Pet Advice: Do You 'Click' Your Dog?

Pet Column: The Click’s the Trick
By LAURIE C. WILLIAMS - For the Stafford County Sun

I’ve recently had some interesting inquiries about clicker training come my way, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to briefly explain the training method.

For starters, what exactly is a clicker? The clicker is a small plastic box with a metal strip that makes a “click” sound when you press it. We use it in dog training as part of a learning method called operant conditioning, first identified and developed by renowned American psychologist B.F. Skinner while he was a graduate student at Harvard University in the 1930’s. Operant conditioning explains an animal’s ability to learn to repeat behaviors by rewarding it with a positive consequence and to not repeat behaviors that have a negative consequence. In other words, if a child gets $5 for every A on his report card, he will try to get as many A’s as he can, especially in this economy! However if he gets his X-Box taken away when he gets an F, he’ll likely try hard not to get any. Smart kid! Later on, two of Skinner’s protégées, Marian and Keller Breland, began implementing this method with animals, namely pigeons.

Because they don’t speak our language, getting an animal to connect the behavior with the reward can be challenging. Timing needs to be very precise and reinforcement must happen as the desired behavior is occurring. The Brelands discovered that “marking” desired behaviors with a conditioned reinforcer, or a specific sound that helped bridge the behavior with the primary reinforcer, or the food, significantly improved compliance. This opened up a whole new world to training. Since then, clicker training has been used with a multitude of species from birds, to pigs, chickens, marine mammals, cats and man’s best friend.

So, a clicker is just a sound that marks the behavior, similar to saying “yes,” “good boy,” or “that’s it” when your dog performs the correct behavior. However one of the reasons a clicker works so well is it doesn’t get lost in all the white noise and babbling we humans do! It’s quick, concise, and always sounds the same. And the strangest phenomenon no one has ever been able to figure out is even if you’re in a room full of people using clickers, somehow your dog knows when you’re clicking! How cool is that? Another thing I love about clicker training is that it focuses on a dog doing the right thing, as opposed to punishing a dog for doing the wrong thing. With clicker training there is no shouting, no yelling and no pain. It’s just fun, clicks and rewards.

One of the misconceptions about clicker training is the fear of becoming dependent on the device. I’ve had people ask if they need to have a clicker with them all the time in order to get the dog to behave. Clickers aren’t used to get a dog to do something, but rather are used to let a dog know he got it right after he’s already done what you wanted. Clickers are primarily used when shaping and teaching new behaviors.

Once a dog becomes consistent and reliable with that behavior, clicking is no longer necessary all the time. However, even if your dog has already mastered basic obedience, clicker training is a great tool to rev up an existing training program. The vast majority of animals trained for live performances like the Killer Whales at Sea World, to the dogs in the movie Beverly Hills Chihuahua have undoubtedly been trained with a clicker of some sorts.

Because correct timing is essential in clicker training, the best way to implement it is under the direction of a qualified clicker trainer. I always have my students start out using a short, concise word marker such as “yes,” or “bingo,” before moving on to a clicker. This allows them the opportunity to develop better timing and a rhythm with their dogs. However if you’re ready to add the clicker to your training program, here are some quick tips to get you started:

1. Be sure to click while the behavior is happening and not afterwards. For instance, if you tell your dog to “sit,” you should click just as his rear is hitting the floor. If you’re clicking at the same time you’re giving the treat, you clicked too late.

2. Only click once, press and release. If you want to emphasize how pleased you are, give more rewards, not more clicks.

3. Never use a click to mark bad behaviors. Clickers were meant for positive reinforcement, not as a punishment.

4. Load up a clicker by clicking behaviors your dog already knows, like “sit,” “down,” etc. This helps reinforce what the sound of the click means and makes introducing new behaviors much more exciting and clear.

5. Keep clicker training sessions short and sweet. When you get out the clicker, you want your dog chomping at the bit every time!

