Review Category : Contributors

Good news, bad news…What do you choose?

By Susan Stone

There is a Universal Law which states: what you put your attention on expands. Universal laws are not taught in school like the laws of physics, but we are bound to them anyway. It doesn’t matter if you believe in gravity; you are bound to its effects all the same.

Exposing ourselves to a daily dose of bad news is having a detrimental effect on our society and on our health. When we watch news stories that disturb us, whether it is a story of local violence or world climate disasters, or money markets dipping, it changes the bio-chemistry of our brains. ‘Bad news’ corrodes the human spirit and eventually makes us ill.

News agencies and the media at large believe that ‘bad news’ sells. So they neglect to inform the public about ALL the news…the good part. They are strangely silent about what we are doing right. Oh, they may take the last 30 seconds of a broadcast to feature a nice little lost kitten found story, so they can boast about the crumb of good they’ve given their audience. But we must admit the scale is heavily weighted on the side of disaster and trauma. And that gives people the general impression that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Amazing and wonderful things are happening all over the world! This morning I Googled “good news” and found 46 pages of websites. The first one I came to is called the Good News Network (GNN). The stories were many and the videos, heartwarming. The most interesting one I will share with you now. Out of curiosity, a man with a camera crew gave a homeless man $100 to see how he would spend it. Secretly they followed him to the liquor store. This did not surprise them; in fact, they expected him to go there. But much to their surprise, he came out of the store with huge bulging bags. Without being noticed they followed him to a park where he gave out food to other homeless people.

At this point the man with the camera crew approached the homeless man again and asked if he knew these people. He did not and explained that people become homeless for a variety of reasons. For himself he explained that he had given up his job to take care of his sick father. A few months after his father died, his mother also passed.

The medical bills were catastrophic, he had used the last of his money to bury his parents and their family home was lost. He had been homeless for about four months at this point. His compassion for his fellow homeless touched the crew so much that they gave him another $100.

Other headlines in the news over the holidays; Boston Teacher donates $150,000 prize to her school. Parents buy crossing guard a new car. High School teens donate $1200 to Toys for Tots. Buddy Harrison, owner of Old School Boxing, delivers hot meals, water and money to the homeless in Washington DC. Six year old cancer survivor donates 700 toys to
sick children…

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama says that doing good for others gives us peace of mind. And peace of mind makes us feel happy. In doing for others we feel the benefit and heal ourselves of loneliness and depression.

What reality is expanding before you? There are over 7 billion realities to choose from. Will you put your attention on what we are doing wrong? Or will you choose to put your attention on what we are doing right? Whichever you choose will expand before your eyes. And you will either feel better or worse. Which will you choose?

You can find Susan Stone at Beaufort Chiropractic. She is an Intuitive healer, Reiki Master, minister and counselor. Author of “We Heard You,” available on Amazon.com You may contact Susan at theriverangel.ss@gmail.com.

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Baby Boomers and a lost language

By Lee Scott

As a member of the Baby Boomers, I am part of the first generation brought up in front of a television set. Consequently, my vocabulary and other forms of communications include dialogue from old sitcoms. I am not particularly proud of this habit, and most of the time, I am not even aware that I am doing it. But the dialogue just slips out…like my response to ‘What time is it?’ ‘It’s Howdy Doody time!’  That show has been off the air for over fifty years. A friend of mine from England looked at me with a blank stare when I inadvertently mention ‘Vita-Vita Vegemen’ when she was preparing a Blended drink for us. “Now what ancient show are you quoting?” she asks. I love Lucy, I respond.

I must admit that it is nice to be around other people who understand the old references.  My husband and I went to a cocktail party recently and were introduced to a fellow named Will. Soon after we started to chat, one of his golfing buddies came up from behind, ‘Wilbur!’ he said in the best Mister Ed (the talking horse) voice ever. Those of us around had to laugh, although poor Will did not look pleased.

Unfortunately, I have also been known to break out into theme songs from obscure television shows.   Where does this come from?  Somewhere deep in my mind hide the lyrics to shows like The Patti Duke Show and The Brady Bunch.  And if I mention My Three Sons, don’t your crossed legs want to twitch.  How many of us haven’t hummed the Twilight Zone theme song when the lights go out during a thunder storm.

