Pet Advice - Pet News - Pet Photos

Put Your Pet on an Austerity Plan

Some cash-strapped consumers have been forced to do the unthinkable: give up their pets.

Shelters across the country reported an increase in abandoned pets taken during 2008, with many former owners citing economic hardship. Without a doubt, pets can be expensive. Americans spent a whopping $43.4 billion on their pets during 2008, according to the American Pet Products Association, an industry group. That breaks down to an average of $670 per dog and $447 per cat that was spent on routine vet care, food, grooming, treats and toys.

To avoid having to sacrifice the quality of your pet's care, or worse, give them up altogether, here’s how you can cut down on pet care costs.

Health Care
Visit a nonprofit. Routine procedures such as vaccinations or spay/neuter surgeries can be much less expensive at your local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) or Humane Society. At the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York, implanting a micro-chip ID costs $25. Private practices routinely charge twice that amount.

Vaccinate appropriately. Most pets don’t need a slew of annual vaccines, says Louise Murray, director of medicine at the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. Animals that are older, spend a majority of their time indoors, or live in certain areas of the country may not need every vaccine or booster. An indoor-only cat, for example, won’t need the annual Feline Leukemia vaccine, which saves about $30, says Murray.

Fill prescriptions at drug stores or online retailers. Vet offices can’t compete with the bulk deals pharmacies receive, says Adam Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States. You can easily save 50% or more on antibiotics and other meds used on humans by buying at a mainstream pharmacy like Rite Aid (RAD: 0.25*, +0.00, +0.00%) or at an online retailer like For pet-specific prescriptions like heart-worm preventative products, look to online pet pharmacies such as or Doctors Foster and Smith. (For either option, you’ll need a prescription from your vet.)

Haggle. Many vets will negotiate prescription food and medication prices, while others offer discounts for bringing in multiple animals at the same time. “Don’t be afraid to ask your vet, ‘Can you match this price?’” says Ernie Ward, chief of staff at Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C. Also ask about freebies -- manufacturers often offer vets coupons and free samples of food, treats and meds.

Consult by phone. Not every bout of indigestion is cause to race your pet to the vet, says Ann Hohenhaus, senior medical advisor at the Animal Medical Center in New York. If you’re not certain that the circumstances are dire, call your vet for a free phone consultation. “They know you, they know your pet,” she says -- and so can offer assessment and at-home treatment options.

Read the labels. Some premium foods are richer in nutrients, meaning you don’t need to feed your pet as much as you would with cheaper foods that contain lots of fillers. Look at the serving suggestions to determine whether you can feed your dog less of a higher-quality food and whether that makes more financial sense.

Of course, not all pricey pet foods offer better quality, says Murray. That's why it's important to not only look at the portion sizes, but also the ingredients. Protein should be the first ingredient listed instead of a filler like corn, for example. Also, seek packages that say “complete and balanced," which means the food meets the nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

Buy big. Huge bags of food can be a great deal at the warehouse club, especially if you have several pets or a large-breed dog. At Sam’s Club, a 52-pound bag of Pedigree adult dog food costs $24.28; at supply chain Pet Valu, a 40-pound bag (the biggest they sell) goes for $24.99.

Toys and Grooming
Skip the pet supply store. Walmart (WMT: 48.51*, +2.09, +4.50%), Target (TGT: 32.31*, +0.97, +3.09%) and other superstores carry pet toys and other supplies for a fraction of the price of pet-specific chains, says Gary Cassera, owner of Balanced Dog LLC, a dog training company based in Marlton, N.J. Petco offers its signature plush dog toy for $6.99, while Walmart has a three-pack of a similar toy for $14.80 – or a little less than $5 apiece.

Groom at home. Learn to cut your pet’s nails and do basic grooming yourself, instead of paying someone else to do it, suggests says Ward. At PetSmart, a bath, brushing and nail trimming costs $34.99 for a golden retriever. Grooming your pet once a month at home can save you more than $350 annually, even considering the cost for an electric trimmer and other supplies.

