American 'Pet Idol'

Microchips Can Protect Against Losing Pets
Staff Reports -

CHICO -- If he'd been implanted with an identifying microchip, Sonny the Australian Shepherd would have been returned to Cynthia Stevenson as soon as he was brought to the Butte Humane Society.
Stevenson said she'd planned to "microchip" her three Aussies and even had an appointment with her veterinarian to do so when the dogs disappeared from her property in Cherokee. Her vet had advised her to have the microchipping done when the dogs were under anesthesia and being altered.

Heather Schoeppach, executive director of the Butte Humane Society, said puppies and kittens are commonly implanted with microchips at the local shelter and by veterinarians. At the shelter, the procedure costs $25. Anyone can bring a pet to the shelter to have it done.

The procedure is something like giving the animal a vaccination, she said. The chip itself is about the size of a grain of rice. While it's barely noticeable, you can feel the chip, which is placed under the animal's skin.

When a lost animal is turned in to the shelter, workers use an electronic wand to see if it has a microchip. If it does, the wand will read information from the chip that identifies the animal.

The Humane Society of the United States recommends that all pets be microchipped and that they wear identifying tags at all times.

While microchips are said to be very safe for pets, some concerns about potential risks have been raised.

Alaska Pet Idol Animals Unleash Talent

VYING FOR VOTES: Contest is fundraiser for Friends of Pets.

There was the tux-wearing, alien-fighting dog, and a dog that looked suspiciously like a fox. And, amazingly, a dog that opened up a small refrigerator and got her owner a bottled drink.

In the third Alaska Pet Idol contest on Saturday, a throng of at least 100 whistling and hooting pet fans watched 15 dogs walk a red carpet and step onto a balloon-decorated stage at the Alaska Mill and Feed warehouse in Anchorage to compete for food, gift certificates and other prizes.

The contest, which raised money for the Friends of Pets nonprofit group, was created by Mill and Feed staff who were inspired by the American Idol TV show.

Pet Idol isn't unique to Alaska. There are other similar-named pet contests scattered all over the country, from Arizona to New York. Unlike the TV show, or a bona-fide election, Pet Idol watchers pay for the privilege to vote: in Alaska, 50 cents each.

Yes, ballot-stuffing is allowed, even encouraged. Pet Idol is a fundraiser, after all. The more votes, the more money raised for Friends of Pets' volunteer programs, including animal rescue, adoption and a spay-neuter program.

On Saturday, the judges picked the top three dogs based on personality, tricks, grooming and crowd appeal.

It quickly became obvious that the pets with the biggest fan sections -- and who generated the most votes during the semifinals -- were shoo-in winners.

First-place winner Shelby, a bull mastiff, rocked the contest by getting more than 1,000 of the 4,830 votes, organizers said.

And if votes weren't enough to indicate support for Shelby, the dog's fans had other stratagems: they waved pro-Shelby signs in the front row, blew kazoos, clapped and cheered loudly whenever someone mentioned her name.

Shelby's trick was to demonstrate a safe exit during a simulated fire.

Shelby's trainer Gail Painter stretched a large banner across the stage with flames and smoke painted on it and invited children to join Shelby on the stage.

Then, she ordered Shelby to crawl to her. Lowering her belly, Shelby led four boys under the simulated smoke.


Even though other pets competed in Alaska Pet Idol, only dogs made it to Saturday's final round.

At 1 p.m., the 15 semifinalists took turns on the stage while KMXS-FM disc jockey Joe Campbell recited the dogs' biographies to the crowd and played peppy music.

At a table, a judging panel watched intently and scribbled on grading sheets as each contestant strutted its stuff.

Once under the stage lights, some of the dogs had a hard time concentrating and leaped off the stage into the audience. Others seemed destined for the Pet Idol nationals -- if there was such a thing.

One of the best performers was third-place winner Skipper, a 2-year-old husky mix rescued as a puppy from under a trailer during winter on the North Slope, according to his owner.

