Must have apps for pet parents

With smart phones and apps being used more these days than tablets and the internet, I thought I'd share a list of pet apps that every pet parent should have. 

1. Pet First Aid - Red Cross

With photos and step-by-step directions, this app will guide you through what to do in many common situations such as bloat, seizures and shock. If you're traveling, the app will help you locate a nearby veterinarian hospital. There's also information on how to prepare for disasters and emergencies including a list of what to include in a pet first aid kit. If you want to test your knowledge of pet first aid, the app has quizzes for you to take. It's FREE and is definitely worth downloading.

Pet First Aid- Red Cross

2. Animal Poison Control Center - APCC by ASPCA

This easy to use app is also FREE and a must have for all pet parents. You start by selecting a species - cats, dog, horses and birds - then by the source - plants, foods, medication and household hazards. If the weight and amount consumed will determine how detrimental a poison can be, the app will ask for this information. Otherwise, it lists by ingredients alphabetically and in what product or source it can be found. Possible symptoms are listed as well as a rating on the toxicity and what action should be taken. Just browsing through the app, I learned a lot and highly recommend it!

Animal Poison Control Center

3. Walk for a dog - Wooftrax

You want to help animals and get yourself in shape, right? Then this is the app for you! By downloading it on your phone and logging in every time you go for a walk, you help raise money for local animal shelters. It's FREE and it doesn't matter how short or long your walk is. Nor do you have to have a dog to use this app. Whether you're walking with your own dogs or just out for a leisurely stroll, every step counts. I'd say this is a win-win for the homeless animals, your dog and you!


4. Weather puppy

Ok, this is by far my favorite pet app! If you're a cat person, then you probably would prefer weather kitty. Or if you want to see the wild animals of the world, then you can choose Wildlife weather. Sometimes I go check the weather just to see a a puppy photo! The images change depending on the season, time of day and of course, the weather. It's sure to put a smile on your face as the puppies even on a cold, dreary overcast day. This app is also free, but you upgrade for $1.99 and pick a theme. As the app has never been cuter!

Weather puppy

What pet apps do you have? I'd love to hear about your favorites!! If you have any to share, leave a comment below! 

Making a difference for hundreds of shelter cats

In spite of the fact that I spent most of last winter in Florida, I still managed to photograph over 300 cats and kittens at Centre County PAWS! The best part of all of this is hearing how my photos attract folks to come in and adopt their new best friend. Making a difference for one animal makes my heart full. But helping hundreds, well, I only hope I can make as much a difference for them as they do for me. While I hope and believe that good photos help homeless animals find homes faster, honestly the most important work is done by the dozens of volunteers that work at the shelter day after day, week after week, month after month. From the foster families, to the dog walkers, adoption counselors, the kennel staff, the medical team, the committee members and on and on and on. It really does take a village to help those who cannot speak for themselves.  

2017 PAWS collage

Home for the Holidays

The holidays are such a fun time of the year! Family gatherings, baking cookies, gift shopping and feeling the magic of the spirit of the season through the eyes of children. And yes, I feel the stress too, but I do my best to focus on the moment and enjoy the process. At the end of every night, I turn the lights on our Christmas tree and just sit quietly taking it all in. The fact that it snowed last night, made it even prettier!

It's also a wonderful time for many animals who find their forever homes just in time for the holidays. What an extra special Christmas it is for those families! Here are a few who are hoping or will be home for the holidays! To learn more about these and many other cats, kittens, dogs and puppies, click HERE to go to the Centre County PAWS website. 

E kitten I.jpg

EE kitten I

E kitten II.jpg

EE kitten II





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Pumpkin & Spice



Spot and Little Patches.jpg

Spot & Little Patches



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Yellow Power Ranger

Hurricane Harvey - preparing for a disaster

It’s been hard to watch the news this week and not feel absolutely at a loss over the devastation Hurricane Harvey has caused in Texas. Just seeing all the images of rain, water and flooding have made me feel water logged, I can hardly imagine what it’s been like to live through this epic storm. 

