Pet Adoption How-To Guide

Whoever said “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” had it totally wrong. I could care less about diamonds. Diamonds are shiny pieces of carbon. Give me a dog!

…Or a cat, like the kitten I just adopted a month ago. See, look at Chuck, my two-month-old tabby kitten!

IMG_3861

Chuck, in all his glory.

I swear, this blog isn’t just an excuse to post adorable photos of my kitten. As a life-long animal lover, I’ve wanted to adopt a cat (my apartment building doesn’t allow dogs, and they require a little more work than I have time for right now) for quite some time. And with spring coming and its influx of baby animals due to people not neutering their pets – I can imagine I’m not the only one wanting a new pal!

Except for in special instances like intense allergies – which might require getting a guaranteed hypoallergenic breed – I’m a huge advocate of adopting your animals. Plus, if you’re adopting through a trusted and well-vetted shelter, you might be provided with a much more reliable version of the animal’s health history, the animal most likely have been spayed and neutered, and it is significantly less costly than a breeder. There are so many cats and dogs and other lovable critters in the United States that don’t have anyone to call Mom or Dad. Of course, no need to dwell – we’ve all seen those weepy Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercials. They’re called sad puppy dog eyes for a reason!

Are you looking for a new addition to the family? Having just navigated the pet adoption process, I have a step-by-step guide!

Step 1: The Question

Decide if you have the time, energy and resources to care for a pet right now – and for the next decade or more.

Committing to taking care of an animal is a big deal. Unexpected medicine, emergency veterinarian costs, paying pet sitters, and even the everyday expenses of food, litter, treats and toys can add up. Make sure you have enough savings or at least enough expected income to cover these costs.

In addition, animals take up more time than some people think, especially first time owners. Do you have time to walk your dog at least 3 times a day, or the outdoor space to keep him? Are you willing to play with a rambunctious kitten for a couple of hours everyday to keep their minds and instincts sharp?

Another concern is if and when your family might be expanding. Of course, you can’t tell the future, but if you’re planning on having a kid anytime soon, you might want to hold off on adopting a pet. It’s also important to think about the existing members (furry or not) of the family. If you have kids, are you prepared to teach them proper treatment of animals? And if you have a pet already, how will you make sure they interact in a healthy and happy way?

I’m assuming your family already knows what kind of animal you want, but you have to ask yourself some questions about what type of pet you want. Does age matter? Kittens and puppies (so, animals under a year old) tend to be the most popular choice, but they do require more time and energy to train and care for in the beginning. Also, there are of course plenty of adult animals that need your love, too. Once you have the question of age settled, you might wonder about breed.

One “downside” to adopting is you can’t necessarily shop based on breed (certifying that the animal is purebred), as you can when buying from a breeder. However, as you do get the full veterinarian paperwork from any respectable adopting organization, you can generally have a good idea of the past history of your pet.

20160129_190618

Stella, a border collie/lab puppy, was just adopted from the Humane Society by a coworker.

If you are, keep going to Step 2!

Step 2: The Browsing

Now for the fun parts! Once you feel you’re ready to adopt, you get to browse. There’s a multitude of ways of going about this, but first things first: check out https://www.petfinder.com/. On this site, you can set a variety of specifications, which can help point you in the right direction. For example, you could look for a “baby” or “young” border collie that is within 200 miles of your ZIP code. Sometimes the animals are from individuals who happen to be re-homing the animal, but the majority are from adoption organizations. Oftentimes, in these instances, the cat or dog isn’t at a specific shelter, but is being fostered by a caring animal lover in their home. You can consult with the foster parent to set up an available time if you’re very interested in that animal, but be prepared to fill out vetting forms asking questions like, “How much time do you have to spare for your pet?” and “Where will your pet sleep?” beforehand.

Fellow SmartPerks blogger Melanie adopted one of her Cairn terriers from a shelter located in Nebraska that she found on Petfinder. After 2.5 months at the shelter, little Bacon was certainly happy to find his fur-ever home.

