So You Want to Be a Pet Sitter?

Pet-Sitting Industry Growing
Despite Tough Economy
By GRETEL SARMIENTO - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

WELLINGTON — The thought in Robin Robb's mind every time she goes out of town is: If Maggie gets out and runs around the entire neighborhood, would the next door neighbor's 12-year-old be able to catch her?

"Tamee will come over and walk Maggie, play with Maggie, spend quality time with her," says Robb, 50.

Hiring a petsitter?

Before you do...

Ask about insurance and bonding.

•Ask for references.

•Ask about qualifications or training.

•Other things to consider: membership with any professional pet organization, background in animal first aid or emergency care, knowledge about pet nutrition, experience giving pet medications, familiarity with washing/grooming dogs and cats

Her 5-year-old Jack Russell is cared for by pet sitter Tamee Ruderman, who two months ago launched her home-based pet-sitting business, All Star Pet Sitting, after 14 years of working for Gap and eight months at PetSmart. Teenagers and potentially, anyone who is unemployed, are Ruderman's competition, she says.

To the desperate unemployed or the employed sick of the office job looking to make a bold move and claim "I am my own boss," walking and feeding pets all day might sound ideal. The profession, after all, is holding steady even in these times.

"Professional pet-sitting has really taken off," said Courtney Klein, the communications specialist with Pet Sitters International, an organization advising pet-sitters nationwide. It has 48 active members such as Ruderman in Palm Beach County. In 1999, its membership was 3,000. Today, it has about 8,000 member businesses, which according to a recent survey have an average of 191 clients each and perform 17.4 million pet-sitting engagements annually. Their mean gross business revenue in 2007 was $37,337 per business.

Since beginning a pet-sitting business two months ago, Lake Worth resident Judy Elswick, 64, has seen a steady supply of extra income. She is a mobile notary, doing occasional weddings, wills and powers of attorney. She loves animals and admits as a senior citizen her Social Security and the income from the notary job wasn't very much. Pet-sitting now represents almost half of her income, she said. Elswick serves the Lake Worth, Greenacres and Wellington areas and her rates range from $20 to $25 per visit.

One must like pets to get the job done, agrees Ruderman. But those considering it also must be patient and flexible.

"Animals are unpredictable and they don't always do what you want them to do," she said.

To do it right, there are some specific steps to take.

Ruderman, 42, obtained a business license for his business from Palm Beach County and a separate license from Wellington, where she lives. She then joined two nationwide organizations: Pet Sitters International and Professional United Pet Sitters.

Through them she obtained specific insurance for pet-sitting, and bonding, which is another form of insurance that protects her in the event of a theft claim against her. She pays $50 and $40 a year for them.

On a typical day, Ruderman makes three rounds. Each home visit is 30 minutes long and includes: water and food, walks, clean litter boxes and playtime, among other things. She charges per visit: $12 for small pets and birds, $14 for cats and $16 for dogs. The most unusual pet she cares for is a white cockatoo.

Her introductory visit is to make sure the pet is not aggressive but compatible. From the owner, she gets a detailed list of the pet's needs and schedule. Do they have a favorite toy or hiding place? Do they know any tricks? Are they afraid of storms? And she sticks to that routine as much as possible so as to not create any trauma.

She calls those who take this job half seriously "hobby sitters," meaning these are occasional pet watchers who most likely have not taken the time to acquire proper documents but see pet-sitting as quick, easy money.

"Everybody and their mother now wants to be a pet sitter. They just want money in their pockets," agrees Linda Aldrich, 56, a groomer and pet sitter for 15 years now.

Aldrich prides herself on having paid $5,000 to attend Connecticut K9 School where she learned grooming and pet anatomy. And she is not very happy with the latest tendency.

"I'm not one of those people who lost their jobs and think 'Hmm, what can I do now?''"

So many people have gotten into pet-sitting, she says, that her business - Furever Friends - has slowed down, which led her to go back to school to become a massage therapist. Now she does both. Her rate is about $15 per visit. She serves the Jupiter, Tequesta, Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach area.

"I'm not one of those people who is going to drop it as soon as the jobs come back," she said.

Gary Bogue: Mysterious Big Black Cat:
A Mountain Lion with Mange?
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

Where there are no tigers, a wildcat is very self-important.