6. Shape” more complex behaviors by clicking smaller parts of the big picture. For instance, if you want your dog to fetch, first teach your dog to go out to the object by clicking that behavior. Then progress to teaching your dog to bring it back to you by clicking that part of the behavior. And finally teach your dog to hold it in his mouth until you take it from him by clicking that part. This will keep your dog enthusiastic to learn and will give him lots of “attaboys” along the way to the final goal.

7. Does your dog chase his tail, cover his eyes, place his head on your knee? Keep your clicker handy so you can “catch” interesting and fun behaviors like these and let him know you like them. Then you can add a word cue to it later and add it to his repertoire of tricks!

8. Remember, clicker training is fun and is not only a great way to add enthusiasm to your training program, but it’s a great relationship building skill as well.

Laurie Williams is a Stafford business owner and appeared on the show “Greatest American Dog” with her Maltese, Andrew. Reach her at

Don't Worry, Cat Food is for the Birds, Too
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

Dear Gary:

Have you ever heard of backyard birds eating cat food?

I have an outdoor cat and leave his food dish sitting on a redwood table out in the patio.

I have noticed a bird or two come down and pick at the food right out of the bowl!

By the way, they make a mess of the food, too.

I moved my cat's dish to the porch, thinking the birds would be afraid to come that close to the door, but they still come up there, though just not as often.

My cat is usually not around when this happens, but I'm afraid that one day this may be a bird's last meal.

I let my cat in the house often, but he is definitely an outdoor cat and enjoys basking in the sunshine in the yard. After all, he does own the house!

He is 14, so he doesn't wander around the neighborhood.

Do you have any suggestions on what to do?

Is cat food OK for birds?

I love birds, but I don't want to start a bird convention in the yard. You know how they love to leave their mark.

Lisa Henry, Richmond

Dear Lisa:

They're pecking away in dog and cat dishes in backyards across the country, you know.

Pet foods are pretty nourishing for birds, considering the high percentage of grains they contain.

But you are right. If your cat starts taking his catnaps ... right next to his dish ... those hungry birds may end up getting more than they bargained for.

You better start checking his teeth for feathers.

Meanwhile, why not put up a bird feeder or two out over the lawn where the birds can eat safely, and leave their marks where they can be properly appreciated?

Dear Gary:

My pet python, Freida, goes everywhere and does everything with me.

She stretches across the foot of my waterbed every night. She has her special spot on the couch where we can watch TV together. She even coils up on her own chair at the dinner table.

She's a true friend and we really understand each other's needs.

Lately, when she sheds her skin, instead of sliding off in one single strip like it used to, it's been breaking off in pieces and leaving some little hunks here and there to build up on her back.

Dry skin patches. You know what I mean?

Any suggestions for clearing this up?

She's been off her feed ever since this started.

Larry B., Sunol

Dear Larry:

Since you guys are so close, next time you're taking a bath, just make sure Freida has a good long soak and then you can massage that old skin right off.

It just got too dry, so next time she's starting to shed, give her another soak.

She'll be back swallowing your couch pillows in no time.

A boy and his python.

Pals through thick and thin.

Dear Gary:

Is it just me or are the mosquitoes this spring BIGGER than usual?

Harvey, Oakland

Dear Harvey:

In Benicia we call them mosSCUDoes.

Dear Gary:

Why do we call nature and the great outdoors "Mother Nature"?

Some mother!

R. J., Hayward

Dear R.:

Because Mother Nature, whatever else you might think about her "... is very nurturing.

Pets Provide Health Benefits
Teri Webster - Pet Examiner

Anyone who has a pet knows the healing and comfort they can bring.

When you're having a bad day your dog or cat will not launch a barrage of criticism at you.

Sometimes, just having a pet sitting calmly nearby can make a big difference. Studies have shown that the stress reduction pets provide also lowers blood pressure.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo found in 2003 that married couples who owned pets had lower heart rates and blood pressure than those without pets.

When dogs are present, people also seem to respond better to physical and behavioral therapies. And pets offer a sense of responsibility and a structure to life that can be healing, as well.

A sense of connectivity is created with the animal-human bond. Margaret Ducksberry, a researcher with CENSHARE (Center to Study Human Animal Relationships and Environments), told WCCU Channel 4 Minneapolis, Minn..

