Pet Tips: Hiking With Your Dog

Watching an Animal's Body Language Can Help Lower Your Bite Risk

We are entering the time of the year when the frequency of bite incidents increases markedly.

Children, particularly boys between 3 and 13, are the most frequent victim of bites, probably due to their tendency to be very active and loud and push the envelope where animals are concerned.

Couple this with the fact that children tend to be outdoors more in the summer, and that they often have little or no adult supervision, and the scene is set for an unfortunate incident. It's unfortunate because the child may be seriously hurt, or at least frightened, and the animal may suffer a more drastic fate. Society as a whole tends not to be tolerant of animals that bite or injure humans in any way — even when the injury results directly from the actions of the human.

There are some basic rules of interaction between humans and people that, if followed, would pretty much eliminate the misunderstandings that lead to bites. First — never attempt to touch a dog or cat unless the animal is with its owner and that person gives you permission. Animals that are loose outdoors may be injured, fearful or doing their best to give you a warning. Resist temptation — leave them alone.

Teach your children how to approach an animal. Teach them to never attempt to hug an animal, or to put their face next to that of the animal. While this behavior is fine between humans, it is very threatening to other animals.

Never chase an animal or run away from it. Never attempt to remove a toy or food from an animal you do not know well. No child should be allowed to remove food or toys from any animal, ever.

Nor should they be allowed to pick up, carry, sit on, tease or harass any animal, especially one that has no escape route.

When you feel threatened by a dog or cat, avoid direct eye contact; keep your arms down by your side, very slowly walk backward away from the animal, keeping it within your sight.

Do not scream. Do your best to appear calm.

If you can teach your children these behaviors, and show by your example that you follow these rules yourself — the chances of your child being hurt by an animal are practically nil.

This is one time when I wish I could incorporate drawings in this column. Instead, I will try to use descriptions to help you understand what an animal is trying to tell you by its body posture.

Research confirms most bites from either dogs or cats could be prevented if people, and especially children, could better interpret what the animal is trying to tell us.

Given how differently these two animals are perceived, it may be surprising that their body language indicating state of mind is very similar. What follows applies equally to both species.

Relaxed and happy: ears will be at a normal position. The tail will be relaxed or upright (cats). Whiskers (more noticeable on cats) will stand straight out from the face, and cats may purr. Dogs may wag their tail, but at its normal position, and they may appear silly; jumping or running about.

Aggressive: The cat or dog's pupils will appear narrowed; ears are held flat and rotated backward, the tail will swish, thump the ground (cats), or be held straight up (dogs). Hair on the animal's back may be raised. Dogs may growl or bark; cats may hiss or screech. Both may stand stiff-legged, to increase their perceived size.

Annoyed: With cats, the tip of their tail may twitch, their whiskers may be pulled back against their head, and their ears will be flat against their head. Dogs that are annoyed may also do the tail twitch, but are more likely to hold the tail up and wag the tip — this is not indicative that the dog is playful — rather it is part of their warning set. It is important to note the differences between a dog that is happy and relaxed and one that is doing its best to issue a warning.

Frightened animals are the ones most likely to bite — in self-protection. Their eyes and their pupils will appear wide open. The hair on their neck and body may stand up, and ears will be pulled back against the head.

Dogs or cats may crouch to make themselves less apparent, will try to escape or hide, and dogs will tuck their tail under their stomach. Never attempt to corner or grab at a frightened animal. They will bite out of fear.

Teach your children to observe what animals are trying to tell them. Animals do not have the physical ability to use words, but their body language is direct and clear — if you but take the time to observe and interpret it correctly.

If you do this, you and your children will escape the trauma of being bitten, and an animal, probably one that has done its very best to tell you how it feels, will escape death.

A Few Tips on Bringing Home Your New Lab Puppy
By Jill Bowen -

Q: I'm new to the area and just found your column, and I'm hoping you can help me. I'm about to become a mom to a male fox red Labrador puppy born this week. I haven't had a dog since childhood and I need to figure out how to care for a puppy and how to train a Lab. I was looking at a few different videos and training series, but do you have any recommendations?

A: Puppies are usually ready to move to their new home at 8 weeks old; socializing with people should have begun by at least 6 weeks.

