Humble mutts are rarely in the spotlight, but that hasn’t stopped them from becoming remarkable pets or being selected as Jacksonville’s Cutest Pet.

Sparky, described by many as a “wonder dog”, came to The Jacksonville Humane Society in 2007. He survived the streets, the shelter fire of 2007, and the whole shelter life experience before being adopted by a loving family in 2016. Now, he is living his best life in a cozy home with lots of adventure and affection.

Davi: Hi Sparky! In three words, sum up your life.

Sparky: Life is good.


Tell me something about yourself that most people don’t know.

I’m 15 years old. When people see me, they think I’m still a puppy. Ha, that’s a joke!  Oh, and I rarely bark. Instead, I make this “ARH ARH ARH” grunt, sort of like Chewbacca, but it’s less threatening and way cuter.


Wow, you look great for your age! So, what was your life like before you found your new home?

Supposedly, I was found on the streets and then spent time in the shelter while waiting for my forever home.


Do you have any special talents?

I can hear people even think about opening Tupperware from across the room or eating in the kitchen, no matter how quiet they try to be. When it comes to food, I’m all ears. Pure talent, I tell you!


I can totally relate to “all ears” and food! Do you have a favorite toy?

Nope. My humans have tried giving me toys, but I just look at them like “What is this? What am I supposed to do with this?” My motto is “if I can’t eat it, then I don’t want it.” Oh, and I don’t play catch either. It’s just not my thing. I suppose I don’t fit the typical dog stereotype. I’m not basic.


Speaking of eats, what foods do you crave most often?

Any roasted meat, especially chicken! Yum! And don’t even get me started on the smell. OMG, it’s like heaven! I mean, I have never been to heaven but that’s what I imagine it would be.


If you had the world’s attention for 10 seconds, what would you say?

I could talk about world peace, but that would take more than 10 seconds. Besides, this is about me! Generically speaking, I’d say “adopt, don’t shop”. There are so many shelter dogs, like me, in need of a good home. Adopting a shelter animal is worth it, I promise. Where else can you find the perfect combo of unconditional love and companionship?


That was a barking good answer! What has been your biggest challenge in life so far?

Surviving the devastating Jacksonville Humane Society fire in 2007. That was a frightening experience.


Oh, I’m sure it was. Where is your happy place these days?

On the bed with my humans, of course.

What’s the best part about being part of your family? 

I totally run the house! On a more sentimental note, they shower me with affection and love on me every day. They know I’m not getting any younger, so they try to give me the best life I can possibly have. I’m so spoiled, you have no idea.


Being spoiled is a great feeling! Ok, last question. What’s the best way to spend your day?

With my humans, sticking my head out the window during car rides, chilling at our beach house, and getting fed on the spot. Since I found out I have Cushing’s syndrome, I’m hungry all the time, and plus, I love food!


Sparky is a living example that you don’t need a pedigree to be a best friend. Of course, every dog is unique, however, each mixed-breed dog is a one of a kind pooch that will undoubtedly have a positive, profound effect on your life and hold a special place in your heart forever.


There is nothing like the unconditional love given by our pets. ​They show us constant affection, provide us with purpose, and change our entire lives without trying. Now it is time we come together to change their lives with a day of giving for pets in need.

How you can change a life:

Donate – Each donation made with the designation “Change A Pet’s Life Day” will honor this momentous day. Together we hope to fundraise $4,000 for pets in need but need your help to reach that goal. Will you donate to change a pet’s life?

AdoptIn honor of this day, we will be waiving all pet adoption fees in exchange for a pet food donation to the JHS Pet Food Bank! When you adopt, not only are changing the life of the pet you adopt, but you are making space for another homeless pet to have that same opportunity AND with a pet food donation, you are changing the life of a pet in need – tripling your generosity!

VolunteerIf this isn’t your time to adopt, you can always volunteer. Volunteering your time will help our pets get some much-needed socialization, which in turn helps them find their next home. When you volunteer you are making a difference in the lives of many. Will you volunteer to change a pet’s life?

