Why Pet Owners Don’t Get Insurance


Should You Have Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance for a pet that will likely be with you for 10 to 17 years seems like it would be a no-brainer. However, the majority of the dog people I know don’t have it. The reason why pet owners don’t get insurance is psychological. We tend to focus on the immediate convenience or inconvenience; the cost of monthly premiums instead of calculating the future effects of our current decision. Maybe your pet will never suffer a devastating illness or accident that can cost thousands of dollars to treat. But then again…

Plenty of dog owners do, having forked out $1.2 billion in premiums in 2017. Though that sounds like a lot, consider that 60% of households own dogs and another 47% own cats. Once the decision is made, research can help find which one is right for you. Consumers Advocate offers an easy way to compare cost as well as consumer ratings.


Healthy Paws

Healthy Paws gathered the highest rating. The monthly premium for a 3-year-old mixed-breed dog is around $29 with a $250 deductible per year. Another benefit that sets Healthy Paws apart from many others is that there is no cap on how much they will pay. The second highest rated insurance is Pet Plan. For the same dog, the premium is $37/month, a $500 deductible and annual cap of $2,500.

I asked Joey Santaella, outreach specialist for Consumers Advocate, why he thought insurance was important.

“Pet insurance helps protect both the pet and the owner by granting access to life-saving treatments and surgeries that otherwise might be too expensive for the owner to afford. Having pet insurance can literally be a life-saver.”

The History and Future of the Santa Cruz SPCA

Santa Cruz has been fortunate to have our SPCA since 1938, when it was founded by Dr. Charles Edward Graves, the county’s first small-animal veterinarian.

Doc Graves and Santa Cruz SPCA Ambulance
Doctor Graves and the Santa Cruz SPCA Ambulance


A Bit of History

In the past 20 years or so, there’s been some confusion over the difference between the SPCA and Santa Cruz Animal Shelter. That’s understandable. First, the SPCA was once located 2200 7th Avenue in Santa Cruz, where the County’s animal shelter is now. Additionally, SPCA contracted with the county to perform both animal rescue and enforcement services fromSanta Cruz SPCA 1955 to 2002. The current animal shelter, which is a separate entity, is officially known as the Animal Services Authority. Operated by the County of Santa Cruz, the county’s animal control officers investigate reports of animal abuse or neglect and enforce regulations. The shelter is also required to accept every unwanted animal: dogs, cats, chickens, goats, donkeys, etc.

Current Status

Alison “Ali” Talley, SPCA’s executive director since November of 2018, explains that the SPCA is a non-profit organization and relies solely on donations, bequests and other private sources of funding. Its main objective is rescue, adoption, education and community assistance and, because of space, is limited to accepting only dogs and cats. Some people still refer to the SPCA as a “no-kill” shelter, a term based in ignorance and moral superiority, as opposed to the Animal Services, which has no control on the limit of animals they take in. At their present location, 2685 Chanticleer Ave., the SPCA can accommodate approximately 60 dogs and cats. It relies on 15 staff members and approximately 300 volunteers to keep the organization running smoothly.

Future New Facility

But, changes are on their way. Ground has already been broken for a new facility at 2601 Chanticleer Avenue, and is scheduled to open in the spring of 2020. Six times the size of the current shelter, it will be specifically designed for stress reduction and the wellbeing of animals. Cats will be happier in their “catios” and group housing instead of cages. The SPCA will also be able to rescue medium and large dogs, which they are unable to do now. Said Ali, “We are tremendously excited about our next phase and being able to save more lives at our forever home.”

For more information, check out the webpage for the new shelter campaign  or call 831-465-5000, ext. 19.

Off Leashers: Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

Off Leash Dog

Perhaps human nature has always been this way: blame the cop who issues a ticket to one who drives 80 in a 40mph zone. The teacher who has it in for the parent’s child even with documented instances of misbehavior. And people who walk their dogs off leash who feel unfairly targeted by those hired to enforce the law. I sometimes wonder if it’s hard-wired in us to deny our culpability and shoot the messenger instead.

