In which I toss Valentines Day to the dogs.

February 11th, 2009 5:10 pm by Kelly Garbato

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Valentines Day? Meh. I’ve never been very big on the holiday. Through most of high school, I was boyfriend-less, and thus predictably unimpressed with February 14th. The husband and I have celebrated it on and off over the years, but mostly in a half-assed kind of way: vegan chocolates here, a dinner in there. One problem I’ve always had with V-Day is the idea of forced, scheduled romanticism. Why should the Mr. and I only go on dates or surprise one another with gifts on February 14th, eh? And why do so on a day in which the prices are all jacked up and the theaters and restaurants, obscenely crowded?

Additionally, in the few years since my budding feminism has blossomed into a thorny, black, man-hating rose, I’ve actively resisted engaging in a commercialized, wasteful and largely heteronormative holiday. Diamonds? Roses? Tacky Bandit Bears? Bargained sex? IBTP.

So, in keeping with my previous re- evaluation and -imagining of the wintry holidays, I’ve been thinking about celebrating Valentines Day in a different way. While I try to pamper my furkids – i.e., my dogs – on a daily basis, I thought it might be fun to celebrate them this Saturday. After all, there is no doggeh equivalent of “Mother’s Day” or “Grandparent’s Day” – so why not transform a lackluster holiday into it?

There are many ways you can toss Valentines Day to the dogs (or cats, rats, gerbils, pigs…whatever species your kiddos belong to). Dogs Deserve Better, for example, holds an annual Valentines Day card drive for chained dogs. During “Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week,” Valentines – complete with informational brochures, coupons for dog food, etc. – are delivered to the “owners” of chained dogs, with the ultimate goal of freeing these animals and bringing them back into the home. You can donate money to fund the effort, or volunteer by submitting the addresses of homes that have chained dogs, creating or delivering Valentines, and gathering donations of coupons and such. If your heart belongs to a species other than canine, you can donate your time or money to help a local or species-specific organization on or around the 14th.

As for your own furkids, here are four ways you can pamper them this Saturday. Since I’ve got five dogs, these are all canine-specific, but you can adjust accordingly.

Sunday Afternoon (original)

1. Take your dog for a walk or hike. Set some time aside for a leisurely stroll, walk, run or hike – or some combination thereof – and let your dog lead the way. Allow her to walk you, wherever she chooses to go (within reason, of course). If she wants to spend five minutes sniffing and marking that tree at the corner of the street, let her. It’s her day, remember? Just enjoy her company, the beautiful weather, the sights and sounds.

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2. Play with your dog. If the weather’s not cooperating, or if you’re unable to leave the house or yard with your dog, spend the day playing with her, off and on, at her behest. Bounce the tennis ball off of the house with her, play fetch with her favorite squeaky toy, fill a Kong with some (untainted) peanut butter, or just tie a few socks together and have a good game of tug-of-war. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on fancy toys – make your own. Sticks are great for fetch, and you can hide treats in socks, under blankets, or in your hands. Run around the yard like a total goofball, enticing her to chase you (or vice versa). Grab a human partner and play hide and seek with your dog. If she’s an only dog, and gets on well with other dogs, schedule a play date and entertain both her and her BFF.

Naturally, you need to consider your individual dogs’ temperament when choosing games and friends for her. If she gets anxious at the prospect of your absence, for example, hide and seek probably isn’t the best choice. You know your dog; you know what she likes. Now make it happen!

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3. Bake your dog some special, homemade treats. Many commercially available dog treats contain all sorts of disgusting and harmful ingredients. Organic, all-natural and/or vegetarian/vegan treats, on the other hand, can be pricey. So why not bake your own treats, and show your dog just how much you really love her?

It’s not as hard as you might think (seriously, if I can do it…), and many dogs aren’t fussy customers, anywho. You can find a number of recipes online; personally, I love Yummy for Dogs.

