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Could You Pick Your Cat Out of a Line-Up?
Mary Bushnell - St. Louis Pets Examiner

Ernie came to us because we had lost another cat. A woman called and said she thought our cat was under the bushes outside her home, chased there by several dogs. My daughter and husband went to investigate, and after spending an hour finally coaxing the cat out- brought him home. Even though they knew after catching him that it wasn't our lost cat; they couldn't leave him there. At any rate, he was ours now. We had him neutered, vaccinated and he moved into our barn. Ernie was happy. He had straw and an insulated cat house to sleep in, plenty of food and water, horses to follow. Other cats around. We hate having outside animals, but inherited some when moving to the country and others have followed. We can only take so many into the house, but as it turned out Ernie wanted nothing to do with the house, the dogs, or anyone other than my husband and me. Really shy.

Several years later as we got home one Sunday from an afternoon excursion, we saw our outside dogs running up to the fence, but something was off. One of them had something yellow and furry in its mouth. Panic set in! We yelled, the dog dropped what we now knew was a cat. Now several things went through my mind at that time. We only had one yellow outside cat at that time, Ernie. But Ernie NEVER went anywhere near the fenced yard where the dogs were. And even if he did, our dogs are not cat killers. Everyone has to get along, we have too many animals for it to be otherwise. The dogs have been around cats forever. And they have found baby animals in the yard and haven’t hurt them …did pack instincts suddenly kick in and they went wild? All these thoughts went through my mind as my husband and I ran over to the cat.

The cat was stressed beyond belief, panting furiously, just lying still on the ground. And, it was Ernie! No visible bite marks, no marks of any kind. But close to death, we could just tell. The dogs watched from a safe distance, tails between their legs. We had yelled at them when we first saw them with the cat, they weren’t about to get near him again. My husband carefully picked up Ernie after checking for broken bones and we brought him into the house, put a towel in a box, and gently placed him there. I made a frantic call to my daughter, and she said she would meet her dad at the emergency animal clinic in town, about 15 miles from us. I was crying by now. Ernie had calmed down, and I consoled him as best I could. We again checked him over. Nothing obviously wrong. My husband left with him.

He called me about an hour later from the clinic. The vet said that it wasn’t a dog attack (sorry we doubted you guys!), but his vital signs weren’t good. They had given him fluids, done some additional tests and had him stabilized. They were going to keep him overnight and transfer him to our vet the next morning

Shortly after my husband got home, we received a call from the emergency clinic. Ernie had suddenly developed complications, was in pain, and they recommended euthanizing him. Heartbroken, we agreed. But we couldn’t just leave him alone; he was always so timid, so Jim(bless him) once again made the 30 mile round trip into town, stayed with him, and then brought him home to be buried. We sadly said our goodbyes.

By that time it was 10:30p.m... Jim went out to the barn to feed the other cats and horses that resided there, stopping to pet the dogs on the way. I went on and finished up what I was doing, still terribly upset from the entire ordeal. A few minutes passed when Jim came back into the kitchen with a strange look on his face; asking me to follow him out to the barn. I walked behind him wondering what he wanted to show me, something with the horses, maybe. I only hoped it wasn’t more bad news. I walked into the dimly lit barn, and sitting on the hay, licking his paws was ERNIE! Healthy and happy! I was totally speechless. I actually went over an picked him up to make sure he was real.

Yes, you guessed it. We had taken another cat to the vet, paid for the expensive emergency cost and for tests and treatment, and buried somebody else’s cat! We had never seen another male yellow tabby around, and despite our efforts to find his owner during the next week, we were never able to. The cat had just appeared that day. The vet said that maybe the cat got into poison of some type, or had any one of a number of things wrong with him that could cause this, but again said that a dog attack was not at all evident. I guess we will never know.

People laugh when we tell this story. We would have taken the cat to the vet, even if we had known it wasn’t ours. We struggle to pay for all of our own animals, but sometimes you just do what you have to do. The two cats were virtually identical, down to the size, age and markings….I am sure if he hadn’t been in shock we could have known by his personality, but …we were totally convinced it was Ernie

I am happy to say that Ernie lived until a very old age and died in the barn, quite peacefully. And yes, he is buried next to his body double.

Thanks for reading!