Sanctioned places for dogs to play off-leash Santa Cruz County leave much to be desired. The County has a list on their website and the majority are fenced-in dog parks. As a result, many dog owners do what I did years before I started my business: we said screw the law and took off the leash. My favorite was 20th Avenue; I was down there most mornings and often ran into the same people. As a result, I have friendships that are still going strong.

Be they friends or acquaintances, there were two favorite topics when we struck up a conversation. Our dogs, of course, but inevitably we managed to work in the injustice of county legal codes that denied the right of our fur babies to frolic untethered. But another rather disturbing view sometimes threaded its way through and that was blame leveled at the animal control (AC) officers personally. They went out of their way to hunt down dog owners who were just having a good time and really, harming no one. Wouldn’t those men and women’s time be better spent finding real problems to address?

And those who were ticketed. Oh, the outrage. One person I knew didn’t even try to hide his hatred of AC officers, referring to them as thugs, Nazis, the Gestapo. It led me to wonder if anybody ever sucked it up, took their licks and perhaps gone so far as to apologize for ignoring the law.

I got a warning up at Blue Ball park and it never occurred to me to get in the officer’s face. I’m not saying I’m all superior or anything, but I do hope to avoid being one more jerk (at least in this area) and self-professed victim in a world full of them.

Don’t Shoot. Take Action!

Live Oak Off Leash Association (LOOLA) was founded to work within the system to change the rules. Friends of Lighthouse Field (FOLF) was also started by those pursuing a legal solution to allow dogs off-leash. Members decided it was time to respond rather than react. As the saying goes, better to light a candle rather than curse the darkness.

I’d hate to do a ride-along with those tasked to enforce the law. I know I couldn’t do what the “thugs” do without throwing up or wanting to throttle cretins who abuse animals that they probably run into on a regular basis. It’s a job. And it’s a job you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to do. Writing this, I just had a radical idea. Maybe I’ll drop off some cookies for them. Maybe I’ll even write a thank you note. I seriously doubt they’ve ever been thanked in their life. Maybe it’s time.

Dog Boarding Safety: Who Can You Trust?

Happy Pup at Little Pup Lodge

Vacationers increasingly search for alternatives to kenneling their dogs while on vacation. In response, “Uber”-model businesses like Wag and Rover have exploded to meet the demand. These online companies promise to match dog lovers looking to make a little extra money with dog owners who need someone to watch their pet. With so many strangers competing for your dog (and dollars), who can you trust?

Unfortunately, a mere love of dogs and good intentions are not enough to keep beloved pets safe and tragedies have ensued. Dogs have escaped, been lost, mauled, and killed due to inexperience and neglect.

Questions to Ask

Before deciding on whether a long-established boarding facility, a newly established business, or an online individual will be responsible for your dog’s care in your absence, ask the following questions:

  • What experience do you have? How long have you been boarding dogs?
  • What are the facilities like? Will my dog be confined to a limited space like a crate or room? Does your property have a securely fenced yard?
  • Will my dog be left alone? If so, for how long? If not, who watches them when you are not there? Someone with the appropriate experience? (Children or teenagers in the house increase the risk of a dog’s safety. Too often they forget to securely shut the front door or gate.)
  • How will my dog be exercised? Will my dog leave the property? Are they taken in cars? Are safety harnesses or crates used for transport? If they leave your property for exercise, where do they go? To non-fenced parks, the beach, or size-specific, enclosed dog parks?
  • Do you care for more than one dog at a time? If so, do you limit the number of dogs? Do you accept both large and small dogs at the same time? Are there any other kinds of animals present?
  • Do you pre-screen all dogs before you agree to board them? Do you accept dogs that are not spayed or neutered? Do you require proof of vaccination?
  • Do you have insurance specifically for pet boarding?
  • Are you Red Cross-certified in pet CPR and first aid?

You can’t ask too many questions. Your dog’s life may depend on it.

Safety & WellBeing

Here at Little Pup Lodge, our philosophy and reservation requirements ensure your dog’s safety and wellbeing are our utmost care and concern. Contact us today to learn more about how we care for your dog like you care for your dog.