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4. Give your dog a massage. Yes, you heard me right. Your dog’s got muscles, just like you – and sometimes they ache, just like yours. Dogs love massages! (Again, with the obvious caveat “know your dog and her temperament.”)

There are many how-to dog (and cat, horse, etc.) massage books, but really, it’s at least 50% common sense. Think about which muscle groups your dog exercises, which body parts she uses as a matter of course. Just as with humans, the neck, shoulders, and back get a good workout. Using light strokes, massage your dog’s neck, shoulders, legs, back. Always err on the side of caution, using less pressure instead of more. If your dog seems nervous, uncomfortable or in pain, stop. Listen to her, making a note of what she seems to enjoy.

One advantage to massaging dogs vs. humans is that their loose skin and fur (especially if your dog is short-haired) make it easier to massage the skin and underlying muscles. Using your thumb and forefinger, grab a bit of loose skin – on the neck, for instance, and rub it between your fingers, moving down as you do so. The fur makes for a smooth transition – none of the chafing that you get with human skin.

In their 1/13/09 newsletter, DDB offers three massage techniques you can try on your dog (excerpted from 97 Ways to Make a Dog Smile by Jenny Langbehn, 2003 Workman Publishing Co. NY):

1. Lower-Ear Noogies

At the base of the ear, gently rub your knuckle in a “noogie” fashion. (To make a noogie, form a half fist with your knuckles sticking out.) This can also be done for the “inner ear noogie by using the knuckle of your middle finger, rub the piece of cartilage that just out at the entrance to the inside of your dog’s ear)

2. Make a “Hand-Sandwich”

When your dog is lying on its side, slip your hand between your dog and the floor, starting at the shoulder, and run you hand slowly along the length of the body. The ripple will result in canine ecstasy. Your dog will probably roll onto the flat of it’s back, which means you can do this again, using both hands-one on each side.

3. The Full-Body Massage

Starting at the snout, thoroughly and methodically massage the entire length of your dog’s body.

Here are some additional online resources to get you started:

Monkey See: How to Massage Your Dog

Center for Integrative Animal Health: Animal Massage: the Touch that Heals

Backing up your dog with Massage (.pdf)

dogtime: Dog Alternative Health: Dog Massage

Suite 101: Home Massage for Dogs; Tips for Helping Your Dog Relax

If you’d like to refine your dog massage techniques, Michael Fox’s The Healing Touch for Dogs: The Proven Massage Program for Dogs is an excellent resource (he also wrote The Healing Touch for Cats: The Proven Massage Program for Cats, for the cat peoples in the audience).

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Of course, you need not confine your pampering to Valentine’s Day. Exercise your dog every day, take a leisurely stroll as time permits, pet and massage her while relaxing on the couch, and bake your dog a batch of treats “just because.” One day, you’ll look back and realize that you’d give anything to walk just one more block with her.

(Crossposted to.)

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4 Responses to “In which I toss Valentines Day to the dogs.”

  1. Libby and Louie (a Valentine’s Day Love Story) » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] don’t forget your animal friends this Valentine’s Day, […]

  2. vegan v-day miscellany » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] other v-day news, I temporarily bumped this post – originally published two years ago – up to the front page in honor of the occasion. […]

  3. Review: Michelle Rivera’s The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book (2009) » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] I had originally planned on recommending The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book as a cute lil’ stocking stuffer for the holiday season. Alas, December was a hectic month, and I never did get around to reviewing the book in time for Christmas – or even compiling a gift-giving guide, I might add! Instead, I shall suggest that you gift a copy of The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book to the dog guardian in your life this Valentine’s Day – because the dreaded V-Day is so much more delightful when celebrated with/for canines, don’t you think? […]

  4. It’s 4PM on a Friday afternoon… » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] opportunity to blog their tips for “Having Fun With Your Dog!” (You might remember that I posted something similar on Valentine’s Day.) Well, the “perfect opportunity” has to to arrive, so eff it. Excuses, who needs […]

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