If you have a long journey from the breeder to your home, ask that the puppy miss its last meal to help with any carsickness issues. Be prepared with a blanket, newspapers, towels and a damp cloth. Carry the puppy by supporting it under the chest, back legs and rump and have it on someone's knees in the car. Do not leave it alone on the back seat.

The breeder should give you a copy of the pedigree, registration papers, a diet sheet with times and quantities of feeding, and, if possible, a bag of the food it is accustomed to eating. The breeder also should provide documentation of when it was wormed, any vaccinations and other veterinary treatment.

Decide where the puppy will sleep; I am in favor of crate-training because it gives the puppy a small place to call its own and it definitely helps with house training because puppies will avoid soiling their nest. Failing the use of a crate, the kitchen, downstairs bathroom or utility room are good options. Initially a cardboard box free of staples and lined with newspaper and a blanket makes a good bed. Spread plenty of newspapers on the floor around the box for any accidents. Later on, when the chewing stage is past, a proper dog bed can be provided.

The best feeding and drinking bowls are untippable stainless steel. Plastic bowls are easy to chew, and ceramic bowls break too easily. In order to confine the puppy to the kitchen, children's stair gates may be fitted to the entrances.

Initially a loudly ticking clock or the radio, along with a soft toy, will help the puppy settle. Remember, this is his first time away from his siblings and mother, and he is bound to be lonely. Don't have him in your bedroom unless you are prepared to always have him there and be awakened several times a night.

House training is not hard, but it does require patience and consistency. At 8 weeks old, your puppy needs to be taken out to relieve himself every two hours during the day. Always take him to the same spot in the yard and praise him when he performs. Stay outside with him until he does eliminate. Do not punish him for the inevitable accidents in the house, but take him to the yard immediately. Always take him outside immediately upon waking and within 20 minutes of eating. The last trip outside is preferably about midnight and again at 6 a.m. If the yard is not fenced he should be on a leash, and no games until he has relieved himself so he realizes that this is not playtime.

At 8 weeks your puppy will weigh between 12 and 16 pounds and should be fed four times daily. By the time he is 12 to 16 weeks old and weighs 20 to 24 pounds, the meals can be reduced to three daily, until approximately 6 months old. I always feed my Labradors twice daily to reduce the risk of gastric torsion.

Until your puppy has had all his vaccinations, he should not be allowed to mix with other dogs or be taken to areas where many dogs frequent, such as dog parks. Do not risk his coming in contact with the diseases against which he is being vaccinated.

Flea and Tick Treatments May Be Toxic to Pets and Families
By Laurie Denger -

The Natural Resources Defense Council has a simple piece of advice for pet owners when it comes to fleas and ticks.

Don’t try to find the strongest product, apply it once and be done with it. The treatment may be toxic to more than the fleas.

A new report by the nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental group finds there can be dangerously high levels of two carcinogenic neurotoxins on a pet’s fur after using ordinary flea collars. And each time the animal cleans itself or a child pets the animal, there could be exposure to these chemicals.

The group has launched a new campaign called Green Paws to find flea-control products that don’t risk the health of your pet, your children or you.

The Green Paws product guide — which ranks 125 products according to their safety level — is at There is also a report called Poisons On Pets II at

In general, the organization is trying to get people to ask the EPA to ban two chemicals — propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos — from home pet products.

The NRDC’s report, Poison on Pets II, finds children are particularly at risk from these pesticides because their neurological and metabolic systems are still developing and they are most likely to put their hands in their mouths after petting an animal.

The report also found levels of propoxur found on the fur of dogs and cats wearing flea collars were up to 1,000 times higher than the EPA’s acceptable levels for children, and up to 500 times higher for adults.

Even two weeks after a collar is first put on, the report found unsafe levels of pesticide residue. And households with multipal pets wearing flea collars are even more at risk.

After the NRDC issued a similar report in 2000, six pesticides were banned in pet products. But the NRDC claims products with propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos are still being sold.

Instead of highly toxic chemicals, the NRDC suggests using a flea comb, regularly bathing the animals, and vacuuming and washing bedding regularly. If a chemical-based flea product is necessary, it recommends a pill. Talk to your vet.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2248 or ldenger@Dayton

Cairn Terrier Saves Lives on Turtle Patrol


They found tracks of an endangered turtle, but winds blew away part of the trail to the nest.

They dug, but couldn't find it.

