Pet News: The Healing Touch of the Xolo

Tips for Taking Perfect Pictures of Your Pets
Johnny Ortez - LA Small Dogs Examiner

Taking pictures of our dogs can be fun, especially when we’re able to capture those one-of-kind moments for posterity that truly reflect who are dogs are for us. Our dogs are individually unique therefore they have their own personality that shines through in our pictures.

I thought it would be fun and useful to ask an expert for his opinion so I got together with an old friend, Seth Casteel, from Little Friends Fine Art Photography to seek his advice. He had these tips for our readers:

A fast shutter speed. Most cameras have a setting for shutter speed (how fast the shutter is opening and closing). As we all know, dogs can be very FAST so you'll need a fast shutter speed to catch that special moment!

Natural light almost always looks better than flash. And cloudy or partly cloudy days offer fantastic lighting scenarios.

Squeakers and treats are your friend. Use them wisely.
Patience is the key. Most pets generally do what they want to do. Give it some time and eventually they will cooperate.

The best pet photographs are the photos that are unique to the pet. Something that tells a story – an activity, an expression, a moment. Pet parents know their own pets better than anyone else, so think about what makes your pet unique, get your camera out and snap away.

After reviewing Casteel’s tips, I spent an hour with Rufus and his friend Polie. I played with different shutter speeds and settings. Natural light wasn’t available for this impromptu photo shot, and in the absence of squeaky toy I used treats to get and keep their attention. I think with lots of patience I was finally able to capture a few fun shots.

Luckily if you’re all thumbs, Casteel is extending a special limited discount exclusive for our readers. Book a photo shoot and receive two complimentary 8x10 fine art prints; just tell him Johnny & Rufus from sent you when you book your session.

The Making of a Model Farm Dog
By Cherie Langlois -

Good farm dogs are hard to come by. Learn how to train your pooch to become a model citizen.

Glorified by fond memories, our old Doberman-mix, Kai, was the model farm dog.

He enjoyed napping peacefully in a patch of sunlight, never bothered livestock, and—while keen to warn us of intruders with a suitably scary bark—he worshipped all humans.

In reality, of course, Kai was somewhat less than perfect. He relished snacking on manure (ugh!) and, given the opportunity, would have embarked on an exciting but short career as a car-chaser.

Farm Dog Checklist

Help keep your country canine happy, healthy and safe by providing the following:

1. A yearly veterinary exam and needed vaccinations.

2. Protection from and treatment for parasites like tapeworm, heartworm, fleas and ticks.

3. Regular grooming and nail-clipping.

4. A healthy diet and fresh, clean water.

5. Shelter from the elements.

6. An identification tag, license and microchip.

7. Plenty of exercise.

8. Basic obedience training.

9. Supervision and protection from rural dangers.

10. Love and attention!

Kai, however, seems like a saint compared to our current canine.

An active Coonhound mix, Pippin lives for three things: to eat any substance vaguely resembling food; to sniff out and chase innocent, little furred or feathered creatures; and to bark at our horses in as obnoxious a tone as possible.

As a puppy, he was in perpetual motion and constantly in trouble. Need I say he seldom took naps in the sunshine? Fortunately, thanks to dog-proofing and much training on our part, plus several years of mellowing maturity on his, Pippin is no longer the scourge of the farmstead. Still, he’s got a long way to go if he hopes to achieve doggy sainthood.

What about your country dog? Does he terrorize your sheep, wander into the road or demolish your vegetable garden? Whether you’re already dealing with a troublesome canine or currently contemplating a tail-wagging addition to your farm family, check out these tips for helping Spot meld safely and harmoniously into rural life.

