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Hints From Heloise
Washington Post

On the Road With Your Pet

Dear Readers: Is your pet a part of your upcoming TRAVEL PLANS for the holidays? Be sure you pack for your pet, too!

Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

Bedding and a blanket, especially if your pet is elderly.

Bowls for food and water -- and bottled water for the trip.

Food and treats -- be sure to measure enough for the number of days and a little extra.

Medications and a copy of vet records.

And remember, many cities have laws against animal droppings being left behind -- so take along a pooper scoop or plastic bags from the newspaper or the store. -- Heloise

P.S.: We also bring along a few of Cabbie's toys!


Dear Readers: Marie Martin of Oakland, Maine, sent a photo of her all-white (except for black and brown markings on his head) cat, Hobie-com, looking like he is waiting for it to be his turn on the computer. Marie says, "Hobie came to us as a stray and loves the computer, and he watches every move on the screen."

Visit to see Hobie online! -- Heloise


Dear Readers: Here is a helpful pet hint to make a low-cost, warm, comfy bed using plastic grocery-store bags and foam peanuts. Loosely stuff plastic bags with foam peanuts and tie the handles together. You can put these in a pillowcase or a dog-bed cover. When the peanuts squash down, just refill with bags of fresh foam peanuts. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: If you raise birds, you should only put proper bird nesting material (not cotton balls or dryer lint) in their cage. You can buy the bedding at any pet store. I was raising zebra finches, and many times they would have six babies at a time. I started putting puppy food (dry, moistened with water) in the cage to help the mother and father feed the babies. They were all healthy and happy! -- Kelly in Colorado


Dear Heloise: Don't leave the washing-machine lid open -- cats have been known to slip inside! Always close the lid, or check that kitty isn't napping inside. Our cat was missing and was finally found in the machine. The same thing could happen in the dryer, so check both machines when your cat is missing if you are in the habit of leaving the lids open. -- Rachel in Texas


Dear Heloise: Years ago, I was having trouble with animals getting into my trash can. Even though I never saw them, I was told it was raccoons. One night, I had the cabinet open as I was taking the trash bag out of the can. I spotted the red pepper. I still shake some in the bag every time I put the trash out.

I've always said the raccoons have spread the word not to go near that crazy lady's trash. -- Crazy Lady, Hyattsville, Md.

(c)2008 by King Features Syndicate Inc.

The Craziest Pet Stuff on the Web
By Deborah Netburn - Los Angeles Times

We're all well aware that people spend lots of money on their pets -- designer clothes, organic foods, spa treatments. But here are a few items that you may not know were even available for pets. Remember, we don't endorse 'em. We just report them.

Wigs for cats!

Giving new meaning to the word "glamourpuss," the Kitty Wig is designed specifically to fit on the head of a cat. What do you do with these wigs? You photograph your cat in them, of course. Kitty Wigs were created by Julie Jackson in Dallas and cost $50 per wig, including shipping and handling. Check out the Kitty Wigs Flickr group for more cat-in-wig fun.

Buy your dog a treadmill!

Yeah, the sidewalk is free, but what fun is that? Give your dog a full workout in the comfort of your home with the Jog a Dog treadmill for dogs. It's not cheap -- prices range from $1,195 to $2,995 -- but just think about what you're buying. A treadmill! For your dog!

You can see Jog a Dog in action at the Long Beach Convention Center on Dec. 14 and 15 at the American Kennel Club / Eukanuba National Championship dog show.

Training schools for goldfish!

The folks at R2 Fish School have put out a complete fish training system that allows the average person to teach the average goldfish to dribble a tiny soccer ball down a tiny court and even do a fish-y limbo. For $39.95 you get a 45-minute DVD and more than 20 training parts.

Buy your cat a toilet!

Introducing PetNovations' Cat Genie --"the world's only self-washing, self-flushing cat box," according to the news release. This contraption, handily designed to look like a toilet, gets hooked up to a water source, allowing your cat's waste to be flushed down a drain. And if you're willing to fork over $329, you may never scoop litter again!

You could ... buy your dog a birthday cake with his or her face on it!

Sure, a dog birthday cake (for the dog to eat) is nice, but get her face hand-painted on it and it's even nicer! Natalie Marquadt of My Best Friend Specialty Pet Bakery in San Diego has been making hand-painted dog cakes for five years. The average sized dog cake with hand-painted picture costs $32 plus shipping.