— Korean proverb

Big black cats

I wrote a story (with photos) about a black bobcat that people had seen and photographed in Fremont on Aug. 22. I speculated that this might be the "big black cat" that people had reported seeing in the Pleasanton area.

I find this response to that story very interesting:

Dear Gary:

This bobcat actually looks like it is sick with mange disease.

I work with these animals in an urban area of Southern California and we see this a lot here. When they (bobcats) get a severe mange infection, they do tend to look a lot darker.

We have seen a strong correlation in our area between bobcats being exposed to sublethal levels of anticoagulants (rat poisons) and developing severe mange infections. Our local bobcat populations seem to have decreased dramatically in resent years.

Joanne Gale Moriarty, Wildlife Technician, National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains

Dear Joanne:

I wonder if a mountain lion came down with a mange infection "... would it also make the lion look black like your bobcats? That would explain a lot of things.

I've done a lot of research on "black" mountain lions and as near as I can find out, mountain lions as a species do not have a melanistic (black) phase. They simply don't come in black.

That's why when someone reports seeing a "big black cat," I figure they either saw a big black dog (it happens) "... or they saw someone's escaped black leopard or black jaguar.

If a mange infection can make a mountain lion look black "... as I said above, it would sure explain a lot.

Dear Gary:

I just went through many phone calls, trying to get help for my friend. She went out to put garbage in her can and there was an opossum looking back at her.

She went to the mobile home park's manager but he said he couldn't do anything and just leave it in the can for pickup tomorrow.

That is so irresponsible! A garbage man could get bitten if he reached in not knowing what was in there.

I first called Hayward Animal Services. They said they don't go out and pick up animals. She transferred me to Vector Control and that's not what they do either. Both said it's not their department because they think the address is not in the City of Hayward! It is.

I called East Bay SPCA and they also said to contact Hayward Animal Services. One lady mentioned Urban Wildlife Rescue but didn't know how to reach them.

Although we didn't get any help in moving this guy off to somewhere where it is safe, we did get advice.

1. Give him food and water and put him in the shade. When it is dusk, tip the can over so he can walk out.

2. Carry the can with him in it 2 miles away and release it in a field (my friend is a senior citizen and can't carry cans due to physical limitations).

3. Wear gloves.

So much for the Animal Channel. They rescue everything! Who should we call? I'm glad it wasn't a bear!

Judy, Hayward

Dear Judy:

Like you, I am amazed. The Bay Area probably has more animal rescue groups per square paw print that any other place in the country, yet I continually get calls, e-mails and letters from people who can't seem to find help with their animal problems.

Another example in my e-mail:

A lady says she contributes to almost a dozen nonprofit Bay Area animal groups. Yet when she tried to get their help with "four tiny kittens needing a home," everyone was full.

Now you can't get any help with a simple opossum in the garbage can problem.

Dealing with an opossum is a "tough" problem, you know. Wait until dark, gently tip the garbage can on its side "... and that's it. The opossum will trot off home.

Next time, call the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek at 925-935-1978 and ask to speak to the wildlife hospital.

They'll be happy to give you some good advice.

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The Cat's Out of the Bag:
My Pet is Out to Get Me

I have a nemesis.

I would call her an "evil" nemesis, but since it's my cat, I'll refrain. But sometimes I wonder.

Circles, the oldest of our three cats, is also the hairiest, pickiest, whiniest and, OK, prettiest. (I'm allowed to say that because she's the only girl. The dude cats won't mind.) Long ago, she decided to pick fights with me.

Our rivalry rivals the greats before us: Hatfield and McCoy, Tom and Jerry, Kelly Taylor and Valerie Malone. (I was just watching a 90210 rerun.)

When she jumps on the couch and demands petting, she makes sure her big ol' tail casually hits me, over and over and over. It's just the smallest of taps, but she might as well run her nails down a chalkboard. (Thankfully, we don't own a chalkboard. She doesn't need anything else in her bag o' tricks.)

Whenever I pour myself a glass of water, she'll stick her head in it the second I turn my head. Curses! Foiled again.

So I started putting a piece of paper over all beverages to keep them Circles-free. But then she realized she could just knock that off with a bump of her head. Now I use books. Next will be padlocks.

As my kids pointed out, Circles doesn't bother anybody else's water. Just mine. Well, that's because we're nemeses.

Not long ago, Circles dramatically raised the stakes. She got my beloved purse involved.

