Mark your calendars, folks: this upcoming Friday, August 26, is National Dog Day. As the name implies, it’s a special holiday with two distinct purposes:
• Showing appreciation to the individual dogs whom we know and love. They make our lives so much richer!
• Raising awareness for the thousands of dogs in shelters and foster homes across America. These pups are in desperate need of forever homes, so even if you can’t open your house to them, try to open your heart to them.
Read on for some ideas as to how to celebrate this momentous occasion. You don’t really need a cake, balloons, or a fancy costume. You just need the desire to truly “make” a dog’s day!
Volunteer at a Shelter
Generally speaking, animal shelters are always in need of volunteers—there’s usually just too many critters and too few people to give everyone individual attention. So get in touch with your local shelter and ask, “What can I do to help?” It doesn’t take a lot of training or technical know-how to clean a kennel, do a load of laundry, wash some bowls and toys, or just give a lonely pooch some one-on-one time. And hey: you may find yourself falling head-over-heels for a shelter resident and bringing home a new family member!
If you don’t have any free time to spend at a shelter, though, that’s okay: you can also donate money and resources. Many shelters post online “wish lists” of items they’re in need of; common requests include blankets, towels, treats, toys, and monetary contributions for certain dogs’ medical expenses (like heartworm treatment or spay/neuter surgeries). If you’re not sure whether or not a gift you have in mind will be helpful, you can always call or email the shelter and ask.
Have a Spa Day
Okay, admittedly, not all dogs “enjoy” baths. But what about a good, thorough brushing, especially for dogs with long hair or thick undercoats? Get out your pet’s brush and really focus on doing the best job you can. Try to work in a nice skin massage, ear rub, and—of course— belly scratch. How many pooches can resist something like that?
Another fun option is to give your dog a “pawdicure.” No, you don’t need to buy a fancy spa chair and colorful nail polish (although that would be pretty funny). Just trimming your dog’s nails with clippers or a dremel can make walking much more comfortable, and a bit of paw balm rubbed into his pads can sooth dry, cracked skin.
While you’re grooming your dog, take a moment to check his body for unusual lumps or bumps, and verify that his teeth, gums, ears, and nose look clean and healthy. Speaking of health…
Provide an Ounce of Prevention (Rather Than a Pound of Cure)
If it’s been more than a year since Ranger went to the vet, he might be due for a checkup (and he’s probably due for vaccinations, too). Your dog may not be particularly “excited” to pay the vet a visit, but remember: pets rely on their owners to monitor their health. It’s not like Fluffy can take herself to the vet when she’s feeling yucky! In addition to feeding your dog high-quality food made of natural, wholesome ingredients, bringing her in for regular physical exams is one of the best investments you can make in her long-term health and well-being. And while you’ve got the vet’s attention, be sure to speak to them about preventative measures, like heartworm medication, flea and tick treatments, and dental care.
Play the Day Away
Chances are, your dog has a favorite toy and/or activity that she just can’t get enough of. With this knowledge in mind, it’s easy enough to choose a “game” that’ll make her tail wag! If your dog loves the running trail in your neighborhood, grab his leash and go for an extra-long walk. If she can’t resist a good game of tug-of-war, seize one end of her beloved rope and hang on tight! You don’t need to be an Olympic-level athlete to please your dog; the vast majority of canines will be ecstatic with just a little physical activity and playtime. And if you wind up getting a major workout from the arrangement, then so much for the better!
If you’ve got a social butterfly on your hands, then spending some time at the local dog park can be a fun treat, as well. Many parks offer amenities like agility courses, water bowls, and cleanup stations, so you and your pet can really “cut loose” in a dog-friendly environment. More importantly, though, the visit will provide your dog with an opportunity to greet, sniff, and play with other dogs—dogs of differing shapes, sizes, and smells. What more could a pack animal ask for? Dog parks are also a great opportunity for shy dogs to come out of their shells. Your “lone wolf” could wind up being Mr. Popularity, and this time next year, you may find yourself inviting his friends over for a puppy playdate and party!
With how much companionship, unconditional love, and entertainment that dogs provide for humans, they deserve an appreciation day. It’s the least we can do for them! So, this upcoming Friday, be sure to show some love for the dogs of the world—whether that means taking your family pet for an extra-special afternoon out, or just being a friend to a sad-eyed shelter pooch.
And one more thing: if you saw this post a bit late and August 26th has already passed, don’t despair. Go ahead and celebrate anyway! Chances are, Fluffy doesn’t keep track of the date, so she’ll have no idea that you two are actually a bit off on the timing. She’ll just be really happy to spend some quality time with someone she adores!
Photo courtesy of Aiko, Thomas & Juliette+Isaac on Flickr.