Then they called in a 2-year-old who has a nose for this business.

Ridley, a Cairn terrier, found it within minutes. The result: 101 eggs to be incubated and 92 hatchlings later returned to the wild. That nest on June 7, 2007, was one of two located by the now-30-pound, 3-year-old terrier.

Ridley's owners, Donna Shaver and Stephen Kurtz, began training him for this work when he was a puppy.

Shaver, the National Seashore's sea turtle science and recovery division director, said she thought to train Ridley in 2005 when she realized it was difficult to track nesting sea turtles on windy days.

Shaver and Kurtz trained Ridley as a puppy to sniff for dog treats around their Padre Island house.

His training quickly progressed to sniffing out empty sea turtle nests on the beach, discarded turtle egg shells and hatchlings so he could recognize the scent, Shaver said.

The couple uses keywords, such as "nest" or "find," with Ridley so he can hone in on his search objectives, said Kurtz, who also is a Turtle Patrol volunteer.

That training has landed Ridley an on-call gig assisting the Turtle Patrol when humans can't locate nests.

Patrol members typically locate a nest by seeing the turtle, or by following tracks and then sifting through sand with a pole or digging with their hands, Shaver said.

Finding nests is a crucial endeavor because Kemp's ridley sea turtles are endangered, and the eggs can fall prey to coyotes or raccoons, or wash away with high tides, Shaver said.

"We just don't want to go away empty-handed," Shaver said.

That's where Ridley comes in.

"He can do things, of course, humans can't do ... his nose takes over," Kurtz said.

Jill Marie O'Brien, co-founder of the National Canine Scent Work Association, said a dog's nose is its biggest asset, allowing it to detect almost anything.

"If it has an odor and that odor can be identified, you can teach the dog to locate it," she said.

"The dog's nose is like a machine," O'Brien said. "Nature has created something that human beings can't duplicate artificially."

And it's work that dogs like because it's an outlet for natural habits such as sniffing or digging.

"Detection dogs are usually some of the happiest dogs you'll see," she said.

Kurtz, who usually handles Ridley on searches, said Ridley displays his excitement before a search by sitting in Kurtz's lap as he drives his Jeep Cherokee along the beach.

At times, Ridley even places his paws on the steering wheel, Kurtz said.

"That's just Ridley," he said with a laugh. "If I let him, he would ride on the hood."

Ridley even likes the pay: a pat, some praise and the occasional piece of antelope jerky.

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Even in the Worst of Times, There are Alternatives to Pet Abandonment
By Diana Laverdure -

For most of us, our pets are like our children. We would do anything for them. That’s why the very idea of having to abandon a beloved pet for any reason – including financial distress – is abhorrent.

But the economic downturn and housing crisis has precipitated an unprecedented rise in pet abandonment. Pets are left behind in foreclosed homes or tied to the gates of animal shelters. Some are just set free to wander the streets, alone and confused.

Shelters are bursting at the seams with new arrivals, while adoptions are way down. For all but the luckiest of pets that end up in shelters, the outlook is bleak. Many former family dogs and cats, no longer wanted, meet unfortunate and untimely deaths due to no fault of their own.

This situation can be avoided, however. For those of us who would do anything to keep our pets, there are resources to help us through these difficult economic times. All it takes is a little research and motivation to find them.

If you are facing economic distress and have a beloved pet, consider the following alternatives to abandonment:

Choose pet-friendly housing.

If you are forced to move from your home into a rental, find one that accepts pets. There are plenty out there. Yes, this will take some extra time and effort on your part, but this is a small price to pay in order to keep your family intact – including the four-legged members. After all, if you have children, you simply wouldn’t consider leasing where they don’t allow kids. Why treat the situation any differently when it comes to your dog or cat?

Call on friends and family for help.
If you feel your situation is temporary, find a friend or relative who will agree to take your pet in for the short term. Assure them that you will still provide the food and medical care for your pet, if they can just find it in their heart to share their home with a four-legged roommate for a while. Most of us have a soft spot for animals, and will step forward to help if we can. It can’t hurt to ask. If you don’t, then you will never know.

Seek out sources of free pet food.

