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Donna Solomon, DVM Headshot

The Socially Responsible Pet

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I believe that everyone has the capacity to have a positive impact in their community. It may be as simple as offering a meal to someone who is hungry, teaching someone a new skill, or solving a problem that has perplexed society. I believe that your pet can be socially responsible as well.

Below is a list of eight inspiring activities that you and your pet can do together to positively impact your community.

1. Become involved in the Sit Stay Read program. In this fabulous program children read to friendly pets that are naturally nonjudgmental and loving. Children find this experience relaxing, fun, and confidence boosting while improving their reading skills. If your pet would like to be a listening volunteer please visit Sit Stay Read for more information.

2. Get involved with animal therapy and visit a nursing home. Stroking a dog's head or hugging a cat can be emotionally rewarding to elderly patients. Therapy dogs and cats can elicit positive responses from nursing home patients who have been otherwise non-responsive or withdrawn from humans. The funny antics of a dog and the purring charm of a cat can brighten the day of an elderly patient. If your pet does not have the temperment to be a therapy pet, you can volunteer your own time and team up with another owner and their pet. These organizations also visit hospitals, schools and are actively involved in numerous community supported projects and events. Please contact the following animal therapy groups for more information: Canine Therapy Corps, Chicago Cares, or Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy.

3. Volunteer at a shelter for abused women and children. Therapy dogs offer victims of abuse unconditional love and attention. The simple act of petting a dog frequently relaxes an abused person and allows them to begin sharing their stories and emotions with trained therapists. These dogs offer a pleasant distraction from reality and a friendly paw. For more information about this and other volunteer opportunities, contact Therapy Dogs International.

4. Be a mentor at Safe Humane Chicago Youth Leadership Program. This is a terrific program that you and your dog can get involved with in Chicago. In this program, high school students teach elementary and middle school students to respect and interact positively with dogs. As admired peers, these youth leaders can reach younger kids in a way most adult presenters cannot. Ultimately, this positive animal experience could lead to the end of animal abuse and the dog fighting culture that exists in our community. Please contact Safe Humane Chicago to learn how you can get involved with this outstanding organization.

5. Buy biodegradable poop bags and be environmentally friendly when it comes to picking up your dog's stool. Go to Poopbags.com to purchase bags and learn more biodegradable facts.

6. Reduce your cats' carbon paw print by using biodegradable litter for your socially responsible cats. I recently learned that clay litter is non-biodegradable and that over 2 million tons of non-biodegradable litter ends up in landfills every year. In addition, clay litter is a product of strip mining which destroys thousands of acres of land each year. Please use renewable resources for your cat litter, such as wheat, pine lumber scraps, corn bi-products, or recycled paper. These products are available at most pet stores.

7. Keep your cat inside. According to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute cats kill an estimated 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds per year.

8. Be a pet blood donor. Regrettably accidents happen or pets become ill and require blood transfusions. For dogs to be blood donors, they must be less than 7 years of age, healthy, neutered, and weigh over 50 pounds. Cats must be exclusively kept indoors, healthy, less than seven years of age, neutered, and weigh over ten pounds to be a blood donor. What a wonderful way to help another furry friend in need.

On Saturday, April 6 the Animal Medical Center of Chicago and Animal Emergency and Treatment Center are hosting a Dog and Cat Blood Drive Screening Event. On this day, prospective pet donors will be examined for free and a small sample of blood will be taken for a blood type screening test. Unfortunately, not all pets have the right blood type to be suitable donors. If you are interested in participating in this event, please contact Animal Medical Center of Chicago's Hospital Administrator Nick Anderson at 773.525.3353. Or, visit our News & Events page on our website for further details.

I believe pets are naturally socially conscious. Their very presence in our lives gives us much joy, happiness, and unwavering love. Expand your pet's horizon and widen their positive impact in your community. Be an agent of change and get involved in your pet friendly neighborhood.