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The Caledonian Record's Modern Archive contains staff-written and other selected articles from 1997 to the present.

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More than 5 million hectares of land – about 12.5 million acres – have been decimated, at least a half-billion animals killed, thousands of homes destroyed and at least 23 people have lost their lives as out-of-control fires continue to ravage Australia.

One of the more frustrating events in the life of a pet owner is seeing the beloved animal looking particularly adorable and never seeming to have the camera ready to capture the moment. Whether indoors or out, your dog and/or cat can rival any animal calendar pinup with a little preparation on your part.

This is the time of year when we resolve to change past behaviors, achieve new goals, and improve our lives. When we have animals in our care, we can include them in these decisions. Diet and exercise often top the list of changes that we consider making in our lives. These are both important to your pets also. A healthy diet will contribute to the good health of your pet and exercise will contribute to longevity. An overweight pet is at risk for numerous health problems, some of which can be reduced or eliminated by scaling back the excess fat in the diet. Consider walking regularly with your dog to keep him fit and yourself in better shape. Play with your cat to help maintain his agility.

The New Year has become a time to gather with family and friends, dine on a sumptuous meal, and resolve to improve our lifestyle throughout the new year. Many of us are fortunate to have good shelter, abundant food, and the companionship of loved ones. Unfortunately, there are those who lack these things. Finances may be limited. Food may be scarce. Housing may be inadequate. This is a time to reach out to our fellow men and help make their days a bit brighter.

Having a companion animal can be one of the most rewarding things in life. Ideally, it works both ways: you give the animal a comfortable home with plenty of love and nurturing and, in return, the animal gives you unquestioning devotion - unless you happen to have a cat, in which case you really have to work at it. Dogs generally seem eager to please and give their best effort to respond to their owners. Anticipating a treat they can be taught to do tricks or display a desired behavior. Cats seem to know that the treat will be there and, if not, they sense that the roof over their heads implies appropriate care and feeding. Either that, or cats are slow learners. Coming when called is a trait that most dogs learn without too much reinforcement. Enticement with treats increases the response time. Cats seem less interested in the interaction process, seeming to prefer to observe from afar and project a persona of disinterest. Given time, they, too, will come when called and give in to the bonding process.

Having a dog in one’s life can be so rewarding. A friend once commented that she would never become “tied down” caring for a dog or cat. She did not want to be “bothered” having to maintain a schedule dependent on needs other than her own. How sad that she will never know the unconditional love and devotion of an exuberant creature who never tires of trying to please. How empty her life must be without knowing the joy that only a companion animal can bring.

That stray dog or cat wandering alone and cold beside the road can have a better life if someone cares. Some shelter animal can enjoy an active and rewarding life when some human adopts it. Even the pet store critter can lead a life of luxury when a man, woman, boy or girl chooses to bring it home and nurture it. Your neighbor – the one who failed to spay or neuter the family pet – may have a litter awaiting adoption. Perhaps an elderly resident may no longer be able to care for the family pet. Your intercession can ease the transition for that person and its cherished companion animal when you offer to assist in its care or offer to provide a home for it. These are all animals in need of a loving home and you can do your part by bringing some creature into your home and providing it with a safe and caring environment in which to live out its days.