FosterTake it one step further and bring a shelter pet into your home for a temporary stay. Fosters also help other dogs by freeing up resources, so new pups can get what they need and have a better chance of finding their homes. Will you foster to change a pet’s life?

Share your storySharing how you have changed a pet’s life will inspire others to do the same. Please enjoy a few of the stories shared with us below.

Abbey’s story:

“In April 2020, in the midst of the shutdown, we decided to take a chance on a special girl. The staff at JHS called me immediately after filling out the application for Andromeda (now known as Abbey, aka “momma”), she had a sad history and multiple surgeries prior to going up for adoption. During our visit, we were told that she was deemed “semi-feral” and would never be a lap cat. Fast forward almost a year later…. she is the sweetest girl with an amazing personality. She follows her hoomans everywhere and looks after her baby brother like a hawk. We are so blessed and so so happy we took a chance on a special girl. We love our “Momma”.”

Jorja’s story:

“This is Jorja the Destroyer. She had been through 3 owners and the pound when I found her. She is the most amazing and loving dog ever. I thank God every day for the blessing she has been. She has inspired me to donate to the Jacksonville Humane Society any way I can. Her inspiration has led my family to donate to the Pet Pantry as much as possible. Because of our love for her we were able to donate 235 pounds of food this weekend! We love the mission of JHS!”

Widdle’s story:

“This is Widdle, a foster failure from last summer! We have fostered so many kittens but this girl my husband and kids begged to keep! What makes her extra special is when my daughter is frustrated doing homework she comes and sits by her and I see the frustration just go away! The therapy cat!” Widdle’s family also mentioned that they did not think Widdle would make it when they first brought her in. She was very sick and weaker than her littermates. With constant love and perseverance, Widdle made a full recovery and captured the hearts of her foster family. They just knew she was something special!

Fiona’s story:

“I am a single mom of 3, laid off in March due to COVID, and have an autistic child that has delays in social skills. Since adopting Fiona I have felt my depression lifting, I have lost weight being active with her, and my son’s social skills and confidence have increased. He loves talking to Fiona and playing with her. It’s like they understand each other. When I got her she was timid and scared of soda cans opening and brooms, now she is no longer afraid. She sleeps in the bed every night with me and demands her belly rubs. She has completed the circle of love for our family. We may have rescued her but she actually rescued us.”

Goby, Minka, and Cash’s story:

“We adopted Gobi (cat) in 2012 and Minka (smaller dog) in 2015 from The Jacksonville Humane Society! We adopted Cash (larger dog) in 2019 from Florida Urgent Rescue, Inc. These three animals make my life complete and are the best companions. We love them dearly. I’ve been volunteering as a dog walker at JHS since 2017 and love it.”

Change a pet’s life today.

Every new year I make a resolution or two, and most of the time, I actually keep them. But this year I decided to dig into some of the simple changes that you can make to live your best life. Take a look at some life lessons you can learn from your pets and ramp up your well-being for the new year.

Live in the Moment:

Animals practiced mindfulness long before it became popular in the human sector. Though I certainly experience fear at times, any anxiety is based on the circumstances now. I rarely worry about the past or stress about the future. While not preparing for the future is not as practical for humans, living in the present is a helpful practice. So be like your pets and enjoy the moment, you can deal with tomorrow…tomorrow!

Don’t Worry What Others Think of You:

I slip and roll down a hill with the same grace and confidence I exude when running unleashed through a meadow. I have no concern for how others will perceive me, nor do I wonder if they like me. I have confidence in my own ability that is not diminished by other dogs or the humans I interact with. People would live life much easier if their self-esteem and confidence came from within and was not shaped by the opinion of others.

