What Is The American Burying Beetle?

Cheers For The American Burying Beetle!

American Burying BeetleDespite my years as a Girl Scout, Girl Scout leader, occasional camper and sporadic hiker, with a great appreciation for the outdoors, I can’t say that I’ve ever been a fan of the invertebrate.  Sure, I’ve gently swept errant daddy long legs out of the tent as the girls cowered in fear, and urged the curious honey bee away from its intended human landing pad with a light wave of my hand.  I’ll even admit to gingerly transferring a misdirected ladybug or multipede from its indoor encampment to a more fitting outdoor location.  But a fan?  Not so much.  I mostly thought of invertebrates—insects, bugs, etc.—as something to be tolerated and probably avoided.

My less than welcoming attitude began to shift when I became aware of a handsome little guy known as the American Burying Beetle or ABB for short.  Also known as the giant carrion beetle, the ABB knew that “orange is the new black” well before the hit series on Netflix. It is the largest sized beetle of its genus in North America, reaching 1½ inches in length, and its orange against black coloration makes it distinctively attractive.

Lost beetleThe American Burying Beetle Was Declared An Endangered Species

Formerly found in 35 of the U.S. states, the species experienced a dramatic 90% decline over time, resulting in populations totally disappearing from many states. Recent studies discovered the remaining ABB’s in only 6 states, (Nebraska, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Kansas, and Arkansas). In 1989 the American Burying Beetle was declared an endangered species.

It difficult to determine exactly what caused the decline of the ABB. By the late 1920’s, the ABB population was already at risk, and had disappeared from many areas. Its disappearance is likely based on a combination of factors. Among others, transformation of natural habitats resulted in a reduction of species on which the ABB depends, including the extinction of the passenger pigeon. With fewer food sources, competition from other scavengers such as raccoons, crows, foxes and others intensified.

beetle on flowerBeetles Can Smell a Dead Animal Up to Two Miles Away

What’s so interesting about these….bugs? Well, they are AMAZING! Carrion beetles, like the American Burying Beetle, dispose of dead things: mice, birds, and other small animals.   They are like crime scene clean up crew after the CSI team has completed its investigation, (Although, in nature there really is no CSI.) The ABB needs carrion (dead animals) in order to sustain itself and its offspring.

Here’s how it works.

The antennae of the American Burying Beetle are highly proficient odor sensing devices. The beetles can smell a dead animal up to two miles away just an hour after death. While this is not a sensory skill most humans would value, it comes in very handy for the ABB. The beetle flies to the carcass – and, if necessary, will fight off other invertebrate competitors. The ABB burrows beneath the carcass, turning on its back and lifting the carcass with its legs to determine if it is the right size–2 to 7 ounces—about the size of a rat or a pigeon. Amazingly these beetles can handle a carcass up to 200 times their size.

Both the male and female beetles are required to “prepare” the carcass. This work is done at night to prevent flies, which are active during the day, from laying eggs on the remains. If the male arrives at the carcass first, he waits for the female. The male is easily distinguished from the female by its markings. The male sports an orange rectangle on its head, while the female displays a smaller triangle on her head. If no female arrives after a period of time, the male sits on top of the carcass and emits pheromones to attract a female partner. There is no time for social amenities or a cappuccino at a local coffee shop. Once both the male and female are present they begin to dig under the carcass, cutting through roots and pushing the dirt out and on top of the carcass, literally burying it over night. (Beetles 1; Flies 0)

Once buried, both beetles begin the work of stripping the carcass of any fur or feathers, and work the mass into a compact ball. They then cover the carcass with secretions that preserve the carrion and alter decomposition. All this without refrigeration!

PastedGraphic-6-page-001Now that the work is done and the pantry is well stocked it’s time to get ready for the babies. The female constructs a short chamber above the carrion and depending on the size of the carrion, will lay 10 to 30 eggs in the chamber. Then she returns to the carrion and makes a depression on the top. It is here that both mom and dad regurgitate droplets of partially digested food, which will serve as nutrition for the babies (larvae). Just think of it as bug baby formula! The eggs hatch within a few days.

Now here is something pretty incredible! Once the eggs hatch, mom will help the newborns to the “all they can eat buffet” (the carcass). In addition, mom and dad will stay with the larvae and “parent” them until they can go out on their own. This is extremely rare in the insect world, and demonstrates highly developed behavior for an insect. In the meantime, mom and dad will continue to take care of the carcass, removing fungi and protecting the remains with secretions. After about a week, the larvae will have consumed all except the bones. (Delish!) At this point mom and dad leave the nest and the youngsters are left to pupate nearby. They will emerge as striking orange and black adults about a month later. This flurry of activity generally occurs late April through September.

larvaeWhat about the parents? At this point you may think they have flown off to take a well-deserved vacation, but sadly that is not the case. The American Burying Beetle has a life span of just one year. The adults die shortly after leaving the nest, allowing their young to continue the annual cycle.

Nature’s Recycler

It’s pretty obvious to me why the American Burying Beetle needs to hang around and even prosper. I could go into a long explanation about the delicate ecosystems that surround us, and how we need to maintain and nurture them. I could expound tirelessly about how everything is interconnected as in the words of the World Wildlife Fund, “All that lives beneath Earth’s fragile canopy is, in some elemental fashion, related . . . If mankind continues to allow whole species to perish, when does their peril also become ours?” So true.

From a practical point of view, however – the American Burying Beetle is Nature’s Recycler. By burying dead animals, it helps return nutrients to the soil as well as eliminates unsightly, decomposing critters. The ABB also competes with other scavengers for food – as an example: the fly. If the ABB can beat a fly to its favorite food source, perhaps there will be fewer flies. I can’t remember a time when an American Burying Beetle ruined a picnic by buzzing around the potato salad. Just saying.

Fortunately a number of conservation groups including the Fish and Wildlife Service and zoos located in Cincinnati, St. Louis and Rhode Island, among others, have seen the value of this handsome little creature, and projects have been implemented in several states to enhance the ABB population.

Because of being declared an endangered species, re-population efforts are the best chance we have at saving this insect. It’s worth a shot and I’m all for it!

conservationSo, I think it’s safe to say that this nocturnal, flying, scavenger has captured my interest and respect – if not my heart. If there is one insect for which I have become a dedicated fan, this is it. I’m not saying I now embrace ALL insects with the same enthusiasm, but I’m working on it. Baby steps, people… baby steps.

Go team beetle. I’m cheering you on!

For more information on Nature’s Recycler:

The American Burying Beetle Release

American Burying Beetle Repopulation Project

Reintroduction in Missouri


Roger Williams Park Zoo

Laurence Billiet WordPress.com

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden


Fish and Wildlife Service

Virginia Tech Insect Biology

National Geographic

Karen BorejkaKaren Borejka, YPS Wildlife Editor, is a Volunteer Educator for the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, and is a member of the Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents and Volunteers (AZADV). She and her husband Vic are “bi-coastal” with a daughter on the east coast and a son on the west coast. Karen and her husband live in Cincinnati, OH with her mom Helen, and their 5 “fur-children” –2 dogs and 3 cats – all rescues. Karen can be reached through Facebook.