Many people in financial distress are concerned that they can no longer even afford food for their pets. If you feel you cannot afford food, there are resources – such as local animal shelters – that might be able to donate food to you free of cost. Many shelters have arrangements with large pet food companies and only use that one brand for their animals, so they must give away or dispose of all other donated food (donations from private individuals and pet stores, for example). Shelters would much rather give you the food to help you provide for your pet than to see you abandon the animal. If you need free (or discounted) pet food, start by calling your local animal shelters. If they don’t have an excess of food to donate, they just might know who does.

Find affordable medical care for your pet.

The expense of medical care is hard enough to think about for ourselves, let alone our pets. However, there are sources for aid you can turn to. For example, more than 800 Petco stores offer low cost pet vaccination clinics as well as other low cost preventative services, such as heartworm testing and heartworm prevention medication, fecal testing, de-worming and micro-chipping, all provided by licensed veterinarians.

If you feel you can afford a once-a-year fee of a around a couple hundred dollars, you can also buy pet health insurance (VPI Pet Insurance is one such pet health insurer). Just as with human health insurance, pet health insurance will not cover one hundred percent of your veterinary bill, but in most instances it will cover a large portion of it. And, with pet health insurance, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that if your pet should suffer a major illness or injury, you will be covered. A couple of hundred dollars up front could save you the burden of worrying about thousands of dollars of pet healthcare expenses down the road.

Unfortunately, many people facing the emotional stress of financial hardship give up too easily when it comes to making accommodations for their pets. If you’re reading this and you have a pet, chances are you can think of countless times when you needed him and he was there for you. Now, he needs you to look out for him.

So, take the time to seek out solutions that will help you avoid abandoning your pet. There is someone at home whose life is, literally, depending on it.

Diana Laverdure is a nationally published writer on dog care-related topics. She is an animal advocate and creator of The Happy Dog Spot (, a Web site dedicated to helping people raise healthy, happy dogs. She can be reached at

Pet Talk: It's Hard to Let Go of Friend
By Rene Knapp - For The Norwich Bulletin

At our very first cat show about 13 years ago, my husband, Clint, fell in love with the Abyssinian breed. He talked about wanting an Aby for himself so much, I finally decided to get him a kitten as a Christmas gift one year. We went to Las Vegas to visit a friend who raises Abyssinians and I picked out this little, bright-eyed ruddy boy with a look of mischief in his eyes. Four weeks later, Royalty Merlot of Pentaclecats arrived, and from the moment he stepped into our home, Merlot was my cat — and only my cat.
There was something special about Merlot and I knew it right from the start.

If I was working on the computer, Merlot was helping me. If I was watching television, he was on my lap. When it was time for bed, he was the first one on the pillow purring away. And what a purr he had —it reverberated through the house. If I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, he led the way, protecting me from danger.

Playing a game
On my window sill there are two little wooden cat figurines and Merlot decided they belonged to him. He would carry one around in his mouth, talking to his little friend. When he was done, he would return the cat figurine to where he found it. He would climb to the top of the cat tree right next to the window and meow at me.

As soon as I turned and said his name, he gave me a grin and, with his paw, sent the two figurines flying. Then he would stand there and wait. I was well trained and picked them up and replaced them so he could do it again. And again. And again. Even though it could get annoying, I had to laugh.

Merlot quickly became my favorite cat and my little soulmate. I commissioned a painting of him and his little wooden buddies, as well as a chalk drawing. There were professional photographs taken and I began to show him in AACE.

My goal was to keep him whole and breed a litter of Abyssinians. But Merlot’s testosterone level was extremely high and he smelled worse than any whole male cat I had ever come across before. I could take him to the vet and clear out the entire office within two minutes.

It was so bad that I couldn’t let him into our bedroom any longer. So I made the decision to alter him.
Merlot was first and foremost my beloved pet and there was no way I was not going to share my room with him (or the rest of the house for that matter).

True showman
As an alter, Merlot was second best nationally two years in a row. He was an absolutely amazing cat and a true showman. Close to his third birthday he started to get a bit heavy, so I retired him from showing. When I decided to get my first tattoo at the age of 50, I thought long and hard about what I wanted. It was between my husband and my cat. Because Clint was my third husband and Merlot would always be my cat, I went for the cat. I have a beautiful tattoo taken from my favorite picture of him.

