By Patricia Stephens, Owner, FloridaPets.net
Our companion animals work hard every day to show love for us. It's not easy being cute, non-judgmental, gleeful when we get home, and always ready for a walk or a pat, pat, pat - day after day. They are good housemates. Various studies have shown that people with pets have lower blood pressure than people living without them. Scientists say that's because pets have a calming effect on their humans which helps them cope better with stress. And people with canine pals are more likely to get more exercise than people without pets.
After giving us all that and more, what can we do to show our pets we love them back? First of all, get your calendar and draw a big circle on February 14, 2019 - that's right, Valentine's Day. That's your target date to try out (or prepare for) one or more of the following ideas.
Get active with your pet
There are more than 200 dog parks scattered throughout Florida and there's probably one near you. Most are leash-free, although you'll want to keep your dog under voice control in case other misbehaving pups create a fuss. While I'm not of canine descent, I believe a great day for them would involve running around without the limitations of a leash, barking their silly heads off without getting shushed, making up games to play with other dogs, getting to sniff whatever good, bad, or ugly might be around, and most important, being with you, their beloved human.
Speaking of hanging out with you and other dogs, how about organizing a get-together with your pooch's favorite Labrador or a Mixed Blessing friend, or one or two other pups from a nearby dog park or down the street? Have these at your house or theirs, sit back with a cold drink, and enjoy a show filled with the sort of joyful frolic only dogs can provide. Be sure to offer up a treat or two when the date has ended.
Make a special treat
Play dates aren't the only time for treats. We make our own cakes and cookies for our pets and frankly, it's one of the most satisfying things I do. For Valentine's Day, check out online sources for heart-shaped cake pans and cutters. You might also want to get cutters in the shape of bones, fire hydrants, and paw prints for yummy creations the rest of the year.
Let them pick out a new toy
Throughout the year, we head to one of the big name pet stores and let one of our dogs pick out his own toy. Granted, they can't reach what's on the top shelves, but pups can be quite the discerning shoppers amongst the lower racks. Most of the time, our guys pick out a good fuzzy wuzzy. Once home, we give everyone a homemade treat so no one feels left out.
If you've been meaning to get an identification tag for your pet's collar, Valentine's Day would be the perfect time to do so. There are lots of cute ones online, with many themes and memes to suit your pet's personality. And while we're talking about IDs, you might want to ask your vet about microchipping. An implant the size of a grain of rice, given as an injection between your pet's shoulder blades, will make sure he'll find his way back to you in case he ever wanders off.
A good shampoo and trim make us - and them - feel better and this kind of attention makes a terrific gift for your fur child. Some groomers even provide pet massages and can teach you how to give them at home. And before you head back to the house...try our next idea.
Dine out with your doggie
Many Florida cities now allow you to enjoy a beverage and snack on an outside patio with your dog, providing both of you are well-behaved. FloridaPets.net has an ever-growing list of eateries that welcome pets and always appreciates hearing from readers about other places to add.
Cuddle up with a good dog flick
Your pets love you through all your Rom-Com and sci-fi movies, why not watch one designed just for them, at least on Valentine's Day? Studies have shown dogs can recognize animal sounds, like barking, whether it's coming from the TV screen or your nearby dog park. Titles like, "Isle of Dogs" or "The Secret Life of Pets" are good animated features. And YouTube will keep your pet binge-bound for hours. Just type "Movies for dogs" into their search box. Suggestion: We have 5 dogs and they really love any movies about squirrels. And if those aren't enough, there's always DogTV which provides programs 24 hours a day. Check your provider for availability.
For elderly or disabled pets
So your fur kid has minimal abilities, one way or the other. Do what you can together, to whatever degree he is able to enjoy. Offering homemade treats and curling up together on the couch for their favorite animal movie would be a grand low key way to celebrate the love you have for each other.