Pet Advice: Pets - Buying vs Adopting

Pet Dangers Lurk in the Garden
Baltimore Sun

After a long winter, it’s great to see the spring flowers starting to bloom. But the ASPCA warns that some of the most popular flowers and shrubs can pose a hazard to our pets. The Animal Poison Control Center received nearly 8,000 calls for plant poisoning in 2008.

Here is a ASPCA list of some common plants that can be hazardous to your pet’s health:


Members of the Lilium spp. are considered to be highly toxic to cats. Even very small amounts of the plant can cause severe kidney damage.

Tulip/Narcissus bulbs

The bulbs contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.


These bushes contain substances known as grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.


Cylamen species contain cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. If consumed, Cylamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.


Yews contain a toxic component known as taxine, which causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, incoordination, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.


Amaryllis contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and tremors.


These flowers contain pyrethrins that may produce gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea, if eaten. In certain cases depression and loss of coordination may also develop if enough of any part of the plant is consumed.

English Ivy

If pets ingest ivy, it can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation and diarrhea.

Peace Lily

The peace lily contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.

Also, gardeners take note: The ASPCA warns that mulch made from cocoa bean shells, can be toxic to dogs.

Adopting a Pet from a Rescue vs. Buying a Pet from a Store - a Personal Story
Sharon Harleigh - LA Pets Examiner

I was at Playa Vista's dog park yesterday, letting Angel run free and play with other small dogs on a beautiful sunny afternoon. There were many different breeds there - a couple of pugs, some terriers, and a cockapoo.

I was chatting with the owner of the cockapoo, a very nice lady, who commented on how beautiful my dog is. Of course, I'm like a proud parent, preening from the compliment to my dog. We struck up a conversation about our pets, and I told her that Angel is a rescue dog who was originally terrified of people but with love and patience, had turned into a really happy joyous little girl.

She said, "All of my other dogs and cats have been rescues..." and then she paused, and said, almost embarrassed, "But this one, I saw in a pet store, and I just fell in love with him... I mean, I know that you're not supposed to buy a dog from a pet store, but it was a really nice one, and they were really nice people, and I mean... he had been there a while, like 6 weeks, and had been in the window... and he could barely walk... but, I know you're supposed to get a dog from a rescue...."

She stammered on for a while, justifying the purchase of her dog, and I felt really badly for her that she felt the need to almost apologize for her pet. She seemed ashamed that she had purchased a dog instead of rescuing one, and felt the need to really explain/justify what she had done.

It seems to me, in my opinion, that every pet needs a home. It also seems obvious to me that, just like in a relationship, we can't help who we fall in love with. You can have all the best intentions in the world to fall in love with a certain person, or a pet at a rescue, but you just cannot force that to happen. There were lots of pets I looked at prior to Angel from various rescues, and nothing clicked. I can't explain why it clicked with Angel - it just did - and she is definitely my doggie soulmate. But as much as I believe in rescues and adopting shelter pets, I also believe that if you do buy a dog and you waste time feeling guilty about it, you're missing out on a great, healthy relationship with your pet. In no way am I advocating pet purchase instead of adoption, but my feeling is this: every pet needs a home. And when you find the one that calls out to you, and is meant to be yours, embrace that love and that connection instead of causing yourself guilt and a need to explain yourself.

Basically, get over it.

That being said.... remember to spay or neuter your pet, and check out your local adoption centers and rescues FIRST so perhaps you'll meet that special four legged someone and not feel the need to justify it!

Do We Love Our Dogs More than People?
By Claire Suddath -

Americans have fallen in love with their dogs. We have dog walkers, dog groomers, dog parks and dog-friendly hotels. We buy organic dog food, put our pets on puppy Prozac and dress them up in costumes for Halloween. In the last 15 years, the amount of money spent on pets in the U.S. jumped from $17 billion to $43 billion. The role of dogs has changed, and journalist Michael Schaffer decided to find out why. Schaffer talks to TIME about his new book, One Nation Under Dog, and what he has discovered about our sudden need to treat our pets like children. (See pictures of a real-life hotel for dogs.)