Brushing Up on Pet Dental Health

Is your tabby troubled by tartar? Is your hound, um, hounded by halitosis? Not to worry. February is National Pet Dental Health Month and it’s the perfect time to brush up on your knowledge of Fido’s and Fluffy’s fangs.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 85 percent of dogs and cats show signs of oral disease by the age of four. Problems begin when food particles and bacteria build up in the mouth to form plaque and tartar, which leads to gingivitis (an inflammation of the gums). If untreated, gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease which, in turn, leads to tooth decay, bad breath, bleeding gums, and even tooth loss. In severe cases, bacteria from periodontal disease can make its way into a pet’s bloodstream, where it can cause organ damage and even death.

Yikes, that really bites.

I’ve known dogs with some heavy-duty doggie breath, but I never really thought about dental disease as the culprit, which is strange because I’m so fussy about my own teeth (probably because my parents spent a fortune on my braces). The reality is that gingivitis and periodontal disease have become widespread and we need to check our pet’s teeth for problems on a regular basis. If they exhibit any of the following symptoms, it’s time for a visit to their veterinarian:

Bad breath

Tartar build-up

Swollen, receding or bleeding gums

Fractured or abscessed teeth

Change in eating habits

Let me just say right now that I’ve never brushed my cat’s teeth. Even though Miss Bella’s had some problems with her teeth in the past (five extractions in the last year!), I’m not willing to stick my fingers inside her mouth for a look-see. Have you ever tried to pry open your cat’s jaws and brush her teeth? Go ahead, I dare you. The hissing noise that ensues is enough to peel the enamel right off your incisors.

Seriously though, the key to getting your pet used to the procedure is to begin when they’re young, if possible. Start out by gently rubbing the gums with a cotton swab or washcloth. Then you can try the real thing: a soft-bristled child’s toothbrush or a toothbrush specifically designed for animals. I’ve even heard of a “fingerbrush” that slips on your finger like a thimble and “tooth wipes,” which may be easier to use than a toothbrush. As far as toothpaste goes, DON’T use a brand made for humans as it can be poisonous to pets. Instead, use a toothpaste made especially for animals, which are usually meat or poultry flavored. Put a small amount on a brush (or washcloth) and scrub the teeth thoroughly. Try to brush your pet’s teeth every day or as recommended by your veterinarian. If your canine friend is really dogged by doggie breath, you can use dental rinses, chewable breath mints, and dental chews.

In addition to routine dental care at home, it’s important to take your pet to a veterinarian at least once a year for a check-up. The vet. will examine your pet’s teeth and gums and make recommendations for cleaning (usually under light anesthesia). If your dog or cat already shows evidence of periodontal disease, a professional cleaning is needed. Depending on your pet’s age and physical condition, the veterinarian may order blood tests, radiography, or other diagnostic tests to determine whether your pet is healthy enough to undergo the procedure. All of this can put a hole in your wallet that’s bigger than the cavity in your canine’s cuspids.

OK, let’s review: regular brushing is important for preventing teeth and gum problems. But if your canine or feline friend bristles at the mere sight of a toothbrush, you might have to forego the flossing and start feeding them a specially formulated dental diet along with some tartar-control treats instead. There are many varieties on the market, so ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

I think I’ll gather up my courage—along with some Neosporin and Band-aids—and try to brush Miss Bella’s teeth. What have I got to lose (other than some skin and a few hours of my time)? She’ll not only look and feel fantastic (not to mention, smell pretty), but I won’t have to drill into my dough to pay the vet. bill. Now that’s something to smile about.

BYLINE: In observance of National Pet Dental Health Month, Karen encourages readers to open up about their pets’ dental dilemmas by sending her an e-mail message at HYPERLINK ""


Pookie, a 5-6 year old spayed female blue merle Aussie/Corgi mix, is blessed with beauty on the inside and outside (get a load of those beauuuutiful blue eyes!). She’s also sweet and sensitive and wants to be a person’s or a family’s constant companion. To meet Pookie, call DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group) at (805) 681-0561.

