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Five ways to show dogs love Valentine's Day

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Erin Burnett, host of CNN’s Out Front program, made a point to announce that humans spend $55 million a year on their companion animals. Her tone suggested she was poking fun at this amount.

She didn’t use her journalistic talents to analyze the budget or expenses; her tone suggested she was presuming these expenses were for toys and treats.

What a shame. She had an opportunity to examine what pet owners spend (for example a 28 lb bag of kibble can cost $47 and last three-four months for an average 35-pound dog). A conscientious owner will possess heartworm preventive medicine ($150 a year, depending on size of pet) and flea and tick preventive ($110 in my household). Given that this is ranked the 11th most extreme winter on record, many pet owners have had to purchase booties, jackets and sweaters, stronger collars and more leashes to exercise their animals.

And she suggests we are going overboard? without any particular evidence to look at the expenses of an average companion animal owner?

She lost an opportunity.

Sure it can be viewed ridiculous to dress a dog up for Valentine’s Day or purchase a special treatment for a critter who can’t recognize the day. But as so many nonprofits seek to capitalize on this sentimental day and sponsor events to support shelter animals with a fun run fundraiser or play date or an actual Valentine sponsorship "adoption," as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is doing with its OKCutePet Guardian program, there’s plenty of opportunities to reframe the holiday.

So here’s a couple of cool gifts for the dogs in your life or others. This top five list comes from columnist, Colleen Dougherty writing on DogTime newsletter.

1. What dog doesn't need to run and play off-lead? Schedule some free time for both you and Pooch to run free in a dog park or a dog-friendly trail.

2. February is Pet Dental Health month. Stock up on greenies, check those rear canines, and grab the canine toothbrush complete with the specialized toothpaste once or twice this month. If you suspect an issue, schedule a visit with your favorite vet for a canine dental checkup.

3. It's not spring, but it's never too early for spring cleaning when it comes to dog beds. Give the sniff test: ick? Throw them in the washer! Better yet, shop around and find some new ones. Mud, grit and grime over the wet winter months can take their toll on paws and pads and dogs leave a pattern on their beds when they clean themselves.

4. Leave a legacy in your pet's name. PetFinder and Pet Harbor offers way to sponsor shelter animals whose time may be running short to find their forever homes.

5. Need some down time with a good book? Cuddle up with your pet on the sofa and read Judi McCoy's latest in her dogwalker mystery series. Ellie and Rudy continue to be great friends of animals and people who love animals in this series as they pursue justice. And Ms. McCoy continues to support Best Friends Animal Society with royalties from her series.

If none of these ideas set your heart abeating and activism is more your style, sign the change.org petition seeking to protect the dogs in Sochi, Russia from extermination. Officials promised to build a shelter for the homeless animals, but have reportedly contracted to kill many of them. U.S. freestyle skiier Gus Kenworth was photographed with a bundle of puppies in his arms, vowing to adopt as many as possible, according to CBS News.

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