Make your fish a forest!

What fish wouldn't want to swim around in an ethereal jungle, grassy meadow or sparse rocky landscape? Brothers Steven and George Lo, who run Aqua Forest Aquarium in San Francisco, can help you make it a reality with their wide range of freshwater plants and tips on how to make what is called a Nature Aquarium.

Buy your cat high-concept furniture!

In 1972, Frank Gehry designed the Easy Edges Wiggle chair out of layers of cardboard, and now that same lowbrow-meets-highbrow aesthetic is available for your cat, thanks to Elizabeth Paige Smith's new Kittypod mini tunnel/bed. It sells for $98.

Victorian Doggy Mansion
Los Angeles Times

Kassis holds her three "kids" in front of their Victorian doghouse. To call her an animal lover is an understatement. “I’m beyond that,” Kassis says. “My dogs are my life.”

Tammy Kassis holds Coco Puff in front of her Victorian doggie mansion located in the Riverside County community of Winchester. Coco Puff shares the doggie estate with fellow Yorkshire terrier Chelsea and sassy Pomeranian Darla. Five years ago, when Kassis and her husband, Sam, were living in a Victorian home in Temecula, she decided the dogs needed their own place, so they had the fancy doghouse built. When the Kassises moved to Winchester this summer, they brought the 5,000-pound home with them.

Kassis added a white picket fence to surround her three dogs' Victorian-style home, but Coco Puff easily slips underneath. Kassis contacted Alan Mowrer’s La Petite Maison, a builder of deluxe custom doghouses, to construct the mini-estate. La Petite Maison’s mansions start at $6,000, and that price does not include landscaping, furnishings or shipping. Kassis guesstimates that she has invested nearly $20,000 on construction, transport and equipment if she includes the painting, landscaping, screened doors and windows, miniblinds and ceiling fans, as well as a backyard with artificial turf.

An address plate hangs off Victorian-style doghouse installed by Tammy Kassis in her backyard for her three dogs in Winchester.

Darla and Coco Puff look out of their doggie door.

Coco Puff sits in his wrought-iron bed located in the Victorian turret. Screened casement windows are hung with drapery, valances with faux-jewel trim and vinyl miniblinds. Later in the year, the Kassises plan to add awnings.

Coco Puff likes to share Darla's leopard lounge. The mini-Victorian doghouse is equipped with air-conditioning.

Darla slips into Chelsea's canopy bed when the Yorkshire Terrier isn't around. A trompe l'oeil wallpaper window hangs above a frieze of shopping bag-motif wallpaper, just above the chair rail molding.

Tammy Kassis dresses her Pomeranian, Darla, in a pink-and-black polka dot outfit. "I only dress them up on special occasions," she says.

Two of Darla's outfits hang on the wall just above Chelsea's bed.

Tiny Chelsea descends into an enclosed yard that protects the dogs from owls, coyotes and other predators.

Hoping to steal their food, 85-pound Doberman Pinscher Rio sneaks into the toy dogs' Victorian house. “He’s not allowed in unless I’m here to supervise,” owner Tammy Kassis explains. “They all get along, but if he gets excited he could step on them.”

Coco Puff, left, a male Yorkie, and Pomeranian Darla, walk out of the front yard of their Victorian-style home in Winchester.

Concerning Animals: Books for Young Pet Lovers
by Joan Lowell Smith -

"Purry Logic" by Jane Seabrook From a mile-high pile of new animal books for kids, I highly recommend a few worthy selections:

Marley books

Is there any adult in the hemisphere who has not read John Grogan's "Marley & Me"? Now, kids can get to know Marley at their own speed, in a pair of "I Can Read" paperbacks for beginning readers (Harper, $3.99 each), based on the "Marley & Me" movie. Starting with "Meet Marley," they then can move on to "Marley to the Rescue" and "A Very Marley Christmas" (Harper, $17.99), directed to youngsters ages 3 to 8.

Where the paperbacks depict photos of the upcoming film version's stars Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston and the actual on-screen Labrador retriever as a pup, the Christmas book is illustrated by Richard Cowdrey, who manages to convey the free spirit of mischievous Marley with his energetic artwork.

