New Year’s resolutions |

New Year’s resolutions

We all make them.

You know: those optimistic New Year’s resolutions to lose 50 pounds or quit smoking, to win the Boston Marathon or stop watching “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” to change our lives or our habits or even the world.

They’re the promises we make to ourselves at the beginning of the new year … and yes, the promises we break once they become challenging or inconvenient.

Why not try some different kinds of resolutions this year that can not only make your life better but can also improve the lives of your companion animals and even ones you’ve never met?

Here are my Top Five New Year’s Resolutions for Animal Lovers:

1. Spay and neuter your pets

I’ve heard every conceivable excuse for not spaying and neutering, and in my opinion, none of them holds even an ounce of water. Animals who’ve been spayed and neutered are generally less aggressive, are far less likely to roam and get into fights, are healthier overall and will not add to the terrible problem of pet overpopulation. Cost isn’t an excuse because low- or no-cost spaying and neutering services are available through local groups like AnimalSave. As for teaching your children about the miracle of birth, how about the tragedy of death as a roomful of unwanted puppies and kittens are euthanized? Better to get your kids a National Geographic video of animal births.

2. Adopt instead of buy

While there are many excellent and responsible animal breeders, there are also thousands of dogs and cats in shelters and pet rescue organizations who desperately need forever homes. As someone who’s now adopted three dogs from rescue organizations, I can say that an adopted animal is every bit as wonderful as one you paid for … plus, they seem to know somehow that you rescued them and become an even more loyal and loving companion.

3. Get regular vet checkups for your pets

In the old days, the only time you took your dog or cat to the vet was for a rabies shot or perhaps if they needed to be put down. Today, the same quality and quantity of care that exists for humans is available to our companion animals … but even if you’re not able to spend the equivalent of the family fortune on medically advanced treatments for your pet, you need to make sure it has an annual veterinary exam. Far from being a luxury, these checkups can help prevent diseases and potentially life-threatening conditions and are a big part of being a responsible pet owner.

4. Feed your pet the best food you can

There are people who maintain that it doesn’t really matter what you feed your pet and that the so-called “premium” foods aren’t worth the extra money. But next time you’re in the grocery store, take a look at the ingredient list on that bag of bargain-basement pet food. Chances are you’ll see the first ingredients are things like corn or soybean meal, wheat flour and animal by-products. Remember that the first five ingredients in a pet food are the most important, so look for animal proteins like salmon, chicken, beef, venison, etc. Don’t buy the most expensive pet food you can find but the best quality food you can afford. Your pet’s health will thank you for it.

5. Give your pet — especially your dog — daily exercise

Dogs are born to work and move, not lay around like couch potatoes … yet far too many of them have been forced to adopt our own sedentary lifestyle. The results can be problems like destructive behavior, excessive barking, over-excitability, digestive problems and, most troubling, obesity. Like many human Americans, obesity in our pets is reaching epidemic proportions, and the consequences are every bit as damaging. Heart and liver disease, joint problems and diabetes are among the most common problems that veterinarians see in overweight pets. There are dozens of ways to exercise your dog, but going for a simple walk is the easiest. See my August column, “The Great Outdoors,” for more exercise ideas.

And even though it’s not part of my list, here’s the most important thing you can resolve to do for your pet this year: love them!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her Golden Retriever Casey (hence, “Casey’s Corner”). You can reach Joan at And if you’re looking for a Golden, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.

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