10 last minute (and free) gift ideas for your dogs and cats

In all of the holiday rush my cats quite often fall to the bottom of my gift list.  And yet they are constant in their love and attention throughout all of my holiday chores – helping edit our annual Christmas newsletter, wrapping gifts (and causing some re-wrapping), offering (frequently and volubly) to taste test holiday dishes and touching up the holiday decorations (who says ornaments weren’t meant to be spread across the floor versus hanging on the tree).

Take time amidst all of the rush of the holidays to do something special for your pets this holiday.  You can take advantage of 10 last minute (and free) gift ideas for your dogs and cats.

And for the new year, think of giving yourself or the pet parents in your life the gift of reflecting on what your pet has meant in your life.  Our pets enrich our lives in so many ways and like many gifts we often take for granted, time in reflection can help us realize the abundance they bring to our lives.

From all of us at Pathway Creations, we wish you the Happiest of Holidays!

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The Best Gift I Ever Gave . . .

I used to love making Christmas gifts for my family.  Everyone eventually received one of my signature velour robes.  And when my niece was little, I loved making dresses for her as well as a matching dress for her doll.

In 2001 as I was making out my Christmas gift list, it struck me that not one gift on my list  was handmade.  Life had gotten pretty complicated with children in high school and a job that had me on call 24/7.

And then it occurred to me that I could still give a personal gift.  I could write a special, personal letter to every member of my family.  Think of the moment in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when George Bailey realizes how he touched others lives and how different their lives might have been if he never existed.  That resonates within each of us and leaves us questioning, what type of impact have I made on others lives?

So for that Christmas, in each letter, I tried to tell each member of my family what impact they had on my life, what I admired most about them and how they had helped to shape my character and, at times, re-directed my path in life.  It was also a great opportunity to reflect back on my life, what I had accomplished and what I still wanted to achieve.  In every letters, the words flowed easily and each was very unique.

I intended that the letters would be read in private, not knowing how each person might respond to the content.  Believe it or not, I was so intent with sharing my thoughts that it hadn’t occurred to me to anticipate any feedback, I had just wanted to let them know what they had meant to me.  My mother actually made me rather uncomfortable by reading the letter the minute she opened it.  But the look on her face afterwards helped to offset any discomfort I felt.  The warmth of everyone’s response was rather overwhelming.

One year later we were celebrating our first Christmas without my father.  In August of 2002, during bypass surgery, the surgeon discovered lung cancer.  We found out later that had already spread to his liver.  After his surgery, he had only brief moments of lucidity and we were unable to hold a conversation with him.  He passed in October.

Afterwards, I reflected that I had not really left anything unsaid to Dad.  I felt I had told Dad how important he was to me, how I recognized his influence in my life and thanked him for the bits of his personality that were wrapped up in mine.

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It’s a Wonderful Life . . . When a Pet is in the Office!

Riley is hands down our best-loved employee.  Everyone’s face lights up when she walks in the door, she is friendly, never complains, works for treats and gives big, wet kisses when she greets you!  Riley is a four-year-old Vizsla who comes to work at Pathway Creations with her owner.

Studies and surveys have reported on the positive impact of having pets in the workplace.

I have to admit, my history in corporate management immediately caused me to cringe as I envisioned all of the issues that could arise with a pet in the workplace.   In spite of my concerns, our experience has been extremely positive.  What has made this easier is Riley was adopted from a rescue group and our employee has kept records of Riley’s personality and progress in socialization.  We had a high degree of confidence that Riley would fit well in our office environment.

One of our employees is allergic to dogs, she made clear that as long as she didn’t touch Riley she was fine with having Riley in the workplace.  She  enjoys the calming effect Riley has on everyone in the workplace. But, it really underscored the need to develop guidelines around having a pet in the workplace.

If you are considering dogs in your workplace, The Bark published some helpful suggestions for any company considering adapting a “dog friendly” policy.

  1. Start off with a dog-committee made up of dog owners and non-dog owners to draft a policy.
  2. Dogs must be friendly to human and other dogs.
  3. Make sure there are readily accessible outdoor areas for dog “breaks.”
  4. Follow a dog “hire” policy where a new dog is interviewed for acceptability into the workplace.
  5. Have a three strikes rule concerning behavioral breaches or human-non compliance (like not picking up after a dog), but if a dog displays aggressive behavior he/she must be removed from the office immediately.
  6. Some dogs might not be “ready” for the workplace, make sure the office environment is amenable to your dog too. Fearful and shy dogs might not flourish in a busy office.
  7. Basic training is a must and dogs should have a good social personality.
  8. If dogs are permitted in meeting rooms, make sure your dog is well-mannered and does not cause distractions.
  9. Curb barking and dogs should not be allowed to play with squeaky toys.
  10. Dogs should be housebroken and receives frequent breaks.
  11. Dogs should be clean, free of illness, and should be up on routine vaccinations and flea protection.
  12. Introduce a dog slowly into the workplace, and introduce a new dog to the current office dogs in a neutral area, perhaps while out for a walk and not in the office itself.
  13. Employees should sign a waiver and be responsible for any damage to equipment or other employees. Dogs should not chew on furniture, wiring, cords etc.
  14. Checks for signs of stress in a dog, signs include excessive panting, drooling, pinned-back ears, etc.
  15. Depending on the size and layout of the office, dogs can be leashed, and use of baby gates or crates can also be considered.
  16. Consider a dog-free zone for employees who might have allergies or who are frightened of dogs.