While I was showing Merlot, I did start to breed Abyssinians and I did become a show judge. While they all love me, they love Clint equally and that special bond with only me just wasn’t there. Once in awhile, one of the other cats would sneak onto my pillow before Merlot, but that didn’t last long. Merlot would sit next to them, giving them kisses and purring away, and when they least expected it, WHACK! Off they went and he settled in for his night’s rest.

Tolerated other cats
Merlot was wonderful with kittens. I figure it’s because he knew they were not going to stay and he would not have to share me for long. He tolerated other cats as long as they did not try to take any of his spots when I was home.

About a year and a half ago, I noticed he was losing weight. But it didn’t look like good weight loss and I figured he had a bad tooth that needed to be taken care of. I will never forget the call from my vet. When they told me Merlot was in kidney failure and his levels were dangerously high, I burst into tears. I refused to accept that my best friend would die.

I did a lot of research and got Merlot into an experimental drug program. For 10 months, Merlot kept his weight and acted like himself. And while I was congratulating myself for figuring out how to beat a terminal disease, the drug stopped working.

I took Merlot to the vet twice a week for IV fluid therapy. He lost weight at a slow pace and continued to do well. But at that point I knew I was on borrowed time and every weekend I had to be away to judge a show, I didn’t know what I would find when I got home.

Turn for the worse
I returned from Denmark just before Merlot’s eighth birthday. I knew there had been a change for the worse the moment I got home. We went to the vet for a check-up. Merlot had developed sores in his mouth and couldn’t eat. I wasn’t ready to let him go and we decided on series of shots.

That day, Merlot thought he was a kitten again. He played laser with me — he knocked the little wooden cats off the window sill. He ate two cans of food and followed me everywhere, talking constantly. He had so much to say, and that night he curled up on our pillow, held my arm with his paws and purred in my ear.

When I came home from work the next day, Merlot was not the same cat I had left that morning. He could not eat the baby food I had bought and he just huddled on the kitchen table. His eyes were no longer focused and he started to cry.

For the first time, I knew he was in pain and he was too good a friend to allow it to go on. So that evening, Merlot and I (and Clint) made our last journey together.

Merlot had lost his purr and was ready to leave. He had spent the previous day giving me all the memories of our life together and telling me his stories and that he had to leave — I just hadn’t understood the message. That night I set my best friend free and took all of his pain and transferred it into my heart.

I grieve for this little soul cat of mine, whose life ended the day before his eighth birthday. This morning I looked out my window and from the corner of my eye I noticed two little wooden cats. I smiled and waited for the little paw to appear.
It never came.

Don't Let Dog Lick Up These Foods
By Karen Youso -

Fixit: A list of foods that may cause harm to dogs

Q: I know that I'm not supposed to let a dog eat chocolate, but now I heard he can't eat bananas or raisins, either. What else should I be aware of? I have a toddler, and food on the floor is inevitable, as is Murphy the dog snatching it up. He's an opportunist, and quick at it.

A: Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., recommends that pets stay away from the following edible items that are toxic to them: chocolate, grapes and raisins, walnuts, onions, mushrooms and macadamia nuts. For a complete list, go to the American Animal Hospital Association Web site,, and search for "prevent poisoning."

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10 Tips for Pet Owners Struggling with Vet Bills
By Laura T. Coffey, Tampa Bay Times Correspondent

Stories have been popping up all over the country about how the economic downturn is dooming pets. How so? More and more struggling pet owners are feeling forced to put their pets to sleep because they can't afford to pay costly vet bills. This phenomenon has been dubbed "economic euthanasia." • Are you or is someone you know feeling pressure to make a painful decision along these lines? Or are you simply having a hard time keeping up with routine vet bills? If so, consider these tips.

1. Talk to your veterinarian. Especially if you're about to be hit with a really big bill that you can't afford right now, be open and honest about your situation. It's okay to ask for help. Your vet might be able to: help you set up a payment plan, suggest a less costly alternative treatment, point out care that can wait awhile, connect you with resources that could assist you, or offer a discount for this particular visit because you're going through a hard time. (Don't ask for special breaks every time, though; that's not fair to the vet.)

2. Check with breed-specific organizations. The national clubs for some breeds of animals offer veterinary-assistance funds for pet owners who need help.

3. Apply for assistance. The American Animal Hospital Association's AAHA Helping Pets Fund ( is under pressure right now because so many pet owners have been seeking assistance, but it's still worthwhile to know about this fund. Basically, if you're in a real pinch and your pet needs medical help, you can ask your vet to submit an assistance request to the fund.

