“Mixed” feelings about mutts

Harley - bonus

Mutts get a bad rap. Everyone who wants to add a dog to the family often overlook mutts in favor of a pure breed dog. But is that necessarily the best choice?

Those who prefer to bring a pure breed home do so for the status symbol a purebreed dog represents. They boast about their dog’s pedigree and may even know their dog’s lineage three or four generations back.

With a mutt, you don’t get the same status. You don’t know the lineage and the pedigree isn’t even there.

But here are a couple of ways mutts are better than pure breeds.


Mutts, also known as mixed-breed dogs, have a diverse genetic makeup derived from two or more genetic crosses. Pure breeds most always have an element of inbreeding associated with developing the breed. Because of inbreeding, pure breeds often have genetic disorders.

For example, brachycephalic dogs (that is, dogs with short snouts) like pugs have a malformed skull. The shape of the skull inhibits breathing and makes high intensity exercise difficult and deadly for these types of dogs.

German Shepherd Dogs are often predisposed to hip dysplasia due to breeding that favors form over function. The hips and lower back swoop down instead of having a good posture.

Mutts, on the other hand, benefit from a diverse gene pool. The problems found in pure breeds are reduced or absent in mutts.


Mutts tend to live longer than pure breeds. This again can be attributed to having good genes. In his book Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, author Ted Kerasote reported that “mixed-breed dogs live, on average, a year longer than purebred dogs” (Kerasote, 2013) as relayed by Dr. Kelly M. Cassidy. Further research led Kerasote (2013) to five studies that showed “mixed-breeds suffer from fewer genetic diseases and live up to 1.8 years longer than purebred dogs of equivalent weight.”

For those of us who have faced the loss of a pet at an early age, it would seem that a mutt would live longer and we would get to enjoy its companionship much longer than a purebred dog.

The “problem” with mutts

Everything I’ve read suggests there are more benefits to owning a mixed breed dog. So what exactly is the problem with mutts?

To find out, I asked Julia Springsteen, president of Friends of Hardin County Animal Shelter (FOHCAS).

Julia said the biggest misunderstanding people have about mutts is, “They think shelter dogs or mutts are broken in some way.”

“The only thing wrong with a shelter dog is they got a rough start in life and didn’t have the right owners to begin with,” Springsteen said.

Hardin County Animal Care and Control takes in many dogs every day, from strays to owner surrenders. Many animals that pass through the doors of the shelter are mixed breed dogs.

Although the facility was upgraded in 2013, there are many people who don’t realize that Hardin County Animal Care and Control is not a no-kill shelter.

As tragic as that sounds, the new facility has helped facilitate the adoption rate. Hardin County Animal Care and Control does it’s best to ensure that all of the animals have a fair shot at adoption.

As National Mutt Day approaches, I asked Springsteen if the shelter has any specials planned. She advised me that because the shelter is currently at full capacity (meaning every kennel is full), a community sponsor has stepped up to help “Empty the Kennels.”

“We just happen to be having an ‘Empty the Kennels’ Special with $0 adoption fees the week of July 25-30,” Springsteen said. Rafferty’s in Elizabethtown is sponsoring the event. Springsteen added, “On National Mutt Day, we are hoping to be empty!”

Hardin County Animal Care and Control is located in Elizabethtown at 220 Peterson Drive. Visit the shelter to adopt a dog Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Contact the receptionist at 270-769-3428.


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Pet IDs help lost pets find their way home

Have you ever experienced the heartache of losing a beloved pet? Not loss due to death but loss due to an animal escaping.

Maybe it is human nature but it seems when a pet goes missing we tend to fear the worst. We fear our dog may have been hit by a car or got into something that is poisonous to her.

When I first started working at Hardin County Animal Control, I remember receiving in a stray. Our first course of action was to scan the dog for a microchip. Sure enough, the dog had a registered microchip. We contacted the owner who lived in Louisville who hurried to the shelter to confirm the identity of the dog. When he arrived, he told us the story of how the dog went missing two years ago. They never expected their dog would show up after two years much less in another county!

Having appropriate pet identification is important to ensure the return of your beloved pet.

Here is a quick rundown on the different types of identification often used on dogs.