Pet Food Disease Link: Millions Of Pets May Be At Risk

A link between certain ingredients in commercial pet foods and numerous major, life-threatening diseases could be leaving millions of pets, including cats and dogs, exposed to a potentially shorter lifespan, according to industry watchdog

Columbia, MD (PRWEB) February 4, 2009 -- A link between ingredients found in most commercial pet foods and a number of major, life-threatening disease could be leaving millions of beloved dogs and cats worldwide exposed to pain, suffering and a potentially shorter lifespan, according to pet food industry watchdog (

Certain ingredients found in everyday dog and cat foods have been scientifically proven to have harmful effects and to cause a range of serious conditions in pets, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer. As a result, millions of much-loved pets are being exposed to a potentially shorter life by their unsuspecting owners.

At, we've put together the absolute must-know, critical information you need to have to protect your pets and to prevent even further damage to their health and well-being. You owe it to your pets and to your family to make sure you're well informed of the dangers of these everyday pet products, and we urge every caring pet owner to find out the facts immediately
Robert Key of ( believes millions of animals worldwide could be at risk from the pet food industry, simply because their owners are unaware of the dangerous substances pumped into pet foods and their harmful effects.

"Commercial pet foods are laced with low-grade and even toxic ingredients that are killing our pets. The remains of dead dogs and cats, man-made chemicals and in some cases, even rat poison, are stuffed into the branded, commercial pet foods we feed our beloved animals every single day. As a result, we're tripling the risk of our pets experiencing a health disaster, and contributing to the majority of all diseases that can affect our pets," said Key.

"At, we've put together the absolute must-know, critical information you need to have to protect your pets and to prevent even further damage to their health and well-being. You owe it to your pets and to your family to make sure you're well informed of the dangers of these everyday pet products, and we urge every caring pet owner to find out the facts immediately," continued Key. equips concerned pet owners with the information they need to keep their animals safe and to prevent further damage from the toxic commercial pet foods currently on the market, offering a free checklist of harmful ingredients you should avoid feeding your pets at all costs.

About: ( is an online pet food industry watchdog, raising public awareness and helping inform pet owners against the dangers of suspect materials found in almost all commercial pet food products.

Bizarre News-Sewage Dog

The stories may be strange, but they're true

KALAMA, Wash. (AP) - Remember this about dogs: if they get wet, they will shake themselves off. Vigorously. So, get out of the way if you don't want to be sprayed. A police officer in Kalama, Washington will remember that the next time he rescues a dog from a tank of sewage. A stray chocolate lab had jumped into the liquid at a sewage treatment plant and then couldn't swim in the foamy mix of you-know-what. The police officer was able to reach into the tank. He grabbed the sinking dog by the ear and then, pulled it out by the scruff of its neck. The officer felt lucky because he only got one sleeve dirty. But, the soggy and stinky pooch then did what dogs always do when they've gotten wet. It gave itself a vigorous shake. And, the officer was sprayed from head-to-toe with sewage.

Albany Debating Its 2-Dog Rule
by The Associated Press -

ALBANY, OR -- Albany is weighing whether to tighten its two-dog limit for city residents.

The cap is more than a quarter-century old, but an exemption added in 2007 allows pet owners to exceed the limit with permission from neighbors and the city manager.

The refusal of some neighbors to grant permission has caused friction in some neighborhoods. At its meeting this week, the City Council and the public spent close to an hour discussing whether to drop the exemption.

Resident D'Gaye D'addario said she wants to obey city laws. But without the exemption, she wondered what would happen if her aging mother came to live with her, bringing along her small dog.

Others, including some members of the council, said the city shouldn't bother regulating dog numbers at all. "It's the effect of the dogs and not the number of dogs," Councilor Floyd Collins said after the meeting.

The council voted to remove the exemption, but then declined to take final action. So the issue will come up again Feb. 11.

-- The Associated Press

Save 5% on Pet Supplies Orders Over $75

Make-Up Your Own Captions - Part II

Thanks to Kathy in Bhc, Az

Deal of the Week 120x60
AmeriMark Direct is a leading direct marketer of women's apparel, shoes, name-brand cosmetics, fragrances, jewelry, watches, accessories, and health-related merchandise.