"Loneliness, by itself, would be a stress. Stress, we know, interferes with the immune system," Ducksberry said in the WCCO story. "We know stress is a risk factor for cardiac disease."

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Kids and Pets: Cats
Jana Lynch - Wilmington Parenting Examiner

You've probably heard that there are cat people and dog people. You’ve decided that your family is a bunch of cat people. What should you do to add a cat to the family?

Just like selecting a dog, it's good to do some research about different cat breeds before you bring one home. Different breeds come with different health risks, life expectancies, and temperaments; just like dogs, these characteristics are general and each cat must be considered as an individual. The Humane Society of the United States offers terrific tips on choosing the right cat.

The second factor to consider when deciding to add a cat, or kitten, to your family is cost. Cats, and especially kittens, can cost a considerable amount of money; probably more than most people think. There’s food, litter, litter box, monthly flea and heartworm treatment, toys, vet check-ups, and various accessories. provides a very detailed breakdown of the cost of owning a cat. If you’re concerned about cost, talk to cat owners and see what they estimate a cat costs them on a monthly, and yearly, basis.

The third factor to consider when bringing a cat or kitten into your family is responsibility. Who ultimately will be responsible for taking care of the cat? Will your kids be involved, or will the responsibility fall on you as the parent? As with dogs, it’s good to take the ages of your children into consideration when assigning pet responsibilities. Children as young as two are old enough to help feed the cat and give it water, and the older children can help change the litter box or apply medication. It is important that you post the schedule for pet care in a frequently visited, and visible, place in the house so your children don’t forget.

It is also important that your children are including the process of selecting your new feline addition. Have your children help you with the research about breed. Have them assist creating the chore assignments. And most importantly, bring your children to the shelter with you when you are choosing your cat. When your children help choose the cat or kitten, it creates a bond between the children and the animal, and the children take more of a vested interest in the new pet.
Just like with dogs, it is important that safety measures are put in place to ensure the safety of both the child and the cat. offers the following safety tips:

· Teach children how to properly handle a cat. Cats should not be picked up by the scruff of the neck; instead, support the cats hindquarters in one hand and use the other to support its chest. Hold the cat gently but securely close to your body.

· Supervise kids and cats. This is especially important with a new pet, who may still be nervous. Teach kids to respect the cat, and do not allow them to chase or corner the cat even in play. The cat may bite if it feels threatened. Encourage calm, unthreatening interactions between kids and cats.

· Do not allow children to disturb a sleeping or eating cat. Also give kitty some space when she is using her litter box.

· Do not allow rough play. Rough play encourages your cat to use its teeth and claws on you. Instead, play with your cat using cat toys (commercial or those of your own making ... for example, my own cat loves to play in a simple paper bag).

· Do not allow children to tease the cat. Teach them the difference between teasing and playing.

· Teach children how important it is to keep your cat indoors. Ensure that they understand the importance of making sure kitty does not accidentally run out the door. Indoor cats live much safer, healthier lives.

Please don’t rule out cats or kittens with disabilities such as FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus—not contagious to humans) or cerebellar hypoplasia (watch the video below for a wonderful, touching video of cat with cerebellar hypoplasia). These animals need just as much love as a “normal”, healthy cat.
Adding a cat or kitten to your family needs to be a family decision. Make sure to include your children in the process, from start to finish. And when you’re on your way to the shelter, be sure to explain that not only are you getting a new pet, you are giving a home to a homeless animal.

Mike Pound: The Petting is Always on the Cat’s Terms
By Mike Pound - Joplin Globe columnist

It’s been a couple of months now, and the stray cat will finally let me pet her.


Actually, the stray cat is not so much a stray cat anymore. That’s what happens when you make the mistake of feeding a stray cat. Folks all the time say, “Oh, don’t feed that cat. If you do, you’ll never get rid of it.”