Skipper continually reared up on his back legs and waved his "arms" rather than his tail at the amused crowd of spectators. "Just to get attention," explained owner Chelsey Homan, who owns the organic pet snack company Doggy Decadents.

Among his many tricks, Skipper played a shell game.

Homan set out plastic cups, put a treat under one of them and shuffled the cups around.

Most of the time, Skipper set his paw on the right cup.

Pets Offer Homeless People Companionship, Protection

For people on the street, animals provide companionship and protection

FORT WORTH — After 24 years of homelessness, Kenny Skubic knows that friendships don’t always last long among people trying to survive on the streets.

But the man with a weathered face says he gets absolute loyalty from his best friend.

Diamond, his black and white pit bull terrier, has been at his side for four years.

"She’s about all I have in this world," said Skubic, 45, an admitted alcoholic who sits every day outside a strip mall at Belknap and Beach streets. "I love that dog with all my heart. She eats before I eat."

We all get attached to our pets, and homeless people are no different. Men and women in ragged clothes often wander the streets with dogs just south and east of downtown.

About two months ago, a dog belonging to a homeless man in a wheelchair got his leash tangled in the chair as they crossed the street. A car crashed into the dog, killing it. The car kept going.

"He sat in his chair crying," said Shawn Jordan, animal rescue technician at the Humane Society of North Texas on East Lancaster Avenue. "Their pets are their companions."

Often in bad health

The Humane Society regularly provides homeless people’s pets with food and vaccines. Workers also offer to spay and neuter the animals because workers know that if they don’t, they will likely someday deal with the pets’ offspring.

"Most of the homeless cooperate," Jordan said. "One man keeps saying no because he gives his dog’s puppies to other homeless people. We’re trying to change his mind."

Like their owners, the pets are often in poor health. Last week, the office had to euthanize Mutley, a Labrador mix owned by Joyce Barnett, 29, who is homeless.

Mutley had parvo, a viral disease that attacks the intestines. Barnett cried when speaking of her.

"She helped me when I had my seizures," Barnett said. "She climbed up and nuzzled me."

'My dog has my back’

Many homeless people take good care of their animals.

Skubic’s pit bull is spayed and up to date on all her vaccines. Last week, Skubic ate Vietnamese noodles out of a to-go box on the sidewalk. In the flipped-open lid, he poured water for Diamond to drink.

Skubic keeps dog food behind the strip mall, where he camps. When the weather is bad, he gets a cheap room at a nearby hotel. The manager lets Diamond stay in the room, too. "She sleeps with me every night," Skubic said.

Diamond also offers protection. Skubic boasts that he doesn’t carry weapons to protect himself from thieves who roam the streets. If someone approaches his camp at night, Diamond emits a low growl.

"She don’t let anyone walk up on me," Skubic said. "My dog has my back."

Close again

Because the homeless shelters don’t allow dogs, pet owners usually sleep outdoors.

Valentina Notaro, 55, arrived in Fort Worth last week and slept the first few nights in a truck rather than part with her Chihuahua, Miss Prissy. She has owned Miss Prissy since the dog followed her into a hotel room.

Someone from the Humane Society offered to keep Miss Prissy in a kennel for two weeks while Notaro stayed at the Salvation Army. Notaro visits and walks her dog for a few hours each day.

Notaro said her husband died five years ago. Now, it is just she and Miss Prissy.

"First time since then that I have wanted anything in my life to be close to me again," she said. "I felt like I was just bad luck to everything. At least now I’m not thinking about being homeless as much as I am about her."

ALEX BRANCH, 817-390-7689

Winter Fun at the Del Mar Dog Beach
by Brooke Hoecker, San Diego Pet-Friendly Places Examiner

In San Diego we enjoy some of the finest weather in all of the United States. Even Los Angeles tends to get more rainfall, since the storms usually lose most of their steam by the time it makes its way down to San Diego. Wasn’t it Lewis Black who said the easiest job in the world would be a weatherman in San Diego?