How did you get interested in the topic?
Well, I got a dog. When my wife and I adopted him we vowed never to dress him in outfits or treat him like our child. But our dog turned out to have separation anxiety. He had come from a shelter and was very nervous and when we left the house. He'd bark all the time and our neighbors hated it. So we went to the vet and he said, "Oh yeah, he has separation anxiety. There's a pill for that." My family thought this was the most incredible thing. Some of them have dogs and they looked at us as if we were these ridiculous, overindulgent spendthrifts. To me this said something. Sometime between when they had pets and now the definition of "normal" had changed pretty rapidly. When normal changes that fast it means something interesting is going on.

What do you think that our attachments to our pets say about our society?
I was continually amazed by how you can find so many controversies, obsessions and trends of our society that played out in the world of pets. For example, pet food has changed in a lot of the same ways that human food has changed — towards healthy, organic stuff — and pet-training has become as common as sending your kid to driver's ed. There are these huge philosophical battles over whether dog-training should be done in an authoritarian way or a soft rewarding-good-behavior sort of way that mirrors the culture wars in politics. (See pictures of Presidential First Dogs.)

You write in your book that a larger number of single people and childless couples have pets than ever before. Why is that?

In the last 30 to 40 years, two-career couples have become the norm. People are marrying later and divorcing more frequently. They work longer hours than they ever had before and they have longer commutes. The number of pets started to boom right around the same time that these trends began to take off. This suggests that people are leaning on pets to fill the gap in social support mechanisms that earlier might have come from their families or tight-knit neighborhoods. This is why single people or childless couples might want to get a pet. There's just a lot more of those folks right now and they have the wherewithal financially to do so. In turn they've sort of spurred a whole industry of dog walkers and pet sitters because if you don't have a homemaker who is home with the dog all day, you need help caring for your dog. (See more at

Have our lifestyles changed our dogs' lifestyles?
The fact that our time away from home over the last generation has increased so much definitely changes things. There has been this incredible creativity in designing chew toys for dogs. They have these elaborate toys with hidden treats inside of them, and the dog has to figure out how to reach them. It's like a Baby Einstein toy but for a dog. The goal is not just to get the dog to chew on something, but to occupy its physical and mental energy during your very long absence.

What was the most surprising aspect of the pet industry that you discovered?
I went to a pet-loss bereavement group. It was conducted by a full-time employed veterinary social worker who worked in a veterinary hospital. First of all, I was amazed that profession even existed, and then I found out that she went to a conference with fellow veterinary social workers, so there must be a lot of them out there. I sat in on a meeting and I have to admit that I had my moments of thinking, "Oh boy, these people really need to get a life." But for the most part, the meetings were very moving. These people were devastated. As a magazine and newspaper reporter I covered wars and murders, and yet still I was pretty affected by the grief that the people in that room felt, the attachments they had to their animals and the sense of loss that they endured.

You talked a bit about commercial dog-breeding and puppy mills. If you walk into a pet store, what is the chance that you're going to encounter dogs from a puppy mill?
Very high. Reputable breeders wont sell to pet stores. The thing to remember is that puppy mills aren't illegal. The term refers to mass breeding facilities and that is perfectly legal. Mass breeders typically sell to pet stores.

Have people stopped pampering their pets now that we're in a recession?
There are two things going on right now. First, when it comes to decisions about money and pets, the number of people who don't have a choice increases. People's houses get foreclosed and they have to rent somewhere and the landlord doesn't take pets — well, they don't have a choice anymore. Similarly, at vet hospitals when the vet says, "Listen we can do this procedure that might save your animal but it will cost $8,000." More people are saying, "Well I don't have $8,000." But for people who do still have a choice, you're seeing a willingness to scrimp and save for themselves before they demote their animals. Over the last generation a lot of people have promoted their pets to the status of honorary child —they call them "Fur babies."

