Thursday, January 10, 2013

My New Year's Goals

So I don't do resolutions. They're too easy to break. Most years I don't even acknowledge the resolution trend, but this year I did feel the need to make some changes. So I set some goals for myself. The word goal seems more real to me than resolution, like something that can be done, instead of a broad idea that everyone expects you to forget by February.

So, what goals did I set for myself last week? They have to do with my housekeeping abilities (or lack thereof).  My house is a wreck. Don't get me wrong, it's not like an episode of hoarders or anything, but I wouldn't exactly invite friends over for a visit either. I have several reasons for the shape my house is in. Both Sam and I work full time, it's hard to clean with an almost 4-year-old making messes as you're cleaning, etc. But basically it comes down to the fact that I don't really like to clean. I know how, and once I get started I do a halfway decent job, but it's the "getting started" that stops me. When I look at everything that needs to be cleaned, I get overwhelmed, so I just don't start. Oh, we keep up with laundry, and the dishes get done everyday, and we don't let the bathroom get too disgusting, but dusting and vacuuming - that doesn't occur very often. And there is clutter everywhere. We eat most meals on TV trays in the living room because there's an avalanche of mail on the kitchen table. Toys don't really have a designated spot, they just get shoved to the corners and walls of the living room when they're not being used.

So, I'm tired of it. Everyone's allergies have been acting up this year, partly due to the increased outdoor allergens, but quite a lot of it is probably due to the buildup of dust and animal hair in our house. I want to be able to eat dinner together at the table without worrying if that pile of magazines is going to fall on us. I want to be able to walk from the bedroom, through the living room, to the kitchen without stepping on toys. And I don't want my husband's allergies to start acting up just because he walked in the front door.

Also, we eat too much take-out food. I actually like to cook, but I don't do it much. Mostly because of lack of planning. If I don't have a plan for dinner one of us just picks up fast food on the way home from work. And it's not usually healthy food. Plus it's not good for our budget. So, my goal for the month of January was to make three home-cooked meals a week, with enough leftover for lunches.

So goals are great, to begin with, but sometimes it's hard to follow through if you're all on your own. So I shared my goals with some ladies to keep me accountable. I'm using two different websites to help me with meal planning. Food on the table lets me know what's on sale at my local grocery store, and suggests meals to make based on those foods. Plus it automatically builds a shopping list based on the meals I choose. There's an app for my iPhone, so I can access it right at the store to make sure I have all the right ingredients. Plan to eat is a great site that helps me plan ahead. I can store my recipes there and drag them to specific days of the week. This way I can plan ahead and know what meals I need to shop for. So far in the last week we've only had takeout one night, and we've each only eaten lunch out 1 time!

Cleaning was a little more daunting of a goal. I really just didn't know where to start. Then, one of my accountability ladies suggested a website that might help. FlyLady has all sorts of suggestions for cleaning. And (this is the best part) they're broken down into small, daily chunks. The first step is cleaning your sink till it shines. Then the daily tasks are things like dusting the corners and light fixture in the dining room, throwing out old food in the fridge and quickly wiping down the shelves (just sliding things over, not removing everything), wiping down the front door and cleaning the entrance-way - things that are easy to do in just a few minutes. Along with 15 minutes of decluttering an area everyday, and making sure to wash dishes as they are dirtied and keeping your sink empty and clean, these little bursts of cleaning are really making a difference in my house! I have reclaimed 3/4 of our kitchen table, my fridge shelves are clean for the first time in 2 years, and my kitchen sink looks fabulous!

These victories have enabled me to tackle bigger jobs when I've had more time to do things. Last Thursday (my off day) I dropped T-man off at daycare, picked up my aunt and uncle's carpet cleaner, and cleaned the carpet in several rooms that had been peed on by various foster animals the past few months. I had spot cleaned it with my little SpotBot cleaner, but it really needed a power cleaning (especially the spare room where our foster cat had avoided the litter box during the holidays due to a bladder infection I didn't know about right away). This past Sunday I sent the boys to Sam's mom's house for the afternoon, and I got all the inside Christmas decorations taken down and stored in the attic.

