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Even if you can't have a pet, you can still connect

The bond between pets and their people plays out every day across the United States, where 85 million homes have cats and/or dogs, according to the American Pet Products Association. Sadly, not everyone who wants a pet can live with one, whether it's because of health issues, a landlord, a demanding work schedule or another reason. What then? Here are ideas for folks who can't have pets but need that pet connection. Chicago Tribune

Be a shelter person: A shelter offers the easiest opportunity to connect with animals. There are cages to clean, dogs to walk, cats to play with. You can also help with marketing, write press releases, or, if you're an accountant, help with the books.

There is, of course, a downside. "Row after row of cages, dogs eager to make contact, cats hiding in the back of their cages," says Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. "That can upset some people." An alternative might be to volunteer at other venues, such as no-kill facilities, rescues and private organizations.

Foster Fluffy: If your situation allows it, many shelters and rescues need foster homes. Some shelters will let you set a limit on how long the animal stays.

That can be a good thing. If a person gets too attached, he might adopt the animal. Though that does get the pet in a home, it might also preclude the person from fostering another animal.

Help somebody: Watch a neighbor's animal when they go on vacation. Or, if you know someone who doesn't have the time or ability to take their dog on a good, long walk, offer to do so. The exercise will do you both good. Groom somebody's pet; just a good brushing helps the animal and the owner and gives you that one-on-one contact.

Visit a dog park: You can drop by your local dog park, find a bench and just watch the critters play. Or you can get more involved. Many dog parks are operated and managed by volunteers, said Elliott Silver, who owns, and dog ownership is not usually a requirement to volunteer. Before raising your hand, however, remember that volunteering is often synonymous with "scooping poop."

Dog walking: Consider becoming a dog walker, as a part-time hobby or a full-time job. You spend time with dogs, you can pick your customers, set your own schedule and earn some cash. Go to to learn more or sign up.

Even if you can't have a pet, you can still connect 02/20/12 [Last modified: Monday, February 20, 2012 3:30am]
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