Obedience 101 for Farm Dogs
Sadly, too many dogs wind up in shelters due to behavioral problems or a failure to fit into their owner’s lifestyle; country dogs are no exception. While obedience training won’t prevent every problem, it can go a long way toward making any dog-city, suburban or rural—easier to live with. “Farm dogs need to know the basics, such as ‘come,’ ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘lie down’ and ‘leave it,’” says Eve Marshark, Ph.D., a certified dog behavior consultant who, along with her helpful Border Collies, tends a small flock of sheep on her farm in Bedminster, Pa. “Understanding these commands will allow you to walk with your dog and keep him under control in many situations. Of course, for training and in truly hazardous situations, you must use a leash or long line for safety.”

Dana Agresta, a Rottweiler rescuer whose menagerie at Hidden Oak Farm in Chuluota, Fla. includes miniature donkeys, horses and sheep, also believes in the power of basic obedience. “Dogs need to be taught right from wrong just like a child,” she says. “Learning the simple commands such as sit, down and stay makes them an asset as a companion and a farm dog.”

What’s so special about these commands? Imagine somebody left your gate open and you see your dog preparing to dash into the road. If he’s learned “come” or a solid “sit/stay,” it could save his life. Or say an elderly relative drops by; instead of letting your enthusiastic hound jump on her, you can spare her some bruises by commanding him to “down/stay.” “Leave it” is a helpful command to use when your best friend steals your work gloves, gobbles manure or chases chickens. You’ll find these commands come in handy in many other farm situations as well.

Of course, with time and patience you can teach your dog much more than the basics. Agresta’s seven Rottweilers know how to bring her items like the water hose, pitchfork and buckets, and they herd her sheep into the barn. Once, when her elderly horse fell and couldn’t rise, she instructed her dog, Mo, to sit/stay, ran to grab a halter and lead, slipped it on the gelding, and gave Mo the end of the lead rope. Grabbing her horse’s tail, she instructed Mo to “bring it” as she started to pull. The dog backed up, yanking hard, and with their combined efforts the horse gained enough leverage to get up.

To Roam or Not to Roam?

Roaming dogs are a pet peeve of mine, and for good reason.

As a child I was bitten by a neighbor’s Boxer while bicycling and knocked flat when a German Shepherd jumped me from behind en route to school.

During my short stint as a veterinary assistant, I saw dogs suffer and die after being crushed by cars. Once, an unleashed American Pit Bull Terrier attacked my gentle, old dog and had to be pried off his foreleg; on another occasion I found my daughter’s favorite ewe lying dead and torn in our pasture with the two culprits—a Labrador and Shepherd—still at the scene.

Think your dog will lead a happier life cavorting across the countryside? Maybe, but probably not for long.

Roaming dogs risk deadly encounters with cars and irate farmers as well as injury by wild animals and livestock. They can bite people, cause vehicle and bicycle accidents, and kill stock, wildlife and pets. Depending on your local animal control laws, your dog could be impounded and you could receive a hefty fine. You might even find yourself facing litigation.

Here’s how four rural dog owners weigh in on the issue:

“I don’t leave my dogs outside unattended, and we’re all fenced in. Many people today still think that a dog needs to be free to run in order to be happy. That’s simply just not true.”—Eve Marschark, Bedminster, Pa.

“I strongly believe that all my animals—livestock and dogs—need to be kept safe and secure on my property.”—Dana Agresta, Chuluota, Fla.

“I don’t believe in allowing dogs to roam. Dogs are pack animals… even a well-trained herding dog in a pack will revert to its natural instinct to hunt and kill prey.”—Terry Workman, Bennet, Neb.

“The most trouble I’ve had in country living is the neighbor dog that ‘never does anything wrong’ and ‘wouldn’t harm a flea’ who came over and destroyed livestock and chased pregnant ewes until they aborted.”—Diana Dyer, Port Townsend, Wash.

Whether you decide to attend an organized obedience class with your dog, hire a trainer or try teaching him on your own, consistent positive reinforcement training will produce the best results. “I’m a firm believer in positive reinforcement,” says Terry Workman, a herding dog trainer who owns four Border Collies and one Bearded Collie, as well as keeps hair sheep, Fainting goats and waterfowl on her farm, Way to Me Acres, in Bennet, Neb. “In other words, I use a lot of praise and never strike a dog in training. The only negative reinforcement I use is to change the pitch of my voice.”

