Every Day Can Be Earth Day For Pets Too.

10 years ago
When my little dog stretched dramatically, I'd laugh and call it his doggie yoga poses. Who knew about doga (rhymes with yoga) at the time? Not me, but it turns out it's all the rage.

In doga poses, the dogs look a lot like they do when they loll about and appear to be happy. It's no coincidence, Storm says, that a common yoga stretch for people is called "downward-facing dog."

In the chair pose, dogs sit on their hind legs with their front paws in the air while a person holds them from behind. In the chaturanga pose, dogs lie on their abdomens while someone strokes their backs. In the savasana relaxation pose, they lie on their backs while someone rubs their belly. Aaaaahhhhh.

If dogs don't want to do doga, it's fun to have them hang out on a mat while you do yoga, Storm says.

The most important part of doga is spending quality time together. Doga helps dogs and people bond, Storm says, because they have to focus on each other. No TV or video games. No homework worries. Just you and
your dog stretching and relaxing.

There are other ways besides an exercise steeped in Eastern tradition to keep your pet in tune with the divine, and to reduce his carbon footprint at the same time. A little green living never hurt anyone, not to mention our planet, and since it's Earth Day every day this month, it's time to consider how to keep our pets' lives as environmentally friendly as they can be.

Green Food Options

The first thing on the list for many owners concerned about the health of their pets and the planet is food. I'm not an expert, and this is too important of a topic to pretend to be. That is also why I don't recommend any particular pet food, and post links to any specific variety with a disclaimer that each owner must decide what is right for her pet. Pets, like people, vary widely in dietary and healthcare needs, and one dog or cat's feast - even if it's organic, low-salt, or some other special variety - can be another's junk food. I strongly recommend that you work with your vet to determine what the best diet is for your pet, and if you don't feel like you're getting good advice, shop around for a doc who will give it.

Our dog had colitis and severe allergies. At the advice of our vet, he had home-cooked meals of turkey and rice and
a yogurt snack at night with his medicine for the last several years of his life, so I also haven't been tuned in to commercial pet foods for awhile. Additionally, the 2007 pet food recall frightened enough pet owners sufficiently to consider their own pet food choices more carefully. Jason started the Homemade Healthy Pet Food Blog after the recall, with recipes and resources for owners who opt to try homemade.

Pet Food Tracker continues to keep up with what foods have been associated with the recall. Itchmo, run by Ben and Emily Huh, was another helpful site for food recall information, including lots of information about feeding alternatives. Ed. note: Ben Huh is one of the folks behind I Can has Cheezburger, and he and wife Emily are taking a break from Itchmo. The forums will stay up and
running, though.

First, from the celebrity files, who knew there was a green gossip site? They're reporting that Ellen DeGeneres has purchased a natural pet food company called Halo.

Ellen told Parade magazine that her food is SO natural that even humans can eat it. She said, “Ours is all human grade. It’s all natural. And yes, you can eat it. People love their animals so much so that they put little clothes on them and necklaces and booties and things like that. And if you love your animal, then you should feed them something that’s not dangerous for them. There’s a lot of poisonous stuff that they’re putting in a lot of that food, those by-products.”

When asked what her pet policy would be if she were a politician, Ellen said: “My pet policy would be to love them and give them as much respect as you would give any living thing and treat them kindly. They’re innocent little souls that are filled with unconditional love. And we should give them the same.”

Good questions and good answers, but let’s not forget that ALL animals should be respected…not JUST pets. If your dog (or you) has a hankering for some meat in a can, trot on over to Halopets.com.

Peggy at Tree-Hugging Family (my new favorite blog name) writes about Pet Promise, a food company with partners including Dr. Andrew Weil and the Organic Center. Here's what they promise:

We only buy source-verified, natural ingredients from ranchers who guarantee us meat and poultry that's free of added hormones and antibiotics. Our meat and poultry is not blended with ingredients that do not meet our stringent standards of purity.
Barbara Feiner at Organic Authority also wrote about Pet Promise. She quoted Weil.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, it’s all of the steps from farm to bowl that determine the credibility and impact your pet food may
have on the environment.

“I think it’s especially critical for pet owners to examine the type of protein that goes into their pet’s food,” says Weil, who has two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Jambo and Daisy. “My dogs are a big part of my family, so knowing the protein source of their food is really important to me.”

Weil’s personal concern over the health and well-being of his dogs, combined with his personal passion for the environment, led him to get involved with launching one of the first pet foods with U.S. source-verified meat and poultry.

Over at Planet Green, Jasmin Malik Chua posted "Swap Out Your Pet's Junk Food" in January.