One of our employees who previously worked in sales had called on businesses that allowed dogs.  He noted that he consistently observed a calmer, more welcoming environment when dogs were present.  Isn’t that something to consider for your workplace?

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Cold Weather Tips for Your Pets

Many years ago my brother worked at a full service gas station while attending college.  A couple traveling cross country stopped at the station and asked him to check their oil levels.  Imagine his surprise when he opened the hood of the car and found a darling (and unharmed!) kitten sitting on top of the engine.

The couple had no clue where they had picked up the feline stowaway but since it was December and cold they surmised that the kitten had gotten there during the night in an attempt to keep warm.

When the weather turns cold, pet parents need to take extra precautions to keep their pets safe.   The following guidelines from the ASPCA will help you protect your companion animals when the mercury dips.

  1. Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.
  2. During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
  3. Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.
  4. Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
  5. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
  6. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
  7. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
  8. Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him, and his fur, in tip-top shape.
  9. Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center more information.
  10. Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

© 2012 ASPCA. All Rights Reserved.

your winter pet photos

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Unconditional Love

John Unger and his dog Schoep float in the warm July waters of Lake Superior.  Unger was providing water therapy for Schoep’s arthritis.  The photo was taken by Hannah Stonehouse Hudson of Stonehouse Photography.

I ran across this photo over the weekend and had to find out more about it, talk about the true picture of unconditional love and trust!

John Unger’s dog Schoep, a shepherd mix, is 19 years old and was diagnosed with severe arthritis this summer.  Unger was told that he might have to put Schoep down.  Determined to alleviate his dog’s pain, Unger took Schoep to one of their regular spots – Lake Superior.  Aware that water therapy helps people suffering from arthritis, Unger hoped to do the same for Schoep.  This summer the waters of Lake Superior were warmer than average and Unger thought that letting Schoep float in the water would alleviate the pain of putting weight on his arthritic joints.

With the thought that Schoep may not be with him much longer, Unger asked a friend Hannah Stonehouse Hudson to snap some special pictures of the two of them during water therapy.  When Stonehouse Hudson posted this picture to Facebook – it created an unexpected sensation.  Complete strangers reached out to help, one woman paid for laser therapy on Schoep’s joints.  At one point when Unger took Schoep for an appointment his vet showed him all of the donations pouring in to help Schoep with his joint pain.

Unger has started a not-for-profit, Schoep’s Legacy Foundation, to improve animal and human welfare.  His goal is to help other pet owners gain access to treatment for their pets that they might otherwise not be able to afford.

If you’re interested in tracking John and Schoep you can check their Facebook page.  On their Facebook page you will also find links to their website if you’re interested in donating to their charity.


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Are You Prepared to Evacuate Your Pets?

I will never forget standing outside one Christmas evening as smoke poured from our neighbors home.  All of the human inhabitants of the house had made it out safely and the fire department quickly had the fire under control.  And soon we were relieved to see one of their cats being carried out by a fire fighter holding an oxygen mask over it’s face looking very frightened but OK.  Their second cat then bolted out of the front door and into the dark night (it was soon located by another neighbor).  Both cats survived the experience with no long term issues.

But, it reminded me that while we had walked our children through what to do in case of a fire we hadn’t discussed as a family how we would deal with our five cats.

To prepare for a fire emergency make sure you have leashes and/or carriers on hand for each animal in the household.  If you have to take your pet to a temporary shelter, they may not accept animals without a carrier.

You should have pet emergency kit:  it should include a bag of food, bottled water and a portable crate for small pets and a leash for large dogs. A cat owner’s emergency kit should include a litter box and litter.

Place a sticker notifying emergency personnel that you have animals in the house.  You can purchase those at pet stores or get a free pet safety kit one through the ASPCA.  Make sure you note the type of pets and number.

Many fire departments carry pet sized oxygen masks in their trucks to treat pets for smoke inhalation.

Prepare in advance by checking which hotels in your area are pet friendly.  Some sites to use in your research:

Your emergency plan it should take into consideration the layout of your home and the number of pets you would need to evacuate.  Walk the family through the different escape routes, this can help you locate the pet emergency kits in the most optimal place.

If you have a home security system that’s monitored, check to see if you can add fire and smoke monitoring.  We have a neighbor who works from home on the list to notify in case of a fire or smoke alarm.  She is prepared to help evacuate our cats, we also make sure she is aware when we are out of town and our pet sitter is watching the cats.