Agresta also uses plenty of praise and treats when training her dogs and steering them away from undesirable behavior. If a dog chases a horse through the fence, for example, she’ll give him a command to sit or lie down. Obeying brings praise and a canine cookie; continuing to act crazy earns the offender a “time-out” on the leash or in a portable pen. “If a dog wants the privilege of being loose with the other dogs, he has to learn appropriate behavior,” Agresta says.

To find a local dog trainer knowledgeable in positive reinforcement techniques, Marschark recommends checking the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) website.

“There are also some good books that can help you select and train a new dog. Anything by Ian Dunbar, Patricia McConnell or Pat Miller can help with training,” she says.

Dog-Proofing Your Farm
With its wide-open spaces and animals to sniff out, the country may seem like an idyllic place for a dog to live, but it’s also fraught with dangers from gun-toting neighbors to pooch-stomping horses.

And dogs—especially if they’re young, untrained, unsupervised or bored—can wreak havoc on your stock, belongings and property.

“The most important thing I can recommend is to be 100 percent proactive with your dog,” says Marschark. “Know what he is doing at all times by supervising his activities indoors and out until he’s at least three years old. Use fences, a crate or kennel when you can’t devote your undivided attention to his safety. This sounds like a burden, but once you get a routine established, it isn’t too difficult.”

Well-maintained fencing, for which you have various options, will help keep your dog from wandering onto the road, harassing your neighbor’s expensive alpacas or chomping on an unwary bicyclist. “The first thing we had installed when we moved to our farm was a chain link fence and in the last year we had a kennel with four dog runs built,” says Workman. “In the time we’ve lived on our farm, we’ve seen numerous dogs and cats killed along the road. I believe good fencing is just as important in the country as in the city; we may have less traffic, but we still have traffic.”

The right fence can also protect your dog from hazardous encounters with livestock and wild animals. Diana Dyer of Whisky Hill Farm in Port Townsend, Wash., uses a combination of ElectroBraid™ electric fencing (five strands) and square-wire fencing around her property to keep her two Welsh Corgis and two mixed breed dogs in, and coyotes out. “The horses and goats are fenced in their own paddocks; the dogs patrol the farm but aren’t invited to run loose with the livestock. This keeps them from playing with the stock and hurting a goat or getting kicked by a horse,” she says.

Agresta has surrounded her entire property with no-climb horse wire and panel mesh gates. She posts signs to inform visitors that dogs and livestock live on the property and to keep the gates closed. As an extra security measure, she always keeps the dogs inside the house when she’s away.

“I’m a big fan of stock fencing and woven wire to keep dogs on the property,” Marschark says. “I don’t like invisible fences, since dogs are vulnerable to attack from outside dogs that come onto the property and since they can still get run over by a car coming up the driveway. The invisible-fenced-in dog will take the shock when he’s chasing after a squirrel, but not want to come home through the fence for fear of the shock. Also, the equipment can be triggered by things like electric garage-door openers.”

Fences will help keep your dog from trampling or digging in your vegetable and flower gardens, too. Keep in mind, however, that since many dogs excel at digging, jumping and even climbing, it’s difficult to make a fence completely canine-proof. If you want to ensure your bored pet stays home while you’re away at work, keep your dog confined in the house or in a secure kennel.

Other safety basics include storing antifreeze, pesticides and other poisons safely out of your pet’s reach, and confining your dog when operating tractors or other potentially dangerous farm machinery. Although it may be common rural practice, don’t let your dog ride in an open pick-up bed, no matter how happy it makes him; even tied dogs have fallen to their deaths, and in the event of an accident your pet doesn’t stand a chance.

