I can’t wait to get a dog. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that my days would be brighter with slobbering kisses and an ever-ready excuse to play fetch in the park.
Lately I’ve been following the pups in my neighborhood, stopping to ask the owner of an Australian shepherd if the breed is good with children, drooling over a baby bulldog (have you ever seen a bulldog puppy? If only it wouldn’t grow up!), and bending down to get a few licks from an active chocolate lab. I’ll often find myself sitting alone at Dog Beach, an off-leash canine romping area in my local park. I go there to see the pooches in action, and though it’s slightly creepy — not unlike a single childless man hanging around a playground — the dog owners are more than friendly, allowing me to scratch their pets behind the ears and making idle chitchat about shots or shedding.
I can trace this yearning for a puppy to the occasional dog-sitting I’d do for an old neighbor. His name was Max — the dog, not the neighbor — and was a soft and sweet, if slightly creaky, old golden retriever. Max and I would stroll slowly around the neighborhood while I savored my temporary inclusion in what seemed to be a secret doggie society, one where you gave fellow pup walkers knowing nods and grinned proudly (but subtly) as strangers oohed and ahhed over your furry best friend.
Max lived in a city (as I do) and seemed to be OK with the arrangement, but I couldn’t help thinking that he’d be significantly happier if he were able to run and play in an open field or at least a backyard. This is why I’m still on the outside, admiring the dogs of others, but not yet an owner of my own. The park is nice, but until I can give a pooch the space he or she needs to romp sufficiently, I just can’t bring myself to make the commitment.
When I do decide to add a puppy to my family, I’ll be doing it — as I try to do most things — in eco-style. Here are the best ways to outfit your dog (or cat) with the best in environmentally friendly gear.
Rescue an animal
First, a word on adoption. In my humble, currently dog-less opinion, the most important way to go green with your pet is to start from the beginning. When looking for the right pet for you and your family to adopt, don’t buy. There are millions of animals sitting in shelters across the country just waiting for the right home. Think of it as the ultimate in recycling — and it’s affordable, too. You will not only be saving an animal from an unhappy life (or an untimely death), but you’ll also be saving money that would be used to pay a breeder or pet store. Check out PetFinder.com to find a needy animal near you.
You wouldn’t eat animal by-products — so why should Fido? Most conventional pet food is made from beef and poultry leftovers — not an ideal way to outfit your furry one with the best in nutrition. Look for natural and organic pet foods that are made with meats that are free from any added drugs, hormones or synthetic preservatives. Check out Karma Organic food for dogs and California Natural cat and kitten food made from chicken and brown rice — yum!
Better accessoriesGive your pet the best night’s sleep on a bed made from organic cotton or PET (fiber made from recycled water bottles). West Paw Design has a nice collection. Then skip the plastic toys and opt instead for playthings made from recycled rubber or organically grown cotton: Sckoon’s organic cotton bone would make a fabulous stocking stuffer for your pooch this holiday season. And give the leash an eco-upgrade with a collar/leash set made of pesticide-free hemp.
Natural grooming products
Again, if you don’t use soap or shampoo that includes potentially harmful chemicals, why would you subject your pet to such indecencies? Keep your dog clean with grooming products that are made from natural ingredients, like Hartz Clean Earth Gentle Cleansing Dog Shampoo or Only Natural Herbal Defense Shampoo & Conditioner, made with neem oil, lemongrass, lavender, aloe and jojoba oil.
Better litterThe average bag of kitty litter is made from clay that is gathered through strip-mining, a decidedly eco-unfriendly method of mining that has been found to wreak havoc on the earth (and conventional litter also ends up clogging landfills). Give your cat a planet-protecting place to do his or her business with litters that are made from recycled newspaper, ground corncobs, straw pellets, pine sawdust or wood chips. Check out Swheat Scoop for a wheat-based litter that is completely biodegradable.
Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of Lime.com, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.
Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor TODAYshow.com has been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.