I do feel sorry for those people coming to this country and having to learn English. They appear lost in conversations when people reference ‘A really big Shoe!!’  (The Ed Sullivan Show)  You can’t teach fifty years of sitcom dialogue in one semester.  And as younger generations get introduced to new shows that I don’t watch, I find myself not following a conversation because I don’t recognize the reference.  I am then more sympathetic to my English friend.

Of course, there are television shows like Batman and Star Trek, which were made into movies, so saying ‘Quick to the Batmobile’ or ‘Beam me up Scottie’ crosses multiple generations.   But ultimately it does mean that much of our Baby Boomer sitcom lingo will disappear.  So for now, I will continue to whistle the tune to the Andy Griffith Show and smile when someone else joins me.

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Are we vaccinating our dogs too much?

By Tracie Korol

The short answer is yes. Is this one of those crazy ant-vaxxer pieces? No, but it is a cautionary tale.  Yes, vaccinate your dog. Just don’t do it year after year after year after year. It’s time to do your research and be a true advocate for your Best Friend.

When it comes to vaccinating our dogs, most of us rely on our vets, trusting that their advice is up-to-date and not biased by economic or political concerns.  Sadly, unless vets stay current on veterinary journal reading both allopathic and complementary… and assimilate any new information… and decide to forgo significant vaccination income, their advice may lag many years behind what experts in both areas currently advocate.

Vaccination is a serious medical procedure with the potential for adversely affecting health, both in the short and long term. Our pets today are suffering from an unprecedented epidemic of chronic hard-core degenerative disease much caused by the very pet vaccines that are supposed to preserve health. Our pets are routinely presenting with a variety of symptoms and diagnoses that were not seen in animals even a short 10 years ago. Perhaps you have might have a dog in your house with allergies that won’t go away, scary sounding diseases like thrombocytopenia, hemolytic anemia, polyarthritis, glomerulonephritis.  Or your pet suffers inflammatory bowel disease or bizarre behavioral issues, perhaps a newly developed seizure disorder or even injection site tumors, to name just a few that have been linked to over-vaccination. Vaccinosis is the umbrella term for reactions to vaccines, to the altered virus contained in the vaccine, and also to the chemicals, adjuvants, and other components of tissue culture cell lines — as well as possible genetic changes — that can be induced by vaccines.

Because many people don’t make the connection between the administration of a shot and subsequent symptoms, and because the veterinary industry at large often does not acknowledge such a connection, adverse vaccine reactions often go unreported.  So, what’s a pet owner to do?

1. Always consider locale, lifestyle, risk and vaccine effectiveness.  If your tiny companion rarely leaves your lap, let alone the yard and is never around degenerate street dogs, you can probably pass on the vaccines designed to protect against diseases found in woods, wetlands and crowds.

2. Say no! to combination shots. Combo shots (with names like DHLPPC) hammer your dog’s immune system with multiple vaccines at once. Given for false economy and convenience rather than health or safety, combination shots assault the immune system and can create major health problems. Also, they invariably contain unnecessary vaccines.  What would your body do if it had to contend with this immunological assault every year?

3. Don’t allow your vet, kennel owner or groomer to intimidate you into giving unnecessary shots.  A simple “no, thank you” should be enough to stop any guilt-slinger, shamer or bully. Suggest titer testing for parvovirus or distemper and if told no, simply go elsewhere.  There are vets around who will help you come up with a realistic and safe health plan.

4. Test immunity; don’t automatically re-vaccinate. Titer tests are blood tests measuring antibodies to disease. Pet vaccination expert Dr. Ron Schultz (google him) believes that titer tests yielding strong titers for parvovirus and distemper means not vaccinating against these diseases for years, and maybe for life.  In fact, recent studies show that immunity increases, not decreases, years later.