Women stand with their Afghan Hound before going into the parade ring during the Crufts dog show in Birmingham, central England, March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Are Laser Pointers Safe for Dogs?
Amber Biddle - Houston Dogs Examiner

Laser pointers have been commonly used in dog training as well as for household play. It is a method I have used and recommended many times as a form of exercise. Recently, someone asked me how safe this is, and though I have never had any problems with any breed whatsoever, I wanted to do a little research for her. This is what I found.

Aidan Bindoff, editor of, reports that some dogs develop serious “obsessive- compulsive” behaviors known as stereotypie. I have heard of this problem before, but never in association with laser pointers! I was intrigued. Mr. Bindoff says certain breeds have a greater tendency to develop this problem over other breeds. The breeds that are susceptible tend to be service dog breeds. Many have been trained to target a laser do. There doesn’t seem to be any rule about specific breeds who develop it while others never do. Any breed COULD develop the behaviors.

Frank Smith, a laser pointer expert from Dragonlasers, claims dogs and cats alike will love this never ending game and get tons of exercise. He says the danger in this game lies in the pointer itself. For example, a 55mw, or milli watt, laser could burn holes in plastic, a 75mw laser could cut black tape, and a 95mw laser could light matches and so on and so forth.

The US Food and Drug Administration states that a 5mw laser max should be used where people are concerned without putting eyes in jeopardy. Frank says canine and feline eyes are similar to human eyes in regards to their sensitivity level. As an added precaution, however, I hve to say that it is Never okay to point a laser light in an animal eye or a human eye, but then again why would you?

Frank also goes on to suggest that it’s the hunting instinct in the animal that makes him go so crazy over that tiny little light. Chasing the light, he says, fulfills the need to stalk, but not the need to catch or kill. He says to finish off play with a stuffed toy to mimic the catching and killing instinct.

So I went on to read many many blogs where pet owners shared their stories and complaints on the subject of laser light pointer play. Many have had problems, especially the behavior problems, many haven’t, many had dogs that were completely uninterested in the laser light. But in some complaints, people are talking about their dogs chasing things that aren’t there long after the laser light game was over, some even days.

Being that there are reports of some dogs ending up on long term medications for obsessive compulsive behavior disorders, I think this is a training and exercise technique that I am rethinking. Will you? Ask your vet his or her opinion, and if your dog has had a problem, consider a veterinary behaviorist. Take good care of your dogs.

Doting On Animals In Hard Times
Lionel Tiger,

Why pet owners don't feed their beloved creatures generic brands.

In an earlier communication, I made the obvious but rarely acknowledged assertion that human economic behavior is not rational and that economists' commitment to the theory that we are has led them to confounded and unhelpful conclusions about the real world. (See "Lysenko Economics.")

That is to say, people are supposed to carefully and coolly assess their resources and their wants and produce an optimized result called The Economy. The invisible hands are supposed to play a fine sonata.

Now, when markets drip tears and For Rent signs appear over products in shops that were once For Sale, people still spend almost as much resources, time and energy as ever on a completely wasteful economic category: pets.

If you want a quick glance at how far from rational human beings are, take a tape measure into a large supermarket, measure the shelf space devoted to pet foods and compare it with biscuits for people.

They are comparable.

We can readily understand why consumers will crave Oreos, graham crackers and a staggering array of different tastes, textures, shapes and kinds of gratification. We are a species for whom, during our evolution, sweetness was basically available only in ripe fruits and some vegetables.

Now, we can produce sweetness neat, as sugar, corn syrup and the like, and when it is prepared with baked or fried flour and fats like butter or lard, it is apparently irresistible in spite of everyone's better judgment and concerns about health.

And despite the food police, people continue to be willing to be advertised at, to buy premium products and to develop firm brand loyalties that can exist for decades. Ritz crackers anyone?

But step back. Why are these human beings--evidently fretfully concerned about their own welfare and resources--wasting time and money on other animals when they could buy bickies for themselves? Why do they endure often-punishing veterinarian bills, which are rarely insured? Why do they shop the aisles of pet foods with discernment and commitment to what they are convinced Fido and Puffy really prefer when it is almost certain they have never once tasted any of the foods they purchase so confidently?

Of course, pet owners' only clue to what their charges prefer is the avidity or scorn with which they greet their master's offering. But even so, how do they know they are providing the most appealing food to their pets?

Evidently, pet owners are reluctant to take risks. I once did some consulting for the chairman's office of A&P and assumed that surely, in tough times, poor people would choose the generic cat food rather than Hill's Science Diet Culinary Creations cat food. But I was wrong. Consumers would rather buy plain-label generic creamed corn or tomato soup for themselves than subject their four-footed treasures to what they fear will be second-rate grub.