Is it just me or is everyone giving their dog a human name?
There's a list of the most common names among policy-holders for pet insurance and the most popular dog names are Jake and Chloe and Bella — they're very similar to the names in my daughter's preschool. They're not the kind of names you'd find in dog cartoons. There are no Spots or Fidos. I think that speaks to what's going on and how we view pets as a part of the family. If you look at older descriptions of dogs on headstones at pet cemeteries, they say things like, "Here lies Fido, a loyal servant." By the mid-20th century it's, "Here lies Fido, my best friend." And nowadays you can go to online tributes to deceased pets and people write things like "Here is Jake, my baby."

Does this over-pampering apply to other pets as well?
Most of the creativity has mostly been towards dogs because they have more variables. Going out in public is a big thing; people with cats don't really do that. So that's why there is a lot more action in the dog-accessories market, but I think it applies across the spectrum. I don't know that any of this speaks badly of us. What we now consider normal — all-natural pet food, expensive veterinary procedures — was just a little while ago considered as excessive and silly as dressing your dog up in a little tuxedo. The first professional journal for feline medicine was only established in the late 1960s. Before that if you went to vet school they didn't teach you about cats, really. Now 40 years later we're doing feline kidney transplants. So the measure of what is ridiculous is a very moving target. And it tends to be moving in one direction, which is up.

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Goldfish Ponds: the Waiting is the Hardest Part
George Sommers - Boston Birds and Fish Examiner

It's garden pond netherseason - early spring and the ice has melted from the surface, but the garden stores think it's too early to trot out their pond supplies. Still, there's plenty to do to get your pond good to go for the high season.

Start with landscaping - remove any unsightly dead leaves and debris, rearrange any decorative rocks that might have fallen out of place and get the "extras" ready. (Mine include a toy sailboat, some fake carved turtles that "bask" on a log next to the pond, and a lobster trap buoy tied to a large driftwood board.)

Pond water has likely become tinted an unattractive brown from the dead leaves that have fallen in and the fish's, errr biological processes. Ponds aren't much fun when you can't see the fish! Time to drain and replace, rinsing thoroughly any gravel on the bottom if there is any. It's also a good time to clean and replace the filter medium. Keep the fish separately in a large bucket filled with the original pond water. Add chlorine remover to the new pond water, and float the fish iin the bucket for 1/2 hr. to an hour to allow the temperature to equalize. Pour the fish and water back in. (You'll want to utilize that bucketful of original water in order to maintain the "good" established bacteria that break down wastes and keep the pond running as a semi-natural environment.) Make sure the buckets are for fish purposes only and have never been used with soap or any other type of chemical

TIP: Dead leaves and discarded water make great garden fertilizer!

Because many water lilies, water hyacinth and other aquatic plants are tropical in origin, local garden stores usually don't offer them for sale until mid-May or so. You still may be able to get oxygenating plants like anarcharis at your local pet store and lcuky bamboos at a local Oriental themed store or mall. Lucky bamboos make excellent "reed marshes" and provide welcome respite and shade for your fish. The early spring terrestrial flowers are starting to come out, so you might want to start planting some around your pond.

Steve Richmond of Lovely Pets in Quincy recommends holding off on purchasing and adding new fish to your pond until the first of May. Goldfish or koi that overwintered have been conditioned to harsh weather, but most pet store fish have been spoiled with inside temps of 70 degrees or so over the winter and would not cope so well with temperature variations. On days that the temperature hits 50 degrees, you can start feeding your fish again. (In the winter they do into hibernation and live off stored body fat.)

Deaf Pet? - Try Sign Language
Mary Bushnell - St. Louis Pets Examiner

My husband pointed out to me over the week-end that I’ve actually taught my old deaf dog, and to some extent our 2 year old dog, sign language. At first I just laughed, but then realized it is actually true. I did, without knowing I was doing it.

I tend to talk with my hands, and over the years, my signals for things have stayed the same. Dugan slipped into old age and deafness without many problems because he knows my signals, I know his; and I am convinced he reads my lips to some degree. Don’t write me off quite yet. It is true. He watches my mouth whenever I, or he, wants something.