Personalized dog tags (engraved, RFID, or QR coded)

We recommend your dog wear a collar with personalized identification tags and rabies tags on display. However, this should not be the only method of identification used because collars can go missing when a dog escapes. Tags with RFID technology or QR codes can be scanned with compatible scanners or software. Your personal information is encoded in the system and your dog can be returned to you. Of these two options, I like the QR codes because of the availability of QR code readers in mobile phones. FurCode and PetHub have QR code dog tags available.


In the military, all of the military working dogs receive an ear tattoo for identification purposes. The dog is given a name and the surname of the dog is the tattoo number. What I like about tattoos is that they are permanent. Unfortunately, the person who finds your dog might not know to look for the tattoo.

Dr. Karen Becker from Mercola HealthyPets tattoos all of her pets. In her blog, she wrote that there are databases that register tattoos. Registering the tattoo with these companies can increase the chances of your dog being returned to you. The companies she referenced include “AKC Reunite, the National Dog Registry, or Tattoo-a-Pet” (Becker, 2015).


When I was in the military, every dog that passed through our clinic was required to have a microchip. Microchips use RFID technology. They are a little bigger than a grain of rice and fit inside the bore of a 14 gauge needle. Standard protocol is to inject the microchip under the skin between the shoulder blades.

While the microchip manufacturer’s will tell you the injection process is as painful as receiving routine vaccinations, I can tell you from experience it is not. In administering vaccines, technicians typically use 25 gauge needles. To get a blood sample for a heartworm test, a 20 gauge needle is used for small veined dogs and an 18 gauge needle is used for dogs with larger veins. A 14 gauge needle is much bigger, it leaves a hole in the skin at the injection site, and dogs typically feel the pain much more than a vaccination.

Some veterinarians prefer to microchip a pet using local anesthesia to lessen the experience for the animal. Others may wait to microchip a pet until it is under anesthesia for a small surgery like a spay or neuter.

Microchips are wonderful for helping a lost pet find its way home. Like the story in the introduction, trained personnel can scan the dog for a microchip, locate the microchip number, and look it up in the registry.

The downside is that pet owners must register their pets. A microchip will do absolutely no good if it isn’t registered. So make sure you do that as soon as you get home from the veterinarian after your pet has been microchipped.

Another downside to microchips is that they frequently migrate from the injection site. This means that a chip is supposed to stay between the whithers but can sometimes roll around and end up in other places. Because of this, shelters and veterinary personnel must be trained to scan the whole animal when searching for a microchip.

If you want to increase your chances of getting your beloved fur-baby back after she goes missing, make sure you use at least two of the identification methods described above.

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Fire safety for pets

house fire with flames and smoke

House fire with flames and smoke

Have you ever sat around a campfire and marveled at the flames as they flicker and dance? There is something mesmerizing about a fire. It can be a source of heat, it can be a tool for cooking, but it can also be a hungry destroyer.

Thankfully, I’ve never had to experience a house fire. I can’t imagine the distress families experience as their memories and things are taken from them in one fell swoop.

Because fires are dangerous, precautions must be in place to escape safely.

Fire safety begins with having smoke alarms strategically placed throughout the home. Not only should they be installed but they should be checked periodically to ensure they are functioning properly.

Next, you should have an exit plan. Your exit plan should be rehearsed in the form of fire drills so that all members of the family will know how to respond in the event of an actual emergency.

Your main objective is to get out of the house safely.

But what if you have pets?

It isn’t easy to say this, but the truth is that human life is more important than animal life. That may come as a shock to many of you who follow me and it is a hard thing to even admit.

It is not an easy thing to put human life over the life of your pets especially when pets and humans develop strong bonds. Sometimes the human-animal bond is so strong that your beloved pets are perceived as members of your human family. I understand that and that’s what makes this so difficult.

However, if you take appropriate measures, it is possible for everyone — including your furbabies — to get out safely.

Leading causes of house fires

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the leading cause of house fires is cooking equipment with heating equipment coming in second1. The many ways a fire can start inside a home includes natural causes such as a lightning strike or other causes such as stoves, ovens, microwave ovens, candles, cigarettes, pipes, lighters used by youngsters, heating equipment, and electrical causes. In some cases, dogs can be accidental fire starters2.

Leading cause of death

The leading cause of death in a house fire is smoke inhalation.

An effective escape plan requires victims to stay low to the ground while they escape from the house. As the smoke rises, animals and people who remain upright are at greater risk of death from smoke inhalation.