Who Knows The Best Places To Shop For Pets? We do!

We are required to let readers know that we are compensated for our product reviews. We personally test the products to be able to provide the honest reviews you will read of products offered through our website.
question markIt occurred to me the other day that I’ve been adding affiliates left and right to our pages over the last year.  I know every one inside out…but if I were just coming to our site for the first time, would I know how to choose the best place to pet shop?  Probably not.  So…that’s what this post is all about.

Our Pet Food Providers

Dave and I use a variety of pet food providers–and we like to change things up once in awhile–either to give our pets some variety, or for nutritional reasons.  For instance, I just started giving our dogs ground flax seed with their food again–they’ve been getting some dry skin since we moved to New Mexico.  In the past, we only might have to give them this ingredient in the dead of an Ohio Winter.  But with less humidity here, we’ll need to give them this all year long.  In addition, Hoagy, our basset hound, and Little Dingle, our European tabby cat, need weight control food.

Because we need a variety of foods, we shop at a few different places through our website.  Let me highlight a few and their best features…

petbrosiaPet Food Providers For Dogs or Cats With Allergies, Special Diet Needs or a Nutritional Issue

We recommend Petbrosia–for food custom designed for your dog or cat. Their wholesome diets are matched to your pet’s health needs, made from all-natural ingredients grown and raised in America. Petbrosia matches your pet’s diet according to their breed, age, weight, and other health needs.

You can read here about our dog Hoagy’s vomiting issue and how it was solved with this product. Buy Petbrosia at Your Pet Food Space.

Only-Natural-Pet-StoreNatural Treats And Foods For Dogs And Cats

We buy from Only Natural Pet.  Our dogs love their natural training treats!  They have an unacceptable ingredients list you can view, so you fully understand what’s in your pet’s food.  They offer a 100% guarantee, support sustainability with their natural treats and foods for dogs and cats, and often feature sales of overstocked items. Shop Only Natural Pet at Your Pet Supply Space.

pet food direct logoIf Cost Is Your Main Concern, Try These Pet Food Providers

Pet Food Direct–Run by the same company as Only Natural Pet (Pet 360), they have an auto ship option on the least expensive foods so you get the best deal and never run out.  They also feature small pet food and accessories for birds, reptiles and fish.  And every purchase earns you PFD rewards–which can be used to get discounted items for your own pets, or donate food to shelter animals.  Shop Pet Food Direct in Your Pet Food Space.

petsmartPetsmart–A large variety of top brands and they often run specials through our website.  If you want to purchase products you saw in your local store but want the convenience of having them shipped to your door, buy at Petsmart through Your Pet Supply Space.

I want to also put in a plug here for the Petsmart training program, of which our training editor Tina Caldwell, is a member. With the SmartPet PromiseSM policy, training customers are guaranteed 100 percent satisfaction or they can take the class again for free (see your local store for details). And you can read about Tina here.

doggyloot logoDoggyloot–If you love a good deal and like shopping for bargains, you’ll love this! They dreamed up Doggyloot for two reasons: they think dogs make the world a better place, and they wanted to create a new, fun way for dog lovers to discover the very best chews, toys, treats and more at the very best prices.  Doggyloot aims to extend these same good vibes to your shopping experience. They help you find exactly what your hound craves at competitive prices, and then ship it all free, straight to your door. Their product team carefully researches and tests everything they sell–and do not carry any edibles made in China.  You can save up to 75% on treats, beds, even pet themed jewelry!  Check out their Toy Of The Month auto ship in Your Pet Supply Space.  We love it!

amazon logoAnd of course, Amazon!  Have an Amazon Prime Membership?  You can use it right on our site and get free two day shipping on most items.  When it’s critical we find the absolutely best price and the greatest variety of shopping options–we go here.  Shop Amazon at Your Pet Supply Space.

cherrybrookDog Show Supplies

Check out Cherrybrook–They are the exclusive sponsor of the American Kennel Club Online Store, have been the only general grooming and show ring supply vendor at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for over forty years and were named a Retailer of the Year by Pet Product News for their Outstanding Holistic Approach.  They carry everything from tack crates to agility training supplies–and even offer special colognes, stain removers and other enhancing items for your dog’s coat.  In addition, they carry cat supplies. Shop Cherrybrook at Your Pet Supply Space.

I certainly hope you can find everything you need in our shopping areas–and please feel free to drop us a note on the Contact Us page or engage us in Live Chat if there’s ever anything you need and cannot find on our website.  Until then…happy shopping!

Joy JonesJoy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.

What Is Bad Behavior?

bad dogIf you’re new to the world of canines, this first section is for you!  If you are an experienced dog owner, you can skip to the next heading.

If You’re New: How To Not Assess A Dog For Bad Behavior

The other day I read a story on the web and was really shocked.  A Doberman rescue worker had been called out to assess a dog for bad behavior and determine what needed to be done to re-home it.  From what the worker had been told, the dog was so out of control that drugs might be needed to calm the animal down.

When she arrived, she was told the dog was making it impossible for the owner to work at home, things were so bad.  But when she asked to see the bad behavior, she was in for a surprise.

The dog’s “bad behavior” consisted of putting her head on the owner’s knee when she was sitting at the desk, and sniffing inquisitively when she opened a cabinet!  The rescue worker was overjoyed that in fact this was NOT a dog with bad behavior, and would be relatively easy to re-home.

But I was appalled: how could this owner not know that in fact the dog was crazy about her and not a problem at all?  Then I thought about the fact that everyone out there isn’t like me (I have ODD, Obsessive Dog Disorder!).  You might really not know, if you’ve never had anything to do with dogs before.  And you might not know if you’re watching someone else’s dog and you have no experience of the animals.  Thus this blog post was born!

dog barking

So let’s start with the basics and keep it simple.  What IS the right way to assess a dog for bad behavior?  If your dog shows any of these signs, it’s bad:

  • Aggression
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Destructive Behavior e.g. digging, chewing, jumping
  • Hyperactivity
  • Problems With Basic Obedience

But the real question is: how bad?  And what’s the best way to handle it?

intermediate logo

Dog Behavior For The Intermediate Dog Owner

Of course, you can think you know everything there is to know about dogs and how they think and feel, just because you grew up with them–and then end up adopting a breed new to you or an abused rescue or puppy mill dog…even a senior dog when you’ve never had one before!  And then it’s back to square one.

So, dog behavior for the intermediate dog owner first consists of: Know Your Breed.

dog reading book

It’s not enough to just read about the breed you’ve chosen.  Talk to some other people who love the breed–and preferably own more than one!  They’ll tell you some things you’d never read in a book–both good and bad.  Know what to expect going in, and you won’t make any stupid mistakes later.