So, today's tasks include wiping down the counter-tops and shopping for ingredients for the meals for this next week. Our planned meals include Unsloppy Joes, easy southwestern BBQ chicken legs, Mexican chicken tortilla rollups, and sweet and sour crock pot pork steaks. And I hope to have my kitchen table cleared off by the end of the weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Aging Pets and Fall Weather


It’s officially fall. The leaves are changing, the air is getting colder, and the days are getting shorter. This is a great time of year, but it is also when I see a lot of my older patients come in for age related conditions.

One of the most common problems I see older pets for is arthritis. Just like people, pets get arthritis in their joints. Often times people think their animals are just “slowing down” as they get older, but in reality it’s usually arthritis that is slowing them down. I see older pets this time of year because the cooler weather makes arthritic joints hurt more than usual. Fortunately there are many things you can do to help your pets deal with arthritis.

First of all, visit your vet. Your pet needs a physical exam to make sure there isn’t something else causing the pain, like an injury or tumor of some kind. Then they will do blood work to make sure your pet is healthy enough for arthritis medicine. The most common way to treat arthritis is using non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). People NSAIDs include aspirin, Advil, and Aleve. But human NSAIDs cause stomach ulcers and bleeding disorders in dogs and cats. NEVER give your pet medicine without first consulting your vet. Years of research and millions of dollars have provided us with several pet safe NSAIDs that we can use to help our pets without hurting them. Dogs and cats are very still very sensitive to these meds, and they can’t be mixed together. If a pet is on one of these drugs, they can’t be given a second type of NSAID or a steroid, because they will interact and cause GI ulcers and/or bleeding disorders. So, leave the pharmacy decisions to your vet, and don’t change or mix meds on your own.

The second most important thing in treating arthritis is weight control. I see so many overweight pets. Carrying around all that extra weight really takes a toll on those joints. Studies have shown that keeping a dog slightly underweight can delay the need for arthritis meds 1-2 years compared to a dog who is at an normal weight or is overweight for most of its life. So, if your pet is overweight, decrease their food by 20-25% and increase their exercise to help burn those calories. If you’re having trouble getting weight off of a dog, ask your vet if you need to test for hypothyroidism. Most of the time my patients are just fat, but sometimes they have decreased levels of thyroid and need to be on supplementation. Other signs of hypothyroidism are lethargy, skin irritation, and a droopy look to the face.

There are several other supplemental medications that can help with arthritis. Nutritional supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help keep joints healthy. Omega 3 fatty acids are also important for healthy joints, and in addition they help with skin, kidney, heart, and brain health. There are also injections called Adequan your vet can give them to help keep the cartilage health.

Another age related change I sometimes see is Canine Cognitive Disorder. Basically this is doggy Alzheimer’s. Signs of CCD include barking at people they usually like, not being able to settle down at night, getting lost in familiar surroundings (like the living room), and forgetting that they’re house trained. CCD is hard to diagnose, because there’s not an actual test for it. First your vet will run blood work to make sure there’s not an underlying medical condition causing these symptoms. Arthritis pain can also cause dogs to be irritable, have trouble getting comfortable to sleep, and have trouble making it outside to use the bathroom. If you’ve ruled out or treated any other conditions and you’re still seeing signs of CCD, the next step is trying treatment to see if they improve. Again, there is no definitive treatment for this disorder, but there are things you can do to improve your pet’s quality of life. Medicine, like a drug called selegiline, can be used to lessen the symptoms. Melatonin supplements may be able to help your dog settle down at night. Proper exercise can also help, as can limiting stressful situations that might trigger confusion.

Other common, though not age related, problems I see when fall weather hits are allergies and bladder infections. The fall pollens can trigger ear infections and foot licking. If you see evidence of increased itchiness in your pet contact your vet to see if you can use over the counter antihistamines or if they recommend an exam to look for signs of infection. Bladder infections are more common this time of year because of the colder, drier air. Pets don’t drink as much water when it’s not so hot, so they don’t empty their bladder as often. The decreased humidity adds to the tendency to become dehydrated, and the two factors can lead to urine that is more concentrated and stagnant. Signs of a bladder infection include urinating in the house (or not in the litter box for cats), pain when urinating, urinating small amounts frequently, and blood in the urine. Not all pets show all these signs, so if you think your pet may have a bladder infection schedule a visit to the vet right away. They will collect a urine sample and see if your pet needs to be on antibiotics.