Advantages of having a dog

It is not uncommon to read a story in the newspaper about a family that was rescued from a deadly fire situation because of a family dog. With a dog’s keen senses, it can recognize a change in the household environment and alert family members by barking3.

Getting out safely

In a house fire, your first priority is to get out safely. Evacuate the building as quickly as possible ensuring everyone gets out safely. If you are unable to get your dog out, notify the fire department as soon as they arrive so they can rescue your pet4.

In some cases, fire departments may be equipped with pet oxygen masks and will be able to help resuscitate a pet dog if necessary5.

How to keep your pet safe in the event of a fire when you’re not home

News reports revealed survivor dogs were found in pet carriers when they were rescued6, 7. A good recommendation is to keep your dog in a kennel near the entrance to facilitate its extraction by firefighters as they enter your home8. You might even consider placing a safety sticker in your window to alert first responders that you have pets inside9.

For more information on fire safety for your dog, please visit the following web sites:

National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC)

Total Fire Services Limited

1 National Fire Protection Association. (2016). Top causes of fire. Retrieved July 11, 2016 from http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/top-causes-of-fire
2 Total Fire Services Ltd. (2016, July 1). National pet fire safety day 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2016 from http://www.totalfireservicesltd.co.uk/total-fire-services-pet-and-fire-safety/
3 (2016, May 2). BRIEF: Dog’s barking alerts Bridgton family to fire. Portland Press Herald (ME).
4 Total Fire Services Ltd. (2016, July 1). National pet fire safety day 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2016 from http://www.totalfireservicesltd.co.uk/total-fire-services-pet-and-fire-safety/
5 Kravetz, A. (2016, May 11). Firefighters save dog from South Peoria house fire. Journal Star (Peoria, IL).
6 Green, J. (2016, June 24). House fire kills dog; second animal resuscitated. Hutchinson News, The (KS).
7 Kravetz, A. (2016, May 11). Firefighters save dog from South Peoria house fire. Journal Star (Peoria, IL).
8 Total Fire Services Ltd. (2016, July 1). National pet fire safety day 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2016 from http://www.totalfireservicesltd.co.uk/total-fire-services-pet-and-fire-safety/
9 Total Fire Services Ltd. (2016, July 1). National pet fire safety day 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2016 from http://www.totalfireservicesltd.co.uk/total-fire-services-pet-and-fire-safety/
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Avoid the Comparison Trap

In business, it is good to have your eye on the competition. But be careful that you aren’t watching so closely that you take your focus off of your goals. When you start comparing your business to others, you run the risk of falling into the comparison trap.

Scanning the Market

A good marketer knows the importance of scanning the environment for factors that are favorable or unfavorable to his business. Part of this step involves examining your competition.

Who is the competition in your market? How are they positioning themselves? What are their prices? How are they different from you? Moreover, how are you different from them?

These are good questions to ask but if you aren’t careful, you could soon find yourself in the comparison trap.

This happened to me several years ago. I analyzed all of my local competitors and found that their prices varied significantly. The biggest thing I noticed was that my prices were higher on the low end but lower on the high end. I began to question whether my prices were right. I fell victim to the thought that if we all provide the same service, people would likely buy from the lowest priced provider. I became doubtful of my price structure so I revised it.

I learned from this experience that the worst thing you can do in business is compete based on price. When companies race to the bottom on price, it forces weaker companies to fold and results in stronger companies developing a monopoly, which later results in higher prices for the customer.

A better plan is to provide better service. Sure the service is the same but how you deliver the service can be different.

Be Different

It’s okay to be different in the business world. There’s plenty of business to go around. So instead of looking at your competitors and imitating what they do, find a way to be different.

One way I tried to be different several years ago was by using a three-tier pricing structure. The differentiating features of each plan was frequency of service. Biweekly service had 26 cleanings per year, weekly service had 52 cleanings per year, and twice weekly service had 104 cleanings per year. Knowing from experience that small dogs produced small waste and larger dogs produced larger waste, I designed each tier for a specific number and size of dog.


Example of Tiered Pricing Structure. Not actual prices of service offered by PetCorps currently.

We recommended biweekly service for up to 2 small breed dogs, weekly service for up to 3 small to medium sized dogs, and twice weekly service for 2 or more large breed dogs.
The market responded well to this model and I kept it in place for over two years.

