How to keep your pet safe and healthy on Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings

Dia DuVernet and Sueshi

Dia DuVernet, president and CEO of Pasadena Humane, and her dog Sueshi.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of the four Fs…food, family, friends and fun. I’m so thankful we can return to gathering with family and friends this year. At my house, we have family, along with some friends, coming from Connecticut, Oregon and L.A. to our house for the big meal. And I mean big!

I always make at least three pies, although in 2019 the number was diminished by my brother-in-law’s new dog, Bowie, who helped himself to half a pumpkin pie off the counter before the dinner even started. Bowie and family won’t be coming down from the Bay Area this year, although we did invite them, despite the pumpkin pie debacle.

Of course, Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks, and I give thanks for my little dog, Sueshi, who is such an important part of our family. Her breed is “little white fluffy dog.” We adopted her from the Virginia Beach SPCA when she was a puppy, about 3 months old. She had been abandoned in a park and brought to the shelter by a good Samaritan.

One stressful day at work when I was CEO of the Virginia Beach SPCA, I did something I never do. I went into the “green room” for a puppy break. This is where all the puppies that were not yet available for adoption were housed. When I walked into the room, I saw facing me several litters of puppies all eagerly approaching the front of the larger kennels. But there was a piercing bark coming from a small kennel behind me that made me turn around.

And there was ‘Susie,’ a little fluff ball with an underbite, probably part Shi Tzu, part poodle. I took her out of the kennel, held her to my heart, she stopped barking, and the rest, as they say, is history. Susie, our kennel coordinator who the dog had been named after, saw me standing there falling in love, and she said, “Dia, you have to have that dog.” But, she said, you can’t call her Susie, thus the nickname Sueshi, with an “e.”

Sueshi was in a sad state, with ear mites, worms and a urinary tract infection. The vets took care of her, but the infections kept recurring. An ultrasound revealed kidney dysplasia. Meaning her kidneys were deformed, and she was not likely to live five years, at best.

This holiday season marks her 6th birthday. She is my miracle dog, and I am grateful for every day I have with her.

I’m sure many of you have similar stories of animals that have worked their way into your hearts and homes. As you prepare for your Thanksgiving festivities, I ask that you keep your pets in mind.

Here are a few of my favorite tips to help ensure your pets have a safe and stress-free holiday:

Holiday Feasts: The smells and tastes of a holiday meal may be irresistible, but those foods can cause an stomach upset or worse for pets. You should avoid feeding pets onion, garlic, raisins, grapes and holiday desserts, especially those with chocolate or artificial sweeteners.

Prep Your Visitors: Ask your guests to be sure to shut doors to keep pets inside. Always supervise interactions between your pets and children.

Safe Space: Make sure your pets have a quiet, calm space where they can retreat if they are feeling overwhelmed. Provide your pet with their favorite food-dispensing toy and put on calming music.

Stick to the Routine: Pets thrive on a consistent routine. The holidays can cause major disruption to the normal flow of a day. Do your best to keep your pet’s feeding and walking schedule as normal as possible.

Be Prepared: Most vet offices will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, so check the hours of the emergency vet clinics in your area to know which ones will be open in case of an emergency. Pasadena Humane will close at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 24, and remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. Animal Control Officers will be available to respond to emergencies throughout the holiday.

Update the ID: Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with an ID tag and is microchipped. If you moved recently or changed your phone number, be sure to update your pet’s microchip and tag with your current information.

If your pet does get lost, please visit our website for tips on how to find them. All lost pets at the shelter are featured online and updated hourly.

As for Sueshi, she never lost that piercing bark. She loves every person and every animal she meets, and she wants you to know it. Her barking and twirling are her signs of affection, and I’ve never been able to train that bark out of her. Her bark was the way I found her, after all, so I’m not sure I even want her to lose it. Although, I imagine the neighbors would appreciate a little more quiet when our guests arrive for dinner.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.