Fall is beautiful, but it brings its own set of medical problems. Enjoy this wonderful season, but keep your pets safe and healthy!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Planning for your pet

So this month's theme is spontaneity, but instead we're going to discuss the opposite. Because sometimes spontaneity in pets isn't such a good thing. When they spontaneously run into the path of an oncoming car, when they spontaneously develop cancer or another debilitating disease, or when your kids spontaneously bring home a kitten from the litter the stray cat had - not so good. So, let's talk about planning ahead.

For starters, you need a plan when you get a new pet. Puppies and kittens need multiple vet visits their first few months to keep them healthy and up to date on their vaccines. They need more intense training than older dogs usually, and are more likely to have accidents in the house and chew up things that aren't toys. If you are gone 10 hours of the day and have expensive rugs and shoes, you might want to rescue a pet that's already been trained and is past that stage. If you have lots of time to dote on your new pet and have the patience and room for training, than by all means go for the younger animal. If you live in a tiny apartment don't go for the Great Dane, try the small mixed breed or an adult cat instead. Plan ahead and know what you're looking for before you go to the shelter and fall in love with the first thing you see (because you will).

Then plan ahead for their wellness visits. Just like people, pets need regular medical care. They need vaccinations every year, they need heartworm, flea, and tick prevention, and some of them need grooming on a regular basis. Don't let that slip up on you. Schedule your vet and groomer visits a few weeks in advance and then put it on your calendar or have your phone alert you so you don't miss the appointment. Make sure you have plenty of parasite prevention and don't run out, because it is much easier to prevent these parasites than treat them once they've arrived.

Plan on how you will pay for your pet and their continued care. Pet insurance is an up and coming business. The best time to purchase pet insurance is when you first get your pet. Most likely that's when your rate will be the lowest. You want to get a plan in place before you have an illness or injury occur. There are several pet insurance companies, and no one company is right for everyone. Just like with car or home owner's insurance, shop around and find the right plan for you. Ask your vet for their opinion. Most of the time you still have to pay your vet up front, submit the bill, and then wait for a reimbursement from your insurance company. Some of the plans have exclusions, so be sure to read the fine print and ask questions before you sign anything. The company I am currently recommending is Trupanion Pet Insurance. But again, no one company is best for everyone, so do some research and find the plan that works best for you.

Lastly, how do you emotionally plan for unexpected injuries or illnesses? To be honest, it's hard. You don't want to think about that ever happening. But the reality is that it will, at some point. We need to prepare ourselves and our kids that our pets will eventually leave us. Talk to your kids about any illnesses your pets may have, so they understand what's happening. Be honest with them, don't try to hide the truth. Kids are very perceptive and surprisingly receptive. When I was in grade school my mom read me a book about a child who had a cat who got sick and eventually died. We cried together as we read it, thinking about how someday that would be us and our cat. When we read the Little House books we cried when Jack died (and named our next car after him). Both of those books helped me be prepared when our cat was sick and had to be euthanized. I knew that it was ok to be sad, and I was better prepared to deal with my emotions.

So plan ahead for your pet's well-being. Reserve your spontaneity for tug-o-war battles, racing around the back yard, and special treats brought home from the pet store!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-fil-a, gay marriage, and Christianity

I'm confused, and somewhat annoyed, about this whole Chick-fil-a fiasco that the news, and social media, have created.

How does eating a chicken sandwich suddenly become a political stance? Why on earth are we focused on a fast food chain instead of on the government officials who actually have the power to grant or deny the right to marry? If I chose to indulge in a yummy milkshake from this restaurant am I insulting my homosexual friends? If I don't buy food from this restaurant does that mean I'm no longer a Christian?


This is crazy.