Certified-organic pet foods must meet strict U.S. Department of Agriculture standards that spell out how ingredients are produced and processed, which means no pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, artificial preservatives, artificial ingredients or genetically engineered ingredients.

Here are some trusted brands available on the market:

1. Castor & Pollux Petworks
2. Newman's Own Organics
3. Pet Promise
4. PetGuard
5. The Honest Kitchen
6. Wellness

Pet Care Tips has a useful article on how to decipher the ingredients on a pet food label, and DogAware.com has guides to commercial pet food, supplements, raw, and frozen food options, among others.

Oh, and if you have a green pet tip you care to share with PetCo, you might win a year's supply of Pet Promise.

Green Pet Shopping

Great Green Pet is a shopping blog devoted to environmentally- and pet-friendly products. The most recent link is to (Dogs Are...) Very Super Cool, a purveyor of "Green greeting cards" with pet portraits, because "every dog has a story." So true. The cards are printed on recycled paper.

Kelli Best-Oliver wrote what she calls a "quick overview" for green pets at Green Options. She linked to biodegradable poop bags at EcoAnimal and Swheat Scoop, a wheat-based scoopable kitty litter, but says better yet, compost your pet's waste.

Yeah, yeah, I know you aren't supposed to compost pet waste. However, that rule generally goes for compost that is going to be used on edible plants, like a veggie garden–using that compost on landscaping or flowerbeds is fine. If the thought of adding poo to your pile still makes you cringe, create a whole separate compost just for pet waste.
Bury a metal garbage can for a securely-contained poo pile. For your feline friends, avoid clay-based litters–the clay is strip-mined, and the dust from the clay can irritate your cat's lungs.

Speaking of EcoAnimal, they call themselves an "ecoplanet Internet store" with Earth-friendly products for animals, and I have to agree. In fact, I don't really know where to begin linking all the cool stuff on this site (I lied! Songbird seed feeders made from recycled materials! Hemp dog toys! Seriously, just check it all out.) They even link to the Dog Fun guide, or what they call the "original dog park directory."

Meg Donohue at StyleHive gives 11 tips for "Greenifying Your Fido" in style.

Green Pet Care & Protection

Lynnette at the Fun Times Guide wrote "5 Ways to Be A Green Pet Owner." First on the list: rescue.

#1 Perhaps the easiest way to be a green pet owner is to choose a "recycled" dog or cat.

The green pet owner will rescue and rehome a displaced dog or cat rather than buy one. (Don't Shop... Adopt!)

Chartreuse Life, "A Mom and Daughter's Journey to a Greener Life", says rescue, and spay or neuter.

Spay or neuter your pet. Not only will you cut down on the number of homeless animals out there but you will improve your pet's health - spaying and neutering helps dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives by eliminating the possibility of uterine, ovarian, and testicular cancer, and decreasing the incidence of prostate disease.

Jasmin Malik Chua wrote a useful guide on TreeHugger.com last year called "How to Green Your Pet." It is just fantastic, and has a bunch of great links at the bottom, too. And because green is as much about being compassionate and aware as it can be about practical choices, I'm a very biased fan of her number one way to reduce your pet's carbon footprint:

1. Adopt from a shelter

Pet breeders have only one goal in mind—to raise large quantities of purebred animals for profit. They’ve also been pilloried for misdeeds
such as overbreeding, inbreeding, poor veterinary oversight, lousy food and living conditions, overcrowding, and culling of unwanted animals. Why buy when you can adopt one of the 70,000 puppies and kittens born every day in the United States? Love knows no pedigree. Check out Petfinder.com to find your perfect match.

Treehugger also gets points for consistently covering green issues for animals, and for the links to Oops I Pooped biodegradable pet waste bags.

I'll give some regional link love to Bark Natural, a store that carries a wide range of organic and environmentally friendly products. They also have a good list of resources on their Website, including animal advocacy groups and holistic healthcare practitioners for pets. One of those resources is Holisticat, a message board and forum that calls itself "The One, The Only, The Original Holistic Cat Care Community for discussion of ways to keep cats healthy, happy, and well-fed."

Generally Green

Grist Environmental News and Commentary has an article called Collared Greens with comprehensive suggestions for green pet living and a solid list of resources at the end.

Squidoo's "Raise a Green Dog" page.

Christie Keith's article for the San Francisco Chronicle, "The Environmental Impact of Pets."

Whew. That's a lot of green for the pets in our lives, and it's all good. Earth Day is April 22nd - make sure they get some (environmentally friendly) treats- and maybe a walk for both of you - to celebrate.

Laurie White writes at LaurieWrites.

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