5. Never vaccinate sick dogs, old dogs or tiny puppies.   All vaccine labels state that they’re to be used in healthy animals.  Unfortunately, the labels do not define “healthy” and most clients aren’t privy to this admonition.  As a result, sick pets, itchy pets, diabetic pets, immune-compromised pets, pets undergoing chemo and surgery, and even elderly housebound pets are routinely boostered.  Any shots given to an unhealthy animal—like a starving, diseased rescue, for instance– may well not provide immunity anyway and will likely cause an adverse reaction, or even death. (Rescuers, get them well first, then vaccinate.) Vaccinating pups that still have maternal immunity is unnecessary and ineffective.

6. Make copies of all files and store them in a safe place. Clinics and rescue operations lose records, go out of business, leave town, etc. Without your dog’s records, you may have to re-vaccinate unnecessarily because of lost or missing records.

Ready to be your dog’s advocate?  Best case, find a vet concerned about over-vaccinating to advise you.  Educate yourself and go to the vet armed with information.  Most important: actually advocate for your dog; don’t just intend to advocate.  What do I do? For my pets, I get a severely edited puppy series, spaced individually and then titer at 7 years. To date, no boosters whatsoever and no disease, either, in over 40 years.

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What’s in a name?

By Tracie Korol

The first three dogs I met when I moved to South Carolina were all named Rebel.

I thought it was one of those arcane state laws I had heard about. Then I met two Dixies and four Beaus in a row. Years and many more Beaus, Rebels and Dixies later, I concede it’s a regional thing.

People choose names for all sorts of reasons. Some want to honor their heritage, hence the preponderance of Southern-related dog names locally. Some choose to honor a favorite celebrity — Reba, Tupac, Harpo (that’s Oprah backwards). Others choose names that spotlight a particular physical or character trait. For example, I had a Cardigan corgi friend at kennel, black with a white spot on his forehead, whose name was Domino, Dom for short.

Many dogs have three names. The first is their official name, which is the name that is registered with the kennel club and appears on their pedigree certificate. These are usually marvelously pompous and/or meaningless, such as Temujin Persia’s Pride, my first registered cocker spaniel. The American Kennel Club gives you 28 letters to come up with this formal title.

The dog’s second name is their “call name.” After all, you really don’t want to be standing out in your backyard yelling, Remasia Vindebon of Torwood, come! The dog’s call name becomes its own unique and solely owned name and which is the one that we actually use when we talk to them.  Temujin’s call name was Khan. (Temujin was Genghis Khan’s given name.)

All of my dogs also have had a group name, which for me is “Doggies”. This is their alternate name, thus when I yell “Doggies come!” I expect all of my dogs within earshot to appear at a run. A neighbor, who only has female dogs, uses the word “Girls,” while another with male dogs uses the group name, “Troops”.

Then there are the nicknames, the names that seem to grow naturally from affection or convenience. My Lab came with the name Tucker; I never thought it suited him. He felt more like a Rooney to me.  Then, due to his overall sense of calm, he became Buddha Dog which later was shortened to Boo. He answered to all four with equal enthusiasm. I always ask for nicknames for my boarding guests as it can immediately warm up a new relationship.

In choosing a name, try to pick something that comes easily to your lips. Choose a name that will honor your Best Friend as all words have power and meaning. If you have a sense of humor, try to pick a name that will not embarrass you, let alone your dog. Hooter is a good dog name in theory, but embarrassing if you have to roam the neighborhood calling for him post-escape. Allow children name in-put within reason; 11-year old boys can curse a dog for life with what they think is a riotously funny scatological moniker or conversely, a precious 3-year-old can sentence a dog to terminal cuteness. I know a strapping 100-pound male chocolate lab named Fluffy.

Try to select a name that is not easily confused with a command. Such as Beau and No, Stay and Ray, Kitt and Sit. Dogs cue on one syllable. That’s why commands are sort and delivered deliberately.  While names like Costello, Washington and Trismegistus are very cool, know that the dog is only hearing the sound with the hard consonant — Tell…, Ton… and Triz…. Some names are very popular, like all the Southern affectations, but it can cause confusion if you are in a park or place where there are multiple dogs with the same name. Choose something unique to your Friend’s temperament, appearance or personality, or the opposite; Hoover, the dog dedicated to floor food, is one of my favorites.