Country Canine Etiquette
Of course, it’s just as important to be a good neighbor in the country as it is in the city, and that means not letting your dog wander over to your neighbor’s property to defecate, dig or bother livestock and people (fencing will help here). Folks who live close by will also appreciate it if you keep the countryside smelling sweet by picking up pet waste on your farm and disposing of it properly. If you’re invited to another farm and want to bring your pet, ask first.

“I’ve had many people come over with their dog in tow, thinking it would be great if their dog could practice herding my goats. Not so,” Dyer says. “People need to realize that maybe their dogs aren’t welcome at another’s farm.” Even kept at home, your dog can annoy neighbors with excessive barking and howling, especially if he's bored or seldom exercised—or worse, chained to a doghouse all day.

“I see barking as a lack of interaction between the person and the dog,” explains Marschark. “Remember that dogs co-evolved with people, which means they were meant to be with people, not kept in solitary isolation tied to a doghouse. Dogs are social creatures and they need someone with whom to interact, play ball, walk or do farm chores.”

That would be you and me, so let’s go have some fun with our farm dogs.

About the Author: Cherie Langlois is a regular contributor to HF and writes from her hobby farm in Washington state.

Tips for Finding Pet Friendly Rental Housing
By: Deidre Wengen -

Finding an apartment when you have a fluffy, furry companion that needs to come with you is not always an easy thing. When I moved, I had to find a dog-friendly apartment that would fit my lifestyle and my budget. Yes, there were times when I wanted to pull my hair out. But, eventually I found an apartment that allows me to live happily with my dog in Philadelphia.

Finding a pet-friendly apartment is something that you have to plan and prepare for. That is why I wanted to direct you to these 13 steps from the Humane Society for finding the right place for you and your pet.

Speaking from experience, I can say that the most important part is to give yourself enough time. I began looking for an apartment six months before I needed to move. If you give yourself time to find the right place, then chances are you won't get frustrated and give up during the process. It will also leave you more leeway for plans that fall through or might not work out.

Besides all the advice that can be found in the article above, I found that it may be easier to find pet-friendly housing in a single property rental than a huge high-rise complex. Also, several places will allow you to have animals under 25 lbs. So although you might not be able to have a large lab, you can find the space for a daschund or terrier.

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First Aid...for Pets
posted by: Jack Maher -

KUSA - Most people know about the importance of first aid for people, but what about your four-legged friends? As part of Red Cross month, the non-profit is providing pet lovers with tips and tricks for emergency situations that can save a pet's life.

With just a short 3-4 hour training session, any pet owner will learn the skills to help their pet with several different, potentially deadly situations. They show you how to help a choking pet, temporarily bandage cuts, and even perform "mouth to snout" if your pet stops breathing.

Kathy Handcock-Tubbs, an instructor for Red Cross, helped demonstrate some of these techniques for 9News Reporter Jamie Kim on Kathy's dog, Kailua. Kathy said that the pet first aid courses are very hands on because of the use of mannequins, and through videos and lectures it is "very fun to learn and very fun to teach."

Red Cross says it is important to be prepared at all time and that means taking care of your family, which includes your pets. Even morning anchor Gary Shapiro's wife performed CPR to save the life of their dog several years ago.

"Pets have become a real big parts of people's families and just like children they get hurt," Kathy said. "We need to be able to take care of them as well."

To get more information about these first aid classes or to learn more about all of the events going on during Red Cross month visit their website at

A Very Lucky Cat
Baltimore Sun

Hemi is a very lucky cat. Earlier today a woman drove to the Maryland SPCA on Falls Road with a cat stuck under the hood of her car. Maryland SPCA Director Aileen Gabbey said the black and white stray had apparently climbed up under the hood to get warm and then gotten stuck. When the woman started her car, she smelled something burning. She stopped, found the cat, but couldn't get him out. She then drove to the shelter where workers were able to free him. Gabbey says Hemi's paws were burned and he was pretty traumatized (naturally), but that he is going to be OK. A rescue group, Rikkis Refuge, is taking Hemi tomorrow and will be looking for a home for him.