Care and Kindness Towards Animals

Care and Kindness Toward Animals
Care and Kindness Toward Animals

Rescue organizations have been around awhile, but the concept of care and kindness towards animals goes back quite a bit further, as evidenced by Proverbs 12:10: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the evil are cruel.”

The first legal code for animal protection in America was recorded in 1641. Sections 92-93 of the “Body of Liberties” prohibited “any Tirranny or Crueltie towards any bruite Creature which are usuallie kept for man’s use" and mandated periodic rest and refreshment for any “Cattel” being driven or led.

Abolitionists, temperance activists and ministers in the mid-19th century aggressively addressed the welfare of animals as a barometer for human morality, which led to the first animal welfare organization, founded in 1866. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) wanted legal protection for all animals. Within a year, they were successful. New York passed laws prohibited a blanket of definitions that were considered mistreatment of animals, including blood sports and abandonment. Uniformed officers were deputized to police and enforce the law.

Pennsylvanian Caroline Earle White wanted to take protection a step further. She was horrified by drivers of horse- or mule-drawn carriages who mercilessly beat their animals. Inspired by Henry Bergh’s success at founding the ASPCA, Caroline Earle White was instrumental in creating the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) as well as opening the first shelter (originally called a “refuge”) for lost and homeless dogs in 1869. The organization also worked to end dog- and cock fighting as well as one of most horrifying forms of “entertainment”: the practice of tying up animals so others could attack it.

As the concept of dogs and cats as pets gradually took hold, so did our perception of them and their right to protection from abuse and neglect. Today, there are more than 14,000 animal rescue organizations that have sheltered or fostered an estimated eight million animals. Although there is much progress to be made with our commitment to animals as sentient beings, it is important to appreciate how far we have come.

Animal Rescue, Hoarding or Cruelty?

As a dog lover, I have the utmost respect for most animal rescue organizations. They rely on foster families, which are always hard to find. They make sure the dogs are treated for any health problems and vaccinated before being put up for adoption.

Organizations like Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, CAPE (Center for Animal Protection and Education) or ASR (Animal Shelter Relief) are registered non-profits and rely on a diverse group of people and often a board of directors to keep true to their mission.

Animal Rescue
The CAPE mission is to works to save the lives of individual animals who are older or have special needs and to educate people about ways in which they can change their own lives to alleviate animal suffering.

Not All Are Rescuing

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to animal rescue. Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA’s senior vice president of forensic sciences and anticruelty projects, reports that one-quarter of hoarding cases are with alleged rescue organizations and shelters.

Called “rescue hoarders,” they can be individuals with a savior complex who cannot stop finding and keeping animals they believe they can help. With hoarding tendencies, they then balk at adopting them out. Humane Society investigators discovered over 150 dogs living in deplorable conditions and almost 100 dead when they visited One More Chance Rescue and Adoption in Florida.

Lisa Bruno’s Tiger Ranch Cat Sanctuary took in more that 7,000 cats in a fourteen-month period but found only 23 homes. When it was finally raided, 391 were found mostly starved, ill and too weak to care for themselves. Another 106 dead and rotting carcasses were found and it was suspected thousands more were buried on her property. Astoundingly, volunteers enabled her and more than 700 people signed a petition to get the case dismissed.

Even worse are those who set up fake rescue organizations for the sole purpose of collecting donations and adoption fees.

What to Do

How can you tell a reputable organization from a hoarder or rip-off? How do you know which animal rescue organizations to support and which to be concerned about? This Daily Herald article provides guidelines to help you sleuth it out. If you suspect an organization is not reputable, refer to these Humane Society and ASPCA articles for step on how to reporting it. You can also contact your local animal control or police department.

The Ultimate Dog-Lover’s Picnic Basket

Who doesn’t love a picnic on the beach? Well, me, for one. Heat, sand flies, screaming kids? Nope, my idea of the ideal picnic is in a dimly lit room with my PB&J and the TV on. But most folks enjoy picnics, especially if they can bring their fur-baby along. Having done extensive research, I’ve come up with the Ultimate Dog-Lover’s Picnic Basket.