Cat Toys: When the Thrill is Gone
By Darcy Lockman, Studio One Networks/ Montana'sNewsStation

Pet stores don't sell dangling cable wires in their cat toy sections. But if they did, it may just be the next bestseller. The long cable that suddenly appeared from Jennifer Moore's apartment rooftop was all it took to keep her cat up every night for a week. "She seemed to be mostly staring, almost poised to pounce, but she also tried to bat it through the closed window," said Moore of her 5-year-old tabby cat Sari. "I hadn't seen her so excited about a 'toy' in a long time."
The newness of the wire -- as well as its split ends that could have looked like a trapped fly through the window -- probably entranced Sari. The toys in her basket were familiar to her, their behavior predictable in contrast to the new and exciting wire. It turns out that, like people, cats get bored with their old toys. But they don't have to lose interest. L.A.-based cat behaviorist Marva Marrow has suggestions on how to make every play day fresh and fun for you and your feline companion.

1. Limit the Options
"I recommend not having so many toys around, just a few at a time," says Marrow. Cats aren't great decision makers. When they have too many options, they become unable to focus and ultimately choose nothing hence, your untouched collection of stuffed mice. Too many toys will make each one unattractive to your cat. Keep interactive toys out of your cat's reach altogether when you're not home.

2. Rotate the Toys
If you already own more than a few cat toys, you don't need to purge the collection. Instead, put all but three in the back of the closet for a week or so. When that time has passed, hide those away and pull out three more. The three you choose should be as dissimilar as your toy stash allows. "For cats that respond to catnip, the toys that let you put fresh catnip in will be intriguing each time you refill them," says Marrow. Purchase the catnip in bulk and leave it in your freezer until you're ready to use it.

3. Know Your Cat's Turn-Ons (and Turn-Offs)
While cats have idiosyncratic tastes, some general rules apply. For example, most prefer texture to sound, making a furry stuffed mouse more enticing than a rubber one that squeaks. Cats are also smart, and not easily fooled by mechanical prey. "The mechanical motion of a wind-up mouse is generally not so interesting to them for very long," says Marrow. What will remain appealing to most cats is any toy they can bat around, especially those that are textured (e.g., plush toys and balled-up cellophane). "Those leave a lot to their imagination," Marrow explains.

4. Know Your Cat's Nature
Cat play is not just for fun -- at least not in your furry friend's mind. "When cats play, they're practicing their prey behavior," says Marrow. And if you've ever watched a cat actually hunt a mouse, you know that it doesn't make a quick kill. "They torture the thing, toss it up in the air, force it to move -- they like that aspect." Cats do the same thing with their toys. That is why they can spend hours batting a ball of tinfoil, which they can essentially make behave like a rabbit.

5. Keep It Real
Most cats are unable to follow quick movement. When interacting with your feline and its toys, don't swing them wildly through the air. "Drag a pole toy or string toy along the ground slowly, just out of your cat's reach. That will get it intrigued," says Marrow. You can also attempt to mimic the movement of their natural prey with their pole toys. "Hold it still so your cat can focus, and then wiggle it a little, stop, and then wiggle more. That's how a cricket would move." Once your cat is engaged, the movement can become more vigorous.

6. Use What You Have
Your cat's favorite plaything may turn out to be the plastic ring from a carton of milk, or the aforementioned ball of cellophane. Socks filled with catnip, small balls of yarn, or ping-pong balls let loose in a dry bathtub may also bring your cat more hours of pleasure than the most expensive store-bought toy.

As for Jennifer Moore's dangling wire, the cable company came to do repairs, and it disappeared forever. Not surprisingly, given the nature of cats, "Sari didn't seem to miss it," said Moore.

About The Author: Darcy Lockman is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times and Rolling Stone. She grew up with a feisty tabby cat named Cleopatrick and later roomed with a couple of calicos.

When Cats Itch
by Sheila Hrabal, Irving Pets Examiner

Your cat is itching and biting itself. What could be the reason? There are several common reasons that cause cats to scratch themselves.

