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    Almost everyone likes animals. Ever since Adam, when humans have taken good care of animals, everyone benefits. If a pet is part of your life right now, here are some ideas for a great relationship.

    Set for a Pet?

    by Christie Ann Giles

    What’s Good for You

    “Pet two puppies and call me in the morning,” could be your doctor’s advice in the future. It may sound strange, but pets can have a positive effect on your mental and physical health.

    Pets can stimulate exercise, prevent depression and loneliness, and regulate daily activities.

    Studies have linked pets with higher survival rates in patients with heart disease, increased self-confidence and independence in psychiatric patients, and children’s improved ability to interact with others. One study found that simply talking to a pet can produce a short-term reduction in blood pressure.

    It seems that pets can be more than good fun. They can also be good medicine.

    Ready or Not

    That cute little bundle of fur may look like a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. Before you buy a dog or cat, be sure you do your homework:

    • Hit the books. Go to the local library or bookstore and read up on the pet that interests you. Talk to people who own the type of pet you want.

    • Stop abuse. Avoid buying your pet from places that crowd animals into tiny cages or fail to keep the cages clean. Those animals are likely to be sick. Report any form of abuse to the Humane Society.

    • Take a closer look. Examine your potential pet carefully. Look for clean skin that’s free of sores, lice, ticks, fleas, and flakiness. Look for clean eyes with no mucous or discharge. Watch them walk and run and look for unnatural movements, like favoring one paw. Make sure the belly isn’t swollen.

    • Size up the situation. Consider how big the animal is likely to grow. Ask to see other animals of the same breed and age to determine whether yours is bigger than average. Check the size of its paws and head. If they seem large, your dog will probably grow into them.

    • Count the costs. Can you afford the expense of raising the pet? The original price is just the beginning. It can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars a year for food, veterinary bills, and other pet-care products.

    • Time out. Do you have enough time for your pet? Puppies require almost as much attention as a newborn baby. They need to be fed and groomed, but they also need to be walked about twice a day and taken for a good run once a week. Other pets may require less or more attention.

    • Play it safe. Ask the seller to provide certificates of health signed by a veterinarian. Then take your pet to the vet within 24 hours of purchase. If it’s sick, return it for a refund, treatment, or replacement.

    Something Fishy

    A fish is one of the easiest pets to care for, but before you dive into ownership, learn how to avoid these deadly fish-care errors.

    • No space invasion. To stay healthy, fish need lots of room, so keep no more than one inch of fish for each gallon of water.

    • Weight watch. Only feed them what they can eat in two or three minutes. Normally you should feed your fish once a day.

    • Keep it clean. The water may look clean, but it can still be full of invisible waste. Use a filter or remove one-third of the water each month and replace it with treated tap water.

    • Test the waters. Your tank could contain too much acid, alkaline, or chlorine. You can measure the pH level with a kit you buy at the pet store. To remove chlorine from tap water, add chlorine remover or let the water “age” in an open container for at least 24 hours.

    • Get a slow start. Begin with two or three fish and add a few per week. By adding fish slowly, you allow helpful bacteria and algae to grow.

    • Check ’em out. Make sure your fish are healthy before you buy them. Watch to see how they swim and how much they eat. Beware if they have white spots or “fuzzy” patches, or if they rub against rocks.

    • Avoid killer fish. Not all fish are friendly. Some will attack each other. Buy peaceful fish of the same size.

    • Don’t touch! Picking up fish with your hands can break the thin film which covers the scales, and a fungus may develop. Use a small dipper or a soft, fine net to transport them.

    • Some like it hot. Fish usually like their water about 75 degrees, but most can survive a five degree variation. Keep a thermometer handy.

    Good Grief

    One of the most traumatic events in a young person’s life can be the death of a cherished pet. There’s no getting around it—it hurts. Here are some ways to deal with your grief.

    • Don’t try to hide your feelings. It’s normal and natural to feel sad. Shed some tears, and talk to someone about it.

    • Do something special in memory of your pet. It can be very comforting to have your own memorial service, plant something on the grave, write a poem, or devote a page in your scrapbook to your pet.

    • Remember the good times you had. Don’t try to submerge your memories. It can ease loneliness to think about the fun times you spent together.

    • Volunteer to work with other animals. Help out at your local animal shelter.

    • Get a new pet. When you’re ready for one, there are lots of lonely animals out there that need adopting. A new pet won’t let you dwell on the sadness of your loss.

    Joseph Smith Taught Kindness toward Animals

    “The following incidents occurred while Zion’s Camp was on the march from Kirtland to Missouri.

    “In pitching my tent we found three … rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, ‘Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose its venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? … when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.’ The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 71).

    Star Search

    Cecilia Celeste Merrell of the Globe Second Ward, Globe Arizona Stake, had no intention of liking the astronomy course she had to take. But when she entered class on the first day and saw the teacher dressed as a wizard, she began to get other ideas.