And those folks are right. But when the cat first showed up in our yard, looking thin and meowing for food and attention, I figured it was worth the risk to put a little food out. At first, the cat just showed up in the morning. I would put out some food, and the cat would eat it and then take off. I didn’t know where the cat went after she ate, and frankly I didn’t care.

Gradually, though, the cat started hanging out in our yard almost exclusively. And I started getting attached to her. One cold night, I left the garage door open for a few minutes to see what the cat would do. I went inside, looked out the window and watched as the cat scurried into the garage. I waited a couple of minutes, and then I walked into the garage. I spied the cat curled up on a big shelf next to a wicker, outdoor love seat that we store in the garage during the winter. The cat was asleep, so I left her alone. The next morning, I opened the garage door, and the cat walked out. Now, every night, right before it gets dark, the cat hangs out near the garage, waiting for me to open the door so she can zip in and hop up to her little cubbyhole.

Over time, the cat has gotten used to me. For several weeks, she would run up to me and then run off if I bent down and tried to pet her. Gradually, she began to loosen up a bit. She wouldn’t let me pet her, but she wouldn’t run off either. She would move just out of my reach, lie down and stretch out. When I would try to mover closer, the cat would get up and move again. After a while, the cat — I’m thinking in exchange for the food I was giving her — decided to throw me a bone and let me pet her a bit. Of course, the petting is always on the cat’s terms. The cat will let me pet her if she feels like being petted. If she doesn’t feel like being petted, she won’t let me.

We were out of town for a few days last week, and I worried about the cat. I wondered where she would eat and where she would sleep. I wondered if she would still be hanging around the yard when we got back.

She was.

I also wondered what is it about animals that turns folks like me into bleeding hearts. In our house, we have three cats and a German shepherd. We clearly can’t have another cat in our house, yet I keep feeding the stray. I keep letting her spend the night in our garage. I keep trying to pet her. And I keep worrying about her. Why is that?

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with Dr. Ben Leavens. Ben is a local veterinarian and helped Newton County authorities last month when they seized more than 200 dogs, a cat and a tiger from a kennel near Seneca. Ben was telling me that folks from all over the country have called, wondering how they could adopt one of the dogs from the now-closed kennel. Ben and I agreed that folks being interested in the dogs’ well-being is a good thing. But we also wondered why it seems that folks don’t always express the same amount of interest when they read stories about abused or abandoned children. I’m not saying that folks don’t express the same amount of interest, I’m just saying it doesn’t seem that they do.

And when I say “folks,” I’m including myself. We often have stories in our paper about children who have been abused by parents or caregivers. We have stories about kids who spend their lives in foster homes. Yet I have been spending the past few months worrying about a stray cat who doesn’t want to be touched.

I wish I had an answer for why that is, but I don’t. All I know is that tonight, when I get home, I’ll probably feed the cat. And later, right before it gets dark, I’ll let the cat in our garage, and I’ll try to pet her.

And she probably won't let me.

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Florence Woman Trains Pet Bass to Jump for Food
Clarissa Stephens WHNT NewsChannel 19 Shoals Reporter

"Bruce" lets owner pet him, jumps out of pond for his meal

FLORENCE, AL - You may have heard of or know of someone with unusual pets, but one woman in Florence probably has them beat. In addition to her turtles, thirty pound rabbits, and exotic birds, she also has a very special fish that does some pretty special tricks.

Debbie Marsh doesn't mind being called "The Turtle Lady."

"My mother and daddy said that 'turtle' was about the third word I said," says Marsha. "I just never did outgrow that."

Marsh has been raising turtles for more than 30 years. In 2003, she opened Mama's Turtle Haven at her home on East Lee Avenue. There are more than 300 turtles that live there, from babies to gigantic African Sulcata Tortoises that weigh 200 pounds or more.

The slow-movers aren't the only animals at Mama's Turtle Haven. Marsh also cares for a rooster, pheasant, iguana, and a really big bunny. Marsh got "Queen Anne" from Great Britain and tips the scale at nearly 30 pounds. The rabbit is only half the size she'll be once she's fully grown.

Lately though, the animal getting the most attention at Mama's Turtle Haven is a fish - a very talented fish named Bruce.