Explain that, confident economist! These pet owners are not wasting their time and resources. Instead, they are engaging in a core and massive mammalian program--to feed and care for someone, anyone, even a ratty hamster or slithery snake or, as we have just so dramatically learned, a very strong chimpanzee, Travis. (A Connecticut family raised the chimpanzee and kept him as a pet until he attacked his owner's friend and was shot by police in February.)

Pet owners will do so at an appreciable cost to themselves, which is, in fact, one of the few immediately positive factors of the present economy that suggest normal life--that is, mammalian life--is not far from the surface.

While the Canadian birthrate has been in decline, people have augmented their population of pets; about half of all households engage in the irrational drama of owning one.

And feeding this pet increasingly provokes a nutritional fear and fussiness about food that has made the human diet a taboo-ridden, joyless enterprise. Its principal ethic is that food doesn't keep people alive, it kills them.

As a result, for example, that well-known veterinarian scientist Ellen DeGeneres promotes her Halo line, with "holistic foods for pets' total well-being. Highest quality meats, grain and fresh vegetables." She could be joined by the producers of Haute Canine, the Natural Gourmet Dog Snack and Dandy Doggy Bowser Brittle (with rain-forest nuts). These folks could well be catering for a costly private school in Gotham, Stockholm or Palo Alto.

Even in comparatively poor China, 25,000 trade visitors turned up to a November pet product show in Beijing. The existence of pets challenges rationalists, who must finally admit lamely that "people like them" enjoy the company--and even the responsibility.

Of course there are countless miserable stories of pets abandoned in foreclosed homes, left off from cars in parks and simply ignored once a summer vacation is over. The story is not wholly pretty and contains abundant cruelty, exploitation and heartlessness.

Nevertheless, for a sense of proportion about broad economic forces, go to a supermarket and watch the purchasers of pet food. Observe elemental mammalian life at work, for it has been around for an endlessly long time and will be present in the future.

Now it's time to take Fido for a walk in the snow.

Pets: Cat Forgot About Litter Box; Canaries Sing
Marc Morrone -

Q: Our 4-year-old cat started to use our family room rug as a litter box when we left on a holiday for a week. We had a neighbor come into the house to feed him while we were away. Now he does it all the time. He even used my daughter's bed the other day! How can we break this habit now?

- M. Wollman, Roslyn

A: Most likely, while you were away your neighbor did not keep the litter box as clean as the cat would have liked, and rather than get his paws all dirty by going into a soiled litter box, he decided to look for an alternative. The feel of the rug and the texture of your daughter's bed covers appealed to him.

Cats imprint onto a particular surface for their toilet habits and the key to keeping a cat using the particular surface that we want it to use is to keep it attractive and user-friendly. You yourself would not like to use a dirty bathroom and, if given the opportunity, you would seek out a cleaner one. That is what your cat did. Even though you are home now and are keeping the box clean again, the cat realized using the rug and bedcovers is OK in its book, so that's why it's doing it now.

The only other reason it may be doing this is a urinary tract infection. Some cats will suffer from this and it makes their private parts very sensitive. Squatting in cat litter in this condition is painful, so they seek out a softer surface to use. Only your vet can determine if this is the case.

If your vet says the cat is fine, then it's your responsibility to limit your cat's access to those areas that it has now chosen. Confine the cat to one room of the house that has only a couple of very clean litter boxes available. If the cat no longer has the opportunity to use the rugs and bed as a litter box for 8 to 10 weeks, then it will forget it was ever an option and will then continue to use the box as long as it is kept up to the cat's standards of cleanliness.

This may sound like a major inconvenience on your part, but cats live a long time. Yours is now only 4 - so an 8-week investment in this training will be worth it in the long run.

Q: Why does my 10-year-old West Highland terrier move his food bowls around? I have tried bowls with rubber edges and now have bowls inside a stand, but he still does it, no matter what kind of dish I use.

- Maria McSweeney, West Babylon

A: He does it because he is a terrier and they are active dogs, always looking for something to do, and in his mind this is a fun thing to do.

Obviously, his mother never told him not to play with his food.

The best way to deal with this is to get what is called a screw-on coop cup. It is sold in pet stores for large parrot cages - it consists of a stainless-steel bowl that sits inside a ring that can be bolted onto the side of a cage. For your purposes, you would screw the ring to your wall at a height that is comfortable for the dog to use, then you can slide the bowl into the ring at your dog's mealtime.