The prolific author, a former newspaper columnist and editor of Organic Gardening, describes Marley as "the world's worst dog, with a heart of gold, boundless loyalty and exuberance" -- traits that combine for a lot of mischief-making. Youngsters will relish the silly antics of Marley, who manages to create chaos without totally destroying the Christmas celebration.

It's only logical

At the risk of overstating, "Purry Logic" by Jane Seabrook (Ten Speed Press, $9.94) is the cutest cat book I've ever seen -- and I've seen a lot of cat books, believe me. The extremely talented painter captures the essences of 31 eclectic felines, who are so animated they practically leap onto your lap.

The spectacular artwork in Seabrooks' 6-inch-square hardcover book can be savored by kids and their parents. A "who's who" at the end of the book describes each breed chronologically. Witty captions by Ashleigh Brilliant are indeed brilliant. "I hear the call to do nothing, and am doing my best to answer it" reads one which accompanies the depiction of a domestic tabby sleeping with a contented smile. Or check out a smug calico saying: "My only purpose in this life is to rest and recover from my previous lives." The artist, who lives in New Zealand, with an elderly English blue cat and three Birmans, calls her family "cat-mad." You'll be mad about her book.

For the family

A pair of "My Animal Family" books on wild animals combine facts blended into a lively voyage to the wild for kids ages 3 to 9. "Leo's Story," subtitled "A baby lion's story," and "Ella," subtitled "A baby elephant's story" (Smart Kids by Guideposts, $12.29 each), come with DVDs featuring BBC wildlife footage edited for youngsters. It provides a glimmer into the realities of baby animals, devoid of any gore. Kids learn how animal families cooperate and thrive in their habitats. Colorful illustrations enhance the story of a lion cub on the Serengeti plains attempting to climb a tree and then graduating to greater feats. "Ella" tells how baby elephants emulate their elders by following the pack to learn how to use their trunks to pick up food and how to trumpet their entrances and exits.

In both books, children learn how important close family ties are in the animal kingdom for survival and contentment.

Each book also contains a "secret code card" that will open the online habitat of the featured baby animal. After entering, kids can explore an animal's environment, play games and earn points to trade for ropes, binoculars, cell phones and other accessories.

How to draw dogs

Artist Freddie Levin has created an 8½-by-11-inch, 64-page book, "1-2-3 DRAW DOG" (North Light, $8.99), to teach kids how to, well, draw dogs. And she's not talking about generic dogs. Her step-by-step illustrations begin with basic shapes. Is the dog egg-shaped, oval or more circular? Then, she advances to specific breeds. Levin's how-to approach is a fun way for parent and child to interact. All you need is paper, pencil and patience. She makes it look so very easy, I'm going to try it myself -- and I'm not exactly a kid. Although when I was one eons ago, I remember newspaper ads near the cartoon pages that promised: "You too can draw... " Levin's book will make you a believer.

Discover Your Pet's Talent
By: Lisa Chelenza - Capital News 9

Discover your pet's talent

Every dog has a special talent; it's up to you to find your dogs. Today we meet with JoLynn Stresing and her special dogs.

JoLynn Stresing cares for, loves and trains 40 dogs. Each has an individual personality and enjoys different things. So what does she look for when building a dog sled team?

“I usually choose a lead dog in puppyhood. You observe them and see which one takes the lead, and which ones are more followers. Wheel dogs are usually stronger but they don't have the desire to lead,” said Stresing.

When it comes to agility, it's a simple trait that's hard to find and her dog Aurora has it.

“For agility focused dogs, I look for a dog that is very receptive to me, has a high desire to please me and really reacts well to my body language,” said Stresing.

Whatever you discover your pet's special talent is, nurture it, have fun and they will love you for it.


The Gift of Fuzz and Love
By Laura Petersen - The Del Mar Times

"Home 4 the Holidays," the world's largest adoption drive, is aiming to pair one million pets with loving families this holiday season and they are already half-way there.
More than 3,400 shelters in 17 countries are participating, including 26 in San Diego County.

"What better gift could there be than to save the life of an orphan?" said John Van Zante, spokesman for Helen Woodward Animal Center, which started the adoption drive in 1999.

