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Monday, October 22, 2012

For the love of dog: It’s the size of the heart that matters

WARNING:  This post may overwhelm you with sappy, sugary, sweetness. I unapologetically state that I will gush and brag and proclaim all kinds of sweet love for my little pooch. If you aren’t a dog lover, this post is NOT for you. Keep moving on and read some of my other posts.

I love my dog!  I mean, I really, really love him. His name is Angus, and he is my little, eight pound bundle of miniature poodle sweetness. He is the smallest dog I’ve ever had, as the other dogs in my life, two German Shepherds and a mixed breed, were giants compared to this little dynamo. 
I used to love the big breeds. They just appealed to me because of their physical presence and noble look. I had a few amazing dogs- smart, sweet, and very protective. But five years after the last one passed away, I decided I needed a change. I decided to go with a small dog, one that was easier, more portable, and required less maintenance.

I certainly wasn’t aware of how much personality, exuberance, and joie de vivre a little dog can bring to a family! Maybe it is because my children are now grown and this little guy is so affectionate and adoring!! Sometimes I feel like he will burst with love for all of us. He has such a great temperament- never fussy, grouchy, or unhappy, and has connected with us in a way I have never experienced. My previous dogs were all very obedient and sweet- but Angus is by far the sweetest little fellow, and we just adore him. Pound for pound, he really gives an incredible amount of love and positive energy!
Often people will make judgments and assumptions about you when they hear what size or breed of dog you own. People, who have small dogs, or purse dogs, must be stuck up or snobby. OR they assume people who own big dogs are trying to prove something or are seeking to intimidate.

While there may be some truth to those stereotypes, and when I was one of those “big dog” people I thought little dogs were rather pointless and prissy, I now know that I was very wrong and I am more than happy to admit it. My dog is not prissy or pointless at all. And he is, by the way, an excellent watch dog.
The fantastic thing about having the great universe of different types of dog is it gives people so many options and choices when making a selection. The decision to bring a dog into a family is a big one. It is important to know how a dog will impact your home life and how it is a commitment that will last many, many, years. Being a responsible and thoughtful owner is an enormous responsibility - emotionally and physically, and is not something to be done without careful consideration and planning.

Many people are afraid of, or intimidated by, large dogs- so small dogs are perfect for them. Others find large dogs to be a better physical and psychological fit for their lifestyle or family situation, and there are plenty of choices for them.
Regardless of their size or breed, dogs can bring indescribable happiness and love to a family. If you’ve never experienced it, you’ve truly missed out on one of the greatest relationships imaginable.

Having owned large dogs for so many years, it was a transition and adjustment to get used to living with a little guy. At first, I was terrified I would step on him! But now that I have had him for almost two years, our anniversary is 31 October; I can say that I am thrilled by the experience.  
Angus is energetic, but not hyper, and while his bark is rather shrill (this is the one and only thing I would have opted out of) it is a small price to pay for all the other great things about him. And remember; don’t judge a dog, or a book, by its size. Don’t assume you know the full story by how big or small it is.

In defense of the smaller breed- first of all, small dogs are so much easier in many important ways. The best part is that they take up far less real estate. I am amazed by how I once managed three kids and TWO big dogs- but in those days, the house was chaotic and rambunctious anyway, so it was “the more the merrier!”  

 Now that I am older, and far less rambunctious, I am enjoying a dog who doesn’t take up as much space in my small house. The second, and possibly greatest, thing about a miniature poodle is that he doesn’t shed. That is a huge bonus for those who find dog hair bothersome.

And finally, for the first time in my life, I now sleep with a dog on the bed. I would not have considered this if he was a breed that shed, and I never had my German Shepherds sleep with me because there would have been no room at all. Luckily, in this case, it is a perfect fit- small dog, no hair! A win- win situation.

At night, Angus is very well-behaved and doesn’t ever disrupt my sleep. If anything, he is cuddly and considerate, and it is actually very enjoyable having him next to me.

Cafe Press website

The other day, my four year old granddaughter- who lives with us with my daughter- was holding Angus on her lap. She clutched him tightly and proclaimed, “Angus, I love you. You’re my best friend.”  I dare you not to have a lump in your throat imagining that tender scene.  And Angus just looked back at her adoringly, even though she was holding him very tightly, and licked her little face. I think about the two of them, growing up together, and how in the past two years they have truly become the best of friends.

While he may not have the same presence as my German Shepherds as a watch dog or the ability to command the same kind of respect from people on the street- he is as loyal and loving and sweet as any beloved dog I’ve ever owned.
Angus brings something to our family that is simple and universal. It is pure LOVE, without motives or agendas. He loves us unconditionally and completely and is never ashamed to show it or too tired or grumpy or distracted to make us feel it. He trusts us and looks to us for approval, affection, companionship, and guidance. WE know we are the most important thing in his little world, and that is a truly amazing feeling, and what having a dog is all about.
Did I mention how much I LOVE MY DOG?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Report Recommends Changes to Federal Pay System

In September, a panel of experts released a report which questioned current methods for federal government employee pay increases; and made recommendations for improvements which would make the system for flexible and viable.