Chick-fil-a is run by Christians. Christians, in general, believe that homosexuality is a sin. They believe that allowing homosexuals to get married will degrade the value of marriage. So, in general, Christians are opposed to allowing homosexuals to get married. So, why is anyone surprised to find out that the people who run Chick-fil-a are opposed to gay marriage? Seriously, this caught people by surprise?

Let me start at the beginning. I support gay marriage. I support gay people.

Wait, let me go farther back.

I am a Christian. I believe in the Bible. I believe that God loves people, all people, and that he sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of people, all people. I know what the Bible says about homosexuality. I also know that it says a whole lot more about love. When Jesus was on this earth he didn't spend all his time trying to stop homosexuality. He showed the love of the Father to people who needed it, regardless of their background.

Most Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin. That is not what I'm debating right now. I'm debating the right of a person to be legally married to the person they love.

So, my question to those people who believe gay people shouldn't get married because they're living in sin is this: what about the other sinners who get married? Adultery is a sin. Theft is a sin. Murder is a sin. Physical abuse is a sin. People who do those sins get married all the time. But I don't see petitions to keep them from getting married.

People say they're opposed to gay marriage because it corrupts the sanctity of marriage. What about people who get married for the wrong reasons? What about people who don't marry for love? Or who marry and then get divorced right away? Doesn't that corrupt the sanctity of marriage too? Why doesn't that invoke the same outrage?

Why this issue? Why is this particular group of people being singled out? Why are heterosexuals who are sinners and don't respect the true meaning of marriage allowed to get married, but monogamous gay couples who love and are committed to each other have to jump through hoops to be able to be legally married? Seriously, I really don't understand.

I believe that if two people love each other, are committed to their marriage for the long term, understand the risks and benefits that marriage can involve, and want to be married then it should be their right. The marriage of two men or two women does not void the value of a marriage between a man and a woman. Allowing gay couples to reap the financial and emotional benefits of being legally married will not decrease the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. That's already been done by heterosexuals.

So, about this chicken sandwich mess. Will I boycott? No. Will I increase my purchases there? No. I didn't change my McDonald's eating habits a while back when it was "revealed" that they supported gay rights. I don't make my political stance with my lunch. Do I agree with the Chick-fil-a president's stance on gay marriage? No, not at all. But I also don't think that every single employee who works for that company is against gay marriage. I don't believe that they would refuse service to a gay couple. And I believe that they probably do support some good programs with their corporate money - environmental stewardship, programs for children, overseas ministries, etc.

Does the fate of marriage in the United States of America rest on the shoulders of a fast food chain? I'm pretty sure it doesn't. Do we still have discrimination, hate, and fear plaguing our society. Definitely.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pet Heroes

Many little kids think that their pets are superheros. They comfort them when they're sad, they play with them when they're lonely, they eat unwanted vegetables when Mom's not looking, and they make a pretty good pillow and snuggle buddy when it's time to sleep. But our pets really can be heroes for our kids sometimes.

Researchers have shown that kids who are raised with animals tend to be healthier than those who do not grow up with animals. Children who are exposed to dogs especially have fewer respiratory and ear infections than those who only have occasional exposure. Exposure to cats can also be beneficial, but the research showed the highest health benefits in infants who were around dogs on a daily basis.

Our pets can also be real heroes when there's an emergency. There are stories about pets waking their owners during a fire, barking and alerting neighbors if their owner has collapsed, pulling kids out of water, fighting off snakes or other dangerous animals, and protecting owners from intruders. There are also numerous types of therapy pets who help with physical and emotional disabilities as well as alerting their owners to seizures and other medical issues. Our pets truly can be our heroes.

