Less Can Be More: Inexpensive Gifts to Enhance Human-Companion Animal Relationships
Even though the current worldwide financial turmoil might make the idea of inexpensive pet-related gifts a timely topic, I find the following items so useful and beneficial that I would recommend them even if money were no object. In addition to these being fine gifts to give to yourself and your pets, they're also fine gifts for your pet-owning friends.
- Several Rolls of Good Quality Paper Towels
- A Solution of Half White Vinegar and Half Water in a Spray Bottle
- Empty Plastic Grocery Bags
- Sanitary Napkins
- Good Quality Towels
Several Rolls of Good Quality Paper Towels
I can't tell you how many guilt-inducing hissy fits I've spared my pets and myself simply by keeping a roll of paper towels in the areas in which we spend most of our time, including in the car. Now when one of the pets barfs or can't make it outside for some reason, I reach for the conveniently placed roll instead of racing like a maniac to the kitchen—a behavior that often would cause all the pets, even the barfer, pooper, or pee-er, to charge after me—or irrationally screaming "Stop!" Now I sometimes can even grab a paper towel from the handy roll in the office or car and get it properly positioned so fast that any barf goes on the towel rather than the floor, rug, or upholstery, making improving your impending-pet-disaster reaction time another benefit of this gift.
I personally prefer the Bounty brand of paper towels because their increased absorbency makes them worth the price. A second reason I like them is because I also sometimes carry paper towels in my pocket in case Bee gets slobbery, which she sometimes does when she's snorfling around outdoors. Then I forget the towels are in my pocket when I put my jeans into the washer. Bounty paper towels will not disintegrate in the washer, something anyone who has picked paper towel fuzz off a load of laundry knows is a real plus. And even though single rolls may cost more, bulk packages of 12-15 plain white rolls cost less. These multiple roll packages also regularly go on sale and that reduces the cost even more.
A Solution of Half White Vinegar and Half Water in a Spray Bottle
Once you clean up the worst with the paper towels, this inexpensive solution is good for final clean up and deodorizing. When cleaning up a mess on fabric or carpeting, test the solution on some out of sight location first to make sure it's color-fast. I've used it on a wide variety of coverings and have never had a problem, but it's always best to test first to be sure. You can buy inexpensive empty spray bottles for gift-giving or use those from other products that have been thoroughly cleaned and rinsed. Keep a bottle with each roll of paper towels.
Empty Plastic Grocery Bags
For me, there were few things more frustrating than to clean up pet-yuck only to realize I didn't have anything to put the soiled paper towels in when I'd finished. When this happened, it meant making another mad dash to the kitchen to get a bag if I didn't remember to bring one when I made the first mad dash to get the paper towels and cleaning solution. When I made the second dash, I also had to make sure all the pets came with me this time so the nonbarfers didn't decide to recycle something the barfer had barfed. Or worse. That's when I realized that conveniently located empty plastic bags were worth their weight in gold.
I keep a couple of these in the glove compartment of my car and in my purse as well as with my clean-up kits for emergency treatment of bleeding wounds like cut footpads. In addition to being absorbent, the adhesive on the backs of most brands makes them easy to secure. If you use these products yourself, it's just a case putting some in different locations, something many women already do for themselves. If you don't use these, check with your mature (i.e. post-menopausal) female friends; they may have a box or two they keep meaning to toss that they'd be willing to donate to a good cause. If you have to buy a box, the ultra-thin kind is equally absorbent and easier to store.
Good Quality Towels
I am the first to admit that good quality towels are not cheap. But if you're looking for a wonderful gift for your own animal or a friend's animal, haunt the sales, sale catalogues, bargain basements, or consignment shops for quality towels that are so ugly you can get them for a fraction of their original price. In addition to their ugliness reducing the cost, it will ensure that neither you nor your dog-loving friend would even consider using the towel yourselves. Your friends and their pets will bless you every time they dry the dog or cat after a bath, swim, or romp in the rain or snow. If you have some good towels you're currently using but don't really like or that are getting a little shabby, give them to the pets and get some new ones for yourself.