Later, I decided to go back to the per dog method of determining price when I finally decided not to compete based on price. Instead, I would focus on great customer service and support and learned that reliability and integrity set my company apart from my competitors.

Focus on Your Mission

While it is good to “peek” at the conpetition, it is better to simply focus on your mission. Stop trying to copy your competitors. God made you different so just be you. Customers appreciate you being you over anything else. So be you.

Honor your word.

Keep your customers informed.

Be the best you can.

Accept your weaknesses.

Focus on your strengths.

Work hard and be faithful.

Your diligence will reward you.

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Staying Safe Around the Fourth of July


Growing up in Toledo, OH, I remember the Fourth of July being a magically majestic celebration. Every year, my family would venture down to the waterfront on the east or west bank of the Maumee River to watch the spectacular light show as fireworks were launched high into the sky from river boats. The load booms, pops, and hisses filled me with wonder and excitement. The sparkling colors shimmering across the sky precisely choreographed to blaring music was amazing to behold. Those few minutes of excitement dot my timeline as I grew from a child to an adult.

As a teenager, I witnessed my dogs as they trembled and whimpered in fright as this same spectacle that brought me much enjoyment, sent them into terror. For dogs, the fireworks experience is anything but enjoyable.

“Some dogs have no problem with the sight and sound of fireworks if they’ve been desensitized,” says dog expert Cesar Millan. Cesar adds, “Hunting dogs, for example, grow used to the sounds and smells of hunting rifles and gun powder.”

But for most dogs, the Fourth of July can be particularly frightening especially if they have not been acclimated to loud noises. Cesar said, “More pets run away on the Fourth of July than any other day, so you should take extra steps to ensure their safety.”

According to Cesar, dogs experience the world through their senses – scent, sight, and hearing (in that order). Unlike thunderstorms where dogs can sense the change in barometric pressure, fireworks are a much different event. Fireworks give off a distinct odor that we humans cannot comprehend. The loud booms also ignite the fight or flight instinct. Because of this, dogs tend to run away from the fireworks to find a place of safety. “Running away is a survival instinct,” said Cesar.

So what can you do to make the Fourth of July safer for your canine companions?

Safety Tips

Ensure your pet is identifiable.

Animal shelters pick up numerous dogs around the Fourth of July holiday because many become strays while attempting to escape from the terror of fireworks. Ensure your dog has good identification – prominent ID tags and/or a registered microchip. These features will help ensure the safe return of your furbaby.

Arrange for a safe place.

If you know a friend or relative who will not be participating in the festivities, ask them to watch your dog for you at their home. Alternatively, you might take your dog to a familiar doggie daycare away from the noise. Whatever you do, do not take your dog to a fireworks display. Instead, stay home with your dog and stay inside to provide them comfort. You might also consider having a crate available where your dog can go to relax.

Train your dog to be comfortable.

Like hunting dogs that are unafraid of gun fire, your dog can be trained to be fearless around fireworks. Audio recordings of fireworks and thunderstorms are available to help familiarize your dog with these sounds. It will take time to train them, so plan to spend about 3 months or more playing the audio recordings while your dog is in a relaxed state. Begin by playing the sounds lightly in the background while your dog is eating. Gradually increase the volume over time. Eventually, this training will “desensitize” your dog so he is no longer fearful of fireworks.

Feed your dog early.

Offer your dog a big meal early in the day. Anxiousness brought on by fireworks will cause your dog to lose its appetite. Make sure your dog gets a good meal while the festivities have yet to begin.

Go for a long walk.

Help your dog expend energy by going on a long walk early in the day. This will help your dog relax and go into a calm state.

Use medicine or other tools.

Medicines such as anesthetics in tablet form are useful for helping your dog to relax. I list it here as a last resort because too often, pet parents go to the veterinarian for a prescription for sedatives as a first resort. Please use the other tips first and avoid medicating if possible. Alternatively, you could use all-natural herbal supplements.

Another tool you might consider is the use of a Thundershirt. Thundershirts wrap tightly around your dog providing pressure that has a calming effect. To be effective, though, Cesar Millan recommends training the dog with this tool over time. He says to put it on your dog while your dog is in a calm relaxed state. This way, your dog learns to associate calmness with the Thundershirt. Then, when you need to help your dog to become calm, you can apply the Thundershirt before the festivities begin.