Be Positive:

Dogs have a way of finding the good in most situations. The weather may be sweltering or stormy, but a dog will usually still be happy to take a walk with his favorite human. Even cats will discover a sliver of sunlight in an otherwise dark room and roll over to enjoy a sunbath. Animals find ways to accept and make the best of their surroundings. Pets don’t dwell on the negative aspects of their lives – and neither should you. Positive thoughts can create real value in your life and help you build skills that last much longer than a smile.

Forgive and Forget: 

I’ve had my tail stepped on, my dew claw nipped, and even had my snout slammed in the door, but seconds later, it’s over – no grudges, no hard feelings. I was right back to playing as if nothing happened.  Dogs don’t always recall specific moments when our feelings were hurt.  Take a cue from your canine and choose to forgive, forget, and move on.  Being bitter only holds up your life. Don’t get left behind because you are holding a grudge.  Forgive.

Take a Hike: 

Dogs are always up for an adventure and love to be out in the world.  Even ordinary outings are a chance to meet new dogs and sniff different things.  Get out there and embrace the opportunity to go places, meet new people, and appreciate the little things in life.

Enjoy eating: 

I don’t just eat my food:  I enjoy every bite.  Food doesn’t have to just be a source of energy; it can also be a source of pleasure.  Steal a page from your dog’s playbook and excitedly spin around in circles before feeding time! Instead of heating up leftovers again, make yourself something you will truly enjoy.  Eating delicious meals can be one of the most satisfying ways to celebrate your life.

Love Unconditionally:

One of the most important lessons you can learn from your pet is unconditional love. From greeting you happily at the door to nuzzling when you are having a rough day, pets are truly the masters of affection. If people loved each other the way animals love people, our world would be a much better place.

Make Memories

Have you ever noticed how happy your dog is the second he gets in the car and realizes he’s on his way to a good place? That’s because your dog remembers how happy he was the last time you did that amazingly fun thing. What was the last thing you did that made you so happy that you danced at the very idea of getting to do it again? Now’s your chance. Start making memories with the ones you love. And, for every photo you take of your pet, remember to take one of yourself, too. That way, when you’re living your regular life on those regular days that happen between the memorable ones, you can look back and remember how much fun it is to be you.

Going into a new year can be a good time to make a change in your life. But remember, the real key to making your life amazing this year is to find what makes you happy. Resolve what you will, but know that happiness is the ultimate goal. It starts in daily choices, not lofty resolutions – and any day is a good day to make the right change.


Everyone has favorite holiday traditions. To me, Hanukkah means two things: latkes and donuts. I’ll admit to enjoying a crunchy sweet potato latke (or two), especially with a slathering of apple sauce. Many of us hold tight to our family’s holiday traditions, especially when it comes to food.

Since most holiday goodies can be harmful to pets, try making a batch of healthy homemade treats especially for dogs. I’ve scoured the Internet searching for the most nutritious and easy canine delicacies out there. Here’s the lowdown.


Apple Carrot Cookies


1 cup of whole wheat flour

1 cup of grated carrots

1 egg

½ cup unsweetened apple sauce


  1. Preheat oven 350°F.
  2. Mix ingredients together until dough forms.
  3. Roll dough into small balls and place them on a cookie tray. Press dough down slightly so the biscuits are about ¼ inch thick.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Let cool before serving.

Frozen Mint Dog Treats


5 ounces plain nonfat yogurt

¼ cup fresh mint

¼ cup honey


  1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend thoroughly.
  2. Using an ice cube tray, fill each slot about ¾ full of the mixture.
  3. Place in the freezer for about 2 hours or until frozen all the way through.
  4. Give to your dog for fresh breath and a great treat that also aids digestion.


Gingerbread Dog Cookies


3 cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ tbsp ground ginger

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

½ cup molasses

½ cup water

¼ cup canola oil


  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves together. In a separate bowl, combine the molasses, water, and oil.
  3. Pour the molasses mixture into the flour and stir until well combined.
  4. Roll out the dough until it’s about ½ inch thick.
  5. Cut the dough into holiday or dog-related shapes.
  6. Put the cut-out dough on the cookie sheet.
  7. Let them bake 20 minutes, then cool and serve!