If you rescue or take on an older dog, there is no problem in changing his name. Often, changing a dog’s name will help separate his association with a dark early life and the new, happy life in his forever home. He will quickly learn to respond to it if used in the correct way.

But whatever name you select make sure you can say it with a smile  — it should reflect the relationship you have with your dog and be a special communication between you and your Best Friend. A name should be enjoyed.

Next week: How to use a name correctly.

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Holidays and traditions and technology

By Lee Scott

It warms the heart to start the holiday season with cooking and decorating and welcoming company. This season, I have started a new holiday tradition that can actually extend throughout the year. It is setting up a charging station. Because, if you are like me, your family and friends walked in the house and immediately started to seek out the nearest electrical outlet to charge their electronic gadgets.   Yes, out came the iPhones, the iPads, the Kindles, the Leapfrog pads, the PCs, the Macs and the Blackberry phones. It seemed like every family had multiple electronics that needed to be charged.

My charging station consists of a table in the corner of the living room covered with a colorful tablecloth. On it sits a 2 foot tall white metal tree that my mother used to hang decorative Easter eggs. There are several electric strips at the bottom of the tree and various chargers hanging on the tree limbs for people to use. Since it is in a central area, anyone can use it, they don’t have to run around the house figuring out where they need to plug in or where they plugged in.

When a neighbor saw my table, she sent her son over to charge his phone since he left his charger at the airport. The other positive thing about the charging station is that when it was dinner time, everyone put their devices at the charging station. The dining room was off limits. We could hear some buzzes and bings in the background during dinner, but everyone stayed at the table.

I discovered another new tradition too. In addition to the fresh linens in the guest rooms, I write out the wireless code for our Internet on an index card and place it on their pillows.

Let’s face it, there are definite advantages for having everyone charged and connected.  While we were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade someone asked, “What year did the parade originate?” Three people accessed the Internet and provided all the information we ever wanted to know about the parade.  (1924, in case you wanted to know.) We were able to connect with out-of-town family members through Skype and FaceTime; and when I wanted to watch “The Grinch who stole Christmas,” someone downloaded it on their iPad.

So my suggestion is to get prepared for the onslaught of devices and chargers this holiday and set up a charging station. You might consider purchasing one of those solar powered charging stations. Or, better yet, ask Santa to bring one for you.

Happy Holidays.

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Approaching a pre-presidential election year: 2015

By Arthur Levin

As we close in on the end of 2014, we were reminded that 2015 is the third year of a presidential term, making it a pre-election year, which has historically been a strong year for the market in terms of positive equity returns. Based off of observations from some previous Presidential Election studies and comments made by Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief investment strategist of Grantham Mayo van Otterloo (GMO), on “Presidential Election Cycles”, we wanted revisit this subject as it relates to the stock market and look at the precedence that have been witnessed over the years.

Arthur Levin

Arthur Levin

To get an idea of the type of precedent that has been set during pre-presidential election years, we can look back to the performance trends over the past 181 years now, including 2011. During this time period, the pre-election presidential year produced a positive return in the stock market, as defined by the Dow Jones Industrial Average [DJIA], which rose 5.53% in 2011. One of the major resources that we use when looking at the presidential election year data is a function of the studying and data compiled by Jeffrey A. Hirsch & Yale Hirsch in their yearly installment of the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

The Stock Trader’s Almanac data,  includes the 4-Year Cycle returns beginning with the first full year of a particular President’s cycle, going back to 1833. As we mentioned above, pre-election years have historically been a positive time for the market, especially over the past century. As a matter of fact, the last time that the market was down during a pre-presidential year was in 1939. Of the 4-Year Cycle, the pre-election years have historically been the best performing year. On average, the pre-election year has seen a 10.43% gain since 1833, so 2011 was surely under average in its performance with returns only half as much as the average. So, generally speaking, the year before the presidential election and even the actual presidential election years are historically positive for the stock market.

Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance.  This article was written by Dorsey, Wright and Associates, Inc., and provided to you by Wells Fargo Advisors and Arthur Levin, Financial Advisor in Beaufort, SC, 211 Scott Street, (843) 524-1114.  You cannot directly invest in an index. Wells Fargo Advisors did not assist in the preparation of this article, and its accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. Investments in securities and insurance products are: NOT FDIC-INSURED/NOT BANK-GUARANTEED/MAY LOSE VALUE. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, Member SIPC, is a registered broker-dealer and a separate non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company. 

 
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Deck the Halls with boughs of holly

By Susan Stone

Take a break from weeding this month and deck the halls! We have beautiful greenery to choose from. Not only can you add holly to your arrangements and wreaths for the holidays, you have a plethora of choices.

Juniper, boxwood, palm, cedar, magnolia and pine add a touch of the Lowcountry to any holiday decoration. You can spray paint them as well to add a little color to your arrangements. Seed pods and grasses are excellent choices as well. And don’t forget shells — oyster and clam shells are perfect for making angel ornaments for the crafty decorator. Or just simply add starfish to your garlands and trees for that coastal look.

There is little to do in the garden for the next two months, unless you have winter crops. Harvesting and replanting continue year round for the food growers. And if you have stubborn scale and mealy buy on your evergreens, this is the time of year to treat with dormant oil. Other than that, just keep your gardens hydrated to protect against frost damage and enjoy some time off.

Over the year, I have published some recipes for natural bug repellent, weed killer and the like. Just in case you missed some of them, here they are:

Natural Bug Repellent:

• 1 oz. Cinnamon Leaf Oil (approx. $6 on Amazon.com)

• 8 oz. Witch Hazel

Mix and spray. For No-See-Um’s, mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas and biting fly. (Please test for sensitivity to the cinnamon. Never use undiluted.)

Natural Weed Killer

• 1 gallon White Vinegar

• 1 cup Pickling Salt

• 1 cup Cheap Dish Soap

Mix in a pump sprayer. (Be selective, it will kill anything green!)

Powdery Mildew, Rust & other Funguses: Our beloved Crepe Myrtles and roses are very susceptible to powdery mildew. Early detection and treatment are vital. Milk and buttermilk can be an effective remedy if caught early. Simply use full to half strength (can be mixed with water) and sprayed every 7-10 days. Compost Tea has the same effect.

Making Compost Tea is very easy and doubles as a liquid fertilizer. Just like any other tea, steep in water (out in the sun is perfect), strain and use. You can add Blood Meal, Bone Meal and or Manure to the mix, set aside for a week to dissolve then pour a little over your plants each week. This is a perfect fertilizer for lawns too.

Garlic is not only a good fungicide, but an excellent insecticide as well. You should know that like many insecticides, it is not selective. It will kill even the non-harmful or beneficial insects. To make a batch, I use about 10 cloves to a gallon of water. The garlic must be crushed and then steeped in the water (set in the sun), or use a blender to mix, then strain.

Fire Ants can ruin any outdoor activity and drive your pets crazy. One simple and safe solution is to treat your lawn in the early spring with Dried Molasses. It is available in 50 lb. bags at your local feed and seed store. You simply spread it like a fertilizer with a lawn spreader. I don’t know why it drives them off; perhaps it puts them in a diabetic coma? But it seems to work.

Enjoy some well-deserved time off and enjoy the harvests from your gardens.

Until next time, Happy New Year!

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

You may send Susan your questions and garden wisdom to theriverangel.ss@gmail.com.

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It’s simply magic … by design!

By Martha O’Regan

Over the years, as I have learned about bioenergetics, pain/stress/energy management, quantum science and vibrational medicine, I have come to the conclusion that it’s all simply magic, defined as “an extraordinary power from a supernatural source.”