4. Charities are out there. The Pet Fund ( is a nonprofit organization that helps people in need with their vet bills. IMOM (In Memory of Magic; is another organization that works to prevent pets from being euthanized because their owners are in a financial bind. A New Jersey family plans to start the "Prince Chunk Foundation" by this summer to provide temporary help to pet owners in need.

5. Don't spend more than necessary for routine care. When your pet must visit the vet for routine matters, such as vaccinations or simple blood draws, ask to see a nurse only if possible. You might avoid an "exam fee" in the $30 to $55 range if you see the vet.

6. Save on shots in other ways. Local animal-control offices sometimes offer free or low-cost rabies shots and other vaccinations. You also could ask your vet about the feasibility of giving your pet booster shots every three years instead of once a year.

7. Remember the Humane Society, the SPCA and other rescue groups. It never hurts to check with these offices to see what sorts of services they provide for pet owners. Some services will be free or reduced in price for low-income individuals and for seniors.

8. Are you eligible for special discounts? Veterinarians sometimes offer discounts to senior citizens and people with three or more pets.

9. Look into financing if necessary. If you've been slammed with a large and unexpected vet bill and you can't work out a payment plan with your vet or get help from a charitable organization, CareCredit ( could be an answer. CareCredit lets you apply for payment plans with no interest if you pay your bill in full within 18 months, and with 13.9 percent interest if you pay it off within 24, 36, 48 or 60 months.

10. Remember rescue organizations. If you're really in a tough spot and you're thinking about having your pet put to sleep, consider giving your pet to a rescue organization instead. Even if you're not entirely sure of the mix of your pet, but you at least know a certain breed is represented, a rescue organization for that breed could save the day.

Laura T. Coffey can be reached at laura@

Pet Purchasers Can Halt the Puppy Mills

Your article from the April 24 on animal abuse got me thinking: How many people are against animal abuse but don’t do anything to prevent it?

Well, here are some of my ideas on how to prevent puppy mills.

1. Try to help put an end to puppy mills. The dogs there are mistreated with cramped cages, lack of food and little water even on hot days.

2. Don’t buy dogs from pet stores or online. Most pet stores get their dogs from puppy mills. Getting them online is even worse. Puppy mills need a license to sell their dogs to pet stores, online stores don’t.

3. Don’t get dogs at dog auctions either. Dog auctions are just puppy mill runners getting rid of their unwanted dogs.

I suggest getting a dog or cat from an animal shelter. You can find friendly dogs there that will be a good friend to your family. If you’re looking for a pure breed you can find those at animal shelters, too, they’re just a little bit harder to find.

If you get your pet at an animal shelter you won’t be supporting animal breeders who don’t treat their animals right but you will be giving a great animal a home.

If you want more information about how to stop animal abuse, go where I went to get my information, The Humane Society of the United States.

Their Web site is

Alex Withrow

Albert Lea

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Pet Names
Posted by Steve Lundeberg -

Sorting through some old magazines Sunday morning, I came across something in one of them — I think it was in Ruralite, the Consumers Power publication — that asked readers to enter a contest by sharing the stories of how their pets got their names.

I’d saved the magazine because the contest sounded like fun. Alas, it’s now over, and I didn’t have any particularly interesting stories to share anyway, but I did like the topic. So I’ll tell my pet name stories here, and invite you to tell yours here too (not for any prizes, just for kicks).

At the present time I have two dogs who arrived here already named: a golden retriever, Ruby, and an Australian shepherd, Jewel. The names seem to fit them and, as you may have noticed, they sort of go well together.

I also have two cats: Moses, whom we named after “Moses the kitten,” whom James Herriot wrote about in one of his “All Creatures” books, and Deuce, whom my son Bob named after NFL running back Deuce McAllister.

In addition, there are three other animals here whom I personally have named. Kim and Heather are goats, and their names are two of the ones we almost named our daughter Pam, and there’s a horse, Duke, which is short for Marmaduke, which fits him because for all of his 23 years he’s acted mainly like a big canine — a dog in a horse costume, we like to say.

