Have You Ever Been This Tired? (Photos)

Pet Q&A: Dogs Can
Have Meaningful Jobs, Too
By Roger Smith • For The Star Press

Q: I'm interested in helping train a puppy to be used as a service dog. What requirements would the dog have to meet?

A: The requirements for a service dog would depend on the specific function that the dog would fulfill. There are many different jobs that dogs take on to assist their human masters. Some of the most common include:

• Guide dogs: Provide assistance to the visually impaired, these animals help provide mobility to their owners. Organizations such as Pilot Dogs and Guide Dogs for the Blind have specific breeding programs to produce dogs (mostly Labrador or Golden Retrievers) with just the right temperament. After weaning, the puppies are placed with volunteer foster families to be socialized and given some basic obedience. After about one year, the dogs return for more advanced training and become acquainted with their new owners.

• Assistance dogs: These service animals include Guide Dogs, as well as dogs to assist the hearing-impaired and those with other disabilities. These dogs are trained for specific functions such as pulling wheelchairs, picking up objects, turning off/on light switches and providing an alert to those with medical issues, including seizures and low blood sugar. Assistance Dogs International and Canine Companions for Independence are two prominent organizations involved in breeding and training these animals.

• Military and police dogs: These dogs might have many different functions, including protection/guard duty, sniffing out explosives or drugs and finding lost personnel. They are usually partnered with a single handler and trained by specialized military or law enforcement trainers.

• Therapy dogs: These dogs visit places such as nursing homes, hospitals, schools or libraries to interact with and encourage the people they contact. To be a good candidate for a therapy dog, the animal should be gentle, friendly and tolerant of handling by people both young and old. Certification programs are available through agencies, such as Therapy Dogs International and Delta Society's Pet Pals program.

Roger Smith is a veterinarian at Animal Medical Center.

Ban on Cat Declawing in
San Francisco is Set for Vote
USA Today

The Paw ProjectThe Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee in San Franciso approved legislation Monday that would make it illegal to declaw cats in San Francisco. The full board is expected to vote to approve the ban Nov. 3.

The San Francisco Examiner reports supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said that "we believe that there are a great number of reasons why that this should be banned" noting that the practice is "animal cruelty." Declawing is illegal in 20 countries, including most of Europe, Brazil, Japan and Israel. In the United States, Norfolk, Va., and West Hollywood have such bans. Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Berkeley and Beverly Hills may follow suit.

The California Veterinary Medical Association has helped pass a bill that will make it impossible to pass declaw bills after Dec. 31.

Opponents of declawing say it is extremely painful and maims cats by removing the last knuckle, according to The Paw Project, where more details about complications declawing are outlined and explained on video.

Lost Dog Reunites with
Owners After Four Years
Stephanie De Pasquale - qctimes.com

Kevin E. Schmidt Brent, left and Brendan Cone talk about the return of their family pet Max, after missing for the past four-years. The family relieved a phone call Monday October 26, morning from the Rock Island County Animal Care and Control, or RICACC. The now-four-year-old shar-pei had a microchip, implanted between its shoulders as a puppy and when scanned with a special device, the microchip revealed the Cone's contact information. (Kevin E. Schmidt/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

Brent Cone lost his dog Max when the family pet was only three months old. That was four years ago, but when good luck and modern technology reunited them Monday, the lapse in time didn't matter.

"He recognized us," Cone, of Coal Valley, Ill., said. "Right when I yelled his name, he came right up to me."

The reunion occurred after the dog was brought to Rock Island County Animal Care and Control, or RICACC, as a stray.

The now-4-year-old shar-pei has a microchip, a device the size of a grain of rice that is implanted between its shoulders. When scanned with a special device, the microchip reveals the owner's contact information.

"I thought being microchipped that we'd see him again someday, but I wasn't counting on it," said Cone, who bought the dog for his son Brendan, 10. "You just hope that someday they get scanned."

Max was microchipped by his breeder before the Cones took him home at 6 weeks old. Less than two months later, the dog disappeared. The Cones put up posters, checked all the local animal rescues and even listed Max on a national Web site, but they never found him.

Sam DeYoung, operations director for the shelter, said stories such as this are the reason owners should microchip their pets. The shelter is receiving more strays that are chipped and easily reunited with their owners, but the majority of animals brought in do not have microchips.

RICACC has reunited pets with their owners after a significant period of time before, thanks to the microchip technology, but DeYoung said that, in her experience, the Cones' case is the longest time a pet had been lost before being returned to its owner.

Cone has no idea where Max was for the past four years, but wherever it was, the dog was well-fed and cared for.