I'd spotted it a few months ago at Sam Moon (a.k.a. Purse Heaven) and fell in love. About the size of a small suitcase, it's made of white vinyl with blue piping and straps. On the front are five large, colorful, three-dimensional flowers whose petals are outlined with zippers. The interior features a wild-animal print of some sort. In other words, it's very understated.

Although my husband declared it to be the ugliest thing on the planet, he was soon proved wrong.

Everywhere we went, I got compliments on it. People tugged at me in big crowds, desperate to know where it came from. And when we went on vacation, the commentary from passersby was so frequent that it became an inside joke. With every new "I love your bag!" I'd smile at Mike in a satisfied manner. My purse was the toast of the town!

Until Circles peed in it.

I'm not sure if you're familiar with cat pee-pee. But if you are (and I'm sorry for us), you know that the smell is indestructible. Sure, some products claim they can remove it, but they're big fat liars.

And if a cat pees, you know it right away. So when I walked past the counter one morning, I stopped in my tracks. Uh-oh. I bent closer, sniffing around to find the origin. Which, to my horror, was my Miss Popularity purse.

I cleaned it out and scrubbed at the jaguar-print lining with everything I could find (including vinegar, which was a tip from my mom). The result? It smelled worse than ever. It was now cat pee mixed with potpourri and Italian seasonings. Curses.

The best purse ever was banished to the garage, as it stunk too much to stay inside.

I had nothing to carry stuff around in, so I started leaving my makeup in the car. One day, the liquid concealer got so hot that it bubbled up and splattered on my white shirt. Foiled AGAIN.

I went back to Sam Moon to get an identical replacement, but there were none left. Of course. So I ended up with a smaller version with an ugly cloth strap. Boo.

Clearly, Circles had won this round. Or so I thought – until my son suggested I put the purse in the dishwasher. Hmm. It was so crazy it just might work!

And work it did. After one light cycle on the top drawer, my purse came out smelling like a rose. With zipper-laden petals.

I happily repacked it, giving Circles a quick pet and a smile.

She looked back at me and said nothing, but I know what she was thinking: Curses!

Darla Atlas is a Briefing columnist. E-mail her at

Gary Bogue: Owner Writes About
Dog Killed in Hit-Run Accident
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.

— Roger Caras

Hit-run dog

I ran a letter Thursday from Janet of Antioch about a brown Labrador retriever wearing a pink collar that was run over by a hit-and-run driver.

Janet, her daughter and another neighbor found and took care of the dog — feeding it a cookie and water — until animal services arrived and took it to an emergency veterinary hospital.

I listed the phone numbers of the veterinary hospital and Antioch Animal Services in the hopes that the dog's owner would see them and go pick up the dog.

The dog was later euthanized because of extensive head injuries.

The dog's human did read about the accident here and she called the numbers.

She also wrote me the following letter:

Dear Gary:

Her name was Miller.

She was 10 years old on April 16. We loved her more than anyone ever loved their dog.

We couldn't have children so we had our two Labs instead. Her big brother we just lost to cancer — and now this.

I can't tell you how devastated my family and friends are. She was everyone's favorite pal.

She loved the water "... going to Feather River "... Dillon Beach "... playing catch at the park "... messing up mama's garden "... swimming in Grama and Grampa's pool "... and stealing sweets when she had the chance.

To Janet's daughter:

Thank you for giving her a cookie.

I am so sorry, my pretty girl, that I put you in that stupid pink (collar) thing. Her tags are sitting in the garage on her usual red collar, next to the driftwood she brought home from the river last week.

Thank you to the kind neighbors who stayed with her in her time of need.

Please, all dog parents, keep your babies close and don't let them out of your sight. Keep your contact information on your dog at all times.

To the driver — in the black truck — I pray you never feel the kind of pain you have caused! Why didn't you stop (and help)? Why were you going so fast? Why? Why? Why?

If you had slowed down you might have seen her — we might have found her and she would be heading to the beach for the weekend.

Now that won't happen. Our weekend and ever after will be filled with tears.

And so many questions.


Thank you, Gary, for the column, even though it just made us feel even worse.

We went to the Antioch shelter at 10 a.m. the next day. We were told that she had been hit by a car but we couldn't see her until 6 p.m. that night.

They told us she suffered for two hours before anyone arrived to help her. When we got to the emergency hospital they suggested we not view her, but my husband insisted on seeing his baby girl.

