Now in its 27th year, National Pet Month is a celebration of the mutual benefits shared between people and their pets.
For rescue-animal advocate Cheryl Smith, who founded a non-profit that assists pets in need, the May observance is a time to recognize many of the things that really matter in life.
“How we treat the most vulnerable animals in our society says plenty about who we are as individuals,” says Smith, a public defender who has cared for rescue animals since childhood and believes they can help humanity as much as humans help them.
“As a public defender who spends long hours entrenched in legal issues, loving and caring for my rescue dogs is personally rejuvenating. I think caring for pets helps us stay in touch with our humanity.”
Smith, who was inspired by her pack of rescue dogs to write the children’s books “Oliver’s Heroes: The Spider Adventure” (www.oliversheroes.com) and “Oliver’s Heroes: Two Paws Up,” says there are several ways people can make a difference during National Pet Month, such as:
• Consider adopting from an animal rescue shelter. Pets bring out our inner nurturers, and expressing TLC to an animal in need fosters warmth toward ourselves and others. More importantly, doing something good is good in itself.
• Discern which pet is appropriate for your family. Think carefully before getting a pet. Learn about its special requirements. There’s plenty of information out there to help you decide which dog or cat breed is appropriate for your home life, so a minimal amount of time researching will go a long way.
• Make sure your pet enjoys a nutritious and well-balanced diet. Perhaps you already have a pet. It’s important to know that not all pet-food products are of the same quality. Many attentive owners go to the extent of cooking meals themselves for their pets.
• Ask your vet which health issues your pet is prone to. Various breeds are prone to specific ailments. Male cats, for example, may experience urinary issues depending on their food. Be your pet’s advocate since they cannot speak for themselves.
• Prevent unwanted litters. Each year, about 2.7 million animals are euthanized after entering animal shelters – 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats. You can prevent an enormous amount of suffering simply by spaying or neutering your pet.
“I can’t imagine not having my little stress relievers around when I come home,” Smith says. “The better you take care of them, the more you’ll feel good about yourself.”