62003_158004314225748_3967276_n

And really, how could you say no to Bacon?!

Or, instead of trying to find a specific animal, you can go the route I went, which was to research adoption centers within my area and visit during my free time. Keep in mind that the weekends are usually the busiest time to go pet shopping, so if you can sneak in an hour or two during the work week, you’re more likely to be able to find the exact animal you want. Before I found Chuck, I visited all of the local Animal Humane Societies at least twice each, as well as a handful of other local shelters. Each time, although I met a cat I really liked at nearly all of them, there was always something that held me back because it just hadn’t clicked.

But then it did, and I couldn’t be happier.

There’s not always a way to know if it’s the right time and place to adopt the exact animal you are meeting with. You might not even have all of your pet supplies yet, or you were not expecting to come home with a pet TODAY and now feel a little anxious about what to do next.

But have no fear…

Step 3: The First Day

If you found The One, and went through with your adoption, congratulations! This will be an exciting time in both your family’s and your pet’s life.

996e5571-fcbb-4bda-a20b-79c169f5f46e

It’s an exciting, but sleepy, time. Lots of napping.

But now, if you’ve gotten little Fifi or Fido home and aren’t exactly sure what you can do, here are some pointers.

Some things to look out for when pet-proofing your home:

  • Make sure all plants in your home or pet-friendly
  • Keep all medications, chemicals and cleaning agents on high shelves in tightly sealed containers
  • Secure all wires and chords so animals can’t chew on them
  • Vacuum your floor regularly and check for any small items dogs or cats might try to nibble on
  • Always keep trash (including in the bathroom) covered

Also, it’s important when introducing your animal to your newly pet-proofed home that it might take them up to 2 weeks to fully adjust and be comfortable. Giving them space and safe nooks and crannies to hide in, slowly introducing young children or other animals to your pet, and being home as often as possible to facilitate bonding are all good ways to make them feel welcome.

Now, ready to have some fun?

Both cats and dogs need toys in order to remain happy. For both animals, you will want to pick out toys that facilitate activity (like rope pulls for dogs and fishing poles for cats), distraction (like mobile toys filled with treats) and comfort (like stuffed animals or an old t-shirt).

You can check for local dog parks, join a Meet Up group for Pet Lovers, or spend some time cuddling on the couch.

Whatever you do, I hope you have the happiest time with your new friend.

Blogger Katie U., a Smart Perks employee, is currently wishing she could upload about 30 other pics of her beloved Chuck.

 

 

Dog Days: Making Summer Safer for Your Dog

10003700_1149696715056498_8564484971828021804_o

Did you know the saying “It’s a dog’s life” means life is tough? WHAT? Obviously whoever coined that phrase never met my dogs. Spoiled rotten. As they should be. Right? My dogs LOVE summertime. It’s their favorite time of year. But there are a lot of things us pet parents need to be aware of to keep our beloved besties safe during the dog days of summer. Here are ten ways you can protect your pooch this summer.