Filled with tears we kissed her frozen nose and told her we were so sorry!

Last night we read the column, then walked to where she was hit.

We sat on the curb and cried together.

She will have a private cremation and on the little wooden box it will read: "We love you Miller Girl."

Anna, Antioch

Dear Anna:

I am so very sorry at the loss of your beloved Miller.

And to all drivers: If you accidentally hit a dog or cat, please stop and try to help and/or notify the owner.

If you hit an animal, please call the local police, or Highway Patrol if on the freeway and explain the situation and follow their advice.

If the animal is still alive, please ask the authorities to send an animal control officer ASAP.

Thanks for caring.

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Bath Time Tips for
Your Four-Legged Friend
By Patricia Montemurri -

RISMEDIA, When Fido and Fifi needs freshening up, there’s good grooming to be done in your bathroom, backyard or at a do-it-yourself dog wash. “We keep dogs in our houses. We let them sleep in our beds, so it makes sense to wash them,” says Sharon Robinet, a former groomer who owns Dunk N Dogs in Livonia, Mich., a do-it-yourself dog bathing business.

Dr. David Balaj, a veterinarian at Harper Woods Veterinary Clinic, recommends bathing dogs no more than once a month. What’s key, Balaj says, is diluting dog shampoo with water before applying it to the animal’s coat and making sure to rinse thoroughly. “Dry skin can cause some other issues. And if you overbathe them, the body over compensates and produces too much oil, and then you get a doggy smell,” Balaj says.

Grooming your dog gives you a chance to develop hands-on knowledge of its body. “If you do the basics with brushing and looking in their ears and mouth, you’ll be able to spot signs of disease quicker,” says Dr. Cheryl Good, a veterinarian who runs Dearborn (Mich.) Family Pet Care. “And animals really respond to touch. I think it makes for a more relaxed pet.”

Here are some tips:

Bathing: Where you bathe your dog depends on its size and coat. Small dogs can be cleansed in a kitchen sink. Big dogs can go in bathtubs, but they’re prone to shake themselves free of water, and that will get you, your furniture or your walls wet.

Drying dogs: The best thing is to towel dry your dog and make sure you have lots of towels, so you’re not rubbing a wet dog with a wet towel. Some dogs, like Labradors or Portuguese water dogs, have oily coats that have adapted to water and dry easily by towel. But some dogs may benefit from having their coat blown dry. Otherwise, water and product residue can accumulate under dense hair and irritate the skin. You can use a blow dryer from a distance of a few feet, and on a low-to-medium setting, but make sure you stay with the dog.

Brushing: “Every day wouldn’t hurt, or every other day,” Jeff Reynolds, president of the 3,000-member National Dog Groomers Association, says about frequent brushing. All breeds benefit, Reynolds says, but especially long-haired breeds.

“It keeps the coat from getting tangled up and matted. It helps the skin and the coat texture. It gets the dog used to being brushed and combed out,” Reynolds says. “If you do it every three or four months, they’re not going to get used to it.”

Hair trimming: Some breeds, such as poodles and bichon frises, have lots of hair in their ears. Trimming it might head off ear infections. Do not stick Q-tips in their ears, because you can rupture a dog’s ear drum very easily.

Berserk Boxer Might Just Need a Change in Diet
By Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

Q: I love Mabel, my 7-month-old Boxer puppy, but not when she goes berserk, tearing through the house. She does this after exercising out in the yard. Her bouts of the "willies" -- which is what we call these crazy outbursts -- also strike after she eats. How do we stop this behavior? -- J.C., San Diego

A: This problem is more common than you think. There may be several contributing factors to "the willies," says dog behavior consultant Liz Palika, author of "Puppy Love," (Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, N.J., 2009; $24.99). "For starters, is Mabel eating a cheapie food filled with too many grains?" Palika asks. "Carbohydrates are important, but look for sweet potato or other sources, aside from grains. Sometimes it's a matter of choosing a premium dog food, but still read the label first."

Palika says that merely allowing Mabel out in the yard doesn't necessarily mean she's getting much exercise. To insure she does exercise, interact with her; play a game of fetch. While a good old-fashioned walk offers only moderate exercise, it's wonderfully enriching to smell the 411 of every canine in the neighborhood.

