The Gift of Joy

By Dr. Laura Hady

As the end of 2023 draws near, I would like to celebrate some gifts of joy in the pet world that have made our pets and their people healthier this year. Some are public and some are very near and dear to my heart. They include research and new products, and some are just stories.

  • The Dog Aging Project started as a research study in 2013, with the goal of looking for environmental and intrinsic factors that make certain dogs live longer than others. The project has found that pups with a strong social network, including relationships with owners, their children, and other dogs and pets tend to live longer. This component of animal care played a five times larger role than financial factors – a conclusion that correlates with the finding that strong social support systems have a positive influence on human health, too.
  • More veterinarians in training to strengthen our profession. You may have noticed the shortage of working veterinarians, especially after the COVID pandemic. It is estimated that there will be a nationwide shortage of 15,000 veterinarians by 2030. To combat this, veterinary schools have increased the number of seats open to incoming students. Both Arizona and Texas have opened additional veterinary schools catering to those students who want to enter general practice. Many of these students have a majority of their clinical rotations shadowing veterinarians in their communities. The American Veterinary Medical Association has announced that 11 new veterinary schools in underserved states are seeking approval and accreditation to ease the burden on the 33 existing veterinary schools. I am thankful that we will have many more colleagues helping to serve our beloved patients and clients.
  • Chihuahuas galore. While the year started with a terrible van accident near Vaughn, N.M., involving 65 Chihuahuas, this story had a happy ending. Various rescue groups and fosters took in the dogs, almost all of which were successfully adopted by members of the community. People drove from Colorado, Arizona, and throughout New Mexico to meet and adopt them after they were fully vetted, spayed/neutered, heartworm tested, vaccinated, and microchipped.
  • New Mexico’s fame in the dog agility world. This year the New Mexico Dog Agility Group had 22 teams of owners and various breeds of agility dogs attending the American Kennel Club National Agility Championship. Among them was Animal Humane New Mexico’s lead agility trainer Kim Terrill and her border collie Vim coming in second place for the 20-inch-tall dogs. Animal Humane New Mexico, a nonprofit shelter in Albuquerque, provides the opportunity for many adopted dogs to participate in basic obedience and agility training classes taught by experienced trainers on its campus training fields. The human-canine relationships that are strengthened in these classes provide not only exercise for everyone involved, but also a decreased chance that the dogs will be returned to the facility for behavioral reasons.
  • New enrichment strategies for cats in shelters. We know that dogs in shelters and sanctuaries often get walked, played with, and brushed by volunteers for exercise and enrichment. Cats, too, need similar types of enrichment activities to keep them happy and healthy. Animal Humane New Mexico often provides tunnels, nesting beds for cats, rolled up paper, pine cones, and boxes containing empty toilet paper rolls standing up as a hiding place for food. Some shelters provide a second level in cat cages to help separate the animals’ litter boxes from their food/water and beds. Ask your local rescue what toys or beds are appropriate for the housing situation and donate items based upon the wish list on its website.

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