There are many irritants that can cause your cat's health to decline. You can investigate some of these issues before spending money at the veterinarian. However, if your cat is scratching incessantly, it may be necessary to take him/her to the vet for evaluation. Here are some of the possible causes:

Food allergies
Some animals are allergic to corn or wheat. Check your cat's dry food ingredient panel. If it contains corn or wheat, try switching to a food containing Salmon. The Omega-3 fatty acids will help sensitive stomachs settle down. If you feed your cat various brands of wet or dry food, try stabilizing the brand to see if that makes a difference. Changing food could stop the itching within about a week.

If you notice your cat losing hair (alopecia) or having excessive hairball fits, the animal may have a case of allergic dermatitis. This disease is most commonly caused by an allergy to fleas. Consistent flea control products can decrease the problem if it is determined that this is the cause of your cat's itching sessions. Bathing your cat in an Oatmeal shampoo can help relieve the scratching, but if your cat has dermatitis due to fleas, it will most likely be a life-long affliction. Be proactive -- keep bedding and yard areas free from fleas all year long. Good flea treatments for your pet include Advantix or Frontline drops. "Bombing' your home and treating your yard are also avenues to help decrease flea populations in your pet's life. Even if your cat lives indoors, fleas can be tracked inside on clothing and lay eggs in the carpet and furniture. And if fleas get out of control, you could find yourself scratching as well!

If your feel that fleas are under control in your home, it is possible that your cat has contact dermatitis. This can be caused by carpet cleaners, laundry soap used to wash their sleeping items, or even laying in or near a plant such as poison ivy. If you see small bumps or a swollen bug bite on your cat, seek veterinary care immediately. If the symptom comes up "suddenly", and no new chemicals or plants have been recently introduced into your home, your veterinarian can run simple tests to determine the cause.

Ear mites
Smell your cat's ears: do they have any smell at all? If so, the cat may have ear mites, a small pest that lodges deep in the ear canals. Take a cotton ball and swab out the ear. If the swab has a black excretion or small bits of blood on it, chances are your cat has mites. Most veterinarians will recommend using prescription drops containing pyrethrin twice a day for up to two weeks. While ear mites pose no threat to humans, they can be passed from mother cat to kitten and between dogs and cats. If you are a multiple-pet household you need to control mites in all the animals at the same time.

To keep your cat healthy, become familiar with the condition of his/her ears, fur, skin and bedding.

Purebred Dogs May Not Need Remedial Training
by Sharon Seltzer, Pet Rescue Examiner

Kelly Foundation in CA.Stanley Coren Ph.D. is the author of, “The Intelligence of Dogs” and he is reassuring owners of pedigrees that their canines do not have to sign-up for the remedial class, just yet. His response came after a story was released by The Telegraph that purebred dogs were losing their smart gene.

According to Dr. Coren the article in The Telegraph misrepresented some of the findings from a study done by Swedish scientist Kenth Svartberg that evaluated 13,000 purebred dogs. The study looked at characteristics such as playfulness, curiosity, fearfulness, sociability and aggressiveness in 31 breeds of pedigrees. It did not actually evaluate the intelligence of the dogs.

The results of the study were similar to the overall report by The Telegraph in the fact that modern breeding techniques which focused on the outer appearance of dogs was changing their personality characteristics, as well.

Svartberg used his findings as a warning to breeders that the temperament of the 31 breeds was changing. The dogs in the study were more easily frightened in new surroundings, less playful and less curious than earlier generations. He also warned breeders that people want to have a social and playful pet in addition to having one with a beautiful silky coat.

Dr. Svartberg has moved away from the scientific study of canines and now runs a successful dog training and evaluation business in Sweden. Dr. Coren reports that the most trainable dogs are: Border collie, German shepherd, Golden retriever, Doberman pinscher, Shetland sheepdog and the Labrador retriever.

Keeping Your Furry Friends Safe
By Mark & Karol Afaneh -

In honor of Pet Theft Awareness Day, Central Bark Doggy Day Care offers advice for protecting pets from theft.