While hurricanes aren’t big in Pennsylvania, it can happen. Watching so many families struggle to get to safety has made me ask myself am I prepared in the event of a catastrophe? My house is just yards away from a creek. There’s no doubt that should we ever experience a serious rainfall, we would be flooded. I’ve had water in my basement more than once and thankfully it was due to having old windows that leaked. I’ve since replaced the windows and haven’t had any issues since. 


My husband has always been one to think ahead and prepare for worst case scenarios. Which is probably a good thing since I tend to bury my head in the sand and believe nothing bad will happen! So what can you do to be prepared in the event of a disaster?

The first thing is to create a plan. Every member in the family should be on board with this. If you need to evacuate, where will you go? If you can’t get home, where will you meet? How will you be in touch? Who should be the contact person outside of the family in case you can’t reach one another. If you’re in your house and need to get out, what are the best ways to escape? Plan from each room and every level in your home. Do you need to buy an escape ladder for a second and third story escape? Where will it be stored? 

It’s also important to have a disaster kit ready with items you might need in case of an emergency. Included in this kit should be water, non-perishable food, a battery or hand crank radio, a flashlight with batteries, first aid kit, can opener to open food, blankets and towels. We have a kit ready in our basement that also has dog food, toilet paper, an extra pair of shoes and a change of clothes. Every year we go through it to make sure nothing has spoiled and replace what no longer is good. 

We’ve learned so much since Hurricane Katrina and it is now a federal law that pets be accommodated in plans for evacuating residents facing disaster. However, many pets have been left at shelters while families escape the rising waters. Others have been separated and some animals like livestock are too hard to move. 

If you want to help the animals who’ve been affected by Hurricane Harvey, possibly the best way is to open your home to fostering a pet until he or she can be reunited with their family. Next would be monetary donations to local animal shelters including the Houston SPCA and SPCA of Texas as well as the Humane Society of the United States. If you want to donate tangible items such as pet food, kitty litter, crates and so on, it’s best to contact the shelters to find out what is needed before sending any supplies.

While I hope never to experience a disaster, I know that I am as prepared as I can be. And one day I may be grateful for that. 


Hurricane Harvey - Preparing for a disaster

What not to say when someone loses a pet

Recently I experienced a sudden and tragic loss. Not once, but twice, just days apart. Both were pet sitting clients in our care. Both dogs had not shown any signs of illness in the days and weeks prior. But when we showed up on those fateful days, neither dog was well. Upon further examination, it was clear both needed emergency care and so we transported them to their veterinarian. Tests were run, and in both cases it was determined both were too ill and little to nothing could be done to help them.  Sadly, both owners made the heart wrenching decision to let their furry loved ones go.

The one dog, Spyke, has been a long-term client of mine. Walking him daily during the work week for 5 years, he was a regular part of my afternoons. With a sweet disposition that reminds me of my own Izzy, he quickly became one of my favorite dogs to walk. A Rhodesian ridgeback, he was strong, stubborn, a little wary of people he didn’t know, but very loyal to those he did. He had these incredible deep eyes, allowing me to look into his soul and see the gentle creature that he was. 

The other dog was a new client of ours. His owner had some concerns about how he would do before he left for an overseas trip. Initially all was well, but one morning when he could barely stand up nor breathe easily, it was clear he wasn’t. X-rays revealed large masses throughout his internal organs, most likely indicative of cancer.

Emergencies with my pet sitting clients are actually very rare. In the 25 years I’ve been doing this, we’ve taken less than a dozen pets to the vet. But when a pet has passed away, I am often one of the first people his owner call to notify. Like them, I have come to know and love their furry friends almost as much as they have. No matter how many times I’ve had this conversation, it never gets any easier. Today I thought I’d share a few tips on what not to say to someone who has just lost their furry best friend.