A recent article in Federal Times detailed specifics from the report and quoted, Rex Facer, a Brigham Young University professor who was one of the report’s three authors who stated, “The base salary of a GS-11 ranges from $50,287 to $65,371, not counting locality pay. Pushing the maximum up to $75,400 would provide more latitude to reward people without ‘necessarily having to have a promotion’ that otherwise isn’t warranted.”

See more here:
Report Recommends Changes to Federal Pay System

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October is SIDS, Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Month

                                                                            - Original graphic by Anna Sargent

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month, a time to educate parents, grandparents, caregivers, and family members about the risk factors associated with SIDS.

On November 23, 2001, my family suffered the devastating loss of my grandson, Brian K. Sargent, to SIDS. He was six weeks old. SIDS Awareness is a personal cause to our family and we hope to be able to comfort other families and to make parents and caregivers aware in hopes of prevention.

Facts about SIDS in the Washington, DC Area:

• Infant mortality rate is 15 deaths per 1,000 live births (twice the national rate of 7.1)
• SIDS rate is also double the national rate (approximately 120 per 100,000 live births each year)

In 2006:• 9 babies died from SIDS in DC
• 90 babies died in Virginia
• 64 babies died in Maryland

Terry Rainey, a resident of the DC Metropolitan area, said this about his experience of losing an infant son to SIDS:

“I lost my son Joe in November of 1996, and every day I feel the pain of that loss. There are no easy answers, just some very tough questions, when one faces such a tragedy. Through the help of family and friends, I have come to appreciate Joe's eight months of life as a gift. Also I greatly value the efforts of the SIDS Alliance in helping thousands of other parents who have lost loved ones. With the strides that have been made in SIDS awareness and research, I am hopeful that we will see the day that no parent will lose a child to SIDS.”

What groups are most at risk for SIDS?

Babies who are placed to sleep on their stomachs or sides are at higher risk for SIDS than babies who are placed on their backs to sleep. African-American babies are more than two times as likely to die of SIDS as Caucasian babies. American-Indian/Alaska Native babies are nearly three times as likely to die of SIDS as Caucasian babies.

The preliminary infant mortality rate for 2007 was 6.77 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, a 1.2 percent increase from the 2006 rate of 6.69, though not considered statistically significant. Birth defects were the leading cause of infant death in 2007, followed by disorders related to preterm birth and low birth weight. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was the third leading cause of infant death in the United States. -Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID): Reducing the Risk


• Babies should always sleep on their back.
• Place baby on his/her back to sleep at night time and naptime.
• Babies shouldn’t sleep on their side. They may roll to face down position.


• Every baby should sleep in his/her own crib.
• Place baby on a firm mattress in a safety approved crib.
• Remove all fluffy and loose bedding from the sleep area. The only thing in the crib should be the baby.
• Make sure baby’s head and face stay uncovered during sleep.
• Use blanket sleepers instead of blankets during colder months.

Room sharing

• Babies from birth to age 6 months should sleep in the same room with their parents.
• Babies should not sleep on the same sleep surface with their parents.
• Bring the baby into your bed for cuddling and feeding, but return the baby to his/her crib when you are ready to go back to sleep.

Other tips

• Temperature in home should be 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.
• Don’t let baby get too warm during sleep.
• Use pacifiers at naptime and bedtime during the first year, but not during the first month for breast-fed babies. -Children's National Medical Center Washington, DC © 2009

First Candle/SIDS Alliance is a national nonprofit health organization uniting parents, caregivers and researchers nationwide with government, business and community service groups to advance infant health and survival. With help from a national network of member and partner organizations, First Candle is working to increase public participation and support in the fight against infant mortality.

Important Resources for parents and caregivers:

The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Foundation of Washington

Follow SIDS Resource Center on Twitter

National Healthy Start Association Toolkit Resource Center Web site at the National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health, Georgetown University © Georgetown University

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Rise in Infant Suffocations Renews Debate On Bed-Sharing By Rob Stein ©2009 The Washington Post Company

Why is SIDS More Common in African American Populations?

Halo Sleep Sack -The Safer Way to Sleep®

Air Force Veteran Invents SIDS Prevention Device © Copyright 2003-2009 I-Newswire

Hospital will promote SIDS awareness in October © 2009

Back to Sleep Campaign and the Healthy Child Care America Campaign. © AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS


                                                                  Brian K. Sargent

Of things unseene how canst thou deeme aright,
Then answered the righteous Artegall ,
Sith thou misdeem'st so much of things in sight?
What though the sea with waves continuall
Doe eate the earth, it is no more at all:
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought,
For whatsoeuer from one place doth fall,
Is with the tide unto an other brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.

-The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser
Book V Canto II stanza 39

Orignially written and published in 2009 for the site