Even after such a long separation, he said Max's personality and quirks are still the same, and the dog is getting along well with the Cones' new dog, 2-year-old Emmi, also a shar-pei.

"He's bossy, kind of rules the roost," Cone said. "He's sleeping in the spot right now out by the kitchen table, right where he always did when he was a puppy."

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Have You Ever Been This Tired?
Thanks to Kathy in BHC, AZ

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Pet Subjects: Canine Allergies,
Cat Flu and Fear of Fireworks
By Pete Wedderburn - Telegraph.co.uk

Vet Pete Wedderburn answers readers' queries about their pets.

Q: Monty, my five-year-old male Cavalier King Charles spaniel, suffers terribly from itchy skin. Following our vet's advice, we have had tests done which showed that he's highly allergic to beef, lamb and dust mites. We've changed his diet, treated the house for dust mites and wash him at least once a week with medicated shampoo, but he's still itchy. Recently, he stayed with my mother while we were on holiday and his skin got 100 per cent better. After being home for a week he was itchy again. What else can we do? CG by email

A: The fact that he got better while he was with your mother strongly suggests that he is allergic to something in your home. The problem is identifying that substance, which can be a painstaking process of gradually removing all potential allergens. I have known people to replace carpets with wooden floors, and to cover mattresses and other soft furnishings with anti-dust covers to minimise exposure to dust mites. You should also talk to your vet about immunotherapy, where increasing amounts of allergens are given by injection: this will accustom his immune system to them and reduces the allergic reaction. In many cases, despite all efforts, the only answer is the continual use of anti-allergic medication. While such drugs have side effects, at least they dampen down the itch to a tolerable level.

Q: Three days after I purchased a 12-week-old Persian kitten, he developed a runny nose. The vet says that he has herpes virus cat flu and that he'll always carry the virus from now on. He obviously had this while with the breeder, although he had been vaccinated twice. I have a three-year-old cat and I am worried that she will catch the virus. What can I do to help the kitten and prevent my other cat from catching it? LO, by email

A Herpes virus infection is very common, especially in multiple-cat households, and it can be impossible for breeders to clear it out completely. Vaccines against cat flu don't prevent the infection, but they do boost the immune system and so prevent serious disease. Infected kittens may carry the virus for life but they only show signs of illness from time to time, especially if they're stressed for any reason. (There are similarities with herpes-virus cold sores in humans.) Talk to your vet about giving the kitten a daily food supplement of lysine (an amino acid). This can help prevent flare-ups and may minimise signs of illness. The risk of severe disease in your adult cat is small, provided she's up to date with vaccines and otherwise healthy.

Fear of fireworks

At this time of year, the sound of fireworks sends many pets into a state of hysterical anxiety. A new website – www.dogsandfireworks.com – has been set up to help with this problem. The site offers a free e-book, full of useful advice and tips. An MP3 audio track of fireworks can also be downloaded free of charge, to help you train your dog to associate firework noises with fun.

Send your problems to pete.wedderburn@telegraph.co.uk

Pete Wedderburn regrets that he cannot answer all readers’ letters personally. All sick animals should, of course, be taken to a vet.

Should Mom Replace Dead Fish
Or Use It To Teach Kids About Death?

Dear EM,

I am the mother of two girls, ages 3 and 5. Lately my girls have been asking me a lot of questions about death, God, etc. We have been lucky in that we have not experienced the loss of a close loved-one since we have had the girls, but we do have several elderly people in our family, and it is only a matter of time before my girls must confront death.

We have only one pet, a goldfish that we have had for 2 years. The goldfish died last night. My husband thinks that the girls will be upset, and that we should just flush it and replace it and not tell them. While I agree that they will be upset, I am thinking that we should use this as a learning tool to introduce them slowly to death. I want to put the fish in a box and have a burial ceremony.

Do you think that it would be cruel of me to subject my little girls to the sorrow of losing a pet at this age, or am I doing the right thing by trying to prepare them for worse things in the future?
-Fish Widow in Saratoga

Dear Widow,

I think your idea is right on the money. Kids at that age are very confused and scared about death, and although it will be sad for a little while, seeing what a body (even a fish's)looks like when it is no longer alive and then sharing your own views on what happens to the fish's soul (heaven, etc.) may help them to understand a little bit better than just words alone. And yes, it may make it easier for them to understand the death of a loved-one when the time comes. Just be prepared to answer the questions that will inevitably follow, such as "will we die", "will you and daddy die", etc.

Bottom Line: Death is an inevitable part of life. While we want to shield our little ones from life's sorrows for as long as possible, part of protecting them is preparing them. Good luck, and my condolences.

~Expert Mom

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Pet Talk: Pair's Wonderful Way
with Disabled Animals is Rewarded
By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

Sometimes good things happen to good people.