Gabbey advises drivers to bang on the hood before they get in their cars these cold mornings so if there is an animal in there it has the chance to escape.

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Washington Cat Saves Elderly Owner from Smoky Fire
Associated Press

BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) — A Bremerton Fire Department official said an elderly woman has her cat to thank for saving her life in a smoky house fire. The woman's smoke alarm was going off as smoke billowed through the vents from her home heater but she slept through it. Her cat jumped up on the bed and pawed at her face until she woke up.

Says Fire Lt. Charlie Rinard, "If the cat hadn't woken her up, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have made it."

Rinard said the woman showed signs of smoke inhalation after the fire early Saturday but both she and her cat are OK.

The fire was contained inside the heater and firefighters cleared the smoke from the home.

Information from: Kitsap Sun,

Family Time: Spring Tips for Pet Owners

Tip of the Week

Here are five of the American Veterinary Medical Association's spring tips for pet owners:

- Fleas and ticks: The preventative treatments that you may have discontinued in the winter should start early in the spring to keep your pet's coat, and your home, free of pests.

- Lawn fertilizers: These are very toxic to pets. Store fertilizers in a place far from where your dog or cat -- and children -- can get at it. After applying it to your lawn, follow manufacturer instructions on how long you should wait before allowing your pet into the area.

- Pesticides and herbicides: Even when these chemicals aren’t lethal, there are some long-term health concerns, such as cancer. If your pet is exposed, wash them with soap and water immediately and call your veterinarian.

- Cocoa bean mulch: It's becoming common to mulch a garden with the fragrant spent shells of cocoa beans. But just like chocolate, dogs like to eat them, and they are toxic.

- Lilies: Lilies are a flower common in the spring, and they are very, very toxic to cats.

-- ARA

The Healing Touch of the Xolo
Sharon Sakson - Pet Life Examiner

Nancy Gordon of San Diego discovered that when she put her Mexican Hairless Dog on her neck or wrist, the heat from the dog’s body was strong enough to ease the pain of chronic fibromyalgia. She wasn’t the first person to discover this. The dogs have an ancient history as healers. In their native country, Aztecs placed them in their beds like heating pads. They draped them over their necks and knees and hips for relief from arthritis. They named the breed Xoloitzcuintle, derived from combining the name of the Aztec Indian god, Xolotl, and the Aztec word for dog, itzcuintle.

Nancy’s first dog, named Toaster because of the warmth she generates, was willing and eager to help Nancy. When Toaster had a litter of puppies, Nancy kept one, named Pink for the color of her skin. Pink learned to become an even more proficient service dog; carrying things for Nancy, picking up things she dropped, and helping her undress by tugging off a sleeve or pant leg. Pink worked round the clock for Nancy, and was happy to do it. Without her, fibromyalgia was a handicap that made Nancy’s life difficult.

Pink now lives life with a handicap of her own. She had a slipping patella problem that had to be repaired by surgery. While she was under anesthesia, the veterinarian discovered that some of the bones in her right rear leg were damaged and had fused together. The vet asked for Nancy’s permission to remove the leg. Otherwise, every step Pink took would be painful.

“If I could describe how she looked that day, when she realized her leg was gone…she was mad. It gives me chills to remember how angry she looked. If you can say a dog was livid, she was livid. Poor thing. I felt so sorry for her.

“But she’s shown me you don’t give up. You get over the handicap and keep on going. Now, she retrieves as well as she ever did. She lives to retrieve.”

Pink went right back to work as Nancy’s service dog, ignoring her terrible handicap. People who meet her for the first time often don’t notice that she’s standing on only three legs.

“I can’t imagine my life without my dogs now,” Nancy says. “Toaster changed my life, and Pink has become my inspiration. She helped me get out in the world when I was so disabled.”

Nancy decided to use her experience to help other people. She formed a non-profit agency to attract funding so that she can breed Xolos and place them with people suffering from chronic pain. She named her mission, “X-CPR™,” or “Xolos For Chronic Pain Relief”.