As with any emergency plan, you hope you never use it.  But a little bit of planning could make all the difference in evacuating your beloved pets safely!


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Interviewing Our Loved Ones

Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to capture stories about our loved ones lives.  This year my father-in-law told me about his training as a paratrooper in the Army and what it was like the first time he did a live jump from a plane.  I quickly noted some of the key information; it was a great story to capture for my stepdaughters.

This incident rekindled my desire to put together a book of our parents’ stories.  It’s especially important right now because my mother is struggling with memory issues and I want to capture the stories while she is still able to tell them.

Earlier this month I heard Mary LoVerde speak at New Bo Books (a wonderful, independently owned book store in the New Bo district in Cedar Rapids).  LoVerde wrote a book, “Touching Tomorrow” outlining the process of capturing family interviews on video or audio.  She states in her introduction that the greatest gift knowing our family stories brings is a sense of belonging, of knowing who our family is.

The book is a very helpful guide with many great tips on how to set ground rules for the interviews.  LoVerde surveyed hundreds of people about the questions they wanted to ask their parents and shares those in the book.  LoVerde recommends the interviewer spend some time with the interviewees before starting the camera or recorder.  Get them to tell a story or joke and reassure them this is all you are asking for.

Here are some tips she shares for the interviewer:

  1. Listen, wait and be patient.  Don’t worry if this doesn’t look or sound like a network special.  What appears to be a mistake will seem charming a few years from now.
  2. Let the video recorder do the work. All you have to do is have fun.
  3. As you interview, offer encouragement.  The stories will illustrate courage, strength and hope.  She does recommend having a box of tissues and a glass of water handy.
  4. Make the setting inviting. Ask the interviewee to sit in their favorite chair.  Use photos, mementos, scrapbooks or old letters to put them at ease.
  5. Make it conversational.  Forget the camera or microphone and just talk like you always do.  Make eye contact.  Laugh.

“Touching Tomorrow” is a great resource for anyone who wants guidance on the process of the interview or what to ask.  And the holidays are a perfect time to carve out time for interviews with loved ones or to at least discuss the idea and create a plan for the interviews.

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How Can You Help a Rescue Pet?

It’s a week after exhibiting our journals at The Chicago Pet Show and I still can’t get the thought of all of the beautiful animals who are in need of a good home out of my mind.  Like these pictured above from the Collie Rescue of Greater Illinois.

If you’re like me, you want to take one (or more) of these animals home or negotiate with friends and family members.  There are many marvelous people who are gifted at fostering animals and managing a higher population of animals in their household.  It’s something I did in my earlier years, but I know that I’m at my pet population limit at this point in life.

A friend of mine went through this same internal debate when she rescued a litter of abandoned kittens.  She took then to Safe Journey Rescue and then struggled with whether she should adopt at least one kitten.  But she has a multiple cat household already and questioned if this was the responsible step to take.  She has decided not to adopt a new kitten at this point.

So, what action can we take?  For now my friend and I have decided to volunteer at the cat rescue, helping with cleaning, socializing the kittens and spending time with the older cats.  We will help get the word out about the older cats and kittens up for adoption.

If you struggle with a sense of despair at the sheer number of animals needing a good home but know that you’re not able to adopt then please consider what action you can take.   Volunteer to clean, promote information on what animals are up for adoption, walk dogs or help to fund raise.  You can responsibly share the love!

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See Us at The Chicago Pet Show, November 10th and 11th

Plan to attend the 2012 Chicago Pet Show on Nov. 10-11 at the Kane County Fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles. Pathway Creations will be selling their Cat Journals, Dog Journals and Tag-A-Long Lapel Pins at booth #917.

The primary goal of the Chicago Pet Show is to assist Rescues, Shelters and Humane Societies through the promotion of adoptions and foster care to help overburdened organizations. The Show’s utmost goal is 200 adoption and foster care applicants for Charities to save pet’s lives. In 2011, Chicago Pet Show was able to achieve over 100 adoptions, and in 2012 they would like to exceed it.

Another benefit to participating Non-Profits (Rescues, Shelters and Humane Societies) is revenue sharing with the show, helping organizations financially, where other shows have a draw back. 50% of each admission goes to the participating rescues.  Show Coordinator, Peggy Ruh states, “Animals are the main reason people attend. Yet, the pets and the organizations that bring them receive nothing. That seems wrong.”

Admission to the show is $7.00, you can save $1 off admission by bringing the discount coupon below. Fifty percent of the proceeds from admissions are shared with the charities at the show.

Come To The Chicago Pet Show And Support Us!

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Check us out!

Welcome to Pathway Creations.  We’re all about celebrating the important people, pets and events in your life!

Our products are themed journals which we describe as “guided journals” to prompt you on capturing the thoughts and happenings in your life.  There are plenty of additional blank pages in each journal for photos and memorabilia.

We know that life is very busy but we all value having the ability to enjoy our experiences and memories by keeping records of the important details of our lives and relationships!

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