Peanut Butter and Banana Ball Treats


1 ripe banana

3 teaspoons of peanut butter (select peanut butter that doesn’t contain xylitol or chocolate. Both are extremely toxic for dogs and can be life-threatening. A safe dog peanut butter is one that is simply peanuts or peanuts and salt.)

1 ½ cups of oats


  1. Take ingredients and mix them well in a mixing bowl.
  2. Take 1 teaspoon and make a ball. Then roll the ball in the oat for delicious coating.

Doggy Eggnog 


½ small banana

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

½ cup of coconut milk

Pinch of cinnamon


Place all ingredients in your food processor or blender and mix until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately!

Many human eggnog recipes use grated nutmeg. NEVER give your dog nutmeg. Nutmeg is toxic to dogs and high levels can be fatal. So, make sure to keep your spices and foods that contain nutmeg well out of doggy reach.

Winter holidays are a great time of year to try your hand at homemade dog treats. These sweet treats are perfect when you need a pinch of holiday spirit and a sprinkle of festive fun!

Dog walks are delightful. For a short while every day, it’s just you, your dog, and the fresh air of the great outdoors. You’re both getting exercise. You both get to take in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. There’s almost nothing better. 

But as the temperatures drop and darkness falls earlier, those walks begin to feel more like a chore and less like an adventure. And, while you can layer your clothes and socks to stay warm and dry, your dog is at the mercy of mother nature.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep your pup protected from the elements in wintertime and make walks more pleasant during a cold snap.

Who is Vulnerable? 

As a general rule, dogs with a short coat (and no undercoat) will not cope well with frigid temperatures. Short-legged or toy breeds dogs who walk on the cold ground will get chilled quickly. Puppies, elderly dogs, and dogs with health conditions will also feel the cold quickly.

On the other hand, breeds like the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Saint Bernard, and Bernese Mountain Dog have a thick coat of fur, making them better equipped for spending time outside in the winter. 

Previous exposure to cold weather can also impact a dog’s tolerance to it. For instance, a dog who grew up in Maine is more likely to tolerate colder temperatures than one who spent a large portion of his life in Florida.

To make matters more confusing, some dogs simply feel the cold more than others. I personally start to shiver when the temperature goes below 50 degrees F. That’s not cold – it’s just cool – but I’m uncomfortably cold. So, it’s important to know your own dog’s ability to tolerate cold.

Keeping Your Dog Warm Outside 

Just as you bundle up for cold weather, your pup may benefit from a winter wardrobe. There are tons of styles, colors, and sizes of winter sweaters, fleeces, and waterproof jackets that will keep your pet warm and stylish too! Keep in mind that fit is important when it comes to dog apparel. You want to ensure that your dog isn’t just warm, but safe and comfortable, as well. Cold weather attire should always cover the stomach area, as one of the most important things for your dog is keeping his core temperature up.

Keep Walks Short

Whether or not your dog will wear a coat or sweater, winter walks in the extreme cold should be kept as short as possible. Usually, when it gets too cold, I will quickly go potty and come back in right away! Keeping your walks to a normal length when temperatures are in the 40s and 50s is fine but shorten them once the temperature dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. How much you shorten it is up to you. If your dog feels the cold, try to walk him in the late morning or early afternoon hours when temperatures are a little warmer and avoid early morning or late evening walks. As a rule of thumb, most dogs should be able to tolerate the same amount of cold you can, especially if he’s wearing a coat. 

Try spending time playing outdoors while it’s sunny. The sunshine brings the added benefit of providing vitamin D and warmth. You can also consider indoor activities over long walks in the winter. Food puzzles, hide-and-seek, and squeaky toy time will keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated without making you or him uncomfortable on a cold blustery day.  