  1. Flea & Tick Prevention – In some parts of the country, flea and tick prevention is a year-round necessity. But for many of us with cold winters, it’s April through October, per our Veterinarian’s recommendation. Being from Minnesota, tick-borne illnesses in dogs are very common, and not just Lyme’s. My mother has a cabin in northern Minnesota and all four of her shih-tzus have contracted some form of tick-borne illness from deer ticks.  11121943_1136831179676385_7852837262015505958_oThere are a variety of topical, spot-on treatments and oral medications that are very effective. I’ve used K-9 Advantix 2 on my three terriers for years and it has been very effective. Seresto is a new flea and tick collar that claims to be effective for 8 months, so no more forgetting to apply on a monthly basis. I simply jot down the dates in my monthly planner for easy reference. Shop around for the best price. Costco and 1-800-PetMeds are two good options, but my veterinarian now offers rebates to make medications more affordable. If you’d like to try natural flea and tick preventatives, those are available as well. Discuss your options with your vet for additional advice.
  2. Heartworm – Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, a summertime staple, unfortunately. However, unlike twenty or thirty years ago, there is treatment available for heartworm. But it is a painful and risky treatment, that can require a dog’s activity to be limited for as long as two months. The best thing you can do for your pet is prevent heartworm all together by treating him or her monthly. My dogs are tested each spring with a simple blood test, and then treated monthly until a hard freeze in the fall, with Heartgard. Talk to your vet for more information. 1010551_678388688853972_2026449562_n
  3. Does your dog love to garden? Something about all that dirt and lovely smelling compost proves an irresistible combination to canines. We flower gardeners can get very frustrated by Fido’s garden forays. However, it’s not just a nuisance. It can also be dangerous. Many perennials are toxic to dogs: begonia, coleus, foxglove, gladioli, aloe, ferns, and ivy are just a few. For a complete list of toxic perennials, check the ASPCA list. Also, be aware of what you are using as mulch. Cocoa bean mulch smells delicious to dogs, but is harmful if ingested. If you think your dog has consumed a toxic plant, check the list and contact your vet immediately.
  4. Who doesn’t love a summer picnic or barbecue? I know my dogs can’t resist a little nibble of hamburger or a baby carrot handed out on the sly. But be aware of the foods that are toxic to dogs. No guacamole or fruit salad. Avocados, onions, and grapes are just a couple of foods dogs should never eat. For a more complete list check out this link from the Humane Society.lg_1299951_1372199250
  5. Sunscreen for dogs?  Did you know that dogs can suffer the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays, too? White dogs and short-haired dogs are especially susceptible to sunburn. Here is a list from Cesar’s Way – Canine Skincare Awareness of helpful tips for keeping your dog sun-safe this summer.
  6. Swimming. I know many of my friends with water dogs and retrievers think the sight of my little stubby-leggers wearing flotation devices is hilarious. Dogs instinctively know how to swim right? Well, yes, but many breeds with flat snouts and stubby legs are very weak swimmers. They should never be left unattended around a pool. If you boat with your dog, a life jacket for a dog who suddenly jumps can be a lifesaver. Outward Hound makes great flotation devices for pets. 278406_244044452288400_3410829_o
  7. Lake Water. It is never a good idea to let your dog drink lake water. Certain types of blue-green algae can be toxic to dogs. Also, many smaller lakes are chemically treated. Rinsing your dog after a good swim can help avoid skin reactions and take care of that delightful fish smell he picked up on the beach.
  8. Extreme Heat – Always provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, indoors and especially outdoors. If your dog is going to be outside for any length of time, make sure he or she has access to a shady spot, such as under trees, patio umbrellas, or in a dog house.190253_138945479464965_743003_n
  9. As much as your doggie loves to accompany you on your errands, it’s best to leave him home in the summer months. Studies show that when the temperature is 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a parked car can rise to 90 degrees within 5 minutes, 100 degrees within 10 minutes, and 120 degrees within 30 minutes. It’s better to be safe, and risk a pouty pooch.
  10. Fireworks – Every 4th of July, before we leave the house for the fireworks display on the lake, we turn the air conditioner up, turn on all the televisions, close the shades and make sure our dogs are safe indoors. We don’t want them to be one of the many dogs who run away frightened by the loud booms. Many of my friends use the Thunder Shirt, which is a snug t-shirt that helps make the dog feel secure. There are also calming collars. But one of the best things you can do is desensitize your dog to loud noises. Here’s a great list of ideas you might want to trylg_1299951_1372200805

– Blogger Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee, spends her summer gardening, boating and stalking cute doggies like a crazed paparazzo.