Now this dog is deaf, not just hard of hearing. To get his attention you must be in line of sight, a fact he uses to his advantage when trying to slowly edge closer to the neighbor’s home when I take him out with me. Just slowly meanders away, and of course, he can’t hear me…so we try to race around and get in his line of vision.

I know that dogs have been companion animals for the deaf very successfully,and indeed can be trained to understand signing. Plus we MUST be open to their body language, it is 90% of how they communicate with us. But those companion dogs are professionals, not my dog. I even have read extensively of the research going on with apes; successfully teaching them sign language. But I guess what surprised me is that I didn’t set out to teach these things….they just happened. Now, don’t misunderstand me, my hand signs are, I suspect, much different from those used by those trained in American Sign Language(ASL), the most widely accepted sign language in the world. But over the years I have indeed come up with my own.

All of his life, when Dugan wants another piece of treat I put both hands palm out in front of me, while saying out loud “all gone”. I put my finger across my lips with the shushing sound when I want him to stop barking. He will look at my face and I will ask the question “do you have to go out”, and if he doesn’t there is no response, if he does he barks. But he has to be looking directly at me to respond. And ask him anytime of the day or night, if he is hungry….he barks. Ask if he needs his pills, he barks and goes to the counter. My husband takes Dugan and Bogie to the barn every night to check on the horse, Dugan knows the follow signal, bent finger beckoning. Bogart, his 2 year old “brother” learned that when I make a circular motion with my hands, he needs to go to the rug by the door and he then walks around in circles until his feet are dried off from being outside.

I know Bogart can hear, but I tried the signal over the week-end out of the blue without speaking, and off he went to wipe his feet. When I have music on while cleaning the house, I put my hand and arm out and up he comes up on his back paws to “dance” with me. This is confusing for anyone visiting us; if for some reason they stick their arm and hand out straight-he goes into dance mode. Whoops! And I have found myself over the last couple of years putting my hand to my mouth when it is time for dinner. All I have to do to get either one to get down is point at them with a stern look. Not a word spoken.

I guess my point in all of this is that dogs, and cats, are very adaptable. Without trying to, Dugan and I communicate in a dance of language and signing. Having a pet go deaf certainly doesn’t mean that life for you and for them can’t still be sweet. Sometimes people give up on an animal with a disability, or don’t even try. Animals tend to be a lot more flexible in accepting these life experiences, far better than we humans. I am now going to actually “try” to sign along with commands, to all of my pets. I’ll keep you posted on the results. Enjoy your pets. Thanks for reading!

One last thing- a local veterinary clinic has two kittens that were dumped, taped inside a box. The vet has spayed the female, neutered the male, declawed both, micro chipped both, have given all of the tests and shots needed and even tested for feline leukemia. They are ready for a forever home. And best of all, they are FREE. That is about $800 worth of veterinary costs, that are being donated for a good, responsible inside home. They want to keep them together. Interested? Call 217-787-1084, the Animal Medical Center here in Springfield, IL. For more info on deaf dogs/cats and sign language:

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Puppy Buying
Nantucket Independent

When you live on an island, ordinary tasks are more difficult. I hear from customers all the time about how they cannot easily find what they want when they are ready to get a puppy. This is a vulnerable time, but tr y not to succumb to the temptation of a cute puppy at the pet shop or fall for an Internet scam.

Shelters are always an excellent resource for obtaining a new pet. The country's present economic turmoil has caused a surge in surrendered animals to shelters in many hard hit areas. Nationwide, about one in every four dogs in a shelter is purebred. Many dogs are surrendered for reasons other than behavioral, such as the expense for upkeep, lack of time, lifestyle changes or allergies.