Don’t: Ask how old was your pet was. While this may sound like a gentle and harmless question, it’s not. Just because our cat or dog has lived to 13, 14 ,15 or more years, doesn’t make the pain of losing them any easier. We all know that pets’ lives are too short, but for many of us, even if we’ve been blessed to have them for many years, it’s still never enough. And what if the death was sudden and tragic taking the life of a 2 or 3 year old? Then it only brings to the surface just how awful their passing was.

Don’t: Say it’s just a dog (or cat or horse or guinea pig). No, it’s our family. We make a promise to care for them and with that we create routines…walking, changing the litter box, cleaning out the cage, mucking the stall, but mostly loving them. When they are gone, they leave a huge void in our lives. Our homes feel empty, our hearts broken and our lives forever changed. They were our best friends and they cannot be replaced.

Don’t: Share your story of a pet loss, especially tragic ones. You may be trying to make me feel better when you tell me the story of how your dog was so excited to see you when you got home from vacation that he ran out of the house and got hit and killed by a car. Yes, it’s awful. But it doesn’t help comfort me in my time of sadness and sorrow. Maybe my pet’s life wasn’t cut short with a sudden loss, but that doesn’t make the pain any less just because we had many years together. 

Don’t: Ask if they will get a new dog/cat/horse. Everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time. I’ve known some people who got a puppy days or weeks after they lost their dog. Or waited a year or longer to get another cat to share their home with. There is no right or wrong answer - you just have to do what is right for you. And what may be the case this time, may be different after another pet loss. Listen to your heart. You’ll know when the time is right to love another furry friend again. I know it hurts, and some days it may feel like you don’t know how you’ll ever feel normal again. But don’t shut out the possibly of bringing another friend into your life. Believe me, you have plenty of love to share.

Don’t: Tell them to get over it. Life goes on. Everyone and everything eventually dies. While that is true, it doesn’t help someone who is in the midst of grieving. In fact, saying this will probably make them feel worse. One thing I’ve learned through the years is that we never really get over things like death or loss. We get through them. With love. And patience. And understanding. You’ll be a better friend if you listen to someone who has lost a pet share their memories, their pain, their sorrow. It isn’t meant to make you feel uncomfortable, it’s where they are right now. I’ve also learned that you need to honor the feelings you have. If it’s grief, then grieve. If you don’t process those emotions, then it will linger and keep you from working through the feelings. Pushing them down doesn’t make them go away. It will manifest some other way, maybe harder, worse or more painfully. If it means you need to take some time off work or a break from friends and family, then do it. You’ll be better for it in the long run.

I’ll share my personal story of loss. My first dog, and golden retriever, Mika, was my heart dog. It was just she and I for the first five years of her life. I had boyfriends, dates, breakups, bought a house, met my husband, got married, moved to Philly, back to State College and so on. She was the one constant throughout those years. We had a bond that ran very deep. When she passed away, my heart broke in a million pieces. It was hard for me to be around other pets who were still alive. I didn’t resent them for it, it just made me sad that my dog was no longer with me.

Two days after we lost her, we took a trip to St. Michael’s Maryland. I needed to go someplace where no one knew me, where I could cry whenever the tears flowed, where I didn’t have to put on my happy face and talk to clients. I took a full three days off work and together my husband and I grieved and celebrated her. It was the best thing I ever did. This way I could honor my feelings, my relationship with her and the new “normal” my life was about to have. I was fortunate that every night for a month, she came to me in my dreams. I know it was hard for her to let go of me, just as it was for me to let go of her. It took me a year before I was able to love a dog again, and so Izzy came into my life. I was guarded at first, but she eventually won my heart over. I love her in a different way than I loved Mika. We have a different, but in some ways, a similar relationship. So many times I wish the two dogs could have gotten to know each other. I believe they would have been the best of friends. While it was hard for me to open up and love again, I’m so glad I let Izzy in my life. When it’s her turn to leave this earth, I will grieve again. But my life will be better for having shared it with her.


What not to say when someone loses a pet