I know whereof I speak–after all, how do you think I contracted ODD?  🙂  Seriously–you get it when you find yourself cruising the internet late at night until your eyeballs bleed in an attempt to learn everything you can about your furry best friend that, as cute as she is, cannot tell you why she’s acting out.  (And you’re tired of guessing.)


Seba, my fawn greyhound.

Here are some things, for instance, that I didn’t read about my greyhound in a book:

 This breed likes to snap their teeth together when they’re excited–in your face!  It’s not an aggressive gesture with them.  They are just overjoyed about something.  (With Seba, she’s usually greeting me at the door, or getting ready for a walk or to eat.)  By now, I’ve gotten so used to seeing this that I just pull my face back out of the way and go about my day.  But it would be pretty scary if you didn’t know she was going to do it.  We have no small children at my house–but if one were to come visit I would make sure it was not in the same room with an excited Seba–little fingers can’t get out of the way in time.  And even though *I* know my hound would never hurt anyone, a baby’s parent wouldn’t appreciate the snapping.  (Incidentally, does this mean greyhounds can’t live in houses with small children?  No way!  But you do have to teach the kids what’s special about this breed and to protect their fingers and faces from excited snaps.)

Also, greyhounds take particular exception to being awakened suddenly.  They can sleep with their eyes open!  So we learned to be cautious if there was any possibility we were waking her, or risk a snarling leap off the couch.  Again, no way would my dog hurt me–this is just the way they all are.

If Seba were exhibiting true aggression, I would have consulted a professional, though.  What is true aggression?

growling dog

Aggression can stem from fear, frustration or poor socialization.  I’ve seen dog owners who are ignorant or simply in denial think it’s okay for their dog to bite them, or another dog!  This is never okay.  Some situations with anxiety or pain can cause dogs to bite from fear.  You’ll know if this has escalated into aggression if the dog barks furiously, then nips people entering the house or coming into your proximity.  Dogs that intend to bite will usually growl first.  If you have a dog that is a “silent biter”, this is highly dangerous.  If you are not sure if your dog is exhibiting true aggression, see a professional.  The good news here is that most dog aggression problems can be solved.  Only in the most extreme cases are they truly insurmountable.

screaming woman

One of the next things I wasn’t prepared for was Seba’s first “Greyhound Scream Of Death”.  One afternoon, she was lying quietly on her bed taking a nap–and the next moment was uttering a high, loud squeal of pain and limping around the room!  I thought at first she had injured herself playing in the yard–but then realized she had been indoors for some time and sleeping awhile.  What the–?  I Googled, and found that leg cramps are pretty common in greyhounds if they’re not drinking enough water or have a vitamin deficiency.  Just like I sometimes awakened in the middle of the night with a charlie horse, she had, too!  I did some more research, and began adding a little calcium-magnesium supplement to her food.  Problem solved–at least, mostly.  She still has cramps sometimes–but it’s rare.

So–bottom line: know your breed.  And, if you have a mixed breed, do everything you can to know all the breeds involved.  You’ll be happy you did later.

expert is in

Dog Behavior For The Seasoned Owner

Okay, so you’ve had dogs for awhile–and you know your breeds.  You’re out of the woods, right?  Not so fast!  Do you know your dog’s personality?  And do you know that, just like a human, it changes with age?

Dog behavior for the seasoned owner is mostly about not thinking you already know it all!

As for anxiety, Seba had some of that, too.  Namely, she is afraid of the dark!  This took some trial and error to nail down that it was not an issue with her eyesight, but instead simple fear.  And some of this goes back to breed.  When another dog is fearful, it might bark or whine–but greyhounds RUN.  (Or freeze, like a deer.)  None of my greyhound owning friends had experienced this problem.  I was on my own to figure it out.  And Seba herself was actually pretty helpful.  Unless she “forgot” (like a young child might) when she was running outside with the other dogs, she stayed inside when it even looked like it was near sunset.  And to this day, if we are out walking and it’s getting late, she will insist on turning back toward the house.  I may never know what caused her to be this way–but I respect it.  I know her.

Castle as El Diablo

Castle, our own personal El Diablo.

Just like I know that my Brittany, Castle, likes to chew things.  She never outgrew this after puppyhood.  It’s just…her.  Lucky for me, I know the things she prefers: like paper napkins and the occasional pair of earbuds.  So I keep those things put away and we’re good.  I also know that my Basset boy does not know the difference between inside and outside.  It’s all the same to him!  So, as soon as he is finished eating or drinking water, he is invited to step outside to do his business–lest he simply walk to the nearest vertical surface.  Because, like Honey Badger, he just don’t care!

So–do I have dogs with “bad behavior”?  Just like kids–sometimes. After some experience, what it really comes down to is knowing your dog, and knowing yourself.  If you can, start by choosing a breed that fits your lifestyle.  A great source is the Dog Breed Selector at Animal Planet.  Then talk to other people that own a few of the breed you’re thinking of.  After that, get to know your pooch.

Because no dog should have to be given up simply because it’s loving and curious.

Joy Jones

Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info as well as follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Who Is Cafe Britt?

We are required to let readers know that we are compensated for our product reviews. We personally test the products to be able to provide the honest reviews you will read of products offered through our website.   

How Coffee Helps The Environment

We spend a good amount of time talking about animals and animal causes.  But once in awhile, we like to highlight one of our affiliates with whom we’re particularly proud to be associated.  Today, we’d like to introduce you to Cafe Britt (Grupo Britt NV) and show you how coffee helps the environment!

cafe britt logo

When we decided that we wanted to add a bookstore section to the YPS website, we wanted it to feel as close to a brick and mortar store as possible–including all the things you’d find in such an establishment.  We wanted not only books but vendors for greeting cards and audio books…and even tea and coffee.  But it was a bit more of a challenge to find a green coffee affiliate we liked.  Luckily, Cafe Britt agreed to join us!

golf cart

From the Cafe Britt website:

The Britt Shop Story

Since the mid 1990’s Britt thought of the International Airport in Costa Rica as a place where the traveler must find our products.

Back at that time there were no bids for shops, and the only souvenir shop was government owned and operated. The Company was able to adapt a golf cart and use it as a coffee cart, where customers could buy bags of Britt, and taste our Cappuccino, espresso and drip coffee by the cup.

Then in 2001 Britt won the bid to operate gift shops in the Costa Rican Airport. The Britt Shop concept grew beyond the airport and beyond Costa Rica.

Britt decided to expand internationally not so much by exporting its products, but primarily by exporting its business model. The Company decided to actively pursue international markets and invested in Perú (2005), Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles (2006), Chile (2007), Miami, St. Thomas (2008), Antigua and Barbuda (2009) and Mexico (2010).