"He's just amazed everybody that has seen him," says Marsh.

Last summer, the large-mouth bass was caught in a pond at Debbie's father's house in Tuscumbia. When she and her husband brought it home, the fish was still alive, and she couldn't bear to kill it. After that, a pond in the family's living room became Bruce's new home.

Marsh pets Bruce and has trained him to do some pretty interesting things, like swim in a circle. However, Bruce's best talent is jumping.

"Come on, get your food," says Marsh.

At the command, the four-pound bass springs into the air to grab a piece of bread and lands in the water, making a big splash.

How high can Bruce jump? This story about Marsh's brother, who stands 6'4" tall, gives you an idea.

"He held his hand up and said, 'How far do you want me to,' and before he could say, 'hold the bread up?', the bass came all the way up and scared the fire out of him," says Marsh.

Marsh says when he's really hungry, Bruce can jump as high as three feet in the air.

Debbie Marsh says Mama's Turtle Haven is chartered with the state of Alabama so that people can come and see the animals. Mama's Turtle Haven is open to the public. Unlike at a zoo, visitors get a very close, hands-on experience with all the animals, including "Bruce, the Jumping Bass."

To make an appointment, you can contact Mama's Turtle Haven at (256) 764-5369.

Pet Talk: So You Want a Pet Bird

Now more than ever, Americans are constantly on the go. Long days at the office coupled with the demanding extra-curricular activities for kids leaves little time spent at home. So before adding another member to the family, it’s important to consider the responsibilities of caring for and choosing your pet bird.

“There are several factors to consider before purchasing a pet bird,” explains Dr. Sharman Hoppes, an avian specialist at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“Space, cost, time, family, and life longevity must be taken into consideration.“

Before introducing a pet bird into your family, the size of your home must be evaluated.

“The cage can take up a considerable amount of space, especially for large birds. In addition to having a cage, all pet birds should have a play gym to encourage exercise,” says Dr. Hoppes.

Because of their eating habits, birds regularly require their owners to clean up around the cage. Owners must also be able to handle their noisy demeanor.

“Pet birds tend to be very messy. They pick at food and leave crumbs everywhere, often spewing their messes outside of their cage,” comments Hoppes.

“Birds can also be loud, so take neighbors into consideration, especially if living in an apartment or duplex.”

Purchasing a bird can often be an impulse buy; however, it is important to think about all of the annual costs before obtaining a new feathered friend.

“A large cage, toys, and the appropriate food can become costly, especially for large birds. Veterinary costs should also be considered, as it is especially important to check for hidden illnesses,” notes Hoppes.

“For example, parrots are prey animals and hide signs of illness or disease. Chlamydophila, a zoonotic disease transferred not only from bird to bird, but bird to person, can be found in some birds and makes it absolutely necessary for pet birds to be initially examined by a veterinarian.”

In addition to space and cost, it is essential that the amount of time the bird will spend alone in the house be considered.

“Birds are flock animals and need a lot of socialization, so sitting alone all day in a cage can be very stressful,” continues Hoppes.

“Birds are also very intelligent and need plenty of mental stimulation. They should receive lots of interaction with humans, preferably outside of their cage for a minimum of a couple of hours each day.”

Considering the rest of the family is also important before purchasing a pet bird.

“Be careful if you have small children. Birds can bite, and large birds can bite even harder. A small child must be monitored very closely around pet birds,” comments Hoppes.

It is also important to note that some birds live much longer than a dog or cat and owners must be prepared for a life-long friend.

“A cockatiel can live for up to 25 years, and a macaw or cockatoo can live for 60 years. People have to be prepared for a very long-lived pet,” states Hoppes.

If after considering all of the above a family decides to obtain a pet bird, it is time to determine which type of bird best suits their needs.

“Budgerigars (budgies or parakeets) and cockatiels are the most common types of pet birds. They are reasonably priced, fairly quiet, and do not require a large cage. They can also be quite entertaining if hand-raised and interacted with frequently,” says Hoppes.