“Because of constant pain, I thought I’d lost that nurturing side of me. Pink showed me that I could carry on my life despite my pain, and learn to help others. She’s an inspiration not only to me, but to everyone who meets her. It’s like she’s saying, ‘What missing leg? Oh, that. Life is too short to worry about that.’”

Tips for Fostering Animals
By The Associated Press

Here are some tips on fostering animals:

To get started, call your local animal shelter, which may have a foster program. Or visit the Web site of the Humane Society of the United States at and click on "How to Find Your Local Animal Shelter." Also visit and click on "Find Shelters & Rescues," where you can enter your ZIP code and see programs run by shelters and private networks in your area. Other sites like and will connect you with local rescue organizations, some breed-specific.

-Check out articles at the Humane Society Web site, especially "Becoming a Foster Parent: Are You Ready?" by Melissa Bahleda, a canine trainer and behavior counselor.

-Make sure you have a written agreement with the shelter or rescue group as to who pays for foster pets' vet care, supplies and food. The organization should provide emergency phone numbers and contacts for help or to answer questions. The written agreement should also cover expected dates for returning the animal, as well as whether you will be permitted to adopt your foster pet if you wish.

-Make sure your family and existing pets will tolerate a temporary visitor. Most programs recommend segregating fosters from family pets at first, but it's likely that foster animals will eventually have contact with them. Many programs, in fact, want you to help the foster pet interact with pets and children to improve the animal's adoption prospects.

-Find out whether your foster animal has been tested for diseases or viruses, and whether you will be expected to give medications. Find out whether the animal has been or will be spayed or neutered.

-Prepare for the best, as well as the worst. Cats' health is more fragile than dogs, and orphaned kittens often lack the immune system to ward off illness.

Advice for Pet Owners
Peter King - Attorney - Washington Post

Pet Trusts

Attorney Peter King will explain how pet owners can use pet trusts to ensure their animals are well taken care of should they depart before their pets. King works for HAUSWIESNER KING LLP where he assists individuals and entrepreneurs with their estate planning and taxation needs. He has spoken about the use of pet trusts at several animal welfare Leagues and rescue organizations in the D.C. area.

He was online Wednesday, March 4, at 11 a.m. ET to take questions.

Please join us again Wednesday, March 11, for another discussion on pet care. And check out's pets section any time!


Peter King: Good morning everyone. I look forward to your questions regarding pet trusts. As a pet owner myself it is very important that our pets are taken care of if something happens to us.


St. Louis, Mo.: Hi. I'm writing early since I'll have to miss the first part of the chat (hate it when work gets in the way of my goofing off). I am single with two dogs. Ever since the whole Leona Helmsley episode I've been thinking about what to do in case my dogs out live me. I have a small life insurance policy through my job ($25K) and wondering should I do a trust indicating care for the dogs, or if no one wants to take them, they should go to a "no-kill" shelter with the money given to said shelter as a donation? Do I even need a trust to do this? Thanks.

Peter King: The advantage of using a pet trust is that the money would actually be used for the pet. Pets cannot be beneficiary's of life insurance but you can have the trust be the beneficiary so this assures that the money is used for the pet. Otherwise the person that receives the life insurance money would have the discretion to use the money for the pet.

You can have the remainder amount go to a no-kill shelter or they may agree to be the guardian for your pet.


Hyattsville, Md.: What's the difference between creating a pet trust and writing a Will that states who is in charge of the pet and it's belongings?

Peter King: The advantage of using a pet trust is that the money that you allocate to the pet trust must be spent on the pet (any remainder can be given to someone you select). If you do not have a pet trust then the pet would pass to your heirs under the tangible personal property clause of the will and the pet could be given away and the other heirs could keep the money that you wanted to go for the pet's care


Washington, D.C.: What are the things people typically leave their dogs in their Will?

Peter King: Generally people leave a specific amount in their trust. It is important to have the assets be liquid (bank accounts, life insurance proceeds) so that there is money to provide for the pets needs.


