COMMENTARY: There are some totally innocent beings out there who look to us for shelter from the storms, food and water to exist, aid when they are sick, or even for a good tummy rub when they roll over and kick their legs up in the air.

I am referencing our beloved cats and dogs, who are just as much a part of our Family as those who are bonded to us by blood or marriage. (No apologies to those that slither, slide, and eat frogs ... yuck!)

Did you know that February is known also as Responsible Pet Ownership Month? It falls in the ranks with National Black History Month, Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month, Bird Month, Cherry Month, Sweet Potato Month, Spunky Old Broads Month, Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month, and the list goes on.

Responsible pet owners should give themselves a pat on the back, or let their pet do it, for making sure those yearly shots are up to date. It would not be any fun if your pet bit or scratched someone and then realize too late that their shots are not up to date. Having been on the receiving end of a dog bite as a child, it is not any fun to go through the shot regimen and to discover that your friend's dog was not vaccinated.

Another facet that I can personally attest to is keeping my pets in their place. Well, the dogs that is. My cats, Octshun and Lite Brite, would wrap me up in hair balls if I dared to try keep them in a designated area. The whole house belongs to them: upstairs, downstairs, front porch, sun room. The only place I can say they are truly not allowed is my husband's man cave. They tiptoe in so softly, but all he has to do is clear his deep bass-baritone throat and they scoot away from his entranceway in a fur flurry.

Because Samson and Sunrise are mix Great Dane-German Shepherd, they are not small pups. However, they do thrive in a large fenced-in back yard. When we take them out for walks, they are securely on leashes. I know people say, "Oh, he won't bite," when they are out with their dogs, but S & S still have their teeth, so I do not utter such words. When they get older, and their teeth fall out, I will then add to the verbal foray that "they might gum you really hard".
I recently had to take three of my Family Members for their annual check-up/shots. My out of pocket expense was close to $400. I cringed, but it is my responsibility to care for them.

Though I mainly go on Facebook to cook in my kitchen, I have had the pleasure of meeting a loving, compassionate, and responsible pet owner. 'Maximus Binximus' is the owner of his human, Natalie. However before Max came into the picture, I was enthralled with the antics and companionship she shared with 'Binxsie'. Binxsie was a character in the feline world who should have had his own television show; but I don't think he would have captured the audience he did with Facebook.

Binxsie shared with us his holidays, especially Halloween and Valentine's Days. Even when he became ill, we followed him to and from his appointments and the doses of medicine. However, after five years of bringing so much companionship and joy, Binxsie crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in November. There were many who wanted to reach out through Facebook and comfort Natalie in her sorrow. But unknown to her, Maximus Binximus, a young domestic shorthair was waiting for her rescue to take a place in her heart.

You can follow and talk to Maximus as he shares with you his feline antics on Facebook.
There are often times when travel is on the table for us, whether it is just a weekend jaunt to Vegas or a couple of weeks around the Caribbean. Plans for Octshun, Lite Brite, Maximus Binximus, and Samson, and Sunrise have to be made.

If they get boarded at one of the local kennels, they must have all their shots up to date plus get the Bordatella shot and Flu vaccine. Be sure to check with the kennel well in advance for their requirement and space availability.

There are also special pet sitters on several Web sites that you may want to consider to come into your home to care for your pet, should you decide not to take them out of their environment.

But when all is said in done, our pets are just another extension of the Family. Let's make every day, not just a month, a time to be responsible for our cats, dogs, and other pets in our home.