This Saturday from 3-5 pm the Santa Fe Animal Shelter is celebrating the Day of the Dead with a celebration of life event at the restored Santa Fe Animal Shelter pet memorial labyrinth in memory of beloved four-legged friends who have passed away.
A $100 donation will get you a permanent heart-shaped plaque with the name of your lost pet on the memorial wall behind the labyrinth.
It's also a great opportunity to adopt a new furry friend, because the shelter is waiving all adoption fees on Saturday.
"The idea is that maybe if you did lose an animal, you can come now and adopt a new best friend," says Murad Kirdar, public and business relations officer for the shelter. "We have a lot of animals who have been here since before summer, and we want to get them into a new home before the holidays."
One of those dogs is Nieto, a lovable brown pit bull mix who has been at the shelter since spring. At 10 months old, he's pretty much grown up in the shelter.
With his big hopeful eyes and blue sweater, Nieto is absolutely adorable. Kirdar says he's also great with other dogs, has never shown aggression to kids, and is "kind of the perfect pet."
But he's been consistently overlooked by adopters, a fate that is particularly common for large brown and black dogs in New Mexico, says Kirdar. Luckily for Nieto, the SFAS is a no-kill shelter and he is safe, unlike dogs at a number of other facilities in the state.
Whether you decide to take home a new friend this weekend or are already an experienced doggy parent, here are some tips for keeping your dog happy and healthy in the cold weather from the shelter's behavioral and veterinary experts.
Q: Does my dog need a sweater?
A: Sweaters aren't just a hilarious and adorable way to dress up your Chihuahua; they are also necessary when the temperatures drop for many small dog breeds to stay happy and warm outdoors (and sometimes indoors as well).
Kirdar says it's a common misconception that dogs don't get cold, and it's not just your small dog who might need a sweater. Hairless or short haired dogs, such as Nieto, might also feel comfier in an extra layer.
Kirdar's general rule for long periods outdoors: "If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for them."
Q: Now that it's flu season, can my dog get sick too?
A: Dr. Jennifer Steketee, a trained veterinarian and the executive director of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, says, "dogs do not get the same flu virus as humans do. They have their own version of a flu virus, but thankfully it is not prominent in New Mexico yet. Just like in humans, quality food, decreased stress and moderate exercise are the best ways for pets to stay healthy any time of the year."
Q: My dog loves playing in the snow. Can he get frostbite?
A: "Dogs can get frostbite, especially on areas like their ears and tail. Limit exposure outside if it is below freezing," says Steketee. "When walking in the snow, be sure to watch for ice accumulating on your dog's paws."
Q: How do I keep my dog active and fit in the winter when I'm either skiing/snowboarding or at the gym, or taking a lazy day to cuddle on the couch?
A: If your dog doesn't like the cold, take him for shorter, more frequent walks than you might in the summer, and don't skip the dog park—they still need to socialize, even in cold weather. For the days when you can't take them outside, says Kirdar, buy a Kong toy or some other chewy puzzle toy that holds a treat in the middle. "I like to put the toy in the freezer with the treat in it, because then it takes 3-4 hours for the dog to get to it and it keeps their mind stimulated," Kirdar says.
Q: Could I train my dog to enjoy outdoor winter sports with me, and if so, what's the best place to start?
A: Quincy Sweeney, director of behavior and training, says not all dogs like the cold or were bred to handle low temperatures, so pay attention to their behavior. "Shivering, reluctancy to follow you, crouching, and huddling are all signs that it might be time to turn back for home."
It is possible for experienced dog owners to train some dogs to accompany you during outdoor sports, such as skiing or snowshoeing. The most important skill your dog will need and the best place to start, says Sweeney, is with a super solid "come" command. It might also be a good idea to consult a trainer to make sure you teach your pet safety first.
Q: I have a year-round outdoor dog, how can I make sure he's okay when temps drop below freezing?
A: Kirdar advises precautions, including giving your dog an insulated outdoor doghouse, a water bowl with a heater so the water doesn't freeze, and straw to sleep on. Avoid using towels—they hold water and can easily freeze overnight.
The shelter offers a program to help provide dog houses and straw to people who can't afford them. "Our goal is to do everything we can to keep an animal with the family it belongs to. If you need help taking care of your pet in the winter, call us," Kirdar says.
Q: If I adopt a new dog during the holiday season, what's the best way for me to deal with the busy schedule and rotating cast of family and friends in the house?
A: Sweeney says that you never know how a new dog will respond to a new situation, and it's important to have a quiet place for your dog to retreat and be by itself. "The excitement and fun for us can quickly turn into an overwhelming and stressful situation for our pets," she says. She also advises new pet owners to watch out for holiday decorations that can be dangerous if chewed or swallowed, toxic foods such as chocolate and turkey bones, and toxic plants, such as poinsettias.