While you're definitely not responsible for giving Mabel "the willies," the response by family members may have unknowingly trained her to go berserk even more often. Be careful to avoid rewarding your dog with what she perceives as a game of chase (either the kids racing after her in fun, or you following her, hollering in frustration). Palika suggests that when Mabel comes in from outside, keep her on a leash. When you allow her off the leash, offer a Kong or Busy Body toy stuffed with treats to keep her occupied.

Q: We recently moved to a small farm with our two indoor cats. We want to add a Labrador retriever. How do we choose a dog? Any advice on introducing our new dog to the cats? -- L.M., Lexington, Ky.

A: A puppy can work out, but there are several advantages to choosing an adult dog, says Amy Shojai, author of "PETiquette: Solving Behavior Problems in Your Multi-Pet Household" (M. Evans and Co., New York, 2005; $15.95), "Retriever puppies can be very energetic," she notes. "Even if the puppy doesn't have a mean bone in her body, cats with no previous experience with dogs might be offended by a rambunctious puppy with big old paws coming at their faces."

Shojai suggests adopting an adult dog from rescue who's living with a foster family with cats.

Whether you get an adult dog or a puppy, keep the new pet secluded behind a puppy or baby gate. When the cat seems interested in the dog, allow the dog to walk around the house on a leash. The leash routine may last for days or weeks with an adult dog, but will likely last for a month or more with a pup. As you begin to allow the dog off-leash, show your cat places to escape that the dog can't reach, such as the top of a sofa, window ledges, book shelves, a cat tree, etc.

"Knowing there's an escape route will help the cats feel safe, and also provide a vantage point where the cats can curse at the crazy dog!" Shojai adds.

One secret to encourage your cats to accept the dog is to offer a special treat when they're acting calm, cool and collected in the dog's presence. The bottom line is to introduce the dog as quickly as your cats will allow; they'll make the call.

Q: I'm interested in learning about goldfish. Where's the best place to get them? Can you suggest any books? How about tips on their care? -- M.N., Chicago

A: Stay away from carrying home a carnival fish, advises Sarah Klusak, an aquarist and vice president of the Aquarium Professional Group, Evanston, Ill. "A pet superstore isn't the best place to buy a goldfish, and they'll likely sell a feeder goldfish anyway, and they're not bred to live very long. Instead, go to a pet store specializing in fish. Also, avoid those fancy goldfish; they may look interesting but they're inbred and seem more susceptible to illness."

Goldfish may survive in a bowl, but unlike betta fish, they're not truly suited to that environment; far better to keep goldfish in a filtrated aquarium.

Klusak says goldfish are messy eaters and eliminate frequently, creating dirty, even toxic water, over time. Putting several goldfish in too small a space makes maintenance a challenge; better to keep only a few goldfish in a large aquarium, with lots of decorative objects to serve as hiding places.

"Over-feeding is one of the biggest problems we have, particularly with goldfish," Klusak says. "Less is best." With luck, and appropriate housing and care, goldfish should easily survive a decade or more.

Two books to check out: "Focus On Freshwater Aquariums," by Geoff Rogers and Nick Fletcher (Firefly Books, New York, 2004; $29.95) and the "Complete Encyclopedia of the Freshwater Aquarium," by John Dawes (Firefly Books, New York, 2001; $40).

Q: I've been out of work and am seeking a new direction. I want to work around animals. I know I couldn't deal with the trauma of an injured pet, however, so being a veterinary technician won't work. Other than a groomer or trainer, can you think of anything? -- J.B., Richmond, Va.

A: You likely have other skills, such as computer technology or accounting, which a local shelter may need. For sure, the gift of gab is a skill required for an adoption counselor. Pet sitters do have to be prepared to deal with potential emergency health issues, but mostly to remain calm, do no harm and transport sick or injured pets to a veterinary clinic. Learn more about becoming a pet sitter or dog walker at

Perhaps you could find a job at a pet store or with a company that makes pet toys, pet food or even pharmaceuticals for pets.

An entire book was written in an attempt to answer your question: "Career Success with Pets," by Kim Barber (Howell Book House, New York, 1996; $17.95), or a booklet, "105 Careers for Animal Lovers," by Paul Fitzsimmons (PJ Publications, Madison, Wis., 2003; $8.95).

