New Pet? No Prob!

Smooth transition advice from the pros
Story by Lisa Stites
Whether you got a new pet for the holidays, or you’re just thinking it may be a good time to bring a new furry friend into your home, a little bit of planning ahead of time can make for a smooth transition.

If you’re planning to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue organization, or buy one from a reputable breeder, you should do a little research ahead of time to get an idea of what breed best suits your lifestyle. Do you love being outdoors, running or walking, or tossing a ball? There’s a dog for that. If you’d rather curl up on the couch and cuddle, there’s a dog for that too. Do you love to travel and take your dog with you? Maybe a small breed would work. Are you around lots of children? Find a breed that’s kid-friendly.
Once you’ve decided what kind of dog is best for you, you’ll find many options for choosing your dog. Brunswick County Animal Shelter ( operates a shelter, and S.O.A.R.( in Oak Island and Paw’s Place ( in Winnabow are great places to start too.
Veterinarian Dr. Audra Rickman has been taking care of pets in our area for almost 22 years and has owned her clinic, Four Paws Animal Hospital for 12 years. “I love rescued/adopted pets,” Dr. Rickman said.
“I know there are reasons that owners seek out certain breeds, but breed standards are a guideline. Not all labs are warm and fuzzy (yes, most are), and not all dobermans want to bite you (hi from my Pit Bull). I personally have a mix of both. I have an adopted and a non-adopted.”
There are also specific breed rescue groups, so wanting a specific breed doesn’t mean you can’t save a rescue, she noted. Dr. Rickman said she is also very wary of trends. When the movie “101 Dalmatians” came out, she said veterinarians were terrified that shelters would be flooded with Dalmatians bought by well-meaning parents only to realize this was not the right breed for their family. She said she feels the same way about the “designer-mutts” somewhat. Just because you mix a poodle with a certain breed, like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, it doesn’t mean that the dog will be either hypoallergenic or have a decreased risk of the heart disease that is so prevalent in Cavaliers. “Giving it the cute “Cavi-poo” name does not mean it will be a healthier dog.,” she said.
Whichever route you choose to bring a new dog into your home, it’s important for everyone to meet to make sure your personalities mesh.
Dr. Rickman advises that unless you are picking out a pet for your children, giving a dog as a present is not a great idea.
“Just like people have personalities, pets also have personalities,” Dr. Rickman said. “It’s important that a person bond with their pet and often times that starts in a meeting room at a shelter or in a room at a breeder’s home. Breed descriptions can give some guidance as to what pet might work well with your family, but remember every dog/cat has their own personality. Breed descriptions are a guide, but not set in stone.”
Dr. Rickman also recommends researching potential health concerns associated with a specific breed if you’re determined to find a particular one. She used her own Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as an example, saying they have several specific and potentially costly health issues that an owner needs to consider before they decide they have to have one.
Before you bring your new dog, cat, puppy or kitten home, getting the house ready will also help the transition. “Are they into everything? Do they try to eat paper? Do they try to eat plastic? Do they try to chew on wires? Usually confining the amount of space they are allowed to roam in is a good idea. Gradually introduce them to the house,” Dr. Rickman said.
Regular exercise is important for your new dog, and there are plenty of places to make that happen and enjoy all the beauty of the area. Southport, Boiling Spring Lakes and Oak Island all have several parks that are just perfect for strolling. Remember to keep your dog on a leash, and make sure you clean up after your dog. Oak Island also has two dog parks where your dog can run free — a smaller one at Hannon Templeton Park on East Oak Island Drive, and the Salty Dog Park at Bill Smith Park on Fish Factory Road, with separate areas for large or small dogs.
Caswell Beach and Oak Island are dog-friendly beaches, with just a few simple rules. You’ll need to clean up after your dog, and keep your dog on a leash here too. Oak Island has dog waste bags at beach accesses, and there are some times when dogs may be off leash on the beach. From October 15 to March 15, between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., dogs can be off a leash under a few conditions. Dogs can’t be left unattended, they must be under visual and voice control at all times and they shouldn’t visit with other beach-goers or dogs without permission.
With proper care, exercise, and plenty of love, you and your new pet can have many years of happiness together. For Dr. Rickman, the best part of her role is helping animals stay healthy and stay with their families.
“Protecting and fostering the bond between owners and their pets is an amazing job,” she said. “And, yes, puppies and kittens are fun.”

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