I also assigned named to three other dogs over the years; all of these animals have gone to dog heaven. There was Shag, whom I named after former Portland Wrestling referee Shag Thomas, and because I thought the name might encourage him to “shag,” that is fetch, the tennis balls I threw for him (it did, sort of); Bingle, whose name comes from old-time baseball slang for a base hit; and Amanda, who got her name simply because I liked the name and thought it fit her (it pleased our current news clerk, Amanda Robbins, to know I once had a dog with her name).

OK, those are my pet name stories. What are yours?

Many Ways to Keep Cats Out of Gardens
By Bernhard Pukay, Citizen Special

Q: How can we stop other people's family cats from defecating in our herb garden and disrupting rows of seedlings by their digging and scratching? This has been an ongoing problem. The herb garden is regularly hoed and weeded and it supports a selection of seedlings and established plants. Our neighbours do not restrain their cats from roaming. Our garden cannot be fenced and treating the soil with blood meal between rains does not deter the cats. We like our fresh herbs, but are disgusted by the leavings of the cats and the loss of seedlings. Are there any dangers from eating the fresh, uncooked herbs from a contaminated garden even after washing them?

A: To stop cats from getting into your garden and defecating on, destroying or eating plants, there are several things you can try to keep them away. You may need to try a number of these suggestions before you hit on the one that is most effective in your situation.

Some include: planting a herb called rue or a plant called coleus canina (planted or sprinkled in its dry form). Cats generally try to avoid being near these plants. As well, orange or lemon peels (cats hate citrus), oil of citronella, cayenne pepper, lavender oil, peppermint oil, pipe tobacco, coffee grounds, tea leaves, eucalyptus oil and mustard oil have all been credited with keeping cats away from gardens.

If you are a patient person with lots of time on your hands, you can keep a water hose handy for those times when you see a cat in your garden. Spraying the cat with water when you catch it "in the act" generally tends to deter future attempts and is totally harmless. Do not, however, shout or yell at the cat while doing this since it will then associate the water spray with you rather than your garden.

There is also a relatively inexpensive device (less than $50) called Cat Stop available online that uses a motion detector to set off a burst of sound that startles cats, but is beyond the hearing range of humans. Cats end up equating the unpleasant noise with the location.

Placing mothballs or other toxic substances around the garden is not recommended because they can be dangerous to humans, plants and other living things. Instead, mothballs or moth crystals placed in a cheesecloth bag can be an effective repellent, but may affect the flavour of the herbs.

Getting a dog may solve your immediate problems, but you may end up eventually submitting a question to this column on how to keep your dog from digging in your garden!

As far as health hazards are concerned, cat stool can have several unwanted strains of bacteria (e.g. salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli, yersinia, helicobacter) that are harmful to humans that you do not want contaminating your herb garden. Similarly, there are also several kinds of intestinal parasites (e.g. roundworms) and protozoans (e.g. toxoplasma, giardia) that can cause serious illnesses in humans. Therefore, for health reasons alone, it is best to try to keep the neighbourhood cats out of your herb garden.

Dr. Bernhard Pukay is an Ottawa veterinarian. Questions and comments are welcome. Address letters to Pet Care, Ottawa Citizen, Box 5020, Ottawa, K2C 3M4. E-mail: .

5 Hiking Tips for You and Your Dog
Reported by: Denise Naughton -

As the weather heats up, Valley residents will be heading up north to enjoy the cooler climate and the great outdoors.

Many dog owners will take their four-legged friends with them for a day of hiking and exercise.

But before you hit the trails, there are some important safety tips to remember.

1. Determine which hike is best for your dog. Toy breeds with short legs cannot go as far or as fast as larger dogs. It is unfair to force a small or young dog to walk many miles; especially on rough terrain. Even if you have a large dog, don’t attempt a long hike immediately. Just like us, some dogs need to work up to longer distances.

2. Before you head out on a hike, make sure your dog’s nails are trimmed. Long nails can be extremely painful for a dog.

3. Make sure your dog is properly licensed and educate yourself on the rules and regulations of the area where you will be hiking.

4. If you decide to hike in the Valley, make sure you keep your dog away from holes and rocks – poisonous snakes, spiders and scorpions can all be harmful to your pet. And don’t forget to keep Fido away from cactus! Having your dog on leash will help prevent any accidents.

5. Bring LOTS of water (for you and your dog). There are many different types of collapsible water bowls for your pooch. Don’t expect your dog to drink from a water bottle – always have a bowl handy.

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