Since we have that great weather pretty much all year around, you and you dog can spend your playtime at one of San Diego’s many dog beaches.

The Dog Beach in Del Mar has gained quite a bit of popularity in recent years. With its natural barrier and beautiful scenery, it’s no wonder it is a favorite spot in San Diego. This beach is only leash free through certain parts of the year. Dogs must stay on the leash until the day after Labor Day and can freely frolic until June 14th when they must be put back on their leashes. The period of on-leash time will leave the beaches open for the massive influx of tourists in the summer months. During this time, making a trip to Ocean Beach or Coronado, where the dog beaches are leash free all year round, can solve the doggie dilemma of where to play.

As with all dog beaches, out of control behavior is not tolerated in Del Mar. In Ocean Beach you may just get some disapproving stares and be politely (or not so politely) asked to leave, where as in Del Mar the lifeguard who enforces the rules might write you a ticket. Make no mistake; the rules will be enforced in Del Mar. So for the sake of you, your dog, and everyone else at the beach, makes sure you have a well socialized and well behaved pup that knows you are the boss.

On the next eighty degree day between one of the winter storms, try the dog beach in Del Mar. You may find a new haunt to frequent with your dog and you might make some great friends with the regulars along the way.

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Of Dogs and People
By Mark Steinberg - Los Angeles Times

A lifetime watching the aging of pets provides their owner with some insights on life and death.

The dachshund arrived when I was 6. A cousin's dog had given birth to a litter of five, and our relative was determined that every one of them would stay in the family. She appeared unannounced at our kitchen door one morning carrying a female puppy, a doggy bed, biscuits, a chewable rat and smug optimism. She stepped into the kitchen, put the puppy on the floor to roam free, folded her arms and waited.

The dog recognized immediately that there was only one Decider in our house, my mother, and she targeted her routine at that one-person audience. First, she did the puppy "boing boing" thing, jumping up and down because she'd found the most lovable, sensitive human being on Earth. Then she threw herself at my mother's feet and licked her toes. As a finale, she walked over to the doggie bed, flopped down and went to sleep.

By sunset, the puppy had been named Lisa and listed first on my mother's "preferred organ recipient" card.

At the time of Lisa's arrival, I'd given no thought to the question of dog longevity. It was about two years later that someone explained to me that one human year equals seven dog years. It was a shock. I'd believed that I was Lisa's older brother. But I now had to live with the fact that my 2-year-old dog was six years my senior.

I did not take this new information to its logical conclusion, however. It didn't occur to me that Lisa wouldn't live as long as I would. I thought she'd simply be a gazillion years old when I died, and that she'd just start looking more and more like my Aunt Minnie.

By the time I was 9, I had an inkling of the truth. Dogs of friends, dogs of relatives, dogs of people in the neighborhood were vanishing, and I had begun to notice that a predictable series of events preceded the disappearances. First, the dogs stopped going "boing boing." Then they began stumbling when they walked. Then their muzzles went gray. And then they were gone.

Still, my denial was strong. When Lisa's "boing boing" went, I figured she had simply come to regard such behavior as puppyish and beneath her. When she stumbled, I assumed she'd been thinking about something else, something important. When the gray came, I ignored it.

Ultimately, we had to face the question of whether we were keeping Lisa alive for ourselves or because she still had a good life. She was 91 when we finally answered that question.

In 1966, when I was 21, I married Marjorie, a lovely, wise woman with an absolute, unconditional love of all things canine.

Over the next 30 years, we entertained (and said goodbye to) seven dogs. There were shelties, a golden retriever, a German shepherd and a mutt. There were smart ones, less smart ones, greedy ones, picky ones, close companions and indifferent co-tenants.

In 1999, when I was 54, we brought our current dogs, two border collies, into our home. The pedigreed of the two, Bergers, carried himself like Prince Philip and assumed a roughly equivalent air with us, the staff. The other dog, J.J., was the product of some combination of close relatives who lived in the doggy equivalent of a trailer park. She was friendly in the way someone seeking early parole might be friendly.

