Rene’ Littlehawk: Love on 4 paws | CraigDailyPress.com

Rene’ Littlehawk: Love on 4 paws

Rene' Littlehawk/For the Craig Daily Press

Rene' Littlehawk

I remember my first dog so vividly. I had been around my mom's dog and my sister's dog, but this one was mine. She was, of course, the most beautiful puppy ever imagined. She was a collie, just like I saw on TV, and of course, I called her Lassie.

She and I were soon inseparable. She would wait at the gate to greet me after school. She would escort me to the ladder on the slide and rush back around to wait at the bottom. We walked, fished, played hide-and-seek and went horseback riding. She would run alongside me. We raised chickens, rabbits and sheep together. She would take my pet possum to the creek for his bath and bring him back when I whistled. No way could you want or ask for a better companion. We shared our lives for a wonderful and incredibly happy 14 years.

I since have had the privilege to share my home with so many other wonderful pets, many of which I rescued from shelters. I have purchased from reputable people and taken on a few that were thought to be unmanageable. I have had everything from a superb wolf dog to Chihuahuas. I've also had stray cats to dumped cats. All have been a positive and wonderful addition to my family. I think I learn something from each of them.

I can’t imagine a life without my four-legged friends. The totally unconditional love they give and the things they can teach us about loyalty, family and trust are so valuable.

So why, then, don’t we take a more responsible approach toward our pet population? The wonderful animals that are in our shelters and rescues need homes, and we need companions. These animals are so wonderful. I have taken home my share of shelter animals and have been rewarded each time with a friend. The adoration they look at you with will melt the coldest of hearts.

Most pets that end up in the shelters have a story to tell. They have been abandoned or dumped, or family circumstances changed, and they no longer could stay in the home. They are good animals. They are evaluated to check for personality traits so they can better be matched into a new forever home.

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When and if you do adopt, keep in mind the adoption fee includes the spay/neuter surgery, food and board, vaccinations and health checks. In some places, it also includes microchipping.

Then look at the flip side of our pet population: puppies and kittens that have nowhere to call home and possibly will have a very short life. Unaltered dogs and cats reproduce. For reasons I’m sure you already are aware of, we need to spay or neuter our pets.

If you decide you want a puppy from a breeder, check them out. Make certain they are a reputable breeder that cares for the animals properly. Check with the veterinarian they use to make certain there are no health issues connected with the dogs, and have a health check completed before the purchase.

All puppies should stay with the mother until at least 6 weeks of age (8 weeks is best). They should have their first set of vaccinations and preferably have their dew claws removed and tails docked if applicable before going to a new home. Dew claws can be one of the more common injury sites, especially on a dog that is going to spend a lot of time running around outdoors. These need to be removed at only a few days old. The tails can be docked, if needed, at the same time.

So you've decided you want a pet in your life. Now, you must decide what kind. Male or female? What do I expect? How do I train it? So many questions come up at this point. You are right in taking it seriously. You need to take into consideration how much room you have, inside and out. Are there children in the home? How much traveling do you do, and will the animal (cat or dog) go with you? If not, where will it stay, and who will take care of it when you are not home?

Never be afraid to ask questions. You want a friend that is going to fit your lifestyle and home. You and your new companion will have many years of memories together.

Just enjoy!