Our own MSPCA-Nantucket has a selection of wonderful animals that constantly varies in both type and number. All animals available for adoption throughout the MSPCA system can be seen on the MSPCAAngell website. is an excellent Web site with a tremendous success rate in placing pets. The site also contains information about breeds, how to choose the right pet and what to expect when you adopt an animal. Adopting a pet gives that animal a second chance. Rescue groups are also valuable resources if you know your breed and they are an excellent option if you aren't looking for a young puppy. With both shelter dogs and rescue dogs, sometimes the history of a particular animal may be little obscure. Questions to ask if you are looking at adopting from either of these sources include:

*Why was this particular dog surrendered?

*Is there a higher incidence of this dog breed being surrendered and, if so, why?

*When was this dog surrendered and how long has it been at the shelter?

*If you have other household pets, ask about compatibility with other animals.

*Ask if there has been any history of abuse or if there are behavioral or medical issues.

If you have done your homework and have settled on a particular breed, then last week's article offered a number of tips about how you locate a reputable breeder. Good breeders don't breed to make money; they breed because of their love for that breed and to continue and improve the line. A good breeder will ask you lots of questions, because they are concerned about finding a good home for their puppies.

A good breeder should require some information from potential buyers, such as:

*Why do you want a dog?

*Who in your family will be responsible for daily care?

*Who will work with the dog on training?

*What house rules have been established?

*Do you have a fenced yard?

*Proof from your landlord, or the bylaws or letter from a condominium board to verify that a pet is permitted and whether there are size or breed restrictions.

*A signed contract that you will spay or neuter your dog at the appropriate time unless you are purchasing a showquality dog.

*A signed contract stating you will return the dog to the breeder if you are unable to keep the dog at any point in its life.

A good breeder will never sell to pet shops or through any venue that does not allow interaction with the buyer. They want their puppies to go to homes that are a good match and that will provide a lifetime of responsible care. Most responsible breeders will not let their puppies go until they are at least seven weeks old or older, fully weaned and on solid puppy food. A good breeder should allow you to get a third party opinion, at your own expense, concerning the pup's general health and will agree to take the puppy back with a full refund if for some reason you are not satisfied.

If you are buying a dog represented as an AKC candidate, you should receive an AKC Dog Registration application filled out by the seller at the time you pick up your puppy. If the papers are not ready, you should wait until the breeder has them before you pay for and pick up your puppy.

Once again, you should never buy a dog without personally visiting where it was born and raised. With our island constraints, this can be difficult, but you will be sure that you are not perpetuating the scourge of puppy mills, which will continue to operate and profit as long as people buy their puppies. I

Jan Jaeger is owner of Geronimo's, Ltd., Nantucket's year round pet supply shop, Cold Noses downtown pet boutique and is a member of DWAA and CWA (Dog and Cat Writer's Associations of America). Her pets at home are Junior, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, kitties Mr. Fish, Retd. and Priscilla. At the shop are Mr. Chips, Flower bunny and three budgies. jan@geronimos. com.

7 Solutions to Fido's Landscape Destruction
By JESSICA BLISS • The Tennessean

Want to make your yard space usable in spite of destructo doggie? Check out these tips.

1. Burn marks
CAUSE: Pet pee that messes with the soil's pH and kills the grass.

SOLUTION: If you hose off the area shortly after your pet relieves itself, it will dilute the urine's effect. Raking a small layer of compost over the mark also will help balance the soil biology. If you are looking to revive already dead areas, you may want to reseed, although new growth may occur on its own with certain types of grass.

To avoid a scattered array of dead spots, teach your pet to potty in just one area, which you can easily maintain. Perhaps even a spot covered in mulch rather than grass.

Pet stores also offer several products that will neutralize the offending pee enzyme, but Nashville's Canine Inc. dog trainer Jon Stolzer isn't sold on the solution.

"I have heard mixed reviews," he says. "I am always concerned about giving dogs something they have to consume and metabolize, because I don't know if it will harm the kidney and liver."

2. Garden melee
CAUSE: Playful dogs who like to get into everything, including garden beds.

SOLUTION: To keep the dogs out of the bed consider a buried electric dog wire and electrical collar. For a few hundred dollars you can send a small electrical shock to the dog. These are humane and often very practical.