We four have lived in relative harmony these nine years. It occurred to me on a recent walk, however, that the dogs and I are approaching the finish line in tandem. I am 63, and they are somewhere in the same vicinity.

Since this epiphany, I've begun to see my relationship with the dogs in a different light, as a sort of competition. And I suspect they do too. As the maladies associated with my age multiply -- back trouble, leg trouble, sleeping trouble, other trouble -- I've noticed the dogs watching me closely. And it seems to me they are smiling at every manifestation of my problems. Likewise, I've been watching them. And although I of course don't take pleasure in their aches, pains and flatulence (which they themselves seem to regard with pleasure), I do notice. It's hard not to feel that we are vying, dry nose to wet nose, to win the first prize, the only prize, in "Last (Whatever) Standing."

We could, I suppose, declare a temporary stand-down, a pause that tacitly acknowledges the slope isn't yet all that slippery. After all, Stump, the Sussex spaniel recently named best-in-show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, is 70 dog-years old. If Stump is still in his prime, surely we can hold together as a cohort for a few more years, ready at a moment's notice to tear open a bag of Cheez-its, then head to the toilet for a round of drinks.

But the dogs have made it crystal clear that they have no interest in a truce and no intention of conceding defeat. In fact, they appear to have undertaken a hostile, life-lengthening training regime. For every step I take on one of our walks, they take four. For every power nap I take, they sleep for four days.

The dogs have begun to worry, I suspect, that I'm going to stack the deck, that I'll pull the plug on one or both of them prematurely. But I do not kill any living thing without due process. I am, after all, a lawyer.

I will fight this last battle honorably, and, should Providence decree that I precede my beloved companions to the hereafter, I will know as I breathe my last that I have run the race well. I also will take to my grave the knowledge of where the treats are hidden and that I've paid the groomer to show up on Thursday.

Mark Steinberg is a retired partner at O'Melveny & Myers and served in the State and Justice departments during the Clinton administration.

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Choose the Best Pet Remedy For Joint Pain
By Matt Richards

Even if your pet's veterinarian makes note of joint pain from dysplasia or arthritis, there are very few effective treatments. For example, if your dog has shoulder dysplasia, it will only be a matter of time before your the joints will be unable to support your dog's weight. At the time, surgeries designed to shorten stressed tendons tend to be ineffective at best.

On the other hand, conventional pain medications will most likely leave your pet with all kinds of uncomfortable side effects. These may include nausea, vomit, dizziness, and an overall feeling of illness. While they may temporarily relieve joint pain, they may cause other problems that distress your pet even more. Fortunately, you can find a natural pet remedy designed specifically for pain management.

Today, medications like Flex Pet, Old Bones, and Joint Rescue can all be used to manage each stage of pain associated with dysplasia. Most of these remedies can be used for cats, as well as dogs. You may even be surprised when your pet becomes more active and eager to move around again. Regardless of whether dysplasia is just setting in, or it is in its advanced stages, you will notice the improvements, as will your pet.

Over the years, many pet owners have had to euthanize their pets rather than see them go on suffering with dysplasia. Without a question, when you take a playful kitten or puppy into your home, the last thing you will want to do is remain oblivious to the fact that adulthood may come with an enormous amount of pain. At the very least, you can make use of a natural pet remedy for dysplasia, and see if it keeps your pet feeling healthy and energetic. Woudln't your pet do the same for you if the situation was reversed?

Matt Richards is the director of popular blog PetPain.Net. He is an expert on pet care. He provides honest information and advice on topics like natural pet remedy for arthritis and dysplasia and more. Check out his blog for more info!

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How to Stop a Dog From Barking
By Mary E Edison

I began my research into how to stop a dog from barking after six, let me repeat, six very long and irritating months of listening to my pooch bark at absolutely everything! Marley, a Bichon-Shitzu mix, came to me as a birthday present and Wow... she sure was as cute as a button! We fell in love immediately.