Ten years ago, the animal center's president Mike Arms, said he had enough with the breeders, puppy mills and pet stores who beef up advertising during the holidays, the time of year when more families adopt a pet.

In 1998, more than 80 percent of all adoptions were from these sources; only 17 percent were rescued from shelters. That meant 40,000 animals had to be euthanized in the San Diego region.

So Helen Woodward banded together with 14 local shelters, IAMS and Petco to promote rescue animal adoptions.

"We told them 'We have a plan to increase adoptions, help to lower the rate of euthanasia and take business away from breeders and puppy mills,'" Van Zante said.

Smashing success
That first year, 2,563 shelter cats, kittens, dogs and puppies found new homes. The program was an instant hit and spread rapidly throughout the United States and beyond to Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada.

The number of adoptions grew exponentially, to more than 20,000 the second year and 100,000 the third year.

In 2007, more than 490,000 animals were adopted, bringing the total Home 4 the Holidays success stories to more than two million.

Now, the drive is aiming to accomplish in three months half of what's been done in the past nine years.

Ambitious, yes, but with shelters across the globe taking up the charge, Van Zante said, the goal is within reach.

In the past, shelters have been hesitant to encourage adoptions during the holidays. Numerous fears about puppies eating pine needles, hard-to-digest people food, and returns were all proven to be unsubstantiated, Van Zante said.

Before you go
If the children or spouse are finagling for a pooch or kitty for their special gift this year, here are some things to consider.

Rescue groups and shelters work to match the needs of the pet with the desires of the people, Van Zante said. Also, all pets have been given a medical exam and up-to-date vaccines, are spayed or neutered and all medical information will be disclosed.

Mom and Dad can come look first, but adopting a pet is a family affair and everyone should be involved, Van Zante said.

Also, a pet for a holiday gift is not a good idea if it is for someone outside the home.

"You can't give somebody a new best friend," Van Zante said. "But you can take them to a shelter, have them pick out their pet and pay the adoption fee."

Down economy
While some think adoptions may drop off in a down economy, that is not the case, at least for Helen Woodward, which oversaw 204 adoptions in October, up from 176 last October.

Indeed, at least one recent adoption was inspired partly because of the economy.

The Renner family of Del Mar adopted Kaia, a Sheppard-mix puppy, after the first dog they adopted from Helen Woodward 14 years ago passed away. The family had considered taking the weeklong Thanksgiving vacation to go on a trip, but decided to stay home and get a puppy instead, Renner said.

"The economy doesn't look so good, so maybe families stay home more and do not do as much," Renner said. "Why not at least get a puppy, which you are able to do free things with, like go on walks, go to the beach or the park."

Fast Facts
Helen Woodward Animal Center is open Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and Day, but closed on Christmas.

For more information, go to

Laura Petersen
Laura is a writer for the Del Mar Times, Carmel Valley Leader, Rancho Santa Fe Record and Solona Beach Sun. Laura can be reached by e-mail.

Los Angeles Times

Don't Believe Everything You Read About Pit Bulls...
L.A. Unleashed

Here at Unleashed, we've seen our share of pit bull debate -- stories running the gamut from good to bad to downright ugly. But rarely have we seen a photo that made our hearts leap like this one does!

Submitter Kian explains that her two-year-old pit bull, Lulu, took these orphaned kittens under her wing. See more great examples of interspecies friendship in the Your Scene album Four-Legged Friends (or submit your own photos -- we'd love to see 'em!).

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: "pitbull & friends" submitted by Kian/Your Scene

Facts About Koi

What are Koi?
The common carp is the forerunner of our present day Koi. Koi are not big goldfish. The goldfish is a distant cousin to Koi.

Where did they come from?
The Japanese name for Koi is Nishikigoi. Nishikigoi were developed by the Japanese over 200 years ago.

Where do you keep these fish?
These gorgeous creatures usually live in lushly landscaped fish ponds outdoors. The ponds are constructed to provide adequate oxygenation and filtration of the water. These ponds make an excellent landscaping addition to a garden.

How big do they get?
The average Koi can grow to 24 - 36 inches! The size of the pond, the amount of aeration, and feeding methods will affect the growth of the fish. It is not uncommon for a small Koi to grow 2 - 4 inches a year in a backyard pond.

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