This will solve your problem, but you also will ruin a fun game for your dog - so be sure to make up for it with some interactive food-related toys to keep his mind busy. I like a rubber Kong Toy stuffed with low-fat treats.

Q: I have two male canaries that I keep in separate cages. The birds sing like crazy when they are apart. However, I would like to have only one cage in my house to clean, and when I put them in the same cage, they stop singing. What can I do to keep them together in the same cage?

- Janet Zoeller,

West Babylon

A: Male canaries sing for the same reason birds you hear outside in the springtime do - to attract the attention of a female and to tell other males that this particular bird's territory is now occupied. When each bird is in his own cage, the situation is perfect for them, and this is why they are singing so well. When you put them together, they are no longer in an environment natural to a male songbird and that is why they stop. Actually, they would usually fight in such a situation, and I am surprised that yours have not.

So, to keep them happy and singing, you are going to have to keep them separated. Do not worry about their feeling lonely.

Canaries are not social birds like parakeets or zebra finches are. They are very happy when kept alone.

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Collared Today: Lofty
Baltimore Sun

NAME: Lofty

NICKNAMES: honeybird, crackerbird, millethead, Secret Agent Lofty Bird

OWNER: Heidi Lasher-Oakes

HOW THEY MET: He chose me! I got him from a wonderful local breeder, Mary Ellen Schott, whom my avian vet recommended after my first canary died. Lofty is the second bird I have purchased from her; the first one, Joe, died in December 2007 at the age of 9. When I went back to pick another canary, I was prepared to sit quietly for an hour or more listening to the songs of all the different birds. After a couple of minutes, I noticed a commotion in the corner, and when I looked to see what it was, there was this crazy little bird poking his head out of his cage and hanging upside down to get my attention!

He was small, with asymmetrical patches of color that made him look like a clown. That was Lofty. We bonded instantly. I started laughing, and I knew that he was the one for me. He hadn’t even started singing yet when I bought him, but he has turned out to be the best singer I have had, and a wonderful, funny and intelligent companion.

AGE OF PET: About 1½ years old

HOME: Baltimore

TYPE/BREED: Lofty is a “green” or wild-type canary. His feather colors are yellow, creamy white, black and olive green. Canary feather colors come from the physical structure of their feathers and the combination of two different kinds of pigments, lipochromes and melanins.

BEST TRICK: Back bends! This bird loves being upside down!

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Playing with his bell toys


ONE TOUGH BIRD: Lofty survived a bad case of pneumonia this fall, thanks to his wonderful avian vet and a vaporizer. Now he sleeps next to the vaporizer every night, and he yells when I take it away to refill it. Lofty is definitely the social butterfly of the family -- he loves it when people are around, whether it's a repairman or someone who has specifically come to visit him. (As far as he is concerned, EVERYBODY has come specifically to visit him!)

IF LOFTY HAD A MOTTO FOR LIFE, IT WOULD BE: I am here! Life is good! Millet rules!

Photo by Heidi Lasher-Oakes

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Portuguese Water Dog: the Obama Family's Choice
Marc Morrone -

By now everyone must know that the tentative breed of choice for first dog is the Portuguese water dog.

Photo of a Typical Portuguese Water Dog

The Obamas are leaning toward the breed because of its corded poodle-type coat that sheds very little. Malia Obama has allergies.

The family hopes to find a Portuguese water dog in a shelter and to bring it to the White House in April, Michelle Obama said last month.

This breed is extremely active. It was bred to be a fisherman's dog, able to spend long periods in the water, pulling nets. It could also be a message-bearer, swimming from boat to boat, as well as a hunter of small game when on land.

Such a dog cannot be satisfied with just chasing a ball back and forth in the living room. Many people who would follow the first family's lead to obtain this breed will soon find that such an active dog may complicate, rather than complement, their lifestyle.

I do not think the Obamas will have this problem. Being president of the United States comes with many perks - one of which is that there will be no shortage of volunteers in the White House to exercise the dog, which is what the breed needs.

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Dog's Odor Problem Might Be More Than Skin-Deep
Michael W. Fox - Washington Post

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 3-year-old shorthair beagle-dachshund mix. He is a great dog, but he has a pungent odor. I bathe him weekly, and even the next day, he has that dirty-dog smell again.