Today, the Company employs over 1000 people with over 94 stores in 10 countries–everywhere from Miami, Florida to the island of Caledonia.


Costa Rica’s official standards authority has certified that all of Grupo Britt’s operations comply with international standards for environmental protection. This certification confirms our commitment to developing earth-friendly practices for all our products and services.

coffee beans

How Coffee Helps The Environment Part II

This is just one of the many reasons we’re excited to offer products from this affiliate on our site–they’re green!  (And likely to stay that way.)  They’re committed to providing gourmet coffees with the least environmental impact.  This type of thinking means a better life for animals everywhere!  Think about that, while you’re enjoying the coffee you purchase through YPS and reading a pet related book.  We do!

Even their store furnishings and display cases are selected to have the least toxic materials to the environment.  They use bags made from recycled plastics that are 100% biodegradable.  Some are even their own brand. Their employees take part in an internal program where they bring their recyclables to work.  And many of the suppliers and contractors they work with make use of re-usable materials.

fair trade logo

Cafe Britt also practices Fair Trade, by paying the Columbian coffee farmers above market prices and ensuring their working conditions meet or exceed the standards of the International Fair Trade Organization.  And since 2003, the company has won many awards, which you can see here.

Grupo Britt NV Assists The Planet Financially, Too

In addition. Britt provides financial support, and its top executives give their time and energy to environmental organizations that include:

proparques logo

Britt is an active member of ProParques, an organization created by a group of academics, conservationists and business people with the shared goal of improving Costa Rica’s National Parks. The organization seeks practical and immediate solutions to the problems of understaffing and funding within the country’s protected, wildlife areas.

amigos logo

Britt is a “Guaria” and “Bosque” Member of Amigos de los Parques Nacionales, a membership program created by ProParques, Fundecor and SINAC to provide individuals, organizations, tour companies and other businesses a chance to prove their commitment to the sustainability of Costa Rica’s national parks.

aqua logica logo

Grupo Britt NV is a pioneer in implementing at its company headquarters innovative urinals that greatly reduce water consumption.  These Acualogica-brand urinals have a visionary, water-saving design to reduce flushing. The company is commited to conserving the planet’s valuable hydro resource.

And If That Isn’t Enough, Check Out A Sampe Of Some Of The Grupo Britt NV Products!

Peru Pachamama Organic Coffee

Harvested to ensure biodiversity and harmony with nature, this superb dark roast is deserving of its namesake – the Quechua word for “Mother Earth.” It’s grown in the Quillabamba region in Peru, near the famous “lost city of the Incas,” Machu Picchu. It grows beneath the soft shade of native-species trees and is nourished by the region’s own natural nutrients. This growing method preserves native flora and fauna, ensuring pure supplies of water and fertile soils for future generations of small-scale farmers. Café Britt Pachamama is certified organic by international organizations.

Octagonal Chocolate Sampler

8 of Café Britt’s very best chocolate candy creations, all packed in a beautiful gift box. It includes an assortment of Café Britt’s most popular flavors. You can find chocolate covered pineapple, guava or passion fruit; chocolate covered macadamia or cashews. Of course, you can’t miss our famous fresh roasted coffee beans, all covered in creamy white or dark gourmet chocolate. So many flavors, so little time!

White Chocolate Covered Lime

Inspired by Florida’s favorite Key Lime Pie and world-famous citrus groves, these small, white orbs are big on refreshing, tropical flavor. We’ve covered tangy lime-jelly chews in creamy white chocolate for a sweet treat that refreshes like a cool, ocean breeze. Packed in a colorful Miami-inspired bag, they’re as great for giving as they are for snacking.


Gourmet Hot Cocoa

 Hot Cocoa that’s silk for the palate and satin for the soul. Our delicious Britt Gourmet Hot Cocoa is made from the finest cocoa beans and pure cane sugar. Ideal for a moment of ultimate indulgence or fine giving to your favorite chocolate lovers. To make a perfect cup of hot chocolate, mix 2 tablespoons of Britt Gourmet Hot Cocoa into 6 ounces of hot milk and stir well. Now comes the best part! Sit back and savor how rich and delicious hot chocolate can be. Each 14.1oz container makes 18 servings.

Guava Cookies

Get ready for a fruitful, chewy crunch! These all natural artisan cookies burst with bits of pure, guava jelly. Tangy and tropical, our cookies are made from the finest, all-natural ingredients, packed warm & fresh from the oven. Don’t look for any artificial additives or flavorings here. You won’t find any! Just bits of chewy guava fruit enveloped in a delightful, subtle crunch.

coffee cups

Doesn’t all that sound just awesome?!  If you are drooling just reading this, then head on over to the YPS Bookstore, pickup a new book on pets and get some fab coffee as well!  And know that you’re doing something great for animals and the environment as you shop with us.

Joy Jones

Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info as well as follow her on Facebook.

Getting Savvy on The Cavy

guinea pig

Guinea Pigs Аs Pets

The fact that they didn’t come from Guinea, but instead are domesticated versions of Andean cavys, doesn’t seem to matter much to most guinea pig owners.  These small pets were brought to the west by European traders in the 16th century, and ever since have been highly prized for their lovely coats, calm natures and the ease of caring for them.  In fact, guinea pigs are great for small children!

vet with guinea pig

On “Being A Guinea Pig”.

At one time, the cavys were food for the natives in the Andean region of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.  The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped animals, and often depicted the guinea pig in their art. Folklore traditions involving guinea pigs are numerous; they are exchanged as gifts, used in customary social and religious ceremonies, and frequently referenced in spoken metaphors.  They also play a role in traditional healing rituals by folk doctors, who use the animals to diagnose diseases such as jaundice, rheumatism, arthritis, and typhus.  They are rubbed against the bodies of the sick, and are seen as a supernatural medium.  Black guinea pigs are considered especially useful for diagnoses. Spanish, Dutch, and English traders brought guinea pigs to Europe, where they quickly became popular as exotic pets among the upper classes and royalty, including Queen Elizabeth I.  Experiments have been carried out on guinea pigs ever since the 17th century, mostly on research regarding juvenile diabetes, tuberculosis, scurvy, and pregnancy complications.

kirk and tribbles

And Now For Some Science Fiction Trivia!