So, we need to be our pets' heroes. Make sure they are up to date on the vaccines they need. Not every dog or cat needs every vaccine that's out there. Talk to your veterinarian and see what vaccines your pet needs and how often they need them. Take your pet in for regular visits. I recommend exams every 6 months to catch problems before they get too big. Dogs and cats don't tell us how they're feeling, and they're very good at hiding symptoms. Having a physical exam twice a year can really help stay on top of things. We monitor things like weight loss or gain, dental health, and mobility during the exam. We also listen for heart murmurs and unusual lung sounds and feel for changes in abdominal organs that may point to health problems that haven't yet become obviously apparent. Yearly blood work can also help to catch serious problems before they even start showing signs. It's a good idea to do blood work once a year on any animal, but I especially recommend it for older animals. Depending on the breed that may mean as early as 6 years old.
There are plenty of things you can do at home to take better care of your animal too. Make sure your pet is on the proper parasite control. Both dogs and cats can get heartworms from mosquito bites and they can pick up fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites from grass in the yard. Run your hand over your animal's body often to look for lumps, bumps, or balding areas. If you find anything unusual make an appointment right away - catching these things when they're small can really make a difference in treatment and outcome. Make sure you're feeding your pets a healthy diet and don't give them people food. People food can cause stomach and intestinal irritation in dogs and cats, and that can lead to things like pancreatitis. Monitor how much your pet is drinking and urinating. There are several medical conditions where the first sign is increased thirst or increased urination. This could be as simple as a bladder infection or as serious as diabetes or kidney failure.

The easiest thing you can do is spend time with your pet. Include them in activities with your kids. Go on walks, throw balls around the yard, snuggle on the couch together while watching TV. The emotional support you can give each other is wonderful. Kids and adults are healthier when they spend time every day playing with an animal. It also give you more chances to catch things like arthritis, weight changes, and skin changes early on. So be your pet's hero, and let them be yours.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Beat the Heat

It's Hot! It's officially summertime here in the US, and for most of us it's gotten pretty hot. Down here in Alabama it's gotten over 100 already, and the humidity is quite oppressive. This time of year we really need to be careful about how much time our kids and our pets spend outside.

Every year there are stories about kids or pets who were left in cars during the summer. It gets hot quickly inside a car, even with the windows down. Anytime it gets over 70 degrees outside it can become too hot inside a vehicle. So don't leave your little ones (2 or 4 legged) in the car unless the air conditioning is running. It's best not to leave them at all, but certainly don't leave them alone without any air. Make sure that vacant cars are locked so kids (or pets) can't climb in and get stuck inside.

Heat stroke is something we see every summer at the vet. That's what happens when an animal's body temperature gets too high. It happens most in dark colored animals or in those with shortened noses, like bulldogs and pugs, but it can happen to all pets. Cats and dogs can't sweat very much. They only have sweat glands in their feet. The only way they can cool down is to pant, which releases hot air from the body in the hopes that the incoming breath will bring cooler air. When the air is really hot or humid, that cooling mechanism breaks down and the animal overheats. Their normal body temperature should be around 100-102, but with heat stroke we often see it between 105-109. These temperatures will cause organ breakdown very quickly. If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, take them to the vet right away. On the way there, cool them down with wet towels soaked in cool water - do not use ice or ice water. Take a rectal temperature if possible so you can tell the vet how high their temp was before cooling was started. Direct fan vents to blow over the animal. If they are awake and alert they can drink water, but do not force it down their throat if they can't drink on their own. Call ahead to let your vet know that you are coming, so they can have an area prepared to continue to cool down your pet and get IV fluids running to get them rehydrated. I have lost several patients to heat stroke over the last few summers, and it's heartbreaking. Most of these cases present during the hot part of the day, but I've seen patients who overheated on early morning walks just because of the high humidity. So please, please be careful. If you're outside with your pet, and you're sweating, it's probably too hot for your pet. Make sure they're drinking plenty of water and have plenty of shade to cool down. Check out for more information.

We all know the dangers of sunburn for people, but pets can get sunburned also. Light colored animals can burn if they stay in the direct sunlight for too long. The main problem though is melanoma. This can affect any animal, but is seen often in white dogs and cats who like to sunbathe. You can buy pet friendly sunscreens at most pet stores. If you see an unusual spot on a light colored area of skin, have the vet check it out. Not all spots are bad, but it's hard to tell which ones are which.

Enjoy the weather with your 2 and 4 legged kids this summer. Stay safe, use caution, and keep everyone cool!