I feed him Pedigree dry dog food. He gets plenty of fresh air and is always on a leash outdoors. How can I rid him of this odor, even though I know he is clean?

Scotia, N.Y.

Many dogs have naturally oily skin. But when the skin becomes excessively oily or dry and the dog has a pungent "dirty-dog" smell a day or so after a cleansing shampoo, something isn't right.

Some people live with these chronic canine skin problems, in part because the dog seems healthy and active otherwise. But skin problems and a bad odor can indicate an underlying nutritional deficiency or other health problems that, if left unattended, could lead to more serious complications. A veterinary checkup is advisable.

Many dry dog foods are notoriously high in starches and low in essential fatty acids. A teaspoon of flaxseed oil per day in his food could do much to improve his skin health and get rid of the malodorous condition. Provide him with regular physical activity outdoors, and bathe as needed -- but do not bathe more than once a month after his odor is improved. Your weekly bathing could cause skin problems by disturbing the normal, healthy dermal surface cells and bacteria, leading to loss of natural oils, excessive secretion thereof and skin infection. Gentle daily grooming instead and periodically rubbing some diatomaceous earth or plain, unscented baby powder into his coat outdoors (and then brushing it out) will also help. A dog bed stuffed with cedar shreds will create a more agreeable atmosphere.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I am at my wits' end with regard to my 4-year-old English springer spaniel. Ever since she was 2 years old, she has experienced "licking frenzies," in which she frantically licks anything in her path, including rugs, walls, furniture and floors. During this time, she also tries to consume anything that's not bolted down, such as scatter rugs, pillows and newspapers. I have sometimes pulled objects out of her mouth to keep her from choking. Her licking is continuous even when she is on a leash in front of me to keep her out of harm's way, and her breathing is rapid and heavy. These "frenzies" are not short-term and often last up to three hours; she will not accept food or water when they occur. They happen at random, and last week she had two episodes. I found no common element such as food, activity, outside noises or time period.

Her diet consists of Science Diet dry small bites, occasional table scraps and a few recipe dog treats. Playing ball and going on walks are daily staples.

She is an "only child" and confined to the kitchen while I'm at work. She has fresh food, fresh water, toys and her "haven," a crate with a blanket and an open door. She has been to the vet for extensive testing, all of which came up negative. They have no answers for her behavior. I would appreciate any suggestions you might have.

Rensselaer, N.Y.

I am sorry to hear that you and your dog are victims of a borderline psychosis. Your dog's obsessive-compulsive disorder probably has genetic and environmental roots. You can't change the dog's genetics, but you might influence some genetic processes involving the neurochemistry of your dog's brain.

A daily treatment with nutraceuticals (such as L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid and tryptophane) and herbs (such as valerian and passionflower) might help significantly. Discuss with the veterinarian giving her melatonin last thing at night and first thing in the morning.

A natural, whole-food diet -- free of wheat, synthetic preservatives, coloring agents and other additives -- might be the best solution. Couple it with probiotics, prebiotics and glutamine recommended by the veterinarian. Lots of physical activity outdoors is important, too. You might then succeed in not having to give in to drugs such as Prozac and other pharmaceutical products that critics say are being prescribed excessively for pets and kids alike.

Please let me know the outcome. I do appreciate follow-up letters about my advice.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. More pet care information is available at his Web site, Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

Copyright 2009 United Feature Syndicate Inc.

How to Help the Cling-On Cat
Baltimore Sun

I'm taking a break from catching up on pet videos to ask for advice. From your comments and e-mails, I know there is a lot of wisdom out there and I could use some on this front. Here goes:

Since my sweet dog, Gracie, died two months ago, my 14-year-old cat, Phoebe (pictured), has been out of sorts. She's taken to circling the living room, kitchen and hall again and again. She's meowing more too; not a contented meow, but more like a cat distress signal. Phoebe used to claim the loveseat as her own, and Gracie occupied the sofa. Now Phoebe has started sleeping on the sofa in the exact spot that was Gracie's.

I was away a few days this week, and now this all seems more pronounced. My wonderful neighbor took great care of her and spent plenty of time at my house. But when I got home yesterday, she was cling-on cat. I had to pry her off my lap so I could take out the trash.

I have an appointment with the vet on Saturday since Phoebe needs a vaccination, so I'll ask about this. But I'm curious if anyone out there has faced a similar situation and what you did about it.

Posted by Mary Corey

Phoebe is so cute! Poor thing. I hope there's a way to help, other than time.