This is one of those times.

It's the story of Alayne Marker and Steve Smith, a married couple who had high-power jobs — he was a corporate communications guy, she a corporate attorney — then left it all behind to move to middle-of-nowhere Montana to start an animal sanctuary.

Steve Smith and Alayne Marker, founders of Rolling Dog Ranch Sanctuary in Ovando, Mont., pose with Bailey, a dachshund with spinal problems.

Takes some guts to do that, of course. Couple of Brooks Brothers folks in their 40s — the height of their earning potential — downshifting from Seattle city life and fat paychecks to a little creekside house with urine-proof floors. But there's more. They take in animals that shelters can't deal with: disabled ones. Blind horses. Dogs with three legs, or neurological or orthopedic issues, or blindness. Cats that are blind or can't walk well because of congenital or neurological issues.

I made the couple's acquaintance about three years ago after I'd heard about their extraordinary non-profit — Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Ovando, Mont. — and decided to do a story.

We spent hours talking about the farm-tending skills they had gained through on-the-job training and the animal-care expertise absorbed from friendly veterinarians who understood that some of the animals would need middle-of-the night interventions that couldn't wait for the 90-minute drive into town.

We laughed about the endless ice-chopping and snow shoveling/plowing required for more months than anyone who doesn't live in the Rockies might imagine. And they spoke lovingly, endlessly, of the animals they'd taken in, including Lena the blind mare that was teaching them volumes about how happy a sightless horse could be if understood by humans, and Pappy the ancient German shepherd who refused to have a bad day.

It would have been easy to suppose that while the couple were well-meaning, they would eventually be driven off by the isolation, manual labor, round-the-clock care of animals and nasty winters — in short, by the very essence of the life and circumstances to which they'd assigned themselves. But you couldn't make that supposition if you heard the passion roiling just beneath their soft-spoken demeanors and their commitment to every individual in their care.

You would have sensed, although they never said this, that every shred of knowledge they'd developed in their previous lives would be applied to this new one to ensure that good intentions were always framed by sensible management, careful growth and strategic thinking.

Nine years after they embarked on all this, Marker and Smith are still strong. So is Rolling Dog Ranch (rollingdogranch.org), 70 or so animals living happily and fully in a place where their disabilities are regarded as nothing more than a reality that alters some things but doesn't diminish their zest.

And (this doesn't happen often enough in the animal rescue world), Marker and Smith are receiving a big-deal honor Thursday: the ASPCA's 2009 Henry Bergh Award, named for its founder.

Not much has changed since the couple embarked on this dream nearly a decade ago. Some of the animals have. A few have passed on. Marker and Smith always get a little emotional when they speak of them.

But the core intent has remained constant. Every animal gets not only top-notch medical care (yearly vet bills run $40,000 to $50,000), but also lots of love, attention and hugs. Most of the 40 dogs sleep in heated "dog cottages" at night but spend their days romping in dog-proof paddocks and roaming in and out of the couple's house, where they settle on a favorite chair, doggie bed or, in Dexter the dachshund's case, pile of freshly washed fleece bedding (five to seven loads of laundry a day is the norm). The cats have a cabin where they soak up sunshine, snuggle into warm laps and play with toys. And the blind horses are paired up in pastures or stabled with others so they're never alone or afraid.

Marker and Smith are charmed by the animals' individual quirks. Widget the beagle mix is seriously attached to a certain section of the futon, so everyone else must move when it's her nap time. Goldie the cocker spaniel mix lives for the sound of the UPS truck and rips into anything left behind.

The work is ceaseless. It takes three or four hours to do the morning feeding, cleaning and chores (and nearly that much at night); a vet visit is required about once a week; some need daily meds; Travis, the dog with the fused jaw, requires a special feeding protocol; and these days Rosie the blind mare, who had colic so severe she required surgery ($5,700), is on "stall rest" and must have a half-mile controlled daily walk.

Smith and Marker never leave the ranch together. When one goes to the supermarket or the dentist or a vet — sometimes to the teaching hospital in Washington hours away — the other stays put. The one time they left together (for an anniversary dinner), they got so edgy they returned home.

Marker is flying sans partner to New York to receive the award, which they see not as commendation for their work but "recognition of the value of disabled animals," Marker told me last week. "The only handicap an animal has is what the human transfers onto it."

Their animals are proof.

So while the full force of winter, with minus-20-degree temperatures and 3-foot snowdrifts, will soon lash their little huddle of buildings, Marker and Smith will again simply haul out the shovels, hunker down, and revel in loving and being loved by a pack of throw-aways they believe they're lucky to have.

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