Days of Wine and Dogs

No summer outing would be complete without a bottle of wine. What better than a Chateau la Paws Merlot from Rosenblum Cellars? Described as a “medium-bodied, velvety wine brimming with ripe plum and juicy black cherry,” it not only has rave reviews, but this winery is wholeheartedly committed to animal welfare organizations around the country such as North Shore Animal League America, which states on its website that it is the largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization in the world.

Of course, you must have wineglasses. Stemware does not fare well on sand, so check out these stemless ones on Amazon inscribed with “Dogs and Wine Make Life Better.”

Add crackers, a robust cheddar and there you have it. When it’s time to fold up the tablecloth and put away the utensils, Cynthia Rowley-designed tea towels will help with clean-up. I need not add that a water bowl and plenty of water must be included.

Dog-Friendly Places

It goes without saying that this repast will only work on dog-friendly beaches. Those are few and far between in Santa Cruz county, so travel south about 45 miles to charming Carmel-by-the-Sea. This hamlet is probably one of the most dog-friendly towns on the central coast, if not all of California. Water bowls are stationed in front of most businesses and there is no shortage of eateries and lodging for you and your pup. The town’s dog-loving vibes might be because former movie star and lifelong animal welfare advocate, Doris Day, calls Carmel home. She founded the Doris Day Animal Foundation in 1978, whose mission is “to reduce the pain and suffering of non-human animals through legislative initiatives, education and programs to develop and enforce statutes and regulations protecting animals.” The organization also inspired “World Spay Day,” which has helped spay 1.5 million animals. Doris also owns the Cypress Inn (super dog-friendly, natch), where my late dog Oliver and I had enjoyed lunch a few times. Oliver was impressed that he got his very own menu.

Carmel’s beaches are leash-free and frolicking dogs add the perfect entertainment to a day well-spent. Whatever beach you decide on, I wish you an experience free of sand flies, unbearable heat and screaming kids.

Mystery Novels with Dogs

If you like your mysteries hard-boiled, you’ll love books by Andrew Vachss, Jim Thompson or James Ellroy. Readers with more sensitive souls turn to cozies, a mystery sub-genre that evokes a slight smile with a modicum of suspense. For cozy readers like us, there’s no better mystery than one that combines snoops and their pooches.

In Susan Conant’s A Dog Lover’s Mystery Series, malamutes Rowdy, Kimi and Sammy have saved the day (and their guardian Holly Winter’s life) in 19 books and counting. Holly writes for a dog magazine and her adventures always seem to find her at the scene of a murder which, of course, she solves by the end. (I have an affinity for Holly Winter as I also write articles for a dog magazine!)

Mystery Novels with Dogs
Novels like A Dog Lover’s Mystery Series feature canine protagonists.

Then we have the adventures of private investigator Bernie Little, narrated by his four-footed buddy, Chet. Author Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie mystery series have entertained and charmed readers through eight books so far. An animal narrator is a tricky act and Quinn doesn’t always pull it off. His series lean more towards noir than cozy but it’s always fun to read about murder in Los Angeles.

My sister votes for David Rosenfelt as her favorite author when it comes to dogs and detectives. As one who has owned golden retrievers for the last 30 years, perhaps it is because Tara, a beautiful golden, is the series star. She lives with her human, Andy Carpenter, a brash attorney who truly hates what he does for a living. His true passion is the Tara Foundation, a rescue operation that he started with a sizable inheritance. Every good mystery protagonist has to have that one friend who does the dirty work. He (or she) is usually the muscle; morally complicated and dangerous, but a loyal friend who is ready to do what it takes to bring down the bad guys. Ex-con Willie fills that role for Carpenter.

An Amazon search will yield dozens more dog-and-detective books, but what makes Conant, Quinn and Rosenfelt bestselling authors are the qualities that make great reading. First of all, great writing. The characters are fully developed and you feel like you know them intimately. Minute details transport you to the scene. You learn things and most importantly, there are dogs, dogs, dogs.

How to Train Your Dog

Is There An “Only” Way?