“When it comes to larger birds, the African gray parrot and the yellow-naped or yellow-headed Amazon are very popular because of their unique talking abilities. The large macaws talk some, but not as well as the Amazon or African gray; however, their large size and beauty make them popular with many.”

Routine care and veterinary visits are necessary for the health of a pet bird.

“Birds need to be seen by a veterinarian yearly or more frequently if they have health issues. Their wings and nails need to be trimmed two to three times a year,” notes Hoppes. “Their water and papers should be changed daily and a pelleted bird diet mixed with healthy fruits and vegetables should be maintained.”

Even though caring for a pet bird may seem overwhelming at first, birds can be fun, entertaining additions to the family.

“Parrots are amazing, wonderful pets, but people need to realize that they are loud, messy, and expensive to appropriately maintain. I have seven and wouldn’t give them up for anything!” Hoppes lovingly concludes.

With appropriate consideration and proper care, pet birds make excellent companions and can become life-long friends.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at

Increase Your Chances of Finding a Lost Pet: Microchip Your Pets
Heidi Wiesenfelder - Tucson Pets Examiner

In the past week alone, two cats in Tucson were reunited with their owners after separations of months or years, thanks to their microchip identification. Read RV's story and Max's story to learn about both amazing reunions. Meanwhile, these success stories point out the importance of providing each of your pets with proper identification, even if they are kept indoors.

What is Microchipping?

A microchip is a grain-sized computer chip that is programmed with a unique identification number. It is injected under a pet's skin between the shoulder blades to provide a permanent form of identification.

A scanner is used to detect the low-energy radio signal from the chip and identify the pet. These scanners are in use at almost at shelters and vet's offices. When a lost or stray pet is turned into a shelter, personnel will scan the pet to see if it has identification, especially if it has no ID tag.

If a chip is detected, the company issuing the tag is contacted to find out who the pet is registered to. The vet, rescue group or shelter can then contact the owner and the pet can be reunited with its family.

Infrequently, microchips have been known to migrate to a different location in a pet's body. Thus vets, rescue groups and shelters are beginning to scan the whole animal's body rather than just holding the scanner near the chip's expected location.

Brands of Microchips

There are three main brands of microchip in use: AVID, HomeAgain, and 24PetWatch. Most vets and shelters select the one they will use for all pets, and buy in bulk.

AVID was the first commercially available pet microchip, created by American Veterinary Idenfitication Devices. Founder and veterinarian Dr. Hannis Stoddard launched the company in 1985, and five years later the AVID chip was available. I first learned about microchipping and the AVID chip from my vet in Nashville when I brought home my first cat, Mishka, back in 1989. I got her chipped and they gave me a certificate of registration.

HomeAgain and 24PetWatch are the other brands most commonly used by vets and shelters. Some vets and breeders also use chips from the American Kennel Club (AKC) Companion Animal Recovery (CAR) program.

The technology is similar for all the major brands, and for the most part, you will be choosing where to go to get your pet chipped, and will not need to make the decision about which chip is used. If you have a strong preference for one based on how their registration process works or how much faith you put in the company, be sure to find a location that uses that brand.

You can also get a tag with your pet's microchip ID# included. This can speed up the process if an individual finds your pet and can contact you more quickly than getting to a vet or shelter with a scanner. 24PetWatch offers plastic tags for $6.95 or metal tags for $9.95. Of course you can also have your own tag made at places like PetSmart and Petco or through an online retailer.

Registering Your Pet

In addition to providing microchips, the major companies track the information for each pet and owner associated with the identification number. They use large databases where the data must first be entered (initial registration) and then modified if the owner's contact information changes (information updates).

When you get your pet chipped, the vet or shelter may or may not take care of registration for you. If you don't register and your pet is lost, it is possible that the chip will be traced back to the vet or shelter that originally purchased it. But don't rely on that, be sure that you find out whether you need to register your pet with the microchip company or not. Also find out whether there is an annual renewal fee, and/or a fee to update your contact information.