These are just a few ideas to help keep your pet safe around the 4th of July. There are many other techniques. Remember, every dog is different, so what works for one dog may not necessarily work for your dog.

If you have any tips or suggestions that have worked for you, please share in the comments below.


Hartz Mountain Corporation. (2016). Dogs & fireworks: How to keep your dog calm and safe during July 4th. Retrieved June 21, 2016 from http://www.hartz.com/Dogs/Health/Medical_And_Preventive_Care/Keep%20_your_Dog_Calm_and_Safe_During_July_4th.aspx

Millan, C. (2015). Keeping your dog safe when the fireworks start. Retrieved June 21, 2016 from https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-behavior/hyperactivity-overexcitement/how-to-keep-your-dog-safe-and-calm-during-fireworks

Spector, L. (n.d.). 10 safety and calming tips for dogs during fireworks. Retrieved June 21, 2016 from https://positively.com/contributors/10-safety-and-calming-tips-for-dogs-during-fireworks/

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Remembering Nugget

At Our Start

Once upon a time, a concerned pet advocate brought three little puppies to the veterinary clinic at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was a cold December when she found the puppies. Knowing that she could not keep the puppies, she decided to bring them into the veterinary clinic for care.

The manager of the stray animal facility welcomed the pups and word soon spread throughout the vet clinic that we had some new tenants. I came up from the lab and walked into the lobby to see the tiny pups scurrying around the floor. They were border collie puppies. One of them was white and tan and had the most beautiful sparkling blue eyes I had ever seen. I fell in love with him at first sight.

Unfortunately, I lived in the single soldier’s barracks and Army regulation prohibited owning a pet in the barracks. Since I was scheduled to take leave in a few days, I telephoned my mom to see if she could keep him until I would be in a place that would allow me to have a pet. She agreed to take him in. Next, I arranged for a fellow soldier to foster him until I took my leave. She and her husband lived in post housing. She agreed to take him in for a few days since she was taking home one of the other pups, his sister.

I knew right away that he was a smart pup. Whether he understood my language or not, didn’t matter. His response to my verbal and body language indicated that he did and he trusted me. I began thinking what I would call him. I later received a text message from my mom suggesting I call him “Nugget,” since he was from Fort Knox. I tried the name out on him and he responded well to it.

The Journey Home

I woke up early one cold and snowy December morning to begin the six and a half hour drive to Toledo, OH. Once I had gathered up my gear, I loaded into my gold Pontiac Grand Prix sedan and began a slow drive all the way to the housing area where Nugget was staying.

It had snowed overnight and the roads had yet to be cleared. I knew then that our journey was going to be slow. The trip that followed, I didn’t expect.

After picking up Nugget, I walked him around for a few minutes to allow him a chance to pee. Once satisfied, we got into the car and began our journey to Toledo.

Prior to my trip, I had spoken to my grandfather. He advised me to avoid I-75 at all costs during this trip. That meant taking an alternate route. Fortunately, I knew of a way to get to Toledo from Indianapolis via U.S. Route 24. So my travel plan meant driving north on U.S. 31W to I-265 east toward I-65 north.

As we drove through West Point into Kosmosdale, Nugget began to whimper. Suddenly, I smelled an odor that told me what he was upset about. I pulled over in front of a factory and discovered that Nugget had pooped on my luggage! I couldn’t be mad at him. I cleaned up the waste and wiped my luggage clean as best as I could. I gave him another opportunity to go potty before getting back in the car.

On the road again, we continued making progress through Louisville. As soon as we crossed the bridge over the Ohio River into Indiana, traffic began to slow to a crawl. Around mile marker 13, we came to a dead stop. It was 5:30 in the morning and I-65 north through Indiana was bumper to bumper traffic. If I remember correctly, there was an accident up ahead. We sat in the car and watched as other drivers attempted to cross the median to go south only to get stuck in a snow embankment. We sat and waited patiently. After three hours, traffic began moving again. What started out as a six and a half hour drive now was nine hours. We continued to follow our travel plan north on I-65. Once we arrived in Indianapolis, we stopped to get some food and Nugget got another break. After lunch, we continued our course to U.S. 24.

