “I saw it later in life when my grandparents couldn’t be alone anymore and they traveled with me in the circus. I could see how they benefited from the animals and the animals benefited from them being around. It was perfect on both ends and a beautiful relationship.”

‘Animals need a job’

Vidbel knows her animals well and is convinced that they wouldn’t be content spending their retirement grazing in a pasture with nothing to do.

“Animals need a job; they need to work,” she says. “Animals need to engage and particularly circus animals because they’re so used to human attention. Every time I go to practice with one horse, I have three horses looking at me, ‘When is it my turn?'”

The new nonprofit is the Al and Joyce Vidbel Foundation, named for Vidbel’s grandparents. For years, people visited their farm — where the animals are today — to learn how to work with animals.

“The foundation is named after my grandparents because they were such an inspiration to me and they taught me how to respect animals,” Vidbel says. “They’re why I fell in love with them and was around them so much as a little girl. This farm was an inspiration to so many people. We still get calls from people saying, ‘This farm changed my life.'”

Fulfilling tradition and destiny

Vidbel and her animal performers continue to do small shows here and there while the foundation raises money to get the programs up and running, which will include building an amphitheater for performances. Vidbel plans to open the program to seniors, special needs children and those who are economically disadvantaged. They may be able to take part in hands-on animal care, watch training sessions and experience the animals performing in intimate settings.

Right now, there are 30 horses, seven dogs and four pigs on the farm, but Vidbel says she continues to adopt horses in need of rescuing. She has the space, not to mention the abilities to train hard-to-rehabilitate animals that may not get a second look at a feed lot auction.

“I always say I couldn’t believe I got paid to do what I did. I got to tour the world, be with amazing people and be with my animals,” Vidbel says. “Now, the amount of support we’ve had (for the foundation) has been amazing and reassures me we’re on the right track … I feel like I’m carrying on a tradition and a destiny.”