Thick towels also can be used to capture and restrain frightened or over-stimulated cats and small dogs without being hurt. Simply drop the towel over the animal, then scoop him/her up and place in a crate or carrier in a quiet, darkened room to quiet down.
Almost all dog owners get a leash when they first get a new puppy or dog. But as time goes on, they use the leash less and less, either because the animal is always confined to the yard or car, or doesn't wander that far. Unlike cat owners who might never think about leashes at all, dog owners are more likely to forget all about them. For example, it amazes me how many people routinely take their leashless dogs in the car with no idea how they would handle their animals if some emergency necessitated getting their pets out of the vehicle and keeping them safely under their control. Imagine trying to control your dog as you stand on the berm of a busy highway awaiting help while smoke pours from under the hood of your car. Imagine if you had multiple animals or kids or an elderly parent to shepherd at that same time.
Those with smaller animals might argue that they could hold their pets under such circumstances. But if you have to walk somewhere with your animal unexpectedly, even the smallest pet gets heavy after a while. Nor is there any shortage of stories about animals who became frightened by novel events or surroundings and leaped out of their owners' arms and either hurt the owner and/or themselves, or took off. How much simpler to keep a leash in the glove compartment or seat pocket just in case to ensure the animal's safety and your peace of mind!
A note here regarding restraining cats: In my experience, a figure-8 harness and leash system is more reliable and comfortable for the animal than a collar and leash. You can see some examples of what these look like here.
For those who stop to help dogs in trouble, leashes benefit human and animal alike. Although inexpensive leashes are available from many sources, if you're in the habit of stopping you might want to consider keeping a Wonder Walker in your car. Once you get the hang of it—and it does take practice—you can transform one end of the leash into a head collar with all of its benefits. If the animal is too frightened to allow you to do this, you can use it as a slip collar and leash. Although I do not recommend this, I have also discovered via experimentation on my cat that in a dire emergency it is possible to turn a small/medium Wonder Walker into a makeshift feline harness and leash—if the cat is willing to tolerate a fair amount of handling which many cats are not. Wonder Walkers are available from various sources for less than $20.
I'm not thinking about heavy gloves here, but if you do tend to stop for stray or injured animals or are afraid to handle your own animals when they're injured, then I'd definitely keep one pair at home and one in the car. In addition to that, a pair of latex or otherwise light-weight waterproof gloves can make gross clean-up chores less traumatic for the cleaner-upper. The less traumatic for the cleaner-upper, the less traumatic for the animal. I can get two pairs of such gloves at my local supermarket for less than $1.50. They're not the highest quality, but they get the job done.
Also, if your dog or cat is outside unsupervised even in what you consider a 100% secure fenced yard, always put gloves on before closely examining and cleaning any wounds of unknown origin. I'm probably more sensitive to the need to do this because I live in an area in which multiple strains of rabies virus—bat, fox, skunk, and raccoon—exist. Sometimes when people notice a wound on their pet, they don't even think about protecting themselves in their rush to tend the animal. Other times they irrationally assume that because their animals have been vaccinated, this somehow also protects them if they come in contact with infected saliva on their animal's coat or in the wound. It doesn't. As I was taught in a bacteriology class many, many years ago, it's not a case of being afraid of any micro-organisms that might be in those wounds of unknown origin. It's a case of respecting them. In the long run you'll benefit your pet a lot more if you don your gloves first instead of acting in haste.
This is hardly a gift selection likely to bring oohs and ahhhs of pleasure from recipients, and most of these items might even raise a few eyebrows at first. But I guarantee that each and every one of them possesses the potential to improve the quality of human and animal lives during some troublesome times when it matters the most.
And from all of us here in the little house on the hill to all of you, have a very happy holiday season.
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