I did however begin to notice that she was very skittish and she would start barking at what appeared to be nothing at all from time to time. The more she grew, the more skittish she became. The more skittish she became the more she barked. Eventually, she even barked at her own shadow. Literally!

Through research, patience and persistence, I discovered ways to help her overcome her need to bark.

* Why Does a Dog Bark in the First Place?

A dog barks as a form of communication. It can be that your dog is barking to warn you of impending danger, your dog could be bored, it can be welcoming you home, or if it's like my little dog Marley... it just barks to bark! Barking is about attention. Even when you shout, "STOP BARKING" at the top of your lungs you are giving your dog a form of attention. And all to often, shouting at your dog is ineffective. What is really happening is the creation of a cycle that goes something like this. Bark plus shouting equals your dog's interpretation of a weird form of affection.

* Here's A Quick "How to Stop A Dog from Barking" Training Method

1. When your dog barks at inappropriate times, go immediately to her and with a firm elevated voice say "NO", then quickly spritz your dog in the face with water from a clean spray bottle. If you don't want to use this water method then quickly, after saying "NO", flick your dog with two fingers on the top of its nose. Either method will induce an unpleasant consequence after a barking episode.

NOTE: It should never be your intention to hurt or harm your dog in anyway! Don't use so much force that you inflict pain upon your dog. You just want your pooch to experience an unpleasant consequence, however it should only be enough to make him or her think twice about barking.

It is very important to use a firm verbal command and the spray water or corrective nose tap method every time your dog barks inappropriately.

2. Go to him immediately during a barking episode instead of calling him to you. You must do this each and every time he barks otherwise he will never learn how "not to bark".

3. You must be persistent and consistent with this training method. If you're not... your dog will be persistent and consistent with his barking.

4. Reward your dog when he is a quiet dog! You can offer a treat or even playing with him when he's quite will work just as well. Remember your dog may be barking for attention. So when he or she is quiet, give them some.

When you can make being quiet more pleasant than barking, then and only then will barking become a thing of the past.

Copyright (c) 2009 Ultimate Edge Living, Inc.

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Bringing Up Baby With Kittens, Cats Or Puppy Dogs Safely
By Stephanie A Olsen

The mix of kittens or cats with very young children can pose problems, and many times it's just easier to wait until the kids are old enough to understand how to properly handle an animal before adopting a pet. However, families often do successfully raise both animal and human broods. The one exception might be very young kittens who tend to use people as mountains to climb (and dig their claws into human flesh in order to do so!). In this case, it's usually actually better to adopt two kittens so they play mostly with each other. Other than that, it's simply a matter of supervision and education.

Children learn all the time when they play, and much of their time is spent role-playing. They mimic the behaviors they see in their parents, siblings and other important people in their lives. You can take advantage of this natural teaching opportunity by introducing a stuffed toy (a kitten, in this case, although it could of course be a puppy if that's the type of pet you've decided on). When you handle the toy, you exaggerate how gently you must be, stroking the kitten's fur with one finger and never, ever pulling its tail, for instance.

If a family member or friend already has animals in their home, use that as a real life opportunity to demonstrate proper pet care -- including leaving the cat alone when it's 'napping' (exaggerating again by hushing and tiptoeing around). Always praise your child for his or her appropriate behavior around the animal, and when there's an incident where the cat hisses or the dog growls, explain why that happened. ("It hurts Fluffy when you pull her tail, and she's telling you to be gentle and not to hurt her.") Again, use every incident as a teaching opportunity and keep your reactions as calm and matter-of-fact as possible. This will reassure both the animal and your child.

Your child and pet equally rely on you to keep them safe. This means when they are in a room together, they must always be supervised -- without exception or excuse. If you are unable to do that for a short period of time (while you're busy at the stove, for example), just separate the two. You can make use of a baby gate which you've likely got installed anyway if you've got crawling babies and young toddlers around, or just close the pet off in a separate section of the house until you're free.