Stay Warm Inside 

When you’re cranking up the thermostat, wrapping yourself in heated throws, and wearing your fleece jammies, don’t forget that your pooch may be as chilled as you inside the house. That’s at least part of the reason dogs like to climb on your lap: it’s so warm there! Choosing cozy bedding is vital to ensure your dog stays warm. Warm blankets can create a snug environment and raised beds can keep your dog off cold tiles or hardwood floors.  

Between the dog sweaters, a comfy bed, and warm snuggles, your canine can thrive in the winter with little or no issues. Keeping your pet warm in winter is easy when you take precautions and provide love – and lovely accessories.

It’s no secret that dogs have voracious appetites and, quite frankly, low standards when it comes to food. I wouldn’t have a problem eating a month old cracker found under the couch cushion or nibbling on an old sock, so it’s no wonder that I’m always up for sharing whatever is on my human’s plate, especially during the holidays. 

If your pets are planning to join your family for the Thanksgiving feast, it’s important to know who can eat what. Human food and dogs don’t get along that great, especially the flavorful, seasoned dishes served during the holidays.

So, what can dogs eat on Thanksgiving?  Before your dog gobbles up a heap of goodies, let’s take a gander at some foods that are safe and even healthy for dogs.  

Sweet Potatoes:

While Nana’s candied yams are a hit with humans, all that sugar is sure to upset a dog’s tummy. Sweet potatoes alone, however, are a great source of vitamin A, which promotes healthy skin, coat, eyes, and muscles, and helps prevent disease and infection. This seasonal spud is also packed with fiber, potassium, and many other much-needed nutrients.


Thanksgiving, for most families, is all about the bird. While most dogs will beg relentlessly for turkey scraps, they don’t realize that a couple snippets could send them straight to the emergency room with a life-threatening condition.  Cooked turkey is safe, but it must be unseasoned. Turkey bones are also off-limits, as they can easily crunch and splinter, causing damage to the inside of the stomach and intestines. The turkey’s skin is also out of bounds, as its rich flavor can make a dog sick.  However, if plain, without the extra fats, turkey meat is a healthy protein for pets.


Carrots are actually good healthy, low-calorie treats for dogs. They are rich in minerals and vitamins, which help to improve eyesight and prevent disease, and have a rough texture, which can aid in dental health. Raw carrots are sweet and crunchy, which most dogs love, but cooked carrots – unseasoned – are also a tasty treat.

Nom Nom Nom

Green Beans:

Green beans are a casserole staple for some families, but dogs prefer these snappy veggies raw. Loaded with iron and a great source of fiber for dogs, green beans are also low in calories and packed with vitamins – a nutritional bonus, so toss a handful to the hounds before adding Nana’s secret seasoning.

Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, of course – but it’s also about food.  My mouth is already watering with anticipation from those savory smells in the kitchen. As long as you know which grub to snub – and which food to fetch, you are sure to have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Be thankful for your family, and the foods that keep you healthy.  And remember, the safest treat of all is a recipe of love, attention, and playtime.

Some naysayers would argue that dogs don’t have the same ability as humans to show gratitude. As a dog, I beg to differ. In fact, a dog’s sense of loyalty is one of the species’ greatest qualities.

Remembering all the ways your dog shows gratitude is genuinely heartening. For me, remembering all the ways our neighbors show gratitude is truly inspiring. 

As the giving season gets started, we give pause to give thanks for the many people whose generosity allows the Jacksonville Humane Society to continue to raise awareness, inspire action and save the lives of animals in our community.

We’d like to acknowledge the volunteers, advocates, partners, and supporters for their many contributions to our organization. Giving is not just about making a donation. It’s about making a difference.

Pet Adopters, Amazon Wishlist Shoppers, Facebook Fundraisers, Rescue Groups, Pantry Pals, Media Partners, Kitten Crusaders, Foster Families, Group Dog Walkers, Grant Funders, Generous Donors, Education Participants, Paw Partners, Former and Current Board Members. 

May we always remember that it is in the connections that we make, the relationships that we forge, the love that we give, and the small acts of day-to-day kindness and generosity that joy may be found. 