I drove this road all the way into Toledo and eventually wound up at my dad’s house sometime after dark. It was a long drive. Nugget and I were ready to crash.

The next day was a beautiful day in Toledo. There was no evidence of winter weather and it felt like a spring day. Nugget and I got into the Pontiac and drove across town to my mom’s. This is where he would spend most of his life.

My mom and dad divorced when I was sixteen because at that time she confessed she was attracted to women. Mom lived with her partner Melissa in a two-story home with a basement on the south side of Toledo. Melissa is a big pet advocate. When we first met, she had three dogs, Jasmine, Tosha, and Zeeny. Zeeny was a Boston terrier and Jasmine and Tosha were German Shepherd mixes.

One afternoon, when I was still a teenager, mom decided to have a yard sale at the house. As she was walking down the street to hang a sign, Jasmine dutifully followed her. I called her back but she didn’t respond. As she continued to follow my mother, she walked out into the street and was hit by a red pick up truck. I was mortified as I watch her tumble underneath the pick up. I rushed inside the house to get Melissa and within seconds, mom and Melissa had whisked her away to a nearby animal hospital. Jasmine had sustained serious injuries and died at the animal hospital.

After that, it was very somber around the house. Zeeny and Tosha were mourning in their own ways as were my mom and Melissa. As time passed, they ended up with another dog. A stray lab/chow mix they called Dagger. Dagger had been abused and didn’t care for men. By the time Nugget came home, Tosha had also passed and only Zeeny and Dagger remained.

Dagger was unimpressed with little Nugget. Nugget tried to play with Dagger. Dagger wanted no part in it so he nipped Nugget right on the noggin leaving a small laceration. Nugget whimpered and came to me for comfort. I took him upstairs and took some hair clippers to trim the hair away from the wound. Nugget was such a trusting dog that let me treat his wound. After that encounter, Nugget stayed away from Dagger.

That night, I curled up on a roll away bed with Nugget beside me.

I spent the rest of that Christmas vacation visiting as many of my family members as I could. As a soldier, I always felt like it was more work to go home and visit family because I had to pop in at various places all over town. Before heading back to Kentucky, there was one thing I wanted to share with Nugget. My favorite place: Wildwood MetroPark. We got in the car and drove from my mom’s over to the park and I took him on my first and last walk with him.

At 22 years old, I was hopeful that one day I would get to bring him home to Kentucky. But as time passed and he grew to depend on my mom, I realized his forever home had been found.

My Next Visit

The next time I had visited Toledo, I went to my mom’s to spend time with Nugget. He was a dog now and had become anxious around children. I examined him and found that his teeth were in bad shape. Some of the teeth were broken or cracked, there was brown discoloration on the broken parts. As a vet tech, I advised my mom what to do to help with the teeth. She explained to me what had happened to cause this.

Evidently, some children that lived next door to her would torment Nugget every time he was in the backyard. He would run at the chain link fence and try to bite them through the fence. Because he was biting the metal, he had caused damage to his teeth. Eventually, mom and Melissa had a privacy fence installed that stopped the torment but Nugget was forever scarred towards little children.

Years Later

In 2009, my fiancé Jeannie, her brother Daniel, and I made a trip to Toledo in the summer to “meet the parents.” We visited my mom and I got to spend some time with a middle-aged Nugget. He didn’t seem to be as anxious as I remembered but he had become very protective of the porch. If he saw or heard a stranger approach, he’d growl and bark fiercely. However, as soon as he recognized me, he was friendly as can be.


The next time we saw Nugget was at Christmas in 2011. Josiah was born in 2011 and we wanted to take him to visit his grandparents in Toledo. He was very interested in Nugget but Nugget would retreat into the kitchen to get away from Josiah.

Mom reminded me that Nugget wasn’t fond of children after his earlier experiences with the neighbor children. We worked with Nugget and eventually he allowed Josiah to get close enough to pet him.

The C Word

Recently, my brother sent me a photo of Nugget’s gums. There was a large lump on the gums. He asked me what I thought. I suggested taking him to the vet for an exam. It could have been an abscess but the vet suggested that it appeared to be a tumor caused by melanoma.

I asked them if they had done a biopsy. Mom said no but that would be the next step. If it was cancerous, Nugget would need to undergo surgery to remove the tumor and part of his mandible. While that is a good suggestion, I advised against it. 

