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Safe living in Sonoma

A helping of preparedness with gratitude for dessert

By Julie Atwood

Breathe … it’s November! We’ve been blessed with beautiful autumn weather, a smattering of rain, and we’re able to enjoy it together! We navigated a month of remembrance of fires past, and it feels like a lovely time to pause, rewind, and ruminate a bit.

Holiday feasts and festivities are right around the corner, and might include travel to, or visits from, family and friends. All good reasons to think about ways to keep our animals safe, healthy, and happy while their humans enjoy themselves.

Preparedness is a year-round thing. While we’re understandably focused on readiness for major events, we don’t need to dwell exclusively on disasters. It’s easy to overlook the “everyday” things when we’re consumed by dealing with big, seemingly endless, catastrophes, but the reality is that most animal (and human) emergencies happen suddenly, and often at home or while on vacation.

With this in mind, our Thanksgiving gifts to our Kenwood Press readers include some helpful tips for animal travelers and sitters, and holiday pet safety resources. To lighten the load, we’ve wrapped it all up in a heaping bowlful of thankfulness for our many animal responders and other community members who devote time and energy to be ready to jump in when needed.

Holiday travel safety

But first, the practicalities! Planning a trip with your pet? Here’s a checklist of “must-do and must-have” items: – Make sure pets are vaccinated appropriately for destination; – Carry current pet health and vaccination records; – Get an “emergency use only” prescription refill from your vet if your pet is on critical medications; – Update your pet’s identification documents and microchip registration information if you recently adopted or are fostering pets; – Take new ID photos of you with your pet(s); – Get your pets microchipped if they’re not already; – Check your travel carrier for cracks, and make sure latches and closures are secure; – Get accurate travel details from your airline if your pet is flying with you; – Have visible ID on your pet and on your pet’s carrier; – Take a “Caution—Pet Inside” sign with you to post on the door at your destination. Too many pets escape through an open door during vacations. This simple precaution can save a lot of heartache (and save your vacation); – Keep pets in a quiet room during holiday meals, or just give them a break from amped-up energy and bustle; – Get contacts for emergency vet resources at your destination.

Pet staycation tips

Is your pet staying home with a sitter? Get our “Animal Emergency Prep Guide for Animal Sitters,” and review all your animals’ needs with the person(s) caring for them. This document has lots of information for travelers and Airbnb hosts, too. Is your pet going to a boarding facility? Check with the facility and your vet to make sure your pet has all the necessary vaccinations

Pet behavior boot camp for happy holidays

After more than two years of pandemic living, many of our pets have grown accustomed to less interaction with other people and may be more attached to their “parents” and familiar surroundings.

New or elderly pets may be more protective of “their” people, food, and toys, and may feel overwhelmed by strangers or exuberant children. Think about aspects of holiday travel and revelry that may be new and unsettling to your pet.

Spend time acclimating them to the type of situations they might encounter during the holidays. Noisy, boisterous kiddos? Other animals? Unfamiliar hazards such as swimming pools, slippery stairways, or icy sidewalks?

Practice your situational awareness from your pet’s perspective. Be prepared for minor pet tummy ailments. Just like us, travel, new surroundings, and excitement can all cause gastrointestinal distress. Get your vet’s advice about feeding and which medications to take with you … just in case.

Road trip ready?

Consider your pet’s comfort while on the road, and pack extra bedding, pee pads, trash bags, and pet-safe wipes in case you’re stuck in traffic.

It’s a good idea to keep your pets’ harness and leash on during car travel, and plan ahead for rest stops where you can all get some exercise. Remember to take a towel for drying wet fur and muddy paws.

Carry a pet emergency contacts card in your wallet.

Don’t eat that!

Veterinarians and animal welfare agencies report that, sadly, more pet emergencies happen during major holidays than any other time. We get distracted and our awareness slips. Wellmeaning guests give pets “treats.” All sorts of exciting objects and delicious smells are everywhere!

Keep the holidays happy by doing everything possible to keep pets healthy. Use your “situational awareness” skills to assess the hazards around your home or the place where you’re spending holiday time. Remove dangerous items from your car when you can, or make a pet-safe haven somewhere where your pets will be comfortable, and have toys and food handy to keep them occupied.

A few key considerations

– Decorations are dangerous!

– Many common human foods are highly toxic to pets.

– Anxious or bored pets may chew on luggage, shoes, toiletries, or other items within their reach, even if they would not normally.

If the worst happens, know what to do We’ve provided important information about pet poisoning, eating non-digestible items, and toxic foods. If your pet is prone to eating stuff they shouldn’t, talk with your vet about the best emergency medications to pack. And, again, if you’re traveling, get emergency veterinary contacts for your destination ahead of your trip, and keep pet health and vaccination records handy.

Safe socializing

It might seem obvious, but your animals, small or large, might not be up for an onslaught of petting, “pony rides,” or games. It’s always a good idea to spend some time explaining proper animal etiquette to visitors, especially kids and teens. Plan time to supervise interactions between visitors and your pets, equines, and family farm animals.

Avoid a trip to the emergency room!

– Insist that guests wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes or boots around your hooved animals.

– You provide the treats, limit the quantity, and demonstrate the safe way to offer those treats.

– Set ground rules at the start of guest stays that will keep people and animals safe.

– Check gates and latches frequently if guests are meandering around animal areas.

A little planning goes a very long way towards safe, healthy, and happy holidays for everyone.

Giving thanks

Like a great holiday meal, we want to end with a sweet treat. Ours is a heartfelt helping of gratitude for all those who are always there for animals.

To the veterinarians, vet techs, animal control officers, firefighters and police officers, search and rescue volunteers, shelter workers, animal disaster volunteers, technical rescue teams, emergency dispatchers and hotline operators, and resiliency educators — and the family members who support their efforts: Thank you for your compassion and your commitment, and for inspiring future generations.

As a community, let’s express our thankfulness by working together to help our responders stay safe and well, reach out to help our neighbors, and spread the joys that comes with our bonds with animals.

Wishing you a peaceful holiday season from Julie & Shilo at The HALTER Project.