Nothing is better than a hike along a scenic trail with my mom.  Unless, of course, that trail is connected to miles of other trails, all ripe for exploring, with a few squirrels crossing my path. But, for some dogs, hiking can be ruff if you are not prepared. Consider these tips before setting a course for adventure with your furry friend:

Before you go, ask yourself:

Is your dog fit enough to hike?

Don’t expect your pet to summit a mountain on the first day.  Start small.  Even if your dog exercises regularly, hiking is strenuous. Get the green light from your vet before embarking on any adventure.

Is your dog prepared to take on the terrain?

A one-mile hike can feel longer if it’s all uphill.  Make sure your canine can handle the effort. If you push too hard, your pup could end up being carried back to the car.  Find trails that are easy on paws and match their fitness level.

Is the trail pooch-friendly?  

Before heading out, do some legwork. Many National Parks and some State Parks limit which trails allow dogs. Look for additional dog rules posted at the trailhead.

Will your dog react to another dog or person on the trail?

Walking a reactive dog gets better with practice and consistency. Find the tricks that work best to keep your dog calm and relaxed on walks. With enough training, you’ll find that you’ve got yourself a much closer bond with your dog and not to mention a more relaxed walking buddy.

Is your dog tagged and chipped?

Expect the best, but prepare for the worst. In case your dog ever gets lost, a microchip and ID can help you reunite with your pet.

Is your dog current on vaccines?

You have no idea what kind of bad nasties you might be exposed to on your walk.  Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccines and other medications that can protect his health.

Start Packing:

On the Trail:

After Your Hike:

Canine Trail Mix Recipe:



  1. Cut ingredients into small pieces
  2. Place pieces on a tray and spray with cooking oil
  3. Place into a preheated oven (200 degrees) until dried

National Take a Hike Day is November 17th.  Grab your leash and get ready for the great outdoors! You can find dog-friendly trails at

Sigmund Freud once said that time spent with cats is never wasted. Though it’s wise to approach anything said by Freud with doubt, I do agree with him on this one, especially after walking the block with the neighbor’s cat. This small furry ball of cute utterly destroyed my ability to tap into my natural instincts and made me realize that cats do live pretty cool lives – just like dogs.

October 29 is National Cat Day. It’s a holiday with a heart since it’s meant to raise awareness about the benefits of caring for cats and encourage the adoption of homeless cats. It also gives you a great reason to celebrate the weird, wacky, and wonderful kitties in your life and do something extra special for them.

While many cats will probably mark the day with a nap or romp with a paper bag, you can celebrate the unconditional love and companionship they bestow upon you. These furry little gods have been cherished members of the family since long before the days of the Pyramids and continue bringing joy and laughter to millions of people around the world.

So, what are some ideas for celebrating National Cat Day? Besides your daily snuggling sessions and treat time, there is a slew of ways you can make your kitties feel loved and appreciated.

Talk to Each Other

Celebrating can be as simple as having a conversation with your cat. They will talk to you if you talk to them. You may both be talking about totally different things, but there’s definitely a conversation going on there. Communication is important for bonding and building a relationship, and while you may understand one another, it’s also important to think about how you and your cat talk to each other. Understanding your cat’s body language and other ways of telling you what they want can help you anticipate your feline friend’s needs and be a better pet parent.

Have Extended Play Time

Play time isn’t just fun for cats, it’s necessary. It’s one of the ways they learn about the world, form bonds with us, and get mental and physical exercise. If your cat is tired at the end of the day, you know you’ve done a good job of keeping them stimulated. Playing with your cat can help reduce their anxiety, cut back destructive behavior, and improve your relationship.

