La Paw Spa
La Paw Spa

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I DO - For better or for worse... till death do us part.

When the premier pet magazine in India 'Dogs and Pups' asked me to write an article on 'Responsible Pet Parenting', the vows above came to mind. Taking on a pet is as serious as considering any other relationship in your life.

For the short time that we walk this earth, I believe we should all strive to serve others and to do what we can to make the world a better place. Each of us has a unique journey here and each will encounter unique challenges and obstacles. If we take on a partner, then two independent adults will merge their lives. If we have children, we'll do our best to help them become a independent adults. However, if we decide to bring a canine companion into our lives, that dog will become more dependent as time goes on and we will ultimately be responsible for the way that dog will live its life.

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"To that which you tame, you owe your life"

I love this quote from Stacey O'Brien's wonderful book 'Wesley the Owl'. So true, that when you bring a domesticated animal into your world - you will be responsible for the entire life of that animal. If you tire of caring for them, it can often be a life or death decision for that being.

So that's the first decision that needs to be made - i.e. are you willing to be responsible to this being, for this being's entire lifetime?

Once that contract has been signed in your heart, then you can move onto the fun part... i.e. experiencing life together with this amazing soul.

In addition to sharing your home and life, there are so many activities you can chose for you and your dog - agility, herding, nose work, search and rescue, social dog parks, tracking, obedience training, therapy work - the list goes on and on. In choosing who will be your canine friend, be sure to consider your own personality traits and lifestyle and choose a breed that might match these traits.

Every individual dog - like ourselves - has its preferences, strengths and weaknesses. For example, dogs who get assertive with other dogs may not be good candidates for sports where they need to perform off leash in a crowd. Independent dogs may not appreciate the precision required in competition obedience, etc.

So here is where you can drop your agenda and explore life with your dog to find things that you both love. Choose activities that support your relationship and allow your direction to flow with reality. If you lose the joy in doing something, take a step back and make it fun again.

One of my favorite sports for older or physically challenged dogs is 'NOSE WORKS'. It's a sport that capitalizes on the dog's ability to smell with its nose and is fun for all dogs. (See http://www.nacsw.net/)

Bosun, the handsome corgi pictured below, is one of my canine clients. He is 13, paralyzed in the hind legs and in a wheel chair. These hurdles sure don't slow him down and he is unstoppable in the sport of noseworks. He recently won 2nd over all in a trial! You can read more of Bosun's story on my website.

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Experience an even deeper bond than ever before and a richer meaning in life.

People often struggle when their dog becomes older or has special needs and requires more. There isn't a support structure in place for our animals like we have for our human family members that will step up and assist us in this extra care - i.e. convalescent homes, adult care facilities, etc. So when our dogs become older, most of this will fall on us and we will often need to adjust our lives to accommodate their needs. In our high productivity society, this can become a challenge as we re-prioritize our lives.

While there may be an initial struggle or sense of challenge, countless stories support these decisions. Many of my clients tell me that when they have changed their lives to care for their animals, they experience an even deeper bond than ever before and a richer meaning in life. They tell me that, while caring for the needs of their older or special needs animals sometimes includes unknowns, the effort is fulfilling and worthwhile.

Choices impact how we live together.

This life is indeed an adventure. We get to make many choices that impact how we want to live. For me, my animal companions bring me the most joy, inspire me to be a better person and teach me to live simply and find gratitude in every detail. For better or for worse, I commit to my animals to serve, protect and love them for all the days of their lives....

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Cindy Horsfall lives and works on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State with her dog 'Luna' and her parrot 'Milo' - for more information please visit www.lapawspa.com