New South Wales: Are there any restrictions toward establishing a pet trust in the U.K.?

Peter King: That is a good question. I'd be happy to research and get back to you but I am not sure. Pet trusts are available in 39 states in the US and hopefully the rest will allow them as well soon. Feel free to contact me and I will follow up with you.


Washington, DC: Mr. King, What is the "normal" amount left for a pet's care? (I can't leave millions like Helmsley did.) Do you designate a caretaker and a back-up? If there is a pet health insurance policy, how do you make sure that policy remains paid in full? Thank you for your advice! Pets are so important to many of us.

Peter King: I have seen various amounts. Pets are defined within the trust as the pets alive when you pass so many clients have developed a formula per pet based on the lifespan of the pets and the amount of care. Some have left a few hundred thousand dollars but generally it is around $10,000-$50,000.


Bay Area, Calif.: Hi Peter, thanks for taking my question. I have several wonderful pets that I need to care for should something happen. I have put my wishes down using a software program, and I want to divide my assets to the local humane society, my vet, and a feral cat program. Is it enough that I have e-penned these wishes?

Peter King: Dividing your assets in this way are charitable gifts when you pass. A pet trust allocates money for use to take care of a pet. The remainder (after the pet dies) can be given to charitable organizations like the ones you mention. Based on what you have mentioned you have not provided for a pet just made some charitable gifts.


New York, N.Y.: What generally happens if the assets left for the care of a pet are used in total and the pet still requires care?

Peter King: At that point the guardian of the pet would have to pay. Generally, we advise clients to overfund their trust and then just leave the remainder to family members or charitable organizations


Bowie, Md.: This is a very timely subject for me as I recently adopted a Collie and worry about what will happen to him if I am suddenly out of the picture. I understand the general concept of leaving him money in a trust to take care of his physical needs. But what do I do about his need for another (human) pack member? How do I ensure his need for companionship and, honestly, love?

Peter King: This is where you should select a guardian over the pet. It is important to understand there are three actors in a pet trust. A guardian over the pet. A trustee who manages the money and an enforcer who keeps an eye on the money through yearly accountings etc. One individual can perform more than one function but it is a good idea to have a number of individuals involved.


Rockville, MD.: What's the status of the legislation in Maryland permitting pet trusts? I was surprised to learn Marylanders don't currently have the right to have a trust for their pets. Some of our legislators apparently found the idea of a trust something they could joke about.

Peter King: Maryland has recently passed the pet trust in one of their legislative bodies but the second legislative body is yet to pass it so there is currently not a pet trust in MD. 39 states so far have passed the pet trust and MD hopefully will soon join them.


Alexandria, VA.: Didn't the entire Helmsley pet trust just get ruled unconstitutional (not inconsistent with statute but literally unconstitutional) as an unenforceable grant of a property interest to a non-human?

Peter King: The Helmsley case has a myriad of issues. The pet trust offers protection that the individuals intent will be respected. However, in this case the pets could not consume the billion dollars in their lifetime. As a result the court reduced the amount that the pet would receive (still a few million dollars). Courts are going to do their best to respect the individual's intent and the amount specified but this amount was just not realistic. There is also some argument about whether the funds will go to charitable pet organizations or charitable organizations generally.


Clifton, Va.: So I can leave the proceeds from the sale of my house, my life insurance $500k+ and my FERS retirement to my dogs? Is there a limit on the trust in VA? Shame they can't get any death benefits from social security like human children!

Peter King: All of these items can be directed to the trust. The statute does not contain a limit.


St. Louis, Mo.: Is money designated in a trust protected against debts owed by an estate?

Peter King: There are ways of accomplishing this. This is a good time to point out that there are two types of pet trusts.

You can have a pet trust that takes effect during life or you can have a testamentary pet trust which takes effect when you die. The testamentary pet trust would be funded with assets from your estate. The bills would be paid and then the amount left over could fund the pet trust.