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Yes, You Really Are Doing It Wrong

This week I was reading an interesting article in one of my journals. One of the premier flea experts, Dr. Mike Dryden (whom I've mentioned before) has been doing a study on flea control. He went to Florida, the state with the biggest flea problem in the US, and visit the homes of around 30 people who were having flea problems and said that their flea prevention products weren't working. Dr. Dryden studied the environment and what the clients were doing to control the fleas. In every single case, he found that there was a problem with client compliance. The lack of flea control was not a problem with the product itself, but with how the client was using it or how they were treating (or not treating) the environment. Remember, these were all people who thought they were doing things correctly and were convinced that the products simply didn't work.

This is yet further proof to me that these products really are very effective. Every single day we talk to clients who honestly believe that the prevention we sell them isn't working. But I can find fault with how they are using things in well over 90% of the cases. Just today we had someone call our hospital complaining about Advantix. They had put a single dose on a week ago and were still seeing fleas. This was their first time using any flea products this year. We had to have a long discussion with them about expectations and the flea life cycle. Dr. Dryden's study supports this view of clients simply not doing what they should be.

Unfortunately, it's hard to convince them of that. Flea control can be much more complicated that people realize, and waiting until you see fleas is too late. Check with your vet and find out when flea season begins in your area (or if it is year-round), and then start using a veterinary-recommended product at the beginning of the season before you see fleas. If you see fleas despite using these products, be sure to talk to a vet who truly understands all of these factors and get advice. The data continues to mount that if a product doesn't work it's not a failure of the prevention, and you really are doing something wrong.

Gary Bogue: Dangerous Deer Hunting
Going on in Martinez
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

I shot an arrow into the air,

It fell to earth, I know not where "...

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Dear Gary:

My neighbors and I need some advice on how to pursue a problem that we have in our community of Stonehurst, an unincorporated area of Martinez.

We have illegal hunting of deer to the point where one neighbor was narrowly missed by a high-powered bullet as it crashed through his window. This past Thursday a deer was killed with a bow and arrow no more than 30 feet from me and my car as I was stopped at a stop sign.

Homes are 20 yards apart in this area and the law states, "no firearm or deadly weapon may be discharged within 150 yards of an inhabited dwelling."

The hunter shot this deer from the porch as the small buck ate pears in the orchard. The hunter (and I use this term loosely) was identified, (and) the police and game warden were contacted.

It seems that the original land owners feel that they can continue to hunt like they did before homes were built with total disregard for human safety. We have had two homes hit by bullets.

The hunters are now using crossbows and bows/arrows at night because we have complained about the gunfire. We had seven magnificent bucks wandering around here two months ago, now we have none. Any advice, or people to contact would be much appreciated.

Bob, Martinez

Dear Bob:

EVERY time a shot or arrow is fired, you should contact your local
police and the State Fish and Game Department.

Bows and arrows are also dangerous weapons and it's not legal to fire them within 150 yards of dwellings. You also can't hunt on private property without permission, on or by a road, or one half-hour before or after sunset — which means you can't hunt at night.

You and your neighbors need to stay proactive on this and contact the law whenever this happens; otherwise someone eventually will get hurt.

And be sure to keep your head down from flying bullets and arrows!

Beastly things to do

Going to the Dogs (and Cats) is a special party benefiting Muttville (senior dog rescue and adoption) and Benicia/Vallejo Humane Society. The event is 1-4:30 p.m. Sunday at Woodhall Clubhouse, 501 Orindawoods Drive, Orinda.

There's a fashion parade of Muttville's amazing senior dogs woofing it around the pond. BVHS will be there with its new van full of kitties for adoption. There will also be a dog training demonstration by Barkbusters. Learn how to train your dog the Aussie way, with no treats, just your tone of voice. And a silent auction, raffle and refreshments.

Admission: $20 at door. Please RSVP by Friday at 925-254-5113. More at

Fix Our Ferals Winter Cat Campaign Kick-Off Meeting is 10 a.m. Saturday. Meet at Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, 2700 Ninth St. at Carleton, Berkeley. Contact Rebecca at 510-908-8515.

Do you live in Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, El Cerrito, Emeryville or Piedmont? Please attend the above meeting and become a volunteer to provide trapping assistance and free spay/neuter in these cities!

Dear Gary:

I have two thistle seed socks for feeding the goldfinches in my backyard. It seems more thistle ends up on the ground than they are consuming. Is what's on the ground the whole seed?

Sharon Johnson,


Dear Sharon:

The black stuff you see on the ground under the sock feeders is the black hulls.

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