“The Best & the Brightest in the Surprise Box World: From Beauty Products to Bowties for your Boxer

Ipsy_DSC01060_600px

Ipsy Glam Bag – May 2015

My heart flutters as I approach the magical portal at the end of the driveway. Opening that small hinged door has the power to transport me to pure, unadulterated, retail nirvana. Hooray! A package for me! You see, I am a surprise box junkie. My mail carrier and I are on a first name basis. He knows my dogs’ names. Yes, it’s that bad.

If the post office ever does go out of business, as they keep threatening (for Pete’s sake give them whatever they want…I need Saturday delivery) I will be completely inconsolable.

For the past year and a half I have been on a retail odyssey that has seen me sign up for virtually any and all curated, surprise boxes available in the marketplace.

If there is a club out there that sticks surprise stuff into a box, chosen just for you and delivers it to your door, I’ve tried it. I will never be able to afford a personal shopper, but curated box programs are the next best thing.

Here’s how they work: In most cases, you fill out a profile, telling the company a few things about yourself, your pet, your child, whomever the box is intended for. If it’s makeup, they may ask you for your skin type, your hair color, your style (i.e. preppy, romantic, classic, edgy, etc.) Some programs will even scour your Pinterest board or Instagram account to get a better idea of who you are. Then a stylist or curator selects products that she thinks would best fit your personal style.

Here’s a quick summary of just a few of the boxes I’ve tried:

Birchbox

Category: Makeup & beauty

Frequency: Monthly or special Limited Edition one-time boxes

Bottom Line: At $10 a month, it’s an awesome value. However, I decided I needed to choose between Birchbox and Ipsy,  and this program felt heavy on skincare and hair products. Those are both consumables that I don’t change up every month. Birchbox does feature high quality brands (Benefit!) and occasionally some mass-market products are thrown in. I still shop from the Birchbox online store. I would recommend it.

11188400_379908595526006_2084478284690791337_n

Ipsy Glam Bag

Category: Makeup & beauty + a cute bag

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: I’ve been an Ipsy subscriber for over a year at $10 a month, which is a bargain. I would give Ipsy as a gift to every teenage girl I know, but there is a wait list and last time I checked they had disabled the gifting option. Each month you receive a cute little makeup bag, customized for Ipsy, and the designs are darling. Ipsy does do some skincare, but is more makeup focused than Birchbox. They send some great products from brands like Urban Decay, Dr. Brandt and Pacifica, as well as some unusual brands that I never would have tried, like Kat Von D. Tremendous value and the bag really pushes them over the top.

JewelMint Box

Category: Jewelry

Frequency: Monthly or one-time

Bottom Line: Jewelry preference is really subjective. The pieces they send are very trendy and are not going to hold up to years of wear. However, you do receive some really cute items and the presentation and packaging are fabulous. It’s a fun little pick-me-up for yourself or as a gift. The JewelMint online store is fabulous, too. You’ll find low prices on the same on-trend jewelry included in their mystery boxes. Sign up for emails and receive notice about special sales!

NatureBox

Category: Healthy snacks

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: Do you love Trader Joe’s? Then you will love NatureBox. They give you some choice in what you will receive, but you can also let them choose for you too. You receive 5 snacks a month, but you can order separately, if you find something you love. I’m more of a “cupcakes and donuts snacker,” but my healthier friends really like Nature Box. Cost is $19.95 a month.

Stitch Fix

Category: On-trend clothing & accessories

Frequency: As frequently as you wish

Bottom Line: You pay $25 to have a Personal Stylist choose 5 different clothing or accessory items based on your profile. Whatever you buy, the $25 is deducted. You’re under no obligation to buy. Return shipping is free and packaging provided.  I always found at least two or three items I wanted, but usually could afford one or two. It’s REALLY fun to try. They encourage you to snap a selfie wearing their clothes and post, even if you plan to return. The clothes are cute, boutiquey, on trend, and give you a chance to play Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Another great retail therapy experience.