Peter King: I wanted to clarify the question where the funds ran out of the pet trust. The trustee or guardian would not be obligated to pay for the pets care and the pet could be turned over to a pet organization or euthanized. This is why it is a good idea to put adequate funds in the pet trust.


Philadelphia, Pa.: How much contingency planning do you see and recommend when setting aside funds to a certain person to care for a pet. If that person is no longer able to care for the pet, should I allow for that person or that person's designee to accept the care and the funds? Would it be better if I find and specify who that alternative should be? What should I specify should the funds run out?

Peter King: It is a good idea to have a guardian and a number of alternates. The guardian may decline to serve or be unable to serve.


Kansas City, Mo.: I'm confused. Where do you even begin with a Pet Trust? How do I even find out if they are legal in my state MO)? Do I need a lawyer to set it up? I guess I need the whole thing explained to me from the beginning and maybe here isn't the place, but can you point me in the right direction? THANKS!

Peter King: Missouri does have a pet trust statute. It is best to work with a lawyer. You would need to select a guardian to take care of the pet, a trustee for the money and an enforcer for the trust.


Reston, Va.: What if you do not know who to trust to make sure that your pet gets what it needs and more? Even if you have children, sometimes the children think it is foolish to leave money to care for a pet when the parent is gone.

Peter King: You will want to select a guardian that shares your views about treatment of the pets. The money will be allocated for the pet so that the money will be used for the pet.


Peter King: I wanted to clarify the previous answer about Federal benefits. They would not be eligible for the pet trust. Typical assets for a pet trust would be life insurance, or other proceeds from wrapping up the estate.


Peter King: Thanks so much to everyone for participating. If you have any further questions let me know.

Don't Pick Pet Food by Price

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A 5.5-ounce can of "holistic pheasant" cat food sells for $1.73 at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., specialty pet food store. Three blocks away, you can get the same sized can of a supermarket chain brand cat food for 39 cents.

Is the more expensive one better for your cat than the supermarket food?

Not necessarily, at least according to eight dog and cat nutrition experts at seven well-known veterinary medical schools who were interviewed by Consumer Reports. The bottom line of the article in the magazine's March issue: "There are quality foods at every price point," said Jamie Kopf Hirsh, the associate health editor who wrote the piece.

Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, was more direct: There is no scientific evidence that "any food is better than the next," regardless of price, he told Hirsh. Two years ago, a spate of pet food recalls - most connected to tainted wheat gluten imported from China - started consumers looking more closely at what they were feeding their pets. More than 100 brands ultimately were recalled and hundreds of animals are believed to have been sickened or died from eating these products.

Food and Drug Administration Spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said the agency, which regulates pet food along with the states, is working on updating pet food labeling requirements. But many pet owners remain confused by vague ingredient lists and terms that are more about marketing than nutrition.

Phrases like "holistic," "gourmet" and "premium" now are commonly found on pet food packages. But any product could make these claims because they aren't regulated and FDA does not define them.

There also are no FDA standards for "prescription" diets, usually sold by vets, and non-prescription diets. And "senior" foods do not need to be specially formulated, although manufacturers now must show proof of scientific claims, such as foods designed to reduce urinary tract infections.

Dr. Gary Edelson, an associate veterinarian with Hometown Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic in Weston, Fla., said there is no reason to believe higher-priced pet food is safer or more nutritious than less costly varieties.

"(You) would like to think that the more expensive the diet, the more expensive the ingredients" - which may sometimes be true. "But expensive also could mean you are paying for a marketing campaign."

He said the best way to tell that a pet is being fed the right product is if the animal is healthy and active, with a glossy coat.

Edelson always picks products with labels stating the food was developed through "animal feeding tests" under guidelines by the Association of American Feed Control Officers, a regulatory group that sets ingredient standards.

He also said he prefers companies with a nutritionist on staff, "so if there is a problem, I can talk to someone who can do some research on it."

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