"We have a garden and a koi pond and we run electric fence so the dogs can't go swimming or digging," says Cumberland Landesign's Wray. "It is practical and effective."

A physical fence also will keep most dogs out of vegetable gardens and flowerbeds. One style is wire mesh fastened to steel posts. You should aim for it to stand about four feet tall and bury the mesh up to a foot beneath the ground to keep it in place if dogs come charging.

You could also consider raised planters made of something substantial like brick or stone. Dogs typically will not jump up and into beds that are raised, helping solve the problem.

3. Worn ruts
CAUSE: Pets who take the same path around the yard again and again.

SOLUTION: A dog's prey drive — desire to see or get to what's on the other side — may cause him to patrol borders such as along driveways, fences and garage walls, Stolzer says. Putting a decorative pathway along their favorite routes and landscaping around it is a good way to beautify these areas. Cover pathways with soft materials like pine needles or leaves, because uncomfortable paving might send your pet on a new route. Lining the path with raised beds or ornamental fencing will help keep the pups on the right route.

4. Yard becomes dirt pit
CAUSE: Heavy paw traffic, particularly from multiple pets left out in the yard to romp, which can wear away grass in much-used areas.

SOLUTION: Certain types of grass, like Bermuda, are sturdier than others. However, unless you have your entire yard re-sodded, which can be quite expensive, you are still going to have to wait for the new stuff to grow. That may mean putting a temporary (but pet-proof) barrier around the seeded area for some time, or limiting and monitoring your pets' outdoor time until the area is ready.

"The problem is getting the grass established," says horticulturalist Adam Chapman from Bates Nursery & Garden Center in Nashville. "If you have pets out there and you are trying to re-establish a lawn and they are constantly walking around, it's harder to do that."

5. Holes everywhere
CAUSE: A curious or bored dog that digs for entertainment and mental stimulation.

SOLUTION: Chicken wire often will deter the most determined dog. Bury a bit, making sure to keep the edges deep so the dog doesn't pull the whole thing up, and cover it up. If it's in a garden, a layer of dirt or mulch will do the trick. Some choose to forgo grass altogether and cover chicken wire with gravel or wood chips.

You also can use bricks along with dirt to fill the holes. Most dogs will get discouraged after scraping their nails on the bricks. Sharp gravel has a similar effect.

Stolzer also suggests the use of a "digging box," which is an area specifically designated for digging. The trainer adds, however, that this is a "specialty recommendation." Eight out of every 10 dogs, he says, will not dig if given the proper mental stimulation like walks and play time.

6. Scratched-up fencing
CAUSE: True boredom.

SOLUTION: First, dog-proof the barrier door. Replace an easy-to-open gate latch with something sturdier. Slide bolts and chains are good locking solutions. If your dog is digging under the fence, lay down chicken wire from the bottom of the fence to a few feet underground as an extra provision. If you don't want to dig yourself, you also can line the bottom of the fence with concrete blocks or paving stones that would be difficult to displace.

7. Bushes and plants become snacks
CAUSE: Canines who like to chew.

SOLUTION: It's tough to train a dog not to do this, Stolzer says, because "those are normal and natural behaviors." As such, the best means of defense may be a fence. A decorative trellis could deter a dog from approaching the plants. Buried electrical barriers also work without having to hide the landscaping.

If you forgo a fence, thorned and prickly bushes such as barberry, hollies and rose bushes will discourage some dogs. Junipers also tend to deter dogs with their pungent odor and unappealing flavor. "They have a sappy, turpentine taste that dogs won't want to try again," says landscape designer Troy Marden, who hosts Volunteer Gardener on Nashville Public Television.

Many pet owners are concerned about putting plants in their gardens that will be harmful if eaten. The Animal Poison Control Center offers a complete list of potential dangers at, but Marden says you shouldn't fret too much.

"If you made a list of things not to put in your garden that were toxic in one way or another you wouldn't have anything," Marden says.

"Most common garden plants are not going to be deadly, and the great thing about a dog is if they eat something that doesn't agree with them they will expel it."

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