Keep in mind that most of these companies will register pets with other brands of microchips as well. Depending on the cost, the services they offer, and the likelihood of your pet being separated from you, you may want to consider registering your pet in additional places.

Take advantage of the option, if it is provided, to list an alternate contact person. This is important in case you are travelling or otherwise unavailable when your pet is found and reported.

AVID: Currently there is a one-time fee of $18.50 for one pet, or $50 for up to 5 pets. There is not an annual renewal charge, but there is a $6 fee for updating information. A new owner of a registered pet would need a new registration. On its websitre, AVID reports that it has over 14,000,000 pets in its database and reunites over 1,400 pets a day (511,000 a year).

HomeAgain: The annual fee is $14.99, with unlimited information updates. Also included is $3,000 of medical insurance for a pet injured while lost. The deductible is $50, and pet owners need to call HomeAgain to activate this service as it is not activated automatically upon registration.

24PetWatch: The first year registration is free. Updates are free and can be done online. According to their site, a $9.95 annual maintenance fee may be required as well after the first year.

AKC: The lifetime fee is $17.95 per pet, if you handle it online, with unlimited information updates. A collar and tag are included. They are not-for-profit, and on their website they state that 4,000,000 pets are enrolled and 360,000 pets have been recovered.

Where to Get Your Pet Microchipped Locally

If you adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue group, microchipping may be included as part of the adoption fee. Some breeders also microchip animals before they are sold to new owners. If you have a pet that has not been chipped yet, you can get it done easily.

Many vets and shelters in Tucson and Southern AZ offer microchipping services. Occasionally low-cost microchipping clinics are held, either as standalone events or as part of shot clinics. Prices can vary, with vets usually charging $25-$45 dollars for the procedure and chip. Be sure to find out whether the cost includes registration or whether that will be an additional expense.

The Humane Society of Southern AZ (HSSA) at 3450 N. Kelvin uses the 24PetWatch chip, and registers all chips with 24PetWatch. The cost is $20, and microchipping is offered during normal business hours (Mon-Sat 11-6, Sun 12-5) and at their vaccination clinics (7-8:30 am each Sat, 6-7 pm each Mon at 3465 E Kleindale).

Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) at 4000 N Silverbell charges $10 for microchipping. Shelter hours are 10 am - 5 pm Mon-Sun.

You can also contact a low-cost clinic or your regular veterinarian to find out if they offer the service and what the cost is.

A Final Note

It may seem complicated, given the different brands of chip, the different registration options, and the decision about where to get the chip implanted. Don't let this stop you! Getting your pet chipped is the most important thing, the details are a matter of preference and should not be a cause of distress or delay. Just do it!

Everybody’s Talkin’: Dozens of Responses About Pet Names

It was a heart-warming story a few colleagues shied away from. I suppose a dog named “Little Fart” is fun to read about, but isn’t exactly the stuff journalism is made of ... or is it?

The fact is that I’ve received dozens of responses on my column, published last Friday, about unusual pet names.

Each made me smile, and I hope they’ll bring a smile to your face too, so I am going to publish a few.

Miss Waddle-Butt
“We have a registered miniature long-haired dachshund. The name on her papers is Frauline Jazzy Cleo. But because of her low stance and little extra long body, she waddles. Therefore, I affectionately call her Miss Waddle-Butt!

— Kim Roberts, Mitchell

“We had a black cat named Valvoline. My husband found him in Auto Zone parking lot. The cat ran up to him meowing and climbed onto his shoulder, where he sat the entire way home. That cat was a world of trouble! He was always into something — he dislocated both back legs, took many rides in many cars (unbeknownst to the driver 99 percent of the time) and ended up at the shelter once after he took off with the cable guy. He came down with pneumonia and spent three days at the veterinarian with an IV, then another week in a cat bed at home with me force-feeding him every hour around the clock. He jumped on the counter right as a bowl of ravioli was being removed from the microwave and sent ravioli flying 10 feet across the room (even on the ceiling). He jumped into a full oil pan in the garage and almost died from ingestion, but lost his hair in huge chunks afterward so had to be shaved. He sent me to the ER one night when I stepped on him while going down stairs in the dark. Oh, that cat! He was always looking for a leg to rub against or a lap to sit on. Everyone who knew Valvoline loved him and each had their own funny story about him because he was always up to some mischief.”