Did you know that the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”, written by David Gerrold, was inspired by a short story about guinea pigs called “Pigs Is Pigs” by Ellis Parker Butler?  In the story, two guinea pigs at a railway station breed unchecked while humans argue as to whether they are “pigs” or “pets” for the purpose of determining freight charges.  So there’s your bit of science fiction trivia for the day!

guinea pig with headphones

Guinea Pigs Are Great For Small Children and Small Spaces

Guinea pigs are large rodents, weighing 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pounds, with an average lifespan of 4-5 years.  They can live quite comfortably in a medium cage (30″ x 36″, larger if you have more than one), which makes things very convenient for their owners!  They rarely bite, making them an ideal choice for children who are old enough to handle them gently. They enjoy living in groups of two or more; ideally this would mean several females and a single neutered male.  More than one male can safely be housed together, providing the cage is large enough.  Wire mesh floors are not recommended, as this commonly causes injury and infection.  At one time, wood shaving type bedding was the norm, however it is now known to have harmful hydrocarbons.  We recommend only hardwood shavings (aspen), shredded paper or corn cob bedding materials.  This should be several inches deep and changed twice weekly.  Although the cage should be inspected daily with an eye to removing soiled bedding, droppings and stale food. Clean the cage completely once a week by replacing dirty bedding and scrubbing the bottom of the cage with warm water.  Then dry everything completely before adding fresh bedding.

guinea pig with dog and rat

 It’s not a good idea to keep your cavys in the same cage as other rodents.  They may act aggressively toward your guinea pig–or even pass along infections.  And be sure you watch your dogs and cats around your cavy–sometimes they can think small pets are food and not friends!

guinea pig eating grass

Speaking Of Guinea Pig Foods…

The cavy’s natural food is grass, so timothy hay is good, or you can use special pellets made from timothy.  Some alfalfa may also be fed.  It’s best to check with your vet on the proportions they recommend.  This pet also requires fresh, raw vegetables like broccoli, apple, cabbage, carrot, celery, and spinach on a regular basis, or it may contract scurvy!  Luckily, supplements are available if you have a picky eater.  Like rabbits, cavys have teeth that continue to grow all their lives, so they need a constant supply of edible chewables; otherwise they may chew on cloth, paper, plastic, and rubber.

There іs а list оf foods tо avoid wіth thеsе furry pets. A number of plants are poisonous to guinea pigs, including bracken, bryony, buttercup, charlock, deadly nightshade, foxglove, hellebore, hemlock, lily of the valley, mayweed, monkshood, privet, ragwort, rhubarb, speedwell, toadflax and wild celery.  Also, any plant which grows from a bulb (tulip or onion) is poisonous, as well as ivy and oak tree leaves.

silky guinea pig

Grooming Your Cavy

Guinea pigs are great for small children also because they can simply use a comb or brush. It’s a good idea to do this weekly.  But if you have a long-haired breed of guinea pig, daily is best.  Cavys also groom themselves and each other.


When frightened, a group of guinea pigs will dart in all directions, squealing or shrieking, and sometimes hop!  This is an instinctive reaction, and is intended to confuse predators. Cavys are very vocal in general and make a wide range of sounds: whistling, bubbling, purring, rumbling, chutting or whining.  They have been known to whistle when they see their owners–or when they see you bringing them food!

baby guinea pig


It’s important to know that female guinea pigs can become pregnant as early as one month of age (before they are fully adult).  The average gestation period is about 65 days.  Litters can be anywhere from one to six pups, with an average of three.  Unlike most other rodents, baby cavys are almost completely developed at birth.  And if you have more than one female, they commonly care for each other’s young.

brown guinea pig


You’ll want to handle your cavy frequently, not only for good socialization, but also because they can be prone to injury from a variety of causes: typically, hay getting stuck in the throat or eyes.  But they can also develop pneumonia (so watch for excessive sneezing.)  And they can contract lice and mites.  They cannot tolerate excessive heat or cold. And you’ll want to keep them out of drafts.  Generally, if you are comfortable, they will be, too. If going out in cold weather with your cavy, just cover the cage with a small blanket.  And remember to pre-cool the car before you travel on hot days. Like most prey animals, it is instinctive for the guinea pig to hide pain and distress.  Frequent handling will show you how your pet normally responds, so you can quickly detect any changes and make appropriate health care decisions with your vet.

Little Girl Busy Blowing Dandelion Seeds In the Park


Guinea pigs as pets may not be a good idea if you are typically allergic to the dander of hamsters and gerbils, or have asthma.  It can take up to 18 months to find relief from allergy medications for these reactions.


swimming guinea pigs

Funny Things

 Strangely, they are really good at…swimming!

To sum up, guinea pigs are great for small children, especially if you are short on space.  They are very interesting, funny little creatures, who should be handled and groomed frequently and gently.  We’d love to hear stories of you getting savvy about your cavy!  Please drop us a comment and let us know if you have any questions, or just want to send us a pic or two of your guinea pigs.

Joy Jones

Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info as well as follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

What Is Going Exotic? – Top 5 Unusual Pets

exotic pets

Going Exotic With Your Pets

For sоmе people, thеіr love fоr animals gоеs bеуоnd thе usual cats, dogs аnd fishes. Ѕоmе love exotic animals thаt wоuld сеrtаіnlу raise sоmе eyebrows. Exotic pets аrе undoubtedly great conversation starters, but tаkе note thаt sіnсе mоst exotic pets аrе nоt rеаllу domesticated, thеу саn hurt people іn уоur household, еsресіаllу kids. Таkе time tо understand thеіr nature mоrе; hоw tо raise аnd feed thеm. Таkе note оf danger signs аnd disseminate thіs іnfоrmаtіоn tо thе rest оf уоur family. Іf уоu hаvе оthеr pets іn thе house, уоu mау nееd tо consider securing thеsе pets sо thеу dо nоt bесоmе food fоr уоur exotic pet.

Your Choices When Going Exotic

Lastly, іt mау bе illegal tо оwn сеrtаіn exotic pets, sо check оut уоur local stаtе аnd federal laws tо sее іf іt іs оkау tо оwn а Burmese python, fоr example. Wіth thаt оut оf thе wау, hеrе аrе thе top fіvе exotic pets уоu mіght wаnt tо consider having:


Some Love Exotic Animals So Much, They Have Put Themselves At Risk

1. Chimpanzees. Native tо Central Africa, chimpanzees аrе primates thаt аrе sаіd tо bе closest tо human beings іn terms оf behavior, DNA аnd life span. Chimps аrе оftеn vеrу intelligent animals thаt hаvе problem solving skills аnd саn communicate thrоugh sounds, gestures аnd facial expressions. Whіlе thеу саn bе great companions, thеу саn аlsо bе vеrу troublesome. Lіkе humans, thеу саn throw tantrums, raid thе fridge, scream, аnd throw feces аt уоu. Аt thеіr worst, chimps, wіth thеіr upper body strength, hаvе bееn knоwn tо attack humans.


Toyger kitten



Going Exotic Can Mean More Health Issues

2. Bengal cats. Bengal cats аrе examples оf а hybrid cat, оr а cross bеtwееn thе domestic cat аnd mоrе exotic species lіkе lions аnd tigers. Hybrid cats аrе mоrе оftеn thаn nоt а product оf artificial insemination. Hybrid cats аrе muсh prized bесаusе thеу lооk lіkе thеіr wild counterparts, but аrе vеrу domesticated. Тhіnk оf а tame tiger іn уоur hands. Оnе оf thе problems wіth hybrids, hоwеvеr, іs thаt sоmе оf thеm hаvе mоrе health problems аnd thе males аrе infertile. Моrе popular hybrid cats include thе Serengeti, thе cheetoh аnd thе cute toyger.





Sugar Gliders

3. Marsupials. Marsupials lіkе thе sugar glider аnd wallaroos аrе stocky animals wіth prominent snouts аnd shaggy fur native tо Australia. Sugar gliders hаvе а lively аnd curious disposition аnd thіs helps thеm bond wіth humans, whіlе wallaroos аrе mоrе lіkе а cross bеtwееn wallabies аnd kangaroos. Оnе оf thе challenges оf caring fоr marsupials іs thеіr nееd fоr аn environment thаt wоuld closely resemble thеіr habitats, sо thаt mеаns vines аnd branches thеу саn climb оn. Тhіs bесоmеs а problem fоr people whо оwn wallaroos, bесаusе thеу hаvе а tendency tо escape. Sugar gliders, оn thе оthеr hand, tend tо disturb уоu аt night whеn thеу аrе mоst active. Тhеу demand fоr уоur attention. Ноwеvеr, іt саn bе solved bу gеttіng аnоthеr glider tо kеер іt company!

burmese python by William Picard

Burmese python, photo courtesy of William Picard of New York

Food For Your Exotic Pet

4. Snakes. Undoubtedly thе mоst frightening оf аll pets, snakes аrе rеlаtіvеlу easier tо kеер аnd maintain. Тhе mоst popular pet snakes аrе pythons: ball pythons, albinos, Burmese pythons аnd reticulated pythons. Whеn уоu dо kеер pythons, уоu wоuld nееd а large tank wіth adequate humidity аnd high temperatures. Adult pythons tend tо eat lеss, eating оnlу еvеrу 10 tо 14 days аnd pythons аrе usuаllу happy wіth dead mice, gerbils, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits оr chickens. Well, ехсерt fоr Burmese pythons, whісh hаvе bееn knоwn tо eradicate whоlе populations оf small animals.



croc by danist soh of singapore

Crocodile, photo courtesy of Danist Soh of Singapore

Some Exotic Animals May Be Territorial

5. Alligators. Alligators tend tо bе friendlier thаn crocodiles аnd thеіr temperaments аrе better tоо. Тhеу usuаllу hаvе broader snouts thаn crocodiles аnd shоws lеss teeth thаn crocodiles dо. Note thаt alligators аrе solitary creatures аnd аrе vеrу territorial. Тhеу саn live uр tо 10 years.

In conclusion, there are many more factors to consider when thinking about exotic pets.

We recommend you seek counsel from a wild animal specialist before bringing one home, to be sure you can provide the right environment and care for these amazing creatures!

Little Known Dog Breeds

We are familiar with such dog breeds as the Poodle and Labrador retriever. There are other less-known dog breeds, especially in this country.  Below, I have given a short description of several of these less-known dog breeds. The next time you are looking to add a new dog to your household, why not take a look at one of these?



Affenpinscher  — These are small breed dogs, from the same breed which also presented us the schnauzers. One of the little known dog breeds, the affenpinscher is thought to be the most suitable for a family pet.  It is very intelligent, easy to train, and of a good demeanor. They have dark fur and have always shown affection to human beings.

Bouvier des Flandres — This dog is similar to the terrier. Their fur is generally dark and they have proven to be very calm. At the beginning, they were bred as herders in France but nowadays they are used for police and military purposes, as well as guidance for blind persons.

Lancashire Heeler

Lancashire Heeler–This is a smaller breed out of England, that was originally bred to herd cattle.  They are smart and fun companion dogs, and interestingly, develop a small mane around the neck in the winter months.

Mudi–Also a smaller of the little known dog breeds.  These dogs are from Hungary, and are great for hunting or herding.  An awesome dog for agility trials or show, and their wavy coats are easy to groom.


Peruvian Inca Orchid — This small to medium, hairless breed may actually have tufts of hair on his head, paws or tail.  Lack of fleas is a great advantage with these dogs, but their skin does require occasional care.  They can be sensitive to toxins and sometimes prone to seizures.

Pumi–Thought to have been bred from terriers originating in Germany and France, these small breed dogs from Hungary are routinely used in Scandinavia in dog dancing competitions.  This dog is high energy and barks easily.

Rat Terrier–This small US breed, believe it or not, contains bloodlines of the Beagle, Italian Greyhound and Miniature Pinscher.  Bred for speed in catching rats, squirrels and hares, it nevertheless has a cheerful personality with people and takes well to training.

Russian Toy–One of the smallest dog breeds in the world, this animal was originally bred from terriers to hunt rats.  It can be somewhat high maintenance, in that this breed often needs to see a vet for help when losing its puppy teeth and getting adult teeth.  They can also be very vocal and protective of their owners.

Medium Breed Dogs

Anatolian Shepherd

Anatolian Shepherd — This member of the less-known dog breeds is of a medium size and has proved to be very courageous. They’re also very powerful and loyal and are often used for military and hunting purposes.

Appenzeller Sennenhunde–These Swiss Mountain dogs are of medium size, have a distinctive tri-color coat and were originally bred as cattle herders and general farm dogs.  This is a high energy working dog, and not recommended for apartment dwellers or a more sedate lifestyle.


Azawakh–Originating in Africa, these tall sighthounds are used in their homelands to hunt gazelle and hare, and can run in short sprints up to 40mph.  Relatively uncommon in the US, they are becoming more popular, despite the fact that their temperaments vary from snuggly to fiercely protective.  They are highly emotional and sensitive dogs, which need large, fenced areas to run free off-lead.

Basenji –These are medium sized muscular dogs and are also named the African Barkless Dogs. These dogs are able to bark, they just choose not to.  Their greatest skill is hunting.


Belgian Laekenois — Hard working sheep dogs, these animals are fabulous at agility, tracking and herding trials.  They are recognized by their woolly, tweedy coats.  Interestingly, they were also used during the First and Second World Wars as messenger dogs.

Bergamasco Shepherd–Originally from Italy, these dogs were bred for herding and guarding sheep and cattle, and are of medium size.  Their most notable feature is their unique felted coat (think a dreadlock look).  Fans of the breed would enjoy agility trials, obedience and show events.  These dogs make great companions and even guardians.

Catalburun–Only two other dog breeds possess this dogs’s unusual split-nose feature. Originally from Turkey, they are known for their agility and strong scent ability as hunters.  They are considered a pointer breed.

Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen–like the Basset Hound, these dogs originated in France, as hunters of boar, deer and rabbit, and look like extreme furry versions of their Basset brothers.  They are pack dogs, so will do best in households with at least one other pet.

Hovawart–originally bred to be home guardians, these dogs came from Germany’s Black Forest, and are exceptional search and rescue animals.  They are best suited for those with experience in dogs, and not as a first pet.

