People and Pets, The Perfect Combination: National Pet Week 2001 - January 1, 2001

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Pet-related booklets compiled by Dr. Don Owen's daughter's grade-school class are popular reading material in his reception room.

During the week of May 6-12, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and others will celebrate "People and Pets, The Perfect Combination." National Pet Week 2001 is sponsored by the AVMA, the Auxiliary to the AVMA, the AAHA, and the North American Veterinary Technician Association. The theme recognizes the warmth, joy, love, and companionship that pets bring into our lives and the vital role of the veterinarian in that relationship.

"Veterinarians always have been key to the important people-pet combination," Dr. James Nave, AVMA president, said. "From the excitement of a new puppy examination to the sadness of illness and death, veterinarians are part of the family health care team. We share in their happiness, joy and sorrow and in many ways are important members of the family," Dr. Nave added.

Auxiliary to the AVMA president, Kimberly Topper, agrees. "National Pet Week is an opportunity not only to celebrate with your clients but also a time to educate the public about responsible pet ownership and the important role veterinarians fill throughout life in animal and human health."

"I am amazed at how creative and energetic people are with their pet week programs," said Jo Ostwald, the Auxiliary's vice president for public relations.

Dr. Don Owen of Longmont, Colo, and his wife, Echo, for example, routinely send National Pet Week supplies such as bookmarks, stickers, pencils, and posters to their daughter Lorie Payne, an elementary school teacher in Los Fresnos, Texas. Payne uses the materials to educate her students on the proper care of animals. Every year her class makes a special, laminated booklet containing a page done by each child, depicting in pictures and words what they learned. Each booklet has a title such as "Just Me and My Pet," "Helping Me Keep Our Pets Healthy," "Pet Stories," and the "The ABC Pet Book." The finished books are given to Dr. Owen for display in his reception area.


"We are advancing animal and human health with science and compassion," Dr. Sheila McGuirk said. "Our goal is to marry science with the soul, the head with the heart, and high tech with high touch."


"At the other end of the spectrum, we've seen National Pet Week projects that have literally changed people's lives," Mrs. Ostwald said. "One such project was started by Auxiliary to the Colorado VMA member Shirley Clark. In 1979 she began a campaign to raise $2,500 needed for a hearing dog. She organized jewelry, spices, and T-shirt sales and passed the hat whenever necessary. In 1981, the CVMA Auxiliary held its first auction at the CVMA convention.

Six years later, the auxiliary had raised enough money to award the first hearing dog in recognition of National Pet Week. The recipient of Fritz was a young, deaf mother who was raising two little boys on her own. She was in danger of losing her job because she could not hear the wake-up alarm and was arriving late for work. Fritz was trained to wake her. Later that year, she was recognized as the National Handicapped Person of the Year at a ceremony at the Pentagon, according to Mrs. Ostwald.

Since then, the CVMA Auxiliary has awarded 14 hearing dogs and four Canine Companions for Independence. The matching of people with these service dogs has brought recognition to the CVMA Auxiliary and deep gratitude from the recipients.

"It is difficult to find the words of how much this gift has meant to my life," said Pastor Donald Thurn, recipient of Teddy, a hearing dog from International Hearing Dog Inc, donated by the CVMA Auxiliary. "Teddy keeps me informed of all activity that takes place around our house. His presence has given me a sense of security, which allows me to relax during the day and sleep soundly at night, knowing Teddy will alert me to important sounds."

Pet week inspires people to share stories about what makes the relationship with their pets unique. For National Pet Week 2000, the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine draped more than 1,200 "Love-Links" featuring names and heartfelt comments about important animals in the lives of clients, employees, students, and friends in the reception area of its Veterinary Teaching Hospital. A media event highlighting the Love-Links featured speakers Katharine Lyall, president of the University of Wisconsin System; Jane Albright, University of Wisconsin's women's basketball coach; and Dr. Sheila McGuirk, director of the teaching hospital. Each shared what their pet and the professionals at the teaching hospital have meant to them.

"We are advancing animal and human health with science and compassion," Dr. McGuirk said. "Our goal is to marry science with the soul, the head with the heart, and high tech with high touch."

Local newspapers and television covered the event.

Media spotlight
Heartwarming stories such as those shared during National Pet Week are favorites of the communications media. Stories appear in everything from local weekly newspapers to the nationally broadcast Paul Harvey radio program. In 2000, newspaper and magazine articles about pet week reached nearly 5.5 million readers. Radio and television stations reporting on local pet week activities reached a combined audience of more than 1.6 million.

A compact disc featuring eight 60-second interviews with veterinarians, a public service announcement, a series of 10-second pet facts, news actualities, and two-minute features was broadcast more than 11,000 times on 133 stations to an estimated Arbitron (independent certification) audience of more than 17 million listeners.

2001 planning guide
The 2001 National Pet Week Planning Guide, inserted in this issue of JAVMA, has ideas and supplemental materials that can be used as offered or personalized. Order forms are included for materials, ideas, and resources from the AVMA and Auxiliary as well as contact information for all sponsoring groups.