It's estimated that more than two million animals are stolen every year. For Mark and Karol Afaneh, owners of Central Bark Doggy Day Care in Muskego, that is two million too many.

"Unfortunately there will always be thieves, but responsible pet owners can take a number of steps to keep their animals at home, where they belong."

Central Bark Doggy Day Care is the nation's largest network of day cares for dogs that offers programs specifically designed to enhance the safety and well being of dogs in its care, while still providing a social outlet for "dogs to be dogs."

"Miniature dogs such a Yorkshire terriers and Malteses are often targets of theft because they are easy to nab and easy to resell. You often hear stories in the news about these 'pocket puppies' being stolen from pet stores," says Afaneh. "Purebreds of any kind are a target as thieves think they can be sold for a hefty price. Bully breeds are often targets as well. As awful as it sounds, bully breeds like pit bulls, boxers and Rottweilers are often stolen for dog fighting."

In honor of Pet Theft Awareness Day on February 14, the owners of the more than 30 Central Bark locations across the country offer the following tips to protect your pet from theft:

•Don't leave your pets alone outside. It only takes a minute for a thief to open a gate and steal your dog. Also consider a higher fence with a lock.

•If you are approached by a stranger about your dog, don't divulge too much personal information, like where you live.

•Never leave your dog unattended whether it is in your car or tied to a pole while you run in for a cup of coffee.

•Always make sure your pet wears a collar. A dog that doesn't wear his collar inside can sneak out and be left without identification. For added protection, have your pet microchipped.

•Consider a GPS system. These systems are generally worn on a dog's collar and while they can be very helpful in locating a lost or stolen dog, they are useless if they are not on the dog. It's one more reason to always keep a collar on your pet.

•Keep current records and recent photos of your dog. You will want this information to help locate your dog if he goes missing and to prove that you are the owner.

If your pet is stolen, don't give up hope. If you think your pet was a victim of theft, file a police report. In addition to working with authorities, keep checking with local animal shelters to see if anyone turned in your dog. Also, post signs around your neighborhood offering a reward (most thieves are looking for money) and check local lost and found bulletin boards like Craig's List, and

Central Bark Doggy Day Care is located at: S81 W18460 Gemini Drive in Muskego. The phone number is 262.679.2400.

For more information, visit

What You Should Know Before Getting an Iguana
by Holli Friedland, Baltimore Exotic Animals Examiner

You should always do some research before getting any pet. But iguanas (Iguana iguana) have a lot of requirements, and special care should be taken.

I tend to jump into things feet first and I don’t look back. That’s not the best way to get a pet. You can end up regretting your decision pretty quickly.

Baby iguanas are cute little green lizards that grow into 5-7 ft. eating machines. As babies they are skittish and difficult to handle. They are strictly vegetarians despite what you may have heard to the contrary.

It takes a few years for them to grow to maturity. They become easier to handle as they get bigger. The only way to sex them is with DNA testing until they mature.

You should house iguanas separately. Two mature males will fight, in some cases, to the death of one. I have seen some iguanas that are really beaten up.

Females tend to be more bland in color with some brown mixed in with green. The males tend to be more colorful and can have blue, gray, orange, yellow and green coloration. Males, as they mature, get big puffy jowls and femoral pores (bumps on the backs of their thighs). Check out the slide show to see the differences.

Adult iguanas can be quite aggressive. I’ve heard many stories, especially from women about how their pet iguanas have attacked boyfriends. Sexually mature male iguanas are in tune with women’s pheromones, something we can’t really sense, but they sure can! If an iguana is not kept in a cage, he will assume that anywhere he can go is his territory. If your boyfriend enters that territory – well, it’s not pretty!

I’m not saying that iguanas can’t be good pets. They absolutely can be wonderful pets. I have an amazing 17 year old iguana named Jub-jub who is as sweet as can be. When he comes into his breeding season (it happens with male iguanas and not females) he turns into a grizzly bear showing me his gigantic gaping mouth every time I come near his cage. It makes feeding times really fun! The iguana’s breeding season, which happens once a year, usually between November and February is difficult for the iguana owner. Unfortunately, it lasts several weeks. After that, I get my pleasant Jub-jub back.

