Because my other job is with a social networking site, the term “Power User” has crept into my vocabulary. A Power User is an individual who doesn’t just use a particular website or application, but uses it in ways and to an extent that the average user doesn’t even consider. Think of people with hundreds of thousands of Myspace friends, or the users who don’t just use Facebook, but write and distribute applications for it just for fun. Those are Power Users.
I realized recently that Power Users have an equivalent in the pet world. An average user can use and enjoy a website like Myspace, but a Power User delves into every nook and cranny of the application and makes it a passion. Similarly, an average owner can certainly provide great care for a pet, but there is a class of pet owners I’ll call Power Pawrents® who go above and beyond and make pet ownership central to their lives and identities.
For example, take a friend I’ll call Amy. When one of her dogs needed surgery, she not only had the procedure performed promptly at a substantial cost, she also convinced her employer to let the dog come to work with her until the vet pronounced him recovered enough to return to doggie daycare. Then there’s a woman with whom I talk online, who has a dog with complex medical issues. My friend has learned to manage a special diet, give injections, compound medications, and monitor her dog’s vital signs regularly.
Not all Power Pawrents® have dogs with health problems. There are also Power Pawrents® who earn that title by participating in canine sports, formulating home-cooked or raw diets, and training their dogs to do exceptional things. The owners of therapy dogs, agility dogs, and show dogs are often Power Pawrents®.
Here’s a list of a few things that I feel place an owner in the Power Pawrent® category:
- Attention to their pets’ diets: To use another IT analogy, GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. Power Pawrents® know their pets’ health, trainability, energy levels, and mood can improve when they dine on a top-quality, species-appropriate diet. My friend “Dale” is a Power Pawrent® because he makes a home-cooked meal for his rats every other night, in addition to their standard diet.
- Monitoring of vital signs: It’s a good idea to know exactly what each pet’s weight, heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and capillary refill time is when they are in good health. If you keep a log of this information and check every few months to monitor any changes, if your pet becomes ill or is acting strangely, you will be able to check these vital signs and tell your veterinarian of any major changes.
- Preventive vet care: Hand in hand with the monitoring of vital signs goes preventive veterinary care. Power Pawrents® have a blood panel drawn at least once each year, and twice yearly for older pets or as recommended by a vet. Detecting early changes in blood chemistry can allow many conditions to be identified and treated in the early stages. Your pet can’t tell you he’s been feeling a little nauseous or has some pain when he urinates, so it’s your responsibility as an owner to monitor his health, including having preventive care performed. Having the vet maintain pets’ dental health, going to yearly checkups, and building a friendly relationship with a veterinarian you trust all also fall into this category.
- Environmental Enrichment: Caged pets in particular require an enriched environment for happiness, but every animal needs all five senses stimulated regularly, as well as social interaction, to be a happy pet. Pawrents® who provide a variety of toys for their pets and rotate these toys regularly to prevent boredom are providing an enriched environment. So are pawrents® who make sure to exercise dogs in several different locations or participate in multiple activities with their dogs, or pawrents® who screen a porch to allow indoor cats to get some fresh air and sunshine.
- Grooming and Hygiene: Pets feel best and look best when they are clean and properly groomed. That doesn’t mean bathing your pet every week, which would dry out most animals’ coats, but it does mean a daily once-over including checking nails and trimming if they are too long, checking the coat for matts and burrs, removing any feces stuck to the coat, cleaning caked mud from paws, and checking the teeth. Dogs and cats that don’t eat a raw diet should have their teeth brushed daily, or at least rubbed with a gauze pad to remove some plaque.
- End of life considerations: Nobody wants to think about the end of their pet’s life while he is in his prime, but Power Pawrents® are prepared to make tough but necessary choices when the time comes. That could mean paying for an expensive surgical procedure, or it could mean deciding that an elderly, suffering pet shouldn’t be put through surgery, and should instead be humanely euthanized. In addition, particularly for large animal owners, it’s a good idea to have a plan in advance for your pet’s remains. It’s hard to think about, but it prevents you from having to make yet another difficult choice during a very emotional time. The disposal of the remains of a large animal like a horse can be a very tough proposition, and it’s worse by far not to know what the options are when the pet has passed away than to have to think about those options while he or she is living.
- Rescue support: Power Pawrents® don’t have to rescue all their pets (and quite a few don’t, since many Power Pawrents® participate in shows or sporting events with their animals and choose to buy from responsible, reputable breeders) but they should be in some way involved in rescue. That might mean directing family members away from pet stores and toward the local shelter for a family pet, volunteering on occasion, or adopting some of the household’s pets.
- Part of the pet loving community: It’s perfectly possible to be a great owner and rarely talk to another pet owner, but I find that most Power Pawrents’® favorite subject is their pets. That means they gravitate toward fellow pet lovers, often joining forums, reading blogs (hi there!), or becoming members of clubs that have to do with pets. A sense of community makes owners feel good, and it can lead to improvements in pets’ care– for example, I changed my dog, Augustin, to a raw diet after my friend “Diane,” who I met through a pet lovers’ forum, walked me through the transition step-by-step.
There you have it: My opinion on the traits of a Power Pawrent®. Now, leave a comment, and let me know how much of this description applies to you!
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