Get Some New Toys

Maybe your kitty has lost a few toys to the black hole under the couch, or maybe a few of them are getting chewed, scratched, and worn out. Now is a good time to look for some new ones. You don’t even need to leave home to do it, as there are plenty of cat toys you can shop for online. Make sure you check user reviews, so you know that whatever products you get for your cat are safe and fun. If you don’t have money to blow on toys, there are also plenty of household objects that you can use as cat toys, too, so long as you make sure they are safe to play with. The right toys will provide your cat with plenty of mental and physical exercises that will tire them out and keep them happy.

Make More Cat Space

As much as you and your kitty love spending time together, most cats also appreciate having a safe space to retreat to when they need a break. Some cats love to climb up high to look out over their domain. If you have a kitty who loves to climb, consider getting a cat tree if you don’t already have one, or dedicate some space on your wall shelves so your cat can hop up. Boxes are also a great option for giving your cat some space. Cats love spending time in boxes, as it helps them feel secure and actually reduces their stress.

And, hey, if you don’t have a cat, now might be the perfect time to go out and adopt one of your own because what greater gift than the love of a cat, except maybe a dog – or better yet, volunteer at a local shelter. Your visit is sure to be a bright spot in a shelter cat’s day!

Let’s go Jags!

If you’re a football fan, you’ll know there’s nothing more exciting than cheering on your favorite team from the stands. If you’re a dog, all you know is the sport uses a ball, and that’s all that really matters.

Football is back but will look different this year due to the coronavirus. And there is really no playbook for being a fan during a pandemic. Games go on, but like everything else in 2020, gameday traditions look to be on hold. So, if you’re looking for something – anything – that can fill the void left behind by the stadium and tailgating ban, I’ve got you covered. Here are a few things you can do with your dog instead of watching football.

Play Ball

The start of the football season can be the start new traditions with your dog. Grab a ball and head out to the backyard yard or a local park to play some football with your furry friend. And if they prefer tennis balls, nobody will object. It is a fun way to give your dog some cherished one-on-one time and tire them out for the day. You can even rock your team spirit with matching team jerseys!

Down, Set, Hike

Instead of sitting on the sidelines – or in your game day recliner, you can embark on a hiking adventure with your dog. Taking a walk through the woods, or up a mountain, or along the water, is one of those classic canine-human bonding experiences, and a great way to explore the great outdoors. It’s important to be prepared for all kinds of weather and critters, so make sure to pack rain gear, dog-friendly sunscreen, bug repellant, and of course plenty of water and healthy treats!

Tackle Fallen Leaves

Whether you’re in your backyard, or at the local park, piling up leaves can be fun for you and your dog. Hide balls or other toys in the pile and encourage your dog to find them. For small dogs, you can gather up leaves and put them in an empty box on your porch for them to enjoy. Just be careful to make sure only leaves make it into the pile. Sharp sticks may lead to some painful pokes.

Go Long

Weekend getaways offer a chance to take a break from the commotion of everyday life. If an escape from reality is just what you both need this fall, there are plenty of pet-friendly places where you can both sit back and relax. Whether you’re looking for something completely off-grid or just a spot to rest your paws, road trips are a great way to see far-off parts of the country and huddle together while avoiding the crowds.

Touchdown Celebration

With the season underway, try inviting a few two-legged and four-legged friends over on game day (ok, keep it to 6 people or fewer so that you can safely social distance) and throw a “homegate” party. Tailgating at home is the best alternative for game day gatherings when the stadium parking lot is off-limits. It’s a safe way to enjoy your outdoor space, nosh game day food and snacks (the scents of barbeque and veggie dip are things I still seek before and after the games​) and listen to the game on the radio. Make sure your dog and his pals have a chow zone with dog-friendly grub, so your guests know what food is safe to feed them. And encourage everyone to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash hands frequently.

Football isn’t just for dog owners; it can easily be for your dog as well. Though it looks a bit different this year, I believe that with a little creativity, a positive mindset, and some planning, you can still create great memories. Your love for football can be shared with your pup who will get just as much enjoyment out of the game as you. Besides, dogs love anything that allows them to chase a ball, get a treat, and spend time with their best friend.