Ask any dog owner about how to train your dog and they’ll assure you they know the correct way, the only way to train your dog. To me, however, that sounds a lot like child rearing. One school of thought says to ignore a baby when it cries. Yet other parents find that barbaric and harmful to the infant’s growth. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” has long since evolved to a host of new ideas about child rearing. Should parents be permissive? Authoritative? Whatever style they follow, parents insist they are doing it the right way and their kids will grow up to be responsible, well-mannered adults. How owners teach their dogs manners aren’t terribly different.

positive reinforcement in dog training
Using Positive Reinforcement for Dog Training

Evolving History of Training

In years gone by, if your puppy peed in the house, you rubbed his nose in it. That’s was called housebreaking. Then along came a more refined version: dominance training and the belief that dog owners need to assert themselves as the alpha or pack leader. (By the way, the idea of alpha dogs has pretty much been disproved.) Dominance training’s most well-known proponent is Cesar Millan, who burst on the scene almost 15 years ago with his hit tv show, “The Dog Whisperer.” He was America’s darling, his methods impeccable, until the next correct way to train a dog began gaining traction: positive reinforcement.

Unlike dominance training, which corrects unwanted behavior, positive reinforcement is like it sounds. Bad behavior is ignored, good behavior rewarded. In the time-honored practice of adoring celebrities until the inevitable backlash that tears them down, we have done our part to eviscerate poor Cesar and label his methods cruel and ineffective. I don’t have a beef the Dog Whisperer. I think he has done enormous good in educating people to adopt, not buy their pups. And he has used his fame to promote the need to spay and neuter, and to quite good effect, it appears.

Millan was far from the first dog trainer to use television as a way to educate (and make money), by the way. “The Dog Whisperer” was long preceded by “Training Dogs the Woodhouse Way” a British show that first aired in 1980. Barbara Woodhouse will always be known for her signature command, “Walkies!” However, we can point to Millan for opening the floodgates to ever more experts on the air: “Lucky Dog” “Me or the Dog” and “At the End of My Leash” to name a few.

Now all you need to do is choose a method and then you, too, will know the “only” way to train a dog. (Check out our philosophy for how we care for our pup clients.)

HTF! (Heat, Ticks and Foxtails)

I’ll just say it: I despise summer. Mainly, it’s because I have Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder(The good news is now I get to join the majority of Californians who have some sort of disorder, syndrome or complicated issues). Most people slip into a deep funk when the days begin to shorten and cold and dark descend.  But that brilliant sun’s return, now shining an ungodly number of hours a day, hurts my eyes and anything over 73º grosses me out.

And for all of us dog owners, summer is not our friend; it limits our dogs’ safety and enjoyment in the great outdoors.

First, dogs left in cars. For fear of having their car stolen, most people only crack the windows when they leave their pooch and run out for “a few minutes.” But 70º in the sun means 90º inside within 10 minutes. Then you’ll have someone like me who comes to the rescue and shatters the window with her crowbar, which is legal in CaliforniaHowever, waiting with said crowbar for the idiot owner to return probably isn’t.

Next, there are ticks. We have already experienced a pretty bad tick season, but it will hit its zenith May through July, which means the risk of Lyme disease. Fortunately, only 5-10% of dogs exhibit symptoms such as swollen joints, difficulty breathing and in rare cases, kidney failure.

Foxtails: a summer concern for dog owners.

Lastly, the scourge of bristly foxtails (S. verticillata). Its spikelets create a weapon which, once embedded, slip smoothly into our dogs’ nostrils, ears and just about anywhere through the skin. While safely dormant during the winter, our lack of rain here on the West Coast from May through November desiccates foxtails and the tips fall off. Although I only walk my guests on paved surfaces, the little foxtail bastards still manage to launch their nuclear warheads in our path. Casually hitchhiking a ride with whatever poor doggie that happens along, foxtails are the bums, bullies and marauders of nature’s flora. And a pup-foxtail encounter can be expensive. They’re virtually impossible to remove without a visit to your vet and a sucker punch to your wallet.

So enjoy those hikes, vacations and beach visits with your dog and try not to think of the dangers that lurk nearby.