10511393_919538681405637_8375002245084791012_o

FabFitFub Club

Category: Fitness, beauty, fashion & more

Frequency: Quarterly

Bottom Line: This is Entertainment TV personality Giuliana Rancic’s program. Being as it’s quarterly, it’s more expensive than others. $49.99 per box. However, you can typically get $10 off your first box through a pop-up when you go to the site, which makes it a great deal. I loved the items in this box, which felt very boutiquey, indulgent, L.A. princessy (I live in Minnesota.) Items are full-size and range from: a fitness DVD, a Sonia Dakar skincare product, an exercise ball, a fabulously funky headband, a cool retro apron, delicious Kai roll-on perfume, and then there were always a couple mass-market freebies thrown in that made no sense, like pantiliners. But the quality of the overall box made up for it. I stuck with it for three boxes.

Candy Club

Category: Retro candy in cute packaging

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: Darling, colorful, unique and out of the ordinary candies. If you want to simply photograph your box for Instagram to show your friends, and your money is burning a hole in your pocket…this is for you. Otherwise, if you’re like me, you can run to the grocery store and for $10 buy yourself some M&Ms, a Kit Kat, some Jolly Ranchers, and a Hershey Bar, and call it good. The monthly box is $27.99.

Oprah_CircleOfFriends_DSC01119_600px

Luxury Beauty Box from O’s Circle of Friends

Oprah’s Circle of Friends

Category: It’s from Oprah. I don’t care what it is. Just give it to me!

Frequency: Annual fee and surprise Items throughout the year, including subscriptions for yourself and two friends

Bottom Line: There are three levels. Don’t tell my husband, I bought the Premier Level for $199. I had to do it. I thought Oprah might send me to Australia, or give me a car. Or at the very least, invite me to her house in Hawaii to spend some time with her and Gayle. So far I got a luxury beauty box. One of the items, a thermal face mask containing 24kt gold is valued at $298. I’ll get back to you on this one. But I’m holding out hope for my surprise gift from The O List! C’mon trip to Australia!

BarkBox

Category: Dog toys & treats

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: If you’re not a dog lover, I generally don’t talk to you much. So basically all of my friends subscribe to BarkBox and think nothing of spending the $19 a month or more to indulge their furry family members. Treats and toys are made in the U.S. and all the pups I know give BarkBox four paws up. Money well spent.

Wagdrobe_DSC01131_600px

Wagdrobe Curated Dog Couture

Wagdrobe

Category: Canine couture & accessories

Frequency: As frequently as you wish

Bottom Line: This is like Stitch Fix for dogs. Wagdrobe is a newer company, and so I hope their customer service continues to be as AWESOME as my recent experience was! Super fast shipping, darling customized packaging and FUN, FUN, FUN for pet parents and pooches alike. Well, that is if your pup likes to get lots of treats for dressing up and posing for ADORABLE pics. I bought boxes for all three of my dogs. Beanie got the Hipster Box, Eloise got the Spoiled Princess and Bacon got the Trendsetter Box. The value compared to finding these darling outfits and accessories in stores is awesome!

Okay, I could go on…but here are a few tips if you want to try some boxes on your own.

  1. Don’t do too many at one time. You can only wear so much moisturizer.
  2. Set a reminder for yourself to cancel before your next ship date if you want to try a recurring program.
  3. Keep track of how many of the items you actually use/wear/eat to determine value. Don’t get caught up in the fun.
  4. Share with others. Take pics and share on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Check out the items others receive in their boxes before you order, too. You can get a feel for whether or not it’s product you’ll like.
  5. Most importantly FILL OUT YOUR PROFILES and GIVE FEEDBACK. That’s the best way to ensure you’re going to love what’s inside the box, as much as you did receiving the bright, shiny package in the mail.
10917030_1132254986800671_2521239698792863641_n

Beanie sporting one of his Wagdrobe ensembles from the Hipster Hound collection.

– Blogger Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee, enjoys dogs, cupcakes and shopping, and considers herself an expert on all three.