Historical Society to Honor Famous Canines
The Great Falls Tribune

Despite a crowd of colorful historical characters, Shep has always stolen the spotlight. The "tail" of eternal loyalty first became international news in 1939 and has been repeated since in news stories and even children's books.

Though few noticed at the time, a shepherd dog followed his master's casket to the train station in Fort Benton where the sheepherder was shipped home to be buried.

For five years, Shep met passenger trains waiting for his master to return. Great Northern conductor Ed Shields, station agent Anthony Schanche and section foreman Patrick McSweeney pieced together and publicized the story.

For the last two years of his life, Shep was heralded as a doggy hero. Booklets telling his story spread throughout the world.

But on Jan. 12, 1942, the aging dog slipped on a rail and was struck by a train. More than 200 people attended Shep's funeral, which included an Honor Guard and Boy Scout pallbearers.

A statue perches on the hill by the railroad line connecting Great Falls and Havre and a second larger-than-life statue by Bob Scriver is perched by the Grand Union Hotel along the Missouri River.

Fort Benton historian Ken Robison said he continues to get requests for information about Shep, who became even more famous after Paul Harvey featured his story on his radio program. Publishers of pet magazines in Germany, Australia and Russia all have called seeking information.

"It just amazed me at the geographic range and the durability of the story," Robison said. "Whether it's a child or an adult, people love this story."

The most popular letter in Sneed Collard's "B is for Big Sky" book was S for Shep, prompting the Missoula author to write a second children's book all about Fort Benton's famous canine.

Every year to mark the anniversary of his death, donors buy a flowered wreath to place at Shep's monument.

While Shep's fame has spread far and wide, what many people don't know is that he's not the only pup to prove his loyalty by waiting beside a train.

Japanese agriculture executives visiting Montana laughed upon hearing Shep's story, because a nearly identical tale exists of Chuuken Hachikou, which translates to loyal dog Hachi.

A statue of Hachi sits in front of JR Shibuya train station in Tokyo.

Born in 1923, Hachi would walk his master, a doctor, to the train station and wait for him in the evenings to return. However, one summer day in 1925, the master suddenly died at work.

The legend continues that for three days Hachi ate nothing, sleeping in a storeroom with the doctor's remaining possessions. He soon began returning to the train station every day, no matter how cold or rainy it was.

His story hit the Japanese newspapers in 1932 and soon Hachi chocolates and Hachi rice crackers were sold across the country. His tale also became a movie and story book.

When he died in 1935, people rushed to pat his body, covering it with flower rings. He was buried next to his master and his skin was stuffed and preserved at the Nation Science Museum in Tokyo.

Likewise, Alaska has its own famous dog, but instead of greeting people by a train station, Patsy Ann parked on the docks waiting for ships in Juneau.

Completely deaf at birth, Patsy Ann had an unerring ability to sense ships coming whether their approach was shrouded in snow or fog.

Called the most famous canine West of the Mississippi, Patsy Ann was more photographed than Rin Tin Tin. Her image appeared on postcards and was the subject of a book. In 1934, the mayor dubbed her the "official greeter" of Juneau.

The bull terrier died on March 30, 1942, and her body was lowered into the Gastineau Channel.

A statue with clippings of dog hair from around the world was placed along the wharf, continuing to greet visitors.

The Montana Historical Society is giving its own tribute to Shep on Thursday in Helena.

Consider it a "Three Dog Night." Kirby Lambert, the outreach program manager, will present a light-hearted look at the role that man's best friend has played in Montana's past.

In addition to Shep, two other dogs will be featured — Seaman, the only member of Lewis and Clark's expedition that never howled a complaint, and the well-known Gov. Brian Schweitzer's even more famous companion Jag.

The talk begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Montana Historical Society.

Reach Tribune Staff Writer Kim Skornogoski at 791-6574, 800-438-6600 or

Click here to visit The EZ Online Shopping Network of Stores

No comments: