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June 1, 2020

"Look for the Helpers"

I'll be honest, at first glance our latest blog post's title doesn't quite seem relative to an animal nutrition company's Family blog. Fortunately; dear reader, I'm glad that you've taken the time to read this post to find out why this quote from Mr. Rogers is incredibly relevant to present times, and certainly the soul of RAWZ Natural Pet Food. Let's begin by examining the genesis of our title.

The Mr. Rogers that I cite is indeed Fred Rogers, American TV personality, puppeteer, producer, writer, and Presbyterian minister. He was the creator, producer and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001. While certainly not needing much of an introduction, Mr. Rogers was particularly adept at speaking with children in a soothing manner helping the child navigate difficult life situations. I can't help but see how we could all, no matter young or old, benefit from having a Mr. Rogers on TV in our current times. 

Back to "Look for the Helpers", while not originating from Mr. Rogers, the words were originally told to Fred by his mother when as a little boy he was frightened by something he either heard or saw on the news. The full statement from Fred's mother first began appearing in a column he wrote in the late 1960's about how his mother helped him navigate stressful times. Upon learning frightening information, Fred's mother reminded him to:

"Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." Fred went on to say, "To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

My RAWZ teammate put me in touch with one of these amazing "helpers" Mr. Rogers was referring to: Amy Engelhardt. Amy a Charlestown, MA resident, is the human companion of Harry the Healer, an adorable 5 yr old Cockapoo who regularly visits and comforts recently admitted Brain Injury survivors at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network's Charleston facility. Amy's a huge proponent of the healing power of animals which was clear as she recounted placing Harry's paw on just admitted patients and telling them they'd be ok. I was nearly in tears as I listened, remembering how Boomer's visits to my room at Spaulding's former location next to The Garden were so uplifting for me. Check out Harry the Healer's Instagram page to see this powerful pooch for yourself!

I could go on and on about this pair, but I'll end with some info about a moving event happening daily at Spaulding. After interacting on March 20th with a doctor outside the hospital who noted the current Pandemic had left many patients at Spaulding with reduced visitors, the idea for The Hope Train popped into Amy's mind. As person with a deep appreciation in human connection and a witness to the spiritual power of animals; Amy was excited by the thought of creating a show of support for patients working towards recovery at Spaulding. Seeds for a daily 10 AM walk around the hospital with Harry and others were planted.

After receiving the support of hospital administrators, another helper appeared. Cruz Roman, the owner of Charlestown's AB Printing & Imaging, enthusiastically offered his services to produce a "Hope Train" banner to be carried at the daily walk. Spaulding has the phrase "Find your strength" on much of its' marketing conveying how the hospital phenomenal rehabilitation services fuel recoveries. With the "Hope Train", Amy, Harry, and their supporters are providing hope in these uncertain times, uncertain due to the Pandemic and because of the hospital patients themselves' life changing injuries.        


May 25, 2020

Remedies for a stressed pet

First off, all of us at RAWZ hope you and your family are navigating these unusual times in good health and as comfortably as possible. Of course, when I say family, four legged members are included! Our Family Blog post from a couple of weeks ago discussed some symptoms that can point to a pet experiencing stress. I may need to attend more Krempels Center groups focused on improving memory, because my RAWZ teammate Jodi reminded me, I hadn't yet offered some possible remedies for anxious pets. Come to think of it, memory loss can be a sign of stress in humans so maybe Big Jim should give me a vacation :)


In all seriousness though, seeing a pet experience stress is disheartening. To review, some common symptoms of pet anxiety are: GI Issues, Changes in Appetite, Unusual Isolation, Increased Sleep, or Atypical Aggression.

If such a symptom or symptom(s) present, pet owners would be wise to rule out underlying medical conditions. A full check up with a veterinarian can help rule such a health concern out.   

Holistic Solutions

It sounds simple although can be difficult, a good start is to start by identifying the cause. Often any change in routine can be the culprit, with pets often displaying their human companions own stress. There are many subtle ways to calm a pet, a soft ear rub is one that comes to mind, but a simple web search showed 3 methods in particular that were often mentioned: Exercise (physical and mental), confidence boosting praise, create a safe space.

A. Exercise

While the word exercise brings to mind physical activities like running/walking or playing fetch, when it comes to the emotional well being of pets, mental exercise is also important. An active, engaged mind often equates to a calm one for pets. This can be as simple as teaching commands or even rewarding chew toys, sometimes resembling oral mazes. Many animal behavioral experts cite the calming effects of their primary caregivers attention and voice on pets. Time spent interacting with your pet can be the best medicine!

B. Boosting Confidence Through Praise

A great thing about engaging with your pet in ways that result in praise is that it means time spent with the pet in goal-driven activity. The feeling of accomplishment resulting from praise provides pets with a sense of security and reinforces attachment. 

C. Safe Space

Perhaps the most common type of stress in pets is separation anxiety. The discomfort of being alone affects pets greatly. Due to their weak sense of time, particularly in dogs, when the primary caregiver leaves, the fear of abandonment can be triggered. This can be magnified after inordinately large amounts of time you've spent at home (such as the recent shutdown). A tried and true way to reduce feelings of abandonment is the creation of a safe space. A safe space is simply a smaller confined space with familiar smells, objects, and often chews. Such a space can provide routine while enhancing the feeling of safety.

Still Stressed?

Hopefully, with one or a combination of these solutions a pets' anxiety will decrease, but if stress is a persistent problem, medication may be suggested by a veterinarian. As in humans, brain chemistry, an overabundance or lack of certain chemical(s) in the brain can be the culprit of distress for pets. Working with a Vet professional familiar with pharmacological treatments of distress in pets can help identify a helpful medication. Some common meds prescribed are Zoloft, Paxil, Ativan, Prozac, Valium, and Zoloft.

As always, thank you for loving pets and your interest in RAWZ!    




May 18, 2020

Seasonal Allegies

According to a recent survey by Novartis Animal, more than half of pet owners aren't aware that their four legged family members can suffer from seasonal allergies. While typically thought of as only suffering from food allergies, dogs like humans, are susceptible to environmental allergens. These symptoms usually occur when the seasons change. However, unlike humans who experience allergies typically as respiratory conditions, in pets allergies usually reveal themselves as skin, coat, or even ear issues. Some pets, however, will exhibit runny nose and discharge from the eyes.

Seasonal Allergies predominantly affect dogs. Many cats are indoor pets and thus don't get dangerous exposure levels to a lot of environmental allergens. 

There are a few things you can do to alleviate your pets symptoms.
-Daily baths offer complete, instant relief to an itchy pet, washing away the allergens on the skin.
-Foot soaks are a great way to reduce the allergens your pet tracks into the house from outside.
-Keep areas in your home where pets spend most of their time as clean as possible. Clean floors and pet bedding often.
-Limiting carbohydrates in the pets diet often reduces inflammation due to allergens.
-Seek out the advice of a holistic vet who can offer many natural remedies and/or help to your pet.

May 11, 2020

Is your pet stressed?

Our last post took a look at how pets can help their humans to deal with mental health issues, or simply provide comfort through stressful periods.  In light of May being Mental Health Awareness month, I thought I'd shift gears and look at how we can identify stress in pets and in our next post, ways to alleviate our four legged companions worries! After all, pets are also experiencing these unusual times, and like us, stress can be the result.  

Identifying Stress in Pets

Although I'm pretty sure my dog Clooney speaks to me in his own language, for us animal companions it's not always easy to tell if our pets are experiencing stress. However, a few symptoms can be indicative that your pet is experiencing anxiety or stress.

GI Issues

A sign of possible stress in pets is a Gastrointestinal Issue. While generally presenting as diarrhea, a pet experiencing constipation could also be having emotional struggles.

Change in Appetite

Just as the GI Issues that point to stress in your pet, the change in appetite can vary. Typically the change will present as a loss of or reduction in appetite. However, like humans and the phenomenon known as stress eating, an increased appetite can be a sign of underlying discomfort.

Unusual Isolation

While cats are generally thought of as fiercely independent while dogs, traditional pack animals, in need of constant companionship, pet parents will certainly observe patterns of behavior. Any noticeable change in the norm, but particularly more time spent alone is often a sign of psychological distress. 

Increased sleep 

Like humans, changes in sleep usually point to anxiousness in pets. It's not that seeing pets sleeping is unusual: After all, on average dogs log 12-14 hours of ZZZZ's a day while felines get anywhere from 12-16! What can be an indicator of a stressed pet is to see your four legged family sleeping at unusual times. For instance; if a pet typically is full of excitement upon your returns home, but seems lethargic, their deep restorative sleep may be interrupted.  Often the cause of interrupted sleep or pets not reaching deep sleep is stress.  

Atypical Aggression

Having a dog or cat show aggression is not in itself a sign of stress. However, having a pet that's normally mellow and calm around people or other pets show aggression in such circumstances be the release of nervous energy. While this can be an instance of a pet getting spooked, it's important to take note of a new behavior pattern.

While this is in no way a complete list of how stress can present itself in pets, these are many of its' most common manifestations. Thank you for loving your pet and your interest in RAWZ!