The four statements that make up the foundation of how I live and coach are:

1. Everything is energy, including you and me,

2. Every single thing is designed in perfection,

3. We create our own reality through the vibration of our thoughts, words and deeds,

4. The power of “all that is” is the same power as the Divine. And, taking it even deeper, inside the smallest particle known to man is nothing but pure light essence that is measured as the vibrational equivalent to “love” which happens to also be the power of “all that is” which has many names, including God. God is light, God is love, God is the ultimate power, God is creation, etc.  Even in its smallness, it’s bigger than our human linear mind can even fathom, yet we all know it deep inside because it is encoded in our DNA, our subconscious, the Bible, our soul perspectives and even our thoughts to ultimately create our daily reality of health, relationships, choices and behaviors. It’s so simple even in all its magnificent complexity.

As you try this little experience, check in and feel how it lands in your body and mind. Make an “O” with the thumb and forefinger of each hand, keeping them several inches apart. These circles represents the energy fields surrounding the egg and the sperm that came together to grow you, making your spine, kidneys, finger nails, etc.  Begin bringing the two energy fields closer together until their fields begin to interconnect. Stop as soon as you see the light between the circles. Now, just imagine the magnificent spark, like two wires or maybe stars coming together which then connects those two perfect cells that knew exactly what do to create YOU right on schedule. Magic … by design! Did you feel a spark ignite anywhere in your body?

As electromagnetic beings, everything within and around us is ignited by a spark of some form that creates a connection for something remarkable to happen, like the ability to scratch our nose, blink, heal a wound or to feel love.   In our body, these sparks are called electrical impulses, synapses, neuro transmitters, and they ignite to activate communication within all parts of us — including our muscles, organs, glands, the brain and spine and our heart — all without us having to tell it to, at least not with our conscious mind. These sparks are automatic; it’s the vibration of the spark that determines how well our system is communicating. Greater vitality ignites a greater spark ultimately enhancing communication within the system, creating greater health and happiness.

One way to support the magic is simply noticing what is going on within and around us and making conscious choices about what we put into our mind and body that will enhance the sparks. Simply being in awe of the magnificence on a regular basis allows those sparks to really ignite, creating even more magic … by design.

So, take some time to pause and just watch a bird fly or a tree sway in the wind, notice the twinkle in someone’s eye when they laugh, feel your feet as you walk along the pavement or barefoot in the grass, see how wide your face stretches when you smile, stare at the sky and imagine what it would feel like to fly, feel your breath in every crevice of your body or truly allow yourself to open your heart to receive love. Simply notice how many magical moments you have in an hour, day, week or month, and before you know it, you can’t experience life any other way.

Live Awake … Have Fun!

Martha O’Regan, is Your ‘B.E.S.T. Life’ Coach, supporting you in accessing your magic with the work of Bio Energetic Synchronization Technique and Vibrational Coaching. Contact 843-812-1328 or yourbestlifecoach28@gmail.com to discover just how easy it can be to create change in your life.  www.yourbestlifecoach.net.

 
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Looking for a best friend

By Lee Scott

Soon after I moved to the area, I started my search for a new best friend with red hair. The reason for this endeavor was because ever since I was 5 years old, I have always had a best friend with red hair. I don’t know why. A part of me wonders if it wasn’t because of the old “I Love Lucy” shows with Lucy and Ethel. Those two were best buddies — one blonde and one redhead. But I have discounted that theory because I would not have known whether Lucy was a redhead or not since we only had a black and white TV at the time.

It all started with Vickie Adams, my first red headed girlfriend; then there was Marianne, then Lynn, then Libby and then Donna.  As I moved around as a child and then as an adult, the relationships with  redheads seemed to just happen without me trying.

So living in a new place, I found myself once again looking for a new best friend. Someone who likes to do the things I like to do. Someone with the same kind of  shared experiences. Someone who just  understands me.  Someone with red hair.

When I talked to my husband about finding a best friend, he said, “I thought I was your best friend.”

“You are my best male friend. It’s not the same,” I replied. Ask any woman.

I do have my daughter who I call my life best friend.  She gets me!  We know every line of the movie “Steel Magnolias” and we can tell by each other’s tone of voice what kind of day the other is having. But she is not here, and regardless of how close we are, it is difficult for me to separate my maternal instinct totally from our friendship. She understands this more now since she has her own daughter.

