The Quality of Life of Your Dog is About Priorities-Scholarship Finalist Dog Fence DIY 2014

Candidate: Rachel Weigand

University: Auburn University

Priorities are something I live by. Putting pets near the top of the priority list is a must to give

them a good quality life. The quality of life of my dogs depends on how I lead my life and where I place

them on my priority list. Seeking deep companionship with my canine companions and strengthening

our human animal bond as they grow has clearly made me a better person. Having an in depth

understanding of the human animal bond is vital to veterinary medicine and I hope to roll that over into

my professional life as a veterinarian.

When adopting dogs, more information should be available and more questions should be

asked. Dogs are given up to the shelter too often because they don’t get along with the kids, the

landlord is threatening eviction, or they chewed a shoe. If more time was spent understanding the home

environment before letting dogs go home with an adopter, the number of intakes at shelters might

decrease. There is generally no background check, no question about children, no home visit, and no call

to the landlord to make sure that animals are allowed on property. If we become stricter on who we

adopt the shelter dogs to, maybe fewer of them will come back to the shelter for a third or fourth time.

Of course saying that we got 15 adoptions this week would be great, but how confident are we that all

15 will remain in those homes and carry on a good quality life? I personally adopted my first dog ever as

a six week old puppy. I was never asked if I had had a puppy before, if I had children, or if I needed more

information on bringing my new family member home. The information about obedience school,

veterinary care and how to cope with training a puppy was not readily available and left me searching

the internet for advice, something I am not personally fond of. “Dr. Google” is starting to take over for

solid information, leading to confusion for everyone. My hope is that one day, pet education will be built

into the pet adoption process, and more readily available. Why not require a short “Introduction to the

Life of a Dog” before adoption? If a potential adopter won’t give an hour of their time to learn about

food, socialization, training and basic veterinary care in terms of vaccines and flea/heartworm

prevention, why should it be assumed that the dog will make it near the top of the priority list? A class

like that should be something for the whole family, teaching the children about responsibility and the

correct way to interact with their new family member. A companionship with your dog should be a

mutually healthy and beneficial experience, starting with the adoption. This isn’t to say that the shelters

are to blame, that families with kids shouldn’t adopt dogs, or that if the shelters did a more thorough

adoption process there would never be intakes, but I believe that it would increase the success of happy

and good quality adoptions.

I would also like to see veterinarians donating an hour of time a month to hold mini information

sessions for their clients and the community. I had pets my whole life but never knew that onions or

grapes were toxic to dogs until veterinary school. Basic household toxins could be a great topic for a

mini information session, as would dog bite prevention, wildlife issues in the area (rattlesnakes for

example), and behavior issues. I have always seen education as one of the keys to success and therefore

I believe it is reasonable to assume that educating pet owners could lead to a more successful

companionship between them and their pets. Another outcome of monthly information sessions would

most likely be to increase client compliance in coming to the veterinary clinic for annual physical exams

and vaccines as well as continual monthly usage of flea and heartworm prevention medications. Client

compliance with veterinary care is difficult unless they understand the reason behind the madness of

monthly medications and vaccines, especially with the new anti-vaccine rage. The annual visit is critical

for keeping our furry family members healthy, and by deepening the human animal bond owners are

more likely to realize when there is a change in behavior or habits that could lead to a veterinary visit.

In terms of how leading my life results in the quality of life of my animals, exercise is extremely

important. At school we have a weekly meeting time for the students and their dogs to go to the park

for socialization and exercise. Setting up such a meeting and making it known to clients and the

community would be a great way to provide an opportunity for exercise and a healthy lifestyle for

everyone. With over half the dogs in America being overweight according to a recent American

Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) survey, having a weekly meeting to foster relationships between

dogs and their owners as well as other community members is an absolutely necessary addition to our

daily lives. I personally notice a great difference in both myself and my dogs between the days that we

go for a walk or we hang around the house all day. As soon as I pull the leash off the hook, my dogs

come running to me with their tails wagging so hard their bodies wag along too. A walk in the morning

before school has drastically changed our morning routine, but it is all the better because I go to school

relaxed and calm, with a clear mind before the crazy day. Instilling a morning or evening walk, even

around the block helps to reduce my stress, and keep me healthy, as well as the health benefits for my

dogs. Our society needs to realize that walking to the store or the post office isn’t a crime and leading a

more outdoors life could radically decrease the overweight problem that is now common to ourselves

and our canine companions.

I cannot personally imagine a life without my furry family, and would do anything to continue

growing our relationship. I like to believe that everyone that has pets feels this way, although I know this

is not true. Between the pet adoption process, community education, and pet friendly events, it is my

hope that one day we will be able to say that pets are a priority to their owners, and therefore the

quality of their life has benefited from it.

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