Kai Ken–these dogs have been bred for centuries in Japan and are commonly known as “Tiger Dogs”.  They are of medium size, and full of alertness and bravery.  They are loyal, good with children, and love water.

Polish Owczarek Nizinny  — This dog is of medium size and has long fur which covers its eyes. These are devilish dogs that are known for creating chaos when left alone.

Large Breed Dogs

Asian Ovtcharka

Asian Ovtcharka  –One of the little known dog breeds from Central Asia, the Ovtcharka are large and muscular dogs. They appear to be very loyal and fearless dogs with strong protective instincts which makes them perfect as watchdogs.

Chinook — This adaptable US breed came from a cross between the Husky and the Mastiff, and is basically a big sled dog with a love of children.  They also do well with other dogs, and are often used in search and rescue and skijoring.

dogo argentino

Dogo Argentino — Developed in Argentina to hunt big game (including pumas), this dog’s ancestry comes from a large variety of fighting dogs, as well as the Great Dane. Today, they are also chosen for military and police work. They are all white, and can be prone to deafness.


Estrela Mountain Dog–Hailing from Portugal, this large breed has two coat colors, both of which have about the same texture as goat hair.  As a livestock guardian, this is not the pet for everyone, and is recommended for those with a firm handle on leadership.

Spanish Mastiff–very big and strong, this dog has a longer nose than most mastiffs, and enjoys a lumbering daily walk.  They are calm, but smart, and very loyal.  But their size and rumbling bark probably mean they are better kept in the country than city.

Wirehaired Vizsla–This medium-large dog originated in Hungary, and although they were bred for hunting, their even tempers make them great family dogs as well.  They have skills as both scent dogs and retrievers, and are lean and very rugged animals.


 Maybe you’re a pet lover who is also a writer.  And maybe you enjoyed this article and it gave you some ideas of your own.  🙂  Contact me at joy@yourpetspace.info if you’d like to join our staff.  Thanks!

What Is The ASPCA Gift Shop?

aspca logoFrom the ASPCA History website:

New York City, April 1866: The driver of a cart laden with coal is whipping his horse. Passersby on the New York City street stop to gawk not so much at the weak, emaciated equine, but at the tall man, elegant in top hat and spats, who is explaining to the driver that it is now against the law to beat one’s animal. Thus, America first encounters “The Great Meddler.”

muddy dogNowadays of course, a good number of us have become great meddlers for the humane treatment of animals.  But it all started with Henry Bergh, the ASPCA’s founder.  Influenced by his travels in Europe and input from England’s Royal Society for The Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals, Bergh regularly spoke out on subjects of the day such as cockfighting and inhumane slaughterhouses.  Thanks to this great man, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was chartered in 1866. Anti-cruelty laws followed, and the ASPCA was granted the right to enforce humane treatment of animals.

horses in stallsOther improvements came too, such as: ambulances for injured horses, the creation of a sling for horse rescue, substitutes for live pigeons at shooting events, and supplying the horses in Manhattan of the day with public fountains visited by cats, dogs…and humans, too.  Buffalo, Boston and San Francisco were next to make similar changes.  Today, enacting laws to protect animals is one of the ASPCA’s primary functions. It is also instrumental in Animal Health Services and Community Outreach.

angora rabbitHow You Can Help with The Humane Treatment Of Animals

But what if you’re not politically minded, yet you still want to help?  We’re glad you asked!  Because when you find gifts for people or pets through the ASPCA Gift Shop, your purchase also helps support the ASPCA’s important work.

Bengal CatThe ASPCA Store

How do I get there and what will I find, you ask?  Just follow this link through the Your Pet Gift Space!  Once there, you’ll be able to shop for everything from tote bags to water bottles to scarves and hats–you name it!

budgieAnd by the way, the main ASPCA website is an amazing source of information, free products and inspiration about animals–check it out here.

Domesticated Hedgehog Facts

good pets: hedgehogWhat It’s Like Living With A Hedgehog

Growing up, you always knew which one of your friends had pets, what kind, and how many. I mean, one of the best parts of going over to a friend’s house was actually getting to play with their pets. I love animals, so I associate the people I meet and know with the animals that they own. In college it’s especially rare for students to have any kind of pet, but you remember those that do. While they’re usually known for having a cat or dog, my roommates and I are known as the girls with the hedgehog.

They Make Good Pets

Hedgehogs are good pets, but they are not your typical household pet; they are an exotic animal that can’t be found at a local vet’s office, animal shelter, or Petsmart. An advanced deposit has to be paid to a breeder, who then gives you a specific day and time to pick it up. My roommate chose and adopted her hedgehog in August to get used to living with him, before moving into our apartment for the new school year. She named him Winston, or more creatively Sir Winston Churchquill.

Even though he’s considered exotic, living with a hedgehog is almost like living with a hamster or guinea pig. Winston lives in a large plastic container with chicken wire attached to the top. The bottom is covered with bedding, and has a wheel, igloo, water bottle, and food dish.  As a nocturnal animal, I don’t notice him much during the day as he normally sleeps in the igloo, huddled under a washcloth for warmth. Sometimes he’ll venture out for food to keep up his cat food diet, but he is more active later at night.

More Domesticated Hedgehog Facts

Each day is a new learning experience with Winston. We read that hedgehogs need to be socialized and played with every day early on in order for them to recognize our individual smells. At night we take him out in an attempt for him to get used to us, but usually end up holding him, sitting still and hoping he doesn’t suddenly get scared and stab us with his quills. Winston is normally anxious and hisses, though it sounds like huffing or constant sighing, whenever he hears a loud noise and stays rolled up with his quills out. He usually unrolls when we try giving him different foods, like applesauce or mealworms, and is then more active afterwards. Sometimes he’ll even wander around the living room, but we can always find him either hiding or sleeping under the couch. No matter what, every new thing that Winston does leads to another cute or funny photo opportunity and Twitter post.

domesticated hedgehog facts

Even Good Pets Can Be Challenging

There are some challenges, though, in living with a hedgehog. As we learned, hedgehogs can apparently be trained to use a litter box. We tried this with Winston, but he still prefers to use the bedding on the bottom of his container or the floor of our apartment when we take him out. My roommate then has to not only change the bedding and clean the container often, but give him a bath too. We just fill a sink halfway with water and use a small brush and baby shampoo to scrub his quills. Even after he’s clean it doesn’t take very long for him to spill his food dish or make a mess again.

good pets: hedgehog

Hedgehog Pet Facts: They’re Nocturnal

The most difficult thing about living with Winston is in his nightly routine. At first, my roommate had his container in our room, with him living under her bed. As he’s mainly awake at night, we quickly learned how active hedgehogs can be. Minutes after we try to go to sleep he’s up and running on his wheel for what feels like hours on end. I honestly do not know how a small hedgehog can make so much noise running on a wheel. Most nights we’d have to move him either into the bathroom or outside our door until morning.  Eventually we made a spot for him permanently in the living room. Now that we all have a constant routine, the beginning rush of living with the hedgehog has now become normal.