    Now she can’t stop winning awards for her astronomy projects. She’s won just about everything you can at science and engineering fairs and at local, national, and international competitions. She’s worked hard on her projects and now knows a lot about reaching for the stars.

    She also reaches for the keys—piano and organ keys—which she plays at church. She sings, writes poetry, dances, and cooks—in addition to stargazing.

    Missing You

    Everyone missed Angie Hernandez of the Chino Heritage Ward, Chino California Stake, when she went away to be an exchange student in Norrköping, Sweden. And, to tell the truth, Angie did get a little homesick. But she loved her host family and enjoyed serving as a counselor in Young Women in her Swedish ward.

    Angie went to Sweden armed and ready for missionary work. She packed a Swedish/English dictionary and a copy of the Book of Mormon in Swedish, hoping to share it with her new friends.

    Meanwhile, Angie’s friends back in Pomona, California, say she’s a great example. When she’s in the country, they like to play basketball together and listen to her play the piano.

    [Antidrug Award]

    First lady, Barbara Bush, greets Leslie Wimberly of the Marianna Ward in Florida. Leslie wrote an award-winning, antidrug speech.

    Really Uplifting

    Greg York, a 16-year-old from Fort Gay, West Virginia, doesn’t look like a two-time national champion in power lifting. At five-foot-six and 114 pounds, you’d never guess he can squat 330 pounds and bench press 150 pounds.

    Greg is also strong in the gospel. He’s a priest in the Paintsville Branch in the Kentucky Louisville Mission, and loves attending seminary. Greg feels that following the Word of Wisdom has made all the difference in his strength training. He is also adamant about not training on Sundays, even though many of his rivals do.

    Greg currently holds 13 state records and a number of weight lifting titles. He is looking forward to representing the U.S. American Power Lifting Federation in Milan, Italy, for the world championships.

    No Joke

    Daniel Mars of the Rootstown Ward, Akron Ohio Stake, is known for his sense of humor, but there is one thing he takes very seriously—seminary attendance. Everyone in his family so far has had 100 percent attendance, but Daniel managed 107 percent by attending other early-morning seminaries when his was cancelled. Daniel is the fourth of ten children and has a number of varied interests that range from art, juggling, and magic to sailing, bicycling, and soccer.

    Sibling Support

    Scott and Cindy Van Natter are the only two LDS students in their high school in West Virginia, so naturally they stick together. With his older sister Cindy serving as his campaign manager, Scott was elected sophomore class president.

    They also stick together in the Rainelle Branch, New River Virginia Stake. The branch only has 42 members. In addition to their activities in the Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women programs, Scott is the Sunday School secretary, and Cindy is the music leader.

    Highest Award

    In Canada, it’s quite a feat to receive the Queen’s Venturer award—it’s one of Scouting’s highest honors in the country. Recently Harvey Calfrobe, a member of the Blood tribe in the Province of Alberta, earned that award.

    Harvey had some unique challenges. At four he was diagnosed with leukemia, and he spent most of his younger years fighting it. A severe learning disability also made things even tougher. Now Harvey’s leukemia is in remission, and he excels in a vocational school. He loves to ski, swim, bowl, and, of course, scout.

    Harvey was baptized three years ago and is now a priest in the Calgary Eighth Ward, Calgary Alberta West Stake.

    In a speech given at the Scouting awards ceremony, Harvey said, “I am proud to be in the Venturer program. It produces winners, and we are winners.”

    Something to Cheer About

    Would you believe that every member of the Hillcrest High (Salt Lake City) cheerleading squad is LDS? Would you believe that they won first place in three divisions at the USA National Cheerleading Championships? It’s true.

    To prepare for the competition, the team held practices at 6:00 A.M. as well as during class and after school. They also found time to do service projects like performing for and helping students at a school for students with special needs.

    Dancing with Dad

    What do you do when you’re not quite 16, but you desperately want to attend a dance at your school? Several girls from the Bountiful, Utah, area came up with a solution that worked well—they invited their dads.

    Anissa Johnson, Shauna Howard, Cindee Olsen, Jill Stauffer, and Shari Salmon all found unique ways to invite their fathers and planned a dinner together before the dance. In accordance with the dance’s tradition, the fathers and daughters all wore matching shirts.

    “It was a little strange when we first got to the dance and there were all our friends,” said Shari. “But the strange feeling only lasted a few minutes, and I didn’t think about it anymore; I was having too much fun!”

    Cindee summed up one of the reasons she and her friends had such a great time with their fathers. “I didn’t have to impress him,” she said. “I already knew he liked me.”

    Photography by Phil Shurtleff

    Shari Salmon hugs a great date—her father, Keith.

    Five 15-year-olds from Bountiful, Utah, took the daddy-daughter dating idea to school.