Posted by: Kate

She's mourning. When my dog, Max, died my cat - who seemed to mostly hold him in disdain - wandered the house crying in his great big voice.

By all means, talk to your vet, but animals do mourn. Especially the domesticated ones who are stuck in the house all of the time, with only each other.

Eve, Thanks. Based on Phoebe's behavior, I think you are so right about this. MC

Posted by: Eve

Phoebe is ADORABLE!

When my rabbit died, my cats had lonliness problems, too, although not for as long as Phoebe's have been going on. I hope the vet gives you some good advice.

In the meantime, I would say to give her as much time and attention as you can. Humans need extra love and attention when someone close to them dies. So do pets. Tell Phoebe that you miss Gracie, too. If you have kept any of Gracie's toys, and not washed them yet, put one where Phoebe used to sleep when Gracie was alive. That's a good way to signal to her that you understand and that you miss Gracie, too.

My cat, Cassi, came from a home with a dog. She must have been really good friends with the dog because she sometimes meows in extreme distress when she finds this toy that used to belong to a cat that I had to put down. I guess the smell of my old cat reminds her of the dog she used to be so chummy with at her old home.

Anyway, when she meows in distress, it seems to help when I acknowledge that she's upset but picking her up and talking baby talk to her. Then, I'll distract her with a cat teaser or laser. When they get a little exercise, they feel happier (just like us, too).

This all seems so silly when I write it on paper. But I truly believe that pets have the same emotions as humans. And I believe that humans can communicate to animals by our actions that we understand what emotion our pet is having.

Good luck!

Suzann, This doesn't sound one bit silly. This is wonderful advice. Thanks so much, MC

Posted by: Suzann

That is so sad I am sure Phoebe is demonstrating her sense of loss. My cat Andy reacted in the same manner when my 17 year old Murphy died two years ago. To this day he still prowls around the house, upstairs and down, with a very mournful cry, especially at night. I can only summize he is searching for his old friend. I do not have any advise except maybe another pet to keep her company. I'm sure it's separation anxiety! Good luck

I.L., Thanks, I do see another pet in my future at some point. MC

Posted by: I. L.

Animals definitely mourn. I have seen it with our pets several times.

When my cat, Chella, died one of our other cats, Grace, stepped right in and tried very hard to be the kind of cat Chella had been. Grace literally changed her behavior and habits to be more like Chella. I could tell it didn't always come easy for her, but she was very determined to fill that void.

Just a couple years ago we lost a cat named Freckles. She was feral cat we took in a back in the 90's. She was a very sweet cat, but she kept to herself a lot. She didn't really interact with our other cats very much except for her nephew, Tashi. Tashi loved her devotedly, they were inseparable. After she died, he grieved for several weeks. He was completely lost without her. It took time, but he worked through it and is a happy cat again.

Just like people they need to be comforted and reassured, and in time the pain will be eased and life will approach normalcy again.

Vicki, Thanks for the encouraging words. MC

Tips for Finding the Perfect Puppy
Marketplace by Wendy Mesley -

Looking for the perfect puppy? Here are some tips to keep in mind when setting out to find your new best friend:

Know ahead of time what size, temperament and breed of dog suits you and your home environment. You can partially project the amount of care, attention and exercise a dog will need based on its breed.

Whether you choose to adopt from a humane society or buy from a breeder or a pet store, make sure the facility is reputable, clean and open. Are references available upon request? Is food and water available to the dogs in the facility? Are you allowed to tour the site where the dogs are housed?

Avoid buying a dog on impulse. Get copies of health, vaccination and veterinarian records; everything related to the dog's health, genetic and behavioral history.

Closely inspect and observe your puppy’s disposition and health. Active and friendly puppies are ideal, while overly shy, lethargic and fearful ones are to be avoided.

In addition to asking questions about your prospective new pet, are you asked questions in return? Good establishments want to match a puppy with a compatible home.

Are you offered a written guarantee should your pet have problems? The guarantee should detail a return policy or a time frame during which compensation is provided should any health or behavioral issues arise. Also, find out what is expected from you, i.e. time frames for follow-up veterinary exams.

When you finally decide on your pup, ensure your sales receipt includes the price, date of purchase, dog’s description and the names of the buyer(s) and seller(s). If you’re buying a purebred dog, you should also receive confirmation of the dog’s purebred status and a certificate of registration validating the dog’s parents’ purebred heredity.

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