But I have lived here in Beaufort for a while and I have had the opportunity to meet many interesting women.  The realization has come that I don’t have to have one RBFF (Redheaded Best Friend Forever). The  women I have met love the things they are doing and are willing to share their experiences with me. Each of them is unique. Some have children, and some don’t. Some like to travel, to read, volunteer, go to concerts or go boating.  These women have opened my eyes to so many things and provided me with a new insight in my search for a best friend. I don’t have to limit myself to one redheaded best friend. I have expanded the circle and found many new friends.

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What the dog got for Christmas

By Tracie Korol

It wasn’t so very long ago that the phrase “a dog’s life” meant sleeping outside, enduring the elements, living with aches, and sitting by the dinner table, waiting for a few scraps to land on the floor. Today’s dog has it much better. APPMA (American Pet Products Manufacturers Association) reports that 42% of dogs now sleep in the same bed as their owners, up from 34% in 1998. Half of all dog owners say they consider their pet’s comfort when buying a car, and almost a third buy gifts for their dogs’ birthdays.

In fact, Americans now spend $54 billion a year on their pets — more than the gross domestic product of all but 64 countries in the world. That’s double the amount shelled out on pets a mere decade ago. Pet owners are becoming increasingly demanding consumers who won’t put up with substandard products, un-stimulating environments, or shabby service for their animals.

Additionally, the rising status of pets started an unprecedented wave of entrepreneurship in an industry once epitomized by felt mice and rubber balls. There are now $430 indoor potties, $30-an-ounce perfume, and $225 trench coats–let alone the diamond-studded accessories for a celebrity’s dog — aimed solely at four-footed consumers and their wallet-toting humans. Thanks to passionate purchasers like that, the quality gap between two-legged and four-legged mammals is rapidly disappearing in such industries as food, clothing, health care, and services.

But what does all that bling mean to your dog? Absolutely nothing. Unless your dog is completely different from the thousands of dogs I’ve known, a plain old stick from the yard can be worthy of an hours’ attention and licking out your yogurt cup is epicurean nirvana. I know many dogs that will eschew the fancy, faux fur, orthopedically crafted, heated pet bed for a heap of the owners’ dirty laundry.

What your dog is looking for is attention from you: you throw the stick, you hold the yogurt cup and it’s your smell the dog is soaking up on the pile of your clothes.  This year, instead of spending money on doggie junk, give your Best Friend the gift of you. It doesn’t have to be much; dogs aren’t greedy, plus, they can’t tell time. Twenty undistracted minutes a day is all your dog needs. Mind you, that’s in addition to the utility time for potty walks, or the ride-along time you spend in the car when you pick up the kids. Twenty minutes of you-on-dog quality time.  Play ball (or stick) together, give him a comprehensive full-body rub, teach him a new trick or just sit quietly together and appreciate the end of the day. It doesn’t matter all that much to your dog, just as long as it’s with you.

But, if it doesn’t feel right that Murphy doesn’t have a package under the tree Christmas morning, consider getting a present that will last. In lieu of buying another, impossibly cute, $10 stuffed toy your dog will disembowel in a New York minute, spend the allotted gift money on a present that has practical use and meaning.  Honor your dog with a handsome leather collar with a sturdy buckle. Rivet on an engraved ID tag. Junk the stupid plastic retractable leash-y thing and get a good leather lead, (they’re called leads for a reason) one that feels good in your hand, doesn’t twist into knots and gets better looking with age. It will last the lifetime of your dog and beyond. I’ve had mine for 30 years and seven dogs.

Your dog will appreciate a heavy, stainless steel bowl with a rubber grip that he doesn’t have to chase all over the kitchen floor. He’ll appreciate a travel crate — his own special, safe seat for car rides. He’ll appreciate if you buy yourself a good dog book — “Dog Sense” by John Bradshaw, is a good place to start — so you will understand what he’s thinking and why he does what he does. And, I’d like to think that he’d very much appreciate it if you donated the money you saved on doo-dads to a local animal welfare organization for one of the brother-dogs that has not been quite so fortunate.

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