Our Faithful Friends

By Martha S. Lyon

In the midst of the season’s whirlwind and excitement, it’s important to remember the spiritual meaning of the holidays so that we maintain an attitude filled with gratitude and appreciation. My most beautiful moments at this time of year have been spent with our faithful friends from the animal kingdom. A pet’s unconditional love and true companionship can never be packaged and gift wrapped. These creatures continuously show God’s love in motion, and inspiration from the animal world expresses itself through our soul connections with these wonderful creatures. Pets always seem to find a way to open that special place in our hearts and make our lives richer every day. With their highly attuned senses, our faithful friends protect us from harm and anticipate our needs in advance, always uplifting our souls. In return, we humans need to be respectful of our pets and acknowledge them as God’s children, special guardians that need our kindness and assistance to feel safe, secure and loved in our world.

With this dependent relationship in mind, here are some helpful tips to honor our faithful friends and keep them out of harm’s way this holiday season:

Involve everyone. Before even considering adopting a family pet, make sure that everyone in the household is involved in the selection process so that your lifetimes together will be a loving and happy experience. This also includes other pets because they play an essential role in ensuring that a new family member will fit seamlessly into the household dynamics.
Adopt from a shelter. In these troubling economic times, many families have been forced to give up their beloved companions, and the shelters are filled to capacity throughout the Tampa Bay area and surrounding cities. Make the decision to adopt from a shelter and you will be saving a loved animal, one that is used to human company, from a lonely and restricted life. However, it’s imperative to make sure that the shelter or agency your family selects is a credible and responsible nonprofit.

Refrain from surprise pet presents. Bringing an animal into a household is big responsibility, and guessing if an animal and a person or family will be compatible should never be an option. If you want to give a pet as a present, consider giving a gift certificate to a local shelter and then accompany the person or family when the time comes to select the perfect (or purrfect) pet. Additionally, if the recipient is living in a condo or is a renter be sure to check with the governing body or landlord to make sure pets are welcome.
Make health a priority. Although most shelters and breeders provide health guarantees, it’s imperative to immediately take a new pet to the veterinarian for his or her first complete checkup and county registration/microchip. Remember that you are investing in a new family member for a lifetime, and you want to ensure that any health problems are detected early and treated before they become life-threatening.

Evaluate your budget. Having a pet is an ongoing expense. Before making the decision to bring one home, make sure that the household can support it financially. Do you want insurance for your pet? Veterinarian visits can be as expensive as doctor visits for humans, especially if there is a serious problem that requires surgery or advanced treatment. Can you afford food and other supplies, such as a pet bed, toys, cat litter, pet carriers, and a leash? Will grooming or boarding be required? Once you have welcomed an animal into your life and your heart, it can be devastating to let that faithful friend go to a shelter or another home because you cannot afford food or other necessities.

Make your home pet-proof. Whether you are bringing a new pet into the house or just rearranging and decorating for the holidays and/or the arrival of guests, it’s important to safeguard against hazards that could injure our faithful friends. Remember that electrical cords, holiday lights, poisonous plants such a poinsettias, decorative balls and tinsel, and lit candles can be dangerous, especially to dogs and cats that roam free indoors. Take measures to ensure that animals are not unsupervised around unfamiliar holiday trappings. Also introduce your pets to any guests who may come to visit this season so everyone is comfortable and happy during this joyous time of year.

Avoid human food treats. Veterinarians have their hands full around the holidays dealing with damaging and often fatal problems that result from feeding pets human food. On their potential hazard lists are the following items, which should never make it into furry mouths: chocolate, grapes, onions, tuna fish (because of mercury), alcohol, water from a live Christmas tree, and bones from meat and fish.

Make donations. Give the gift of love this season through universal service as a volunteer at a local shelter. Your time is the most precious gift you can give to animals who are lonely and in need of human interaction. Many shelters also are in desperate need of supplies and other forms of tax-deductable donations year-round. Take the time to find out what your local shelter needs and purchase and deliver some of these items if it is within your budget this holiday season.

My faithful friends have been angels in my life, and they have blessed me more than I can express in these words. They are now in the afterlife with my other loved ones, and the holiday season always brings to mind the wonderful stockings full of gifts I used to make for them each year. The gifts they gave me in return were priceless, and in their honor I pass along these tips to help make this holiday season the best ever for you, your family, and your animal companions.

Namaste to all with love and light.

Martha S. Lyon is the founder of The Sir Simba Lyon Memorial Fund, which was established to benefit all companion animals. Sir Simba, Martha’s Egypian Mau cat, was adopted from the SPCA in March 2003 and passed away on November, 11, 2011. He left his paw prints on the hearts of all he touched.

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