“Nugget is twelve years old,” I explained. “At his age, the risk of death from anesthesia is too great to go through this procedure.”

“And,” I added, “if they remove part of his jaw what would that do to his quality of life? He has lived a good life. If it comes back positive for cancer my best recommendation is to make him comfortable and let him live out the rest of his life.”

As of this writing, the biopsy results were positive. My brother has bonded with Nugget in my absence and has become a great caretaker of him. The prognosis is he will live 3 to 6 months more. However, my brother has said that when the time comes that Nugget is no longer interested in eating or doing doggy things, that it will be time to put him down. 

While euthanasia is a sticky subject, there comes a time when you have to put the animal’s needs first. It would be selfish to keep Nugget around with half a jaw or with unbearable pain. The humane thing would be to end his suffering so he can be at peace.

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Can you take a vacation when you’re self-employed?

Early in my career as a professional pooper scooper, I didn’t think it would be possible to take a vacation. Then, when I added in pet sitting services, it dawned on me that most of my clients would be traveling during major holidays. This meant no travel on holidays to spend time with family because I needed to be available for my customers.

On the surface, this seems like a reasonable idea, putting my customers’ needs before my own. Yet, on the other hand, taking time off can benefit your customers more because it gives you time to unwind and recharge your batteries.

Even the Army allows soldiers to take R&R leave during long-term deployments because the Army recognizes how this time with family can make soldiers more effective on the battlefield.

So can you take vacation when you’re self-employed? That’s a great question.

Here are some suggestions for taking that vacation without feeling guilty.

Save up and pay cash

There is nothing worse than borrowing money to go on vacation. How many times have we done this? Have you ever arranged a trip, paid for it with a credit card, paid for purchases during the trip with a credit card, only to come home with a bunch of debt? The Bible is clear:

The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

If you’ve ever done this, make a plan not to do it anymore.

Instead, decide when you will take your trip. Estimate your costs for all parts of the trip. Then, count how many weeks you have until the trip. Divide the estimated cost by the number of weeks and set that much aside each week until your trip. Your trip will be paid for in cash and you can enjoy it more knowing that you won’t be paying it off for years after you get home.

Make arrangements for a subcontractor

Use caution with this decision. If you have a team working for you, you might delegate work to your team. If you’re a solopreneur, you might consider hiring a subcontractor to fill in while you’re away.

If you do hire someone to fill in temporarily, make sure you train them or at least have the character to represent your company in a positive light. If you can’t delegate the work to a team member or subcontractor, inform your customers that you will be away for a short time. Let them know when you will be available again to serve them.

Communicate with your customers

Communication is key. Make sure your customers know ahead of time that you will be gone. Send a reminder just before you leave. If you have a subscription based service that requires repeat service calls (i.e. pooper scooper, pet sitting, or dog walking service), consider issuing credit to your customers during the time you will be away. This generates good will and is great customer service.

Activate your away message

Make sure to set your away message on everything that customers can reach you on. Set your voicemail recording, email autoresponder, Facebook messanger responder, et. al. letting your customers and prospects know when you will be gone, when you expect to return, and include a disclaimer that you will/will not have access to phone and/or email.

Automate content

If you are maintaining a blog, make sure you automate your content. In fact, last week’s post, What to Expect when Starting Your Pooper Scooper Business, was published while I was on vacation. No one even knew until this moment, however.

Get into the habit of writing your content ahead of time and scheduling it to publish at regular intervals. This way, your subscribers will continue to receive consistent updates without you having to take time away from your vacation to craft new content.

Unplug and be present with your family

The best way to have a guilt-free vacation is to unplug from your business and be present with your family. In some businesses, it might not be possible to unplug from your business completely but if you can, do it. The memories you make with your family and the connections you build with each other will rejuvenate your spirit and make you more effective when you return to work.

I am already making plans to take everything off my phone so I am not distracted from spending quality time with my wife and sons. The only function my phone will have while we are away is to tell time and take pictures. Other than that, it will be on airplane mode. I’m looking forward to how freeing that can be!

Remember, there are some trade offs for taking a vacation. If you can pay cash, communicate with your customers, and unplug, you’ll be able to get the rest your body needs and will be ready to tackle your work without the added weight of a new debt burden. So take your vacation. You deserve it.

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