When people ask me what it’s like to live with a hedgehog the first thing I say is that it’s hard. It’s hard to have a pet that can unknowingly hurt you each time you try to pick it up. It’s hard to interact with it when you’re awake and it’s sleeping and vice versa. It’s hard to learn its behaviors and what it likes. It’s hard to stop taking it out every day to play. It’s hard to stop taking pictures and telling people that they can’t come over to see it. It’s hard to hate loving the hedgehog.

Julia Mainwaring

Julia Mainwaring and her roommate.

About the Author

Julia Mainwaring is a current sophomore Sport and Event Management major at Elon University in North Carolina. When she’s not playing or coaching volleyball, she volunteers at the local animal shelter whenever she can.

Thanks, Julia, for these amazing hedgehog pet facts!


Who Is Dogs On Deployment?

Dogs On DePloyment Logo

What Happens To Dogs Of Deployed Soldiers?

Every military member deals with various difficulties and personal uphill battles during their careers; a dual military couple is a special breed of marriage where those battles are multiplied with the complexities of two careers, two commands, two goals and two paths which aren’t always convergent. This is the situation my husband and I found ourselves in. We knew it going into the deal; that our marriage would be tested, we’d be apart, and it would be tough. My husband, LT Shawn Johnson, US Navy, was at the tail end of his first sea tour stationed in San Diego, CA, and facing an upcoming deployment. I had just commissioned into the US Marine Corps, and would be attending an infantry-centric six-month training required by all Marine officers, The Basic School, in Quantico, VA, followed by up to two years of Naval Flight Training in Corpus Christi, TX. We were as prepared as we could be to meet the challenges of separation and trying to manage a marriage from two separate states. What we weren’t prepared for, of all things, was our dog.

JD is our baby. We had gotten him as a puppy, and his 35lb body of fur brings so much love into our home, that his presence is the thing that makes me smile in the mornings. He was two years old when I commissioned. In a few months, I was scheduled to move to Virginia for training, where I would be required to live in the barracks, where pets are strictly forbidden. Shawn was scheduled to deploy at the same time. We broke the lease on our house, moved our stuff into storage, and then stared at our dog in puzzlement as to what to do with him. Our immediate family was unable care for him for the six months we needed, and professional boarding (which we would have paid if it came to that) was the same as a small mortgage.

We were lucky. A distant relative on Shawn’s side of the family lived in Virginia, near the base I was moving to, had a large yard, and was retired military, understanding the difficulties placed on military families. Without even meeting JD, they agreed to welcome him into their home for six months, while I tromped around the forest in my boots with my M-16, and Shawn deployed to the Middle East.

We were lucky, but not all military members are.

On our drive from California to Virginia, we got to talking about the situation. JD in the back seat inspired us to come up with an idea to prevent this worrisome situation from happening to other military members. We would create a national non-profit that would connect military members with volunteers willing to board their pets during their service commitments; deployments, training and moves. We would eventually come to extend our network to homeless veterans, Wounded Warriors and the families of those affected by military hardship. We would use the money we raised from donations to give grants to needing military families for help with their pet’s care during emergencies, providing funds to transport pets overseas on moves, pay for emergency surgeries, give food to homeless veterans’ dogs, and even basic care, like spay and neuter initiatives. Thus, in June 2011, in the cramped seats of a baby blue Volkswagon crammed with everything I owned, my husband and my beloved dog, we founded Dogs on Deployment.

Growth of Dogs On Deployment

With the help of our small group of volunteers, Dogs on Deployment has grown to include a network of over 10,000 users. When a military member needs assistance with their pet’s care during their upcoming service commitment, they can visit our website and register their pet. In turn, what we call “DoD Boarders” register as foster homes to welcome a military-owned pet into their home. Through Dogs on Deployment, the two can connect, and work together to provide placement and a safety net for the pet. Our network aims to prevent needless relinquishment of military pets to shelters due to lack of options, and also improve the morale of deploying troops by providing them with resources able to help them and their pets.

Our network is robust. While we are currently limited to only helping those in the United States (though we do have future plans to expand internationally), we allow listings for any type of pet. We have helped over 400 military-owned pets find temporary care in their owner’s absence since founding, to include dogs, cats, birds, turtles, rabbits, ferrets, reptiles and more. Since Dogs on Deployment is a networking service, there are few requirements placed on DoD Boarders to register, as it is the decision of the owner who they choose to care for their pets. Our open network allows for easy communication between military members needing help and those that want to help them.

dog and soldier

What Dogs On Deployment Promotes

Besides providing the largest foster network for military members, Dogs on Deployment also promotes responsible, lifelong pet ownership by military families. Last year, we hosted our first annual Dogs on Deployment Military Pet of the Year and Mascot Competition to celebrate this, where we had several military-owned dogs submitted in our contest, and the winner by popular vote was Bram, a Rottweiler owned by a US Air Force family stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, MO. Bram has represented Dogs on Deployment and responsible pet ownership this past year by competing in training trials, being an ambassador for his breed and attending several community events.

The search has started again, and Dogs on Deployment launched our 2014 Military Pet of the Year and Mascot competition on February 1st, where we will find our next mascot and announce the winner in March.

In 2012, Dogs on Deployment was registered as a national 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit. We are funded through private donations and sponsorships. With the new year of 2014, we have big goals to expand our network, including launching a new website, increasing our financial grants to military families, and providing additional aid to DoD Boarders when a pet through our network is in their care.

How You Can Foster Dogs Of Deployed Soldiers

Should supporters of Dogs on Deployment want to get involved through volunteering or donating, please visit our website www.dogsondeployment.org to learn how you can help.

Our organization’s success relies on the community support in both the civilian and military sectors. When you bring two common passions together; American troops and the love for animals, you create an unstoppable force of dedication, support and outright generosity. Running this organization has been an adventure, and a fulfilling one. Becoming a Marine is my greatest accomplishment. Being a Marine means self-sacrifice, and putting others before yourself. Dogs on Deployment allows others to feel that same sort of pride. Helping a military member with their most precious item, their best friend, their family, can be challenging. But the reward is worth the effort. Seeing reunions of our troops with their pets (which you can watch on Dogs on Deployment’s YouTube channel), can bring tears to your eyes as the viewer. Being the one who made that reunion possible, is what I hope, a great accomplishment for any of our DoD Boarders.

Support us and foster dogs for deployed soldiers by finding us online, on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Dogs On Deployment: The Johnson Family

The Johnson Family

Founders Alisa and Shawn Johnson proudly own two miniature Australian Shepherds, JD and Jersey, and two Caique parrots, Kiki and ZoZo, who are the inspiration behind their work. They are also active fosters for Dogs on Deployment and their local rescue groups.