pets

3 reasons every child should spend time with animals

Every time I see a black-and-white sheltie dog, I think of my first dog Muffett. She was the best! We did everything together as kids. But we didn’t just play together. Looking back, I realize now that she was an amazing teacher who also taught me many important life lessons. I just didn’t know it at the time! (When learning is fun, you don’t even see it happening.) And now with my own daughter, Indigo, I can see her, too, starting to draw important lessons from spending time with our dog and horses. I’ve come to believe that animals truly are influential teachers for children—and I wish every child had the opportunity to grow up alongside an animal. Here are three key life lessons kids learn from spending time with animals—either their own dog or cat, or by spending time with homeless animals at a shelter or in a classroom setting …

New trend: Emotional Support Animals

How sweet is this: Superman star Henry Cavill was recently photographed at LAX with his dog Kal-El wearing a blue vest with the words: “Working. Do not pet. Emotional Support Dog.” And it’s also well-known that Ryan Gosling flies with his dog George, a registered Emotional Support Animal, or ESA.

Despite some of the bad press surrounding ESAs (did you hear about the woman who caused a stir by bringing her therapy kangaroo into a McDonald’s in Wisconsin?), as animal lovers, we know how strong that bond with our animals can be and that yes, being with our animal can calm us. And thanks to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act, ESAs, like traditional service dogs, are allowed in airline cabins. (By law, ESAs are also allowed in apartments that typically turn away pets.) The law does allow for common sense to prevail, however, so if you plan on taking a hyper goat or a 500-pound pig into the economy section on your next flight, the airline will probably turn you both away.

Though ESAs have been “on the books” for several years, more people today—not just celebrities—are signing their animals up as ESAs than ever before.

Here’s a closer look how ESAs differ from the typical service/therapy animals we’re used to seeing …

Signs your animal really loves you

Animals can’t talk, but they sure do convey pretty much everything they need to say, don’t they? This includes our animals showing their deep love for us. Mystic, my rescue dog, for instance, shows her love for me by wagging her whole body, including her tail—which wags like a giant helicopter propeller! This greeting is reserved for a very special few. She also just loves my daughter, Indigo (her human “sister”). When Indigo finishes an especially tasty snack, Mystic loves to lick all of the morsels and crumbs right off her face. Yep, we don’t need napkins over here! Mystic also loves snuggling on our laps during TV time and is fiercely protective of us. She doesn’t like strangers approaching the house, including the rowdy squirrel that lives in the redwood tree next to our living room window. She goes crazy every time he comes down to investigate; she’s so worried he’s going to crawl through the glass window and terrorize us all. (Maybe she knows something I don’t know?)

My sister Charlotte has a cat, and she reports her sweet Persian shows love in these special ways …

Best holistic treatments for animals

My life’s work literally is animal Reiki—coaching animal lovers worldwide on their journey toward peace and wellness. But Reiki is not the only natural treatment out there for our beloved animals. In fact, Reiki is a great complementary therapy to not only Western veterinary medicine, but also a whole host of holistic and natural options, including the three listed below. Tell me, have you given any of these a try?

Acupuncture: My last dog, Dakota, benefited greatly from acupuncture treatments, which work by restoring balance …

Coolest tech gadgets for your pet

This stat kind of surprised me: Did you know that the market for high-tech wearables for pets is going to explode over the next 10 years? According to a recent report by market research firm IDTechEX in Cambridge, England, the market for wearable tech for pets is expected to hit a staggering $2.6 billion by 2025.

My dog is pretty low-tech at the moment, but perhaps that will change in the future. Especially after discovering these amazing new high-tech products! Though not all of the techy products below qualify as “wearables,” one thing’s for sure: Companies are finding smart ways to keep us better connected to our animals, whether we’re at work or traveling. And some are even going that extra mile to help us keep a watchful eye on their health and wellness.

Binatone Scout 500 dog tracker: This product is so much more than your average pet collar; it’s more like a smartphone for your dog …

What’s your animal’s name?

One of the best parts about adopting a new animal into the family is naming him or her! It’s so fun to play with words, read baby name books and even hit the web in search of the perfect fit. My youngest sis recently did just that: She and her husband welcomed home two eight-month-old sister kittens from the local shelter. They finally decided on two beautiful names: Tig (the leader kitten, after the comedian Tig Notaro) and Quinn (they wanted a beautiful one-syllable Irish name).

A few weeks ago, all the top name lists for 2014 came out: top baby names of 2014, popular puppy names of 2014, and most popular kitten names 2014. If you’re looking to name a new furry family member, these are great places to start your search.

As for me, I’ve been honored to be able to name five animal family members over the years. Here are their names and how they came to be …