Do be prepared for scratches from cats and kittens and nips from puppies and dogs. These are almost inevitable and usually come about through play. Kitten scratches hurt like the dickens (because the little claws are razor sharp) and teething puppies will chew on a hand as happily as a toy. Comfort your child, of course, when an accident occurs -- but remember that your reaction will greatly influence him or her. Explain why this event might have happened (the kitten was trying to catch a ribbon or the puppy wanted the cracker) and how it can be prevented in future: use a longer ribbon and eat only when in the high chair.

Raising a young child and pet together can be a challenge at times, but the loyal companionship and life lessons (which include unconditional love as well as commitment to and empathy for others) are a great trade-off.

Stephanie Olsen has been involved in animal rescue for many years. Please visit her site to read more informative articles on cats and kittens.

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How to Bathe Your Dog
By Jane Dinunzio

Is this a familiar scenario? Every where you go around the house your devoted dog is by your side. He knows when you are preparing his meals, when someone is due home from work he's at the window waiting, or just when you are relaxing, he is also.

When you begin getting ready to give him a bath, then suddenly you can't find him. He knows whats up and doesn't like it. Most dogs don't enjoy their bath, but here are a few tips to reduce your dog's anxiety.


Use your judgment and common sense. If he is covered in muck and mud, or smells like something is rotten, then the time is now.

Basically a minimum of 3 or 4 baths a year for a clean, indoor apartment dwelling dog is sufficient. Obviously many more baths are needed for your outdoor, active or working dog.

Regular brushing helps with removing dead hair, distribute natural oils and removes dirt. This alone helps decrease the amount of dog baths necessary. A good brush, appropriate for your dog's size and fur type, will give you and your pet a special time of bonding, and he will be so ecstatic and much more appreciative of time spent together. Dogs will always prefer this over a bath anytime


Do not bathe your dog outdoors in cold winter climates. Using the proper dog shampoo and tepid to warm water, bathe your dog in the utility tub, a small basin or your bath tub, depending on your dog's size.

Don't let a wet dog go out doors in cold, frigid weather. The dog must be completely dry, especially down to the undercoat, that some dogs have.

In the warm summer time I bathe my dogs outside and let the heat of the sun dry them. They can run and shake, and take a nice warm sun bath.


Make sure your dog's coat is combed and all the mats and knots are removed. These will only become more difficult to remove after they are wet.

Also, make sure that you have a calm environment for bath time. You don't want the kid's fighting and crying, stress from yourself and a rushed, hurried attitude. Most dogs don't enjoy baths, but will tolerate them if you are relaxed and gentle.

Make sure if using the tub, that your have a non slip mat down so your dog feels secure.

I use a shower head and long hose that is just perfect so my labs can stand up and I am comfortable also. If you don't have this, use a large pitcher (plastic) to wet and rinse with. Wash the face first with a wet cloth, without soap. Some people put cotton balls in the ears for protection, and if it makes you more comfortable, do so. Just don't forget to take them out after.

When the bath is finished try and get a towel or two ready and try and cover them before the shaking begins. It is inevitable that your will get wet anyway. Dry them as much as possible by rubbing down with dry clean towels.

Some dogs enjoy getting blown dried with a hair dryer after their baths, but if you do this, make sure you use the warm setting, not hot. To prevent a hot spot on your dog's skin, you must keep the dryer moving at all times.

If you start the bath time routine from puppy hood, this usually will just then become part of the dog's routine and it won't be stressful. To prevent a stressful nervous dog, you should be relaxed and in a good mood before starting bath time, as most dogs feel our bad or unhappy feelings.

Understanding your dog's behavior will increase the bond between you and your dog. Taking care of your dog, and giving him the best, whether it be the best nutrition, or the best medical care or the best emotional connection will make you and your pet both extremely content.

Check out my tips and dog information at:

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