Monday, June 11, 2012


Yesterday was all about timing, and the timing was a little off. But somehow it worked itself out.

Tommy usually wakes up around 6:30-7ish. Sunday is my only morning to sleep in a little. So, yesterday he woke up at 5:15 with a soaked through diaper and didn't go back to sleep. Timing issue #1.

So we took turns getting him food and milk while he watched TV until it was finally time to actually get up and get ready for church. After church we ate lunch and then got ready to go visit Sam's mom. We had a good visit and headed home around 4pm.

Tommy never naps at home anymore. Even if he falls asleep in the car he wakes up when we get home. Yesterday he fell asleep in the car and didn't wake up when we got home. Timing issue #2. I transferred him to his bed and fully expected him to wake up before too long. At 6:30 I decided he'd napped long enough and should probably wake up so he could eat supper and have a bath before his actual bedtime. He disagreed. So I held him while I bounced and rocked back and forth on my feet until he went back to sleep, then laid him down in his bed and covered him back up. (Let me tell you, it's much more difficult to hold a 35.5 pound 39 inch long toddler over your shoulder and bounce him back to sleep than it is to hold the same child when they're a baby.)  So I fully expected him to stay asleep, but 1 hour later he was fully awake and quite happy to get up and eat supper. What a difference that hour made! We all ate dinner, he got his bath (which had been desperately needed), and then it was time for him to go back to bed. He acted sleepy, wanted me to read his books in bed instead of sitting in his chair, and didn't protest when I said goodnight and left his room.

So I figured he was good to go. But when I was cleaning the kitchen at 10:00 I heard his bed creaking. I went in to check on him, and he was still awake! Timing issue #3. So, I got him a drink and restarted his bedtime cd. This time it worked. When I went back in 30 minutes later he was snoring. And he slept through the night and didn't wake up till 6:20 this morning.

So, this morning we're all a little tired, but we're on our regular schedule again. Let's hope today's timing is much more predictable.

Friday, April 6, 2012

It happens every spring...

Last summer I wrote a post for MCG called It Happens Every Summer. Since spring in Alabama is like summer back home, it would be appropriate to revisit this post at this time.

So.....go read my post. And feel free to leave comments. I love comments. MCG loves comments. And read some other articles while you're there. Then like them and share them on facebook.

No, really. Go. Right now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Things I do

So, I had planned this post to be a quick follow up to Things I don't do, but it's taken a bit longer to get back around to this subject. So, without further ado (and since I know you've all been waiting impatiently for it) here is my Things I Do list:

1. Let Tommy watch TV - It's usually Disney or PBS and is somewhat educational. But I don't limit it to just 30 minutes a day. Maybe I should, but I really don't think it's frying his brain. Seriously, he's 3 and he's already spelling and reading - and some of that came from watching WordWorld on PBS everynight before bed. I think his brain is fine. He gets plenty of physical exercise too, so we're all good.

2. Wash dishes 2-3 times a day - Seriously, how do 3 people make so many dishes? I do hate to clean, but I can't stand letting a sink-full of dirty dishes sit there.

3. Let the animals sleep on the bed - I'm cold, they're warm, enough said. Plus, you try kicking 3 cats and a dog off in the middle of the night.

4. Let the dog on the couch - We actually bought the couch in a color to match his hair. We all have our own chairs, and rarely ever sit on the couch. The couch is his. We do clean the hair off and febreeze it when we're having company over, but otherwise it's his.

5. Sing along to the radio - Loudly. Mostly in key. It makes me happy. Unfortunately it doesn't usually make Tommy happy. Sometimes he tells me "Stop singing, Mommy!" Sigh :(

6. Dance in surgery - We always have the radio playing when we're doing surgery. Sometimes a good song comes on and I have to move around a little. I never compromise my patient or surgical field, but sometimes you just have to boogie!

7. Let Tommy use me like a jungle gym - Who needs exercise classes when you've got a toddler? We chase each other, he crashes into me, he climbs my back, I hold his hands while he walks up my legs and flips over, he leaps off his bed into my arms. My muscles are in great shape, but my joints didn't used to make these noises...

8. Skip meals - Somestimes I just get busy and forget. If Sam's home I'll make a meal for the 2 of us, but if it's just me and Tommy I'll usually feed him and then get busy and just snack. I'm better than I used to be, but sometimes I'll still look up at 2pm and wonder if I ate breakfast or lunch that day.

9. Avoid confrontations - Like the plague. I hate to make people upset. Especially upset at me. So I try to fix problems without actually talking to people about them. No, it doesn't work that well. And I'm trying to get better about getting things out in the open. But old habits (fears?) die hard.

10. Speak sarcasm as a second (sometimes first) language - What, you mean everyone doesn't? So, you expect me to NOT be sarcastic? Right, that's going to happen. Good luck with that.

11. Read fast. Like 1-2 books a day. May God bless whoever invented Kindle and the Kindle app.

12. Procastinate - Um, did you see how long it took me to write this follow up post?

13. Love my iPhone - Seriously, what did I do without this thing? It's a phone, a calculator, a flashlight, a computer, a child entertainer, an alarm clock, a book, a child entertainer, a map, a game device, a child entertainer (oh, did I say that one already?).

14. Have an iPhone for my 3 year old - Technically, it's more of an iPod touch. It's Sam's old phone, and it's not connected to phone service or the internet. And it's only got kid apps on it. And it's in this fancy Fisher Price iPhone holder. And he loves it. He doesn't use it every day, sometimes he'll go days without us giving it to him. But if he's really cranky, or if we need him to sit still at a restaurant or in the car, it's a lifesaver. And it's pretty amazing to watch a 3 year old navigate that thing.

So those are some of the things I do that most of you may not have known about. I hope you know me just a little bit better now :)

Organizing your pet's information

Do you know when your cat is due for her next vaccines? Do you know the name and dose of your dog's allergy medication? Do both you and your spouse know the name of your pet's flea and heartworm prevention?

Most of the time my clients don't remember everything about their animal's health. I often have owners call in to refill "the pink pill" or "the flea stuff with the dalmatian on the box" or "the food with the orange label."

So, I recommend making a pet information file. It helps you, the owner, stay on top of your pet's information, and it's also great if there's an emergency and you need someone else to take care of your pets for a while. The file should be organized and easy to find in your house. A folder with all your receipts from the past 10 years of vet visits will not be too helpful if your pet sitter needs to find out when your cat had it's last rabies vaccine if a bat gets in while you're out of town.

The first page should have your name, and the name of any other people your pet's account may be under at the vet. Many times a pet lives at one house, but is under someone else's name (parent, fiancée, sibling, etc) at the vet. Also, list any alternate names for the pet. Many times I'll have a chart on a pet with one name, and the owner calls to see if "Smoochie" is ready to go. I don't know who Smoochie is, since the name on my chart was "Sir Charles of Windsor and London-town."

Next, have a sheet for each of your pets with medical conditions and treatments. At the top have a list of current medications including doses and how often they're given. If you get them filled at a pharmacy instead of at your vet, have that pharmacy's info and the prescription number if you have one. Also list any special food that they're on, how much they eat, and where to buy it. Then, list any current medical conditions that would need to be monitored if the pet was in the care of someone else. This includes allergies, diabetes, kidney or liver problems, pancreatitis or sensitivities to food, heartworm disease, behavior problems, etc. Be sure to list any past surgeries or other anesthetic procedures.

Lastly, have all vaccinations listed with last date administered and the date when their due next. Some vaccines need to be given once a year, and some are every 3 years. I don't know when my own pets are due, so I don't expect my owners to remember that off the top of their heads. Most vets will be able to print off a certificate that lists the due dates of your pet's vaccinations. Keep that up to date every year.

Also, it wouldn't be a bad idea to store all of this information in some type of online file, even if it's just a private note in your facebook account, or a google doc, or an email you mail to yourself and save in a special file. That way if you lose your file, or you need to access the information when you're not at home, you can find what you need.

Staying on top of your pet's medical care wil be much easier if you stay organized. It's even nicer knowing that your pet's information is easily available in an emergency.