— Kristen Patton

Squirt, Miller, Yoda
“I’ve had a dog named Squirt (because she was such a little squirt), a dog named Miller (because when he was a puppy and living at one of my son’s friends, he was knocking over the ‘empties’ and lapping it up, and slept for quite awhile afterwards, which is also why I got him), and a cat named Yoda (because he was an orphan at only 1 day old, and I bottle fed him). Have you seen a kitten that young? Their ears are on the side of their head, just like Yoda in ‘Star Wars.’”

— Vicki Gerkin, Mitchell

American favorites
“As for my pet names, I’ve had some weird ones. Ishy and Wishy were my fish, and Sunshine (Sunny) was my cocker spaniel. Mom and Dad bought Itsy Bitsy, a tiny Yorkie, when I was 6 years old. Bitsy had puppies, and we kept one and named her Kacey J. after our initials (Ken, Cathy, JoAnna). When Kacey had her puppies, they were due on July 4, so I named the one I kept Yankee Doodle Dandee. Dandee was my best buddy for 13 years. Just before she died in 2003, we got another Yorkie. Because Dandee had been such a good buddy, I decided to give my new dog an American history name as well: Abbigail Aynne Adams. We call her Abbi,”

— JoAnna Cobb, Bedford

Times-Mail Staff Writer Krystal Shetler welcomes comments and suggestions at 277-7264 or

Close Encounters of the Animal Kind – Javelina in the Garage
Cheryl Blasnek - Phoenix Pet Care Examiner

I sat down one day and brainstormed the number of times I have had encounters with animals, mostly wild. Yikes!

It is an increasing number. So, I thought I would add my experiences to the column weekly and see what we can learn…or at least have some funny telling stories!

Missy and I went for our last walk quite late one night. I never do this, but I left the garage door up while we zipped up and back a couple of houses. On our way back, I noticed a moving shadow in front of the house. I squinted to see what it was and noticed Missy doing the same thing. Her eyesight isn’t any better than mine. As we got a little closer, it looked like a javelina, our desert wild peccary. Sure enough, as we crossed the street, I could see it was a young javelina.

Missy, not understanding the danger, was pretty interested in checking him out. I was happy she was leashed as I remember stories of javelina being pretty aggressive and even lethal to dogs when cornered.

I had some carrots in a bag by the car to take to the horses down the block. That javelina ripped the bag open and munched down the carrots. Too bad, horses. Then, he sniffed out the 50 lb. bag of dog food that was sitting on a shelf about two feet off the ground. It was amazing how easily he grabbed that 50 lb. bag and threw it to the ground as if it weighed nothing.

By this time, Missy and I were on the sidewalk and I started lobbing rocks at the javelina. A few carrots is not a problem, but I was not going to allow him to go through 50 lbs. of dog food. So I started hollering and throwing rocks, all the while hanging onto Missy’s leash and checking around us for the rest of his pack. We apparently bothered the javelina because he came out of the garage to see what all the fuss was about. As he squinted at us, I remembered javelina don’t have great eyesight either. Apparently he was not crazy about us interrupting his romp through the Blasnek Garage Buffet so he charged us. Missy and I quickly retreated. Back into the garage he went, straight for the dog food.

This time I got bigger rocks, hollered louder and let Missy bark as much as she wanted. He came back out and eyed us. Then, he decided we were too much trouble and ambled off around the corner of the house and out into the desert.

Two nights later a friend came by the house at dusk and there was our javelina out front. He was sniffing along the bottom of the garage door, apparently waiting for the buffet to open.

The moral to the story: Keep the garage door down. In the past I have been more worried about two-legged predators breaking into the house through an open garage door. Now, looks like our wild neighbors just aren’t that far away either. So, lesson learned: the garage door is down, even if we are going to be gone for just a few minutes. Probably a good habit to be in anyway.

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