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Dog-gone organized

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I RECEIVED A FUNNY piece of mail last week, addressed to my dog. It contained a picture of a dog and cat sleeping contentedly on a couch, with the message: “Beau, Could you possibly squeeze us into your busy schedule?” This was the vet’s clever reminder to update Beau’s vaccinations.

Our pets depend on us for most of their needs; vaccinations are just one of them. Being a responsible pet owner requires some basic organization for the care (feeding, grooming, exercise, training, care in your absence) and of the space that their stuff takes in your home. To keep those tails a-waggin’, here are some tips based on lessons learned in caring for our pets, ranging from guinea pig to bunny and from cat to dog.

Feed me
Whatever kind or size of pet you have, it’s important to keep the food sealed to protect freshness, and keep pests, including ants and rodents, out. I like the Pet Food Container from the Container Store. On casters, it holds 40 pounds (there’s a smaller version as well) of pet food. It’s clear, so it’s easy to see when food is running low. Keep a pre-measured cup or scoop inside and dinner is served. Be sure to keep the food where it’s easy (for the feeder) to access.

Recently friends gave me a plastic dog dish that accommodates both food and water. The food sits on top of a reservoir for the water. Another useful bowl is collapsible, which is great for car rides and hikes. After breaking a glass feeding bowl while traveling, these two bowls are a better alternative. One of my clients keeps her dog’s bowls on a tray, to catch the spills. Also, your dog will love having his bowls elevated to provide better digestion. Spiffy wrought iron or wooden bowl elevators are available, but you can do the same with a heavy box.

Pet central
Keep your pet’s things in one spot. A kitchen drawer, pantry shelf or laundry room cupboard works well for grooming aids such as brush, nail clippers, eye or ear drops, and toothbrush. Don’t forget to store any medications or flea/tick treatments here, and leave space for some treats.

When my girls were younger, it was normal to have toys strewn around. But we did have containers for the toys, for periodic pick-up before bed. Pet toys can be handled much the same. To avoid tripping over toys in the night, gather them into a basket before bedtime.

If you have a dog, this is a great opportunity to make a commitment to exercise yourself. Perhaps one of the most underrated forms of exercise, walking with your dog can be paws-itively rewarding.

Make it easy to go for a walk with your dog. Before we go for a walk, the routine is to grab the sunglasses, a house key, and a plastic grocery bag, all kept in Beau’s drawer. Next, we grab the leash off its hook outside the front door, and we’re off. If you walk at night, you’ll want a flashlight.

Even pets have papers
Keep a file with your pet’s very important papers: shot records, pedigree or bloodline, adoption, pet license, spay or neuter records, and records of illness or injury. My friend, Eileen, has health insurance for her dog, which has proved valuable with his multiple injuries. Also include resources for your pet, such as pet sitters and training. If you like to travel with your pet, file references for pet-friendly accommodations.

Pet pampering
Regular brushing of your pet’s coat will lesson hairballs and cleanup around the house, and it’s good for his health; regular brushing of your pet’s teeth will save bucks on teeth cleaning at the vet. Ask plenty of questions at vet appointments. If your vet doesn’t send a reminder, designate a certain month for his annual check up, for vaccinations at least. If you need to leash up your budget, your pet can see the vet technician for shots only.

A reader writes …
“Mary Lynne, after reading your column (9/13) I decided to share with you what I have done to keep commonly used telephone numbers handy. My family was constantly coming to me for a phone number of a family member or friend. I finally typed up a list of commonly used phone numbers and put a copy up by each phone in the house. I also shrunk the list down to a size that fits on the back of my cell phone since I have never taken the time to put all of these phone numbers in my cell-phone directory. I also took this miniature list and taped it to a piece of cardboard and gave it to my husband to carry in his wallet.

“I really do enjoy your column. I don’t always have to time to read them completely, but I always cut them out. As soon as I cut them out I put them in a folder labeled ‘Organizing.’ I am obsessive about organizing, but looking at my house you would never know. But the one thing that I have completely organized are all my books on how to get organized!”
— Virginia Palmer, Pleasant Hill